A name probably meaning "bushes of dwarf juniper" (Lagarde, "Sem." i. 30), which is applied in the Old Testament to three distinct localities.
- 1. "Aroer, which is on the edge of the valley of Arnon" (Deut. ii. 36, R. V.), is probably represented by the present ruins of 'Arzā'ir on the north bank of the Arnon ravine, about eleven miles from the mouth of the river (Tristram, "Moab," pp. 129-131). The city was still standing in the time of Eusebius. This place was usually described by its situation, in order to distinguish it from other localities of the same name (Deut. iii. 12, iv. 48; Josh. xii. 2, xiii. 9; Judges xi. 26; II Sam. xxiv. 5). It appears first as having been captured by the Amorite king Sihon from Moab (compare Num. xxi. 26). It should be noted that in the Mesha inscription, l. 26, it is mentioned as having been built by the Moabites. After Israel's attack on the Amorites, it was assigned as part of the territory of the tribe of Reuben, whose southern frontier it marked. This is the city mentioned in Num. xxxii. 34, with the southern towns, as having been built by the children of Gad before the distribution of the land. When Hazael and his Syrians took from Israel the territory across the Jordan, Aroer is given as its southern limit (II Kings x. 33). It is clear, from Jer. xlviii. 19, that the Moabites ultimately recovered it from the Israelites.
- 2. A city in the territory of the tribe of Judah (I Sam. xxx. 28, and probably Josh. xv. 22). It has been identified with the ruins of 'Ar'āra, twenty miles south of Hebron and twelve miles southeast from Beer-sheba. David sent to the elders of this city a share of the booty taken from the Amalekites who had attacked Ziklag (I Sam. xxx. 28).
- 3. A town east of Rabbath-Ammon (Josh. xiii. 25) in the territory of the tribe of Gad, originally an Ammonite city (Judges xi. 33). It has not yet been identified. According to Jerome ("Onomasticon Sacrum," 96, 5), it was on a mountain, twenty Roman miles north of Jerusalem.
The reading "the cities of Aroer are forsaken" (Isa. xvii. 2) is probably incorrect, as it presents many geographical difficulties, occurring as it does in connection with "the burden of Damascus." While it is possible that there may have been another Aroer near Damascus, it is more likely that the passage should be rendered "the cities thereof shall be forsaken." This emendation, proposed by Lagarde, has been quite generally accepted by modern scholars.
The Gentile name from Aroer is Aroerite (I Chron. xi. 44).