“Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death”
The Kidron Valley is mentioned by name only eleven times in the entirety of Sacred Scripture. Nevertheless, the Kidron has an association with several of the most important moments throughout Salvation History. This paper will briefly touch upon the significance of this valley as well as the Biblical stories which have their roots tangled throughout the Kidron’s rocks and tombs.
Between the Temple Mount and the Mount of Olives to the east is strung a valley, carved out of the Jerusalem countryside: the Kidron Valley. In the Old Testament, the name “Kidron” is always preceded by the Aramaic word “Wadi,” which has the double meaning of “brook” and “valley,” a testament to its dual role of seasonal river and deeply gored valley. Though the valley descends a staggering 3,912 feet along its twenty mile span, King David is shown to be passing through it in the first reference to the Kidron in Sacred Scripture. Fleeing from his own son, Absalom, David was attempting to save his life and his throne. According to the second book of Samuel, “The whole country wept aloud as all the people passed by; the king crossed the Wadi Kidron… weeping as he went, with his head covered and walking barefoot.” Here a tie to the betrayal of Jesus recounted in Saint John’s Gospel is already visible. Only two people in the Bible end their lives through hanging: Ahitophel, Absalom’s conspirator in the betrayal of King David, and Judas Iscariot, the betrayer of Christ the King.
The reputation of the Kidron Valley appears to remain entangled with death and destruction throughout the remainder of the Old Testament. During the establishment of the kingdom of Solomon, David’s son, Shimei (the man who had cursed David during his flight from Absolom) was given mercy as long as he remained in Jerusalem, under the decree: “For on the day you go out, and cross the Wadi Kidron, know for certain that you shall die; your blood shall be on your own head.” Unfortunately for Shimei, he chose to disobey and was slain on account of “all the evil that [he] did to…David.”
The books of First Kings and Second Chronicles begin to present the Kidron Valley as somewhat of a garbage dump for unclean objects – such as idols or dead bodies. By the year 600 B.C. Sacred Scripture makes mention of common graves in the Kidron Valley. It is upon these graves that King Josiah scatters the pulverized dust of an image of the Canaanite mother-goddess Asherah, after having cleansed the Temple of all idol worship. Simultaneously, in the same valley, Josiah also burned the vessels used for idol worship and disposed of idolatrous rooftop altars.
The final reference by name to the Kidron Valley in the Old Testament is in Jeremiah’s prophecy of hope to the people of God in exile. In this prophecy, not only is there promised a safe return, a new covenant, and individual retribution, but also the enlargement of Jerusalem wherein “the whole valley of the dead bodies and the ashes, and all the fields as far as the Wadi Kidron, to the corner of the Horse Gate toward the east, shall be sacred to the Lord.” Nevertheless, the Kidron Valley appears once more, though not specifically mentioned by name. In perhaps the most tragic of the moments recorded in the Old Testament (excluding the fall of Adam and Eve), the departure of the Shakina Glory Cloud from the Temple forever, the prophet Ezekiel witnesses God’s presence depart from the Temple Mount [pass through the Kidron Valley] and hesitate for a moment over the Mount of Olives to the east of the city, before disappearing completely. It is upon this memory that Saint John introduces Jesus Christ – the Son of David – God Himself in human flesh, as He journeys from Jerusalem “with his disciples across the Kidron valley to a place where there was a garden, which he and his disciples [enter].”
There can be no denying the parallel between Jesus and King David evoked through Saint John’s use of words in the above passage. Clearly, Saint John desired to paint for the early Christian community the image of the King of Kings, sinless – unlike King David – yet accused, who faces His betrayer rather than fleeing from him and accepts death for the life of His unworthy subjects. This, though, is not the only reason Saint John chose to name the Kidron Valley. Through His pilgrimage among the tombs, Jesus prefigures the harrowing of Hades which will occur with the fast approaching defeat of death. In His divine presence, the Son of God follows the same path as the Glory Cloud – revealing in fullness what before had been visible only as a shadow. Finally, as the “Image of the invisible God,” the Word made flesh eternally destroys the dark grip of idolatry which clutches at ignorance of God. This cleansing and lifting up of all that was previously shrouded under the cover of death is summarized in Saint John’s Gospel through the prayerful words of Christ to His Father as He climbed the rocky path through the Kidron Valley – a path so familiar to He and His disciples, yet now so threatening – “Father, I desire that those also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory, which you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.”
In conclusion, the Kidron Valley is a place which bears the memory of the consequences brought about through the actions of many individuals in a span of over a thousand years. Betrayal, death, and the possessions of paganism tainted its name, making a valley of trash and tombs. Yet, in Jesus’ actions – and the consequences which poured forth from them – it is transformed, becoming an integral part of the accomplishment of His glorious hour.
– Grace Marie Urlakis; March 28, 2018.
Holy Apostles College and Seminary, SAS 461: Gospel of John.
 Emil G. Hirsch, M. Seligsohn, 1906 Jewish Encyclopedia, at http://www.jewishencylopedia.com.
 M.G. Easton M.A., D.D., Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Third Edition, (Thomas Nelson, 1897), public domain, at http://www.biblestudytools.com.
 2 Samuel 15:23&30, all citations from The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version, Catholic Edition.
 Custer, John S., The Gospel of John: A Byzantine Prospective, (Pittsburg, PA: God With Us Publications (2004), pg. 348.
 1 Kings 2:37.
 1 Kings 2:44.
 1 King 15:13, 2 Chronicles 15:16.
 2 Kings 23:6.
 2 Kings 23:4 &12.
 Jeremiah 31:40.
 John 18:1.
 Colossians 1:15.
 John 18:2.
 John 17:24.