(Aʹbel-me·hoʹlah) [meadow of dancing or dance place by a perennial stream].
The home of Elisha, where Elijah found him plowing and anointed him prophet successor.—1 Ki. 19:16-19.
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.”—Judg. 7:22.
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 now popular 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. (1 Ki. 19:15) The ancient highways leading from Horeb to Damascus lay E of the Jordan.
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, as Gideon thereafter sent word to the men of Ephraim: “Go down to meet Midian and capture ahead of them the waters as far as Beth-barah and the Jordan.” (Judg. 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 after by his successor Elisha. (1 Ki. 19:15-19; 2 Ki. 8:7-13) In view of this, some modern geographical texts (The Geographical and Topographical Texts of the Old Testament by Jans Jozef Simons , The Geography of the Bible by Denis Baly , and the Atlas of the Bible by L. H. Grollenberg ) continue to recommend a site W of the Jordan rather than E of it. Both Jerome and Eusebius of the early centuries of the Common Era identified Abel-meholah with a site ten Roman miles (9.2 English miles [14.8 kilometers]) S of Beth-shean (W of the Jordan). The suggested location is Tell Abu Sifri, located at the junction of the Wadi Malih (which may preserve some trace of the name Abel-meholah) and the Wadi el-Helweh. Its position nearly opposite the proposed site of Tabbath could allow for its being referred to as “by Tabbath.” The nearby plain of Beth-shean is well suited for large-scale farming, such as Elisha was apparently engaged in with the “twelve spans” of bulls.—1 Ki. 19:19.
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. (1 Ki. 4:12) It was evidently the home of Adriel the Meholathite, a son-in-law of Saul. (1 Sam. 18:19; 2 Sam. 21:8) Festal dancing in harvest celebrations perhaps accounts for this name Abel-meholah.