BIBLE HISTORY DAILY

Has the Home of the Prophet Micah Been Found?

Study identifies Azekah as the mysterious Moresheth-Gath

The home of the prophet Micah?

Tel Azekah, the home of the prophet Micah? Courtesy Nathan Steinmeyer, BAS.

Where is the biblical town of Moresheth-Gath, the birthplace of the prophet Micah? The exact location of Moresheth-Gath, a site that is mentioned several times in the Hebrew Bible, has continued to elude scholars. Now, a pair of scholars have suggested a fascinating new theory. Publishing in the journal Zeitschrift für die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft, Oded Lipschits, a professor of archaeology at Tel Aviv University, and Jakob Wöhrle, a professor of Old Testament at the University of Tübingen, propose that Moresheth-Gath be identified with biblical Azekah. But how did one site get two biblical names?

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Discovering Micah’s Moresheth-Gath

Mentioned only three times in the Bible, the birthplace of the prophet Micah is certainly an enigma, with modern scholars suggesting nearly a dozen archaeological sites as Moresheth-Gath, but none seemed to fit Micah’s description. So could this mysterious town be none other than the biblical site of Azekah, a powerful stronghold of Judah?

One of the earliest references to the city of Moresheth-Gath comes from the Amarna letters, where a letter from the king of Gath describes a city in his territory known as Murashtu, an Akkadian rendering of the name Moresheth. This letter (and other texts where the site is mentioned) help establish the location of Moresheth-Gath firmly in the territory of Gath, likely in the Elah Valley, which was a strategically important corridor through the Judean foothills. Micah 1:13–16 gives more information about Moresheth. Micah’s lament for the cities that would be destroyed by Sennacherib (c. 701 BCE) includes Moresheth-Gath among a list of fortified Judahite cities in the Shephelah, pairing it closely with the site of Lachish just 15 miles to the south.

The Elah Valley

The Elah Valley as seen from on top of Tel Azekah. Courtesy Nathan Steinmeyer, BAS.

Meanwhile, texts naming the site of Azekah are lacking, at least before its conquest by Judah at the end of the ninth century BCE. Despite the lack of textual records, archaeology shows that the site was already well established by the Bronze Age (c. 3300–1200 BCE), when it was an on-again, off-again vassal city of nearby Gath. Strong in its own right, Azekah, located in the Elah Valley, appears to have existed in the shadow of the larger Gath. Despite this, the city was certainly an important and prosperous one. But there is an issue. The earliest references to Azekah, which appear only in the late ninth century, describe it as a Judahite city that was closely linked to nearby Lachish rather than Gath. By contrast, during this period, the name Moresheth-Gath no longer appears in textual sources outside of the biblical account.

Azekah

Excavations at Azekah. Courtesy Nathan Steinmeyer, BAS.

Even though we lack clear textual references to Azekah’s name prior to the ninth century, the available textual and biblical evidence seems to indicate that Azekah and Moresheth-Gath were actually one and the same. According to Lipschits and Wöhrle, “In all likelihood, Azekah is the new name of Moresheth-Gath given to the city by Judahite rulers after taking control of the western Shephelah, not before the end of the ninth century BCE.” However, despite the official name change during the time of the Judahite kingdom, local residents, including the prophet Micah, continued to call the city by its traditional name, Moresheth-Gath.


Read more in Bible History Daily:

Digging In: Tel Azekah

The Cruel End of Canaanite Azekah

All-Access members, read more in the BAS Library:

The Last Days of Canaanite Azekah

Excavating Philistine Gath: Have We Found Goliath’s Hometown?

