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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature
(Heb. with tlme art. ha-Ramathayim Tsophim' הָרָמָתִיַם צוֹפַים, the two heights, watchers; Sept. Ἀρμαθαὶμ Σιφά, v. r. Ἀρμαθαὶμ Σωφίμ, making the art. ה part of the word; Vulg. Ramathayim Tsophim'), the birthplace of the prophet Samuel (1 Samuel 1:19), his own permanent and official residence (1 Samuel 7:17; 1 Samuel 8:4), and the place of his sepulture (1 Samuel 25:1). It was in Mount Ephraim (1 Samuel 1:1). It had apparently attached to it a place called Naioth, at which the "company" (or "school," as it is called in modern times) of the sons of the prophets was maintained (1 Samuel 19:18, etc.; 20:1); and it had also in its neighborhood (probably between it and Gibeah of Saul) a great well, known as the well of Has-Sechu (1 Samuel 19:22). (See SECHU). This is all we know of it with any degree of certainty.
Ramathaim, if interpreted as a Hebrew word, is dual — "the double eminence." This may point to a peculiarity in the shape or nature of the place, or may be an instance of the tendency, familiar to all students, which exists in langulage to force an archaic or foreign name into an intelligible form. It is given in its complete shape in the Hebrew text and A. V. but once (1 Samuel 1:1). Elsewhere (1 Samuel 1:19; 1 Samuel 2:11; 1 Samuel 7:17; 1 Samuel 8:4; 1 Samuel 15:34; 1 Samuel 16:13; 1 Samuel 19:18-19; 1 Samuel 19:22-23; 1 Samuel 20:1; 1 Samuel 25:1; 1 Samuel 28:3) it occurs in the shorter form of Ramah (q.v.). The Sept., however (in both MSS.), gives it throughout as Armathaim, and inserts it in 1:3 after the words "his city," where it is wanting in the Hebrew and A. V. Gesenius questions the identity of Ramathaim-zophim and Ramah (Thesaurus, p. 127); but a comparison of 1 Samuel 1:1 with 1 Samuel 1:19 shows without doubt that the same place is referred to. It is implied by Josephus, and affirmed by Eusebius and Jerome in the Onomasticon ("Armathem Seipha"); nor would it ever have been questioned had there not been other Ramahs mentioned in the sacred history. Of the force of "Zophim" no feasible explanation has been given. It was an ancient name on the east of Jordan (Numbers 23:14), and there, as here, was attached to an eminence. In the Targum of Jonathan, Ramathaim-zophim is rendered "Ramatha of the scholars of the prophets;" but this is evidently a late interpretation, arrived at by regarding the prophets as watchmen (the root of zophim, also that of nizpeh, having the force of looking out afar), coupled with the fact that at Naioth in Ramah there was a school of prophets. The most natural explanation appears to be that Zuph, one of Samuel's ancestors, had migrated from his home in Ephratah (1 Samuel 1:1; 1 Chronicles 6:35), and settled in a district to which he gave his own name, and which was afterwards called the land of Zuph (1 Samuel 9:5). Ramah, or Ramathaim, was the chief town of this district, and was hence called Ramathaim-Zophim, that is, "Ramah of the Zuphites" (see Robinson, Bib. Res. ii, 7). (See ZOPHIM).
The position of Ramathaim-zophim is regarded by many scholars as one of the puzzles of Biblical geography. As the city is one of great interest, it may be well to give the principal theories as to its site, and then to state the data on which alone the site can be determined.
(1.) Eusebius and Jerome locate it near Diospolis or Lydda (Onomasts. s.v. "Armatha Sophim"), and identify it with the Arimathma of the N.T. (Matthew 27:57). Jerome's words are: "Armathem Seipha: the city of Helkana and Samuel. It lies near (πλησίον ) Diospolis: thence came Joseph, in the Gospels said to be from Arimathaea." Diospolis is Lydda, the modern Ludd; and the reference is, no doubt, to Ramleh, the wellknown modern town, two miles from Ludd. Jerome agrees with Eusebius in his translation of this passage; but in the Epitaphium Pauloe (Epist. 108) he connects Ramleh with Arimathba only, and places it haud procul a Lyddu. This last identification may be correct; for the Sept. Ἀρμαθαίμ seems to be the same name as the New-Test. Ἀριμαθαία, and represents the Hebrew הרמתים, with the article. There is no doubt there was a city called Armatha or Ramathem on the plain near Lydda at an early period; and its modern representative mav be Ramleh, as suggested by Reland and others (Reland, Paloest. p. 580, 959; see, however, Robinson, Bib. Res. ii, 238). But Ramah of Samuel could not have been so far distant from Gibeah of Saul; and there is a fatal obstacle to this identification in the fact that Ramleh ("the sandy") lies on the open face of tle maritime plain, and cannot in any sense be said to be in Mount Ephraim or any other mountain district. Eusebius possibly refers to another Ramah named in Nehemiah 11:33.
