Bible Archaeology

Researchers Unearth Historical Findings at Gath, the Ancient Hometown of Goliath

Christian News:

TELL ES-SAFI, Israel – A large archaeological team is currently in the middle of a month-long project to excavate and study the remains of Gath, the ancient hometown of one of the Bible’s most famous villains: Goliath.

Since the last day of June, an international team of archaeologists has been carefully studying Tell es-Safi, a historic civilization site located halfway between Jerusalem and Ashkelon. The excavations are directed by Dr. Aren Maeir, a professor at Israel’s Bar-Ilan University who has spent over 15 years studying the ancient settlement.

Many historians and archaeologists believe the Tell es-Safi site is where the ancient Philistine city of Gath was located. Though experts are quick to point out that no “incontrovertible proof” of Tell es-Safi’s identity has been discovered, it is still the general consensus among most scholars, and the location is now commonly referred to as “Tell es-Safi/Gath.”

“Although there once was a bit of a controversy regarding the exact location of Gath,” the Tell es-Safi/Gath Excavation’s blog explains, “based on present evidence, most scholars believe that it was located at the site known as Tell es-Safi. The tell, which is situated approximately halfway between Jerusalem and Ashkelon, is one of the largest biblical sites in Israel. Settled continuously from the Chalcolithic period (5th mill. BCE) until modern times, it is a veritable mine of archaeological evidence from all periods.”

In the Bible, Gath is mentioned a number of times in the Old Testament, most notably as the hometown of the famous giant Goliath (1st Samuel 17). However, Gath is also described in the Scriptures as an important Philistine city (Joshua 13:3), a place where David took refuge (1st Samuel 21:10), and a temporary home for the Ark of the Covenant (1st Samuel 5:8).

Over the years, members of Dr. Maier’s excavation team have found many historical relics, such as an ancient, man-made trench most likely used for siege purposes. In 1998, hundreds of pottery vessels from shortly after the time of David and Solomon were discovered, which strongly confirmed the Biblical narratives found in the books of 1st and 2nd Kings.

“Recently, some scholars have questioned the veracity of the description of the events in this period as portrayed in the Bible,” an article on the excavation team’s blog reads. “Accordingly, it is claimed that there is little if any non-biblical archaeological and historical evidence to that relates to this period. But in light of the extraordinarily rich finds that were discovered at Tall es-Safi/Gath, it would appear that at least from an archaeological point of view, this period is in fact well represented at this site.”

In 2005, archaeologists at the site unearthed an ancient inscription from around the time of David that mentions two Philistine names reminiscent of the original form of the name “Goliath.” Three years later, remarkably preserved remnants of the “lower city” portion of Gath were discovered.

However, several findings this year shed light on Gath’s destruction in the late 9th century B.C. by Syrian’s King Hazael, as described in 2nd Kings 12:17. Remains of siege fortifications have been uncovered, as well as plentiful evidence of a destructive fire most likely brought upon the city by Hazael. In addition, there are several indications that a powerful earthquake once struck the area, potentially the same one that is mentioned in Amos 1:1.

Ultimately, although Dr. Maeir is personally hesitant to call the Bible “an infallible text,” he recognizes that the Scriptures are an invaluable tool for their excavation studies, and has said that it would be “ludicrous” to not use the Bible as a reference.

“We’re here not to prove or disprove the Bible,” he told The Chronicle of Higher Education. “We’re here to illustrate the cultures in which the biblical text was formed.”


Bible Archaeology

Philistine Digs Define David and Solomon

Early Israelite dig helps define David and Solomon.

Christianity Today:

Two small portable shrines are giving Bible scholars new clues about Israelite religious practices during the time of David and Solomon. They also indicate a pendulum swing in the world of biblical archaeology.

Hebrew University archaeologist Yosef Garfinkel showcased the shrines at a news conference in May. They were discovered during last summer’s excavations at Khirbet Qeiyafa, a ruin overlooking Israel’s Elah Valley dated to 1020-980 B.C.

The Elah Valley was where David brought down the giant Goliath, signaling the beginning of the end of Philistine hegemony over the Israelites. Similarly, the discoveries at Khirbet Qeiyafa herald the diminishing influence of minimalist Bible critics who have discounted the importance of the biblical kings.

John Monson, an archaeologist at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, is excavating at Khirbet Qeiyafa this summer. He believes Garfinkel’s excavations are revealing a fortress built to defend one of the most important routes between the Israelites in the Judean hills and the Philistines on the coastal plain.

“This is a front-row seat to what transpired in that ebb and flow between Israel and the Philistines, as we see it recorded in 1 and 2 Samuel,” he said.

Archaeologists have been arguing for decades over whether David and Solomon had the kingly stature described in the Bible or were more like tribal chieftains. Garfinkel is helping clear up the dispute.

More archaeologists are now focusing on this border region. “I see a gold rush mentality now in the lowlands of Judah,” Monson said.

This summer, archaeologists are beginning a new excavation at nearby Azekah. Socoh, another site overlooking the Elah Valley, will open up soon. These will join ongoing excavations at nearby Tel Burna, Tel es-Safi (Gath), and Tel Zayit.

Steve Ortiz, professor of archaeology at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, thinks Khirbet Qeiyafa may predate both David and Solomon. “As early as the time of King Saul,” he said. “[It] represents that change from a tribal society to one with centralized cooperation.”

