The Mountain of Judah
and the Shephelah
76. Bethzur - (Kh. Tubayqa near Kh. Burj al-Sur)
BET(H)-ZUR, ancient city in Erez Israel, 4 1/2 mi. (7 km.) N. of Hebron, and, according to Eusebius (Onom. 52:1-2), 20 Roman miles south of Jerusalem, on the Hebron-Jerusalem road. The name has been preserved at Khirbat Burj al-Sur but the ancient city was located nearby at Khirbat al-Tubayqa, on a high isolated plateau. Beth-Zur seems to have first been settled during the Early Bronze Age (third millennium B.C.E.). The earliest city, however, was apparently established by the Hyksos in the second half of the Middle Bronze Age (c. 18th century B.C.E.). Only meager traces of the Late Bronze Age have been discovered. The site was rebuilt during the period of the Israelite settlement and appears to have been associated with the rule of the sons of Caleb and the tribe of Judah (Josh. 15:58; I Chron. 2:45). The Israelite city was destroyed by fire c. 1,000 B.C.E., apparently in one of the Philistine attacks. Rehoboam included Beth-Zur in his system of fortifications (II Chron. 11:7). In the days of Nehemiah, it was the capital of a sub-district. Its ruler, Nehemiah, son of Azbuk, took part in the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem (Neh. 3:16). From this time onward, Beth-Zur served as a defense post on the southern frontier of Judea against the Idumeans in the Hebron district. It played an important role in the Hasmonean wars; a Seleucid garrison stationed there from 175 B.C.E. was routed by Judah Maccabee in 165 B.C.E. This victory and Judah's fortifications of Beth-Zur as a border stronghold of Judea made possible the resumption of the service in the Temple and its rededication (I Macc. 4:29). Two years later, the Syrians regained control of the city and thereby of the road to Jerusalem (I Macc. 6:60). Their general Bacchides rebuilt its fortifications, c. 160 B.C.E. (I Macc. 9:52), but after a prolonged siege it was finally captured by the Hasmonean Simeon son of Mattathias in the mid-forties of the second century B.C.E. and its defenses were strengthened. Remains of the Maccabean fortress, containing large rock-hewn cisterns, were uncovered in excavations conducted in 1931 and resumed in 1957. The city was destroyed and abandoned, apparently during Vespasian's campaigns, but as shown by the Madaba Map, it was reestablished in the Byzantine period, probably on the opposite hill, Khirbat Burj al-Sur, whose ruins date from Crusader times.
Michael Avi-Yonah, Encyclopaedia Judaica, ad v. "Beth-zur"
Herbert Donner (The Mosaic Map of Madaba, Kampen 1992, 60)
Bethsura (= Bethzur) often mentioned by Christian authors in connection with St. Philipp's Fountain (no. 77). It is identical with Hirbat Burg as-Sur (coord. 159-110) northwest of Halhul. Nearby Hirbat at-Tubeqa is the older settlement from Old Testament, Hellenistic and Roman times.
Leah Di Segni ("The Onomastikon of Eusebius and the Madaba Map", in The Madaba map Centenary, Jerusalem 1999, 118)
Beth Zur is called Bethsour, nun Bethsoro in Eusebius,41 while on the map it takes on an Aramaic ending, Bethsoura, a phenomenon we have noticed for several other toponyms and which possibly indicates the use of an Aramaic source. (See also the complete article)
For more sources and bibliography see:
Tabula Imperii Romani. Iudaea - Palaestina (Jerusalem 1994) s.v. "Beth Zur", 87-88.
Map Section 6 Place Sources