Archive for May, 2016

The Battle of Jutland: May 31 – June 1, 1916

May 31, 2016 with No Comments and Posted in European, World War I by

One hundred years ago today, on May 31 – June 1, 1916, 151 British and 99 German ships-of-war participated in one of the defining naval battles of the First World War, just east of the British Isles, off the coast of Denmark. A huge assemblage of modern warships, Dreadnoughts, battle-cruisers, destroyers, and lighter ships gathered in one of the largest battles wherein modern warships have participated. This was one of largest clashes of modern warships that the world has ever seen.  This is the story of the Battle of Jutland.

The British Fleet

The battle began with the one of the Admirals of the German Navy, Franz von Hipper, attempting to lure one of the Commanders of the British fleet, Admiral David Beatty, into a trap where Admiral Reinhard Scheer was waiting with his main battleships. Despite Beatty’s maneuvering, before he could react, two of his larger British battle cruisers were sunk by German gunfire. However, with some quick thinking, Beatty turned the tactic around and drew the pursuing German Navy toward the Royal Navy. Within a few minutes Hipper found himself in front of a formidable force of British warships. Soon enough, Admiral Scheer also steamed up without realizing the danger in which he would be placing his ships.

The German Fleet

Here the British made one of the most important tactical decisions of the battle. Instead of heading his fleet of ships in line astern down the side of German fleet, British Admiral John Jellicoe turned his ships to port(left) and lead them across the front of the German column of ships. This prevented the German fleet from bringing to bear the full power of their guns, and, in return allowed the British to concentrate their full firepower on the German battleships. German Admiral Scheer realized the predicament he was in, and carried out a brilliant maneuver by turning all his ships away from the British fleet and laid a smokescreen for protection.

The Battle of Jutland

Yet for some unexplained reason, Scheer turned back to the British fleet and ran into the same problem. Knowing that a smokescreen could not save him now, he ordered his destroyers to launch a full scale torpedo attack on the British warships. Admiral Jellicoe, like many naval commanders of the day, was very cautious about torpedoes, and turned his ships away from the German fleet. This ensured his ships would be less likely to be hit by torpedoes, but it also meant that now he could never win the battle. By turning away, Jellicoe let Scheer escape beyond range of his guns, and let the German fleet speed away to their home port. Jellicoe gave chase, but both sides never came within range of the other again.

HMS Invincible moments before she sank

At the end of the battle both sides claimed victory, despite each suffering heavy losses. The British fleet however, may in hindsight have been the victors. Even having lost three of their best ships, they had hit the German Navy hard enough that they never put out to sea again for the duration of the war. But still, there was a terrible cost in lives on both sides. The British Grand Fleet, having more ships than the German High Seas Fleet, lost proportionally more men. There were 6500 casualties for the British, while the Germans only suffered 3000 casualties. An equal number of heavy ships were lost on each side, with the Royal Navy losing a few more destroyers than the German Navy. Despite all that, the German fleet had more ships seriously damaged then the British fleet, which reported 24 ships ready for action the following day. Thus, Britain remained in control of the sea for the duration of the war.

“World War One remains characterised by imagery of the trenches of the Western Front. Yet the sea was Britain’s lifeline and the supremacy of the Royal Navy was crucial to national survival. It is right, a century after Jutland – the largest and last clash between dreadnoughts – that we join together to remember those lost from both sides,” wrote First Sea Lord Admiral Sir George Zambellas during preparations for the 100th Anniversary commemorations. As this post is being read, a few thousand miles away in Scotland, and elsewhere, services of remembrance are being held for those who died in the Battle of Jutland, and to commemorate the events of 100 years ago. May we never forget the bravery and courage displayed on both sides of the fighting these many scores of years past.

This post was first published on my blog, www.forchristsglory.blogspot.com, as part of a series commemorating the history of World Wars I & II. Click here to read most posts like this.

Elisha Paxton: Making Every Act Conform to God’s Law

May 24, 2016 with No Comments and Posted in Civil War by

Editor’s Note: This post on Tales of Mighty Men comes to us from Stephen Huffman

HD_paxtonEF

In many ways, Elisha F. Paxton exemplified the Confederacy whose uniform he wore. He had a typical Southern background. His family was Scots-Irish, and had fought the Stuart monarchs in the 17th century. After immigrating to the American colonies, his ancestors had settled on the Virginia frontier and espoused the Patriot cause in the War for Independence. His domestic life was typical of the Southern gentleman farmer. Although he had aspired to military service, poor eyesight prevented him from attending West Point. Instead, he studied law, but when he became completely blind in one eye, he took up farming.

Paxton had strongly Southern political views. Devoted to constitutional liberty, he advocated secession long before most Virginia moderates were willing to take that step. After the war began, he had a successful military career. He was noted for gallantry at First Manassas and had gained the trust of Stonewall Jackson, who appointed him his Chief of Staff. Later, Jackson promoted him directly from the rank of Major to Brigadier General (bypassing all the colonels) and placed him in command of the Stonewall Brigade.

At home and on the battlefield, Paxton exemplified Southern chivalry. Although he was a fierce fighter on the battlefield, he was very tender to his three small children and to his wife, to whom he wrote every week. Moreover, he had a great respect for Christianity. When at home in Lexington, Virginia, he attended the same Presbyterian church that Jackson attended, and he was very courteous to the chaplains in his brigade. But at the time he took command of the Stonewall Brigade, he had made no profession of faith, although admiring “religion” in others.

Perhaps it was in this that he most resembled the Confederacy. Throughout the formation of the Confederacy, Southern politicians made frequent appeals to God, and many were the assertions that the new Confederacy was to be a Christian republic. But the Confederacy failed to recognize the full ramifications of what it means to be “Christian.”

