Evidence of Biblical Earthquake Discovered in Jerusalem

Sites Across Israel Damaged by Eighth-Century B.C.E. Quake

Vessels Shattered by an ancient earthquake

Remains of the various vessels shattered by the eighth-century B.C.E. earthquake that struck Jerusalem and other cities throughout Israel and Judah. Credit: Eliyahu Yanai, City of David

According to the Israel Antiquities Authority, evidence for a powerful earthquake mentioned by the prophets Amos and Zechariah has been discovered in Jerusalem. According to excavation directors Joe Uziel and Ortal Chalaf, the evidence was found in a destruction layer of the City of David Archaeological Park. Amid the destruction, which dates to the mid-eighth century B.C.E., they found collapsed walls and shattered vessels, but no signs of fire. After extensive research, the team concluded the destruction must have resulted from the famed earthquake that occurred in the lands of Israel and Judah during the reign of Uzziah, king of Judah.

The earthquake is mentioned twice in the Hebrew Bible, first in Amos 1:1, which says that Amos began prophesying two years before the earthquake occurred. The quake is also referenced in Zechariah 14:5, where Zechariah compares the devastation wrought by the approaching end of days to the earthquake that shook Judah during the reign of King Uzziah. Given that Zechariah lived two centuries after Amos, the earthquake must have been extreme enough to leave a lasting impression on the Judean consciousness. Indeed, the IAA excavators believe it was “probably one of the strongest and most damaging earthquakes in ancient times.”

Evidence for this powerful eighth-century B.C.E. earthquake has now been discovered in several sites across modern Israel, including Hazor, Gezer, Tel Agol, and Tell es-Safi. The Jerusalem excavation, however, provides the first evidence that the quake impacted the Judean hill country as well.

FREE ebook: Ancient Israel in Egypt and the Exodus.

* Indicates a required field.

A June, 2021 analysis of the evidence from the site of Tel Agol in the Jezreel Valley has shed further light on this momentous earthquake. The fortress of Tel Agol, first constructed in the tenth century B.C.E., allowed the Kingdom of Israel to control and watch over the strategic valley. Around the mid-eighth century, large sections of the fortress’s walls were destroyed by what the excavators concluded could only have been an earthquake. Although some sections were rebuilt, the fortress never regained its original prominence.

While the eighth-century earthquake itself is now well documented through archaeological evidence, each new discoveryprovides a fuller picture of the quake’s destructive power. The evidence shows that the quake wrought devastation from Hazor in the north to Tell es-Safi in the south, a swath of destruction more than 125 miles long—certainly a powerful and remarkable event that was remembered by the biblical prophets.


Read more in the Bas Library

Not a BAS Library or All-Access Member yet? Join today.


Earthquake!:Inspiration for Armageddon by Amos NurHagai Ron

Almost 200 of the approximately 400 archaeological sites excavated in Israel show possible evidence of earthquake destruction: fallen columns lying like parallel toothpicks, collapsed walls, crushed skeletons and slipped keystones as well as a regional pattern of destruction

New Light on the Nabataeans: Recent excavations at the rose red city of Petra reveal devastation by the same earthquake which destroyed Jerusalem in 363 A.D. by Philip C. Hammond

Suddenly, and without warning, at the third hour of the night (the third hour after sunset according to Roman practice) the streets of Jerusalem trembled and buckled, crushing two hundred years of hope into a pile of dust. No longer would there be any possibility of rebuilding the Temple. A hundred and twenty miles south of Jerusalem, on the other side of the Jordan, the magnificent facade of Petra’s theater fell inward.

The Volcano Explains Everything—Or Does It?: Does this crater from an ancient volcanic eruption hold the answer to the mysteries of the Exodus? by Manfred Bietak

The idea of associating the Thera eruption with the unusual tempest in the Tempest Stela of Ahmose has also been suggested a number of times, although the idea has also been refuted. And the association of the Exodus with the Thera eruption is also not new. Already in 1981, Hans Goedicke, then professor at The Johns Hopkins University, compared the features in the Exodus narrative with a volcanic eruption and its aftereffects.

Get more biblical Archaeology: Become a Member

The world of the Bible is knowable. We can learn about the society where the ancient Israelites, and later Jesus and the Apostles, lived through the modern discoveries that provide us clues.

Biblical Archaeology Review is the guide on that fascinating journey. Here is your ticket to join us as we discover more and more about the biblical world and its people.

Each issue of Biblical Archaeology Review features lavishly illustrated and easy-to-understand articles such as:

• Fascinating finds from the Hebrew Bible and New Testament periods

• The latest scholarship by the world's greatest archaeologists and distinguished scholars

• Stunning color photographs, informative maps, and diagrams

• BAR's unique departments

• Reviews of the latest books on biblical archaeology

The BAS Digital Library includes:

• 45+ years of Biblical Archaeology Review

• 20+ years of Bible Review online, providing critical interpretations of biblical texts

• 8 years of Archaeology Odyssey online, exploring the ancient roots of the Western world in a scholarly and entertaining way,

• The New Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land

• Video lectures from world-renowned experts.

• Access to 50+ curated Special Collections,

• Four highly acclaimed books, published in conjunction with the Smithsonian Institution: Aspects of Monotheism, Feminist Approaches to the Bible, The Rise of Ancient Israel and The Search for Jesus.

The All-Access membership pass is the way to get to know the Bible through biblical archaeology.

Related Posts

May 19
Understanding the Good Samaritan Parable

By: Biblical Archaeology Society Staff

May 18
Jethro in the Bible

By: Elie Wiesel

May 17
Locating Plato’s Burial

By: Nathan Steinmeyer

May 16
The Apostle Peter in Rome

By: Nicola Denzey Lewis

Write a Reply or Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Write a Reply or Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Send this to a friend