BIBLE HISTORY DAILY

Military Fort Discovered from Time of Biblical Judges

Galon Fortress, the 3,200-year-old Canaanite stronghold, dates to a biblical period when the tribes of Israel were not united

Aerial photo of the Canaanite fortress. Emil Aladjem, IAA

The remains of a Canaanite Fortress have been discovered in the Southern Levant, overlooking the road that follows the Guvrin river, providing passage between the coastal plain and the Judean plains. The Egyptian governor house structure is consistent with forts from other sites in Israel. The discovery was announced by the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), following excavations by teenage volunteers under the direction of IAA and the Jewish National Fund.

The biblical Book of Judges, dated to 1,200 B.C.E., describes a period when the tribes of Israel were in the land of Canaan, but were not united. As Ellis Easterly explains in his article, “A Case of Mistaken Identity” (Bible Review, April 1997), the shophet could better be described as “warrior rulers” than as “judges.” Their distinguishing feature was their rare ability to get more than one tribe to follow them, generally uniting militarily to fight and defeat threatening neighbors: including the Ammonites, Canaanites, Moabites, Midianites, Philistines, and Mesopotamians.


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In the release, archaeologists Saar Ganor and Itamar Weissbein of the IAA explain the complicated geopolitics of the region, consistent with the stories of the Book of Judges, at the time when new powers emerged in the land of Israel. At the time of the judges, Canaan had been controlled by the powerful Egyptian empire, but the Philistines and Israelites both became major competitors, the Israelites settling in the mountains, and the Philistines building major cities Ashkelon, Ashdod, and Gath along the coast. Galon Fortress may have been built by the Canaanites and the Egyptians who ruled them to try and protect the kingdom of Lachish from Philistine Gath. “However, in the middle of the 12th century B.C. the Egyptians let the land of Canaan and returned to Egypt. Their departure led to the destruction of the now unprotected Canaanite citiesa destruction that was probably led by the Philistines.”

Galon Fortress Bowls

Bowls found at Galon Fortress: Dafna Gazit. IAA

Galon fortress was roughly 3,500 square feet. A threshold fashioned from a 3 ton rock marked its entrance. Walking inside there would have been a courtyard paved in stone, with columns, and rooms off each side. Hundreds of pottery vessels, including bowls made in the Egyptian style, were found in the remains of the rooms. When Galon fortress stood, each corner of the fortress had a watch tower.

In the absence of the Egyptians, Galon fortress may not have been enough to protect the Canaanites from the powerful Philistines. It does, however, tell us something about the region some 3,200 years ago, when control of Canaan was very much unsettled. As it says in Judges 21:25: “In those days there was no king in Israel.”

 


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An Israelite Village from the Days of the Judges by Moshe Kochavi and Aaron Demsky. One of the most critical battles in early Israelite history was fought about 1050 B.C. between the Israelites and the Philistines. At that time, the Bible tells us, the twelve tribes had settled the land and the Ark of the Covenant had been installed at Shiloh under the authority of Eli the High Priest. The people were ruled by tribal elders, by priests, by charismatic leaders called Judges who arose in times of crisis, and ultimately by the God of Israel.

Hazor and the Battle of Deborah—Is Judges 4 Wrong? by Yohanan Aharoni. The article on Hazor in the March 1975 issue of the BAR (“Yigael Yadin on ‘Hazor, The Head of All Those Kingdoms,’”) appears to endorse Yadin’s conclusion that the references to Hazor and its king Jabin in Judges 4 constitute “a late and inaccurate gloss.” Don’t reject the historicity of the Biblical text so easily.

The Egyptianizing of Canaan: How iron-fisted was pharaonic rule in the city-states of Syria-Palestine? by Carolyn R. Higginbotham. In the centuries before Israel emerged in the highlands of Canaan, first as a people and then as a nation, the region was essentially ruled by Egypt. But how are we to understand this hegemony?

The Philistines Enter Canaan: Were they Egyptian lackeys or invading conquerors? by Bryant G. Wood. Archaeology has brought the Philistines to life more vividly than perhaps any other Biblical people save the Israelites and the Egyptians.a We now know that the Philistines were one of the Sea Peoples that also included the Tjeker, the Denyen (or Danuna), the Shardana and the Weshesh. At the very beginning of the 12th century B.C.—the beginning of the period archaeologists call Iron Age I—the Sea Peoples swept out of the Aegean to make their appearance in the archaeological record and in ancient literary references.

The Trek of the Tribes as They Settled in Canaan If Biblical traditions represent some kind of historical memory, albeit edited, it should be interesting to examine the geographical involvement of the various tribes in each other’s territorial allotment. This may indicate the early presence of these families, or tribes, in another’s territory before the final division of the land took place. Moreover, this examination should also enable us to follow the path of Israelite expansion after the initial entry from Transjordan into the territory of Manasseh, as described in the preceding article.


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