Saturday, January 7, 2012

Deciphering Zechariah 14:5

An indepth analysis of Zechariah 14:5

Azal: A Longtime Mystery Rediscovered

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This is a synopsis of the detailed study, The Truth Hidden Right in Front of Our Eyes.

Azal (אצל), or Azel, is the location mentioned in Zechariah 14:5 in bibles that use the Hebrew Masoretic Text as the source for this verse.
And ye shall flee to the valley of the mountains; for the valley of the mountains shall reach unto Azal: yea, ye shall flee, like as ye fled from before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah.
Zechariah 14:5, King James Version
In bibles that follow the Greek Septuagint (LXX) rendering, depending upon the source manuscript used, Azal is transcribed Jasol (ιασολ, pronounced Yasol), Jasod (a corruption of Jasol), or Asael (ασαηλ):
The valley between the hills will be filled in, yes, it will be blocked as far as Jasol, it will be filled in as it was by the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah.
Zechariah 14:5, New Jerusalem Bible
These very different renderings from two authoritative sources obscure a clear understanding of Zechariah 14:5. Another obscurant factor is an almost universal ignorance, existent for many centuries until now, of what and where Azal is, or was. This is largely due to the fact that no known writing authored prior to the late 19th century clarifies this mystery.
During the period 1873-1874, Charles Clermont-Ganneau, a renowned linguist and archaeologist in Palestine, explored many tombs in a valley immediately south of Jerusalem that the local peasants called Wady Yasul (wady is Arabic for stream channel, or valley). Based on linguistic and geographic evidence, Clermont-Ganneau proposed that Wady Yasul is Azal. The Israelis, in apparent agreement with Clermont-Ganneau’s discovery, named the valley Nahal Etsel (נחל אצל). Nahal (נחל) means stream channel, or valley; and the Hebrew spelling of Etsel (אצל) is identical to the Hebrew spelling of Azal (אצל). Consequently, it is now common knowledge among Jerusalem’s locals that Wady Yasul is biblical Azal (e.g., Jerusalem Segway Tour Company, and Jerusalem Peace Forest); and the trend seems to be (at least in academic circles) to call it Nahal Azal (e.g., Israel Antiquities Authority, and West Bank Archaeological Map Database [possible slow load time due to large database]).
Wady Yasul (Nahal Etsel, or Azal) is the valley between the dashed lines in the picture below that was taken from a blimp in 1931. The arrow in the top right corner points to the head of the stream of Yasul, the mountain in the bottom left corner is the southernmost summit of the Mount of Olives (Mount of Corruption) situated at the mouth of the same stream, and Jerusalem lies in the bottom center and bottom right of the picture. Wady Yasul is currently bordered on the west by the Jerusalem Peace Forest and the neighborhood of Talpiot; on the north by the Abu Tor neighborhood on the southern slope of the Hill of Evil Council; and on the south by the neighborhood of Jabel Mukaber on the Armon Hanatziv Ridge.

[Aerial photo of the valley of Etsel (Azal), taken in 1931 from a blimp, showing the tributaries of Nahal Etsel (stream of Azal).]
While there is no credible evidence that the Masoretic rendering of Zechariah 14:5 is correct, there is considerable evidence that both the LXX rendering of Zechariah 14:5 and Clermont-Ganneau’s theory are correct. The very similar pronunciations of Jasol (pronounced Yasol) and Yasul suggest that Jasol is a Greek transcription of the Arabic word for Azal (i.e., Yasul), which has been preserved since Jerusalem’s destruction in 70AD by Arab culture local to the area. Clermont-Ganneau claimed the Arabic Yasul “corresponds exactly, satisfying all the rules of etymology, with the Hebrew” Azal. A paper published in 1984 by Israeli geologists Daniel Wachs and Dov Levitte identifies the location of a large landslide on the southernmost summit of the Mount of Olives directly adjacent to both Wady Yasul and the area of the ancient kings’ gardens at the juncture of the Hinnom and Kidron Valleys. Their discovery validates Jewish historian Flavius Josephus’ account of an earthquake-caused landslide during King Uzziah’s reign blocking up the kings’ gardens in the valley. It also accords with George Adam Smith’s field research in the early part of the 20th century that revealed the valley floor in the area of the ancient kings’ gardens is covered with about fifty (50) feet of earthen debris. The photo below, taken sometime in the early part of the twentieth century by a member of the American Colony in Jerusalem, shows this landslide location at the top of the Mount of Olives (right side of photo). The view is towards Jerusalem to the north overlooking Wady Yasul in the foreground (labeled Azal in photo). Slumping landslide colluvium can be seen covering the lower half of the visible southwestern slope extending from Wady Yasul to the kings’ gardens (almost 0.3 mile, or 0.5 km). The massive volume of colluvial material at the base of the Mount of Olives makes it obvious that at some prior time landslide rubble filled in and blocked this entire section of valley. This evidence validates the LXX rendering of Zechariah 14:5, which states a valley will be blocked up and filled in as far as Azal.
[Photo taken by a member of the American Colony in Jerusalem in the early part of the the twentieth century, showing Jerusalem, the southwestern part of the landslide on the Mount of Corruption, and landslide rubble touching the valley of Azal.]
For an detailed analysis of this and other evidence (50+ pages), please see
The Truth Hidden Right in Front of Our Eyes.

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