1. Scripture References:
Jud 18:12 records that the men of Da set forth out of Zorah and Eshtaol and encamped in Mahaneh-dan behind (West of) Kiriath-jearim. (In Jud 13:25 Mahaneh-dan ("the camp of Dan") is described as between Zorah and Eshtaol; see MAHANEH-DAN.) To this sanctuary the ark of Yahweh was brought, from Beth-shemesh by the people of Kiriath-jearim, and they "brought it into the house of Abinadab in the hill (m "Gibeah"]; and sanctified Eleazar his son to keep the ark of Yahweh" (1Sa 7:1). Here it abode twenty years (1Sa 7:2; 2Sa 6:2-4; compare 1Ch 13:6; 2Ch 1:4). Clearly it was in the hills somewhere to the East of Beth-shemesh.
The prophet Uriah-ben-shemaiah, killed by Jehoiskim, belonged to Kiriath-jearim (Jer 26:20 f).
In Ezr 2:25 (compare Ne 7:29), this place occurs under the name "Kiriath-arim." In 1 Esdras 5:19 the name occurs as "Kiriathiarius."
The exact position of this important Israelite sanctuary has never been satisfactorily settled. Some of the data appear to be contradictory. For example, Josephus (Ant., VI, i, 4) says it was a city in the neighborhood of Beth-shemesh, while Eusebius and Jerome (Onomasticon) speak of it ("Cariathiareim") in their day as a village 9 or 10 miles from Jerusalem on the way to Lydda. But it is open to doubt whether the reputed site of their day had any serious claims. Any suggested site should fulfill the following conditions:
(1) It must harmonize with the boundary line of Judah and Benjamin between two known points--the "waters of Nephtoah," very generally supposed to be Lifta, and Chesalon, certainly Kesla (Jos 15:10).
(2) It should not be too far removed from the other cities of the Gibeonites--Gibeon, Chephirah and Beeroth--but those places, which are all identified, are themselves fairly widely apart.
(3) Mahaneh-dan ("the camp of Dan") is described as between Zorah and Eshtaol, and was West of Kiriath-jearim; this, and the statement of Josephus that it was in the neighborhood of Beth-shemesh, makes it probable that the site was near the western edge of the mountains of Judah. Zorah (now Sara`), Eshtaol (now Eshu`a) and Beth-shemesh (now `Ain Shems), are all within sight of each other close to the Vale of Sorek.
(4) The site should be a sanctuary (or show signs of having been such), and be at least on a height (Gibeah, 1Sa 7:1 margin).
(5) The name may help us, but it is as well to note that the first part of the name, in the form "Kirathiarius" (1 Esdras 5:19), appears to have survived the exile rather than the second.
3. Suggested Identifications:
The first suggested identification was that of Robinson (BE, II, 11,12), namely, Kuriet el `Enab, the "town of grapes," a flourishing little town about 9 miles West of Jerusalem on the carriage road to Jaffa. The district around is still fairly well wooded (compare ye`arim = "thickets"). This village is commonly known as Abu Ghosh, from the name of a robber chieftain who, with his family, flourished there in the first half of the last century. Medieval ecclesiastical tradition has made this place the Anathoth of Jer, and a handsome church from the time of the Crusades, now thoroughly repaired, exists here to mark this tradition. This site suits well as regards the border line, and the name Quriet is the exact equivalent of Kiriath; it also fits in with the distance and direction given the Eusebius, Onomasticon, but it cannot be called satisfactory in all respects. Soba, in the neighborhood, has, on account of its commanding position, been selected, but except for this one feature it has no special claims. The late Colonel Conder has very vigorously advocated the claims of a site he discovered on the south side of the rugged Wady Ismae`n, called Khurbet `Erma, pointing out truly that `Erma is the exact equivalent of `Arim (Ezr 2:25). Unfortunately the 2nd part of the name would appear from the references in 1 Esdras and in Eusebius (Onomasticon) to be that part which was forgotten long ago, so that the argument even of the philological--the strongest--grounds cannot be of much value. The greatest objections in the minds of most students are the unsuitability of the position to the requirements of the Judah-Benjamin frontier and its distance from the other Gibeonite cities.
The present writer suggests another site which, in his opinion, meets at least some of the requirements better than the older proposals. Standing on the hill of Beth-shcmesh and looking Northwest, with the cities of Zorah (Sur`ah) and Eshtaol (Eshu’-a) full in view, a lofty hill crowned by a considerable forest catches the eye. The village a little below the summit is called Beit Machcir, and the hilltop itself is the shrine of a local saint known as Sheikh el Ajam. So "holy" is the site, that no trees in this spot are ever cut, nor is fallen brushwood removed. There is a Wely or sanctuary of the saint, and round about are scores of very curious and apparently ancient graves. Southward from this site the eye follows the line of Judean hills--probably the Mt. Jearim of Jos 15:10--until it strikes the outstanding point of Kesla (Chesslon), some 2 miles to the South. If the ark was taken here, the people of Beth-shemesh could have followed its progress almost the whole way to its new abode. Although the name, which appears to mean "besieged" or "confined," in no degree helps, in all the other respects (see 2 above), this site suits well the conditions of Kiriath-jearim.
See P E F S, 1878, 196-99; P E F, III, 43-52; H G H L, 225 f; BR, II, 11 f; Buhl, G A the Priestly Code (P), Index.