Baca, Valley of

Ba'ca, Valley Of (Heb. E'mek hab-Baka', הִבָּכָא עֵמֶק, vale of [the] weeping; Sept. κοιλὰς τοῦ κλαυθμῶνος, Vulg. Vallis lacrymalrum), a valley apparently somewhere in Palestine, through which the exiled Psalmist sees in vision the pilgrims passing in their march toward the sanctuary of Jehovah at Zion (Ps 84:6). The passage seems to contain a play, in the manner of Hebrew poetry, on the name of the trees (בּכָאַים, bekaim'; SEE MULBERRY ) from which the valley probably derived its name, and the "tears" (בּכַי, beki') shed by the pilgrims in their joy at their approach to Zion. These tears are conceived to be so abundant as to turn the dry valley in which the baka trees delighted (so Lengerke, Kenaan, p. 135) into a springy or marshy place (מִעִיָן). That a real locality was in the mind of the Psalmist is most probable, from the use of the definite article before the name (Gesen. Thes. p. 205). A valley of the same name (Bekaa) still exists in the Sinaitic district (Burckhardt, p. 619); but this, as well as the valley near Mecca (Niebuhr, Beschr. p. 339), is entirely out of the region demanded by the context. Some regard this as a valley (el-Bekaa) or plain in which Baalbek is situated. But this spot is far from possessing the dreariness and drought on which the point of the Psalmist's allusion depends. The rendering of the Targum is Gehenna, i.e. the Ge-Hinnom or ravine below Mount Zion. This locality agrees well with the mention of bakaim-trees in 2Sa 5:23. To the majority of interpreters, however, it does not appear necessary to understand that there is any reference to a valley actually called by this name. The Psalmist in exile, or at least at a distance from Jerusalem, is speaking of the privileges and happiness of those who are permitted to make the usual pilgrimages to that city in order to worship Jehovah in the Temple: "They knew the ways that lead thither; yea, though they must pass through rough and dreary paths, even a vale of tears; yet such are their hope and joy of heart, that all this is to them as a well-watered country, a land crowned with blessings of the early rain." Dr. Robinson (Add. to Calmet's Dict.) concludes that something like this is the sense of the passage; and it seems, on the whole, the most intelligible and forcible explanation of the passage to suppose that the sacred writer thus poetically describes some one of the many desolate valleys which the stated worshippers at Jerusalem were obliged to traverse in their yearly visits to the solemn festivals.

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