The search for Biblical Tamar (Ezek 48)

Tamar, Tamdar Syria, Hazazon-tamar and Tamara/Thamara
and the southern border of Israel

"The south side toward the south shall extend from Tamar as far as the waters of Meribath-kadesh, to the brook of Egypt and to the Great Sea. This is the south side toward the south." Ezekiel 47:19

"And adjoining the territory of Gad to the south, the boundary shall run from Tamar to the waters of Meribah-kadesh, from there along the Brook of Egypt to the Great Sea." Ezekiel 48:28

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Introduction:

  1. The southern border of Israel is stated in: Ezekiel 47:19; 48:28.
  2. There quite a bit of confusion trying to separate out the names of these cities.
  3. We have determined that there are three distinct places: 1. Tamar/Tamdar Syria. 2. Hazazon-tamar (engedi). 3. Tamara/Thamara

A. Tamar: (Arabah Valley)

  1. This Tamar must be located in the Arabah Valley. The exact location is unknown.
  2. It is this reference that caught our eye, since it is mentioned in connection with the southern border of Judah and is one of the rare mentions of Kadesh.
  3. Referenced only twice in Ezekiel during the Babylonian Captivity (586 - 516 BC)
    -"The south side toward the south shall extend from Tamar as far as the waters of Meribath-kadesh, to the brook of Egypt and to the Great Sea. This is the south side toward the south." Ezekiel 47:19
    -"And adjoining the territory of Gad to the south, the boundary shall run from Tamar to the waters of Meribah-kadesh, from there along the Brook of Egypt to the Great Sea." Ezekiel 48:28
  4. The location of this Tamar must be south of the Dead Sea. Its exact location if unknown. Aharioni and Rudolph Cohen believes that Ein Haseva is the location of this Tamar. This identification is uncertain, given a review of the reasons why Aharioni and Cohen chose Ein Haseva the Tamar of Ezek 47.

B. Tamdar Syria (Tamar):

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  1. Built by Solomon in 1000 BC. It is located at modern Palmyra Syria, 160 km south west of the Euphrates River and 225 north west of Damascus.
  2. There are only verses that mention Tamar/Tamdar (parallel verses): 1 Ki 9:17-19 and 2 Chron 8:1-4. Rudolph Cohen mistakenly uses these verses in reference to Ein Haseva .
  3. In one parallel passage it is spelled Tamar, in the other it is Tamdar. Alternate spellings of towns are common in the Bible and are because different cultures refer to the same place in their own languages.
    -"so Solomon rebuilt Gezer and Lower Beth-horon and Baalath and Tamar in the wilderness, in the land of Judah, and all the store cities that Solomon had, and the cities for his chariots, and the cities for his horsemen, and whatever Solomon desired to build in Jerusalem, in Lebanon, and in all the land of his dominion." 1 Kings 9:17-19
    -"At the end of twenty years, in which Solomon had built the house of the Lord and his own house, Solomon rebuilt the cities that Hiram had given to him, and settled the people of Israel in them. And Solomon went to Hamath-zobah and took it. He built Tadmor in the wilderness and all the store cities that he built in Hamath." 2 Chronicles 8:1-4
  4. 1 Ki 9:18 says: Tamar in the wilderness, in the land of Judah. Important to note that the words, "of Judah" are not in the original Hebrew and many Bible translations do not add them. Had the words "of Judah" been in the original Hebrew text, it would make quite a difference. But they are not. Of course it is curious that the text does say, "in the land" and that seems to imply it was in the land of Israel. This makes sense, since David controlled, as part of Israel, all the way to the Euphrates.
  5. Hamath-zobah is a combination of two different kingdoms conquered by David and Solomon: Hamath + Zobah = Hamath-zobah.
  6. It is clear that "Tadmor in the wilderness" is near the Euphrates River as it is connected directly in the texts with Hamath-zobah, which are also north east of Damascus. When the two kings "Hamath" and "Zobah" were defeated, the area became known as "Hamath-zobah".
    "Now when Tou king of Hamath heard that David had defeated all the army of Hadadezer king of Zobah," 1 Chronicles 18:9
    "David also defeated Hadadezer king of Zobah as far as Hamath, as he went to establish his rule to the Euphrates River." 1 Chronicles 18:3
    "Now when the sons of Ammon saw that they had become odious to David, the sons of Ammon sent and hired the Arameans of Beth-rehob and the Arameans of Zobah, 20,000 foot soldiers, and the king of Maacah with 1,000 men, and the men of Tob with 12,000 men." 2 Samuel 10:6
    "When the Arameans of Damascus came to help Hadadezer, king of Zobah, David killed 22,000 Arameans." 2 Samuel 8:5
  7. What is also interesting is that the boundaries of Solomon were from Hamath to the Wadi el Arish (river of Egypt):
    -"So Solomon observed the feast at that time, and all Israel with him, a great assembly from the entrance of Hamath to the brook of Egypt, before the Lord our God, for seven days and seven more days, even fourteen days." 1 Kings 8:65
    -"David also defeated Hadadezer king of Zobah as far as Hamath, as he went to establish his rule to the Euphrates River." 1 Chronicles 18:3
  8. These two parallel verses show us the two spellings of Solomon's town: Tamar and Tadmor.

