Timnath or Timnah was a Philistine city in Canaan that is mentioned in the Hebrew Bible in Judges 14 and in connection with Samson. Modern archaeologists identify the ancient site with Tel Batash (Hebrew: תל בטש) or Tell Butashi (Arabic), a tell lying on a flat, alluvial plain, located in the Sorek Valley ca. 7 kilometres (4.3 mi) north-west of Beit Shemesh, near moshav Tal Shahar in Israel. The site is not to be confused with the copper-smelting site of Timna in the Arabah near Eilat.

Timnah/Tel Batash or Khirbet Tibneh
תל בטש or טבנה
Shown within Israel
Alternative nameתמנתה
Coordinates31°47′06″N 34°54′40″E
Area10 acre
PeriodsMiddle Bronze Age
Site notes
Excavation dates1979-1990s
ArchaeologistsAmihai Mazar & George L. Kelm

The Tel Batash mound was discovered in the 19th century by C. Clermont-Ganneau, who identified it as a Roman military camp.[1] In subsequent years, the site was uncovered through 1977–1989, in 12 seasons of excavations, by Amihai Mazar and George L. Kelm while Kelm was serving as professor of Biblical backgrounds and archaeology at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, on a dig sponsored by the Seminary.[2][3][4]


Tel Batash is strategically located in the Sorek Valley, an access point from the Coastal Plain through the Shephelah and into the Central Judean Mountains.

Hebrew Bible references

A place called Timnah (Timnath) is mentioned in Genesis 38:13 in the context of the story of Judah and Tamar, although some place this episode in a different Timnah (Timnath), at a site called in Arabic Khirbet et-Tibbaneh.

In Joshua 15:10, a place with this name is mentioned as a point on the border of the Tribe of Judah, and Judges 14:5 refers to Timnah's vineyards.

In Judges 14:1-20, Samson went down to Timnah in order to find a wife. On his way there, he rent open a lion. Samson married a "girl of the Philistines" from Timnah and posed a riddle for the men of Timnah, which they were only able to resolve following the intervention of his wife.


Excavations under the leadership of Mazar and Kelm during the 1980s-1990s uncovered twelve strata of continuous settlement at the site through the Hellenistic period, with sparse settlement nearby during the Byzantine period.[5]

Not far from the tell, on the edge of Nahal Sorek, are the remains of a Roman road as well as settlement dating to the Chalcolithic and Canaanite-periods.

Bronze Age

Tel Batash was first settled in the Middle Bronze Age by creating an earthen rampart that enclosed the 10 acre (4 hectare) site.[5]

Bronze to Iron Age

Tel Batash during the Philistine era (Late Bronze Age to Iron Age) was a fortified city with dense mud-brick construction.[5]

Iron Age

The archaeologists discovered fortifications and buildings from the Kingdom of Judah period, dating to the 7th and 8th centuries BCE. In one of the buildings, a ceramic potsherd bearing a written LMLK seal was found.[5]

Old identification

Khirbet Tibna is a ruin situated ca. 3.2 kilometres (2 mi) south-west of Bet Shemesh, Israel.[6] In the Survey of Palestine Map of 1928–1947 (Pal 1157), preserved at the National Library of Israel, it is listed in map section 14-12, at Grid reference 144.1 / 127.9, under coordinates 31o44'36.587" N / 34o56'12.72"E. The ruin lies ca. 2 kilometers north-east of Moshav Sdot Micha and about 1,400 metres (4,600 ft) south-west of Bîr el-Leimûn.[7] Access to the site is now restricted, as it sits in a military area, at an elevation of 225 metres (740 ft)[8] above sea-level. Early explorers and historical geographers identified the ruin Kh. Tibna with the biblical town of Timnah, thought to be associated with stories of the biblical Samson (Judges 14:1-5).[9][6][10][11] French orientalist Clermont-Ganneau also thought Tibna to be a corruption of the Hebrew word Timnah.[12]

Edward Robinson visited the immediate area in 1838, and Tibna was already a deserted village.[13] Archaeologist W.F. Albright visited the site in the winter of 1924–25, which he described as "Khirbet Tibneh, the Timnath of the Samson story." He wrote that the site was covered with "masses of Græco-Roman and Byzantine débris," although he was unable to come-up with Jewish potsherds.[14] In the 1940s, archaeologist Benjamin Mazar conducted a surface survey in the region - including Tell Butashi, without digging.[15] Some think that the Hebrew patriarch, Judah, may have gone to this Timnah (Tibna) to shear his sheep, when he met his daughter-in-law in passing,[16] while others suggest that this would have happened in the Timnath now known in Arabic as Khirbet et-Tibbaneh.[17][18][19]

