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Valley of Jehoshaphat

JEHOSHAPHAT, VALLEY OF (jē-hŏsh'a-făt, Heb. yehôshāphāt, Jehovah judges). A name used in Joel.3.2, Joel.3.12 as the scene where all nations will be gathered by the Lord for judgment. Since the fourth century the Kidron Valley has been named the Valley of Jehoshaphat, but there is no real reason for believing that this is the spot referred to by Joel. He may have spoken of an ideal spot only. There is no evidence that any valley ever actually bore this name.

JEHOSHAPHAT, VALLEY OF je hŏsh’ a făt (עֵ֖מֶק יְהֹֽושָׁפָ֑ט; LXX κοιλαδα Ιωσαφατ, meaning God shall judge, or Jehovah has judged). A valley adjacent to the city of Jerusalem on the E, long regarded as the place of the judging of the nations (Joel 3:2, 12). It is also referred to as the “valley of decision” (Joel 3:14). Zechariah 14:2 is commonly taken as a reference to this place, now known as the Valley of the Kidron.

Christian tradition made this identification at least as early as the 4th cent. a.d., perhaps beginning with the Bordeaux Pilgrim’s account. Both Eusebius and Jerome refer to the Valley of Jehoshaphat in the Onamasticon, though Eusebius calls it the Valley of Hinnom, while Jerome expressly speaks of the Kidron Valley, and uses the Joel 3:2, 12 reference. The concept of it as a place of final judgment is shared by Jewish, Moslem, and Christian tradition, and is witnessed to by the extensive cemeteries of all three faiths on the slopes of the valley. The pseudepigraphical book of 1 Enoch (53:1) places the judgment in a deep valley near Hinnom.

The valley prob. was named after King Jehoshaphat, and also was known as the “King’s dale” (2 Sam 18:18), where Absalom erected a pillar, and prob. expected to be buried (the monument now called Absalom’s Tomb is of a later period, as are the adjacent Tomb of St. James, and Tomb of Zechariah). The Spring of Gihon, and Pool of Siloam, with the exits of Hezekiah’s (or Siloam) Tunnel, as well as the Spring of En-Rogel are to be seen, with some remnants of older water systems. The Garden of Gethsemane, with the nearby Basilica of the Agony, are located in the floor of the valley, and at the confluence of the Kidron with the Valley of Gehenna (OT Hinnom) there is the Potter's Field|Potter’s Field.

The theme of judgment is perpetuated in the names of the gates in the E wall of the city. Up to the 14th cent. the northern gate, now called the Damascus Gate, was currently designated as St. Stephen’s Gate, and since that time the name was transferred to the gate opening on the Kidron Valley, previously known as the Gate of the Valley of Josaphat. The Vul. identifies the Muster Gate (Miphkad = “the appointed place,” Neh 3:31) as Porto Judicialis, “Gate of Judgment.” A 6th cent. Laura (monastic center) was located near the gate, and a 12th cent. monastery nearby was called St. Mary of Josaphat, corresponding to the Arab. Bab Sitti Mariam. Moslem legends name the two closed portals of the Golden Gate the door of mercy and the door of contrition, continuing the judgment theme, and the part of the Kidron Valley opposite this gate is called by them the Djahannum (Gehenna).


Bordeaux Pilgrim, a.d. 333 (tr. Stewart, p. 24), “Also as one goes from Jerusalem to the gate which is to the eastward, in order to ascend the Mount of Olives, is the valley called that of Josaphat.” (See also Geyer, Itin., p. 23); Eusebius and Jerome, Onamasticon, see under Cedron, Κεδρών, G3022, ed. Clericus, p. 52, 157, also edition Klostermann, 70, 119; E. Robinson and E. Smith, Biblical Researches in Palestine, Vol. I (1841), 396-405; J. Simons, Jerusalem in the Old Testament (1952), 10, 14; E. Kraeling, Rand McNally Bible Atlas (1956), 342.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

(`emeq yehoshaphaT); the latter word means "Yahweh judgeth," and `emeq, "wide," "open valley"; Septuagint he koilas Iosaphat): The name is used in Joe 3:2,12 of the scene of Judgment: "Let the nations bestir themselves, and come up to the valley of Jehoshaphat; for there will I sit to judge all the nations round about" (Joe 3:12). "The valley of decision" (or "sharp judgment") is another name the prophet gives to this spot (Joe 3:14). Some have identified it with the valley (`emeq) of BERACAH (which see) of 2Ch 20:26, where King Jehoshaphat obtained a great victory, but this is improbable.

Since the 4th century AD the KIDRON (which see) valley has been named the Valley of Jehoshaphat. The tradition is now strongest among the Moslems who point out the exact scene of the Judgment; the Bridge As Sirat, dividing heaven and hell, is to stretch across this valley from the Charam area to the Mount of Olives. It is, however, the ambition of every pious Jew to be buried on the slopes of this valley, to be at hand at the resurrection. This, too, was an ordinary place for Jewish graves in preexilic times (2Ki 23:6, etc.). The valley today, especially that part adjacent to the temple, is crowded with Moslem and Jewish graves. A worthless tradition indicates the tomb of Jehoshaphat himself close to the so-called "Pillar of Absalom." Se KING’s VALE. There is not the slightest reason for believing that this is the spot referred to by Joel--indeed he may have spoken of an ideal spot only. The valley of the Kidron is a nachal ("ravine"), not an `emeq ("broad valley"). It is impos sible not to suspect that there is some connection between the name Jehoshaphat and the name of a village near the head of this valley--Shaphat; perhaps at one time it was Wady Shaphat, which name would readily suggest the traditional one.

See Gehenna.