(Heb. Gibon', גִּב וֹן, hill-city; Sept. Γαβαών, Josephus Γαβαώ), one of the four cities of the Hivites, the others being Beeroth (omitted by Josephus, Ant. 5:2, 16), Chephirah, and Kirjath-jearim (Jos 9:17). SEE CANAANITE. Its inhabitants made a league with Joshua (Jos 9:3-15), and thus escaped the fate of Jericho and Ai (Jos 11:19). SEE GIBEONITE. It appears, as might be inferred from its taking the initiative in this matter, to have been the largest of the four — "a great city, like one of the royal cities" — larger than Ai,(Jos 10:2). Its men, too, were all practiced warriors (Gibborim, גּבּרִים). Gibeon lay within the territory of Benjamin (Jos 18:25), and with its "suburbs" was allotted to the priests (Jos 21:17), of whom it afterwards became a principal station, where the tabernacle was set up for many years under David and Solomon (1Ch 16:39; 1Ch 21:29; 2Ch 1:3), the ark being at the same time at Jerusalem (2Ch 1:4). For these and other notices in the historical books of Scripture, see below. From Jer 12:16, we may infer that after the destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar, Gibeon again became the seat of government. It produced prophets in the days of Jeremiah (Jer 28:1). After the captivity we find the "men of Gibeons" returning with Zerubbabel (Ne 7:25: in the list of Ezra the name is altered to GIBBAR), and assisting Nehemiah in the repair of the wall of Jerusalem (Ne 3:7). In the post-Biblical times it was the scene of a victory by the Jews over the Roman troops under Censtius Gallus, which offers in many respects a close parallel with that of Joshua over theCanaanites (Josephus, War, 2:19, 7; Stanley, Palest. page 212). In 2Sa 5:25 it would seem to be called GEBA (where the error of the original has been followed by all the versions), as compared with 1Ch 14:16; but it is to be distinguished from both Geba and Gibeah. It is said (2Sa 2:13) that there was a pool in Gibeon. Whether it were of any considerable extent does not appear from this passage; but there is little doubt that it is the same as "the great waters that are in Gibeon" (Jer 12:12). There was also a great stone or rock here (2Sa 20:8), and also the great high place (1Ki 3:4). All this shows that Gibeon was situated on an eminence, as its name imports.
Location. — None of the scriptural passages mark the site of Gibeon; but there are indications of it in Josephus (War, 2:19, 1), who places it 40 (Ant. 7:11, 7) or 50 stadia northwest from Jerusalem, and in Jerome (Ep. 86, ad Eustoch.), which leave little doubt that Gibeon is to be identified with the place which still bears the name of El-Jib. The name Gabaon is indeed mentioned by writers of the time of the Crusades, as existing at this spot, and among the Arabs it then already bore the name of El-Jib, under which it is mentioned by Bohaedinn (Vita Saladin, page 243). Afterwards it was overlooked by most travelers till the last century, when the attention of Pococke was again directed to it (Description of the East, 2:49). The traveler who pursues the northern camel-road from Jerusalem, turning off to the left at Tuleil el-ful (Gibeah) on that branch of it which leads westward to Jaffa, finds himself, after crossing one or two stony and barren ridges, in a district of a more open character. The hills are rounder and more isolated than those through which he has been passing, and rise in well-defined mamelons from broad undulating valleys of tolerable extent and fertile soil. This is the central plateau of the country the "land of Benjamin;" and these round hills are the Gibeahs, Gebas, Gibeons, and Ramahs, whose names occur so frequently in the records of this district. Retaining its ancient name almost intact, El-Jib stands on the northernmost of a couple of these mamelons, just at the place where the road to the sea parts into two branches, the one hey the lower level of the wady Suleiman, the other by the heights of the Beth-borons, to Gimzo, Lydda, and Joppa. The road passes at a short distance to the north of the base of the bill of El- Jib. The strata of the bills in this district lie much more horizontal than those further south. With the bills of Gibeon this is peculiarly the case, and it imparts a remarkable precision to their appearance, especially when viewed from a height such as the neighboring eminence of neby Samwil. The houses stand very irregularly and uneavenly, sometimes almost above one another. They seem to be chiefly rooms in old massive ruins, which have fallen down in every direction. One large building still remains, probably a former castle or tower of strength. The natural terraces are carried round