Beth-ar'bel (Heb. Beyth Arbel', בֵּית אִרבּאִל, house of God's court or courts), a place only alluded to by the prophet Hosea (Ho 10:14) as the scene of some great military exploit known in his day, but not recorded in Scripture: "All thy [Israel's] fortresses shall be spoiled, as Shalman spoiled Beth-arbel (Sept. ως ἄρχων Σαλαμὰν ἐκ τοῦ οἴκου ῾Ιεροβαάλ [v. r. ῾Ιεροβοάμ and Α᾿ρβεήλ]) in the day of battle." In the Vulgate, Jerome (following the Sept.) has translated the name "e domo ejus qui judicavit Baal," i.e. Jerubbaal, understanding Salman as Zalmunna, and the whole passage as a reference to Gideon's victory (Judges 8); but this is fanciful. Most modern commentators follow the Jewish interpreters (see Henderson, in loc.), who understand the verse to relate to Shalman (q.v.), or Shalmanezer, as having gained a battle at Beth-Arbel against Hoshea, king of Israel. As to the locality of this massacre, some refer it to the Arbela of Assyria (Strabo 16:1, 3), the scene of Alexander's famous victory; but there is no evidence of any such occurrences as here alluded to in that place. It is conjectured by Hitzig (in loc.) to be the place called Arbela (Α᾿ρβηλά) by Eusebius and Jerome in the Onomasticon (s.v.), where it is placed near Pella, east of Jordan; but as it is spoken of in Hosea as a strong fortress, the probability is rather that the noted locality in N.W. Palestine, called Arbela (τὰ ῎Αρβηλα) by Josephus and the Apocrypha, is meant. This was a village in Galilee, near which were certain fortified caverns. They are first mentioned in connection with the march of Bacchides into Judaea, at which time they were occupied by many fugitives, and the Syrian general encamped there long enough to subdue them (Ant. 12, 11, 1; 1 Maccabees 9:2). At a later period these caverns formed the retreats of banded robbers, who greatly distressed the inhabitants throughout that quarter. Josephus gives a graphic account of the means taken by Herod to extirpate them. The caverns were situated in the midst of precipitous cliffs, overhanging a deep valley, with only a steep and narrow path leading to the entrance; the attack was therefore exceeding difficult. Parties of soldiers, being at length let down in large boxes, suspended by chains from above, attacked those who defended the entrance with fire and sword, or dragged them out with long hooks and dashed them down the precipice. In this way the place was at length subdued (Ant. 14, 15, 4, 5; War, 1, 16, 2- 4). These same caverns were afterward fortified by Josephus himself against the Romans during his command in Galilee. In one place he speaks of them as the caverns of Arbela, and in another as the caverns near the Lake of Gennesareth (Life, 37; War, 2, 20, 6). According to the Talmud, Arbela lay between Sepphoris and Tiberias (Lightfoot, Chorog. Cent. c. 85). These indications leave little doubt that Arbela of Galilee, with its fortified caverns, may be identified with the present Kulat ibn Maan and the adjacent ruins now known as Irbid (probably a corruption of Irbil, the proper Arabic form of Arbela). The latter is the site which Pococke (2, 58) supposed to be that of Bethsaida, and where he found columns and the ruins of a large church, with a sculptured doorcase of white marble. The best description of the neighboring caves is that of Burckhardt (p. 331), who calculates that they might afford refuge to about 600 men. SEE ARBELA.

Bible concordance for BETH-ARBEL.

See also the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia.

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