Deciphering Zechariah 14:5

An indepth analysis of Zechariah 14:5

Straight from the Horse’s Mouth: The Namings of Azal River and Mount Azal

with 9 comments

If you’re not up to speed yet on where Azal in Zechariah 14:5 is located, see Azal: A Longtime Mystery Rediscovered.

Straight from the horse’s mouth is a figure of speech that is used to indicate receipt of information directly from the best authority.

The following letter reveals that Wadi Yasul, the valley due south of the City of David that is formed by the northern slope of Jabel Mukaber and the southern slope of the hill of Abu Tor, was named Azal Valley in 1955 based on the likelihood that the identity of Azal mentioned in Zechariah 14:5 was preserved in the Arabic name and location of Wadi Yasul; and Jabel Mukaber was named Mount Azal in 1990.

It was authored by Yehuda Ziv, a member of the Israel government authority responsible for naming geographic locations in Israel, i.e., the Government Names Committee. Ziv “heads the Government Names Committee’s subcommittee for community names, and is considered one of the leading experts in Israel in the field”. So it is straight from the horse’s mouth, so to speak. The letter was written to the editor of Haaretz in response to one of their articles in which Jabal Mukaber was mistakenly identified as the Hill of Evil Counsel. Ziv clarifies that Jabal Mukaber is actually the Hill of Evil Council, and the hill of Abu Tor is the Hill of Evil Counsel.

The original letter in Hebrew is found here. Below is my translation with my bracketed [ ] clarifications. The translation is by no means perfect, but the salient points are clear enough. Any comments to improve its accuracy will be greatly appreciated.

Opinions: Letters to the Editor

“The Evil Council” in Mount Azal

Yehuda Ziv, Government Names Committee


In response to the “Secrets of the Palace” By Noam Dvir (Haaretz, Gallery, 24.4).

The book of Zechariah provides a description of a great commotion which dominated the south of Jerusalem at the time: “and the Mount of Olives will be split from its eastward half, even a very great valley westward. And the northward half and southward half of the mountain will be removed. And the valley of mountains will be blocked up for they will be joined together unto Azal.” ([Zechariah] XIV, 4-5) .

It is customary to identify the place referred to [i.e., Azal] as Mount Azal, following its [i.e., Azal’s] probable preservation in the [Arabic] name of Wadi Yasul [Yasul Valley], [where] the level of Talpiot [neighborhood] drops to the Kidron Valley.

The Government Names Committee, therefore, decided on the name Azal River [for Wadi Yasul] (April 1955). Later (May 1990), Jabal Mukaber that looks upon Azal River from the south and Armon Hanatsiv sits atop, received the name Mount Azal.

The council of elders which decided to offer Jesus to Pontius Pilate, governor of Judah, that he would take him to be crucified, met according to Christian tradition at the residence of the high priest, Ananias. The hill of Abu-Tor designates this place. Hence, they call this hill, Hill of Evil Counsel.

The decision to house the UN headquarters in Armon Hanatsiv “stirred up” Jerusalem, and they (which disliked the days of the British Mandate government) began to call the name of the mountain Hill of the Evil Council, following the UN Security Council’s name.

Mount Azal also was awarded this “enhancement” in Jerusalem jargon. Most of the streets of the neighborhoods near Armon Hanatziv bear the names of executed immigrants [who were members of Etzel, i.e. Irgun]; and consequently, it is popular to call its name also Mount Etzel.


Ziv’s claim that Wadi Yasul was named Azal Valley (Nahal Azal) in 1955 is substantiated by a progress report on Israel’s standardization of geographic names submitted by the Israel government to the UN Economics and Social Council, which states:

… in March 1951, it was decided to appoint a government names committee for the whole country, whose decisions should be binding on all State and public institutions. In 1953 the Committee published the Gazeteer (sic) for the second sheet of the 1:250,000 map of Israel, and in 1955, it completed the fixing of names for all the geographical objects shown on the 1:250,000 map.
UN Conference on the Standardization of Geographic Names, E/CONF.53/L.25, 3 August 1967

The last paragraph in Ziv’s letter reveals why Google Maps until April 2014 mistakenly labeled Azal River, Etsel River (Nahal Etsel). Mount Azal’s name was derived from its proximity to Azal River/Valley, which name was preserved for centuries as Wadi Yasul in Arabic. In like manner, Wadi Yasul was nicknamed Etsel River due to its proximity to the nicknamed Mount Etzel, possibly even before receiving its official Hebrew name. So Google simply received the wrong (i.e., unofficial) information. The screenshot below captured Nahal Etsel in Google Maps in 2009 (see red ellipse). Once notified of the error, Google corrected it with the official name, Nahal Azal (see below below).

