The Kidron Valley, also known as the Valley of Jehoshaphat, is an important biblical location mentioned several times in both the Old and New Testaments. Here is an overview of the Kidron Valley’s significance and history according to the Bible:
The Kidron Valley is a deep ravine located on the eastern side of Jerusalem. It separates the city from the Mount of Olives. The valley begins at the Old City near the Gihon Spring and runs in a south-easterly direction for approximately 2.5 miles (4 km) until it meets the Dead Sea.
The name “Kidron” comes from the Hebrew word “kedar” meaning dark or gloomy. This likely refers to the valley’s steep cliffs that cast shadows across it. The Arabic name for the valley is Wadi al-Joz, meaning “Valley of the Walnut Trees.”
Significance in the Old Testament
The Kidron Valley held great religious and ceremonial importance in ancient Israelite times. Here are some key events that took place there according to the Old Testament:
– King David and the people of Jerusalem fled through the valley when Absalom rebelled (2 Samuel 15:23).
– King Asa burned pagan idols and dumped the ashes in the Kidron Valley to signify spiritual cleansing (1 Kings 15:13).
– King Hezekiah destroyed pagan shrines built by his father Ahaz and threw their rubble into the valley (2 Chronicles 29:16).
– The prophet Jeremiah hid his linen belt at the entrance of the valley as a prophetic sign against Jerusalem (Jeremiah 13:1-11).
– Idolatrous altars and shrines were destroyed by King Josiah and their remains brought to the valley (2 Kings 23:4, 6, 12).
The Kidron Valley served as a gathering place for worship and religious ceremonies. King David brought the Ark of the Covenant there (2 Samuel 15:32-37) and King Solomon held festivals and offered sacrifices in the valley (1 Kings 2:37).
Jesus and the Kidron Valley
The New Testament also records several important events related to Jesus Christ happening in the Kidron Valley:
– After the Last Supper, Jesus traveled through the valley to the Garden of Gethsemane where he prayed and was later arrested (John 18:1).
– Jesus regularly went to the Mount of Olives across the valley to pray and rest during his ministry (Luke 21:37).
– Jesus may have crossed the Kidron Valley each day during Passion Week on his way to teach at the temple (Luke 21:37-38).
– After Jesus’ arrest, the disciples likely fled across the valley to the city from Gethsemane (Mark 14:50).
The Kidron Valley was a sacred place for kings, prophets, and pilgrims across centuries of biblical history. Jesus himself walked its path to the Garden of Gethsemane the night before his crucifixion. Today, the Kidron Valley remains a site of religious pilgrimage and an integral part of the biblical geography of Jerusalem.
In addition to historical events, the prophets used the Kidron Valley as a symbolic reference in their prophecies against Jerusalem and Judah:
– Jeremiah threatened that the valley would be “filled with the dead” during the coming Babylonian invasion (Jeremiah 31:40).
– The prophet Joel described the judgment of the nations occurring in the “Valley of Jehoshaphat” which is another name for the Kidron (Joel 3:2, 12).
– The name “Valley of Jehoshaphat” comes from the Hebrew meaning “Yahweh judges.” This ties the valley to the theme of divine judgment.
– The Kidron Valley’s association with idol destruction and divine wrath lends itself as a symbolic venue for God’s future judgment on the nations.
While some scholars debate the literal geographic meaning of “Valley of Jehoshaphat,” the name reflects the prophet’s warnings of coming judgment. The vivid imagery would have resonated with ancient listeners familiar with the Kidron Valley’s history.
Tombs and Monuments
As the main valley east of Jerusalem, the Kidron Valley became the site of elaborate tombs and monuments over the centuries:
– Absalom’s Pillar is a 1st century AD monument built in the upper part of the valley. It was named after David’s rebellious son who fled across the valley but has no historical connection to him.
– The Tomb of Benei Hezir and Tomb of Zechariah are decorated 1st century AD burial monuments cut into the valley walls.
– The Grotto of James is an underground 4th century church built over a cave believed to be the burial site of James the Just, brother of Jesus.
– Jewish graves from the Second Temple period line sections of the steep Kidron Valley cliffs.
– Tombs from later Christian and Muslim eras continued to fill the area over time.
The Kidron Valley’s proximity to the ancient city made it a prime location for elaborate tombs. The tombs and monuments that still stand there today are part of the valley’s long funerary history.
The Stream of the Kidron Valley
At the bottom of the Kidron Valley flows the Kidron Stream, also called the Brook Kidron. While just a trickling brook today, it was once a valley stream with much greater flow. Here are some key facts about the Kidron Stream:
– In ancient times, the stream drew water from the Gihon Spring in Jerusalem making the valley fertile with orchards and gardens.
– Hebrew writers saw the brook as the border between the Promised Land and the wilderness (Joshua 15:7, 18:16).
