The View from the ValleyRelated Media
In a previous study we noted the particular significance of five mountains in the biblical record. We also considered the importance of mountains and hills in general. Indeed, the Israelites were largely mountain and hill people, so much so that on one occasion King Ahab was informed by one of his prophets that the Syrians were of the false opinion that, “The LORD is a god of the mountains and not a god of the valleys” (1Kings 20:28). Yet, from a geographical perspective, “Like the land of Palestine, the topography of Scripture is marked by numerous valleys large and small, named and unnamed.”1 Several different terms are used to depict the character of these valleys, “From deep gorges to broad plains.”2 Paterson divides the most commonly used terms in the Old Testament into “two distinct categories,” which “reflect clearly the structure and surface of the Bible lands.”3 In the first category there are two Hebrew terms that describe broad valleys or lowlands while the two terms in the second category are indicative of narrower and/or steep sided valleys such as a gorge.4
Mountains, hills, and valleys not only characterize the landscape of Israel, but become prominent features in the biblical narrative, whether used literally or in a literary figure. Thus one term from each of Paterson’s two categories occurs in Deuteronomy 8:7, which describes the land of promise: “For the LORD your God is bringing you to a good land, a land of brooks, springs, and fountains flowing forth in valleys and hills.” As the NET footnote points out, the word translated “brooks” can also refer to wadis. As the Israelites were about to enter the promised land they were told, “The land you are crossing the Jordan to occupy is one of hills and valleys, a land that drinks in water from the rains” (Deut. 11:11). 5
Our study will consider the characteristic features of valleys from the perspective of the context in which they are found in the biblical accounts. After considering texts in which valleys are discussed and understood literally, our study will point out contexts that indicate symbolic and/or figurative emphases, followed by some concluding applications.
Valleys as Places of Fertility
The previously cited Deuteronomy 8:7 is followed by a description of the fertility of the land of promise. That land is described as “a land of wheat, barley, vines, fig trees, and pomegranates, of olive trees and honey, a land where you may eat food in plenty and fine not lack of anything” (Deut. 8:8-9). The capacity to grow crops there is understandable, for the Hebrew term found in the Deuteronomic context (biqàa„) is most commonly used to “refer to broad plains/valleys that were not located in the mountains.”6 When the Philistines were returning the ark to Israelite territory, the residents of Beth Shemesh “were harvesting wheat in the valley” (1 Sam 6:13). The specific Hebrew term used here (àemeq) is most commonly translated as “valley” or “plain” and most likely referred to an area, which although wide is not as broad as the term used in Deuteronomy 8:7 and 11:11.7 This same term is used by the psalmist in praising God whose loving care saw to it that “the valleys are covered with grain” (Ps. 65:13).
Fertility could also be ascribed to a narrower area. Thus those sent b Moses to spy out the land of promise found grapes growing there (Num. 13:23-24). In a later time of drought King Ahab sent his servant to look for water and grazing land for his animals, “Ahab told Obadiah, ‘Go through the land in all the springs and valleys. Maybe we can find some grazing areas so we can keep the horses and mules alive not have to kill some of the animals’” (1 Kings 18:5). In both cases the Hebrew term employed most commonly refers to an area formed by a temporary river that flows at times with great force in the rainy season, but provides a dry channel in the summer. The fact that the water table was higher in such an area allowed for plant growth. For example, the lover declares to the beloved, “I went down to the orchard of walnut trees, to look for the blossoms of the valley to see if the vines had budded or if the pomegranates were in bloom” (Song of Solomon 6:11).8 The Hebrew word (nah£al) in all three cases refers to narrower valleys (often rendered “wadis”) that could be cultivated.9
Valleys as Scenes of Battle
Broad valleys or plains often became scenes where battles were carried out in Old Testament times, for their breadth made them more suitable for warfare. Already in the scriptural record (Gen 14:1-16) a formidable battle consisting of a league of four kings from the eastern part of the Fertile Crescent, which attacked a group of five kings from the western part that had rebelled against the Elamite king Chedolaomer is recorded. Sweeping from north to south, the invading four kings won a series of battles that led them ever southward into the Valley of Siddim where they defeated their rivals and, took all the possessions of Sodom and Gommorah and left” (v.11). As was to prove unfortunate for them, they also captured Lot, Abram’s nephew who was living in Sodom (v.12). Accordingly, Abram and his trained forces pursued them on their trek northward, overtook them, and in a surprise attack “retrieved all the stolen property. He also brought back his nephew Lot and his possessions, as well as the women and the rest of the people” (v.16).10
