Located west of the Dead Sea, Arad is one of the most important archaelogical sites in Israel from the time of the Judean Kings. It is where the ruins from the fortified Canaanite city and fortresses dated back to the time of the Israelite Kingdom period.

The king of Arad “fought against Israel and took of them prisoners” when they were retreating from the confines of Edom, as described in the book of Numbers 21:1, chapter 33:40 and in Judges 1:16. 
Afterwards, Joshua conquered the city; Book of Joshua 12:14.


And they departed from Cades, and encamped in mount Or near the land of Edom. And Aaron the priest went up by the command of the Lord, and died there in the fortieth year of the departure of the children of Israel from the land of Egypt, in the fifth month, on the first day of the month. And Aaron was a hundred and twenty-three years old, when he died in mount Or. And Arad the Chananitish king (he too dwelt in the land of Chanaan) having heard when the children of Israel were entering the land

Numbers 33:37–40

The Iron I villages were mostly small and unwalled, but in Iron II (c. 1000–800 BC) well-planned fortified towns appeared. While no remains can yet be positively identified as Davidic, strata at Megiddo, Hazor and Gezer have been attributed to Solomon with a fair degree of confidence since 1 Kings 9:15 speaks of Solomon’s rebuilding these three towns. Two Solomonic palaces at Megiddo are the earliest examples of a ‘royal’ style of Israelite architecture which continued throughout the monarchy: monumental buildings of fine ashlar masonry, adorned with Proto-Aeolic stone capitals. Solomon may also have been responsible for a network of small forts in the Negeb between Arad and Kadesh-barnea (both of which were sites of much larger IA fortresses).

John J. Bimson and J. P. Kane, New Bible Atlas, Wheaton: InterVarsity Press, 1985, 54.

A city in the Negeb desert region. In the account of the entry of the Israelites into the region, the “King of Arad” is mentioned as fighting against Israel (Num. 21:1-3). After an initial defeat the Israelites were victorious and “destroyed them and their cities”; the place was named Hormah, or “destruction” (cf. Num. 33:40). In Josh. 12:14 Arad appears in a list of kings defeated by Joshua. Judg. 1:16 reports that Kenites joined Judahites in settling near Arad.

The list of cities conquered by Shishak of Egypt (960 B.C.E.) includes “the citadels of Arad the Great and Arad of the house of YRHM” — either the house of Yeroham or Jerahmiel. Archaeological evidence does not clarify the identifications of these Arads.

Tel ʿArad (162075), 30 km. (19 mi.) E of Beersheba and 32 km. (20 mi.) S of Hebron, has retained the ancient name. It is a large site with a smaller but pronounced citadel mound. The lower city was excavated between 1964 and 1982 by Ruth Amiran. Unfortified settlements are attested from the Chalcolithic period to 2950 (EB I). The city walls fortifying the site date to EB II, and enclose an area of 10 ha. (25 a.). Public and private buildings including a palace and temples have been identified, as has a well-built water reservoir. The city suffered a major destruction ca. 2800, but occupation continued until ca. 2650. The demise of Canaanite Arad is probably to be attributed to declining rainfall in the area, and perhaps as well to political unrest throughout the Near East.

Excavation of the citadel by Yohanan Aharoni shows a gap of ca. 1500 years from the abandonment of the EB city to the building of a settlement in the citadel area ca. 1200. Six successive Iron III strata followed in the shape of a rectangular fortress. A temple or cult center with a holy of holies has been identified here. Aharoni suggests that stratum XI was destroyed by Shishak. Also on the citadel was an unfortified Persian settlement, followed by Hellenistic and Roman forts. The site is notable for having produced more ostraca — mostly Hebrew but some Aramaic — than any other archaeological site in the ancient biblical world.

“ARAD,” Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible,


Important finds

An ostracon from Arad, dated to the late seventh century B.C., has an eleven-line list of names such as “Shemaiahu son of Micaiahu ... Tanhum son of Jedaiahu, Gealiahu son of Jedaiahu”

Israelite altars at Arad

Archaeologists have found Israelite altars at Arad, Dan, and Beersheba (cf. Y. Aharoni, “The Israelite Sanctuary at Arad

EBC Notes, 1st, Accordance electronic ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1990), paragraph 4320.

The Destruction of Arad.

The site identified as Arad was a walled city in the Early Bronze period (first half of the third millennium), well before the time of Abraham. It had a major role in the copper industry that thrived in the Sinai peninsula. The next occupation detected by archaeologists is connected with the Early Iron Age (Judges period), and there was a series of citadels and even a temple on the site about the time of Solomon. Since there is no sign of occupation during the period of the exodus and conquest, some archaeologists have suggested that the Arad of the Canaanite period is the site now identified as Tell Malhata, about seven or eight miles southwest of the site now known as Arad. Egyptian inscriptions of the tenth century identify two Arads.

John H. Walton, Victor H. Matthews, and Mark W. Chavalas, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament, Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2000, 156.