In 1861, when the Confederate Constitution was being drafted, James H. Thornwell proposed the following provision: “We, the people of these Confederate States, distinctly acknowledge our responsibility to God and the supremacy of Jesus Christ as King of Kings and Lord of Lords; and hereby ordain that no law shall be passed by the Congress of these Confederate States inconsistent with the will of God, as revealed in the Holy Scriptures.” Tragically, the churches of the South refused to support Thornwell’s proposal, and it never made it into the Constitution.

Thus, in spite of its many virtues, the Confederacy was destined for ultimate failure—not because it was wrong to resist federal tyranny, or because of inept military leadership in the west, or the lack of foreign recognition, or the industrial might of the North. Rather, the South’s defeat was due to its refusal to seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness.

Throughout the struggle, the South’s great theme was defending the liberty granted to them by their fathers. God had given liberty to the American people as a reward for the early intention of men such as William Bradford and John Winthrop to establish a godly society based solely on the law of God. Because they made God’s law their first priority, God granted them liberty from the tyranny of the Stuart monarchs, economic prosperity, relative security from the persecutions and wars of Europe. These blessings were not their aim, but because they sought first the kingdom of God, these things were added to them.

But the South ignored the requirement in pursuit of the reward. Instead of adopting Thornwell’s proposed preamble, the Confederacy adopted a preamble similar to that of the United States, listing as their purposes “justice,” “common defense,” “domestic tranquility,” and the “blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.” The Confederate preamble did invoke “the favor and blessing of Almighty God,” but without any mention of the law of God, this was mere lip-service. “Southern rights” took priority over Christ’s kingly right to have his law enforced by his ministers in civil office. In a lecture on Stonewall Jackson, Robert L. Dabney commented:

How righteousness exalteth a people! Shall this judgment and righteousness be the stability of thy times, O Confederate, and strength of thy salvation? And these mighty deliverances, . . . were they not manifest overtures to us to have the God of Jackson and Lee for our God, and be saved? “Here is the path; walk ye in it.” And what said our people? Many honestly answered, “Yea, Lord, we will;” of whom the larger part walked whither Jackson did, and now lie with him in glory. But another part answered, “Nay,” and they live, on such terms as we see, even such as they elected. . . . But they would not be free on such terms. Nay; they preferred rather to walk after their own vanities. Verily they have their reward!

Until late 1862, Paxton, like most Southerners, was content to fight for freedom on his own terms. But shortly thereafter, he became a recipient of God’s saving grace. His conversion was not dramatic, but genuine, and it was soon evident that the commander of the famous Stonewall Brigade was thoroughly changed. Some have traced much of the fruit of the subsequent revivals in the Army of Northern Virginia to the example of General Paxton’s conversion.

Paxton

But for Paxton, conversion did not only mean a home in heaven. It meant a change in everything he did, including the way he fought battles—and why. An extended quotation from his last letter home sums up his new views of life and of the Confederate cause.

Our destiny is in the hands of God, infinite in his justice, goodness, and mercy; and I feel that in such time as he may appoint he will give us the blessings of independence and peace. We are a wicked people, and the chastisement which we have suffered has not humbled and improved us as it ought. We have a just cause, but we do not deserve success if those who are here spend this time in blasphemy and wickedness, and those who are at home devote their energies to avarice and ambition. Fasting and prayer by such people is blasphemy, and, if answered at all, will be by an infliction of God’s wrath, not a dispensation of his mercy.

Whenever God wills it that [my life] pass from me, I feel that I can say, ‘Into thy hands I commend my spirit.’ In this feeling I am prepared to go forward in the discharge of my duty, striving to make every act and thought of my life conform to his law, and trusting with implicit faith in the salvation promised through Christ. How I wish that . . . every thought, act, and feeling of tomorrow would have its motive in love for God and its object in his glory!

On the morning of May 3, 1863, Paxton led his brigade into action at Chancellorsville. He was not involved in Jackson’s night attack on the Union right flank. Rather, he had been detailed to guard the Orange Plank Road. But during the night, his fresh brigade was summoned to spearhead the morning assault on the reinforced Union position at Fairview. When the order to attack came, Paxton put his Bible in his pocket and led forward his brigade. Moments later, he fell, pierced through the heart by a Yankee minié-ball.

Jackson, who himself lay mortally wounded, wept when he heard of Paxton’s fall, for perhaps, more than any other man, Paxton shared Jackson’s whole-hearted devotion to Christ’s kingdom.
As Dabney said, those who sought first God’s kingdom and righteousness died as heroes. The South at large was condemned to reap the fruits of disobedience. The difference between Paxton and his Confederacy was in “striving to make every act and thought” conform to God’s law.

The Battle of Chancellorsville

A History of the Land and Archaeology of Gezer

May 18, 2016 with 1 Comment and Posted in Ancient by

We are pleased to welcome back Taman Turbinton. He brings us an account of the Biblical city of Gezer, where he has worked on the archaeological digs – The Editor

Tis the season for Biblical archaeology. The summer months mark the time when archaeologists and scholars from all over the world come to Israel to further explore and discover more information about the Biblical land. This article will focus on the Biblical city of Gezer. Gezer is a city small in size, but big in archaeological history.

Gezer Boundary Stone. Source.

