Also known as Mizpeh, Tell en-Nasbe, Tell en-Nasbeh, Ataroth-Addar (?), Mizpah of Benjamin

Many "Mizpahs" in the Bible

The name Mizpah is connected with several sites mentioned in the Bible and comes from the root meaning “to watch” or “to guard.” Among those sites are Mizpah of Moab (1 Sam 22:3), Mizpah of Judah (Josh 15:33, 38), the Land of Mizpah (Josh 11:3), and Mizpah of Gilead (Genesis 31). The subject of these photos is the Mizpah that is listed as a town of Benjamin (Josh 18:26).

The Identification of Mizpah

A. Rabboisson (1897) was the first to identify Mizpah with Tell en-Nasbeh, a site about 7 miles (12 km) north of Jerusalem. W. F. Bade excavated the tell from 1926 to 1935. While this expedition found no conclusive proof identifying Tell en-Nasbeh as Mizpah, the evidence supports the identification. In accord with the biblical record, evidence was found at Tell en-Nasbeh of occupation during the Iron, Persian, and Hellenistic ages. Additionally, large Iron Age walls, glacis, and towers were found which correspond to the type of fortress construction that would be expected by King Asa’s building of Mizpah, recorded in 1 Kings 15:22.

Mizpah in the Time of the Judges

Mizpah served as the rendezvous point for the tribes massing to fight against the men of Benjamin following the rape of the concubine (Judg 20:1-3). The men of Israel took an oath in Mizpah to not allow their daughters to marry a Benjamite (Judg 21:1). Mizpah was also the location of a national assembly where “all Israel” came before Samuel and repented (1 Sam 7). Immediately following this, God routed the Philistines from Mizpah down the Beth Horon Ridge route. It is possible that the tabernacle was here when Samuel offered the sacrifices. Later, acquiescing to the demands of the Israelites, Samuel selected a king to lead them at Mizpah (1 Sam 10:17).

A Well-Preserved Offset-Inset Wall

This offset-inset wall was constructed in the Iron II period and is believed by some to be associated with Asa’s fortification of the city (1 Kgs 15:22). The entire length of the wall was revealed in the excavations, a length of 2,100 feet (660 m), including eleven towers that were built along the exterior face of the wall. The wall is believed to have originally been 38–45 feet (12–14 m) tall.

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Related Websites

Mizpah (BibleAtlas.org) Includes a map and a good encyclopedia article, along with a list of where Mizpah is mentioned in Scripture.

Understanding Mizpah in the Bible (Biblical Definitions) This is a comprehensive look at Mizpah; one of the highlights is a 3-minute video at historical origins of Mizpah.

Mizpah (Abarim Publications) A deep-dive into the etymology of the name.

Mizpah, Mizpah Wherefore Art Thou Mizpah? (Bible History Daily) This 2008 article looks at the difficulties in identifying Mizpah in some depth.

Uncovering the Bible’s Buried Cities: Mizpah (Armstrong Institute of Biblical Archaeology) A 2019 article about the ongoing excavations at Tell en-Nasbeh.