Endor was a Canaanite city which is listed in the Book of Joshua (17:1-12) as one of the cities with its dependencies that the Israelites failed to dispossess. Located between the Hill of Moreh and Mount Tabor in the Valley of Jezreel, the city is mentioned as being the site where King Saul, prior to his battles with the Philistines, consults the Witch of Endor to conjure up the spirits of the dead.
The original meaning of "Endor" is unknown and its spelling in Hebrew varies. It is mentioned or alluded to in the Bible three times in Joshua 17:11, 1 Samuel 28:7, and in Psalm 83:10. It may be connected with the words ein meaning "spring" and dor, meaning "settlement", or with the Dorians, a Greek tribal group.
Endor was first mentioned in Joshua 17:11, when Endor fell within the tribal allotments of Manasseh. In 1st Samuel (28: 4-25), Saul consulted the Medium of Endor, who lived in the village, on the evening before the battle of Gilboa, in which he perished. According to Psalms 83:9-10, it was the scene of the rout of Jabin and Sisera after being defeated by Barak and Deborah in Judges 4 and 5.
The ancient site of Endor is widely debated and many locations have been suggested. From the biblical accounts, an Endor that is located on the south edge of the Jezreel Valley seems to fit best. The tribal allotments of Manasseh, Saul's journey to Endor and the defeat of Sisera's army all fit well with a location that is on this side of the valley, somewhere between Ibleam and Tanaach. However, there are difficulties with this location. From the origin of the name, a spring must also be located somewhere near, and archaeological evidence from the time of Joshua, Judges, and Saul is required.
Many suggested sites are located on the north side of the Jezreel Valley, near or on the Hill of Moreh. The main reasons for this placement are due to tradition and name preservation. The major difficulty in a northern location for Endor is that it does not seem to fit the biblical accounts well. The city lists in Joshua 17:11 and Judges 1:27 would be mentioning Endor out of logical order. In spite of this, a supporting factor for a northern site is that Saul had to be disguised as he traveled to the witch at Endor. This is usually attributed to the fact that Endor was behind enemy lines since the Philistines were camped at Shunem, just southwest of the most accepted Endor site. Those who hold to a southern site location explain the disguise as necessary not to transverse any enemy lines but to hide Saul's identity from the medium. Both explanations are possible. The following are a list of suggested sites with a brief explanation of each:
Khirbet Jadurah - This site is located on the south edge of the Jezreel Valley, but with no spring the site has been deemed incorrect. Tell Qedesh / Tell abu Qudeis - This tell is a much better site than Khirbet Jadurah and it is located on the south edge of the Jezreel Valley. It has two springs nearby, remains from the right time periods, and a walled city area. Proponents for a southern Endor usually hold to this as the correct site for ancient Endor.
Tell el-Ajjul / el-Ajyul / Agol - This tell is located on the north side of the Jezreel Valley 3 km (2 mi) east of Nain, on the right of the road to Tamra. The small hill, on the east side of the Hill of Moreh is 211 meters high. Archaeology has uncovered tombs and a spring inside a cave. The spring was named Fountain of Dor after it was believed to be the ancient site of Endor.
Indur, Endur, En-dor - The Palestinian Arab town of Indur, depopulated during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, preserved the name of the ancient site. While some scholars have posited that it was the site of ancient Endor, Khirbet Safsasa, is the preferred site. Excavations were carried out on Indur, but with no remains found at the site it was largely ruled out as being ancient Endor.
Khirbet Safsafeh / Es-Safsafa - Many believe Khirbet Safsafeh to be the site of ancient En-dor, as reflected as being the site most normally marked on maps. This site is located 6.7 km (4 mi) northeast of modern Solem, 4 mi (6 km) south of Mount Tabor, 6 mi (10 km) southeast of Jezreel Valley, 4 mi (6 km) northeast of Shunem. Two wadis drain from this location, one to the northeast and the other to the northwest. During the Roman Period, there was a large population on the site. It was later inhabited by Arabs until they abandoned it in 1948 due to the war. After the war, Israelis settled it and named it Ein Dor. Tradition seems to be the best support for Khirbet Safsafeh. Since the 4th C. Endor has been recognized by the Crusaders and early pilgrims as Biblical Endor. It was also known during the Crusader Period and was mentioned by Brocardus, a 14th-century German priest. When Edward Robinson came upon the site, he described it as an ordinary village. C. Conder and H. Kitchener also recognized the site and described it as a small village. Name preservation also supports Khirbet Safsafeh as being ancient Endor for although the site itself does not preserve the ancient name, its nearby neighbor to the northeast, Indur, did. The modern village have easily moved from the ancient site, taking the name with it.
There is no conclusive evidence for any of the above listed sites. The biblical texts seems to call for a site on the south edge of the Jezreel Valley while the best tradition supports a site on the north edge at Khirbet Safsafeh. Khirbet Jadurah, Tell Qedesh, Tell el-Ajjul, Indur, Khirbet Safsafeh and even a site at the foot of Mount Tabor, Israel have all been suggested as the location of ancient Endor. Until further excavations can be carried out, the location of ancient En-dor will most likely continue to be debated.
- Freedman, David Noel; Myers, Allen C.; Beck, Astrid B. (2000), David Noel Freedman, Allen C. Myers, Astrid B. Beck, ed., Eerdmans dictionary of the Bible (Illustrated ed.), Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, ISBN 0802824005, 9780802824004
- Khalidi, Walid (1992), All That Remains: The Palestinian Villages Occupied and Depopulated by Israel in 1948, Washington D.C.: Institute for Palestine Studies, ISBN 0887282245
- Schmidt, Brian B. (1994), Israel's beneficent dead: ancestor cult and necromancy in ancient Israelite religion and tradition, Mohr Siebeck, ISBN 3161462211, 9783161462214
- Walton, John H.; Matthews, Victor Harold; Chavalas, Mark W. (2000), The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament (Illustrated ed.), InterVarsity Press, ISBN 0830814191, 9780830814190