Azal (אצל), or Azel, is a location mentioned in the Book of Zechariah 14:5, in Bibles that use the Hebrew Masoretic Text as the source for this verse. In Bibles that follow the Greek Septuagint (LXX) rendering, depending upon the source manuscript used, Azal is transcribed Jasol (ιασολ, pronounced "Yasol"), Jasod (a corruption of Jasol), or Asael (ασαηλ):
And ye shall flee to the valley of the mountains; for the valley of the mountains shall reach unto Azal: yea, ye shall flee, like as ye fled from before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah., King James Version
Theories on location
No written work prior to the late 19th-century definitively identifies what, or where, Azal is or was. The Holman Bible Dictionary asserts as one possibility that the phrase normally translated “to Azal” (אל־אצל) is a preposition, instead of a location. The Douay–Rheims Bible, a translation into English from the Latin Vulgate, also follows this usage. Most Bible commentators of the late 19th century considered Azal to be a place near Jerusalem. Cyril of Jerusalem (c. 313 – 386) is claimed to have heard that Azal was a village east of the Mount of Olives; but Frederick C. Eiselen wrote in his 1907 work The Minor prophets that Cyril's report was based on hearsay. In 1850, Rabbi Joseph Schwarz claimed that Azal was modern Azaria, situated a half mile southeast of the Mount of Corruption (southernmost peak of the Mount of Olives). Charles Simon Clermont-Ganneau, the linguist and archaeologist responsible for identifying the site of the ancient Canaanite city of Gezer and preserving the Mesha Stele's inscriptions, claimed that Schwarz was referring to al-Eizariya, the traditional Bethany of New Testament times. However, al-Eizariya lies several kilometers due east of the Mount of Corruption, not a half mile southeast of it, as Schwarz claimed. Between 1873 and 1874, Clermont-Ganneau explored many tombs in a valley immediately south of Jerusalem, which the peasants of Silwan called Wady Yasul. Based on geographic and linguistic evidence, Clermont-Ganneau proposed that Wady Yasul is Azal. Currently, this valley is bordered on the west by the Jerusalem Peace Forest and the neighborhood of Talpiot, on the north by the Abu Tor neighborhood on the southern slope of the Hill of Evil Council, and on the south by the neighborhood of Jabel Mukaber on the ridge where the former UN headquarters sits. The mouth of the valley lies at the base of the southernmost summit of the Mount of Olives (Mount of Corruption). Its Hebrew name is Nahal Azal (נחל אצל).
There is evidence that Clermont-Ganneau's theory and the LXX rendering of Zechariah 14:5 are correct. In 1984, Israeli geologists Daniel Wachs and Dov Levitte identified the location of a large landslide on the Mount of Olives that is directly adjacent to both Wady Yasul (Nahal Azal) and the area of the ancient kings' gardens at the juncture of the Hinnom and Kidron Valleys. Wachs' and Levitte's discovery validates Jewish historian Flavius Josephus' account of an earthquake-caused landslide during King Uzziah's reign blocking up the kings' gardens in the valley. It also accords with the LXX rendering of Zechariah 14:5, which states a valley will be blocked up as far as Azal. Additionally, the Israelis named this valley אצל (Atzal, or Etsel), which is the same Hebrew spelling of Azal (אצל).
- Zechariah 14:5
- "Zechariah 14:5". New Jerusalem Bible.
- "Holman Bible Dictionary, Azel". Studylight.org. Retrieved 2013-08-12.
- "Douay–Rheims translation of the Book of Zechariah". Catholicdoors.com. Retrieved 2013-08-12.
- Charles Clermont-Ganneau, Palestine Exploration Fund Quarterly Statement, April 1874, pg. 102; Charles Clermont-Ganneau, Archaeological Researches in Palestine, Vol. 1. pg. 420, 1899.
- Frederick Carl Eiselen, Commentary on the Old Testament, Vol. IX, The Minor prophets, pg. 680, 1907
- Joseph Schwarz, Geography and Brief Historical Sketch of Palestine; Moriah, The Temple Mount הר הבית; pp. 263-264; 1850
- Wachs, Daniel; Levitte, Dov (1984). "Earthquake Risk and Slope Stability in Jerusalem". Environmental Geology and Water Sciences 6 (3): 183–186. doi:10.1007/BF02509912. Retrieved 2011-11-23.
- Flavius Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, book 9, chapter 10, paragraph 4, verse 225, William Whiston