Jezreel


From the time of the Crusades the site of Jezreel has been identified with the modern village of Zer'in on the NW spur of Gilboa, but this identification is now questioned because excavations have failed to reveal any evidence of Israelite occupation in ancient times. From Jezreel there was a splendid view of the plain reaching toward the Jordan (Josh.17.16; Hos.1.5). Throughout history it has been a battlefield of nations. In the OT the term “valley of Jezreel” is applied to this valley, and not to the great plain immediately north of Carmel that is better known as the Plain of Esdraelon or the Plain of Megiddo.

2. A town in the hill country of Judah from which David obtained his wife Ahinoam the Jezreelitess (1Sam.25.43; 1Sam.27.3).

3. A descendant of Judah (1Chr.4.3).

4. A son of the prophet Hosea, so called because God had declared that he would avenge the blood of Jezreel on the house of Jehu (Hos.1.4-Hos.1.5).


In the Jezreel Valley, the exit of the Megiddo water tunnel.
The Jezreel Valley near Beth Alfa.

JEZREEL jĕz’ rĭ əl (יִזְרְעֶ֥אל, LXX ̓Ιεζραελ God sows). 1. A city in the hill country of Judah. Joshua 15:56 is part of a long list of cities inherited by the tribe of Judah. Jezreel is there, but with no indication of its location except that it was in the hill country; one might suppose some m. S or SE of Jerusalem. Ahinoam, one of David’s wives, was from Jezreel (1 Sam 25:43; 27:3; 30:5; 2 Sam 2:2; 3:2). This may not be the Jezreel in Judah, however.

2. A city near Mt. Gilboa on the border of Issachar. In outlining the inheritance of the tribe of Issachar, Joshua 19:18 lists Jezreel among the cities. The city receives no additional mention until the time of David. When David was dismissed by the Philistines at Aphek, the Israelites were camped at Jezreel (1 Sam 29:1-11).

After Saul’s death, his general set up Saul’s son Ishbosheth as king over Jezreel, other cities, and even “all Israel” (2 Sam 2:8ff.). Eventually, both Abner and Ishbosheth were murdered, and David consolidated the kingdom (3:26-4:7).

During the administration of Solomon, one of the twelve court officials was at Taanach, Megiddo, and Beth-shan, the latter being described as being below (i.e., S of) Jezreel (1 Kings 4:12).

Apparently Jezreel had been made a royal residence by King Ahab of Israel, for it was there that Elijah met him after the episode at Mt. Carmel and the ending of the drought (1 Kings 18:45f.). Elijah must have been given superhuman strength that day to run ahead of Ahab’s chariot for those twenty m. between Carmel and Jezreel.

The book of 1 Kings at 21:1 states clearly that Ahab the king of Samaria had a palace at Jezreel. The ch. relates the seizing of Naboth’s vineyard that was adjacent to Ahab’s palace in Jezreel. The ruthless scheming Queen Jezebel, through false accusation and subsequent murder of Naboth, got the land for a garden for Ahab. For this wicked deed, Elijah pronounced doom on both Ahab and Jezebel (1 Kings 21:17ff.). Ahab, who had been more passive in the matter, repented (1 Kings 21:27), but Jezebel was eventually eaten by dogs within the bounds of Jezreel (1 Kings 21:23; 2 Kings 9:10, 30-37).

Ahab’s son Joram (or Jehoram), who reigned in Israel after his father’s death, went to war against Syria in coalition with Ahaziah, king of Judah (2 Kings 8:28). There is no account of victory for the Hebrews, only that King Joram returned to Jezreel to recuperate from wounds that the Syrians had inflicted (2 Kings 8:29; 2 Chron 22:6).

In 2 Kings 9, Elijah anointed Jehu as king over Israel when Joram was still alive. This occurred in Trans-Jordan at Ramoth-gilead. The city of Jezreel must have been situated to afford a view of the Valley of Jezreel and the Jordan Valley. The watchmen saw Jehu come near, driving “furiously,” and take away the messengers with him (2 Kings 9:20).

