The Gilboa Mountain offers a unique vantage point into the discussion on the north-eastern approaches to the land.. As such, we will use it and its events to help us understand the significance of this specific region.
Mt Gilboa looks out over the Jezereel valley. This is a key crossing point of The Via Marris. Anyone coming from Mesopotamia and heading to Egypt or vice versa would have to cross through the land of Israel, and will want to do so in the most convenient way. In this specific region that would mean crossing the Jezereel valley and then heading down the Mediteranian coast.
After passing by Aram, those wishing to enter the land will have to pass near by Chatzor and the region known today as the Gallilee panhandle. From here they would cut through the valleys of the Gallillee leading to the large northern valley known as the Jezereel valley. The Jezereel valley is a large fertile valley which is very important both for this route cutting through it, and for its agricultural potential. One of the approaches leading into this valley from the east is guarded by the city Beit Shean. For this reason Beit shean Was an important city throughout the history of the land. As such, there is a large archeological tel which preserves layer upon layer of civilization on site.
Taking the geographical context into account we can understand the events of Shauls last battle.
In brief (as our main emphasis here is on the geographical region and separate posts deal with the specific events in greater detail)- the battle itself is mainly fought in the valley below. There were likely a number of reasons why this was such a significant battle for Shaul- including that his greatest achievement was at risk! Shaul was the first king over the entire nation! He united the tribes of Israel. If the pelishtim succeed in taking and holding the Jezereel valley they can cut off the northern tribes of Israel. This could also lead to an opening into the Central mountain region which they already twice failed to achieve (though admittedly this is not the ideal approach to the area).
When the battle is lost and Shaul and his son’s bodies were discovered they were hung on the nearby wall of Beat shean! Again, very understandable based on the geography. Shauls first act as king was to unite the nation to defend the people of Yavesh Gilead. As such it closes a circle when they come to show him his final respects by removing the bodies form the wall and caring for them. Yavesh Gilead lies to the east in the mountains of Jordan. Beat shean as a key city protects the road leading from (among other places) the area of Yavesh into the Jezereel valley. This is just one of many examples of the importance of the Jezereel valley in the Tanach. Here the great dedication of an often unsung hero echoes the eternal message he tried to embody- unity! You can’t stand by as your brothers are under attack. You must rise and fight side by side even if you know it is doomed to failure!
Our coming tours will deal with the southern approaches to the central mountains, the central mountains themselves, and the north-western segments of the land. After which we will begin a new series of tours going book by book through the books of Navi! For more info on our tours or to request a specific area or event to explore based on analyzing the land, check out our upcoming tours, and please feel free to contact me!