Jabesh-Gilead (also Yavesh Gil’ad) is an ancient town referred to in the Torah. Jabesh Gilead is mentioned in the first and second books of Samuel, in the book of Chronicles and in the Book of Judges. Jabesh Gilead is mentioned in connection with King Saul’s and King David’s battles against the Philistines and Ammonites.
Burial of Saul ..and with his men he performed the mourning rites for Saul and Jonathan, memorializing them in a deeply moving eulogy. Somewhat later, after David had become king in Hebron, he learned that the men of Jabesh-Gilead, a town that had been attached to King Saul, had recovered the bodies of Saul and his sons to give them honourable burial. And the bones of Saul and Jonathan his son they buried in the country of Benjamin in Zelah, in the sepulcher of Kish his father: and they performed all that the king commanded. And after that God was entreated for the land.
David sent the town a message…Upon taking the throne, David rightly thanked these valiant men for their kindness to the memory of Saul, Jonathan, and Saul’s other sons (2 Samuel 2:4-7). c. When David heard of Saul’s death, he did not rejoice. In fact, he mourned and composed a song in honor of Saul and Jonathan (The Song of the Bow, 2 Samuel 1:11-27). In spite of all that Saul did against David, David spoke well of Saul after his death. David called Saul the beauty of Israel (2 Samuel 1:19). David wanted no one to rejoice in Saul’s death (2 Samuel 1:20). David wanted everyone to mourn, even the mountains and fields (2 Samuel 1:21). David praised Saul as a mighty warrior (2 Samuel 1:22-23). David complimented the personality and loyalty of Saul (2 Samuel 1:23). David called Israel to mourning, and called on others to praise Saul for the good he did for Israel (2 Samuel 1:24).
Samuel gives the account of the death of Saul and His Sons; then the Philistines followed hard after Saul and his sons. And the Philistines killed Jonathan, Abinadab, and Malchishua, Saul’s sons. The battle became fierce against Saul. The archers hit him, and he was severely wounded by the archers. Then Saul said to his armorbearer, “Draw your sword, and thrust me through with it, lest these uncircumcised men come and thrust me through and abuse me.” But his armorbearer would not, for he was greatly afraid. Therefore Saul took a sword and fell on it. And when his armorbearer saw that Saul was dead, he also fell on his sword, and died with him. So Saul, his three sons, his armorbearer, and all his men died together that same day. The Philistines disgrace the corpses of King Saul and his sons; the next day, when the Philistines came to strip the slain, that they found Saul and his three sons fallen on Mount Gilboa. They cut off his head and stripped off his armor and sent word throughout the land of the Philistines, to proclaim it in the temple of their idols and among the people. Then they put his armor in the temple of the Ashtoreths and they fastened his body to the wall of Beth Shan.
The valiant men of Jabesh Gilead end the disgrace of Saul and his sons: when the inhabitants of Jabesh Gilead heard what the Philistines had done to Saul, all the valiant men arose and traveled all night and took the body of Saul and the bodies of his sons from the wall of Beth Shan and they came to Jabesh and burned them there. Then they took their bones and buried them under the tamarisk tree at Jabesh and fasted seven days. The men of Jabesh Gilead took down the bodies of Saul and his sons from their place of humiliation and gave them a proper burial.
Saul’s home town, Gibeah of Benjamin, of his reign in 1 Samuel is located in the hill country about four miles north of Jerusalem and about two miles south of Ramah. The present site is called Tel el-Ful, which long ago was identified with Saul’s city by Edward Robinson (an early explorer in the Holy Land); it was subsequently excavated by W.F. Albright in 1922 and 1933. At the bottom of the mound Albright found the first fortress of Gibea, which showed traces of destruction by fire, so Albright identified it with the destruction mentioned in Judges 20:40. Just above this fortress were the remains of a second, the most elaborate structure discovered in the mound. Its outer wall was about six feet thick and was defended by a sloping base. It was furnished with two stories and contained a massive stone staircase. Albright identified this with Saul’s stronghold. The structure, measuring 170 by 155 feet, with its casemated walls and separated by fonded corner towers, illustrates the construction of this period.
On top of Saul’s structure was a third and somewhat smaller fortress, chracterized by a series of stone piers. These piers connect it with the time of the Monarchy. Some connect it with the building activity of King Asa at Geba of Benjamin (1 Kings 15:22). But in the light of Isaiah 10:29, Geba and Gibeah of Saul are not identical. At any rate, this citidel suffered destruction by fire, perhaps in the Syro-Ephraimite War (cf. Isaiah 7). After a further lapse of time, another fortress was built on the ruins of all these, which is dated by pottery to the Macabbean period.
The Biblical site of Jabesh-Gilead has been explored with special attention devoted to whether Tell Abu al-Kharaz in the Jordan Valley close to the area where the Wadi el-Yabis (theYabis River) emerges into the plane of the Jordan Valley or Tell al-Maqlub, located further east along the Wadi Yabis is the site. An identification of Tell Abu al-Kharaz with Jabesh Gilead was made however distinct archaeological evidence could not support this theory. There are remains from Iron I and IIA which fall into the period of the above mentioned biblical events but more evidence is necessary.