Lecture 55a: The Significance of the Location of the Stations of the Mishkan (Part III) -Nov, Giv'on and Kiryat-Ye'arim And the Location And Status of the Ark in the Book of Shmuel

  • Rav Yitzchak Levy





            In the previous lectures, we discussed the significance of the places in which the Mishkan stood after Bnei Yisrael's entry into Eretz Yisrael. We focused on the stations of the Mishkan in Gilgal and Shilo, and we surveyed the history of these two places across Scripture.


            To complete our examination of the significance of the various stations of the Mishkan, I wish to consider Nov and Giv'on as well, the places where the great bama stood following the destruction of Shilo and until Shlomo's building of the Temple. I will then relate to the bringing of the ark from Bet-Shemesh to Kiryat-Ye'arim, the last station of the ark before it is brought to the City of David in Jerusalem.






            The city of Nov is not mentioned very often in Scripture. Its primary mention is in connection with David's flight from Shaul; in the wake of that event, Doeg the Edomite's strike against Nov, city of the priests, at the order of Shaul takes place (I Shmuel 21-22). After that, Nov is mentioned in connection with Sancheriv's campaign (Yeshayahu 10:32), and once again during the period of the return to Zion (Nechemia 11:32).




            As was already mentioned in the first lecture on the significance of the stations of the Mishkan, one may ask who decided to erect the Mishkan in Nov. Was it Shmuel, Shaul, or perhaps the descendants of the house of Eli? The timing of the transfer of the Mishkan to Nov is clearly connected to the destruction of Shilo and the capture of the ark, but it is not at all clear who initiated the move and how much time after the destruction of Shilo it occurred. Logically, we might suggest that the prophet Shmuel initiated the process. It seems that Nov was chosen, first and foremost, because it is found in the tribal territory of Binyamin, the territory of Shaul, who also came from Binyamin.




            As stated, Nov is rarely mentioned in Scripture, and it is therefore difficult to identify its precise location. One of the places where it is mentioned is in Yeshayahu's prophecy about Sancheriv's campaign, which describes the route taken by Sancheriv:


He is come to Ayyat, he is passed to Mirgon; at Mikhmash he has left his baggage. they are gone over the pass: they have taken up their lodging at Geva; Rama is afraid; Givat Shaul is fled… This very day, he will halt at Nov; he will shake his hands against the mountain of the daughter of Zion, the hill of Jerusalem. (Yeshayahu 10:28-32)


            Another verse that may help us identify Now is the mention of the city in the days of the return to Zion:


And the children of Binyamin from Geva, at Mikhmash, and Ayya, and Bet-El, and in its hamlets, and at Anatot, Nov, Ananya. (Nechemia 11:31-32)


            Nov is mentioned alongside Anatot; this accords with the accepted identification of the city of Nov between Anata and Bet-Chanina. According to this, it is possible to locate it in the area of Tel Shuafat.[2]


            If this identification is correct, Nov is the closest city to Giv'a when heading south, as David did when he fled toward Akhish the king of Gat.


            Accordingly, we may be able to understand the location of the hanging of Shaul's sons. As may be recalled, in the wake of the famine that struck David's kingdom, David is told that the famine is punishment for the house of Shaul's attitude towards the Giv'onites. David then turns to the Giv'onites and asks them how he can atone for what had been done to them. The Giv'onties answer David as follows:


Let seven men of his sons be delivered to us, and we will hang them up to the Lord in Givat-Shaul (whom the Lord did choose)… And he delivered them into the hands of the Giv'onites, and they hanged them on the hill before the Lord. And they fell all seven together, and were put to death in the days of harvest, in the first days, in the beginning of the barley feast. (II Shmuel 21:6-9)


            In light of the identification of Nov above, it is possible that the reference in these verses is to the place where the bama stood in Nov, city of the priests.




            As mentioned above, God tells David that the famine came as punishment for Shaul's attempt to kill the Giv'onites. What does this mean? When did Shaul try to kill the Giv'onites?


            The answer to this question is also connected to the selection of Nov as a station of the Mishkan. The selection of Nov, city of the priests, takes place after the incident involving the concubine in Giv'a. In the aftermath of this incident, the territory of Binyamin was entirely empty, and Shaul's family tried to settle the areas of Giv'on (I Divrei Ha-yamim, chapters 8-9), Tzela (II Shmuel 21:4), Givat-Shaul and Bachurim (II Shmuel 16:6). It is possible that while Shaul's family was trying to resettle the territory of Binyamin, the Giv'onites were trying to expand their own settlement, and thus Shaul attacks the Giv'onites "in his zeal for the children of Yisrael and Yehuda" (II Shmuel 21:2).