The Land and Biblical Background of Gezer

The Israeli city of Gezer (also identified as Tell Jezer, or Tell Jazari) is a place which holds significant importance to Old Testament studies. Located close to the Plain of Philistia which is to its west, Gezer sits approximately 15 miles east of the Mediterranean Sea. From Jerusalem, Gezer is located approximately 19 miles west-northwest. Gezer sits on top of a 30-acre mound, and is close to 225 meters above sea level. It is conveniently and strategically located near the junction where the Via Maris (way of the sea) meets the trunk road leading to Jerusalem.i

Even though the land is known to have been occupied from the Late Chalcolithic period to the Roman-Byzantine period,ii there is no known archaeological evidence of the city being occupied between the Early Bronze IV and the Middle Bronze I period.iii During the Middle Bronze IIA period archaeological evidence reveals a vibrant urban life, and Canaanite culture seems to be dominant at Gezer and its surrounding cities. About 65 percent of the Canaanite population was occupied in these areas.iv The ten monolithic upright stones at Gezer, known as the Gezer “High Place,” which comes from the Middle Bronze Age points to some type of religious or ceremonial activity in the city.v The finds of pig bones and the alabaster statue of the naked man holding a pig to his chest also point to some type of religious ceremonial activity probably through sacrifice.vi Manetho, the Egyptian historian, listed Pharaoh Thutmosis III as the sixth king of the Eighteenth Dynastyvii; his rule was one of the longest and most powerful. During approximately 1468 B.C., Thutmosis III captured and gained control of Gezer.viii Thutmosis III listed Gezer, and his 104 captures under his dominion in some inscriptions at the Temple of Amon in Karnak.ix The land for an extended period continued under Egyptian domination. About a century later, Abdi-Heba, the ruler of Jerusalem in the Late Bronze IIB period sent a series of letters to the Pharaoh, who was most likely Amenophis IV (1350-1334 B.C.), and explained that Ili-Milku (also spelled Milk-ilu), who was the ruler of Gezer, conquered much of the land. The rebellion of Ili-Milku was so devasting that Abdi-Heba lamented to Pharaoh:

I fall at the feet of my lord, the king, seven times and seven times…. Lost are the lands of the King, my lord…. Ili-Milku has caused the loss of all the land of the king, and so may the king, my lord, provide for this land. I say, “I would go in to the king, my lord, and visit the king my lord.” But the war against me is severe, and so I am not able to go in to the king, my lord…. (That) Apiru [Ili-Milku] has plundered all the lands of the king…[l]ost are the lands of the king, my lord.x

Ili-Milku was part of a coalition with Labayu, ruler of Šakmu (Biblical Shechem), and a people identified as the “sons of Arsawa.” He took a town between Gezer and Jerusalem, known as Rub(b)utu, and sent a letter to Tagai and the sons of Šakmu, to isolate (or desert) Jerusalem. Abid-Hebdi explained to the Pharoah:

Milk-ilu does not break away from the sons of Labᵓayu and from the sons of Arwawa, as they desire the land of the king for themselves…. Such was the deed that Milk-ilu and Tagi did: they took Rub(b)utu. And now as for Urusalim [Jerusalem], if this land belongs to the king, why is it <not> of concern (?)… Milk-ilu has written to Tagi and the son <of Labᵓayu>…“[b]e both of you…a protection…[g]rant all their demands to the men of Qiltu [probably Keilah of the Bible], and let us isolate Urusalim…. May the king, my lord know (that) no garrison of the king is with me…. And so may the king send 50 men as a garrison to protect the land. The entire land of the king has deserted.xi

Later, on what is known as the “Israel Stele,” the Egyptian King Merneptah (1236-1223 B.C.), son of Rameses II (1304-1237 B.C.) recorded that Gezer was seized upon. The mention of Israel and Gezer in this “Stele” sheds more light as to state of these places, and also challenged the view of some scholars who contested that Merenptah was the Pharaoh of the exodus.xii During the Iron IA period Gezer seems to have been taken over by the Philistines. Numerous amounts of Philistine pottery have been recovered which shed evidence for this conclusion.xiii

Although Gezer gets more numerous mentions in ancient Egyptian accounts, recorded history of the ancient city in the Hebrew Bible goes back to the Late Bronze Age during the New Kingdom in Egypt, and the Israelite conquest. In the books of Joshua and Judges, it is mentioned that the tribe of Ephraim did not drive out the Canaanites who lived in Gezer, so that they lived among them (Joshua 16:10; Judges 1:29). Even though Gezer was most likely in a weakened state after being defeated by Joshua’s army, the Ephraimites were either unable to drive them out, or just chose not to. Most likely the writer is noting the direct violation of the older commands to drive them out.xiv Gezer was supposed to be given by the tribe of Ephraim to the Kohathites, of the tribe of Levi (Joshua 21:21). The mention in 1 Kings 9:15-16, of Gezer being given as a dowry to King Solomon’s wife by Pharaoh, and being rebuilt by Solomon is supported by remarkable archaeological evidence that will be discussed later. The next mention of Gezer is not until in post-biblical literature during the Maccabean wars, during which the city plays a significant role.xv During the Hasmonean rule, Simon who ruled from 142 to 134 B.C., conquered Gezer, and “purified” the town by expelling the gentile inhabitants and resettling it with Jewish inhabitants.xvi

Robert Alexander Stewart Macalister. Source.

Robert Alexander Stewart Macalister’s Excavations at Gezer

In 1872, Professor Clermont-Ganneau, a French archaeologist and consul of Jerusalem, discovered the ancient site of Gezer, being led by a reference from the Arabic history of Mujir-ed-Din. At the site he found inscriptions cut in the outcrops of rocks which read “boundary of Gezer.”xvii This is significant in the fact that ancient direct identification of a site has only happened one other time, at Marissa, in the tomb of Apollophanes.xviii In 1902 the Palestine Exploration Fund began excavations at the Tel in Gezer which ran during the years of (1902-5, 1906-8), and almost the amount of three-fifths of the total area were excavated. Robert Alexander Stewart Macalister, an Irish archaeologist, was the director of the site. Macalister would later be joined with Dr. Schumacher of Germany, who was an architect and resident in Palestine and worked on the site of Tell Mutasellim, which was funded by the Deutsche Palästina-Verein, partnered with the Orient-Gesellschaft; direct support was also given by the German emperor.xix

