Digging Into The Past


Saul and David

The archaeologist refers to the period of the Israelite monarchy as Iron I. There are several points at which the archaeological finds supplement the Biblical record during this period. Some of this information will be discussed briefly.

Gibeah of Saul -- 1 Sam. 11:4

The first king of Israel, Saul, made his home at Gibeah (I Sam. 10:26). Gibeah was located about three miles north of Jerusalem on a main road leading north at an elevation of more than 2700 feet. It was a city of the tribe of Benjamin (I Sam. 14:16), and is presently called Tell el-Ful (hill of beans) by the Arabs. William F. Albright excavated Gibeah during 1922 and 1933. From the time of King Saul, in the second half of the 11th century B.C., Albright found "a corner tower and part of the adjacent wall" (Albright, The Archaeology of Palestine, p. 120). The southwest tower of the fortress had three rooms and the indication was that the whole structure was at least two stories high.

David Captures Jerusalem

After David had served as King of Israel for seven years from Hebron (2 Sam. 5:5), he defeated the Jebusites and Jerusalem became known as "the city of David" (2 Sam. 5:6-11). I have been impressed with the smallness of the city which David captured. It amounted to 6 or 8 acres lying south of what later became the temple site and on a ridge between the Kidron and Tyropoeon valleys. Archaeological evidence shows that the Jebusites had the city well-fortified. The fact that it remained for David to control the city substantiates this evidence.

The account of the capture of the Jebusite stronghold has puzzled many Bible readers. David promised that "whosoever getteth up to the gutter . . . shall be chief and captain" (2 Sam. 5:6-8; 1 Chron. 11:4-8; King James Version). The Bible says that Joab "went up first." Some have thought that the word translated gutter should have been hook and that the reference is to scaling the wall by means of a grappling hook. Archaeology has provided a more reasonable explanation and the finding is reflected in the Revised Standard Version which renders the word as water shaft. The water supply for Jebus was a single spring which lay outside the walls of the city on the eastern slope of the hill. Dr. Siegfried H. Horn describes the way the Jebusites brought water into Zion from Gihon Spring:

"First they had dug a horizontal tunnel, beginning at the spring and proceeding toward the center of the city. After digging for ninety feet they hit a natural cave. From the cave they dug a vertical shaft forty-five feet high and from the end of the shaft a sloping tunnel 135 feet long and a staircase that ended at the surface of their city, 110 feet above the water level of the spring. The spring was then concealed from the outside so that no enemy could detect it. To get water the Jebusite women went down through the upper tunnel and let their water skins down the shaft to draw water from the cave, to which it was brought by natural flow through the horizontal tunnel that connected the cave with the spring.

"This water system, constructed more than three thousand years ago, is still in existence and can be examined by any tourist. Some good -climbers have even climbed the shaft in modern times though it is not easy to do so because the rock walls are smooth and slick and give little hold for hand or foot. The shaft is also a little too wide for a comfortable climb as I learned in my unsuccessful attempt to climb it" (S. H. Horn, "Recent Illumination of the Old Testament," Christianity Today, June 21, 1968, p. 16.)

Archaeology serves to correct false identifications. The present place at the southwest corner of Jerusalem which is revered by Jews as the tomb of David and called Mt. Zion has been so identified only 'since the 12th century A. D. The tomb of David may have been known on Pentecost when the church was established (Acts 2:29) but such is not the case today (cf. The Israel Guide, p. 94).

In order to be remembered after his death, Absalom, the son of David, erected a pillar in his own honor. The stone was called "Absalom's monument" (2 Sam. 18:17-18). This monument can not be identified today and is not to be confused with the present day Absalom's Tomb in the Kidron Valley which dates from the Hellenistic period.

Beginning with Solomon we encounter many direct archaeological confirmations of the biblical record. We plan to discuss those related to Solomon in the next article.

August 1969