94. Jabneel, which is also Jamnia - (Yabneh)
Biblical city located on the coastal plain, S. of Jaffa. Jabneh first appears in the Bible as Jabneel, on the northern border of the tribe of Judah (Josh. 15:11). It is counted as one of the Philistine cities, together with Gath and Ashdod, whose walls were breached by Uzziah king of Judah (II Chron. 26:6). The site of the biblical city is located on the tell in the village of Jabneh, which contains Iron Age remains. Earlier remains can be found at various sites along the Sorek River (Wadi Rubin), especially at Tell al-Sultan, northwest of Jabneh. In the Middle Bronze Age, a settlement was also established on the seacoast at Jabneh-Yam, which later served as the harbor of inland Jabneh. This harbor formed a separate entity as the center of the district of Mahoz, which is possibly mentioned as early as the time of Thutmose III in his list of conquered cities (no. 61) and in the Tell el-Amarna letters. The remains of the harbor city show evidence of settlement in the Early, Middle, and Late Bronze Ages down to the Byzantine period; it is surrounded by a rampart and a wall approximately 3/5 mile (1 km.) long.
In the Hellenistic period, Jabneh (called Iamnia or Jamnia) was included in the eparchy of Idumea, but was later transferred to Paralia. During that period the traders of Jabneh-Yam dedicated inscriptions at Delos to the gods Hauran and Heracles-Melkart, indicating that in earlier Persian times Jabneh was probably a Tyrian city. The city was used as a base by the foreign armies for repeated attacks on Judean territory (I Macc. 5:58). At the time of the Maccabean revolt, Jabneh had a Jewish community, which was threatened with extermination by the rest of the population. As a warning, Judah Maccabee attacked the harbor and burned the ships (II Macc. 12:8-9). Jonathan the Hasmonean fought one of the decisive battles of the Maccabean revolt in the region (I Macc. 10:69ff.); another battle was fought near the city under Simeon (I Macc. 15:40). According to Josephus, Simeon captured the city (Ant., 13:215), but since the Books of Maccabees do not mention such a conquest, it is preferable to attribute it to Hyrcanus. At the accession of Alexander Yannai, Jabneh was already a Hasmonean city (Jos., Ant., 13:324) and the entire population was Jewish. Pompey attempted to revive it as a gentile town in 63 B.C.E. (ibid., 14:75; Wars, 1:157), leaving the actual work of reconstruction to his deputy Gabinius (Wars, 1:166); however, the new town was short-lived as an independent unit. It was probably given to Herod at the time of his accession. He willed it to his sister Salome (Ant., 17:321; Wars, 2:98); after her death it passed to the empress Livia, and then to her son Tiberius. It was the seat of an imperial procurator (Ant., 18:158). By then, the city was purely Jewish and was a toparchy of Judea (Wars, 3:55). In the first Jewish war, it was occupied by Vespasian; Titus passed through it on his way to Jerusalem. When R. Johanan b. Zakkai left besieged Jerusalem and arrived at the Roman camp, he asked the emperor to "give him Jabneh and its scholars" (Git. 56b).
After the fall of Jerusalem, the Sanhedrin was reconstituted at Jabneh, first under R. Johanan and then under the patriarch Rabban Gamaliel II (Tosef., Ber. 2:6). The Sanhedrin met in the upper story of a house or in a vineyard near a pigeon house. In some respects, the city was now regarded as the equal of Jerusalem: there the year was intercalated and the shofar blown, and pilgrims from Asia visited the city three times a year (Tosef., Hul. 3:10; RH 29b; Shab. 11a). Among the most important decisions made at Jabneh was the arranging of the definitive canon of the Bible. Between 70 and 132 C.E., Jabneh was "the great city, the city of scholars and rabbis"; most of the tannaim of this period taught there and Rabban Gamaliel was buried there. The city is described as being situated near a stream of water; its wheat market was well known and cattle and poultry were raised in the vicinity.
With the outbreak of the Bar Kokhba Revolt, Jabneh ceased to be the center of Jewish life in Erez Israel and the Diaspora. After the war, unsuccessful attempts were made to transfer the Sanhedrin from Galilee back to Jabneh (RH 31a-b). A strong Jewish element remained in the city, but the Samaritans constituted the majority (Tosef., Dem. 1:13). A Samaritan inscription belonging to a synagogue was discovered there. By the fifth century, the city was predominantly Christian and the bishop took part in the church councils at Nicea (325 C.E.), Chalcedon (451 C.E.), and Jerusalem (518 and 536 C.E.).
