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beth shemesh ark stone

Nestling in the heart of the Judean Foothills (the Shephelah), ancient Beth Shemesh (from Hebrew: “House of the Sun”) was a significant city in Canaanite and Israelite times. It was in the lot of the tribe of Judah (Joshua 15:10) or Dan (Joshua 19:41). Beth Shemesh also played a unique role in the history of the Ark of the Covenant.

Beth-Shemesh and the Ark of the Covenant

The Book of Samuel generally records the Israelite’s struggles with their neighboring enemies, especially with the Philistines. 1 Samuel 4-6 presents a battle in which the Philistines defeated the Israelites and confiscated the Ark of the Covenant. However, after inflicting a plague on the Philistines, they return it to the Israelites – at Beth Shemesh. The Bible records the Israelites placing the ark in the city and celebrating by animal sacrifice. Later, priests moved the Ark to Kiryat Yaarim, and eventually to Jerusalem. Archaeological excavations at Beth-Shemesh may have uncovered the place where the Ark rested when it was housed in Beth-Shemesh.
See a presentation of the discovery in a 2021 TV production:

Later History of Beth-Shemesh

Beth Shemesh was also the battle site between Jehoash, king of Israel, and Amaziah, king of Judah (2 Kings 14). Later, the book of Chronicles records the Philistines raiding the city (2 Chronicles 28:17-18). Beth Shemesh is not mentioned again in the Bible or any other ancient sources. It seems that it was destroyed and abandoned. Only 2,600 years later, in 1953, Israel established a modern city by the same name, east of Beth Shemesh’s archaeological site.

Excavations at Beth Shemesh

Ancient Beth Shemesh was identified in the 19th century on a hill next to the Soreq Stream in the central part of the Shephelah. Since 1990, an expedition from Tel-Aviv University has been excavating at the site. The excavations yielded various finds from Canaanite and Israelite periods, including the city’s cemetery, and an extensive underground water reservoir. In 2019, Dr. Zvi Lederman, head of the expedition, announced discovering the possible location of the Ark’s rest after its return from the Philistines.

Touring Tel Beth Shemesh

The Beth Shemesh archaeological site lies on the side of Road 38, west of modern Beth Shemesh. It is accessible and free of charge, although it is still not adequately developed for tourism. In 2018, large-scale salvage excavations were also carried out at the site’s eastern end for a new highway.

A tour of Bethshemesh can be combined with a day tour of the Shephelah or a themed tour on the search after the Ark.

Contact us to inquire more about a private tour of Beth-Shemesh:

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