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Kiriath-Jearim

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Kiriath-Jearim

Kiriath-Jearim (קִרְיַת-יְעָרִים, Ancient Greek: Καριαθιαριμ, Latin: Cariathiarim) "city of woods" - was a city in the Land of Israel mentioned 18 times in the Hebrew Bible. It was also referenced by the names Kiriath-Ba'al, Ba'alah and Ba'ale-Judah.

Eusebius says that the city was located about 15 km (9.3 mi) from Jerusalem. It is identified with Deir el-Azar (Tel Qiryat Yearim) today.

Kiriath-Jearim was mentioned as a Hivite city and connected with the Gibeonites (see Joshua 9:17). It was a key landmark in identifying the border between the tribes of Judah and Benjamin (see Joshua 15:9 & 18:14, 15). It is mentioned as the place the Ark of the Covenant may have been moved after being in Beth Shemesh (1 Samuel 6:21-7:2). About 60 years (2 Sam 6) afterward, the ark was moved to Jerusalem and placed in a tent outside the palace of David.

Kiriath-Jearim's change in designation from Kiriath-Ba'al betrays the population change that took place after Joshua's military campaign, or holy war (Heb., cherem) to take possession of the land from its previous inhabitants. The religious basis for the war is revealed in the city's renaming; the name Baal belonged to a pagan deity and, according to the Bible, the God of Israel ordered Joshua and the Israelites to erase the memory of the Ba'al cult (see Joshua 18.14). However, the name change does not reflect the Yahwist religious affiliation of the city's conquerors. Rather, it reflects salient geographical features.

The Scriptures identify at least one prophet of God who came from this town. Uriah the son of Shemaiah from Kiriath-Jearim and prophesied during an unknown period against Jerusalem (see Jeremiah 26:20). This aroused the wrath of King Jehoiakim (r. 609-598 BC) who sought to put Uriah to death. Uriah escaped to Egypt, where he was apprehended by the king's henchman and extradited to Jerusalem for execution and burial in an unmarked grave (Jeremiah 26:22-23).

Descendants of Keriath-Jearim were among the Jewish exiles who returned to Judea with Zerubbabel (see Nehemiah 7:29).

The writer of Chronicles teaches that Shobal (possibly a descendant of Caleb) was "the father of Kiriath-Jearim" (see 1 Chronicles 2:50-53), possibly in the sense of being the founder of this town.

The modern town of Kiryat Yearim is named after this town and is situated in its presumed location.


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