Biblical Archaeology Review 45:4, July/August September/October 2019

The Wise Woman of Abel Beth Maacah

By Nava Panitz-CohenNaama Yahalom-Mack

In a world dominated by men, and at a time that saw Israel’s greatest monarch—King David himself—rule over the land and assert his dominance over any and all who might challenge him, it was a woman—a Wise Woman—in the town of Abel Beth Maacah who stood up, stared down the commander of David’s army, and successfully negotiated her city’s salvation. This is her story.

As archaeologists who focus on the period of the Old Testament, we naturally included an examination of what the Bible has to say about the site in our preparations for the exciting new excavations at Tel Abel Beth Maacah back in 2013.1 This large, prominent mound in the far north of Israel commands major roads running through the fertile Hula Valley and is set on the Iyyun River, one of the headwaters of the Jordan River. The tell strategically occupies the border between modern Syria, Lebanon, and Israel, mirroring the ancient border between Aram, Phoenicia, and Israel for most of the Iron Age (1200–721 B.C.E.). Given its strategic placement, we were certain that it would appear in multiple passages. However, we were surprised to see that, in fact, Abel Beth Maacah is mentioned only three times in the Bible.

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