Location of Bir-Sheba & the Valley of Naml

by vazir, Wednesday, November 06, 2013, 00:34 (2049 days ago) @ vazir

To Moderator, I know this post is a little bit long, but I consider it necessary to put all places at one go to have right perspective. Thanks in advance for allowing this thread to continue.

And the second heritage came out for the clan of Simeon by their families; and their heritage was in the middle of the heritage of the children of Judah. And they had for their inheritance Beersheba, and Sema, and Moladah. And Hazar-Shual and Balah and Azem. And Eltolad and Betul and Hormah. And Ziklag and Beth-Marcaboth and Hazar-Susah. And Beth-Lebaoth and Sharuhen; thirteen towns with their unwalled places. (Joshua 19: 1-6).


It is worth noting that the Arabic translations of the OT have rendered the name as Bi’r al-Sabe‘, which can mean either “Well of the Seven” or “Well of the Wild Beast”. This translation is actually inaccurate, as it assumes that the original “Hebrew” name had the pronoun article ha, which is not the case. (The Arabic translation would be correct had the “Hebrew” name been Beer ha-Sheb‘). Some Arab academics and experts in the field of linguistics, notably Kamāl Ṣaleebi, Farajallah Deeb, and Ziād Minah - despite their different opinions regarding the actual location of the place - agreed concerning the inaccuracy of the Arabic translation of the name, and indicated that the correct rendering of the name must be Bi’r Shab‘ or Bi’r Shabbā‘ah (meaning: Well of Fullness).

Arab geographer al-Hamadāni’s (died 945 AD); in his book Description of Arabia (DoA) locates the place in the highlands of Yemen. In fact, talking about Bi’r Shabbā‘ah, will automatically lead us to the ancestral homes of one of the twelve tribes of Israel, the Tribe of Simeon. The ancient Yemeni prophet Yūsha‘ (Joshua) designated the following areas as the residence of Simeon, within the greater territory of Judah, as mentioned in verses Joshua 19:1-6.

Al-Hamadāni mentions this place by the name Bi’r Shabbā‘, and places it within the area known today as Kareef Radā‘ (formerly Mikhlāf Radā‘), a region of ancient fortifications and water canals located in the vestiges of Wihāẓah, which, sometime during Yemen’s past, was referred to as Shabbā‘. The area is in the north-western corner of the province of Ibb. The ancient, ruined fort of Wihāẓah is located in a high, mountainous region, marked by the presence of several shallow wells, among them the well of Shabbā‘.

Take a look at the following passage in al-Hamadāni’s Description of Arabia (page 148):

مصنعة وّحاظة وّ اّسمها شبّاع، وّ هّي تّشابه نّاعط فّي اّلقصور وّ اّلكرف. عّلى بّاب اّلقلعة مّوطأ فّي اّلقاع .ّ.. وّ اّلقلعة بّطريقين عّلى كّلّ طريق مّاء .ّ.. وّ اّلماء اّلثاني مّن شّمال اّلحصن فّي جّوف مّن صّفا كّالبئر مّطوي بّالبلاط، وّ دّرج يّنزل إّليه مّن رّأس اّلحصن بّالسُّرَج فّيّ الليل وّ اّلنهار، عّلى مّسيرة سّاعة، حّتى يُّؤتى بّالماء

Paraphrase: Al-Hamadāni mentions an area he calls Masna‘at Wihāẓah, (the name indicates an ancient fortification), also known as Shabbā‘. He also describes the entire surrounding region as having water wells. He mentions an old stairway, carved from the natural rock, which comes down from one ancient keep, to the wells, where one could have easy access to the water.

There lies the Biblical Beer-Sheba, in a solitary mountainous region that was once, long ago, part of the territory of the Tribe of Simeon, as Joshua recorded it, not far from the city of Ibb.


