Unearthing Truth: The Gateway to Jerusalem

By Giovanna Albanese   •   September 6, 2017

The discovery last year of a palace dating to the time of King Solomon draws attention to a city with great significance in ancient Israel and helps corroborate the Biblical record.

 
Steven Ortiz, professor of archaeology and Biblical backgrounds at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, leads the excavation team at Tel Gezer.

Though off the beaten path, Tel Gezer, known mostly from the Biblical text in 1 Kings 9:15-17, was one of the most important cities in the land of Israel and played a strategic role for the inhabitants of the region over thousands of years.

Geographically, Gezer guarded the path leading to Jerusalem. “If you had to get to Jerusalem, you had to go through Gezer,” said Steven Ortiz, professor of archaeology and Biblical backgrounds at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and the co-director and principal investigator at Tel Gezer.

The city’s historical importance predates Israel. Before the Israelites were in Tel Gezer, the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites and Hivites prized it. In addition, “the Egyptians knew about it, the Assyrians knew about it, the Biblical authors knew about it,” Ortiz said.

However, many people today do not know about Gezer and the fortification that it was.

Gezer was conquered multiple times, and its territory was controlled by various rulers over the centuries. But the most significant to Biblical history was when “Pharaoh king of Egypt had gone up and taken Gezer and burned it with fire, had killed the Canaanites who dwelt in the city, and had given it as a dowry to his daughter, Solomon’s wife” (1 Kings 9:16).

It was after this that Solomon rebuilt the city.

In 2016, after three years of excavating what archaeologists knew to be an important building in an important city, Ortiz and his team announced that, based on the size, structure and layout, they had found a palace that dated to the time of Solomon’s reign—described in the news media as “Solomon’s palace.”

map of Jerusalem
The location of Tel Gezer contributes to the significance this city had in ancient Israel. Tel Gezer was conquered by Joshua and fortified by King Solomon.

This finding significantly contributes to Biblical scholarship, Ortiz said. It provides important evidence for the Biblical record in an ongoing debate among scholars, some of whom have doubted there was ever a united Jewish nation in the 10th century B.C. under David and Solomon.

According to Gary Byers of Associates for Biblical Research, “it was generally accepted that by the first millennium B.C., beginning with the kingdom of David, you were on solid historical footing. Yet, in the mid-1990s, a significant academic debate developed over the historical accuracy of the Bible’s description of the United Monarchy under David and Solomon … the topic was frequently discussed in scholarly journals and the popular press.”

The ongoing conversation was centered around the point that “there really was no archaeological evidence to support the Bible story,” Byers said. However, the discovery of the Solomonic-era palace is now evidence that pushes against what many liberal scholars had proposed.

In addition to the palace, certain features of the city were discovered through further investigation of the artifacts, giving evidence that administrative planning existed. This implies a king or central authority figure was present at that time, and Ortiz proposes that this corresponds with the reign of Solomon. Still, Ortiz says, this does not mean that Solomon actually lived in Gezer because there is no evidence for that, nor does the Bible say he lived there. But this discovery does point to the possibility of the palace being built under Solomon’s rule.

This discovery also affirms the historical accounts recorded in Scripture.

The three-year excavation included archaeology students from multiple schools, some of them Christian and some secular. One concept that Ortiz teaches is that a dig site is like a crime scene where “every little piece of evidence builds a stronger case.”

Solomon’s palace in Gezer is another piece of the puzzle.

Archaeological discoveries also have devotional value for the Christian, Ortiz noted.

“It [all] actually comes back to the Bible because that’s where the revelation is,” he said. Archaeology and this specific discovery show that no matter how little-known a people group, place or event is in the Bible, it is authentic.

Ortiz said that when he realized the Bible is actually true and not a myth or a fable, it helped him to overcome doubt: “God revealed Himself in history, He revealed Himself to a people and He revealed Himself to us through the Person of Jesus Christ.” The discovery at Gezer, along with many others, allows Christians to see firsthand that God and His Word are trustworthy.  ©2017 BGEA

  
An aerial shot of ruins uncovered at Tel Gezer of what is commonly referred to as Solomon’s palace. The digital overlay in red shows the outline of the building walls.

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