the hill like contour lines; they are all dotted thick with olives and vines, and the ancient-looking houses are scattered over the flattish summit of the mound. On the east side of the bill is a copious spring, which issues in a cave excavated in the-limestone rock, so as to form a large reservoir. In the trees farther, down are the remains of a pool or tenk of considerable size, probably, says Dr. Robinson, 120 feet by 100, i.e., of rather smaller dimensions than the lower pool at Hebron. This is doubtless the "pool of Gibeon," at which Abner and Joab met together with the troops of Ishbosheth and David, and where that sharp, conflict took place which ended in the death of Asahel, and led, at a later period, to the treacherous murder of Abner himself. Here or at the spring were the "great waters (or the many waters, מִיִם רבִּים) of Gibeon" (both here and in 1Ki 3:4, Josephus substitutes Hebron for Gibeon, Ant. 10:9, 5; 8:2, 1), at which Johanan, the son of Kareah, found the traitor Ishmael (Jer 41:12). Round this water also, according to the notice of Josephus (ἐπί τινι πηγ῝ῇ τῆς πόλεως ούκ ἄπωθεν, Ant. 5:1, 17), the five kings of the Amorites were encamped when Joshua burst upon them from Gilgal. The "wilderness of Gibeon" (2Sa 2:24) — the Midbar, i.e., rather the waste pasture-grounds must have been to the east, beyond the suburb of cultivated fields, and towards the neighboring swells, which bear the names of Jedireh and Bir Neballah. Such is the situation of Gibeon, fulfilling in position ever-y requirement of the notices of the Bible, Josephus, Eusebius, and Jerome. Its distance from Jerusalem by the main road is as nearly as possible 61 miles; but there is a more direct road reducing it to 5 miles (Robinson, Res. 2:137, 138; Van de Velde, Memoir, page 315; Thomson, Land and Book, 2:546; Porter, Handb. for Syria, page 225).
Scriptural Incidents. — Several of these are of such deep interest as to call for a detailed notice.
(1.) The name of Gibeon is most familiar to us in connection with the artifice by which its inhabitants obtained their safety at the hands of Joshua, and with the memorable battle which ultimately resulted therefrom. (See Kitto's Daily Bible Illust,. ad loc.) This is the first mention of the place in Scripture, and the battle is considered "one of the most important in the history of the world" by Stanley, whose graphic description (Jewish Church, 1:266 sq.) we condense, slightly modified and illustrated.
The kings of Palestine, each in his little fastness, were roused icy the tidings that the approaches to their territory in the Jordan valley and in the passes leading from it were in the hands of the enemy. Those who occupied the south felt that the crisis was yet more imminent than when they heard of the capitulation of Gibeon. Jebus or Jerusalem, even in those ancient times, was recognized as their center. Its chief took the lead of the hostile confederacy. The point of attack, however, was not the invading army, but the traitors at home. Gibeon, the recreant city, was besieged. The continuance or the raising of the siege became the turning question of the war. The sermons of the Gibeonites to Joshua was as urgent as words can describe, and gives the key-note to the whole movement (Jos 10:6). Not a moment was to be lost. On the former occasion of Joshua's visit to Gibeon (Jos 9:16-17), it had been a three-days' journey from Gilgal, as according to the slow pace of eastern armies and caravans it might well be. But now, by a forced march, "Joshua came unto thee suddenly, and went up from Gilgal all night." When the sun rose behind him, he was already in the open ground at the foot of the heights of Gibeon, where the kings were encamped (according to Josephus, Ant. 5:1, 17) by a spring in the neighborhood. The towering hill, at the foot of which Gibeon lay; rose before them on the west. The besieged and the besiegers alike were taken by surprise (in the Samaritan version of Joshua, the war cry is given, "God is mighty in battle," Jos 20; Jos 21).
As often before and after, so now "not a man could stand before" the awe and panic of the sudden sound of that terrible shout. The Canaanites fled down the western pass, and "the Lord discomfited them before Israel, and slew them with a great slaughter at Gibeon, and chased them along the way that goeth up to Beth-boron." This was the first stage of the flight. It is a long, rocky ascpnt, sinking and rising more than once before the summit is gained. From the summit, which is crowned by the village of Upper Beth- horon, a wide view opens over the valley of Ajalon, which runs is from the plain of Sharon.
