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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Succoth

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(Heb. Sukkoth', סֻכּוֹת or [in Genesis 32:17; Exodus 12:37; Exodus 13:20; Numbers 23:5-6] סַכֹּת, booths [as often]; Sept. Σοκχώθ v.r. Σοκχωθά, but σκηναί in Genesis and Psalms; Vulg. Socoth or Soccoth), the name of at least two Biblical places of early mention, the exact position of neither of which, however, has been clearly identified by modern researches. (See SUCCOTH-BENOTH).

1. A town of ancient date in the Holy Land, being first heard of in the account of the homeward journey of Jacob from Padanaram (Genesis 33:17). The name is derived from the fact of Jacob's having there put up" booths" for his cattle, as well as a house for himself; and these structures, in contrast with the "tents" of the wandering life, indicate that the Patriarch made a lengthened stay there-a fact not elsewhere alluded to. Travelers frequently see such "booths" occupied by the Bedawin of the Jordan valley. They are rude huts of reeds, sometimes covered with long grass, sometimes covered with a piece of a tent. They are much used by a semi- nomad people. This fertile spot must have reminded Jacob of the banks of the Euphrates from which he had recently come. The situation is approximately indicated by the fact that Jacob was on his way from Peniel to Shechem. Peniel was apparently on the north bank of the Jabbok (Genesis 32:22-23); and it would seem that after his interview with Esau on the south bank, he turned back to avoid further intercourse with his dangerous brother; and instead of following him to Edom, he recrossed the Jabbok and descended to the valley of the Jordan, where he resolved to rest for a time amid its luxuriant pastures (see, however, Kalisch, ad loc.; Ritter, Pal. und Syr. 2, 447).

The next notice of Succoth is in Joshua's description of the territory of Gad. To this tribe the middle section east of the Jordan was allotted, including the valley of the Jordan up to the Sea of Galilee. (See GAD). Among the towns in the valley is Succoth (Joshua 13:27). Nothing more can be inferred from this than that it lay on the east bank of the river.

In the narrative of Gideon's pursuit of Zeba and Zalmunna it is said, "And Gideon came to Jordan, passed over, and said unto the men of Succoth," etc. (Judges 8:5). His course was eastward the reverse of Jacob's and he came first to Succoth, and then to Penuel, the latter being farther up the mountain than the former (Judges 8:8, "went up thence"). The tale there recorded of the mingled cowardice and perfidy of the inhabitants, and of Gideon's terrible vengeance, is one of the most harrowing in the Bible. At that period Succoth must have been a place of importance, when it ventured to refuse the request of Gideon. Its "princes and elders," too, are said to have numbered "threescore and seventeen men."

Though the rulers were slain, the city continued to prosper, and in the days of Solomon it was well known. The sacred historian informs us that the brazen vessels of the Temple were cast "in the circuit (בִּכַּכִּר ) of the Jordan in the clay ground, between Succoth and Zarthan" (1 Kings 7:46; 2 Chronicles 4:17). Succoth gave its name to "a valley" (עֵמֶק ), probably a lower section of "the circuit," or great plain of the Jordan (comp. "the vale of Siddim," which was also called an Emek in "the circuit of the Jordan," Psalms 9:6). Jerome observes, in his notes on Genesis: "There is to this day a city of this name (Succoth) beyond Jordan in the region of Scythopolis" (Opera, 2, 989, ed, Migne); but in the Onomnasticon both Jerome and Eusebius merely state that it is the place where Jacoh dwelt on his return from Mesopotamia, without indicating its site or appearing to know of its existence (s.v. "Scenca").

Burckhardt, on his way from Beisan to es-Salt, forded the Jordan two hours (about six miles) below the former, and observes in a note (Travels in Syria, p. 345), "Near where we crossed, to the south, are the ruins of Sukkof." The ruins seem to have been on the east bank of the river, though he does not expressly say so, as later travelers do (see Schwarz, Palest. p. 232). This may possibly be the Succoth of Jerome; but it seems too far north to suit the requirements of the narrative in Genesis Jacob's direct road from the Wady Zerka to Shechem would have led him by the Wady Ferrah, on the one hand, or through Yanfun, on the other. If he went north as far as Sukkot, he must have ascended by the Wady Maleh to Tevasir, and so through Tubas and the Wady Bidan. Perhaps it is going north was a ruse to escape the dangerous proximity of Esau and if he made a long stay at Succoth, as suggested in the outset of this article, the did tour from the direct road to Shechem would be of little importance to him (see the Bibliotheca Sacra, Oct. 1876, p. 742 sq.). Robinson discovered another ruin, called Sakuot (which is radically as. well as topographically different from the Sukkot of Burckhardt), situated on the west bank of the Jordan, about fifteen miles south of Beisan. Near it is a copious fountain, and the plain around it is covered with most luxuriant vegetation. The ruin is merely that of a common village, a few foundations of unhewn stones (Bibl. Res. 3, 309; comp. Van de Velde, Travels, 2, 343). Its position on the west bank prevents its being identified with the Succoth of the Bible, but it is just possible that the name may have been transferred to a spot on the "other side (see Ritter, ut sup. 2, 446), or it may have been a crusaders site (see Conder, Tent Work in Palest. 2,62).

Until the position of Succoth is more exactly ascertained, it is impossible to say what was the valley of Succoth mentioned in Psalms 9:6; Psalms 108:7. The same word is employed (Joshua 13:27) in specifying, the position of the group of towns among which Succoth occurs, in describing the allotment of Gad; so that it evidently denotes some marked feature of the country. It is not probable, however, that the main valley of the Jordan, the Ghor, is intended, that being always designated in the Bible by the name of the Arabah.

2. The first camping-place of the Israelites when they left Egypt (Exodus 12:37; Exodus 13:20; Numbers 33:5-6). This place was apparently reached at the close of the first day's march. Rameses, the starting-place, we have shown was probably near the western, end of the Wady et- Tumeylat. We have supposed the distance traversed in each day's journey to have been about thirty miles; and as Succoth was not in the Arabian desert, the next station, Etham, being "in the edge of the wilderness" (Exodus 13:20; Numbers 33:6), it must have been along the present pilgrim route called Dub el-Ban, about half-way between the easternmost branch of the Nile and the castle of Ajruid. It was probably, to judge from its name, a resting-place of caravans, or a military station, or a town named from one of the two. We find similar names in Sense Mandrae (Itin. Ant.), Scense Mandrorum (Not. Dign.), or Σκηνὴ Μανδρῶν (Not. Graec. Episcopatuum), Scenee Veteranorum (l tin. Ant. Not. Diqn.), and Saesae extra Gerasa (sic Not. Dignl.). See, for all these places, Parthey, Zur Erdkunde des. alten Aegyptens, p. 535. It is, however, evident that such a name would be easily lost, and, even if preserved hard to recognize, as it might be concealed under a corresponding name of similar signification, though very different in sound, like that of the settlement of Ionian and Carian mercenaries, called τὰ Στρατόπεδα (Herod. 2, 154). (See EXODE SEE RED SEA, PASSAGE OF).

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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Succoth'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/s/succoth.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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