The Mountain of Judah
and the Shephelah (south)
83. Morasthi whence was Micah the Prophet - (al-Bassal)
Kh. Umm el-Bassal, H. Bazal, Morasthi. Sozomen (Historia Ecclesiastica VII, 29) recounts the discovery of the body of Micah the prophet which took place following a noctural vision had by the bishop of Eleuteropolis, Zebennus. The natives, Sozomen says, without being aware of it, call the place "the monument of the faithful," or Nefeshmemana in their language. According to the historian, the place was about 10 stadia from the city. It was taken over by the Christians and a church built over it in the last years of Theodosius I's reign (379-395). The tomb was known to the Spanish pilgrim Egeria, who passed through in ca. 384, and to the Roman lady Paula, who visited it with St.Jerome in 386; writing on Paula's death in 404 Jerome says that the holy place "is now a church." The holy place was in a small village, called by the different sources Birathsati, Cariathsati or Morasthi, once Moresheth-Gath, Micah's native city; this village, according to Esusebius' Onomasticon, was located east of Eleutheropolis.
Thomsen (Loca Sancta , p. 42) identifies the spot with Bir es-Suweid (Kh. Umm es-Suweid), north-east of Beth Govrin, near Keila to the north. Keila, or Kh. Qeila, is the place where the body of Habakuk was discovered by the same Bishop Zebennus. The two shrines, therefore, would have been very close. On the other hand, nowadays most scholars following Jeremias (Palästina Jahrbuch 29 , pp.42-53) locate the shrine of Micah at Kh. Umm el-Bassal, two kilometers north of Beth Govrin, near Tell el-Judeiyida (Tel Goded, Tel Moresheth Gath). It would represent the site of Moreshet-Morasthi in the Byzantine period (DB Suppl. V, p. 683).
The Schedule (p. 1332) lists for Kh. Umm es-Suweid: foundations, remains of buildings and streets, cisterns, caves, a wine press with mosaic pavement, and an ancient road. At Kh. Bassal, or better, Kh. Umm el-Bassal: ruined walls, caves, cisterns, and a tomb. There are two khirbeh by this name, one about 9 km north-east of the other. The southernmost one, Kh. Umm el-Bassal close to Beth Govrin, is the one connected with the memory of Micah.
Bellarmino Bagatti, Ancient Christian Villages of Judaea and Negev, Jerusalem - in the press
Herbert Donner (The Mosaic Map of Madaba, Kampen 1992, 63)
The Byzantine Morasthi (see no. 83) is identical with Hirbat Umm al-Basal (coord. 140-114), 1.5 km north of Beat Jibrin (Eleutheropolis, no. 84) half-way to Tall al-Judeda, the site of ancient
Moreshet-Gath. The memorial church of the prophet Micah above his tomb, first mentioned by St. Jerome (Pilgrimage of St. Paula and Eustochium, ch. 14), is separated from the village like in Bethzachar (no. 80) and Thekoa (no. 75).
For more sources and bibliography see:
Tabula Imperii Romani. Iudaea - Palaestina (Jerusalem 1994) s.v. "Morasthi", 189.
Map Section 6 Place Sources