After the readings have been ascertained, and Geba (q.v.) and Gibeon (q.v.) set aside—there are several places called Gibeah.
1. First, a Gibeah is listed with the cities in the hill country of Judah (
2. Another Gibeah, located in the hills of Ephraim, belonged to Phinehas, grandson of Aaron, and provided the burial place of Eleazar the priest (
3. The Gibeah of
4. Finally, there is the Gibeah of Benjamin (
A Levite from the hill country of Ephraim, returning N from Bethlehem, hesitated to spend the night in Jebus (Jerusalem) because it was still controlled by the Jebusites. He preferred to press on to Gibeah of Benjamin. When he arrived in Gibeah, no one invited him into his house in spite of the fact that he had his own provisions with him. Finally, a man from Ephraim who lived in Gibeah came along and offered hospitality, but soon the men of the city surrounded his house and demanded that the traveler be surrendered to them for homosexual abuse. To avert this, the Levite thrust his concubine out to the mob. After raping her all night, the revelers released her at dawn. The Levite took her home, dismembered her body, and sent pieces of her throughout the land of Israel, calling for vengeance on the barbarous inhabitants of Gibeah. When the whole tribe of Benjamin defended the culprits, a bloody intertribal war broke out; over 40,000 Israelites and 25,000 Benjaminites died. Apparently, the Israelites felt more than vindicated by this “victory,” for they then proceeded to murder all the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead except for 400 young virgins, to obtain wives for the 600 Benjaminite survivors of Gibeah (
The obvious parallels with the story of Lot’s heavenly messengers in Sodom add to the impression that this city was the very paradigm of evil. (Hosea picked up this connotation in
At first reading, the story in Judges appears almost as a propaganda piece written to discredit Saul’s claims to the throne, but the fact that Saul killed his own oxen in his bid to rescue the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead, the same city that was massacred to provide wives for the earlier people of Gibeah, goes far to offset any propaganda value that the story might have. In fact, Saul could now be seen as the man from Gibeah who undid an earlier wrong. Later, when Saul became king, Gibeah remained his chief residence (
When Albright first excavated the site, he thought that the next fortification, a watchtower, was built by Asa (
After several centuries, the tower was built again, and this time a village grew up on the eastern slope of the hill which lasted about a cent. and a half until its destruction in or about the time of the war between Ptolemy V and Antiochus III. Still, the site retained its attractiveness, and Josephus wrote of a village there in Rom. times—a village that finally came to an end with the destruction of Jerusalem and the dispersion of the Jews in a.d. 70 (Jos. War V. ii. 1). This village is of particular interest because a stone manger dating from approximately the time of the birth of Christ was found there, and it is possible that the Savior’s first bed was a similar structure.
Bibliography W. F. Albright: Excavations and Results at Tell el-Fûl (Gibeah of Saul), AASOR, iv (1922-1923); W. F. Albright, “A New Campaign of Excavation at Gibeah of Saul,” BASOR, 52 (1933), 6-12; L. A. Sinclair, An Archaeological Study of Gibeah (Tell el-Fûl), AASOR, xxxiv-xxxv (1954-1956), 5-52, plates 1-35; J. Simons: The Geographical and Topographical Texts of the Old Testament (1959), §§ 669, 670 passim.