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Ramah, Rama

RAMAH, RAMA rā’ mə (רָמָ֖ה, without the definite article [Neh 11:33, Jer 31:15]; a fairly common geographical name meaning “height,” given to several towns in ancient Israel—these were usually situated on some lofty perch).

1. Of Naphtali. This city is mentioned once (Josh 19:36; LXX ̔Ραμά, G4821, A, or ̔Αράηλ, B); it was assigned to the cities of Naphtali. E. Robinson was apparently the first modern scholar to note that the name is preserved in that of the village er-Râmeh, about 8 m. WSW of Safad (present-day Zefat). The situation of this Arab town (Christian and Druze) is topographically remarkable; it sits on the lower slope of Jebel Heider (today Har Ha’ari) near the pass that separates that mountain from the other hills in the high ridge that rises sharply from the Wâdĩ esh-Shãghûr (the Talmudic valley of Beth-cerem, Nidd. II, 7; Tosef. ibid., III, 11) to form a massive wall between lower Galilee on the S and upper Galilee on the N. Thus er-Râmeh stands on the natural dividing line between upper and lower Galilee; it is also near the junction of the Acco-Safad road with the route leading S to Nazareth. The Biblical context in which Ramah appears conforms to the geographical location of er-Râmeh; the towns before Ramah are in lower Galilee, and those that follow it are in upper Galilee (even Hazor, which was bound to have been more closely attached to the latter though it was in the Huleh Valley). The terms upper and lower Galilee are not recorded in the Bible, but the distinction is obvious in the topography; furthermore, the order of Naphtali’s cities in this list certainly reflects a knowledge of the two regions. Josephus (Jos. War III. iii. 1 [39]) was well aware of that division and placed the demarcation line at the northern Beer-sheba, today Khirbet Abū esh-Shibã, which stands on a high hill just 3 m. E of er-Râmeh; such a strong position would naturally be cited by the military commander of Galilee who was concerned with fortifying the strategic points. On the other hand, the rabbis, who were interested in matters of everyday life, gave as the boundary point between the two Galilees a rural center known for its market and its religious leaders, viz. Kefar Hananiah (Kefr ’Inân, a village in the valley below Beersheba, Shebi. IX, 2).

In the village of er-Râmeh, the ancient remains (including an Aram. inscr. “In memory of Rabbi Eleazer son of Tedeor, who built this guest house”) date to the Rom. and Hel. periods.

As for the Biblical Ramah, its actual site was at Khirbet Zeitûn er-Râmeh, also known as Khirbet Jûl, an ancient mound about 2 m. E of er-Râmeh on the S side of the Safad road. It is a typical tell of Iron Ages I and II, located on a rocky outcrop in the valley. The exact limits of the ancient settlement are hard to determine today since the whole area is covered by the famous olive orchards of this region.

Bibliography E. Robinson, Biblical Researches III (1852), 79; J. Ben-Zvi, “A Third Century Inscription in er-Râma,” JPOS, XIII (1933), 94-96; A. Marmorstein, “The Inscription of er-Rame,” PEQ (1933), 100, 101; Y. Aharoni, The Settlement of the Israelite Tribes in Upper Galilee (1957), 2, 76, 78, 81, 86; M. Avi-Yonah, The Holy Land (1966), 133-135.

2. Of Asher. The boundary description of the Asher tribe, the exact line of which is difficult to follow, apparently places the town of Ramah (Josh 19:29; LXX ̔Ραμᾶ) somewhere between Great Sidon and “the fortified city of Tyre.” This latter place is known in non-Biblical sources by the name Usū (Assyrian spelling: Ushū) and was located at Tell Rashīdîyeh, the classical Palaityros (Strabo, XVI, ii, 24). Therefore, this Ramah should most likely be sought in the area NW of modern Tyre. The oft proposed identification with the small village of er-Râmiyeh seems out of the question because it is too far S.

Bibliography E. Robinson, op. cit., III, 64; A. Alt, “Eine Galilaische Ortsliste in Jos. 19,” ZAW, N.F. IV (1927), 59-81; idem., “Die Reise,” PJB, XXIII (1927), 46; R. Dussaud, Topographie historique de la Syrie antique et medievale (1927), 11; M. Noth, “Studien zu den historisch-geographischen Dokumenten des Josuabuches,” ZDPV, LVIII (1935), 185-255 (esp. 222, 223); Y. Aharoni, op. cit., 88.

