RAMAH, RAMA (rā'ma, Heb. hārāmâh, height)

RAMAH, RAMA rā’ mə (רָמָ֖ה, without the definite article [Neh 11:33, Jer 31:15]; a fairly common geographical name meaning “height,” given to several towns in ancient Israel—these were usually situated on some lofty perch).

Of Naphtali.

This city is mentioned once (Josh 19:36; LXX ̔Ραμά, G4821, A, or ̔Αράηλ, B); it was assigned to the cities of Naphtali. E. Robinson was apparently the first modern scholar to note that the name is preserved in that of the village er-Râmeh, about 8 m. WSW of Safad (present-day Zefat). The situation of this Arab town (Christian and Druze) is topographically remarkable; it sits on the lower slope of Jebel Heider (today Har Ha’ari) near the pass that separates that mountain from the other hills in the high ridge that rises sharply from the Wâdĩ esh-Shãghûr (the Talmudic valley of Beth-cerem, Nidd. II, 7; Tosef. ibid., III, 11) to form a massive wall between lower Galilee on the S and upper Galilee on the N. Thus er-Râmeh stands on the natural dividing line between upper and lower Galilee; it is also near the junction of the Acco-Safad road with the route leading S to Nazareth. The Biblical context in which Ramah appears conforms to the geographical location of er-Râmeh; the towns before Ramah are in lower Galilee, and those that follow it are in upper Galilee (even Hazor, which was bound to have been more closely attached to the latter though it was in the Huleh Valley). The terms upper and lower Galilee are not recorded in the Bible, but the distinction is obvious in the topography; furthermore, the order of Naphtali’s cities in this list certainly reflects a knowledge of the two regions. Josephus (Jos. War III. iii. 1 [39]) was well aware of that division and placed the demarcation line at the northern Beer-sheba, today Khirbet Abū esh-Shibã, which stands on a high hill just 3 m. E of er-Râmeh; such a strong position would naturally be cited by the military commander of Galilee who was concerned with fortifying the strategic points. On the other hand, the rabbis, who were interested in matters of everyday life, gave as the boundary point between the two Galilees a rural center known for its market and its religious leaders, viz. Kefar Hananiah (Kefr ’Inân, a village in the valley below Beersheba, Shebi. IX, 2).

In the village of er-Râmeh, the ancient remains (including an Aram. inscr. “In memory of Rabbi Eleazer son of Tedeor, who built this guest house”) date to the Rom. and Hel. periods.

As for the Biblical Ramah, its actual site was at Khirbet Zeitûn er-Râmeh, also known as Khirbet Jûl, an ancient mound about 2 m. E of er-Râmeh on the S side of the Safad road. It is a typical tell of Iron Ages I and II, located on a rocky outcrop in the valley. The exact limits of the ancient settlement are hard to determine today since the whole area is covered by the famous olive orchards of this region.


E. Robinson, Biblical Researches III (1852), 79; J. Ben-Zvi, “A Third Century Inscription in er-Râma,” JPOS, XIII (1933), 94-96; A. Marmorstein, “The Inscription of er-Rame,” PEQ (1933), 100, 101; Y. Aharoni, The Settlement of the Israelite Tribes in Upper Galilee (1957), 2, 76, 78, 81, 86; M. Avi-Yonah, The Holy Land (1966), 133-135.

Of Asher.

The boundary description of the Asher tribe, the exact line of which is difficult to follow, apparently places the town of Ramah (Josh 19:29; LXX ̔Ραμα̂) somewhere between Great Sidon and “the fortified city of Tyre.” This latter place is known in non-Biblical sources by the name Usū (Assyrian spelling: Ushū) and was located at Tell Rashīdîyeh, the classical Palaityros (Strabo, XVI, ii, 24). Therefore, this Ramah should most likely be sought in the area NW of modern Tyre. The oft proposed identification with the small village of er-Râmiyeh seems out of the question because it is too far S.


E. Robinson, op. cit., III, 64; A. Alt, “Eine Galilaische Ortsliste in Jos. 19,” ZAW, N.F. IV (1927), 59-81; idem., “Die Reise,” PJB, XXIII (1927), 46; R. Dussaud, Topographie historique de la Syrie antique et medievale (1927), 11; M. Noth, “Studien zu den historisch-geographischen Dokumenten des Josuabuches,” ZDPV, LVIII (1935), 185-255 (esp. 222, 223); Y. Aharoni, op. cit., 88.

In Benjamin.


Robinson, op. cit., I, 576; SWP, III, 155; H. Vincent, “Ossuaires juifs,” RB, XVI (1907), 410-412; W. F. Albright, “Excavations and Results at Tell el-Ful (Gibeah of Saul),” AASOR, IV (1924), 134-140; Z. Kallai-Kleimann, “The Town Lists of Judah, Simeon, Benjamin and Dan,” VT, VIII (1958), 134-160; Y. Aharoni, “The Province List of Judah,” Vet Test XIX (1959), 225-240; idem., “The Land of the Bible” (1966), Index, s.v.

The birthplace of Samuel the prophet.


