Ashkelon, Be'er Sheva, Arad
21.11.2011 - 21.11.2011
This morning we spent a short time at Ashkelon. Ashkelon is a large city, firstly built by the Canaanites. In about 1200BC, the Philistines took over it. It was one of the five main Philistine centers in Israel (1 Samuel 6:4, 16). Being one of their main centres, and the fact that they were good at ironworking made them a tough enemy for God's people.1 It was the Philistines who stole the Ark of the Covenant. It is also Biblically significant because of the story in Judges 14:10-19. In this story, Samson killed 30 men from Ashkelon to pay for a wager he had lost. When Saul and Jonathan died, David asked the news be sent to Ashkelon (2 Sam 1:17-20).
Ashkelon was destroyed by the Babalyonians, rebuilt by Herod the Great, re-fortified by the Crusaders, and captured by Saladin. The historic site of the city is currently a park, where locals can come out and enjoy a picnic.
We also visited Tel Be'er Sheva, a walled Israelite city, first built in the 6th Century BC. This place was mentioned a number of times in the Bible, most significantly in Genesis 21:22-34, where Abraham and Abimelech made a treaty. God appeared to Isaac at this place (Gen 26:23-25). This photo below shows the rooms, casemate walls, gate and storehouses. These things signify the fact that Be'er Sheva's principal economic activity would have been agricultural - hunting, stock raising, and garden husbandry.2
At the entrance of the Be'er Sheva site, there was a reconstructed OT alter with horns on each of the corners. I learnt that the ‘horns’ were not animal horns, but constructed of stone. This makes more sense when reading passages like 1 Kings 2:13-46:
This room is at the Gate of Be'er Sheva. I found it interesting to note that a ‘Gate’ is not actually a gate as we know it today, it is a series of rooms at the entrance of the City. This photo shows the Bench where the judge sat. We still use the term ‘Bench’ for where the judge sits in a court. It is where public transactions took place.
The city needed access to water, so access to water was built within the city to protect it from outsiders. Women would have entered down these stairs, gone through the tunnel at the bottom, and accessed the water. Then they could carry it back up to their house. When water is offered to a person, it is a great gift since it took so much effort to obtain.
We then headed to Tel Arad, an Israelite city settled for its geographical location. In the site, archeologists discovered a temple, which was used for a number of centuries during the Divided Monarchy. It is a replica of the taberncle, with the same measurements. In Deuteronomy 12, Moses forbade any places of worship outside Jerusalem. This picture depicts the alter in the temple. It was a lot smaller than I was expecting! Some have argued that two stones and two alters suggest that 2 different gods were worshipped here. This is debatable though.
1 W. Dever, J. Seger, The Holy Land (London, Caxton Publishing Group, 2006) 70.
2 M. Avi-Yonah, A History of Israel and the Holy Land (London, Continuum Publishing Group, 2001) 34.