Today we visited the Herodium with our friend Elie who is known to many readers as the guide for several of our tours. Since this is the Sabbath in Jerusalem there was almost no traffic this morning. We left and went south past Bethlehem along the new road that connects various Israeli settlements. Elie met us at a designated place in Efrata and we went together from there to the Herodium.
I don’t have a lot of time to give you all of the details of the Herodium, but here are a few facts to help. The artificial conical structure was built by Herod the Great at one of his fortresses. The fortress is located about 8 miles south of Jerusalem, 3 1/2 miles east of Bethlehem, on the western edge of the Wilderness of Judea. Herod was the king who tried to kill Jesus (Matthew 2). The photo below shows the north side of the Herodium. The tomb of Herod the Great was discovered about half way up the north side in 2007 by Prof. Ehud Netzer. You may see a blue tarp to the left of center. That marks the location of the tomb.
While in the vicinity we passed by Tekoah, the home of Amos the prophet (Amos 1:1), and the Valley of Decision in the wilderness of Tekoah (2 Chronicles 20. See especially verses 20 and 26). I also made some photos of vineyards and terraced farming.
Elie took us to a point from which one could understand the route of David from Bethlehem to the Valley of Elah. He had other oblications, so we left him and made our way to the coastal plain. Along the way we stopped for a photo of Tel Erfani. In earlier years several scholars identified it as Gath. A city, name Qiryat Gat, was built nearby and named for the ancient site. Many scholars now believe that Gath is to be identified with Tel es-Safi (see yesterday’s post).
We continued to Ashkelon to see the newly reconstructed Canaanite gate. The sign at the site says,
This is the most ancient arched gate in the world. It consists of an arched corridor with arched openings on both ends. The gate was constructed in approximately 1850 BCE as part of th city’s fortification system, and is built mostly of mud brocks with some calcareous limestone. It is 15 meteres long, over 2 meters wide, and almost 4 meters high.
This photo shows the gate from the west (sea side).
According to 1 Samuel 6:17 there were five important Philistine cities: Ashdod, Gaza, Ashkelon, Gath, and Ekron. We were only a few miles north of Gaza. We tried diligently to locate Tel Ashdod, but were unable to do so.