(Carʹmel) [orchard or fruitful land].
The name of both a mountain range and a city. The Hebrew word (kar·melʹ), however, is also used to refer to “new grain” (2 Ki. 4:42) or, more frequently, to any fruitful field or orchard.—Isa. 16:10; 32:15; Jer. 2:7.
1. The Carmel range is a wedge-shaped spur of the central mountain range of Canaan, running out therefrom in a N-NW direction with its NW headland coming to within two hundred yards (182.9 meters) of the Mediterranean Sea. The entire range measures some thirty miles (48.3 kilometers) 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 has the highest point, some 1,791 feet (546 meters) 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 13 miles (20.9 kilometers) long. In modern times the name “Mount Carmel” (Jebel el-Karmal) 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 “in Carmel.” Megiddo and Taanach, on the E slopes of the SE section, are not so designated.—Josh. 12:22.
The land of Canaan (Palestine) 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 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 a natural roadblock to caravans and armies passing through Canaan on their way to or from either Mesopotamia or Egypt. Not only do the eastern slopes (facing the Plain of Asher and the Valley of Jezreel) rise very steeply, but, from ancient times, the Carmel range has been covered by a thick growth of trees and shrubs making 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 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 fully merited its name for fruitfulness in ancient times and hence is often associated with other notably 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 (2 Chron. 26:10), and the remains of numerous rock-hewn wine 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; Amos 1:2; Nah. 1:4) Its slopes, washed by the sea winds, still contain fruit orchards, olive groves and vines, and in the spring are carpeted with a magnificent display of flowers. The Shulammite maiden’s king in the Song of Solomon (7:5) likened her head 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.—Amos 9:3.
Carmel formed one of the boundary markers in the territory of the tribe of Asher. (Josh. 19:24-26) Historically, it figures primarily in the activities of the prophets Elijah and Elisha. It was to Mount Carmel 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. (1 Ki. 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. (Vs. 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 followed. (Vss. 42-45; Jas. 5:17) From here Elijah ran perhaps as much as twenty miles (32.2 kilometers) to Jezreel, by Jehovah’s help outpacing Ahab’s chariot all the way.—1 Ki. 18:46.
Elijah’s successor, Elisha, after their separation at the Jordan River, traveled to Carmel from Jericho via Bethel. (2 Ki. 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.—2 Ki. 4:8, 20, 25.
King Saul erected a “monument [Hebrew, yadh]” at Carmel apparently commemorating his victory over the Amalekites. (1 Sam. 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.”—2 Sam. 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. (1 Sam. 25:2; 30:5; 2 Sam. 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 possible bloodguilt. (1 Sam. 25:2-35) Abigail later became David’s wife.—1 Sam. 25:36-42; 27:3; 1 Chron. 3:1.