Peraea and the Dead Sea
19. Alon Atath, today Bethagla - (Qasr Hajla)
ATAD: Place "beyond the Jordan" mentioned in Gen 50:10 and 11 where the funeral cortège, bearing the body of Jacob homeward from Egypt to Canaan for burial, stopped and mourned him for 7 days. Since the name occurs in the phrase "goren ha´atad" some have translated this as "threshing floor of (the place) Atad," while others have preferred to take the whole phrase, Goren-ha-Atad, as a place name meaning "the threshing floor of (or bordered by) thorns." According to v 11, the local Canaanite inhabitants renamed the place Abel Mizraim after observing the great mourning of the Egyptians. This aetiological explanation seems to be based on the wordplay between ´ebel "mourning" and ´abel an element found in toponyms and translated earlier as "meadow" but more recently as "watercourse" or "creek."
Problems exist in locating Atad/Abel Mizraim, described as being "beyond," that is, E "of the Jordan." While the 6th century A.D. Madeba mosaic map presents a possibility in locating an Alon Atad (terebinth of Atad) near Beth Agla (Beth Hogla-modern Deir Hajlah) between Jericho and the Dead Sea, this is on the wrong side of the Jordan. Also scholars have questioned why the procession would choose an indirect route to Hebron which apparently took them around the S end of the Dead Sea and northward through the Transjordan. Numerous explanations have been offered, including that it is a prefiguration of what would happen when the bones of Joseph would make the same journey, so that even in death, Jacob showed his descendents the road to the promised land. Finally it has been suggested that 2 different traditions on the burial place of Jacob, one E of the Jordan, the other W in Canaan, have been combined in the text.
Bibliography: Plaut, W. G. 1981. Genesis. Pp. 3318 in The Torah, A Modern Commentary. N.Y. Westermann, C. 1986. Genesis 3750: A Commentary. Minneapolis.
Gary H. Oller, The Anchor Bible Dictionary, ad v. "Atad"
Michael Avi-Yonah (The Madaba Mosaic Map, Jerusalem 1954, 39)
The text and the identification of the site are both derived from the Onomasticon (8,17) where Bethagla (modern Qasr Hajla) is identified with the Floor of Atad (Gen 50:10); but whereas the Biblical text adds to the name ´which is beyond Jordan´, Eusebius situates the tópos (site) three miles from Jericho and two from the Jordan, i.e. west of the river. The fact that the place is represented by a church and not by a village agrees with the Onomasticon. The site itself is not mentioned in any later source of the Byzantine period. The identity of the formula ´beyond the Jordan´ with that used by St. John to define the Bethabara near-by has apparently influenced Eusebius, and thus indirectly also the Madaba map. The identification seems not to have been dependent on a Jewish source, for according to the Midrash Genesis R., 100,6: 'R. Samuel b.Nahman said: We have searched the whole of Scripture and not found a place called Atad'.
Map of the Jericho region
For more sources and bibliography see:
Tabula Imperii Romani. Iudaea - Palaestina (Jerusalem 1994) s.v. "Bethagla", 79.
Map Section 3 Place Sources