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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature
(Heb. id. תְּקוֹע [once with h directive, תְּקוֹעָה, 2 Samuel 14:2], a stockade; Sept. Θεχωέ and Θεχουέ, Josephus Θεκωά and Θεκωέ; Vulg. Thecue; A.V. "Tekoah" in 2 Samuel 14), a town in the tribe of Judah (2 Chronicles 11:6, as the associated places show; and inserted in its place in Joshua 15:59-60 in the Sept. [see Keil, ad loca.]), on the range of hills which rise near Hebron, and stretch eastward towards the Dead Sea. These hills bound the view of the spectator as he looks to the south from the summit of the Mount of Olives. Jerome (in. Amos, Poem.) says that Tekoa was six Roman miles from Bethlehem, and that as he wrote (in Jeremiah 6:1) he had that village daily before his eyes ("Thekoam quotidie oculis cernimus"). In his Onomasticon (s.v. Ecthei, Ε᾿κθευκέ ) he represents Tekoa as nine miles only from Jerusalem; but elsewhere he agrees with Eusebius in making the distance twelve miles. In the latter case he reckons by the way of Bethlehem, the usual course in going from the one place to the other; but there may have been also another and shorter way, to which he has reference in the other computation. Some suggest (Bachiene,Paldstina, 2, 60); that an error may have crept into Jerome's text, and that we should read twelve there instead of nine. In 2 Chronicles 20:20 (see also 1 Maccabees 9:33) mention is made of "the wilderness of Tekoa," which must be understood of the adjacent region on the east of the town (see infra), which in its physical character answers so entirely to that designation. It is evident from the name (derived from
תָּקִע, to strike," said of driving the stakes or pins into the ground for securing the tent), as well as from the manifest adaptation of the region to pastoral pursuits, that the people' who lived here must have been occupied mainly as shepherds, and that Tekoa in its best days could have been little more than a cluster of tents, to which the men returned at intervals from the neighboring pastures, and in which their families dwelt during their absence.
The Biblical interest of Tekoa arises, not so much from any events which are related as having occurred there as from its connection with various persons who are mentioned in Scripture. It is not enumerated in the Hebrew catalogue of towns in Judah (Joshua 15:49), but is inserted in that passage by the Sept. The "wise woman" whom Joab employed to effect a reconciliation between David and Absalom was obtained from this place (2 Samuel 14:2). Here, also, Ira, the son of Ikikesh, one of David's thirty "mighty men" (גַּבֹּרַים ), was born, and was called on that account "the Tekoite" (2 Samuel 23:26). It was one of the places which Rehoboam fortified, at the beginning of his reign, as a defense against invasion from the south (2 Chronicles 11:6). Some of the people from Tekoa took part in building the walls of Jerusalem after' the return from the Capitivity (Nehemiah 3:5; Nehemiah 3:27). In Jeremiah 6:1, the prophet exclaims, "Blow the trumpet in Tekoa and set up a sign of fire in Beth- haccerem" — the latter probably the "Frank Mountain," the cone-shaped hill so conspicuous from Bethlehem. It is the sound of the trumpet as a warning of the approach of enemies, and a signal-fire kindled at night for the same purpose, which are described here as so appropriately heard and seen, in the hour of danger, among the mountains of Judah. But Tekoa is chiefly memorable as the birthplace of the prophet Amos, who was here called by a special voice from heaven to leave his occupation as "a herdman" and "a puncturer of wild figs," and was sent forth thence to testify against the sins of the kingdom of. Israel (Amos 7:14). Accustomed to such pursuits, he must have been familiar with the solitude of the desert, and with the dangers there incident to a shepherd's life. Some effect of his peculiar training amid such scenes may be traced, as critics think (De Wette, Einl. ins Alte Test. p. 356), in the contents and style of his prophecy. Jerome (ad Amos 1, 2) says, "… etiam Amos prophetam qui pastor de pastoribus fuit et pastor non in locis cultis et arboribus ac vineis consitis, ant certe inter sylvas et prata virentia, sed in lata eremi vastitate, in qua versatur leonum feritas et interfectio pecorum, artis suce usum esse sernzonibus." Comp. Amos 2:13; Amos 4:1; Amos 6:12; Amos 7:1; and see the striking remarks of Dr. Pusey, Introd. to Amos.
In the genealogies of Judah (1 Chronicles 2:24; 1 Chronicles 1:5), Ashur, a posthumous son of Hezron and a brother of Caleb, is mentioned as the father of Tekoa, which appears to mean that he was the founder of Tekoa, or at least the owner of that village. See Rediger in Gesen. Thesaur. 3, 1518.
The common people among the Tekoites displayed great activity in the repairs of the wall of Jerusalem under Nehemiah. They undertook two lengths of the rebuilding (Nehemiah 3:5; Nehemiah 3:27). It is, however, specially mentioned that their "lords" (אֲדֹנֵיהֶם ) took no part in the work.
