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Ai

Meaning: ruins.

The name of two biblical cities:

  1. One of the royal cities of the Canaanites (Josh. 10:1; Gen. 12:8; 13:3). It was the scene of Joshua’s defeat, and afterwards of his victory. It was the second Canaanite city taken by Israel (Josh. 7:2-5; 8:1-29). It was rebuilt and inhabited by the Benjamites (Ezra 2:28; Neh. 7:32; 11:31). It lay to the east of Bethel, “beside Bethaven.” Archaeologists of the Associates for Biblical Research (ABR) have spent many years in trying to determine the controversial site of both these ancient cities. The Bethel/Ai Project is central to the Associates for Biblical Research’s work on the Israelite Conquest of Canaan. A major scholarly battle has developed over the identification of the biblical cities of Ai and Bethel. Dr. David Livingston, founder and former director of the Associates for Biblical Research, pioneered research in this area. ABR is currently excavating Khirbet el-Maqatir as a possible candidate. The site is located 10 miles north of Jerusalem. Excavations since 1995 have revealed a city gate and wall system. ABR is continuing to excavate these features as they uncover the plan of this 15th-century B.C. Canaanite fortress.

  2. A city in the Ammonite territory (Jer. 49:3). Some have thought that the proper reading of the word is Ar (Isa. 15:1).

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Author: Matthew G. Easton and Paul S. Taylor.