The hike is centered around the Elah Valley, where the battle of David and Goliath (1 Samuel 17) took place. We will walk on the ridges and hills above the valley, visit the sites of the biblical towns Azekah and Shaaraim and enjoy pastoral views of the Judean plains and mountains.
Azekah was inhabited since Canaanite period and was an important Biblical city located above the Elah valley. The city was one of the strongholds of the Kingdom of Judah, which protected its western border. (Further Reading).
Joshua 10:10 - Amorite kings attacked the Gibeonites
Text: “And the LORD discomfited them before Israel, and slew them with a great slaughter at Gibeon, and chased them along the way that goes up to Bethhoron, and smote them to Azekah , and to Makkedah. Explanation: Beth-horon – The two places of this name, the upper and the lower Beth-horon (marginal reference), are identified with the villages Beit-ur el Foka (the upper) and Beit-ur et Tahta (the lower): Beit-ur being probably a corruption of Beth-horon. The name itself (“house of caves”) points to the exceedingly rocky character of the district. Upper Beth-horon was between six and seven miles west of Gibeon; and “the way that goeth up to Beth-horon” must accordingly be the hilly road which leads from Gibeon to it. Between the two Beth-horons is a steep pass, “the going down to Beth-horon” Joshua 10:11; and here the Amorites were crushed by the hailstones. The main road from Jerusalem and the Jordan valley to the seacoast lay through the pass of Beth-horon; and, accordingly, both the Beth-horons were secured by Solomon with strong fortifications 2 Chronicles 8:5. It was in this pass that Judas Maccabaeus routed the Syrians under Seron (1 Macc. 3:13ff). and here also, according to Jewish traditions, the destruction of the host of Sennacherib took place 2 Kings 19:35. Azekah, which has not been as yet certainly identified, was in the hill country, between the mountains around Gibeon and the plain (see the marginal reference). It was fortified by Rehoboam 2 Chronicles 11:9 and besieged by the Babylonians Jeremiah 34:7 shortly before the captivity. It was an inhabited city after the return from the exile Nehemiah 11:30. Makkedah – The exact site of this town is uncertain. It was situated in the plain between the mountains and the line of seacoast which the Philistines held Joshua 15:41, and no great way northeast of Libnab Joshua 12:15-16. (Warren (Conder) identifies it with the modern el Mughhar, a village on the south side of the valley of Torek.).(Barnes)
1 Samuel 17: 1 - The Philistines gathered for battle
Text: “Now the Philistines gathered together their armies to battle, and were gathered together at Shochoh, which belongs to Judah, and pitched between Shochoh and Azekah , in Ephesdammim.” Explanation: Places which lay to the south of Jerusalem and to the west of Bethlehem; about five leagues from the former. Ephes-dammim was somewhere in the vicinity, but it is not known where.(Clarke)
2 Chronicles 5-10 - Rehoboam Secures His Kingdom
Text: “Rehoboam took up residence in Jerusalem and built fortified cities in Judah. He built up Bethlehem, Etam, Tekoa, Beth-zur, Soco, Adullam, Gath, Mareshah, Ziph, Adoraim, Lachish, Azekah , Zorah, Aijalon, and Hebron; these were fortified cities in Judah and Benjamin.” Explanation: Rehoboam built cities for defense in Judah: Stung by the civil war that more than halved his kingdom, Rehoboam set his focus on defense, building a series of fortified cities for defense.
Shaaraim - The city of 2 gates
Ruins of a biblical town (also named as “Khirbet Qeiyafa” and “Elah fortress”) dating to the times of King David. Its name means “two gates”. Recent excavations actually revealed a fortified city with two large gates. Many of the findings support the identity of the site as the Biblical Sha’araim. (Further Reading)
Joshua 15: 36 - Cities of the Children of Israel
Text: “And Sharaim , and Adithaim, and Gederah, and Gederothaim; fourteen cities with their villages:, Azekah, Zorah, Aijalon, and Hebron; these were fortified cities in Judah and Benjamin.” Explanation: In Joshua 15:20-36 we have a long list if the Cities of Judah and Shaaraim is one of them.
1 Chronicles 4:31 - The Territory of Simeon
Text: “And at Bethmarcaboth, and Hazarsusim, and at Bethbirei, and at Shaaraim . These were their cities to the reign of David.” Explanation: In 1 Chronicles 4:27-32 we have a long list of the cities where they lived
1 Samuel 17:52 - The Philistines flee
Text: “And the men of Israel and of Judah arose, and shouted, and pursued the Philistines, until you come to the valley, and to the gates of Ekron. And the wounded of the Philistines fell down by the way to Shaaraim , even to Gath, and to Ekron.”
Elah Valley - Where David fought Goliath
The valley of Elah is a small valley, located in the Judean plains. Its Hebrew name, Elah, is named after the Terebinth tree. This valley was an important corridor from the coastal towns to the Judean mountains and the towns of Bethlehem and Hebron. The Elah valley was also the place of the famous Biblical battle between David and Goliath. (Further Reading)
1 Samuel 17:2 - Saul gets ready for battle
Text: “And Saul and the men of Israel were gathered together, and pitched by the valley of Elah , and set the battle in array against the Philistines.”
