Azekah

AZEKAH (a-zē'ka). A town in NW Judah, mentioned as a place to which Joshua pursued the kings at the battle of Gibeon (Josh.10.10-Josh.10.11). Other places where it is mentioned are Josh.15.35; 1Sam.17.1; 2Chr.11.9; Neh.11.30; Jer.34.7.


AZEKAH ə ze’ kə (עֲזֵקָ֖ה, LXX ̓Αζκα, hoed ground?). A Palestinian town which existed from before 1300 b.c. through Byzantine times.

Azekah was a fortified city S of the Valley of Aijalon, identified as Tell ez Zakariyeh, a triangular mound about 1,000 ft. by 500 ft., which rises about 350 ft. above the Valley of Elah, modern Wadi es Sunṭ. It was located three m. NW of Socoh, about nine m. N of Beit Jibrin (Eleutheropolis) and fifteen m. NW of Hebron. On a plateau at the top of the tell there remains a wall and towers of ancient fortifications. The Byzantine city of Azekah may be Khirbet el ’Alami just E of the tell. the site was partially excavated in 1898-1899 by Frederick J. Bliss and R. A. S. Macalister for the Palestine Exploration Fund.

When Joshua defeated the Amorites near Gibeon he chased the remnants of the coalition to Azekah (Josh 10:10, 11). It lay in the Shephelah (15:35). It was a point on the battle line of the Philistine-Heb. campaign in which David slew Goliath (1 Sam 17:1).

Following the revolt of the northern kingdom, Rehoboam fortified the city with a large walled stockade. Possibly Rehoboam was actuated by the invasion of Shishak, c. 918 b.c. (2 Chron 11:9). Prob. these fortifications are those seen in modern times.

Azekah was one of the last towns to fall to Nebuchadnezzar before he attacked Jerusalem c. 588 b.c. (Jer 34:7). In Lachish letter # 4, Hoshaiah, who commanded a garrison N of Lachish, informed his superior, Yoash, at Lachish that he could no longer see the signals (fire or smoke) from Azekah N of his post. This indicated that Azekah had already fallen. (Cf. ANET, 322, D. Winton Thomas, Documents from Old Testament Times, 216f.; G. Ernest Wright, Biblical Archaeology, 179).

After the Exile Azekah was reoccupied (Neh 11:30).

Possibly the “covering” of Isaiah 22:8 refers to the fortress of Azekah (cf. H. Tadmor, JCS, XII [1958], 22-40, 77-100).

Bibliography

Palestine Exploration Fund (Quarterly Statement) (1899), 10-36; G. E. Wright, Biblical Archaeology (1956), 149, 179.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

`azekah: A town of some importance in the Shephelah of Judah mentioned (Jos 15:35) next to Socoh. In Jos 10:10 the defeated kings of the Arnorites are described as flying before Joshua "by the way of the ascent of Beth-horon .... to Azekah, and unto Makkedah" and (Jos 10:11) as the host fled "Yahweh cast down great stones from heaven upon them unto Azekah, and they died." In 1Sa 17:1 it is recorded that before David’s combat with Goliath, the Philistines "gathered together at Socoh, which belongeth to Judah, and encamped between Socoh and Azekah, in Ephes-dammin." In 2Ch 11:9 it is mentioned as one of the frontier cities which Rehoboam fortified and in Jer 34:7 it is one of the two fortified cities remaining to Judah in the Shephelah which Nebuchadnezzar was besieging. "Azekah and the towns (margin, "daughters") thereof" is mentioned among the cities reoccupied by Jews returning after the Exile (Ne 11:30). In all the three last references the place is mentioned along with Lachish.

All the data suit Tell Zaqareyeh on the North side of the Vale of Elah (Wady es-Sunt) and some 3 miles Northwest of Socoh (Kh. Shuweikeh). This site, which was partially excavated by the nodetitle Fund, is one of great natural strength. "The hill stands almost isolated, rising abruptly for almost 350 ft. above the Vale of Elah; .... to the West the fall is also very great, while to the South the tell is joined by a neck of land (about 100 ft. below the summit) to a hill behind." The summit is about 350 yds. by 150 yds., and is much larger than Tell el-Chesy (Lachish) (Bliss). Excavations showed that it was a very ancient site which had been powerfully fortified, and the rock under the city was excavated in a series of very extraordinary underground chambers which could be used as places of refuge. The site suits the narrative of Joshua’s battle every well, as there is a long-used high route running North to South from the neighborhood of Ajalon. Its position as a frontier fortress is comparable with that of Lachish: the name Zakareyeh, seems to be a survival of Azekah. See PEFS, 1899, 10 ff; PEF, III, 441.