(Ma·ha·naʹim) [Two Camps].
A site E of the Jordan where Jacob, after parting from Laban, encountered a company of angels. Jacob then called the place “Mahanaim.” (Ge 32:1, 2) The meaning of the name (“Two Camps”) may allude to “the camp of God,” as represented by his angels, and to the camp of Jacob. Apparently sometime later a city was built on the site. In the 15th century B.C.E., this city was first assigned to the Gadites and then to the Levite Merarites.—Jos 13:24, 26; 21:34, 38.
While David ruled from Hebron, Mahanaim served as the capital for the rival kingdom of Saul’s son and successor Ish-bosheth. This suggests that it was fortified and occupied a strategic position. (2Sa 2:8-11, 29) Evidently in this city Ish-bosheth was assassinated. (2Sa 4:5-7) Later David, fleeing from his rebellious son Absalom, came to Gilead where he was kindly received at Mahanaim. He remained there at the request of his supporters and did not share in the battle that completely defeated Absalom’s attempt to seize the throne. (2Sa 17:24–18:16; 19:32; 1Ki 2:8) During the reign of David’s son Solomon, Mahanaim was under the jurisdiction of the deputy Ahinadab.—1Ki 4:7, 14.
At The Song of Solomon 6:13 “the dance of two camps” may also be rendered “the dance of Mahanaim” (AS) or “the Mahanaim dance.” (AT) Perhaps the reference is to dancing associated with a certain festival that was held at Mahanaim.—Compare Jg 21:19, 21.
The exact location of Mahanaim is uncertain, but it was E of the Jordan and evidently N of the Jabbok. (2Sa 2:29; Ge 31:21; 32:2, 22) Some suggest Khirbet Mahneh (or, Mihna), about 19 km (12 mi) N of the Jabbok and about the same distance E of the Jordan, but many feel that it is too far N of the Jabbok. Yohanan Aharoni identifies Mahanaim with Tell edh-Dhahab el-Gharbi, on the N bank of the Jabbok, about 12 km (7.5 mi) E of the Jordan.—The Land of the Bible, translated and edited by A. Rainey, 1979, pp. 314, 439.