Gibeon (Joshua 9)

Gibeon is located at the modern village of el-Jib, 9,6 km northwest of Jerusalem. Pottery and two Egyptian scarabs (stone beetles used as talismans, ornaments or symbols of resurrection) indicate occupation at the time of the conquest, but no architecture from that period has yet been unearthed. Only a small fraction of the site has been excavated, however, so there is much more to investigate.

Gibeon was “an important city, like one of the royal cities” (Joshua 10:2). It ruled a small league of cities that included Kephirah, Beeroth and Kiriath Jearim (Joshua 9:17). When the Gibeonites arrived at Gilgal, nearly 26 km to the east, they deceived the Israelites by noting the condition of their wineskins. “These wineskins that we filled were new, but see how cracked they are” (Joshua 9:13).

In the divided monarchy period wine-making was a major industry in Gibeon. The people used both wineskins and jars as containers for wine. The handles of the jars in which the wine was exported were inscribed with the name of the city, along with that of the vontner. Some 31 jar handles have been discovered here inscribed with the name “Gibeon”, making identification of the site a certainty – a welcome rarity in the archaeology of Palestine.

When Josua discovered the Gibeonites’ description, he consigned them to servitude as “woodcutters and water carriers for the house of my God” (Joshua 9:23). The most conspicuous feature of Gibeon is in fact its abundant water supply: one major and seven minor springs. The “Pool of Gibeon” is mentioned in 2 Samuel 2:13 and the “great pool in Gibeon” in Jeremiah 41:12.


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