Archive for the Ancient Category

Why Was Hannibal a Great General?

August 18, 2017 with No Comments and Posted in Ancient by

The name of Rome is fearsome in military history. Over the centuries, the Roman legions propelled a small city along the Tiber to rule the entire known Western world. Yet there was one man, more than anyone else, whose name sent shivers through the Romans – Hannibal Barca. Hannibal, a Carthaginian from North Africa, was the most skilled and successful enemy that Rome ever faced. He successfully took an army of thousands of men, along with some elephants, on the very difficult journey across the Alps. He then stayed in Italy for nearly 15 years, with little significant help from Carthage, and defeated every Roman army he faced in a major battle. Although he eventually was recalled to defend Carthage and defeated in battle, he may have come closer than anyone to destroying the Roman Republic. How did he do it? How did he outwit so many Roman commanders? The answers shed light on his impressive achievements, and teach leadership lessons for the present day.

The Battle of Zama

The Battle of Zama

1. Boldness
Without a doubt, Hannibal was a very bold soldier. Many of his greatest victories would have been impossible without it. He was not rash, but he knew that if he risked nothing, he would gain nothing. Consider his famous crossing of the Alps. The Alps have been crossed by armies many times throughout history, but never in the way Hannibal did it. He was the first general to take a foreign army across them, that was not from the area and familiar with the terrain. Before the era of maps, this is a shocking achievement. It is very likely that not one of his officers or soldiers had ever crossed the Alps before. It took incredible courage to enter very difficult and unmapped terrain, filled with unknown and hostile tribes, with the only thing waiting for him on the other side being the enemy’s country guarded by the Roman army – the best soldiers in the world. That shows his grit, determination, and fearlessness in the face of mighty obstacles.

A Statue of Hannibal. Source.

A Statue of Hannibal. Source.

2. Always Learning
Often, Hannibal’s bold deeds were not reckless because he had spent time in study and preparation. His Alps crossing was likely conceived years earlier. Much time was spent laying the ground work in gaining knowledge and building relationships before the daring strike. When a foreigner came through Hannibal’s camp, he interviewed them and sought to learn not just the geography of the lands that he had never visited, but their history, customs and culture. Any of this information could prove critical at the proper time. While on campaign, he would disguise himself and travel the countryside, gleaning first hand information from the inhabitants.

As a fruit of all this study, Hannibal was able to remain fresh, fluid and innovative in his tactics. At one point, he did not seek to storm Rome, when many believed he had an opportunity to, because he did not think the time was right. But at a later moment he marched to just outside the city, to threaten the city and relieve pressure from another point. He used seals captured from Romans to send forged messages to Roman units, giving them false orders that suited his purposes. And he used his knowledge of specific enemy commanders against them, exploiting their own personal weaknesses to entice them into a tactical position where he could destroy them.

A Carthaginian Coin which may depict Hannibal

A Carthaginian Coin which may depict Hannibal

3. Understanding People
One key to Hannibal’s success was his ability to gain and retain the trust of his troops. Although he was almost completely cut off from support or reinforcement from Carthage for nearly a decade and a half, not once did his troops mutiny against him. He won their love and respect. Many of the ways that he did this were simple things. He made sure, whenever possible, that his men were well fed going into battle. He payed close attention to their attitude, and was ready to give encouragement or an inspiring speech if he saw their spirits flagging. He set rewards clearly before them if they were victorious, inspiring to fight their hardest. Not long after he arrived in Italy, he promised his army their choice of land or money once Italy was won, and promised that slaves who followed their masters into battle would be given their freedom, and that their masters would receive two other slaves to replace them.

Hannibal also was skilled in making allies. His goal in Italy was to break away Rome’s allies and win them over to the fight against Rome. It took great wisdom to win these political victories. Although he did not win enough allies to gain the victory, he always had allied troops fighting with him. When he left Italy after more than a decade, virtually all of his original army was gone. They had been replaced, in large part, by allied recruits, who fought faithfully under him.

Hannibal's Elephants Crossing the Rhine River

Hannibal’s Elephants Crossing the Rhine River

4. Brilliant Tactics
Last but not least, Hannibal beat the long odds against him, and was victorious for so long against the Romans, because he had a brilliant mind for tactics. He used the terrain and the weaknesses of the enemy to defeat the superior Roman forces. Over and over again, he was able to find the enemy’s weakest point, and throw his strongest forces against it to win the day. His battles are famous in world history, and for good reason. From Lake Trasimene, where in an unparalleled feat he hid his entire army and ambushed the Romans, to Cannae, where he executed a double envelopment of the Romans opposing him, a feat which generations of generals have tried to replicate.

