Bethoron (also transliterated Beth-Horon) was the name for two adjacent towns, Bethoron Elyon ("Upper Bethoron"), and Bethoron Tahton ("Lower Bethoron"), named for the Egypto-Canaanite deity Horon mentioned in Ugaritic literature and other texts. Strategically located on the Gibeon-Aijalon road, the towns guarded the important "ascent of Beth-Horon." Both towns are mentioned in the Old Testament: Upper Bethoron in Joshua 16:5 and Lower Bethoron in 16:3. According to 1 Chronicles 7:24, Lower Bethoron was built by Sheerah, the daughter of Beriah, son of Ephraim. Eusebius' Onomasticon also mentions the 'twin villages' and St. Jerome describes them as 'little hamlets' which it seems they have always been.
The two Palestinian Muslim villages of Beit Ur al-Foqa (Arabic: بيت عور الفوقة, "Upper house of straw") and Beit Ur al-Tahta (Arabic: بيت عور التحتى, "Lower house of straw") preserve part of the original Canaanite name for the towns, and have been identified as the sites of Upper and Lower Bethoron. Archaeological finds indicate that the Lower town was established before the Upper one; potsherds from the Late Bronze Age onward were discovered at Lower Beit Ur, whereas those in Upper Beit Ur date only from the Iron Age onward.
The borderline between Benjamin and Ephraim passed alongside the two Bethorons (Joshua 16:5; 21:22) who belonged to the latter tribe and therefore, later on, to the Northern Kingdom. Solomon "built Beth-horon the upper, and Beth-horon the nether, fortified cities, with walls, gates, and bars" (2 Chronicles 8:5; 1 Kings 9:17). One or both of the towns was a city of Levites (Josh. 21:22; I Chron. 6:53).
Again, many centuries later, Bacchides repaired Beth-horon, "with high walls, with gates and with bars and in them he set a garrison, that they might work malice upon ("vex") Israel" (1 Macc. 9:50,51), and at another time the Jews fortified it against Holofernes (Judith 4:4,5).
Pass of the Bethorons
When (Joshua 10:10) Joshua discomfited the kings of the Amorites "he slew them with a great slaughter at Gibeon, and chased them by the way of the 'Ascent of Beth-horon.'" When the Philistines opposed King Saul at Michmash they sent a company of their men to hold "the way of Beth-horon."
This pass ascends from the plain of Ajalon (now Yalo) and climbs in about 3/4 hr. to Beit Ur al Tahta (1,210 ft.); it then ascends along the ridge, with valleys lying to north and south, and reaches Beit Ur al-Foqa (2,022 ft.), and pursuing the same ridge arrives in another 4 1/2 miles at the plateau to the north of al-Jib (Gibeon). At intervals along this historic route, traces of the ancient Roman paving are visible. The great highroad into the heart of the land from the earliest times, along this route came Canaanites, Israelites, Philistines, Egyptians, Syrians, Romans, Saracens and Crusaders. Since the days of Joshua (Joshua 10:10) it has frequently been the scene of a rout. Here the Syrian general Seron was defeated by Judas Maccabeus (1 Macc. 3:13-24) at the Battle of Beth Horon, and six years later Nicanor, retreating from Jerusalem, was defeated and slain and the nearby Adasa. (1 Macc. 7:39; Josephus, Ant. XII, x, 5). Along this pass in 66 AD the Roman general Cestius Gallus was driven in headlong flight before the Jews.
A 1915 reference to the road by the Palestine Exploration Fund (III, 86, Sh XVII) noted that the changed direction of the highroad to Jerusalem had left the route "forsaken" and "almost forgotten". The modern Highway 443 follows part of the ancient road.
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 Eugenio Alliata (2000-12-19). "Bethoron (Bayt Ur)". Studium Biblicum Franciscanum. http://18.104.22.168/www1/ofm/mad/discussion/062discuss.html. Retrieved 2007-09-12.
- ↑ William Albright (December 1941). "The Egypt-Canaanite God Haurôn". Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research No. 84: 7–12. http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0003-097X(194112)84%3C7%3ATEDH%3E2.0.CO%3B2-1.
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 John Gray (January 1949). "The Canaanite God Horon". Journal of Near Eastern Studies 8 (1): 27–34. doi:10.1086/370902. http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0022-2968(194901)8%3A1%3C27%3ATCGH%3E2.0.CO%3B2-1. Retrieved 2007-09-12.
- ↑ Alternate English transliterations use Bayt for Beit, Ur for Ur, el for al and Fauqa, Fawka for, Foqa, and in any combination thereof.
- ↑ Alternate English transliterations for al-Tahta include et-Tahta, el-Tahta, and at-Tahta.
- ↑ Paul K. Davis, 100 Decisive Battles from Ancient Times to the Present: The World’s Major Battles and How They Shaped History (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), 71.
- Masterman, E. W. G. (1915).BETH-HORON. International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. Eds. Orr, James, M.A., D.D. Retrieved December 9, 2005.
- Report by Yuval Peleg for the Israeli Antiquities Authority on the discovery of a burial cave in Beit 'Ur al-Tahta