Archaeologists Discover New Evidence of the Biblical Siege of Gath

August 17, 2021 | Nathan Steinmeyer
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In the first book of Kings, God tells Elijah to go to Aram—a territory roughly contiguous with modern-day Syria—and anoint Hazael its king. Second Kings describes Hazael’s invasion of the Land of Israel, where his army fought against Judea, Israel, and the Philistines—destroying the Philistine city of Gath. While archaeologists have long had other evidence about Hazael, who reigned in the latter half of the 9th century BCE, they recently made another discovery about his military exploits. Nathan Steinmeyer writes:

Recent excavations by Bar-Ilan University, led by Aren Maeir, have shed new light on the destruction of biblical Gath, the Philistine city famously home to Goliath. The team, which has been digging at Gath (modern Tell es-Safi) for 25 seasons, has repeatedly uncovered evidence of large-scale destruction across the entire tell. This destruction is firmly connected to the 9th-century BCE. campaign of Hazael.

Until recently, however, the team did not have a clear picture of exactly how the city fell. But during the 2021 season, new evidence emerged that might explain the city’s final demise—a nearly 30-foot-long break in the city’s massive fortification system. According to the archaeologists, this gap likely represents the very section where the Arameans broke through the walls of the Philistine city after a long siege. This, Maeir believes, may be “the earliest known, on-the-ground evidence of a siege anywhere in the world.”

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