Mizpah

MIZPAH (mĭz'pa, Heb. mitspâh, mitspēh, watchtower, lookout-post). As a common noun meaning “watchtower, guardpost” (mitspēh), the Hebrew word is found in 2Chr.20.24 and Isa.21.8. As a proper noun, it is used of the following:

1. An unidentified town in the territory of Judah (Josh.15.38), in the vicinity of Lachish.

2. An unknown city in Moab (1Sam.22.3), to which David went to confer with the king of Moab concerning a place of refuge for his parents while he was dodging the armies of Saul.

3. An unidentified region or valley mentioned in Josh.11.3 (mitspâh), and Josh.11.8.

4. A town in Gilead (Judg.11.29; cf. Ramath Mizpah, Josh.13.26).

5. A town in Benjamin (Josh.18.26), tentatively identified as Tell en-Nasbeh (see below).

Mizpah is: (1) A town in Gilead (see no. 4 above and Josh.10.17), which may be associated with Gen.31.49, where the name is given to a heap of stones set up as a memorial or witness between Jacob and Laban. This town was also the home of Jephthah (Judg.11.34). (2) Most frequently Mizpah refers to the town of Benjamin (no. 5 above).


Bibliography: C. C. McCowan, Excavations at Tell En-Nasbeh, 2 vols., 1947.——CFP

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

miz’-pa, miz’-pe: This name is pointed both ways in the Hebrew, and is found usually with the article. The meaning seems to be "outlook" or "watchtower." It is natural, therefore, to look for the places so named in high positions commanding wide prospects.

(1) (ha-mitspah (Ge 31:49; Jud 11:11,34), mitspah (Ho 5:1), mitspeh ghil`adh (Jud 11:29); Massepha, ten skopian, and other forms): It seems probable that the same place is intended in all these passages, and that it is identical with Ramath-mizpeh of Jos 13:26. It is the place where Jacob and Laban parted in Mt. Gilead; consequently it lay to the North of Mahanaim. Here was the home of Jephthah, to which he returned after the defeat of the Aremonites, only to realize how his rash vow had brought desolation to his house. It was taken by Judas Maccabeus, who destroyed the inhabitants and burned the city (1 Macc 5:35). Jerash, and Kal`at er-Rabad; but these seem all to lie South of any possible site for Mahanaim. A ruined site was discovered by Dr. Schumacher (M und NPDV, 1897, 86), with the name Macfa, which is just the Arabic equivalent of the Hebrew Mitspah. It lies some distance to the Northwest of Jerash and claims consideration in any attempt to fix the site of Mizpah.

(2) (’erets ha-mitspah (Jos 11:3), biq`ath mitspeh (verse 8); Masseuman, Massephath, and other forms): The "land of Mizpah" and the "valley of Mizpah" may be taken as applying to the same district. It lay on the southwest slopes of Hermon Northeast of the Waters of Merom. The site must be looked for on one of the heights in the region indicated, from which a wide view is obtained. MuTallah, a Druze village standing on a hill to the North of `Abil and East of Nahr el-Chasbany, was suggested by Robinson. The present writer agrees with Buhl (GAP, 240) that the ancient castle above Banias, Kal`at ec-Cubeibeh, occupies a more likely position.

(3) (mitspeh; Maspha): A town in the Shephelah of Judah named with Dilan, Joktheel and Lachish (Tell el-Hesy). Eusebius, Onomasticon mentions a Macfa in the neighborhood of Eleutheropolis, to the North. The identification proposed by Van de Velde and Guerin would suit this description. They would locate Mizeph at Tell ec-Cafiyeh, about 7 1/2 miles Northwest of Beit Jibrin, "a conspicuous hill with a glittering white cliff rising like an isolated block above the adjacent country" (PEFS, 1903, 276). Many identify this site with Gath, but the name and character of the place point rather to identification with Mizpeh, the Blanche Guarde or Alba Specula of the Middle Ages.


It has been proposed to identify Mizpah with Tell Nasbeh, a site on the watershed South of Bireh. The Abbe Raboisson established the fact that Jerusalem can be seen from this point. In this respect it agrees with Maundeville’s description. "It is a very fair and delicious place, and it is called Mt. Joy because it gives joy to pilgrims’ hearts, for from that place men first see Jerusalem." But Jer 41:10 may be taken as decisive against this identification. Ishmael departed to go east. From Tell Nasbeh this would never have brought him to the great waters that are in Gibeon (PEFS, 1898, 169, 251; 1903, 267). A more probable identification is with Neby Samwil, a village on high ground 4 1/2 miles Northwest of Jerusalem, the traditional burying-place of Samuel. It is 2,935 ft. above sea-level, and 500 ft. higher than the surrounding land. Here the pilgrims coming up by way of Beth-heron from Jaffa, the ancient route, first saw the Holy City. The mosque of the village was formerly a church, dating from Crusading times; and here the tomb of Samuel is shown. If this is the ancient Mizpah, a very slight detour to the North would bring Ishmael to the great waters that are in Gibeon, el-Jib (Gibeon) being only a mile and a quarter distant.

(5) (mitspeh mo’abh "Mizpeh of Moab"; Masepha): A town in Moab to which David took his parents for safety during Saul’s pursuit of him (1Sa 22:3). It is possibly to be identified with Kir-moab, the modern Kerak, whither David would naturally go to interview the king. But there is no certainty. Possibly we should read "Mizpah" instead of "the hold" in 1Sa 22:5.

(6) In 2Ch 20:24, probably we should read "Mizpah" instead of "watch-tower": ha-mitspeh la-midhbar would then point to a Mizpeh of the Wilderness to be sought in the district of Tekoa (20:20).