Many other battles in broad valleys are detailed in the Scriptures. Many of Joshua’s campaigns were fought in such places (e.g., Josh. 7:1-3; 8:1-29 [cf. 7:24-26]; 11:8, 17). Such was the famous battle against the Amorites, whose climax featured the day when the sun and the moon “stood still . . . over the valley of Aijalon.11 Indeed, much has been debated and written concerning that spectacular event. Perhaps the most cogent solution to the problem is that of Kaiser, who suggested that “Joshua prayed early in the morning, while the moon was in the western sky and the sun was in the east, that God would intervene on their behalf. God answered Joshua and sent a hailstorm. This had the effect of prolonging the darkness and shielding the men from the searing rays of the summer sun. The sun, therefore, was ‘silenced’ in the middle of the sky, and the moon ‘did not hasten’ to come.”12
Another memorable example of warfare associated with a valley is the Israelite battle against Sisera, field commander of King Jabin of Hazor (Judg. 4:1-23; 5:1-23). In connection with that battle, Susera “moved his heavy chariot division into the Plain of Esdraelon across the eastern branch of the south fork of the Kishon River, expecting to move in for the kill (Judg. 4:13; 5:19). In the ensuing battle, God arranged the forces of nature and the details of the campaign so that the Israelites won a crushing victory (Judg. 4:4-16; 5:19-23).”13
It is not surprising, then, that a significant battle to be fought in eschatological times will occur in a valley. Thus Joel prophesies, “I will gather all the nations, and bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat. I will enter into judgment against them there concerning my people Israel who are my inheritance, whom they scattered among the nations” (Joel 3:2; cf. v. 12). Wherever the precise location, the point is that in a future day God will bring his judgment to bear on his and Israel’s foes. “So supernatural is his power that mountains melt at the intense heat of his wrath, and his heavy tread shatters into yawning caverns the valleys below” (v. 4).14 Subsequently Joel names this place as “the valley of decision” (Joel 3:14). There “God will finally and forever render His decision on His Day, which has then arrived.”15
Valleys: Negative Associations
Perhaps no valley is cast in a more negative light than the Valley of Hinnom. The notorious Valley of Hinnom is commonly understood to refer to a deep narrow valley adjacent to Jerusalem’s southern side, which also served as a boundary marker between Judah and Benjamin.16 This valley was known as a place of idolatry and false worship (Jer. 7:32; cf. Jer. 2:23). Jeremiah 32:35 indicates that even such defiling rituals as human sacrifice were carried on there. Jeremiah 19:5-6 adds to this picture by pointing out that because of these practices, the Valley of Hinnom will be called the Valley of Slaughter: “They have built places here for worship of the god Baal so that they could sacrifice their children as burnt offerings to him in the fire. Such sacrifices are something I never commanded them to make! They are something I never told them to do! Indeed, such a thing never entered my mind! So I, the LORD, say: ‘The time will soon come that people will no longer call this place Topheth or the Hinnom Valley. But they will call this valley the Valley of Slaughter!’”
Jeremiah 19:5-6 adds to this picture by pointing out that because of these practices, the Valley of Hinnom will be called the Valley of Slaughter: “They have built places here for worship of the god Baal so that they could sacrifice their children as burnt offerings to him in the fire. Such sacrifices are something I never commanded them to make! They are something I never told them to do! Indeed, such a thing never entered my mind! So I, the LORD, say: ‘The time will soon come that people will no longer call this place Topheth or the Hinnom Valley. But they will call this valley the Valley of Slaughter!’”17 Jeremiah’s condemnation of the activities in the Hinnom Valley may well have been of the motivating reasons for the reforms instituted by King Josiah in connection with that place (2 Kings 23:1-10). Unfortunately, Josiah’s reforms were to be short lived, for when his son Jehoiakim came to the throne some three months after Josiah’s death, Judah was once again filled with open apostasy and degradation. It was not long before this valley became associated with all that is evil and defiling.
