Gethsemane and the Kidron Valley
Much has been preached and written about the Garden of Gethsemane and Jesus praying there, sweating, as it were, drops of blood, the night before His crucifixion. The Bible’s writers under the inspiration and guidance of the Holy Spirit provide details for specific reasons. No detail is irrelevant or to be omitted from study because as Paul tells us in 2 Tim. 3:16, “all scripture is inspired and profitable for teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness.” Some amazing insights can be gained from the details, as golden nuggets found in “the word of God.”
The Kidron Valley is the Hebrew “Kid’ron,” meaning “dusky, gloomy,” and in Greek, Kedron, “Cedron” in John 18:1 (KVJ). The Kidron brook flows through the valley of Jehoshaphat. The name Kidron was also applied to its river bed, in the valley of Kidron. It’s described by Smith (Hist. Geog., p. 511):
“To the north of Jerusalem begins the torrent-bed of the Kidron. It sweeps past the Temple Mount, past what were afterward Calvary and Gethsemane. It leaves the Mount of Olives and Bethany to the left, Bethlehem far to the right. It plunges down among the bare terraces, precipices, and crags of the wilderness of Judea-the wilderness of the scapegoat. So, barren and blistered, so furnace-like does it [the valley] become as it drops below the level of the sea, that it takes the name of Wady-en-Nar or the Fire Wady (ravine). At last, its dreary course brings it to the precipices above the Dead Sea, into which it shoots its scanty winter waters; but all summer it is dry.” The valley is 20 miles long, having a descent of 3,912 feet.
John tells us Jesus went out with His disciples across the Kidron Valley to the Garden of Gethsemane.
“When Jesus had spoken these words, he went forth with his disciples over the brook Cedron [Kidron], where was a garden, into the which he entered, and his disciples.” (John 18:1)
Where is the Kidron Valley and Where exactly is the Kidron Valley relative to the Garden of Gethesemane?
Gethsemane is positioned on the slopes of the Mount of Olives directly west of the Temple Mount, about one-fifth of a mile from the Temple. The Temple was the highest point in Jerusalem and it would be very much in view from the Garden of Gethsemane. Between the Temple and the Garden was the Kidron Valley – it is a ‘wadi,’ a wash or ravine that is dry except for the heavy winter rains, when it could become a pretty wild river.
What is the significance of Jesus crossing over the Kidron Valley?
The Old Testament tells us that during the period of the divided kingdom, there were at least three cleansings of the Temple and the Jerusalem rooftops to remove the altars of idols that have been erected during times of Israel’s great sins and spiritual backsliding.
First was King Asa (third king of Judah) who destroyed the idols and burned them in the Kidron Valley (I Kings 15:12-13). This would have been about 911 BC. A similar cleansing occurred roughly two hundred years later (716 BC), with King Hezekiah at the onset of his reign had the idols and other uncleanness removed and “carried out to the Kidron brook” (2 Chronicles 29:16). Then about a hundred years later, Josiah in the eighteenth year of his reign (622 BC) shortly before the Babylonian captivity, had Hilkiah the high priest, remove the idols and reduced them to dust in the Kidron Valley (2 Kings 23:6).
The afternoon before Passover of the time of Jesus’ crucifixion, which makes it Thursday afternoon of the Passion week, the Priests would have been the sacrificing of the lambs on the altar of the temple. John MacArthur writes in ‘Experiencing the Passion’ that “Historical records of Jesus’ time indicate that as many as a quarter-million lambs were slain in a typical Passover season, requiring hundreds of priests to carry out the task.” There would be a tremendous amount of blood drained from 250,000 lambs along with the water used in the ritual cleansings.
But where did all that water and blood go? You may have guessed already. It was drained from the altar area of the Temple and carried away to. . . “the Kidron Valley,” just outside of the Temple mount walls! In fact, Kidron means “black brook” or “gloomy brook,” perhaps named so because of its dark blood-stained river bed and banks.
Interestingly, we know from Scripture that also “blood and water” flowed from the side of Jesus when;
“… one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side at the cross; forthwith there came out blood and water” (John 19:34).
There Jesus’s blood was shed for our redemption, for the expiation (removal) of our sins, while the “water” represents ‘the water of His resurrection life’ that flows to us from the cross as “the water of life” that is as a well in believers “springing up into everlasting life.” Jesus said “whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be IN him a well of water springing up into Everlasting Life.” (John 4:14)
Paul wrote: “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the ‘washing of regeneration,’ and renewing of the Holy Ghost;” (Titus 3:5)
Note that Jesus had to cross over the Kidron to get to the Garden of Gethsemane. When Jesus walked through the Kidron Valley, it’s likely that Jesus couldn’t help but be moved by the Biblical symbolism that the valley held in terms of the blood sacrifices made “for sins,” the blood of those sacrificial lambs. Jesus knew that as “The Lamb of God” His blood would soon flow for the sins of the whole world of mankind. His crossing the Kidron was confirmation to Him concerning “the cup” of the sins of the world that he was about to drink and die for; which was the purpose for which He came. He came to die as God’s perfect Sacrificial Lamb for Our Sins …that we might be reconciled to God, to having intimate life-giving relationship with God Our Father.
There’s another reference to the Kidron. When Absalom attempted to usurp the throne from his father, David; 2 Samuel 15:23 tells us David fled Jerusalem and crossed ‘the Kidron’ to the Mount of Olives and wilderness. It’s there that he apparently wrote Psalm 3 and Psalm 41. Not only had his own son betrayed him, but so had his closest advisor Ahithophel. When Jesus spoke of Judas betraying him (John 13:18), he referenced that the prophecy of David’s Psalm 41:9 – “He who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.” Ahithophel, like Judas Iscariot, hung himself when the plan fell apart and David’s own son, Absalom, was accidently hanged when riding his horse under a tree. Of course, it was at Gethsemane, beneath the same Mount of Olives, that Judas betrayed the Lord Jesus.
Now here is some interesting speculation on my part: Jesus, as the heir of the Davidic throne, may have had this story of David’s betrayal on his mind, now in reference to Judas. Like David, the people whom he loved and served had rejected Him. David crossed the Kidron and prayed and worshipped. When Jesus prays in the Garden of Gethsemane, was He in the same spot that David had prayed? Did He, as our sin-bearer, perhaps pray the scriptures of David’s Psalm 41:1-13 as He was relinquishing His will to that of the Father? There is no clear indication of this, but it seems to fit.
The “Scape Goat”: Read Leviticus 16 to see how “The Scape Goat” carried the sins of the people of Israel away to the wilderness, not to be seen again. During the Second Temple period a high, two-tiered bridge spanned the Kidron Valley from the Temple Mount to the Mount of Olives. Across this bridge on the Day of Atonement each year walked a goat, symbolically bearing the sins of the people. This was a metaphor for Jesus crossing the Kidron — the original scapegoat was led into the wilderness, never to be seen again. Thus, every believer in the Cross-death of Jesus for them will never see their sins again - for all their sins are forever taken away.