For years Hannibal sustained a war effort alone, with very little significant support, raising his own finances and new recruits in an enemies country, while holding the affections of his allies and seeking to bring more nations to his side. Although Carthage eventually fell to Rome, there is much that we can learn from his struggle, and his years of wise leadership in the face of incredible adversity.

Hannibal's Army Crossing the Alps

Hannibal’s Army Crossing the Alps

History of Solar Eclipses

August 16, 2017 with No Comments and Posted in Ancient, Weekly Video by

Next week millions of Americans will watch a total solar eclipse. Now they are a fascinating phenomenon, but in ancient times they were seen as having a much larger impact. At one point one even stopped a battle!

New Dead Sea Scrolls Cave Found

February 9, 2017 with No Comments and Posted in Ancient by

Smuggling a Rare Artifact Out of an Israeli Prison

December 8, 2016 with No Comments and Posted in Ancient by

We’re pleased to welcome Ashley Cowie. a Scottish historian, author and filmmaker, for this guest post about one of his experiences – The Editor

Artefact recovered from Megiddo Church, the oldest place of Christian worship in the world

Artefact recovered from Megiddo Church, the oldest place of Christian worship in the world

This unremarkable lump of broken pottery is a 1700 hundred year old religious artefact, last touched by a follower of a mystical and rebellious cult that worshiped Jesus Christ. This is the story of how I had a human mule smuggle it out of an Israeli maximum security prison.

In August 2012 I was filming a documentary in northern Israel at Megiddo. Renowned for its historical, geographical, and theological importance, during the Bronze Age it was an important Canaanite city-state and by the Iron Age it was a royal city in the Kingdom of Israel. Excavations have unearthed over 26 layers of ruins and the primary reason Megiddo was so important was it’s strategic location at the head of a pass through the Camel Ridge, overlooking the Jezreel Valley from the west. Tel Migiddo rises from the fields like a sentinel. He who controlled the hill of Tel Megiddo was the one who collected the tax on spices and other valuable imports coming into Israel from the north.

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Tel Megiddo is an important trading station guarding the Jezreel Valley

In Greek, Tel Megiddo means Armageddon and this ancient landscape is central in biblical prophesy. Some Evangelical Christians still believe this to be the site of the final battle between Jesus Christ and Satan at the End of Days, as outlined in the Book of Revelation.

After I filmed an interview with archaeologist Norma Franklin we headed to our second location at the base of Tel Megiddo to film the next scene. Megiddo church is a unique archaeological site which includes the foundations of the oldest Christian church ever discovered, dating to the 3rd century AD, a time when Christians were still persecuted by the Roman Empire. This church was once situated in the ancient city of Legio but is now inside the precinct of Megiddo maximum security prison.

Before being permitted to enter the prison my entire film crew, fixers and all of our equipment and jeeps under-went strict search procedures. After passing a barrage of guard dogs and lines of guards boasting a phenomenal range of American built semi-automatic guns, all day we rubbed shoulders with some of the world’s most feared international terrorists. We were absolutely not allowed to see the prisoners as their identities must be kept secret.

The foundations of Megiddo church within the precinct of Megiddo maximum security prison

We often struggled with the irony that the oldest Christian church in the world is located within the grounds of a maximum security prison. We were there to film a very well preserved mosaic which features geometrical figures and images of fish, an early Christian symbol for Jesus Christ. I was going to count the numbers of tiles used to compose the fish symbol to interpret the numbers in relation to the numerical systems in relevant Biblical passages. However, the mosaic was not he only feature I desperately wanted in my documentary. I wanted the altar.

Think about all the hundreds of millions of people who pay homage to Christian altars every year? For me to have touched and interacted with the oldest one in the world, is something I really wanted to do and get on film. That kind of thing only happens once in a life time. And whether you are a believer or an Atheist, such moments are important life events which you can brag about at dinner parties.

We filmed my interview with the leading site archaeologist and after he showed me the architectural ruins I asked him to take me to the altar. He quickly replied “Ah, yes, the altar. Don’t you know? We recently covered it as part of routine maintenance”.We were utterly astounded. The producers face palmed and the budget guy nearly fainted. We had of course clearly built filming the altar into the permission agreement but the archaeologist maintained a steely cold nothingness on his face. It might have got awkward for him, but when you have 10 armed snipers in gun towers you command a degree of authority. There is only so much of a stink one can create in such precarious situations.

