A designation usually applied to the region of low hills between Palestine’s central mountain range and the coastal plains of Philistia. (De 1:7; Jos 9:1; 10:40; 11:2; 12:8; Jg 1:9; 2Ch 28:18; Ob 19; Zec 7:7) The Shephelah was one of the regions of the territory assigned to Judah. (Jos 15:33-44) Though attaining an altitude of about 450 m (1,500 ft), it is a “lowland” (compare Jer 17:26; 32:44; 33:13 where shephe·lahʹ appears in the Hebrew text) when compared with the much higher central mountain range. “The Shephelah” was bordered by the Negeb on the S (Jg 1:9) and “the mountainous region of Israel” (beyond the Low Plain of Aijalon) on the N.—Jos 11:16.
The valleys that divide the rolling foothills of this region served as natural routes for E-W travel. The Shephelah is fertile, and a temperate climate prevails there. Anciently the region was noted for its many sycamore trees and olive groves. It also provided pasturage for flocks and herds.—1Ki 10:27; 1Ch 27:28; 2Ch 1:15; 9:27; 26:10.
The Shephelah associated with “the mountainous region of Israel” (Jos 11:16) is perhaps the hilly region between the mountains of Samaria and the Plain of Sharon. This area is narrower and less distinct than the Judean Shephelah. There is no basis for viewing the distinction between Judah and Israel in the 11th chapter of Joshua (see vs 21) as an anachronism. A footnote in a commentary by C. F. Keil and F. Delitzsch observes: “The distinction . . . may be explained without difficulty even from the circumstances of Joshua’s own time. Judah and the double tribe of Joseph (Ephraim and Manasseh) received their inheritance by lot before any of the others. But whilst the tribe of Judah proceeded into the territory allotted to them in the south, all the other tribes still remained in Gilgal; and even at a later period, when Ephraim and Manasseh were in their possessions, all Israel, with the exception of Judah, were still encamped at Shiloh. Moreover, the two parts of the nation were now separated by the territory which was afterwards assigned to the tribe of Benjamin, but had no owner at this time; and in addition to this, the altar, tabernacle, and ark of the covenant were in the midst of Joseph and the other tribes that were still assembled at Shiloh.”—Commentary on the Old Testament, 1973, Vol. II, Joshua, pp. 124, 125.