🔼The name Beth-shemesh in the Bible
There are three or four different cities named Beth-shemesh in the Bible, although some English translations insist on translating one of them with Heliopolis.
The most famous Beth-shemesh was a town on the border of the territory of Judah (Joshua 15:10), which was later given to the Kohathite Levites (Joshua 21:16). This is the Beth-shemesh at which the Ark of the Covenant came to rest after its seven months stay in the land of the Philistines (1 Samuel 6:9).
Initially the townsfolk of Beth-shemesh were right enthused by the Ark being in their midst, but after some of them tried to look inside of it, YHWH struck 50,070 of them dead. They sent a message to the people of Kiriath-jearim to come and get the Ark, which they did. And so the Ark came to be at the house of Abinadab (1 Samuel 7:1), and it would remain there until king David's first effort to transport it to Jerusalem.
Much later, Beth-shemesh of Judah hosted the battle between king Amaziah of Judah and king Jehoash of Israel (2 Kings 14:11). Amaziah was defeated and Jehoash looted the temple. Some scholars say that this is the point in time at which the Ark went missing, but it remains a mystery why the Ark is not mentioned in this scene.
Other towns named Beth-shemesh are:
- A village in Issachar, although this might be the same as the previous one, and situated precisely in between the territories of the two tribes Issachar and Judah (Joshua 19:22).
- A fortified city in the territory of Naphtali (Joshua 19:37).
- The city we know in Greek as Heliopolis, and in Egyptian as On. The prophet Jeremiah mentions this place in a prophecy concerning Egypt (Jeremiah 43:13). Most English translations read Beth-shemesh in this context, but NAS and NIV have Heliopolis.
The name בית־שמש is spelled both with and without the maqqep or hyphen.
🔼Etymology of the name Beth-shemesh
The name Beth-shemesh consists of two elements. The first part is identical to the common Hebrew word בית (bayit) meaning house:
The second part of our name comes from the noun שמש (shemesh), meaning sun:
For a meaning of the name Beth-shemesh, both NOBSE Study Bible Name List and Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names read House Of The Sun. BDB Theological Dictionary has Sun Temple.