The city of Bethel is located about 10 miles north of Jerusalem. It's first mentioned in Genesis 12:8, where Abraham built an altar. After Abraham left Egypt he returned to Bethel, and it was here that Lot moved his herds away from Abraham, as the land could not support the two herds. Jacob had his dream of a ladder connecting Heaven and earth, and thus he named the place Bethel, "House of God, Gate of Heaven." It formerly was called Luz. (Genesis 28:17-19).
The Ark of the Covenant was housed in Bethel during the period of the Judges (Judges 20:26). One of the judges, Deborah, was based in the vincinity of Bethel. Samuel visited Bethel on his yearly circuit. During Elijah's time, a guild of prophets resided there, and Bethel was one of the stops Elijah and Elisha made before Elijah was taken up into Heaven in the fiery chariot.
When the Kingdom divided, Bethel became one of the places where people in the northern kingdom gathered to worship. It was here that King Jeroboam set up one of his golden calves to compete with the Ark in Jerusalem. The prophets Hosea and Amos both condemned the worshiping of the calf in Bethel. Bethel fell to the Assyrians, along with the rest of the Northern Kingdom, in 721 BC.
Excavations show there was a continous occupation from 2000 BC to Christian times. Today Bethel is known as Baytin.
Next Bible place: Bethlehem
Go to: List of places in the Bible