Mount Ephraim and Benjamin

52. Gabaon - (al-Jib)

One of the most ancient Canaanite cities. In the Bible it is referred to as one of the four Hivite cities (.Josh. 9:7,17) and '...a great city, as one of the royal cities, ...greater than Ai, and all the men thereof were mighty' (Josh. 10:2). Although the Gibeonites were condemned by Joshua to perpetual bondage (Josh. 9), he nevertheless made an alliance with the city (Josh. 9:17-18). The King of Jerusalem and his allies were vanquished by Joshua at Gibeon (Josh. 10) and it was on that occasion that Joshua made the sun stand still (Josh. 10:12-13). David 'smote the host of the Philistines' from Gibeon to Gezer (I Chr. 14:16; Authorized Version: 'Gazer'). The men of Joab and of Abner (ought each other near the pool of Gibeon, at a place called Helkath Hazzurim (2 Sam. 2:12-17). There was a great high place at Gibeon where Solomon offered a sacrifice and prayed for wisdom (I Kgs. 3:4 If.; 2 Chr. 1:3 If,). Johanan, son of Kareah, fought Ishmael, son of Nethaniah, 'by the great waters that are in Gibeon' (Jer. 41:11-12). After the Restoration the Gibeonites took part in rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem (Neh. 3:7).
Josephus mentions Gibeon under the name of Gabao, a place where Cestius Gallus camped on his way to Jerusalem in October of the year AD 66; it lay 50 stadia from Jerusalem (War II, 516,544). Eusebius recorded that a village of this name still existed in Ramah, 4 miles west of Beth-El (Onom. 48,9:1 1).
Gibeon is identified with el-Jib, about 8 miles northwest of Jerusalem, on the way to Beth-Horon. In the years 1957, 1959, 1 960 and 1962 J.B. Pritchard excavated the site on behalf of the Museum of the University of Pennsylvania. Except for some traces of settlement in the Late Bronze Age all the remains on the site are from the Iron Age and later periods. The main discoveries were the fortifications, a large pool, two water tunnels, wine cellars, some houses and a large amount of epigraphic material which confirms the identification of the site.

Avraham negev (Ed.), The Archaeological Encyclopedia of the Holy Land, ad. v. Gibeon" (extract)

P. O'Callaghan (Supplément au Dictionnaire de la Bible, ad v. "Madaba", col. 655)
Gabaon. Lettres blanches, au sud de Rama. Cette ville a joué un rôle important dans l'histoire mouvementée de Josué (Jos., IX,sq.), qui la protégea contre les Amorréens (Jos., Xl, 19). Attribuée ultérieurement à Benjamin (Jos., XVIII,25) et aux Lévites (Jos., XXI, 17), elle gardait au temps de David (11 Sam. XXI, 6-LXX) un haut-lieu, qui reçut au temps de Salomon, le nom de Habama hagedola (I Reg., III, 4).
Après l'exil, les Gabaonites aidèrent à reconstruire Jérusalem (Neh., III, 7). Eusèbe (Onom., p. 66, 11 sq). place Gabaonplesion baithel pros dusmas hos apo semeion, et l'on s'aperçoit qu'il est suivi d'assez près par le mosaïste. Mais cette localisation semble dériver d'un cycle favorable à Béthel dans la tradition qui raconte la marche de Josué de l'est à l'ouest; Eusèbe, du reste, n'est pas une autorité sûre en cette question ; voir F.-M. Abel, La question gaboonite et l'Onomasticon, dans R. B., XLIII, (1934), p. 365 sq. En fait, Gibeon est à chercher beaucoup plus au nord-ouest de Jérusalem que ne le suppose la carte de Madaba, car Ste Paula, vers l'an 385 apr. J.-C., allait de Nicopolis à Jérusalem via Bethoron, ad dexteram aspiciens Aialon et Gaboon (Peregrinatio, Vl); voir R. O'Callaghan, dans Biblica, XXXII, (1951), p.62. Josèphe (Bell. jud., II, XIX, I ) la place à 50 stades de Jérusalem. Cette donnée correspond bien aux 10 km qui séparent el-Gib de Jérusalem, à 2 km à l'ouest d'Adasa. Le village d'el-Gib, à 773 m. d'altitude, semble donc bien marquer l'emplacement de Gib'on (LXX:Gabaon).

