City Gate From the Time of King David Unearthed In Miracle Village
Archaeologists have announced an amazing discovery - they have found an ancient city gate that dates to the time of King David , perhaps the greatest of all the rulers of ancient Israel. This find came after decades of digging at a site in the Golan Heights. The gate is expected to change the received wisdom on the ancient kingdom of Israel and offer a new perspective on the era when King David and Solomon ruled in the region.
The gate, according to the Jerusalem Post , “was discovered after 32 years of excavation in the ancient city of Bethsaida in the Golan Heights”. The site is on a rocky hill that overlooks a valley and the Sea of Galilee and is in a nature reserve and heritage park. Not much remains of the gate, only a few dressed stones, but the site is most definitely some sort of entrance to a city.
Low quality image of the Bethsaida City Gate that was uncovered in excavations last year. Source: Stephen G. Rosenberg
WND reports that a group of international archaeologists, have been digging at the location and they “have been sponsored by ‘Hebrew Union College of Jerusalem’.” The team is led by Professor Rami Arav of the University of Nebraska, who has been excavating in the area since 1987.
Bethsaida is a unique archaeological site because, unlike others in Damascus and Jerusalem, it has not been disturbed by later construction work and is a unique example of an urban settlement from around 1000 BC and later.
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An Ancient City in the Golan Heights
Bethsaida is an ancient site that is located about two miles from the Sea of Galilee , and is reputedly where Jesus and his disciples resided for a while and performed miracles. There have been many archaeological finds made in the area, including coins and jewelry. Last year another gate was found in the Golan Heights site.
It was made of brick and dates from approximately 1000 to 500 BC. CUFI reports that the gate “was cautiously identified to be a part of the biblical city of Zer, a name used during the First Temple period”. It appears that the recently discovered gate is centuries older.
Experts have been able to date the recently discovered gate to “the time and rule of King David, which is purportedly from the 11th to 10th centuries BC” according to the Jerusalem Post . This was possible because of artifacts found in the vicinity of the gate. In this period the urban settlement was known as Zer and it was mentioned in the Book of Joshua in the Old Testament . The discovery of the gate indicates that the city was once well-fortified and an important urban center.
Ruins in Bethsaida where the City Gate has been found. ( Robert Hoetink / Adobe Stock)
The City Was Allied With the Kingdom of David
While the gate may date to the reign of the Kingdom of David it appears that it was not a Hebrew city. In the ruined settlement was found a stele that was dedicated to a lunar deity that was worshipped by an Aramaic group. It is dated back to approximately 1000 BC. The newly discovered gate was probably an entrance to the capital city of the kingdom of Geshur.
This was not part of the Kingdom of David, but an independent state. We can better understand the era if we realize that the region was divided into a number of small kingdoms or chiefdoms. Kings such as David, can be understood to be the “chieftain of large tribes of Israelites”, reports WND. The Geshur king was an ally of and the father-in-law of David, the slayer of Goliath, and may have visited the city at some time.
Over time Zer, lost its status as a capital and was occupied by Hebrews and became part of the land of Israel. This was when the city became known as Bethsaida and was no more than a small fishing village. However, it is mentioned several times in the New Testament , and it was the site of several miracles by Jesus and the birthplace of several of the Apostles. As a result, tens of thousands of Christian pilgrims visit the area every year.
The gate is only one of a handful that have been discovered, not only in Israel but in the Middle Eastern region. The study of the entrance to the ancient city of Zer and later Bethsaida can help us to understand urban planning and development from the Iron Age and later. Moreover, it can help us to understand another contemporary capital city in the region, Jerusalem.
Top image: The new find city gate is thought to be centuries older than this previously existing gate at Bethsaida. Source: CC BY 3.0
By Ed Whelan