So loathsome did this valley become to the Jews that it is commonly considered that like the Kidron Valley, with which it is understood to intersect on Jerusalem’s lower east side, it became a place where rubble of all sorts was dumped and burned, including the bodies of criminals.18 Hinnom’s notorious reputation was such that its very name (ge‚ ben hinno‚m) became associated with the place of eternal punishment, Gehenna (cf. Matt. 10:8; Rev. 19:20; 20:14-15).
Valleys: Figurative Uses
Valleys also appear in contexts where literal valleys are not intended. Rather, the valley is referred to in association with literary imagery such as in a figurative or symbolic sense.
As a Source of Hope or Blessing
We have noted that God’s judgment can at times occur in valleys. But in addition to a valley as a scene of judgment, beyond that very judgment lies a promise of renewed fertility or vitality. The valley setting therefore also serves to provide a source of hope and future blessing. A prime example is the Valley of Achor (Josh. 7:24-26). After a stunning victory against the well-fortified city of Jericho, Joshua was disturbed to learn that the troops he had dispatched to conquer little Ai had suffered a staggering defeat (Josh. 7:4-5). With soul searching concern he prayed to the Lord and learned that Israel had been contaminated by sin. In violation of covenant law someone had stolen part of the riches of the site and “deceitfully put them among their own possessions” (v.11). When Joshua’s careful search revealed that a certain Achor and his family were the guilty parties, they were they were sentenced to death (vv. 16-25). The place of their execution was subsequently to be known as the Valley of Achor (v. 26b). 19
The Valley of Achor, therefore, was a scene of judgment. Nevertheless, in a future day that place of Israel’s sin will experience a transformation. In a time of a purified, revitalized, and restored Israel God will bring renewal to the land. Using the imagery of marriage Hosea prophesies that God will “lead her back to the wilderness. From there I will give back her vineyards to her, and turn the ‘Valley of Trouble’ into an ‘Opportunity for Hope.’… At that time, declares the LORD, you will call, ‘My Husband’; you will never again call me, ‘My master’” (Hos. 2:14b-15, 16). Places such as Achor, which were scenes of Israel’s sin and punishment, will flourish once again due to God’s blessing. For in God’s mercy and grace a repentant and God-fearing Israel will be restored to her land. Judgment will be swallowed up in hope.20
Similarly, Isaiah foresees a time when the Israel, which God has judged, and punished will be purified and restored to the land (Isa. 41:8-20). Under the imagery of master and servant God’s prophet looks to a time of a purified Israel’s future restoration. In that day the very landscape will be transformed. Employing first imagery associated with agriculture and then “desert and water, wilderness and fertile land,”21 he cites the promises of Israel’s covenant Lord to be with his people and bless them greatly. In that connection, God will,” make streams flow down the slopes and produce springs in the middle of valleys. I will turn the desert into a pool of water and arid lands into springs (v. 18). In addition to whatever changes in the physical landscape will occur Isaiah’s language is clearly figurative and filled with graphic imagery.
