Khirbet Qeiyafa

Todd Bolen, at BiblePlaces Blog, reports of coins [pics at right] found at the archaeological site of Khirbet Qeiyafa.

Khirbet Qeiyafa (Arabic for “beautiful ruin”) is an archaeological site on the north side of the Elah Valley, with Bethlehem directly to the east. The site was discovered in the mid 2000’s and excavations have taken place there each season since 2007. You can see some cool pictures of the site here. The city is pretty large by ancient standards (700 yards in circumference and approx. 200,000 tons of stones for the wall itself).

I was at Khirbet Qeiyafa last May. One of the interesting features of this site is that it has two gates, which was highly unusual in the ancient world. This is significant because of the very close proximity of Khirbet Qeiyafa to other ancient sites such as Socoh and Azekah (within a mile or two).

This is very near where Saul’s forces were encamped when confronted with the Philistines and their champion from Gath, Goliath (cf. 1 Sam 17:1–2). This, of course, is the setting where David – after traveling a relatively short distance from Bethlehem – confronted the warrior who dared to “defy the armies of the living God” (1 Sam 17:26). After David defeated the giant and cut off his head, the text reads that the Philistines fled (likely toward the west) and that “the men of Israel and Judah rose with a shout and pursued the Philistines as far as Gath and the gates of Ekron, so that the wounded Philistines fell on the way from Shaaraim as far as Gath and Ekron” (1 Sam 17:52).

Scholars have known the location of all the other cities in this account, except for Shaaraim. The Philistine stronghold of Gath is only about seven miles to the west of Khirbet Qeiyafa, and Ekron north of that. However, they haven’t been able to identify “Shaaraim“. It is interesting to note that sha‘ar, in Hebrew, means “gate.” The “–im” ending is plural. So the name of the town, “Shaaraim“, in 1 Sam 17:52 means “gates.” Khirbet-Qeiyafa is the only site with two gates.

A proto-sinaitic inscription on a ostracon was found here in 2008; one of the oldest in Israel. The inscription is written in the Proto-Canaanite alphabet. It is written on the ostracon in ink. It is perhaps a part of Deuteronomy, though this is debated.

Here are some pictures of my day there:

Khirbet Qeiyafa; looking from within the west gate toward the west. Azekah is in the distance.
The room where the ostracon was discovered.
Khirbet Qeiyafa, looking south out of the south gate with the Elah Valley in the distance.
Looking east from the south gate of Khirbet Qeiyafa toward Socoh (hill in the upper right). Bethlehem is about 14 miles in the distance. The Elah Valley is in the middle of the picture.

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