the First Week of Advent
Click to donate today!
Rephaim, Valley of
Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature
(Heb. E'mek Rephaim', רְפָאַים עֵמֶק; Sept. ἡ κοιλὰς τῶν Τιτάνων or Γιγάντων in Joshua γῆ or Ε᾿μὲκ ῾Ραφαϊ v ν ; in Isaiah φάραγξ στερεά; Vulg. vallis Raphaimrn or gigantun; A.V. "valley of the giants" in Joshua 15:8; Joshua 18:16), a valley beginning adjacent to the valley of Hinnom, south-west of Jerusalem, and stretching away south-west on the right of the road to Bethlehem (Joshua 15:8; Joshua 17:5; Joshua 18:6; 2 Samuel 5:18; 2 Samuel 5:22). The valley appears to derive its name from the ancient nation of the Rephaim. It may be a trace of an early settlement of theirs, possibly after they were driven from their original seats east of the Jordan by Chedorlaomer (Genesis 14:5), and before they again migrated northward to the more secure wooded districts in which we find them at the date of the partition of the country among the tribes (Joshua 17:15; A.V. "giants"). In this case it is a parallel to the "mount of the Amalekites" in the centre of Palestine, and to the towns bearing the name of the Zemaraim, the Avim, the Ophnites, etc., which occur so frequently in Benjamin.
The valley of Rephaim is first mentioned in the description given by Joshua of the northern border of Juldah. The passage is important: "The border went up by the valley of the son of Hinnom unto the south side of the Jebusite: the same is Jerusalem; and the border went up to the top of the mountain that lieth before the valley of Hinnom westward, which is at the end of the valley of the giants northward" (Joshua 15:8). The last clause in the Hebrew is not quite clear (עמקאּרפאים צפונה בקצה ). It may mean that the boundarvlilne was north of the valley, or that the valley was north of the boundary. The latter construction is possible; but the former is unquestionably the more natural, and is supported by the Sept. and the Vulgate, and also by most commentators. If this interpretation be admitted, the situation of the valley is certain: it lay on the south of the hill which enclosed Hinnom on the west. This; view is further strengthened by the notice in Joshua 18:16. When David was hiding from Saul in the cave of Adullam, we are told that the Philistines, no doubt taking advantage of intestine troubles, invaded the mountain fastnesses of Israel. A band of theim pitched in the valley of Rephaim, and at the same time seized and garrisoned Bethlehem, David's native place (2 Samuel 23:13-14). It was then that three of his warriors, to gratify a wish of their chief, broke through the enemies' lines and drew water from the well by the gate of Bethlehem.
The narrative shows clearly that the valley of Rephaim could not have been far distant from Bethlehem (1 Chronicles 11:15-19). The "hold" (1 Chronicles 11:14) in which David found himself seems (though it is not clear) to have been the cave of Adullam, the scene of the commencement of his freebooting life; but, wherever situated, we need not doubt that it was the same fastness as that mentioned in 2 Samuel 5:17, since in both cases the same word (הִמְּצוּדָה, with the definite article), and that not a usual one, is employed. The story shows very clearly the predatory nature of these incursions of the Philistines. It was in "harvest time" (2 Samuel 5:13). They had come to carry off the ripe crops, for which the valley was proverbial (Isaiah 17:5), just as at Pas-dammum (1 Chronicles 11:13) we find them in the parcel of ground full of barley, at Lehi in the field of lentiles (2 Samuel 23:11), or at Keilah in the threshing-floors (1 Samuel 23:1). Their animals (חִיָּה ) were scattered among the ripe corn receiving their load of plunder. The "garrison," or the officer in charge of the expedition, was on the watch in the village of Bethlehem. On two other occasions, soon after David was proclaimed king, the Philistines invaded the mountains and drew up their armies on the same plain; they were at once attacked by David's veterans and routed with great slaughter (2 Samuel 5:18; 2 Samuel 5:22; 1 Chronicles 14:9-13). The destruction inflicted on them and on their idols was so signal that it gave the place a new name, and impressed itself on the popular mind of Israel with such distinctness that the prophet Isaiah could employ it, centuries after, as a symbol of a tremendous impending judgment of God — nothing less than the desolation and destruction of the whole earth (Isaiah 28:21-22). (See PERAZIM, MOUNT).
But from none of these notices do we learn anything of the position of the valley. Josephus in one place (Ant. 7:4, 1) says that the valley of the giants was near Jerusalem; and in another place (7:12, 4), when narrating the story of the drawing of water from the well at Bethlehem, in which he makes a strange blunder, he says the valley extended from Jerusalem "to the city of Bethlehem." Eusebius and Jerome, on the other hand, place it on the north of Jerusalem (Onomast. s.v. "Raphaim"), and in the territory of Benjamin (ibid. s.v. "Emec Raphaim"). Their notices, however, are brief and unsatisfactory (see Onomast. s.v. "Coelas Titanorum," and the excellent note by Bonfrere). A position north-west of the city is adopted by Furst (Handw. ii, 383 b), apparently on the ground of the terms of Joshua 15:8; Joshua 18:16, which certainly do leave it doubtful whether the valley is on the north of the boundary or the boundary on the north of the valley; and Tobler, in his last investigations (Dritte Wanderung, p. 202), conclusively adopts the Wady-Der Jasin (W. Makhrior, on Van de Velde's map), one of the side valleys of the great Wady Beit Hanina, as the valley of Rephaim. This position is open to the obvious objection of too great distance from both Bethlehem and the cave of Adullam (according to any position assignable to the latter) to meet the requirements of 2 Samuel 23:13. Since the latter part of the 16th century the name has been attached to the upland plain which stretches south of Jerusalem, and is crossed by the road to Bethlehemthe Buik'ah of the modern Arabs (Tobler, Jerusalem, ii, 401). Dr. Robinson says, "As we advanced (towards the holy city) we had on the right low hills, and on the left the cultivated valley or plain of Rephaim, or the ‘ giants,' with gentle hills beyond. This plain is broad, and descends gradually towards the south-west until it contracts in that direction into a deeper and narrower valley, called Wady el- Werd, which unites farther on with Wady Ahmed, and finds its way to the Mediterranean. The plain of Rephaim extends nearly t6 the city, which, as seen from it, appears to be almost on tle same level. As we advanced, the plain was terminated by a slight rocky ridge, forming the brow of the valley of Hinnom" (Researches, i, 219). It is true that this tract has more of the nature of a plateau or plain considerably elevated than a valley in the ordinary sense. But on the south-west it does partake more of this character (see Bonar, Land of Promise, p. 177), and possibly in designating so wide and open a tract by the name of the Rephaim valley there was a sort of play on the giant race with which it was associated, as if it, like them, must set at naught ordinary dimensions. South of Mount Zion — the most southern part of the valley of Gihon — is called Wady Rafaath by the Arabs, which corresponds to Rephaim in Hebrew. Hence Schwarz infers that this is the true valley of Rephaim, though usually taken for that of the son of Hinnom (Palest. p. 240). (See JERUSALEM).
These files are public domain.
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Rephaim, Valley of'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/​encyclopedias/​eng/​tce/​r/rephaim-valley-of.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.