Bethel

Bethel

[beth-uhl]
Bethel [Heb.,=house of God]. 1 Ancient city of central Palestine, the modern Baytin, the West Bank, N of Jerusalem. According to the Bible, where it is frequently mentioned, it was originally called Luz (see Luz 1). The Book of Genesis relates that Abraham built his first altar in Canaan here and that the name Bethel, given to Jacob's sacred stone, was then transferred to the town itself. At the time of the Judges it was a national shrine. It temporarily harbored the Ark of the Covenant. Bethel lost its preeminence as a Jewish shrine to Jerusalem; in 1 Kings, Jeroboam's attempt to establish Bethel as a rival religious capital failed. Bethel thereafter became increasingly associated with heathen worship—hence the denunciations by Amos and by Hosea, who called it Beth-aven [house of wickedness]. Modern excavations have disclosed a temple wall, water gate, and palace complex, indicating the site was once a flourishing Canaanite cultic center. 2 Unidentified place, S ancient Palestine, mentioned several times in the Bible; instances of Chesil, Bethul, and Bethuel in the Bible are thought to be alternate spellings of Bethel.
Bethel, town (1990 pop. 17,541), Fairfield co., SW Conn.; inc. 1855. Manufactures include wire, textiles, fabricated-metal and tool-and-die products; chemicals; and electronic, dental, and optical components. There is commercial printing. P. T. Barnum was born in Bethel.

City, ancient Palestine. It is located near the modern town of Baytīn in the West Bank and lies about 10 mi (16 km) north of Jerusalem. Important in Old Testament times, it was associated with Abraham and Jacob. After the division of Israel, Bethel was made the chief sanctuary of the northern kingdom (Israel) and was later the centre for the prophetic ministry of Amos.

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Bethel also written as Beth El or Beth-El, meaning "House of God" (in general), or "House of (the specific god named) El", was a town in ancient Israel, about 10 miles north of Jerusalem. Its location is generally identified with the modern Palestinian village of Beitin in the West Bank; the biblical name has been applied to the adjacent Israeli settlement of Beit El. A second biblical Bethel, in the southern Judah, is mentioned in Joshua (8:17 and 12:16), and seems to be the same as Bethul or Bethuel, a city of the tribe of Simeon.

Bethel is mentioned several times in Genesis. It is first mentioned in Genesis 12, but the best-known instance is probably Genesis 28, when Jacob, fleeing from the wrath of his brother Esau, falls asleep on a stone and dreams of a ladder stretching between Heaven and Earth and thronged with angels; Yahweh stands at the top of the ladder, and promises Jacob the land of Canaan; when Jacob awakes he anoints the stone (baetylus) with oil and names the place Bethel. Another account, from Genesis 35 repeats the covenant with God and the naming of the place (as El-Bethel), and makes this the site of Jacob's own change of name to Israel. Both versions state that the original name of the place was Luz, a Canaanite name. The same makes true for Luz in the country of the Hettites (i.e. Luhuzati - Lawazantia) called by the earlier name of Beth-El named in the Karum documents.

Bethel was an important cult-centre for the northern Kingdom of Israel following the break-up of the united kingdom of David and Solomon. The Second Book of Kings describes how Jeroboam, first king of Israel, set up centres for his Golden Calf cult at Bethel on the southern boundary of his kingdom and Dan on the northern boundary, and appointed non-Levites as his priests. Jeroboam's decision to pass over the Mushite priests of Shiloh, the original cult-centre for Israel, deeply offended the Shiloh priesthood and seems to lie behind much of the animosity directed at Jeroboam and the golden calf, which probably emanated from the Mushite priestly clan.

Bethel escaped destruction during the Assyrian conquest of Israel (721 BC), but was occupied by king Josiah of Judah (c.640-609 BC), who, according to the book of Kings, destroyed the ancient Israelite cult centre. The site of this centre has not been located by modern archaeologists.

References

Jeroboam's Golden Calves account is found in the First Book of Kings Chapter 12

Sources

  • Encyclopedia Britannica 2007 Ultimate Reference Suite

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