In another context dealing with Israel’s bright future (Isa. 66:7-14) Isaiah uses imagery associated with motherhood. First (vv. 7-12) he employs the metaphor of a mother to portray Zion/Jerusalem as a mother nursing her baby (i.e., the people who lived there) with milk (i.e., the prosperity and peace that will characterize that time, including the wealth that flows from the “riches of the nations” --v. 12). In a dramatic turn, Isaiah uses the figure of motherhood in a simile in which God likens himself to a mother who “consoles her child” and gives it happiness (vv. 13-14). Through all of this it is obvious that although the future Zion will enjoy a great prosperity, which will prove to be a blessing to a great multitude of people, it is God himself who ultimately is the source of that provision. Smith remarks, “The fullness of comfort will come when God’s people will see and actually experience all the results of God’s marvelous deeds on their behalf.”22 Young adds, “The greatest love will be shown to the remnant, for as a mother expends her love upon her child, so also will the Lord love his redeemed children.”23
It is of special interest to note that the wealth of the nations, which will come to Zion will be “like a stream that floods its banks” (v. 12).24 The Hebrew word for stream (nah£al) refers “most readily to a temporary river that flows with great force in the winter or rainy season but leaves only dry channels or deep ravines in the summer. Thus, the word can refer to either a fast flowing stream or torrent or to a dry river bed.”25 The divine statement in the previous parallel line gives assurance that the proper translation of the Hebrew term is indeed “stream.” The point for our purposes, however, is that the Hebrew word used here in many cases does refer to a dry ravine or wadi, hence is sufficiently valley-like in nature for agricultural purposes or even settlements.26
Although Israel could confidently look forward to such a hope of God’s blessing, Isaiah cautions that this was not to come without previous difficulties—even in the future: “The LORD will reveal his power to his servants and his anger to his enemies. For look, the LORD comes with fire, his chariots come like a windstorm, to reveal his raging anger, his battle cry, and his flaming arrows (Isa. 66:15-16). Ezekiel also records a great battle that lies ahead in earth’s history (Ezek. 38-39). That battle is the occasion of God’s victory against the evil forces of Gog and Magog.27 In connection with the disastrous defeat of the enemies of God and his people God declares, “On that day I will assign Gog a grave in Israel. It will be the valley of those who travel east of the sea; it will block the way of the travelers. There they will bury Gog and all his horde; they will call it the valley of Hamon-Gog” (Ezek. 39:11). So devastating will the loss of life be to the hostile forces that, “For seven months Israel will bury them, in order to cleanse the land. . . . They will designate men to scout continually through the land, burying those who remain on the surface of the ground, in order to cleanse it. They will search for seven full months. When the scouts survey and see a human bone, they will place a sign by it, till those assigned in burial duty have buried it in the valley of Hamon-Gog. (A city by the name of Hamonah will also be there.) They will cleanse the land.” (Ezek. 39:12, 14-16).28
Not to be forgotten also is Zechariah’s prophecy regarding the consummate battle of earth’s forces as they are ringed about Jerusalem: “On that day his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives which lies to the east of Jerusalem, and the Mount of Olives will split in half from east to west, leaving a great valley. Half the mountain will move northward and the other half southward. Then you will escape through my mountain valley, for the mountains will extend to Azal. Then the LORD my God will come with all his holy ones with him” (Zech. 14:5, 6). Klein summarizes that event as follows: “The symbolic nature of the verse harmonizes well with the character of biblical apocalyptic. The ancient imagery should not obscure the theological theme of the verse. The Lord will protect his people and save them from annihilation. Perhaps the newly formed valley to the immediate east provides ready escape for the inhabitants.”29
Associated with Unfaithfulness
Job uses the Hebrew term naḥal to portray his three friends as being “as treacherous as a seasonal stream and as the river beds of intermittent streams that flow away” (Job 6:15). 30 Rather than being of help in his time of trouble, Job feels that his friends have not only failed to give comfort but have found fault with him. As Clines observes, “The natural image for such unreliability is the seasonal wadi of Palestine full to overflowing in the rainy season, and a dry watercourse in the heat of summer (cf. Jer. 15:18; Isa. 58:11; cf. 33:16). The wadis overflow when their water is not needed; when it is needed they have nothing to offer. So it is with Job’s friends and their loyalty.”31 Job had hoped that his friends would be a stream of comfort for him, but found them to be dry valleys devoid of a needed solace.
