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MA'ON (Heb. מָעוֹן, biblical Maon).

(1) City in Judah, the dwelling place of Nabal (I Sam. 25:2, 3); there was also a desert of the same name (I Sam. 23:25). Maon belonged to the seventh district of Judah (Josh. 15:55).In talmudic sources it is called Maon of Judah to distinguish it from Bet Maon near Tiberias (Mekh. Yitro 1). The place is identified with Tell Maʿīn, about 4 mi. (7 km.) S.E. of Yaṭṭa.

(2) The Maonites, a tribe, oppressed Israel along with the Zidonians and the Amalekites (Judg. 10:12). This tribe may be identical with the Meunim whose tents were destroyed by the Simeonites (I Chron. 4:41) and were later defeated by Uzziah, king of Judah (II Chron. 26:7). The area in which this tribe was located is in dispute.

(3) Site southwest of Gaza, called Menois in Roman times. It was the westernmost point of the Palestinian limes (Codex Theodosius 7:4, 30; Notitia Dignitatum in partibus Orientis 34:19, 2). The place is shown on the Madaba Map (mid-sixth century). Eusebius mistakenly identified it with the Madmannah of Joshua 15:31 (Onom. 130:7). It is now identified with Ḥorvat Ma'on (Khirbat al-Maʿin) near Nirim, southeast of Gaza. A kibbutz called Ma'on was established near the site in 1949. Remains of mosaic pavements and other debris show that the area contained an extensive settlement from the fourth century C.E. onward. The most interesting building is a synagogue which was excavated in 1957–58. It is oriented toward the northeast and consists of a hall, 14.8 × 11.8 m., with two rows of four columns forming the nave and two aisles. In the vicinity was a ritual bath (mikveh). The stone-paved aisles and narthex form a sort of ambulatory around the mosaic-paved nave. The design of the mosaic shows a vine trellis issuing from an amphora flanked by peacocks; the trellis forms medallions within which pairs of various animals are represented. The section of the pavement nearest to the apse has symbolic designs: two palm trees with doves at their bases and above them a menorah with two etrogim, a shofar, and a lulav, flanked by two lions. The Aramaic inscription mentions the congregation as a whole and three individual donors of a gold dinar each. The pavement, which dates to the early sixth century, has an interesting parallel in a church pavement found at nearby Shellal. They were both, according to Avi-Yonah, made in the same workshop in Gaza (see recently Ovadiah on this matter).


(1) Beyer, in: ZDPV, 54 (1931), 228; Noth, in: PJB, 30 (1934), 35. (2) EM, S.V. (includes bibliography). (3) Alt, in: PJB, 26 (1930), 33; Abel, Geog, 2 (1938), 180; Avi-Yonah, Geog, index; idem, Madaba Mosaic Map (1954), 74; Levi et al., in: BRF, 3 (1960), 1–40. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: S. Levy et al., "The Ancient Synagogue of Ma'on (Nirim)," in: Bulletin III of the Rabinovitz Fund for the Exploration of Ancient Synagogues, Hebrew University (1960); S.J. Saller, Second Revised Catalogue of the Ancient Synagogues of the Holy Land (1972), 61–62; Z. Ilan, Ancient Synagogues in Israel (1991), 283–85; A. Ovadiah, "The Mosaic Workshop of Gaza in Christian Antiquity," in: D. Urman and P.V.M. Flesher (eds.), Ancient Synagogues. Historical Analysis and Archaeological Discovery (1995), 367–72.

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.