1 Samuel 17:19 - The battle in the Valley
Text: “Now Saul, and they, and all the men of Israel, were in the valley of Elah, fighting with the Philistines.”
Battle of David and Goliath – 1 Samuel 17
Text: 1 Now the Philistines gathered their forces for war and assembled at Sokoh in Judah. They pitched camp at Ephes Dammim, between Sokoh and Azekah. 2 Saul and the Israelites assembled and camped in the Valley of Elah and drew up their battle line to meet the Philistines. 3 The Philistines occupied one hill and the Israelites another, with the valley between them. 4 A champion named Goliath, who was from Gath, came out of the Philistine camp. His height was six cubits and a span. 5 He had a bronze helmet on his head and wore a coat of scale armor of bronze weighing five thousand shekels ; 6 on his legs he wore bronze greaves, and a bronze javelin was slung on his back. 7 His spear shaft was like a weaver’s rod, and its iron point weighed six hundred shekels. His shield-bearer went ahead of him. 8 Goliath stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel, “Why do you come out and line up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and are you not the servants of Saul? Choose a man and have him come down to me. 9 If he is able to fight and kill me, we will become your subjects; but if I overcome him and kill him, you will become our subjects and serve us.” (Full Chapter in Hebrew and English)
Listen to 1 Samuel 17
Elah Valley Map
The Philistines are once again gearing up for war against the Israelites. Both sides gather their forces, with the valley of Elah separating them. Goliath emerges from the Philistine camp. He stands over nine feet tall and wears bronze armor. David leaves his sheep with a shepherd and goes to the camp to bring food to his brothers and arrives just in time to see the soldiers taking up their positions. David hears Goliath’s challenge. King Saul promises that the man who defeats Goliath will be given great riches and be given his daughter in marriage. David asks Saul to fight Goliath. Saul gives David permission. He has David put on armor, but David is not comfortable with it and takes it off. David finds five stones, puts them in his pouch, and then goes out to face Goliath with his sling. Goliath looks down at David and feels nothing but contempt. David tells Goliath that God is on his side. Then, David slashes Goliath with a single stone to the forehead and beheads him with his sword. This causes the Philistines to flee, only to be pursued by the Israelites.
Note For those arriving by bus:
The bus the station is at point 4 (Junction between Roads 38 and 383 – See map). You can start and follow the hike from there.
From the car park (1) start by walking north on the ‡Blue‡ Marked trail. A short steep climb will bring us to the top of Tel Azekah(2), Where the biblical town Azekah stood in biblical times.
From the top of the hill, there is a great view on the Judean mountains at the horizon and on the Elah valley just below us, where the famous battle between David and Goliath took place 3000 years ago. (See more details in the introduction for this hike).
After enjoying the view and reading (or listening) again to 1 Samuel 17, continue to the northern end of the hill and find an unmarked trail that goes steeply down the hill.
At the end of the steep slope (3) the trail meets an unmarked dirt road. Turn left and follow this dirt road for about 400 meters, until it reaches the main road #383.
If you chose to walk the short version of the hike, turn right, and follow the dirt road to join the full hike back at (7)!
Turn rights and walk along the road about 300 m until the big junction with the main road #38 (4).
Cross the road, turn right and walk 400 m along with road #38 until you see on your left a dirt road with ‡Blue‡ markers.
Turn left and follow the ‡Blue‡ markers for 1.7 Km, climbing gently uphill on the dirt road until you are almost at the top of the hill. The ‡Blue‡ marked trail does not reach the top and starts descending to the other side (5).
At this spot, look for an unmarked trail on the left that climbs to the top of the hill.
At the top, we reach the ruins of the biblical town Shaaraim. (See more details in the introduction for this hike).
After a tour of the interesting site and enjoying another view of the Elah Valley from a different direction, make your way back to (5), turn left and continue with the ‡Blue‡ marked trail a few more meters until a junction with a dirt road that is also a part of the INT(Israel National Trail).
Turn right and follow the INT markers for 1.6 Km, until the trail reaches again road #38.
HIKE HERE AS PART OF A 4 DAYS TREK TO JERUSALEM
Start at Bet Guvrin National Park.
Hike to the Elah Valley
Walk in Wadi Ktalav.
Hike the Springs trail and end up at Ein Karem (Jerusalem)
Cross the road and continue to follow the INT for another 1.2 Km until it crosses a minor paved road (7). (The short versions rejoins here)
Continue further with the INT for about 700 m (Now climbing rather steeply) to the Shiklon Ruins on the top of the hill (8).
The ruins are from the Byzantine period and include Wells, stone fences and ancient wine-presses. Form the top there are also fine views on the Elah Valley and the Judean mountains.
At this point, we leave the INT and turn right on a ‡Red‡ marked trail descending on the north side of the hill.
After about 350 m the trail reaches a junction with several trails (In several marked colors). Pay attention and continue straight on the ‡Black‡ marked trail.
After about 500 m you reach another junction with several trails (with several marked colors) (9). Pay attention and continue this time on the ‡Blue‡ marked trail. Follow it for about 800 m and reach the car park (1).