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Beersheba, Israel

National Park Beersheba

National Park Beersheba

On the outskirts of Beersheba city, which is the capital of the Negev desert, on a large hill, there is a historic monument of the UNESCO’s World Heritage – the ancient settlement of Beersheba. This place is also called Be’er Sheva.

The name Beersheba from Hebrew means “well of the oath,” and it is first mentioned in chapter 26 of Genesis. If we count the city’s age from the time of its first mention in the written sources, then Beersheba is around 3700 years old.

Isaac, son of Abraham and Sarah, driven by hunger and drought, stayed with king Abimelek in Gerar. And here the Lord appeared to him and said, do not go down to Egypt, live in the land I will tell you about, and walk in this land, and I will be with you and bless you.  For to you and your descendants I will give all these lands and will confirm the oath I swore to your father Abraham. I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and will give them all these lands, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed,because Abraham obeyed Me and did everything I required of him, keeping My commands, My decrees and My instructions.”So Isaac stayed in Gerar. And the Lord was with Isaac, and the Lord blessed Isaac, and blessed him abundantly.

Offering of Isaac by Lodovico Cardi

Offering of Isaac by Lodovico Cardi

Isaac planted crops in that land and the same year reaped a hundredfold, because the Lord blessed him. The man became rich, and his wealth continued to grow until he became very wealthy. He had so many flocks and herds and servants that the Philistines envied him. So all the wells that his father’s servants had dug in the time of his father Abraham, the Philistines stopped up, filling them with earth.

And Abimelek saw that Isaac became much more powerful than the Philistines, so Abimelek said to Isaac, “Move away from us; you have become too powerful for us.”

So Isaac moved away from there and encamped in the Valley of Gerar, where he settled. Isaac reopened the wells that had been dug in the time of his father Abraham, which the Philistines had stopped up after Abraham died, and he gave them the same names his father had given them.

Isaac’s servants dug in the valley and discovered a well of fresh water there. But the herders of Gerar quarreled with those of Isaac and said, “The water is ours!” So he named the well Esek, because they disputed with him. Then they dug another well, but they quarreled over that one also; so he named it Sitnah.He moved on from there and dug another well, and no one quarreled over it. He named it Rehoboth, saying, “Now the Lord has given us room and we will flourish in the land.”

From there he went up to Beersheba. That night the Lord appeared to him and said, “I am the God of your father Abraham. Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bless you and will increase the number of your descendants for the sake of My servant Abraham.” Isaac built an altar there and called on the name of the Lord. There he pitched his tent, and there his servants dug a well.

Meanwhile, Abimelek had come to him from Gerar, with Ahuzzath his personal adviser and Phicol the commander of his forces. Isaac asked them, “Why have you come to me, since you were hostile to me and sent me away?”They answered, “We saw clearly that the Lord was with you; so we said, ‘There ought to be a sworn agreement between us’—between us and you. Let us make a treaty with you that you will do us no harm, just as we did not harm you but always treated you well and sent you away peacefully. And now you are blessed by the Lord.”Isaac then made a feast for them, and they ate and drank.Early the next morning the men swore an oath to each other. Then Isaac sent them on their way, and they went away peacefully.

That day Isaac’s servants came and told him about the well they had dug. They said, “We’ve found water!” He called it Shibah, and to this day the name of the town has been Beersheba

After Israelites conquered Canaan, Beersheba belonged to the tribe of Judah, later – to the tribe of Simeon. In the time of Judges, Beersheba was the southernmost city of the country, therefore the phrase “from Dan to Beersheba” was a common expression to denote the whole Land of Israel. Dan was the northernmost tip of Israel. When they returned from the Babylonian captivity, the Jews settled in Beersheba again.

During its prime flourishing period, the ancient Beersheba was a well-fortified small city with 60 residential houses, where approximately five hundred people lived.

In the 70-s of Our Era, when the Romans captured the NabataeanKingdom, Beersheba became a Roman fort. In its Arabic period, the city was desolate, and only in the 1880s, the authorities of the Ottoman Empire made an observation point here, to keep track of the moves of the Bedouin tribes. Circa 1901, a little settlement grew around this site.

So, this is the fascinating story that is kept by this ancient place, which definitely must be visited during a journey in the Promised land.

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