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1 Responses

  1. Jerry Felsenthal says:

    Several weeks ago I sent to the BAR information on Prof. Charles Krahmalkov’s 2017 submission to the Belgian Academy for the Study of Ancient and Oriental Languages of a 45 page article called The Chief of Miners, Moses:Sinai 346, c.1250 BCE. That article argues that there is plenty of archeological evidence that Moses existed and, in his article, he identifies the specific evidence that he has considered. The article includes pictures of various artifacts and the translation of various steles and inscriptions from the period that Moses existed. If Prof. Krahmalkov’s conclusion is correct, this might be as earth shaking an event as the Dead Sea Scrolls, and one would think that a eminent publication like BAR, which I have subscribed to for many years, would have published at least a paragraph on the Krahmalkov’s paper. To date, however, I have had no response from BAR regarding the article, and have seen nothing in BAR that even acknowledges Prof. Krahmalkov’s theory and evidence. That non-response is in line with BAR’s position that there is no archeological evidence that Moses existed. Yet BAR has seen fit to print, in its Winter, 2022 magazine, a lengthy article by Yonatan Adler, which takes the position that there is no physical evidence that Judaism was practiced before the second or third century B.C.E and that, therefore, Judaism, as we know it, was not practiced before that time. I would point out that Mr. Adler ignores all the physical evidence to the contrary, but any opposition to Mr. Adler’s comments has not been published by BAR, as far as I know. Let’s consider that BAR has not discussed Prof. Krahmalkov’s article because they consider him as some kind of kook. Prof. Krahmalkov received his PhD in Ancient and Blical Languages from Harvard University. From there, he was hired by the University of Michigan as a Professor of Ancient and Biblical Languages, where he taught for many years. He is now a professor emeritus. During his tenure at the University of Michigan he published, among many other works, a “Phoenician-Punic Dictionary” and a separate book on “Phoenician-Punic Grammar” which was recently republished by the Society of Biblical Literature. Clearly, he is not an ignoramus, or a kook. So why hasn’t BAR published anything about his 2017 paper, which was a scholarly work backed by a man who has, perhaps, unrivaled expertise in his field and 40 years of research and teaching?? I don’t know. Perhaps BAR can enlighten me by at least responding to this email.

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1 Responses

  1. Jerry Felsenthal says:

    Several weeks ago I sent to the BAR information on Prof. Charles Krahmalkov’s 2017 submission to the Belgian Academy for the Study of Ancient and Oriental Languages of a 45 page article called The Chief of Miners, Moses:Sinai 346, c.1250 BCE. That article argues that there is plenty of archeological evidence that Moses existed and, in his article, he identifies the specific evidence that he has considered. The article includes pictures of various artifacts and the translation of various steles and inscriptions from the period that Moses existed. If Prof. Krahmalkov’s conclusion is correct, this might be as earth shaking an event as the Dead Sea Scrolls, and one would think that a eminent publication like BAR, which I have subscribed to for many years, would have published at least a paragraph on the Krahmalkov’s paper. To date, however, I have had no response from BAR regarding the article, and have seen nothing in BAR that even acknowledges Prof. Krahmalkov’s theory and evidence. That non-response is in line with BAR’s position that there is no archeological evidence that Moses existed. Yet BAR has seen fit to print, in its Winter, 2022 magazine, a lengthy article by Yonatan Adler, which takes the position that there is no physical evidence that Judaism was practiced before the second or third century B.C.E and that, therefore, Judaism, as we know it, was not practiced before that time. I would point out that Mr. Adler ignores all the physical evidence to the contrary, but any opposition to Mr. Adler’s comments has not been published by BAR, as far as I know. Let’s consider that BAR has not discussed Prof. Krahmalkov’s article because they consider him as some kind of kook. Prof. Krahmalkov received his PhD in Ancient and Blical Languages from Harvard University. From there, he was hired by the University of Michigan as a Professor of Ancient and Biblical Languages, where he taught for many years. He is now a professor emeritus. During his tenure at the University of Michigan he published, among many other works, a “Phoenician-Punic Dictionary” and a separate book on “Phoenician-Punic Grammar” which was recently republished by the Society of Biblical Literature. Clearly, he is not an ignoramus, or a kook. So why hasn’t BAR published anything about his 2017 paper, which was a scholarly work backed by a man who has, perhaps, unrivaled expertise in his field and 40 years of research and teaching?? I don’t know. Perhaps BAR can enlighten me by at least responding to this email.

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