The Uncertain Dates of Gates

Credit:, Samaria and the Center, Israel

In Exodus 1, the Egyptians saw the Israelites as a potential enemy and took steps against them: Then a new king, to whom Joseph meant nothing, came to power in Egypt. “Look,” he said to his people, “the Israelites have become far too numerous for us. Come, we must deal shrewdly with them or they will become even more numerous and, if war breaks out, will join our enemies, fight against us and leave the country.” So they put slave masters over them to oppress them with forced labor, and they built Pithom and Rameses as store cities for Pharaoh.

Where the Egyptians were the Israelite oppressors in Exodus, in 1 Kings 9 they were King Solomon’s ally: “Here is the account of the forced labor King Solomon conscripted to build the Lord’s temple, his own palace, the terraces, the wall of Jerusalem, and Hazor, Megiddo and Gezer. Pharaoh king of Egypt had attacked and captured Gezer. He had set it on fire. He killed its Canaanite inhabitants and then gave it as a wedding gift to his daughter, Solomon’s wife. And Solomon rebuilt Gezer.”

In this account, King Solomon used his labor resources to build the walls of Hazor, Megiddo and Gezer.

Hazor, Megiddo and Gezer had all been important Canaanite cities in the Middle Bronze and Late Bronze Age, before the establishment of the Israelites in the central hill country. These cities all corresponded with the pharaoh Akhenaten in the 14th century BCE, as recorded in the Amarna Letters. They sat astride the trade routes between Egypt to the south and Lebanon’s ports, Syria and Anatolia to the north, cut into the Transjordan, continued along to the Euphrates and into Mesopotamia. Thus they would have been important cities for a king to command and defend.

Gates were an important part of a city’s defense system. The entry points were typically the most vulnerable part of the wall, and thus required enhancements beyond a wall. Many walled cities in Canaan had four-chambered gates, two extra chambers facing each other beyond the outer wall or entry point followed by another two chambers facing each other. Each chamber was likely separated by wooden doors as barriers to prevent forced entry.

In the mid 20th century CE, archaeologists noticed similarities between the outer gate systems at Hazor, Megiddo and Gezer. These cities all had six-chambered gates, an additional defense layer, which were of similar size with similar masonry. The claim was made that these were the gate systems built by Solomon in the Iron IIA period, in the 10th century BCE, in line with the Bible’s “wall of Jerusalem, and Hazor, Megiddo and Gezer” which Solomon built with conscripted labor.

A key dividing line in views about the archaeology of the southern Levant relates to the dating of pottery in the various layers and the centuries to which they should be assigned. Proponents of the High Chronology place the Iron IIA beginning in the 10th century, while supporters of the Low Chronology place the Iron IIA period in the 9th century. A 9th century BCE beginning would pose a challenge to the biblical claims about King Solomon constructing of these gates.

Along these lines, the assigning of the six-chambered gates at Hazor, Megiddo and Gezer to Solomon has been challenged. Proponents of the Low Chronology place the gates of Megiddo in the 9th century BCE, and some argue for a date as late as the 8th century BCE, and therefore unconnected to King Solomon.

Similar challenges have been made about the gate system at both Hazor and Gezer. In the mid-2010s new digs were undertaken to learn more about Gezer, and the findings still await publication.

The image above is of the gate system at Megiddo. An aerial view of the six-chambered gates can be seen via the link below: