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I. IN RECENT EXCAVATIONS
1. Excavation of Tells
3. Primitive Character
6. Acropolis or Castle
9. Water Supply
II. IN BIBLICAL HISTORY
1. Before the Monarchy
2. In the Period of the Monarchy
3. In the Period of the Return
III. IN THE PSALMS AND THE PROPHETS
1. The Psalms
2. The Prophets
IV. IN THE NEW TESTAMENT
1. In Paul’s Epistles
2. In the Ac of the Apostles
3. In the Gospel History
Has a number of words representing its various elements and aspects:
(1) mibhtsar, is the term generally rendered "fenced" or "defenced city." In both the
(2) misgabh, "high fort" (
(3) ma`oz, "fortress," "stronghold" (
(4) metsudhah, "fort" the King James Version, "stronghold" the Revised Version (British and American) (
(5) metsurah, "fort" (
(6) mutstsabh (
(7) dayeq, "fort" (for the siege of a city, the wall of circumvallation cast up by the besiegers,
(8) matsor, "fortress" (
(9) birah, "palace" the King James Version, "castle" the Revised Version (British and American) (
(10) ochuroma (
From the very beginning of their history as a nation the Israelites were acquainted with fortified cities. The report of cities "great and fortified up to heaven," inhabited by the sons of Anak, by Amalekites, Hittites, Jebusites, Amorites and Canaanites, struck terror into the hearts of the Israelites in the wilderness, and called forth murmurings from them on their way to Canaan (
I. In Recent Excavations.
1. Excavation of Tells:
It has been largely to the tells, or mounds of buried cities, chiefly in the southwest of the land, that exploration has been directed. TheFund, drawing its resources from Great Britain and also from America, was the first, and has all along been the foremost, in the work of excavation. Through the labors of Professor Flinders Petrie at Tell el-Hesy; of Dr. F. J. Bliss, and Professor Stewart Macalister at Tell Zakariyah, Tell ec-Safi, Tell ej-Judeideh, Tell Sandahannah, and more recently of Professor Macalister at Gezer, the Fund has added largely to our knowledge of the fenced cities of Canaan. The work of Sir Charles Warren, Sir Charles W. Wilson, Colonel Conder and other explorers at Jerusalem under the same auspices has been of great value for illustrating the defensive works of a later time. Germany and Austria have not been behind. The excavation, first, of Tell Ta’anek in the , and, at the present time (1911), of Jericho by Professor E. Sellin, formerly of Vienna, now of Rostock; and of Tell el-Mutesellim, the ancient Megiddo, by Gottlieb Schumacher, has yielded results of the highest importance. Since 1908 an American expedition from Harvard University, first under Schumacher and now under Dr. Reisner, who had previously excavated at the Pyramids and other places in Egypt, has explored with remarkable results the site of the capital of the Northern Kingdom, Samaria. Excavations have also been conducted by the German Orient Committee at Sinjerli which have thrown a flood of light upon the archaeology of Northern Syria and especially upon the wonderful Hittite people. The memoirs and reports of these excavations have furnished abundance of material for tracing the evolution and understanding the anatomy of the tell. They usefully supplement the Scripture narratives, and confirm them in many particulars.
These cities of the primitive inhabitants of Canaan occupied sites easily capable of defense. They were built either upon a projecting spur of a mountain ridge, like Gezer, Megiddo, Tell ec-Safi (believed to be the ancient Gath) and primitive Jerusalem, or upon an isolated eminence in the plain like Tell el-Hesy (Lachish) or Taanach. Compared with modern cities the area was small--in the case of Gezer about a quarter of a mile square, Lachish 15 acres, Megiddo and Taanach 12 to 13 acres. A sufficient water supply within easy reach was an essential feature. Speaking of Gezer, Professor Macalister says: "Water, the first necessity of life, was in abundance. The three primitive modes of livelihood--hunting, pasturing, and agriculture--could be practiced here better than in many places. Further, for defense--another prime necessity in early days--the hill is admirably fitted. It is steep and not easy to climb; and being fairly high it commands a wide prospect, so that the approach of enemies can be seen and prepared for" (Bible Side-Lights from Gezer, 25,26).
