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Maspha

Name of several places in the Bible.

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* Published by Encyclopedia Press, 1913.


Maspha.—Name of several places in the Bible. The Septuagint transcribes Maspha, Massepha, Massephat; Vulg.: Maspha and Masphath (once Masphe, Masepha, Mesphe); Hebrew: Micpeh and Micpah; the latter almost invariably in pause. The word, with many other proper names, is derived from watch, observe, and means "watch-tower" (speculum, skopia), which sense it bears twice in the Bible (Is., xxi, 8; II Par., xx, 24). Josephus interprets by gk Karorrrev6 ievov or (Antt. VI, ii, 1). It is thus a natural name for a town in a commanding position (cf. the Crusading Belvoir, and el-Miishrifeh (Palmer, Desert of the Exodus, II, 513). Like the latter it almost invariably has the article.

MASPHA OF GALAAD.—History.—Jacob to ratify his compact with Laban, "took a stone and set it up for a title, and he said to his brethren `Bring hither stones'. And they, gathering stones together, made a heap and they ate upon it (or by it R. V.). And Laban said; `This heap (gal) shall be a witness (`ed) between me and thee this day, and therefore the name thereof was called Galaad (gal`ed) and Micpah (so R. V. with Hebrew) for he said `The Lord watch (yecef) between me and thee when we are absent one from an-another" (Gen. XXXI, 45 ff.). Here the Vulgate omits ham-Micpah, the Septuagint translates e oresis, Targums of Onkelos and Sifre, Sekutha, i.e. view. The play on the Hebrew words is not unnatural if we suppose that the spot itself or some neighboring height was already called Maspha. The name seems to have gradually extended from the height to the whole region (Judges, xi, 29). The monument was probably a cairn or a dolmen. While the latter is suggested by the flat surface on which they ate (verse 46; Josephus, "Ant.", I, xix, 11; Conder, "Heth and Moab," 241), the sepulchral destination of the dolmens and the ambiguity of the Hebrew militate against this view (Schumacher, "Across the Jordan pass.").

Around Jacob's monument Israel assembled to repel Ammon (Judges, x, 17). Thither they summoned Jephte, "and Jephte spoke all his words before the Lord at Maspha" (Judges, xi, 11). By Maspha of Galaad (a region?) he marched against Ammon, and after victory" to Maspha to his house". The Septuagint translates by skopia the rendezvous of Israel, and the place by which Jephte passed over against Ammon. They thus distinguish between the sanctuary and town, and a watch-tower on the height above (cf. Palmer, op. cit., II, 512-513); but in Osee, v, 1, they likewise use the common noun when parallelism manifestly requires the proper name. At Maspha probably Jephte was buried (Judges, xii, 7, and variants in Kittel, and perhaps Josephus, "Antiquities", V, vii, 12).

Identification.—We cannot decide whether the Maspha of Jacob and Jephte is identical with Ramath ham-Micpeh (Jos., xiii, 26), or both with Ramoth Gil'ed (III Kings, iv, l'3), nor even whether Maspha refers to one or many places. In Jephte's history it seems near the borders of Ammon, in that of Judas Maccabaeus far to the N. E., and, if we place here the events of Judges, xxi-xxii, near the Western frontier (G. A. Smith, "Hist. Geog. of H. Land", 586). Jacob was coming from Padan Aram and probably approached Galaad by the Hajj route. Turning westward N. of Jabeoc he would traverse the valley of Jerash. About four miles from Jerash, S. E. of Mabneh (before Mahanaim?), on a high mountain overhanging the valley, is the village of Suf in a locality rich in dolmens. Many identify with Maspha this place whose derivation may be identical with and whose name recalls the Sebees of Josephus, 1. c. But Dr. Schumacher discovered N. E. of Jerash Tell Masfah, whose summit dominating all the surrounding heights is strewn with dolmens and stone-hewn altars. The ideal site, exact preservation of the ancient name and the veneration still attaching to the spot (it is still a ma'bad) all justify its identification with Maspha.

MASPHA OF BENJAMIN.—History.—Maspha was assigned to Benjamin by Josue (Jos., xviii, 26). Here, according to many, Israel assembled to avenge the outrage on the Levite's wife, and swore not to give their daughters in marriage to the survivors. But as they would scarcely have gathered in the heart of the enemy's country, others place the events of Judges, xx-xxi, at Maspha of Galaad. Note that Jabes Galaad is mentioned in close connection with the camp of Israel. Further, Judges, xx, 3, implies that Maspha was outside the borders of Benjamin. To Maspha Samuel when Judge convoked all Israel, prayed for them there while they defeated the Philistines, and erected a monument to commemorate the victory between Maspha and Sen (I Kings, vii, 5-12). Here he held some of his chief assizes (Kings, x, 13-16), and his final assembly for the election of Saul (ibid., 17). Two hundred and fifty years later Maspha was fortified by Asa, King of Juda, with the materials left behind at Rama by King Baasa in his hasty march northwards against the Syrians (III Kings, xv, 22; II Par., xvi, 6). Jerusalem destroyed (586 B.C.) Godolias, Governor of Juda, made Maspha his headquarters (Jer., xli, 6; IV Kings, xxv, 23 sq.) and there the tragic events of Jer., xlii, took place. In the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem the lords of Maspha took an active part (II Esd., iii, 7, 15, 17). Some infer from verse 7 that Maspha was the seat of government (Holscher, "Palastina in der Pers. and Hellen. Zeit", 29); but this is unlikely (Smith, "Jerusalem", II, 354 n.). Judas Machabeus, preparing for war with the Syrians, gathered his men" to Maspha, over against Jerusalem: for in Maspha was a place of prayer heretofore in Israel" (I Mach., iii, 46), and transported thither the ritualistic observances.

