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Bible Encyclopedias

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Kidron

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(Heb. Kidron', קַדְרוֹן, turbid, compare Job 6:16; Sept. Κέδρων, N.T. Κεδρών, John 18:1, where some copies erroneously have Κεδρῶν, and the Auth. Version "Cedron;" Josephus Kespcuv, Genesis - ῶνος), the brook or winter torrent which flows through the valley of Jehoshaphat (as it is now called), on the east side of Jerusalem (see 1 Maccabees 12:37). "The brook Kidron" is the only name by which " the valley" itself is known in Scripture, for it is by no means certain that the name "Valley of Jehoshaphat" in Joel (Joel 3:12) was intended to apply to this valley. The word rendered " brook" (2 Samuel 15:23; 1 Kings 2:37; 1 Kings 15:13; 2 Kings 23:6; 2 Kings 23:12; 2 Chronicles 15:16; 2 Chronicles 29:16; 2 Chronicles 30:14; Jeremiah 31:40; compare Nehemiah 2:15; Amos 6:14) is נִחִל, nachal, which may be taken as equivalent to the Arabic wady, meaning a stream and its bed or valley, or properly the valley of a stream, even when the stream is dry. The Septuagint and evangelist (in the above passages), as well as Josephus (Ant. 8:1, 5; but φάραγξ in 9:7,3; War, 5:6, 1), designate it χειμαῤῥος, a storm brook, or winter torrent. But it would seem as if the name were formerly applied also to the ravines surrounding other portions of Jerusalem, the south or west, since Solomon's prohibition to Shimei to "pass over the torrent Kidron" (1 Kings 2:37; Josephus, Ant. 8:1, 5) is said to have been broken by the latter when he went in the direction of Gath to seek his fugitive slaves (v. 41,42). Now a person going to Gath would certainly not go by the way of the Mount of Olives, or approach the eastern side of the city at all. The route-whether Gath were at Beit-Jibrin or at Tell es-Safieh would be by the Bethlehem gate, and then nearly due west. Perhaps the prohibition may have been a more general one than is implied in v. 37 (comp. the king's reiteration of it in v. 42), the Kidron being in that case specially mentioned because it was on the road to Bahurim, Shimei's home, and the scene of his crime. At any rate, beyond the passage in question, there is no evidence of the name Kidron having been applied to the southern or western ravines of the city.

The Kidron is mentioned several times in the Scripture history, being the memorable brook which David crossed barefoot and weeping when fleeing from Absalom (2 Samuel 15:23; 2 Samuel 15:30); and Jesus must often have crossed it on his way to the Mt. of Olives and Bethanv (see John 18:1). According to the Talmud, the blood of the animals slaughtered in the Temple, and other refuse (probably the impurities from the city, Nazir, lvii, 4), were carried through a sewer into the lower Kidron, and thence sold as manure to gardeners (Joma, lviii, 2). For early notices of the Kidron, see William of Tre, 8:2; Brocardus, p. 8; Reland, p. 294 sq. The distinguishing peculiarity of the Kidron-that in respect to which it is most frequently mentioned in the O.T. is the impurity which appears to have been ascribed to it. Excepting the two casual notices already quoted, we first meet with it as the place in which king Asa demolished and burnt the obscene phallic idol, (See ASHERAH), of his mother (1 Kings 15:13; 2 Chronicles 15:16). Next we find the wicked Athaliah hurried thither to execution (Joseph. Ant. 9:7, 3; 2 Kings 11:16). It then becomes the regular receptacle for the impurities and abominations of the idol-worship, when removed from the Temple and destroyed by the adherents of Jehovah (2 Chronicles 29:16; 2 Chronicles 30:14; 2 Kings 23:4; 2 Kings 23:6; 2 Kings 23:12), In the course of these narratives the statement of Josephus just quoted as to the death of Athaliah is supported by the fact that in the time of Josiah it was the common cemetery of the city (2 Kings 23:6; comp. Jeremiah 26:23, " graves of the common people"), perhaps the "valley of dead bodies" mentioned by Jeremiah (Jeremiah 31:40) in close connection with the "fields" of Kidron, and the restoration of which to sanctity was to be one of the miracles of future times (ibid.). It was doubtless the Kidron valley which was in the mind of the prophet Ezekiel when he described the vision of the holy and healing waters flowing from the Temple through the desert into the sea (Ezekiel 47:8); and this very contrast with its customary uses serves to add emphasis to his prophecy (comp. Wilson, Lands of the Bible, ii, 32; Stanley, Syr. and Pal. p. 288). How long the valley continued to be used for a burying-place it is very hard to ascertain. After the capture of Jerusalem in 1099 the bodies of the slain were buried outside the Golden Gateway (Mislin, ii, 487; Tobler, Umgebunyen, p. 218); but what had been the practice in the interval the writer has not succeeded in tracing. To the date of the monuments at the foot of Olivet we have at present no clew; but, even if they are of pre-Christian times, there is no proof that they are tombs. From the date just mentioned, however, the burials appear to have been constant, and at present it is the favorite resting-place of Moslems and Jews, the former on the west, the latter on the east of the valley. The Moslems are mostly confined to the narrow level spot between the foot of the wall and the commencement of the precipitous slope, while the Jews have possession of the lower part of the slopes of Olivet, where their scanty tombstones are crowded so thick together as literally to cover the surface like a pavement.