Tamar in the wilderness of Judah
(Note that the words, "of Judah" are not in the original Hebrew and many translations do not add them.)

Tadmor in the wilderness

"so Solomon rebuilt Gezer) and Lower Beth-horon and Baalath and Tamar in the wilderness, in the land of Judah, and all the store cities that Solomon had, and the cities for his chariots, and the cities for his horsemen, and whatever Solomon desired to build in Jerusalem, in Lebanon, and in all the land of his dominion." 1 Kings 9:17-19

" At the end of twenty years, in which Solomon had built the house of the Lord and his own house, Solomon rebuilt the cities that Hiram had given to him, and settled the people of Israel in them. And Solomon went to Hamath-zobah and took it. He built Tadmor in the wilderness and all the store cities that he built in Hamath." 2 Chronicles 8:1-4

C. Hazazon-tamar (Engedi):

  1. The identification of this Tamar is certain: Engedi, which is located on the western shore of the Dead Sea.
  2. Hazazon-tamar is an ancient city that dates back to the time of Abraham.
  3. There are only two Bible verses that mention Hazazon-tamar:
    -"Then some came and reported to Jehoshaphat, saying, "A great multitude is coming against you from beyond the sea, out of Aram and behold, they are in Hazazon-tamar (that is Engedi)." 2 Chronicles 20:2
    -"Then they turned back and came to En-mishpat (that is, Kadesh), and conquered all the country of the Amalekites, and also the Amorites, who lived in Hazazon-tamar." Genesis 14:7
  4. The question is whether the Tamar of Engedi is the same Tamar of Ezekiel 47:19.

