Lecture 55b: 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 (Continued)

  • Rav Yitzchak Levy


Yeshivat Har Etzion mourns the death of Yona Baumel, z"l. Mr. Baumol died on Friday, without fulfilling his heart's deepest desire: to discover  the fate of his son – and our talmid - Zecharia, last seen on the Sultan Yakoub battlefield in Lebanon 27 years ago.

We continue to pray for Zecharia's return.
HaMakom yenakhem etkhem be-tokh she'ar avelei Tzion veYerushalayim.


This shiur is dedicated in memory of Shmuel b’reb David Ehrenhalt, z"l,
father of our alumnus Steve. May the entire Ehrenhalt family be comforted among the mourners of Tzion veYerushalayim






A. The History of the Place


Kiryat-Ye'arim is first mentioned as one the cities of the Giv'onites:


Now their cities were Giv'on, and Kefira, and Be'erot, and Kiryat-Ye'arim. (Yehoshua 9:17)


The city is located near the border between Yehuda and Binyamin. In the description of the tribal territory of Yehuda in the book of Yehoshua it says as follows:


And the border was drawn from the top of the hill to the fountain of the water of Nafto'ach, and went out of the cities of Mount Efron; and the border was drawn to Ba'ala, which is Kiryat-Ye'arim. (Yehoshua 15:9)


            It is interesting that in a parallel description of the southern border of Binyamin (Yehoshua 18:14), Kiryat-Ye'arim is called "Kiryat-Ba'al, which is Kiryat-Ye'arim, a city of the children of Yehuda."


The city is once again mentioned when the tribe of Dan heads north to settle in Layish. The first stop after they leave Tzor'a and Eshta'ol is Kiryat-Ye'arim (Shoftim 18:12):


And they went up and pitched in Kiryat-Ye'arim, in Yehuda. Therefore, they called that place Machane-Dan to this day: behold it is behind Kiryat-Ye'arim.


            We see from here that the place enjoys importance as an intermediate stop, as a passageway from the coastal plain to the central mountain massif on the border between Yehuda and Binyamin.


The next significant event involving Kiryat-Ye'arim is the bringing up of the ark to the city. After the Pelishtim capture the ark in the battle of Even Ha-Ezer, the ark remains in Sedeh-Pelishtim for seven months (I Shmuel 6:1).


The Pelishtim return the ark to Bet-Shemesh, and there, after the people look into it, God strikes at the people of Bet-Shemesh:


Because they had looked into the ark of the Lord, smiting fifty thousand and seventy men of the people. And the people lamented, because the Lord had smitten many of the people with a great slaughter. (I Shmuel 6:19)


            Following this calamity, the people of Bet-Shemesh turn to the people of Kiryat-Ye'arim:


"The Pelishtim have brought back the ark of the Lord; come down, and fetch it up to you." And the men of Kiryat-Ye'arim came and fetched up the ark of the Lord and brought it into the house of Avinadav on the hill, and they sanctified Elazar his son to keep the ark of the Lord.


            The ark remains in Kiryat-Ye'arim for 20 years.


In a later period, we learn of a prophet who arrives from Kiryat-Ye'arim. In the days of King Yehoyakim, mention is made of a prophet named Uriyahu ben Shimayahu from Kiryat-Ye'arim, who prophesies about the city and the land in the manner of Yirmiyahu. Uriya flees to Egypt and Yehoyakim commands that he be retrieved from there; he kills him and casts his corpse upon the graves of the common people. (Yirmiyahu 26:20-24).


In I Divrei Ha-yamim 2:50-53, Scripture emphasizes the origins of the inhabitants of Kiryat-Ye'arim: "These were the sons of Kalev the son of Chur, the firstborn of Efrata: Shoval, the father of Kiryat-Ye'arim," and similarly regarding the sons of Shoval. It is clear from here that Kiryat-Ye'arim felt that it belonged to Yehuda.


In the days of the return to Zion, mention is made of renewed settlement in Kiryat-Ye'arim (Ezra 2:24; Nechemia 7:29). There may also be an allusion to the place in the book of Tehillim in the verse, "Lo, we heard of it at Efrat; we found it in Sedeh-Ya'ar" (132:6). I shall expand upon this below.


