(Deʹbir) [Innermost; Hindmost].
1. The king of Eglon, one of four petty kingdoms allied with the king of Jerusalem to attack the city of Gibeon for making peace with Joshua. (Jos 10:1-5) Gibeon’s surrender to Joshua caused fear, since it likely weakened any united front against Israel (Jos 9:1, 2) and at the same time apparently gave Joshua greater mobility between northern and southern parts of the Promised Land, allowing for conquest of the land section by section. Gibeon’s siege brought Joshua’s army to its rescue, and aided by miracles, Joshua routed the Canaanite military, forcing Debir and the other kings to take refuge in a cave. Here they were trapped until later executed.—Jos 10:6-27.
2. A royal Canaanite city (Jos 10:38, 39), also known as Kiriath-sepher and Kiriath-sannah. (Jos 15:15, 49; Jg 1:11) It was in the inheritance of Judah but became a Levitical city of the Kohathites.—Jos 21:9, 15; 1Ch 6:54, 58.
There are apparently two accounts of Israel’s first conquest of Debir as part of Joshua’s military operations. The first account simply states that Debir’s population was annihilated. (Jos 10:38, 39) The second, Joshua 11:21-23, is likely a recapitulation of the same conquest (since verse 18 refers to the ‘many days when Joshua waged war with all these kings’), while supplying the additional information that Joshua “cut off the Anakim . . . from Debir” and other cities. This supplementary material may have been included to show that even the tall Anakim, who had struck such fear in the hearts of Israel’s spies more than 40 years earlier (Nu 13:28, 31-33; De 9:2), had not proved invulnerable.
Nevertheless, it appears that the Anakim reestablished themselves in the city of Debir, perhaps coming in from the Philistine coast (Jos 11:22) while Israel was temporarily at its Gilgal camp or was warring in the N. (Jos 10:43–11:15) Though Joshua’s initial campaigns had served to subdue the unified resistance of enemy forces in the land of Canaan, rapidly demolishing all major strongholds, apparently this type of warfare did not allow for the establishing of garrisons to hold the sites of all the destroyed cities. So, a second conquest or “mopping up” operation was effected at Debir by Othniel, who, because of distinguishing himself in the city’s conquest, was given Achsah, the daughter of veteran warrior Caleb, as a wife.—Jos 15:13-19; Jg 1:11-15.
It cannot be ascertained precisely when in Israel’s history this second conquest occurred. The book of Judges opens with the phrase “after the death of Joshua,” and the account of Caleb’s taking Debir follows thereafter. (Jg 1:11-15) This, according to some, would make Judah’s conquest of Debir subsequent to Joshua’s death and would mean that the similar account found at Joshua 15:13-19 was a later addition to the book bearing Joshua’s name. However, others view Judges 1:1 as only a formal introduction to connect it with the book of Joshua, arguing that Caleb would hardly wait for years until Joshua died before driving the Anakim from his promised possession. Hence, they consider the Judges account to be a restatement of that in Joshua.
Various suggestions have been put forth by Biblical scholars regarding the location of Debir in the mountainous region of Judah. In the past it was identified with Tell Beit Mirsim, about 20 km (12 mi) WSW of Hebron. However, now it is identified with Khirbet Rabud, about 13 km (8 mi) SW of Hebron.
Debir’s ancient name, Kiriath-sepher (Jos 15:15; Jg 1:11), means “Town of the Book.” This has led some to conjecture that Debir was the center of Canaanite religious and legal learning and a place where public registers were kept.
3. A site “at the low plain of Achor” appearing in Judah’s boundary list. (Jos 15:7) Though its exact location is not now known, some geographers believe the name has survived in Thogheret ed-Debr, SW of Jericho, and in Wadi Debr, closer to the tentative location of the Valley of Achor.
4. A location on the boundary of Gad in Gilead. (Jos 13:26) This Debir is usually considered to be the same as Lo-debar, where the home of Machir (who hosted Mephibosheth and, later, David) was located. (2Sa 9:4-6; 17:27-29) Some tentatively identify Debir in Gad with Umm ed-Dabar, 16 km (10 mi) S of the Sea of Galilee.