Tomb of Samuel

For the Palestinian village that the tomb is located in, see Nabi Samwil
Tomb of Samuel

Nabi Samwil mosque built on remains of Crusader-era fortress, the Tomb of Samuel is in a crypt below the Mameluke building.
Shown within Israel
Coordinates 31°49′59″N 35°10′54″E / 31.832978°N 35.181633°E / 31.832978; 35.181633

The Tomb of Samuel Hebrew: קבר שמואל הנביא, translit. Kever Shmuel ha-Nevi;), (Arabic: النبي صموئيل, translit. an-Nabi Samu'il or Nebi Samwil, is the traditional burial site of the biblical Hebrew prophet Samuel, atop a steep hill at an elevation of 908 meters above sea level. It is situated in the Palestinian village of Nabi Samwil in the West Bank, 1.3 kilometers north of the Jerusalem neighborhood of Ramot.[1] On the site is a building containing a mosque built in the 18th century that was formerly a church. The tomb itself is located in an underground chamber where a small synagogue is located. The Israeli Ministry of Tourism website states "Over time practically every ancient Jewish traveler mentioned the place and its synagogue." [2]

It is currently located in the Seam Zone, effectively annexed in an enclave by the Israeli West Bank barrier together with the Israeli settlement of Giv'at Ze'ev.

Archeological excavations

Yitzhak Magen conducted archaeological excavations from 1992-2003.[3] On the southeastern slope is a 4-acre (16,000 m2) urban settlement dating back to the 8th-7th centuries BCE, and remnants that Magen believed to be the Mizpah in Benjamin of the Book of Samuel.[4] By contrast, Jeffrey Zorn concluded that there are no remains at the site, from the period in which the Samuel narratives are set, and it could therefore not be Mizpah.[5] Magen's own conclusions have been criticised for stretching the evidence beyond the obvious implications, which he himself hints at:

We did not find any remains from the time of the Judges ... not a single structure or even a standing wall from this period. On this basis, it might be tempting to conclude that the site was unoccupied at this time ...[6]

However, if Mizpah in Benjamin was Tell en-Nasbeh on the Nablus Road, Ishmael who had assassinated Gedaliah would not have fled to Ammon via Gibeon [7] which is located to the west near Nabi Samwil which overlooks Jerusalem. Furthermore, 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".[8]

A large monastery was built by the Byzantines, of which little remains. There is no clear evidence that the place was considered the Tomb of Samuel, or indeed a place of religious significance, before Byzantine times.[9] Magen argues that the builders of the monastery did not believe they were building over the tomb of Samuel, instead regarding their construction only as a memorial.[6] The fifth century writer Jerome, for example, argues that Samuel's remains were moved to Chalcedon, on the orders of Emperor Arcadius;[10] this would be a century before the Byzantine monastery was built.

A sixth-century Christian author identified the site as Samuel's burial place. According to the Bible, however, the prophet is buried at his hometown, Ramah,[11] to the east of the hill which is located near Geba. The 12th-century Jewish traveler Benjamin of Tudela visited the site when he traveled the land in 1173, writing that the Crusaders had found the bones of Samuel in a Jewish cemetery in Ramla on the coastal plain and reburied here, overlooking the Holy City. He wrote that a church dedicated to St. Samuel of Shiloh had been built on the hill.[12] This may refer to the abbey church of St. Samuel built by Premonstratensian canons and inhabited from 1141 to 1244.[13]

Raymond of Aguilers, who wrote a chronicle of the First Crusade (1096–1099), relates that on the morning of June 7, 1099, the Crusaders reached the summit of Nebi Samuel, and when they saw the city of Jerusalem, which they had not yet seen, they fell to the ground and wept in joy;[14] the Crusaders named the place "Mount of Joy" (Latin Mons Gaudi, French Mont de Joie), for this reason. The Crusaders built a fortress on the spot, which was razed by the Mamelukes.

Some identify the location with the Biblical temple of Gibeon, though consensus among experts places it at the village of al Jib.

Modern era

Jews had begun efforts to found a village at the site in 1890, originally called Ramah after the biblical home of Samuel, and then referred to by the name of the group which had purchased the lands, Nahalat Yisrael. Over the next five years various attempts to actualise the plan had failed due to bureaucratic obstacles, but in 1895, 13 Yemenite Jewish families joined the group and succeeded in the endeavour, even engaging in agriculture there.

World War I

Nebi Samuel's strategic location made it the site of battles during the British conquest of Ottoman Palestine in 1917, and the village was badly damaged from artillery fire and abandoned. It was resettled in 1921, but various difficulties lead it to again disband after a number of years. The mosque built in 1730 was damaged in the battle between the British and the Turks in 1917. It was restored in World War I.[4][15]

Post-World War II

The location was again significant in the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, and the 1967 Six-Day War, and was used by artillery of the Jordanian Arab Legion to bombard Jerusalem, in addition to being a base for attacks on Jewish traffic during the 1948 siege of Jerusalem.[16][17]

Nebi Samuel and the surrounding archeological excavations are now part of a national park. An Arab village of 20 families is located on the hilltop.

Both Jewish and Muslim prayers are held at the tomb. Many religious Jews visit the tomb on the 28th of Iyar, the anniversary of Samuel the Prophet's death.[18]


  1. "Google Maps". Google Maps.
  2. "The tomb of Samuel the prophet".
  3. The Biblical Archaeology Society. "Nebi Samwil - The BAS Library".
  4. 1 2 "Nebi Samwil-Site of a Biblical Town and a Crusader Fortress". GxMSDev.
  5. Jeffery Zorn, Mizpah: Newly Discovered Stratum Reveals Judah's Other Capital, in Biblical Archaeology Review, September/October 1997
  6. 1 2 Yitzhak Magen, Nebi Samwil, Where Samuel Crowned Israel's First King, in Biblical Archaeology Review, May/June 2008
  7. Jeremiah Chapter 41 Verse 10-12 Mechon Mamre
  8. I Mach., iii, 46, cited in  Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Maspha". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
  9. IHJR, p. 86
  10. Jerome, Against Vigilantius, 5:343
  11. (1Samuel 25:1, 28:3)
  12. "Travelling to Jerusalem--Benjamin of Tudela".
  13. Summary Page: Palestine/Israel (Kingdom of Jerusalem)-St. Samuel
  15. "Jerusalem Won at Bayonet's Point". The New York Times. December 18, 1917.
  16. "Full Speed Ahead And Damn the Aesthetics". Time. March 1, 1971.
  17. Martin Gilbert (2005). The Routledge Atlas of the Arab-Israeli Conflict. Routledge. ISBN 978-0-415-35901-6.
  18. "Redirecting...".

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