B. Identification of the Place


            The biblical city of Kiryat-Ye'arim is identified with Tel Abu Gosh. This identification is universally accepted.


C. The Name of the City[1]


            Kiryat-Ye'arim has two different names in Scriptures. In most places, it is called Kiryat-Ye'arim, but in other, it is known as Ba'ala. Sometimes, the name used is Kiryat-Ba'al (Yehoshua 18:14), sometimes both names are mentioned together (Yehoshua 15:9-10; 18:14; I Divrei Ha-yamim 13:5-6), and sometimes it is called Ba'al-Yehuda (II Shmuel 6:2-3).


            The name Ba'ala is clearly connected to the worship of Ba'al. On the other hand, the name Kiryat-Ye'arim is connected to the wooded northwestern portion of the tribal territory of Yehuda (it is close to the spur of Mount Ye'arim mentioned in Yehoshua 15:10; the connection to Sedeh-Ya'ar in Tehillim 132:6 also expresses this point).


            The verses in Yehoshua mention four cities of the Giv'onites:


And the children of Israel journeyed, and came to their cities on the third day. Now their cities were Giv'on, and Kefira, and Be'erot, and Kiryat-Ye'arim. (9:17)


            The name Kefira (so suggests Y. Rosenman) may be derived from the word "kefir," "lion," an animal commonly found in forests. If so, we may be dealing with the replacement of an idolatrous name with a name that reflects the landscape. It is also possible that there is a connection between the name "Ba'al" – which, among other things, is connected to rain – and forests, and that the name was changed from Ba'ala to Kiryat-Ye'arim for religious reasons.[2]


            Demsky maintains that part of Shaul's family moved to Kiryat-Ye'arim, and that in I Divrei Ha-yamim 1:9 it is called Ya'ara.[3]


D. The Location of the City and its Tribal Affiliation


Kiryat-Ye'arim is found in a central location that at an early stage served, on the one hand, as the camp of Dan, and on the other hand, as the place through which the tribe of Dan passed in the direction of Bet-Mikha, which is identified in the region of Ma'aleh Levona (west of today's Eli). There is a pass here from the coastal plain to the central mountain massif. If one stands in Bet-Shemesh and looks out in the direction of Kiryat-Ye'arim, the place stands out in its height over the surrounding area.


In several places, Scripture emphasizes that the city belongs to Yehuda. On the other hand, Yehoshua 18:28 mentions the city in the tribal territory of Binyamin: "Giv'at Kiryat-[Ye]arim, fourteen with their villages." Yehuda Kil resolves this contradiction by arguing that Giv'at is Giv'at Binyamin, Giv'at Shaul, which is identified with Tel Al Pul, whereas Kiryat is a separate city, the full name of which is Giv'at-Kiryat-Arim (=Ye'arim), this being the hill on which the ark of God rested.[4] Accordingly, the city of Kiryat-Ye'arim is in Yehuda and Giv'a is in the tribal territory of Binyamin.


            Thus, the ark was taken to the territory of Binyamin, the territory of the Shekhina. This point may underlie the actions of the people of Bet-Shemesh, who tried to offer a sacrifice at Bet-Shemesh so as to leave the ark there and to establish the place as a sort of border mark.[5]


            It is interesting that, according to this understanding, the ark was brought to the territory of Binyamin as well as the border with Yehuda. On this point, a comparison may be drawn between Kiryat-Ye'arim and Jerusalem. The last stations of the ark were Kiryat-Ye'arim and Jerusalem.[6]  The ark was brought up to Kiryat-Ye'arim, situated on the border between Binyamin and Yehuda, while later the ark was placed in the tent in the City of David in the territory of Binyamin along the border with Yehuda.


E. The Meaning of the Words "We Found it in Sedeh-Ya'ar"


A Song of Ascents. Lord, remember to David's favor all his afflictions, how he swore to the Lord, and vowed to the mighty One of Yaakov. Surely I will not come into the tabernacle of my house, nor go up into my bed; I will not give sleep to my eyes, slumber to my eyelids, until I find out a place for the Lord, a habitation for the mighty One of Yaakov. Lo, we heard of it in Efrat; we found it in Sedeh-Ya'ar. We will go into His dwelling places: we will worship at His footstool. Arise, O Lord, to Your resting place, You, and the ark of Your strength… (Tehillim 132:1-8)


            The plain sense of verse 6 is that we fulfilled David's oath in Sedeh-Ya'ar, which is Kiryat-Ye'arim. The people of Efrat and Kiryat-Ye'arim were partners in bringing the ark up to the City of David.


