Bethshemesh

("house of the sun".)

1. A town on the N. boundary of Judah (Joshua 15:10), itself low in situation. A "valley" of wheat fields is mentioned accordingly as nigh (1 Samuel 6:13). Now Ain Shems, on the N.W. slopes of the mountains of Judah, "a low plateau at the junction of two fine plains" (Robinson), two miles from the Philistian plain, and seven from Ekron. From the latter was the road to Bethshemesh, on which the Philistines sent back the ark to Israel after its fatal stay among them. In the field of Joshua the Bethshemite was "the great Abel" (the Septuagint reads Aben "stone"; others retaining Abel explain it "the stone of mourning," compare 1 Samuel 6:19) whereon the ark was set (1 Samuel 6:18). Providence fitly arranged that Bethshemesh being a priests' city (Joshua 21:16; 1 Chronicles 1:59) had Levites and priests ready on the spot duly to receive the ark and sacrifice before it.

Curiosity tempted many to stare at (not necessarily "into") the ark beneath the cover; compare Numbers 4:20; 2 Samuel 6:6-7. So God smote in the proportion of 50 out of the 1,000, i.e. one twentieth instead of one tenth of the population, as sometimes; seventy men in all, out of the population of Bethshemesh, which amounted to 1,400 in this view. The numbers in the English Bible are evidently a mistake (1 Samuel 6:19). Josephus (Ant. 6:4) makes it only 70. It was one of Solomon's commissariat districts under Bendekar (margin 1 Kings 4:9). Here Joash king of Israel encountered and made prisoner of Amaziah of Judah (2 Kings 14:11-13; 2 Chronicles 25:21-23). In Ahaz' reign the Philistines occupied Bethshemesh (2 Chronicles 28:18.) Ir-shemesh was the older name (compare Joshua 15:10; Joshua 19:41; Joshua 19:43; 1 Kings 4:9). Harcheres, "mount of the Sun." was another name for Bethshemesh (Judges 1:35.)

2. A city on Issachar's border (Joshua 19:22).

3. A fenced city of Naphtali (Joshua 19:38; Judges 1:33). The inhabitants were not expelled, but became Israel's tributaries.

4. An idol sanctuary in Egypt (Jeremiah 43:13), the Greek Heliopolis, Egyptian On, E. of the Nile, a few miles N. of Memphis (Genesis 41:45). The statue in honor of the sun rose to 60 cubits, the base was 10, above there was a miter a thousand pounds weight. These many towns of this name show how widespread the worship of the sun had been.