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MIZPAH v. MIZPEH (Μασφά). This Hebrew appellative (r.??), signifying “a commanding height,” “a beacon,” “watchtower,” and the like (κατοπτευόμενον τοῦτο σημαίνει κατὰ τὴν Ἑβραίων γλῶτταν, J. AJ 6.2.1), is used as the proper name of several sites or towns in Palestine, doubtless from their positions.


The most important was Mizpah (once written Mizpeh, Josh. 18.26), in the tribe of Benjamin, where a convocation of the tribes of Israel was held on important occasions, during the times of the Judges, and was one of the stations in Samuel's annual circuit. (Judges, 20.1, 3, 21.1; 1 Sam. 7.5--17, 10.17, &c.) It was strengthened by Asa, king of Judah, as a frontier garrison against Israel, and he used for his works the materials brought from the neighbouring Ramah, which Baasha, king of Israel, had built on his southern frontier, “that he might not suffer any to go out or to come in to Asa, king of Judah.” (1 Kings, 15.17--22; comp. 2 Chron. 16.6.) After the destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar it became, for a short time, the seat of the government, and there it was that Gedaliah and his officers were barbarously murdered by Ishmael and his company. (2 Kings, 25.22--25; Jeremiah, xl. xli.) It is clear from this narrative that it was situated on the highroad between Samaria and Jerusalem (41.5, 6); and it is evident from the narrative in Judges that it could not be far distant from Gibeah of Benjamin, as the head-quarters of the Israelites were at Mizpah while they were besieging Gibeah. It was restored and inhabited soon after the captivity (Nehem. 2.7, 15), and is mentioned in the book of Maccabees as situated over against Jerusalem (Μασσηφὰ κατέναντι Ἱερουσαλήμ), and as having been formerly an oratory of Israel; and there it was that Judas Maccabaeus and his brothers inaugurated their great work with fasting and prayer. (1 Maccab. 3.46.) It is frequently mentioned by Josephus in his narrative of the Scripture history, but his orthography is far from uniform. Μασφάτη (6.2.1), Μασφαθά (6.4.4, 10.9. § § 2, 4, 5), Μασφά (8.13.4). In the last cited passage he informs us that Mizpah was in the same place as Ranathon (or Ramah), which he places 40 stadia from Jerusalem ( § 3). Eusebius and St. Jerome most unaccountably confound this Mizpah with the Mizpah of Gilead (infra, No. 3). They place it near Kirjathjearim. (Onomast. s. v. Μασσηθά.) Its site has not been satisfactorily identified. Dr. Robinson thinks that either Tell-el-Fûl (Bean-hill), lying about an hour south of Er-Rúm (Ramah) towards Jerusalem, or Neby Samwîl, somewhat further distant from Er-Râm, to the west of the former site, would correspond to the site of Mizpah. He inclines strongly to the latter site (Bib. Res. vol. ii. p. 144); which, however, seems to be too far removed from the highroad between Jerusalem and Samaria, on which Mizpah was certainly situated. Possibly the modern village of Shaphat, identical in meaning with Mizpah, situated on that road, near to Tell-el-Fûl, may mark this ancient site; or another site, between this and Er-Râm, on the east of the road, still called ‘Ain Nuspeh, may mark the spot. It is worthy of remark that the high ground to the north of Jerusalem is called by a name of kindred signification with Mizpah, and doubtless derived its name Σκοπός from that town. It is on this ridge that Shaphat lies.


Mizpeh (LXX., Μασφά) is mentioned among the cities of Judah (Josh. 15.38); and this must be either the one which Eusebius mentions as still existing under the same name, in the borders of Eleutheropolis to the north, or the other in the tribe of Judah, on the way to Aelia. The former of these is probably Tell-es-Safîeh, the Alba Specula of the middle ages; the latter may be Beit-Safa, a little to the south of Jerusalem, between that city and Bethlehem.


Mizpah, in Mount Gilead, probably identical with Ramath-Mizpeh in Gad (Josh. 13.26), derived its name from the incident mentioned in Genesis, 31.44--55, and was apparently the site of the rough monument of unhewn stones called by Laban in Chaldee, “Yegar-sahadutha,” and by Jacob in Hebrew, “Galeed,” both signifying “the heap of witness.” The site was called “Mizpah; for, he said, The Lord watch between me and thee, when we are absent one from the other.” This is doubtless the Mizpah of Jephtha the Gileadite, which seems to have had somewhat of a sacred character, and to have served for the national conventions of the trans-Jordanic tribes, as its namesake in Benjamin did in Palestine Proper. (Judges, 10.17, 11.11, 34.) Eusebius notices it as a Levitical city in the tribe of Gad. (Onomast. s. v. Μασφά.


A fourth Mizpeh is named in Josh. 11.3, more to the north of Peraea, where we read of “the Hivite under Hermon, in the land of Mizpeh;” and presently afterwards of “the valley of Mizpeh eastward” (ver. 8), which cannot be identical with the Gileadite Mizpeh, but must have been at the southern base of Mount Hermon.


Mizpeh of Moab is mentioned (in 1 Sam. 22.3) in a manner which seems to intimate that it was the capital of that country in the time of David, as it was certainly the residence of its king. (Euseb. Onom. s. v. Μασσηφά.) [G.W]

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    • Flavius Josephus, Jewish Antiquities, 6.2.1
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