Associated with Beauty
In the lovely Song of Songs the maiden describes herself as a “lily from the valleys” (Song of Songs 2:1).32 Although the lily is an attractive flower, here it is apparently of a rather common variety. The term itself is capable of a wide range of applications.33 Accordingly, if indeed the “lover” in the Song of Songs is as traditionally understood to be Solomon himself, the maiden is speaking of herself quite humbly.34 Thus she is but a little common flower in the midst of many other (perhaps she feels, more attractive?) flowers. As such, she feels unworthy of the king’s notice. Solomon, however, sees matters differently: “Like a lily among the thorns, so is my darling among the maidens” (v.2). In that regard Delitzsch suggests, “She thinks humbly of herself; for before the greatness of the king she appears diminutive, and before the comeliness of the king her own beauty disappears—but he takes up her comparison of herself, and gives it a notable turn.”35 Whether or not the lover is Solomon or simply an unknown young man, the maiden nevertheless speaks of herself in quite modest terms.36 Indeed, she compares herself to one of the many flowers in the broad plains or valleys of the land. It should be remembered, however, that what makes such valleys lovely are the rather common flowers that dot their landscape.
Conclusions and Applications
The above survey of the scriptural use of valleys demonstrates that literal valleys played an important and often strategic role in ancient Israel. They have been noted as places of fertility but also as scenes of warfare. Yet a valley could be a location where Israel’s sinful deeds merited God’s judgment. In a more positive light, God’s people looked forward to a day when those valleys, which had suffered because of Israel’s sin and God’s judgment, would once again become fertile places. Indeed, valleys figure frequently in connection with God’s future plans for his people.
In that light, valleys often take on more symbolic or figurative uses. The imagery associated with valleys provided a source of hope for a beleaguered Israel. In a future day a repentant and purified Israel will experience a rebirth as a nation and enjoy God’s abundant blessings. Even places of past judgment will become scenes of God’s plenteous grace and favor. In what is obviously figurative language Isaiah employs many characteristics of the physical landscape by way of assuring his people that he will see to it that no obstacle remains in connection with the restoration of his people. Thus Isaiah prophesies, “In the wilderness clear a way for the LORD; construct in the desert a road for our God. Every valley must be elevated, and every mountain and hill leveled. The rough terrain will become a level plain, the rugged landscape a wide valley” (Isa. 40:3-4). At that time God’s sovereignty and glory will be seen so clearly that all people will recognize it (Isa. 40:5).
Along different lines, a valley could be used in contexts dealing with such human qualities as disloyalty or unfaithfulness, and more positively, in contexts depicting beauty or encouragement. In perhaps what is the most familiar of all texts featuring a valley the psalmist writes, “Even when I must walk through the darkest valley, I fear no danger” (Ps. 23:4). Although traditionally translated, “The valley of the shadow of death” (e.g., KJV, NKJV, NIV), the NET note carefully explains that the Hebrew phrase has wider associations. Understood in this way, the Psalmist’s words find application to believers regardless of the particular challenging occasion.
The biblical teaching concerning valleys is frequently capable of spiritual applications to believers’ lives. This is most clearly evident in symbolic or figurative uses of the valley theme. As noted above, valleys were often places of difficulty such as in time of war. Yet even here when matters looked extremely bleak, God’s people experienced his provision. One of the most familiar stories in the Bible is that of David and Goliath. The setting for their encounter took place in a valley: “Saul and the Israelite army assembled in the Valley of Elah, where they arranged their battle lines to fight against the Philistines. The Philistines were standing on one hill, and the Israelites on another hill, with the valley between them” (1 Sam. 17:2-3). The Philistine giant Goliath challenged the Israelite troops to select a hero to engage in single combat in order to determine which army would willingly surrender to the other. This challenge had gone on for forty days but none of the Israelite troops dared to face Goliath alone. At that point David arrived in the Israelite camp with food for his brothers who were among the Israelite forces. When David was able to gain permission to engage the Philistine champion, he quickly disposed of the boasting Philistine and thus became God’s instrument of deliverance for Israel (1 Sam. 17:38-54). In God’s providence the place of seeming disaster had become a scene of victory. So it is with the faithful believers who realize God’s nearness and availability. In times or situations of great difficulty it is as the psalmist observes, “But as for me, God’s presence is all I need” (Ps. 73:28). Indeed, God himself declares that in such cases, “Because he is devoted to me, I will deliver him; I will protect him because he is loyal to me. When he calls out to me, I will answer him. I will be with him in trouble, I will rescue him and bring him honor. I will satisfy him with long life, and will let him see my salvation” (Ps. 91:14-16).
