An older Iron Age city built on Goliath's scale which may have inspired the stories of David and Goliath found below the excavated city of Gath.
As covered in recent articles by Ha’aretz and another by The Times of Israel, archaeologists have uncovered evidence of unusually large stone fortifications beneath the excavation of Gath. The remains of this giant 3,000-year-old Philistine city may have inspired biblical stories of giants hundreds of years later, including the warrior giant Goliath who David defeated by hitting him in the head with the stone from a slingshot.
The story of David and Goliath has come to symbolize the spirit and triumph of the underdog. In the biblical story, It is David’s defeat of giant Goliath that enabled the Israelites to turn the tides and defeat the Philistines in the valley of Elah.
Tell es-Safi has been an ongoing excavation for 23 years, with Aren M. Maeir’s leadership a constant, and has been accepted by most scholars as the site of biblical Gath for most of that time. As he and Carl S. Ehrlich noted in their 2001 BAR Article, Excavating Philistine Gath: Have We Found Goliath’s Hometown?: “The archaeologist’s spade… has uncovered a rich Philistine culture, which in its material aspects often exceeded the level of contemporaneous Israelite culture.” This was two decades before finding the even more imposing city that lay beneath the excavation of the Gath of the 9th and 10th centuries BCE.
Archaeologists excavating in 2019’s Dig season uncovered, below a thoroughly explored layer at Tell es-Safi, large scale stone fortifications, built with very large stones. They believe they’ve found an older, extremely large Philistine city for the time, dating to the 11th Century BCE. Featuring much larger stones and walls twice as thick as other cities in the area, it might have inspired tales of the giant Goliath, and as many as four other Philistine giants who appeared in the bible.
Learn more about Gath, and possibly about its implications for the story of giant Goliath, at the Tell es-Safi/Gath Blog site. Even though they only plan to dig for two more years, there may yet be more surprises in store that may impact our understanding of biblical history. As Maeir and Erhlich concluded their 2001 article, “One never knows what the next spade will turn up.”
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