G. Dalman, “Ramathajim,” PJB, IX (1913), 37, 38; S. R. Driver, Notes on the Hebrew Text and the Topography of the Books of Samuel (1913), 1-4; W. F. Albright, “Excavations and Results at Tell el-Fûl (Gibeah of Saul),” AASOR, IV (1924), 112, 123; G. Dalman, “Die Nordstrasse Jerusalems,” PJB, XXI (1925), 58-89; H. W. Wiener, “The Ramah of Samuel,” JPOS, VII (1927), 109-111; A. Alt, “Das Institute im Jahre 1927;” PJB, XXIV (1928), 70, 71; idem., “Das Institute im Jahre 1928,” PJB, XXV (1929), 28, 29; F. M. Abel, Géographie de la Palestine, II (1938), 428, 429; M. Noth, History of Israel (1958), 376; Y. Aharoni, Carta’s Atlas of the Bible (1964), 58, 59, Maps 85, 86 (Heb.).

Of the Negeb.

A town mentioned in the description of Simeon’s tribal inheritance (Josh 19:8). The MT states that the towns of Simeon and their respective villages extended “as far as Baalath-beer, Ramath-negeb.” The Gr. MSS show some confusion in the text; A reads—“as far as Baalath-beer-ramōth, going to Bameth towards the south”; whereas B has—“as far as Barek (variant: Balek) going to Bameth towards the south.” The LXX tr. of the geographical term “Negeb” by a directional one (“south”) must be disregarded; it is more likely that the Heb. “Ramath-Negeb” stands as an adverbial accusative of direction. The verse may thus be rendered: “as far as Baalath-beer (in the direction of) Ramath-Negeb.” Such an interpretation obviates two conjectures previously proposed, viz. that the reference is to the southern boundary of Simeon’s settlement (Albright), or that Ramath-Negeb should be equated with Baalath-beer (Abel). The parallel passage (1 Chron 4:33) has simply “as far as Baal” (MT—some LXX MSS read Balat or Balaad); and Ramath-Negeb is also missing from the roster of settlements in the Negeb of Judah (Josh 15:21-32), which included Simeon.

On the other hand, it seems likely that this town appears as Ramoth of the Negeb (1 Sam 30:27) one of the places to whose elders David sent some of his spoil from the Amalakites. There is no indication of its locale.

The newly discovered ostracon from Tell ’Arad (July, 1967) raises anew the whole question of the identification and location of Ramath/Ramoth-Negeb. The legible portion of the text (on the reverse) reads as follows:

[...] from Arad...and from [...], and you (pl.) shall send them to Ramoth (or Ramath)-Negeb under the command of Malchiah son of Qerab’ur and he will commit them into the charge of Jeremiah the son of Elisha in Ramoth-Negeb lest something should happen to the city. And the king’s word is stringently incumbent upon you. Behold, I have sent to admonish you. Get the men to Elisha! Lest Edom should come there.

The epistle is obviously a memorandum from a higher authority demanding confirmation of a previous order by the king that troops be sent from Arad and some other place to Ramoth-Negeb. The transfer of these forces was for the purpose of warding off an impending Edomite attack (another ostracon found in 1962 at Tell ’Arad referred to a certain Malchiah in conjunction with Edom, the king of Judah [unnamed] and some evil that was coming upon the land; perhaps the two letters relate to the same event, but this is far from certain). The script of the Ramoth-Negeb ostracon dates it to the end of the Judean monarchy (i.e., it is contemporary with the Lachish letters and the seventeen texts in the Eliashib archive found at Arad in 1964). The Edomite threat to Ramoth-Negeb prob. corresponds to the situation depicted in Psalm 137:7 and Obadiah 10-14 whereby Edom took advantage of Judah’s downfall in 587 b.c. to pillage the hapless settlements in Cis-jordan. Obadiah’s prophetic retribution called for a reversal of this deed: “Those of the Negeb shall possess Mount Esau” (v. 19).

Current speculation about the identification of Ramoth-Negeb centers on Khirbet Ghazzeh at the eastern edge of the Negeb of Judah guarding a major route from Edom (Aharoni). Besides the casemate fortress there from Iron Age II, a certain quantity of Iron I sherds has also been found in the general vicinity. On the other hand, the lofty commanding position of Khirbet Gharreh and its location in the center of the Negeb of Judah (i.e., on the fringe of Simeon’s inheritance) are strong arguments in favor of the latter’s candidacy.


W. F. Albright, “Egypt and the Early History of the Negeb,” JPOS, IV (1924), 161; M. L. Margolis, The Book of Joshua in Greek (1931); F.-M. Abel, Géographie de la Palestine, II (1938), 258; Z. Kallai, The Tribes of Israel (1967), 298, 303 (Heb.); Y. Aharoni, “Three Hebrew Ostraca from Arad,” BASOR, No. 197 (Feb. 1971), 16-42.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

the King James Version; Greek form of RAMAH (which see) (Mt 2:18).

The name denotes height, from root rum, "to be high," and the towns to which it applied seem all to have stood on elevated sites.

