Bethel - Encyclopedia


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BETHEL (Heb. "House of God"), originally called Luz, an ancient city of Palestine, on the N.W. border of the tribe of Benjamin, 11 m. N. of Jerusalem and nearly 2900 ft. above sea-level. From very early times it was a holy place, a circumstance probably due primarily to a very extraordinary group of boulders and rock-outcrops north of the town. Abraham recognized its sanctity (Gen. xii. 8); Jacob, in ignorance, slept in the sacred enclosure and was granted a vision ("Jacob's ladder," Gen. xxviii). For a while the ark seems to have been deposited here (Judg. xx. 27), and it was a place for consulting the oracle (Judg. xx. 18). At the secession of the northern kingdom under Jeroboam, Bethel became a royal residence and a national shrine (i Kings xii. 29-31, Amos vii. 13), for which, its position at the junction of main roads from N. to S. and E. to W. well fitted it. It was taken from Jeroboam by Abijah, king of Judah (2 Chr. xiii. 19). It seems to have continued to flourish down into the Christian era; remains of its ecclesiastical buildings still exist. The present village, which bears the name of Beitin, occupies about three or four acres, and has a population of 2000.

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