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Valley of Rephaim

REPHAIM, VALLEY OF (rĕf'ā-ĭm, vale of giants). This was a fertile plain south of Jerusalem, three miles (five km.) from Bethlehem. It was a productive area (Isa.17.4-Isa.17.5) and thus was a prize for which the Philistines often fought. David twice defeated the Philistines in this valley (1Chr.14.8-1Chr.14.16).

VALLEY OF REPHAIM (עֵ֥מֶק רְפָאִ֖ים, LXX Εμὲκ ̔Ραφαῒμ [Josh 18:16], γη̂ς ̔Ραφαῒμ [15:8], κοιλὰς ̔Ραφαίμ, κοιλὰς τω̂ν τιτάνων, κοιλὰς τω̂ν γιγάντων, meaning valley of the giants). A valley SW of Jerusalem.

The N end of the Valley of Rephaim marked the N boundary of the tribe of Judah and at the same time the S boundary of the tribe of Benjamin (Josh 15:8; 18:16). This valley is today called simply the Baq’a or “valley” and constitutes a suburb of Jerusalem. It touches the Valley of Hinnom on the N and the Valley of Dier el-Musallabeh (the Monastery of the Holy Cross).

After David captured Jerusalem and the Philistines heard about his being anointed king, they camped in the valley of Rephaim anticipating an attack on the new capital of Israel (2 Sam 5:17-21). David took up the challenge and defeated the Philistines at Baal-perazim which is located at Ras en-Nadir. The Philistines prepared a second attack, but this time David routed them with an attack from the E on their rear guard (2 Sam 5:22-25). The account of these two episodes is expanded in 1 Chronicles 11:15-19 and 14:10-17.

The seventh and last mention of the Valley of Rephaim is in Isaiah 17:5. To illustrate the survival of the idol-hating remnant, the prophet says, “It shall when one gleans the ears of grain in the Valley of Rephaim.”

The Bible records no reason that this valley should be named after the early inhabitants of Canaan whom the Israelites thought to be giants (cf. Gen 14:5; 15:20; Josh 17:15). One can only guess that the people called Rephaim lived in the vicinity of this valley.