1. The Carmel Range is a wedge-shaped spur of the central mountain range of Israel, running out therefrom in a NW direction with its NW headland coming to about 180 m (600 ft) from the Mediterranean Sea. The entire range measures some 50 km (30 mi) in length, stretching from the Mediterranean down to the Plain of Dothan, beyond which lie the hills of Samaria. The range has three distinct sections, the ridges of the NW and SE being separated by a lower rocky basin or plateau in the center. The NW section, which is located NW of ʽIsfiya, has the highest point, some 545 m (1,790 ft) above sea level. It is not certain whether the name Carmel in Bible times applied to the entire range or only to the NW ridge, which is about 21 km (13 mi) long. In modern times the name Mount Carmel (Jebel el-Karmal; Har Karmel) is assigned to this latter part. Jokneam, a royal Canaanite city, lay at the SE end of this upper section, and it is spoken of as being “in Carmel.” Megiddo and Taanach, on the E slopes of the SE section, are not so designated.—Jos 12:22.
The land into which Israel moved when they crossed the Jordan may be divided geographically into three basic sections, each running the length of the land from N to S: the Jordan Valley, the hill country, and the coastal plain. The Carmel Range, however, makes a definite break in this general pattern. Interrupting the continuity of the N-S mountain ranges, it produces the well-known Valley of Jezreel, or Esdraelon, which flanks the SE side of the Carmel Range. Similarly, the headland or promontory of Carmel, jutting into the Mediterranean coastal plain, divides it into the Plain of Asher (N of Carmel) and the plains of Sharon and of Philistia (S of Carmel). Immediately N of the Carmel headland, the coastline cuts back sharply to form the Bay of Acco, where modern Haifa now constitutes a major seaport. Carmel formed one of the boundary markers in the territory of the tribe of Asher.—Jos 19:24-26.
Carmel formed a natural roadblock to caravans and armies traveling between Mesopotamia and Egypt. The eastern slopes (facing the Plain of Asher and the Valley of Jezreel) rise very steeply, and from ancient times the Carmel Range has been covered by a thick growth of trees and shrubs, which make passage difficult. There is a narrow strip of land between the foot of the Carmel headland and the sea, but to take this route meant a considerable detour and also placed advancing armies in a vulnerable position. There were mountain passes leading from the Valley of Jezreel across the range by the fortress cities of Jokneam and Taanach, but the pass at Megiddo, between these two, was much easier to traverse and so was more vital. Another principal route, however, ran S from the crossroads town of Megiddo, skirted the remainder of the Carmel Range, and then swung W over to the coast via the Plain of Dothan.
Carmel is often associated with fertile regions such as Lebanon, Sharon, and Bashan. (Isa 35:2; Jer 50:19) King Uzziah, “a lover of agriculture,” had farmers and vinedressers in Carmel (2Ch 26:10), and the remains of numerous rock-hewn winepresses and olive presses are found there. The prophets symbolized the disastrous effects of Jehovah’s adverse judgment against Israel by the withering up of Carmel’s abundant vegetation. (Isa 33:9; Am 1:2; Na 1:4) Its slopes, swept by the sea winds, still contain fruit orchards, olive groves, and vines, and in the spring are carpeted with a magnificent display of flowers. In The Song of Solomon (7:5), the Shulammite maiden’s head is likened to Carmel, the simile referring either to the luxuriance of her hair or to the way in which her shapely head rose majestically upon her neck. The majestic appearance of Carmel, particularly the headland that sweeps dramatically upward from the coast, even as Mount Tabor rises impressively in the Valley of Jezreel, was also used to represent the imposing figure of Nebuchadnezzar advancing to the conquest of Egypt.—Jer 46:18.
Carmel was evidently one of the principal places to which people of Samaria fled when seeking refuge. Though by no means the highest of the ranges, its sparse population, its dense forest cover, and also the numerous caves in the soft limestone of its rocky slopes served to hide the refugees. Yet, the prophet Amos showed that such refuge would prove futile to those fleeing from Jehovah’s righteous judgment.—Am 9:3.
Historically, Mount Carmel figures primarily in the activities of the prophets Elijah and Elisha. (PICTURE, Vol. 1, p. 950) It was here that Elijah had King Ahab assemble the people to witness the test between Baal, represented by the 450 prophets of Baal, and the true God Jehovah, represented by Elijah. (1Ki 18:19-39) After the test, Elijah had the false prophets brought down to the torrent valley of Kishon, which courses along the eastern foot of Carmel before ending in the Bay of Acco, and there slaughtered them. (1Ki 18:40) From the summit of Carmel, Elijah prayed for the end of the three-and-a-half-year drought, and from there his attendant saw the small cloud that was the precursor of the mighty rainstorm that was to follow. (1Ki 18:42-45; Jas 5:17) From here Elijah ran at least 30 km (19 mi) to Jezreel, by Jehovah’s help outpacing Ahab’s chariot all the way.—1Ki 18:46.
Elijah’s successor, Elisha, after their separation at the Jordan River, traveled from Jericho via Bethel to Carmel. (2Ki 2:15, 23, 25) Elisha was again at Mount Carmel when the woman of Shunem (a short distance N of Jezreel) came seeking his help for her dead child.—2Ki 4:8, 20, 25.
King Saul erected “a monument [Heb., yadh]” at Carmel apparently commemorating his victory over the Amalekites. (1Sa 15:12) Although the Hebrew word yadh appearing in this text is usually translated “hand,” it can also refer to a “monument” or standing memorial, as is shown by the use of the accompanying verb phrase “was erecting” in connection with Saul’s act and by the fact that years later “Absalom’s Monument,” or yadh, is specifically called a pillar.—2Sa 18:18.
At the time David was a fugitive from murderous Saul, “Nabal the Carmelite” (though apparently a resident of nearby Maon) grazed his large flocks in Carmel’s rolling mountainous pastoral regions. (1Sa 25:2; 30:5; 2Sa 2:2; 3:3) When Nabal refused to repay David’s protective forces with deserved provisions, the initiative and tact of Nabal’s wife, “Abigail the Carmelitess,” served to restrain David from bloodguilt. (1Sa 25:2-35) Abigail later became David’s wife.—1Sa 25:36-42; 27:3; 1Ch 3:1.