Gibeon - Nebi Samwil

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Places of Interest

Gibeon - Nebi Samuel

 

Gibeon is mentioned 43 times in the Bible and played a major role in the history of Israel. Here are just a few key events that happened here:

 

1. This ancient city is named after the Gibeonites who tricked Joshua into making a treaty with them after the Israelites entered the Promised Land.

 

2. Just above the city of Gibeon was this key high place that was used for worship during much of Israel’s history.

 

3. The amazing miracle of the sun and moon standing still as a result of Joshua’s prayer happened at this high place of Gibeon.

 

4. Gibeon, also known as Gibeah, was the hometown of King Saul.

 

5. The tabernacle resided at the high place of Gibeon during the reigns of David and Solomon.

 

6. Soon after Solomon became King, he went to Gibeon. Here he received supernatural wisdom, wealth, and power to use for ruling God’s people.

 

7. Today, there is a synagogue and mosque here that is built upon the ruins of a Crusader church, which was built on the ruins of a Byzantine church, which is built upon where the tabernacle was located during the reigns of King David and King Solomon.

 

8. A tradition dating back to the Byzantine period places the tomb of Samuel here as well.

 

Location

 

1. Gibeon is located about 6 miles (10 km.) northwest of Jerusalem.

 

2. Today, it's known as Nabi Samuel or Nebi Samwil, which means, “The Prophet Samuel” because it’s believed Samuel’s tomb is located here.

 

3. Just below this high place and to the north is the ancient city of Gibeon with its ruins, known today as Al Jib.

 

4. Gibeon is on top of a high mountain with a spectacular view of Jerusalem and the surrounding area. In fact, you can see Jerusalem quite easily from this site. It becomes clear that this spot was a significant high place and fits the biblical descriptions of many events found in Scripture and history.

 

5. This high place is about 3,000 feet or 908 meters above sea level.

 

6. It’s located on an ancient route that led from the coastal plain passing through Beit Horon, this high place of Gibeon, and on to Jerusalem. Today highways 436 and 443 mark this route.

 

Historical Background

 

1. Before the conquest of the Israelites, Gibeon was a Canaanite city.

 

2. Gibeon was a popular place in the Bible and is mentioned 43 times.

 

3. Its name means “Hill City” and it’s located in the heart of the Tribe of Benjamin.

 

4. It was a high place of worship throughout much of Israel’s history, and the tabernacle was here during the times of King David and King Solomon.

 

5. The tomb of the Prophet Samuel is believed to be located inside the synagogue part of the building.

 

6. Excavations, which are still ongoing, have uncovered the remains of settlements from both the First Temple (7th century BC) and the Second Temple (Hasmonean Period 167 BC–63 BC) can be found here.

 

7. During the Byzantine period (5th–7th century AD), a church and monastery were built at this high place of Gibeon. Also, in the Byzantine period around 500 AD, Christian tradition said that the prophet’s bones were relocated here, and a monastery was built at the site to honor Samuel.

 

8. The Crusaders then built a church and fortress over the monastery in the 12 century AD. The main structure that can be seen today is a magnificent Crusader-era church, and it's one of only four that survived after the Muslim conquests of the Crusaders. It survived because the Muslims turned this church into a mosque, which they still use today.

 

9. After Saladin conquered much of Israel in 1187, the church and monastery were damaged.

 

10. In 1267 the Mamluks captured the area and controlled the Holy Land until 1517. In the 14th century, the Mamelukes converted the church to a mosque. Remains from this period include two ceramic ovens near the stables. 

 

11. Because it’s believed Samuel was buried here, along with the biblical history of the site, in the 15th-century Jews built a synagogue adjacent to the mosque and resumed pilgrimages to this site.

 

12. It appears that later on, the mosque was renovated by the Ottomans in 1730.

 

13. The building that we see today was rebuilt by the British after World War 1. Both the mosque and synagogue share the same building.

 

Places of Interest

 

1. Tabernacle Location

The original tabernacle is believed to be directly under the synagogue and mosque of this site. This would make sense as we have a long history of one thing built on top of another, which in archaeology is a strong sign of authenticity. As mentioned, this synagogue and mosque were built upon the ruins of a Crusader church, which was built on the ruins of a Byzantine church, which is built upon where the tabernacle was located during the reigns of King David and King Solomon. It also has other ruins dating back to the first temple period of the 7th century BC.

 

2. Hannah's Spring

Just down the hill below the ruins is a place called Hannah’s Spring. It's named after Samuel’s mother, Hannah, who is believed to have traversed this area and lived close by. Today, women come here to pray for God’s blessing for conception and childbirth. An ancient road passing through an orchard of strawberry, olive, and fig trees leads to a small spring flowing from a cave. Picnic tables have been set up in a pleasant and tranquil corner in the shade of the fig trees. Above Hannah’s Spring, entrances to First Temple period burial caves can be seen.

