Ezion Geber (2 Chronicles 8)

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Illustration: Solomon’s seaport at Ezion Geber

Biblical mention of Ezion Geber is limited to Israel’s wilderness wanderings (Numbers 33:35-36, Deuteronomy 2:8), the Solomonic era (1 Kings 9:26-28, 2 Chronicles 8:17-18) and the time of king Jehoshaphat of Judah (1 Kings 22:47-49, 2 Chronicles 20:35-37). Ezion Geber was located near Elath on the Red Sea (i.e. the Gulf of Aqaba) in the land of Edom. Solomon, in collaboration with king Hiram of Tyre developed it as a major seaport where he maintained a fleet and imported luxury commodities from Africa and India. Later, Jehoshaphat unsuccessfully attempted du duplicate Solomon’s venture.

Tell el-Kheleifeh, on the northern tip of the Gulf of Aqaba, was once widely identified with Ezion Geber on the grounds that archaeological remains suggested it had been a seaport and a site for smelting minerals. These conclusions have been challenged, and this connection is now regarded as unlikely.

If Tell el-Kheleifeh is not Ezion Geber, the only other adequate anchorage in the northern gulf is located on an island called Jezirat Faraun (“Pharaoh’s Island”, also called Coral Island), approximately 12 km south of modern Eliat (pictured above). A natural harbour was improved in antiquity by addition of a breakwater, mooring piers and defensive towers. The structure of the port is typical of Phoenician improved harbours, and Iron Age pottery found there confirms habitation of the site during the Solomonic period.


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