Mahanaim — two camps, 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 (Gen. 32:2). This name was afterwards given to the town which was built at that place. It was the southern boundary of Bashan (Josh. 13:26, 30), and became a city of the Levites (21:38). Here Saul’s son Ishbosheth reigned (2 Sam. 2:8, 12), while David reigned at Hebron. Here also, after a troubled reign, Ishbosheth was murdered by two of his own bodyguard (2 Sam. 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 Sam. 17:24–27).
The only other reference to Mahanaim is 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 north-east of es-Salt.