It had been over 3 years since rain had fallen in Israel. The prophet Elijah had been blamed for it by King Ahab and was labeled “the troubler of Israel.” But when God sent Elijah back to the king with the message of “rain coming,” little did anyone know of the event that was being orchestrated. Elijah called for the 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of Asherah to ascend Mount Carmel and meet him there for the most epic showdown between God and the forces of evil since the exodus from Egypt (1 Kings 18). It came down to 2 altars of sacrifice and 2 distinctly different calls for response. YHWH answered in an unquestionable way of who the only true and living God could be. Fire rained down from heaven and consumed not only the sacrifice, but also the wood, the valuable water that had been poured about it, the rocks on which it had been placed and even the dust. Subsequently, Elijah had all of the false prophets executed at the brook Kishon.
After Elijah was succeeded by Elisha, the prophet was being mocked by some young boys calling him “baldy.” Elisha then called down a curse from God and two female bears came charging out of the wood-line. The bears mauled 42 of the boys. Elisha subsequently left there and went to Mount Carmel (2 Kings 2).
“Carmel” is a common Hebrew noun that means “garden,” “vineyard,” or “orchard.” It has an annual rainfall of 28 inches along with its fertile slopes, which lends itself to the title. The harvest of olives, grains and fruits from the grounds are often celebrated along with its renown of legendary wines. In Scripture, it is equivalent with beauty and splendor and is used for comparison as such (Song of Solomon 7:5; Isaiah 35:2; Jeremiah 50:19). Locally it is called Jebel Kurmul or Jebel Mar Elyas. It’s location on the edge of the Mediterranean Sea juts out, forming a cape on the Bay of Acre (modern bay of Haifa). It stands in stark contrast to the otherwise smooth coastline that extends all the way back to Egypt. The forest hills of Mount Carmel form the tribal territory boundary of Asher (Joshua 19:26).
The mountain is host to a number of caves called “Kebaran,” that are often credited to the earliest of human inhabitants and are anthropologically referred to as the “cradle of human development.” Because of the numerous caves, criminals would often hide there throughout history. Others seeking shelter from enemies would also take refuge there.
While being directly mentioned in early Egyptian and Mesopotamian writings, it is also indirectly recorded in Pharaoh Pepi’s archives (2350 BC) as the “Nose of the Gazelle’s Head,” which ran down to the sea. Pharaoh Thutmose III (1481-1425 BC) also speaks of the “Holy Head,” where his troops would land, as well as Ramses II (1303 BC-1213 BC) and Ramses III (1186-1155 BC). It also appears in the annals of Assyrian king Shalmaneser III (841 BC).
In the Roman period, a temple of Zeus was built on the mountain. Emperors Trajan and Vespasian offered sacrifices to an idol that was given the name, “Carmel,” who was identified with Zeus. Tacitus recorded that Emperor Vespasian (reigned 69-79 AD) was given an oracle from the priests of Carmel, stating the Emperor would be the master of the world. A single stone foot was placed there to commemorate the oracle.
Throughout the centuries of Christianity, Mount Carmel has been the location of a number of monasteries to the Carmelite Monastic Movement. Other religious groups were also drawn to the mountain as a sacred location. Practicing Baha’i (a religion that embraces “all religions”) members placed a Baha’i garden shrine there with tombs of leaders from their past. Mount Carmel remains an agriculturally rich area that supplies much of the region with produce.
- 1 Kings 18:19, 20, 42;
- 2 Kings 2:25;
- 2 Kings 4:25;
- Song of Solomon 7:5;
- Jeremiah 46:18;