GERAR (gē'rar, Heb. gerār, circle, region). A town in the Negev, near, but not on, the Mediterranean coast south of Gaza, in a valley running NW and SE, on a protected inland caravan route from Palestine to Egypt (Gen.10.19). Here Abraham stayed with its king, Abimelech (Gen.20.1-Gen.20.2); and later Isaac (Gen.26.1-Gen.26.33) had similar and more extended experiences with the king and people of the region. Here Asa and his army defeated the Ethiopians and plundered Gerar and the cities near it (2Chr.14.13-2Chr.14.14). Its site is thought to be the modern Tell ej-Jemmeh, which has been excavated, uncovering levels of occupation from the Late Bronze Age to the Byzantine period.

GERAR gĭr är (גְּרָ֔ר, LXX Γεραρά). A town and district S of Gaza and SW of the southern border of Canaan near the Mediterranean Sea.

In its first occurrence (Gen 10:19) Gerar is used as a reference point for identification of the southern end of the territory of the Canaanites, and is identified as in the same general area as Gaza.

In 1 Chronicles 4:39, 40, the LXX prob. correctly has Gerar in place of the Heb. Gedor, Gerar being the place where the sons of Ham had lived (Gen 10:19, 20).

Abraham with Sarah, his wife, is said to have dwelt in Gerar (in the district between Kadesh and Shur), where they came in contact with its king, Abimelech (20:1, 2). This same ruler, or another in the royal line who had the same title, Abimelech (cf. the use of Caesar in this way), is also called king of the Philistines in a similar encounter that Isaac and his wife Rebekah had with him (Gen 26:1, 6ff; cf. also 26:26). Following these experiences, Isaac encamped in the valley of Gerar (26:17), which was prob. the present Wadi esh-Shari’ah where Isaac dug wells and experienced difficult relations with the herdsmen of the area (26:20).

In 2 Chronicles 14:13, 14, Asa, king of Judah, with the help of God, routed Ethiopian invaders and pursued them to Gerar and plundered that whole region.

Although the Philistines did not occupy this area until several hundred years after Abraham (who lived about 1900-1800 b.c.), for clarification the Genesis account speaks of Abimelech both as king of Gerar (Gen 20:1, 2), the common name of the place, and as king of the Philistines (26:1), meaning that he was king over a part of the area later called Philistia, or that he was ruler over ancestors of the people who were later called Philistines.

Gerar was known in the intertestamental and early Christian centuries; it appears on the late 6th cent. Madeba map.

The town Gerar, if correctly identified with Tell Abu Hureirah, was situated about nine m. SE of Gaza, and about fifteen m. NW of Beer-sheba. This site has been excavated and shows a long period of occupation, including that part of the Middle Bronze period (1800-1600 b.c.) when the patriarchs lived. Tell Jemmeh, nearer the coast, has also been identified as Gerar.


J. Finegan, Light From the Ancient Past (1959), 146; Y. Aharoni, The Land of the Bible, tr. A. F. Rainey (1967), 149, 174, 210, 259.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

A town in the Philistine plain South of Gaza (Ge 10:19), where both Abraham and Isaac ’ sojourned for a time, and where they came into contact with Abimelech, king of Gerar (Ge 20 and 26, passim). The place has not been fully identified, but the site is probably in one of the branches of Wady Sheri`a, at a place called Um Jerrar, near the coast Southwest of Gaza and 9 miles from it (SWP, III, 389-90). The site answers fairly well to the statements of Eusebius and Jerome, Eusebius, Onomasticon, that it was 25 (Roman) miles South of Eleutheropolis (Beit Jibrin). It is actually 30 English miles, but distances were not very accurately determined in early times. Gerar was known in the first 5 centuries AD, when it was the seat of a bishopric, and its bishop, Marcian, attended the Council of Chalcedon 451 AD, It was also the seat of a monastery.

The statements in Ge indicate that Gerar belonged to the Philistines, and we are led to infer that Abimelech was king of that people, but it is quite certain that they did not occupy this region until after the time of Abraham, in fact only a short time before the Exodus. It is probable, however, that the writer of Ge would refer to the country as it was known in his day. The town certainly existed in the Philistine period, for it is mentioned in connection with Asa, who defeated the Ethiopian host under Zerar and pursued them in their flight unto Gerar (2Ch 14:13). Besides the locality of Um Jerrar, another place in the vicinity known as Jurf el-Jerrar has been thought by some to be the site of Gerar. Jerrar in Arabic means "jars," and it is doubtful whether it represents the Hebrew Gerar. Jurf means usually "steep declivity," or "precipice," and at the place mentioned many fragments of pottery were found, but this does not necessarily indicate the site of an ancient town. The site of Gerar is discussed in Thomson’s LB, I, 196-99 (ed. 1882); Robinson’s BR, II, 43-44; PEFS, 1871, 84; 1875, 162-64; 1881, 38.