            Chazal draw a connection between the attack against the Giv'onites and the attack against Nov, city of the priests:[3]


…Where do we find that Shaul killed the Giv'onites? Rather, because he killed [the people of] Nov, city of the priests, who would supply them with water and food, Scripture treats him as if he had killed them. (Yevamot 78b)




            Another point that rises from the identification of Nov in the region of Shuafat, southwest of the place identified with Giv'a, the city of Shaul (Bet-Al-Pul), is the relationship between the capital city and the site of the Mishkan/great bama in Nov.


            According to this identification, the capital city rules topographically over the site of the Mishkan, which is very close to it.[4] This topographical relationship may not be by chance; it is rather a symbolic expression of Shmuel's attitude toward the Mishkan and the priesthood.


            Shaul's attitude on this matter also expresses itself in the battle of Mikhmash in the way that he relates to the ark:


And Shaul said to Achiya, "Bring the ark of God here." For the ark of God was at that time with the children of Yisrael. And it came to pass, while Shaul talked to the priest, that the noise that was in the camp of the Pelishtim went on and increased. And Shaul said to the priest, "Withdraw your hand." (I Shmuel 14:18-19)


            This attitude reaches its extreme in the killing of the eighty-five priests who wore a linen efod (I Shmuel 22:18). These incidents leave us with the impression that in Shaul's opinion, the Mishkan is fully subject to the king and under his full patronage.[5]


            In contrast, the royal house in Jerusalem was situated at the foot of the Temple; thus, it symbolized the appropriate subordination in the relationship between monarchy and Mikdash, between human king and the King of kings.




            Following the destruction of Nov, city of the priests, carried out by Doeg the Edomite on Shaul's orders,[6] the Mishkan moves to Giv'on.


            Two questions arise: Who decided to move the great bama to Giv'on? And why was Giv'on chosen?


It is reasonable to assume that since it was Shaul who destroyed Nov, it was also he who decided to move the great bama to Giv'on. Why to Giv'on? First of all, note should be taken of the novelty in locating the great bama there, in one of the four Chivi cities (Yehoshua 9:17: "Now their cities were Giv'on, and Kefira, and Be'erot, and Kiryat-Ye'arim").


In addition, Scripture testifies about Giv'on:


That they feared greatly, because Giv'on was a great city, as one of the royal cities, and because it was greater than Ay and all its men were mighty. (Yehoshua 10:2)


            It is reasonable to assume that over the course of time, the city itself lost its Chivi character and that it became an Israelite city in all ways. On the other hand, the verses in Divrei Ha-yamim suggest a close connection between Shaul's family and Giv'on (I Divrei Ha-yamim 8:29-33).


            The hold of Shaul's family on Giv'on might have been one of the main factors in choosing Giv'on as the site of the great bama in the heart of the territory of Binyamin.




            It should be emphasized that following the destruction of the Mishkan in Shilo (as is stated in Tehillim 78:59-67 and in Yirmiyahu 7:12-15) and the capture of the ark by the Pelishtim, the Mishkan was, for the first time, without an ark.


            It is also interesting that even after the ark was returned by the Pelishtim to Bet-Shemesh, it was not returned to the Mishkan. Moreover, just as the prophet Shmuel was not involved in the entire campaign at Even Ha-Ezer or in its consequences, he was not involved in the fate of the ark either. After the plague in Bet-Shemesh, the transfer of the ark to Kiryat-Ye'arim appears to have been executed on the initiative of the people of Bet-Shemesh (I Shmuel 6:20-7:1).


            We might suggest that the acceptance of the separation of the ark from the Mishkan is rooted in the understanding that what had happened in Bet-Shemesh proves that the people had not yet changed their attitude toward the ark. It was therefore preferable to leave it for the time being apart from the Mishkan, in this case for twenty years in Kiryat-Ye'arim.


            During the period that the Mishkan was in Nov and the great bama was in Giv'on, while the ark was first in Kiryat-Ye'arim and afterwards in the City of David, the allowance of bamot was in force, and therefore everyone was permitted to offer individual sacrifices outside of the Mishkan (Zevachim 14:7). During this period, the altar in the Mishkan was used for the offering of communal sacrifices, and this continued until the dedication of the Temple during the days of Shlomo.