3. In Benjamin. A town assigned to the tribe of Benjamin (Josh 18:25; LXX ̔Ραμα, as in most references cited here except for insignificant variations in some MSS). The evidence for its identification is some of the most conclusive for any site in Israel. It is clearly to be located close to Bethel (Judg 4:5), the modern Beitîn, on the ancient trunk road leading N from Bethlehem and passing to the W of Jerusalem (19:13). Josephus (Jos. Antiq., VIII. xii. 3) in discussing the events of 1 Kings 15:16, 17, places the town, which he calls Aramathōn (̓Αραμαθῶνι), forty stades (c. five Rom. m., four and six tenths Eng.) from Jerusalem; whereas Eusebius and Jerome put it at six Rom. m. N of the Holy City (Onomasticon, ed. Klostermann, 144:15, 16; 145:13, 14). Robinson noted that the name is preserved at the modern village of er-Râm, and Jerusalem is just about five and a half m. S.

The prophetess Deborah (q.v.) exercised her authority as a judge in Israel at a place between Bethel and Ramah (Judg 4:5). Instead of turning in to spend the night at Gibeah, the Levite from the hill country of Ephraim could have gone on a little way further to Ramah (Judg 19:13). In addition to standing on the NS highway, er-Râm is also within striking distance of the EW road from Jerusalem via Gibeon and the descent of Beth-horon to Gezer. The hostile act of Baasha (q.v.) consisted in the establishment of a strong point at Ramah that could effectively block traffic to and from Jerusalem along this vital route (1 Kings 15:17; 2 Chron 16:1). In retaliation, Asa (q.v.) persuaded the Syrians to attack Israel from the N; by thus relieving pressure on the front with Judah, he was able to dismantle the fortification at Ramah and to use the building blocks for constructing two new forts of his own at Geba (q.v.) and Mizpah (q.v.). Thus the boundary between Judah and Israel was fixed at a line dissecting the former tribal inheritance of Benjamin in half (1 Kings 15:17-22; 2 Chron 16:2-6). The partition of Benjamin in this manner is reminiscent of the division reflected in Joshua 18:21-28 where Ramah belongs to the southernmost district. A brief oracle by Hosea against Gibeah, Ramah, and Beth-aven (q.v.) is apparently directed at Benjamin, perhaps with particular reference to this “Judahite” half of the tribe (Hos 5:8). When one column of Sennacherib’s army was evidently storming southward from Samaria toward Jerusalem, Ramah stood in the direct line of the Assyrian advance (Isa 10:29). Jeremiah describes Ramah as the scene of Rachel’s weeping for her children (Jer 31:15; cf. Matt 2:18). Some of Ramah’s former residents were among the postexilic returnees (Ezra 2:26; Neh 7:30); the town is also mentioned in the list of settlements (11:33), which largely pertained to places outside of the Yehud province; therefore, it might be supposed that Ramah was one of those towns in which some portion of the population had maintained a foothold during the time when the main body of Judeans were in exile.

Bibliography Robinson, op. cit., I, 576; SWP, III, 155; H. Vincent, “Ossuaires juifs,” RB, XVI (1907), 410-412; W. F. Albright, “Excavations and Results at Tell el-Ful (Gibeah of Saul),” AASOR, IV (1924), 134-140; Z. Kallai-Kleimann, “The Town Lists of Judah, Simeon, Benjamin and Dan,” VT, VIII (1958), 134-160; Y. Aharoni, “The Province List of Judah,” Vet Test XIX (1959), 225-240; idem., “The Land of the Bible” (1966), Index, s.v.

4. The birthplace of Samuel the prophet. Although it is most likely that this Ramah is identical with the preceeding, the references pertaining to it are treated separately for convenience. The home of Elkanah (q.v.) and Hannah is called הָרָמָתַ֛יִם צﯴפִ֖ים, “Ramathaimzophim” (1 Sam 1:1), but the Heb. construction is somewhat awkward. Since Elkanah was a descendant of Zuph (q.v.), a Levite of the Kohathites (1 Chron 6:35) settled in northern Benjamin (1 Sam 9:5; cf. Josh 21:5; 1 Chron 6:22-26, 35, 66ff.), it would appear that the correct understanding of the name in 1 Samuel 1:1 is “Ramathaim of the Zuphite(s).” The -aim sufformative is prob. to be understood as a locative rather than a simple dual suffix (cf. Gittaim, et al.). All of the other references to Samuel’s home town (except 1 Sam 25:1 and 28:3) happen to have the locative sufformative resulting in the form הָרָמָ֨תָה׃֙; the LXX renders this name ̔Αρμαθαιμ, or ̔Αρμαθέμ, even inserting it in 1 Samuel 1:3 after “his city.”

