DISCUSSION

Ascalon, Gaza, Negev and Sinai

105. Arad, whence the Aradites - (Tell Arad)


An important biblical city in the eastern Negev which controlled the main road to Edom and Elath. Ancient Arad "The Canaanite, the king of Arad, who dwelt in the South [Negev]" prevented the Israelite tribes from penetrating into Canaan directly from Kadesh-Barnea "by the way of Atharim" (Num. 21,1; 33,40) and he defeated them at neighboring Hormah (Num 14,44-45; Deut. 1,44). Another biblical tradition, however, recounts a second battle between the Israelites and the king of Arad near Hormah. This time the Canaanites were defeated and the victorious Israelites "utterly destroyed them and their cities." The name Hormah ("utter destruction") is derived from this event (Num. 21,2-3). In the list of defeated Canaanite kings in Joshua 12,14, which follows the latter tradition, the kings of Arad and Hormah appear side by side. It is further recorded in the Bible (Judg. 1,16) that "the children of the Kenite, Moses' father-in-law [the Septuagint reads "the children of Hobab the Kenite"] went up out of the city of palm-trees with the children of Judah into the wilderness of Judah, which is in the south [Negev] of Arad, and they went and dwelt with the people" (Heb. ha-am; but the Septuagint reads the "Amalekite"; cf. I Sam. 15,6). This account of the settlement of the important Kenite family in the vicinity of Arad acquired special significance after the modern discovery of the sanctuary at Arad. Pharaoh Shishak in listing cities conquered by him in Erez Israel (c. 920 B.C.E.) records the capture of two places in the Negev with the name Arad (No. 107-112), i.e., "the fortresses of Arad Rabbat [Arad the Great] and Arad of the House of Yeroham." It seems, therefore, that in the days of Solomon there were two fortresses with the name Arad, a large, main city and a second named for the family of Yeroham (probably the biblical Jerahmeelites; and cf. "the South [Negev] of the Jerahmeelites" and "the cities of the Jerahmeelites" in I Samuel 27,10 and 30,29). Eder (Heb. rdA), which is mentioned as the second city in the Negev district of Judah (Josh. 15,21) is apparently a corruption of the name Arad. A village called Arad was still known to Eusebius in the fourth century C.E. (Onom. 14,2), 20 mi. from Hebron and four mi. from Malaatha (Moleatha), a description which fits Tell Arad, which is about 18 1/2 mi. (30 km.) E.N.E. of Beersheba. On the Madaba Map, Arad is erroneously placed south of Beersheba. Excavations conducted by Y. Aharoni and R. Amiran at Tell Arad from 1962 to 1967 uncovered a large city from the Early Bronze Age II (c. 2900-2700 B.C.E.) which was built over a scattered, unfortified settlement from the Late Chalcolithic period. The Early Bronze Age city was surrounded by a stone wall, 8 1/4 ft. (2.50 m.) thick, which was strengthened at intervals by semicircular towers. It was a well-planned city which was divided into various quarters by narrow lanes. The houses were built according to a uniform architectural design and were of a typical "broad house" constructionóa rectangular room with the entrance on one of the long sides. Of major importance was the discovery of imported pottery from Egypt as well as an abundance of decorated pottery which had previously been known mainly from first dynasty tombs in Egypt (Abydos ware).This pottery is of great chronological value and it proves that commercial ties between Egypt and Arad were already well-developed at that time. The ancient town was destroyed not later than 2700 B.C.E. and the site remained deserted until some time in the 11th century B.C.E. when a small settlement rose. In the center of the village, a sacred precinct with a bamah ("high place") and altar was built. This was undoubtedly the Kenite sanctuary whose priests traced their sacerdotal heritage back to Moses (Judg. 1,16). In the tenth century B.C.E., probably during Solomon's reign, a strong citadel was built on the site which was in existence until close to the destruction of the First Temple. The citadel was destroyed six times during this period. It was followed by a succession of Persian, Hellenistic and Roman fortresses. The latest stratum at Arad dates to the beginning of the Arabic period. The outstanding discovery at Arad was the temple which stood on the northwestern corner of the Israelite citadel. It is the first Israelite sanctuary to be uncovered in excavations. Its westward orientation, contents, and general layout in many ways recall Solomon's temple in Jerusalem but the temple shows an even more striking resemblance to the biblical description of the Tabernacle in the desert. The sanctuary consists of a main hall from which three steps lead up to the Holy of Holies, in the entrance of which were found two incense altars. In the center of the Holy of Holies were a small bamah and a mazzevah ("stone stele"). Along the eastern side of the hall was a large courtyard which was divided by a stone sill into an outer courtyard and an inner one (porch). Flanking the entrance to the hall were two stone slabs which apparently served as bases of pillars similar to the Jachin and Boaz in the Jerusalem temple (cf. II Chron. 3,17). In the outer courtyard stood an altar for burnt offerings, which was a square of five cubits, the exact measurement of the Tabernacle (Ex. 27,1; cf. II Chron. 6,13), and built of earth and unhewn field stones (cf. Ex. 20,22, 25). Among the various finds and ritual objects discovered in the temple, two ostraca (ink-inscribed sherds) are of interest.These bear the names of Pashhur and Meremothótwo priestly families known from the Bible. A third ostracon contains a list of family names including, among others, "the sons of Korah." The temple was built over the early Kenite high place at the same time as the first citadel, probably during the days of Solomon, and it was destroyed when the last Israelite citadel was erected in the days of Josiah. The destruction of the temple was certainly connected with Josiah's concentration of the religious ritual in Jerusalem which is described in II Kings 22. In addition to the ostraca found in the temple, numerous others inscribed in Hebrew and Aramaic were also uncovered and these considerably enrich knowledge of ancient Hebrew epigraphy. One group belongs to the archives of "Eliashib, son of Eshyahu," who was a high-ranking official and perhaps the commander of the last Israelite citadel (c. 600 B.C.E.) Most of these contain orders to supply rations of wine and bread to travelers, including the "Kittim," who were apparently a group of mercenaries of Aegean origin. One of the letters mentions Beersheba and another contains a reference to "the house of YHWH," apparently the Temple in Jerusalem. Another ostracon from the same period contains an order for the urgent dispatch of reinforcements from Arad to Ramat Negev ("Ramah of the South," Josh. 19,8; I Sam. 30,27) to head off a threatening Edomite attack. This is possibly a reference to the Edomite invasion during the time of Nebuchadnezzar, hinted at in II Kings 24,2 (reading Edom instead of Aram). The generally accepted theory that Tell Arad is Arad of the Canaanite period has been refuted by excavation of the site since no traces of settlement from the Middle or Late Bronze Ages were found. Its identification with Israelite Arad, on the other hand, was confirmed, the name even found inscribed on two ostraca. There are two possible solutions to this problem, 1) In the Canaanite period, Arad was the name of a region and not of a specific city; 2) The site of Canaanite Arad is Tell el-Milh (present-day Malhata) 7 1/2 mi. (12 km.) southwest of Tell Arad where strong fortifications dating from the Hyksos period (Middle Bronze Age) have been discovered. This identification is substantiated by the inscription of Pharaoh Shishak according to which it can be assumed that "Arad of the House of Yeroham" is the early Arad which was settled by the Jerahmeelite family (cf. I Sam. 27; 30,29) and "Arad Rabbat" (Arad the Great) was the strong citadel established in the days of Solomon in the Negev of Judah on the site of the Kenite sacred precinct.

