Gezer


Excavations here by R. A. S. Macalister in a.d. 1904-7; A. Rowe in 1934-35; G. E. Wright, William Dever, and others from 1964 to 1984 have revealed a stepped water tunnel 216 feet (68 m.) long (similar to tunnels found at Hazor, Megiddo, and Jerusalem), dating to the time of Solomon. City gates were also found from the time of Solomon matching those found at Hazor (cf. 1Kgs.9.15-1Kgs.9.16). A “high place” dating to about 1600 b.c. was found here as well as a tenth-century calendar containing a Hebrew inscription of seven lines and citing an annual cycle of agricultural activities. It is one of the oldest-known pieces of Hebrew writing. The capture of Gezer is mentioned in the stele of Pharaoh Merneptah about 1220.——ER


In the Garden of Gethsemane.
A boundary stone of the city of Gezer.

GEZER ge’ zər (גֶּ֖זֶר, LXX Γαζερα, Γαζηρ, Γαζηρα, once Γαδερ [Josh 12:13 A]). A major city of the northern Shephelah.

Discovery.

The true site of Gezer was first identified by C. Clermont-Ganneau during 1870-1873. His investigations led him from Khulda to Tell el-Jezer beside the village of Abu Shusheh. In 1874, he found some bilingual inscrs. (Heb.-Gr.) on the rocks surrounding the tell that read ΑΛΚΙΟΥ תחם גזר, “the confines of Gezer, (of) Alkios.”

Location.

Ancient Gezer was situated on the northwestern edge of the Shephelah. It commands a good view of “the plain of Ono” (Neh 6:2), across which passed the main N-S route of the Levant. The lateral trunk road leading into the hill country via Beth-horon led directly to Gezer before meeting the coastal route.

Excavation.

Two major excavations were carried out by R. A. S. Macalister at Gezer in 1902-1905 and 1907-1909. A Rowe made a small sounding in 1934, but his finds have not been published. The Hebrew Union College—Biblical and Archeological School in Jerusalem—has recently begun a new series of excavations under the guidance of G. E. Wright, with W. G. Dever as director. The Chalcolithic, Early Bronze I, II, and III, and Middle Bronze II as well as the Late Bronze, Iron, Persian, Hellenistic, and Roman periods are all found at Gezer. From Macalister’s report it seems that the Solomonic age is not represented, but Y. Yadin has now shown that a true Solomonic gate had been mistaken by Macalister for part of a Hell. public building.

History

Canaanite period.

Gezer is first mentioned in Thutmose III’s list of towns conquered (in his first campaign) in Canaan. The name is written q-dj-r (No. 104). Thutmose IV erected a stele in his funerary temple mentioning Khurri (Horite) prisoners from Gez[er] who were brought to Egypt (ANET, p. 248). A fragmentary cuneiform tablet found at Gezer has an enigmatic allusion to nearby Gittim (Gath or Gittaim) and has been linked by Albright, et al., with a campaign by Thutmose IV. Gezer and its princes played important roles in the intrigues among Canaanite cities during the Amarna age, e.g. the ruler of Gezer seems to have been a leader in the attempt by the ’apiru to seize the territories of other princes loyal to Pharaoh. He and his successors sought to occupy key towns guarding the approach routes to Jerusalem. Pharaoh Merneptah called himself “the reducer of Gezer”—a boast evidently based on his conquest of the city during a campaign depicted on his victory stele (ANET, p. 378).

Israelite period.


Gezer does not appear in the history of the divided monarchy until its conquest by the Assyrian monarch Tiglath-pileser, either in his campaign against Philistia (734 b.c.) or his subsequent attack on Israel (733 b.c.). The Assyrian monarch left a relief depicting his siege of the city (ANEP, No. 369), and two tablets in Assyrian cuneiform found on the tell itself show that the conqueror established a colony at Gezer. But stamped jar handles and a shekel weight all marked “for the king” reveal that Gezer had returned to Judean control, at least under Josiah and possibly in the reign of Hezekiah.