Basically, the Israeli prison authorities had a change of heart about letting me publicize the altar. Feeling dejected and sore we packed up our gear and left the prison grounds.

Megiddo Church altar covered in sand bags before our arrival

Earlier in the day while we were picking through he dig site this fragment of pale pottery peaking above the dark top soil caught my eye. I picked it up innocently with the honest intention of asking the archaeologists exactly what it was. We begin filming at that moment so it popped into Kinga Phillips (Field Producers) bag and forgot all about it.

When we left the prison several hours later we were all searched again, as these objects can hold substantial value on the black market. But the Kinga Phillips, being female, sailed through the security check, with the artifact stashed in her bag. After an hour or two in the crew bus she found it in her bag and I immediately confessed. Expectedly, Kinga she freaked out. She had basically been a mule and smuggled an ancient artifact out of a maximum security prison. Were we about to drive all the way back and go through the security drama – to return a piece of pottery? Ten people had flown eight thousand miles across the world to be robbed, we weren’t going back to return a piece of clay. We soon rationalized that this was a case of failing to return something, rather than intentionally stealing it. The artifact is safe in my private collection of very rare old things, for now. But I imagine I will get a ‘call’ from Mossad pretty soon, and I will no-doubt return it.

The artifact is part of an urn handle measuring 4 inches (10.16 cms) long by 2 inches (5.08 cms) thick. Its outer face features a series of 10 horizontal marks. I figured out that these were executed to either smooth off a rough edge or to increase grip. In a social context this artifact, being discovered at a church, might have belonged to the vessel which was used to deliver water to the font, to become holy.

It often mesmerizes me to think that the last person to have touched this clay artifact before me, risked their life belonging to a highly mystical, rebellious religious sect, who worshiped a little known of character called Jesus Christ, who had died two centuries years earlier. Little did the person who discarded this fragment know that their children’s struggle would shape their fringe cult into what would become the most dominant, controversial, resilient and lasting religion the world has ever witnessed. Drop me a line if you would like further information on this artifact or any aspect of the Tel Megiddo dig.

Megiddo Church mosaic with an early representation of Christ, previously the astrological symbol for piscis

Ashley Cowie is a Scottish historian, author and documentary filmmaker. He explores the world filming, writing and blogging about lost cultures and kingdoms, ancient crafts and arts, the origins of legends and myths, architecture, symbols, artefacts and treasures.

The Ancient Lost City of Columbia

November 15, 2016 with No Comments and Posted in Ancient by

Oldest Known Copy of Leviticus Discovered

September 22, 2016 with No Comments and Posted in Ancient by

Biblical History in the British Museum

September 19, 2016 with No Comments and Posted in Ancient by

The British Museum in London contains many of the most amazing artifacts ever discovered. It was here that Britons, and their armies, sent the prizes that they discovered in their travels around the world. In this article, we’ll examine some of the fascinating ancient artifacts that relate to the history contained in the Bible.


The Flood



The Epic of Gilgamesh

This tablet was discovered in 1872 by George Smith, and while it is dated around 650 B.C. it is only a copy of a much older original. It is considered by many to be the most famous of all cuneiform tablets deciphered to this date. It tells the story of Gilgamesh, who is seeking immortality. In this story, Gilgamesh meets the hero – Utnapishtim – who gained immortality by surviving a great flood. The similarities between this legend and the Biblical account of the flood are striking. Utnapishtim tells how the god Ea commanded him to build a great boat on which he was to bring his family and representatives of all other living creatures to save them from the flood. They alone survived – everything else perished in the terrible deluge. At the end of the flood, Utnapishtim sent out a dove, swallow, and raven, and the raven does not return. He, his family, and all the animals leave the boat on Mount Nisir and he offered sacrifices to the gods.


The Epic of Atrahasis

The Epic of Atrahasis is another example of the many flood legends that can be found among the ancient documents of the world. This tablet dates to around 1635 B. C. – after the time of Abraham. In this story, the reason for the flood was that mankind was giving the god Enil a headache… The hero Atrahasis is warned of the flood in advance and escapes with his family and the animals on a boat. Like Utnapishtim, he too offers sacrifices after leaving the boat.

There are over two hundred different cultures which recount a story of the flood – showing the universality of this account. But when we look at these legends which have been handed down over generations, we see a great difference between them and the account in Genesis. They were written down in story telling form, with added embellishments, and in a fantastical style. There is no significance, no compelling message in these stories, but in the Word of God, the account of the flood is actually foundational to the rest of history. It teaches of man’s sin, of God’s hatred and judgement of it, and also of His mercy and faithfulness. It is of great theological import, and significantly affects the way we live today. It is the true historical record, inspired by God himself – and we can wholly rely on its veracity.


