What is…

Hebrew: חָרְמָה —transliteration: Chormah

also known as: Zephath, Tsfat, צפת

Meaning: banned; i.e., placed under a “ban,” broken rock, or devoted to utter destruction

This place, or perhaps the watch-tower commanding it, was originally called Zephath (Judges 1:17). Later, it became a royal Canaanite city and is called “Hormah” 9 times in Scripture.

After the manifestation of God’s anger against the Israelites, because of their rebellion and their murmurings when the spies returned to the camp at Kadesh, in the wilderness of Paran, with an evil report of the land, they quickly repented of their conduct, and presumed to go up “to the head of the mountain,” seeking to enter the Promised Land, but without the presence of the Lord, without the ark of the covenant, and without Moses. The Amalekites and the Canaanites came down and “struck them and beat them down as far as Hormah.” (Numbers 14:45 NASB).

Afterward, King Arad, of the Canaanites, at the close of the wanderings, when the Israelites were a second time encamped at Kadesh, “fought against them, and took some of them prisoners” (Numbers 21:1-3 KJV).

But Israel vowed a vow unto the Lord utterly to destroy the cities of the Canaanites; they “banned” them, and hence the place was now called Hormah. But this “ban” was not fully executed till the time of Joshua, who finally conquered the king of this district, so that the ancient name Zephath became “Hormah” (Joshua 12:14; Judges 1:17).

This place became part of the tribal land of Simeon.


The location of Hormah is not clear, and it was destroyed long ago. It may have been between Beersheba and Gaza, between Beersheba and Arad. Some evidence points to the ruins of Sarta (under the biblical Tophel) on the eastern side of Arabah (the Jordan Rift Valley), an area south of the Dead Sea.

Article Version: July 11, 2019