Persian period.

Other jar handles stamped “Yehud” and “Yerushalem” indicate that Gezer was part of, or had relations with the postexilic province. 1 Esdras 5:31 says that “sons of Gezer” (υἱοὶ Γαζηρα) returned from captivity in Babylon—but the Heb. parallel texts (Ezra 2:48; Neh 7:51) have “sons of Gazzam,” which is prob. correct. A stone slab and a scaraboid with the name of Pharaoh Nepherites (398-393 b.c.) suggest that Gezer was witness to the conflict between the 29th Egypt. dynasty and the Pers. empire.

Intertestamental period.

Prior to the establishment of the Hasmonean kingdom, Gezer was a Gentile city to which the defeated Seleucid forces could retreat (1 Macc 4:15; 7:45). Bacchides included it in his chain of strongholds (1 Macc 9:52; Jos. Antiq. XIII. i. 3). Later Simon besieged and took it (1 Macc 13:43-48 has Gaza but Jos. War, I. ii. 2; Antiq., XIII. vi. 7 correctly read Gezer [Gazara]). There he established his son John with a garrison (1 Macc 13:53; 14:34). Antiochus Sidetes tried to force Simon to surrender Gezer (1 Macc 15:28-35; 16:1-10), but only under the reign of John Hyrcanus did he succeed (Jos. War. I. ii. 5; Antiq. XIII. viii. 3); after Antiochus’ death, the Rom. senate supported Hyrcanus’ efforts to retrieve Gezer (Jos. Antiq. XIII. ix. 2). During the subsequent Rom. rule in Judea, Gezer was reduced to a small village. By the Byzantine era it had been completely overshadowed by another town 4 1/2 m. S-SE, viz. the Emmaus-Nicopolis of Eusebius (Onom 66:19-68:2, ed. Klostermann) and the Medeba map.

Further archeological investigation of Tell Gezer will certainly illuminate many aspects of her history and material culture. The famous “high place” discovered by Macalister has now been relocated by the Hebrew Union College expedition; its date is still not certain but appears to belong to the Middle Bronze Age. The Solomonic gate and casemate walls have also been uncovered again. It is hoped that the eastern part of the gate, untouched by Macalister, may provide more accurate stratified evidence of its construction phases.

Bibliography

C. Clermont-Ganneau, Archaeological Researches in Palestine, II (1899), 224-275; id., “Nouvelle inscription hébraique et grecque,” RB, VIII (1899), 109-115; T. Pinches, “The Fragment of an Assyrian Tablet Found at Gezer,” PEQ. QSt (1904), 229-236; A. H. Sayce, “Note on the Assyrian Tablet,” PEQ. QSt (1904), 236, 237; C. H. W. Johns, “Note on the Gezer Contract Tablet,” PEQ. QSt (1904), 237-244; W. M. F. Petrie, “Notes on Objects from Gezer,” PEQ. QSt (1904), 244, 245; R. A. S. Macalister, Biblical Sidelights from the Mound of Gezer (1907); id., The Excavations at Gezer (1912); W. F. Albright, “Egypt and the Early History of the Negeb,” JPOS, IV (1924), 131-161; W. R. Taylor, “Some New Palestinian Inscriptions,” BASOR, No. 41 (1931), 27-29; W. F. Albright, “Two Little Understood Amarna Tablets from the Middle Jordan Valley,” BASOR, No. 89 (1943), 7-17; id., “The Gezer Calendar,” BASOR, No. 92 (1943), 16-26; id., “A Tablet of the Amarna Age from Gezer,” BASOR, No. 92 (1943), 28-30; R. B. K. Amiran, “The ‘Cream Ware’ of Gezer and the Beersheba Late Chalcolithic,” IEJ, V (1955), 240-245; Y. Yadin, “Solomon’s City Wall and Gate at Gezer,” IEJ, VIII (1958), 80-86; A. Malamat, “Campaigns of Amenhotep II and Thutmose IV to Canaan,” Studies in the Bible (Scripta Hierosolymitana, VIII, 1961), 228-231; G. E. Wright, “Gezer,” IEJ, XV (1965), 252, 253; J. F. Ross, “Gezer in the Tell el-Amarna Letters,” Bulletin—Museum Haaretz, VIII (1966), 45-54; H. Darrell Lance, “Gezer in the Land and in History,” BA, XXX (1967), 34-47; W. G. Dever, “Excavations at Gezer,” BA, XXX (1967), 47-62; J. F. Ross, “Gezer in the Tell el-Amarna Letters,” BA, XXX (1967), 62-72; W. G. Dever, H. D. Lance, and G. E. Wright. Gezer I, Annual of HUCBAS, vol. 1 (1970).

