Tell Halif and its biblical identity

Tell Halif is located in Southern Israel, where the Judean foothills (the Shephelah) and the Coastal Plain transition into the Negev desert. Not far from it rises the Hebron Ridge. From an environmental and geographic view, it really is at a juncture. To its north, at the head of the valley that runs to the east of the tell, lies Tell Beit Mirsim. Tell Beit Mirsim is clearly visible from Tell Halif. To its southeast is Beersheba. And to the west is the coastal plain with Tell Sera and Tell Hesi.

The largest settlement was probably during the late Iron Age, about the 8th century B.C.E. Can we identify this with some city mentioned in the Biblical text? Archaeologists have long proposed some identification. In an article published in 1988, the current excavator of Tell Halif, Oded Borowski, traces the history of the search to identify Tell Halif (The Biblical Identity of Tell Halif. Biblical Archaeologist 51:21–27). Various names have been suggested: Sharuhen, Kiriath-Sepher, Hormah, Ziklag, and Rimmon. Of those, the last two, Ziklag and Rimmon, had gained the greatest assent among archaeologists. In the article Oded Borowski discusses evidence for Ziklag and concludes that Tel Sera’, several kilometres west of Tell Halif, is a better fit. David stayed in Ziklag and some of his men were too tired to cross the brook of Besor. Right next to Tel Sera’ is a brook that is sometimes difficult to ford.
Rimmon has often been identified with the site of Khirbet um-Rammamim. This site is about 1km south of Tell Halif. The similarity of the name makes it a candidate. But excavations at the site showed that it was not occupied during the Iron Age or the Persian Period. Therefore it cannot be biblical Rimmon. However, there is little evidence of occupation on Tell Halif after the Persian Period. It therefore seems likely that during Hellenistic or Roman times, the settlement of Rimmon moved from Tell Halif to a hill to its south. The name moved with it. The location city was called Thala—the tell. It was only a mound of ruins now. Rimmon or En-Rimmon is mentioned five times in the Bible, in Joshua 15:32 and 19:7, Chronicles 4:32, Zechariah 14:10, and in connection with the return from exile in Nehemia 11:29. Rimmon means pomegranate. The pomegranate is a prominent motif in artwork excavated from the site, including a nice pomegranate bowl found in a grave.
Most scholars now accept the identification with Rimmon, though sometimes we still see reference to Ziklag.

This entry was posted in Bible, Discussion, Judah, Scholarly articles, Tell Halif and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Tell Halif and its biblical identity

  1. Patrik Frank says:

    Thanks brother, I always like the clear-minded approach you show in your archaeological work. Keep it up!

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