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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Beth-Horon

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(Heb. Beyth Choron', בֵּית חֹרוֹן or בֵּית חוֹרֹן, once [1 Kings 9:17] בֵּית חֹרֹן, in Chron. fully בֵּית חוֹרוֹן, house of the hollow; Sept. Βηθωρών or Βαιθωρών; Βαιθωρώ, Βαιθώρα, and Βεθωρόν ), the name of two towns or villages (2 Chronicles 8:5), an "upper" (הָעֶלְיוֹן ) and a "nether" (הִתִּחְתִּיּוֹן ) (Joshua 16:3; Joshua 16:5; 1 Chronicles 7:24), on the road (2 Chronicles 25:13; Judith 4:4) from Gibeon to Azekah (Joshua 10:10-11) and the Philistine Plain (1 Samuel 13:18; 1 Maccabees 3:24). Beth-horon lay on the boundary-line between Benjamin and Ephraim (Joshua 16:3; Joshua 16:5; Joshua 18:13-14), was counted to Ephraim (Joshua 21:22; 1 Chronicles 7:24), and given to the Kohathites (Joshua 21:22; 1 Chronicles 6:68 [53]). In a remarkable fragment of early history (1 Chronicles 7:24) we are told that both the upper and lower towns were built by a woman of Ephraim, Sherah, who in the present state of the passage appears as a granddaughter of the founder of her tribe, and also as a direct progenitor of the great leader with whose history the place is so closely connected. Nether Beth-horon lay in the N.W. corner of Benjamin; and between the two places was a pass called both the ascent and descent of Beth-horon, leading from the region of Gibeon (el-Jib) down to the western plain (Joshua 18:13-14; Joshua 10:10-11; 1 Maccabees 3:16; 1 Maccabees 3:24). Down this pass the five kings of the Amorites were driven by Joshua (Joshua 10:11; Sirach 46:6). The upper and lower towns were both fortified by Solomon (1 Kings 10:17; 2 Chronicles 8:5). At one of them Nicanor was attacked by Judas Maccabmaus; and it was afterward fortified by Bacchides (1 Maccabees 7:39 sq.; 1 Maccabees 9:50; Josephus, Ant. 12, 10, 5; 13:1, 3).

Cestius Gallus, the Roman proconsul of Syria, in his march from Caesarea to Jerusalem, after having burned Lydda, ascended the mountain by Beth-horon and encamped near Gibeon (Joseph. War. 2, 19, 1); and it was near this place that his army was totally cut up (Joseph. War, 2, 19, 8 and 9). In the time of Eusebius and Jerome (Onomast. s.v. Βηθθορών , Bethoron) the two Beth-horons were small villages, the upper Beth-horon being 12 Roman miles from Jerusalem; according to Josephus (comp. War, 2, 12, 2, with Ant. a-x. 4, 4) it was 100 stadia from thence, and 50 stadia from Gibeon. From the time of Jerome (Epit. Paul. 3) the place appears to have been unnoticed till 1801, when Dr. E. D. Clarke recognised it in the present Beit-Ur (Travels, vol. 1, pt. 2, p, 628); after which it appears to have remained unvisited till 1838, when the Rev. J. Paxton, and, a few days after, Dr. Robinson arrived at the place. The Lower Beit-Ur is upon the top of a low ridge, which is separated by a wady, or narrow valley, from the foot of the mountain upon which the Upper Beit-Ur stands. Both are now inhabited villages. The lower is very small, but foundations of large stones indicate an ancient site doubtless that of the Nether Beth-horon. The Upper Beit. Ur is likewise small, but also exhibits traces of ancient walls and foundations. In the steep ascent to it the rock is in some parts cut away and the path formed into steps, indicating an ancient road. On the first offset or step of the ascent are foundations of huge stones, the remains perhaps of a castle that once guarded the pass. It is remarkable that the places are still distinguished as Beit-Ur el-Foka (the Upper), and Beit-Ur el-Tahta (the Lower), and there can be no question that they represent the Upper and Lower Beth-horon. "In the name," remarks Dr. Robinson (in, 59), we find the rather unusual change from one harsh Hebrew guttural to one still deeper and more tenacious in Arabic; in all other respects the name, position, and other circumstances agree" (compare Schwarz, Palest. p. 140, 146). (See GIBEON).

The importance of the road on which the two Beth-horons are situated, the main approach to the interior of the country from the hostile districts on both sides of Palestine Philistia and Egypt on the west, Moab and Ammon on the east-at once explains and justifies the frequent fortification of these towns at different periods of the history (1 Kings 9:17; 2 Chronicles 8:5; 1 Maccabees 9:50; Judith 4:4-5). The road is still the direct one from the site which must have been Gibeon (el-Jib), and from Mishmash (Mukhmas) to the Philistine plain on the one hand, and Antipatris (Joseph. War, 2, 19, 9) on the other. On the mountain which lies to the southward of the nether village is still preserved the name (Yalo) and the site of Ajalon, so closely connected with the proudest memories of Beth-horon; and the long "descent" between the two remains unaltered from what it was on that great day, "which was like no day before or after it." From Gibeon to the Upper Beth-horon is a distance of about 4 miles of broken ascent and descent. The ascent, however, predominates, and this therefore appears to be the "going up" to Beth-horon which formed the first stage of Joshua's pursuit. With the upper village the descent commences; the road rough and difficult even for the mountain-paths of Palestine; now over sheets of smooth rock flat as the flagstones of a city pavement; now over the upturned edges of the limestone strata; and now among the loose rectangular stones so characteristic of the whole of this district. There are in many places steps cut, and other marks of the path having been artificially improved. But, though rough, the way can hardly be called "precipitous;" still less is it a ravine (Stanley, p. 208), since it runs for the most part along the back of a ridge or water-shed dividing wadys on either hand. After about three miles of this descent, a slight rise leads to the lower village standing on its hillock-the last outpost of the Benjamite hills, and characterised by the date-palm in the enclosure of the village mosque. A short and sharp fall below the village, a few undulations, and the road is among the dura of the great corn-growing plain of Sharon. This rough descent from the upper to the lower Beit-Ur is the "going down to Beth-horon" of the Bible narrative. Standing on the high ground of the upper village, and overlooking the wild scene, we may feel assured that it was over this rough path that the Canaanites fled to their native lowlands. This road, still, as in ancient times, "the great. road of communication and heavy transport between Jerusalem and the sea-coast" (Robinson, 3, 61), though a route rather more direct, known as the "Jaffa road," is now used by travelers with light baggage, leaves the main north road at Tuleil el-Ful, 3.5 miles from Jerusalem, due west of Jericho. Bending slightly to the north, it runs by the modern village of el-Jib, the ancient Gibeon, and then proceeds by the Beth-horons in a direct line due west to Jimzu (Gimzo) and Ludd (Lydda), at which it parts into three, diverging north to Caphar- Saba (Antipatris), south to Gaza, and west to Jaffa (Joppa).

Beth-horon (SUPPLEMENTAL FROM VOLUME 11):

Map of Location


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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Beth-Horon'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/tce/b/beth-horon.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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Thursday, November 14th, 2019
the Week of Proper 27 / Ordinary 32
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