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

A city of great military importance in ancient times, the site of which has recently been thoroughly explored. The excavations at this spot are the most thorough and extensive of any in Palestine, and have not only done much to confirm the history of the place, as known from Biblical and other sources, but have also thrown a flood of light upon the general history, civilization and religion of Palestine in pre-Israelite and Israelite times.

1. The Discovery and Position of the Site:

The long-lost site of Gezer was discovered by M. Clermont-Ganneau in 1873, and his suggestion that the modern name for the place, Tell Jezer (or Tell el Jezereh) was a survival of the ancient name was confirmed by his further discovery of three bilingual inscriptions, in Hebrew and Greek, cut on surfaces of rock by a certain Alkios, apparently once the governor of the city; in one of them occurred the expression "the boundary of Gezer."

The natural features and the position of Tell Jezer abundantly explain the extreme importance of Gezer in ancient times. The buried remains crown a narrow hill, running from Northwest to Southeast, about 1,700 ft. long by 300 to 500 ft. broad. The approach is steep on every side, and in early times, before the accumulation around the sides of the rubbish of some millenniums, must have been much more so. The hill stands, like an outpost, projecting into the great plain, and is connected with the low hills behind it, part of the Shephelah, with but a narrow neck. At the foot of the hill runs a great high road from Egypt to Syria; to the North lies the Vale of Aijalon, across which runs the modern carriage road to Jerusalem, and up which ran the great high road, by the Beth-horons, to the platenu North of Jerusalem; to the South lies the Vale of Sorek, where stood Bethshemesh, and along which went a great highway from the country of the Philistines to the hill country of Judah. Today the Jerus-Jaffa railway, after sweeping some miles away in the plain round the whole western and southern sides of the site, passes along this open vale to plunge into the narrow defile--the Wady Isma`in, which it follows to Jerusalem. From the summit of the Tell, a vast expanse of country is visible between the long blue line of the Mediterranean to the West, and the abrupt and lofty mountains of Judah to the East. That it has been all through history the scene of military contest is fully understood when its strategic position is appreciated; no military leader even today, if holding the highlands of Palestine against invasion, could afford to neglect such an outpost.

2. History of Gezer:

Although the excavation of the site shows that it was occupied by a high civilization and a considerable population at an extremely early period, the first historical mention is in the list of the Palestinian cities captured by Tahutmes III (XVIIIth Dynasty, about 1500 BC). From this time it was probably under Egyptian governors (the Egyptian remains at all periods are considerable), but from the Tell el-Amarna Letters, a century or so later, we learn that Egyptian influence was then on the wane. Three of these famous clay tablets are dated from Gezer itself and are written in the name of the governor Yapachi; he was then hard pressed by the Khabiri, and he appealed for help in vain to Egypt. In other letters belonging to this series, there are references to this city. In one, a certain freebooter named Lapaya makes excuses that he had broken into the city. He "has been slandered. Is it an offense that he has entered Gazri and levied the people?" (no. CCXL, Petrie’s translation).

