ELATH, ELOTH e’ lăth, e’ lŏth
, meaning palm grove
). A town on the northern end of the Gulf of Elath (or Gulf of ’Aqabah) of the Red Sea.
Deuteronomy 2:8 mentions Elath in connection with Ezion-geber and because of that some think that these two names may be in apposition. The name may have been given by the Edomite chief Elah (Gen 36:41).
Not only did the wandering children of Israel pass through Elath, but because of its strategic position it was an asset to any nation. The first mention of the place after the Exodus states that “King Solomon built a fleet of ships at Ezion-geber, which is near Eloth on the shore of the Red Sea, in the land of Edom” (1 Kings 9:26; cf. 2 Sam 8:14). Later, in the time of Jehoshaphat, the ships were wrecked there (1 Kings 22:48; 2 Chron 20:35ff.). There is no deep harbor and the strong northerly winds coming down the Arabah make its use as a port difficult.
Although not named, the Edomites apparently captured Elath under the reign of Jehoram (2 Kings 8:20), for Amaziah built Elah and restored it to Judah (2 Kings 14:22). His son, the next king, Uzziah (Azariah) apparently completed the rebuilding (2 Chron 26:2). But it was lost again to the Edomites under the reign of Ahaz (2 Kings 16:6). (The KJV reads “Syria” and “Syrians” for the MT aram.)
There is evidence that the town continued to play an important role long after OT times. Tell-el-Kheleifeh has been excavated but it is uncertain if this is Elath, Ezion-geber, or something else. The modern town of Eila, Israel, shares the same general locale but the Jordanian town of Aqabah may be covering the ancient Biblical site.
N. Glueck, Rivers in the Desert (1959), 157-163; AASOR, XVIII-XIX (1939), 4-7.
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)
e’-lath, or e’-loth (’eloth, ’elath; Ailon (De 2:8), Ailath (2Ki 16:6)):
A seaport on the Red Sea in the territory of Edom. It is named along with Ezion-geber in the account of Israel’s journey round the land of Edom (De 2:8). It appears as Ailath, and Alion in the Septuagint, and in Josephus as Ilanis (Ant., VIII, vi, 4), while Eusebius (Onomasticon) has Aila. From this we may gather that the Aramaic Ilan or Ilana was in use as well as the Hebrew ’elath or ’eloth. The name, "grove," was doubtless derived from the presence of certain sacred trees. It may be identical with El-paran of Ge 14:6, and Elah of Ge 36:41. When David conquered Edom, Elath passed into the hands of Israel (2Sa 8:14). It was a position of great importance in connection with the trade with South Arabia. Here the merchant fleets of Solomon and Jehoshaphat were fitted out, and hence, they sailed (1Ki 9:26; 2Ch 8:17; 1Ki 22:48).
In the reign of Jehoram, son of Jehoshaphat, Edom shook off the hand of Judah (2Ki 8:20), but under Amaziah and Uzziah it was again subdued (2Ki 14:7,10,22). Finally it was taken from Ahaz by Rezin, king of Syria. The Jews were driven out and the Syrians (Edomites?) took permanent possession (2Ki 16:6). It is identical with the modern `Aqaba, at the head of the gulf of that name.