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Bible Encyclopedias

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia

Mahanaim

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mā - ha - nā´im ( מחנים , maḥănayim ; the Greek is different in every case where the name occurs, Codex Vaticanus and Codex Alexandrinus also giving variant forms; the dual form may be taken as having arisen from an old locative ending, as, e.g. ירוּשׁלים , yerūshāla ( y ) im from an original ירוּשׁלם , yerūshālēm . In Genesis 32:21 maḥăneh is evidently a parallel form and should be rendered as a proper name, Mahaneh, i.e. Mahanaim): The city must have been one of great strength. It lay East of the Jordan, and is first mentioned in the history of Jacob. Here he halted after parting from Laban, before the passage of the Jabbok (Genesis 31:2 ), "and the angels of God met him." Possibly it was the site of an ancient sanctuary. It is next noticed in defining the boundaries of tribal territory East of the Jordan. It lay on the border of Gad and Manasseh (Joshua 13:26 , Joshua 13:30 ). It belonged to the lot of Gad, and was assigned along with Ramoth in Gilead to the Merarite Levites (Joshua 21:38 ; 1 Chronicles 6:80 - the former of these passages affords no justification to Cheyne in saying ( EB , under the word) that it is mentioned as a "city of refuge"). The strength of the place doubtless attracted Abner, who fixed here the capital of Ishbosheth's kingdom. Saul's chivalrous rescue of Jabesh-gilead was remembered to the credit of his house in these dark days, and the loyalty of Mahanaim could be reckoned on (2 Samuel 2:8 , etc.). To this same fortress David fled when endangered by the rebellion of Absalom; and in the "forest" hard by, that prince met his fate (2 Samuel 17:24 , etc.). It was made the center of one of Solomon's administrative districts, and here Abinadab the son of Iddo was stationed (1 Kings 4:14 ). There seems to be a reference to Mahanaim in Song of Solomon 6:13 the Revised Version (British and American). If this is so, here alone it appears with the article. By emending the text Cheyne would read: "What do you see in the Shulammite? A narcissus of the valleys."

It is quite clear from the narrative that Jacob, going to meet his brother, who was advancing from the South, crossed the Jabbok after leaving Mahanaim. It is therefore vain to search for the site of this city South of the Jabbok, and Conder's suggested identification with some place near el - Buḳei‛a , East of es - Salṭ , must be given up.

On the North of the Jabbok several positions have been thought of. Merrill ( East of the Jordan , 433 ff) argues in favor of Khirbet Saleikhat , a ruined site in the mouth of Wādy Saleikhat , on the northern bank, 3 miles East of Jordan, and 4 miles North of Wādy ‛Ajlūn . From its height, 300 ft. above the plain, it commands a wide view to the West and South. One running "by the way of the Plain" could be seen a great way off ( 2 Samuel 18:23 ). This would place the battle in the hills to the South near the Jordan valley. Ahimaaz then preferred to make a detour, thus securing a level road, while the Cushite took the rough track across the heights. Others, among them Buhl (GAP , 257), would place Mahanaim at Miḥneh , a partly overgrown ruin 9 miles East of Jordan, and 4 miles North of ‛Ajlūn on the north bank of Wādy Maḥneh . This is the only trace of the ancient name yet found in the district. It may be assumed that Mahanaim is to be sought in this neighborhood. Cheyne would locate it at ‛Ajlūn , near which rises the great fortress Kal‛ater -Rabaḍ . He supposes that the "wood of Mahanaim" extended as far as Miḥneh , and that "the name of Mihneh is really an abbreviation of the ancient phrase." Others would identify Mahanaim with Jerash , where, however, there are no remains older than Greek-Roman times.

Objections to either ‛Ajlūn or Miḥneh are: (1) The reference to this Jordan" in Genesis 32:10 , which seems to show that the city was near the river. It may indeed be said that the great hollow of the Jordan valley seems close at hand for many miles on either side, but this, perhaps, hardly meets the objection. (2) The word kikkār , used for "Plain" in 2 Samuel 18:23 , seems always elsewhere to apply to the "circle" of the Jordan. Buhl, who identifies Mahanaim with Miḥneh , yet cites this verse (GAP , 112) as a case in which kikkār applies to the plain of the Jordan. He thus prescribes for Ahimaaz a very long race. Cheyne sees the difficulty. The battle was obviously in the vicinity of Mahanaim, and the nearest way from the "wood" was by the כּכּר , kikkār , "or, since no satisfactory explanation of this reading has been offered by the נחל , naḥal , that is to say, the eager Ahimaaz ran along in the wady in which, at some little distance, Mahanaim lay" (EB , under the word). The site for the present remains in doubt.

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Bibliography Information
Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. Entry for 'Mahanaim'. International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/isb/m/mahanaim.html. 1915.

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