Jezreel: Bible archaeology

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Location, location

Battles

Jezreel and Jezebel

 

 











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Picture of a savage dog with bared teeth

'When Jehu invaded the city with his troops, the hunting dogs normally kept in pens seem to have been let loose to create confusion and panic.

Some of them found their way into the palace courtyard where Queen Jezebel's bleeding body lay...'

Dogs eat Jezebel

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                     JEZREEL

The word 'Jezreel' comes from the words El (God) and Izra (plant seed). Obviously the word is close to 'Israel'. 

Location, location

The reason for Jezreel's importance lay in its geographical position. It was the natural route to take when traveling from west to east of the country, and so it saw a large amount of traffic, peaceful and warlike. 

Jezreel: The Valley of Jezreel lying beneath Jezreel, with Mount Tabor in the distance.

The valley of Jezreel much as Jezebel would have seen it, with its rich fertile farms 
and Mouth Tabor in the distance. Her city dominated the valley, allowing the guards to see any enemy coming hours before he reached the city, giving Jezebel's people time to prepare for attack. 
The town of Nazareth lies on the hillside to the left.

 

Battles

Its flat terrain was suitable for chariots and also for pitched battle, so it was the site of many historic clashes between the Israelites and their enemies. Mobile units of charioteers could patrol the plains and the roads running across them, giving protection to trade caravans and road traffic.

Jezreel: Wall relief from the palace at Nimrud, showing a dying soldier shot through with arrows

Part of a wall relief from the Northwest Palace at Nimrud. King Ahab, husband of Jezebel, 
died in much the same way as this warrior, as did her son Joram

Jezreel was capital city of the northern kingdom of Israel. It was the site of several significant biblical events: King Saul and his three sons were killed there by the Philistines in the Battle of Gilboa. 

Jezreel and Jezebel

Jezreel: Ancient ivory plaque of the Woman at the Window, a motif that seems to have been common in the ancient Middle East

Carved ivory plaque showing the Woman at the Window; the Bible scene where Jezebel appears at an upper window may be an allusion to this image - though the story behind it is long since lost

Jezreel: An ancient seal which may have belonged to Jezebel

This seal, from the collection of the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, 
may have belonged to Jezebel, wife of King Ahab of Israel. 
See The seal of Jezebel

Later, Jezreel was the winter capital of the extraordinary King Omri, one of the great military commanders of the ancient world. His son Ahab lived there with Queen Jezebel, and it was from the tower at Jezreel that she watched her son being murdered, just before meeting her own grisly death. 

Naboth's vineyard, the cause of so much trouble, was close to the walls of the city (1 Kings 21). In the courtyard of the palace Jezebel's body was eaten by dogs (2 King 9:30-37). 

See Bible People: Jezebel for her story.

Jezreel: Excavations at the eastern side of the city of Jezreel: high stone walls surround a central area

Excavations on the eastern side of the city. Somewhere here is the spot where Jezebel's blood spattered the stone floor of the courtyard, to be licked up by 
the palace dogs

Jezreel: Excavations at Jezreel: toppled walls around a central area

This was once the central administrative area of the city of Jezreel

 

The area around Jezreel was called the plain of Esdraelon in the Book of Judith, and was supposed to be close to Judith's own city. 

For Judith's sexually ambiguous story, see Bible Women: Judith.  
For famous paintings of the scene where she hacks off the head of her enemy Holofernes, see Bible Art: Judith

 

See other fascinating links between 
Archaeology and the Bible

  

 

 

 

 

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