Archaeologists Uncover Gates to Gath, Hometown of Old Testament Giant Goliath: 'An Astounding Find'

Aug 07, 2015 11:52 AM EDT

Archaeologists have unearthed a massive gate in the Israeli village of Tell es-Safi that is believed to be the entrance to Gath, the hometown of the giant Goliath who the Israelite David defeated with a slingshot in the account found in 1st Samuel 17.

According to LiveScience, the gate of Gath was found by researchers at Bar-Ilan University conducting excavations in the Tel Zafit national park, in the Judean foothills between Jerusalem and Ashkelon.

The city, which was ruled by the Philistines, was occupied until about the ninth century BC, when it was destroyed by Hazael, king of Damascus, said lead archaeologist of the current excavation, Aren Maeir, of Bar-Ilan University in Israel.

"We have known for quite a few years that the city of Philistine Gath was one of, if not the largest, cities in the region during the Iron Age," he told the Independent.

While archaeologists have been excavating at the site since 1899, it wasn't until the past few decades that they realized how impressive the Iron Age remains really were. In addition to the discovery of the gate, workers also uncovered a fortification wall, as well as other buildings, such as what is believed to be a temple and an iron production facility.

"With the new finds of the monumental fortifications and apparent city gate, we can now state quite clearly that this kingdom was in fact a powerful one," Maeir stated.

Writing on the team's blog, Maeir noted that there is still a great deal of work to be done to fully uncover the gate.

"We still have to do a lot of cleaning, defining, digging and measuring to do, but it appears that there are really good chances we have truly landed on quite an astounding find," he writes. 

'Many lines of megalithic stone are appearing, with nice corners, features and even mud bricks. While we are quite far from fully understanding this architectural complex, it is getting more and more impressive."

Gath is best known by Christians as being the home of Goliath, a nine-foot giant who challenged the people of Israel to a fight. Accorrding to the Biblical account, King Saul and the nation of Israel feared Goliath and refused to fight him. However, the shepherd boy David was called by God to defeat the pagan giant, and thus killed him with a slingshot and a stone.

The gate of Gath is also referred to in the Bible in the story of David's escape from King Saul to Achish, the King of Gath.

"It may very well be that this is the gate that the biblical author had in mind when this story was written," Maeir said, adding that King Hazael besieged the site of the city before its destruction and the excavation team found evidence of this "siege system".

He said: "In fact, this is the earliest archaeological evidence in the entire world of a siege system."

According to a report from Bar-Ilan University, a number of other discoveries have been made at the site, including "Philistine Temples dating to the 11th through 9th century BCE, evidence of an earthquake in the 8th century BCE possibly connected to the earthquake mentioned in the Book of Amos, the earliest decipherable Philistine inscription ever to be discovered, which contains two names similar to the name Goliath" and "remains relating to the earliest siege system in the world, constructed by Hazael, King of Aram Damascus around 830 BCE, along with extensive evidence of the subsequent capture and destruction of the city by Hazael, as mentioned in Second Kings 12:18."