Today, our journey through biblical locations brings us to Beit El, Beth-El, which means in English ‘the house of God.’ Located north of Jerusalem, this important place is right on the border between the Tribe of Benjamin and the Tribe of Ephraim. Beit El, which is mentioned almost 150 times in the Bible, played a significant role in the lives of the Patriarchs of the Old Testament.
“And the Lord appeared to Abram, and said, ‘To your seed will I give this land’; and there he built an altar to the Lord, who appeared to him. And he moved from there to a mountain in the east of Beth-El, and pitched his tent, having Beth-El on the west, and Hai on the east; and there he built an altar to the Lord, and called upon the name of the Lord”
Jacob had his famous dream in Beit-El. He was filled with awe as he describes:
“And he was afraid, and said, ‘How awesome is this place! this is no other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven'”
Beit-El was a holy city, and it hosted the Ark of the Covenant after the tribes returned to Israel from their 400-year exile, until the Mishkan was built in Jerusalem and the Ark, along with the High Priest, moved there. Beit-El, however, was also sanctified by idol worshipers. This should be of no surprise – archaeologists know it as a fact of life – anywhere they find ruins of an ancient shrine shrine or temple, they are guaranteed to find remains of another culture or faith if they just dig deeper. Conquering nations always built their holy places over the temple ruins of the defeated nation. The excavations in Beit-El exposed various temples that dated back even earlier than the bronze age. In the U.S., you may find Beth-El in Alaska, Connecticut Minnesota, Delaware, Maine, Missouri, New York, Ohio, and in North Carolina.