CARMEL (kar'mĕl, garden)

CARMEL kär’ məl (כַּרְמֶ֖ל, meaning plantation, garden-land, fruit or garden-growth). A word generally indicating a place where trees and gardens grew but more specifically a definite location which had such growth, as Carmel, the mountain range and promontory jutting out into the Mediterranean Sea, and the name of a city of Judah.

Mount Carmel.

The Carmel range, composed of hard, porous, Cenomanian limestone, including a promontory jutting in a NW direction into the Mediterranean Sea, extends inland to the SE for about thirteen m. It divides the Palestinian coastal plain into the Plain of Accho to the N and the Plains of Sharon and Philistia to the S. Also the Carmel range on the N borders on the plain of Esdraelon. At the NW promontory Carmel is 470 ft. high, but farther S it reaches a height of 1,742 ft.

In prehistoric times Mt. Carmel was not heavily populated, but there was a Stone Age culture developed on its lower western slopes, as is evidenced by the caves at the Wadi (Valley) el-Mugharah, excavated by Dorothy Garrod of the British School of Archaeology in Jerusalem and Theodore McCown of the American School of Prehistoric Research.

The first reference to Carmel in the OT occurs in Joshua 12:22 where the king of Carmel is listed along with other rulers of that area conquered by Joshua and the Israelites, and in Joshua 19:26 it is set forth as one of the boundary points in delineating the portion of land given to Asher. Mount Carmel is well known as the place where the prophet Elijah, under the blessing of God, defeated the prophets of Baal and restored the true worship of God to Israel (1 Kings 18:19-42). Elisha, following in the steps of his predecessor, Elijah, frequented Carmel (2 Kings 2:25; 4:25).

Carmel is used in a poetic figure when the bride’s head is compared to the verdant foliage of Carmel Song of Solomon, and by the Lord’s command the growth on the top of the mount is said to wither (Amos 1:2; Nah 1:4; cf. also Isa 33:9). Also the prominence of the conqueror Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, over Egypt is likened to the conspicuousness of “Carmel by the sea” (Jer 46:18).

Carmel figures eschatologically in that future day of the Lord’s deliverance when it, with the Plain of Sharon and all Pal., shall become fertile again (Isa 35:2), and Israel shall again profit from its pasture (Jer 50:19). Israel is pictured as not being able to escape the judgment of God, even though they hide in the foliage on the top of Carmel (Amos 9:3).

In extra-Biblical material Carmel seems to be referred to in lists of certain Egyp. kings as Thut-mose III (ANET, 228, 234).

The city of Carmel.

Carmel is not mentioned in the NT.


G. A. Smith, The Historical Geography of the Holy Land, 18th ed. (n.d.), 50, 338ff.; D. Baly, The Geography of the Bible (1957), 136, 137, 164, 180-182; C. F. Pfeiffer and H. F. Vos, The Wycliffe Historical Geography of Bible Lands (1967), 99, 100, 116.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

(1) A beautifully wooded mountain range running for about 13 miles in a south-easterly direction from the promontory which drops on the shore of the Mediterranean near Haifa, at the southern extremity of the plain of Acre, to the height of el-Machraqah which overlooks the plain of Esdraelon. On the top of the promontory, at a height of 500 ft. the monastery of Elias stands. From this point there is a gradual ascent until the greatest height is reached at Esfiyeh (1,742 ft.), the peak at el-Machraqah being only some 55 ft. lower. The mountain--usually named with the article, "the Carmel"--still justifies its name, "the garden with fruit trees." The steep slopes on the North and East, indeed, afford little scope for cultivation, although trees and brushwood grow abundantly. But to the South and West the mountain falls away to the sea and the plain in a series of long, fertile valleys, where the "excellency" of Carmel finds full illustration today. There are a few springs of good water; but the main supply is furnished by the winter rains, which are caught and stored in great cisterns. The villages on the slopes have a look of prosperity not too often seen in Syria, the rich soil amply rewarding the toil of the husbandmen. Oak and pine, myrtle and honeysuckle, box and laurel flourish; the sheen of fruitful olives fills many a hollow; and in the time of flowers Carmel is beautiful in a garment of many colors. Evidences of the ancient husbandry which made it famous are found in the cisterns, and the oil and wine presses cut in the surface of the rock. There is probably a reference to the vine culture here in 2Ch 26:10. In the figurative language of Scripture it appears as the symbol of beauty (So 7:5), of fruitfulness (Isa 35:2), of majesty (Jer 46:18), of prosperous and happy life (Jer 50:19). The languishing of Carmel betokens the vengeance of God upon the land (Na 1:4); and her decay, utter desolation (Am 1:2; Isa 33:9).

Asylum and Sanctuary:

Roughly triangular in form, with plains stretching from its base on each of the three sides, the mountain, with its majestic form and massive bulk, is visible from afar. Its position deprived it of any great value for military purposes. It commanded none of the great highways followed by armies: the passes between Esdraelon and Sharon, to the East of Carmel, furnishing the most convenient paths. But the mountain beckoned the fugitive from afar, and in all ages has offered asylum to the hunted in its caves and wooded glens. Also its remote heights with their spacious outlook over land and sea; its sheltered nooks and embowering groves have been scenes of worship from old time. Here stood an ancient altar of Yahweh (1Ki 18:30). We may assume that there was also a sanctuary of Baal, since the worshippers of these deities chose the place as common ground for the great trim (1Ki 18). The scene is traditionally located at el-Machraqah, "the place of burnt sacrifice," which is still held sacred by the Druzes. A Latin chapel stands near, with a great cistern. A good spring is found lower down the slope. Just below, on the North bank of the Kishon stands the mound ca11ed Tell el-qissis, "mound of the priest." From the crest of Carmel Elijah descried the coming storm, and, descending the mountain, ran before the chariot of Ahab to the gate of Jezreel (1Ki 18:42 ff). Under the monastery on the western promontory is a cave, said to be that of Elijah. An older tradition locates the cave of the prophet at ed-Deir, near `Ain es-Sih. It may have been the scene of the events narrated in 2Ki 1:9 ff. Elisha also was a familiar visitor to Mt. Carmel. It was within the territory allotted to Asher; in later times it passed into the hands of Tyre (BJ, III, iii, 1).

(2) A city of Judah, in the uplands near Hebron, named with Maon and Ziph (Jos 15:55). Here Saul for some reason not stated set up a monument or trophy (1Sa 15:12; literally "hand"). It was the home of Nabal the churlish and drunken flockmaster, whose widow Abigail David married (1Sa 25); and also of Hezro, one of David’s mighty men (2Sa 23:35; 1Ch 11:37). It is represented by the modern el-Karmil, about 10 miles to the Southeast of Hebron. Karmil is the pronunciation given me by several natives this spring. There are considerable ruins, the most outstanding feature being square tower dating from the 12th century, now going swiftly to ruin. There are also caves, tombs and a large reservoir.