Mizpah in Benjamin

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Mizpah ("watch-tower; the look-out") was a city of the tribe of Benjamin referred to in the Hebrew Bible.

Tell en-Nasbeh is one of two sites often identified with Mizpah of Benjamin, and is located about 12 kilometers north of Jerusalem. The other suggested location is Neby Samwil,[1] which is some 8 kilometers north-west of the Old City of Jerusalem, and situated on the loftiest hill in the vicinity, some 180 meters above the plain of Gibeon.[2]

Biblical references[edit]

The first mention of Mizpah was in Genesis where Laban and his son-in-law Jacob made an agreement that God will watch over them while they were apart from each other. It was marked by the piling of rocks.[3] It was a reminder of peace where each would not go beyond these rocks to attack the other.[4]

When a Levite traveler's concubine was raped by the men of Gibeah, the other tribes of Israel met at Mizpah of Benjamin, where they decided to attack the men of Benjamin for this grievous sin.[5] At the same time, the decision was made not to permit marriage between Israelite women and Benjaminite men.[6]

After the return of the Ark of the Covenant, lost to the Philistines following the Israelites' defeat at the Battle of Aphek, Samuel gathered all Israel at Mizpah to offer a sacrifice to the Lord and ask Him to forgive their sin. The Israelites fought off a raid by the Philistines, taking advantage of the assembly, and drove them back as far as below Beth Car. To memorialize this event, Samuel set up a stone between Mizpah and Shen and named it Eben-Ezer ("stone of help"), because the Lord had helped them.[7]

Samuel also gathered the people of Israel to Mizpah for the Lord to identify their first king. There, Saul was chosen by lot from all the tribes and families of Israel.[8]

During the reigns of Asa, king of Judah, and Baasha, king of Israel, Mizpah was one of two cities which Asa built up from the stones Baasha had used to fortify Ramah (1 Kings 15:22; 2 Chronicles 16:6).

After the Babylonians had destroyed Jerusalem, they appointed Gedaliah governor in Mizpah over the remaining residents. Many returned to Mizpah from where they had fled. The prophet Jeremiah came to Mizpah from Ramah, where the Babylonians had released him. Later Ishmael, a member of the royal family, assassinated Gedaliah. Despite Jeremiah's warning that the people would be a reproach and die if they went to Egypt, they persisted in going there.[9]


The main contenders for the site of Mizpah are Tell en-Nasbeh and nearby Nebi Samwil.

  • If Mizpah was Tell en-Nasbeh on the Nablus road, Ishmael would not have fled to Ammon via Gibeon[10] which is located to the West near Neby Samwil which overlooks Jerusalem.
  • Moreover, Mizpah was located right next to Gibeon.[11]
  • Furthermore, Judas Machabeus, preparing for war with the Syrians, gathered his men "to Maspha, over against Jerusalem: for in Maspha was a place of prayer heretofore in Israel".[12]
  • On the other hand, Nebi Samwil has produced no remains of the Iron Age I, nor any remains of the 6th century, both periods in which Mizpah was occupied. By contrast, Tell en-Nasbeh has produced abundant remains from both periods, and moreover, has a massive fortification system which matches well with the building campaign of King Asa of Judah in the early 9th century BC. Its location on the main road leading out of Jerusalem fits well with the reference to Mizpah in the First Books of Kings (1 Kings 15:22).


  1. ^ Gleichen, Edward, ed. (1925). First List of Names in Palestine - Published for the Permanent Committee on Geographical Names by the Royal Geographical Society. London: Royal Geographical Society. p. 8. OCLC 69392644.
  2. ^ Nehemiah Chapter 3 Verse 7 Mechon Mamre
  3. ^ "Bible Gateway passage: Genesis 31:45-49 - New King James Version". Bible Gateway. Retrieved 2019-05-01.
  4. ^ "Bible Gateway passage: Genesis 31:52 - New King James Version". Bible Gateway. Retrieved 2019-05-01.
  5. ^ Judges 20:1–11
  6. ^ Judges 21:1
  7. ^ 1 Samuel 7:5–12
  8. ^ 1 Sam 10:17–24
  9. ^ 2 Kings 25:23–26; Jer 40:6–42:22
  10. ^ Jeremiah Chapter 41 Verse 10–12 Mechon Mamre
  11. ^ Nehemiah Chapter 3 Verse 7 Mechon Mamre
  12. ^ 1 Mach. 3:46; cited in Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Maspha" . Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.

Coordinates: 31°53′07″N 35°12′59″E / 31.88528°N 35.21639°E / 31.88528; 35.21639