City on the east of the Jordan, near the River Jabbok; first mentioned as the place where Jacob, returning from Aram to southern Canaan, had a vision of angels (Gen. xxxii. 1-2). This implies that Mahanaim was a sanctuary at a very early period. In the records in the Book of Joshua of the allotments to the tribes Mahanaim is accounted a part of the inheritance of the tribe of Gad (xxi. 38). Apparently it was on the border between Gad and Manasseh, and it was assigned as a Levitical city (Josh. xiii. 26, 30; xxi. 38; comp. I Chron. vi. 80).
Mahanaim gained a temporary prominence in the days of the beginnings of the kingdom. It was then a stronghold, adapted to serve as a refuge for fugitives of importance (II Sam. xviii. 24). To it Abner, Saul's general, brought Ish-bosheth, Saul's son and successor (II Sam. ii. 8); during his brief and illstarred reign Mahanaim was his capital. To Mahanaim David fled at the time of Absalom's rebellion (II Sam. xvii. 24, 27; I Kings ii. 8), and made it his residence until his recall to Jerusalem. Later on it was the headquarters of one of Solomon's commissary officers (I Kings iv. 14). According to Maspero ("The Struggle of the Nations," p. 773), Mahanaim was among the cities plundered by Shishak during his invasion (I Kings xiv. 25) of Israelitish territory. There is no subsequent reference to the city in the annals. It is not improbable that a vigorous resistance to Shishak or to some other invader brought about its utter demolition. The form of the name appears to be dual, hence the common rendering "two companies" or "camps." The narrator of Jacob's plan (Gen. xxxii. 7) for avoiding the loss of all his property so understood the name. Many scholars at the present day prefer to regard the termination in this case as the expansion of a shorter ending rather than as a sign of the dual.
The exact location of Mahanaim is very uncertain, the Biblical data being inconclusive. The city was certainly in northern Gilead and in a situation which commanded an extensive view (II Sam. xviii. 24); it was approached from the south by way of the Jordan valley and probably through a wadi that debouched into it (II Sam. ii. 29). Most explorers agree in placing it at or near the wadi 'Ajlun.
- Conder, Heth and Moab;
- Merrill, East of the Jordan;
- Van Kasteren, in Z. D. P. V. xiii. 205 et seq.;
- Buhl, Geographie des Alten Palästina, p. 257;
- G. A. Smith, Hist. Geog. pp. 586-588.