"And it came to pass as they fled before Israel, asnd were in the going down to, Beth-horon, that the Lord cast down great stones from heaven upon them untoAzekah." This was the second stage of the flight. The fugitives had outstripped the pursuers; they had crossed the high ridge of Beth-horon the Upper; they were in full flight to Beth-horon the Nether. It is a rough, rocky road, sometimes over the upturned edges of the limestone stratas, sometimes over sheets of smooth rock, sometimes over loose rectangular stones, sometimes over steps cut in the rock. It was as they fled down this slippery descent that a fearful tempest, "thunder, lightning, and a deluge of hail" (Josephus, Ant. 5:1, 17), broke over the disordered ranks; and "they were more which died of the hailstones than they whom the children of Israel slew with the sword." Then follows the poetic version of the story, taken from the ancient legendary "Book of Jasher." On the summit of the pass, where is now the hamlet of the Upper Beth-boron, looking far down the deep descent of the western valleys, with the green vale of Ajalon stretched out in the distance, and the wide expanse of the Mediterranean Sea beyond, stood, as is intimated the Israelitish chief. Below him was rushing (town in wild confusion, the Amoritish host, Around him were "all his people of war, and, and his mighty men of valor." Behind him were the hills which hid the now rescued Gibeon from his sight. But the sun stood high, above those bills, "in the midst of heaven" (it was the middle of the forenoon, or at most midday), for the day had now far advanced since he had emerged from his night-march through the passes of Ai; and in his front, over the western vale of Ajalon, may have been the faint crescent of the waning moon, visible above the hail-storm driving up from the sea in the black distance. Was the enemy to escape is safety, or was the speed with which Joshua had "come quickly, and saved and helped" his defenseless allies, to be rewarded, before the close of that day, by a signal victory? It is doubtless so standing on that lofty eminence, with outstretched hand and. spear, that. the hero appears in the ancient record: "Then might Joshua [be heard to] speak to Jehovah in the day of Jehovah's giving [up] the Amorite before the sons of Israel, when he said in the eyes of Israel:
"Sun, in Gibeon stand still; And, moon, in Ajalon's vale!"
So the sun stood still, and moon stayed until a people should take vengeance [upon] it enemies. [Is] not this written on the Book of the Upright?
"So the sun stayed in the midst of the heavans, And hasted not to go [down] as a whole day; And [there] was not like that day [another] before it or after it. For Jehovah's hearkening to a man's voice, For Jehovah [it was that] fought for Israel."
So Joshua returned, and all Israel withe him, to the camp at Gilgal" (Jos 10:12-15). SEE JOSHUA.
(2.) We next hear of Gibeon at the encounter between the men of David and of Ishbosheth, under their respective leaders Joab and Abner (2Sa 2:12-17). The meeting has all the air of having been premeditated by both parties, unless we suppose that Joab had heard of the intention of the Benjamites to revisit from time distant Mahanaim their native villages, and had seized the opportunity to try his strength with Abner. SEE ABNER. The place where the struggle began received a name from the circumstance, and seems to have been bong afterwards known as the "field of the strong men." SEE HELKATH-HAZZURIM.
(3.) We again meet with Gibeon in connection with Joab; this time as the scene of the cruel and revolting death of Amsasa icy his hand (2Sa 20:5-10). Joab was in pursuit of the rebellious Shleba, the son of Bichri, and his being so far out of the direct north road as Gibeon may be accounted for by supposing that he was making a search for this Benjamite among the towns of his tribe. The two rivals met at "the great stone which is in Gibeon" — some old landmark now no longer recognizable, at least not recognized — and then Joab repeated the treachery by which he had murdered Abner, but with circumstances of a still more revolting character. SEE AMASA.
It is remarkable that the retribution for this crowning act of perfidy should have overtaken Joab close to the very spot on which it had been committed. For it was to the tabernacle at Gibeon (1Ki 2:28-29; comp. 1Ch 16:39) that Joab fled for sanctuary when his death was pronounced by Solomon, and it was while clinging to the horns of the brazen altar there that he received his death-blow from Benaiah, the son of Jehoiada (1Ki 2:28,30,34). SEE JOAB.
