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Bethel (Ugaritic: bt il, meaning "House of El" or "House of God",[1] Hebrew: בֵּית אֵל‎, also transliterated Beth El, Beth-El, or Beit El; Greek: Βαιθηλ; Latin: Bethel) was a border city described in the Hebrew Bible as being located between Benjamin and Ephraim. Eusebius of Caesarea and Jerome describe it in their time as a small village that lay 12 Roman miles north of Jerusalem, to the right or east of the road leading to Neapolis.[2]

Edward Robinson identified the Palestinian Arab village of Beitin in the West Bank with ancient Bethel in Biblical Researches in Palestine, 1838-52. He based this assessment on its fitting the location described in earlier texts, and on the philological similarities between the modern and ancient name, arguing that the replacement of the Hebrew el with the Arabic in was not unusual.[2]

After the establishment of Israel in Palestine in 1948, the biblical name was applied to an Israeli settlement constructed adjacent to Beitin.

A second biblical Bethel, in the southern Judah, is mentioned in Joshua (8:17 and 12:16), and seems to be the same as Bethul or Bethuel, a city of the tribe of Simeon.

History

Bethel is mentioned several times in Genesis. It is first mentioned in Genesis 12[3], but the best-known instance is probably Genesis 28[4], when Jacob, fleeing from the wrath of his brother Esau, falls asleep on a stone and dreams of a ladder stretching between Heaven and Earth and thronged with angels; Yahweh stands at the top of the ladder, and promises Jacob the land of Canaan; when Jacob awakes he anoints the stone (baetylus) with oil and names the place Bethel. Another account, from Genesis 35[5] repeats the covenant with God and the naming of the place (as El-Bethel), and makes this the site of Jacob's own change of name to Israel. Both versions state that the original name of the place was Luz, a Canaanite name.

Bethel was an important cult-centre for the northern Kingdom of Israel following the break-up of the united kingdom of David and Solomon. The Second Book of Kings describes how Jeroboam, first king of Israel, set up centres for his Golden Calf cult at Bethel on the southern boundary of his kingdom and Dan on the northern boundary, and appointed non-Levites as his priests (1 Kings 12:25-33). Jeroboam's decision to pass over the Mushite priests of Shiloh, the original cult-centre for Israel, deeply offended the Shiloh priesthood and seems to lie behind much of the animosity directed at Jeroboam and the golden calf, which probably emanated from the Mushite priestly clan.

Bethel escaped destruction during the Assyrian conquest of Israel (721 BC), but was occupied by king Josiah of Judah (c.640-609 BC), who, according to the book of Kings, destroyed the ancient Israelite cult centre.[6]

Bethel was again inhabitated and "fortifed by Bacchides the Syrian in the time of the Maccabees."[2] Josephus tells us that Bethel was captured by Vespasian. Robinson notes that after the writings of Eusebius and Jerome, he found no further references to Bethel in the written historical record. However, he notes that the ruins at Beitin are greater than those of a village and seem to have undergone expansion after the time of Jerome, noting also the presence of what appear to be ruins of churches from the Middle Ages.[2]

Bethel is also mentioned in the book of Amos. Amos 5:5 - But do not seek Bethel, Nor enter Gilgal, Nor pass over to Beersheba; For Gilgal shall surely go into captivity, And Bethel shall come to nothing. Also, Amos 7:13 - Don't prophesy anymore at Bethel, because this is the king's sanctuary and the temple of the kingdom.

References

  1. ^ Bleeker and Widegren, 1988, p. 257.
  2. ^ a b c d Robinson and Smith, 1856, pp. 449-450.
  3. ^ Genesis 12 / בראשית י"ב (Origin), Genesis 12:8 (Translation)
  4. ^ Genesis 28 / בראשית כ"ח (Origin), Genesis 28:19 (Translation)
  5. ^ Genesis 35 / בראשית ל"ה (Origin), Genesis 35:7 (Translation)
  6. ^ "Bethel." Encyclopædia Britannica from Encyclopædia Britannica 2007 Ultimate Reference Suite (2007).

Bibliography

  • Bleeker, C. J.; Widengren, G. (1988), Historia Religionum: Handbook for the History of Religions, BRILL, ISBN 9004089284, 9789004089280 
  • Robinson, Edward; Smith, Eli (Digitized 17 Feb 2006), Biblical Researches in Palestine, 1838-52: A Journal of Travels in the Year 1838, University of Michigan 
  • Encyclopedia Britannica 2007 Ultimate Reference Suite
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Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

See also bethel

English

Noun

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Singular
Bethel

Plural
-

Bethel

  1. An ancient town in Palestine near the modern town of Baytin; the site of Abraham's first altar

Bible wiki

Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From BibleWiki

Meaning: house of God

(1.) A place in Central Palestine, about 10 miles north of Jerusalem, at the head of the pass of Michmash and Ai. It was originally the royal Canaanite city of Luz (Gen. 28:19). The name Bethel was at first apparently given to the sanctuary in the neighbourhood of Luz, and was not given to the city itself till after its conquest by the tribe of Ephraim. When Abram entered Canaan he formed his second encampment between Bethel and Hai (Gen. 12:8); and on his return from Egypt he came back to it, and again "called upon the name of the Lord" (13:4). Here Jacob, on his way from Beersheba to Haran, had a vision of the angels of God ascending and descending on the ladder whose top reached unto heaven (28:10, 19); and on his return he again visited this place, "where God talked with him" (35:1-15), and there he "built an altar, and called the place El-beth-el". To this second occasion of God's speaking with Jacob at Bethel, Hosea (12:4,5) makes reference.

In troublous times the people went to Bethel to ask counsel of God (Judg. 20:18, 31; 21:2). Here the ark of the covenant was kept for a long time under the care of Phinehas, the grandson of Aaron (20:26-28). Here also Samuel held in rotation his court of justice (1 Sam. 7:16). It was included in Israel after the kingdom was divided, and it became one of the seats of the worship of the golden calf (1 Kings 12:28-33; 13:1). Hence the prophet Hosea (Hos. 4:15; 5:8; 10:5, 8) calls it in contempt Beth-aven, i.e., "house of idols." Bethel remained an abode of priests even after the kingdom of Israel was desolated by the king of Assyria (2 Kings 17:28, 29). At length all traces of the idolatries were extirpated by Josiah, king of Judah (2 Kings 23:15-18); and the place was still in existence after the Captivity (Ezra 2:28; Neh. 7:32). It has been identified with the ruins of Beitin, a small village amid extensive ruins some 9 miles south of Shiloh.

(2.) Mount Bethel was a hilly district near Bethel (Josh. 16:1; 1 Sam. 13:2).

(3.) A town in the south of Judah (Josh. 8:17; 12:16).

This entry includes text from Easton's Bible Dictionary, 1897.

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