The Valley of Jezreel (Hosea 1)

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Illustration: The Jezreel Valley

The Valley of Jezreel, located between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, divides Galilee in the north from Samaria in the south. It is part of a larger valley that constitutes the only east-west passage across the Holy Land. It is also a fertile stretch of land that formed an important junction in the trade route between Egypt in the south and Damascus in the north. All of these factors, plus its relatively flat geography, have made it tremendously important and have contributed to its violent history.

During the conquest, when this area was occupied by Canaanites, the Joseph tribes were unable to wrest Jezreel from its occupants. The problem was that the flat land allowed for the effective use of chariots, which the Israelites did not have in their arsenal (Joshua 17:16). During the Judges period Sisera, the general of the Canaanite king Jabin, had dominated this region with his 900 chariots (Judges 4:3). Jezreel is of great importance in Hosea, a book of prophecy directed against the northern kingdom of Israel.

  • In Hosea 1:4 the prophet, adhering to God’s direct instruction, named his first son Jezreel in an ironic allusion to the slaughter at Jezreel carried out by Jehu against the house of Ahab, and particularly against Jezebel, for their support of the prophets of Baal (2 Kings 9:1-10:11). The irony is that Jehu’s own dynasty would be wiped out because of its continued adeherence to the cult of Baal.
  • Hosea 1:5 proclaimed that God would break the bow of Israel in the Valley of Jezreel.This obviously pointed to a military defeat for the northern kingdom. This prophecy came to pass in 733 B.C. when Tiglath-Pileser III conquered the area.
  • Even so, Hosea promised that God would one day redeem Israel. Making use of the fact that Jezreel means “God sows”, 2:17-22 promised that one day God would make Israel flourish again like a lush garden.

 

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