(Beth-zur) [house of a rock or cliff house].
A town in the mountainous region of Judah listed between Halhul and Gedor. (Josh. 15:58) The name is still preserved at modern Beit Sur, while excavations have shown the actual site of the ancient city to be at nearby Khirbet et-Tabeika. This location is about four and a half miles (7.2 kilometers) N of Hebron, with Gedor about three miles (4.8 kilometers) farther N and Halhul less than a mile to the S. It is described as the highest ruined town in Palestine, being situated on a hill some 3,325 feet (1,013.5 meters) above sea level. As it was near the highway leading N-S along the ridge of the watershed route and also guarded the routes leading to Mareshah and Libnah in the W, Beth-zur occupied a position of strategic importance.
Following the division of the kingdom, Beth-zur was one of fifteen cities rebuilt and fortified by King Rehoboam as a means of protecting Judah and Benjamin against invasion. (2 Chron. 11:5-12) It was among the cities reinhabited by the Jews returning from the Babylonian exile. (Neh. 3:16) During the Maccabean period Beth-zur (then called Bethsura) figured prominently in the Jews’ struggle against the Seleucid kings of Syria, the apocryphal book of First Maccabees describing a signal victory won there by Judas Maccabaeus against the Syrian forces (165 B.C.E.), following which he fortified the city again. (1 Maccabees 4:61; 6:26) In 162 B.C.E. the Syrians besieged the city and it eventually capitulated due to lack of food supplies. (1 Maccabees 6:30-50) It became a Syrian garrison, and General Bacchides strengthened its fortifications.—1 Maccabees 9:52.
Archaeological excavations at Beth-zur in 1931 revealed evidence of strong fortifications. Numerous coins were found dating from the fourth to the second century B.C.E., including silver Jewish coins believed to date from the Persian period or about the fourth century B.C.E.
The name Beth-zur appears in a genealogical list of the descendants of Caleb the brother of Jerahmeel at 1 Chronicles 2:45. Maon is there said to be “the father of Beth-zur.” Many commentators understand Beth-zur to refer to the town of that name, Maon in such case being the father of those settling there, or perhaps the chief or principal one of the city.—See ATROTH-BETH-JOAB.