The second name that appears in (Joshua 19) is Sema (or Shema, in some translations). The actual pronunciation, according to the Aramiac text, is Sema' (Shema‘), and properly rendered as Sum‘ (or Suma‘) in Arabic. In his description of the territories of the Hamadān landscape of Yemen, al-Hamadāni says (DoA, page 134):

و مّساقي مَّور تّأخذُ غّربي هّمدان جّميعاً وّ بّعض غّربي خّولان وّ بّعض غّربي حِّميَر. فّأول شُّعابه ذُّخار وّ شُّرَيب فّي جّبال ذُّخار ّّّّو مَّسور فّالشوارق وّ سُّمع

According to DoA, the Mountain of Sum‘ , which lent its name to the Tribe of Simeon (Sam‘ūn) that lived under its shadow, lies in the same geographic space as the great river valley of Mawr (this is the Biblical Moreh/Mowreh near which Ibraheem had initially settled). In another passage of DoA (page 151), we read the following:

ثم مّيزاب اّليمن اّلشرقي، وّ هّو أّعظم أّودية اّلمشرق .ّ.. فّأما مّن نّاحية رّداع، فّالعرش وّ سُّمع

Here, we see that al-Hamadāni mentions Sum‘ within the area of Mikhlāf Radā‘, the very same location of Bi’r Shabbā‘.


According to al-Hamadāni, the site known as Fajj al-Mawladah is located in the vicinity of Ḥaleph. Interestingly, the term fajj* simply means a deep enclosure in a mountainous region. In fact, many areas in Yemen bear the description of a fajj, and carry compound names. Examples include: Fajj Tūlāl, Fajj Zarab, Fajj Kulayd. [* See, for example, in the Qur’an: {And call out to the people with the Hajj, they will come to you walking and on every transport, they will come from every deep enclosure (fajj)(22:27)}]

Here is what DoA says regarding this place (page 218):

ثم اّلجوف اّلأعلى وّ بّه مّن اّلقُرى شُّوابة، وّ هّران وّ اّلسفل، وّ اّلمناحي عّلى شّط اّلخارد. وّ بّهذا اّلجوف أّكانط وّ مّحصم وّ فّجّ المولدة،ّّّو صّولان خّرفان وّ اّلكُساد

The orientalists tried, in vain, to find a place called “Moladah” in historic Palestine, and the Biblical archeologists were at a loss, failing to find any physical or linguistic evidence of that name within the territory of Palestine. There is Fajj al-Mawladah, as al-Hamadāni described it, in the highlands of Yemen.

Azem, Hinnom, En-Rogel, Akrabbim:

According to Joshua, the territory of the Tribe of Simeon (Bani Sham‘ūn - Sam‘ūn), which he described in several passages, encompassed a mountain by the name of “Azem”, which he placed near Moladah. This mountain - according to another passage - also happens to be in the vicinity of a valley called Hinnom, and a spring by the name of En-Rogel (or Rojel, in some translations).

And the border went down to the end of the mountain that is before the valley of Hinnom, which is in the plain of Rephaim on the north, and went down the valley of Hinnom, to the side of the Jebusite on the south, and went down to En-Rogel…[Joshua 18:16].

Let’s see what al-Hamadāni says in DoA, concerning these locations:

ثم يتّصل بهذه السراة، سراة عُذر و هنّوم و ظاهر بلد الجواشة، فبلد الشاكريين من أهل الدرب، و نودة، فالحفر من أعلى عصمان

The above description mentions the mountains around Hannūm, the country of the Jawāshah tribe (pertaining to the “Joshen-Goshen” of the Bible), the Shākiriyyeen (none other than the Tribe of Issachar-Ishachar), as well as the peak of ‘Aṣmān.

As for En-Rogel (or “Rojel”), several Old Testament translations actually rendered it more accurately as “Fountain of Rogel”, affirming that the original so-called “Hebrew” text was in fact describing a water spring. Al-Hamadāni (page 235) does indeed mention a place called Rujlah which is one of several springs near the ruined city of Jurush (This is the Jurush of Yemen, not the Jarash of Jordan, as the orientalists claimed):

من جُّرش إّلى صّعدة: تّخرج مّن جّرش قّصدَ صّعدة عّلى بّلد جّنب .ّ.. ثّم سّراة جّنب، وّ أّسلع وّ اّلسرين. دّيار رّبيعة ذّو حُّسو وّّ أّبانّّّّ و قّرار عّمق .ّ.. مّاء اّلحنو مّن قّضة وّّ اّلأبواء وّ رّجله وّ رِّم، وّ جّنباء

