Glimpses of Israel - Sorek

by Joseph Hunting

The name 'Sorek' means a choice or excellent vine. It is also the name of a valley immortalized in the book of Judges where Samson waged a one-man war against the hosts of the Philistines.

Indeed, it was the valley of Sorek that was the scenario for his downfall. "And it came to pass afterward, that he loved a woman in the valley of Sorek, whose name was Delilah." (Judges 16:4). The story of Delilah's treachery is well known as is the tragedy that overtook Samson and ended his life.

Centuries later the Sorek valley was the route taken by the Ark of the Covenant when it was returned to Israel after being in the possession of the Philistines for seven months. "And they laid the ark of the Lord upon a cart ... and the kine took the straight way to the way of Beth-shemesh." This road was the highway that passed along the Sorek valley.

One of the most delightful journeys one can take in Israel today is by train from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. After passing through suburdia and then the orange groves in the Sharon plain the route follows the Sorek valley until it begins the steep climb through the Judean hills to Jerusalem. Perhaps few passengers realize that the Ark of the Covenant once jolted along the identical route.

Beth-shemesh (lit. house of the sun) indicates that sun worshippers once practised their pagan worship at this spot. Indeed, the name Samson (Heb. Shimshon) is linked with Shemesh. Today, relics of stone buildings strewn across the ground are the only link with the Beth-shemesh of Bible times and the drama that was enacted in this historic valley.