We are now nearing the excavation season at Tell es-Safi/Gath, and I thought it would be appropriate to post an entry that relates to one of the most interesting finds of the project, and how it can be related to the biblical text in Amos 6:2. Hopefully, this will be an indication of the interesting finds that we will discover in the coming season!
Already at the beginning of the project, a fascinating feature was found surrounding the site, which turned out to be a unique siege trench. This feature was built (or rather dug) as part of a siege against the city, and was part of a siege system put up by an enemy force that had besieged the city in antiquity. In effect, it was a circumvallation, functionally similar to the Roman siege of Masada. Following several seasons of work on this feature (and related elements) we were able to date it to the Iron Age II, ca. the 9th cent. BCE. (we have published several studies of this feature – see the list of bibliography in one of the recent posts on the blog).
At the same time, we excavated on the tell, evidence of an extensive destruction level, which based on typological and radiometric analyses could be dated to the late 9th century BCE.
Based on the similar dating, we have suggested that the siege trench and the destruction level are related to the same event, and we have suggested connecting it to the conquest of
Gath by Hazael of Aram Damascus, as briefly mentioned in II Kings 12:18.
This ties into an interesting point which I discussed not long ago in an article in Vetus Testamentum (Maeir, A. 2004. The Historical Background and Dating of Amos VI 2: An Archaeological Perspective from Tell es-Safi/Gath. Vetus Testamentum 54: 319–34). In this study, I discussed the verse in Amos 6:2 in which the destructions of Calneh and Hamath the Great (both in Syria) and Gath of the Philistines are mentioned. Although Amos is thought to have lived in the early/mid-8th century BCE, in the past scholars suggested that this passage is a later addition, added on in the late 8th or early 7th century, and relating to the Assyrian conquest of these three sites.
In the article (and I suggest you all take a look at it …), I argued that all three sites were in fact destroyed by Hazael of Aram, and in fact, the passage dates to the early 8th century BCE, soon after the destruction of these sites. In fact, as far as Gath of the Philistines is concerned, it can only date to this stage, since subsequently, as can be seen both in the historical and biblical sources, but from the archaeological remains as well, Gath of the Philistines looses its importance, and for all intents and purposes ceases to serve as an important Philistine center. In fact, at any later period the role of Philistine Gath (as portrayed in this passage) would not be relevant.
Thus, in my opinion, these archaeological finds can serve as a unique example of how one can date a biblical passage based on the archaeological evidence.