A city east of the Jordan on the table-land of Gilead. It was the capital of the kingdom of Og, king of Bashan (Josh. ix. 10), though it would seem from other passages (Deut. i. 4; Josh. xii. 4, xiii. 12 and 31) that Edrei shared that honor. The two cities seem to have constituted his kingdom. Afterward Ashtaroth was one of the Levitical cities (I Chron. vi. 56 [A. V. 71]). Its name appears in the Old Testament as a plural, but it was no doubt originally simply "Ashtart," derived from the old Semitic goddess, whose temple it no doubt contained. The relation of Ashtaroth to Ashteroth Karnaim is obscure. Eusebius ("Onomastica," ed. Lagarde, ccix. 61, ccxiii. 39) gives two trans-Jordanic places called Ashtart. Buhl ("Geographie," pp. 248 et seq.) holds that there were two places, and identifies Tell-Ashtereh with Ashtaroth, and El-Muzêrîb with Ashtoreth Karnaim. Similarly, G. A. Smith in 1895 ("Historical Geography," map) identified Ashtaroth with Tell-Ashtereh, and Ashteroth Karnaim with Tell-Ashary, but has since found reason to discard this view.
It seems probable that there was in the Old Testament period only one city, known variously as "Ashtaroth," "Ashteroth Karnaim," and "Karnaim," and that the statement of Eusebius is due to the interchange which some of the names of the region underwent in the later time. This conclusion seems justified from the fact that the sources which are really old (the inscription of Thothmes III. [W. Max Müller, "Asien und Europa," p. 162], and El-Amarna letters; compare Schrader, "K. B." v. (see p. 206) Nos. 142, 237; and Sayce, "Patriarchal Palestine," pp. 133, 153) mention but one place, and that the Biblical material is all of such a nature as to make the supposition of two places unnecessary. The question can not be actually determined till the sites are explored.
- Schumacher, Across the Jordan, pp. 121-147;
- Merrill, East of Jordan, 329 et seq.;
- and the bibliography under Ashtoreth.