Succoth / Tell Deir Alla (Genesis 33)

Succoth, located just east of the Jordan River, is mentioned in several Biblical contexts (but note that the Succoth of Exodus 12-13 and Numbers 33 was a different place):

After meeting Esau near the Jabbok River near Penuel and built livestock enclosures there (Genesis 33:17). Jacob named this place Succoth (“shelters”).

Gideon followed Jacob’s route in reverse (Judges 8) while pursuing Midianite raiders. The people of Succoth refused to feed his troops, and in retaliation they later sacked the town (Judges 8:13-17).

Most scholars identify Succoth with modern Tell Deir Alla. A significant temple existed here during the Late Bronze Age. Remains discovered at Succoth include jar fragments from 1209-1201 B.C., ornamented with a cartouche of an Egyptian queen, and three clay tablets in a script yet to be deciphered.

The Late Bronze-era Succoth was destroyed around 1200 B.C., possibly by Gideon and his troops. Excavation of Iron Age I strata offers no evidence of a permanent settlement there at that time (with the exception of minor structures dated near the end of this period), but remains do exist of furnaces used to smelt bronze. According to 1 Kings 7:46 Solomon arranged for bronze-casting in the Succoth area for the making of items designated for the temple.

The site was once again built up during the Iron Age II. A plastered wall from this era contains an Aramaic inscription in ink mentioning Balaam. An earthquake probably destroyed the city during the eighth century B.C. (cf. Amos 1:1). The site was inhabited, however, until the late Persian period, perhaps only seasonally due to the extreme summer temperatures.

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