Mount Ephraim and Benjamin
33. Akrabim, now Akrabittine ('Aqrabah)
MA'ALEH AKRABBIM ("ascent of Akrabbim"; "ascent of the scorpions"), locality mentioned several times in the Bible as being at the southern boundary of the Promised Land. According to Numbers 34:4, the border started "at the end of the Salt [Dead] Sea eastward" and turned south of Ma'aleh Akrabbim, continuing toward the wilderness of Zin"; the account in Joshua 15:3 is similar. The border of the Amorites apparently ran from Ma'aleh Akrabbim, "from Sela, and upward" (Judg. 1:36). Abel identified it with Naqb al-Safi to the west of the Arabah, while Mazar locates it to the east, on the road to Sela. The Akrabattine of I Maccabees 5:3 apparently refers to the district of Acraba to the north of Jerusalem.
Michael Avi-Yonah, Encyclopaedia Judaica, ad v. "Ma'aleh Akrabbim" (extract)
Herbert Donner (The Mosaic Map of Madaba, Kampen 1992, 47)
The site is identical with 'Aqraba (coord. 182-170), about 11 km southeast of Nablus. The mosaicist confused the name of the village (Akrabim) with the district-name (Akrabittine) of herodian and later times.
Bellarmino Bagatti (Ancient Christian Villages of Samaria, Jerusalem - in the press)
Acraba, the last village adjacent to the desert
According to Clermont-Ganneau (ARP II, 302-303), the inhabitants of the village pronounce its name 'Aqraba, not 'Aqrabeh, as scholars used to write. Whatever the case, this is the last village adjacent to the desert. In ancient times it was Christian, as was reported by travellers.
In 1870 Guérin (Samarie II, 3-5) noted a mosque with a cupola in an abandoned condition; it was built of ancient stones and he noticed a lintel with an inscription, reused as a doorjamb. Four years later the members of the British survey published the inscription in C.F.Tyrwhitt Drake's transcription, and observed that it contained a cross; moreover they found another similar fragment, also with a Greek inscription (SWP II, 389-390). Clermont-Ganneau was there in 1874 with the precise intention of studying the fragments more carefully; and he noticed that both belonged to the same lintel which he had copied. Some letters were worn out but he attempted a translation: '... in this holy ... I made for my wife and my children+. It is one of the usual donors' inscriptions. The letters are square and can go back to about the fifth century. In the year of Clermont-Ganneau's visit the mosque had been transformed into a workshop for mats; however, the inhabitants claimed that it had been a church.
To the north of the village there is a fort called el-Hosn consisting of a block of buildings put on the hill. The masonry is drafted with a rustic boss. A cistern exists within the enclosure which still holds water. A birkeh stands in the middle of the village near the hillside. Near the village some kokhim tombs were noticed.
Acraba is not mentioned in the Bible but Eusebius (Onomasticon, 14) refer to it with these words: 'Acrabbeim, boundary of Judaea toward the east, belonging to the tribe of Judah. There is a town by this name 9 miles away from Neapolis to the east heading down toward the Jordan, on the way to Jericho across the toparchy called Acrabattene.'
In an epistle (CSCO 103, 148-149) sent by the archimandrites of Arabia to the Monophysite bishops in the sixth century, there is mention of two monasteries existing in 'Acraba - one dedicated to St. Stephen with the priests Elias and Thomas, and one called monastery of Abbot Titus with the priests Sabinus and Conon. Does this mention refer perhaps to our Acraba?
For more sources and bibliography see:
Tabula Imperii Romani. Iudaea - Palaestina (Jerusalem 1994) s.v. "Acraba", 56.
Map Section 5 Place Sources