Holy Land Pilgrimage and Biblical Archeology

 

HOME
BIBLE REFERENCES
BOOK GILA
GILA’S GIFT SHOP
HOLY LAND HEADLINERS
HOLY SITES:
GILA’S HIGHLIGHTS
HOLY LAND HEROINES
SONGS & PRAISE
TIPS FOR TOURS
ABOUT GILA
CONTACT
 
 
 


"HE MADE THE CAMELS KNEEL DOWN OUTSIDE THE CITY BY THE WELL;
IT WAS TOWARD EVENING, THE TIME WHEN WOMEN GO OUT TO DRAW WATER"
GENESIS 24: 11                
              
                        

Holy Sites -- Gila's Highlights

Let's meet at the well of Beersheba

In the ancient Near East, where women were confined to the homestead, the only place a woman could meet a man she didn’t know was by the city well.  The well was the virtual equivalent of a singles bar!  Here are some examples: Rebecca meeting Abraham’s servant, Rachel meeting Jacob, Zipporah and her sisters meeting Moses and Jesus meeting the Samaritan woman.  All these meetings took place at the nearby watering hole.

The best place one can visualize a meeting at the city well is at Tel Beersheba, an hour and three quarters drive south of Jerusalem.  On reaching the site, we walk up a dusty path to reach the well, located right outside the city gate.  This unlikely location puzzled archeologists for two reasons.  One, it’s uphill, almost 200 feet above the water table in the valley below.  And two, they wondered why the ancients would leave their water source unprotected.

City well was outside entrance to ancient Beersheba

Photo:  Gila Yudkin

City well at the left of entrance to ancient Beersheba

Some archeologists I studied with even suggested that this was a “virtual” well, constructed specifically for pilgrims familiar with the Genesis “well stories” of Beersheba.  For both Abraham and Isaac, the well at Beersheba was a source of conflict between them and their neighbors, the Philistines.

The Bible tells us that the city itself was named to commemorate a peaceful settlement of the dispute.  “Beer” means well and “sheba” means both oath and seven, symbolizing the seven ewe lambs set aside as an oath of friendship.  “Abraham said, ‘Accept these seven ewe lambs from my hand as a witness that I dug this well.’ Therefore that place was called Beersheba, for both of them swore an oath.” (Genesis 21:30-31)

Ancient Beersheba residents knew that the first question tourists would ask upon arrival would be, “Hey, where’s the famous well?” So they deliberately dug a well located outside the city gate so ancient pilgrims could stop to admire this famous site, quench their thirst and take some photos (only kidding!) without disrupting city life within.

Beersheba's well is 210 feet deep

Photo:  Gila Yudkin

The well (behind the trough on left) is 210 ft deep!

Imagine then the archeologists’ surprise when the well was excavated at the end of the 20th century.  At the depth of 210 feet, they actually found water! Well, that put the “virtual well” theory to rest.
I love sitting with a group on shaded benches opposite the well and retelling the story of the choosing of a wife for 40-year-old Isaac.  I once heard a favorite tour leader make a calculation that based upon the fact that a camel can drink up to 50 gallons of water at a time and Abraham’s servant had ten camels, Rebecca, carrying a 5-gallon jar, could have had to go to the well to draw water 100 times.  He then asked the group, “What kind of wife would she be to Isaac?”  Participants suggested “hard-working, compassionate, helpful and strong.”  But once when I asked that question myself, to my dismay, the pastor blurted out, “Dumb!”
After reading our well stories in Genesis 21 and 26, we make our way through the city gate with its reconstructed mud-brick walls to climb up onto the observation tower. From here we get an unparalleled grasp of the geography of the land with its biblical ramifications.  To the south we have the wilderness of the Negev leading to the Sinai where the Children of Israel sojourned for forty years.
To the east we can see almost as far as Arad, from where the Israelites were repulsed in their first efforts to directly penetrate into the Land of Canaan. (Numbers 21)  To the west we see the coastal plain and Philistine country. Gaza, the Philistine capital, is a mere 28 miles away.  The continuing dispute over water rights of the Philistines first with Abraham, and then Isaac, echoes eerily in the water disputes of the present day.
Donning a “hard-hat,” we leave the “tel” or mound of Beersheba via the original steps, perhaps chiseled out in the time of King Hezekiah, to explore the recently excavated 8th century B.C. water system.  Don’t miss it – it’s awesome!
If you haven’t visited Tel Beersheba in recent years, consider stopping by this ancient watering hole on your next pilgrimage.  It’s well worth it.
 

Reconstructed altar once standing at Beersheba

Photo:  Gila Yudkin

Reconstructed altar once standing at Beersheba

Copyright 2007, 2012 Gila Yudkin.  Permission needed for any reuse.

Gila Yudkin, who calls herself a Connecticut-born Yankee living in King David’s court, has been sharing biblical insights on site in the Holy Land for over 30 years.  She loves showing new discoveries at the old dusty somewhat-forgotten and under-visited sites.  Her tours are a mix of archeology, geography, Bible and fun.
 

COMING TO JERUSALEM? 
BOOK GILA for a customized private tour

 

"From Dan even to Beersheba" is mentioned ten times in the Bible.  Beersheba was the southern boundary of the kingdom of Israel, while Dan was its northern boundary.  For more on Dan, see "Let's survey the northern border at Dan."

 
More Biblical Archeology:
 

Let's see where the Priestly Benediction was found

Let's talk about Armageddon at Megiddo

Let's find Herod's tomb at Herodion

Priestly benediction   

Armageddon

Herod's Tomb

 

Let's saunter through Solomon's Stables at Megiddo

Let's look for the clay tablet treasure at Hazor

Let's follow Abraham all the way to DAN

Solomon's Stables / Megiddo

Joshua / Hazor

Abraham at Dan


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

HOME GILA'S GIFT SHOP   TIPS FOR TOURS  ABOUT GILA


 

Copyright © 2005-2020 Gila Yudkin. All rights reserved.
Holy Land Photography by Gila Yudkin