Gibeah

Gibeah, deriving from the same root (gbiya’, hill) as the nearby Geba (Jaba) and Gibeon (el-Jib) , is often confused with them by the scribes of the Tanakh (Judges 20:31, 1 Samuel 14:2). There is only one biblical narrative which can hint about the location of Gibeah: Judges 19-20. Let us see what each of them reveals.

The Judges narrative up until verse 13 states that a Levite was going back to Ephraim (north of Beitin) from Bethlehem, and that, when his servant asked him whether they should spend the night at Jerusalem, the Levite said to continue to either Gibeah or Ramah. Now, Jerusalem is six miles from Bethlehem, and it is 3 and 2/3 miles from  Tell el-Ful, the nearest prominent hill, and six miles from Ramah (er-Ram, in this case). Geba is two miles further on from Ramah. It is, however, Judges 19:12’s implication Gibeah is the southernmost Israelite place with inns which fixes it not at Geba, but at Tell el-Ful. Since we do not know the locations of the places in Judges 20:33, the rest of Judges provides us with no other locator for Gibeah.

In addition, the prophets Hosea and Isaiah can also give us hints regarding Gibeah’s location. Hosea 5:8 makes slightly better sense in light of Gibeah being at Tell el-Ful (if the place-names were in a rational order) and, so does Isaiah 10-Ramah is mentioned just before and Anatoth (Anata) and Laishah (Issawiya?) are mentioned just after.

Update (as of June 12, 2011): I am not quite sure when occupation at the second fortress of Tell el-Ful began. It certainly continued into Iron IIa (mid-10th century through late 9th). But, was there any Middle Iron I pottery? We might preliminarily accept the idea occupation at Tell el-Ful began in the time of Saul, but I cannot find any conclusive sources yet.

Update (as of Sept. 2, 2011): Tell el-Ful was inhabited during the habitation of Shiloh V (mid-late 11th C BC); this was originally thought by the excavators to be the stratum destroyed by the non-Benjaminites. The site was re-inhabited during Iron IIa (Shishak-Jeroboam II). However, since the Iron I-IIa pottery only comes from fills from the Assyrian period fortress (there are no Iron I architectural remains), it seems tough to assign any strong dating to Tell el-Ful’s Iron I-IIa settlement.

Author: pithom

An atheist with an interest in the history of the ancient Near East. Author of the Against Jebel al-Lawz Wordpress blog.

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