A bit further down (page 242), al-Hamadāni mentions Mount ‘Aṣmān, in Sarāt Ḥimyar, not far from the coast of Tihāmah and the valley of Naml (This is the same valley mentioned in the Qur’an in the story of Sulaymān, and translated as “Valley of Ants”):

عقار يُّقال لّه وّادي عّقار وّ هّو مّن اّلبون اّلأعلى أّّرهق وّ قّهال، وّ أّصل قُّهال حِّميَري .ّ.. وّ عّصمان .ّ.. وّ هّذه اّلمواضع زّاوية مّن -ّ تهامة دّاخلة بّين جّبال اّل سراة لّهمدان وّ حِّميَر .ّ.. بّلد حّجور .ّ.. وّ أّدران وّ حّجة وّ نمل وّ قّيلاب وّ شّرس وّ هّي لّمن بّحافتي جّبل مّسور.

One notable feature of the old Yemeni dialects was the addition of the letter n at the end of some words. This phenomenon is evident in the Thamūdic and Ḥimyaritic inscriptions that have been unearthed in that country, and is encountered in both common and proper nouns. Notable examples of this phenomenon are: ‘Arab - ‘Arban (عرب عربن) - / ‘Adan - ‘Adnan (عدن عدنن) - / Ṣan‘ā’ - Ṣan‘n (صنعاء (صنعن - . This n letter suffix is called, al-nūn al-kilā‘iyya (النون الكلاعية) , and is evident several times in the Qur’an. This explains why the famous mountain referred to as ‘Aṣmān by al-Hamadāni is also mentioned as ‘Aṣm in old Yemeni poetry. In fact, al-Rājez al-Radā‘i, sang this mountain, and rendered its name as ‘Aṣm exactly as it appeared in the silent Aramaic Bible. (The name is written with the letter in the Bible). [In the tradition of the ancient Yemeni dialects, the n suffix was added to the words. Linguists believe that the nūn al-kilā‘iyya - still very much used today in some areas of Yemen - may have been the precursor to the Arabic dialectic marks known as tanween.]

لو أنَّ عصم شعفات النيّر يسمعنَهُ باشرنَ للتبشيرِ

Even the Old Testament itself mentioned Mount Azem by the name “Azemon” in the following passage:

And your border shall turn from the south to the ascent of Akrabbim, and pass on to Zin: its limit shall be from the south to Kadesh-Barnea, and shall go on to Hazar-Addar, and pass on to Azemon…[Numbers 34:4]

It is one and the same place; as adding the n letter suffix to “Azm” gives “Azmon” or “Azman” (depending on which vowel is added to the silent text). Furthermore, noting the name “Akrabbim” in the above passage brings to mind the fact that the “im” suffix was indicative of the plural form of words in the ancient Yemeni dialects (eloh - elohim / cherub - cherubim / katub - katubim / Himyar - Himyarim).

In Description of Arabia, al-Hamadāni mentions a location called ‘Aqāreb within the territory of Mikhlāf Radā‘ (where Beer-Sheba is located). This word is the Arabic plural of ‘Aqrab. The Aramaic text renders it as “Aqrabbim” (which is read “Akrabbim” by English speakers and European Jews, who are incapable of vocalizing the q sound). Here follows is al-Hamadāni’s mention of this place in the same geographical domain as Beer-Sheba:

و عّزان لّبني سّلمة وّ أّهل ثّات .ّ.. وّ حّ بان كّان أّصله لّكومان ثّم صّار اّليوم لّبني اّلحارث بّن كّعب وّ أّهل رداع .ّ.. عّقاربّّّّّّّّّّّّّّّّ و مّداوخ لّأهل رّداع

The question that naturally poses itself here is: how to explain the fact that al-Hamadāni placed the locations of ‘Aqāreb, ‘Aṣmān (‘Aṣm), ‘Ayn Rujlah, Wādi Hannūm, and Bi’r Shabbā‘ all within the same geographical vicinity in the highlands of Yemen, while the Old Testament talks of the territory of the Tribe of Simeon as including Akrabbim, Azem (Azemon), En-Rogel, Valley of Hinnom, and Beer-Sheba?