Yohanan Aharoni, Encyclopaedia Judaica, ad v. "Arad"


Leah Di Segni ("The Onomastikon of Eusebius and the Madaba Map", in The Madaba Map Centenary 1897-1997, Jerusalem 1999, 119 - see also the complete article)
Since Arad is pictured between Elusa and Beersheba, only slightly to the east, we are brought to despair of ever locating anything in the map of the Negev as portrayed by the Madaba artist.

Herbert Donner (The Mosaic Map of Madaba, Kampen 1992, 71)
The site of Biblical Arad (33:40; Josh. 12:14; Judg. 1:16) is quite clear: it is Tall 'Arad (coord. 162-076), about 32 km east of Beersheba and 27 kin south of Hebron, well excavated in the sixties of our century - Tall 'Arad seems to be meant by Eusebius. The remains of the Byzantine city have been found at Hirbat Kusefa (coord. 156-073), some 6 km southwest of Tall 'Arad, east of Beersheba. The mosaicist, however, represented Arad south of Beersheba in the southern desert, the reason for which is unknown. The 'Aradites' seem to originate from a Greek commentary on Gen. 10, the so-called 'Distribution of the Earth'; the expression also occurs in the Chronicon Paschale (11,99).

For more sources and bibliography see:
Tabula Imperii Romani. Iudaea - Palaestina (Jerusalem 1994) s.v. "Arad", 66.

Map Section 9 Place Sources

logo logo

Created Tuesday, December 19, 2000 at 23:40:32
by Eugenio Alliata ofm in collaboration with Stefano de Luca ofm
Webmaster: John Abela ofm - Space by courtesy of Christus Rex
copyright - Studium Biblicum Franciscanum - Jerusalem 2000