Friday, August 6, 2010

Major Finds at the Biblical "Gath of the Philistines"


Bar-Ilan University archaeologists have uncovered two major finds in the biblical city "Gath of the Philistines" (the home of Goliath), located in the Tel Tzafit National Park.

Prof. Aren Maeir, of Bar-Ilan's Martin (Szusz) Department of Land of Israel Studies and Archaeology, announced that he and his international team have discovered a Philistine Temple, including a number of ritual items, dating back to the Iron Age (10th century BCE). "Interestingly, the architectural design of this Temple, with its two central pillars, is reminiscent of the architectural image that is described in the well-known Biblical story of Samson and the Philistines, when Samson knocks down the temple by standing between the pillars and pushing them down. Perhaps this indicates that the story of Samson reflects a type of temple that was in use in Philistia at the time," said Prof. Maeir, who has directed the excavations at Tell es-Safi/Gath for 13 years. Tell es-Safi/Gath is located in the southern coastal plain of Israel, not far from Kiryat Gat, about half-way between Jerusalem and Ashkelon.

Philistine Temple from the 10th century BCE with two pillar bases in the Temple's inner sanctum

Prof. Maeir also indicated that his team had found impressive evidence of an earthquake in the 8th century BCE reminiscent of the earthquake mentioned in the Book of Amos I:1. The team uncovered walls moved from their place and collapsed like a deck of cards as a result of the powerful earthquake -- assessed at a magnitude of 8.0 on the Richter scale – reported Maeir.

This summer's excavations at Tell es-Safi/Gath have also uncovered further evidence of the destruction of the city by Hazael, King of Aram Damascus, around 830 BCE, as mentioned in Second Kings 12:18, as well as evidence of the first Philistine settlement in Canaan (around 1200 BCE) and different levels of the Canaanite city of Gath.

The Tell es-Safi/Gath Archaeological Project ( is a long-term investigation aimed at studying the archaeology and history of one of the most important sites in Israel. Tell es-Safi/Gath is one of the largest tells (ancient ruin mounds) in Israel and was settled almost continuously from the 5th millennium BCE until modern times.

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