The work done by Macalister has been strongly and negatively critiqued by archaeologist that came after him. W. F. Albright noted that Macalister erroneously tried to arrange his chronology to cover the centuries of the 9th-6th centuries B.C., which ultimately reduced most of his dates between 1200 and 300 B.C. Most of the chronology of other surrounding sites went back to the second millennium B.C. As with the Germans who had dug at Jericho, Albright saw some of the work being done during Macalister’s time as mixing Bronze Age material with Iron Age, and wrongly identifying Canaanite objects as Israelite.xx In the winter of 1908-9, Macalister found a fragmentary tablet which scholars have debated in which time it should have been placed in. Edouard Paul Dhorme, the late French Assyriologist and Semitologist, thought it was a Neo-Babylonian tablet, but Albright strongly criticized that claim. For Albright, the tablet belonged in the Amarna period. The evidence, Albright pointed out, showed that it was a letter by an Egyptian official to the prince of Gezer.xxi

Two cuneiform tablets from Gezer, which are contracts for the sale of property date to the Assyrian period. In the first tablet someone named Luakhe, makes a sale to two Assyrians named Marduk-eriba and Abi-eriba, of a house, a slave named Turiaa, his two wives, and his son. The names mentioned give support of the mixed population of the city of Gezer during its integration into the Assyrian empire after the conquest of Tiglath-pileser III.xxii In the other tablet, a Hebrew man named Nethaniah (or Natan-Yau) sells his land. The tablet is broken, but the names of three witnesses are preserved on it, with the date of the transaction. The tablet is specifically dated in the reign of Assurbanipal. The names in this tablet also demonstrate the mixed population of Gezer, as well as the role and influence that some Hebrews had in the economics of the area.xxiii

Also located at Gezer was a squared stone with a large hieroglyphic character. Macalister believed it probably belonged to an inscription that covered the façade of its belonging structure. He suggested that it could have been a temple for the Egyptian community of that time.xxiv

IMG_2463

City Gates at Meggido [Courtesy of Taman Turbinton]

The Gezer Calendar

The most important of Macalister’s finds is what is known as the “Gezer Calendar,” which contains what are, most likely, some of the oldest known Hebrew Inscriptions. Some scholars, such as P. Kyle McCarter, suggest that it is safer to describe the language as a South Canaanite dialect rather than specifically Hebrew.xxv Macalister made the discovery in September of 1908, and it consisted of soft limestone at about 4 ¼ inches long (probably originally it was about 5 ½ inches long), and 5/8 of an inch thick.xxvi Macalister notes that although it may be convenient to label the find as a calendar it may not be accurate to do so. A peasant boy called Abi (his full name is not known)—wrote on the plaque of limestone a list of the appropriate agricultural duties for certain times of the year.xxvii Albright felt very confident that the dating of the “Calendar” should be placed from about 950 to 918 B.C. in the Iron IC period.xxviii The plaque contains markings on both sides of scraping for reuse, which in possibility, may have been used as a palimpsest.xxix

Yigael Yadin

Yigael Yadin and the Solomonic Gate at Gezer

In 1957, the former Israeli Chief of Staff for the Israel Defense Forces, and archaeologist, Yigael Yadin discovered a city gate at Hazor dating from the time of King Solomon. Yadin initially saw that it was identical in plan and measurements with the gate at Megiddo. Yadin was so confident to suggest that the gates were planned by the same architect.xxx Neither Macalister, nor those shortly after him were successful at finding a gate at Gezer that could be ascribed as being Solomonic. Because of Yadin’s success at Hazor and Megiddo, and his confidence in the accuracy of the Biblical information in 1 Kings 9:15-16 of Solomon building the cities at the locations mentioned, Yadin decided to do a fresh examination of Macalister’s report, hoping that he would have success in locating the city gate. His visit at Gezer lead him to the conclusion that was called the “Maccabean Castle” was actually a Solomonic city wall and gate.xxxi Yadin’s comparative measurements of the three sites concerning its main features of the casemate walls (only at Hazor and Gezer) and the gates drew a striking similarity. For the lengths of the gates: Megiddo measured at 20.3 meters, Hazor at 20.3 meters, and Gezer at 19.0 meters. The width of the gates measured at 17.5 meters for Megiddo, 18.0 meters at Hazor, and 16.2 meters at Gezer. The width of all the walls came to 1.6 meters. With this and much more evidence, it led Yadin and his team to conclude that gates and walls were indeed built by “Solomon’s architects from identical blue-prints, with minor changes in each case made necessary by the terrain.”xxxii

An up close view of some of the stones at the "Gezer High Place." [Courtesy of Taman Turbinton]

An up close view of some of the stones at the “Gezer High Place.” [Courtesy of Taman Turbinton]

Yadin’s conclusions were confirmed by the renewed excavations from the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion headed by Dr. William G. Dever, who dated the six chambered gates to the time of Solomon. The task for Dever and his team was to examine and to see if Yadin’s work was verifiable. At first his team was cautious of describing anything to Solomon, but the sealed pottery from the floors and the striking characteristic of the red-burnished ware confirmed to Dever and his team that “Solomon did indeed re-build Gezer.”xxxiii John S. Holliday, Jr. also saw it reasonable to attribute the prior destruction of Gezer during the reign of King Solomon. In support of Yadin, Holliday saw lacking evidence of undisturbed destruction deposits that would produce restorable pottery. There was a succession of archaeological finds from unburnished red-slipper wares to burnish red-slipper wares.xxxiv

Solomon's City Gate at Gezer. [Courtesy of Taman Turbinton]