(2.) Some would identify this city with Ramah of Benjamin (Gesenius, Thesaur. p. 1275; Winer, Real Worterb. s.v. "Rama"); but this Ramah seems too close to Saul's residence at Gibeah to suit the requirements ot the sacred narrative in 1 Samuel 19:18. (Yet see below.)
(3.) Robinson has suggested that the site of Ramah may be that now occnupied by the village of Soba, which stands on a lofty and conspicuous hill-top, about six miles west of Jerusalem. Soba, he thinks, may be a corruption of the old name Zuph. Its elevation would answer well to the designation Ramah. It might be regarded as included in the mountains of Ephraim, or, at least, as a natural extension of them; and a not very wide detour would take the traveller from Solba to Gibeah by the tomb of Rachel (Bib. Res. ii, 7-9). The arguments are plausible, but not convincing; and it must be admitted that even Robinson's remarkable geographical knowledge has failed to throw light on the site of Ramathaim-zophim.
(4.) Wolcott, seeing on the spot the difficulties attending Robinson's theory, and finding a remarkable ruin, called Ramet el-Khulil, near Hebron, concluded that this was the site of Samuel's city. A summary of his reasons is given by Robinson in the Biblical Cabinet (43:51; see also Bib. Res. iii. 279). They are not more convincing than those advanced in favor of Soba, yet they have been adopted and expanded by Van de Velde (Narrat. ii, 48- 54; Memioir, p. 341). This is also supported by Stewart (Tent and Khan, p. 247).
(5.) Gesenius thinks that Jebel Fureidis, or, as it is usually called. Frank Mountain, the conspicuous conical hill three miles south-east of Bethlehem, is the true site of Ramah (Thesaurus, p. 1276). This, however, is pure conjecture, without any evidence to support it.
(6.) Ewald is in favor of the little village of Ram-Allah, a mile west of Beerothl (Geschichte, ii, 550, mote). It is doubtless situated in Mount Ephraim, retains the old name, and the name Allah, "God," might be an indication of some old, peculiar sanctity; but it is open to the same objections as all others north of Rachel's tomb. Lieut. Conder inclines to this position (Tent Work in Palestine, ii, 116), remarking that near it is a ruined village called Sueikeh, perhaps the Sechu of 1 Samuel 19:22. (7.) One of the most ancient, and certainly one of the most plausible, theories is that which locates Ramathaim-zophim at Neby Samwil. It is most probably to this place Procopius alludes in the statement that Justinian caused a well and a wall to be erected for the convent of St. Samuel (De Edific. Just. v, 9; comnp. Robinson, Bib. Res. i, 459). From the 7th century, when Adamnanus described Palestine, and spoke of "the city of Samuel, which is called Ramatha" (Early Travels [Bo]hn], p. 5), down through the MIiddle Ages to the present day, the name of the prophet ias been connected with this spot; and the uniform tradition of Jews, Christians, and Mlohlammedans has made it the place of his birtlh and burial (see authorities cited in Robinson, l.c.). The Crusaders built a church over the alleged tomb, which, after the fall of the Latin kingdom, was converted into a mosque; and its walls and tall minaret are still visible from afar (Quaresmius, ii, 727; Pococke, ii, 48). Neby Samwil is unquestionably the site of a very ancient city; its position on the summit of a high conical hill would give it a just title to the name Ramah; it probably lay within the region termed the "Maountains of Ephraim;" and it would form an appropriate residence for the great judge of Israel. It is near this place that the great well of Sechu, to which Saul came on his way to Ramah, now called Samuel's fountain, near Beit Iska, or Beit Isku, is thoulght by some to be found; and near Neby Samwil is Beit Haninah, supposed to be Naioth, the College of Prophets, or "the House of Instruction" of the Jewish Targum, which was connmected with Ramah of Samuel (1 Samuel 19:18-24). (See NAIOTH). Yet there are very formidable objections to its identification with Ramathaim-zophim. It appears to be too near Gibeah, the capital of Saul's kingdom, to form a safe refuge for David when he fled from that monarch: it is not an hour's ride distant, and it is in full view. It has been shown, besides, that Neby Samwil is most probably the site of Alizpah (q.v.).
(8.) Bonar (Land of Promise, p. 178, 554) adopts er-Ram, which he places a short distance north of Bethlehem, east of Rachel's sepulchre. Eusebius (Onomast. s.v. ῾Ραβεδέ ) says that "Rama of Benjamin" is near (περί ) Bethlehem, where the "veoice in Rama was heard;" and in our times the name is mentioned, besides Bonar, by Prokesch and Salzbacher (cited in Robinson, Bib. Res. ii, 8, note); but this cannot be regarded as certain, and Stewart has pointed out that it is too close to Rachel's monument to suit the case.