            Scripture does not relate at all to the structure of the Mishkan in Nov and Giv'on. There is no way to know whether the Mishkan in Nov and Giv'on was built in a manner similar to that of the Mishkan in Shilo – stone at the bottom and curtains at top - in a manner similar to that of the Mishkan in Gilgal, or in a different manner closer to that of the Mikdash in Jerusalem.


            We can learn about the functioning of the Mishkan while it was in Nov from the story of David's flight to Achimelekh. In that story, mention is made of "consecrated bread." This suggests that although the Holy of Holies was empty because there was no ark, the ordinary service performed in the sanctuary continued as usual, including the lighting of the menora, the burning of the incense, and the placement of the showbread on the table. This is in addition to the service relating to the communal sacrifices that was performed on the altar in the courtyard.






            Giv'on is generally identified with the village of Al-Giv, north of Nebi-Samuel and west of Bet-Chanina. The preservation of the name, its location on the main road leading west to Bet-Choron, and the archeological finds discovered in excavations executed at the site all support this identification.




            The city of Giv'on is mentioned several times in Scripture:


*           Giv'on is first mentioned in the account of the Giv'onites who made a pact with Yehoshua (Yehoshua 9-10). Giv'on is mentioned there as one of the important Chivi cities: "That they feared greatly, because Giv'on was a great city, as one of the royal cities, and because it was greater than Ay and all its men were mighty."


*           The city of Giv'on is mentioned among the cities captured by Yehoshua when Yisrael entered the Land. Giv'on is mentioned among the cities of Binyamin (Yehoshua 18:25) and as one of the cities of the Levites (Yehoshua 21:17).


*           Shaul destroys the Giv'onites (II Shmuel 21:5) and apparently settles members of his own family in Giv'on (I Divrei Ha-yamim 8:29 and on). This is why one of his ancestors is called "Avi Giv'on," "the father of Giv'on" (I Divrei Ha-yamim 8:29; 9:35). Shaul apparently assigned one of the Giv'onite cities to his officers: "And Yishmaya the Giv'onite, a mighty man among the thirty, and over the thirty" (I Divrei Ha-yamim 12:4).


It is reasonable to assume that Shaul wished to strengthen his control over the city that was located at an important crossroad to protect it from the Pelishtim. In any event, based on these considerations, the city of Giv'on was a city of utmost importance in Shaul's kingdom, and perhaps second only to the capital city of Giv'at-Sha'ul.


If it was, indeed, Shaul who established the great bama in Givon, it is possible that it was built there in order to dissipate the bitterness among the people following the slaughter of the priests of Nov. We have no clear information as to when the great bama was established at Giv'on, but it is reasonable to assume that this happened after and in the wake of the destruction of the Mishkan in Nov at the hands of Shaul.


It is also reasonable to assume that at the same that the Giv'onites were driven away from their cities, which were then resettled by Bnei Yisrael, the great bama in Giv'on became the central community ritual site. Avner and Yo'av meet at the pool of Giv'on; there Avner kills Asa'el and nineteen of David's men; and there 360 Binyaminites of Avner's men are killed. Yo'av and Amasa meet at the great stone in Giv'on, and there Yo'av kills Amasa. It is clear that these two events take place in Giv'on owing to the importance of the city and the great bama erected in its midst.


I Divrei Ha-yamim (16:39-40) states:


And Tzadok the priest and his brethren the priests before the tabernacle of the Lord in the high place that was at Giv'on, to offer burnt offerings to the Lord upon the altar of the burnt offering continually morning and evening, and to do according to all that is written in the Torah of the Lord, which He commanded Yisrael.