Another location the Biblical archeologists failed to find any trace of in Palestine is Beth-Lebaoth. On page 206 of his Description of Arabia, al-Hamadāni states the following concerning the Labū’ah Mountain, a peak in the Sarāt of Ḥimyar that lies within the Dhamār Province, in an area of shallow wellsprings and plentiful grape orchards:

مخلاف ذّمار: ذّمار قّرية كّبيرة جّامعة بّها زّروع وّ آّبار قّريبة يُّنال مّاءها بّاليد، وّ يّسكنها بّطون مّن حِّميَر، وّ رّأس مّخاليفها بّلد عّنس.ّّ و يُّقال: إّنه مّنسوب لّعنَس بّن زّيد بّن سَّدَد بّن زّرعه بّن سّبأ اّلأصغر، وّ هّو مّخلافٌ نّفيس، كّثير اّلخير، عّتيق اّلخيل، كّثير اّلأعنابّّّّّّ و اّلمآثر، بّه بّينون وّ جّبل لبُوءة

The only location, in the entire length and width of Arabia, where we can find a mountain by the name of Labū’ah, is in the Dhamār province of Yemen. In other words, finding a territory within Palestine that encompasses Labū’ah in the vicinity of Bi’r Shabbā‘, Fajj al-Mawladah, Aṣem, and Sum‘ is next to impossible.


Al-Hamadāni pinpoints the location of Ḥurmah (the Biblical “Hormah”) within the Hamadān countryside of Tihāmah, directly to the north of Ṣan‘ā’. Here follows are his exact words, in DoA (page 217):

أما بلد همدان؛ فإنه آخِذ لما بين الغائط و تهامة من نجد و السّراة في شمالي صنعاء، و ما بينهما و بين صَعدة ...... و جبل ذَيبان، و شق مَحصَم الشرقي، و حُرمة

Beth-Marcaboth, Hali:

In the original “Hebrew” text recorded in silent Aramaic letters, the name “bt-ha-mrkbt” appears as one of the tribal homes of Simeon. When the Masorites articulated the silent text by adding vowels to it, they rendered the name as “Bet-ha-Markabot( ובית־המרכבות ), where “ha” is the article prefix (the). Our view is that this articulation is false, as there is no reason why the vowel sound “o” must be placed before the last consonant. Furthermore, the last letter in the name (ת)is not a “t”, but an “h”. It follows then that the correct rendering of the name is “Bet-ha-Markobah”.

In Description of Arabia (page 232), al-Hamadāni mentions two distinct places by the names of Rakūbah and Markūb, and locates them in the vicinity of Ḥali, in a volcanic district of the Bani Kananah territory:

و بِّبَلد حّكم قُّرى كّثيرة، مّثل اّلعداية وّ اّلركوبة. ثّم بّلد حّرام مّن كّنانة، وّ اّلح رة، حّرة كّنانة، وّ اّلمعقَد وّ حَّلي وّ مّركوب

Have the archeologists ever found, in Palestine, two neighboring locations bearing the names Ḥali and Markūb (Markobah)? And is it by pure happenstance that Joshua names Hali as being a location on the fringes of the Asher Tribe territory, which shared borders with the territory of Simeon?

And their border was Helkath, and Hali, and Beten, and Achshaph…[Joshua 19:25]

It is worth noting that legendary Ḥimyarite bard Umru’ al-Qays mentions a place called Qaṣeeṣ in one of his poems, placing it among a series of valleys paralleling the Red Sea coast, including Ḥali, which belonged to the tribe of Simeon.

تَصَيَّفها حتى إذا لم يُسغ لها حَلي بأعلى حائلٍ و قصيصِ

Note how the poet places Ḥali and Qaseeṣ next to each other. The latter is none other than the Bilbical “Casis”. In the Book of Joshua, we encounter the following passage defining the territorial domain of the Bin-Yāmin tribe (Benjamin):

Now the cities of the tribe of the children of Benjamin, according to their families, were Jericho, Beth-Hoglah, the Valley of Keziz. And Beth-Arabah, and Zemaraim, and Beth-El…(Joshua 18: 21-22).

