“Jacob gave the name Beit El to Jerusalem” (Pesachim 88a)

(יז) וַיִּירָא֙ וַיֹּאמַ֔ר מַה־נּוֹרָ֖א הַמָּק֣וֹם הַזֶּ֑ה אֵ֣ין זֶ֗ה כִּ֚י אִם־בֵּ֣ית אֱלֹהִ֔ים וְזֶ֖ה שַׁ֥עַר הַשָּׁמָֽיִם׃

(17) Shaken, he said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the abode of God, and that is the gateway to heaven.”

(Click for enlarged Map) Jeroboam introduced great confusion over the name Beit El, which caused many to associate Ai with the territory of Ephraim. However, recent excavations at the City of David and to its east, Ras Al Amud have revelead the locations that are more likely candidates for Jacob's Beit El and the Ai of Abraham (Genesis 12:8) and Joshua.

כי אם בית אלהים. אָ"רַ אֶלְעָזָר בְּשֵׁם רַבִּי יוֹסֵי בֶּן זִמְרָא, הַסֻּלָּם הַזֶּה עוֹמֵד בִּבְאֵר שֶׁבַע וְאֶמְצַע שִׁפּוּעוֹ מַגִּיעַ כְּנֶגֶד בֵּית הַמִּקְדָשׁ, שֶׁבְּאֵר שֶׁבַע עוֹמֵד בִּדְרוֹמָהּ שֶׁל יְהוּדָה, וִירוּשָׁלַיִם בִּצְפוֹנָהּ, בַּגְּבוּל שֶׁבֵּין יְהוּדָה וּבִנְיָמִין, וּבֵית אֵל הָיָה בַּצָּפוֹן שֶׁל נַחֲלַת בִּנְיָמִין, בַּגְּבוּל שֶׁבֵּין בִּנְיָמִין וּבֵין בְּנֵי יוֹסֵף; נִמְצָא סֻלָּם שֶׁרַגְלָיו בִּבְאֵר שֶׁבַע וְרֹאשׁוֹ בְּבֵית אֵל מַגִּיעַ אֶמְצַע שִׁפּוּעוֹ נֶגֶד יְרוּשָׁלַיִם; וּכְלַפֵּי שֶׁאָמְרוּ רַבּוֹתֵינוּ שֶׁאָמַר הַקָּבָּ"ה צַדִּיק זֶה בָּא לְבֵית מְלוֹנִי וְיִפָּטֵר בְּלֹא לִינָה, וְאָמְרוּ יַעֲקֹב קְרָאָהּ לִירוּשָׁלַיִם בֵּית אֵל וְזוֹ לוּז הִיא וְלֹא יְרוּשָׁלַיִם, וּמֵהֵיכָן לָמְדוּ לוֹמַר כֵּן? אֲנִי אוֹמֵר שֶׁנֶּעֱקַר הַר הַמּוֹרִיָה וּבָא לְכָאן, וְזוֹ הִיא קְפִיצַת הָאָרֶץ הָאֲמוּרָה בִּשְׁחִיטַת חֻלִּין, שֶׁבָּא בֵּית הַמִּקְדָשׁ לִקְרָאתוֹ עַד בֵּית אֵל, וְזֶהוּ וַיִּפְגַּע בַּמָּקוֹם. וְאִם תֹּאמַר כְּשֶׁעָבַר יַעֲקֹב עַל בֵּית הַמִּקְדָשׁ, מַדּוּעַ לֹא עִכְּבוֹ שָׁם? אִיהוּ לָא יְהַב לִבֵּיהּ לְהִתְפַּלֵּל בַּמָּקוֹם שֶׁהִתְפַּלְּלוּ אֲבוֹתָיו, וּמִן הַשָּׁמַיִם יְעַכְּבוּהוּ? אִיהוּ עַד חָרָן אֲזַל, כִּדְאָמְרִינַן בְּפֶרֶק גִּיד הַנָּשֶׁה; וּקְרָא מוֹכִיחַ וַיֵּלֶךְ חָרָנָה; כִּי מְטָא לְחָרָן אָמַר, אֶפְשָׁר שֶׁעָבַרְתִּי עַל מָקוֹם שֶׁהִתְפַּלְּלוּ אֲבוֹתַי וְלֹא הִתְפַּלַּלְתִּי בּוֹ? יְהַב דַּעְתֵּיהּ לְמֶהֱדַר וְחָזַר עַד בֵּית אֵל וְקָפְצָה לוֹ הָאָרֶץ. הַאי בֵּית אֵל לֹא הַסָּמוּךְ לָעַי אֶלָּא לִירוּשָׁלַיִם, וְעַל שֵׁם יִהְיֶה בֵּית אֱלֹהִים קְרָאוֹ בֵּית אֵל, וְהוּא הַר הַמּוֹרִיָה שֶׁהִתְפַּלֵּל בּוֹ אַבְרָהָם, וְהוּא שָׂדֶה שֶׁהִתְפַּלֵּל בּוֹ יִצְחָק, כְּדִכְתִיב לָשׂוּחַ בַּשָּׂדֶה; דְּהָכִי אָמְרִינַן בִּפְסָחִים "אֶל הַר ד' וְאֶל בֵּית אֱלֹהֵי יַעֲקֹב" – מַאי שְׁנָא יַעֲקֹב? אֶלָּא לֹא כְּאַבְרָהָם שֶׁקְּרָאוֹ הַר, דִּכְתִיב בְּהַר ד' יֵרָאֶה, וְלֹא כְּיִצְחָק שֶׁקְּרָאוֹ שָׂדֶה, דִּכְתִיב לָשׂוּחַ בַּשָּׂדֶה, אֶלָּא כְּיַעֲקֹב שֶׁקְּרָאוֹ בַּיִת (עַ"כַּ פֵּרַשִׁ"י מְדֻיָּק):

