Maresha of the Shephelah

Tel Maresha (= Tell Sandahanna) is a large mound located south of Highway 35 between Bet Guvrin and Lachish.

View of the north side of Tel Maresha. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

View of the north side of Tel Maresha. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Maresha [Mareshah in most English translations; Marisha] is listed among cities of the Shephelah (lowland) (Joshua 15:33, 44). See also 2 Chronicles 20:37 and Micah 1:15. Rehoboam, king of Judah (931/30 – 913 B.C.), fortified Maresha and several other cities of the Shephelah (2 Chron. 11:5-10). Asa, king of Judah (911/10 – 870/69 B.C.), fought Zerah the Ethiopian at Maresha (2 Chronicles 14:9-10).

The Assyrian king Sennacherib destroyed Maresha in 701 B.C., something the prophet Micah warned about.

Residents of Mareshah, a conqueror will attack you, the leaders of Israel shall flee to Adullam. (Micah 1:15 NET)

He says the leaders will flee to Adullam. Adullam is noted for its caves, and specifically as the place where David hid when he was fleeing from Achish, king of Gath (1 Samuel 22:1). His mighty men went to David at the cave of Adullam during a war with the Philistines (2 Samuel 23:13).

During the Hellenistic and early Roman periods, the Nabatean Arabs moved into the ancient territory of Edom. They were living in the region centered at Petra as early as 312 B.C. Much of their income was derived from the control of the spice trade.

The earlier inhabitants of Edom moved west into the territory south of Judah and north of the Negev. The term Idumea may be derived from Edom. Hubner says,

“The Edomites probably began emigrating increasingly into the S portions of the Judean territory following the destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar in 587 B.C.” (Anchor Bible Dictionary).

Hebron and Maresha became two of their most important cities. The Hasmonean ruler John Hyrcanus (135–104 B.C.) compelled the Idumeans to be circumcised and become Jews.

A view southeast of Maresha toward the central mountain range. Notice the shepherd with sheep. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A view southeast of Maresha toward the central mountain range. Notice the shepherd with sheep. Click on the photo for a larger image. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Antipater, a wealthy and powerful Idumean leader (63–43 BC), gained the favor of several Roman rulers. After the death of Antipater in 43 B.C., his son Herod was declared the King of the Jews. Some scholars suggest that Maresha was Herod’s birthplace.

The vicinity is noted for it underground chambers.

“The rock is Eocene chalk (kirton), which is very easy to work. Where the chalk was exposed to the air a hard crust (nari) formed, which provided a solid roof” (Murphy-O’Connor, The Holy Land).

After the Parthians destroyed Maresha (40 B.C.), the city moved to a nearby village known as Bet Guvrin. By A.D. 200, Bet Guvrin became a significant city known as Eleutheropolis. Murphy-O’Connor says, “The prosperity of the city at this period is underlined by an oval amphitheatre.”

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