Nahal Etsel

©2014 Google – Map data ©2014 Mapa GISrael

Copyright © 2015, Zechariah Fourteen Five. All rights reserved.


9 Responses

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  1. This is very interesting information for me, but I don’t understand it; can’t follow the logic. I hope someone attempts another translation. Can you try to give me your understanding of what it is saying?


    June 25, 2015 at 1:00 pm

    • What don’t you understand?

      ¶ 2. The official Hebrew name for Jabel Mukabeer (Arabic) is Mount Azal. This name was derived from Wadi Yasul (Arabic for Azal River/Valley), that borders it to the north.

      ¶ 3. Wady Yasul was given the Hebrew name Nahal Azal (Azal River) in 1955. Jabel Mukabeer was named Mount Azal in 1990.

      ¶ 4. The hill that forms the southern slope of the Hinnom Valley (where the neighborhood of Abu Tor resides) is called the Hill of Evil Counsel according to Christian tradition.

      ¶ 5. The next mountain south that forms the southern slope of Azal Valley is called the Hill of Evil Council in Jewish ‘tradition’.

      ¶ 6. Mount Azal is also called Mount Etzel because so many streets there are named after Etzel (Irgun) members.


      June 25, 2015 at 1:32 pm

  2. Do you consider the southern tip of the Mount of Olives as the Mount of Corruption? Or the Jewish graveyard?

    On another note, Are they saying that Anaias house was on the Mount of Evil Council? If so, is there any archaeological evidence of this? Thanks, Gary. I sure would like to speak with you by phone some time. I find this subject very interesting.


    June 25, 2015 at 1:21 pm

    • Yes, the southernmost summit of the Mount of Olives is called the Mount of Corruption. The huge Jewish cemetery is on the middle summit. Scopus is the third summit.

      No, his house was on the Hill of Evil Counsel (across the Hinnom Valley from Mt Zion). The Hill of Evil Council is the next ridge south where the UN hdqtrs is located. Look up the Caiaphas Ossuary for archaeological evidence –


      June 25, 2015 at 1:42 pm

    • Oh btw, per a previous comment of yours, I sent your email address to the person you desired to contact. Sorry, I forgot to let you know.


      June 25, 2015 at 1:59 pm

  3. Is there anyway, from your understanding of the Zechariah scripture and geography that the Zechariah prophecy could have already been fulfilled. That is the Mount of Olive split eastward and westward with the ends cut off?


    June 25, 2015 at 2:31 pm

    • I don’t think there’s any question the prophecy has been fulfilled. Zechariah 14:4 doesn’t say that the Mt of Olives will split towards the east and towards the west. It literally says that the westward part of the mountain would split (tear apart) from its eastward half, and that’s exactly what happened during a landslide that geologic, archaeological and photographic evidence proves beyond a shadow of a doubt.


      June 25, 2015 at 2:48 pm

  4. Did you add a bunch of material since last year when I read your material pretty thoroughly, especially on suggesting maybe that Zech. 14 was actually fulfilled? How do you see the living waters flowing to the East and the West and all the other predictions which appear to have not yet been fulfilled if one thinks of physical Jerusalem in the Middle East. It seems all this great work on Zechariah 14:5 is almost pointless unless it unveils the rest of the chapter. Do you have any resources to suggest a past fulfillment of Zechariah chapter 14? I know there are many preterist interpretations of prophesy. I don’t recall any treatments of Zechariah chapter 14 that were convincing to me. By the way, I believe in universal salvation, the restoration of all things as spoken by the prophets. Acts 3:21 I can’t seem to make sense of Zechariah 14 from any eschatological viewpoint. But I do appreciate very much all the work you’ve put into this one vera. Amazing.


    June 25, 2015 at 8:50 pm

    • No, I haven’t added anything to that particular section since I wrote it.

      Jesus mentioned the fulfillment of living waters in John 7:38-39 where it is explicitly stated that living waters refers to the holy spirit:

      “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.'” But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.” John 7:38-39.

      Again, I repeat: It is explicitly stated that the prophesied living water (Ezekiel, Zechariah) is the holy spirit. To deny this in search of a physical fulfillment is unbelief.

      The only resources that I have to suggest a fulfillment of Zechariah 14:5 is the physical evidence that proves what was prophesied to happen did indeed happen (valley filled in and blocked up as far as Azal).

      IMO, universal salvation is blasphemy because it makes a mockery of the fear of God. Why should anyone fear God if they’re going to be saved regardless of what they do or believe? Jesus will indeed join all men to himself and restore all things, but part of that process is the separation of those who do not love God and practice evil from those who do love God and want to live in peace Those separated will still be in God, but it will be in his wrath against sin. You’ve had your say, I’ve had mine; let’s leave it at that. This is not the forum for this discussion.


      June 26, 2015 at 8:47 am

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