Daily Archives: June 17, 2008

Ramoth in Gilead

Ramoth in Gilead (or Ramoth-gilead) was a town in Gilead that was included in the territory of the Israelite tribe of Gad in Transjordan (Joshua 20:8). It was one of the Levitical cities of refuge for the Israelites (Joshua 21:38). The most memorable associated with Ramoth-gilead recorded in the Bible is the battle with Aram (Syria) in which Ahab was killed (1 Kings 22). Elijah sent one of the sons of the prophets to Ramoth-gilead to anoint Jehu as king of Israel (2 Kings 9:1).

The identity of Ramoth-gilead is uncertain. Two sites are frequently mentioned by scholars: Tall ar-Rumeith and Ar-Ramtha.

Burton MacDonald, in East of the Jordan, says,

There is also archaeological support for choosing Tall ar-Rumeith, situated in the fertile plain area just to the southeast of the junction of the ‘Amman-Damascus and Irbid-Mafraq highways, as the location for Ramothgilead. (page 200)

Paul Lapp excavated at Tall ar-Rumeith in 1967. Little archaeological work has been done at Ar-Ramtha. I have not gone into the Jordanian city of Ramtha, but understand that the mound is covered by the town, thus making it difficult to conduct an excavation.

Here is a photo I made at Tall ar-Rumeith in 2002. It is not surprising to see camels here because the desert is near (to the east). From the top of the tell there is a great view looking north across a fertile plain to the border with Syria.

Earlier this year I went back to the site, but found that some modern housing has been built adjacent to the east side of the tell. It appears to be serving as housing for Indian students. I speculate that they attend a nearby university.

This photo shows a modern trench made to make a road to part of the construction site.

We found some pottery in the road, but can not be certain that it came from the damage to the tell. I did not see any shards along the edge of the cut.

This illustrates a real problem associated with ancient sites in isolated places. In a place like Jordan there are so many sites that it is impossible to excavate, preserve, and guard all of them.

A note on spelling. You may note different spellings of the word describing an archaeological mound. In Israel the term Tel is used. Earlier the term Tell was used throughout the Middle East. In Jordan the term Tall has come into common use.

There is also much variation in the spelling of some of the compound biblical names in scholarly sources, and even in English translation of the Bible. This is illustrated in this post and the previous one on Bethshan.