Beth'-shemesh (Heb. Beyth She'mesh, בֵּית שֶׁמֶשׁ, house of the sun; in pause Beyth Sha'mesh, בֵּית שָׁמֶשׁ; Sept. in Jos 15:10, πόλις ἡλίου, elsewhere in Joshua and Judges Βηθσάμες, in Sam. and Chron. Βαιθσαμύς, in Kings Βαιθσάμις, in Jeremiah ῾Ηλιούπολις; Josephus Βηθσάμη, Ant. 6, 1, 3), the name of four places. SEE HELIOPOLIS.
1. A sacerdotal city (Jos 21:16; 1Sa 6:15; 1Ch 6:59) in the tribe of Dan, on the northern border (between Chesalon and Timnath) of Judah (Jos 15:10), toward the land of the Philistines (1Sa 6:9,12), probably in a lowland plain (2Ki 14:11), and placed by Eusebius and Jerome (Onomast . s.v. Βηθσάμες, Bethsamis) ten Roman miles from Eleutheropolis, in the direction of the road to Nicopolis. The expression "went down" in Jos 15:10; 1Sa 6:21, seems to indicate that the position of the town was lower than Kirjath-jearim; and it is in accordance with the situation that there was a valley (עֵמֶק) of corn- fields attached to the place (1Sa 5:12). It was a "suburb city" (Jos 21:16; 1Ch 6:59),. and it is named in one of Solomon's commissariat districts under the charge of Ben-Dekar (1Ki 4:9). It was the scene of an encounter between Jehoash, king of Israel, and Amaziah, king of Judah, in which the latter was worsted and made prisoner (2Ki 14:11,13; 2Ch 25:21,23), Later, in the days of Ahaz, it was taken and occupied by the Philistines, together with several other places in this locality (2Ch 28:18).
From Ekron to Beth-shemesh a road (דֶּרֶך, ὁδός) existed along which the Philistines sent back the ark by milch-kine after its calamitous residence in their country (1Sa 6:9,12); and it was in the field of "Joshua the Beth-shemite" (q.v.) that the "great Abel" (whatever that may have been, prob. a stone; SEE ABEL-) was on which the ark was set down (1Sa 6:18). On this occasion it was that, according to the present text, "fifty thousand and threescore and ten men" were miraculously slain for irreverently exploring the sacred shrine (1Sa 6:19). This number has occasioned much discussion (see Schram, le plaga Bethschemitarum, Herb. 17. .). The numeral in the text has probably been erroneously transcribed. SEE ABBREVIATION. The Syriac and Arabic have 5070 instead of 50070, and this statement agrees with 1 Cod. Kennicott (comp. Gesenius, Gesch. der Hebr. Sprache, p. 174). Even with this reduction, the number, for a provincial town like Beth-shemesh, would still be great. We may therefore suppose that the number originally designated was 570 only, as the absence of any intermediate denomination between the first two digits would seem to indicate. The fact itself has been accounted for on natural principles by some German writers in a spirit at variance with that of Hebrew antiquity, and in which the miraculous part of the event has been explained away by ungrammatical interpretations. SEE NUMBER.
By comparison of the lists in Jos 15:10; Jos 19:41,43, and 1Ki 4:9, it will be seen that IR-SHEMESH SEE IR-SHEMESH (q.v.), "city of the sun," must have been identical with Beth-shemesh, Ir being probably the older form of the name; and again, from Jg 1:35, it appears as if Har-cheres, "mount of the sun," were a third name for the same place, suggesting an early and extensive worship of the sun in this neighborhood. SEE HERES.
Beth-shemesh is no doubt the modern Ain-shems found by Dr. Robinson in a position exactly according with the indications of Scripture, on the north- west slopes of the mountains of Judah — "a low plateau at the junction of two fine plains" (Later Researches, p. 153) — about two miles from the great Philistine plain, and seven from Ekron (Researches, 3, 17-20; comp. Schwarz, Palest. p. 98). It is a ruined Arab village constructed of ancient materials. To the west of the village, upon and around the plateau of a low swell or mound, are the vestiges of a former extensive city, consisting of many foundations and the remains of ancient walls of hewn stone. With respect to the exchange of Beth for Ain, Dr. Robinson remarks (3, 19): "The words Beit (Beth) and Ain are so very common in the Arabic names of Palestine, that it can excite no wonder there should be an exchange, even without an obvious reason. In the same manner the ancient Beth- shemesh (Heliopolis of Egypt) is known in Arabian writers as Ain-shems" (see below). SEE BETH-; SEE EN-.
2. A city near the southern border of Issachar, between Mount Tabor and the Jordan (Jos 19:22); probably the same with the present village Kaukab ("the star") el-Hawa (Schwarz, Palest. p. 167), which in also identical with the Belvoir of the Crusaders (see Roblinson, Researches, 3, 226).
3. One of the "fenced cities" of Naphtali, named (Jos 19:38; Jg 1:33) in connection with Bethanath, from neither of which places were the Canaanite inhabitants expelled, but became tributaries to Israel. Jerome's expression (Onom. Bethsamis) in reference to this is perhaps worthy of notice, "in which the original inhabitants (cultores,? worshippers) remained;" possibly glancing at the worship from which the place derived its name. Keil (Comment on Joshua p. 440) confounds this place with the foregoing. M. De Saulcy suggests (Narrative, 2, 422) that it may have been identical with a village called Medjel esh-Shems, seen by him on the brow of a hill west of the road from Banias to Lake Phiala; it is laid down on Van de Velde's Map at 2.5 miles north of the latter.
4. By this name is mentioned (Jer 43:13) an idolatrous temple or place in Egypt, usually called Heliopolis (q.v.) or On (Ge 41:45). In the Middle Ages Heliopolis was still called by the Arabs Ain-Shems, which is the modern name (Robinson, Researches, 1, 36). SEE AVEN; SEE ON.