“Mizpah: Newly Discovered Stratum Reveals Judah’s Other Capital,” BAR, September/October 1997.



Libellus de Locis Sanctis, 44/41; J. Wilkinson, J. Hill and W.F. Ryan, trans., Jerusalem Pilgrimage 1099–1185 (London, 1988), p. 310.


Daniel the Abbot, Ch. VIII-IX; J. Wilkinson, et al., Jerusalem Pilgrimage 1099–1185, pp. 126–127.


Late Jewish sources identified the site with Ramah, Samuel’s home and burial place: “Samuel died, and all Israel gathered and made lament for him, and they buried him in Ramah, his home” (1 Samuel 25:1; 28:3). Samuel’s parents, Elkanah and Hannah, came from Ramathaim-zophim, in the Ephraim hill country (1 Samuel 1:1), but at some point Samuel went from his parent’s house to dwell in Ramah in Benjamin.

Some scholars have also identified Nebi Samwil with Beeroth, one of the Gibeonite cities (Joshua 9:17) and even with Gibeon, where Solomon offered sacrifices (1 Kings 3:4).


W.F. Albright, “The Site of Mizpah in Benjamin,” Journal of the Palestine Oriental Society 3 (1923), pp. 110–121.


Albright, “The Site of Mizpah in Benjamin,” pp. 110–121.


In my opinion, the narrative of this war indicates that Mizpah is to be identified with Nebi Samwil and not with Tell en-Nasbeh. King Baasha of Israel advanced against Judah and fortified Ramah (identified with er-Ram) to block the road to Jerusalem for anyone supporting Asa. Asa sent emissaries to Damascus to bribe King Ben-hadad of Aram and request that he break his alliance with Baasha. Ben-hadad agreed to this proposal and attacked Israel’s northern cities. Baasha lifted the siege and the fortification of Ramah in order to protect his northern cities. Asa then took the stones and timber of Ramah, and built two fortresses to defend the roads to Jerusalem—Geba of Benjamin, and Mizpah (1Kings 15:17–22; 2 Chronicles 16:1–6).

Geba of Benjamin is Gibeah of Saul, and is identified with Tell el-Ful. Tell en-Nasbeh is some 4 miles away from Tell el-Ful; there would be no military logic in the fortification of two cities on the same longitudinal road that were distant from one another, and that could be bypassed by the northern army. After the siege imposed by Baasha, Asa should have engaged in defensive measures and not in expanding his territory to Tell en-Nasbeh; defensive steps imply retrenchment, not expansion. This was especially so since the Israelite army could have outflanked the northern road and taken the western route to Jerusalem via Nebi Samwil. For military reasons, therefore, Asa preferred to fortify Mizpah (that is Nebi Samwil), which is a central, lofty site that controls the northwest road to Jerusalem. Nebi Samwil is very close to Tell el-Ful/Geba of Benjamin and is in line of sight with it; it is situated on the major road that leads from northwestern Samaria and the coastal plain, which is no less important for the defense of Jerusalem. Accordingly, Asa’s activity clearly indicates the superiority of the identification of Mizpah with Nebi Samwil, and not with Tell en-Nasbeh.


On behalf of the Staff Officer in the Civil Administration of Judea and Samaria. During the first seasons, the dig was supervised by Michael Dadon and in more recent seasons by Benjamin Har-Even.


Against Vigilantius 5.343; trans. W. Fremantle, The Principal Works of St. Jerome (A Select Library of Nicene and Post-Nicene fathers of the Christian Church 6, [Michigan, 1983]), p. 419.


Al Muqaddasi, 188. Translation of this passage can be found in Guy Le Strange, Description of Syria including Palestine by Mukaddasi (London: Palestine Pilgrims’ Text Society Library 3, 1896), p. 89.


Ya¯qu¯t, IV.391. Translation of this passage can be found in Guy Le Strange, Palestine under the Moslems: A Description of Syria and the Holy Land from 650 to 1500 A.D. (London: Palestine Exploration Fund, 1890), p. 433.


Y. Tsafrir, L. Di Segni and J. Green, Tabula Imperii Romani Judea/Palestina (Jerusalem, 1994), pp. 180–181.


D. Pringle, The Churches of the Crusaders Kingdom of Jerusalem (Cambridge, 1993), p. 86.


Pringle, The Churches of the Crusaders Kingdom of Jerusalem, p. 87.