In the well-known "So of Triumph" of Merenptah, who is considered by many to be the Pharaoh of the Exodus, occurs the expression "Gezer is taken." (In connection with this it is interesting to notice that an ivory pectoral with the cartouche of Meren-ptah was unearthed at Gezer.)


The governor, Alkios, who made the bilingual inscriptions, may come in about this time or a little later; the rock inscriptions, of which half a dozen are now known, give no information regarding their date.

In the period of the Crusades this site, under the name "Mount Gisart," was a crusading fort and gave its name to a family. Here King Baldwin IV gained a victory over Saladin in 1177, and in 1191 the latter monarch camped here while conducting some fruitless negotiations with King Richard Coeur de Lion. In 1495 a skirmish occurred here between the governor of Jerusalem and certain turbulent Bedouin. The history of Gezer, as known, is thus one of battles and sieges extending over at least 3,000 years; from the archaeological remains we may infer that its history was similar for at least 1,000 years earlier.

3. History of the Excavations:

In 1904 the Palestine Exploration Fund of England obtained a "permit" for the excavation of Tell Jezer. The whole site was the private property of certain Europeans, whose agent, living much of the time on the Tell itself, was himself deeply interested in the excavations, so that unusually favorable conditions obtained for the work. Mr. (now Professor) R. A. Stewart Macalister, M.A., was sent out, and for 3 years (1904-7) he instituted an examination of the hidden remains in the mound, after a manner, till then, unexampled in Palestine exploration. His ambition was to turn over every cubic foot of soil down to the original rock, so that nothing of importance could be overlooked. As at the expiration of the original "permit" much remained unexplored, application was made to the authorities for a second one, and, at the end of 1907, Mr. Macalister embarked on a further 2 years of digging. Altogether he worked for the greater part of 5 years, except for necessary interruptions of the work due to unfavorable weather. Some two-thirds of the total accumulated debris on the mound was ransacked, and besides this, many hundreds of tombs, caves and other antiquarian remains in the neighborhood were thoroughly explored.

4. Chief Results of the Explorations:

It was found that the original bare rock surface of the hill was crowned with buried remains, in some parts 20 and 30 ft. deep, made up of the debris of all the cities which had stood on the site during three or four thousand years; on the part excavated there were no remains so late as the commencement of the Christian era, the Gezer of that time, and the crusading fort, being built on a neighboring site. The earliest inhabitants were Troglodytes living in the many caves which riddled the hill surface; they were apparently a non-Sem race, and there was some evidence that they at least knew of cremation. These, or a race soon after--the earliest Semites--enclosed the hilltop with high earth rampart faced with rough stones--the earliest "walls" going back at least before 3000 BC. At an early period--probably about 3000 BC--a race with a relatively high civilization fortified the whole hilltop with a powerful and remarkably well-built wall, 14 ft. thick, with narrow towers of short projection at intervals of 90 ft. At a point on the South side of this was unearthed a very remarkable, massive, brick gateway (all the other walls and buildings are of stone), with towers on each side still standing to the height of 16 ft., but evidently once much higher. This gate showed a strong Egyptian influence at work long before the first historic reference (XVIIIth Dynasty), for both gateway and wall to which it belonged had been ruined at an early date, the former indeed, after its destruction, was overlaid by the buildings of a city, which from its datable objects--scarabs, etc.--must have belonged to the time of Amenhotep III, i.e. as early as 1500 BC.

The later wall, built, we may conclude, soon after the ruin of the former, and therefore about 1500 BC, was also a powerful construction and must have existed considerably over a thousand years, down, indeed, till 100 BC at least, when Gezer disappears from history as a fortitled site. These walls enclosed a larger area than either of the previous ones; they show signs of destruction and repairs, and Mr. Macalister is of the opinion that some of the extensive repairs--in one place a gap of 150 ft.--and the 28 inserted towers are the work of Solomon (1Ki 9:17). This wall must have existed in use through all we know of Gezer from Bible sources. When, from the ruined remains, we reconstruct in imagination these mighty ramparts, we need not wonder that the’ Hebrews, fresh from long wanderings in the wilderness, found it no easy task to capture cities so fortified as was this (Nu 13:28; De 1:28).