Michael Avi-Yonah, Encyclopaedia Judaica, ad v. "Yabneh"
Herbert Donner (The Mosaic Map of Madaba, Kampen 1992, 57)
It is identical with Yibna about 12 km northeast of Ashdod. Jamnia was the residence of the jewish synedrium after 70 A.D.; it is often mentioned in jewish and other literary sources. It also became the centre of jewish erudition, the place of famous teachers like Rabbi Jochanam ben Zakkai. After 135 A.D. Jamnia had a samaritain congregation with a synagogue. It was christianized in the 4th century.
Michael Avi-Yonah (The Madaba Mosaic Map, Jerusalem 1954, 63)
The Onomasticon (106, 20) has 'Iamnia' localized correctly between Diospolis and Azotus; St. Jerome and the Septuagint follow the Biblical form 'Jabneel', both of which are conflated in the Latin translation of the Onomasticon into 'Iamnel'. The ancient sources from Pliny (Hist. nat. V, 14) onwards distinguish inland Iamnia from Iamnia-by-the Sea. Here, of course, we have the former. Of the three churches represented, the central one reached by the steps might have stood in the place of the village mosque on the top of the tell of Yavneh. The church on the north might have been replaced later on by the mosque of Abu Hureira. As it seems outside the city proper, it might be identical with the monastery built in the suburbs of Iamnia by Petrus Iberus (S. Vailhé, Rev. orient chrét., 4, 1899, p. 541).
Leah Di Segni ("The Onomastikon of Eusebius and the Madaba Map", in The Madaba Map Centenary, Jerusalem 1999, 117)
West of Nicopolis the map marks Iabnel he kai Iamnia. The Septuaginta version (Jos. 15:11; 19:33) has Iabnel for both Yabneh in the Shephelah and Yabneh, Yabnith in the lot of Naphthali; Eusebius recognizes the form Iamnel (Iabnel in Jerome's translation) only for the town of Naphthali,31 while Jerome uses Iamnel for the city in the Shephelah.32 Again, the combination of names does not come from Eusebius. (See also the complete article)
Noël Duval ("Essai sur la signification des vignettes topographiques", in The Madaba Map Centenary, Jerusalem 1999, 139)
Jabnêl ou Jamnia. Groupement, en apparence sans enceinte (mais il peut y avoir une tour à l'arrière), de quatre (ou cinq) bâtiments couverts en terrasse et de deux couverts d'un appentis de tuiles (que Donner, n° 69, considère, sans argument, comme des édifices cultuels), autour d'une église conventionnelle, sans doute précédée d'un escalier. L'église peut être la basilique dédiée par Eudocie à saint Etienne et saint Thomas. (See also the complete article)
Bellarmino Bagatti (Ancient Christian Villages of Judaea and Negev, Jerusalem - in the press)
Yavne, Iamnia, Yibna, Ibelin
The seat of the Great Sanhedrin until 135, the city took the name of Iamnia under Roman rule. In the Byzantine period Christians and Samaritans dwelled there together. The Christians had an episcopal see mentioned as early as the fourth century. The first known bishop, Macrinus, was an Arian and died before 325. Bishops of Iamnia attended the Councils of Nicaea in 325, Constantinople in 381, Chalcedon in 451, and the synods of Jerusalem in the years 518 and 536.
Towards the end of his life Peter the Iberian came to Iamnia to live in a monastery built by Queen Eudocia. It was near the sea. Its church was dedicated to St. Stephen and the relics of St. Stephen and St. Thomas the Apostle were deposed in it. The neighbors were Samaritans; but they held the saint in such esteem for his holy life and the miracles he performed, as to call him a "second Moses." Peter died in 491 and his body was transferred to the monastery of Maiuma; the one at Iamnia was abandoned (Vailhé, ROC 4 , pp. 541-42, no.59; 5 , p.45).
In the Middle Ages the city was named Ibelin. Foulques of Anjou built a four-turreted castle there to put an end to the Egyptian invasions coming from Ascalon. According to SWP (II, pp. 441-42), the only remains from that period were the church in the middle of the village and the mosque dedicated to Abu Hureireh. After the Crusaders' time the church was converted into a mosque, but was still called by the natives "el-Kenise." It was Gothic in style, as we could see on a visit in 1936; later we saw it abandoned. Clermont-Ganneau (Arch. Res., II, pp. 168-173) gives its plan and sections, along with sketches of details.
For more sources and bibliography see:
Tabula Imperii Romani. Iudaea - Palaestina (Jerusalem 1994) s.v. "Iamnia, Yavneh", 149.
Map Section 7 Place Sources