Sodom and Gomorrah



Pottery from Sodom

This collection of pottery was excavated from a tomb in the archaeological site of Bab edh-Dra, which is believed by some to be none other than the city of Sodom (referred to multiple times in Genesis, the destruction being documented in chapter 19.) Bab edh-Dra and Numeira are the only known inhabited towns in the region of the Dead Sea between ca. 3300 and 900 B. C. Both show evidence of destruction by fire, and the similarity in the pottery found there indicates that they met their end at around the same time. Numeira was never again reoccupied, and while there was a short occupation at Bab edu-dra not long after its fall, it was almost exclusively outside the fortifications of the destroyed town. After this, both cities were permanently abandoned. When they were studied at first, it seemed that the destruction had been caused by a volcanic eruption. But when geologist Frederick G. Clapp came to investigate, he found no evidence of lava or ash eruptions occurring within the last 4000 years. he concluded that combustible materials from the earth were the cause of the destruction. He found bitumen, petroleum, natural gas, and sulfur (Genesis 19:23).

Bad edh-Dra is the larger of the two sites – the fortified area is estimated at having been 9 – 10 acres large. Most likely this was the more famous and prosperous city of Sodom. The site is badly eroded, but enough evidence remains in several areas to show the terrible disaster. The northeast gate of Bab edh-Dra was clearly destroyed by fire – indicated by charcoal, broken and fallen bricks, and areas of ash. The city walls were fallen, apparently after being burned by a large conflagration. The evidence of a fiery end is even more clearly seen at Numeira, as the site is better preserved. A thick layer of burnt debris was found in almost every area that was excavated. There was a great collapse of walls and structures throughout the city and a large amount of carbonized materials. Both of the cities are located on a fault line, and both show evidence of an earthquake being part of the destruction. A possible explanation for the destruction of the cities is that the pressure from the earthquake caused the underground flammable products of the land to be forced up through the fault lines, ignited and then rained down upon the cities. It is exciting to see both archaeological and geological evidence that corresponds with the Biblical account in Genesis, but truly the Bible needs no evidence to prove it. It stands on its own as the infallible Word of God – and He is the ultimate authority.


Conquest of Canaan



El- Amarna Letters

These are some of the Amarna letters, a large group of letters sent to Amenhotep III and IV in the declining years of Egypt, from various subject-rulers in Canaan. A significant number of these letters are the rulers asking for protection and complaining about the growing strength of nomadic groups, including the Hapiru people. There are letters of from Urusalim – Jerusalem – pleading for help, telling how the Hapiru are invading, and the king’s land is being lost. For those who follow the stricter interpretation of the Biblical timeline, these letters date from around the time of Joshua’s conquest of Canaan. Could the Hapiru be the Hebrews? It seems quite possible that is the case.


Shalmaneser III



Obelisk of Shalmaneser III

This black limestone obelisk recounts the victories of the Assyrian king Shalmaneser III. Part of it describes the defeat of Ben-Hadad and Hazel (2 Kings 8:7-15) and shows rulers of the subdued nations bringing tribute before their conqueror. In the second row of the obelisk (shown below) there is a kneeling figure in Israelite clothing, with the inscription of “Tribute of Yaua, son of Humri: I received silver, gold, a golden bowl, a golden vase with a pointed bottom, golden tumblers, golden buckets, tin, a staff for a king, spears.”


Tribute of Yaua, son of Humri

Yama, son of Humri is most likely Jehu, king of Israel. While Jehu (2 Kings 9) is not the son, nor technically a descendant, of Omri, he was fourth in line from King Omri. Also, Assyrians often referred to Israel as either mat-Humri (land of Omri) or bit-humeri (house of Omri). It is very likely that the kneeling figure in the carving is Jehu himself. It seems that Jehu attempted to buy the protection of Shalmaneser by paying him homage. This is considered to be the first known depiction of an Israelite King.


Tiglath Pileser III



Conquest of Tiglath Pileser III

This wall relief depicts Israelite captives being led into exile after the defeat of the Northern Kingdom in 732 B.C. by Tiglath Pileser III. He is also known as Pul (2 Kings 15:19) and is depicted here in his chariot. He claimed to have dethroned the Pekah king of Israel, and replaced him with Hosea (2 Kings 15:29-30). Probably to avoid anything like that happening to him, Ahaz, King of Judah sent tribute to him and became his vassal (2 Kings 16:7-10).


