For centuries a strategic route into the heart of Judea went up from Joppa (modern Jaffa) on the coast through the Valley of Aijalon (modern Yalo), ascending through the two Beth Horons to Gibeon (four miles [seven km.] distant) on its way to Jerusalem. It was in this valley that Joshua commanded the sun and moon to stand still while he fought the Amorite kings in his defense of the Gibeonites. He chased these five kings over the pass to Beth Horon (
BETH-HORON bĕth hôr’ ən (בֵּית־חוֹרֹ֛ן, LXX Βαιθωρων, KJV Beth-oron, meaning house of caves. The name of two towns located c. ten and twelve m. NW of Jerusalem.
The locale of these two ancient towns is of little doubt since today there exist the villages of Beit-’Ur el-Faqa (Upper Beth-horon) and W of it Beit ’Ur et-Tahta (Lower Beth-horon). The higher and smaller one is c. 1,800 ft. above sea level while the latter is c. 1,100 ft. Excavations have produced evidence of occupation going back at least to the Late Bronze Age. Today one still can see evidences of the Rom. road connecting the two towns which were both located on the important trunk route between Gibeon to the E and the Valley of Aijalon and the coastal plain to the W. Both towns were on the border between Benjamin and Ephraim (
Sheerah the daughter of Beriah, the son of Ephraim, built both Lower and Upper Bethhoron (
In addition to the implied Egyp. capture of the towns in
Beth-horon is mentioned in the Pseudep. and the Apoc. several times. A king of Beth-horon, with others, harassed Jacob’s flocks, according to Jubilees 34:4. A description of how the city was alerted against an imminent attack by the Assyrian general, Holofernes, is given in
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)
(beth-choron (other Hebrew forms occur); Bethoron, probably the "place of the hollow"; compare Hauran, "the hollow"):
1. The Ancient Towns:
The name of two towns, Beth-horon the Upper (
From Egyptian sources (Muller, As. und Europa, etc.) it appears that Beth-horon was one of the places conquered by Shishak of Egypt from Rehoboam. 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).
2. The Modern Beit Ur el foqa and el tachta:
These two towns are now known as Beit Ur el foqa (i.e. "the upper") and Beit Ur el tachta (i.e. "the lower"), two villages crowning hill tops, less than 2 miles apart; the former is some 800 ft. higher than the latter. Today these villages are sunk into insignificance and are off any important lines of communication, but for many centuries the towns occupying their sites dominated one of the most historic roads in history.
3. The Pass of the Beth-horons:
This pass ascends from the plain of Ajalon (now Yalo) and climbs in about 3/4 hr. to Beit Ur el tachta (1,210 ft.); it then ascends along the ridge, with valleys lying to north and south, and reaches Beit Ur el foqa (2,022 ft.), and pursuing the same ridge arrives in another 4 1/2 miles at the plateau to the North of el Jib (Gibeon). At intervals along this historic route traces of the ancient Roman paving are visible. It was the great highroad into the heart of the land from the earliest times until about three or four centuries ago. Along this route came Canaanites, Israelites, Philistines, Egyptians, Syrians, Romans, Saracens and Crusaders. Since the days of Joshua (
Now the changed direction of the highroad to Jerusalem has left the route forsaken and almost forgotten. See PEF, III, 86, Sh XVII.
E. W. G. Masterman