The name denotes height, from root rum, "to be high," and the towns to which it applied seem all to have stood on elevated sites.
(1) Codex Vaticanus Arael; Codex Alexandrinus Rhama:
A fenced city in the lot assigned to Naphtali (Joshua 19:36). Only in this passage is the place referred to. It is probably identical with the modern er-Rameh, a large Christian village on the highway from Cafed to the coast, about 8 miles West-Southwest of that city. To the North rises the mountain range which forms the southern boundary of Upper Galilee. In the valley to the South there is much rich land cultivated by the villagers. The olives grown here are very fine, and fruitful vineyards cover many of the surrounding slopes. No remains of antiquity are to be seen above ground; but the site is one likely to have been occupied in ancient times.
A city that is mentioned only once, on the boundary of Asher (Joshua 19:29). The line of the boundary cannot be followed with certainty; but perhaps we may identify Ramah with the modern Ramiyeh, a village situated on a hill which rises in the midst of a hollow, some 13 miles Southeast of Tyre, and 12 miles East of the Ladder of Tyre. To the Southwest is a marshy lake which dries up in summer. Traces of antiquity are found in the cisterns, a large reservoir and many sarcophagi. To the West is the high hill Belat, with ancient ruins, and remains of a temple of which several columns are still in situ.
(3) Codex Vaticanus Rhama; Codex Alexandrinus Iama, and other forms:
A city in the territory of Benjamin named between Gibeon and Beeroth (Joshua 18:25). The Levite thought of it as a possible resting-place for himself and his concubine on their northward journey (Judges 19:13). The palm tree of Deborah was between this and Bethel (Judges 4:5). Baasha, king of Samaria, sought to fortify Ramah against Asa, king of Judah. The latter frustrated the attempt, and carried off the materials which Bassha had collected, and with them fortified against him Geba of Benjamin and Mizpah (1 Kings 15:17; 2 Chronicles 16:5). Here the captain of Nebuchadnezzar's guard released Jeremiah after he had been carried in bonds from Jerusalem (Jeremiah 40:1). It figures in Isaiah's picture of the Assyrians' approach (Isaiah 10:29). It is named by Hosea in connection with Gibeah (5:8), and is mentioned as being reoccupied after the exile (Ezra 2:26; Nehemiah 7:30). It was near the traditional tomb of Rachel (Jeremiah 31:15; compare 1 Samuel 10:2; Matthew 2:18, the King James Version "Rama").
From the passages cited we gather that Ramah lay some distance to the North of Gibeah, and not far from Gibeon and Beeroth. The first is identified with Tell el-Ful, about 3 miles North of Jerusalem. Two miles farther North is er-Ram. Gibeon (el-Jib) is about 3 miles West of er-Ram, and Beeroth (el-Bireh) is about 4 miles to the North Eusebius, Onomasticon places Ramah 6 Roman miles North of Jerusalem; while Josephus (Ant., VIII, xii, 3) says it lay 40 furlongs from the city. All this points definitely to identification with er-Ram. The modern village crowns a high limestone hill to the South of the road, a position of great strength. West of the village is an ancient reservoir. In the hill are cisterns, and a good well to the South.
The home of Elkanah and Hannah, and the birthplace of Samuel (1 Samuel 1:19; 2:11, etc.). In 1 Samuel 1:1 it is called "Ramathaim-zophim" (ha-ramathayim-tsophim). The phrase as it stands is grammatically incorrect, and suggests tampering with the text. It might possibly be translated "Ramathaim of the Zuphites." It was in Mt. Ephraim, within accessible distance of Shiloh, whither Samuel's parents went up from year to year to worship and to sacrifice (1:3). From Ramah as a center Samuel went on circuit annually, to judge Israel, to Bethel, Gilgal and Mizpah (7:16 f). It is very probable that this is the city in which, guided by his servant, Saul first made the acquaintance of Samuel (9:6,10), where there was a high place (9:12). Hither at all events came the elders of Israel with their demand that a king should be set over them (8:4 f). After his final break with Saul, Samuel retired in sorrow to Ramah (15:34 f). Here, in Naioth, David found asylum with Samuel from the mad king (19:18, etc.), and hence, he fled on his ill-starred visit to Nob (20:1). In his native city the dust of the dead Samuel was laid (25:1; 28:3). In 1 Macc 11:34 it is named as one of the three toparchies along with Aphaerema and Lydda, which were added to Judea from the country of Samaria in 145 BC. Eusebius, Onomasticon places it near Diospolis (Euseb.) in the district of Timnah (Jerome).
There are two serious rivals for the honor of representing the ancient Ramah.
(a) Beit Rima, a village occupying a height 13 miles East-Northeast of Lydda (Diospolis), 12 miles West of Shiloh, and about the same distance Northwest of Bethel. This identification has the support of G. A. Smith (Historical Geography of the Holy Land, 254), and Buhl (Geographic des Alten Palestina, 170).
(b) Ramallah, a large and prosperous village occupying a lofty position with ancient remains. It commands a wide prospect, especially to the West. It lies about 8 miles North of Jerusalem, 3 West of Bethel, and 12 Southwest of Shiloh. The name meaning "the height" or "high place of God" may be reminiscent of the high place in the city where Saul found Samuel. In other respects it agrees very well with the Biblical data.
Claims have also been advanced on behalf of Ramleh, a village 2 miles Southwest of Lydda, in the plain of Sharon. This, however, is out of the question, as the place did not exist before Arab times. Others support identification with Neby Samwil, which more probably represents the ancient MIZPAH (which see).
(5) Ramah of the South, the King James Version "Ramath of the South":
Ramath is the construct form of Ramah (Joshua 19:8) (ra'math neghebh; Bameth kata liba). A city in that part of the territory of Judah which was allotted to Simeon. It stands here in apposition to Baalath-beer, and is probably a second name for the same place. It seems to correspond also with "Ramoth (plural) of the South" (1 Samuel 30:27), a place to which David sent a share of the spoil taken from the Amalekites. In this passage Septuagint retains the singular form, Rhama notou. Identification has been suggested with Qubbet el-Baul, about 37 miles South of Hebron; and with Kurnub a little farther South. There is no substantial ground for either identification.
(6) Codex Vaticanus Rhemmoth; Codex Alexandrinus Rhamoth:
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