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(Luz, Beth-aven): Benin. Bethel "house of God" was a town about 10 miles N of Jerusalem, originally Luz (Gen 28:19). It was here that Abraham encamped (12:8; 13:3) in this beautiful pastureland. It received the name of Bethel, "house of God," because of Jacob's dream (28:10-22). Bethel was assigned to the Benjamites, but they did not possess it, and we find it taken by the children of Joseph (Judg 1:22-26). Apparently the Ark of the Covenant was brought here (Judg 20:26-28). It was one of the three places that Samuel chose in which to settle legal matters (1 Sam 7:16), and Jeroboam chose Bethel as one of the two places in which he set up golden calves (1 Kings 12:28-33). King Josiah removed all traces of idolatry and restored the true worship of Jehovah (2 Kings 23:15-20). Bethel was occupied by Jews returning from Babylon (Ezra 2:28 with Neh 11:31).

Bethel is identified with the modern Benin or Beitin. It stands upon the point of a low rocky ridge, between two shallow wadis which unite, the water then falls into the Wadi Suweinit toward the SE.

Archaeologists have determined that although there was a village at Beitin as early as 3200 BC, continuous occupation of the site apparently began around BC During the sixteenth century the settlement was enlarged and surrounded with an 11 foot thick stone wall and possessed some of the best-laid masonry of that period yet discovered in Palestine.

Around 1235 BC the city was destroyed in a great fire that left debris five feet thick in places. It is believed to be attributed to the Israelite conquest of Judg 1:22-25. The later Israelite level of occupation has construction strikingly inferior to Canaanite levels, but the period of David and Solomon shows noticeable recovery. No sanctuary dating to the days when Jeroboam I instituted calf worship there has yet been recovered. Although Bethel was only a small village during Nehemiah's day (5th cent BC), it became an important place during the Hellenistic period and grew even larger in Roman and Byzantine days. Remains in the area show that the city continued to exist throughout the Byzantine era but apparently disappeared when the Muslims took over Palestine.

Gen. 12:8; 28:19; Josh. 18:13; Judg. 1:22ff.; 1 Sam. 7:16; 1 Kgs. 12:29; Amos 3:14; 2 Kgs. 23:15; its people, Ezra 2:28; Neh. 7:32.

Map of Ancient Israel

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