Israel’s future was often depicted as one of great blessing. As we noted in connection with Isaiah 41:15-16, 18, this hopeful prospect was at times presented in connection with a valley. Ezekiel 37:1-14 presents another scene of valley transformation that provided hope for the future. Here in a vision Ezekiel is shown a valley of dry bones, which in accordance with God’s instructions he was able to see come back to life (vv. 1-10). The prophecy thus pointed to Israel’s future restoration to the land. As Alexander points out, “The recovery of the bones to form bodies pictures Israel’s ultimate restoration (vv. 4-8). Breath (wind or spirit) entering these restored bodies portrays spiritual renewal (vv. 9-10).”37 It doubtless also provided a source of encouragement for God’s people.
Once again we see the scriptural use of a broad valley to speak of the change from a present rather hopeless state to that of an assured hope in God’s future blessing of his people. Although they were being duly punished for their infidelity, in a future time a repentant, faithful people would be revitalized as a nation of believers. This should serve to remind all believers of God’s great blessings that can flow in great abundance to his faithful people. Our dry “valleys” can be filled with such a great stream of blessings that can so fill our lives that we become sources of blessings and encouragement to others.
Today’s believers have an even greater and more glorious prospect. For it is the assured hope that in God’s own future day, “The LORD himself will come down from heaven with a shout of command, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be suddenly caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the LORD in the air. And so we will always be with the LORD. Therefore encourage one another with these words” (1 Thess. 4:16-18). In that glorious eschatological time Christ will dwell among a redeemed and purified humanity on a glorified earth with the New Jerusalem as its center: “And there will no longer be any curse, and the throne of God and the lamb will be in the city. His servants will worship him, and they will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. Night will be no more, and they will not need the light of a lamp or a light of the sun, because the Lord God will shine on them, and they will reign forever and ever” (Rev. 22:3-5; cf. Ezek. 47:1-4; Joel 3:18; Zech. 14:8).
Thus faithful believers need not merely entertain a wishful feeling of “hope so” that things will turn out right, but have an assured hope in “Christ Jesus who is our hope” (1 Tim.1:1) and the knowledge that as united to Christ theirs is a living, vital relation with him” (Col. 1:27). They can therefore joyfully sing,
My hope is in the Lord, Who gave Himself for me,
And paid the price for all my sin at Calvary.
For me he died, For me He lives,
And everlasting life and light He freely gives.38
Believers may at times feel like the Shulamith maid of old that, compared with Christ who” loved the church and gave himself for her” (Eph. 5:25), their “beauty” is simply that of the common lily of the valley (Song of Songs 2:1). Yet their lives should, and by God’s grace can, reflect the beauty of Christ. The simplest believer may become a “valley,” which is attracts others to the beauty of a Christ-centered life (cf. Rev. 15:1-3). And as the believer serves the Lord, he is reminded that all along the way the Lord is his ever present shepherd (Ps. 23:1).
As was noted above, Psalm 23:4 is capable of being understood as a valley of the shadow of death or may have wider associations (e.g., darkest valley). In either case the author intends his readers to understand that whatever trials or dangers they must face-- even death itself, they need not fear. Rather, the believer may be assured of the Lord’s protection, provision, and guidance (Ps. 23: 1-6). He is indeed the believer’s “Shepherd.” The motif of God as Shepherd is a frequent one in the Old Testament. It has even more special relevance to Christian believers of all ages, for Christ himself has assured his followers, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me” (John 10:11, 14).39
The hymn writer expresses it well:
The King of Love my Shepherd is,
Whose goodness faileth never;
I nothing lack if I am His,
And He is mine forever.
] .. . .. . . . . . .. . . . . . . .. . .
