Tell el-Kheleifeh (Ecclesiastes 2)

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Illustration: Tel El-Kheleifeh. Thought to be Solomon’s Seaport at Ezion-geber 

Tell el-Kheleifeh was once thought to have been the site of Ezion Geber, a port of Solomon. The site is located atop a small hillock in Jordan, approximately 500 m from the northern shore of the Gulf of Aqaba in the Red Sea. But scholars now recognize a lack of conclusive evidence for identifying Tell el-Kheleifeh with Ezion Geber. Early assumptions that a large-scale smelting operation took place there during Solomon’s reign can no longer be sustained. If Tell el-Kheleifeh was unoccupied during Solomon’s time it could not have been Ezion Geber. Although some pottery fragment at the site attest to occupation as far back as the eighth century B.C., little evidence exists for an earlier occupation.

The earliest level at Tell el-Kheleifeh includes a four-room house measuring 40 ft. x 40 ft. , surrounded by a mud-brick casemate wall measuring 135 ft. x 135 ft. The four-room structure probably served a variety of functions, such as a store-hose and as a citadel. A later phase expanded the site with a wall spanning 180 feet on all sides, along with a four-chambered gate in the southern wall. While further excavation at this site may uncover a cleared picture of its age, identity and function, the current dearth of archaeological evidence severely limits firm conclusions. It is important to recognize that the identification of Tell el-Kheleifeh with Ezion Geber has not been disproved; in fact, some archaeologists believe that such an equation is still possible. But there is no extant evidence that Tell el-Kheleifeh was occupied in Solomon’s time.

Although Solomon was a capable builder, many of his works seem nowhere to be found. Some sites once thought to be Solomonic have proved not to be so. The grand works alluded to Ecclesiastes 2 have, for the most part, simply been lost. Perhaps we do well to look on this as a metaphor reflecting that they were indeed – at least in some sense – “meaningless”!


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