Beth Shemesh – Israel

Also identified in the Bible as ‘Ir-Shemesh’ (meaning “City of the Sun”), Beth Shemesh was originally allotted to Dan. However, Dan was unable to drive out the Amorites who occupied it (Judges 1: 33 – 35). Later on, it was assigned to the Levites as one of 48 Levitical cities (Joshua 21: 16).

About 14 miles or so from Jerusalem, Beth Shemesh guarded one of the main routes leading into the Judean Hills. 

Did You Know?

Meaning “House of the Sun”, a number of places bore the name of Beth Shemesh in both Israel and Egypt:

  • One place bearing this name is found in the Upper Galilee region found in Naphtali’s region (Josh 19: 39)
  • Another place was in the lower Galilee within Issachar’s territory, near Beth She’an (Joshua 19: 22)
  • A fortified city between Mount Tabor and the Jordan also held this name (Joshua 19: 38)
  • The Egyptian city of On (called ‘Heliopolis’ by the Greeks) was also called Beth Shemesh (Jer. 43: 13)

Scriptural Significance

Beth Shemesh was right along the border between Israel and Philistia. As such, it was often a hot spot between the two countries:

The Philistines at one point had defeated Israel in battle and captured the Ark of the Covenant. However, they suffered terrible plagues as a result. They in turn sent the Ark toward Beth Shemesh and back to the Israelites. It was placed on a cart that was pulled by two nursing cows. As evidence of God’s control, the cows did not go toward their calves. Instead they trekked nine miles from Ekron, up the Sorek Valley to Beth Shemesh.

Those living in the town offered sacrifices to thank the Lord for the Ark’s safe return. However some, contrary to the Lord’s command, looked into the Ark and were struck down dead. Out of great fear, the inhabitants of Beth Shemesh then sent the Ark to Aijalon – where it remained for twenty years (I Samuel 4:1 – 5:12).

Beth Shemesh is also located along the Sorek Valley. Directly across the valley is the town of Zorah. Samson was from Zorah (Judges 13:1-25).

Beth Shemesh was also the scene of a key Civil War battle fought between the Northern Kingdom of Israel and the Southern Kingdom of Judah (II Kings 14: 11 – 14; II Chronicles 25: 21 – 24).