Easton's Bible Dictionary
house of God.
(1) A place in Central Palestine, about 10 miles north of Jerusalem, at the head
of the pass of Michmash and Ai. It was originally the royal Canaanite city of
Luz ( Genesis 28:19 ). The name Bethel was at first apparently given to the sanctuary
in the neighbourhood of Luz, and was not given to the city itself till after its
conquest by the tribe of Ephraim. When Abram entered Canaan he formed his second
encampment between Bethel and Hai ( Genesis 12:8 ); and on his return from Egypt
he came back to it, and again "called upon the name of the Lord" ( 13:4 ). Here
Jacob, on his way from Beersheba to Haran, had a vision of the angels of God ascending
and descending on the ladder whose top reached unto heaven ( Genesis 28:10 , 28:19
); and on his return he again visited this place, "where God talked with him"
( Genesis 35:1 - 15 ), and there he "built an altar, and called the place El-beth-el"
(q.v.). To this second occasion of God's speaking with Jacob at Bethel, ( Hosea
12:4 , 12:5 ) makes reference.
In troublous times the people went to Bethel to ask counsel of God ( Judges 20:18
, 20:31 ; 21:2 ). Here the ark of the covenant was kept for a long time under
the care of Phinehas, the grandson of Aaron ( Judges 20:26 - 28 ). Here also Samuel
held in rotation his court of justice ( 1 Samuel 7:16 ). It was included in Israel
after the kingdom was divided, and it became one of the seats of the worship of
the golden calf ( 1 Kings 12:28 - 33 ; 13:1 ). Hence the prophet Hosea ( Hosea
4:15 ; 5:8 ; 10:5 , 10:8 ) calls it in contempt Beth-aven, i.e., "house of idols."
Bethel remained an abode of priests even after the kingdom of Israel was desolated
by the king of Assyria ( 2 Kings 17:28 , 17:29 ). At length all traces of the
idolatries were extirpated by Josiah, king of Judah ( 2 Kings 23:15 - 18 ); and
the place was still in existence after the Captivity ( Ezra 2:28 ; Nehemiah 7:32
). It has been identified with the ruins of Beitin, a small village amid extensive
ruins some 9 miles south of Shiloh.
(2) Mount Bethel was a hilly district near Bethel ( Joshua 16:1 ; 1 Samuel 13:2
(3) A town in the south of Judah ( Joshua 8:17 ; 12:16 ).
Hitchcock's Dictionary of Bible Names
the house of God
Smith's Bible Dictionary
(the house of God)
(1) Well known city and holy place of central Palestine, about 12 mlles north
of Jerusalem. If we are to accept the precise definition of ( Genesis 12:8 ) the
name of Bethel would appear to have existed at this spot even before the arrival
of Abram in Canaan. ( Genesis 12:8 ; 13:3 , 13:4 ) Bethel was the scene of Jacobs
vision. ( Genesis 28:11 - 19 ; 31:13 ) Jacob lived there. ( Genesis 35:1 - 8 )
The original name was Luz. ( Judges 1:22 , 1:23 ) After the conquest Bethel is
frequently heard of. In the troubled times when there was no king in Israel, it
was to Bethel that the people went up in their distress to ask counsel of God.
( Judges 20:18 , 20:26 , 20:31 ; 21:2 ) Authorized Version, "house of God." Here
was the ark of the covenant. ( Judges 20:26 - 28 ; 21:4 ) Later it is named as
one of the holy cities to which Samuel went on circuit. ( 1 Samuel 7:16 ) Here
Jeroboab placed one of the two calves of gold. Toward the end of Jeroboams life
Bethel fell into the hands of Judah. ( 2 Chronicles 13:19 ) Elijah visited Bethel,
and we hear of "sons of the prophets" as resident there. ( 2 Kings 2:2 , 2:3 )
But after the destruction of Baal worship by Jehu Bethel comes once more into
view. ( 2 Kings 10:29 ) After the desolation of the northern kingdom by the king
of Assyria, Bethel still remained an abode of priests. ( 2 Kings 17:27 , 17:28
) In later times Bethel is named only once under the scarcely-altered name of
Beitin . Its ruins still lie on the righthand side of the road from Jerusalem
(2) A town in the south part of Judah, named in ( Joshua 12:16 ) and 1 Samuel
30:27 In ( Joshua 15:30 ; 19:4 ; 1 Chronicles 4:29 1 Chronicles 4:30 ) the place
appears under the name of CHESIL, BETHUL and BETHUEL. Hiel the Bethelite is recorded
as the rebuilder of Jericho. ( 1 Kings 16:34 )
(3) In ( Joshua 16:1 ) and 1 Samuel 13:2 Mount Bethel, a hilly section near Beth-el,
is referred to.