The Kidron is a mountain ravine, in most places narrow, with precipitous banks of naked limestone; but here and there its banks have an easy slope, and along its bottom are strips of land capable of cultivation. It contains the bed of a streamlet, but during the whole summer, and most of the winter, it is perfectly dry; in fact, no water runs in it except when heavy rains are falling in the mountains round Jerusalem. The resident missionaries assured Dr. Robinson that they had not during several years seen a stream running through the valley (see Bibl. Researches, i, 396- 402). On the broad summit of the mountain ridge of Judaea, a mile and a quarter north-west of Jerusalem, is a slight depression; this is the head of the Kidron. The sides of the depression, and the elevated ground around it, are whitened by the broad, jagged tops of limestone rocks, and almost every rock is excavated, partly as a quarry, and partly to form the facade of a tomb. The valley or depression runs for about half a mile towards the city; it is shallow and broad, dotted with corn-fields, and sprinkled with a few old olives. It then bends eastward, and in another half mile is crossed by the great northern road coming down from the hill Scopus. On the east side of the road, and south bank of the Kidron, are the celebrated Tombs of the Kings. The bed of the valley is here about half a mile due north of the city gate. It continues in the same course about a quarter of a mile farther, and then, turning south, opens into a wide basin containing cultivated fields and olives. Here it is crossed diagonally by the road from Jerusalem to Anathoth. As it advances southward, the right bank, forming the side of the hill Bezetha, becomes higher and steeper, with occasional precipices of rock. on which may be seen a few fragments of the ancient city wall; while on the left the base of Olivet projects, greatly narrowing the valley. Opposite St. Stephen's gate the depth is fully 100 feet, and the breadth not more than 400 feet. The olive-trees in the bottom are so thickly clustered as to form a shady grove; and their massive trunks and gnarled boughs give evidence of great age. This spot is shut out from the city, from the view of public roads, and from the notice and interruption of wayfarers. (See GETHSEMANE).

A zigzag path descends the steep bank from St. Stephen's gate, crosses the bed of the valley by an old bridge, and then branches. One branch leads direct over the top of Olivet. This path has a deep historical interest; it was by it that David went when he fled from Absalom: "The king passed over the brook Kidron, and all the people passed over, towards the way of the wilderness" (2 Samuel 15:23). (See OLIVET).

