The two city gates at Biblical Sha’arayim
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.”
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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