Beersheba means "well of the oath". The southern limit of the Holy Land, as Dan in the N.: "from Dan to Beersheba" (compare in David's census, 1 Chronicles 21:2; 2 Samuel 24:2-7) comprehends the whole. Called so from the oath of peace between Abraham and Abimelech, king of the Philistines (Genesis 21:31), else from the seven (sheba' ) ewe lambs slain there: indeed sheba', an oath, is from the custom of binding one's self by seven things, as Abraham made the seven ewe lambs a pledge of his covenant with Abimelech. Again, from the like oath between Abimelech (with Phichol, his captain) and Isaac, it being not uncommon for an event to be recorded as occurring apparently for the first time, which has been recorded as occurring earlier before: so Bethel (Genesis 26:31-33).
The well dug by Abraham and secured to him by oath had been covered and lost. It is found by Isaac's servants just after the covenant made between him and Abimelech. The series of events recalls to Isaac's mind the original name and that which gave rise to the name; so he restores both the well itself and the name. Seven (sheba' which also may explain the name) wells are at the place, so that a different one may have been named by Isaac from that named by Abraham. They all pour their streams into the wady es Seba, and are called Bir es seba, the largest 12 ft. diameter, and masonry round reaching 28 ft. down, and 44 from bottom to surface of the water. The second, at a hundred yards distance, 5 in diameter, 42 in depth. The other five further off. The stones around the mouth are worn into grooves by the action of ropes for so many ages. Around the large are nine stone troughs; around the smaller, five.
The water is excellent, and grass with crocuses and lilies abounds. Abraham planted here a" grove" ('eshel) (distinct from the idol grove, Asheerah, or Astarte Baal), or tree, the tamarisk, long living, of hard wood, with long, clustering, evergreen leaves, as a type of the ever enduring grace of the faithful, covenant keeping God (Genesis 21:33), "and called on the name (the self manifested character and person) of Jehovah, the everlasting God." frontBAAL.) Here it was that Isaac lived when Jacob stole from his father the blessing already forfeited by Esau's profane sale of his birthright (Genesis 26:33; Genesis 26:27; Genesis 28:10). Long afterward, on Jacob's descent to Egypt, he halted there, sacrificed unto the God of Isaac, and had a vision of God encouraging him to go down. The dispensation of the promise, which began with Abraham's call from Ur to Canaan, ended on the last night of the sojourn of his grandson Israel in Canaan.
So God's promise was repeated for the last time (Genesis 46:1-5). Possibly the 430 years (Galatians 3:17) dates from this, the end, not from the beginning, of the dispensation of the promise. Beersheba was given to Simeon, in the extreme S. of Judah (Joshua 15:28; Joshua 19:1-2; 1 Chronicles 4:28). Samuel's sons, Joel and Abiah, were judges there (1 Samuel 8:2), its distance preventing his going in circuit to it, as he did to others yearly (1 Samuel 7:16-17). Here Elijah left his confidential servant (narow) on his way to Horeb (1 Kings 19:3-4).
"From Geba to Beersheba" or "from Beersheba to mount Ephraim" was the formula comprehending the southern kingdom of Judah after the severance of Israel's ten tribes (2 Kings 23:8; 2 Chronicles 19:4), and on the return from Babylon still narrower, "from Beersheba to the valley of Hinnom" (Nehemiah 11:30). Ahaziah's wife, Zibiah, mother of Joash, was of Beersheba (2 Kings 12:1.) It became seat of an idolatry akin to that of Bethel or Gilgal, so that it was a formula of superstition, "the manner (cultus, or religion, as in Acts 9:2 the new religion of Christ is designated "this way") of Beersheba liveth" (Amos 5:5; Amos 8:14). In Christian times, it became an episcopal city under the Bishop of Jerusalem.
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