 

3. Hasmonean Ruins

During extensive archaeological excavations, archaeologists found remains dating to the Hasmonean period, which was from around 164 to 63 BC. We can see a number of well-preserved two-story houses and streets in this section.

 

4. Byzantine Church and Monastery

During the Byzantine period in around 400 AD, a large monastery was constructed at this site. There are few remains from that period since the Crusaders built their church and fortress over the monastery. The monastery served as a hostel for the Christian pilgrims who came to visit Jerusalem. It existed until around 900 AD.

 

5. Crusader Ruins
The crusade to liberate the Holy Land and free Jerusalem started in 1096. On June 7, 1099, three years after the military expedition started in Europe, the Crusaders finally approached the gates of Jerusalem. They first arrived at this site of Nebi Samuel, where they could see Jerusalem in the distance. They were so joyful on viewing the Holy City for the first time that they later named this site the “Mountain of Joy.” 

 

In 1140 the Crusaders upgraded the site as a military fortress as well as a holy shrine. They cut into the bedrock on the west, north, and east sides, creating a defensive moat. However, only part of the moat was finished. The hewn rocks were used for the building material of the church of St. Samuel on the top of the hill. The church was completed in 1157. The fortress was a rectangular structure with the church at its center, built over the traditional tomb of the prophet.

 

On the north and north-east sides, the Crusaders cut away the bedrock to around 15 ft. or 5 m. below the surface. The stones were used to build their structures and fortress. This large flat area was then used as a campsite for armies and a hostel for Christian pilgrims headed to Jerusalem.

 

On the north side, within the quarried area, are a number of hewn structures. We can see a large stable with rock-cut troughs. There are also pools, cisterns, rock-hewn tombs, and agriculture installations here.

 

6. Synagogue
An earlier synagogue was preserved at a lower level where the actual tomb of Samuel is located. The entrance to the Synagogue is on the north side and houses the believed tomb of the prophet Samuel. There is a women's section and a men’s section. The men’s section is accessed by going down some stairs and is where the tomb of Samuel can be found. It's located below because its level was the original level of the Byzantine Church and monastery.

 

7. Rooftop Viewing Area
On the roof above the mosque and synagogue is a large area that provides spectacular viewing of the area. Jerusalem, the Mt. of Olives, and many other sites can be seen from this high place.

 

8. Quarry

 

9. Stables

Gibeon in the Bible

 

1. This ancient city is named after the Gibeonites, who tricked Joshua into making a treaty with them.
Joshua 9:3–7: When the inhabitants of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done to Jericho and to Ai, 4 they also acted craftily and set out as envoys, and took worn-out sacks on their donkeys, and wineskins worn-out and torn and mended, 5 and worn-out and patched sandals on their feet, and worn-out clothes on themselves; and all the bread of their provision was dry and had become crumbled. 6 They went to Joshua to the camp at Gilgal and said to him and to the men of Israel, “We have come from a far country; now therefore, make a covenant with us.”

 

Gilgal is only 29 miles (32 km.) from Gibeon. 

 

Joshua 9:14–15: So the men of Israel took some of their provisions, and did not ask for the counsel of the Lord. 15 Joshua made peace with them and made a covenant with them, to let them live; and the leaders of the congregation swore an oath to them.

 

2. The amazing miracle of the sun and moon standing still happened at Gibeon.
Joshua 10:1–14: Now it came about when Adoni-zedek king of Jerusalem heard that Joshua had captured Ai, and had utterly destroyed it (just as he had done to Jericho and its king, so he had done to Ai and its king), and that the inhabitants of Gibeon had made peace with Israel and were within their land, 2 that he feared greatly, because Gibeon was a great city, like one of the royal cities, and because it was greater than Ai, and all its men were mighty. 3 Therefore Adoni-zedek king of Jerusalem sent word to Hoham king of Hebron and to Piram king of Jarmuth and to Japhia king of Lachish and to Debir king of Eglon, saying, 4 “Come up to me and help me, and let us attack Gibeon, for it has made peace with Joshua and with the sons of Israel.” 5 So the five kings of the Amorites, the king of Jerusalem, the king of Hebron, the king of Jarmuth, the king of Lachish, and the king of Eglon, gathered together and went up, they with all their armies, and camped by Gibeon and fought against it. 6 Then the men of Gibeon sent word to Joshua to the camp at Gilgal, saying, “Do not abandon your servants; come up to us quickly and save us and help us, for all the kings of the Amorites that live in the hill country have assembled against us.” 7 So Joshua went up from Gilgal, he and all the people of war with him and all the valiant warriors. 8 The Lord said to Joshua, “Do not fear them, for I have given them into your hands; not one of them shall stand before you.” 9 So Joshua came upon them suddenly by marching all night from Gilgal. 10 And the Lord confounded them before Israel, and He slew them with a great slaughter at Gibeon, and pursued them by the way of the ascent of Beth-horon and struck them as far as Azekah and Makkedah. 11 As they fled from before Israel, while they were at the descent of Beth-horon, the Lord threw large stones from heaven on them as far as Azekah, and they died; there were more who died from the hailstones than those whom the sons of Israel killed with the sword. 12 Then Joshua spoke to the Lord in the day when the Lord delivered up the Amorites before the sons of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel, “O sun, stand still at Gibeon, and O moon in the valley of Aijalon.” 13 So the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, until the nation avenged themselves of their enemies. Is it not written in the book of Jashar? And the sun stopped in the middle of the sky and did not hasten to go down for about a whole day. 14 There was no day like that before it or after it, when the Lord listened to the voice of a man; for the Lord fought for Israel.

