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Gibeon

GIBEON

GIBEON (Heb. גבעון), the largest and best-known city in the territory of the tribe of Benjamin, resembling a royal city (Josh. 10.2).

Biblical Gibeon has been identified with modern el-Jib, 6 miles (9 kms.) north of Jerusalem. The first proper scientific identification of the place with modern el-Jib was made in 1838 by Edward Robinson. During the archaeological excavations of 1956, 1957, and 1959, directed by J.B. Pritchard (1962, 24–52), this identification was confirmed by the discovery of 56 jar handles inscribed with the name Gdn (or Gdd).

Gibeon was first mentioned in Joshua 9 in an incident which tells how the Hivite inhabitants of Gibeon deceived Joshua into making a peace covenant with them. When the deception was discovered, the Gibeonites were sentenced to become "hewers of wood and drawers of water" (Josh. 9:21, 23). Later when the Amorite king Adoni-Zedek attacked Gibeon for siding with the Israelites, Joshua was obliged to protect them and chased the Amorites down the pass of Beth-Horon supported by "hailstones and the sun standing still upon Gibeon" (Josh. 10:1–14; Isa. 28:21). However, the reference to this story in Joshua 9 presents a problem since there is no archaeological evidence for a settlement at Gibeon during the Late Bronze Age, the period in which the conquest stories in Joshua are placed.

In Joshua 18:25 and 21:17 Gibeon is described as a levitical city. The section in ii Samuel 2:12–17 describes the scene of the contest at the "pool of Gibeon" between the two opponents groups; that of Abner (Saul's supporters) and that of Joab (David's supporters). In that contest 12 men of each group were "thrusted through" by the swords of their opponents. In ii Sam. 20:8 Joab slew Amasa at Gibeon; in ii Sam. 21:1–10 seven of Saul's sons were executed, i.e. two of Ritzpah, Saul's concubine, and five of Michal from her marriage to Paltiel (and not Adriel as mentioned in ii Samuel 21:8; Adriel is the Aramaic version of the Hebrew Paltiel (see Z. Ben-Barak 1991, 87)). According to the narrative, the execution had to be carried out to end the three-year famine during David's reign, caused by Saul's violation of the covenant with the Gibeonites, not recorded anywhere else in the Bible.

It is stated (i Kings 3:4–5) that the people were sacrificing at the high place at Gibeon; Solomon offered one thousand burnt offerings on the altar; and Solomon's famous inaugural dream is placed at the high place at Gibeon. According to i Chronicles 16:39; 21:29 the "tabernacle" was there, too.

Examining the textual material Shalom Brooks (2005) has argued that Gibeon played an important role in Israelite cultic life before Solomon, i.e. since the time of Saul. Firstly, it is not plausible that Gibeon was insignificant during the time extending from Samuel and Saul to David; its cultic popularity does not make sense unless the sanctuary had a long history behind it. Secondly, the description of the worship held at Gibeon makes sense and is convincing particularly since Gibeon is described as a levitical city (Josh 21.17). This view can be supported by Blenkinsopp (1974) who proposed that the sanctuary that David visited (ii Sam. 21:1) was at Gibeon; and that the first altar that Saul built to Yahweh (i Sam 14:33) was in the Gibeonite region and must be a great stone which is at Gibeon (ii Sam. 20:8). This story has cultic significance (Josh. 24:26; i Sam. 6:14–16) and may be identified with the altar on which Solomon offered sacrifices (i Kings 3:4).

In Jeremiah 28:1 Gibeon is mentioned as the home of the false prophet Hananiah; and the "great pool" of Gibeon is mentioned again as the site of a bloody combat when Johanan unsuccessfully attacked Ishmael, Gedaliah's assassin. A reference from the post-exilic period is found in Nehemiah 3:7. It indicates that the men from Gibeon assisted in the rebuilding of the city wall of Jerusalem. The earliest extra-biblical reference to Gibeon is found at Karnak, in a list of cities either captured or visited during the campaign Sheshonk (biblical Shishak, i Kings 14:25) made in Canaan, c. 924 b.c.e.

The archaeological data from el-Jib indicates that there was no Late Bronze Age (c. 1550–1200 b.c.e.) settlement at Gibeon, i.e. prior to the settlement in the Iron Age i Period (Pritchard ii, 1976, 449–50). However, the site was occupied in the eb i (c. 3300–3050 b.c.e.), and mb ii (c. 2300–2000 b.c.e.), and these periods are only represented by pottery and other artifacts discovered in tombs on the west side of the mound. It should be noted that late Bronze Age pottery was also found, though these were found in eight of the tombs only. During the 1960s an additional 18 burial caves were uncovered. These had been hewn out of the limestone western slopes of the hill and were in use during the mb i and lb i periods.

