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 Isa 17:3); with `ir, "city" (1Sa 6:18; 2Ki 3:19; plural `are mibhtsar, "fenced (the American Standard Revised Version "fortified") cities," Nu 32:17); with tsor, "Tyre" (Jos 19:29; 2Sa 24:7, where it is rendered "stronghold").
(2) misgabh, "high fort" (Isa 25:12; Jer 48:1 the Revised Version, margin; Ps 9:9, and many other places in the Pss).
(3) ma`oz, "fortress," "stronghold" (Jud 6:26; Ps 31:2; Da 11:39).
(4) metsudhah, "fort" the King James Version, "stronghold" the Revised Version (British and American) (2Sa 5:9,17).
(5) metsurah, "fort" (Isa 29:3 the King James Version; plural the Revised Version (British and American) "siege works").
(6) mutstsabh (Isa 29:3, "fort" the English Revised Version, "mount" the King James Version, "posted troops" the American Standard Revised Version).
(7) dayeq, "fort" (for the siege of a city, the wall of circumvallation cast up by the besiegers, 2Ki 25:1; Jer 52:4; Eze 4:2; 17:17; 21:22; 26:8).
(8) matsor, "fortress" (Jer 10:17 margin, wall of circumvallation: Hab 2:1, "tower" the King James Version, "fortress" the Revised Version, margin; Zec 9:3).
(9) birah, "palace" the King James Version, "castle" the Revised Version (British and American) (Ne 2:8; 7:2). Birah Grecized is baris, which has the double meaning of "palace" and "fortress." Nehemiah’s "castle" figures largely in the books of Maccabees and in Josephus, and is the Castle of Antonia of the Ac of the Apostles.
(10) ochuroma (2Co 10:4, its only occurrence in the though it is the chief equivalent of mibhtsar in the Septuagint). In this connection it is to be noted that chomah, is Hebrew for "wall," Greek teichos; chel or cheyl, is Hebrew for the "ditch," or "rampart," or "bastion" of a fortress; mighdal, "tower"; pinnah plural pinnoth, "corner towers."
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 (Nu 13:28; De 1:28). Not that these cities were at all of the extent or population of modern cities, or of Nineveh, Babylon and Memphis of old. But to a people who were as yet little better than a horde of fugitives accustomed to the simple camp life of the wilderness and unacquainted with appliances for siege and assault, the prospect of scaling the walls and conquering the inhabitants was appalling. The cities of the Canaanites were already old when Joshua led the Israelites to the conquest of the land. Not a little of their history has become known to us, and the character of their defensive works has been disclosed by Palestinian excavation in recent years.
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. The
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 (Jos 10:32), the walls of which, built of crude brick and 10-12 ft. in thickness, are a witness to its character as a fenced city (Bliss, A Mound of Many Cities, chapter iv).
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" (Isa 26:1) or "rampart" (Na 3:8, where the waters of the Nile served the same purpose). Professor Macalister estimates that the inner wall of Gezer had fallen into disuse and ruin by about 1450 BC and that it was the outer that saw the conquest of Canaan by the Israelites. "Even in its present ruined form," says Professor Macalister, "the outer city wall is an imposing structure. In places it still stands to a height of from 10 to 14 ft., and these can hardly be regarded as being much more than the underground foundations. The outer face of the city wall, towering above the hill on which the city was built, may well have seemed impregnable to the messengers of Moses" (Bible Side-Lights, 142). The walls of a later time, as we learn from Assyrian representations, were provided with battlements, very often crenellated, and "thy pinnacles of rubies" (Isa 54:12, the Revised Version (British and American), the Revised Version, margin "windows") may refer to them. For the purpose of strengthening the walls, especially at the least defensible points, revetments or facings of stone or kiln-burnt bricks were sometimes added. Even these again would be rendered less assailable by a trench (chel) serving to cut off a fortress from adjacent level or sloping ground, as may still be seen outside the North wall of Jerusalem, and many parts ofthe walls of Constantinople.
Towers were sometimes built at the corners or at points on the wall where attack was to be apprehended (Ze 1:16; 2Ch 14:7). Such towers have been disclosed on the crest of the hill at Tell Zakariyah. At Gezer 30 towers were found round the outer wall. On the walls of Sinjerli there rose no fewer than 800 towers (Garstang, Land of the Hittites, 273). On the evidence of the excavations at this ancient Hittite site we gather that the cities about the time of the entrance of the Israelites into Canaan "were already surrounded by masoned walls, supported by numerous external towers, and entered through gateways barred by a pair of double doors and guarded by wing towers on either hand" (Land of the Hittites, 367). For illustrations, see City.
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 (Eze 13:10-16; 22:28; compare Na 3:14). In the masonry of the Hittite fortress (see (6) above) the masonry of the inner wall is rough, dry stonewalling, while the outer is built of stones roughly pentagonal in shape, irregular in size, fitted to one another and laid without mortar, somewhat like the Cyclopean walls of the earliest periods of Greek history.
