Currently utilized by a number of local farmers as fertile land for planting, the Dothan Valley also serves as the setting for two noteworthy biblical episodes. The first of these narratives surrounds the figure of Joseph: when sent by his father to check on his brothers in nearby Nablus, Joseph discovered upon arrival that they and their flocks had relocated to Dothan. He made the journey from Nablus to Dothan and found his brothers; and it was in those fields that the brothers seized Joseph and threw him into a deep cistern, later to be sold to a passing tribe of Egypt-bound, Midianite merchants. These merchants were probably traveling through the Dothan Valley along a well-known trade route that wound between the region’s tall mountain ranges to connect the Jezreel Valley and the coastal plains.
The second biblical account set in Dothan took place during a period of war between the Israelites and the Arameans. The Aramean army, angry with the prophet Elisha for repeatedly warning the Israelites about their location, discovered that the prophet was in the city of Dothan and set out to capture him. When the residents of Dothan woke in the morning to find their city surrounded by Aramean forces, Elisha’s servant began to despair. Elisha prayed that God would open his servant’s eyes, and suddenly the man looked to the hills surrounding Dothan and saw them filled with horses and chariots of fire. Elisha then prayed again, and God struck the entire army with blindness. Amid the soldiers’ disorientation and confusion, Elisha led them to the nearby city of Samaria (present-day Sebastia), fed them, prayed that God would restore their sight, and instructed the king of Israel not to kill them. The troops then returned to their leaders, and the Arameans stopped raiding Israelite cities.
Modern-day sites and archaeology at Dothan allude to both of these biblical narratives. At the foot of the archaeological tel, walkers will find deep stone wells similar in style to the one into which Joseph’s brother would have thrown him. Above the plains on the tel itself, excavations from the later city of Dothan suggest what life may have been like in Elisha’s fortified hideaway. Notably, the discovery of a well-preserved residential quarter and a tomb containing large quantities of pottery and roughly 100 skeletons gave archaeologists significant insight into the history of the site.
Gaining an impressive view of the surrounding countryside from the height of the tel, visitors can explore the ruins and piece together for themselves an image of what the city may have looked like thousands of years ago.
Sites in the Jenin Region:
Climb the grassy hill outside the village of Ta’anek and poke around in the layers of archaeological history on top. Among the tall grasses and the shady olive groves, discover the remnants of ancient caves, burial sites, stone courtyards, and thick city walls – all against a background of sweeping views of the surrounding Jezreel Valley.