3. Primitive Character:
Their history goes back in most cases to a very remote antiquity. "It cannot have been much later than 3000 BC," says Professor Macalister regarding Gezer, "when a primitive race of men first realized that the bare rocky hill (as it then was) would be a suitable dwelling-place. This tribe was a cave-dwelling race" (as above; and PEFS, 1904, 311 ff). The primitive race had occupied the hill perhaps five hundred years when the Canaanites drove them out, as they in turn were driven out by the Israelites. But the nature of their original habitations, the earliest relics of their social life, and what can be gathered of their religious rites all bear witness to a remote antiquity. From the mound of Tell el-Hesy, now almost certainly identified with the site of Lachish, eleven cities, one above the other have been disinterred, the eleventh or highest having nine cities between itself and the first Amorite buildings reared upon the original bluff. This lowest city is believed to go back some 2000 years BC, Professor Flinders Petrie having dated the successive cities by means of the pottery found in the strata of the mound. One of the eleven cities, possibly the fourth from the bottom, was that of Lachish, which fell a prey to Joshua (
While the site of the Canaanite city was chosen for its natural strength, the first settlers soon felt the need of some fortification. At Sinjerli the excavators have been able to trace the general growth of the site from a group of shepherds’ huts into a walled town. The earliest fortification attempted was a rampart of earth following the natural contour of the hill (PEFS, 1903, 113). Within some such enclosing wall, houses were built and the inhabitants lived and pursued their avocations safely. The primitive earthbank in the case of Gezer was in course of time replaced first by an inner and then by an outer wall in succession. The outer wall when it was added to strengthen the inner was the chel, rendered in the English version "bulwark" (
Towers were sometimes built at the corners or at points on the wall where attack was to be apprehended (Ze 1:16;
6. Acropolis or Castle:
Every one of these ancient cities had an inner fortress which would be an internal means of protection, and the last refuge of the defenders in extremity. At Tell Zakariyah the acropolis wall has been traced, and its shape has been found to be conditioned by the contours of the hill on which it stood. In an old Hittite settlement a fortress has been found rectangular in shape and supported by an outer and lower wall at a distance of 12 to 30 yds. (Land of the Hittites, 162). There is evidence that the mound or bluff originally occupied remained the fortress or acropolis of the city when it spread out over a larger area, and this seems to have been the case for some time at least with the Jebusite fort taken by David and made the capital of the kingdom. At Sinjerli, while there was a wall surrounding the whole township, there was an outer as well as an inner defensive wall to the citadel. Upon this citadel were found palaces from which the Assyrian king, Tiglath-pileser I, copied the plan of a Hittite palace, called in Assyrian Hilani.
The excavations enable us to see the progress of the art of fortification from very primitive beginnings. Crude brick and rough stone-work were the materials of the earliest walls. They are usually found of uncoursed masonry in which the large stones are undressed field boulders. The facings of stone and the joints in walls were often packed with pebbles or with limestone chippings, the stones themselves being more or less roughly trimmed and dressed to shape by a hammer. Corner-stones are found in the towers showing marks of the chisel, but it is not till well on in the Hebrew period that stones are found with bosses and marginal drafting. At Zakariyah the walls of the acropolis were of rubble laid in mud, mixed with straw without lime, and they contained some well-worked stones, irregularly intermingled with field stones of various sizes. At a later time mortar was used to cover the walls and give greater strength and support. But the clay used for the purpose was apt to crack unless it was given consistency by treading with the feet and mixing with water. Thus we read of a wall daubed with untempered mortar (
The gates of the fenced cities of Canaan may not have had the social importance which the city gate came to possess in later times, but they were an important element in the defensive works of a city. They were as few as possible, so as to give only the necessary ingress and egress. The gate of Jericho was shut and secured at nightfall (
9. Water Supply:
One of the essential requisites of the primitive Canaanite fortress was a supply of water. At Gezer a copious spring within easy reach was available. Tell el-Hesy commands the only springs in that region (A Mound of Many Cities, 16). It is a strong point in favor of the modern theory of the ridge of Ophel being the site of Zion or David’s town that the Virgin’s Fountain, the only perennial spring in the whole circuit of Jerusalem, was close to it, and would have been an inducement to the Jebusites to build their fortress there. In the sites that have been excavated, cisterns, sometimes vaulted over and with steps down into them, have been constantly found. Traces have also been observed of concealed passages or tunnels by which access has been obtained to the nearest spring. Some such explanation has been given of the "gutter" (