            Some commentators understand that even though the people of Israel had forgotten about the ark, David and his men investigated its whereabouts and heard in Efrat that it was located in Sedeh-Ya'ar.[7] Some have suggested that Efrata and Sedeh-Ya'ar are both alternative designations of Kiryat-Ye'arim. They adduce support for this argument from the genealogical lists in Divrei Ha-yamim: "These were the sons of Kalev the son of Chur, the firstborn of Efrata; Shoval the father of Kiryat-Ye'arim" (I Divrei Ha-yamim 2:50).


            In this context, the following midrash is interesting:


Rabbi Yehuda says: The Temple was built in the portion of Yehuda, as it is written: "the Efrati of Beth-Lechem Yehuda" (I Shmuel 17:12). Rabbi Shimon says: In the portion of the one who died in Efrata. Who died in Efrata? Rachel. You might say in the portion of Yosef who is one of her sons. Therefore, the verse states: "We found it in Sedeh-Ya'ar" (Tehillim 132:6) – in the portion of the one who is likened to a beast of the forest. Who is likened to a beast of the forest? Binyamin, as it is stated: "Binyamin is a ravenous wolf" (Bereishit 49:27). (Bereishit Rabba 99, 1)


            The Rishonim (Tehillim 132, Rashi, Ibn Ezra) understand that Efrata and Sedeh-Ya'ar are names for the site of the altar on the threshing-floor of Aravna the Yevusi, which, according to the plain sense of Scripture is found in the tribal territory of Binyamin. According to this, David and his men are saying here: It had become known to us that the place that we were seeking is in Efrata, and indeed we found it there in Sedeh-Ya'ar. This is appropriate wording for pilgrims coming to Jerusalem, who proclaim that they heard and it became known to them that this is the place. Therefore, the psalm continues: "We will go into His dwelling places; we will worship at his footstool" (Tehillim 132:7).


F. Kiryat Ye'arimA City of Refuge


            The Tosefta lists Kiryat-Ye'arim as a city of refuge:


Yehoshua set aside three cities in the land of Cana'an, corresponding to the three [cities] on the other side of the Jordan, like two rows in a vineyard. Hebron in Yehuda, corresponding to Tzor in the wilderness; Shekhem in Mount Efrayim, corresponding to Ramot in Gil'ad; Kadesh in the Galilee, corresponding to Golan in the Bashan. And even though they set aside Shekhem in Mount Efrayim, it did not offer asylum. [Therefore,] they set aside Kiryat-Ye'arim in its place until they conquered Shekhem. And even though they set aside Kadesh in the Galilee, it did not offer asylum. [Therefore,] they set aside Gamla in its place until they conquered Kadesh. (Tosefta, Makkot 3:2)


The Status of the Ark in the Book of Shmuel[8]


            To conclude our discussion of the stations of the Mishkan, I wish to now discuss the status of the ark in the book of Shmuel. The gist of our argument in this section is that the ark of the Lord is a special ark containing the efod and the choshen, together with the urim and tumim – the garments of the High Priest, worn by the priest who inquires of the God of Israel.


            Although the Torah does not say this, the choshen, the efod, the urim and tumim, and the rest of the priestly garments were certainly not left out hanging on hooks; rather, they were stored in an ark especially designated for that purpose. There is no special mitzva here, for it is merely a matter of taking proper care of the priestly garments.


            There is a certain parallel between the tablets of testimony placed in the ark and the urim and tumim placed in the choshen ha-mishpat. This parallel suggests a conceptual parallel between God's commandments through the prophecy of Moshe and the judgment of Israel at the word of Aharon, a parallel between prophecy and leadership, on the one hand, and priesthood and purity, on the other.


            This ark had to go out with Israel to war, because inquiring of God was particularly necessary on the battlefield.


            The ark of testimony in which the tablets of the law rested expresses God's words to Moshe, whereas the ark of God in which the urim and tumim rest expresses the spirit of God in the mouth of Aharon or one of High Priests descending from him. These represent the two separate domains of prophecy and kingdom and priesthood and Mikdash.


