Ramat Raḥel

History of the Research:

Ramat Raḥel is an archaeological site near Kibbutz Ramat Raḥel, in the vicinity of Jerusalem. Over the years, several different theories regarding the biblical name of the site have been suggested, but there isn’t wide agreement pertaining to any of the suggestions. The site was known as an ancient place since the 19th century and different researchers visited the site and documented surface-level findings. The site has been excavated four times: in 1931 by Binyamin Mazar and Moshe Stekelis; in 1954, 1956 and 1959-1962 by Yohanan Aharoni; in 2000-2002 by Gabriel Barkay and Gideon Suleimani; and in 2004-2010 by a joint expedition from Tel Aviv University and Heidelberg University, led by Oded Lipschits and Manfred Oeming.

The site during the Iron Age II period:

The site was first settled during the Iron Age II period (end of the 8th-7th centuries BCE), when a fort was built there. The fort was likely part of a system of Judahite forts built around Jerusalem during the late Iron Age. This fort likely featured a casemate wall, a tower, a decorated palace, a garden, a number of baths and two aqueducts. Among the findings from this period may be counted: hundreds of ‘LMLK’ jars and dozens of jars with other stamps, such as a rosette stamp and ‘private’ stamps; an ivory seal with the name ‘ShLM [son of] KLKL’, and more. The great number of stamped jars reveals that this site served as administrative center of the Judahite Kingdom. Other findings include a pottery sherd decorated with the image of a seated figure, drawn in an Assyrian style, as well as food remnants and other objects that testify to feasts held at the site.

The site during the Babylonian, Persian and Hellenistic periods:

The site was not destroyed during the Babylonian destruction of Judah, but it is possible that it was abandoned for a certain period. Activity at the site was certainly renewed during the Persian period (end of the 6th century or beginning of the 5th century-4th century BCE). At this time, the palace was expanded at the expense of some of the garden. Hundreds of ‘YHD’ jars found at the site reveal that the site continued in its capacity as an administrative center also in the Persian period, now for the Yehud Province. The site was likely at least partially destroyed with the onset of the Hellenistic period (end of the 4th century-beginning of the 3rd century BCE). Later, a small village was erected at the edge of the tel. Dozens of later ‘YHWD’ and ‘YRSLM’ jars reveal that during the early 2nd century BCE the site once again became an administrative center. During that period new fortifications were built at the site, as well as several other buildings on the eastern side of the site.

The site during the Hellenistic and Roman periods:

The site continued to be active through the Hellenistic period until the Roman period. Over the course of that era, several baths were built at the site; these may have been used as mikvehs (ritual baths). A hoard of Tyrian coins as well as a few Great Revolt coins were also found. The site was destroyed and abandoned most likely during the Great Revolt.

The identification of the site:

As stated, there is a disagreement among researchers regarding the biblical name of the site: Benjamin Mazar and Moshe Stekelis suggested identifying it with Netophah, a settlement near Bethlehem mentioned a few times in the Bible (for example: 2 Samuel 23:28 and Ezra 2:22). Yohanan Aharoni suggested identifying the site with Beth-haccerem, mentioned in the Bible as an administrative center (for example: Jeremiah 6:1 and Nehemiah 3:14). This suggestion is popular among several scholars, including Oded Lipschits and Nadav Na’aman, who suggested that beforehand, the site was known as Baal-perazim (2 Samuel 5:20). Łukasz Niesiołowski-Spanò suggested identifying it with Ophrah of Abiezer (for example: Judges 6:24). Yigal Yadin thought that the site was one not mentioned in the Bible, and was built for Queen Athaliah. Gabriel Barkay suggested identifying it with ‘MMST’, a site mentioned in the ‘LMLK’ jars but its location is unknown. Katja Soennecken suggested identifying the site with Ramah, a site near Bethlehem hinted at in the New Testament (Matthew 2:16-18) which may have existed also during the Biblical period. A number of scholars have also suggested identifying the site with Ephrathah (Micah 5:1).


Lipschits O. and Na’aman N., ‘From “Baal-perazim” to “Beth-haccerem” – on the development of the ancient name of Ramat Rahel’, Beit Mikra 56 (2011), pp. 65-86 [Hebrew]

Fulton D. N. et al, ‘Feasting in Paradise: Feast Remains from the Iron Age Palace of Ramat Raḥel and Their Implications’, BASOR 374 (2015), pp. 29-48

Lipschits O. et al, ‘Palace and Village, Paradise and Oblivion: Unraveling the Riddles of Ramat Raḥel’, Near Eastern Archaeology 74 (2011), pp. 1-49

Lipschits O. et al, Ramat Raḥel IV: The Renewed Excavations by the Tel Aviv-Heidelberg Expedition (2005-2010) – Stratigraphy and Architecture, Winona Lake 2020