The meaning of Ashtaroth; Ashteroth-karnaim; Beeshterah in the Bible
(From International Standard Bible Encyclopedia)
ash'-ta-roth, as'-ta-roth ('ashtaroth; the King James Version Astaroth; Astaroth, the city of Og, king of Bashan (Deu. 14, etc.); 'ashteroth qarnayim, the scene of the defeat of the Rephaim by Chedorlaomer (Genesis 14:5): (be'eshterah) a Levitical city in Manasseh East of the Jordan (Joshua 21:27)): The name probably means "house" or "temple of Ashtoreth." It is identical with Ashtaroth of I Chronicles 6:71. Ashtaroth is the plural of ASHTORETH (which see). The name denotes a place associated with the worship of this goddess. Ashteroth-karnaim is mentioned only once in canonical Scripture unless we accept Gratz's restoration, when Karnaim appears as a city taken by Israel: "Have we not taken to us horns (qarnayim) by our own strength?" (Amos 6:13). It is identical with Carnion or Carnaim of 1 and 2 Macc, a city of Gilead with a temple of Atar-gatis. The name Ashtaroth has been identified with Astertu in the lists of Tahutmes III of the XVIIIth Egyptian Dynasty; and with Ashtarti of the Tell el-Amarna Letters. Its claim to antiquity is therefore well established.
As far as the Biblical record is concerned, the names at the head of this article might stand for one and the same city, Ashtaroth being a contraction from Ashteroth-karnaim. But in the days of Eusebius and Jerome, we learn from the Onomasticon, there were two forts of this name 9 miles apart, lying between Adara (Der'ah) and Abila (Abil), while Ashtaroth, the ancient city of Og, king of Bashan, lay 6 miles from Adara. Carnaim Ashtaroth, which is evidently identical with Ashteroth-karnaim, they describe as a large village in the angle of Bashan where tradition places the home of Job. This seems to point to Tell 'Ashtara, a hill which rises about 80 ft. above the plain, 2 miles South of el-Merkez, the seat of the governor of the Chauran. Three-quarters of a mile North of el-Merkez, at the south end of a ridge on which the village of Sheikh Ca'ad is built, stands the weley of the stone of Job, Weley Sakhret 'Ayyub. By the large stone under the dome Job was said to have sat to receive his friends during his affliction. An Egyptian inscription, found by Schumacher, proves the stone to be a monument of the time of Rameses II. At the foot of the hill is pointed out the bath of Job. In el-Merkez the building known as Deir 'Ayyub, "Monastery of Job," is now part of the barracks. There is also shown the tomb of Job. The stream which flows southward past Tell 'Ashtara, is called Moyet en-Neby 'Ayyub, "stream of the prophet Job," and is said to have risen where the patriarch stamped his foot on his recovery. It is to be noted also that the district lying in the angle formed by Nahr er-Raqqad and the Yarmuk River is called to this day ez-Zawiyet esh-sharqiyeh, "the eastern angle" (i.e. of the Jaulan). The term may in Jerome's time have covered the land east of the 'Allan, although this is now part of the Chauran. At Tell 'Ashtara there are remains pointing to a high antiquity. The site was also occupied during the Middle Ages. Perhaps here we should locate Carnaim Ashtaroth of the Onomasticon. It does not, however, agree with the description of Carnaim in 1 and 2 Macc. The Ashtaroth of the Onomasticon may have been at el-Muzerib, on the great pilgrimage road, about 6 Roman miles from Der'ah—the distance indicated by Eusebius. The old fortress here was situated on an island in the middle of the lake, Baheiret el-Bajjeh. A full description of the place is given in Schumacher's Across the Jordan, 137 ff. It must have been a position of great strength in antiquity; but the ancient name has not been recovered.
Some would place Ashteroth-karnaim, the Carnaim of the Maccabees, at Tell 'Ash'ari, a site 10 Roman miles North of Der'ah, and 4 1/2 Roman miles S 2 of Tell 'Ashtara. This clearly was "a place hard to besiege, and difficult of access by reason of the narrowness of the approaches on all sides" (2 Macc 12:21). It crowns a promontory which stands out between the deep gorge of the Yarmuk River and a great chasm, at the head of which is a waterfall. It could be approached only by the neck connecting it with the mainland; and here it was guarded by a triple wall, the ruins of which are seen today. The remains of a temple close by the bridge over the Yarmuk may mark the scene of the slaughter by Judas.
The whole question however is obscure. Eusebius is clearly guilty of confusion, with his two Ashtaroth-karnaims and his Carnaim Ashtaroth. All the places we have named lie considerably North of a line drawn from Tell Abel to Der'ah. For light upon the problem of identification we must wait the results of excavation.
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