Another branch runs round the southern shoulder of the hill to Bethany, and it has a deep sacred interest, for it is the road of Christ's triumphal entry (Matthew 21:1 sq.; Luke 19:37). Below the bridge the Kidron becomes still narrower, and here traces of a torrent bed first begin to appear. Three hundred yards farther down, the hills on each side-Moriah on the right and Olivet on the left-rise precipitously from the torrent bed, which is spanned by a single arch. On the left bank is a singular group of tombs, comprising those of Absalom, Jehoshaphat, and St. James (now so called); while on the right, 150 feet overhead, towers the south-eastern angle of the Temple wall, most probably the "pinnacle" on which our Lord was placed (Matthew 4:5). The ravine runs on, narrow and rocky, for 500 yards more; there, on its right bank, in a cave, is the fountain of the Virgin; and higher up on the left, perched on the side of naked cliffs, the ancient village of Siloam. A short distance farther down, the valley of the Tyropeeon falls in from the right, descending in terraced slopes, fresh and green, from the waters of the Pool of Siloam. The Kidron here expands, affording a level tract for cultivation, and now covered with beds of cucumbers, melons, and other vegetables. Here of old was the " King's Garden" (Nehemiah 3:15). The level tract extends down to the mouth of Hinnom, and is about 200 yards wide. A short distance below the junction of Hinnom and the Kidron is the fountain of En-Rogel, now called Bir Aylb, "the Well of Job," or " Joab." The length of the valley from its head to En-Rogel is 2- miles, and here the historic Kidron may be said to terminate. Every reference to the Kidron in the Bible is made to this section. David crossed it at a point opposite the city (1 Samuel 15:23); it was the boundary beyond which Solomon forbade Shimei to go on pain of death (1 Kings 2:37); it was here, probably, near the mouth of Hinnom, that Asa destroyed the idol which Maachah his mother set up (1 Kings 15:13); and it seems to have been at the same spot, "in the fields of Kidron," that king Josiah ordered the vessels of Baal to be burned (2 Kings 23:4). It would seem, from 2 Kings 23:6, that a portion of the Kidron, apparently near the mouth of Hinnom, was used as a burying- ground. The sides of the surrounding cliffs are filled with ancient rock tombs, and the greatest boon the dying Jew now asks is that his bones be laid in the Valley of Jehoshaphat. The whole of the left bank of the Kidron, opposite the Temple area, far up the side of Olivet, is paved with the white tombstones of Jews. This singular longing is doubtless to be ascribed to the opinion which the Jews entertain that the Kidron is the Valley of Jehoshaphat mentioned by Joel (Joel 3:2). (See JEHOSHAPHAT, VALLEY OF).

Below En-Rogel the Kidron has little of historical or sacred interest. It runs in a winding course east by south, through the Wilderness of Judaea, to the Dead Sea. For about a mile below En-Rogel the bottom of the valley is cultivated and thickly covered with olive-trees. Farther down a few fields of corn are met with at intervals, but these soon disappear, and the ravine assumes the bleak and desolate aspect of the surrounding hills. About seven miles from Jerusalem the features of the valley assume a much wilder and grander form. Hitherto the banks have been steep, with here and there a high precipice, and a jutting cliff, giving variety to the scene. Now they suddenly contract to precipices of naked rock nearly 300 feet in height, which look as if the mountain had been torn asunder by an earthquake. About a mile farther, on the side of this frightful chasm, stands the convent of St. Saba, one of the most remarkable buildings in Palestine, founded by the saint whose name it bears, in the year A.D. 439. The sides of the chasm both above and below the convent are filled with caves and grottoes, once the abode of monks and hermits, and from these doubtless this section of the valley has got its modern name, Wady er-Raheb, " Monk's Valley" (Wolcott, Researches in Pal., il Biblical Cabinet, xliii, 38). Below Mar Saba the valley is called Wady en-Nar, " Valley of Fire"-a name descriptive of its aspect, for so bare and scorched is it that it seems as if it had participated in the doom of Sodom. It runs on, a deep, narrow, wild chasm, until it breaks through the lofty line of cliffs at Ras el-Feshkhah, on the shore of the Dead Sea. It will thus be seen that the head of the Kidron is just on the verge of the water-shed of the mountain- chain of Judah, about 2600 feet above the sea. Its length, as the crow flies, is only twenty miles, and yet in this short space it has a descent of no less than 3912 feet-the Dead Sea having a depression of 1312 feet (Van de Velde, Memoir, p. 179, 182).-Kitto; Smith. In 1848 the levelling party of the Dead Sea Expedition, under command of Lieut. Lynch, worked up the wady en-Nar, the bed of the Kidroll, from the Dead Sea to Jerusalem. They encountered several precipices from ten to twelve feet high, down which cataracts plunge in winter. They found the ravine shut in on each side by high, barren cliffs of chalky limestone, and the dry torrent-bed interrupted by boulders, and covered with fragments of stone (Narrative, p. 384, 387). The place where it empties into the Jordan is a gorge 1200 feet deep, narrow at the bottom, with a bed tilled with confused fragments of rock, much worn, but perfectly dry (ib.). For further notices, see Ritter's Erdkunde, xv,(6OO; Robinson, Biblical Researsches, ut sup.

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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Kidron'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/k/kidron.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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