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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible


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BETHEL . 1 . On a rocky knoll beside the great road to the north, about 12 miles from Jerusalem, stands the modern Beilîn , a village of some 400 inhabitants, which represents the ancient Bethel. Four springs furnish good water, and in ancient times they were supplemented by a reservoir hewn in the rock, south of the town. Luz was the original name of the town. The name Bethel was first applied to the stone which Jacob set up and anointed ( Genesis 28:22 ). See Pillar. But ‘the place’ ( Genesis 28:11 etc.) was evidently one with holy associations. It was visited by Abraham, who sacrificed here ( Genesis 12:8 ). This may have induced Jacob to come hither on his way to the north, and again on his return from Paddan-aram. From an eminence to the east almost the whole extent of the plains of Jericho is visible. This may have been the scene of Lot’s selfish choice ( Genesis 13:1-18 ). ‘Bethel’ in the end prevailed over ‘Luz,’ and the town came to be known by the name of the sanctuary, the neighbourhood of which lent it distinction.

Bethel, a royal Canaanite city (Joshua 12:16 ), fell to Benjamin in the division of the land ( Joshua 18:22 ), but he failed to make good his possession. It was finally taken by Ephraim ( Judges 1:22 , 1 Chronicles 7:28 ). Hither the ark was brought from Gilgal ( Judges 20:18 LXX [Note: Septuagint.] ), and Bethel was resorted to as a place of sacrifice ( 1 Samuel 10:3 ). The prophetess Deborah dwelt between Bethel and Ramah ( Judges 4:5 ). In judging Israel, Samuel went from year to year in circuit to Bethel ( 1 Samuel 7:10 ). No doubt the ancient sanctity of the place led Jeroboam to choose Bethel as the site of the rival shrine, which he hoped might counteract the influence of the house of the Lord at Jerusalem ( 1 Kings 12:26 ff.). It became the great sanctuary of the Northern Kingdom, and the centre of the idolatrous priests who served in the high places ( 1 Kings 12:32 ff.). At Bethel, Jeroboam was denounced by the man of God out of Judah ( 1 Kings 13:19 ). It was one of the towns taken from Jeroboam by Abijah king of Judah ( 2 Chronicles 13:19 ). It is noteworthy that Elijah is silent regarding the calf-worship at Bethel; and that a school of the prophets, apparently in sympathy with him, flourished there ( 2 Kings 2:2 f.). But the denunciations of Amos ( 2Ki 3:14 , 2 Kings 4:4 , 2 Kings 5:5 etc.) and Hosea ( Hosea 4:15; Hosea 5:8 etc.) lack nothing in vehemence. The priest resided at Bethel, who was brought by the king of Assyria to teach the mixed peoples, who lived in the country during the Exile, the manner of the God of the land ( 2 Kings 17:29 ff.). Bethel was reoccupied by the returning exiles ( Ezra 2:28 etc.). We find it in the hands of Bacchides ( 1Ma 9:50 ). It was one of the towns ‘in the mountains’ taken by Vespasian in his march on Jerusalem (Jos. [Note: Josephus.] BJ IV. ix. 9).

2 . A town in Judah, not identified, called in different places, Bethul , Bethel, and Bethuel ( Joshua 19:4 , 1 Samuel 30:27 , 1 Chronicles 4:30 ).

W. Ewing.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Bethel'. Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible. 1909.

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