Leah Di Segni ("The Onomastikon of Eusebius and the Madaba Map", in The Madaba Map Centenary, Jerusalem 1999, 117)
We may note that the map follows the Onomastikon in locating Gabaon not on the Bethoron road, like Josephus and Jerome, but near Rama, on the Neapolis road. (See also the complete article)

Bellarmino Bagatti (Ancient Christian Villages of Samaria, Jerusalem - in the press)


Guérin (Judée I, 385) and the authors of the Survey (SWP III, 100) mention a church in the village of el-Jib. A visit made by Father Corbo and myself in 1944 for the purpose of drawing a plan of said church, gave no results because the area was covered with straw and other rubbish. In 1975, however, a survey became possible and I was able to produce a brief essay (B. Bagatti, LA 25 [1975], 54-72). Thence I extract some data, referring the reader to that article, should he desire to learn more details on the Christian history of the site.
El-Jib is the continuation of the village of Gibeon, well known in the Bible. The Book of Joshua (ch.9) tells how the Hivites of Gibeon saved themselves from slaughter through a stratagem. A story in 2 Sam 2:11-17 describes a battle fought there between the followeres of Saul and the followers of David. The Book of Nehemiah (3:7) lists the Gibeonites among those who collaborated in the restoration of the walls of Jerusalem. Then there is no further mention of a Jewish habitation. On the contrary, the tombs of the Roman period (some at least) show that the place was inhabited by pagans.
In the In the Byzantine period the village was known, and possibly also visited by pilgrims (cf. St. Jerome, Ep. 108, 8, PL 22, 883; Peter the Deacon, De locis sanctis, CCSL 175, 97). From the archeological exploration we learn that the buildings of the biblical period are located on the hill south of the modern village, and that on the spot occupied by the houses inhabited today, there was a cluster of dwellings going back to the fifth and sixth centuries. In some of them we noticed crosses in relief over the windows, in others crosses carved over doorways. The village was certainly Christian at that time.
The principal building is a structure which the inhabitants call el-kenise, 'the church', or Deir Sitty, 'The house of (our) Lady'. It is a hall oriented to the east, covered by a barrel vault resting on arches, with large entrances from two sides in addition to the usual crosses carved over doorways. The village was certainly Christian at that time.
The principal building is a structure which the inhabitants call el-kenise, 'the church', or Deir Sitty, 'The house of (our) Lady'. It is a hall oriented to the east, covered by a barrel vault resting on arches, with large entrances from two sides in addition to the usual doorway on the west side. The entrances are surmounted by lunette-shaped windows. These architectural features greatly differentiate this sacred building from the usual, European-style church encountered in the Byzantine period. Instead, they connect this construction with the churches of Mesopotamia, which were built in the style of the temples and palaces existing in that region. This leads us to suppose that Christians from Mesopotamian districts settled in el-Jib in the Byzantine period. Both a religious incentive and the persecutions suffered by the Christians at the hands of the Sassanid emperors could have caused this migration. This would be in line with other contemporary settlements of eastern population which are attested by the term 'Deir' prefixed to the names of various places in the region northwest of Jerusalem.
Architectural remains are found scattered here and there in the village. They are in the typical style of the Romano-Byzantine period. However, at the present it is impossible to ascertain where the religious edifice to which they belonged might have stood. They may even have been brought from the neighbourhood.

For more sources and bibliography see:
Tabula Imperii Romani. Iudaea - Palaestina (Jerusalem 1994) s.v. "Gabaon", 126-127.

Map Section 5 Place Sources

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Created Tuesday, December 19, 2000 at 23:39:39
by Eugenio Alliata ofm in collaboration with Stefano de Luca ofm
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copyright - Studium Biblicum Franciscanum - Jerusalem 2000