 

3. Gibeon (Gibeah) was the hometown of King Saul.
1 Samuel 10:26: Saul also went to his house at Gibeah.

4. Gibeon is the likely place the Prophet Samuel anointed Saul to be the first king of Israel.

Tradition affirms, and it is also believed by some, that this place is the biblical Mizpah, which in Hebrew means tower, where Samuel anointed Saul to be the first king of Israel.
1 Samuel 10:17: “Now Samuel called the people together to the Lord at Mizpah.” Then in verse 24 it says: “Samuel said to all the people, ‘Do you see him whom the Lord has chosen? Surely there is no one like him among all the people.’ So, all the people shouted and said, “Long live the king!’” 

 

5. According to Scripture, Samuel died and was buried in a place called Ramah, which was the hometown of the prophet. 
Samuel 25:1: “Then Samuel died; and all Israel assembled and mourned for him, and they buried him at his house in Ramah.”
The location of Ramah is not known, but according to its meaning in Hebrew, which means heights, it should be on a high hill in an area close by to Jerusalem. This area certainly fits this description but we’re not totally certain.

 

6. The tabernacle resided at the high place of Gibeon during the reigns of David and Solomon.
1 Chronicles 21:28–29: At that time, when David saw that the Lord had answered him on the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite, he offered sacrifice there. 29 For the tabernacle of the Lord, which Moses had made in the wilderness, and the altar of burnt offering were in the high place at Gibeon at that time.

 

2 Chronicles 1:2–3: Solomon spoke to all Israel, to the commanders of thousands and of hundreds and to the judges and to every leader in all Israel, the heads of the fathers’ households. 3 Then Solomon and all the assembly with him went to the high place, which was at Gibeon, for God’s tent of meeting was there, which Moses the servant of the Lord had made in the wilderness.

 

7. God caused a famine in Israel because King Saul broke the covenant Joshua made with the Gibeonites.
2 Samuel 21:1: Now there was a famine in the days of David for three years, year after year; and David sought the presence of the Lord. And the Lord said, “It is for Saul and his bloody house, because he put the Gibeonites to death.”

 

8. Soon after Solomon became King, he went to Gibeon. Here he received supernatural wisdom, wealth, and power to use for ruling God’s people. 
1 Kings 3:3–5: Now Solomon loved the Lord, walking in the statutes of his father David, except he sacrificed and burned incense on the high places. 4 The king went to Gibeon to sacrifice there, for that was the great high place; Solomon offered a thousand burnt offerings on that altar. 5 In Gibeon, the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream at night; and God said, “Ask what you wish Me to give you.” In response, God not only gave him supernatural wisdom, but wealth and power as well.

 

Faith Lessons from Gibeon

 

1. The Gibeonites tricked Joshua into making an agreement with them because he failed to seek the Lord in prayer. Do we make poor decisions as well because we fail to seek the Lord? 

 

Proverbs 3:5–6: "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight."

 

2. God heard Joshua’s prayer and the sun and moon stood still for a day. There is nothing we can ask in prayer that is too big for God to answer. 

 

James 5:16–18: "The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the earth for three years and six months. Then he prayed again, and the sky poured rain and the earth produced its fruit."

 

Do we believe God truly hears our prayers?

 

3. God punished the Israelites because they broke their agreement with the Gibeonites that Joshua made with them.

 

Psalm 15:4: "But he honors those who fear the Lord; he who swears to his own hurt and does not change."

 

What about us? Do we keep our agreements with others?

 

4. God gave Solomon supernatural wisdom, wealth, and power to serve others and glorify God. How do we use our wisdom, wealth, and power? Do we mainly use it for the Lord, or primarily for our own good and benefit?
 

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