“And I shall draw to you, to the brook Kishon, Sisera, the chieftain of Jabin’s army, with his chariots and his multitude; and I will give him into your hands” (Judges 4:7)
By Nosson Shulman, Licensed Tour Guide
At 70 km, Kishon is one of the longest rivers in Israel. When speaking of the most frequently visited Biblical sites in Israel, the Kishon River is seldom on the top 100 list. Yet, two incredible and dramatic stories from the Bible took place here.
The river begins at Mt. Gilboa (near Beit Shean) and continues all the way to Haifa, eventually emptying into the Mediterranean Sea.
The river acted as a border between the tribes of Asher and Manasseh (see Joshua 19:26. Scholars say “Shihorlibnath” is another name for Kishon River).
The Kishon river is most famously known for being the setting of the battle between Barak & Deborah and the Canaanite General Sisera (Judges 4). For 20 years the ultra-powerful General, who commanded an army possessing 900 Iron chariots (the ancient equivalent of having 900 of the most powerful tanks) oppressed the Jewish people. At that time, Deborah was both a prophetess and a judge. She called for Barak (her husband according to some Jewish sources) who was sitting in Kedesh, to come visit her (for more on Kedesh, click here).
Deborah called him to reveal G-d’s prophesy, that the Jewish people would go to war against Sisera and be victorious. Barak was designated to gather 10,000 troopers to Mount Tabor, while G-d would influence Sisera and his army to enter the Kishon River, ostensibly to attack the Jewish army. However, in reality he was being divinely lured (according to Jewish sources, G-d even caused Sisera to ignore the advice of his astrologers who told him it was a trap).
Indeed, it was told to General Sisera that Barak and his men were on Mount Tabor, and he led his troops into the Kishon River. When Barak descended the mountain to attack, G-d caused Sisera’s men to become frightened and confused. G-d also caused the Canaanites to get stuck in the Kishon River (Judges 5:21). According to Jewish sources, G-d performed a miracle and when the Canaanites entered the usually shallow, lazy brook, He caused the river to become a raging torrent, which trapped some and swept away others. But when the Jews entered, they only experienced the effects of a shallow, docile brook. Barak’s men then slaughtered the remainder of Sisera’s army and destroyed his chariots (Sisera himself would flee and be entrapped and killed by Yael). Because of the miracles that took place here, the Jewish people lived peacefully in the land of Israel for the next 40 years.
The second major story occurring by this river, involved Elijah the Prophet (see Kings 18). On the nearby Carmel Mountain, Elijah challenged the 450 false prophets of the baal, where both he and they would each offer a sacrifice on the altar. The one that G-d consumed with fire would reveal who the true prophet was. G-d performed a miracle, and a fire came down from the heavens and consumed Elijah’s sacrifice (for more on the Carmel Mountains and the exceptional miracle which took place there, click here). After Elijah had proven them to be false prophets, he ordered them to be seized and taken down to the Kishon Brook (which is right at the foot of the mountain) to be slaughtered (1 Kings 18:40).
In modern times (especially around the industrial city of Haifa) the river was once the most polluted in Israel, due to the nearby industrial waste centers which contaminated the river with toxins. In the last decade, the Israeli government invested large amounts of money to clean up the river, and a beautiful park was built. This turned what was once one of the dirtiest parts of the river, into a pleasant place to visit! In 2019 another large park along the river was approved, and once completed will have bicycle paths, beautiful gardens, restaurants, sports facilities, and a sailing club!
On your next trip to Israel, it is certainly worthwhile to visit this beautiful and serene biblical site, especially as it can be done as a visit in conjunction with several other exciting nearby sites!
Nosson Shulman is a journalist and Licensed Tour Guide in Israel specializing in Biblical tours. To allow tourists to experience Israel during the Corona era, he created the new hit Israel tour video series, which brings Israel to the home of viewers by simulating actual tours. To check out his free sneak preview tour videos, click here. To view sample tour itineraries or to inquire about private tour opportunities with a personalized itinerary on your next trip to Israel, click here.
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