Eben-Ezer (Hebrew: אבן העזר, Even Ha'Ezer, lit. stone of help), is the name of a location that is mentioned by the Books of Samuel as the scene of battles between the Israelites and Philistines. It is specified as having been less than a day's journey by foot from Shiloh, near Aphek, in the neighbourhood of Mizpah, near the western entrance of the pass of Beth-horon. However, its location has not been identified in modern times with much certainty, with some identifying it with Beit Iksa, and others with Dayr Aban.
It appears in the Books of Samuel in two narratives:
- In the first narrative (1 Samuel 4:1-11), the Philistines defeat the Israelites, even though the Israelites brought the Ark of the Covenant onto the battlefield in hope of it bringing them a divinely assured victory. As a result of the Philistine victory and the Ark's presence on the battlefield, it was captured by the Philistines, and not returned until many months later (1 Samuel 6:1-2).
- In the second narrative (1 Samuel 7:2-14), the Israelites defeat the Philistines, after Samuel has offered a sacrifice. Samuel puts up a stone in memorial and names it Eben-Ezer (the placename in the previous narrative resulting from this). This monument is referred to in the hymn Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing.
According to some modern textual scholars, the second narrative is a redaction, added by a later editor, probably the deuteronomist, probably to explain away what is in reality an earlier sanctuary that featured a stone as a fetish of Yahweh (such sanctuaries are found in the Canaanite archaeological record). The first narrative is considered to come from a sanctuaries narrative (1 Samuel 4:1-7:1) that recounts the tale of the Ark's captivity, and perhaps was originally more extensive in its details about the Ark's travels (possibly including the narratives found elsewhere about Araunah's threshing floor, and the death of Uzziah). This first passage abruptly interrupts the narrative flow of the story of Samuel, which would read more naturally, in the eyes of textual scholars, if the text went straight from 1 Samuel 3:21 to 1 Samuel 7:17. This view is by no means universal and is pure conjecture on the part of these textual scholars.
It is currently accepted among Israeli archaeologists and historians to place the Eben-Ezer of the first narrative in the immediate neighborhood of modern-day Kafr Qasim, near Antipatris, while the second battle's location is deemed to be insufficiently well-defined in the Biblical text.
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