(9.) Schwarz (Palest. p. 152-158), starting from Gibeah of Saul as the home of Kish, fixes upon Rameh, north of Samaria and west of Sanur, which he supposes also to be Ramoth, or Jarmuth, the Levitical city of Issachar. All that is directly said as to its situation is that it was in Mount Ephraim (1 Samuel 1:1); and this would naturally lead us to seek it in the neighborhood of Shechem. But the whole tenor of the narrative of the public life of Samuel (in connection with which alone this Ramah is mentioned) is so restricted to the region of the tribe of Benjamin, and to the neighborhood of Gibeah, the residence of Saul, that it seems impossible not to look for Samuel's city in the same locality. It appeacrs, from 1 Samuel 7:17, that his annual functions as prophet and judge were confined to the narrow round of Bethel, Gilgal, and Mizpeh — the first on the north boundary of Benjamin; the second near Jericho at its eastern end; and the third on the ridge in more modern times known as Scopus, overlooking Jerusalem, and therefore near the southern confines of Benjamin. In the centre of these was Gibeah of Saul, the royal residence during the reign of the first king, and the centre of his operations. It would be doing a violence to the whole of this part of the history to look for Samuel's residence outside these narrow limits.
Those Scriptural allusions which tend to indicate the position of Ramathaim-zophim are the following, and they are our only trustworthy guides. The statements of Eusebius and later writers can have little weight; and, indeed, it appears that all knowledge of the city was lost before their time.
(a.) In 1 Samuel 1:1 we read, "There was a certain man of Ramathaim- zophim, of Mount Ephraim." From this it would appear, at first sight, that Ramathaim was situated in the district called Mount Ephraim. The construction of the Hebrew, however, does not make this quite certain. The phrase מהר אפרים מואּהרמתים צופים might possibly mean, not that Ramathaim was in Mount Ephraim (which would be expressed rather by בהר ), but that Elkanah was in some way of Mount Ephraim (the Hebrew is מהר ), though residing in Ramathaim. The statement of the sacred writer, therefore, does not form an insuperable objection to a theory that would locate Ramathaim beyond the bounds of Mount Ephraim. Besides, the extent of the region called Mount Ephraim is nowhere defined. It may mean that section of mountain allotted to the tribe of Ephraim, or it may have extended so as to include part, or even the whole, of Benjamin. In the mouth of an ancient Hebrew, the expression would mean that portion of the mountainous district which was. at the time of speaking, in the possession of the tribe of Ephraim. "Little Benjamin" was for so long in close alliance with, and dependence on, its more powful kinsman, that nothing is more probable than that the name of e1phraim may have been extended over the mountainous region which was allotted to the younger son of Rachel. Of this there are not wanting indications. The palm-tree of Deborah was "in Mount Ephraim," between Bethel and Ramah, and is identified with great plausibility by the author of the Targum on Judges 4:5 with Ataroth, one of the landmarks on the south boundary of Ephraim, which still survives in Amra, two and a half miles north of Ramah of Benjamin (er-Ram). Bethel itself, though in the catalogue of the cities of Benjamin (Joshua 18:22), was appropriated by Jeroboam as one of his idol sanctuaries, and is one of the "cities of Mount Ephraim" which were taken from him by Baasha and restored by Asa (2 Chronicles 13:19; 2 Chronicles 15:8). Jeremiah (ch. 31) connects Ramalh of Benjamin with Mount Ephraim (2 Chronicles 15:6; 2 Chronicles 15:9; 2 Chronicles 15:15; 2 Chronicles 15:18). It could scarcely have embraced any portion of Judah. since the two tribes were rivals for sovereignty. The allusions to Mount Ephraim in 1 Samuel 9:4; Joshua 17:15; Judges 17:1, appear to confine the name to the territory of the tribe.
(b.) Ramah would appear to have been at some considerable distance from the residence of Saul at Gibeah. Such, at least, is the conclusion one would naturally draw from the following passages: 1 Samuel 15:34-35; 1 Samuel 19:18-23. But in neither of these passages is it clearly asserted nor certainly implied. In another passage the immediate proximity of Gibeah and Ramah seems to be directly stated (1 Samuel 22:6). This passage, it is true, may either be translated (with Junins, Michaelis, De Wette, and Bunsen), "Saul abode in Gibeah under the tamarisk on the height" (in which case it will add one to the scality number of instances in which the word is used otherwise than as a proper name); or it may imply that Ramah was included within the precincts of the king's city. The Sept. reads Bama for Ramah, and renders the words "on the hill under the field in Bama." Eusebius, in his Onomasticon, (s.v. ῾Ραμά ), characterizes Ramah as the "city of Saul." In any case, there seems to be no insuperable objection against the identity of Ramah of Saul with Ramah of Benjamin.
