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Only about 2 miles north of Jerusalem, Tel el-Fl, the  site of ancient Gibeah lies just east of the main road that leads from Jerusalem to Shechem. Saul, the first king of Israel, established his capital here. Gibeah is the Hebrew word for "hill". A few biblical texts apparently confuse Gibeah with nearby Geba, since only the omission or presence of a single letter distinguishes the two names.

Scripture Summary

  • Gibeah was located near the main road from Bethlehem to Shechem (Judges 19:11-13).
  • It was referred to as "Gibeah which belongeth to Benjamin" (Judges 19:14).
  • Most of the men of the tribe of Benjamin were killed here during the tribal war against Benjamin (Judges 20:12-48).
  • The Philistines placed a garrison at Gibeah (called "the hill of God" and "Geba" in the KJV) as a result of Saul's being chosen to be king of Israel (I Samuel 10:5; 13:3).
  • It was Saul's home (I Samuel 10:26; 11:14; 13:16; 15:34).
  • Saul maintained his royal court at Gibeah (I Samuel 14:2-3).

As a result of his excavations, William F. Albright concluded that five distinct levels of occupation could be discerned on the two acre site. Albright dated the beginning of the first major settlement on the site to the last quarter of the 13th century BCE. The presence of a deep layer of ash sealing the destruction level of this phase of occupation indicates that the settlement was brought to an end as a result of a great conflagration. This is possibly physical evidence reflecting the destruction of Gibeah during the tribal war against Benjamin (Judges 19-20).

In the next layer of occupation, Albright uncovered the remains of a large building which he identified as being a fortress from the time of King Saul. This may be the building where David served as a minstrel during Saul's periods of "madness" (I Samuel 18:10-11). Although this building was destroyed around the year CE 1000 (possibly by the Philistines after the death of Saul on Mount Gilboa), it was rebuilt on the same plan and occupied for a short period of time. Since there was no sign of burning, or other evidence of violent destruction, it apparently was simply abandoned. Possibly the fortress was used by David as a defense point on his northern border during the period when he was king of only the tribe of Judah and faced hostile encounters with his rival, King Ishbosheth of Israel (2 Samuel 2-3). Once David became king over both Israel and Judah, there would have been no need for such as fortress, and it might have been abandoned for that reason.

Isaiah records that the population of Gibeah fled to the nearby city of Jerusalem for protection from the Assyrian army led by King Sennacherib which approached from the north (Isaiah 10:29).

According to Josephus, the Roman general Titus (the destroyer of the Second Temple in CE 70) camped on the hill of Gibeah on the night before he began the siege of Jerusalem because it afforded him such a fine view of the city. Thus, it is not surprising that King Hussein of Jordan also chose the hill of Gibeah as the site of a royal palace on the West Bank of the Jordan. Construction of this palace was halted by the outbreak of the Six Day War in 1967 leaving the unfinished skeleton of the intended palace to be seen at the summit of the hill.

Page last edited: 04/06/06 09:18 PM

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