The Self-Will of Saul & Kiriath Jearim

I have a feeling that Saul isn’t going to make You happy, am I right?

Kiriath Jearim from the Air
Kiriath Jearim occupies the hill in the center.
Behind it is the Israeli Arab village of Abu Gosh, and the hill to the right is occupied by Moshav Yad HaShmonah.

Today’s Highway 1 passes near the site, as did a major route in ancient times.

This route was the way the Danites traveled when they migrated from their territory on the coast to the north.

They camped near Kiriath Jearim at “Mahane Dan” (camp of Dan).

“Saul reigned one year; and when he had reigned two years over Israel,

Saul chose him three thousand men of Israel; whereof two thousand were with Saul in Michmash and in mount Beth-el, and a thousand were with Jonathan (this is Saul’s son and he’s a great man and friends with David) in Gibeah of Benjamin: and the rest of the people he sent every man to his tent.

And Jonathan smote the garrison of the Philistines that was in Geba, and the Philistines heard about it, and Saul blew the trumpet throughout all the land, saying, Let the Hebrews hear” (1 Sam 13:1-3).

But they thought that Saul had smote the Philistines.

“And the Philistines gathered together 30,000 chariots and 6,000 horsemen to fight Israel, and they pitched in Michmash, eastward from Beth-aven” (1 Sam 13:5). 

“The Israelites were distressed and hid in caves, thickets, rocks, the high places, and in pits.  Some went to over to Jordan to the land of Gad and Gilead.  Saul was in Gilgal and many of the people followed him trembling.” (1 Sam 13:7).

Saul stayed there for seven days and gave burnt and peace offerings to God.  When all the offerings were done Samuel showed up and Saul saluted him.

“And Samuel said, What hast thou done?  And Saul said, Because I saw that the people were scattered from me, and that thou camest not within the days appointed, and that the Philistines gathered themselves together at Michmash;

Therefore said I, The Philistines will come down now upon me to Gilgal, and I have not made supplication unto the LORD: I forced myself therefore, and offered a burnt offering.

And Samuel said to Saul, Thou hast done foolishly: thou hast not kept the commandment of the LORD thy God, which he commanded thee: for now would the LORD have established thy kingdom upon Israel  forever. 

From the east
The biblical city of Kiriath Jearim is best known for the house of Abinadab which held the Ark of the Covenant from the time of Samuel until the time of David (about 120 years).

Kiriath Jearim was originally a Gibeonite city that fell within the tribal territory of Judah near the borders of Benjamin and Dan.

The prophet Uriah, a contemporary of Jeremiah, was from Kiriath Jearim.

But now thy kingdom shall not continue: the LORD hath sought him a man after his own heart (David is the man after God’s heart).  And the LORD hath commanded him to be captain over his people, because thou hast not kept that which the LORD commanded thee” (1 Sam 13:11-14).

Samuel then left and went to Gibeah of Benjamin, and Saul numbered the people that were with him, 600.  Saul, Jonathan, and his men also went to Gibeah.

The Philistines came out of the camp in three groups, one went to Ophrah in the land of Shuai, one went to Beth-horon, and the other went the valley of Zeboim toward the wilderness.

There was no smith anywhere around, so Israel had no swords or spears, but they sharpened their shares, coulters, axes, and mattocks.

“Now it came to pass upon a day, that Jonathan the son of Saul said unto the young man that bare his armor, Come, and let us go over to the Philistines’ garrison, that is on the other side. But he told not his father. 

And Saul tarried in the uttermost part of Gibeah under a pomegranate tree which is in Migron: and the people that were with him were about six hundred men; 

And Ahiah, the son of Ahitub, I-chabod’s brother, the son of Phinehas, the son of Eli, the LORD’S priest in Shiloh, wearing an ephod. And the people knew not that Jonathan was gone” (1 Sam 14:1-3).

“Then said Jonathan, Behold, we will pass over unto these men, and we will discover ourselves unto them.