(1) Codex Vaticanus Arael; Codex Alexandrinus Rhama: A fenced city in the lot assigned to Naphtali (Jos 19:36). Only in this passage is the place referred to. It is probably identical with the modern er-Rameh, a large Christian village on the highway from Cafed to the coast, about 8 miles West-Southwest of that city. To the North rises the mountain range which forms the southern boundary of Upper Galilee. In the valley to the South there is much rich land cultivated by the villagers. The olives grown here are very fine, and fruitful vineyards cover many of the surrounding slopes. No remains of antiquity are to be seen above ground; but the site is one likely to have been occupied in ancient times.

(2) Rhama: A city that is mentioned only once, on the boundary of Asher (Jos 19:29). The line of the boundary cannot be followed with certainty; but perhaps we may identify Ramah with the modern Ramiyeh, a village situated on a hill which rises in the midst of a hollow, some 13 miles Southeast of Tyre, and 12 miles East of the Ladder of Tyre. To the Southwest is a marshy lake which dries up in summer. Traces of antiquity are found in the cisterns, a large reservoir and many sarcophagi. To the West is the high hill Belat, with ancient ruins, and remains of a temple of which several columns are still in situ.

From the passages cited we gather that Ramah lay some distance to the North of Gibeah, and not far from Gibeon and Beeroth. The first is identified with Tell el-Ful, about 3 miles North of Jerusalem. Two miles farther North is er-Ram. Gibeon (el-Jib) is about 3 miles West of er-Ram, and Beeroth (el-Bireh) is about 4 miles to the North Eusebius, Onomasticon places Ramah 6 Roman miles North of Jerusalem; while Josephus (Ant., VIII, xii, 3) says it lay 40 furlongs from the city. All this points definitely to identification with er-Ram. The modern village crowns a high limestone hill to the South of the road, a position of great strength. West of the village is an ancient reservoir. In the hill are cisterns, and a good well to the South.

(4) Aramathaim: The home of Elkanah and Hannah, and the birthplace of Samuel (1Sa 1:19; 2:11, etc.). In 1Sa 1:1 it is called "Ramathaim-zophim" (ha-ramathayim-tsophim). The phrase as it stands is grammatically incorrect, and suggests tampering with the text. It might possibly be translated "Ramathaim of the Zuphites." It was in Mt. Ephraim, within accessible distance of Shiloh, whither Samuel’s parents went up from year to year to worship and to sacrifice (1:3). From Ramah as a center Samuel went on circuit annually, to judge Israel, to Bethel, Gilgal and Mizpah (7:16 f). It is very probable that this is the city in which, guided by his servant, Saul first made the acquaintance of Samuel (9:6,10), where there was a high place (9:12). Hither at all events came the elders of Israel with their demand that a king should be set over them (8:4 f). After his final break with Saul, Samuel retired in sorrow to Ramah (15:34 f). Here, in Naioth, David found asylum with Samuel from the mad king (19:18, etc.), and hence, he fled on his ill-starred visit to Nob (20:1). In his native city the dust of the dead Samuel was laid (25:1; 28:3). In 1 Macc 11:34 it is named as one of the three toparchies along with Aphaerema and Lydda, which were added to Judea from the country of Samaria in 145 BC. Eusebius, Onomasticon places it near Diospolis (Euseb.) in the district of Timnah (Jerome).

There are two serious rivals for the honor of representing the ancient Ramah.

(a) Beit Rima, a village occupying a height 13 miles East-Northeast of Lydda (Diospolis), 12 miles West of Shiloh, and about the same distance Northwest of Bethel. This identification has the support of G. A. Smith (Historical Geography of the Holy Land, 254), and Buhl (Geographic des Alten Palestina, 170).

(b) Ramallah, a large and prosperous village occupying a lofty position with ancient remains. It commands a wide prospect, especially to the West. It lies about 8 miles North of Jerusalem, 3 West of Bethel, and 12 Southwest of Shiloh. The name meaning "the height" or "high place of God" may be reminiscent of the high place in the city where Saul found Samuel. In other respects it agrees very well with the Biblical data.

Claims have also been advanced on behalf of Ramleh, a village 2 miles Southwest of Lydda, in the plain of Sharon. This, however, is out of the question, as the place did not exist before Arab times. Others support identification with Neby Samwil, which more probably represents the ancient MIZPAH (which see).

(5) Ramah of the South, the King James Version "Ramath of the South": Ramath is the construct form of Ramah (Jos 19:8) (ra’math neghebh; Bameth kata liba). A city in that part of the territory of Judah which was allotted to Simeon. It stands here in apposition to Baalath-beer, and is probably a second name for the same place. It seems to correspond also with "Ramoth (plural) of the South" (1Sa 30:27), a place to which David sent a share of the spoil taken from the Amalekites. In this passage Septuagint retains the singular form, Rhama notou. Identification has been suggested with Qubbet el-Baul, about 37 miles South of Hebron; and with Kurnub a little farther South. There is no substantial ground for either identification.

(6) Codex Vaticanus Rhemmoth; Codex Alexandrinus Rhamoth: Ramah in 2Ki 8:29; 2Ch 22:6, is a contraction of Ramoth-gilead.