In death’s dark vale I fear no ill
With Thee, dear Lord, beside me;
Thy rod and staff my comfort still,
Thy cross before to guide me.
And so through all the length of days
Thy goodness faileth never;
Good Shepherd, may I sing Thy praise
Within Thy house forever.40
In light of all that the biblical valleys have to teach us, may we choose to live in the fertile and productive valley of victory and assured hope rather than wandering in a wilderness of doubt or uncertainty.
1 Leland Ryken, James C. Wilhoit, and Tremper Longman III, eds. ,Dictionary of Biblical Imagery (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1998), 909.
2 J. H. Walton, “Valley,” in The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, ed. Geoffrey W. Bromiley, rev. ed. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1988) 4:964.
3 J. H. Paterson, “Vale, Valley,” in The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1975) 5:860. Terms from both categories are used in Psalm 104:8-10 in describing God’s handiwork in forming the topographical features of the earth.
4 For a geological portrait of the features that account for the geography of the land, see Denis Baly, The Geography of the Bible, rev .ed. (New York: Harper and Row, 1974), 3-111.
5 All scriptural citations are taken from the NET Bible.
6 Carl Rasmussen, “Biq᷾ā, valley(s),” in New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology & Exegesis, Willem A. VanGemeren (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1997) 1:704.
7 See further Carl Rasmussen, “`emeq, valley, plain,” in Ibid., 3:440.
8 As the NET footnote suggests, “It is difficult to determine whether the speaker in 6:11-12 is Solomon or the Beloved. Most interpreters view the above words of the dialogue as being expressed by a woman. Whatever the case, our point is that the Hebrew word involved points to an area where crops could grow.
9 As L. A. Snijders (“naḥal,” in Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament, eds. G. Johannes Boitterweck, Helmer Ringgren and Heinz-Josef Fabry [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998] 9:339) points out, “The association of wadis with agriculture and settlements is attested frequently in the OT.” Snijders provides several examples.
10 Of interest also is the subsequent account of how victorious Abram was met by a certain Melchizedeq, who blessed him and in return Abram gave him “a tenth of everything” (v.20; see NET text note). The further biblical teaching concerning Melchizedeq in Heb. 7:1-2 8 reveals that the characteristics and his priesthood find an even more superior counterpart in Christ, the Great High Priest. See further, the informative discussion by Kenneth A. Mathews, “Genesis 11:27-50:26 , in The New American Commentary, ed. E. Ray Clendenen (Nashville, Broadman and Holman, 2005), 151-56.
11 See the discussion in Gleason L. Archer, Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1982), 161-62.
12 Walter C. Kaiser, Jr., More Hard Sayings of the Old Testament (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1992), 126. See also Archer, Encyclopedia, 162.
13 Richard D. Patterson, “The Song of Deborah,” in Tradition and Testament: Essays in Honor of Charles Lee Feinberg, eds. John S. and Paul D. Feinberg (Chicago: Moody 1981), 126.
14 Leslie C. Allen, The Books of Joel, Obadiah, Jonah and Micah (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1976), 271.
15 Theo. Laetsch, The Minor Prophets (Saint Louis: Concordia, 1956), 134.
16 See Yohanan Aharoni and Michael Avi-Yonah, The Macmillan Bible Atlas (New York: Macmillan, 1968), plate 204; Barry J. Beitzel, The Moody Atlas of Bible Lands (Chicago: Moody, 1985), plates 74, 75, 76.
17 For the identification and significance of the names associated with the religious practices carried on there (e.g., Baal, Topheth, and Molech), see the discussion on 2 Kings 16:3 in H. J. Austel and Richard D. Patterson, “1 and 2 Kings,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary , eds. Tremper Longman III & David E. Garland, rev. ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2009) 3:891-94.
