Mizpeh or Mizpah

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MIZPEH or MIZPAH (Heb. מִצְפֶּה, מִצְפָּה, הַמִּצְפָּה; "lookout point"), the name of several places mentioned in the Bible.

(1) A city belonging to the tribe of Benjamin (Josh. 18:26), the best-known place with the name of Mizpeh. The Israelites gathered there to punish the tribe of Benjamin after the outrage committed by the men of Gibeah (Judg. 20–21). Samuel assembled the people to fight against the Philistines and judged them in Mizpah (i Sam. 7:5ff.; 10:17). Asa of Judah fortified the place (i Kings 15:22; ii Chron. 16:6). Gedaliah, the son of Ahikam, established the capital of Judah in Mizpah after the fall of Jerusalem and was later assassinated there (ii Kings 25:22ff.; Jer. 40–41). It was a district capital in the time of Nehemiah (Neh. 3:7, 15, 19). The place of origin of Simeon of Mizpeh (Pe'ah 2:6) is uncertain.

The ancient site is identified with Tell al-Naṣbeh about 8 mi. (13 km.) north of Jerusalem, following A. Raboisson (Les Maspeh, 1897). It was excavated from 1926 to 1936 by W.F. Badè on behalf of the Pacific Institute of Religion in Berkeley. The first settlement there dates to the Early Bronze Age. Its main period of occupation, however, belongs to the Iron Age. The excavations uncovered the main part of the city, which contained many four-room houses typical of the period, some unusually large and built with pillars. Outstanding is a ninth-century wall and gate, evidently built by Rehoboam, which had been preceded by a tenth-century casemate wall. The mound was occupied until the Hellenistic period. A number of tombs uncovered there date from the Canaanite to the Hellenistic periods and were very rich in finds.

Hebrew seals and seal impressions were particularly abundant on the site. A seal with the inscription "Jaazaniah servant of the king" is ascribed by some to the Jezaniah who met with Gedaliah at Mizpah (Jer. 40:8; 42:1). A special seal from the Persian period reading mṣh (Mozah?) is interpreted by various scholars as an abbreviation of Mizpeh (mṣ[p]h).

(2) The land of Mizpah (Josh. 11:3) or the valley of Miẓpeh (Josh. 11:8) in the north of the country below the Hermon, an area settled by the Hivites. It was probably located in the region of Marj al-ʿAyyūn (ʿIyyon), north of Metullah.

(3) A place in Gilead which marked the boundary between the territories of Laban and Jacob (Gen. 31:49). It is perhaps identical with Ramoth-Gilead, a border stronghold between Aram and Israel in northern Gilead (i Kings 22:3).

(4) The hometown of *Jephthah, also in Gilead, but farther south than (3) above. The Israelites gathered there before setting out for battle against the Ammonites (Judg. 10–11). It is identical with Ramath-Mizpeh in the vicinity of Mahanaim of Joshua 13:26. It has been tentatively identified with Khirbat Jalʿad south of the Jabbok.

(5) A city in the territory of the tribe of Judah in the vicinity of Lachish (Josh. 15:38). Eusebius (Onom. 130:2 – Masseba) describes it as a village near Eleutheropolis (Bet Guvrin).

(6) A Mizpeh of Moab (Rujm al-Mushayrifa?) is mentioned in i Samuel 22:3.

(7) A Mizpeh (Massepha) at which Judah Maccabee assembled his army against Gorgias (i Macc. 3:46) is probably identical with Nabi Samuîl northwest of Jerusalem.


C.C. McCown et al., Tell en Nasbeh, 1 (1947); J.C. Wampler, Tell en Nasbeh, 2 (1947); Avigad, in: iej, 8 (1958), 113ff.; Albright, in: aasor, 4 (1924), 90ff.; Abel, Geog, 2 (1938), 340ff.; Aharoni, Land, index; Diringer, in: D. Winton Thomas (ed.), Archaeology and Old Testament Study (1967), 329ff.; em, s.v. incl. bibl.

[Michael Avi-Yonah]