Eglon’s palace (Judges 3)

Eglon, king of Moab, led a coalition of Moabites, Ammonites and Amalekites from the east of the Dead Sea and the Jordan Valley and subdued the Israelite tribes during the second half of the fourteenth century B.C. (Judges 3:12-14). He established a headquarters at Jericho, the City of Palms (nearly 13 km northwest of the Dead Sea), and from there collected tribute from the Israelites. When British archaeologist John Garstang excavated Jericho in 1933 he discovered a large structure that he identified as the palace of Eglon. He dubbed it the “Middle Building” (above picture), since it was sandwiched between Iron Age structures above and the destroyed Bronze Age city below. It had been erected sometime during the second half of the fourteenth century B.C., precisely the time of Eglon.

The building measured 11,9 m by 14,6 m and had much expensive local and imported painted pottery inside. A cuneiform tablet, a rare find in Palestine, attested that the owner had been involved in high-level administrative activities. No other buildings from that time period were discovered, so it is evident that there was no local community. The single structure that was excavated had been occupied for a relatively short period of time and then abandoned. This matches the situation in Judges 3. Apparently Eglon travelled to Jericho periodically to collect tribute from the Israelites. There he constructed a luxury villa, as mentioned in Judges 3. But this building was indeed abandoned after 18 years when Eglon was assassinated by Ehud and the Moabites fled back across the Jordan River.


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