Gezer (1 Chronicles 6)

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A Levitical city on the southern border of Ephraim’s territory (Joshua 21:21), Gezer’s strategic position made it a difficult city for either the Israelites or any other nation to hold for any length of time. Adjacent to the all-important coastal route and astride the main road leading eastward into the hill country, Gezer was the scene of important events and battles both before and after the arrival of the Israelites.

Although Gezer was occupied during the Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Ages, the city grew significantly during the Middle Bronze Age (ca. 1900-1500 B.C.). It was at this time surrounded by a massive wall of roughly dressed stones.

Egypt’s Thutmose III, on an inscription at Karnak, claims to have captured Gezer (ca. 1482 B.C.), and the demise of the Middle Bronze city may have correlated to that event. During the first part of the Late Bronze Age, Gezer was thus subservient to Egypt. Indeed, during the time of Amenhotep IV (aka Akhenaten; ca 1352-1336 B.C.), the kings of Gezer sought Egypt’s assistance in dealing with Canaanite conflicts. The Amarna Letters contain their correspondence with Egypt and demonstrate that, although Egypt was normally the overlord of the Canaanite cities, it was losing its grip on Canaan. However, Gezer was destroyed around 1210 B.C. by a later pharaoh, Merneptah. In his victory stele he claims to have captured Gezer, and indeed a cartouche of Merneptah was discovered at this level.

At the beginning of the Iron Age Gezer was occupied by the Philistines. Examples of the distinctive “Bichrome ware” Philistine pottey (decorated in two colours) have been found there, and in the city at this time (corresponding to the late judges period and the reign of Saul) appears to have been relatively prosperous. By the time of Solomon, however, it had declined considerably, as indicated by a poorer material culture in terms of architecture and pottery. 1 Kings 9:16 states that an unnamed pharaoh captured the city, burned it and presented it to Solomon as his daughter’s dowry on the occasion of their marriage.

Solomon strongly fortified Gezer, together with Hazor and Megiddo, in order to guard the main entry points into his kingdom (1 Kings 9:15). These cities all provide examples of the fortification style developed by Solomon’s ebgineers. Notable features include an elaborate, four-entryway gate with guard chambers and a kind of double wall known as a casement wall. The workmanship at Gezer during this era attests to the prosperity and sophistication of the Solomonic era. There were relatively few private homes, however, suggesting that in Solomon’s day Gezer was primarily a governmental centre.

This city was violently destroyed near the end of the tenth century B.C. in an event that was probably the work of pharaoh Sheshonk I (the Shishak of 1 Kings 14:25). Important archaeological discoveries at Gezer, encompassing various time periods, include a series of ten large, standing stones from the Middle Bronze Canaanite settlement, the city gate that Solomon constructed and the Gezer Calendar, a text inscribed on limestone describing the yearly agricultural cycle.


 

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