Glimpses of Israel - Shephelah

The Shephelah is located between the central highlands of Israel and the Mediterranean. The region is referred to in Scripture as "the lowland", and consists of small hills and narrow valleys. These small hills were once heavily wooded with sycamore trees. "The king made silver as common in Jerusalm as stones, and he made cedars as abundant as the sycamore-figs which are in the lowland." (1 Kings 10:27)

Situated eastward of the plain of Sharon where the former five great Philistine strongholds of Ekron, Ashdod, Ashkelon, Gath and Gaza were located, the Shephelah provided a buffer zone, which was hotly disputed, between Israel and Philistia. The valleys Aijalon, Sorek and Elah are located in the Shephelah and have become historically renowned.

Joshua led the army of Israel in a decisive victory over the kings of Jerusalem, Hebron, Jarmuth, Lachish and Eglon, the five kings of the Amorites. The Lord also killed the retreating Amorites with great hailstones. "There were more who died from the hailstones than those whom the children of Israel killed with the sword." And it was here that Joshua commanded, "'Sun, stand still over Gibeon; and moon in the Valley of Aijalon.' So the sun stood still, and the moon stood still, and the moon stopped, till the people had revenge upon their enemies." (Joshua 10:12)

Samson was judge and deliverer for twenty years in Israel. He was a Nazarite to God from the tribe of Dan, born in the hill country. Samson "went down" to the valleys and villages of the Philistines. On one occasion he burned and destroyed their grain crops, vineyards and olive groves because they had burned and killed his Philistine wife. Whilst his attraction to the Philistine women gave him occasion to fight the enemy, and so bring deliverance to Israel, it also brought about his demise. Samson was betrayed by a Philistine woman who lived in the Valley of Sorek.

The young man David stood in the Valley of Elah and declared to the Philistine giant, Goliath, "You come to me with a sword, with a spear, and a javelin. But I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied." (1 Samuel 16:45)

The town of Mareshah was strategically situated on the edge of the Shephelah and was fortified by Rehoboam, son of Solomon (2 Chronicles 11:8), and by subsequent rulers down the centuries. Tel Maresha is all that remains of this once renowned city, its secrets yet to be fully revealed by archaeologists.