Tekoa is known still as Tekû'a, and, though it lies somewhat aside from the ordinary route, has been visited and described by several recent travelers. Its distance from Beit-Lahm agrees precisely with that assigned by the early writers as the distance between Tekoa and Bethlehem. It is within sight also of the Frank Mountain," beyond question the famous Herodium, or site of Herod's Castle, which Josephus (War 4:9, 5) represents as near the ancient Tekoa. It lies on an elevated hill, which spreads itself out into an irregular plain of moderate extent. Its "high position" (Robinson, Bibl. Res. i, 486) "gives it a wide prospect. Towards the north-east the land slopes down towards Wady Khureitin; on the other sides the hill is surrounded by a belt of level table-land; beyond which are valleys, and then other higher hills. On the south, at some distance, another deep valley runs off south-east towards the Dead Sea. The view in this direction is bounded only by the level mountains of Moab, with frequent bursts of the Dead Sea, seen through openings among the rugged and desolate intervening mountains." In the spring there are often encampments of shepherds there, consisting of tents covered with the black goatskins so commonly used for that purpose; they are supported on poles and turned up in part on one side, so as to enable a person without to look into the interior. Flocks pasture near the tents and on the remoter hillsides in every direction. There are horses and-cattle and camels also, though these are not so numerous as the sheep and goats. A well of living water, on the outskirts of the village, is a center of great interest and activity, the women coming and going with their pitchers, and men filling the troughs to water the animals which they have driven thither for that purpose. The general aspect of the region is sterile and unattractive; though here and there are patches of verdure, and some of the fields, which have yielded an early crop, may be seen recently ploughed up, as if for some new species of cultivation. Fleecy clouds, white as the driven snow, float towards the Dead Sea, and their shadows, as they chase each other over the landscape, seem to be fit emblems of the changes in the destiny of men and nations, of which there is so much to remind one at such a time and in such a place. Various ruins exist at Tekoa, such as the walls of houses, cisterns, broken columns, and heaps of building-stones. Some of these stones have the so-called "beveled" edges which are supposed to show a Hebrew origin. There was a convent here at the beginning of the 6th century, established by St. Tabus, and a Christian settlement in the time of the Crusaders; and undoubtedly most of these remains belong to modern times rather than ancient. Among these should be mentioned a baptismal font, sculptured out of a limestone block, three feet nine inches deep, with-an internal diameter at the top of four feet, and designed evidently for baptism as administered in the Greek Church. It stands in the open air, like a similar one at Jufna, near Beitin, the ancient Bethel. See more fully in the Christian Review (N. Y.), 1853, p. 519.
Near Tekû'a, among the same mountains, on the brink of a frightful precipice, are the ruins of Khureitun, possibly a corruption of Kerioth (Joshua 15:25), and in that case perhaps the birthplace of Judas the traitor, who was thence called Iscariot, i.e. "man of Kerioth." ‘ It is impossible to survey the scenery of the place and not to feel that a dark spirit would find itself in its own element amid the seclusion and wildness of such a spot. High up from the bottom of the ravine is an opening in the face of the rocks which leads into an immense subterranean labyrinth, which many suppose may have been the Cave of Adullam, in which David and his followers sought refuge from the pursuit of Saul. It is large enough to contain hundreds of men, and is capable of defense against almost any attack that could be made upon it from without, When a party of the Turks fell upon Tekû'a and sacked it, A.D. 1138, most of the inhabitants, anticipating the danger, fled to this cavern, and thus saved their lives. It may be questioned (Robinson, 1, 481) whether this was the actual place of David's retreat; but it illustrates, at all events, that peculiar geological formation of the country which accounts for such frequent allusions to "dens and caves" in the narrations of the Bible. It is a common opinion of the natives that some of the passages of this particular excavation extend as far as to Hebron, several miles distant, and that all the cord at Jerusalem would not be sufficient to serve as clue for traversing its windings. (See ODOLLAM).
One of the gates of Jerusalem in Christian times seems to have borne the name of Tekoa. Arculf, at any rate, mentions the "gate called Tecuitis" in his enumeration of the gates of the city (A.D. 700). It appears to have led down into the valley of the Kedron, probably near the southern eind of the east wall. But his description is not very clear. Possibly to this Jerome alludes in the singular expression in the Epit. Paulat (§ 12) "… revertar Jerosolymam et per Thecuam atque Amos, rutilantem montis Oliveti crucem aspiciam." The Church of the Ascension on the summit of Olivet would be just opposite a gate in the east wall, and the "glittering cross" would be particularly conspicuous if seen from beneath its shadow. There is no more prima facie improbability in a Tekoa gate than in a Bethlehem, Jaffa, or Damascus gate, all which still exist at Jerusalem. But it is strange that the allusions to it should be so rare, and that the circumstances which made Tekoa prominent enough at that period to cause a gate to be named after it should have escaped preservation. See, in addition to the above authorities, Keland. Palaest. p. 1028; Schubert, Reisen, p. 24; Raumer, Palistina, p. 219. Turner, Tour, 2, 240; Irby and Mangles, p. 344; Tristram, Land of Israel, p. 402; Schwarz, Palest. p. 114; Thomson, Land and Book, 2. 424; Porter in Murray's Handbook, p. 251; Badeker, Palestine, p. 252.
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McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Tekoa'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/​encyclopedias/​eng/​tce/​t/tekoa.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.