Aren Maeir, an archaeologist at Bar-Ilan University who led the dig at Tel Zafit,
said the gate is one of the largest ever found in Israel and is a reflection of
the status of Gath between the 10th and ninth centuries B.C.
A view of the Iron Age fortifications of the lower city of Philistine Gath.
(Image source: Bar-Ilan University)
Bar-Ilan University noted in a statement Tuesday
that Gath, home of the Philistines, was the largest city in the Holy Land during
the United Monarchy of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah.
Gath is mentioned several times in the Bible including in I Samuel as the place
David ran to in order to escape King Saul.
Israel’s i24 News reported that
the discovery could impact the historical understanding about how much land the
Kingdom of Judah controlled in the area:
According to Maeir, the discovery of Gath as a huge, fortified city on the
border of Judea during an extended period, without any signs of destruction,
proves the Philistines controlled the Judean plain and it is likely the
remnant of a failure of the Israelite kingdom to spread westward, and not a
sign of its power.
“The Judean kingdom is supposed to be big, important and strong,” said Maeir.
“But it turns out there is a very big city on its western border. For years,
I claimed Gath was a big city, but they countered that it has no lower city,
and if it has one it is not fortified. After finding a huge fortification,
it’s clearly the most important city of the 10th and ninth centuries.”
As described in II Kings, Hazael, king of Aram-Damascus eventually conquered
Bar-Ilan University noted that besides the “monumental gate” and “impressive
fortification wall,” researchers discovered Philistine temples and an iron
They also believe they found evidence of an earthquake in the 8th century B.C.
possibly connected to the earthquake mentioned in the beginning of the Book of
The excavation at Tel Zafit has been underway for 20 years.