Ancient Philistine Dig Supports Biblical Account

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TEL ES-SAFI, Israel -- Archaeologists in Israel have uncovered an altar in the ancient city of Gath, home to the Israelites' arch enemy the Philistines.

CBN News was at the dig site when the excavators uncovered the first horn of the altar. The find is revealing a great deal about the culture of Israel's ancient foe -- and the accuracy of the Bible.

"It's beautifully made out of stone and it's a perfect example of the type of cult that goes on during the first temple period," Prof. Aren Maeir of Bar-Ilan University said of the artifact. 

Maeir is leading the excavations at Gath.  About 100 archaeologists and volunteers from several countries are part of his team.

"We're excavating here levels which date to the Iron Age, which would be equivalent to the, well let's say the First Temple, you know, in Jewish history," he said.

According to Maeir, "They (the Philistines) were a very sophisticated culture, an urban-oriented culture… (as opposed to) the Israelites who were at that time, very simple tribesmen."

While Goliath is probably the most famous resident, Maeir says 15 seasons of digging has helped round out the picture of the Philistines.

"The Israelites…they were facing a group of people who were probably much more organized, much more sophisticated, and they were probably had the military upper hand," he explained.
 
Years before David killed Goliath, Samson also fought the Philistines. After his capture, the Bible says Samson took his revenge by collapsing a temple with his great strength.

"We have a structure here, which was apparently a Philistine Temple with two large pillars…and it is reminiscent of the story of Samson knocking down the pillars," Maeir said.

Other proof discovered at the site shows the city was destroyed around 830 B.C.

"We have houses that collapsed and burned down with hundreds and hundreds of vessels in these houses, and we can connect this to an event that's mentioned in the biblical text, II Kings 12," Maier said. "It says that Hazael, the King of Aram Damascus, campaigned to Philistia, captured Gath."

Many archaeologists won't say their work proves the biblical account is accurate, but it's hard to deny the facts on the ground.

--Published July 25, 2011

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