(gihb' ih ahn) Place name meaning, “hill place.” This “great city” (Joshua 10:2) played a significant role in Old Testament history—especially during the conquest of Canaan. Archaeology has demonstrated that the city was a thriving industrial area which made it a primary community in Canaan.
Background of the City Little was known of Gibeon's exact location until the twentieth century. Originally, the city was assigned to the tribe of Benjamin following Israel's victory in Canaan (Joshua 18:25) and made a city for Levites (Joshua 21:17). Beginning in 1956, excavations led by James B. Pritchard gave proof that the modern city of el-Jib was the site of ancient Gibeon. Lying eight miles northwest of Jerusalem, Gibeon was in an area of moderate climate, ample rainfall, with a wine-led economy. With an elevation of about 2400 feet Gibeon towered above most other cities, making it easily defended. Dating to about 3000 B.C., Gibeon served as the fortress city at the head of the valley of Ajalon which provided the principal access from the coastal plain into the hill country. Gibeon's power was strong as archaeology has found no sign of the city's destruction.
Role of the City in the Bible Forty-five Old Testament references are made to Gibeon. Its first major appearance in Israel's history involved the conquest of Canaan. The people of Gibeon concocted a deceptive strategy to protect themselves from the Israelites (Joshua 9:1). Pretending to be foreigners also, the Gibeonites made a treaty with Joshua. When Joshua later discovered the truth, he forced the Gibeonites to become water carriers and woodcutters for the Israelites. Honoring this covenant, Joshua led Israel against the armies of five kings who had attacked Gibeon. During these victories the Lord caused the sun and moon to stand still (Joshua 10:1; compare
By the time of David, Gibeon had become part of Israel's United Monarchy. Saul's family seems to have had some connections to Gibeon (1 Chronicles 8:29-33;
1 Chronicles 9:35-39). See Gibeah. Following Saul's death a crucial meeting occurred in Gibeon involving Abner and Joab, the respective generals of Saul and David (2 Samuel 2:12-17). A “sporting” battle (2 Samuel 2:14) by the pool of Gibeon ensued in which the men of Joab proved to be victorious. Archaeologists have discovered a spiraling shaft and tunnel with circular stairway leading to water and providing the city a way to get water inside the city walls during enemy attacks. Gibeon also played host to part of Sheba's rebellion against David (2 Samuel 20:8-13). Joab pursued Amasa, a leader of the revolt, to the great stone in Gibeon where Joab left him “wallowing in his blood in the middle of the highway” (2 Samuel 20:12 NAS). Discovering that Saul had broken the covenant by killing some of the Gibeonites, David gave seven of Saul's male descendants to the people of Gibeon who then put the seven to death (2 Samuel 21:1-9). During one of the sacrifices Solomon made in Gibeon, the Lord appeared and granted the new king's request for wisdom (1 Kings 3:3-14; compare
1 Kings 9:2). Apparently Gibeon was Israel's major place of worship before Solomon built the Temple.
The next references to Gibeon took place about 600 B.C. Jeremiah spoke of the coming destruction of Jerusalem, contradicting Hananiah of Gibeon who predicted Nebuchadnezzar's doom (Jeremiah 28:1). Fleeing from justice, Ishmael, the murderer of the Babylonian-appointed “governor” Gedaliah, was overtaken at Gibeon (Jeremiah 41:1).
Final references to Gibeon highlighted the city's role in post-exilic Israel. The Gibeonites assisted in rebuilding Jerusalem's walls (Nehemiah 3:7). Nehemiah's list of the returning exiles also included an entry concerning the number of “the children of Gibeon” (Nehemiah 7:25).
See Canaan; David; Joshua.