Bible Dictionaries
Mizpah, Mizpeh

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible

Search for…
Prev Entry
Next Entry
Resource Toolbox
Additional Links

MIZPAH, MIZPEH. These words (from tsâphâh , to ‘look out,’ esp. as a watchman) mean ‘outlook-point’; and they are the names of several places and towns in Palestine, all presumably situated on elevated spots, and all probably ancient sacred places. The sites of several are, however, uncertain. As both names are significant, they nearly always in the Heb. have the article.

1. Mizpah in Genesis 31:49 , where Jacob and Laban made their compact together, and where the name is explained, by a popular etymology, from the words used by Laban, ‘J″ [Note: Jahweh.] watch between me and thee, when we are absent one from another’ (and interpose, it is implied, if either attempts to take an advantage of the other). The name has not been preserved, and hence the site cannot be fixed, except conjecturally. Improbable sites have been suggested: to judge from the general line of Jacob’s route from Haran, the ‘Mizpah’ here referred to will have been some eminence on the N.E. of the Jebei Ajlun , some 40 miles S.E. of the Lake of Gennesaret (cf. Driver, Genesis , pp. 288, 301 f.).

2. The ‘land of Mizpah,’ at the foot of Hermon, in Joshua 11:5 , probably the same as the ‘cleft (or plain between mountains) of Mizpeh’ in v. 8. This ‘Mizpah,’ or ‘Mizpeh,’ has been identified with the Druse village Mutelle ’ (the ‘climbed up to’), on a hill 200 ft. high, at the S. end of the broad and fertile plain called the Merj ‘Ayûn’ (the ‘meadow of ‘Ayûn’), overlooking the basin of the Huleh sea, a little N. of Abil , and 8 m. W.N.W. of Bâniâs (Rob. iii. 372 f.). This, however, is thought by some to be not enough to the E. (notice ‘under Hermon’ v. 8, and ‘eastward’ v. 8); and Buhl ( GAP [Note: AP Geographie des alten Paiastina.] 240) conjectures that it may have been the height on which are now the ruins of the Saracenic castle Kal‘at es-Subçbç , 2 m. above Bânias, on the N.E. In the former case the ‘land’ of M. would be the Merj ‘Ayûn itself, between the rivers Litani and Hasbâni; in the latter it would be the plain stretching down from Bâniâs towards Lake Huleh.

3. Mizpeh in Joshua 15:38 , in the Shephçlah, or ‘lowland’ of Judah, mentioned in the same group of cities as Lachish ( Tell el-Hesy , 34 miles S.W. of Jerusalem). According to Eusebius ( Onom . 279), there was a Mizpeh in the district of Eleutheropolis ( Beit-Jibrîn , 23 m. S.W. of Jerus.), on the N., and another on the road from Eleutheropolis to Jerusalem. The former of these descriptions would suit Tell es-Safiyeh , on a hill of white chalk 7 1 / 2 m. N.N.W. of Belt-Jibrîn, with a commanding view, which, however, is now identified by many with Gath; the latter is too indefinite to permit of any identification being made with confidence.

4 . The Mizpah of Judges 10:17; Judges 11:11; Judges 11:34 , Jephthah’s home, apparently, to judge from the narrative, not very far from the Ammonite territory, and (11:33) the Aroer in front of Rabbath-ammon ( Joshua 13:25 ). The site can only be fixed conjecturally. Moore suggests the Jebel Osha ’, 16 m. N.W. of Rabbath-ammon, the highest point of the mountains S. of the Jabbok (3597 ft.), commanding a view of almost the whole Jordan Valley, as well as of much of the country opposite, on the W. of Jordan (Conder, Helh and Moab , 186 f.). Whether the ‘Mizpeh of Gilead’ of Judges 11:29 is the same spot is uncertain; from the difference of name, it would rather seem that it is not. The Mizpah of Hosea 5:1 is, however, very probably the same as Jephthah’s Mizpah. The Ramath-mizpeh (‘height of the outlook-point’) of Joshua 13:25 , on the N. border of Gad, has also been supposed to be the same as Jephthah’s Mizpah; but this is uncertain; a point further to the N. seems to be required.

5 . The Mizpah, on the W. of Jordan, mentioned in Judges 20:1; Judges 20:8; Judges 21:1; Judges 21:5; Jdg 21:8 , 1 Samuel 7:5 ff; 1 Samuel 10:17 as a meeting-place of Israelites on Important occasions; in 1 Kings 15:22 (= 2 Chronicles 16:8 ) as fortified by Asa; in 2 Kings 23:23; 2 Kings 23:25 , Jeremiah 40:5; Jeremiah 40:8 , and several times besides in Jeremiah 40:1-16; Jeremiah 41:1-18 , as the residence of Gedaliah, the governor appointed by Nebuchadnezzar over Judah after the capture of Jerusalem in 586; and in Nehemiah 3:7; Nehemiah 3:15; Nehemiah 3:19 . The same place appears to be intended by the ‘Mizpeh’ of 1Ma 3:45 (Gr. Massçpha , as often in LXX [Note: Septuagint.] for ‘Mizpah,’ e.g. Judges 20:1; Judges 20:8 ), ‘over against Jerusalem,’ a former ‘place of prayer’ ( i.e . sanctuary) for Israel, at which the faithful Israelites assembled after Antiochus Epiphanes had desecrated the Temple and stopped all worship in it. This Mizpah was identified with much probability by Robinson (i. 460) with Nebi Samwil , a height 4 1 /2 m. N.W. of Jerusalem, 2935 ft. above the sea, and some 500 ft. above the surrounding plain (notice ‘gone or came up’ in Judges 20:3; Judges 21:5; Judges 21:8 ), with a commanding view of the country round ( ib . 457 f.). Nebi Samwil Isaiah 3 m. W.N.W. of Gibeah (cf. Judges 20:1; Judges 20:3 with the sequel), 2 m. S. of Gibeon (cf. Nehemiah 3:7 ), and a little N. of the present road from Joppa to Jerusalem. It is the actual point from which travellers ascending by the ancient route through the pass of Beth-horon caught their first glimpse of the interior of the hills of Palestine. ‘It is a very fair and delicious place, and it is called Mount Joy, because it gives joy to pilgrims’ hearts; for from that place men first see Jerusalem’ (Maundeville, cited in SP [Note: P Sinai and Palestine.] , p. 214). Its present name, Nebi Samwil (the ‘Prophet Samuel’), is due to the Moslem tradition that it was Samuel’s burial-place (cf. 1 Samuel 7:6; 1 Samuel 7:15 where Mizpah is mentioned as one of Samuel’s residences); and the mosque there once a Crusaders’ church contains a cenotaph revered by the Moslems as his tomb.

6. Mizpeh of Moab ( 1 Samuel 22:8 , ‘Mizpeh’ is perhaps also to be read in 1 Samuel 22:5 for ‘the hold’), the residence of the king of Moab when David consigned his parents to his care. It must have been situated on some eminence in Moab; but we have no further clue to its site.

S. R. Driver.

Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Mizpah, Mizpeh'. Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible.​dictionaries/​eng/​hdb/​m/mizpah-mizpeh.html. 1909.