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originally the towns of Beeroth, Chephirah, and KirjathJearim. (Josh. ix. 17.) The city is first mentioned in connexion with the deceit practised by its inhabitants upon Joshua ; by which, although Canaanites (Hivites), they induced the Jewish leader not only to make a league with them and spare their lives and cities; but also in their defence to make war upon the five kings by whom they were besieged. It was in this great battle that the sun stood still on Gibeon.'
The place afterwards fell to the lot of Benjamin, and became a Levitical city (Josh. xviii. 25, xxi. 17), where the tabernacle was set up for many years under David and Solomon. The ark at this time was at Jerusalem. (2 Chron. i. 4.) Here the latter youthful monarch offered a thousand burnt-offerings; and in a dream by night communed with God, and asked for himself a wise and understanding heart instead of riches and honour. Here too it was, that Abner's challenge to Joab terminated in the defeat and flight of the former, and the death of Asahel ; and here also at a later period Amasa was treacherously slain by Joab.
[The village of El-Jib is situated upon an isolated oblong hill or ridge, which rises in a beautiful plain, bounded on the west and south by mountains. ]
“ This hill is in some parts steep and difficult of access, and capable of being everywhere very strongly fortified ... It may be said to stand in the midst of a basin, composed of broad valleys or plains, cultivated, and full of grain, vineyards, and orchards of olive and fig-trees. It was decidedly the finest part of Palestine that I had yet seen ...
“ We reached the village of El-Jîb, situated on the summit of this hill. . . It is of moderate size; ... the houses stand very irregularly and unevenly, sometimes almost one above another. They seem to be chiefly rooms in old massive ruins, which have fallen down in every direction. One large massive building still remains, perhaps a former castle or tower of strength
... the whole appearance is that of antiquity. Towards the east the ridge sinks a little; and here, a few rods from the village, just below the top of the ridge ... is a fine fountain of water. It is in a cave excavated in and under the high rock, so as to form a large subterranean reservoir. Not far below it, among the olivetrees, are the remains of another open reservoir, perhaps 120 feet in length by 100 feet in breadth. It was doubtless anciently intended to receive the superfluous waters of the cavern. At this time no stream was flowing from the latter. It is not difficult to recognise in El-Jîb and its rocky eminence the ancient Gibeon of the Scriptures, (and) the ‘Pool of Gibeon,' mentioned in the story of Abner, may well be the waters of the fountain described (above); and these are also probably 'the great (or many) waters in Gibeon,' spoken of in Jeremiah xli. 12.”—See Robinson's Researches, vol. ii. pp. 135—138.
EPHRATH, OR BETHLEHEM.
SCRIPTURE NOTICES. “ So Naomi returned, and Ruth the Moabitess, the daughter-in-law, with her, which returned out of the country of Moab: and they came to Bethlehem in the beginning of barley-harvest.” — Ruth i. 22. (v. 19, ii. 4, iv. 11. See the whole Book of Ruth.)
“ And Samuel did that which the Lord spake, and came to Bethlehem : and the elders of the town trembled at his coming, and said, Comest thou peaceably? And he said, Peaceably: I am come to sacrifice unto the Lord ; sanctify yourselves, and come with me to the sacrifice. And it came to pass, when they were come, that he looked on Eliab, and said, Surely the Lord's anointed is before him. But the Lord said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on
the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart. Then Jesse called Abinadab, and made him pass before Samuel. . . . Then Jesse made Shammah to pass by ... Again, Jesse made seven of his sons to pass before Samuel. And Samuel said, ... The Lord hath not chosen these. And Samuel said unto Jesse, Are here all thy children? And he said, There remaineth yet the youngest, and behold, he keepeth the sheep. And Samuel said unto Jesse, Send and fetch him : for we will not sit down till he come hither. And he sent, and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, and withal of a beautiful countenance, and goodly to look to. And the Lord said, Arise, anoint him; for this is he. Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the midst of his brethren: and the spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward.”—1 Samuel xvi. 4, &c.
“ Now David was the son of that Ephrathite of Bethlehem-judah, whose name was Jesse ; and he had eight sons: and David was the youngest, and the three eldest followed Saul. But David went and returned from Saul to feed his father's sheep at Bethlehem."--1 Samuel xvii. 12, &c.
66 And Rehoboam . . built cities for defence in Judah ; he built even Bethlehem,” &c.—2 Chronicles xi. 5, 6.
“ But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel ; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting."- Micah v. 2.
“ Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews ? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him. ... And he (Herod) sent them to Bethlehem ; . and they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him. ... Then Herod ... sent forth,
and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, from two years old and under...”—Matthew ii. 1–16.
“ And there were in the same country (about Bethlehem) shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch
over their flock by night. And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them, and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not ... unto you is born this day in the city of David (Bethlehem) a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And ... ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good-will towards men. .”—Luke ii. 8, &c.
[John vii. 42; Judges xvii. 7, xix. 1, 2, 18; 2 Sam. ii. 32, xxi. 19; 1 Chron. ii. 51; Ezra ii. 21 ; Psalm cxxxii. 6.]
“ The whole district about Bethlehem is exceedingly rocky, more so than usual in this rocky country.
The country to our right, that is, west of us, rose higher, and on the side of the ridge were several villages ; most of them had pleasant groves of trees near them; and there were extensive districts abounding with the olive, and plains finely adapted for cultivation..."
In another place, still speaking of Bethlehem and its vicinity, Mr. Paxton observes —" The district over which we passed was exceedingly rough and rocky. The hollow, along the side of which we passed, became deep, rough, and had
left at the bottom; and the sides of the hills that bordered it really appeared given up to rocks and stones. The little earth, however, that was to be seen, was fertile, for the rock was a soft limestone, which always forms a good soil. About half way from the pools to Bethlehem, we passed a place where the valley spread out so as to leave, for a few hundred yards, a strip of level land from twenty to fifty yards wide. This was divided into lots, and walls made across it to prevent the washing away of the earth. Trees and garden herbs were planted, and the whole had a most pleasing appearance among the wilderness of rock by which it is surrounded. On the adjoining hill were a few low huts, some of them more in the ground than above it, where the owners of this
green spot dwell.
“ The hills in the immediate vicinity of Bethlehem were finely terraced, and many olive and fig-trees planted. I could not but notice the number and beauty of the watch houses or little towers, which were placed in the vineyards. . . . The ground on which Bethlehem stands is rough and uneven. It is a poor-looking place, and has but a small population.” - PAXTON'S Letters, pp. 136, 145.