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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Elah

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(Hebrews Elah', אֵלָה, terebinth or oak [q.v.]), the name of a place, and also of five men.

1. The VALLEY OF ELAH- (עֵמֵק הָאֵלָה, vale of the terebinth or oak; Sept. κοιλὰς ᾿Ηλά, but translates κοιλὰς τῆς δρυός in 1 Samuel 17:2; 1 Samuel 17:19; Vulg. likewise vallis terebinthi), a valley in (not "by," as the A.V. has it) which the Israelites were encamped against the Philistines when David killed Goliath (1 Samuel 17:2; 1 Samuel 17:19; 1 Samuel 21:9). It lay somewhere near Shocoh of Judah, and Azekah, and was nearer Ekron than any other Philistine town (1 Samuel 17:1-58). Shocoh has been with great probability identified with Shuweikeh, near Beit Netif, some 14 miles S.W. of Jerusalem, on the road to Beit Jibrin and Gaza, among the more western of the hills of Judah, not far from where they begin to descend into the great Philistine plain. The village stands on the south slopes of the wady es-Sumt, or valley of the acacia, which runs off in a N.W. direction across the plain to the sea just above Ashdod. Above Shuweikeh it branches into two other wadys. Large, though inferior in size to itself, and the junction of the three forms a considerable open space of not less than a mile wide cultivated in fields of grain. In the center is a wide torrent bed thickly strewed with round pebbles, and bordered by the acacia bushes from which the valley derives its present name. There seems to le no reason to doubt that this is the Valley of the Terebinth. It has changed its name, and is now called after another kind of tree (the sumt, or acacia), but the terebinth (butm) appears to be plentiful in the neighborhood, and one of the largest specimens in Palestine still stands in the immediate neighborhood of the spot, in wady Sur, the southernmost of the branch wadys. Four miles E. of Shuweikeh, along wady Musur, the other branch, is the khan and ruined site Akbeh, which van de Velde proposes to identify with Azekah. These identifications are confirmed by that of Ephesdammim (q.v.), the site of the Philistine camp. Ekron is 17 miles, and Bethlehem 12 miles distant from Shocoh. (For the valley, see Robinson, Researches, 2:350; Van de Velde, Narrative, 2:191; Porter, Handbook, pages 249, 250, 280; Schwarz, Palest. page 77.)

There is a point in the topographical indications of 1 Samuel 17:1-58 which it is very desirable should be carefully examined on the spot. The Philistines were between Shocoh and Azekah, at Ephesdammim, or Pasdammim, on the mountain on the S. side of the wady, while the Israelites were in the "valley" (qemoi) of the terebinth, or, rather, on the mountain on the N. side, and "the ravine" or "the glen" (הִגִּיְאְ ) was between the two armies (1 Samuel 17:2-3). Again (1 Samuel 17:52), the Israelites pursued the Philistines "till you come to 'the ravine'" (the same word). There is evidently a marked difference between the "valley" and the "ravine," and a little attention on the spot might do much towards elucidating this, and settling the identification of the place. In the above location, the distance between the armies was about a mile, and the vale beneath is flat and rich. The ridges rise on each side to the height of about 500 feet, and have a uniform slope, so that the armies ranged along them could see the combat in the vale. The Philistines, when defeated, fled down the valley towards Gath and Ekron.

The traditional "Valley of the Terebinth" is the wady Beit-Hanina, which lies about 4 miles to the N.W. of Jerusalem, and is crossed by the road to Nebi Samwil. The scene of David's conflict is pointed out a little N. of the "Tombs of the Judges," and close to the traces of the old paved road. In this valley olive trees and carob-trees now prevail, and terebinth-trees are few; but the brook is still indicated whence the youthful champion selected the "smooth stones'"' wherewith he smote the Philistine. The brook is dry in summer, but in winter it becomes a mighty torrent, which inundates the vale (Kitto, Pictorial Palestine, page 121). But this spot is in the tribe of Benjamin, and otherwise does not correspond with the narrative of the text (see Thenius, Sachs exeg. Stud. 2:151).

2. (Sept. ῾Ηλάς , but ᾿Ηλάς in Chron.; Vulg. Ella.) One of the Edomitish "dukes" or chieftains in Mount Seir (Genesis 36:41; 1 Chronicles 1:52), B.C. post 1963. By Knobel (Comment. zu Genesis in loc.) he is connected with Elath (q.v.) on the Red Sea.

3. (Sept. Ἀδά v.r. Ἀλά .) The middle one of the three sons of Caleb the son of Jephunneh (1 Chronicles 4:15), B.C. 1618. In that passage his sons are called Kenaz or Uknaz, but the words may be taken as if Kenaz was, with Elah, a son of Caleb. It is a singular coincidence that the names of both Elah and Kenaz also appear among the Edomitish "dukes."

4. (Properly ELA, Hebrews Ela', אֵלָא ; Sept. ᾿Ηλά .) The father of Shimei ben-Ela, Solomon's commissariat officer in Benjamin (1 Kings 4:18), B.C. 1013.

5. (Sept. ᾿Ηλά, Josephus ῎Ηλανος, Vulg. Ela.) The son and successor of Baasha, king of Israel (1 Kings 16:8-10); his reign lasted for little more than a year (compare 1 Kings 16:8 with 10), B.C. 928-7. He was killed while drunk by Zimri, in the house of his steward Arza, who was probably a confederate in the plot. This occurred, according to Josephus (Ant. 8:12, 4),while his army and officers were absent at the siege of Gibbethon. He was the last king of Baasha's line, and by this catastrophe the predictions of the prophet Jehu were accomplished (1 Kings 16:6-7; 1 Kings 16:11-14).

6. (Sept. ᾿Ηλά .) The father of Hoshea, last king of Israel (2 Kings 15:30; 2 Kings 17:1), B.C. 729, or ante.

7. (Sept. ᾿Ηλά v.r. ᾿Ηλώ , Vulg. Ela.) The son of Uzzi, and one of the Benjamite heads of families who were taken into captivity (1 Chronicles 9:8), or rather, perhaps, returned from it. B.C. 516.


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

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