Solomon’s City Gate at Gezer. [Courtesy of Taman Turbinton]

Yet, Yadin was not without his skeptics. Later, Israel Finkelstein and others would cast serious doubts about the dates given. Finkelstein claimed in order to have a firm confidence in the dating there would need to be an archaeological find that would anchor the archaeology of Israel to the securely dated monarchs of Egypt and Assyria. Finkelstein argues vehemently that there are no finds that would anchor the dating’s to the time of Solomon, but that the reconstruction of the evidence is based on one Bible verse.xxxv The statement from Finklestein contains an important truth, for which Yadin was not ashamed of. Yadin, one of the most capable archaeologists, himself declared, “…the truth is that our great guide was the Bible: and as an archaeologist I cannot imagine a greater thrill than working with the Bible in one hand and the spade in the other.”xxxvi Nevertheless, for Finkelstein, the Solomonic monuments needed to be lowered into the ninth century B.C., seventy-five to one hundred years later.xxxvii It seems that these issues will continue to be contested by revisionists, but scholars such as André Lemaire accept the evidence presented by Yadin as convincing.xxxviii Even earlier, W. F. Albright was convinced that the palace structure at Megiddo discovered by the Chicago excavators was Solomonic.xxxix

Layout of the land and fields at Gezer

Layout of the land and fields at Gezer

Later Excavations at Gezer

In 1934 the Palestine Exploration Fund began to sponsor a second series of excavations at Gezer under the direction of A. Rowe, but the project never came to fruition. In 1964 G. E. Wright began a ten year excavation project at Gezer, which was sponsored by the Hebrew Union College Biblical and Archaeological School (which is now the Nelson Glueck School of Biblical Archaeology) in Jerusalem, and was also financed through grants from the Smithsonian Institution in Washington. The work here began in two major phases. Wright directed Phase I of the project from 1964-65 and 1966-1971. Phase II from 1972-74 was directed by Joe D. Seger, and again by William G. Dever in 1984 and 1990. Steve Ortiz of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Samuel Wolff of the Israel Antiquities Authority initiated Phase III of excavations at Gezer in 2005.xl

Gezer is a place that has been inhabited during various times by various different people groups such as the Egyptians, Philistines, Canaanites, and Israelites. There are archaeological finds that gives significant insight as to the culture of each of these people groups. The Israelite level is stratum VIII, which is located in Field III, east of the Canaanite water tunnel. The Solomonic Gate also is located in Field III. The Casemate Wall connected with the gate in field II is also Solomonic.xli Two Astarte plaques have been discovered in Field II, Area 4, pit 4022, along with numerous amounts of pottery. Both of the plaques and the pottery seem to be Late Bronze I-II.xlii The Astarte plaques also share some similarities of idols found at Troy.xliii Located in Field I, is the large structure of a Canaanite tower (the locus for the tower is noted by Dever’s group as 5017). The tower connects to the “Inner Wall,” mainly construed of large stones at about 1.00 meters long, 75-90 centimeters wide, and 50 centimeters in thickness.xliv In the Middle Bronze IIC period, Field IV provides much evidence of growth and redevelopment, starting with defense structures around the perimeter of the mound.xlv The Canaanite “High Place” is located in Field V, close to the northern “Inner Wall.” As mentioned above it consists of ten monoliths, with some of them over 3 meters high (the stones were discovered laying down and had to be placed up). The stones seemed to be made by the Canaanites, and it is possible that there could have been an association with child sacrifice, or with a covenant renewal ceremony involving the inhabitants of the location.xlvi In Field VII there are numerous finds of pottery almost completely intact.xlvii Area 24, Fill 2433, which was covered by Phase 9 Fill 2430 in Field VII, contains a dog burial.xlviii This most naturally would have one assume this find was not from the Israelite period.

The Excavations of Steve Ortiz and Samuel Wolff

The excavations that began in 2005 at Tel Gezer were sponsored by the Charles D. Tandy Institute of Archaeology at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS), along with other consortium schools. The directors of the excavations are Dr. Steven Ortiz, professor of Archaeology and Biblical Backgrounds of the Tandy Institute and SWBTS, and Dr. Samuel Wolff, senior archaeologist and archivist of the Israel Antiquities Authority. In 2013 their work primarily consisted of removing portions of the city wall from the Iron IIA period, to have access for investigation of a Late Bronze age destruction level. During their excavations of the city wall, an earlier wall system was discovered from the Iron Age I period. Some items discovered were Philistine pottery and a Philistine figurine. Other discoveries at this site seem to correspond with information from Amarna letters concerning this area around the time of the Egyptians 18th Dynasty. Discovered was an earlier city that had been destroyed, with debris finds of pottery vessels, cylinder seals and a large Egyptian scarab with the cartouche of Amenhotep III. Additional work is being done to remove public and domestic structures of the 8th and 9th centuries B.C., to reveal the 10th century B. C. city plan adjacent to the “City Gate.” Although controversial, the exposure of the 10th century walls gives hopes for some of the excavators to find the rest of the “Solomonic city.”xlix

Entrance to the "Water Tunnel" at Gezer. [Courtesy of Taman Turbinton]

Entrance to the “Water Tunnel” at Gezer. [Courtesy of Taman Turbinton]

