PALACE (Heb. ’armôn, bîrâh, hēkhāl, Gr. aulē). The dwelling place of an important official. Palaces are found all over the biblical world. The science of archaeology has given much light on these ancient structures. Israel built many palaces, and one finds frequent mention of them in Scripture. At Gezer the remains of a palace belonging to the period of Joshua’s conquest have been found. It is thought to be the palace of Horam, king of Gezer, whom Joshua conquered (
The ruins of another palace at this site stem from a much later period. It is the Maccabean palace and is thought to be the private headquarters of John Hyrcanus, the military governor.
W. F. Albright has excavated Saul’s palace-fortress at Gibeah. Not much remains in order here, but there is enough to reveal the massive walls that once made up this structure.
David had two palaces at different times in his reign. The first was a simple one located at Hebron, but the second one was much more elaborate, built of cedar trees furnished by Hiram of Tyre and erected by workmen that Hiram supplied (
Remains of a palace have been found at Megiddo. Another palace has been discovered at Samaria and identified as belonging to Omri. The foundation of this palace is in the bedrock common in that area. Most of these palaces are similar in style—a series of open courts with rooms grouped around them.
An ivory palace belonging to Ahab is mentioned in
Later on in the history of Israel material prosperity produced a very great wickedness that led to murder even in these royal palaces of splendor. This was especially true in the time of.
Probably the most famous palace in the NT period was the one belonging to Herod the Great. Josephus informs us that this structure was built in Jerusalem. Its rooms were of a very great height and were adorned with all kinds of costly furniture.
Besides these palaces of Palestine, there were many splendid structures in Mesopotamia in the Assyrian and Babylonian period. The remains of the great temple of Sargon II have been found at Khorsabad, twelve miles (twenty km.) north of the site of old Nineveh. It was a mammoth structure covering twenty-five acres. Some of its walls were from nine to sixteen feet (three to five m.) thick. In the Oriental Institute Museum in Chicago one may see one of the stone bulls that once stood at the entrance of this palace. It is sixteen feet (five m.) long and sixteen feet (five m.) high, weighing forty tons (thirty-six metric tons).
There are many other important palaces in Mesopotamia. One was built by Nebuchadnezzar at Babylon, elaborately decorated. Another has been found on the Euphrates at Mari. This one has been quite well preserved and reveals paintings, offices, apartments, and even a scribal school. Albright refers to it as one of the “show places of the world.” This discovery was important for many reasons, but especially because it “revolutionized our idea of the development of Near-Eastern art in the early second millennium b.c.” (Albright).
Many famous palaces belonging to the pharaohs have also been found in Egypt. Perhaps the best known of these is the palace of Merneptah, from about 1230 b.c. Many of these were very elaborate structures.——HZC
One of the earliest palatial type structures was the “palace” of Ai, about twenty-two ft. wide by sixty-six ft. long, with four interior pillars down the middle and a second story, a pre-Biblical Canaanite structure of the Early Bronze Period. At Taanak from the Middle Bronze II Age was a palace about sixty-six ft. per side that included several rooms approximately 10x14 ft. with a large court occupying a corner of the plan. The “palace” at Megiddo (c. 1650-1150 b.c.) was named for its character and size. It extended through several levels with variations, indicating a prolonged era of power.
Solomon’s palace, of which nothing remains and which may have been destroyed by Shishak as the Lord’s penalty for Rehoboam’s apostasy, was called the House of the Forest of Lebanon because its columns and roof structure was of Lebanon cedar (
Later, Omri and Ahab (kings of Israel) built their palaces at Samaria, the latter’s palace distinguished by a large, enclosed court formed by a wall of casemate construction. Saul’s palace has been located by Albright in the heavily constructed building at Tell el-Ful.
Jeremiah makes several references to parts of the palace (36:20,
In Nehemiah’s time, wood beams were parcelled out on the king’s order (
The postexilic period presents a governor’s residence at Tell ed-Duweir from Lachish that featured an inner, enclosed court with rooms arranged on three sides, having several arched doors and vaulted roofs, and covered an area of c. 2700 square yards.
In Trans-Jordan, Araq el-Amir presents on the outside a bare, flat wall of desert fortification enclosing soldier and living quarters within, from the end of the Ptolemaic age.
is reported to have built a palace to the S of the Temple in Jerusalem, but nothing remains of it. The site of the tower of Hananeel was incorporated by Herod into his tower of Antonia, a rectangular palace with four corner towers, and apartments between, enclosing an open court which is the site of the present Sisters of Zion Convent in whose basement may be seen the pavement of the court of Herod’s . Cisterns below the pavement are still used.
Herod also built a fortress atop the table rock at Masada, along the W shore of the Dead Sea (cf. Y. Yadin, Masada: Herod’s Fortress and the Zealots’ Last Stand). This fortress was of great beauty and included several fountains. Excavations have justified Josephus’ descriptions. It became the last holdout of the Jews against the Romans in a.d. 73.
In the NT, αὐλή, G885, signifies the “palace” of the high priest (
The progressive adornment of the palaces by earthly rulers lifted them to the levels of symbols of oppression and made them forget their dependence on God. Ideally God was the protector of the palace and its chief dweller (
The prophets did not hesitate to single out the palace as symbolizing the king, nor to denounce him for his excesses. Amos (
The seat of power and authority in Ashdod and Egypt was the palace, but bad news could not be excluded by that power when God brought judgment (
When the king followed God, God would abide in the king’s palace, i.e., giving His blessings on the king’s rule (
I. Benzinger, Hebräische Archäologie (1927); BASOR, CXX (1950); J-M. Fenasse, “Palais,” Dictionnaire de la Bible Supp. VI. (1960), cols. 976-1021; A Badawy, Architecture of Egypt and the Near East (1966).
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)