Tirzah, Israel’s second capital

Tirzah is used in the Bible as the name of one of the daughters of Zelopehad. She and her sisters were married into the clans of the people of Manasseh the son of Joseph (Numbers 36:11; Joshua 12:24). The man in Song of Songs (or Solomon) tells his lady “You are beautiful as Tirzah, my love, lovely as Jerusalem, awesome as an army with banners” (6:4 ESV). The context, including Jerusalem, indicates he is comparing her to a beautiful city.

Tel el Farah north in March, 2022. A few stones from the excavations are visible among the weeds. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.
This photo shows a few of the excavated ruins of Tel el Farah, thought to be the site of Tirzah.

In today’s post we consider the name Tirzah as the name of a place.

  • Joshua captured the king of Tirzah during the conquest of the promised land (Joshua 12:24; 17:3).
  • Earlier when Abraham was at Shechem, the LORD promised him and his descendants the land of Canaan (modern Nablus) (Genesis 12:1-9).
  • About 931 BC after the death of Solomon Jeroboam rebelled and became king over Israel (the northern kingdom) at Shechem (1 Kings 11). Later the capital was moved to Tirzah (1 Kings 14:17).
  • R. K. Harrison describes the importance of Tirzah in the kingdom of Israel: “perhaps as the result of increasing political and economic relationships with Syria. Tirzah was the capital of Israel during the time of Baasha (1 Kings 15:21,33) and Elah (1 Kings 16:8-9). The seven-day reign of Zimri ended when he burned the palace over himself at Tirzah was being besieged by Omri (1 Kings 16:17-18). After ruling from Tirzah for six years, Omri moved the capital of Israel to Samaria (1 Kings 16:23-24) , probably because of his economic and political alignment with Phoenicia. Menahem, a resident of Tirzah, was able to overthrow Shallum (752 B.C.) toward the close of the northern kingdom’s existence and to usurp the throne, ruling for almost eleven years.
Caretaker at Tel el Farah (Tirzah) in 1982. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.
In 1982 I first visited Tel el Farah with the late Jimmy Cravens, a photographer friend from Tampa, Florida. The site still showed evidence of excavation. The gentlemen in the photo lived in a little house on the tel and served as the caretaker. I recall that he is showing us some of the walls that indicated a divider between the poor and those better off. He said he had worked with De Vaux during all of the excavations. The image is scanned from a slide that is still in good condition after 40 years.

The location of Tirzah is not certain. W. F. Albright identified it with Tel el Farah, a mound located about seven miles NE of Shechem (at modern Nablus). Roland De Vaux was associated with the Ecole Biblique in Jerusalem and conducted nine seasons of archaeological excavations at Tel el Farah between 1946 and 1960. Most of the tel is currently covered by an orchard.

Shrine model from Tel el Farah north from the excavations. Now in the Louvre.
Several archaeological artifacts from Tel el Farah are displayed in the Louvre. This is a shrine or temple model from the site.

Tel el Farah north (likely Tirzah) should not be confused with Tel el-Farah south (likely Besor). See our article about a visit there a few years ago here. Google Earth Pro includes one photo from the south site with the information about the north site. It is easy to make this mistake.

If you wish to look up the site on Google Earth Pro or the maps you will need to search for Tel Fara North. Remember also that the site is in Palestine.

One response to “Tirzah, Israel’s second capital

  1. dreamerphoenix

    This is not a “model” of a Temple, its an actual small home temple to the goddess. Women had these in their homes.

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