Can a Fortification Fortify an Argument?

Credit:, Judah, Israel

Leviticus 14 contains rules that apply to the stone walls of a home. “When you enter the land of Canaan, which I am giving you as your possession, and I put a spreading mold in a house in that land, the owner of the house must go and tell the priest, ‘I have seen something that looks like a defiling mold in my house.’ The priest is to order the house to be emptied before he goes in to examine the mold, so that nothing in the house will be pronounced unclean. After this the priest is to go in and inspect the house. He is to examine the mold on the walls, and if it has greenish or reddish depressions that appear to be deeper than the surface of the wall, the priest shall go out the doorway of the house and close it up for seven days. On the seventh day the priest shall return to inspect the house. If the mold has spread on the walls, he is to order that the contaminated stones be torn out and thrown into an unclean place outside the town. He must have all the inside walls of the house scraped and the material that is scraped off dumped into an unclean place outside the town. Then they are to take other stones to replace these and take new clay and plaster the house.”

Beyond the Bible’s rules for the stone walls of a home, stones can be an indicator of ethnicity in archaeology.

Khirbet Qeiyafa is an archaeological site in the Shephelah, sitting between the central highlands and the coastal plain. The site was occupied in a single phase in late Iron Age I or early Iron Age IIA.

The city was fortified with a defensive wall. Around the city, the earth was cleared to expose bedrock for the defensive wall emplacement. An outer wall layer was built with megalithic stones, some nearly 10 feet long and weighing over 8 tons each.

In addition to the outer wall, the defensive system contained casemates. A casemate is an armored enclosure. Within the outer wall, an inner wall was constructed parallel to the exterior wall, with large stones weighing up to several hundred pounds. Walls were built connecting the inner and outer walls. The walls were built with openings and the casemates were used as homes. During periods of wars, the casemates could be filled with dirt and stones to add to the defensive layer.

The casemate walls of Khirbet Qeiyafa are unusual for the time, but they are seen more regularly later at sites in Judah, notably at Beth-Shemesh, Tell en-Naṣbeh, Tell Beit Mirsim, and Beersheba.

The implications for the wall design at Qeiyafa are as follows. The defensive system at Qeiyafa required a high degree of planning and resources, and was unlikely to have been built by a standalone city. The design of the defensive wall is typical of later fortifications at cities in the Kingdom of Judah. The city’s strategic location and defensive system points to it being constructed under the direction of a larger power capable of marshaling resources for the construction project. Given its similarity in design to other cities in the Kingdom of Judah, it appears to be connected to a power ruling from the Judean highlands. This power potentially would be either a kingdom ruled by a King Saul or a King David.

The image above is of the casemate wall at Khirbet Qeiyafa.