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Zelzah is a place which shows up in the Bible a couple of times as a landmark of some importance. The precise placement of the ancient site is unknown, but is given as being about 8 km southwest of Jerusalem. These days it can also be found naming several loactions in the United States, presumably given to them by people who knew their Holy Scriptures. The meaning of the name is not much clearer - translations such as noontide as well as shadow or shade from the sun suggest that it may not be a place name at all, but a time.

The place is first connected with grief. Jacob sets out from Bethel, happy with the promise and the new name God has given him, to go to Ephrath (also known as Bethlehem) with his family. On the way his second wife Rachel undergoes a difficult labour and after a long struggle, her second son is born. With her dying breath she gives him the name Ben-Oni, but his father calls him Benjamin and holds this last remnant of his wife most dear. Rachel is buried there at Zelzah, and a pillar is placed over her grave. (Genesis 35:9-20)

Several begots later, the site is a border marking of the territory of the Benjamites, Benjamin's descendants and the smallest tribe of Israel. A tall, handsome young man and his servant pass by it to search for his father's lost donkeys. After a long, fruitless search, he meets Samuel, the seer. To Saul's great surprise, the prophet relates that God has elected him to become the king of Israel. As an afterthought, he adds that Saul will meet two men at Zelzah, at the border of the land of Benjamin, who will tell them that the donkeys have come home safely, and so should he, lest his father start worrying for him. (1 Samuel 9-10)

And sure enough, the prophet was right. Saul probably associated the site of Zelzah with quite a bit of happiness, when he realised that the other prophecy about his monarchy would also be fullfilled.

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