D. The Madaba Map: Thamara/Tamara and Ein Haseva

  1. Some believe that Eusebius in 325 AD and the Madaba Map in 600 AD, make reference to Biblical "Tamar" mentioned in Ezekiel 47:19.
  2. There are only two Tamars that the Madaba map could be referring to: Engedi or the one in Ezekiel 47:19.
  3. It is clear that the Madaba map could not be referring to Engedi, giving the general geographic location of the city of Tamara being second city south of the Dead Sea.
  4. Many people believe that the Madaba map city of Tamara is located at Ein Haseva. This may be true, but it is a guess.
  5. However it may be a good guess since Eusebius said: "Asasan Thamar (Asasonthamar). Where the Amorrites dwelled whom Chodollagomor destroyed is located near the wilderness of Cades. It is said there is a village Tharmara (a fort Thamara) one day journey from Mapsis on the road from Hebron to Ailam (Elat). Today there is a garrison (Roman fort) of soldiers there." (Eusebius of Caesarea, Onomasticon, 325 AD)
  6. Tamar is was first identified as Ein Haseva by Aharioni: "The finds from the Roman and Iron Age fortresses at 'Ein Haseva support Aharoni's proposal to identify the site, which was a major fortress on the south-eastern frontier of the Judaean Kingdom, both with biblical Tamar (Ezek 47:19; 48:28) and with Tamara mentioned in the Roman and Byzantine sources cited. ... The strategic location of `Ein Haseva-Tamar is obvious, sitting as it does at the intersection of four major routes one leading south to Elath, one traveling east to Edom, a third leading north to Jerusalem, and the fourth leading west through Macaleh `Agrabim to the central Negev area." (The Fortresses at Ein Haseva Rudolph Cohen, The Biblical Archaeologist, Vol. 57, No. 4, p 203-214, 1994)
  7. Rudolph Cohen Has accepted Ein Haseva as Biblical Tamar: "In an article last year (BA 57:4119941), we outlined the Roman, Nabatean, and Iron Age remains at (and presented arguments for the identification of the site with the biblical Tamar and the Tamara mentioned in Roman and Byzantine sources. (Ein Haseva, Rudolph Cohen, The Biblical Archaeologist, Vol. 58, No. 4, p. 223-235, 1995 AD)
  8. Another complication with the Madaba Map is the question if Thamara/Tamara is the same as the city of Tamar in Ezekiel 47:19. Again, it is a guess that is not certain. However the similarity in spelling on the Madaba map may retain the original Biblical city mentioned in Ezek 47.
  9. Eusebius, Madaba Map: Tamara, Thamara: (For a fuller discussion of the Madaba map and Thamara see: Madaba Map)

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E. Mesad Tamar and Ein Tamar

  1. Ein Tamar is a modern town in Israel located on the shores of the southern most western tip of the Dead Sea.
  2. Mesad Tamar is Roman Fortress constructed around the time of the great Annex of 106 AD. It is located 11 km due west of Ein Tamar. The Roman references to Tamar are thought to likely be to Mesad Tamar, and not the city on the Madaba Map.

F. Discussion: Ezekiel's Tamar as part of the southern border?

"The south side toward the south shall extend from Tamar as far as the waters of Meribath-kadesh, to the brook of Egypt and to the Great Sea. This is the south side toward the south." Ezekiel 47:19; 48:28

  1. Where is the city of Tamar, as mentioned by Ezekiel located?
  2. First we can conclude that it is somewhere immediately south of the Dead sea. This makes possible the idea that the city of Thamara on the Madaba map is indeed the Tamar of Ezekiel. But there are some problems. First, nothing has been directly excavated identifying any city in the Arabah Valley with Tamar/Thamara etc.
  3. We can rule out Mesad Tamar and Ein Tamar as being too late and "Tamar in the wilderness" as being too far north.
  4. But we also need to keep in mind that Ezekiel describes borders and places that are quite unique in scripture. Ezekiel employs symbolic language and images throughout his book. This further complicates matters.
  5. The excavations at Ein Haseva have not uncovered the name Tamara or Thamara or Tamar. It is clear that "(Stratum 6)" of Ein Haseva was one of the border fortresses built by Solomon. There are a series of occupation levels at Haseva right down to Roman times. It is also built on a major crossroads and springs. This means that there is a good chance that Ein Haseva is one of the cities on the Madaba Map. It is Thamara or perhaps Moe? No one knows for sure.
  6. It is obvious that the Tamar of Ezekiel is a well known and prominent town, since it is mentioned in connection with the southern border of Israel.

Conclusions:

  1. There was in the 6th century BC, a town called Tamar which is only mentioned twice in scripture: Ezekiel 47:19; 48:28.
  2. The name Tamar is used by the Romans in 100 AD for a fort they built 11km west of the Dead Sea. Modern Jews have built a new town called "Ein Tamar" on the southern tip of the Dead Sea.
  3. The identification of Tamar with Ein Haseva is very uncertain.
  4. We feel that Tamar of Ezekiel is located somewhere between (and perhaps including) Ein Haseva first occupied by Solomon and modern day "Ein Tamar".
  5. We feel that Tamar is likely not at Ein Haseva, but further north, closer to the Dead Sea.

 

 

 

By Steve Rudd: Contact the author for comments, input or corrections.

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