Gibeah of Saul


The city appears first in the Biblical account as the site of an atrocity against a concubine of a journeying Ephraimite. War was waged against Benjamin because of the tribal refusal to bring the guilty to justice. The conflict destroyed the city and almost eliminated the tribe (Judg 19; 20). The first king of Israel, Saul, came from Gibeah (1 Sam 10:10, 26). As Saul’s capital the city was important in the conflicts with the Philistines (1 Sam 13:2; 14:2, 16).

The prophets of the 8th cent. saw Gibeah as a significant symbol (Isa 10:29; Hos 9:9; 10:9).

Albright’s excavation at Tell el-Fûl three m. N of Jerusalem in 1922-1923 and 1933 established an impressive correlation between the archeological evidence and the Biblical history of Gibeah of Saul. Further confirmation came as the result of P. Lapp’s excavation in 1964.

There is no running water on the tell but numerous cisterns, silos and pits excavated out of the solid rock were cleared by the archeologists. Such construction made possible the existence of a sizable community at the beginning of the Iron Age in the time of King Saul. Ceramic evidence indicates the site was occupied in the time of Jeremiah. Life at the site continued uninterrupted by the destruction of Jerusalem in 587 b.c. until around 500 b.c.

After a lapse of several hundred years Tell el-Fûl was occupied in Maccabean times with the heaviest population being about 100 b.c. It was finally destroyed by Titus in his campaign against Jerusalem and never again occupied.

Of special interest in all the archeological campaigns was the tower fortress at the top of the tell. This building dates to the time of King Saul. Later rebuilding preserved on the early foundation drew the attention of visitors in the middle of the 19th cent. The only modification of Albright’s interpretation of the fortress was occasioned by the finding of the wall of the structure on the N of the exposed walls. This demonstrated the fact that the fortress had a N-S rather than an E-W alignment.