Meaning: two camps; two hosts (“referring to the small visible company of faithful followers and the vastly superior invisible host of mighty angels”—Dr. Henry M. Morris, The Defender's Study Bible)
a place near the Jabbok, beyond Jordan, where Jacob was met by the “angels of God,” and where he divided his retinue into “two hosts” on his return from Padan-aram (Genesis 32:2)
This name was afterwards given to the town which was built at that place.
Mahanaim is mentioned 13 or 14 times in the Bible…
- Genesis 32:2—“This is God’s camp… he called the name of that place Mahanaim.”
- Joshua 13:26—“…from Mahanaim unto the border of Debir;”
- Joshua 13:30—“…their coast was from Mahanaim…”
- Joshua 21:38—“…out of the tribe of Gad …Mahanaim with her suburbs”
- 2 Samuel 2:8—“…Abner… took Ishbosheth …to Mahanaim”
- 2 Samuel 2:12—“…Abner …went out from Mahanaim…”
- 2 Samuel 2:29—“…Abner …came to Mahanaim.”
- 2 Samuel 17:24—“…David came to Mahanaim.”
- 2 Samuel 17:27—“…when David was come to Mahanaim…”
- 2 Samuel 19:32—“…Barzillai …provided the king of sustenance …at Mahanaim…”
- 1 Kings 2:8—“…cursed me …when I went to Mahanaim…”
- 1 Kings 4:14—“Ahinadab the son of Iddo had Mahanaim”
- 1 Chronicles 6:80—“…Mahanaim with her suburbs”
- Song 6:13—“Why would you gaze on the Shulammite as on the dance of Mahanaim?” (NIV) (other translations say “two camps” or “two armies” instead of “Manhanaim”)
“It was the southern boundary of Bashan (Joshua 13:26, 30), and became a city of the Levites (21:38). Here Saul's son Ishbosheth reigned (2 Samuel 2:8, 12), while David reigned at Hebron. Here also, after a troubled reign, Ishbosheth was murdered by two of his own bodyguard (2 Samuel 4:5-7), who brought his head to David at Hebron, but were, instead of being rewarded, put to death by him for their cold-blooded murder. Many years after this, when he fled from Jerusalem on the rebellion of his son Absalom, David made Mahanaim, where Barzillai entertained him, his headquarters, and here he mustered his forces which were led against the army that had gathered around Absalom.
It was while sitting at the gate of this town that tidings of the great and decisive battle between the two hosts and of the death of his son Absalom reached him, when he gave way to the most violent grief (2 Samuel 17:24-27).”
Mahanaim is also mentioned as a station of one of Solomon's purveyors (1 Kings 4:14).
It has been identified with the modern Mukhumah, a ruin found in a depressed plain called el-Bukie'a, ‘the little vale,’ near Penuel, south of the Jabbok, and northeast of es-Salt.” [Matthew G. Easton]