Experts are currently at odds about the location of the ancient city of Bethsaida, mentioned frequently in the New Testament as being somewhere in northern Israel. Now the team excavating one of two possible sites for Bethsaida has made an intriguing discovery: a city gate from the 11th century BCE that suggests that this was also the more ancient city of Zer, known from the Hebrew Bible. James Rogers writes:
“There are not too many monumental discoveries dating from the reign of King David,” Rami Arav, an associate professor at the University of Nebraska and the Bethsaida excavation director [stated]. “This is absolutely a significant contribution to biblical archaeology and biblical studies.”
Arav explained that Bethsaida/Zer was founded in the 11th century BCE as a pre-planned city and the capital of the biblical kingdom of Geshur. “The city included a marketplace, granary, city walls, city gate, a high place in the city gate, and a cobblestone courtyard in front of the gate,” he said.
The city was destroyed in 920 BCE. “Since this is the period of time of King David and since the Bible [states] that King David married Maachah the daughter of Talmai the king of Geshur, it is reasonable [to conjecture] that King David walked on these very cobblestones when he visited the city,” Arav added. An ancient stele, or monumental stone slab, was discovered adjacent to the gate’s tower. The stele depicts the moon-god worshipped by the ancient Aramean people.
According to the Bible, Geshur was an independent kingdom in David’s time, but was later conquered by King Hazael of Aram.