Beth Shemesh

Also known as Tel Bet Shemesh, Tel Beth-Shemesh, Tell er-Rumeileh, Ain esh-Shems, 'Ain Shems, Beth-shemesh, Bethshemesh, Har-Heres, Ir-Shemesh, Rabbah(?), Rubute(?), Rumeileh

Beth Shemesh aerial from south

Strategic Position

A border city between Judah and Dan, Beth Shemesh was given to the Levites.  Beth Shemesh was the most important Israelite city in the Sorek Valley as it watched both east-west traffic through the Sorek Valley and north-south traffic along the "Diagonal Route."   Recent excavations have shown a thriving city here from the Middle Bronze Age through the Iron II period.

 

Zorah and Eshtaol

On the north side of the Sorek Valley across from Beth Shemesh are the ancient villages of Zorah (top of ridge, center) and Eshtaol (off picture to the right).  Samson's prophesied birth was in this area (Judges 13) as was the location of his burial (Judges 16).  Samson's first "girlfriend" lived at Timnah a few miles west in the Sorek valley.  His last girlfriend Delilah lived somewhere in this same valley.

Zorah from south

 

Sorek Valley from Beth Shemesh view west

Sorek Valley

Excavations of Beth Shemesh are visible in the foreground and the Sorek Valley to the west is behind.  Samson traveled down this valley numerous times including the time when he killed the lion and later when he tied the tails of 300 foxes together.  

This was the vantage point of the Israelites who watched the ark of the covenant return to Beth Shemesh on a cow-pulled cart from the land of the Philistines (1 Samuel 6).

 

Iron Age Reservoir

Israeli archaeologists recently uncovered the largest Iron Age reservoir known in Israel.  With a capacity of 7,500 cubic feet, this reservoir could have supplied the town's inhabitants with water to survive a three-month siege.  This underground storage basin is composed of two long rooms in the shape of a cross and according to the excavators is "one of the finest examples of water engineering and management in the kingdom of Judah."

Beth Shemesh Iron Age reservoir entrance

 

Diagonal Route aerial from south

"Diagonal Route"

The importance of Beth Shemesh is largely owing to its situation along the route leading south to Lachish.  Known by some as the "Diagonal Route" (no name is given in historical sources), this route was the major artery through the Shephelah in the historical periods.  Travelers going south from Beth Shemesh will meet most of the major cities of the Shephelah along this route: Azekah, Moresheth Gath, Mareshah/Beth Guvrin and Lachish.

Related Websites

Tel Bet Shemesh, Israel: Summer Archaeological Program (Indiana University)  The official site for the Bet Shemesh excavations.  Basic information on the dig, plus the brochure and handbook, information for non-IU students, and a photo gallery.

Beth Shemesh (Walking in Their Sandals)  Gives easy-to-read information on the location, biblical significance, etc.  Features links to photographs and on-line scripture references. 

Beit Shemesh: Biblical City on the Border Between Judah and Philistia (Israel MFA)  Reconstructs aspects of life in various periods based on the archaeological findings, featuring enlargeable pictures of archaeological finds.  Copy of this page at Jewish Virtual Library.

Beth Shemesh (Christian Travel Study Program)  Summarizes the history, location, and archaeological finds associated with the site.  

Beth-Shemesh: A Biblical Border City Between Judah and Philistia (Tel Aviv University)  Contains background information as well as archaeological findings from the period of the Judges, the United Monarchy, and the Kingdom of Judah.  The excavated Underground Water Reservoir and Iron-Smith Workshop are highlighted.

Update on Beth Shemesh Excavation: Summer, 2000 (The Bible and Interpretation)  Summarizes the archaeological findings from the first 5 seasons of the Indiana University excavations.

Zorah (Walking in Their Sandals)  Zorah is located directly across the Sorek Valley from Beth Shemesh.  Site gives easy-to-read information on the location, biblical significance, etc.  Features links to photographs and on-line scripture references.