site located south of Hebron, surrounded by the namesake river Wadi en-Nar, a region that experiences meager precipitation (31°25′ N, 35°01′ E; map reference 151 × 093). For water sources, residents of Khirbet Rabud depended on cisterns and two wells, about 3 km (2 mi.) north of the site.
Based on topographic clues in the Hebrew Bible, Kurt Galling identified the site with biblical Debir (“Zur Lokalisierung von Debir,” Zeitschrift des Deutschen Pälastina-Vereins 70 : 135–141), an identification challenged by William Foxwell Albright (“Debir,” in Archaeology and Old Testament Study, edited by David Winston Thomas, Oxford, 1967, pp. 207–220), who believed Debir to be his own site, Tell Beit Mirsim. [See Beit Mirsim, Tell.] However, recent surveys in the Judean hill country and the excavation of Khirbet Rabud support Galling's proposal: Khirbet Rabud and biblical Debir are located in the same southern Judean district as ῾Anab, Socoh, and Eshtemoa (Jos. 15:49); Khirbet Rabud is the only Late Bronze Age city located south of Jerusalem (the Bible depicts Debir as the major Canaanite city in the area [Jos. 11:21, 15:15–17; Jg. 1:11–15]); and the town is located in a dry region that depended on cisterns and an upper and lower water source (the Wells of ῾Alaqa), like the ones described in the story of Achsa, daughter of Caleb, in Joshua 15:19 and Judges 1:15. [See Judah.]
In 1968–1969, Moshe Kochavi directed excavations at the site on behalf of Tel Aviv University's Institute of Archaeology. Rescue excavations were also carried out at several robbed burial caves, part of the large burial ground, ῾Ush eṣ-Ṣaqra, across the wadi. Because, like many hill country sites, most of Khirbet Rabud is eroded to bedrock, remains of ancient occupation were discerned only in a narrow strip adjacent to the city wall, in two trenches, A and B, on the mound's western slope.
Early Bronze Age I and IV sherds were found in the cemetery and in the excavated areas. A stone wall running along the mound's lowest terrace on the northwest was encountered in trench A and dated to the Late Bronze Age. Four strata of the fourteenth–thirteenth centuries BCE were associated with this wall. LB I sherds found on the mound and in its cemetery may indicate an earlier date for the construction of the LB city wall. The LB II pottery from trench A and from the cemetery included a high percentage of imported Mycenaean and Cypriot wares. An Iron I stratum and a tenth-century BCE cistern were also exposed at the lower part of trench A.
A massive stone wall, 4 m wide and about 1 km long, had been noted prior to the excavation. It encircles about 5 ha (12 acres) of this 6-ha (15 acres) mound and was encountered in both trenches and dated to the ninth century BCE. The wall was built in straight sections, in uneven lengths, with half- meter projections at their joints. The topography of the site suggests the existence of a gateway on the south-eastern slope, where the modern hamlet of Khirbet Rabud now stands.
A major destruction level, with large amounts of pottery and other finds lying in the ashes, was detected in both trenches and attributed to Senacherib's campaign against Judah In 701 BCE. Two stamp seals inscribed in Hebrew, ŠLM BN 'Ḥ' (“Shalom son of Aha”) and a four-winged lamelekh seal, found in this stratum fit the suggested chronological horizon. In the seventh century BCE the city wall was doubled in width and a small, unwalled suburb, Khirbet Rabda, was built at the foot of the mound. Some buildings from the Persian period and a Roman lookout tower represent the end of the site's occupational history.
- Albright, William Foxwell. “The Excavations at Tell Beit Mirsim.” Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research, no. 23 (1926): 2–14. Albright's identification of Debir with his excavation at Tell Beit Mirsim.
- Donner, Herbert. “Das Deutsche evangelische Institut für Altertums-wissenschaft des Heiligen Landes, Lehrkursus 1963, 2. Die Exkursionen in Palästina.” Zeitschrift des Deutschen Palästina-Vereins 81 (1965): 3–53. The first report on LB sherds found at Khirbet Rabud.
- Kochavi, Moshe. “Khirbet Rabûd=Debir.” Tel Aviv 1 (1974): 2–33. Report on the excavation and discussion of the identification.