Then Joram and Ahaziah, who had been visiting his wounded neighbor, met Jehu in the garden that had been the vineyard of Naboth (2 Kings 9:21). Jehu shot Joram with his bow and arrow and Ahaziah, wounded at the hands of Jehu’s men, died after fleeing to Megiddo (2 Kings 9:27). Jehu entered the city of Jezreel and ordered the attendants to throw the painted and adorned Jezebel out the window (9:30ff.). And so she died without burial, covered with disgrace as Elijah the prophet had said (1 Kings 21:23).

Jehu ordered the heads of Ahab’s surviving sons to be sent to him at Jezreel from Samaria. When this was done, Jehu also “slew all that remained of the house of Ahab in Jezreel, all his great men, and his familiar friends, and his priests...” (2 Kings 10:11).

Jezreel has been identified with the modern village of Zer’in at the foot of Mt. Gilboa, halfway between Megiddo and Beth-shan.

3. The Valley of Jezreel is the SE part of the larger valley that divides Galilee on the N from Samaria on the S. The Valley of Megiddo is the northwestern part of it. At the time of the division of the tribes, the Valley of Jezreel and Beth-shan, its principal city, were inhabited by Canaanites (Josh 17:16). Their iron chariots were well able to maneuver on the plain.

It was in the Valley of Jezreel that the Midianites, the Amalekites, and other eastern peoples camped during the judgeship of Gideon (Judg 6:33). Ringing the edge of this valley by night, Gideon and his 100 trumpetertorch-bearers threw the enemy into mass confusion and retreat (Judg 7).

The valley in the narrow sense is bordered on the W by Gilboa and Moreh, and on the E by the Jordan River. The Jalud River drains it into the Jordan. Because it is part of the only natural E-W pass across Pal., it has seen much traffic over the centuries. The name Jezreel evolved to Esdraelon in NT times.

4. A son of Etam. The MT has “fathers of Etam.” Jezreel is among those of the tribe of Judah. The only mention of this son is in 1 Chronicles 4:3.

5. A symbolic name of one of the sons of Hosea (1:4). God commanded the prophet to give his first child this name and then promptly interpreted the significance of it. “For yet a little while, and I will punish the house of Jehu for the blood of Jezreel, and I will put an end to the kingdom of the house of Israel. And on that day I will break the bow of Israel in the valley of Jezreel” (1:4f.). There is first an allusion to Jehu’s slaughter of the house of Ahab—a slaughter that went far beyond God’s intention (2 Kings 10:11). Secondly, there is a play on words between Jezreel and Israel; they look and sound more alike in Heb. than in Eng. Hosea’s reference to Jezreel in 1:11 has a significance opposite to that in v. 5. The scene of the breaking of the bow of Israel will become the scene of mending and reunification. The place of thorough disruption and scattering will become the place where God sows, which is the meaning of the word Jezreel.

Bibliography

E. Kraeling, Bible Atlas (1956), 200, 279f., 286f.; D. Baly, The Geography of the Bible (1957), 148-154. Cf. commentaries for the interpretation of Jezreel in Hosea 1:4, 5, 11.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

jez’-re-el, jez’-rel (yizre`e’l, "God soweth"):

(1) A city on the border of the territory of Issachar (Jos 19:18).

1. Territory:


2. Identification:

The site of Jezreel must be sought in a position where a tower would command a view of the road coming up the valley from Beth-shean. It has long been the custom to identify it with the modern village, Zer`in, on the northwestern spur of Gilboa. This meets the above condition; and it also agrees with the indications in Eusebius, Onomasticon as lying between Legio (Lejjun) and Scythopolis (Beisan). Recently, however, Professor A.R.S. Macalister made a series of excavations here, and failed to find any evidence of ancient Israelite occupation. This casts doubt upon the identification, and further excavation is necessary before any certain conclusion can be reached. For the "fountain which is in Jezreel," see Well of Harod.

(2) An unidentified town in the uplands of Judah (Jos 15:56), the home of Ahinoam (1Sa 27:3, etc.).