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"SOLOMON MADE A MARRIAGE ALLIANCE WITH PHARAOH KING OF EGYPT;
HE TOOK PHARAOH'S DAUGHTER AND BROUGHT HER INTO THE
CITY OF DAVID, UNTIL HE HAD FINISHED BUILDING HIS OWN HOUSE
AND THE HOUSE OF THE LORD AND THE WALL AROUND Jerusalem"
1 KINGS 3:1
                                                                           

Holy Sites -- Gila's Highlights

Let's drop by Solomon's digs in Jerusalem

Solomon, David's son, was famous for his wisdom, women and worldliness.  Who doesn't remember Solomon's decision to slice the squealing baby in two when the two harlots asked him to settle their dispute?  Or the visit from the Queen of Sheba who brought spices, gold and precious stones.  She would have admired Solomon sitting on his ivory throne inlaid with gold at the top of six steps with a lion sculpture guarding the edges of each step as he answered her questions about trees, snakes, fish, crocodiles and undoubtedly the birds and the bees.
If Facebook had existed three thousand years ago, Solomon (an Israeli) would have had friends in Egypt, Arabia, Syria (Aram), Turkey, Jordan (Edom), and Lebanon (Phoenicia).  Jerusalem, Solomon's capital, was a bustling hub of trade and diplomacy.

But until now, we never really had an "authentic" place in Jerusalem to recollect these stories.  Thanks to the 2009--2011 excavations of Eilat Mazar, we can locate with some certainty Solomon's royal palace, the gatehouse and the city wall from the second half of the tenth century BC.

 

Solomon's royal palace was located south of the Temple Mount

Photo:  Gila Yudkin

Solomon's royal palace was located south of the Temple Mount

 
Since Eilat Mazar's earlier dig with her grandfather in 1986 and 1987, the area below the southern wall of the Temple Mount was neglected and overgrown with wild branches and weeds.  Today one can reach the site via some steep steps down from the Triple Gate (where pilgrims once entered the temple courtyard).

Triple Gate where pilgrims entered the Temple in the time of Jesus

Photo:  Gila Yudkin

Solomon's royal digs lie below the Triple Gate

First we come to the area of what Mazar calls "the royal structure."  In the first book of Kings it says that Solomon built the temple in seven years and afterwards his own house which took thirteen, both with the help of the Phoenicians.  The palace comprised an entire complex, housing both the royal administration and his private residence.

Royal administrative complex dated to late 10th century BC

Photo:  Gila Yudkin

Area of the "royal structure" complex dated to late 10th century BC

In the beginning Solomon brought his Egyptian bride, Pharaoh's daughter, to David's palace in the city of David.  But when the new "upper" palace was completed, he transferred her to the McMansion.

Tour the Temple Mount with Gila's MP3 audio tour in the company of David and Solomon, Abraham and Isaac, Jesus and the disciples, the angel Gabriel and Mohammed -- and Gila.  Meet many other luminaries, both real and legendary.

Use your smart phone to tour with Gila!

Gila's Temple Mount tour is now also available as a written 24-page PDF with a Temple Mount plan, guidelines for passing the security check and ten recommended reads on the Temple Mount from Gila's bookshelves.

Twelve small-mouthed very large cylindrical-shaped clay jars called pithoi were found in two rooms in the "Royal Structure."  These jars are over three feet tall and would be too large to carry, so it's believed they were used as storage jars, probably for liquids such as wine or oil.

Cylindrical-shaped storage jars over three feet tall

Photo:  Silvia Hess

Cylindrical-shaped clay storage jars over three feet tall for wine or oil

One pithoi had a drawing of a date palm which may mean that jar held date honey or date wine.  Date honey was a very popular sweetener in the ancient times.  Another had an inscription. "belonging to the minister of the ba-----".  Eilat Mazar guesses that the pithoi may have held foodstuff used by the royal bakers.
The excavators have preserved two different floor levels in the "royal structure" so we can appreciate the chronological context.  A top floor level with red clayish soil filled with lots of pottery was used from the 8th century BC to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians in 586 BC.  A bottom layer of light-brown earth is dated to the latter part of the tenth century BC, the time of King Solomon.  One of the more important finds was a round black juglet with a uniquely designed handle purposely placed between the stones of the structure, as if to "protect" it.

Royal storage pithoi on two different floor levels

Photo:  Gila Yudkin

Royal pithoi are sitting on two different floor levels

As we walk towards the west, we come to the area of the gatehouse.  The four corners of the royal gatehouse were oriented to the four points of the compass.  The gatehouse had four identical chambers and a large approach tower.  Unfortunately, much of it is to be found under the modern road.

Solomon's royal complex looking west

Photo:  Gila Yudkin

Most of Solomon's royal gatehouse is under the modern road

In the biblical period, the city gates were where the action was: where people settled disputes, where they came to request an audience with the king, where they came to barter and exchange gossip.  Mazar suggests that this was called the Water Gate in the time of Nehemiah (3:29).
I wonder where the dining room was.  First Kings 4 lists the amount of food Solomon's household consumed in one day: 150 bushels of fine flour and 300 bushels of meal,
10 fattened oxen, 20 range oxen, 100 sheep, 900 baby shrimps, besides deer, gazelles, roebucks, and pen-fed poultry.  (I'm just kidding about the baby shrimps of course – shrimps aren't kosher!)
For the romantics among us, unfortunately, no one knows where Solomon's bedroom was.  Not yet, that is!  Imagine being where Solomon was inspired to write, "Thy lips are like a thread of scarlet, and thy speech is comely:  thy temples are like a slice
of pomegranate within thy locks." (Song of Solomon 4:3)

Perhaps Solomon had a pomegranate tree outside his palace

Photo:  Gila Yudkin

Song of Solomon:  "thy temples are like a slice of pomegranate..."

Come and let's drop by King Solomon's digs.  As my good friend Pastor Randy Ticer puts it, "coming to Jerusalem is like walking through the pages of the Holy Bible in person!"

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Gila Yudkin is a Connecticut-born Yankee living in King Solomon's court.  She regrets that silver and gold are no longer as common in Jerusalem as stone, like in Solomon's day.  (See Second Chronicles 1:15)  Gila has been guiding the "southern wall excavations" since 1978, and is excited at the opportunity to walk through part of Solomon's "royal structure" which opened to the public at the end of 2011.  On tour, Gila mixes fun, facts and fantasy with her passion for archeology and Bible.
 

Copyright 2012 Gila Yudkin.  Permission needed for any reuse.

 
If you are an adventurer at heart and would like to explore Jerusalem on your own, order Gila’s up-to-date unorthodox guide, “Explore Jerusalem’s Soul” with suggestions of the top ten roof-top views, the top ten inspiring places to study Scripture, the ten least-known churches worth visiting and the ten top restaurants to sample Middle Eastern “soul-food.”
 

More on King Solomon:

 

Let's visit Gezer, Solomon's wedding gift

Walk the Temple Mount with David, Solomon, and...Gila

Let's saunter through Solomon's Stables at Megiddo

Gezer:  Solomon's dowry

Walk the Temple Mount

Megiddo:  Solomon's stables

 

"Let's drop by Solomon's digs" (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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Holy Land Photography by Gila Yudkin