Situated along the Mediterranean Sea in northern Israel, Mount Carmel has been known for centuries as a great symbol of beauty and splendor in the Holy Land. In the book of Isaiah (35:2), the “splendor of Carmel” was mentioned due to the mountain’s magnificent ability to capture the beauty of Israel in one view. Even King Solomon praised his wife’s beauty, comparing her beauty to that of Mount Carmel (Song of Solomon 7:5). Today, the mountain range is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and World Heritage Site because of its “natural” beauty and wonder.
The picture shown above depicts the scene in the first book of Kings believed to be the location where Elijah asked his servant to look for rain clouds forming after Elijah had prayed for rainfall (1 Kings 18).
In the Book of Amos, Mount Carmel was called a place that offered an escape for people fleeing persecution and became the hiding place for many criminals (Amos 9). According to Josephus, the Essenes used Mount Carmel as a stronghold and place of protection from those looking to punish the religious group. With an abundance of lush vegetation and greenery along the slopes due to intense rainfall year-round, individuals were easily able to survive by hiding out for long periods of time on the mountain.
Christianity depicts Mount Carmel as the site largely associated with the prophet Elijah who is regarded as having often resided in a grotto along the slope of the mountain range. In the First Book of Kings, Elijah challenged four-hundred and fifty prophets of Baal to a contest at the altar built on Mount Carmel. The altar was initially constructed to honor God, but with King Ahab’s marriage to the Phoenician princess Jezebel, it became an altar to the deity Baal (Melqart).
In 1 Kings 18, the challenge was issued after King Ahab had many of God’s prophets slaughtered. Elijah called upon Ahab’s false prophets to see whether Baal or God could light a sacrifice by fire. After the miserable failure of the prophets of Baal, Elijah poured a large amount of water upon his sacrifice and the altar before praying to God. Fire immediately fell from the sky, consuming the sacrifice, wood, stones, soil, and water, entirely convincing the Israelite witnesses to proclaim God as the one, true God of Israel. Elijah proclaimed the end of the long drought and, with the power of God, the sky turned black and it rained heavily over the Holy Land.
With Mount Carmel’s breathtaking view of the Holy Land, as well as its connection to the prophet Elijah, it is no surprise the mount is one of Israel’s most sought after destinations for tourists and biblical scholars alike!