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Lebo-Hamath

LEBO-HAMATH

LEBO-HAMATH (Heb. לְבוֹא חֲמָת ,לְבֹא חֲמָת), a place name or geographical term frequently mentioned as a northern boundary mark of Ereẓ Israel. The biblical description of the borders of Canaan places Lebo-Hamath on the northern border between Mount Hor near the Mediterranean and Zedad near the Syrian desert (Num. 34:8). The land of Canaan in this account designates the Egyptian province of Canaan at the time of the Israelite conquest; in the north it extended up to the lands of the Hittite kingdom (Josh. 1:4). As a point on the northern border, Lebo-Hamath is also mentioned in the story of the spies (Num. 13:21) and in the list of the regions and nations which "had not known all the wars of Canaan" (Josh. 13:5; Judg. 3:3). After the conquest of Aram-Damascus and Aram-Zobah by David, Lebo-Hamath was a northern border city of the kingdom of Israel which reached the land of Hamath (i Kings 8:65; i Chron. 13:5); Jeroboam ii restored the border of Israel from Lebo-Hamath to the Brook of the Arabah (ii Kings 14:25; Amos 6:14). After the Assyrian conquest of Ereẓ Israel and Syria in the eighth century b.c.e., Lebo-Hamath was apparently on the dividing line between the Assyrian provinces of Damascus and Ha-math (Ezek. 48:1).

Most scholars have interpreted the Hebrew phrase (Heb. לְבוֹא חֲמָת) as "the entrance to Hamath" or "the way to Hamath" (today Hama on the Orontes). Linguistic evidence from the Bible, however, proves that the lamed in לְבוֹא is part of the root (cf. מִלְּבוֹא "from Lebo," Amos 6:14), and, furthermore, if it were not a place name it is strange to find it included in border lists containing only specific place names. Hamath was apparently added to Lebo to distinguish it from other places with the same name and also possibly to indicate that it belonged to the land of Hamath.

The city called Labu appearing in an inscription of Tiglath-Pileser iii immediately after the cities of Hamath is undoubtedly the same as Libo mentioned in the Itinerarium Antonini as a station midway between Laudicia (Kadesh on the Orontes) and Heliopolis (Baalbek). The city can definitely be identified with Labwa situated in a fertile region near one of the sources of the Orontes in the northern Lebanese Beqa. The large tell on which the village of Labwa stands contains pottery from the Bronze Age and later periods.

All these references indicate that Lebo was an important city in the northern Lebanese Beqa to the south of Kadesh. It appears apparently already as "Rbʾw (= Labʾu) in the forest," in inscriptions of Amenophis ii and Ramses ii as well as Labana in the Amarna tablets.

bibliography:

Luckenbill, Records, 2 (1927), 294; Abel, Geog, 1 (1933), 300–2; Noth, in: zdpv, 58 (1935), 242ff.; Elliger, in: pjb, 32 (1936), 34ff.; Noth, ibid., 33 (1937), 36ff.; Maisler in: bjpes, 12 (1946), 91–102; idem, in: basor, 102 (1946), 9; idem, in: rhje, 1 (1947), 33f.; idem, in: Eretz Israel, 3 (1955), 26; S. Yeivin, in: Proceedings of the 22nd Congress of Orientalists (1957), 587ff.; Aharoni, Land, index.

[Benjamin Mazar]

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