J. B. Pritchard excavated the site (a.d. 1957-62). All the remains are from the Iron Age (Israelite period) and later, except for a few traces of the Late Bronze Age. The main discoveries were two water tunnels, a large pool (mentioned in 2Sam.2.13) in which pottery vessels were found with the name Gibeon stamped on them in Hebrew, some houses, a wine cellar, and some fortifications.

GIBEON gĭb’ ĭ ən (גִּבְעֹ֖ון, LXX Γαβαών, meaning hill). A city about six m. NW of Jerusalem.

Biblical record.

Gibeon is first mentioned in connection with Joshua’s assault on the hill country. After taking Jericho and Ai, his march would have taken him N of Jerusalem. A delegation from Gibeon came to him, however, under the guise of having taken a long journey (Josh 9:3ff.). Joshua made a peace treaty with them before learning that they had come from nearby Gibeon. The treaty also included the towns Chephirah, Be-eroth, and Kiriath-jearim (9:17).

This treaty caused several problems. Upon discovering the ruse, Joshua did not destroy them but put them in servitude to the Israelites as “hewers of wood and drawers of water” (9:23). Their action precipitated what is now called the Battle of Beth-horon. Joshua 10 records that Adonizedek, king of Jerusalem, and the other Amorite kings planned to attack Gibeon; but Joshua, now committed to defend Gibeon by treaty, fought against them. Joshua and his army, after a night march, slaughtered many at Gibeon and chased the remainder over the Beth-horon pass. God sent hailstones and later had the sun stand still at the command of Joshua (10:6-14).

The occupants of Gibeon were Hivites (perhaps Horites or Hurrians) according to Joshua 11:19. After the division into tribes, Gibeon became a part of Benjamin (18:25; 21:17).

Another problem was Saul’s apparent intolerance of non-Israelite peoples in Israel. 2 Samuel 21:1ff. alludes to Saul slaughtering many Gibeonites. Later, in David’s day, the Gibeonites demanded revenge on the house of Saul. Since they would not accept money in payment for the blood, David finally yielded up seven of Saul’s sons whom the Gibeonites promptly hung. Only Mephibosheth was spared.

The famous contest between the twelve soldiers of Abner and the twelve of Joab at the pool of Gibeon had nothing to do with the people of Gibeon themselves (2 Sam 2:12ff.). Because all twenty-four of the young men died, the name Helkath-hazzurim (the field of the sword edges) was given to that site in Gibeon. Since the war by representation was indecisive, Joab chased Abner across the Jordan but failed to apprehend him.

The last major happening at Gibeon was Solomon’s going to the high place to sacrifice (1 Kings 3:4; 2 Chron 1:3ff.). While there he had the dream in which God asked him what gift he desired, and the famous king chose wisdom. That high place is mentioned twice again (1 Chron 16:39; 21:29).

Five hundred years later, Melatiah the Gibeonite and other men of Gibeon helped Nehemiah rebuild walls (Neh 3:7; cf. Neh 7:25).

The false prophet Hananiah, whose death Jeremiah foretold, was from Gibeon (Jer 28:1ff.). There was also a personal name, Gibeon, in the genealogies (1 Chron 8:29; 9:35).

Archeological results.

During the summers of 1956, ’57, ’59 and ’60, James B. Pritchard directed the expeditions of the University of Pennsylvania Museum to el-Jib, the modern Arab. name of Gibeon. These expeditions not only thoroughly excavated the most famous feature of both ancient and modern Gibeon, viz., the great pool (2 Sam 2:13; Jer 41:12), but they also revealed other interesting aspects of the city. Although el-Jib, because of the similarity of the sound, had been suggested as the site of Gibeon as early as 1838 by Edward Robinson, no certain proof came until the archeologists unearthed many jar handles, twenty-four of which bore the name “Gibeon.” Other handles bore the typical names of Amariah, Azariah, and Hananiah. The jars may have been used in connection with the wine industry of Gibeon. Cut into the solid rock of the hill were some sixty-six cavities, or cellars, in which the wine could be stored at a constant temperature. In the immediate vicinity were the other accouterments of wine making: presses, troughs, etc.

The dead during the Rom. period were buried most exquisitely in the necropolis of Gibeon. Several tombs plus a columbarium were excavated. These produced some of the finest pottery specimens.

By far the most spectacular feature was the great pool, thirty-seven ft. in diameter and eighty-two ft. deep with a circular staircase of seventy-nine steps cut out of the rock. This pool is one of the best-known archeological attractions. Actually the pool was never used to hold water but was part of a rather complete waterworks that assured the citizens of water even during times of siege. To reach the water required the descent of seventy-nine steps of the circular “pool” and then a tunnel 167 ft. long that descended ninety-three more steps. At the bottom was the cistern room filled with water from the main spring outside the city wall. This tunnel also was cut from the solid rock, although the crookedness of it indicates that the engineers followed the natural fissures of the rock. See Water.


