Josephus thus describes the land of Benjamin; "The Benjamites' portion of land was from the river Jordan to the sea, in length: in breadth, it was bounded by Jerusalem and Beth-el." Let these last words be marked, "The breadth of the land of Benjamin was bounded by Jerusalem and Beth-el." May we not justly conclude, from these words, that Jerusalem and Beth-el were opposite, as it were, in a right line? But if you look upon the maps, there are some that separate these by a very large tract of land, and make them bend and slope from one another.
Beth-el heretofore was Luz: of which the Rabbins upon Judges 1:23, &c. do not a little trifle. Sometimes it is called Beth-aven. So the Talmudists; "That town, which sometimes was called Beth-el, afterward was called Beth-aven." And the Chaldee upon Hosea 4:15: "Go not up to Beth-el"; for the Hebrew, "Go not up to Beth-aven." So also chapter 10:5,8. Not that there was not another town, named Beth-aven (see Joshua 18:12,13): but that Beth-el too deservedly bore the reproach of that name, in the same manner as Jerusalem bore the name of Sodom, Isaiah 1:10.
It is said of Deborah, that she lived "between Ramah and Beth-el in mount Ephraim," Judges 4:5: where the Targum thus; "She had gardens in Ramatha, olive-trees making oil in the valley, a house of watering in Beth-el." Not that Beth-el properly was in the hill-country of Ephraim, since that town stood upon the very boundaries of Judea; but that the dwelling of Deborah was at the beginning of that hill-country, a valley running between that hill-country and those boundaries. Beth-el itself was situate in a hilly country, Joshua 16:1; which yet one would scarcely call the hill-country of Ephraim (since there was a time, when Beth-el and her towns belonged to Judea, 2 Chronicles 13:19: hence the idolatry of those of Judah is sometimes mixed with the Ephraimites', of which they hear often enough from the prophets); but it was a certain hilly place, running out between Judea and the land of Ephraim: see Joshua 18:12.
On the east of Beth-el heretofore was Hai, Genesis 12:8; Joshua 8:9, &c. But upon the very first entrance almost of Israel into the land of promise, it became thenceforth of no name, being reduced into eternal ashes by Joshua. The town Beth-aven was not far from it, Joshua 7:2, which gave name to the wilderness adjacent, Joshua 18:12. In which we suppose Ephraim stood, 2 Chronicles 13:19. Which Ephraim, in the New Testament, is called "the region near the wilderness," John 11:54; concerning which we shall speak afterward.