The Gezer Water System

Located north of the six chambered Iron Aged gate, is the extraordinary “water system.” It was hewed as an oval shaped reservoir at about 14 to 17 meters in diameter.l A stairway consisting of 78 steps was hewn into the walls and descends to the floor which leads to a source of water.li From the entrance of the water system tunnel, the distance into the earth is approximately 40 meters. In 1905 Macalister discovered the water system, but he left many unanswered questions. In the summer of 2010 the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (NOBTS), took on the task of reopening the ancient water system. Primary sponsorship is from the Moskau Institue of Archaeology of NOBTS, and the Israel Nature and Parks Authority. Leading the excavations from NOBTS are Dr. Dan Waner, Dr. R. Dennis Cole, and Dr. James Parker, in collaboration with Dr. Tsvika Tsuk, Chief Archaeologist of the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, and the Israel Antiquities Authority. This team accompanied by student volunteers from NOBTS and other Universities seeks to address the issues of identifying the source of the water, the overall purpose of the location, and it’s dating. A likely dating for the system seems to belong in the Bronze Age. It is believed that system’s cavern had an exterior opening accessible from outside of the city. It is thought that the inhabitants would have built the tunnel to access the water in case of a siege.lii

image1

Macalister noted in his find of the system of a pool of water at the end of the tunnel of unknown depth. He explained that water stood wherever the mud was dug away, and the level of water remained constant no matter how much water was taken away. Similar issues were again discovered by the NOBTS excavators. On June 5, 2015 the team digging at the bottom of the tunnel removed close to 140 gallons of water. In the process of removal they were able to notice a lowering of the water level.liii It is very damp above the pool and deep into the cavern, and the main way to enter the area is by crawling. A large stone covers oneself the further one crawls back. It is hoped that an exit will be found deep in this cavern; this possible exit would be to the east side of Gezer. In previous excavations there were no finds of pottery at the end of the tunnel or in the cavern. Now into the fifth season numerous amounts of pottery shards have been found, but none with significant or extraordinary markings.liv Some of the pottery found looks similar in material to the finds from the believed to be “house” inside the inner wall in between the Canaanite gate and the water system opening. Dr. Eli Yannai, archaeologist of the Israel Antiquities Authority, serves at the pottery expert for this area. Parts of the area in the “house” received material from Macalister dump. Yannai has identified pottery that is very thin, covered with red on each side as material from Cyprus dating to the Late Bronze Age. The information is significant because towards the south of the “house” finds are from the Middle Bronze Age. This gave Dr. Yannai the indication that the location of a possible wall in the “house” facing north is filled with Macalister’s dump.lv The pottery finds are not substantially enough to posit a clear connection between the two sites of the water tunnel and the house; it will take further work to draw upon more firm conclusions.

Summary

Even though many great finds have been found at Gezer, the excavators at the water tunnel believe and expect this particular area to be one of the premier sites in Israel. The structure of the tunnel is unique, with nothing like in the rest of Israel, Egypt, or Mesopotamia. This site will continue to be an attraction to archaeologist, and certainly later, a major tourist attraction for Bible believers, and even Biblical minimalists.

Because of the groundbreaking work taking place at Gezer, it will for a short time be a site of numerous mysteries. The excavators on the Tel and in the “Water System” have come up with interesting suggestions and questions about the site. Was the “Water System” used for times of siege? Did cultic activity take place in the Tunnel? Did King Solomon make use of the “Water System”? It is up to the excavators to try and understand the information behind the large amounts of archaeological evidence. But as we have learned from previous finds, Gezer is full of information that points to the accuracy of the Biblical record. Yigael Yadin was right to lean on his impulse and trust the inspired Word of God for finding Solomon’s Gate. Families can use Gezer as an example to have confidence in teaching their children that the Bible and archaeological finds do not contradict each other. Far from insignificant, Gezer will be remembered as one of the most important places in the Bible for Biblical Archaeology.

References

i Steven Ortiz and Samuel Wolff, “Gaurding the Boarder to Jerusalem: The Iron Age City of Gezer,” Near Eastern Archaeology 75, no. 1 (2012): p. 4. Henceforth: Ortiz and Wolff, “Iron Age City of Gezer.”

ii W. G. Dever, “Gezer” in Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land, vol. 2, ed. Michael Avi-Yonah (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1976), p. 428. Henceforth: Dever, “Gezer”.

iii See John D. Currid, and David P. Barrett ed., Crossway ESV Bible Atlas (Wheaton: Crossway, 2010), pp. 60-61. Henceforth: ESV Atlas.

iv Thomas C. Brisco, ed., Holman Bible Atlas: A Complete Guide to the Expansive Geography of Biblical History (Nashville, Tenn.: Holman Reference, 1998), pp. 43-44. Henceforth: Holman Atlas.

v Ibid., p. 45.

vi See Roland deVaux, The Bible and the Ancient Near East, trans. Damian McHugh (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1967), p. 253.

vii According to Eusebius, from Syncellus see Manetho, The History of Egypt, trans. W. G. Waddel, in Loeb Classical Library (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1956), p. 115.

viii G. G. Garner, and J. Woodhead, “Gezer” in New Bible Dictionary, 3rd ed., (Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 1996), p. 409; Also see Dever, “Gezer”, p. 428.

ix James B. Pritchard, ed., Ancient Near Eastern Texts: Relating to the Old Testament, 3rd ed (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1969), p. 242.

x “Letter of Abdi-Heba of Jerusalem (EA 286) (3.92A)” in The Context of Scripture, vol. 3, Archival Documents from the Biblical World, eds. William W. Hallo, and K. Lawson Younger, Jr. (Leiden: Brill, 2002), p. 237.

xi “Letter of Abdi-Heba of Jerusalem (Urusalim) (EA 289) (3.92B)” in ibid., p. 238.

xii Holman Atlas, p. 57; Sir Alan Gardiner, Egypt of the Pharaohs: An Introduction (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1961), p. 273.

xiii William G. Dever, H. Darrel Lance, and G. Ernest Wright, Gezer I, vol. 1, Preliminary Report of the 1964-66 Seasons (Jerusalem: Hebrew Union College Biblical and Archaeological School in Jerusalem, 1970), pp. 4-5. Henceforth: Dever, Lance, and Wright, Gezer I.

