Excavation at Gezer Confirms Biblical Account of City’s Fiery Destruction

“Pharaoh king of Egypt had come up and captured Gezer; he destroyed it by fire, killed the Canaanites who dwelt in the town, and gave it as dowry to his daughter, Shlomo’s wife.” I Kings 9:16 (The Israel Bible™)

Recent archeological excavations at the site of the ancient city of Gezer have confirmed the Bible’s account of the city’s destruction by Egypt through fire.

According to the Bible, Gezer, an ancient Canaanite-Jewish city located halfway between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, was destroyed at the beginning of the 10th century BCE, when the city was conquered and burned by an unnamed Egyptian pharaoh during his military campaign in the land of Israel. The pharaoh then gave the city to King Solomon as the dowry of his daughter. Solomon later rebuilt Gezer and fortified it.

This was the purpose of the forced labor which Shlomo imposed: It was to build the House of Hashem, his own palace, the Millo, and the wall of Yerushalayim, and [to fortify] Hazor, Megiddo, and Gezer. Pharaoh king of Egypt had come up and captured Gezer; he destroyed it by fire, killed the Canaanites who dwelt in the town, and gave it as dowry to his daughter, Shlomo’s wife. 1 Kings 9:15-16

Site of excavations and ruins at Tel Gezer. (Tel Gezer)

The Gezer Excavation Project recently uncovered three torched skeletal remains in a newly discovered massive layer of fiery destruction, attesting to the city’s ruin at the hands of the Egyptians 3,200 years ago. The remains were those of two adults and one child, the latter still wearing earrings.

Burnt skeleton found at the Gezer dig site. (Tandy Institute for Archaeology)
Remains of an adult burnt in the destruction of Gezer. (Tandy Institute for Archaeology)

Gezer’s significance and appeal was due to the strategic position it held at the crossroads of the ancient coastal trade routes between north and south, east and west. While the Egyptians may not have set out to destroy Gezer – they usually preferred to subdue vassal cities and collect subjugation payments – the widespread destruction found at the site suggests the Egyptian’s encountered strong resistance from the city’s inhabitants, who were beginning to rebel against Egyptian rule.

Indeed, Gezer is associated with Jewish rebellion. The city is mentioned in the Book of Maccabees, which is not part of the Biblical canon but which scholars consider an important work. Centuries after the Egyptian destruction, in its last stage as an important city, Gezer became the base of the Maccabees, the Jewish rebels of the Hanukkah story who revolted against the Hellenists (Greeks) in the 2nd century BCE.

Dr. Steve Ortiz of the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary headed the project along with Prof. Sam Wolff of the Israel Antiquities Authority. Though he does not go into the field looking for proof of the Bible, Dr. Ortiz noted to Breaking Israel News that after three decades of working digs in Israel, “There is nothing in the archaeological record for me to doubt the Biblical text.”

Dr. Steven Ortiz

“Both sides, fundamentalists and critics, view archaeology and the text as a conflict – either to confirm or disprove their theories,” he explained to Breaking Israel News. “I see archaeology and text as complementary.”

Dr. Ortiz’s expertise is the use of archaeology to reconstruct the history of ancient Israel and the Second Temple Period. During the decade-long dig at the site, the team uncovered Canaanite treasure troves and a King Solomon-era palace.

“Due to its strategic nature the city changed hands many times, as each conquering army sought to hold the site,” said Dr. Ortiz.

The Meneptah Stele (Wikimedia Commons)

He fully believes the recent find verifies the accuracy of the Biblical account.

The destruction of Gezer is also mentioned in the famous Merneptah Stele, circa 1208 BCE, an inscription commissioned by Egyptian Pharaoh Merneptah. It is also known as the “Israel Stele” because it bears the earliest known explicit mention of “Israel” outside the Bible. This engraved granite memorial commemorates a number of Egyptian victories, including that over Gezer.

The last two lines read: “Canaan is plundered with every hardship. Ashkelon is taken, Gezer captured, Yano’am reduced to nothing. Israel is laid waste – his seed is no more.”

Dr. Ortiz concluded that the archaeological and Biblical accounts go hand in hand, and both are necessary to understand the full picture, both historically and spiritually.

“The excavations at Gezer complement the Biblical accounts of Gezer and each dataset helps me to reconstruct the history of the ancient city.

“As a believer, I am always encouraged to see God’s Word in context.”