What is…

also known as: Mizpeh or Miz'peh

Meaning: watch-tower; the look-out

This is the name of 4 or 5 biblical places.

  1. Mizpah (Mizpeh), a city of the tribe of Benjamin, “the watch-tower”, where the people were accustomed to meet in great national emergencies (Joshua 18:26; Judges 20:1, 3; 21:1, 5; 1 Samuel 7:5-16).

    Samuel inaugurated the reformation that characterized his time by convening a great assembly of all Israel at Mizpeh, now the politico-religious center of the nation. There, in deep humiliation on account of their sins, they renewed their vows and entered again into covenant with the God of their fathers. It was a period of great religious awakening and of revived national life. The Philistines heard of this assembly, and came up against Israel. The Hebrews charged the Philistine host with great fury, and they were totally routed. Samuel commemorated this signal victory by erecting a memorial-stone, which he called “Ebenezer,” saying, “Hitherto hath the Lord helped us” (1 Samuel 7:7-12).

    When a Levite traveler’s concubine was raped by the men of Gibeah, the other tribes of Israel met at Mizpah of Benjamin, where they decided to attack the men of Benjamin for this grievous sin (Judges 20:1–11). At the same time, the decision was made not to permit marriage between Israelite women and Benjaminite men (Judges 21:1).

    Samuel also gathered the people of Israel to Mizpah for the Lord to identify their first king. There, Saul was chosen by lot from all the tribes and families of Israel.

    During the reigns of Asa, king of Judah, and Baasha, king of Israel, Mizpah was one of two cities which Asa built up from the stones Baasha had used to fortify Ramah (Rama) (1 Kings 15:22; 2 Chronicles 16:6).

    After the Babylonians had destroyed Jerusalem, they appointed Gedaliah governor in Mizpah over the remaining residents. Many returned to Mizpah from where they had fled. The prophet Jeremiah came to Mizpah from Ramah, where the Babylonians had released him. Later Ishmael, a member of the royal family, assassinated Gedaliah. Despite Jeremiah’s warning that the people would be a reproach and die if they went to Egypt, they persisted in going there.

    Mizpah is mentioned in the Book of Nehemiah as one of the towns resettled by the Jewish exiles returning from the Babylonian captivity and who helped to construct the walls of Jerusalem during the reign of Artaxerxes I (Xerxes) (Nehemiah 7:7–19 and Josephus Complete Works). Nehemiah further records that those returnees were the very descendants of the people who had formerly resided in the town before their banishment from the country, who had all returned to live in their former places of residence (Nehemiah 7:6).

    Some believe that this Mizpah is the same as Nob (1 Samuel 21:1; 22:9-19). It was some 4 miles northwest of Jerusalem, and was situated on the loftiest hill in the neighborhood, some 600 feet above the plain of Gibeon. This village has the modern name of Nabi Samwil (Neby Samwil), i.e., the prophet Samuel, from a tradition that Samuel’s tomb is here. (See NOB.)

    Others believe that Mizpah of Benjamin was located at Tell en-Nasbeh (aka Tel a Netzva).

    Tel A Netzva (Tell en-Nasbeh) in modern Israel (near the city of Ramallah)—satellite view. Tell en-Nasbeh has produced abundant remains from both periods and has a massive fortification system which matches well with the building campaign of King Asa of Judah in the early 9th century BC. Its location on the main road leading out of Jerusalem fits well with the reference to Mizpah in the First Books of Kings (1 Kings 15:22).
  2. Mizpah, a place in Gilead, so named by Laban, who overtook Jacob at this spot (Genesis 31:49) on his return to Canaan from Padan-aram. Here Jacob and Laban set up their memorial cairn of stones. It is the same as Ramath-mizpeh (Joshua 13:26).

    The first mention of Mizpah in the Bible is in Genesis where Laban and his son-in-law Jacob made an agreement that God will watch over them while they were apart from each other. It was marked by the piling of rocks (Genesis 31:45-49). It was a reminder of peace where each would not go beyond these rocks to attack the other (Genesis 31:52).

  3. Mizpah, a town in Gilead, where Jephthah resided, and where he assumed the command of the Israelites in a time of national danger. Here he made his rash vow; and here his daughter submitted to her mysterious fate (Judges 10:17; 11:11, 34). It may be the same as Ramoth-Gilead (Joshua 20:8), but it is more likely that it is identical with the foregoing, the Mizpeh of Genesis 31:23; 31:25; 31:48-49.

  4. Mizpah, another place in Gilead, at the foot of Mount Hermon, inhabited by Hivites (Joshua 11:3, 8). The name in Hebrew here has the article before it, “the Mizpeh,” “the watch-tower.” The modern village of Metullah, meaning also “the look-out,” probably occupies the site so called.

  5. Mizpah (Mizpeh), a town of Moab to which David removed his parents for safety during his persecution by Saul (1 Samuel 22:3).

    It has been suggested that this Mizpeh was probably the citadel known as Kir-Moab, now called Al Karak or Kerak, located on the ancient King’s Highway.

    Kerak, Jordan—satellite view

    While David resided in Mizpeh of Moab, he was visited by the prophet Gad, here mentioned for the first time, who was probably sent by Samuel to bid him leave the land of Moab and betake himself to the land of Judah. He accordingly removed to the forest of Hareth, on the edge of the mountain chain of Hebron.

Article Version: January 9, 2023