(4.) Familiar as these events in connection with the history of Gibeon are to us, its reputation in Israel was due to a very different circumstance — the fact that the tabernacle of the congregation and the brazen altar of burnt- offering were for some time located on the "high place" attached to or near the town. 'We are not informed whether this "high place" had any fame for sanctity before the tabernacle came there; but if not, it would probably have been erected elsewhere. We only hear of it in connection with the tabernacle; nor is there any indication of its situation in regard to the town. Stanley has suggested (Sinai and Pal. page 212) that it was the remarkable hill of neby Samwil, the most prominent and individual eminence in that part of the country, and to which the special appelation of "the great high- place" (1Ki 3:4; הִגּדוֹלָה הִבָּמָה ) would perfectly apply. Certainly, if "great" is to be understood as referring to height or size, there is no other hill which can so justly claim the distinction. But the word has not always that meaning, and may equally imply eminence in other respects, e.g. superior sanctity to the numerous other high places — Bethel, Ranmah, Mizpeh, Gibeah which surrounded it on every side. The main objection to this identification is the distance of neby Samwll from Gibeon more than a mile — and the absence of any closer connection therewith than with any other of the neighboring places. The most natural position for the high place of Gibeon is the twin mount immediately south of El-Jib — so close as to be all but a part of the town, and yet quite separate and distinct. The testimony of Epiphanius, by which Stanley supports his conjecture, viz. that the "Mount of Gabaon" was the highest round Jerusalem (Adv. Haereses, 1:394), should be received with caution, standing as it does quite alone, and belonging to an age which, though early, was marked by ignorance, and by the most improbable conclusions.
To this high place, wherever situated, the "tabernacle of the congregation" — the sacred tent which had accompanied the children of Israel through the whole of their wanderings had been transferred from its last station at Nob. The exact date of the transfer is left in uncertainty. It was either before or at the time when David brought up the ark from Kirjath-jearim to the new tent which he had pitched for it on Mount Zion, that the original tent was spread for the last time at Gibeon. The expression in 2Ch 1:5, "The brazen altar he put before the tabernacle of Jehovah," at first sight appears to refer to David. But the text of the passage is disputed, and the authorities are divided between שָׂם " he put," and שָׁם, "was there." Whether king David transferred the tabernacle to Gibeon or not, he certainly appointed the staff of priests to offer the daily sacrifices there on the brazen altar of Moses, and to fulfill the other requirements of the law (1Ch 16:40), with no less a person at their head than Zadok the priest (verse 39), assisted by the famous musicians Heman and Jeduthun (verse 41).
One of the earliest acts of Solomon's reign — it must have been while the remembrance of the execution of Joab was still fresh — was to visit Gibeon. The ceremonial was truly magnificent: he went up with all the congregation, the great officers of the state — the captains of hundreds and thousands, the judges, the governors, and the chief of the fathers — and the sacrifice consisted of a thousand burnt-offerings (1Ki 3:4). This glimpse of Gibeon in all the splendor of its greatest prosperity — the smoke of the thousand animals rising from the venerable altar on the commanding height of "the great high place" — the clang of "trumpets, and cymbals, and musical instruments of God" (1Ch 16:42) resounding through the valleys far and near — is virtually the last we have of it. In a few years the Temple at Jerusalem was completed, and then the tabernacle was once more taken down and removed. Again "all the men of Israel assembled themselves" to king Solomon, with the "elders of Israel," and the priests and the Levites' brought up both the tabernacle and the ark, and "all the holy vessels that were in the tabernacle" (1Ki 8:3; Joseph. Ant. 8:4, 1), and placed the venerable relics in their new home, there to remain until the plunder of the city by Nebuchadnezzar. The introduction of the name of Gibeon in 1Ch 9:35, which seems so abrupt, is probably due to the fact that the preceding verses of-the chapter contain, as they appear to do, a list of the staff attached to the "tabernacle of the congregation" which was erected there; or if these persons should prove to be the attendants on the "new tent" which David had pitched for the ark on its arrival in the city of David, the transition to the place where the old tent was still standing is both natural and easy.
It would be very satisfactory to believe, with Thomson (Land and the Book, 2:547), that the present wady Suleiman, i.e., "Solomon's valley," which commences on the west side of Gibeon, and leads down to the Plain of Sharon, derived its name from this visit. But the modern names of places in Palestine often spring from very modern persons or circumstances and, without confirmation or investigation, this cannot be received with certainty. — Smith, s.v.