18 See R. E. Davies, “Gehenna,” in The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible , 1:844.
19 See the NET text note.
20 For further details see, Richard D. Patterson, Hosea (Richardson, TX: Biblical Studies Press, 2009), 34-35. It is interesting to note that like Achor, the name of the first child of Hosea and Gomer, Jezreel, has an unhappy historical background in Israelite history. For Jezreel was the location where Jehu instituted a blood bath in assuming power in the northern kingdom (2 Kings 9:14-37). Accordingly, Frances L. Andersen and David Noel Freedman (Hosea. The Anchor Bible [Garden City: Doubleday, 1980], 275) observe, “Both Jezreel and Achor carry a double meaning—death under Yahweh’s judgment, new life under his mercy.”
21 John N. Oswalt, The Book of Isaiah: Chapters 40-66, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998), 94. See also Oswalt’s further discussion, on pages 95-96.
22 Gary V. Smith, Isaiah 40-66, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2009), 742.
23 Edward J. Young, The Book of Isaiah, 3 vols. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1972) 3:527.
24 Joel likewise prophesies that in that blessed future era, “All the dry stream beds of Judah will flow with water” (Joel 3:18). Amos records God’s message for eighth century B.C. Israel, that it needs to practice justice and “right actions “ that must flow “like a stream that never dries up” (Amos 5:24).
25 Alan P. Ross, “nhr I, stream,” in New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology and Exegesis, 3:47.
26 See above, footnote #9.
27 The following discussion concerning Gog and Magog is not concerned with the time of the warfare or matters concerning the composition of Ezekiel 38-39 or the relation of the details of Ezekiel’s prophecy to those of Revelation 19:11-21; 20: 7-10. Nor is it concerned with a relation to details relative to Armageddon (Rev. 16:16). All such matters, while interesting and important, are considered in standard scholarly commentaries. The focus here is on the location of those climactic end-time events as being connected with the valley tradition.
28 Ralph H. Alexamder (“Ezerkiel,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, eds. Tremper Longman III and David E. Garland, rev. ed [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1986]76:861) suggests, “A city named Hamonah (horde) would be located in the Valley of Hamon-Gog (v. 16), perhaps viewed as a city of the dead. The city’s exact nature is unclear.” Hamonah is perhaps best associated with Ezekiel’s earlier prophecies concerning Israel’s ungodly behavior (cf. Ezek. 5:7; 23:1-2). Thus Daniel L. Block (The Book of Ezekiel: Chapter 25-48, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998], 472) remarks, “In the present context Hamonah’s primary function is to memorialize the demise of Israel’s last and greatest enemy, but by association it memorializes the transformation of the city, and with it the nation. The people that had once superseded the pagan nations with their tumultuous arrogance and rebellion now impressed the world with their scrupulous adherence to the will of Yahweh.”
29 George L. Klein, Zechariah, The New American Commentary, ed. E. Ray Clendenen (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2008), 405.
30 For the Hebrew term translated “intermittent streams,” see the NET text note.
31 David J. A. Clines, Job 1-20, Word Biblical Commentary, eds. David A. Hubbard, Glenn W. Barker, and John D. W. Watts ((Dallas: Word Books, 1989), 178-79.
32 As to the identity of the maiden, see the NET note on Song of Songs 6:13.
33 See Fauna and Flora of the Bible (London: United Bible Societies, 1972), 134-36.
34 It should be noted that the Song of Songs and the identity of the characters involved have received many different and often conflicting interpretations. See the applicable NET text notes.
35 Franz Delitzsch, Commentary on the Song of Songs and Ecclesiastes, trans. M. G. Easton (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, n.d.), 41.
36 Some have considered the speaker in Song of Songs 2:1 to be the man, not the woman. For details, see the discussion in Marvin H. Pope, Song of Songs, The Anchor Bible (Garden City: Doubleday, 1977), 369-70. Such speculation, however, seems most unlikely.
37 Alexander, “Ezekiel,” 7:848.
38 Norman J. Clayton, “My Hope is in the Lord.”
39 For further details concerning the relevance of shepherds, see Richard D. Patterson, “Special Christmas Visitors in Bethlehem,” Biblical Studies Press, 2009.
40 Henry W. Baker, “The King of Love My Shepherd Is.”