Sunday , 16 June 2024

Abel Beth Maacah *

Tell Abil el-Qameh

Tell Abil el-Qameh is a 100-dunam site, located 4.5 miles west of Tel Dan and 1.2 miles south of Metulla on Israel’s northern border with Lebanon. The site is above the narrow pass of Nahal Iyyon River. The Tanur Waterfall, fed by the Iyyon, is located just north of the site. 19th century explorers, Victor Guérin, Félix-Marie Abel and Edward Robinson, were the first to identify the mound with biblical Abel Beth Maacah. So, the tell is identified with the biblical town Abel Beth Maacah. The ancient name was kept by the small Arab village of Abil el-Qameh (אבל אל-קמח)which occupied about one-third of the tell mound until 1948. Its ruins are visible on the surface today.

Abel Beth Maacah – אָבֵל בֵּית מַעֲכָה

Abel Beth Maacah was an important Canaanite and Israelite city. The site of Abel Beth Maacah controls several strategic roads: north to the Lebanese Beq‘a, west to Phoenician coast, and northeast to Syria. Thutmose II lists the Abel as one of his conquests. Abel is also mentioned in the Amarna letters (Late Bronze IIA). The tell was inhabited during the Bronze and Iron Ages as well as the Persian, Hellenistic, Byzantine, Early Islamic, Crusader, Mamluk and Ottoman periods.

Abel Beth Maacah in the Bible

The tell is mentioned in the Bible three times:

  • At the time of King David in the 10th century B.C.E. – Sheba passed through all the tribes of Israel to Abel Beth Maakah and through the entire region of the Bikrites, who gathered together and followed him.(2 Samuel 20: 14)
  • During the Aramean conquest by Ben Hadad in the 9th century BCE  – Ben-Hadad agreed with King Asa and sent the commanders of his forces against the towns of Israel. He conquered Ijon, Dan, Abel Beth Maakah and all Kinnereth in addition to Naphtali. (1 Kings 15:20)
  • During the Neo-Assyrian conquest by Tiglath-Pilesar III in the 8th century BCE  – In the time of Pekah king of Israel, Tiglath-Pileser king of Assyria came and took Ijon, Abel Beth Maakah, Janoah, Kedesh and Hazor. He took Gilead and Galilee, including all the land of Naphtali, and deported the people to Assyria. (2 Kings 15:29).

The bible refers to a kingdom called “Maacah” whose identity and relationship to Abel Beth Maacah remain unknown.

  • It also included Gilead, the territory of the people of Geshur and Maakah, all of Mount Hermon and all Bashan as far as Salekah. (Joshua 13:11)
  • When the Ammonites realized that they had become obnoxious to David, they hired twenty thousand Aramean foot soldiers from Beth Rehob and Zobah, as well as the king of Maakah with a thousand men, and also twelve thousand men from Tob. (2 Samuel 10:6)
  • When the Ammonites realized that they had become obnoxious to David, Hanun and the Ammonites sent a thousand talents of silver to hire chariots and charioteers from Aram Naharaim, Aram Maakah and Zobah. (1 Chronicles 19:6)
Abel Beth Maacah
Tel Abel Beth Maacah Excavations


Limited surveys were conducted by Prof. William G. Dever of the University of Arizona, and Yehudah Dayan, Yosef Stefansky and Edan Shaked of the Israel Antiquities Authority in 2012-2016. They discovered pottery from the Early Bronze Age  II-III(16th-13th centuries B.C.E.) until the Ottoman period.

Excavations have revealed a fortification system from the Middle and Late Bronze Ages (16th-13th centuries B.C.E.) and part of an Iron I settlement (11th century B.C.E.), when the fortifications were no longer in use. It appears that there was a peaceful transition from the Late Bronze Age to the Iron Age.


Flyover of Area F at the end of the 2016 season. Area F is situated in the lower city at the southern tip of the mound.

Tel Abel Beth Maacah VOLUNTEER REGISTRATION FORM – 2018 here.


The Identification of Abel—Beth-Maachah and Janoah J Kaplan – Israel Exploration Journal, 1978 – JSTOR

The Southern Border of Aram H Tadmor – Israel Exploration Journal, 1962 – JSTOR

Geshur and Maacah B Mazar – Journal of Biblical Literature, 1961 – JSTOR

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