What is the significance of Gibeah in the Bible?

Gibeah means "hill" in Hebrew, and there are three locations by that name mentioned in the Bible. Two of those towns are less prominent than the other. One Gibeah is a town in Judah listed as part of that tribe's inherited land in Joshua 15:57. This city is believed to be the current Palestinian village of Jab'a. Another Gibeah is referred to as "Gibeah of Phinehas;" it is in Ephraim where Aaron's son, the high priest Eleazar, was buried (Joshua 24:33). This location is thought to be modern day Awarta, a Palestinian town in the northern West Bank. However, the most well-known Gibeah is the city by that name in the tribal lands of Benjamin located three to five miles north of ancient Jerusalem. Today, most scholars believe it is the location known as Tell el-Ful, meaning "mound of fava beans," that stands 2,754 feet above sea level on the northern outskirts of Jerusalem.

This Gibeah in Benjamin earned itself a reputation as a city of corruption due to the incident involving the Levite and his concubine as recorded in Judges 19—21. This Gibeah is located on the main road from Bethlehem to Shechem, so when the Levite was traveling from Bethlehem back to his home in Ephraim, he decided to spend the night in Gibeah. None of the Benjamites living in Gibeah offered their fellow Israelite a place to stay. However, an old man from the tribe of Ephraim was staying in Gibeah and he extended hospitality to the Levite. The Benjamites then surrounded the old man's house and demanded to have sex with the visiting Levite, thus repeating the Sodomites' demand in Lot's day (Genesis 19:4–5). The sin that had characterized the Godless Canaanites now marked the Israelites, too.

The Levite decided instead to offer up his concubine to these violent men. They brutalized her all night long until she lay dead on the doorstep in the morning. The Levite nonchalantly told her to get up so they could depart. Upon realizing she was dead, he simply loaded her body onto his donkey and took her home. Once at home in Ephraim, the Levite cut her body into twelve pieces and sent them to the tribes of Israel, calling for vengeance against the Benjamites. Ironically, the Levite's own actions of refusing to protect his concubine and then desecrating her body reveal his own perverted values and are an example of how far all of Israel had strayed from God's command during this time period. The author of Judges commented, "In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes" (Judges 21:25).

God's judgment came in the form of civil war, for upon hearing the news of this despicable incident in Gibeah, the other tribes decided to war against the Benjamites. On the first two days of battle the other tribes lost 40,000 men, but on the third day, the tribe of Benjamin was defeated and lost 25,000 men, their cattle were killed, and their towns were burned. Hundreds of years later, God referenced this war in Hosea 10:9 saying, "From the days of Gibeah, you have sinned, O Israel; there they have continued. Shall not the war against the unjust overtake them in Gibeah?" God used this Gibeah as an example of corruption saying, "They have deeply corrupted themselves as in the days of Gibeah: he will remember their iniquity; he will punish their sins" (Hosea 9:9). So Gibeah became synonymous with corruption deserving God's wrath.

Scripture teaches that, due to our sinful nature, every person ultimately deserves God's wrath. The New Testament, however, reveals that we can be saved from God's wrath through faith in Jesus Christ. We "were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved" (Ephesians 2:3–5).

Related Truth:

What are the twelve tribes of Israel?

What is the Story of the History Books in the Old Testament?

Who was Eleazar in the Bible?

What is Shiloh? Is Shiloh related to a Messianic prophecy?

What were cities of refuge in the Old Testament?

Return to:
Truth about Everything Else

Subscribe to the CompellingTruth.org Newsletter:

Preferred Bible Version:

CompellingTruth.org is part of Got Questions Ministries

For answers to your Bible questions, please visit