Kidron valley during the temple period


We are in the Kidron valley, which has accompanied the history of Jerusalem and the Jewish people for thousands of years. The Kidron brook starts north of the Old City. Yet a significant part of its 34 km long route passes through the Judean Desert and flows into the Dead Sea near the settlement of Avnet. One more important point regarding the Kidron valley, which in Arabic is called Wadi A -Nar – one of its channels in the Judean Desert feeds a long aqueduct built during the Hasmonean period

in the 1st or 2nd Century BC, which led floodwaters from the Kidron brook to the Horkanya Fortress, and I will take the opportunity and invite you to watch the video about this Fortress. Throughout ancient history, the Kidron brook had several essential roles in the daily life in Jerusalem and I will mention some of them: Let’s start with the fact that the Kidron brook formed the eastern border of Jerusalem. This can be learned from several events in the Bible, for example, when Absalom rebelled against his father King David, and David ran away while leaving Jerusalem, the Kidron brook is indicated as the city’s boundary as written in the 2nd book of Samuel chapter 15. Another example – when King Solomon commands Shimei ben Gera not to leave Jerusalem due to Shimei ben Gera cursing King David during David escape from Absalom, and I will just point out that Shimei’s anger was probably due to his believe that David was guilty of killing Abner ben Ner, the head of King Saul’s army, as well as the killing of Ish-Bosheth, King’s Saul son. King Solomon warns Shimei that if he will leave the boundaries of Jerusalem and cross the Kidron brook he will be killed, as written in the 1st book of Kings, chapter 2. And the last example – in the book of Jeremiah chapter 31, Kidron brook is mentioned as one of the boundaries that symbolize the construction area of Jerusalem in the End of Days.

We are looking at the eastern side of the Kidron brook, down Mount of Olives. Over the course of many generations, thousands of tombs, caves, and tombstones were added here. This is the largest and oldest burial site among the burial sites in Jerusalem. The combination of the prophecy in the book of Joel, chapter 4, according to which, in this place God will judge the nations at the End of Days, and the proximity to the Temple Mount, made the valley here a sought-after burial site since the First Temple period. The existence of the burial site east of the brook is a further proof that the Kidron brook was the eastern border of the city, since burial at that time, took place outside the city limits.

The graves throughout ancient time were in locations with steep slopes outside the city – where the land could not be used for purposes such as residence or agriculture, and also, it was better in places with hard rock, which increased the probability of a burial cave being preserved over time.

Another function of Kidron brook – it was used as a place to exterminate idolatry. For example, in the days of King Asa, King of Judah who ruled since end of the tenth century BC, and as it is written in the 1st Book of Kings chapter 15 (verses 11-13). This is also the case during the time of King Josiah who reigned in Judah in the second half of the seventh century BC, and as it is written in the 2nd book Kings, chapter 23.

The brook roles are derived from its location, on the eastern border of Jerusalem – close to the temple, but outside the city, close to the desert. It was used for purposes that are not possible in Jerusalem, for example: burial, exterminating idolatry, uses related to impurity, including removing the temple’s waste into the brook. The waste, originally sacred which has become obsolete. In a sense, it is the opposite of the reality of God’s worship and life in the temple, and therefore those roles are occurring outside the temple, but in close proximity to it.

The Kidron brook route is on the border with the desert and flows into the Dead Sea. On one hand, the brook separates the city from the desert, yet at the same time, the brook connects the city to the desert by the fact it is leading to it. On one hand, its roles are a symbol of impurity, disease, and death.

But the brook with its water makes it possible to maintain life and not just life, I am talking about life of purification in the holy city of Jerusalem.

The Kidron brook is one of the large drainage basins in the eastern part of Jerusalem – a city whose water source and water conveyance systems to its storage pools were among the decisive factors that dictated the place of its foundation and the directions of its expansion.

In the center of the Kedron brook basin area is the old city of Jerusalem. The Kidron basin includes two drainage basins that flow into the brook from several directions, including Egoz brook or in its Arabic name Wadi Joz + Beit Zita brook located south of today’s Lion’s Gate and further on, the central valley or in its other name – Tyropoeon Valley, all these in the north. Then we have Azel brook with Valley of Hinnom in the south.

The Kidron brook is low and deep and therefor, other brooks around ​​ancient Jerusalem flowed into it. These valleys and brooks shaped the topography of Jerusalem in ancient times and defined its borders.

The name Kidron has a number of different meanings: one, from the Hebrew word “kedra” (a cooking pot) because the shape of the eastern part of Kidron brook, where the Valley of Hinnom and the central valley flow into it, is in the shape of a crater like a cooking pot.

A different meaning from the Hebrew word “Koder” meaning dark, because the lower part of the valley is surrounded by mountains and is therefore dark and gloomy during some hours of the day. Another meaning also refers to the interpretation of the word “Koder” as “darkness”, but it refers to the brook as a place of burial and impurity. The last option attributes the origin of the name Kidron to the Hebrew name “Kadarim” which are potters in English as workshops of potters were along the brook.

The archaeological mapping indicates the presence of many winepresses, terraces, oil mills and cisterns in the Kidron Basin. These also testify to the existence of agricultural activity in the areas adjacent to the city. And perhaps another important topic related to the Kidron book is the Omer. The Omer was the first grain offering that the Israelites brought to the Temple, from the first ripening barley at the beginning of Passover as commanded in Leviticus chapter 23 (verses 9-14).

Only after bringing the Omer, it was allowed to eat from the new grain. Omer used to come from the Kidron valley. Because of this, the barley of the Kidron valley was part of the sanctity of the Temple Mount.

And to conclude as usual I have a question for you: along the Kidron Valley, in the area close to the Temple Mount, there are 3 monumental tombs, what are their names. The answer will appear at the end of the video.

How to get there?

The route of the Kidron brook, is from Jerusalem to the Dead Sea. Most of the photos were taken between Absalom’s tomb and Pharaoh’s daughter tomb area. The marked location is near Absalom’s tomb.

Information Sources

  1. Book: Ancient landscapes of Eretz-Israel, Author: Menashe Harel, Publisher: Kinneret, Zamora Dvir Ltd.
  2. Article: The Topography of Biblical Jerusalem, Section 1, Author: Rabbi Yitzhak Levy
  3. Article: Kidron River Basin, the visual space of the Old City of Jerusalem, Editor: Israel Kimchi

Mention in the Bible

  1. 1Kings chapter 2 verse 37
  2. 1Kings chapter 15 verse 13
  3. 2Kings chapter 23 verse 6
  4. 2Samuel chapter 15 verse 23
  5. Jeremiah chapter 31 verse 39
  6. Joel chapter 4
  7. Leviticus chapter 23 verses: 9-14

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