Ortiz excavated with Garfinkel at Tel Mikne-Ekron, a Philistine site, and now co-directs excavations at Tel Gezer, another border site.

Both Ortiz and Monson note the lack of iconography on the two shrines and the absence of idols with them. That would seem to conform to Scripture’s admonition against graven images.

Also intrigued is Wheaton College archaeologist Daniel Master, who directs the ongoing excavations at Ashkelon, a coastal Philistine city.

“We will be trying to understand Garfinkel’s finds for some time to come,” Master said. “Since this period is not well understood in Judah, it is somewhat difficult to know how representative these finds are for the highlands as a whole.”



The Liturgy Answers the Problem of Evil

Yet another fantastic (and timely) post by Taylor Marshall:

The Problem of Evil is a perennial problem for those who try to seek God’s will. If I seek to follow God, why do I suffer? I pray and grow poor. My neighbor curses God and grows rich? How is this just? This mystery is revealed in light of the Christ: God loved His Son and even He suffered more than any.

Even though I know the theological answer and I accept that redemption involves suffering (“unless you take up your cross daily
you are not worthy to be my disciple”), I still struggle against suffering in my soul.

One Psalm in particular is helpful for me – Psalm 72 in the Vulgate (or Psalm 73 in other Bibles). Here, King David laments how the “wicked prosper,” and he observes that those who despise God continue to enjoy life. The wicked don’t worry about death (v. 4). They don’t have to work hard or suffer (v. 5). The wicked are prideful, healthy, and wealthy (v. 6). They curse and blaspheme (vv. 7-9) – think of all those that take God’s name in vain repeatedly and yet they prosper upon the earth!

Then David asks in v. 11, “Doesn’t God know this? Doesn’t God see these people becoming rich and happy?”

David cries out:

Then have I in vain justified my heart, and washed my hands among the innocent. And I have been scourged all the day; and my chastisement hath been in the mornings. I will speak thus; behold I should condemn the generation of thy children (vv. 13-15).

David ponders this problem and he worries about it. But then he finds the answer – the answer is liturgical. Yes, the liturgy of God is what opens his eyes to the truth – a sacramental answer comes from God:

[16] I studied that I might know this thing, it is a labour in my sight: [17] Until I go into the sanctuary of God, and understand concerning their last ends. [18] But indeed for deceits thou hast put it to them: when they were lifted up thou hast cast them down. [19] How are they brought to desolation? they have suddenly ceased to be: they have perished by reason of their iniquity. [20] As the dream of them that awake, O Lord; so in thy city thou shalt bring their image to nothing.

David’s heart doesn’t understand the problem of evil “until I go into the sanctuary of God,” and then he “understands concerning their last ends.”

Within the Temple, in the presence of God, God realizes that His presence is with His people. He also realizes that God is the
judge and that this life does not compare to what has been promised by God to those who remain faithful. The present circumstances do not constitute true happiness or true beatitude. David sees that the wicked will be “brought to desolation” for their crimes.

The rest of the Psalm is beautiful as David reflects on God in the sanctuary:

[24] Thou hast held me by my right hand; and by thy will thou hast conducted me, and with thy glory thou hast received me. [25] For what have I in heaven? and besides thee what do I desire upon earth? [26] For thee my flesh

and my heart hath fainted away: thou art the God of my heart, and the God that is my portion for ever. [27] For behold they that go far from thee shall perish: thou hast destroyed all them that are disloyal to thee. [28] But it is good for me to adhere to my God, to put my hope in the Lord God: That I may declare all thy praises, in the gates of the daughter of Sion.

David’s desires turn from earth to Heaven. His desire is for God. He body and soul faint for love of God. He realizes that he
is made by God to praise God and enjoy Him forever. Note again how the Psalm ends with his desire to worship God: “But it is good for me to adhere to my God, to put my hope in the Lord God: That I may declare all thy praises.”

If you struggle with the problem of evil, follow David. Go to Church, kneel before the crucified Savior in the tabernacle
and open you heart. The troubles of life and the desire to compare your life to the fortunes of others will fade away. “Thou hast held me by my right hand; and by thy will thou hast conducted me, and with thy glory thou hast received me.”

The problem of evil cannot be solved through debate. Rather it won’t be solved “until I go into the sanctuary of God.”

Bible Archaeology

Are These Ruins of Biblical City of David?


Archaeologists in Israel have found remains which may be the biblical City of King David, the first evidence that the ancient Jewish empire actually existed.

The bible refers to a powerful 10th century B.C. Kingdom of David, Israel’s second king, stretching from Egypt to the Euphrates, but little evidence of its existence has ever been found.

Now, an archaeological discovery at Khirbet Qeiyafa, in Elah Valley, 30 km from Jerusalem, appears to show signs of a Jewish settlement.

Professor Yosef Garfinkel, of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, said that evidence found at the site included a single pottery fragment with an inscription believed to be an early form of Hebrew and olive pits dated as 3,000 years old.

He said: “The buildings and the city wall are abutting each other. This is a typical Judan urban concept.”

Garfinkel added: “We do have animal bones. Thousands of animal bones were on site. We have sheep, cattle and goats. But we have no pigs at all. In Canaanite and Philistine cities you will find up to 20% pig bones.”

Only 10% of the site has been excavated so far, so more significant finds are still likely…

More here and a short news video.

HT:   Antonio Lombatti