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Mahanaim is mentioned in an Egyptian inscription as one of the cities conquered by Sheshonk I (Shishak of the Bible). This occurred on his raid into Palestine (1Kgs.14.25-1Kgs.14.26; 2Chr.12.2-2Chr.12.3). The exact location of Mahanaim, though much discussed, remains uncertain.

Song.6.13 refers to a dance called Mahanaim.——CEH

Mahanaim, according to Genesis 32:2, was named by Jacob after he left Laban, his father-in-law, and met God’s angels on the way back to Canaan. The word looks like a Heb. dual although it may not have originally been so. (Jerusalem, Yerûshalāyim in Heb., has a similar ending.) Genesis 32:10 also may be connected with the name, for there the Heb. word for two companies is the same word but with a fem. pl. ending.

Mahanaim was on the border between Gad (Josh 13:26) and Manasseh (Josh 13:30). It also was one of the Trans-Jordanian cities of refuge (Josh 21:38) and a Levitical city (1 Chron 6:80).

It is in connection with David that Mahanaim is most frequently mentioned. After Saul died, a civil war was beginning in Israel. Abner, Saul’s general, wanted Ish-bosheth, a son of Saul, to be king (2 Sam 2:8). From their base of operations at Mahanaim, Abner and Ish-bosheth went to Gibeon where a war by representation was fought around the great pool. After an indecisive outcome, and some foul play by Abner, Joab, David’s general, chased Abner back to Mahanaim (2:29). Presumably it was there that Rechab, and Baanah murdered Ish-bosheth (4:5ff.).

In the war between David and Absalom, David made his headquarters temporarily at Mahanaim (17:24-27 and 19:32). At this time the battle of the forest of Ephraim occurred, where Absalom was caught by his hair in a tree and subsequently slain by Joab. Apparently David was at Mahanaim when news of Absalom’s death came and he wept and said, “O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! Would I had died instead of you, O Absalom, my son, my son!” (18:33).

According to 1 Kings 4:14, Mahanaim was the seat of Ahinadab, one of Solomon’s twelve officers.

There is a place named Khirbet Mahneh N of the Jabbok River which bears a resemblance to the name Mahanaim. The Bible gives little to positively identify the site, apart from the deduction in Genesis 32:22 that it was N of the Jabbok. Another suggestion for the site is Tell edh-Dhahab el-Gharbi, which is across the Jabbok and W of Tell edh-Dhabab esh-Sherqiyeh, the tentative site for Penuel.


E. Kraeling, Bible Atlas (1956), 204-206.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

It is quite clear from the narrative that Jacob, going to meet his brother, who was advancing from the South, crossed the Jabbok after leaving Mahanaim. It is therefore vain to search for the site of this city South of the Jabbok, and Conder’s suggested identification with some place near el-Buqei`a, East of es-Salt], must be given up.

On the North of the Jabbok several positions have been thought of. Merrill (East of the Jordan, 433 ff) argues in favor of Khirbet Saleikhat, a ruined site in the mouth of Wady Saleikhat, on the northern bank, 3 miles East of Jordan, and 4 miles North of Wady `Ajlun. From its height, 300 ft. above the plain, it commands a wide view to the West and South. One running "by the way of the Plain" could be seen a great way off (2Sa 18:23). This would place the battle in the hills to the South near the Jordan valley. Ahimaaz then preferred to make a detour, thus securing a level road, while the Cushite took the rough track across the heights. Others, among them Buhl (GAP, 257), would place Mahanaim at Michneh, a partly overgrown ruin 9 miles East of Jordan, and 4 miles North of `Ajlun on the north bank of Wady Machneh. This is the only trace of the ancient name yet found in the district. It may be assumed that Mahanaim is to be sought in this neighborhood. Cheyne would locate it at `Ajlun, near which rises the great fortress Kal`ater-Rabad. He supposes that the "wood of Mahanaim" extended as far as Michneh, and that "the name of Mihneh is really an abbreviation of the ancient phrase." Others would identify Mahanaim with Jerash, where, however, there are no remains older than Greek-Roman times.

Objections to either `Ajlun or Michneh are:

(1) The reference to this Jordan" in Ge 32:10, which seems to show that the city was near the river. It may indeed be said that the great hollow of the Jordan valley seems close at hand for many miles on either side, but this, perhaps, hardly meets the objection.

(2) The word kikkar, used for "Plain" in 2Sa 18:23, seems always elsewhere to apply to the "circle" of the Jordan. Buhl, who identifies Mahanaim with Michneh, yet cites this verse (G A the Priestly Code (P), 112) as a case in which kikkar applies to the plain of the Jordan. He thus prescribes for Ahimaaz a very long race. Cheyne sees the difficulty. The battle was obviously in the vicinity of Mahanaim, and the nearest way from the "wood" was by the kikkar, "or, since no satisfactory explanation of this reading has been offered by the nachal, that is to say, the eager Ahimaaz ran along in the wady in which, at some little distance, Mahanaim lay" (EB, under the word). The site for the present remains in doubt.ter-Rabad. He supposes that the "wood of Mahanaim" extended as far as Michneh, and that "the name of Mihneh is really an abbreviation of the ancient phrase." Others would identify Mahanaim with Jerash, where, however, there are no remains older than Greek-Roman times.