The Israelite Prisoners


Sennacherib & Hezekiah


Screen Shot 2016-07-21 at 12.02.29 PM

Siege of Lacish Wall Relief

This room houses the wall relief of the siege of Lacish. It was the first archaeological confirmation of an event in the Bible. It is significant that these reliefs adorned the walls of Sennacherib’s victory room in his palace, and not the siege of Jerusalem, which would have been a more significant conquest, had he been victorious. You can take a 3D walkthrough of this room on Google Street View to examine the reliefs in greater detail.


Scaling the Walls


Captives Being Led Away


Sennacherib Receiving Tribute

The huge, detailed wall relief is fascinating to study, it has been deemed the finest portrayal of ancient siege warfare. It is amazing how intricate and precise the mural is – from the grapes and figs on the trees, indicating the conquest was during summer, to the firemen with water ladles accompanying the siege engines.


Tribute of Hezekiah

This is part of an inscription under the pair of large statues which flanked the entrance to the throne room in Sennacherib’s palace at Nineveh. It is the most detailed surviving account of the tribute Hezekiah sent to Assyria after Sennacherib’s campaign in Palestine. One other interesting thing about this mural, is that it is blackened. In the book of Nahum (1:10, 2:13, 3:13-15) there is a prophesy against Nineveh, that it would be destroyed by fire and water, because of its apostasy. In another artifact (not on display) called the Babylonian Chronicle, we hear of the Babylonian conquest of Nineveh in 612 B.C.  They first set fire to the palace, and then opened up the Khoser river and flooded it.


The Taylor Prism

This inscription describes Sennacherib’s conquest of Babylon and of Judah. In it, he boasts about how his army surrounded Jerusalem all around, and yet fails to explicitly speak of its fall. The capture of the capital city of a kingdom would surely receive a detailed description… However we know from the accounts in 2 Kings, 2 Chronicles, and Isaiah, that Sennecharib’s army actually suffered a humiliating defeat at Jerusalem, not at the hands of the Israelites, but by the supernatural working of God Himself. The Taylor Prism also references King Hezekiah.


Tomb of Shebna

This lintel is from a rock cut tomb near the city of Jerusalem. It was carved from limestone, and is much damaged, but the inscription is still readable – “This is … [the tomb of Shebna] …iah, the royal steward. There is no silver or gold here, only … [his bones] … and the bones of his maidservant with him. Cursed be the man who opens this.” Shebna was the steward of Hezekiah and is directly spoken to, in Isaiah 22:15-25. He is condemned for carving out a resting place for himself in the rock – and told that he will be replaced by one who cares for the people and not himself. It seems that his desire to be left undisturbed was not fulfilled.





The Nebo-Sarsekim Tablet

This administrative Babylonian tablet lists the name of officer Nebo-Sarsekim who is mentioned in Jeremiah 39:3. According to Jeremiah, this Babylonian official was at the siege of Jerusalem in 587 B. C. with Nebuchadnezzar II.





Nabonidus Tablet

This is yet another administrative Babylonian tablet – from the reign of King Nabonidus. It also mentions his son Bel-sharra-utsur – who is none other than Belshazzar, the last of the Kings of Babylon. It is dated to the 24th day of Kislimu in the 11th year of the reign of Nabonidus.


Cyrus the Great



The Cyrus Cylinder

Before the discovery of the Cyrus Cylinder, the accounts of Ezra and Nehemiah speaking of Cyrus allowing the Hebrew exiles to return to Jerusalem, were doubted. It seemed highly unlikely that an allowance for a captive people to leave his kingdom, return to their own, and rebuild their temple would be made by the great king of Persia. However, the Cyrus Cylinder silenced the doubters by proclaiming precisely that.


Darius I



The Seal of Darius

This ornate panel came from the palace at Susa of Darius I, it depicts a guard on duty. Darius is referred to multiple times in the Prophetic books of the Old Testament. Some references are Ezra 4:5, 5:6-7, 6:1 Nehemiah 1:22, Haggai 1:1, Zechariah 1:1, Daniel  5:31, 9:1, 11:1. He was used by the Lord to rebuild he city of Jerusalem – allowing Ezra to return and repair the ruins with a large number of Israelites. His son was Ahasuerus – the king who married Esther. This panel would most likely have been seen by Esther and Nehemiah – as they both lived in the palace at Susa. It gives us an idea of how the royal guards in Esther 2:2 could have been dressed.


