OPHEL (ō'fĕl, Heb. ha-‘ōphel, hill). Properly a hill, but when used with the definite article in Hebrew, it is translated “Ophel” and refers to a part of Jerusalem. In 2Kgs.5.24 the word is translated “tower” in the KJV and “hill” in the NIV, but no one knows the exact location. In Mic.4.8 it is translated “stronghold” in the KJV and NIV, but the ASV has “the hill of the daughter of Zion,” and probably refers to the Ophel of Jerusalem. In Isa.32.14, the KJV has “forts,” and the NIV “citadel,” but the ASV, more accurately, reads “hill,” probably referring to Ophel. Ophel lies outside the wall of modern Jerusalem just south of the Mosque “el Aksa” and above the junction of the valleys of the Kidron and of the “son of Hinnom.” Jotham, king of Judah, built much on the wall of Ophel (2Chr.27.3), and his great-grandson Manasseh further improved it (2Chr.33.14), so that from then on it was inside the ancient city. In the restoration period it was principally a place of residence for the temple servants (kjv Nethinim; Neh.11.21).

OPHEL ō’ fĕl (עֹ֫פֶל, H6754, swelling). A projecting area primarily of the original SE hill of Jerusalem (q.v., II, C), though Ophel may also designate a “tower” (KJV) or “hill” (ASV, RSV) at Samaria (2 Kings 5:24) or elsewhere.

While precise identification for the Ophel at Jerusalem remains uncertain, it appears to be that narrower part of the city’s E ridge that expands NE from David’s initial town on Mt. Zion toward the Temple on Mt. Moriah (IDB, II, 847, 852) or simply the hill of Mt. Zion itself (K. Kenyon, Jerusalem, 14, 15); cf. Josephus’ apparent placement of ὁ ̓Οφλα̂ς (Ophlas, rendering the Aram. equivalent of עֹ֫פֶל, H6754) as adjoining the Temple area on the S (War, V. 4. 2; 6. 1).

Mesha of Moab spoke of the ophel, citadel, of Trans-Jordanian Kerak in his famous 9th-cent. inscr. (ANET, 320, 1. 22). The walls of Jerusalem’s Ophel were strengthened by Jotham (2 Chron 27:3) and Manasseh (33:14) in the 8th and 7th centuries respectively, but Isaiah predicted the subsequent destruction of this “hill” (Isa 32:14, ASV, RSV; “forts” KJV)

In Nehemiah’s day the Temple servants, or Nethinim, q.v., resided in Ophel and restored its walls (Neh 3:26; 11:21). Micah visualized the Messianic era as one in which God’s kingdom would be established on Ophel, the “hill” (“strong hold,” KJV), forever (Mic 4:8).

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

(ha-`ophel (2Ch 27:3; 33:14; Ne 3:26 f; 11:21; and without article, Isa 32:14 and Mic 4:8; also 2Ki 5:24)):

1. Meaning of Name:

2. Three Ophels:

Three places are known to have received this name:

(1) A certain place on the east hill of Jerusalem, South of the temple; to this all the passages quoted above--except one--refer.

(2) The "Ophel," translated "hill," situated apparently in Samaria (compare 2Ki 5:3), where Gehazi took his ill-gotten presents from the hands of the servants of Naaman the Syrian. The translation "tower" would suit the sense at least as well. It was some point probably in the wall of Samaria, perhaps the citadel itself.

(3) The third reference is not Biblical, but on the Moabite Stone, an inscription of Mesha, king of Moab, contemporary with Omri. He says: "I built Q-R-CH-H (? Karhah), the wall of ye`arim, and the wall of `Ophel and I built its gates and I built its towers."

In comparing the references to (1) and (3), it is evident that if Ophel means a "hill," it certainly was a fortified hill, and it seems highly probable that it meant some "artificial swelling in a fortification, e.g. a bulging or rounded keep or enceinte" (Burney, loc. cit.). Isa 32:14 reads, "The palace shall be forsaken; the populous city shall be deserted; the hill (Ophel) and the watch-tower shall be for dens for ever." Here we have palace, city and watch-tower, all the handiwork of the builder. Does it not seem probable that the Ophel belongs to the same category?

3. The Ophel of Jerusalem:

The situation of the Ophel of Jerusalem is very definitely described. It was clearly, from the references (Ne 3:26,27; 2Ch 27:3; 33:14), on the east hill South of the temple. Josephus states (Josephus, Jewish Wars, V, iv, 2) that the eastern wall of the city ran from Siloam "and reaches as far as a certain place which they called Ophlas when it was joined to the eastern cloister of the temple." In BJ, V, vi, 1, it states that "John held the temple and the parts thereto adjoining, for a great way, as also `Ophla,’ and the Valley called the `Valley of the Cedron.’ " It is noticeable that this is not identical with the "Acra" and "Lower City" which was held by Simon. There is not the slightest ground for applying the name Ophel, as has been so commonly done, to the whole southeastern hill. In the days of Josephus, it was a part of the hill immediately South of the temple walls, but the Old Testament references suit a locality nearer the middle of the southeastern hill. In the article ZION (which see) it is pointed out that that name does not occur (except in reference to the Jebusite city) in the works of the Chronicler, but that "the Ophel," which occurs almost alone in these works, is apparently used for it. Mic 4:8 margin seems to confirm this view: "O tower of the flock, the Ophel of the daughter of Zion." Here the "tower of the flock" may well refer to the shepherd David’s stronghold, and the second name appears to be a synonym for the same place.

Ophel then was probably the fortified site which in earlier days had been known as "Zion" or "the City of David." King Jotham "built much" "on the wall of Ophel" (2Ch 27:3). King Manasseh "built an outer wall to the city of David, on the west side of Gihon, in the valley, even to the entrance at the fish gate; and he compassed Ophel about with it, and raised it up to a very great height" (2Ch 33:14). It was clearly a fortified place of great importance, and its situation must have been so near that of the ancient "Zion" that scarcely any other theory is possible except that it occupied the site of that ancient fortress.