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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Beth-Zur

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(Heb. Beyth-Tsur', בֵּיתאּצוּר, house of the rock; Sept. Βηθσούρ, in 2 Chronicles Βαιθσουρά, in 1 Chronicles v.r. Βαιθσούρ; Apocrypha and Josephus Βεθσούρα ), a town in the mountains of Judah, named between Halhul and Gedor (Joshua 15:58). So far as any interpretation can, in their present imperfect state, be put on the genealogical lists of 1 Chronicles 2:42-49, Beth-zur would appear from 1 Chronicles 2:45 to have been founded by the people of Maon, which again had derived its origin from Hebron. However this may be, Beth-zur was "built," i.e. probably fortified, by Rehoboam, with other towns of Judah, for the defense of his new kingdom (2 Chronicles 11:7). After the captivity the people of Beth-zur assisted Nehemiah in the rebuilding of the wall of Jerusalem (Nehemiah 3:16); the place had a "ruler" (שִׂר ), and the peculiar word Pelek (פֶּלֶךְ ) is employed to denote a district or circle attached to it, and to some other of the cities mentioned here. (See TOPOGRAPHICAL TERMS). In the wars of the Maccabees, Beth-zur or Beth-sura (then not a large town, πολίχνη, Joseph. War, 1, 1, 4) played an important part. It was "the strongest place in Judaea" (Joseph. Ant. 13, 5, 6), having been fortified by Judas and his brethren "that the people might have a defense against Idumaea," and they succeeded in making it "very strong, and not to be taken without great difficulty" (Josephus, Ant. 12, 9, 4); so much so that it was able to resist for a length of time the attacks of Simon Mac. (1 Maccabees 11:65) and of Lysias (2 Maccabees 11:5), the garrison having in the former case capitulated. Before Beth-zur took place one of the earliest victories of Judas over Lysias (1 Maccabees 4:29), and it was in an attempt to relieve it when besieged by Antiochus Eupator that he was defeated in the passes between Beth-zur and Bath-zacharias, and his brother Eleazar killed by one of the elephants of the king's army (1 Maccabees 6:32-47; Joseph. Ant. 12:9, 3). According to Eusehius and Jerome (Oncmsasticon, s.v. Βεθσούρ, Bethsur), it was still called Bethsoron (Βηθσορών ), a village twenty miles from Jerusalem, on the road to Hebron, containing a fountain at the foot of a hill, said to be that where Philip baptized the officer of queen Candace. The distance of five stadia from Jerusalem in 2 Maccabees 11:5, is too small (Cellarii Notit. 2, 565). The traditional Beth-sur of the Crusaders, near Bethlehem, where the fountain of St. Philip is pointed out (Cotovic. p. 247; Pococke, 2, 67; Maundrell, p. 116), cannot be the real place, for Eusebins places it much more to the south, and is in this supported by its history, which shows that it lay on what was the southern border of the Jordan in the time of the Maccabees, when the Idumaeans had taken possession of the southernmost part of the country and made Hebron their chief town., In those times, indeed, Beth-zur, or Bethsur, appears to have been the corresponding fortress on the Jewish side of the fountain to that of Hebron on the side of Idumaea, standing at a short distance, and probably over against it, as many similar fortresses are found to do at the present day. Near Hebron there is another well, called Bires-Sur, which also gives name to the wady: this place may have been the ancient Beth- zur, However, here is no trace of ancient ruins (Robinson's Researches, 3, 14).

M. De Saulcy states that he heard of a modern village, corresponding in name to Beth-Zur, lying a short distance to the west of the road, soon after he left Hebron in passing northward, opposite Halhul, but he did not visit it (Narrative, 1, 451). It is therefore nearly certain that Beth-zur is near the modern ed-Dirweh, notwithstanding the distance (about five Roman miles) of this latter place from Hebron; it has a ruined tower, apparently of the time of the Crusades, and close by, a fountain with ruins as of an ancient fortress, built of very large stones upon rocks hewn away to a perpendicular face (Robinson, Researches, 1, 320). Mr. Wolcott learned that this hill still retained among the natives the name Beit-Sur (Bib. Sac. 1843, p. 56). The recovery of the site of Beth-zur (Robinson's Later Researches, p. 277) explains its impregnability, and also the reason for the choice of its position, since it commands the road from Beersheba and Hebron, which has always been the main approach to Jerusalem from the, south. A short distance from the tell, on which are strewn the remains of the town, is a spring, Ain edh-Dhirweh, which in the days of Jerome and later was regarded as the scene of the baptism of the eunuch by Philip. The tradition has apparently confounded this place with another Beth-zur (Βεθσούρ ), which the Onomasticon (ut sup.) locates one mile from Eleutheropolis; it may be noticed that Beitsr- is not near the road to Gaza (Acts 8:26), which runs much more to the northwest. (See GAZA). This identification of Beth-zur is adopted by Wilson (Lands of the Bible, 1, 386), and apparently coincides with that of Schwarz (Palest. p. 107).

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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Beth-Zur'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/b/beth-zur.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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