In other words, David establishes the centrality of the city, and it is in Giv'on that Tzadok and his brethren serve as priests.[7]


It is only during the days of Shlomo that we hear about the importance and significance of Giv'on:


And the king went to Giv'on to sacrifice there; for that was the great high place. A thousand burnt offerings did Shlomo offer upon that altar. (I Melakhim 3:4)


            The city only reaches its full importance during the days of Shlomo, and not before, because Shaul had destroyed the Giv'onites and only remnants of them remained during the days of David.[8]


            It is possible that Shlomo's appearance in Giv'on, where members of Shaul's family had established their residence alongside senior military officers, was not by chance, but by design. It constituted a gesture toward the tribe of Binyamin and its notables, in direct continuation of David's policy of appeasing this sensitive tribe.[9]


            M. Garciel suggests that we view Shlomo's going to Giv'on as a celebration marking his ascendancy to the throne, and in this context the offering of the sacrifices at the great bama,[10] as an attempt to connect the northern tribes to Shlomo's coronation. It is there that Shlomo has his dream in which he asks for "an understanding heart to judge Your people, that I may discern between good and evil." This is the beginning of the supreme importance attached to the execution of justice in the kingdom of Shlomo, constituting a direct continuation of David's efforts at executing justice for all (II Shmuel 8:15).


            The city is also mentioned at the end of the first Temple period; in the days of Tzidkiyahu, Chananya ben Azor is from Giv'on (Yirmiyahu 28:1).




            Giv'on is located at a central crossroad in the northern part of the tribal territory of Binyamin, between the road that leads north toward Shilo and Shekhem and the road that leads west toward Bet-Choron, the Ayalon valley, and Gezer. Thus, for example, it is stated about David: "David therefore did as God commanded him: and they smote the camp of the Pelishtim from Giv'on as far as Gezer" (I Divrei Ha-Yamim 14:16). From the fact that Giv'on is mentioned as an important landmark in David's conquest, we can understand that it is a very important city in the territory of Binyamin.


The establishment of the great bama in Giv'on seems to attest that the city was no longer a Chivi city, and that the Giv'onites were gradually being pushed out of their cities through Israelite settlement in the Land.


It is possible that there is a certain connection between the Giv'onites, about whom it is stated "And Yehoshua made them that day hewers of wood and drawers of water for the congregation, and for the altar of the Lord, to this day, in the place which He should choose" (Yehoshua 9:27), and the city of Giv'on. This issue requires separate treatment, and we will not undertake it in the present framework.


To be continued


[1] This issue was discussed by Chanan Eshel in his "Nov Ir ha-Kohanim," Shomron U-Vinyamin (Ofra, 5747). The discussion here follows in his footsteps.

[2] An alternate identification of Nov is based on the verse in Yeshayahu. It locates Nov on the Mount Zion-Mount Scopus ridge, perhaps next to Al-Azarya. These places are lookout points over Jerusalem, as is stated in the verse in Yeshayahu.

[3] The move of the bama from Nov to Giv'on may be connected to the confiscation of additional land from the Giv'onites. This reinforces the connection between the killing of the priests and the assault against the Giv'onites.

[4] I heard this from my revered teacher, Rav Yoel Bin-Nun.

[5] This proposal is, of course, more meaningful if we assume that Shaul was a partner in fixing the location of the Mishkan in Nov. If this location was chosen by Shmuel or by the descendants of Eli, it can still be argued that when Shaul ascended the throne, this location reflected or served his attitude toward the priesthood and to the Mishkan in general.

[6] In this framework, we shall not discuss the assault on Nov the city of priests, or David and Shaul's parts in what happened there. In his reproach of Shaul, the prophet alludes to the correspondence of what was supposed to have happened to Amalek to what actually happened to Nov. He does this by referring to the killing of the people of Nov "with the edge of the sword, both men and women, children and sucklings, and oxen and asses, and sheep, with the edge of the sword" (I Shmuel 22:19).

[7] It would be interesting to examine whether it was Shaul who appointed Tzadok as priest at the bama in Giv'on, after the destruction of Nov, the city of priests, or whether this appointment was made later.

[8] This issue was discussed by M. Garciel in his article, "Yeridato Shel Ha-Melekh Shlomo Le-Giv'on Va-Chalomo," Sefer Barukh ben Yehuda (5741), pp. 191-217.

[9] It is interesting that Adoniyahu was supported by the southern tribes and the early followers of David, such as Yo'av and Evyatar, whereas Shlomo relied on people identified with the tribe of Binyamin, such as Tzadok and Shim'i.

[10] When Shaul renewed the kingdom in Gilgal, sacrifices of peace offerings were brought (I Shmuel 11:12-15); and similarly in Chevron at the coronation of Avshalom (II Shmuel 15:10-12); and similarly in Even Ha-Zochelet at the coronation of Adoniyahu (I Melakhim 1:9, 19, 28).