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 (Jos 2:5). The gate of Gaza had two leaves which were not hinged to the two gate-posts, but turned on pins moving in sockets in the sill and lintel, the bar stretching between the two posts and let into them to secure the gate (Jud 16:3, with Moore’s notes). The hundred gates of Babylon, according to Herodotus, were all of brass (i.179); and Yahweh promises to Cyrus to break in pieces the doors of brass and to cut in sunder the bars of iron (Isa 45:2). That the bars were sometimes of wood is clear from what is said of the bars of Nineveh ( Hab 3:13). To protect the gate it was supplied with towers. Uzziah built towers in Jerusalem at the corner gate and at the valley gate, and fortilled them (2Ch 26:9). In the inner wall of Gezer, to which reference has been made, a gate of very remarkable structure has been found. The wall is of stone, but the gateway consists of a passage between two solid towers of brick. The passage is 9 ft. wide and 42 ft. long, roughly paved with stones. Stone slabs on each side of the passageway bear traces of fire, and the absence of any wooden barrier may be due to a conflagration at the capture of the city. The towers remain standing and rise to a total height of about 16 ft. In later times watchmen were set on the tower over the gate to descry the approach of friend or foe or messenger (2Sa 18:24 ff), and the tower had chambers in it which might be occupied by visitors or by a guard. For the more general purposes see Gate.
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" (2Sa 5:8 the King James Version, "watercourse" the Revised Version (British and American)), by which Joab obtained access to the fortress of Jebus and enabled David to capture it (1Ch 11:6; compare Vincent, Canaan d’apres l’exploration recente, 26). During an investment of a fortified city by an enemy, it was a point in strategy for the inhabitants to secure the fountain and to divert or conceal the stream flowing from it so that the besiegers might be left without a water supply (2Ki 3:19,25; 2Ch 32:3; compare also 2Sa 12:26,27, Century Bible, Kennedy’s note).
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 (1Ki 16:34).
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 (Jud 9:51). It does not appear that at this period the Israelites were in possession of the strongholds of the land, for when the Philistines overran the country, they had no fortresses to flee to, but "did hide themselves in caves, and in thickets, and in rocks, and in coverts, and in pits" (1Sa 13:6).
2. In the Period of the Monarchy:
When David captured the Jebusite fortress (2Sa 5:6) and transferred his capital from Hebron to Jerusalem, a new era of independence and even of conquest began. The natural strength of David’s town, with such fortification as had been added, made it impregnable to any Philistine or Syrian foe, and one of the strongest fortresses in Western Asia.
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 (1Ki 9:15). This fortification is represented in Septuagint, which has here an addition to the Massoretic Text, as securing the complete subjection of the original inhabitants who remained. Solomon also built Hazor to watch Damascus, Megiddo to guard the plain of Jezreel, and Gezer overlooking the maritime plain, his work being one of refortification rather than of building from the foundation. He fortified also Beth-horon, Upper and Nether, to block the way against Philistine invasion. The store cities, and cities to accommodate his chariots and horses, were also part of his military system (1Ki 9:18).
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 (2Ch 11:5). One of Jeroboam’s first acts on ascending the throne was to build the two fortresses, Shechem to guard Mr. Ephraim, and Penuel to protect Gilead (1Ki 12:25). Baasha later pushed his frontier within a few miles of Jerusalem, fortifying Ramah to overawe Asa in his very capital. The long war which lasted through the reigns of Jeroboam, Nadab, Baasha and Elah, kings of Israel, was largely a war of sieges, one of them, that of Gibbethon, having apparently lasted 27 years (1Ki 15:27, compared with 1Ki 16:15).
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 (2Ch 26:9). Jotham his son, continued his father’s labors in the further fortification of the city (2Ch 27:3,1). Hezekiah had good reason to add still further to the strength of the city, seeing that he had to bear the brunt of Sennacherib’s expedition to the west. Sennacherib boasts that of Hezekiah’s fortified towns, he captured 46, with innumerable fortresses besides (Schrader, Schrader, The Cuneiform Inscriptions and the , I, 286), but he cannot tell that Jerusalem was among them, for it came through the ordeal unscathed. In the reign of Manasseh Jerusalem was captured and the king himself carried away to Nineveh, but on his repentance he was restored to the throne and set himself to strengthen the fortifications of the city (2Ch 33:14). The city was unable, however, to hold out against Nebuchadrezzar and his captains; for it was taken in 597 BC, and King Jehoiachin and the flower of the population were deported to Babylon. After a siege of two years it was again taken in 586 BC, and temple and city were destroyed, and the walls razed to the ground.
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 ( 1Macc 1:33; 3:45, etc.), the citadel, was long held by a Syrian garrison, and was in the end delivered up to the high priest by Demetrius ( 1Macc 10:32). Notable also still later was the castle of Antonia (Ac 22:24) on the site of the earlier castle of Nehemiah’s day (Ne 2:8; 7:2).
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 (2Co 10:3-5), Paul, as he often does, draws upon his knowledge of Roman methods of warfare, and introduces for the enforcement of great spiritual lessons the pulling down of "strong-holds" as the ultimate object of every campaign. The word employed (ochuromata) is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew word commonly rendered "fortress" (mibhtsar). "The `strongholds’ are the rock forts, such as those which once bristled along the coast of his native Cilicia and of which he must often have heard when his father told him how they were `pulled down’ by the Romans in their wars against the pirates. Those `high things that exalt themselves’--those high eminences of the pride of Nature--occupied in force by hostile troops--had been a familiar experience in many wars throughout Asia Minor, while one of the grandest of all was the Acropolis that towered over Corinth" (Dean Howson, The Metaphors of Paul, 34 f).
2. In the Ac of the Apostles:
From the stairs of the Castle of Antonia, Paul, by leave of Ac 21:37; Joh 18:28); and the same site is to this day covered with a Turkish barracks.
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
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.