KIDRON, THE BROOK
(nachal qidhron; in John 18:1 (the King James Version Cedron), ho cheimarrhous ton Kedron, according to the Revised Version margin, the last two words are to be considered as meaning "of the cedars." The Hebrew word has been very generally accepted as from qadhar, "to become black," but it is an attractive suggestion (Cheyne) that it may be a phonetic variation of gidderon, "a spot for enclosures for cattle," of which latter there must have been many around the now buried caves which lay at the base of the cliffs around the spring Gihon):
1. Wady Sitti Miriam:
The Nachal Qidhron is the valley known today as the Wady Sitti Miriam, which lies between the eastern walls of Jerusalem and the Mount of Olives. It commences in the plateau to the North of the city, and after making a wide sweep Southeast, under the name Wady el Joz ("Valley of the Walnuts"), passes South until level with the southeastern corner of the temple-area where its bed is spanned by an old bridge; here the bottom of the valley, 40 ft. beneath the present surface level, is 400 ft. below the temple-platform. From this point it narrows and deepens gradually, bending slightly West of South, and, after receiving the Tyropoeon valley, joins a little farther Southwest with the Valley of Hinnom to form the Wady en Nar which winds on through the "wilderness of Judea" to the Dead Sea. Where the three valleys run together is a large open space filled with gardens (the KING'S GARDEN, which see), which are kept irrigated all the year round by means of the overflow waters from the `Ain Silwan (see SILOAM). It is where the Hinnom valley runs into the Kidron that some would locate TOPHETH (which see). Except at the irrigated gardens, the ravine is a dry valley containing water only during and immediately after heavy rain, but in ancient times the rocky bottom--now buried beneath many feet of rich soil--must have contained a little stream from Gihon for at least some hundreds of yards. This was the "brook that flowed through the midst of the land" (2 Chronicles 32:4). The length of the valley from its head to Bir Eyyub is 2 3/4 miles.
Since the 4th century AD, this valley has been known as the Valley of Jehoshaphat (see JEHOSHAPHAT, VALLEY OF), and from quite early times it was a favorite situation for interments (2 Kings 23:4,6,12; 2 Chronicles 34:4,5); it is by Moslem and Jewish tradition the scene of the last judgment, and was known to the Moslems in the Middle Ages as Wady Jehannum; see GEHENNA. It is probable that the "graves of the common people," where King Jehoiakim cast the body of the prophet Uriah, were here (Jeremiah 26:23), and it has been suggested, with less probability, that here too may have been the scene of Ezekiel's vision of the "valley of dry bones" (Eze 37; compare Jeremiah 31:40).
3. The Fields of Kidron:
The Fields of Kidron (2 Kings 23:4), though generally identified with the open, lower part of this valley, where it is joined by the Tyropoeon valley, may more probably have been in the upper part where the wide expanded valley receives the name Wady el Joz; this part is actually on the road to Bethel.
4. Historical Associations:
The most dramatic scene associated with the Kidron is that recorded in connection with its earliest Scriptural mention (2 Samuel 15:23), when David, flying before his rebellious son Absalom, here stood on the Jerusalem side of the valley while all his adherents passed over. "And all the country wept with a loud voice, and all the people passed over:
the king also himself passed over the brook Kidron .... toward the way of the wilderness." The passing over this brook appears to have been viewed as the solemn abandonment of the Jerusalem territory (compare 1 Kings 2:37). In 1 Kings 15:13; 2 Chronicles 15:16, we read that Asa burnt at the brook Kidron "an abominable image for an Asherab" which Maacah, his mother, had set up. In the reforms of Hezekiah, "all the uncleanness that they found in the temple of Yahweh" was carried by the Levites to the brook Kidron (2 Chronicles 29:16); "All the altars for incense took they away, and cast them into the brook Kidron" (2 Chronicles 30:14). This locality was again used in the reforms of Josiah when the king "brought out the Asherah from the house of Yahweh, without Jerusalem, unto the brook Kidron, and burned it at the brook Kidron, and beat it to dust, and cast the dust thereof upon the graves of the common people" (2 Kings 23:6). The same treatment was given to the vessels made for Baal, the Asherah and the host of heaven (2 Kings 23:4), and the two idolatrous altars of Manasseh (2 Kings 23:12). Josephus (Ant., IX, vii, 3) states that Athaliah was slain in the valley of Kidron, but this does not quite tally with the account (2 Kings 11:16). It was a valley associated with graves and the ashes of abominations, but it was prophesied that it should be "holy unto Yahweh" (Jeremiah 31:40). Twice it is mentioned simply as "the valley," nachal (2 Chronicles 33:14; Nehemiah 2:15). Very different from these earlier scenes is the last Scriptural reference (John 18:1), when Jesus "went forth with his disciples over the brook Kidron" for His last hours of spiritual struggle and prayer before the turmoil of the end.
E. W. G. Masterman
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