(See also wiki article Bethel
BETHEL - Modern Beitin, just E. of the Great North Road of Palestine (Jordan) about 12 miles from Jerusalem, a village of some 600 inhabitants. Four springs furnish good water, and in ancient times they were supplemented by a reservoir hewn in the rock, S. of the town. Originally named Luz, it was later known as Bethel, tradition referring this name specifically to the stone which Jacob set up and anointed as the symbol of God's presence after his theophany (Gn.28.22). In Christian times this spot was located about a mile E. of Beitin, and was the site of a church and monastery, remains of which are possibly those to be seen at Burj Beitin. There were earlier religious associations. Abraham, according to Hebrew tradition, sacrificed here (Gn.12.8). From an eminence to the E. almost the whole of the plains of Jericho is visible, and this may have been the scene of Lot's selfish choice (13).
Excavations at Bethel by Albright and Kelso established continuous occupation from c 2000 BC till Christian times. Bethel, a royal Canaanite city (Jos.12.16), fell to Benjamin in the division of the land (18.22), but he did not immediately succeed in making good his possession. It was finally taken by the men of Joseph (Jg.1.22, 1 Ch.7.28). The above-mentioned excavations demonstrate that Bethel was destroyed at the end of the 14th or the beginning of the 13th cent. BC, which is before the final phase of the Hebrew settlement, so older elements from the hill-country of Ephraim may have been responsible rather than the mass of the invaders. Hither the Ark was brought from Gilgal (Jg.20.18 LXX), and Bethel was a place of sacrifice in the time of Saul (1 S.10.3). The prophetess Deborah lived in the vicinity of Bethel (Jg.4.5). In judging Israel Samuel is said to have gone forth from year to year in circuit to Bethel (1 S.7.10). No doubt the ancient sanctity of the place, as well as its location on the road southwards at the border of Israel and Judah led Jeroboam I to choose Bethel as the site of a rival shrine to the Temple in Jerusalem (1 K.12.26f), and it became the great sanctuary of the Northern Kingdom. The 'calf' of Jeroboam, though probably serving only as a pedestal for the presence of Yahweh, indicates an adaptation of the fertility-cult of the local Canaanite Baal, whose cult-animal was the bull. Elements of this local cult which retained undue prominence were apparently the reason for the violent denunciations of Amos (3.14, 4.4, 5.5, etc.) and Hosea (4.15, 5.8). At Bethel Jeroboam was denounced by the man of God out of Judah (13.1ff) and it was the scene of Amos' famous encounter with the priest Amaziah in his denunciation of the house of Jeroboam II. A guild of dervishes ('sons of the prophets') in sympathy with Elijah flourished there (2 K.2.2f). After the fall of Samaria it was the seat of the priest who was sent by the king of Assyria to teach the mixed population of military colonists the worship of the God of the land (2 K.17.29f). Bethel was reoccupied by the returning exiles (Ezr.2.28, 1 Es.5.21 [AV Betolius, RV Betolion]). In 161 BC it was taken by the Seleucid general Bacchides (1 Mac.9.50) in his strategy of sealing off and keeping watch on Jerusalem, and in pursuance of the same policy it was taken by Vespasian before the fall of Jerusalem (Jos. BJ iv. ix. 9 ). [Article: Dictionary of the Bible, J.Hastings, 2nd Ed., T&T.Clark, 1963. - W.E. - J.Gr.]