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DEBIR (Heb. דְּבִיר).

  1. Canaanite royal city in the territory of Judah and originally inhabited by descendants of the Anakim ("giants?"; Josh. 12:13; 11:21). Debir is also called Kiriath-Sepher and Kiriath-Sannah (ibid. 15:15, 49). It was conquered by Joshua (ibid. 10:38–39; 12:13) but another biblical tradition attributes its capture to Othniel, son of Kenaz, Caleb's nephew (ibid. 15:15; Judg. 1:11–12). Debir is listed among the levitical cities (Josh. 21:15; i Chron. 6:43), which were apparently administrative centers under David. The Bible locates it in the southernmost district of the Judean hill country (Josh. 15:49). W.F. Albright's proposal to identify it with Tell Beit Mirsim, an important mound about 15 mi. (25 km.) southwest of Hebron, is usually accepted. Albright excavated the tell from 1926 to 1932, uncovering a series of strata dating from the late third millennium to the end of the monarchy. The city was strongly fortified in the Hyksos period and after a gap in occupation was resettled in the Late Bronze Age, suffering total destruction sometime in the latter part of the 13th century b.c.e. It was again occupied in the period of the Judges and provided with a casemate wall in the tenth century. Numerous dyeing plants for a textile industry were found in the city belonging to the period of the monarchy. The sequence of Bronze and Iron Age pottery found there still serves as the basis of the ceramic study of these periods. Some scholars reject Debir's identification with Tell Beit Mirsim arguing that this tell is actually located in the Shephelah ("lowland") whereas the Bible places Debir in the hill region of Judah, south of Hebron. K. Galling has suggested instead Khirbat Rābūḍ, about 8 mi. (13 km.) southwest of Hebron, an identification which appears probable following a survey by M. Kochavi which established that Khirbat Rābūḍ is a large tell of 60–70 dunams with prominent fortifications and remains dating mainly from the Late Bronze and Iron Ages (see also *Eglon).
  2. A locality on the northern boundary of Judah above the valley of Achor (Josh. 15:7). It is located near Ṭalʿat al-Damm between Jerusalem and Jericho. The ancient name may be preserved in Wadi al-Dabr.
  3. The king of the city of Eglon, south of Jerusalem, who was one of the five confederate kings in the Amorite coalition that attempted to halt Joshua's invasion (Josh. 10:3).


(1) Albright, Arch Bib, 77ff.; Albright, Arch, index s.v.Tell Beit Mirsim; idem, in: aasor, 12 (1932); 13 (1933); 17 (1938); 21–22 (1943), 155ff.; Abel, Geog, 2 (1938), 303–4; em, 2 (1965), 588–90; Galling, in: zdpv, 70 (1954), 135–41; Aharoni, Land, index.

[Michael Avi-Yonah]