Today, modern archaeologists think the biblical Timnath (Timnah) associated with the saga of Samson to have been situated where Tell Butashi is now located, a few kilometers to its north, along the Sorek valley, where extensive archaeological excavations have been conducted during the 1980s–1990s and where they have uncovered Middle Bronze Age artifacts. With the town's demise, the name "Timnah" is thought to have migrated to the site now known as Khirbet Tibna, owing to its fame and popularity.

In Joshua 15:10, the city is mentioned as a point on the border of the Tribe of Judah. Judges 14:5refers to Timnah's vineyards.

Timnath, USA

The town of Timnath, Colorado in the United States is named for the city.


  1. The New Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land (ed. E. Stern), vol. 1, Jerusalem 1993, p. 152 ISBN 965-220-209-6
  2. http://www.tandyinstitute.org/history.cfm Tandy Institute
  3. Center for Online Judaic Studies, Excavating in Samson Country, George L. Kelm and Amihai Mazar, BAR 15:01, Jan-Feb 1989, accessed 11 November 2016
  4. The New Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land (ed. E. Stern), vol. 1, Jerusalem 1993, p. 152 ISBN 965-220-209-6
  5. The New Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land (ed. E. Stern), vol. 1, Jerusalem 1993, p. 156 ISBN 965-220-209-6
  6. Avraham Negev; Shimon Gibson (July 2005). Archaeological encyclopedia of the Holy Land. Continuum International Publishing Group. p. 509. ISBN 978-0-8264-8571-7. Retrieved 4 October 2010.
  7. Bîr el-Leimûn lies perpendicular to the ancient ruin of Tibna and the biblical city of Beit Shemesh (ʻAin Shems), being a junction on the road between Zorah and Tibna and where there is a well. As late as 1835 it was still inhabited, but is now a ruin. See: Edward Robinson & Eli Smith, Biblical Researches in Palestine, Mount Sinai and Arabia Petraea (vol. III), Boston 1841, Arabic Lists - Second Appendix on p. 120.
  8. The Palestine Exploration Fund Quarterly Statement, London 1871, p. 93
  9. Woudstra, Marten H., The Book of Joshua (1981)
  10. Adolphe Neubauer, La Géographie du Talmud, Paris 1868, pp. 102–103
  11. See pp. 29–31 in:Guérin, Victor (1869). Description Géographique Historique et Archéologique de la Palestine (in French). 1: Judee, pt. 2. Paris: L'Imprimerie Nationale.
  12. Page 214 in:Clermont-Ganneau, Charles Simon (1896). [ARP] Archaeological Researches in Palestine 1873-1874, translated from the French by J. McFarlane. 2. London: Palestine Exploration Fund.
  13. Edward Robinson, Biblical Researches in Palestine, vol. II, section XI, London 1856, pp. 16–17
  14. See p. 10 in: Albright, W.F. (1925). "Topographical Researches in Judæa". Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research. 18 (18): 7+9–11. JSTOR 3218963.
  15. G. Kelm & A. Mazar, "Timnah: A Biblical City in the Sorek Valley", in: Archaeology, Vol. 37, No. 3 (May/June 1984), Archaeological Institute of America, p. 58
  16. Genesis 38:14
  17. See George L. Kelm & Amihai Mazar, p. 58 in: Kelm, George (1984). "Timnah: A Biblical City in the Sorek Valley". Archaeology. 37 (3): 58–59, 78–79. JSTOR 41729127.
  18. F.M. Abel, Géographie de la Palestine (vol. II), Paris 1938, p. 481, s.v. Thimna (1), citing Conder & Kitchener's SWP, III, p. 53.
  19. Samuel Klein, Eretz Yisrael: Geography of Israel for High Schools and for the People (Heb. ארץ ישראל -- גיאוגרפיה של ארץ ישראל לבתי ספר תיכוניים ולעם), Vienna 1922, p. 42 (Hebrew)

Other References

  • Survey of Western Palestine, 1880 Map, Map 16: IAA, Wikimedia commons Tell Butashi and the region of Timnah, near the Sorek Valley (Wady es Surar)
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