J. B. Pritchard, Gibeon, Where the Sun Stood Still (1962).

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

One of the royal cities of the Hivites (Jos 9:7). It was a greater city than Ai; and its inhabitants were reputed mighty men (Jos 10:2). It fell within the territory allotted to Benjamin (Jos 18:25), and was one of the cities given to the Levites (Jos 21:17).

1. The Gibeonites:

By a stratagem the Gibeonites secured for themselves and their allies in Chephirah, Beeroth and Kirjath-jearim immunity from attack by the Israelites. Terrified by the fate of Jericho and Ai, a company disguised as ambassadors from a far country, their garments and shoes worn, and their provisions moldy as from the length of their journey, went to Joshua at Gilgal, and persuaded him and the princes of Israel to make a covenant with them. Three days later the deception was discovered and the wrath of the congregation of Israel aroused. In virtue of the covenant their lives were secured; but for their duplicity Joshua cursed them, and condemned them to be bondsmen, "hewers of wood and drawers of water for the house of my God" (Jos 9:23), "for the congregation and for the altar of the Lord" (Jos 9:27 the King James Version). This points to their employment in the sanctuary; and possibly may shed some light on the massacre of the Gibeonites by Saul (2Sa 21:1 f). The rest of the Canaanites resented the defection of the Hivites which so greatly weakened the forces for defense, and, headed by Adoni-zedek of Jerusalem, they assembled to wreak vengeance on Gibeon. The threatened city appealed to Joshua, who made a swift night march, fell suddenly upon the confederates, routed them, and "chased them by the way of the ascent of Beth-horon, and smote them to Azekah, and unto Makkedah" (Jos 10:1 ).

A three years’ famine in the days of David was attributed to God’s anger at the unexpiated crime of Saul in slaying the Gibeonites. He did this "in his zeal for .... Israel and Judah," who may have fretted at the inconvenience of having the Gibeonites among them. The latter believed that Saul’s desire was to destroy them utterly. When David tried to arrange matters with them they stood upon their ancient rights, claiming life for life. They would take no rights blood money: they demanded blood from the family of the slayer of their people. This demand David could not resist, and handed over to them seven sons of Saul (2Sa 21:1 ).

2. The Champions:

The army of Ishbosheth under Abner, and that of David under Joab, met at the pool of Gibeon. An attempt to settle the quarrel, by means of 12 champions on either side, failed, as each man slew his fellow, and the 24 perished side by side. A "sore battle" ensued in which Abner was beaten; he was pursued by the fleet-footed Asahel, brother of Joab, whom he slew.

See Helkath-hazzurim.

Possibly we should read "Gibeon" instead of "Geba" in 2Sa 5:25, as in the parallel passage, 1Ch 14:16 (HDB, under the word) From Baal-perazim David was to make a circuit and fall upon the Philistines who were encamped in the plan of Rephaim West of Jerusalem. Perhaps, however, we should read "Gibeah" in both places. Cheyne (EB, under the word) thinks the hill town of Baal-perazim may be intended.

3. Murder of Amasa:

When, after the death of Absalom and the suppression of his rebellion, Bichri raised the standard of revolt, Amasa was sent to call out the men of Judah against him. Tarrying longer than the time appointed, there was danger lest Bichri might have opportunity to strengthen his position; so David dispatched Abishai and the troops that were with him to attack Bichri at once. Joab went with this expedition. Obviously he could never be content with a second place. The force of Amasa was met at "the great stone of Gibeon." There Joab treacherously slew that unsuspecting general, and, himself assuming command, stamped out the rebellion with his accustomed thoroughness (2Sa 20:4 ). "The great stone" appears to have been well known, and may have possessed some religious character.

4. The Sanctuary:

Gibeon was the seat of an ancient sanctuary, called in 1Ki 3:4 "the great high place." Here, according to 2Ch 1:3, was the tabernacle made in the wilderness--but see 1Ki 8:4. It was the scene of Solomon’s great sacrifice after which he slept in the sanctuary and dreamed his famous dream (1Ki 3:4; 9:2; 2Ch 1:3,13, etc.).

By "the great waters that are in Gibeon" Johanan overtook Ishmael the son of Nethaniah, and freed the captives he had taken from Mizpah (Jer 41:11 ). Among those who returned with Zerubbabel were 95 "children of Gibeon" (Ne 7:25; compare Ne 3:7). At Gibeon Cestius Gallus ancamped when marching against Jerusalem from Antipatris (BJ, II, xix, 1).

5. Identification and Description:

The ancient city is represented by the modern village el-Jib. It is fully 5 miles Northwest of Jerusalem, and about a mile North of Neby Samwil on a double knoll, with terraced slopes, but rocky and precipitous to the East. The village stands amid striking remains of antiquity. About a hundred paces from the village to the East is a large reservoir with a spring. Lower down, among the olives, are the remains of another and larger reservoir, which collected the overflow from the first. This is probably the "pool" of 2Sa 2:13, and "the great waters" of Jer 41:12. El-Jib stands in the midst of a rich upland plain not far South of the great pass which goes down by way of the Beth-horons into the vale of Aijalon.