            Proofs for this position can be brought from the following passages:


And Achiya, the son of Achituv, I-Khavod's brother, the son of Pinchas, the son of Eli, was the Lord's priest in Shilo, wearing an efod. (I Shmuel 14:3)


And Shaul said to Achiya, "Bring the ark of God here." For the ark of God was at that time with the children of Israel. (ibid. v. 18)


            The Rishonim (ad loc.) explain that the term "ark of God" refers here to "the urim and tumim, for they were there in the ark, by way of Achiya the son of Achituv" (Mahari Kra).


            A second possible proof relates to Evyatar, about whom it says: "And it came to pass, when Evyatar the son of Achimelekh fled to David to Ke'ila, that he came down with an efod in his hand" (I Shmuel 23:6). It is clear from Scripture that Evyatar makes inquiries of God, and it therefore seems that he does this by way of the efod.


            In I Melakhim 2:26, Shlomo says:


And to Evyatar the priest the king said, "Get you to Anatot, to your own fields, for you are worthy of death. But I will not at this time put you to death, because you did bear the ark of the Lord God before David my father, and because you have been afflicted in all my father's afflictions.


            R. Yoel Bin-Nun argues that nowhere does it say that Evyatar bore the ark of the testimony; it therefore appears that we are referring here with the ark of the efod. There may be an allusion to this understanding in the gemara in Sota (42b): "Because God and all His names lie in the ark." Based on this understanding, we can explain the fact that "Shmuel was laid down to sleep in the temple of the Lord, where the ark of God was" (I Shmuel 3:3). According to what we have suggested here, the reference is to the ark of the urim and tumim that was in the Levites' courtyard and was connected to the holy spirit of the priesthood.


            R. Bin-Nun's argument is very novel, and although we are not dealing with a mitzva, logic dictates that point should have been mentioned explicitly in Scripture. On the other hand, if we follow in the path of the Rishonim who say that the urim and tumim rested in the regular ark, at the time of Shaul and Achiya, the ark was in Kiryat-Ye'arim, and the verse in I Divrei Ha-yamim 13:3 explicitly states: "For we did not inquire at it in the days of Shaul," implying that the ark was not taken out. How, then, can we explain the first verses brought as proof differently?


            It is possible to explain R. Bin-Nun's proof from Evyatar differently. We do find Evyatar together with the ark at the time of Avshalom's revolt. When David commands that the ark be returned to Jerusalem, we read: "Therefore, Tzadok and Evyatar carried back the ark of God to Jerusalem; and they stayed there" (II Shmuel 15:29); it is therefore unnecessary to connect the bearing of the ark with the inquiry through the urim and tumim, as was argued above. Accordingly, R. Bin-Nun's argument is possible, although novel.


            Now that we have discussed the status of Nov, Giv'on and Kiryat Ye'arim, we have completed our examination of the stations of the Mishkan. In the next lecture, we will discuss the history of the priesthood.


(Translated by David Strauss)


[1] The city of Kiryat-Ye'arim was discussed by my colleague, Prof. Israel Rosenson, in his article in Al Atar 1 (Tevet, 5756), pp. 83-88. I follow here in his footsteps.

[2] I. Rosenson notes that many names preserve the reality of idol worship.

[3] In his article, "Mishpachat Shaul Ve-Ha-Yadiyot Me-Al Gib," Shomron U-Vinyamin (Ofra, 5746), p. 36.

[4] In the Da'at Mikra commentary to the book of Yehoshua.

[5] This is the view of R. Yoel Bin-Nun in his article, "Nachalat Binyamin, Nachalat Shekhina," in Lifnei Efrayim, Binyamin U-Menasheh (Jerusalem, 5745).

[6] So, too, Israel Rosenson in the article cited above.

[7] This is Amos Chakham's understanding in his notes to the Da'at Mikra commentary to this psalm. Several explanations that he brings there will be cited below.

[8] This is the novel proposal of my revered teacher R. Yoel Bin-Nun, in his article, "Aron Berit U-Ma'amado Be-Sefer Shmuel," in "Be-Ikvot Aron Ha-Shem" (5754), pp. 16-18.