(c.) It is usually assumed that the city in which Saul was anointed by Samuel (1 Samuel 9:10) was Samuel's own city, Ramah. Josephus certainly (Ant. 6:4, 1) does give the name of the city as Armathem, and. in his version of the occurrence, implies that the prophet was at the time in his own house; but neither the Hebrew nor the Sept. contains any statement which confirms this, if we except the slender fact that the "land of Zuph" (1 Samuel 9:5) may be connected with the Zophim of Ramathaim- zophim. Robinson admits that the answer of the maidens (1 Samuel 9:11-12) would, perhaps, rather imply that Samuel had just arrived, possibly on one of his vearly circuits in which he judged Israel in various cities" (Bib. Res. ii, 10). It cannot be questioned, indeed, that, apart from all theories, the whole course of the narrative leaves the impression that Samuel was in his own house in Ramah when Saul visited him. He was there when the Lord informed him, apparently on the preceding day (comp. 1 Samuel 8:4; 1 Samuel 8:22; 1 Samuel 9:15-16), of his intention to appoint a king. The words of Saul's servant, too, convey the same impression: "When they were come to the land of Zuph, Saul said, Let us return;" but the servant said, "Behold now, there is in this city a man of God... let us go thither" (1 Samuel 9:5-6). This would scarcely apply to a place in which Samuel was but a casual visitor. But, on the other hand, the place of the interview could not have been within the tribe of Benjamin, because  the Lord, in foretelling to Samuel the coming of Saul, said, "To-morrow, about this time, I will send thee a man out of the land of Benjamin" (1 Samuel 9:16); and  Saul, when in search of the asses, "passed through Mount Ephraim, and passed through the land of Shalisha; then through the land of Shalim; and he passed through the land of the Benjamites" (1 Samuel 9:6). Then they came "to the land of Zuph." The land of Zuph was consequently south of Benjamin. So, in returning home (apparently to Gibeah) from the place of the interview, Saul's way led past Rachel's tomb, the site of which is well known, near Bethlehem. It follows, from the minute specification of Saul's route in 1 Samuel 10:2, that the city in which the interview took place was near the sepulchre of Rachel, which, by Genesis 35:16; Genesis 35:19, and other reasons, appears to be fixed with certainty as close to Bethlehem.
This supplies a strong argument against its being Ramathaim-zophim, since, while Mount Ephraim, as we have endeavored already to show, extended to within a few miles north of Jerusalem, there is nothing to warrant the supposition that it ever reached so far south as the neighborhood of Bethlehem. Saul's route will be most conveniently discussed under the head of SAUL; but the question of both his outward and his homeward journey, minutely as they are detailed, is beset with difficulties, which have been increased by the assumptions of the commentators. For instance, it is usually taken for granted that his father's house-and therefore the starting-point of his wanderings was Gibeah. True, Saul himself, after he was king, lived at Gibeah; but the residence of Kish would appear to have been at Zela, where his family sepulchre was (2 Samuel 21:14); and of Zela no trace has yet been found. The A. V. has added to the difficulty by introducing the word "meet" in 10:3 as the translation of the term which is more accurately rendered "find" in the preceding verse. Again, where was the "hill of God," the gibath-Eloim, with the netsib of the Philistines? A netsib of the Philistines is mentioned later in Saul's history (1 Samuel 13:3) as at Geba, opposite Michmash; but this is three miles north of Gibeah of Saul, and does not at all agree with a situation near Bethlehem for the anointing of Saul. The Targum interprets the "hill of God "as the place where the ark of God was," meaning Kirjath-jearim. There is no necessity whatever for supposing that Samuel was at Ramah when he anointed Saul. The name of the place where Samuel was at the time is not given in the sacred narrative, the language of which rather implies that it was not his regular abode; for it says that he had come that day into the city to attend a sacrifice or a feast of the people (1 Samuel 9:11-12). The city was most probably Bethlehem, with the inhabitants of which Samuel was connected, being a descendant of Zuph, an Ephrathite, and was likely to have been invited to their feast; and the land of Zuph, into which Saul had come, must have been the region of Bethlehem. That Samuel was in the habit of visiting Bethlehem for the purpose of sacrificing is certain from 1 Samuel 16:1-5 (comp. 20:29). We may therefore conclude that he had come at this time thither from Ramah of Benjamin.
On the whole, Ramathaim-zophim is as likely to have been the Ramah of Benjamin as any other.
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McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Ramathaim-Zophim'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/r/ramathaim-zophim.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.
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