xiv See Barry G. Webb, The Book of Judges, NICOT (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2012), pp. 123-24; K. Lawson Younger, Jr., Judges and Ruth, NIVAC (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002), p. 72.

xv Dever, “Gezer”, p. 430.

xvi Lee I. A. Levine, “The Age of Hellenism: Alexander the Great and the Rise and Fall of the Hasmonean Kingdom,” in Ancient Israel: A Short History from Abraham to the Roman Destruction of the Temple, ed. Hershel Shanks (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1988), p. 187.

xvii R. A. S. Macalister, A Century of Excavations in Palestine (London: The Religious Tract Society, 1925), p. 64. Henceforth: Macalister, Excavations; Yigael Yadin, Hazor: The Rediscovery of a Great Citadel of the Bible (New York: Random House, 1975), pp. 200-1. Henceforth: Yadin, Hazor.

xviii Macalister, Excavations, p. 82.

xix Ibid., pp. 64-65.

xx William Foxwell Albright, From Stone Age to Christianity: Monotheism and the Historical Process, 2nd ed., (Garden City, NY: Anchor Books, 1957), pp. 55-56.

xxi For more information on Albright’s view of this tablet at Gezer see W. F. Albright, “A Tablet of the Amarna Age from Gezer,” Bulletin of American Schools of Oriental Research 92, (December 1943): pp. 28-30.

xxii Macalister, Excavations, p. 188; Hallo, and Younger, The Context of Scripture, vol. 3, pp. 263-64.

xxiii Macalister, Excavations, p. 189; Hallo, and Younger, The Context of Scripture, vol. 3, pp. 264-65.

xxiv Macalister, Excavations, p. 223.

xxv P. Kyle McCarter, “The Gezer Calendar,” in The Context of Scripture, vol. 2, Monumental Inscriptions from the Biblical World, eds. William W. Hallo, and K. Lawson Younger, Jr. (Leiden: Brill, 2000), p. 222.

xxvi William F. Albright, “The Gezer Calendar,” Bulletin of American Schools of Oriental Research 92, (December 1943): p. 16. Henceforth: Albright, “Gezer Calendar”.

xxvii Macalister, Excavations, p. 249.

xxviii Albright, “Gezer Calendar”, p. 19.

xxix Ibid., 21.

xxx Yigael Yadin, “Solomon’s City Wall and Gate at Gezer,” Israel Exploration Journal 8, no. 2 (1958): p. 80.

xxxi Ibid; Yadin, Hazor, pp. 201-2.

xxxii Yadin, “Solomon’s City Wall and Gate at Gezer,” pp. 85-86.

xxxiii Yadin, Hazor, p. 203.

xxxiv John S. Holladay, Jr., “Red Slip, Burnish, and the Solomonic Gateway at Gezer,” Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 277-278 (February/May 1990): p. 24.

xxxv Israel Finkelstein, “King Solomon’s Golden Age: History or Myth?” in The Quest for the Historical Israel: Debating Archaeology and the History of Early Israel, no. 17, by Israel Finkelstein and Amihai Mazar, ed. Brian Schmidt (Atlanta, GA: Society of Biblical Literature, 2007), pp. 110-12.

xxxvi Yadin, Hazor, p. 187.

xxxvii Finkelstein, “King Solomon’s Golden Age,” p. 114.

xxxviii André Lemaire, “The United Monarchy: Saul, David and Solomon,” in Ancient Israel: A Short History from Abraham to the Roman Destruction of the Temple, ed. Hershel Shanks (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1988), p. 107.

xxxix Albright, “Gezer Calendar,” pp. 18-19.

xl William G. Dever, “Gezer” in The Anchor Bible Dictionary, vol. 2, ed. David Noel Freedman (New York: Doubleday, 1992), p. 998; Joe D. Seger, and James W. Hardin, ed., Gezer VII: The Middle Bronze and Later Fortifications in Fields II, IV, and VII (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2013), p. 1. For the information of the location of the fields refer to the maps herein.

xli Dever, “Gezer,” p. 441.

xlii See Dever, Lance, and Wright, Gezer I, p. 57. For images see Plate 25, herein.

xliii See C. Schuchhardt, Schliemann’s Excavations: An Archaeological and Historical Study, trans., Eugénie Sellers (New York: Macmillan & Co., 1891), pp. 66-67.

xliv Dever, Lance, and Wright, Gezer I, pp. 18-19.

xlv Joe D. Seger, Gezer VII: The Middle Bronze and Later Fortifications in Fields II, IV, and VII, ed. Joe D. Seger and James W. Hardin (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2013), p. 13.

xlvi Dever, “Gezer,” pp. 437-438.

xlvii See pictures of plates 65 in Field VII East, Area 37; plate 61 in Field VII Central, Area 35, all in Seymour Gitin, Gezer III: A Ceramic Typology of the Late Iron II, Persian and Hellenistic Periods at Tell Gezer, Data Base and Plates (Jerusalem: Hebrew Union College, 1990).

xlviii Ibid., see plate 73.

xlix Steven Ortiz and Samuel Wolff, “ARCHAEOLOGY: The history beneath Solomon’s City,” accessed July 26, 2015, http://www.swbts.edu/campus-news/news-releases/archaeology-the-history-beneath-solomone28099s-city/.

l See Steve Ortiz, “Gezer” in the Oxford Encyclopedia of The Bible and Archaeology, ed., Daniel Master (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), p. 471. Henceforth: Ortiz, “Gezer.”

li The layout by Mcalister listed 78 steps and has been examined and confirmed as the accurate number of steps by the author and Tsvika Tsuk. Some of the steps are losing shape, but are still distinct enough to be identified as steps.

lii Ortiz, “Gezer,” p. 469. Also see the CAR page, at the NOBTS website.

liii See the blog post from Gary D. Meyers on June 7, 2015, who is the publication relations representative of the Seminary, “Gezer 2015: The things you find at the bottom of the water system,” accessed July 21, 2015, http://nobtsarchaeology.blogspot.com/?m=0.

liv Information unpublished, but available from the author. On June 2, 2015, over one hour was spent in the tight area of the cavern collecting pottery. I found approximately over 50 pieces of pottery, along with the numerous amounts collected by Gary D. Meyers.

lv Information unpublished, available from the author. Along the possible wall, no matter how far low the wall was dug, Late Bronze Age material was continuously found lower than in other areas where Middle Bronze Age material were found.