If they say thus unto us, Tarry until we come to you; then we will stand still in our place, and will not go up unto them” (1 Sam 14:8-9).

“And both of them discovered themselves unto the garrison of the Philistines: and the Philistines said, Behold, the Hebrews come forth out of the holes where they had hid themselves.  

And the men of the garrison answered Jonathan and his armor bearer, and said, Come up to us, and we will shew you a thing. And Jonathan said unto his armor bearer, Come up after me: for the LORD hath delivered them into the hand of Israel” (1 Sam 14:11-12).

In the first fight, Jonathan and his armor bearer killed 20 men.  At this time Saul recounted his men to see who was there and who wasn’t and they found out that Jonathan and his armor bearer were missing. 

Crusader Church at Abou Gosh (Kirjath Jearim).

Saul then told Ahiah to bring the Ark so they could pray to God, but then they heard all the noise of the battle going on between the Philistines and Jonathan.

“And Saul and all the people that were with him assembled themselves, and they came to the battle: and, behold, every man’s sword was against his fellow, and there was a very great discomfiture. 

Moreover the Hebrews that were with the Philistines before that time, which went up with them into the camp from the country round about, even they also turned to be with the Israelites that were with Saul and Jonathan. 

Likewise all the men of Israel which had hid themselves in mount Ephraim, when they heard that the Philistines fled, even they also followed hard after them in the battle. 

So the LORD saved Israel that day: and the battle passed over unto Beth-aven.

And the men of Israel were distressed that day: for Saul had adjured the people, saying, Cursed be the man that eateth any food until evening, that I may be avenged on mine enemies. So none of the people tasted any food. 

And all they of the land came to a wood; and there was honey upon the ground. 

And when the people were come into the wood, behold, the honey dropped; but no man put his hand to his mouth: for the people feared the oath” (1 Sam 14:20-27).

But Jonathan hadn’t heard the law so he put out the end of his rod and dipped it in a honeycomb and ate the honey, and his eyes were enlightened.  Then he was told of the law that Saul had made.

“Then said Jonathan, My father hath troubled the land: see, I pray you, how mine eyes have been enlightened, because I tasted a little of this honey. 

How much more, if haply the people had eaten freely today of the spoil of their enemies which they found?  For had there not been now a much greater slaughter among the Philistines?”  (1 Sam 14:29-30).

Herodian Family Tomb in Jerusalem.

And they smote the Philistines from Michmash to Aijalon, but the people were faint due to lack of food, so they slew the sheep, oxen, and calves and ate them with the blood still in them.  And they told Saul the sin they had committed (Gen 9:4, Lev 7:26-27)..

“And Saul said, Disperse yourselves among the people, and say unto them, Bring me hither every man his ox, and every man his sheep, and slay them here, and eat; and sin not against the LORD in eating with the blood. And all the people brought every man his ox with him that night, and slew them there.  

And Saul built an altar unto the LORD: the same was the first altar that he built unto the LORD.

And Saul said, Let us go down after the Philistines by night, and spoil them until the morning light, and let us not leave a man of them. And they said, Do whatsoever seemeth good unto thee. Then said the priest, Let us draw near hither unto God. 

And Saul asked counsel of God, Shall I go down after the Philistines?  Wilt thou deliver them into the hand of Israel?  But he answered him not that day.

And Saul said, Draw ye near hither, all the chief of the people: and know and see wherein this sin hath been this day. 

For, as the LORD liveth, which saveth Israel, though it be in Jonathan my son, he shall surely die.  But there was not a man among all the people that answered him” (1 Sam 14:34-39).

“Therefore Saul said unto the LORD God of Israel, Give a perfect lot. And Saul and Jonathan were taken: but the people escaped. 

And Saul said, Cast lots between me and Jonathan my son. And Jonathan was taken. 

