Elath, Eloth

ELATH, ELOTH e’ lăth, e’ lŏth (אֵילַ֖ת, אֵילֹ֑ות, meaning palm grove or groves). 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.

Bibliography N. Glueck, Rivers in the Desert (1959), 157-163; AASOR, XVIII-XIX (1939), 4-7.

Article 2

ELATH, ELOTH (Heb. ’êlâth, or ’êlôth, lofty trees). A town situated at the head of the Gulf of Aqabah in Edom. It was located very near to Ezion Geber, Solomon’s seaport (1Kgs.9.26). The Israelites passed by the area on the way to the Promised Land (Deut.2.8). Azariah (767-740 b.c.) built it up, probably for use as a seaport, when he took it from Edom (2Kgs.14.22; 2Chr.26.2). During the reign of Ahaz over Judah (736-716) Rezin, king of Syria, joined with Pekah, king of Israel, and threatened Jerusalem. Rezin captured Elath, and the Syrians (or more likely, the reading should be Edomites) occupied it (2Kgs.16.5-2Kgs.16.6). The Romans called it Aelana and made it a military post. After the Muslims conquered the Middle East a castle was erected there to protect the pilgrims going to Mecca from that port. In the tenth century a.d., according to reports, Elath was a great post of Palestine. Later it fell into decay. Turkey and Egypt both controlled it; after 1917 the Arabs took it over. Aqabah, or Eilat (its modern name) was in the territory allotted to the Jews in 1949. They have made it a port to bring in oil.——CEH