Azekah was a major city in the Judean hills (the Shephelah) both in Canaanite Israelite times.
History and Archaeology of Azekah
Azekah is mentioned only six times in the Bible, yet it played a major role the history of the Holy Land. In the battle between David and Goliath Azekah was probably a military camp of the Philistines (I Sam. 17:1-4). Centuries later, Sennacharib boasted on conquering Azekah, although in his words it was like and “eagle’s nest…with towers that project to the sky like swords.”. Later, prophet Jeremiah describes Azekah as one of the last towns to be conquered by the Babylonians (Jeremiah 34:6-7). A letter found in nearby Lachish probably records their conquest of Azekah.
Identified in the early 20th century, the whole site was excavated by Bliss and Macalister. However, working under Ottoman law, they had to cover the site at the end of their research. Since 2012 a joint expedition of several universities (The Lautenschläger Azekah Expedition) is uncovering the site again, with modern excavations techniques (radiocarbon, residue analysis, zoo archaeology studies and more). Among others, these excavations proved the site was also inhabited in the Hellenistic and Roman periods.
Azekah is on one of the highest hills in the Shephelah, within Britiannia park. A paved road leads almost to its top. As of 2020 the renewed excavations have uncovered architectural remains in 12 areas across the site, including possible remains of the Assyrian assault ramp. The lookout at its top provide stunning panoramas of the Jerusalem mountains, the Shephelah, and the coastal plain.
A visit to the site can be combined in a guided day tour in the Judean hills and the southern coastal plain of Israel.
Points of Interest in the Area
Tel Azekah is between Biblical Gath, and the Ellah valley, where the battle of David and Goliath took place. Being so, it is quite likely the Goliath passed through Azekah on his way to the battle site. On a hill opposite Azekah is another significant archaeological site called Khirbet Qeiyafa. Recent excavations at the site yielded rare and significant evidence of a fortified post from the 10th century BCE, the time of David and Solomon’s reign.
These sites combined provide a fascinating insight of the Biblical reality in the formative years that led to the Davidic dynasty.