Xerxes I



Inscription at Persepolis

This is a fragment of a limestone relief from the audience hall in the palace of Persepolis. It is an inscription in honor of Xerxes – claiming he is the one king over many kings, established by the creator god Ahuramazda. Xerxes is identified as Ahasuerus – the king who made Esther his queen, thus enabling her to save the Jews from destruction.


Artaxerxes I



Silver Drinking Bowl

The inscription on the edge of this bowl, states that it was made for Artaxerxes. It had a special design – when filled up to the shoulder, it could be balanced on one hand. Nehemiah was the cupbearer to Artaxerxes I, and it is possible he handled this very bowl while in service to the king.


New Testament



Vardar Gate Inscription

Before the discovery of this large stone inscription, the Greek word πολιτάρχης was only found in Acts 17:6-9. The fact that this word for official had not been seen in other writings, was used to discredit the authenticity of the Bible. But in 1876, this slab from Thessalonica was discovered to have the same word written on it, and the critics were silenced.


Conquest of Jerusalem



Vespasian and Titus

These two statues are of Vespasian and Titus, the father son pair who also became Roman emperors. Some perspectives on the book of Revelation hold that many of its prophecies refer to the fall of Jerusalem to the Romans in 70 AD. Vespasian and Titus were the Roman generals who captured the city.


Further Reading

The Discovery of the Sin Cities of Sodom and Gomorrah
British Museum Tour PDF
Through the British Museum with the Bible by Brian H. Edwards and Clive Anderson

Telemachus: One Man Empties the Roman Coliseum 

September 15, 2016 with No Comments and Posted in Ancient by

The Coliseum

Today, the visitor to the city of Rome can visit the ancient Coliseum.  The mere sight of the gigantic structure is enough to cast a chill upon the stoutest heart.  Its massive structure fills the sky, but the skeleton that exists today is only a shadow of what the ancient Coliseum was in its days of glory, or perhaps we should call it the days of shame.  Every visitor to the spot should pause and ponder that open area of ground in the center of the arena, for the blood of many martyrs hallows that small bit of ground.  The soil of that sacred spot must be very rich indeed, for much blood has drained into that sand over several centuries.

The Coliseum was known all over the world as the center and climax of Roman entertainment.  The Roman masses had an insatiable appetite for observing bloodshed.  Gladiatorial games were held there in the arena.  Gladiators would be trained for years to the height of physical strength.  Then, on the climactic day, they would march out into the arena, stripped naked to the waist.  They would be armed with their favorite weapons and would march to the box where the Caesar sat.  Lifting their swords or battle axes or spears to the skies, they would chant, “Ave, Caesar, morituri te salutant!”  “Hail, Caesar, those about to die salute thee!”

Then the ferocious combats would begin.  When one of the gladiators had wounded his adversary severely and the wounded man was lying helplessly on the ground, the triumphant gladiator would look up at the faces in the crowd, and he would shout, “Hoc habet!” “He has it.”

The crowd would then express their will.  If they gave the sign of thumbs up, the wounded gladiator would be dragged bleeding from the arena, to recover if possible.  If the sign of thumbs down was given, however, the victorious gladiator would lift his weapon to give the final stroke.  The crowd would shout in delight, “Recipe ferrum!” “Receive the steel!”  The lifeless form would soon lie on the sand, another victim to Roman butchery.  Thus the games continued, century after century.  Victorious gladiators became folk heroes, the Roman version of superstars or sports heroes.

But these gladiatorial games were not the worst aspect of the Coliseum, for here, pious Christians were slain by the droves.  Wild beasts such as lions, tigers, leopards, and bears were kept in pits till they were crazed with hunger.  Then they were released upon Christians—boys and girls, old men and matrons, it mattered not.  All were made to feel the pain.  Sometimes Christians were soaked in oil then lit on fire as if they were living torches.  Men and women were torn with iron hooks, grilled on irons, sawed asunder, and placed in boiling pots of oil.  Other things too horrible to even speak of were practiced upon pious young ladies.  Yet even small children met these tortures with fixed resolution, and many times, the song of hymns would waft up from the blood-soaked floor of the Coliseum, the joyful song of human voices rising above even the roar of lions as the souls of the slain, one by one, rose from the arena to ascend to their Saviour and King Who, as He had done to receive Stephen, advanced to the portals of heaven to meet His martyrs.  Roman ingenuity knew no bounds, and every imaginable form of torture, mayhem, and brutal lust was practiced upon the pious Christians of the first through the fourth centuries.

