Shephelah is a Hebrew word meaning “low” and is usually translated “lowlands” or “foothills.” The term refers to a twelve to fifteen-mile wide region in Judea, comprised of foothills that are located between the coastal plain to the west and the Judea Mountains to the east.
In ancient times, the four valleys of the Shephelah functioned as corridors between the mountains, where the Israelites lived, and the coastal plain dominated by the Philistines. They served as a place of contact’sometimes peaceful, sometimes violent, where the Philistines and Israelites often interacted.
In each of the Shephelah valleys, prominent cities developed. The Aijalon, the northernmost valley, was guarded by Tel Gezer. The Sorek and Elah valleys were guarded by Beth Shemesh and Azekah, respectively. And to the south, the city of Lachish stood over the Lachish Valley.
These valleys, and the strategic cities that overlooked them, were the location of many Old Testament battles. In the Shephelah, a godly culture and a pagan culture met, and whoever won control of the area was able to shape the culture of that region.
Today, the Shephelah symbolizes the places where God’s values meet the pagan practices of the world. Like the Israelites, we have a choice: to withdraw to the “mountains” or to be on the front line, to confront the secular values of our world, and with God’s blessing, to gain control of the “coastal plain” in our neighborhoods, cities, country, and the world.
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