II. In Biblical History.
1. Before the Monarchy:
On the passage of the Jordan the Israelites found in Jericho a walled city of great strength barring their progress. The excavations recently made have disclosed the common features of Canaanite fortresses--an outer wall, surrounding the entire area, 6 1/2 ft. thick, a citadel and protecting walls of hardly less substantial workmanship. Nearby also is the essential spring to furnish the water supply. Within the citadel were found the walls and rooms of Canaanite houses, and in many cases remains of infants buried in jars under the clay floors (Driver, Modern Research as Illustrating the Bible, 91 ff). These examples of "foundation sacrifices" with which the excavations at Gezer have made us familiar give point to the account of the resettlement of the city in the days of Ahab, when Hiel the Bethelite rebuilt Jericho, laying the foundation thereof with the loss of Abiram, his firstborn, and setting up the gates thereof with the loss of his youngest son Segub (
In the Book of Jud we read of the strong tower, or citadel, of Thebez, into which the inhabitants had crowded and to which Abimelech was setting fire when a woman upon the wall hurled a millstone upon him and broke his skull (
2. In the Period of the Monarchy:
When David captured the Jebusite fortress (
Although Solomon was a man of peace, he included among the great buildings which he executed fortresses and works of defense. He built the wall of Jerusalem round about. He built Millo (called Akra ("citadel") in the Septuagint), and closed the breaches of the city of David, so that there might be no vulnerable point found in the defenses of the city (
The disruption of the kingdoms, and the jealousy and hostility that followed between Judah and Israel, necessitated fresh undertakings of fortification, on the part of both kingdoms. Rehoboam dwelt in Jerusalem, and built cities for defense in Judah. He fortified the strongholds and provisioned them and stored arms within them in case of siege (
With Omri there arose in Israel a powerful ruler whose name is mentioned with respect in the Assyrian monuments, which designate the kingdom of Israel Mat Bit Khumri, "the land of the house of Omri." He was the builder of Samaria which remained the capital of the Northern Kingdom till its fall in 722 BC. In excavations but recently carried on by the archaeological expedition of Harvard University, the walls of Omri’s palace and fortress were laid bare, giving an impression of the great strength of the place.
While Solomon built the wall of Jerusalem, we read that Uzziah built towers at the corner gate, and at the valley gate, and at the turning of the wall, and fortified them (
3. In the Period of the Return:
The patriotic labor of Nehemiah in the rebuilding of the wall of Jerusalem belongs properly to the history of the city (see Jerusalem). In the Maccabean struggle, the Akra (
III. In the Psalms and the Prophets.
1. The Psalms
2. The Prophets:
IV. In the New Testament.
1. In Paul’s Epistles:
In a well-known passage (
2. In the Ac of the Apostles:
From the stairs of the Castle of Antonia, Paul, by leave of
3. In the Gospel History:
Although it is not mentioned by name, the gloomy fortress of Macherus on the East of the Dead Sea is believed to have been the scene of the imprisonment and murder of. The description of it given by Josephus (BJ, VII, vi, 1) shows it to have been a place of immense strength. "It was quite necessary that that fortress should be demolished lest it might draw away many into rebellion because of its strength; for the nature of the place was very capable of affording sure hope of safety to those who held it, and delay and fear to those who attacked it. For what was defended by a fort was itself a rocky hill, rising to a very great height, which circumstance alone made it very difficult to capture it. It was also so contrived by Nature that it could not easily be approached; for it is entrenched by ravines on all sides, so deep that the eye cannot reach their bottoms, nor are they easy to cross over, and it is quite impossible to fill them up with earth." Macherus, like the Herodium, Jotapata, Masada, figured largely in the tragic scenes of the Jewish War so graphically described by Josephus
Bliss and Macalister, Excavations in Palestine; Bliss, A Mound of Many Cities; Macalister, Bible Side-Lights from Mound of Gezer; PEFS for 1903-6, referring to Gezer; Driver, Modern Research as Illustrating the Bible; Vincent, Canaan d’apres l’exploration recente; Billerbeck, Der Festungsbau im alten Orient.
Bibliography R. de Vaux, Ancient Israel (1961), 229-240; G. E. Wright, Biblical Archaeology (1962).