Martyrs at the Coliseum

One day, however, at the height of the gladiatorial games, during a celebration of the Roman victory over the Goths about A. D. 370, a lone figure interrupted the proceedings.  Without warning, a rough and weather-beaten man jumped over the wall and into the arena.  Shouts of excitement over the combat gave way to a profound silence, as all eyes turned from the gladiators to look at the lone figure.

He was covered with a mantle.  He had come all the way from Asia to Rome.  He was a Christian.  He had heard about these barbaric entertainments, and, by the grace of God, he intended to stop them.  He had shoved his way to the edge of the arena and jumped into the midst where every eye could see him. He advanced to the two gladiators who were engaged in mortal combat.  Interposing himself between the combatants, he faced the crowd.  Fearlessly, this hero raised his voice.  “In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, King of Kings and Lord of Lords, I command these wicked games to cease.  Do not requite God’s mercy by shedding innocent blood.”

A shout of defiance met the voice of our hero.  Pieces of fruit, stones, daggers, and other missiles were hurled down from the stands.  One of the gladiators, expecting the applause of the crowd, stepped forward and rammed his battle axe into the skull of the man who had dared interfere with Rome’s favorite entertainment. As the hero sunk lifeless to the ground, the angry cries of the crowd died away into a profound silence in the arena.  As the life’s blood of this new martyr joined the blood of the thousands who had bled there before him, the crowd suddenly faced a courage that was greater than the strongest gladiator. The work of this Christian was accomplished.  His name was Telemachus.  From the hour of his martyrdom, the gladiatorial games ceased.  According to John Foxe, in his famous book of martyrs, “From the day Telemachus fell dead in the Coliseum, no other fight of gladiators was ever held there.” Such was the legacy of a man who dared to jump over a wall and declare that an aspect of popular cultural entertainment was ungodly and unlawful.


Telemachus Confronts the Gladiators

How many pagan entertainments and even supposed “Christian” substitutes of our day await such a display of boldness?  It is interesting that Telemachus did not suggest a “Christian” gladiatorial contest to be staged in the Coliseum.  It is remarkable that he did not advertise a “Christian play” to be performed down the street as an alternative to the impure productions in the Roman theatre.  He did not try to innovate some new strategy to appease the circus-loving crowds of Rome.  He did not try to invent a “Christian version” of the circus.  God had ordained to save the unbeliever by the foolishness of preaching, not by the clever drama of the stage or the entertainment of the circus.

Telemachus believed, in his generation, that the Bible was sufficient for all faith and practice, that God had ordained preaching as His sole mandated method, and that the way to take dominion over some things was to destroy them and not to attempt to make a “Christian” substitute. The dominion of Christ must be in terms of His law, and He will not have in that dominion anything foreign to that law.  Thus, the dominion mandate is lawfully extended over only those institutions that are themselves lawful.  Telemachus called for the end of the games, not for the re-Christianizing of them.  There could not be a “Christian” circus or a “Christian” theatre or a “Christian” gymnasium. This was affirmed by such men as William Farel, John Calvin, and Robert Lewis Dabney who, following the example of Telemachus, wrote in their own generations against the fallacious notions of “Christian theater,” “Christian dancing,” and “Christian novels.”  Sadly today, many Christians are trying to Christianize their own interests and pleasures in the name of “dominion” when, at the core, the institutions they seek to take dominion over are not authorized in the Word of God as legitimate means by which to advance Christ’s Kingdom.

For this truth, Telemachus was willing to jump over the wall and shed his very life’s blood.  He had the boldness to command, in the name of Jesus Christ, that the gladiatorial games cease, and by the grace of God, they did cease.  Today, the Coliseum stands in ruins while the Church of Jesus Christ continues to advance.  But we must not rest upon the laurels of “mighty men” of the past such as Telemachus or Farel or Dabney.  Today, in our generation, there are things in our culture, things that are considered culturally acceptable by many sincere Christians, that await the steadfast courage of a Telemachus.


Foxe’s Book of Martyrs by John Foxe
Discussions by R. L. Dabney, vol. 2

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 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


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 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 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


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 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.


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.


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,

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,

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.

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.

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.

Has Hannibal’s Route Across the Alps Been Found?

April 23, 2016 with No Comments and Posted in Ancient by

The pass Hannibal may have used

In an article published in the scientific journal Archaeometry, a group of scientists point to some evidence they have discovered that may point to the path used by Hannibal in his famous crossing of the Alps. They have found a large deposit of animal waste. We would expect to find this in the path of Hannibal’s crossing, since he would have had thousands of animals with him. Popular Science reports:

[T]he “mass animal deposition” as the researchers are calling it, “lies within a churned-up mass from a 1-metre thick alluvial mire, produced by the constant movement of thousands of animals and humans,” said Allen.

