Mount Gilboa

GILBOA, MOUNT gĭl bō’ ə (גִּלְבֹּֽעַ; LXX Γελβουε; etymology unknown). A mountain or range of mountains, about eight m. long and from three to five m. wide, lying to the E of the Plain of Esdraelon, on the border between Samaria and Galilee. The highest peak, Sheikh Burqān, is only 1,696 ft, above sea level, but it falls off rather abruptly on the E to the Jordan, 2,000 ft. below. The western slope inclines more gradually to the Esdraelon, 300 ft. above sea level. On these western slopes occurred the last battle and the death of Saul and his three sons, Jonathan, Abinadab, and Malchishua (1 Sam 31; 2 Sam 1; 21:12). The Philistines prepared for war when Israel pressed into the plain and threatened to cut off Philistine access to the Way of the Sea (the major trade route from Egypt to Damascus). When they attacked, the Israelite warriors fled, and Saul was seriously wounded. Rather than fall into the hands of his lifelong enemies in this condition, Saul took his own life, one of the few suicides mentioned in the Bible.

The name Gilboa (which always has the definite article in Heb. except in 1 Chron 10) occurs in Scripture only in connection with the death of Saul; from before the time of the Israelite conquest, notorious battles were fought in this vicinity. It was at nearby Megiddo that Thutmose III fought the Canaanites, nearly 850 years before Neco’s forces killed Josiah on their way to do battle against the Assyrians (2 Kings 23:29). Deborah’s battle against Sisera was greatly aided by the Brook Kishon, which takes its rise on Gilboa (Judg 5:21). It was not far from here that Gideon routed the Midianites (6:33).

Jezreel (q.v.), summer capital of the house of Omri (1 Kings 18:45; 2 Kings 9:15), was situated on a western spur of Gilboa, about 200 ft. above the plain, commanding both the Way of the Sea (the major trade route from Egypt to Damascus) and the highway from the Mediterranean to the Jordan. Here Jehu, subverted by Elisha, murdered both Joram of Israel and his mother Jezebel, and from here he pursued and murdered Ahaziah of Judah (2 Kings 9; cf. Hos 1:4).


G. A. Smith, The Historical Geography of the Holy Land, 25th ed. (1931); Y. Aharoni, The Land of the Bible: A Historical Geography (1962; Eng. tr. by A. F. Rainey, 1967).

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

The modern name of the mountain is Jebel Faqu`a. It rises on the eastern edge of the plain of Esdraelon, and, running from Zer`in to the Southeast, it then sweeps southward to join the Samarian uplands. It presents an imposing appearance from the plain, but the highest point, Sheikh Burqan, is not more than 1,696 ft. above sea level. In the higher reaches the range is rugged and barren; but vegetation is plentiful on the lower slopes, especially to the West. The Kishon takes its rise on the mountain. Under the northern cliffs rises `Ain Jalud, possibly identical with HAROD, WELL OF, which see. In Jelbun, a village on the western declivity, there is perhaps an echo of the old name.