 

Selected Bibliography

Albright, William Foxwell. “The Gezer Calendar” Bulletin of American Schools of Oriental Research 92, (December 1943): pp. 16-27.

———. “A Tablet of the Amarna Age from Gezer” Bulletin of American Schools of Oriental Research 92, (December 1943): pp. 28-30.

———. From Stone Age to Christianity: Monotheism and the Historical Process. 2nd ed. Garden City, NY: Anchor Books, 1957.

Brisco, Thomas C., ed. Holman Bible Atlas: A Complete Guide to the Expansive Geography of Biblical History. Nashville: Holman Reference, 1998.

Currid, John D., and David P. Barrett eds. Crossway ESV Bible Atlas. Wheaton: Crossway, 2010.

Dever, William G. “Gezer.” In Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land, vol. 2, ed. Michael Avi-Yonah, pp. 428-443. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1976.

———. “Gezer.” In The Anchor Bible Dictionary, vol. 2, ed. David Noel Freedman, 998-1003. New York: Doubleday, 1992.

Dever, William G., H. Darrel Lance, and G. Ernest Wright. Gezer I, Vol. 1, Preliminary Report of the 1964-66 Seasons. Jerusalem: Hebrew Union College Biblical and Archaeological School in Jerusalem, 1970.

Finkelstein, Israel. “King Solomon’s Golden Age?: History or Myth?” In The Quest for the Historical Israel: Debating Archaeology and the History of Early Israel, No. 17. By Israel Finkelstein and Amihai Mazar. Edited by Brian Schmidt, 107-116. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2007.

Gardiner, Sir Alan. Egypt of the Pharaohs: An Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1961.

Garner, G. G., and J. Woodhead. “Gezer.” In New Bible Dictionary. 3rd ed., 407-409. Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 1996.

Gitin, Seymour. Gezer III: A Ceramic Typology of the Late Iron II, Persian and Hellenistic Periods at Tell Gezer, Data Base and Plates. Jerusalem: Hebrew Union College, 1990.

Holladay, John S., Jr. “Red Slip, Burnish, and the Solomonic Gateway at Gezer.” Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 277-278 (February/May 1990): pp. 23-70.

Hallo, William H., and K. Lawson Younger, Jr., ed. The Context of Scripture. Vol. 2, Monumental Inscriptions from the Biblical World . Leiden: Brill, 2000.

———. The Context of Scripture. Vol. 3, Archival Documents from the Biblical World. Leiden: Brill, 2002.

Lemaire, André. “The United Monarchy: Saul, David and Solomon.” In Ancient Israel: A Short History from Abraham to the Roman Destruction of the Temple, ed. Hershel Shanks, pp. 85-108. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1988.

Levine, Lee I. A. “The Age of Hellensim: Alexander the Great and the Rise and Fall of the Hasmonean Kingdom.” In Ancient Israel: A Short History from Abraham to the Roman Destruction of the Temple, ed. Hershel Shanks, pp. 177-204. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1988.

Macalister, R. A. S. A Century of Excavations in Palestine. London: The Religious Tract Society, 1925.

Manetho. The History of Egypt. Translated by W. G. Waddel. In Loeb Classical Library. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1956.

McCarter, P. Kyle. “The Gezer Calendar.” In Hallo, and Younger. The Context of Scripture. Vol. 2, p. 222.

Meyer, Gary D. “Gezer 2015: The things you find at the bottom of the water system.” Accessed July 21, 2015. http://www.nobtsarchaeology.blogspot.com/?m=0

Ortiz, Steven. “Gezer.” In Oxford Encyclopedia of Bible and Archaeology, vol. 1, ed. Daniel Master, 468-474. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013.

Ortiz, Steven and Samuel Wolff. “Guarding the Boarder to Jerusalem: The Iron Age City of Gezer.” Near Eastern Archaeology 75, no. 1 (2012): pp. 4-19.

———. “ARCHAEOLOGY: The history beneath Solomon’s City.” Accessed July 26, 2015. http://www.swbts.edu/campus-news/news-releases/archaeology-the-history-beneath-solomone28099s-city/.

Pritchard, James B. ed. Ancient Near Eastern Texts: Relating to the Old Testament, 3rd ed. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1969.

Schuchhardt, C. Schliemann’s Excavations: An Archaeological and Historical Study. Translated by Eugénie Sellers. New York: Macmillan & Co., 1891.

Seger, Joe D. Gezer VII: The Middle Bronze and Later Fortifications in Fields II, IV, and VII, ed. Joe D. Seger and James W. Hardin. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2013.

Vaux, Roland de. The Bible and the Ancient Near East. Translated by Damian McHugh. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1967.

Webb, Barry G. The Book of Judges. NICOT. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2012.

Yadin, Yigael. “Solomon’s City Wall and Gate at Gezer.” Israel Exploration Journal 8, no. 2 (1958): pp. 80-86.

———. Hazor: The Rediscovery of a Great Citadel of the Bible. New York: Random House, 1975.

Younger, K. Lawson, Jr. Judges and Ruth. NIVAC. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002.