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“PHARAOH, KING OF EGYPT HAD GONE UP AND CAPTURED
GEZER AND BURNT IT WITH FIRE...AND HAD GIVEN IT
AS DOWRY TO HIS DAUGHTER, SOLOMON'S WIFE"
FIRST KINGS 9:16
                                                                           

Holy Sites -- Gila's Highlights

Let's visit Gezer, Solomon's Wedding Gift

 
Out of King Solomon’s 700 princesses and 300 concubines, Pharaoh’s daughter is the only one singled out.  We don’t know her name but we do know that her father presented Solomon with a prime piece of real estate, a property that the Israelites from the time of Joshua had not succeeded in conquering.  Gezer was strategically located with a 350 degree view of the Valley of Aijalon and the approaches to Jerusalem from the Via Maris, the coastal highway leading from Egypt to Mesopotamia.  And in real estate, as we all know, location is everything.
 

Beyond the row of monolinths in Gezer lies the strategic Aijalon Valley

Photo:  Gila Yudkin

Beyond the row of standing stones lies the strategic Aijalon Valley

 
Solomon didn’t have to go to the bankers to take out a subprime mortgage or invest in a hedge fund.  Many scholars believe the marriage and the dowry gift were an acknowledgement that the nation of Israel, united by David and consolidated by Solomon, was a force to be reckoned with.

Pharaoh's daughters did not ordinarily marry outside their own family.  And they certainly didn’t leave Egypt.  Perhaps this marriage indicates the weakness of the Egyptian kingdom at this time, as well as Solomon’s strength.

Imagine the chutzpah of a descendent of former Egyptian slaves (remember the Exodus story) becoming Pharaoh’s son-in-law.  The marriage alliance is, in fact, seen by scholars as the reason for the increase in trade with Egypt reported in First Kings 10: 28-29.

In a suburb of old Jerusalem, skilled stone masons were brought in from Phoenicia by Solomon to construct a house customized for his Egyptian bride.  The menial work was done by Amorite, Hittite, Perizzite, Hivite, and Jebusite captives.  The interior of the MacMansion was decorated with imported cedar and cypress wood from Lebanon.

When the house was finished, Pharaoh’s daughter moved out of the city of David, for Solomon said, “My wife shall not live in the house of David, king of Israel, for the places to which the ark of the Lord has come are holy.” (Second Chronicles 8:11)  By the way, the 999 other chicks in Solomon’s harem did not have their own pad, much less a mansion.

Unfortunately there is a sad finale to this romance.  By the end of his reign, Solomon’s heart was pulled towards the gods of his foreign wives.  The punishment meted out to Solomon’s son Rehoboam was no less than the loss of nine-tenths of his kingdom.

When we visit Gezer on tour, we can consider whether Solomon’s wife ever visited the site given as a wedding present to her husband.  For sure, it wouldn’t have been a 45-minute hike as it is for us today.  I’ll bet that Pharaoh’s daughter was chauffeured in great style in one of Solomon’s 1400 imported chariots. (Second Chronicles 1:14)

 

10th century BC Solomonic Gate at Tel Gezer

Photo:  Gila Yudkin

10th century BC "Solomonic Gate" at Tel Gezer

 
She would have entered through an exceptionally well-built six-chambered gate constructed with white limestone ashlars.  Plastered benches ran around the three walls of each of the inner chambers.  The chambers were roofed, which was considerate of the city guards.
 

Segment of Gezer's 10th century BC water system

Photo:  Gila Yudkin

Perhaps the servants of Pharaoh's daughter fetched water
 from this 10th century BC water system

 
But the most interesting features of the town would have long been buried by Solomon’s day.  They are 10 monoliths, or monumental stones called massebot in the Hebrew Bible, some of them reaching the height of over nine feet.  They were discovered by R.A.S. Macalister, a young Irish archeologist in the early twentieth century.

Macalister worked alone except for an Egyptian foreman.  He employed two hundred laborers from a nearby Arab village.  Macalister worked year round in the field with interruptions only for an occasional winter storm, outbreaks of cholera or troubles with his Turkish excavation permit.
 

The tallest monolinths or massebot at Tel Gezer dated to about 1500 BC

Photo:  Gila Yudkin

The monoliths or massebot probably represented an alliance or treaty

 
The monoliths, dating to about 1500 BC, were found lying down and have been re-erected by archeologists.  They originally stood in a north-south alignment.  Nearby was a plastered basin which may have served as a container for a blood libation poured during a treaty ceremony.  A ritual of this type is described in Exodus chapter 24 after Moses brought the ten commandments down from Mount Sinai.  Moses also set up twelve standing stones, representing the twelve tribes.
 

An artist's rendition of the monoliths or standing stones at Gezer

Photo:  Gila Yudkin

Artwork at Gezer inspired by the massebot or monoliths

 
There’s lots of Bible to talk about at Gezer.  Many scholars who believe that Solomon was the author of the Song of Songs suggest that he is addressing Pharaoh’s daughter as the ultimate woman.  In the first song he says, “I compare you, my love, to a mare among Pharaoh’s chariots.”

At Gezer we can also look at Proverbs, another of Solomon’s works, and fantasize about which were inspired by his union with Pharaoh’s daughter.  Perhaps “She is like the ships of the merchant; she brings her food from far away.  She rises while it is still night and provides food for her household and tasks for her servant-girls.  She considers a field and buys it, with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard.” (Proverbs 31: 14-16)

 

Copyright 2008, 2009 Gila Yudkin.  Permission needed for any reuse.

