What is the Valley of Baca in Psalm 84?

The Valley of Baca is mentioned in the Bible only once, in Psalm 84. Baca is rendered “weeping” in most translations: “Blessed is the man whose strength is in thee; in whose heart are the ways of them. Who passing through the valley of Baca make it a well; the rain also filleth the pools.” Psalm 84:5–6

The Hebrew word baca is related to bakah, which means “to weep.” Baca refers to a type of “weeping” tree; that is, one that drips resin or gum-like tears, such as a balsam, mulberry, or aspen tree. In 2 Samuel 5:23, bakaim is translated as “balsam trees”.

The Valley of Baca was a literal place located near Jerusalem. The Valley of Rephaim (2 Samuel 5:18) is a possible identification. The Valley of Rephaim is the site of one of David’s victories over the Philistines; the author of 2 Samuel notes that there were mulberry trees there (2 Samuel 5:23). Another possibility is that the Valley of Baca is the Valley of Achor (Joshua 7:24), the place of Israel’s trouble where Achan was executed for bringing guilt upon the nation. In the psalmist’s day, pilgrims probably passed through this waterless valley on their way to Jerusalem to worship.

The psalmist uses the Valley of Baca symbolically to illustrate a difficult and sorrowful path in life. The name of the valley indicates a dry region since this is where these types of weeping trees tend to grow. As people traveled to Jerusalem to worship, they would pass through this weary, “weeping” place, but their journey was worth it in the end: Psalm 84:5–7

In Psalm 84, the Valley of Baca helps illustrate the privilege and longing of all those who follow the Lord’s path in pilgrimage to Zion. These followers possess an intense longing to worship the Lord:

“How lovely is your dwelling place, LORD Almighty! My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the LORD; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God” Psalm 84:1–2.

They begin the path of pilgrimage strengthened by God Himself and then remain steadfast in their hearts (verse 5). They grow spiritually stronger as they continue to meet adversity with unshaken faith (verse 7). As these sojourners find their strength in God, they are able to persevere through calamity, sorrow, and severe trials. And in the end, they find grace. Their Valley of Baca turns into springs of blessing and pools of refreshment.

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© Tony - W.A.M