[b-hebrew] Zech 9:10; Genesis 14: 3: Valley of Siddim

JimStinehart at aol.com JimStinehart at aol.com
Mon Aug 19 10:05:10 EDT 2013

The term (MQ H-%DYM -- “Valley  of the Tilled Fields” or “Valley of Siddim”
 -- at Genesis 14: 3, 8, 10 refers to  a series of three river valleys 
north of Canaan, all of which suitably are  “valleys” that feature fertile, 
abundant “tilled fields”: 
(i)  The Orontes River  Valley, which starts in the eastern  Beqqa Valley 
in northeast Lebanon and runs north through central west  Syria, being near 
to,  parallel to, and ending at, the Mediterranean  Sea [which in turn is a 
classic “salt sea”/“sea  the-salt”]. 
(ii)  The northern source of the  Litani River is in the Beqqa Valley  in 
central-east Lebanon,  quite close to the southern source of the Orontes 
River.  The northern half of the Litani River  flows south through the Beqqa 
(iii)  Just before it turns west [where it will  eventually empty into the 
Mediterranean Sea], the Litani River  comes within five kilometers of the 
Hasbani River.  Hasbaya lies on the Hasbani River  at the western foot of Mt.  
Hermon, in the southernmost  Beqqa Valley in southeastern Lebanon at the 
border of Canaan. 
The portion of the Valley of  the Tilled Fields that is being referenced at 
Genesis 14: 3, 8 is the northern  portion of this tri-valley complex, being 
the Orontes River Valley in central  west Syria.  The defeated five  rulers 
are portrayed as being driven south out of the Orontes River  Valley in 
Syria, south through Lebanon, and ending at the southeastern portion  of this 
tri-valley complex, in the famous pits of bitumen at Hasbaya in  southeast 
Lebanon, at the  northern border of Canaan.  We must remember that the terms  “
Orontes River”, “Litani River”, and “Hasbani River” did not exist in 
ancient  times.  The Biblical author is  referring to the fertile tilled fields 
in the valleys of these three river  systems, with this tri-valley complex 
north of Canaan being aptly referred to  [as a single entity] as the “Valley 
of the Tilled Fields”/Valley of  Siddim. 
Genesis 14: 3 says [per  KJV]:  “All these [military forces]  were joined 
together in the vale [valley] of Siddim [the tilled fields], which  is [near] 
the salt sea.”  As just  noted, the actual military conflict at Genesis 14: 
3 occurs near the northern  end of the tri-valley complex described above, 
in the Orontes River Valley in  west-central Syria, not too far from the 
Mediterranean Sea to the west.  The Mediterranean  Sea fits the bill of being a 
quintessential “salt sea”/“sea  the-salt”/YM H-MLX.  After all, its  
mariners are called “salts” in Biblical Hebrew.  The Orontes River  Valley, 
which as noted above runs close  to, parallel to, and ends at, the 
Mediterranean  Sea, is a “valley of the tilled fields”.  Moreover, it is a very 
appropriate place  for where a major military encounter might be “joined”:  
“The Orontes [River] rises in  the east in the Beqqa Valley from natural 
springs.  From there it runs due north….  Beyond is a broad valley of rich  
farmland upon which stood the cities of Qatna, on the east bank, and Tunip, on 
 the west bank.  Farther to the  north, just beyond the agricultural region 
of modern Hamah, stood the city of  Niya….  [Qatna, Tunip and Niya in the 
Orontes River Valley, which is famous for its “tilled  fields”, are 3 of the 
5 rebellious Hurrian parties.]  The Orontes is largely non-navigable, and 
the river’s  historical importance lies in the convenient axis of advance it 
has provided for  armies throughout antiquity.  The  battles of Kadesh (1275 
BCE) and Qarqar (853 BCE) were fought on its  banks.”  Richard A. Gabriel,  
“Thutmose III:  The Military  Biography of Egypt’s Greatest Warrior King”, 
Potomac Books (2009), p.  168. 
