Tel Gezer and Solomon’s Lost Kingdom
Tel Gezer is an archaeological site in central Israel, about halfway between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Located on the junction of important roads, Gezer was an important site in biblical times and up to the Middle Ages. Today, the site features impressive archaeological ruins and offers one of the region’s best viewpoints.
History and Archaeology of Tel Gezer
Set on a hill next to the ancient coastal trade route, the Canaanites built the first city in Gezer about 4,000 years ago. Joshua conquered the city and killed its king, Horam (Joshua 10:33), but the Israelites did not settle the city.
The Book of Kings indicates that a Pharaoh later controlled the city, but he gave it to King Solomon – and his daughter. King Solomon then made Gezer one of his top cities:
15 Here is the account of the forced labor King Solomon conscripted to build the Lord’s temple, his own palace, the terraces, the wall of Jerusalem, and Hazor, Megiddo and Gezer.16 (Pharaoh king of Egypt had attacked and captured Gezer. He had set it on fire. He killed its Canaanite inhabitants and then gave it as a wedding gift to his daughter, Solomon’s wife. 17 And Solomon rebuilt Gezer.) (1 Kings 9:15-17).
However, five years after the death of Solomon, Pharaoh Shishaq plundered Gezer and many other sites of Solomon’s kingdom. The Israelites later rebuilt Gezer, but in 733 BCE, the Assyrian King Tiglat Pileser III conquered and destroyed Gezer. Four centuries later, the Hasmoneans fortified Gezer, and added boundry stones to mark its territory. In 1177 CE, a critical battle took place in the fields of Gezer, where the outnumbered Crusaders defeated a Muslim army.
Since the early 20th century, several archaeological expeditions operated at the site, unearthing a wealth of finds from different periods.
Touring Tel Gezer
Today, Tel Gezer is a national park. It is open year-round and free of charge. Its most notable finds include:
Archaeologists uncovered a six-chambered gate at the city’s southern wing. Resembling six-chambered in Hazor and Megiddo, archaeologist Y. Yadin suggested these gates date to King Solomon, as recorded in the Book of Kings 15. Here is the account of the forced labor King Solomon conscripted to build the Lord’s temple, his palace, the terraces, the wall of Jerusalem, and Hazor, Megiddo, and Gezer. (1 Kings 9:15). However, further research demonstrated that six-chambered gates also appear in other sites, and they do not necessarily date to the time of King Solomon.
The Canaanite Gate
Next to the biblical-era gate, archaeologists uncovered another city gate built of bricks dating to the Canaanite period.
The Water Shaft
Both gates are at Gezer’s southern wing, which faces the springs below. Behind the gates, archaeologists uncovered a deep shaft. Dating to the Canaanite period, the shaft reached the underground water level, providing secured access to a water source.
The Gezer Calendar
One of the most essential inscriptions from Biblical times is an inscribed pottery shard (Ostraca) found in Gezer. It documents, in an early form of Paleo-Hebrew, a lunar-agricultural calendar.
A Canaanite Cultic Center
At Gezer’s northern wing, archaeologists uncovered an impressive and mysterious row of monoliths around a basin. Archaeologists debate if it functioned as a Canaanite cultic center or perhaps marked a political treaty between Canaanite cities (cf. Joshua 10:33).
The Boundary Stones
Archaeologists recoreded several inscribed stones around the mound. Each stone is inscribed in Hebrew, “Boundary of Gezer” (תחם גזר) on the side facing Gezer, and Ἀλκίμου ( “of Alkimos” in Greek) on its opposite side. They are interpreted as Gezer’s boundary markers in the Hellenistic period.
Aside from the wealth of archaeological finds, Gezer’s hilltop offers stunning panoramas of the coastal plain and the Ayalon Valley. During the spring months, the site blooms with carpets of wildflowers.