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HORMAH (Heb. חָרְמָה), Canaanite royal city on the border of the Negev of Judah near Arad (Josh. 12:14; Num. 21:1–3). When the Israelites disobeyed the Lord and tried to enter Canaan by the direct route from Kadesh-Barnea, they were fought back by the Canaanites and Amalekites guarding its southern approaches, who pursued them as far as Hormah (Num. 14:45; Deut. 1:44). During the Israelite settlement of Canaan, the tribes of Judah and Simeon attacked Hormah from the north; the Bible relates that it was originally called Zephath, but was "dedicated" to the Lord by a "vow" (ḥerem) and "utterly destroyed" (Judg. 1:17; Num. 21:2–3). This etiological explanation of the name, however, is contradicted by the appearance of Hormah in the Egyptian Execration Texts of the 19th century b.c.e. and in a contemporary inscription from Sinai. In any case, it is mentioned as a town of Simeon (Josh. 19:4; i Chron. 4:30) and later as part of the Negev district of Judah (Josh. 15:30). David included it among the recipients of the booty taken from the Amalekites (i Sam. 30:30).

The identification of Hormah is disputed, with scholars divided between Khirbat al-Mashāsh (Ḥorvat Masos) and Tell al-Milh (Tell Malḥata). Both of these sites are situated at ancient wells east of Beersheba, 3½ mi. (6 km.) apart, and contain remains of the Chalcolithic, Middle Bronze Age ii, and Israelite periods.


J. Garstang, Joshua-Judges (1931), index; Albright, in: jpos, 4 (1924), 155f.; Glueck, in: basor, 55 (1934), 18f.; Alt, in: jpos, 15 (1935), 314ff.; em, s.v.; Aharoni, Land, index.

[Michael Avi-Yonah]