[Author’s note: This article is intended as a heuristic exploration (i.e., educated guess) into the possible events and locations related to the Battle at the Pool of Gibeon. The evidence and discussion presented are not intended as definitive proof but rather as embryonic ideas for further study.]
2 Samuel 2
Sometime during David’s reign in Hebron, a group of soldiers led by Joab traveled north to the town of Gibeon, where some soldiers led by Abner, the commander over Ish-bosheth’s forces, had already gathered. The two sides agreed to a contest of young champions, but the contest ended with the slaughter of all twelve of Abner’s youths. This led to a fierce battle among the rest of the soldiers, with Joab’s men pursuing Abner’s men most likely westward, since David’s men had probably positioned themselves to the east of Abner’s men after arriving at Gibeon, thus blocking their escape route back to Mahanaim. Abner killed Joab’s brother Asahel during the pursuit and continued to flee to the hill of Ammah. There Abner’s men took a stand on the top of the hill to defend him against Joab’s men. Abner then called out to Joab and convinced him to call a truce. Abner and his men returned to Mahanaim, and Joab returned to count his men. Then Joab and his men traveled to Bethlehem and buried Asahel in his father’s tomb there. After this Joab and his forces returned to David at Hebron. The hill of Ammah, where Abner’s men took their stand, is specifically described as lying “before Giah on the way to the wilderness of Gibeon.” Though the term “wilderness” (midbar) is almost always used to refer to locations east of the Central Ridge Route, which runs north-south along the watershed of Israel, the patriarch Reuben also used the term to refer to the area of Dothan, which is west of the watershed (Genesis 37:22; see map here), to indicate that it was sparsely populated. It is possible, then, that the wilderness of Gibeon similarly referred to the sparsely populated, hilly region lying to the west of Gibeon and the watershed. Thus the “way to the wilderness of Gibeon” could have been the ancient route that passed through this area, which was later paved by the Romans. Based on these assumptions, this author has found that the most logical location for the hill of Ammah is the slope immediately northwest of the junction where the road heading southwest from Gibeon meets the way to the wilderness of Gibeon. This, then, coincides perfectly with the location of el-Qubeiba, which has been identified as a very viable candidate for the town called Emmaus in the New Testament (Luke 24:13-36). So it is possible that the hill of Ammah is the same as the town of Emmaus, and this is further supported by the clear similarities between the Hebrew name Ammah and the Greek name Emmaus. The site of el-Qubeiba had been regarded as Emmaus since as far back as the Crusader era and probably much earlier, since the Crusaders noted that they found a Roman fort there called Castellum Emmaus (see an excellent summary in J. Carl Laney’s doctoral dissertation here). Finally, the word Giah, typically translated as a placename in 2 Samuel 2:24, may instead be referring to the valley or the entrance to the valley that runs parallel to the way to the wilderness of Gibeon.