Riblah — important in Old Testament history

Riblah served as a base of operation for the Egyptian Pharaoh Necho and the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar. The city is located on a broad plain about 50 miles south of Hamath (modern Hama in Syria), on the main road between Egypt and Mesopotamia. The Orontes River flows past the site on the west side. On a modern map you will locate Riblah in Syria immediately north of the border with Lebanon.

There is little more than a “country store” at the site today, but the name Riblah is preserved as Ribleh, Syria.

  • Pharaoh Necho imprisoned Jehoahaz, king of Judah, at Riblah. He later took him to Egypt where he died. The date was about 609 B.C. (2 Kings 23:31-34).
  • Zedekiah, puppet king of Judah, tried to escape capture by the Babylonians. He fled Jerusalem but was captured on the plains of Jericho and brought to Riblah. There Nebuchadnezzar passed sentence on him. His sons were slaughtered in his sight and he was bound with brass fetters and taken to Babylon. The date was 586 B.C. (2 Kings 25:5-7; see also Jeremiah 39:5-6; 52:9-10).
  • The officials of Zedekiah were taken to Riblah where they were put to death (2 Kings 25:19-21; see also Jeremiah 52:26-27).

In 2002 a colleague and I spent several days visiting sites in Syria. Riblah was the most difficult to locate. Most folks, after seeing the site, would probably say, “What’s the big deal?”  Even though Riblah is mentioned only these few times in the Old Testament, it’s location makes it important in all movement between the south (Egypt and Israel) and Mesopotamia.

Riblah in the land of Hamath. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Riblah in the land of Hamath. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The slopes of this tell are now used as a cemetery. We know that this would make it difficult to negotiate rights to excavate.

This post was published March 2, 2009, but I had some slides scanned and am able to post a new photo of the tell of Riblah. A photo suitable for use in teaching is available by clicking on the image ago.

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