An ancient well outside the outer gate at Tell es-Seba` (Beersheba)
In the Bible Beersheba was often mentioned as the southernmost place in the land, with the expression "from Dan to Beersheba" describing the extent of the promised land. On the edge of the desert wells were of vital importance and the name makes reference to this. There are two possible sites for the biblical city, Bir es-Seba‘ (the location of the modern city) and Tel es-Seba‘ (5km W of the town). The tell was a fortified city in the time of the Judaean monarchy and is thought to be the more likely site of the biblical town.
The well at Tel es-Seba` is over 28m deep though there is some debate whether it is quite old enough to have been dug by the patriarchs. In the time of the monarchy the city was a regional administrative center. With a clear sense of planning, large storehouses and barracks.
This area has very strong patriarchal associations, and this may account for it still being a center of pilgrimage in Amos time (5:5). The stones that once composed a fine ashlar altar were found where they had been reused in later walls. From the dating it would seem that this altar may have been "purged" in reforms (by either king Hezekiah or Josiah) as was the temple at the fortress in nearby Arad. If so, the cult at Beersheba seems to have been less biblically orthodox than at Arad, there the altar was constructed of uncut stone (as specified in Ex 20:25).
This page is part of the Hypertext Bible Commentary - Amos,
© Tim Bulkeley, 1996-2005, Tim Bulkeley. All rights reserved.