Wednesday, August 10, 2005
Archaeology proves the entire Bible, again ::

Just days after I discussed the finding of "King David's Palace" with a class, pointing out just what had and had not been found (according to the newspaper reports bibliobloggers are currently working with!) there's another archaeology proves the Bible piece doing the rounds...

Amiram Barkat in Ha'aretz writes about how "Dig backs biblical account of Philistine city of Gat".

Jim West "Gath in the News" sensibly cautions:
Of course archaeology can prove no such thing. Archaeology is, once again, being asked to do more than it is competent to do.
The Ha'aretz report did give a few details of what was found, basically
"An enormous trench surrounded by towers was found at the dig, which was apparently built during the siege of the city."
We are left to assume that this is dated to the appropriate strata to fit with the biblical account of the fall of Philistine Gath to the Arameans. That account read:

אָז יַעֲלֶה חֲזָאֵל מֶלֶךְ אֲרָם וַיִּלָּחֶם עַל־גַּת וַיִּלְכְּדָהּ
וַיָּשֶׂם חֲזָאֵל פָּנָיו לַעֲלוֹת עַל־יְרוּשָׁלִָם
At that time King Hazael of Aram went up, fought against Gath, and took it. But when Hazael set his face to go up against Jerusalem...
2 Kings 12:18/17 (in Hebrew and English)
As Christopher Heard points out, in "Haaretz on Gath digs", what seems to have been "proved" here is that Gath was attacked and defeated. There is possibly some evidence in the method employed that suggests that the Arameans may have been responsible, and there is probably evidence that suggests this occurred in the relevant timeframe.

All I'd note, apart from pointing you to the Ha'aretz report, and Jim's post and Chris's discussion, is to just note that as far as I know the identification of Tell es-Safi / Tel Zafit as biblical Gath of the Philistines is merely a scholarly consensus (as the ABD article calls it ;) - and we all know how fragile they are!

So, does archaeology prove the Bible again? No.

Does this archaeological result fit with the biblical account? A cautious (we'd really need a proper report to be more sure) yes.


Do the news reports sensationalise? Yes! This trench has been the subject of investigation over several seasons, see Aren M. Maeir "The Tell es-Safi/Gath: 1996-2002" or "Tell es-Safi, Israel, Summer 2004: Tracking the Siege Trench" this report is worth quoting at some length:
1) The trench had been manually excavated in antiquity; 2) In the area that was excavated, it is ca. 5 m deep and 4 m wide at the bottom; 3) The initial refill of the trench, after it went out of use, could be dated to no earlier, but at the same time, no later, than the Iron Age II; 4) The material that had been originally excavated from the trench had been dumped consistently by the original excavators on the side of the trench that was away from the tell, forming a "berm"; 5) The material from this "berm" covers deposits dating no later than the early Iron Age II (parallel to Temporary Stratum 4 on the tell).
It's conclusion while it points in the same direction (towards the Bible text) as the newspaper report is notably more cautious:
Based on the dating of this feature to the early Iron Age II, a connection with the similarly dated large-scale destruction level on the site itself (Temporary Stratum 4) is compelling. If one takes into account the suggestion (above) that Hazael of Aram was behind this destruction, it is interesting to note that in the Zakur inscription from northern Syria, Hazael's son, Birhadad, is credited with digging a siege moat (and a circumvallation wall) during the siege of the city of Hadrach. If so, one might have evidence of a similar "Aramean" siege method at Tell es-Safi as well.
Updated update:

Chris H. says about Maeir's use of the Zakur inscription
I am neither an Arameologist (is that a word?) nor an expert on ancient Near Eastern warfare, so I don't know this text from Zahor that Meir mentions. However, this is the sort of thing that would count as good cirucmstantial evidence to suggest that the attackers were in fact Arameans.
The inscription reads (in Millard's translation from William F. Hallo The Context of Scripture II) that
"Bar-Hadad, son of Hazael, king of Aram, united [a number of kings and]...All these kings laid seige to Hazrach. [Zakur's city] They raised a wall higher than the wall of Hazrach, they dug a ditch deeper than [its] ditch.
Which, may possibly refer to the type of siege moat and circumvallation wall that is found at Tel es-Safi. The problem is that (at the moment) it looks like a jump from "may possibly" to "does"...

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