Then Saul said to Jonathan, Tell me what thou hast done. And Jonathan told him, and said, I did but taste a little honey with the end of the rod that was in mine hand, and, lo, I must die. 

And Saul answered, God do so and more also: for thou shalt surely die, Jonathan.

And the people said unto Saul, Shall Jonathan die, who hath wrought this great salvation in Israel?  God forbid: as the LORD liveth, there shall not one hair of his head fall to the ground; for he hath wrought with God this day.  So the people rescued Jonathan, that he died not” (1 Sam 14:41-45).

Jewish tombs with rolling stones at Abou Gosh

Then Saul left and the Philistines when to their place.

Saul being king of Israel fought against all of their enemies: Moab, Ammon, Edom, Zobah, and the Philistines, and vexed them all.  He then smote the Amalekites.

Saul had three sons and two daughters: Jonahtan, Ishui, Melchi-shua, Merab, and Michal.  His wife was Ahinoam, the daughter of Ahimaaz, and the captain of his host was Abner, the son of Ner, Saul’s uncle.

“And there was sore war against the Philistines all the days of Saul: and when Saul saw any strong man, or any valiant man, he took him unto him” (1 Sam 14:52).

Kiriath Jearim

The Church In 1905, a farmer was plowing on the summit and found a semi-circular wall with mosaics and other objects. Excavations revealed a Byzantine church from the 5th century. Items that have been preserved include monolithic columns of an atrium, column bases, capitals, and mosaics. Our Lady of the Ark of the Covenant Church was built over the 5th century Byzantine basilica by Sister Josephine Rumebe in 1911. The statue of Mary standing on the Ark of the Covenant was designed to be visible throughout the area.

Originally Kiriath Jearim was named Baalah (Josh 15:9) or Kiriath Baal, probably indicative of its reli­gious significance when the city belonged to Canaanites who worshiped Baal.

Roman Inscription
The name Kiriath Jearim means “city of forests.”

The modern Arabic name of Kiriath Jearim is Deir el-Azar, which may preserve the name of Eleazar son of Abinadab who was consecrated to guard the ark of the covenant. Kiriath Jearim was probably the site of Baal shrines and cult practices, as indicated by its previous names: Kiriathbaal (Josh 15:60, 18:14); Baal, Bada, Bala (Josh 15:9, 11); Baalath (1 Kgs 9:18, 2 Chr 8:6); Baale-Judah (2 Sam 6:2).

The Romans had an outpost at Kiriath Jearim along the road from Jerusalem to Antipatris.

Inscriptions in Latin have been found in the area.

After the Israelites had entered Canaan under Joshua’s command, the town was allotted to the tribe of Judah, very close to the southern border of Benjamin (Jos 18:14).

Kiriath Jearim, which means “city of forests,” was strategi­cally situated along an important route lead­ing from the coastal plain to the Benjamin plateau and on to Jerusalem.

Following the capture of the Ark of the Covenant by the Philistines and its subse­quent return to Beth Shemesh, men from Kiriath Jearim retrieved the ark and brought it to the house of Abinadab.

The ark remained in Kiriath Jearim for 20 years (1 Sam 7:2), until the nation repented at Mizpah.

David conveyed it from Abinadab’s house to Jerusalem during his reign (2 Sam 6:2-4; 2 Chr 1:4), and Solomon fortified the site (see 1 Kgs 9:18), but Pharaoh Shishak is thought to have destroyed it.

The final ref­erences to Kiriath Jearim in the Biblical record are as the hometown of the prophet Uriah (Jer 26:20) and the destination of some of the returnees from exile (Neh 7:29).

Kiriath Jearim has been identified with Deir el-Azhar, a hilltop that may preserve the name of Eleazar, the son of Abinadab, who was consecrated to guard the ark.

An inscrip­tion found at the site indicates that the Tenth Roman Legion was later stationed there, and excavations in the early twentieth century have revealed a Byzantine church con­structed there during the fifth century a.d.