Two Gates Near Gath

Credit:, Judah, Israel

Leviticus begins with God giving Moses instruction for the process of a variety of offerings brought within the gates of the Tabernacle. One significant archaeological site might be notable for its gates.

Khirbet Qeiyafa is a hilltop archaeological site along the border of the Shephelah, the Judean foothills, and Philistia, the southern coastal region of Canaan. Qeiyafa’s location was highly strategic as the ancient city overlooked the Elah Valley, near Socoh and Azekah, the location of David’s fight with Goliath in 1 Samuel 17 and the trade route from the coast into the hill country. The city was located opposite of the Philistine city of Gath.

The site was active for a short period during the Iron Age, at which point the city was destroyed. Carbon dating of olive pits found on site were dated to the 11th-10th century BCE, and the city appears to have met its end by the first half of the 10th century BCE, likely by the Philistines of Gath.

Qeiyafa covers roughly 2.5 hectares and is surrounded by a defensive wall. The defensive wall around Qeiyafa may have the unusual feature of two gates. This has led to the claim that the site is Sha’araim, meaning “two gates,” where in 1 Samuel 17 the Philistines’ bodies were left strew along the road. The city appears to have had monumental structures and a large storeroom, which would suggest the city served as an administrative center.

There is a debate as to who occupied this site. Suggestions range from the Philistines, Canaanites, an autonomous kingdom, the Israelite kingdom, or a kingdom associated with the Judean hill country.

If the latter, it would provide support for the idea of a kingdom led by a King David, ruling from Jerusalem, or one led by a King Saul, ruling from Gibeah, able to direct monumental construction of a defensive wall and an administrative building, and collect taxes at a distance from Jerusalem or Gibeah. If this kingdom was able to build and manage a defensible border city at a distance from its capital, it raises the possibility that it was also able to direct the activities of disparate tribes at a greater distance from its capital in the central hill country.

The image above is of the western gate of Qeiyafa.