A university excavation has discovered the Biblical entrance gate to the city of Gath of the Philisptines, home of Goliath in the Tel Zafit National Park, located in the Judean Foothills, about halfway between Jerusalem and Ashkelon in central Israel.
The Ackerman Family Bar-Ilan University Expedition to Gath, headed by Prof. Aren Maeir, has discovered the fortifications, entrance gate and the largest city in the land during the 10th-9th century BC, about the time of the “United Kingdom” of Israel and King Ahab of Israel.
Prof. Maeir, of the Martin (Szusz) Department of Land of Israel Studies and Archaeology, said that the city gate is among the largest ever found in Israel and is evidence of the status and influence of the city of Gath during this period.
Besides the gate, an impressive fortification wall was discovered, various buildings in its vicinity, such as a temple and an iron production facility. These features, and the city itself were destroyed by Hazael King of Aram Damascus around 830 BC.
The city gate of Philistine Gath is referred to in the Bible (in I Samuel 21) in the story of David’s escape from King Saul to Achish, King of Gath.
Now in its 20th year, the Ackerman Family Bar-Ilan University Expedition to Gath, is a long-term investigation aimed at studying the archaeology and history of one of the most important sites in Israel. 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.
The archaeological dig is led by Prof. Maeir, along with groups from the University of Melbourne, University of Manitoba, Brigham Young University, Yeshiva University, University of Kansas, Grand Valley State University of Michigan, several Korean universities and additional institutions throughout the world.
Among the most significant findings so far at the site include:
- Philistine Temples dating to the 11th through 9th century BCE,
- Evidence of an earthquake in the 8th century BC, possibly connected to the one in the Book of Amos I:1,
- The earliest decipherable Philistine inscription ever to be discovered with two names similar to the name Goliath;
- A large assortment of objects of various types linked to Philistine culture;
- Remains relating to the earliest siege system in the world, built by Hazael, King of Aram Damascus in 830 BC,
- Evidence of the subsequent capture and destruction of the city by Hazael, as mentioned in Second Kings 12:18;
- Evidence of the first Philistine settlement in Canaan (around 1200 BCE);
– Different levels of the earlier Canaanite city of Gath; and
– Remains of the Crusader castle “Blanche Garde” at which Richard the Lion-Hearted is known to have been.