כי אם בית אלהים THIS IS NONE OTHER THAN THE HOUSE OF GOD —R. Eleazar said in the name of R. José the son of Zimra: “This ladder stood in Beersheba and [the middle of]) its slope reached opposite the Temple” (Genesis Rabbah 69:7). For Beersheba is situated in the South of Judah, Jerusalem in the North of it on the boundary between Judah and Benjamin and Bethel in the North of Benjamin’s territory, on the border between the land of Benjamin and that of the children of Joseph. It follows, therefore, that a ladder whose foot is in Beersheba and whose top is in Bethel has the middle of its slope reaching opposite Jerusalem. Now as regards what our Rabbis stated (Chullin 91b) that the Holy One, blessed be He, said, “This righteous man has came to the place where I dwell (i.e., the Temple at Jerusalem, whilst from here it is evident that he had come to Luz) and shall he depart without staying here over night?”, and with regard to what they also said, (Pesachim 88a) “Jacob gave the name Bethel to Jerusalem”, whereas this place which he called Bethel was Luz and not Jerusalem, whence did they learn to make this statement (which implies that Luz is identical with Jerusalem)? I say that Mount Moriah was forcibly removed from its locality and came hither (to Luz), and that this is what is meant by the “shrinking” of the ground that is mentioned in the Treatise (Chullin 91b) — that the site of the Temple came towards him (Jacob) as far as Bethel and this too is what is meant by ויפגע במקום, “he lighted upon the place” (i.e., he “met” the place, as two people meet who are moving towards each other; cf. Rashi on Genesis 5:11). Now, since Jacob’s route must have been from Beersheba to Jerusalem and thence to Luz and Haran and consequently when he reached Luz he had passed Jerusalem, if you should ask, “When Jacob passed the Temple why did He not make him stop there?” — If it never entered his mind to pray at the spot where his fathers had prayed should Heaven force him to stop there to do so? Really he had reached as far as Haran as we say in the Chapter גיד הנשה (Chullin 91b), and Scripture itself proves this since it states, “And he went to Haran”. When he arrived at Haran he said, “Is it possible that I have passed the place where my fathers prayed without myself praying there?” He decided to return and got as far as Bethel where the ground "shrank” for him. This Bethel is not the Bethel that is near Ai (cf. Genesis 12:8) but that which is near Jerusalem, and because he said of it, “It shall be the House of God”, he called it Bethel. This, too, is Mount Moriah, where Abraham prayed, and it is also the field in which Isaac offered prayer as it is written, “[Isaac went out] to meditate (i. e., to pray; cf. Genesis 24:63) in the field”. Thus, too, do we read in the Treatise (Pesachim 88a) in a comment on the verse Micah 4:2: “[O come ye and let us go up] to the mountain of the Lord (i.e. the mountain upon which the Temple is built) and to the house of the God of Jacob”. What particular reason is there for mentioning Jacob? But the text calls the Temple not as Abraham did who called it a mount, and not as Isaac did, who called it a field, but as Jacob did who called it Beth[el]—the House of God. (To here from “This Bethel” is to be found in a certain correct Rashi-text)