– The stream ran red with the blood of idolatrous sacrifices destroyed by righteous kings (2 Chronicles 29:16, 30:14).
– Jesus crossed the brook on his way to Gethsemane on the final night of his life (John 18:1).
– The prophet Ezekiel had visions of the glory of God departing from the temple eastward across the Kidron stream into exile (Ezekiel 10:18, 11:23).
While just a dry wadi today, the Kidron Stream winds through the valley floor as a reminder of the valley’s past fertility and ceremonies. The brook is also a symbol of the dividing line between the holy city and the wilderness beyond.
The Kidron Valley in the Gospels
The four gospels provide additional insight into the geography and activities of the Kidron Valley in Jesus’ day:
**Location Relative to the Temple**
– The valley marked the eastern boundary of first century Jerusalem with the temple mount along its western ridge (Josephus, Antiquities 15.380).
– Jesus taught daily in the temple courts during Passion Week with just the Kidron Valley separating him from the Mount of Olives where he lodged at night (Luke 21:37-38).
**Route to Bethany and Bethphage**
– The road to the villages of Bethany and Bethphage ran through the Kidron Valley, over the Mount of Olives, and down into the Judean wilderness (Mark 11:1).
– Jesus frequently traveled this road back and forth during his final week to visit friends Mary, Martha, and Lazarus who lived in Bethany (John 12:1).
**Garden of Gethsemane**
– The Garden of Gethsemane was located at the foot of the Mount of Olives across the valley from Jerusalem (Mark 14:26, 32).
– Jesus prayed his agonized prayer there the night of his arrest after crossing the Kidron Valley from Jerusalem (Matthew 26:30, 36-37).
The gospel accounts situate the Kidron Valley as part of the larger landscape of Jerusalem and Jesus’ movements during his passion week before the crucifixion.
The Kidron Valley continues to be an important geographical and religious site today:
– The valley now separates the Old City of Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives. It provides a dramatic vista of the ancient walled city.
– The valley contains historic churches, tombs, and archaeological sites nestled among the Palestinian villages of Silwan and A-Tur.
– A Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives slopes down across the valley with an estimated 150,000 graves dating back millennia.
– Christian pilgrims walk the “Palm Sunday Road” down from the Mount of Olives, retracing Jesus’ route on Palm Sunday.
– The valley continues to be prone to flooding during heavy rains which endangers burial caves and monuments.
– Part of the original Kidron stream still flows after winter rains near Gethsemane at the valley’s lower end.
– Archaeologists are uncovering artifacts and tombs in the valley dating back to biblical times, though the Palestinian Authority controls excavations.
Thousands of years of religion and history saturate the Kidron Valley. It remains a sacred destination for Jews, Christians, and Muslims from around the world seeking to walk in the footsteps of kings, prophets, and the Messiah himself.
Deeper Theological Significance
In addition to its geographical prominence, the symbolic theological significance of the Kidron Valley in Scripture includes:
**A Picture of God’s Judgment**
– The valley’s association with divine judgment in the prophets presents a solemn portrait of God’s wrath against sin. The nations will one day be judged in a final “Valley of Jehoshaphat” (Joel 3:2).
– Jesus also warned of future judgment for those who reject him (Matthew 23:33; Luke 13:28-29). The imagery of the Kidron Valley evokes the inevitability of this coming day of reckoning.
**A Reminder of Idolatry’s Dangers**
– The destruction of idols in the valley illustrates the importance of pure worship. God desires fidelity and righteousness, not empty ritual (Psalm 51:16-17; Hosea 6:6)
– Like the people of Judah, believers must continually examine their hearts and lives to avoid modern idols that may compromise devotion to Christ.
**Jesus’ Suffering and Obedience**
– Jesus willingly crossed the valley to the garden of his arrest, knowing what awaited him in obedience to the Father’s will (Luke 22:39-42).
– His sorrow unto death in Gethsemane encompassed the cup of God’s wrath for sin that all people deserve (Mark 14:33-36; Romans 5:8).
– No matter how dark their own “valley of shadows,” believers can have confidence in Jesus who suffered before them (Psalm 23:4; Hebrews 5:7-9).
The Kidron Valley symbolizes the paradox of Jesus’ passion. In this place of future wrath, God’s Son obediently marched toward the cross and undeserved suffering for the salvation of all who believe in him.
For thousands of years, the Kidron Valley has been a place of profound biblical history and symbolism. As the main valley outside Jerusalem’s eastern gate, it was a vital path traversed by kings, prophets, pilgrims and Jesus himself. Its references in both Testaments highlight events like King David’s flight during Absalom’s revolt, Josiah’s idol reform, and Jesus’ agonizing prayer in Gethsemane. The valley’s importance and meaning continue to resonate with Jews, Christians and Muslims who visit it today. More than just a geographic feature, the Kidron Valley remains a testament to God’s redemptive workings through generations of faith.