Timnah (Judges 14)

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Joshua 15:10-11 informs us that Timnah was situated between Beth Shemesh (Tell er-Rumeilah) and Ekron (Tel Miqne). The only site of significance between these two places is Tel Batash. Philistine pottery uncovered in excavations there further confirms the identification of Tel Batash as the Biblical Timnah. Tel Batash is located in the coastal plain, in the western part of the fertile Sorek Valley, 26 km from the Mediterranean coast and 32 km west of Jerusalem.

Timnah was on the eastern border of Philistine territory, with the two larger cities of the Philistine confederation, Ekron and Ashkelon, 5,6 km to the west and 48 km to the southwest, respectively (Judges 14:19). Samson himself lived in Mahaneh-dan, “the camp of Dan”, at the edge of the Israelite hill country 9,6 km east of Timnah. The Bible’s statement that Samson “went down to Timnah” (Judges 14:1) is literal; there is a 244 m drop in elevation between the arena of Samson’s home and the base of Tel Batash.

Excavations were carried out at Tel Batash between 1977 and 1989. The town of Samson’s day was a fortified urban centre about five acres in size, well planned and densely populated. The buildings were constructed of mud brick walls on stone foundations. A storage jar with a letter incised on the handle shows that there was knowledge of writing in the town. A clay bulla (lump of clay with impressions on it) was found, indicating that some of the writing was done on papyrus.


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