Geshurite Fort Excavated

Iron Age Building belonged to the Geshurites, the people of Maachah, who, in the Biblical account, married King David and bore Absalom and Tamar.

Geshurite Fort

Photo: Yaniv Berman, Israel Antiquities Authority.

A complex was excavated on a hill above the El-Al Canyon in Hispin on the Golan Heights. The Iron Age Fort was dated to the eleventh to tenth century B.C.E., the time of King David. Around the hill, the walls were about five feet wide, made of basalt boulders. The archaeologists believe the fort had probably been built by the Geshurites.

In the Bible, the Geshurite princess Maachah married David, and they had two children together, Absalom and Tamar. After their half-brother Amnon, also David’s child, raped Tamar, Absalom arranged his murder. Then, he fled to safety with his Geshurite grandfather Talmai (2 Samuel 13:20–38). After three years, he returned to Jerusalem, where he plotted to seize David’s throne. Absalom’s death in the rebellion prompted David’s lament, “O, my son! Absalom my son, my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you! O Absalom, my son, my son!” (2 Samuel 18:33).

The above explanation was taken from “Rediscovered! The Land of Geshur,” by Moshe Kochavi, Timothy Renner, Ira Spar, and Esther Yadin (BAR, July/Aug 1992). In the article, the archaeologists explain that the Bible provides enough clues to seek historic Geshur in the Golan Heights, at sites such as Tel ‘En-Gev, Tel Soreg, and Mitham Leviah. They express cautious optimism that they may have found signs of the Geshurites.

Moon-God Cult Engraving

Photo: Yaniv Berman, Israel Antiquities Authority.

At the Hispin site that has just been announced, one especially important find is a basalt stone with an engraving of two horned figures. This is similar to a horned figure with spread arms engraved on a stele found at Bethsaida, which archaeologists believe to have been the capital of the Aramean Kingdom of Geshur. Dr. Rami Arav, head of the Bethsaida expedition, believes the figure represents the Moon-God Cult. The similar cultic engraving is one indicator that the Hispin site is also Geshurite.

The excavation of Hispin is conducted by the Israel Antiquities Authority, under the direction of Barak Tzin and Enno Bron. You can read the English language press release of their find here.

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The Bull from the Sea: Geshur’s Chief Deity? A bull-headed figure stares belligerently from this basalt stela, challenging archaeologists with an apparently unprecedented find. Stelae are rarely found in Israel, though they have been discovered throughout the rest of the ancient Near East. Unearthed during the 1997 season at Bethsaida, the bull stela faces front and is armed with long horns and a short dagger. A strap wraps around the bull’s body and the stela’s frame, and four small circular projections protrude from a spot next to the bull’s chest.


Bethsaida Rediscovered: Long-lost city found north of Galilee shore by Rami AravRichard A. FreundJohn F. Shroder Jr.Bethsaida is the town that disappeared. Soon after playing a prominent role in the Gospels—Bethsaida is mentioned more often in the New Testament than any city except Jerusalem and Capernaum—this fishing village on the Sea of Galilee simply became lost to history. Early Christian pilgrims went in search of it, but they had no idea where to find it.


Sexual Power and Political Prestige: The case of the disputed concubines by Ken Stone. Sex has always been of greater interest to anthropologists than to students of the Bible. For that very reason, however, anthropology may offer an added dimension for understanding biblical texts.

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