Biblical Sha’arayim: Khirbet Qeiyafa’s Second Gate Discovered

The two city gates at Biblical Sha’arayim

khirbet-qeiyafa-southern-gate

The second city gate at Khirbet Qeiyafa, believed to be Biblical Sha’arayim, is located on the southern side of the site. Photo: Yosef Garfinkel.

Overlooking the Elah Valley in the Shephelah, about 20 miles southwest of Jerusalem, lies the site of Khirbet Qeiyafa. Seven seasons of excavations led by directors Yosef Garfinkel and Saar Ganor at Khirbet Qeiyafa exposed a fortified city from the time of King David and offered new evidence that the early Kingdom of Judah was bigger and more advanced than some scholars would believe. Among the incredible finds at Qeiyafa was a second city gate from the 10th century B.C.E.; no other site from this period in Israel has more than one gate. In “Rejected! Qeiyafa’s Unlikely Second Gate” in the January/February 2017 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review, Yosef Garfinkel, Saar Ganor and Joseph Baruch Silver describe what Khirbet Qeiyafa’s two city gates tell us about the Kingdom of Judah in David’s time.

Dig directors Yosef Garfinkel and Saar Ganor identify Khirbet Qeiyafa with Biblical Sha’arayim, Hebrew for “two gates” (Joshua 15:36; 1 Samuel 17:52; 1 Chronicles 4:31)—a fitting name for the site. The two monumental four-chambered city gates at Khirbet Qeiyafa are located on the western and southern sides of the site and measure approximately 35 feet wide and 42 feet deep into the city. The western gate controls access to the road going west toward Philistia, while the southern one opens down to the Elah Valley that eventually connects to Jerusalem.
 


 
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Some scholars view King David’s kingdom as a simple agrarian society, sparsely inhabited, with no fortified cities, no administration and no writing,” write BAR authors Garfinkel, Ganor and Silver. “These scholars find it very hard to accept the new discoveries at Qeiyafa, which have completely dismantled these hypotheses.”

Indeed, the excavations at Khirbet Qeiyafa show that Biblical Sha’arayim, mentioned in the David and Goliath story in 1 Samuel 17:52, was no ordinary city:

“At the summit of the site, we found a palatial structure that probably served as the central administrative building for this area of the Davidic kingdom,” explain Garfinkel, Ganor and Silver. “This, along with the rest of the site, disproves the early assumption by some scholars that David was simply a local chieftain who ruled the area around Jerusalem at most. Excavation showed that more than 200,000 tons of stone was required to construct this administrative center.”

khirbet-qeiyafa-site

Excavations at the site of Khirbet Qeiyafa revealed a heavily fortified 10th-century B.C.E. city that clearly had central authority in Judah during the time of King David. The Iron Age city boasted a monumental administrative building, a casemate wall (a wall composed of two parallel walls divided into internal chambers), and not one, but—the authors argue—two massive city gates. The second, southern gate is the key to identifying Qeiyafa with Biblical Sha’arayim, Hebrew for “two gates.” Photo: SkyView.

To learn the fascinating story behind the discovery of the unique second city gate at Khirbet Qeiyafa, read the full article “Rejected! Qeiyafa’s Unlikely Second Gate” by Yosef Garfinkel, Saar Ganor and Joseph Baruch Silver in the January/February 2017 issue of BAR.

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BAS Library members: Read the full article “Rejected! Qeiyafa’s Unlikely Second Gate” by Yosef Garfinkel, Saar Ganor and Joseph Baruch Silver in the January/February 2017 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review.

Not a BAS Library member yet? Join the BAS Library today.
 


 
Explore a Temple model from Khirbet Qeiyafa in Solomon’s Temple and Palace by Yosef Garfinkel and Madeleine Mumcuoglu, available for purchase in the BAS Store >>
 

 

Related reading in Bible History Daily:

Khirbet Qeiyafa and Tel Lachish Excavations Explore Early Kingdom of Judah

The Doorways of Solomon’s Temple
Temple model from Khirbet Qeiyafa may unlock a mysterious Biblical passage

Biblical Name Eshbaal Found Outside of the Bible
Khirbet Qeiyafa excavators publish new Iron Age inscription

The Oldest Hebrew Script and Language
Christopher Rollston examines the Qeiyafa Ostracon, Gezer Calendar and other candidates for the oldest known Hebrew inscription

The Great Minimalist Debate
Citing the major archaeological discoveries at Khirbet Qeiyafa, Yosef Garfinkel has argued that David and Solomon ruled over a well-organized and fully urbanized Judahite state in the tenth century B.C.E. In doing so, he rejects some of the essential tenets of Biblical minimalism and the Low Chronology.
 


 

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4 Responses

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  1. Peter says

    I recall an article in Biblical Archaeology Review a few years ago where Israelite weapons were discovered at the site of a Philistine city and were related to the David and Goliath story. I wonder how it relates to this new discovery.

  2. GENE says

    Again we have additional evidence of the authenticity of the Bible, that it is accurate recorded history about real events, real places. There is no other book like the inspired Scriptures. When read daily, it also provides us with a moral compass.(2 Timothy 3:16,17; Isaiah 48:17; ) We thank Jehovah for providing this wonderful text and preserving it intact for those of us living today. May His Kingdom come and His will be done on earth. It is the one event that will change and eliminate all the disturbing events on earth today. See JW.org.

  3. David says

    “The western gate controls access to the road going west toward Philistia, while the southern one opens down to the Elah Valley that eventually connects to Jerusalem.”
    This is as misleading as it was the first time Prof. Garfinkel said that the second gate faces Jerusalem back in 2008/9. The second gate does not face Jerusalem. It faces southeast – almost exactly facing the Tel Socho, the Hills of Hebron in the background. Jerusalem is northeast of Qeiyafa, and if the site existed at the time of Saul’s encounter with the Philistines (Battle of David & Goliath), Jerusalem would have been a Jebusite and not yet a part of a Davidic Kingdom. Which leads to the larger question – was Qeiyafa built under King Saul’s administration, or by the leadership of Israel’s largest tribe – Judah? Before David was king. Prof. Garfinkel cannot have it both ways.

  4. JB says

    Based on the burnt olive pits found at the site and examined with Carbon 14 dating, the site was built under David, NOT Saul and NOT by Judahites before David. It is scientifically proven.

    Re. direction of the Southeastern Gate, which I had the privilege to discover, thanks to my ignorance (when the three of us walked around the site from the outside, Yossi and Sa’ar looked at the wonderful view of the Ela Valley, while I, not knowing that this city is unique for the period in having more than one gate, was looking carefully at the city wall the whole time, and noticed the opening filled with small stones between a pair of truly monumental stone block walls.).
    True, it faces SE, but connects most easily to the best topographic access to the road to Jerusalem. Whereas the Western Gate not only faces W, but is much easier as an access westward, and would mean a lot longer walk and harder access towards Jerusalem because of the topography.

    And to test the hypothesis that Sha’arayim was accessible from Jerusalem by troops marching in one day, we organised such a march from the City of David to Kh. Qeiyefa, in Nov. 2010. It departed right after I finished my morning prayers (We started walking by 06:25am), and we walked almost the whole way (because of the now Hamas stronghold of Battir, we had to make certain changes on the logical route, and had to move from the Refaim Valley to the Ela Valley by vehicle).
    The ‘unit’ arrived by 15:20 (3:20pm), and to the SE Gate !


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