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It was a place of considerable strength and importance. It is called a "mother in Israel", i.e., a metropolis (2 Samuel 20:19). It was besieged by Joab in his pursuit of Sheba (2 Sam. 20:14). An unnamed wise woman from Abel-beth-maachah convinced Joab not to destroy the city, since the people did not want to shelter Sheba. She told the people of the city to kill Sheba, and his head was thrown over the wall to Joab.
Its site is occupied by the modern Abil or Abil-el-kamh, on a rising ground to the east of the brook Derdarah, which flows through the plain of Huleh into the Jordan, about 6 miles to the west-north-west of Dan.