My trip to Israel with Ray Vander Laan was one of the most physically and mentally exhausting trips of my lifetime thus far. We climbed mountains daily, and spent the whole time learning to understand the Bible from a Jewish cultural context. There were any number of amazing moments; feasts for the eyes, joys for the heart. One of the most incredible moments that spoke to my brain was the second afternoon of the trip when we were able to tour the archaeological dig site of Khirbet Qeiyafa, what is almost certainly Sha’araim mentioned in 1 Samuel 17:52 on a mountain above the Valley of Elah, where the Israelites faced the Philistines when David faced Goliath. I have been reviewing and studying my notes from the trip and am awed afresh from the findings. If you are interested, here is the website and convincing archaeological findings thus far:
Kerbit Qeiyafa as Sha’araim:
1 Samuel 17:52: And 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 Sha’araim as far as Gath and Ekron.
- Eleven acres, 2200 foot circular wall 12-14’ high
- Proof Qeiyafa is Biblical Sha’araim
- Seven different labs confirmed the dates of olive pits from 980-1020BC, which is Saul or David era
- Case-made walls
- Only Israelites made them
- Functions as houses until needed by military and then filled with rocks
- No pig bones (Israelites were the only peoples that abstained from pigs. Only a religious Israelite city would not have pig bones.)
- Pottery with proto-canaanite writing of Hebrew words which details the central mission of the Israelites:
- you shall not do [it], but worship the [Lord].
- Judge the sla[ve] and the wid[ow] / Judge the orph[an]
- [and] the stranger. [Pl]ead for the infant / plead for the po[or and]
- the widow. Rehabilitate [the poor] at the hands of the king.
- Protect the po[or and] the slave / [supp]ort the stranger.
- Similar to Isaiah 1:17, Psalms 72:3, Exodus 23:3, and others
- Two gates:
- Sha’ar: gate
- Sha’araim: two gates
- Sha’arim: three+ gates
- Sha’araim of 1 Sam 17 was named for having two gates; something very unusual in ancient cities