1 Sam 6:1-18 After seven months of death and disease, the Ark is put on a new wagon drawn by two oxen. It is driven out of Ekron and left to go on its own. It arrives at Beth Shemesh (‘Temple of the Sun’) where the Israelites are overjoyed to welcome it back (see 6 on Map 53).
Looking east along the Sorek valley from Beth Shemesh (Ian Scott)
1 Sam 6:19-21 Some of the Israelites, however, disobey the religious laws by looking inside the Ark of the Covenant. As a result, seventy men of Beth Shemesh die.
Before the conquest of Canaan by the Israelites in c.1406BC, Kiriath Jearim (meaning 'city of woods') was known as Kiriath Baal (the 'city of Baal'), Baalah or Baal Judah. It was a Hivite settlement associated with the people of Gibeon (see Joshua 9:17) and a centre of Baal worship. The re-naming of the city by Joshua indicated his intention to wipe out the worship of local deities in the 'promised land'.
After the conquest of Canaan, Kiriath Jearim became a landmark identifying the border between the tribes of Judah and Benjamin (see Joshua 15:9 & 18:14). It gained prominence as the resting place of the Ark of the Covenant for twenty years after the Ark was returned from Ekron by the Philistines in c.1024BC (see 1 Samuel 6:21-7:1).
Kiriath Jearim was also the home of the prophet Uriah, who joined Jeremiah in c.600BC in protesting about the injustices of King Jehoiakim's rule. Uriah was forced to flee to Egypt, but was pursued on the king's orders and brought back to Jerusalem where he was executed (see Jeremiah 26:20-23).
Abu Ghosh, the site of Kiriath Jearim (Hanay)
The site of the ancient city of Kiriath Jearim can be visited today on a hillside overlooking the village of Abu Ghosh. Excavations have uncovered the remains of a 5th century Byzantine church. This site is now occupied by a 20th century church with a prominent statue of the Virgin and Child, lying just north of the main Tel Aviv highway 6 miles / 10 km west of Jerusalem. The nearby modern town of Kiryat Yearim is named after the ancient settlement.