This story must begin about 21 miles east of Ebenezer at Shiloh. After Joshua and the children of Israel conquered most of the land that had been promised to Abraham and his seed, the Biblical text says, “Then the whole congregation of the people of Israel assembled at Shiloh and set up the tent of meeting [tabernacle] there. The land lay subdued before them.” (Joshua 18:1 ESV).
Later, in the biblical periods of the judges and kings the Philistines who were settled mostly on or near the southern coastal plain of the land made attempts to reach the central mountain range through the valleys. Think of Elah, Rephaim, and Jezreel. There are also other main routes connecting the coastal plain and the mountains such as the road from Ebenezer to Shiloh (see the map in the previous post).
At one point the Israelites decided to bring the ark of the covenant from Shiloh to the battlefield in the vicinity of Ebenezer (1 Samuel 4). Israel was defeated and the Philistines took the Ark of the Covenant with them first to one of their towns and then another. Eventually the Ark was returned to the Israelites. In the time of King David, it was bought to Jerusalem to what would become the temple mount and placed in a tent (2 Samuel 6:15ff.).
The term Ebenezer is used in the Bible to identify a place, and also to refer to a stone monument indicating that God has helped us to this point. This is the sense in which the term is used in the song “Here I Raise My Ebenezer.”
There is still some question about the location of Ebenezer. Excavations were carried out at Isbet Sartah by M. Kochavi in the 1970s. During these excavations a four-room house surrounded by several pits or silos was uncovered. The dig director and some other scholars identified the site with Ebenezer. It seems that there was never a settled village at the site.
Getting to the site is not easy. If you use Google Earth Pro search for Izbet Sartah to locate the site. I found that following one of the eastern-most streets from south to north will take you to the foot of the hill on which the site is located. From there, enjoy the hike.
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We went on a field trip to Izbet Sartah in 1978 when I was a volunteer with Moshe Kochavi’s excavation nearby at Tel Aphek. Would love to go back there again.
Thank you, Ferrell.