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Valley of Josaphat

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The Valley of Josaphat (or Valley of Jehoshaphat) is mentioned in only one passage of the Bible, in Joel 3.2 (Hebrew text, 4): "I will gather together all nations, and will bring them down into the valley of Josaphat: and I will plead with them there for my people, and for my inheritance Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations" (cf. verse 12). According to one interpretation which has gained currency, the prophet has presented as the scene of Yahweh's judgment on the Gentiles that valley where, in the presence of Josaphat, King of Judah, he annihilated the coalition of Moab, Ammon and Edom. This Valley of the desert of Teqo'a, which was euphemistically called by the Jews êmêq Berâkâh, that is, "valley of blessing", is to be sought in the vicinity of the Khirbet Berêkût, some distance to the west of the Khirbet Teqû'a (about eleven miles from Jerusalem). It is also credible that the prophet meant to designate an ideal, indeterminate valley -- the valley of judgment, and no more -- for Josaphat signifies "Yahweh judges". This valley is, in fact, spoken of under the name of "valley of destruction" (A. V. "valley of decision") in verse 14 of the same chapter. According to the context, the Divine Judgment will be exercised upon the nations who afflicted Judah and Jerusalem at the time of the captivity and the return from exile.


In the fourth century, with the Pilgrim of Bordeaux, the Cedron takes the name of Valley of Josaphat. Eusebius and St. Jerome strengthen this view (Onomasticon, s.v.), while Cyril of Alexandria appears to indicate a different place; early Jewish tradition denied the reality of this valley. Subsequently to the fourth century, Christians, Jews and Muslims regard Cedron as the place of the last judgment. What has lent colour to this popular belief is the fact that since the time of the kings of Judah, Cedron has been the principal necropolis of Jerusalem. Josias scattered upon the tombs of the children of Israel the ashes of the idol of the goddess Astarte which he burned in Cedron (2 Kings 23:4).

It was in Cedron that the tomb of Absalom with its "hand" was set up, and the monument of St. James and of Zachary. The ornamental facade of the tomb said to be that of Josaphat has been completely walled up by the Jews, who have their cemeteries on the flanks of the Valley of Cedron. They wish to stand in the first rank on the day when God shall appear in the Valley of Josaphat.

The designation of a Valley of Jehoshaphat is applied as a specific toponym for the first time by the pilgrim of Bordeaux, in 333. Since then it has become a general designation for the Kidron Valley, between Jerusalem and the Mount of Olives, which is repeatedly mentioned in the Old Testament and the New, under its own name.

Many Christians believe that the Last Judgment will be held in the Valley of Jehoshaphat, interpreting the passage in the book of Joel:

I will also gather all nations, and will bring them down into the valley of Jehoshaphat, and will plead with them there for my people and for my heritage Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations, and parted my land. (KJV)


This seems to fit hand in glove with the passage in Matthew 25:

31 When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: 32 And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: 33 And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. 34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: 35 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: 36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. 37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? 38 When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? 39 Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? 40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. 41 Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: 42 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: 43 I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. 44 Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? 45 Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. 46 And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.

References

This article incorporates text from the Catholic Encyclopedia of 1913, a publication now in the public domain.

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