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KISHON kī’ shŏn (קִישֹׁ֔ון; LXX Κεισών). A river, draining the Esdraelon Valley, around which cluster numerous Biblical and historical incidents.

Physical description.

The total length of the Kishon River (Heb.: Qishon—curving; Arab.: Nahr el-Mugatta’) is only about twenty-five m. Its souce is S and E of Jenin, the Biblical En-gannim (Josh 15:34; 19:21; 21:29), in the northern hills of Samaria, though it does not succeed in draining the Plain of Dothan. From Jenin to the narrow gap at Tell el-Qassis (“The Mound of the Priest,” below the traditional location of the contest between Elijah and the priests of Baal) the stream fall amounts to c. 250 ft. Along its course, which roughly parallels the trend of the Carmel ridge, several tributaries join the main stream. Drainage from the Wadi en-Nusf reaches it just N of Jenin, and the small plain of Mt. Tabor with its stream in the Wadi Muweili reaches the Kishon a m. or so W of Affuleh. Springs along the Carmel front form a trellis-type drainage pattern, and a number of small tributaries from the Galilean hills to the N are to be noted, as well as several reaching it along its course across the Plain of Acco to the sea. The Wadi el-Melek drains much of SW Galilee, including the Plain of Asochis, and the heavier precipitation in this area makes the Kishon a perennial stream in this coastal portion. Crocodiles were reported there in ancient times. The heavy run-off in connection with the spring rains, combined with a flat marshy topography in the Esdraelon Valley (Gr. “Valley of Jezreel”) made this river a substantial geographical barrier to travel and military activity for a part of the year, though it shrinks to a mere brook, sometimes dry, in the later seasons. Intensive recent land reclamation in this area has changed the drainage pattern considerably.

Historical events.

The Kishon River is frequently referred to in connection with the important towns near its course, as Jokneam (Tell Qeimun), Megiddo (Tell el-Mutessellim), and Taanach (Tell Ti’nnik). Cf. Joshua 19:11; Judges 5:19.

A principal OT event is the battle between the Syrians, under the leadership of Sisera, and the Israelites, under the direction of Barak and Deborah, with the defeat of the former, in spite of their greatly superior chariot-equipped forces. There are conflicting opinions as to where along the Kishon the battle was fought. Sisera’s army was encamped at Harosheth of the Gentiles (Judg 4:7, 13) and Barak’s men were rallied at Mt. Tabor. The usual view has been that the principal fighting occurred toward the western part of the Esdraelon, and it is stated that Sisera’s army, panicking when their chariots bogged down as the result of heavy rains and flooding of the marshes, fled in the direction of Harosheth-ha-goiim, and their camp. The river is referred to in the Song of Deborah as the “waters of Megiddo, at Taanach” (Judg 5:19), and a psalmist cites it as an exemplary victory over the enemies of God’s people (Ps 83:9). Wm. F. Albright has considered these references, with their general omission of Megiddo, to support an archeological gap in the occupation of this city, and the alternate vitality of Taanach. Yohanan Aharoni places the battle near Mt. Tabor, which lies between the Kishon River and his designation of Harosheth-ha-goiim as a general term describing the highlands of Galilee to the N and E of Mt. Tabor. He regards the reference to the “kings of Canaan” (Judg 5:19) as descriptive of the participants involved in Joshua’s defeat of the Hazor Confederacy at nearby Merom.

Another exciting drama was concluded at the Brook Kishon, in connection with the contest between the prophets of Baal and Elijah (1 Kings 18:40). The site is identified with Deir al’Muhraqa, where is located the Carmelite monastery of St. Elijah. The defeated priests of Baal were taken to the Kishon, and there massacred. The reason for this river location may have been the ritual cleansing provided by the water.

The River Kishon was crossed by the principal caravan routes, and became witness to numerous other military movements and engagements, including war with the Midianites, and with the Philistines; the slaying of King Josiah; as well as campaigns during Hasmonean, Roman, Crusader and later times.


A. Smith, Sinai and Palestine (1887), 404; BASOR 62 (1936), 29; BASOR 68 (1937), 25; Survey of Palestine Maps, 1:100000 Series (1947), Nos. 2, 3, 4, 5; D. Baly, The Geography of the Bible (1957), 148-154; W. Albright, The Archaeology of Palestine (1960), 117, 118; Y. Aharoni, The Land of the Bible (1967), 204, n. 79, 205, n. 81; Y. Aharoni and M. Avi-Yonah, The Macmillan Bible Atlas (1968), Maps 59-62.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

ki’-shon, kish’on (qishon; Keison): The "watercourse" or "torrent stream" along the banks of which the great battle was fought between Israel, led by Deborah and Barak, and the army of Sisera, in the waters of which so many perished (Jud 4:7, etc.). It is probably mentioned earlier as "the brook that is before Jokneam" (Jos 19:11; see Jokneam). It appears again as the scene of Elijah’s slaughter of the prophets of Baal (1Ki 18:40). "The torrent" paragraph excellence in the district is the modern el-MuqaTTa`, a stream which drains all the plain of Esdraelon to the West of the watershed--a line drawn from Iksal to Nain, and thence to el-Fuleh and Zer`in. All the water East of this line, from the Nazareth hills, Tabor and Little Hermon, flows down Wady esh-Sherrar and Nahr Jalud into the Jordan. The Kishon collects the streams from the western slopes of Gilboa in the rainy season; and the water from the strong spring at Jenin. Contributions also come from the copious fountains in the neighborhood of Megiddo. At Sa`adiyeh, again, some 3 miles East of Chaifa, its volume is largely increased by springs rising at the base of Carmel, on the edge of the plain of Acre. From Jenin in the Southeast, the deep torrent bed follows a westerly direction, with numerous. windings cutting the plain in two, until it reaches the pass at the northeastern base of Carmel. Through the gorge between the mountain and the hills of Galilee it reaches the plain of Acre. From Sa`adiyeh it flows in a deep sluggish stream through the marsh-land to the sea near Chaifa. In this part the crocodile is said to have been seen at times.

In the summer season the water from the springs is largely absorbed by irrigation, and the upper reaches of the river are soon dry. The bed runs along the bottom of a trench some 20 ft. deep through the plain. It is easily crossed at the fords by those who know how to avoid the localities of the springs. In time of heavy rains the trench is swiftly filled, and the soft soil of the plain goes to mud. Remembering this, it is easy to understand the disaster that overwhelmed the heavily armed cavalry and chariots of Sisera. The chief ford for long was to the West of the gorge where the stream issues into the plain of Acre, on the highway from Chaifd to Nazareth. Here it is now spanned by a substantial bridge, while the railway crosses a little higher up. At the mouth of the river it is generally easily forded on the sand bank thrown up by the waves beating against the current of the stream. The main traffic here is now carried by a wooden bridge.

The phrase nachal qedhumim in Jud 5:21 is not easy of interpretation. English Versions of the Bible translates, "that ancient river"; G.A. Smith, "torrent of spates"; while others think it may refer to a stream other than the Kishon. Guthe suggests that both names may be derived from those of places adjoining the river. Kishon may possibly mean the "tortuous" stream, referring to the windings of its course.