The identity of Ramathaim-zophim with Ramah is confirmed by a comparison of 1 Samuel 1:1 with 1:19 and 2:11. Although Samuel was born there, he grew up at Shiloh but returned to his home when the latter was abandoned as the religious center of Israel. At Ramah he made his headquarters and from there he went on his annual circuit to Bethel, Gilgal, and Mizpah (1 Sam 7:15-17). The elders of Israel came to him at Ramah when making their request for a king (1 Sam 8:4). It was doubtless at Ramah in “the land of Zuph” that Saul first encountered Samuel and was secretly annointed king (1 Sam 9:5-10:10). The probable association of Rachel’s tomb with Ramah in Benjamin (Jer 31:15; Matt 2:18; cf. Gen 35:16-20) suits the description of Saul’s homeward journey (1 Sam 10:2-5, 10). Samuel continued to dwell at Ramah even after he had severed his relations with Saul (15:34; 16:13). Here David sought refuge from Saul, whose attempts to have the renegade prince arrested were brought to naught (19:18-24). This passage also confirms the existence of a place called Naioth (q.v.) at Ramah (19:19, 22-23; 20:1), which probably represented a quarter or settlement, in this case inhabited by a band of prophets. Finally, Ramah became the last resting place of the prophet Samuel (25:1; 28:3).

Noteworthy for the identification with Ramah of Benamin is the fact that Josephus refers to Samuel’s home as ̓Αρμαθα (Jos. Antiq. V. x 2; VI. iv. 1, 6. vii. 5, xi. 4, 5, xiii. 5), whereas Ramah (in the one instance where Josephus refers to it; Jos. Antiq. VIII. xii. 3, cf. supra) is ̓Αραμαθώνι. These forms have led to the identification by Eusebius (Euseb. Onom. 32:21-23) of Ramathaim with the NT Arimathea (q.v.), which he located at Ρεμφις (modern Rentîs in the district of Diospolis-Lod [Euseb. Onom. 144:27-29]). Eusebius did not make the connection between Ramah of Benjamin and Ramathaim-Arimathea; instead he equated the latter with the Arumah (Ρουμα, loc. cit.; LXX Αριμα [A], ̓Αρημα, of Judg 9:41). Whether Arimathea is to be placed at Rentîs or not, Arumah is most likely Khirbet el-’Ormah. Nevertheless, his association of Ramathaim and Arimathea with Rentîs is strengthened by the fact that a place having this name (Jos. Antiq., XIII.iv.9, where MSS variants are Ραμαθαόν, Αρμαθαιμ, Παμαθά, Παμαθεμ, and the Lat. Ramathe; 1 Maccabees 11:34, which reads Ραθαμιν, but with important variants: Ραμαθαιμ, and Ραμαθεμ) was a municipal district lying between Lydda (Lod) and Aphaireme (OT Ophrah, q.v., eṭ-Ṭaiyibeh). Thus it seems certain that a town called Haramatha(im) did exist at Rentîs; the NT Arimathea may have been here (the late Medieval Christian tradition placing it at Ramleh is, of course, quite absurd since the latter was only founded in a.d. 716 by Khaliph Suleiman; the name is derived from Arab. raml, sand), but the OT references to Samuel’s home point rather to a site in the hill country N of Jerusalem, i.e. to an identification with Ramah of Benjamin (supra).

Bibliography G. Dalman, “Ramathajim,” PJB, IX (1913), 37, 38; S. R. Driver, Notes on the Hebrew Text and the Topography of the Books of Samuel (1913), 1-4; W. F. Albright, “Excavations and Results at Tell el-Fûl (Gibeah of Saul),” AASOR, IV (1924), 112, 123; G. Dalman, “Die Nordstrasse Jerusalems,” PJB, XXI (1925), 58-89; H. W. Wiener, “The Ramah of Samuel,” JPOS, VII (1927), 109-111; A. Alt, “Das Institute im Jahre 1927;” PJB, XXIV (1928), 70, 71; idem., “Das Institute im Jahre 1928,” PJB, XXV (1929), 28, 29; F. M. Abel, Géographie de la Palestine, II (1938), 428, 429; M. Noth, History of Israel (1958), 376; Y. Aharoni, Carta’s Atlas of the Bible (1964), 58, 59, Maps 85, 86 (Heb.).

