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International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
(1) A town near the place where Abraham halted and offered sacrifice on his way south from Shechem.
1. Identification and Description
It lay West of Ai (Genesis 12:8 ). It is named as on the northern border of Benjamin (the southern of Ephraim, Joshua 16:2 ), at the top of the ascent from the Jordan valley by way of Ai (Joshua 18:13 ). It lay South of Shiloh (Judges 21:19 ). Eusebius, Onomasticon places it 12 Roman miles from Jerusalem, on the road to Neapolis. It is represented by the modern
2. The Sanctuary
The town was originally called Luz (Genesis 28:19 , etc.). When Jacob came hither on his way to Paddan-aram we are told that he lighted upon "the place" (Genesis 28:11 . Hebrew). The Hebrew
Bethel was a royal city of the Canaanites (Joshua 12:16 ). It appears to have been captured by Joshua (Joshua 8:7 ), and it was allotted to Benjamin (Joshua 18:22 ). In Judges 1:22 it is represented as held by Canaanites, from whom the house of Joseph took it by treachery (compare 1 Chronicles 7:28 ). Hither the ark was brought from Gilgal (Judges 2:1 , Septuagint). Israel came to Bethel to consult the Divine oracle (Judges 20:18 ), and it became an important center of worship (1 Samuel 10:3 ). The home of the prophetess Deborah was not far off (Judges 4:5 ). Samuel visited Bethel on circuit, judging Israel (1 Samuel 7:16 ).
With the disruption of the kingdom came Bethel's greatest period of splendor and significance. To counteract the influence of Jerusalem as the national religious center Jeroboam embarked on the policy which won for him the unenviable reputation of having "made Israel to sin." Here he erected a temple, set up an image, the golden calf, and established an imposing ritual. It became the royal sanctuary and the religious center of his kingdom (1 Kings 12:29; Amos 7:13 ). He placed in Bethel the priests of the high places which he had made (1 Kings 12:32 ). To Bethel came the man of God from Judah who pronounced doom against Jeroboam (1 Ki 13), and who, having been seduced from duty by an aged prophet in Bethel, was slain by a lion. According to the prophets Amos and Hosea the splendid idolatries of Bethel were accompanied by terrible moral and religious degradation. Against the place they launched the most scathing denunciations, declaring the vengeance such things must entail (Amos 3:14; Amos 4:4; Amos 5:11 m; Amos 9:1; Hosea 4:15; Hosea 5:8; Hosea 10:5 , Hosea 10:8 , 23). With the latter the name Bethel gives place in mockery to Beth-aven. Bethel shared in the downfall of Samaria wrought by the Assyrians; and according to an old tradition, Shalmaneser possessed himself of the golden calf (compare Jeremiah 48:13 ). The priest, sent by the Assyrians to teach the people whom they had settled in the land how to serve Yahweh, dwelt in Bethel (2 Kings 17:28 ). King Josiah completed the demolition of the sanctuary at Bethel, destroying all the instruments of idolatry, and harr ying the tombs of the idolaters. The monument of the man of God from Judah he allowed to stand (2 Kings 23:4 , 2 Kings 23:25 ). The men of Bethel were among those who returned from Babylon with Zerubbabel (Ezra 2:28; Nehemiah 7:32 ), and it is mentioned as reoccupied by the Benjamites (Nehemiah 11:31 ). Zechariah (Zechariah 7:2 ) records the sending of certain men from Jerusalem in the 4th year of King Darius to inquire regarding particular religious practices. Bethel was one of the towns fortified by Bacchides in the time of the Maccabees (1 Macc 9:50; Ant ,
(2) A city in Judah which in 1 Samuel 30:27 is called Bethel; in Joshua 19:4 Bethul; and in 1 Chronicles 4:30 Bethuel. The site has not been identified. In Joshua 15:30 Septuagint gives Baithel in Judah, where the Hebrew has
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Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. Entry for 'Bethel'. International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/isb/b/bethel.html. 1915.