Beth Shemesh, meaning ?house of the sun,? was a small town on the border between Judah and the Philistines. This is the place where the ark of the covenant came when it was returned by the Philistines (1 Sam. 6).
Beth Shemesh stands in Israel?s Shephelah?foothills lying between the coastal plain and Judea Mountains. Several broad valleys extend up from the coastal plain, through the Shephelah, and into the mountains beyond.
The Shephelah valleys became a crossroads for commerce and culture in the ancient world. They formed natural trade routes linking the major powers of Rome and Egypt with the empires of Persia, Babylon, and Assyria. Whoever controlled the foothills could dominate the relationship between these powers. As a result, ancient people frequently clashed for control of these strategic valleys.
Built by the people of the coastal plain, Beth Shemesh stood like a guardhouse over the Sorek Valley. According to Joshua 19, the Beth Shemesh region was given to the small tribe of Dan for its inheritance. But despite frequent fighting between the Israelites and pagans, the pagans were not driven out of the area.