Identification:—(a) Many moderns suggest Nebi-Samwil, the most striking position around Jerusalem, and identify Maspha with Rama and Ramathaim-Sophim, relying chiefly on the connection with Samuel implied by the modern name. In that case the rendezvous for the Benjaminite war must be sought in Galaad or Ephraim, perhaps near Silo, and the "house of the Lord" (Jer., xli, 6) cannot refer to Jerusalem. (b) Guerin (Judge, I, 395-402) placed Maspha at Shafat, a village on high ground overlooking Jerusalem, but his etymology is suspect, and Shafat suits neither III Kings, xv, 22, nor I Mach., iii, 46. The same objections hold for Tell el-Fill only three miles N. of Jerusalem. (c) Others suggest Tell en-Nasbeh, which commands a narrow defile on the high road two miles S. of el-Bireh. (d) Perhaps the best conjecture is el-Birch, which has a copious water supply, is sufficiently northerly to permit of a camp there against Benjamin, lies on the road from Silo to Jerusalem, and is near Bethel (cf. Josephus, "Antiq.", V, ii, 10). This identification was expressly made by Surius ("Le Pieux Merin", III, ii, 547, Brussels, 1660), and by some copies of the map of Sanuto (1306) (Rohricht "Zeitschr. des deut. palast. Vereins," 1898, Map 6). Near the village is a large spring, 'in Misbah, whose name may be a modernization of Maspha. Burchard (1283), indeed, identifies el-Birch with Machmas ("Peregrinationes medii aivi quatuor", Leipzig, 1873, p. 56), and similarly others [e.g. Maundrell (1697) in "Pinkerton Voyages", X, 337]; but Machmas was certainly elsewhere, and the identification serves only to show that the homophony of Beroth and Bireh is not conclusive.

MASPHA OF JUDA (ham-Micpeh, Masepha, Maspha) is laced in the Sephela, in the second group of towns placed the lot of Juda", between Delea and Jechtel (Jos., xv, 38). Eusebius and Jerome place it in the territory of Eleutheropolis near the road to Elia. William of Tyre mentions a crusading fortress eight miles N. of Ascalon near the frontiers of Palestine and Simeon, called Tell es-Saphi-Blanche Garde-Alba Specula. This is undoubtedly Tell es-Safiyeh and is common!yy identified with Maspha. Both places served to watch Ascalon. The map of Madaba calls the place Saphitha. As however this can scarcely be other than Sephata (cf. II Par., xiv, 10; List of Thotmes III in "Mittheil. der Deut. Vorderas. Gessell.", 1907 pl.; "Rev. Bib." 1908, 516), the question arises whether Masepha and Sepheta can refer to the same place.

LAND OF MASPHA, near Hermon."The Hevite, who dwelt at the foot of Hermon in the land of Maspha", was amongst the foes on whom Josue fell at Lake Merom and chased to" the great Sidon and the waters of Maserephoth, and the field of Maspha" eastward (Jos., xi, 8). Probably the two names here 'mentioned indicate one place despite the variations of the versions (Heb., Micpah, Micpeh; LXX, Massuma, Massoch; Alex., Massephaph, Massepha; Vulg., Maspha, Masphe).

Identifications.—Suggestions differ according as "eastward" is referred to Sidon or Merom. Hence west of Hermon either (a) The Merjuyun, a fertile plain, the Litany and the Nahr Hasbany, with Metullah replacing Maspha, or (b), the plain from Metullah to Banias, with es-Subebeh as Maspha, or (c) the valley of the Litany, actually called el-Buqa. If "eastward" refers to Merom (which is more probable) then Maspha may be the Wady el-ajam, stretching south of Hermon and traversed by the Roman road (Via Maris) from Damascus.

At the western end of the valley is the village of el-Buqaty, perhaps an echo of Biq`at Micpeh.

MASPHA OF MOAB, whither David fled with his parents from Adullam (I Kings, xxii, 3 sq.). We have no clue to its identification, save that it was, temporarily, at least, a royal residence.

J. A. HARTIGAN


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