In the so-called “Hebrew” Bible, this name appears as “Qṣṣ”, in the silent Aramaic letters. The English versions rendered it as “Keziz” or “Casis”, depending on the translation.

In another verse, Umru’ al-Qays sings of the legendary Cedar trees of Ḥali in his native land of Yemen:

فو الله ما أحببتُ سِدرا ببلدةٍ من الأرض حتى سِدرَ حَلي اليمانيا

Translation of the verse: “By Allah, I have never loved the Cedars in any land as the Cedars of Ḥali in Yemen”.

[The Sidr tree, (also known as Lote tree, Christ's Thorn, Jujube or Nabkh tree. Botanical name: Ziziphus spina-christi) is an ancient tree. ...,This highly resilient tree is also sacred as it is mentioned four times in the Qur'an. In Sura Saba, it is mentioned as an earth tree while in other Suras, it is mentioned as a paradise tree (Sidrat al-Muntaha). Allah has mentioned this tree to emphasize its beauty, strength and grandeur (Saba 15,16; Waqia 27-33; Najm 7-18)].


The “Hebrew” name appears as בלה (Balah). The Arabic translations interpreted it as Bālah (with a long a sound), as did geographer Yāqūt al-Ḥamwi in his Glossary (entry #1406). Al-Hamadāni mentioned it as Bala in his DoA (page 283), and located it near the Najd highlands of Hamadān.

Poet ‘Umar bin abu Rabee‘a, in a nostalgic verse expressing sadness over a lost tribal home, said:

سائلا الرَّبعَ بالبلى و قولا هجتَ شوقا إلى الغداة طويلا

Another well-known poet, Jameel Buthaynah also mentioned the place:

بينَ علياءِ وابِشٍ فبلَى هاجَ منسي شوقنا و شجانا

What is the secret of this obsession with places that is evident in old Arabian poetry? Did Arabs, truly understand the depths of what is labeled as “Jāhiliyya Poetry”? Is there a common denominator to the verses of “crying over vestiges” in both the old poetry of Arabia and the nostalgic Psalms of the Old Testament that we have completely overlooked?

Sharuhen, Hazor:

We decided to end our listing of the places surrounding Beer-Sheba with the controversial name “Sharuhen”. The truth is that this name belongs to a tribal group from among the Ḥimyarites of ancient Yemen, who were known locally as al-Sharāḥeen. The name also appears, in some sources, as al-Sharāḥi (without the n suffix; a hallmark of the ancient Yemeni dialects). The homes of these clans were in Mikhlāf Kilā‘, not far from the shadow of a mountain called Jabal Haḍūr. This mountain is in fact the very same Biblical peak of Hazor (rendered with a “z” because the ancient Yemeni dialects did not pronounce the letter ).

And Joshua at that time turned back, and took Hazor, and smote the king thereof with the sword: for Hazor before time was the head of all those kingdoms (Joshua - 11:10).

On page 121 of DoA, al-Hamadāni states the following:

ثم يّ تصل بّسراة اّلكلاع سّراة بّني سّيف .ّ.. وّ نّعمان مّن غّربي هّذه اّلسراة، وّ جُّبلان اّلعركبة وّ هّي بّلد اّلشراحيين .ّ.. وّ اّلعرب، ثّمّ ي تصل بّها سّراة اّلهان، فّظاهره ضّوران وّ مّذاب .ّ.. وّ نّقيل اّلسود وّ جّبل حَّضور .ّ.. وّ سُمع

There, in front of us, is the territory of the Sharāḥeen (the Biblical “Sharuhen”), as al-Hamadāni described it, near Haḍūr (Hazor) and Sum‘ (the Biblical “Sema”). These were the homes of the Tribe of Simeon (Bani Sam‘ūn) in the green highlands of Yemen.

Source: ARABIA: The Untold Story, Book 2: Road of the Patriarch, Page # 86-91.

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