(Aʹbel-me·hoʹlah) [Watercourse of Dancing].
The home of Elisha, where Elijah found him plowing and anointed him prophet successor.
At an earlier date Abel-meholah figures in the account of the defeat of the Midianites by Gideon’s small band of warriors. The disorganized flight of the Midianites is reported to have carried them “as far as the outskirts of Abel-meholah by Tabbath.”
Because Tabbath lies E of the Jordan River, effort has been made since 1951 to identify Abel-meholah with Tell el-Maqlub on the Wadi el-Yabis. Additional argument adduced for this identification has been that Elijah, after leaving Horeb, stopped at Abel-meholah to anoint Elisha and had the further commission to travel to “the wilderness of Damascus” to anoint Hazael as king over Syria. (1Ki 19:15) The major ancient highway leading from Horeb to Damascus was E of the Jordan, although at times this route was controlled by nomads.
However, the account of Gideon’s pursuit of the Midianites in reality indicates that they were W (rather than E) of the Jordan at the point of Judges 7:22. (See Jg 7:24.) And, as regards Elijah’s trip to the Wilderness of Damascus, the record shows that this was not effected immediately but, rather, was made sometime later by his successor, Elisha. (1Ki 19:15-19; 2Ki 8:7-13) In view of this, some geographic texts continue to recommend a site W of the Jordan rather than E of it. (The Geographical and Topographical Texts of the Old Testament, by J. Simons, Leiden, 1959; The Geography of the Bible, by D. Baly, 1957; and the Atlas of the Bible, by L. H. Grollenberg, 1956) Both Jerome and Eusebius of the early centuries of the Common Era identified Abel-meholah with a site 10 Roman miles (15 km; 9 mi) S of Beth-shean (W of the Jordan). The Land of the Bible, by Y. Aharoni, states: “Abel-meholah has now been identified with much confidence with Tell Abu Sus on the [west] bank of the Jordan, 15 km. south of Beth-shean.” (Translated and edited by A. Rainey, 1979, p. 313) The nearby plain of Beth-shean is well suited for large-scale farming.
Further indication in favor of such a site W of the Jordan is the fact that Abel-meholah later formed part of Solomon’s fifth administrative district and is listed with other places W of the Jordan. (1Ki 4:12) It was evidently the home of Adriel the Meholathite, a son-in-law of Saul. (1Sa 18:19; 2Sa 21:8) Festal dancing in harvest celebrations perhaps accounts for this name Abel-meholah.