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
beth'-el (beth-'el; Baithel and oikos theou, literally,
"house of God"):
(1) A town near the place where Abraham halted and offered sacrifice on his way
south from Shechem.
|1. Identification and Description:
It lay West of Ai (Genesis 12:8). It is named as on the northern border of Benjamin
(the southern of Ephraim, Joshua 16:2), at the top of the ascent from the Jordan
valley by way of Ai (Joshua 18:13). It lay South of Shiloh (Judges 21:19). Eusebius,
Onomasticon places it 12 Roman miles from Jerusalem, on the road to Neapolis.
It is represented by the modern Beitin, a village of some 400 inhabitants, which
stands on a knoll East of the road to Nablus. There are four springs which yield
supplies of good water. In ancient times these were supplemented by a reservoir
hewn in the rock South of the town. The surrounding country is bleak and barren,
the hills being marked by a succession of stony terraces, which may have suggested
the form of the ladder in Jacob's famous dream.
2. The Sanctuary:
The town was originally called Luz (Genesis 28:19, etc.). When Jacob came hither
on his way to Paddan-aram we are told that he lighted upon "the place" (Genesis
28:11. Hebrew). The Hebrew maqom, like the cognate Arabic maqam, denotes a sacred
place or sanctuary. The maqom was doubtless that at which Abraham had sacrificed,
East of the town. In the morning Jacob set up "for a pillar" the stone which had
served as his pillow (Genesis 28:18; see PILLAR, matstsebhah), poured oil upon
it and called the name of the place Bethel, "house of God"; that is, of God whose
epiphany was for him associated with the pillar. This spot became a center of
great interest, lending growing importance to the town. In process of time the
name Luz disappeared, giving place to that of the adjoining sanctuary, town and
sanctuary being identified. Jacob revisited the place on his return from Paddan-aram;
here Deborah, Rebekah's nurse, died and was buried under "the oak" (Genesis 35:6).
Probably on rising ground East of Bethel Abraham and Lot stood to view the uninviting
highlands and the rich lands of the Jordan valley (Genesis 13:9).
Bethel was a royal city of the Canaanites (Joshua 12:16). It appears to have been
captured by Joshua (8:7), and it was allotted to Benjamin (Joshua 18:22). In Judges
1:22 it is represented as held by Canaanites, from whom the house of Joseph took
it by treachery (compare 1 Chronicles 7:28). Hither the ark was brought from Gilgal
(Judges 2:1, Septuagint). Israel came to Bethel to consult the Divine oracle (Judges
20:18), and it became an important center of worship (1 Samuel 10:3). The home
of the prophetess Deborah was not far off (Judges 4:5). Samuel visited Bethel
on circuit, judging Israel (1 Samuel 7:16).
With the disruption of the kingdom came Bethel's greatest period of splendor and
significance. To counteract the influence of Jerusalem as the national religious
center Jeroboam embarked on the policy which won for him the unenviable reputation
of having "made Israel to sin." Here he erected a temple, set up an image, the
golden calf, and established an imposing ritual. It became the royal sanctuary
and the religious center of his kingdom (1 Kings 12:29 ; Amos 7:13). He placed
in Bethel the priests of the high places which he had made (1 Kings 12:32). To
Bethel came the man of God from Judah who pronounced doom against Jeroboam (1
Kings 13), and who, having been seduced from duty by an aged prophet in Bethel,
was slain by a lion. According to the prophets Amos and Hosea the splendid idolatries
of Bethel were accompanied by terrible moral and religious degradation. Against
the place they launched the most scathing denunciations, declaring the vengeance
such things must entail (Amos 3:14 ; 4:4 ; 5:11 m ; Amos 9:1; Hosea 4:15 ; 5:8
; 10:5 , 8 ,15). With the latter the name Bethel gives place in mockery to Beth-aven.
Bethel shared in the downfall of Samaria wrought by the Assyrians; and according
to an old tradition, Shalmaneser possessed himself of the golden calf (compare
Jeremiah 48:13). The priest, sent by the Assyrians to teach the people whom they
had settled in the land how to serve Yahweh, dwelt in Bethel (2 Kings 17:28).
King Josiah completed the demolition of the sanctuary at Bethel, destroying all
the instruments of idolatry, and harr ying the tombs of the idolaters. The monument
of the man of God from Judah he allowed to stand (2 Kings 23:4 , 25). The men
of Bethel were among those who returned from Babylon with Zerubbabel (Ezra 2:28
; Nehemiah 7:32), and it is mentioned as reoccupied by the Benjamites (Nehemiah
11:31). Zechariah (Zechariah 7:2) records the sending of certain men from Jerusalem
in the 4th year of King Darius to inquire regarding particular religious practices.
Bethel was one of the towns fortified by Bacchides in the time of the Maccabees
(1 Macc 9:50; Ant, XIII, i, 3). It is named again as a small town which, along
with Ephraim, was taken by Vespasian as he approached Jerusalem (BJ, IV, ix, 9).
(2) A city in Judah which in 1 Samuel 30:27 is called Bethel; in Joshua 19:4 Bethul;
and in 1 Chronicles 4:30 Bethuel. The site has not been identified. In Joshua
15:30 Septuagint gives Baithel in Judah, where the Hebrew has Kecil--probably
a scribal error.
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