The area surrounding Arad dominated by the Tel with the fortress

The earliest reference to Arad in the Bible is found during the time of the exodus. In the fortieth year of the Israelites' time in the wilderness, Edomites had refused to allow Moses and the people passage through their territory, blocking their route north...

Numbers 20:20-21 Again they answered: "You may not pass through." Then Edom came out against them with a large and powerful army. 21 Since Edom refused to let them go through their territory, Israel turned away from them. (NIV)

By turning away from Edom, Moses lead the Israelites first to Mount Hor, at the border of the Edomite territory (where Aaron died) and then further west (also west of the Dead Sea). Here as they again turned northward they met opposition.

Numbers 21:1-3 When the Canaanite king of Arad, who lived in the Negev, heard that Israel was coming along the road to Atharim, he attacked the Israelites and captured some of them. 2 Then Israel made this vow to the LORD: "If you will deliver these people into our hands, we will totally destroy their cities." 3 The LORD listened to Israel's plea and gave the Canaanites over to them. They completely destroyed them and their towns; so the place was named Hormah. (NIV)

The book of Numbers likewise has a summary list of locations from their journey which also references Arad...

Numbers 33:40 The Canaanite king of Arad, who lived in the Negev of Canaan, heard that the Israelites were coming. (NIV)

[Note that the King James Version errors in translation on these passages in Numbers, calling the ruler "king Arad the Canaanite," making the ruler's name Arad instead of the place. All other English translations I referenced correctly refer to the Canaanite who was the king of Arad.]

Looking down from the fortress towards the ruins of the ancient Canaanite city.

The Canaanites that were defeated in this first battle against the king of Arad fell near the southern most part of the territory likely controlled by that king, namely Hormah. Though the defeat here was complete, the resistance they had met was sufficient to cause them to turn back and go around Edom (Numbers 21:4). This implies that the king of Arad still controlled further north, namely the capital city of Arad itself.

Closer view of Canaanite ruins (left)

Closer view of Canaanite ruins (right)

In the time that followed, prior to Israel actually entering the Promised Land with Joshua, it appears that the king of Arad had time to reestablish Hormah, with a local ruler again in that city.

The completion of Israel's vow to completely destroy their cities did not take place until Joshua's conquests in the Negev (the southern wilderness). The list of kings and cities conquered (and completely destroyed) at that time include:

Joshua 12:7-8, 14 These are the kings of the land that Joshua and the Israelites conquered on the west side of the Jordan, from Baal Gad in the Valley of Lebanon to Mount Halak, which rises toward Seir (their lands Joshua gave as an inheritance to the tribes of Israel according to their tribal divisions- 8 the hill country, the western foothills, the Arabah, the mountain slopes, the desert and the Negev - the lands of the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites): ... 14 the king of Hormah, one, the king of Arad, one (NIV)

In the years that followed, the Kenites together with some from the tribe of Judah settled in the area of Arad. It makes sense that these locations would be repopulated as they were associated with a water source which was always in short supply. [The ruins of the ancient Canaanite city, spanning a massive 22 acres, and are believed to date back to more than a thousand years before the time of Moses, testify to the long term inhabitation of this area.]

Judges 1:16 The descendants of Moses' father-in-law, the Kenite, went up from the City of Palms with the men of Judah to live among the people of the Desert of Judah in the Negev near Arad. (NIV)

For reference, Arad is almost 20 miles (32 kilometers) south of Hebron, some placing it at 17 miles. It is on the border of the territory of Judah. The early church fathers Eusebius and Jerome reference Arad at twenty Roman miles from Hebron. In modern times the site was identified by reference of local Bedouins who called the isolated mound (or hill) Tel Arad. Though no ruins were visible at the time, subsequent excavations beginning in 1962 revealed a great many.

Looking up to the front of the fortress and main gate

Most prominent, at the top of the Tel is a fortress dating to the time of Solomon. Though not mentioned directly it meets the characteristics of the fortified cities that Solomon scattered throughout his kingdom [including his distinctive gate design].

Main gate area

Gate from inside

2 Chronicles 8:5-6 He [Solomon] rebuilt Upper Beth Horon and Lower Beth Horon as fortified cities, with walls and with gates and bars, 6 as well as Baalath and all his store cities, and all the cities for his chariots and for his horses-whatever he desired to build in Jerusalem, in Lebanon and throughout all the territory he ruled. (NIV)

From the time of the generation following Solomon, the city is mentioned in historical records by pharaoh Shishak of Egypt as one of the places he conquered in Palestine (circa 918 BC, along with Megiddo). This was part of the campaign mentioned in the Bible and also commemorated, by the pharaoh, at Karnak temple near Luxor in Egypt...

1 Kings 14:25-26 In the fifth year of King Rehoboam, Shishak king of Egypt attacked Jerusalem. 26 He carried off the treasures of the temple of the LORD and the treasures of the royal palace. He took everything, including all the gold shields Solomon had made. (NIV)

2 Chronicles 12:2-4 Because they had been unfaithful to the LORD, Shishak king of Egypt attacked Jerusalem in the fifth year of King Rehoboam. 3 With twelve hundred chariots and sixty thousand horsemen and the innumerable troops of Libyans, Sukkites and Cushites that came with him from Egypt, 4 he captured the fortified cities of Judah and came as far as Jerusalem. (NIV)

Inside the fortress, or tenth-century citadel, is a miniature Israelite temple measuring sixty-five by forty-five feet. This temple was complete with an altar and a holy of holies.

Overview of temple at Arad, altar is almost center

Notice sacrificial altar to right

In this holy of holies they had two shaped standing stones, one to represent God (Yahweh), the other to represent a goddess or consort (Ashtoreth). This evidence supports what the Bible tells us about Solomon becoming unfaithful to the Lord, mingling worship of pagan deities with worship of God.

Notice two standing stones to rear, two incense altars in front.
Left was for Yahweh, right was for Ashtoreth

1 Kings 11:4-5 As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the LORD his God, as the heart of David his father had been. 5 He followed Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and Molech the detestable god of the Ammonites. (NIV)

This temple area was destroyed (buried by sand) during the time of Josiah (seventh century BC), who was seeking to follow God faithfully, worshipping Him as He desired only at the temple in Jerusalem and removing the places of worship for all false gods.

2 Kings 23:13-14, 24 The king [Josiah] also desecrated the high places that were east of Jerusalem on the south of the Hill of Corruption - the ones Solomon king of Israel had built for Ashtoreth the vile goddess of the Sidonians, for Chemosh the vile god of Moab, and for Molech the detestable god of the people of Ammon. 14 Josiah smashed the sacred stones and cut down the Asherah poles and covered the sites with human bones. ... 24 Furthermore, Josiah got rid of the mediums and spiritists, the household gods, the idols and all the other detestable things seen in Judah and Jerusalem. This he did to fulfill the requirements of the law written in the book that Hilkiah the priest had discovered in the temple of the LORD. (NIV)

Wall of fortress, side towards Canaanite City

Rooms inside fortress

Reservoir in fortress, much needed in an area of very low rain fall.