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【Beersheba】

Beersheba (Be’er Sheva)is located south of Israel in the northern part of the Negev Desert. Negev carries the meanings of “south” and “dry”; in the Chinese Bible it is translated as “the land of the south.”

Tel Be’er Sheva, the site of the old city, is 80 kilometers southwest of Jerusalem and 5 kilometers east of the modern city of Beersheba. The artifacts excavated include remains of Solomon’s city walls, civil facilities, altars, everyday commodities, and tools of metal production in the 10th century B.C. In 2005, UNESCO officially recognized Tel Be’er Sheva as a World Heritage Site.

The name Beersheba in Hebrew denotes “the well of oath” or “the well of seven.” It originates from the patriarch of the Hebrew people, Abraham, when he made a treaty with Abimelek by setting apart seven lambs as a witness that he dug a well there. Though tradition would suggest so, it is questionable whether the original well Abraham and Isaac dug still exists.

According to the Bible, the forefathers of Israelites—Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—had all lived in Beersheba sometime in between 21st-19th century B.C. (Genesis 22:19, 26:23, 28:10). There were also significant spiritual encounters that happened there. (Genesis 21:33, 26:23-25,46:1-5). From the Period of the Judges (1375-1050 B.C.), United Monarchy (1050-930 B.C.), to the Southern Kingdom of Judah (930-586 B.C.), Beersheba stood as the southernmost city of Israel; hence the expression “from Dan to Beersheba” was often used to describe the extent of Israel’s territory (Judges 20:1; 1 Samuel 3:20; 2 Samuel 3:10. 17:11, 24:2; 1 Kings 4:25; 1 Chronicles 21:2 etc.)

When Samuel became old, he made his sons judges over Israel in Beersheba (1 Samuel 8:1-2), a place with religious significance. His sons, however, did not walk uprightly but ran after their own gain, enraging the Israelites. Consequently, Samuel sought the Lord and appointed Saul as king over Israel, which started the Period of United Monarchy (1050 B.C.).

After Prophet Elijah killed Baal’s prophets on Mount Carmel (875-848 B.C.), he was afraid of Jezebel and fled for his life. Exhausted and in total despair that he asked God to take his life, Elijah encountered the angel of the Lord in the wilderness of Beersheba. There the angel gave him water to drink and cake to eat, strengthening him to journey on (1 Kings 19:1-8).
Perhaps due to the rich history the forefathers had with this place, Beersheba had always been regarded as a place of religious ceremony and worship for the people of Israel. However, during the time of the prophet Amos (750-715 B.C.), Beersheba turned into a hub of idol worshiping, which Amos condemned (Amos 5:5, 8:14).

Later, when Nehemiah became the first governor over Judah in the Exilic Period of Israel (445-433 B.C.), some of these exiled Judeans resided in Beersheba (Nehemiah 11:27,30).

After the Kingdom of Judah collapsed around 586 B.C., Israel fell into the hands of many different nations. Beersheba was no longer as prosperous as before and was gradually relocated to the site of the modern city of Beersheba. By A.D. 135, the Roman Empire had kicked out almost all Jews from their land. Over the course of 2,000 years until WWI when the British army took over Beersheba from Turkey, Beersheba was only a small Bedouin town of 2,000. After the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948, Beersheba went through drastic developments, becoming the economic, cultural, and administrative center of Israel’s Negev region, hosting a Jewish-majority population of about 200,000 people.

He has told you, O mortal, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?

——Micah 6:8

References:
白雲曉。 《聖經地名詞典》。北京中央編譯出版社。 2001.12。
馬自毅。 《聖經地理》。上海學林出版社。 2005.7。
梁天樞。 《簡明聖經史地圖解》。上海人民出版社。 2006.11。
蔡錦圖。 《聖經及教會歷史地圖集》。漢語聖經協會。
John H.Walton, Victor H.Matthews and Mark W.Chavalas.《舊約聖經背景註釋》。李永明、徐成德和黃楓皓譯。校園書房出版社。 2006.7。
John H.Walton.《舊約背景與年代表》(修訂及擴大版)。梁潔瓊譯。華神出版社。 1998 。
Holy Light Bible Geography:http://biblegeography.holylight.org.tw/

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