The foundations of a powerful building, which were found inserted in a gap in the southern walls, turned out conclusively to be the palace of Simon Maccabeus--who captured the city (1 Macc 13:43)--a graffito being found upon one of its stones running thus:

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seems to mean, "Pamphras, may he bring down (fire) on the palace of Simon."

Within the city walls the foundations of some seven or eight cities of various successive periods were found, superimposed one above the other. The city’s best days appear to have been shortly before the time of Joshua; the next, perhaps, at the time of the Judges. With the period to which we should probably assign the arrival of the Hebrews, there is a great increase in the population, the hitherto inviolate environs of the "temple" being encroached upon by private dwellings: an interesting commentary on Jos 16:10.

The great "High Place" which was uncovered is one of unique interest, and its discovery has thrown a flood of light upon the religion of the early Canaanites, that religion--"the worship of Baal and Ashteroth"--which was the great rival of the purer religion of Israel. This [Ba`al] temple, or bamoth, consisted of a row of 8 matstsebhoth or rude stone pillars ranging in height from 5 ft. 5 inches to 10 ft. 9 inches (see nodetitle; Pillar), together with a curious trough which may have been a socket for the ’Asherah (see Asherah), or some kind of altar. The area around these pillars had a kind of rough floor of consolidated earth under which were found a number of large jars containing infant bones, considered to be the remains of infant sacrifice. In close proximity to this "temple" was a double cave, the construction of which strongly suggested that it had been arranged for the giving of oracles. This high place had been used for very many centuries; the matstsebhoth were not all of one period but had gradually been increased from one to seven, and an eighth of a more definitely sculptured form--as a simulacrum priapi--had been added some time later. In the accumulated rubbish around these pillars were found enormous numbers of small stone phallic images, together with pottery plaques of Astarte, made with rude exaggeration of the sexual organs.

See Baal; Ashtaroth.

Another monument of great interest--and high antiquity--was the great rock-cut tunnel. It is about 23 ft. high, and 13 ft. wide, and descends by 80 steps, 94 1/2 ft. through the solid rock, to a cave in which there is a spring. It is very similar to the great tunnel known as "Warren’s tunnel and shaft" which was clearly constructed by the early Jebusites to reach from within the city’s walls to the fountain of Gihon (see Siloam; Zion). This Gezer tunnel must date at least to 2000 BC; it is evident from the nature of the accumulated debris which blocked its mouth that it was actually abandoned about 1400 BC. Its antiquity is confirmed by the fact that it was evidently excavated with flint knives.

At a much later period in history, in that of the Maccabees, the water supply of the city, in time of siege, at any rate, was largely dependent on an enormous open cistern which Mr. Macalister cleared of earth and found capable of containing 2,000,000 gallons of water. Among the smaller "finds" which throw light upon the Bible history may be mentioned two much broken, cuneiform tablets, both referring to land contracts, which, from the names of the eponyms, can be dated to 651 and 649 BC respectively. They therefore belong to the time of the last, and one of the greatest, of the Assyrian monarchs, Ahurbanipal, the "noble Osnappar" of Ezr 4:10, and they show that he was not only a great conqueror, but that in Palestine he had an organized government and that legal civil business was transacted in the language of Assyria.

The illumination of Old Testament history which the excavations of Gezer have afforded can here be only hinted at, but references to it will occur in many of the articles in other parts of this Encyclopedia.

LITERATURE.

In Bible Side-Lights from the Mound of Gezer Professor R. A. S. Macalister has described in a poplar form with illustrations some of his most remarkable discoveries; while in the Memoirs of the Excavations at Gezer (1912), published by the Palestine Exploration Fund, Professor Macalister deals with the subject exhaustively.