Genesis 14: 10 says [per  KJV]:  “And the vale of Siddim [was  full of] 
slimepits [pits of bitumen];  and the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled, and 
fell  there;  and they that remained fled  to the mountain.”  The defeated  
rulers are portrayed as having been driven south out of the Oronotes River  
Valley in Syria and further south through most of Lebanon, all the way south to 
 the southeast tip of Lebanon, at the border of Canaan.  There, at Hasbaya, 
is the site of the  most famous bitumen pits in the Greater Canaan area: 
“Near Hasbeya were bitumen  pits which were worked in  antiquity….”  
The Dead  Sea has never featured bitumen pits.  [See the scientific article 
by Arie  Nissenbaum here:  
wAA#v=onepage&q=bitumen%20pits%20biyar%20lebanon&f=false.]  Rather, it  is 
well known that bitumen pits are famously located on the northern border of  
Canaan, at Hasbaya at the western foot of Mt. Hermon.  Nor is the Jordan 
River Valley noted for being fertile and having  abundant tilled fields.  But 
those  are key characteristics of the above-described tri-valley complex 
north of  Canaan:  the Orontes River  Valley, the portion of the  Litani River 
that lies in the Beqqa Valley,  and the Hasbani River in the southernmost 
Beqqa Valley.  We must remember that a fearsome king  with an attested Hittite 
kingly name, “Tidal”, would be coming from far to  the  n-o-r-t-h , and as 
such would  drive a defeated band of five rebellious princelings  s-o-u-t-h 
.  So the actual battle at Genesis 14: 3 is  well north of Canaan, even 
being north of Lebanon, in the Orontes River  Valley in west-central  Syria 
[the historical site of the  Second Syrian War in Year 14].  But  the hapless 
defeated rebellious princelings are portrayed as ending up all the  way south 
in the southeast corner of Lebanon at the northern border of Canaan,  at 
the famous pits of bitumen at Hasbaya [with some escaping up into the  
mountains that line and define the Beqqa Valley]. 
Historically, in  “Year 13” [per Genesis 14: 4], five rebellious Hurrian 
parties did indeed come  together in the Orontes River Valley,  which is a “
valley of tilled fields” that is close to a classic “salt sea”,  namely the 
Mediterranean Sea.  Moreover, historically those five  rebellious 
princelings were indeed totally defeated in Year 14 [per “in the  14th year” at 
Genesis 14: 5] in the Second Syrian War, by a  coalition comprised of four rulers 
that included the king of the Hittites [with  “Tidal” being an attested 
Hittite kingly name].  The Biblical author uses artistic license  to emphasize 
the totality of the defeat of the rebels by portraying them as  allegedly 
having been driven all the way south out of Syria through eastern  Lebanon to 
the very border of Canaan itself, where some of them allegedly got  stuck 
in the famous bitumen pits in southeastern Lebanon at the western foot of  
Mt. Hermon. 
Genesis 14: 1-11 was composed  by a contemporary of the Second Syrian War 
[which historically was fought in  Year 14], who knew what he was talking 
about, and who got a scribe to record his  account in cuneiform writing a few 
years later.  True, the part about defeated rulers  getting stuck in bitumen 
pits at Mt. Hermon uses some artistic license, and apt  nicknames [rather 
than historical names] are used throughout his account.  Yet for the most part 
Genesis 14: 1-11  has  p-i-n-p-o-i-n-t  historical accuracy in describing 
what  actually happened militarily in Years 13-14.  If we could just get the 
underlying  g-e-o-g-r-a-p-h-y  right, the stunning historical accuracy  of 
Genesis 14: 1-11 in Years 13-14 would come shining through.  The “Valley of 
Siddim”/Valley of the  Tilled Fields is the Orontes River Valley and the 
Beqqa Valley, which [unlike  the Jordan River Valley] are world-famous “valleys”
 of fertile, “tilled fields”  north of Canaan;  the “pits of  bitumen” 
are famously located at Hasbaya at the western foot of Mt. Hermon on  the 
northern border of Canaan [not at or near the Dead Sea];  and “salt the-sea” is 
not the Dead Sea,  but rather is the Mediterranean Sea itself, the classic 
salt sea into which both  the Orontes and Litani Rivers empty, and near to 
which was the site [in  west-central Syria] of the important fighting in Year 
14 [the Second Syrian War]  that is accurately chronicled by an early 
Hebrew contemporary:  “four kings against five”.   
Jim Stinehart 
Evanston,  Illinois
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