Beersheba in the Bible Encyclopedia - ISBE
be-er-she'-ba (be'er shebha`; Bersabee): Allotted originally
to Simeon (Josh 19:2), one of "the uttermost cities of the
tribe of the children of Judah" (Josh 15:28).
1. The Meaning of the Name:
The most probable meaning of Beersheba is the "well of
seven." "Seven wells" is improbable on etymological grounds;
the numeral should in that case be first. In Gen 21:31
Abraham and Abimelech took an oath of witness that the
former had dug the well and seven ewe lambs were offered in
sacrifice, "Wherefore he called that place Beer-sheba;
because there they sware both of them." Here the name is
ascribed to the Hebrew root shabha`, "to swear," but this
same root is connected with the idea of seven, seven victims
being offered and to take an oath, meaning "to come under
the influence of seven."
Another account is given (Gen 26:23-33), where Isaac takes
an oath and just afterward, "the same day Isaac's servants
came, and told him concerning the well which they had digged
(dug), and said unto him, We have found water. And he called
it Shibah: therefore the name of the city is Beer-sheba unto
2. A Sacred Shrine:
Beersheba was a sacred shrine. "Abraham planted a tamarisk
tree in Beer-sheba, and called there on the name of Yahweh,
the Everlasting God" Gen (21:33). Theophanies occurred there
to Hagar (21:17), to Isaac (26:24), to Jacob (46:2), and to
Elijah (1 Ki 19:5). By Amos (5:5) it is classed with Bethel
and Gilgal as one of the rival shrines to the pure worship
of Yahweh, and in another place (8:14) he writes "They shall
fall, and never rise up again," who sware, "As the way (i.e.
cult) of Beersheba liveth." The two unworthy sons of Samuel
were Judges in Beersheba (1 Sam 8:2) and Zibiah, mother of
King Jehoash, was born there (2 Ki 12:1; 2 Ch 24:1).
3. Its Position:
Geographically Beersheba marked the southern limit of Judah,
though theoretically this extended to the "river of Egypt"
(Gen 15:18)--the modern Wady el`Avish--60 miles farther
south. It was the extreme border of the cultivated land.
From Dan to Beersheba (2 Sam 17:11, etc.) or from Beersheba
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