In other words, churned up soil doesn’t happen naturally 3000 meters up in those frosty environs. It lays in very uniform layers. Together, the mixed up soil, and faecal microbes residing in the Col de la Traversette Pass provide the most compelling evidence yet for one of history’s most puzzling events.


You can read an article on the discovery here, or the full paper here.

Polycarp: The Man the Flames Would Not Touch

January 20, 2016 with No Comments and Posted in Ancient by




The church was yet young. The day had come of which Jesus had spoken in Matthew 10:

Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues; And ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles. But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak. For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you. (Matthew 10:16-20).

That time had come. The Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius was on the throne. These were the days when Christians were fed to the lions in the Arena at Rome, the days when the catacombs were full of earnest believers who met together to strengthen and encourage one another for the trials of life. Throughout the Empire, Christianity was spreading at an alarming rate for the Roman emperors. In spite of fire, sword, and beastly fury, Roman officers and even high government officials were being converted from paganism to serve the true and living God of Heaven.

In a somewhat obscure city in Asia Minor, in present day Turkey, far from the seat of Imperial power in Rome, there lived an elderly pastor who had long escaped the fury of the power of Rome. He was well into his eighties, and for many years he had pastored his church. In fact, he was so old, that as a young boy he could have been a contemporary of the Apostle John.

The year was 162 A.D. The place was none other than the city of Smyrna, for that is where this elderly pastor shepherded his congregation. Christ himself had written a letter to this church. The words of our Lord to the church of Smyrna contained not a single rebuke, and they glow with warmth.

And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write; These things saith the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive; I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan. Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death. (Revelation 2:8-11)

Perhaps our elderly hero, as the pastor of this church, treasured these words in his bosom, and carried them with him wherever he went. For over 80 years, he lived in relative peace. Persecution did rage in the city, and the enemies of the gospel had sought his life, but he himself had always been able to escape martyrdom.

But one day, he was betrayed and the place of his residence was discovered. The soldiers rushed into his chamber and demanded that he follow them. The venerable old man asked the young soldiers to give him a season of prayer before he left. Stunned and bewildered by this strange request, the young soldiers saw no reason to deny the man this simple request. Many of these young soldiers were so touched by the fervency and tenderness of his prayers that they later repented.

The elderly man was brought before the Roman proconsul of the province and was condemned to be burned alive in the market place. Perhaps the words of Christ came back to him, “Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer . . . be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.”

The appointed day arrived. The old man was led to his place in the open agora, the market place where public executions were held. A stake awaited him. It was usual practice in Roman times to nail victims to the stake. But the old man had given his word of honor that he would not require the nails. He would stand immovable.

As the elderly hero took his position at the stake, the proconsul, knowing the frailty of the old man’s frame, took pity upon his victim and gave him an opportunity to recant. “Swear, and I will release thee – reproach Christ.”

The answer of the venerable man has gone down in history as among the most famous “last words” of a dying martyr. A hushed silence from the assembled throng awaited his reply. Fixing his aged eyes upon the proconsul, the old man gave his answer, “Eighty and six years have I served Him, and He never once wronged me; how then shall I blaspheme my King, Who has saved me?”

The order was given. The torch was applied to the fagots, and the flames leaped upward. But to the astonishment of the crowd, the flames curled upward and around the elderly martyr, leaving him in the middle of the flames, like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, untouched by the flames. It was as if the flames themselves were protesting the execution and refusing to touch this elderly servant of God.

A dramatization of the death of Polycarp

A dramatization of the death of Polycarp

The entire assembly had the opportunity to observe this singular miracle. Finally, the executioner was ordered to run the old man through with a sword, which he did. But upon this act, such a quantity of blood flowed out, that the fire was extinguished. The old man soon died, and his dead body was burned to ashes, but his spirit had long risen to the God who gave it, and we can be sure that the Lord Jesus Christ advanced to the portals of heaven to welcome His faithful servant into His presence, and to give him the promised reward, “be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.”

The man’s name was Polycarp of Smyrna. Many have at least heard the name, but few know the details of his martyrdom. His life and testimony set the pattern for the long train of men, boys, matrons, and maids that would follow his example and lay down their lives for the sake of the Gospel throughout Christian history.

Selected Bibliography

This article was drawn from Foxe’s Book of Martyrs.


The Seal of the Biblical King Hezekiah Found

December 3, 2015 with No Comments and Posted in Ancient by