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Waters of Merom

MEROM, WATERS OF mĭr’ əm (מֵ֣י מֵרֹ֔ום; ὕδωρ Μαρρών/Μερρών/Μερρώμ). By the waters of Merom the Israelites defeated the combined forces of the kings of Galilee (Josh 11:5, 7). Merom was most certainly a town in Upper Galilee as evidenced by the ancient extra-Biblical sources. Thutmose III’s list of Galilean towns included m-r-m-i’-m (No. 85). In a series of reliefs from the eighth year of Ramses II m-r-m is associated with the mountain of Beth-anath (q.v.) and Kanah (of Asher, q.v.), all of which are in Upper Galilee. During his campaign in the same region Tiglath-pileser II (733 b.c.) conquered a place called Ma-ru-um.

Eusebius seems unaware of the real location for Merom. His allusion to a village called Μέρρους twelve Rom. m. from Sebaste (Samaria) near Dothaim (Dothan) prob. is nothing but a remark made in passing (Onomasticon, 128:4-6, 12, 13).

The view of H. Reland (1714) that the Waters of Merom are to be identified with Lake Hula has nothing to commend it. The lake was known in Rom. times as Σεμεχωνι̂τις (Josephus, War, III, x, 7 [515]; IV, i, 1 [2-3]; Antiq., V, v, 1 [199])=סַמְכוּ (Jerusalem Talmud, Kilayim, IX, 32c bot) or סִיבְכַי (Ibid., Baba Bathra, V, 15a regarding Deut 33:23). The lake was renowned as one of the seven lakes of the Holy Land and further identified as יַמָּא דְּחוּלְתָּא, “The lake of Ḥulta’” (Loc. cit. concerning samḳô, supra), after the valley region to the N of the lake. This latter was called Ούλἄθα by Josephus (Antiq. XV. x. 3 [360]), and the name was preserved until modern times in the Arab. Baḥeiret el-Ḥûleh.

W. F. Albright found Late Bronze and Early Iron sherds on the slopes below the synagogue ruins and thus accepted the identification: Meirûn=Merom. But J. Garstang rightly observed that all roads leading into Upper Galilee met at Bint Umm el-Jebeil near the foot of Jebel Mârûn. On this mountain stands the village of Mârûn er-Râs.

Y. Aharoni has proposed to identify the Biblical Merom with Tell el-Khirbeh, an impressive site S of Mârûn er-Râs on the Israel-Lebanon border. The “waters of Merom” may be identified with either the perennial spring at the foot of the tell, or, what is more likely, with the numerous wells in the several branches of the Wâdī Fârah.

One of the kings called out to join the king of Hazor was, according to the Heb. text, the king of Madon (Josh 11:1-12; 12:19). Scholars have usually identified that town with Khirbet Madîn on the southern slope of Qurn Ḥaṭṭîn. However, the LXX reads Marrōn in both of these references, and it certainly would be strange if the king of Merom were not present at that battle. Furthermore, B. Mazar has presented arguments for identifying the impressive Bronze and Iron Age ruins on Qurn Hattīn with the šmš-’tm, “Shemesh-Adam,” of Amenhotep II’s inscr.

The fixing of Merom in the vicinity of Jebel Mârûn harmonizes nicely with all of the sources in which the city is mentioned and provides a reasonable topographical explanation for Joshua’s battle. First of all, Merom is situated on the main road from Acco, via Gath (Jett, perhaps Thutmose II’s No. 93 and/or the “Gath-asher” of two topographical lists from the time of Ramses II), and Tell er-Ruweisā (possibly Beth-shemesh of Naphtali, Josh 19:38; Judg 1:33), to Kadesh of Galilee. The respective columns of Ramses II and Tiglath-pileser would have passed this way, the former going N, the latter S. The king of Achshaph must certainly have come up this way from the plain of Acco to Merom. It also is understandable why the Canaanites fled after their defeat, not toward Acco but rather to Misrephoth. The Israelites had cut off the route between Merom and the southern portion of the plain of Acco when they came up to make their attack; therefore, the Canaanites were forced to retreat due westward by way of Iqrit and Abdon to the coast. Apparently, the Israelites also had blocked the northeasterly route to Kadesh and thence to Hazor, so that some of the defeated enemies had to retreat due N. These latter fugitives split up near Beth-anath, part of them going NE to the Mizpeh Valley and the rest turning NW toward Tyre and Sidon. Tell el-Khirbeh was a strong Canaanite fort on the southern boundary of Canaanite Galilee. It was the logical point at which to assemble if one wanted to curb the Israelite advance northward. It also was a natural meeting place for the allies coming from the plain of Acco and from Hazor.

As a result of Joshua’s victory, the Israelites were able to conquer the cities whose kings fell at Merom, and none of these towns appears in the list of unconquered towns in Judges 1. All of them except Merom appear among the towns assigned to the northern tribes in the Book of Joshua.


H. Reland, Palaestine ex monumentis veteribus illustrata (1714), 261-264; A. Neubauer, La Géographie du Talmud (1868), 228-230; C. R. Conder and H. H. Kitchener, SWP, Memoirs III (1881), 254; W. Oehlers, “Die Ortschaften und Grenzen Galiläas nach Josephus,” ZDPV, XXVIII (1905), 49-74; G. Dalman, “Das phönizische Grab und der Messiasthron bei Mērōn,” ZDPV, XXIX (1906), 195-199; S. Klein, Beiträge zur Geographie und Geschichte Galiläas (1909), 23-25; W. F. Albright, “New Israelite and Pre-Israelite Sites: The Spring Trip of 1929,” BASOR, No. 35 (1929), 8; G. A. Smith, The Historical Geography of the Holy Land (25th ed., 1931), 425, 480n. 5; J. Garstang, Joshua-Judges (1931), 183-198; B. Mazar, “The Canaan-Expeditions of Amenhotep II,” Yerushalayim, IV (1952), 13-20 (Hebrew); Y. Aharoni, “The Land of ’Amqi,” IEJ III (1953), 157, 158, n. 22; id., The Settlement of the Israelite Tribes in Upper Galilee (1957), 13, 14, 95-98 (Heb.); M. Avi-Yonah, Historical Geography of Palestine (3rd ed., 1962), 142, 152 (Heb.); Y. Aharoni, Carta’s Atlas of the Bible (1964), Map No. 62 and p. 47 (Heb.); M. Avi-Yonah, The Holy Land (1966), 133; id., The Land of the Bible (1967), 205, 206.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

The place which was the scene of Joshua’s victory over Jabin and his confederates (Jos 11:7), commonly identified with Lake Huleh in the upper part of the Jordan valley, but with doubtful propriety. Josephus says (Ant., V, i, 18) that the camp of the allies was at Beroth in upper Galilee, and that Beroth was not far from Kadesh, which is upon the summit of the Galilean hills. According to the Scriptural account, the pursuit was to Sidon and Hazor on the West of the mountains (see Hazor), while the names of the confederates are those of places in lower Galilee and the maritime plain. It seems improbable that a force of chariots should be brought over to be hemmed in by the rugged mountains which border the narrow plain of Huleh on both sides, plains that are made still narrower by the swamps surrounding the lake (see JORDAN VALLEY) in Joshua’s time, when they were much larger than they are now after having been filled with the accumulation of sediment brought down by mountain streams for 3,000 years. Conder, with much reason, supposes the "waters of Merom" to be the perennial stream Wady el-Melek, near Shimrom-Merom (Semunieh), 5 miles West of Nazareth. Were Lake Huleh referred to, the proper phrase would be Sea (yam) of Merom, rather than waters (mayim).