ETAM (ē'tăm)

A town and clan in Judah between Bethlehem and Tekoa (1Chr.4.3), Khirbet-el-Khokh, rebuilt by Rehoboam (2Chr.11.6); also named in LXX of Josh.15.59.A village near En Rimmon in Simeon (1Chr.4.32).The rock where Samson lived after a slaughter of Philistines (Judg.15.8, Judg.15.11). Perhaps the same as No. 1.

ETAM ē’ təm (עֵיטָ֖ם; LXX ̓Ητάμ, Αἰτάμ; Vul. and Luther Etam. Meaning of Heb. uncertain; maybe place of ravenous [rapacious] beasts). A town between Bethlehem and Tekoa, which Rehoboam fortified after the secession of the ten northern tribes (2 Chron 11:6). Usually the site is identified with Khirbet el-Khôkh c. six and one-half m. SSW of Jerusalem; another possibility is ’Ain ’Atān c. two m. SSW from Bethlehem.

Josephus relates that Etam was a very pleasant place c. fifty furlongs from Jerusalem, situated in fine gardens (cf. Eccl 2:5, 6) “and abounding in rivulets of water” (Jos. Antiq. VIII. vii. 3). He also states that Solomon was accustomed to take a morning drive in his chariot to Etam. According to the Talmud, the spring of Etam supplied water for the Temple at Jerusalem. This fact prob. explains the ancient aqueduct that extends seven m. from Jerusalem to three large Hel. Rom. reservoirs beyond Bethlehem. They were discovered at a late date by pilgrims and are now known as the “pools of Solomon.” The lowest pool is fed by a stream called ’Ain ’Atan. The aqueduct was constructed before the Christian era and antedates the Rom. period. Pontius Pilate prob. used it as the last section of his great conduit that brought water into Jerusalem from a distance of either two or four hundred furlongs (cf. Jos. Antiq. XVIII. iii. 2 with War II. ix. 4). This action aroused the fury of the populace because Pilate had used the sacred money (qorban) for public welfare. Apparently the Jews believed that money once dedicated to Yahweh could never be employed for a secular purpose. Today Bethlehem gets water from ’Ain ’Atan by pipe line.

2. A village in the territory of Simeon (1 Chron 4:32). The site is unknown today. Some think it is the same place that Rehoboam rebuilt in the hill country of Judah (2 Chron 11:6; see 1 above). Others identify it with ’Aitūm c. eleven m. WSW of Hebron.

3. Son of Hur or maybe an entire clan in Judah (1 Chron 4:3), or perhaps the Αἰτάν (LXX—B) or Αἰτάμ (LXX—A) mentioned in Joshua 15:59a. It might even be identical with 1 above.

4. A cliff somewhere in W Judah (Judg 15:8, 11). Perhaps located near a town called עֵיטָ֖ם but at ’Arāk Isma’īn in Wadi Isma’īn two and one-half m. ESE from Zorah. Samson took refuge in a cleft of the rock Etam after he had slaughtered the Philistines.


F. M. Abel, Géographie de la Palestine, II (1938), 321; L. Koehler and W. Baumgartner, Lexicon in Veteris Testamenti Libros (1953), 699; H. J. Kraus, “Chirbet el-Choch,” ZDPV, LXXII ((1956), 152-162; L. H. Grollenberg, Atlas of The Bible, trans. J. M. H. Reid and H. H. Rowley (1956), 149.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

`eTam; Codex Alexandrinus, Apan, Codex Vaticanus, Aitan:

(1) Mentioned in Septuagint along with Tekoa, Bethlehem and Phagor (Jos 15:59). In 2Ch 11:6 it occurs, between Bethlehem and Tekoa, as one of the cities built "for defense in Judah" by Rehoboam. Josephus writes that "there was a certain place, about 50 furlongs distant from Jerusalem which is called Ethan, very pleasant it is in fine gardens and abounding in rivulets of water; whither he (Solomon) used to go out in the morning" (Ant., VIII, vii, 3). Mention of `Ain `Aitan, which is described as the most elevated place in Palestine, occurs in the Talmud (Zebhachim 54b), and in the Jer. Talmud (Yoma’ 3 fol 41) it is mentioned that a conduit ran from `Atan to the Temple.

The evidence all points to `Ain `Atan, the lowest of the springs supplying the aqueduct running to Solomon’s pools. The gardens of Solomon may very well--by tradition, at any rate--have been in the fertile valley below `Urtas. The site of the ancient town Etam is rather to be looked for on an isolated hill, with ancient remains, a little to the East of `Ain `Atan. 1Ch 4:3 may also have reference to this Etam.

(2) A town assigned to Simeon (1Ch 4:32). Mentioned with EN-RIMMON (which see), identified by Conder with Khurbet `AiTun in the hills Northwest of Beersheba.

(3) The rock of Etam, where Samson took up his dwelling after smiting the Philistines "hip and thigh with a great slaughter" (Jud 15:8,11), was in Judah but apparently in the low hill country (same place) . The rocky hill on which lies the village of Beit `Atab, near Sur`ah (Zorah), was suggested by Conder, but unless (3) is really identical width (1), which is quite possible, the cavern known as `Arak Isma`in, described by Hanauer (PEFS, 1886, 25), suits the requirements of the story better. The cavern, high up on the northern cliffs of the Wady Isma`in, is a noticeable object from the railway as the train enters the gorge.