5. Of the Negeb. A town mentioned in the description of Simeon’s tribal inheritance (Josh 19:8). The MT states that the towns of Simeon and their respective villages extended “as far as Baalath-beer, Ramath-negeb.” The Gr. MSS show some confusion in the text; A reads—“as far as Baalath-beer-ramōth, going to Bameth towards the south”; whereas B has—“as far as Barek (variant: Balek) going to Bameth towards the south.” The LXX tr. of the geographical term “Negeb” by a directional one (“south”) must be disregarded; it is more likely that the Heb. “Ramath-Negeb” stands as an adverbial accusative of direction. The verse may thus be rendered: “as far as Baalath-beer (in the direction of) Ramath-Negeb.” Such an interpretation obviates two conjectures previously proposed, viz. that the reference is to the southern boundary of Simeon’s settlement (Albright), or that Ramath-Negeb should be equated with Baalath-beer (Abel). The parallel passage (1 Chron 4:33) has simply “as far as Baal” (MT—some LXX MSS read Balat or Balaad); and Ramath-Negeb is also missing from the roster of settlements in the Negeb of Judah (Josh 15:21-32), which included Simeon.

On the other hand, it seems likely that this town appears as Ramoth of the Negeb (1 Sam 30:27) one of the places to whose elders David sent some of his spoil from the Amalakites. There is no indication of its locale.

The newly discovered ostracon from Tell ’Arad (July, 1967) raises anew the whole question of the identification and location of Ramath/Ramoth-Negeb. The legible portion of the text (on the reverse) reads as follows:

[...] from Arad...and from [...], and you (pl.) shall send them to Ramoth (or Ramath)-Negeb under the command of Malchiah son of Qerab’ur and he will commit them into the charge of Jeremiah the son of Elisha in Ramoth-Negeb lest something should happen to the city. And the king’s word is stringently incumbent upon you. Behold, I have sent to admonish you. Get the men to Elisha! Lest Edom should come there.

The epistle is obviously a memorandum from a higher authority demanding confirmation of a previous order by the king that troops be sent from Arad and some other place to Ramoth-Negeb. The transfer of these forces was for the purpose of warding off an impending Edomite attack (another ostracon found in 1962 at Tell ’Arad referred to a certain Malchiah in conjunction with Edom, the king of Judah [unnamed] and some evil that was coming upon the land; perhaps the two letters relate to the same event, but this is far from certain). The script of the Ramoth-Negeb ostracon dates it to the end of the Judean monarchy (i.e., it is contemporary with the Lachish letters and the seventeen texts in the Eliashib archive found at Arad in 1964). The Edomite threat to Ramoth-Negeb prob. corresponds to the situation depicted in Psalm 137:7 and Obadiah 10-14 whereby Edom took advantage of Judah’s downfall in 587 b.c. to pillage the hapless settlements in Cis-jordan. Obadiah’s prophetic retribution called for a reversal of this deed: “Those of the Negeb shall possess Mount Esau” (v. 19).

Current speculation about the identification of Ramoth-Negeb centers on Khirbet Ghazzeh at the eastern edge of the Negeb of Judah guarding a major route from Edom (Aharoni). Besides the casemate fortress there from Iron Age II, a certain quantity of Iron I sherds has also been found in the general vicinity. On the other hand, the lofty commanding position of Khirbet Gharreh and its location in the center of the Negeb of Judah (i.e., on the fringe of Simeon’s inheritance) are strong arguments in favor of the latter’s candidacy.

Bibliography W. F. Albright, “Egypt and the Early History of the Negeb,” JPOS, IV (1924), 161; M. L. Margolis, The Book of Joshua in Greek (1931); F.-M. Abel, Géographie de la Palestine, II (1938), 258; Z. Kallai, The Tribes of Israel (1967), 298, 303 (Heb.); Y. Aharoni, “Three Hebrew Ostraca from Arad,” BASOR, No. 197 (Feb. 1971), 16-42.