 

Postscript
 
Early in July 2009, I had the honor of guiding a group led by Dr. Paige Patterson, President of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Texas.  Because the seminary is co-sponsoring the archeological dig at Tel Gezer, we got a VIP tour of both the dig and the artifacts by directors Dr. Steve Ortiz and Dr. Sam Wolff.  The present dig is focused on the Iron Age, which is the Israelite period.  I found it very exciting to be at Gezer once again and to meet the dig directors and the volunteer students who are giving us more information about this important biblical site.
 

Dr. Steve Ortiz explaining the Iron Age residence at Tel Gezer

Photo:  Gila Yudkin

Co-director Dr. Steve Ortiz (with out-stretched arm) giving tour at Gezer

 

Sling stones found at Tel Gezer, 2009

Photo:  Gila Yudkin

Sling stones unearthed at Tel Gezer during the 2009 season

 
Below is a September 2009 update from Dr. Steve Ortiz:
 

"This summer was the fourth season for the Tel Gezer Excavation and Study Program. This joint project is sponsored by Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and the Israel Antiquities Authority.  Dr. Steve Ortiz and Dr. Sam Wolff co-direct the excavations with the participation of a consortium of academic institutions.

Tel Gezer, the most important site in the northern Shephelah region of Israel, is an ideal site to address several issues arising from current research.  The research strategy is to uncover the ancient city during the Iron Age.  The excavations have focused on the south-eastern slope of the western hill where previous excavations have revealed that there are several occupational phases of the Iron Age city.

This past summer was a very productive excavation season.  Over 80 students and staff, mostly from North America spent five weeks working on the tel.  The majority of the excavation focused on uncovering a massive destruction dating to the 8th century BCE.  This destruction is well attested in the historical sources and is dated to the campaigns of Tiglath Pileser III.  Most of this destruction was concentrated in the domestic quarter of the site.

Students spent hours at a time slowly uncovering nearly a hundred vessels and finds found in an Israelite four-room house.  It was a slow process of excavating the collapsed mud-bricks that sealed the contents of the house.

Another group focused on the fortification system as they worked on the slope of the tel.  This was very strenuous work as volunteers removed large amounts of erosion and slope wash to uncover a massive stone rampart, part of the fortification system that abutted the city wall.  In the process, part of the large Canaanite city wall was also exposed underneath this stone fortification.

Based on the results since excavations started in the summer of 2006 -- we have defined the major components of the 8th century city during the time of Uzziah, on the eve of the Assyrian destruction.  The Solomonic six-chambered gate was reused as was the casemate wall.  Major components were rebuilt, such as a belt of three major administrative buildings west of the gate built along the city wall.  Two of these buildings were typical square-shaped tripartite pillared buildings.  The third was an industrial complex with a large stone with a sump probably used for processing of oil.

About 60 meters (125 feet) from the city gate and plaza was the start of the domestic quarter where a large Israelite house was discovered.  This is part of a series of homes found on the western hill of the tel.  In the future the project hopes to uncover the history of city planning and urbanization at Gezer throughout its history during the Israelite Period, particularly as it relates to its position as a site that sits between the north, south, and the coastal plain."  Dr. Steve Ortiz, Associate Professor of Archeology and Biblical Backgrounds, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

Solomonic Iron Age gate at Tel Gezer, 2009

Photo:  Gila Yudkin

Solomonic Gate at Tel Gezer, 2009 season

 

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"Holy Sites: Gila's Highlights"

 
Gila Yudkin is a Connecticut Yankee who has lived in King Solomon’s court for three decades.  But not in the harem!  She’d love to share her knowledge and perspective on Solomon at Gezer if your group is willing to engage in an easy 45-minute hike during the winter season.  (The bus is not able to come close to the tel – this site is really off the beaten tourist routes!)  It’s best to book Gila early and be sure to bring along some vitamin M!
 
If you are contemplating leading a tour to the Holy Land or know someone who is, don’t miss Gila’s tips about do's and don'ts guaranteed to make your Holy Land pilgrimage a rave success.  Read Tips from A to Z for Holy Land Tour Leaders.
 

More Biblical Archeology:

 

Let's talk about Armageddon at Megiddo

Let's look for the clay tablet treasure at Hazor

Let's lament King Saul at Beth Shean

Megiddo / Armageddon

Joshua burning Hazor

 Saul's body at Beth Shean

     

Let's find Herod's tomb at Herodion

Let's follow Abraham all the way to DAN

Herod's Tomb at Herodion

Abraham at Dan?

  Solomon's Palace

 
"Let's visit Gezer, Solomon's wedding gift" (as text without the photos) is one in the series of free bimonthly e-letters sent on request to tour leaders, pastors, clergy, teachers, Bible students, colleagues and friends.  If you'd like to receive "Holy Sites: Gila's Highlights" every other month, please contact Gila.  The last highlight was "Let's follow the spies into and out of Jericho."  This month's highlight is "Let's ascend the cliff of the scapegoat."  The next highlight will be "Let's overlook the site of Jacob's wrestling match."


GILA YUDKIN TCHERNIKOVSKI 64A JERUSALEM ISRAEL
gila@itsgila.com

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