“We are Standing on ‘Holy Ground’” at Kiriath Jearim -- By: Wilbur Fields

Journal: Bible and Spade (Second Run)
Volume: BSPADE 16:2 (Spring 2003)
Article: “We are Standing on ‘Holy Ground’” at Kiriath Jearim
Author: Wilbur Fields


“We are Standing on ‘Holy Ground’” at Kiriath Jearim

Wilbur Fields

Our archaeological diggers who work at Khirbet el-Maqatir stay at the beautiful Messianic Jewish settlement called Yad Hashmona, 8½ mi west of Jerusalem. Just 1 mi east of Yad Hashmona is the Arab city of Abu Ghosh, “famous” for robbing 19th century pilgrims going to and coming from Jerusalem by charging them heavy tolls to pass. At Abu Ghosh there is a high hill that is the location of the famous Bible town of Kiriath Jearim. Kiriath Jearim served as a boundary marker between the tribe of Judah and the tribe of Benjamin.

During the time of the judges, Kiriath Jearim became a camp of killers. Six hundred families of the tribe of Dan migrated from their tribe’s original allotment. The Danites were moving to a town far north in upper Galilee, planning to kill the people and occupy the site. On their trip, the Danites camped at Kiriath Jearim, specifically at a spot west of Kiriath Jearim (Jgs 18:11–12). It is very likely that the Danites camped on the very hill where Yad Hashmona is located. The spot became famous, and was called Mahaneh-Dan, meaning “camp of Dan.”

The Ark of the Covenant was brought to Kiriath Jearim early in the ministry of Samuel (about 1070 BC). It had been taken from the town of Shiloh into battle against the Philistines, and was captured. The Philistines found the Ark to be “hot merchandise” and returned it to Israel on a cart pulled by cows. (1 Sm 4–6).

The Ark remained at Kiriath Jearim for 20 years (1 Sm 7:2). However, there is some debate as to whether the Ark remained located in Kiriath Jearim for the entire time. In 1 Samuel 14:18, according to the Masoritic Text (MT), during the battle near Michmash, King Saul commanded Ahijah to “Bring the Ark of God.” We are told the Ark of God was with the Israelites at that time. However, in the Septuagint (LXX), the word “Ephod” is used instead of “Ark.” In his commentary on 1 Samuel, Ronald Youngblood mentions both sources, but cites Jobling in settling the matter (663):

the near unanimous preference for older critics for “ephod” of the LXX over “ark” has now been reversed, and most recent authorities retain “ark.”

Youngblood gives as support for his preference the fact that the MT uses the phrase “Ark of God” twice, making a special point that it was “with the Israelites” at that time, presumably having been brought to Gibeah from Kiriath Jearim.

However, Youngblood says nothing about verse 19 when, ...

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