The Iron Age i Period (c. 1200–1000 b.c.) at the site consisted of a massive city wall, 10.5–11 ft. (3.2–3.4 m.) in width, which was built around the hill. Two water systems were discovered; they were constructed in the Iron Age to provide the inhabitants of the city with water in the time of siege. The first system was a rock-hewn shaft, 37 ft. (11.3 m.) in diameter and 35.5 ft. (10.8 m.) deep. A spiral staircase (79 steps) was cut along the north and east sides of the pool. At the bottom, the stairs continued into a tunnel to provide access to the water chamber which lies 44.5 ft. (13.6 m.) below the floor of the pool. Thus the inhabitants had access to water lying 80 ft. (24.4 m.) below the level of the city. It has been estimated that 3,000 tons of limestone were quarried and removed to create the "pool of Gibeon" mentioned in ii Sam. 2:13. The second system was the stepped tunnel which led from inside the city to the spring of the village. This system was constructed later in the Iron Age ii, possibly due to the flow of the water into the chamber which was deemed inadequate.

The wealth of Gibeon may be demonstrated by the winery discovered there; the flat lands around the site were suitable for agricultural production and the slopes beyond were suitable for vineyards. The Karstic character of the soil meant there were many springs, of which the largest was at Gibeon. This flourishing economy is evidenced by the large number of pots found, as well as by the frequent occurrences of wine cellars. About 40 such cellars have been discovered. These were cistern-like constructions, each 6 ft. (2 m.) deep and dug out of the rock. The jars inside each cellar held about 45 liters of wine. In the same area wine presses were also found; they were carved from the rock with channels for conducting the grape juice into fermentation tanks. It is estimated that the cellars provided storage space for jars containing 25,000 gallons of wine. There were smaller jars which had been used to export the wine produced at Gibeon. Stoppers and a funnel for filling the jars were also found.

The studies by Demsky (1971) and Yeivin (1971) have demonstrated that there is a link between the names inscribed on the jar handles and Saul's genealogy lists in i Chronicles (8:29–40; 9:35–44). The studies of these genealogies provide some evidence relating to the Benjaminites' settlement in their territory. Demsky attests that these lists present at one and the same time the history of the branch of the Ner family, as well as the clans and villages that depended on Gibeon both culturally and administratively. This list is also an illustration of the relationship of the clans to each other and to Gibeon, one which would not have changed from the time of the initial Benjaminites settlement until the Exile. Yeivin suggests that after the Benjaminites' penetration there must have beena considerable integration with the local inhabitants, mainly through marriage, the results of which are reflected in the genealogical lists in Chronicles. These lists are not concerned with the Gibeonites at Gibeon, but with the Benjaminite group which came to settle at Gibeon in the course of time. Their eponymous ancestor is called "the father of Gibeon" in i Chronicles 8:29–40 and its duplicate in 9:35–44). In the first list his personal name is not given, whereas in the second list he is named as Yehiel.

The most interesting aspect of these lists is the naming of the wife of "the father of Gibeon" as Maacah. This name does not appear as an Israelite name, but is the name of an Aramean principality in the Golan. When it appears as a personal name it always represents a non-Israelite or someone of non-Israelite descent. This reference to the non-Israelite Maacah may express itself in intermarriage with the local women. Such intermarriages probably resulted in acquisition of rights of heritage and property. The "father of Gibeon" could indicate the head of a large family, quite wealthy and influential. Saul's ancestors are recorded as Kish, Ner … and Benjamin, that is, in ascending order from the smaller to the larger unit. Also in i Samuel 9:1 Kish, Saul's father, is described as gibbor ḥayil, which is also taken to mean a man of wealth.

bibliography:

Z. Ben-Barak, "The Legal Background to the Restoration of Michal to David", in: D.J.A. Clines and T.C. Eskenazi (eds.), Telling Queen Michal's Story (jsots sup. 119), 74–90; J. Blenkinsopp, Gibeon and Israel (1972); idem, "Did Saul Make Gibeon his Capital," in: Vetus Tesamentum 24 (1974), 1–7; A. Demsky, "The Genealogy of Gibeon (1 Chronicles 9.35–44): Biblical and Epigraphic Considerations," in: Bulletin of the American School of Oriental Research 202 (1971), 16–23; J.B. Pritchard, Gibeon Where the Sun Stood Still (1962); idem, "Gibeon," in: M. Avi-Yona and E. Stern (eds.), eaehl (oup, 1976), 446–50; S. Shalom Brooks, Saul and the Monarchy: A New Look (2005); S. Yeivin, "The Benjaminite Settlement in the Western Part of Their Territory," in: iej 21 (1954), 141–54;

[Simcha Shalom Brooks (2nd ed.)]

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