Pictured above are some of the remains of the eastern wing of the city-gates of the city of Megiddo. These date back to the time of Israelite occupation, probably Solomon, Ahab, or Jeroboam II (Iron Age).
We should note two things regarding the importance of the gates of ancient cities, namely their role in everyday life and their role in time of warfare.
In everyday life, the city-gates were the social hub of the city. If you lived in the city, you were in and out of these gates all of the time. If you were a traveler visiting the city, this is where you got your first look at things. As a result, all sorts of business was conducted at the city-gates: plans were made, items purchased, goods sold, judgments made by officials, news and gossip exchanged by all, etc. In effect, the area around the city-gates functioned something like the equivalent of a modern day mall, city hall, the court, and Facebook all rolled into one.
In time of war, the gates were typically the weakest point in a city’s defense, being easier to breach than the thick, high walls. Thus, the gates were usually constructed in such a way as to make approach and entry something less than easy. A long entrance ramp (often with a hard right turn in it near the gates), protective chambers within the gate house(s), and multiple piers or columns were the norm. To retain control of the city gates was to indeed be strong; your greatest weakness cannot be overcome. To lose control of the city-gates was to lose control of all of the city.
Try this: peruse the many references to “gates” in the Bible with all of the preceding in mind. You’ll find that the city-gates are not so much about stone, but about community and security.
This is the marker for the Iron Age city-gates of Megiddo. It reads (in part):
Megiddo became an Israelite city sometime between the 10th and 9th centuries B.C., and functioned as an administrative center for the fertile Jezreel Valley. Some time later, a massive wall (1) and a monumental city-gate (2-4) were built. According to one opinion, the gate dates to the reign of Solomon (10th c. B.C.). Other scholars postdate the gate to the reign of either Ahab (9th c.) or Jeroboam II (8th c. B.C.).
In the Assyrian period (732-630 B.C.), the inner gatehouse was replaced by a two-chambered gate, whose remains can be seen on top of the older gatehouse.
“And this is the account of the forced labour which king Solomon levied to build the house of the Lord, and his own house and the millo and the wall of Jerusalem and Hazor and Megiddo and Gezer.” (1 Kings 9.15)
Pictured here are remains of the city-gates of Megiddo. These gates date back to the time when Egypt ruled Canaan, prior to Israelite habitation.
Oh, and that’s fellow tour member Ron Eagleton looking sharp and looking out the city-gate entrance.
Two different sets of city gates have been revealed by archaeologists at Megiddo: one set dating from the Late Bronze Period and another set dating from the Iron II Period. Over the course of today and the next three days, I’ll post photos of the gates and the markers that explain/sketch them. First up, above, is the marker located near the Bronze Age city-gate. It reads:
The Late Bronze Period (1550-1150 B.C.) is marked by Egyptian rule of Canaan. At that time, Megiddo was one of the country’s major city-states and its king a loyal vassal of the Egyptian pharaoh. The city-gate and the elaborate palace located just inside the gate are the best-known remains of this period. The city-gate was apparently incorporated into the Middle Bronze (2000-1550 B.C.) fortifications that were still in use at the time.
The three-entry city-gate was faced with ashlar blocks, some made of basalt.
Long before the Hebrews came to their Promised Land from Egypt, Egypt controlled Canaan. The invasion of Canaan by Thutmoses III (c.a. 1482–1428 B.C.) marked the start of a quarter of a millennium of Egyptian presence there. And some of the most obvious and graphic evidence of such are some of the finds that have come out of archaeological digs in Jaffa (Joppa; Yofa).
Witness, for example, as did we, the huge, carved, stone frame for the gate of an Egyptian fortress that was excavated from the eastern quarter of Jaffa’s tel. Pictured here is a re-creation of that frame set up in the 1990’s where the original gate stood. The tourist information sign in front of this gate reads:
“One of the monumental gates that was discovered here dates from the period of the rule of Ramesses II (during the 13th century BCE) and attests to the fact that at that time Jaffa hosted a permanent Egyptian garrison. The inscription on one of the many gates includes the many honorific titles of Ramesses II. An earlier gate, the earliest Egyptian gate ever uncovered in Canaan, was found beneath the Ramesses gate and may have been destroyed during Thutmoses’ conquest of Jaffa.”
If you favor “the late date” (ca. 1290 B.C.) of Israel’s exodus from Egypt over “the early date” (ca. 1441 B.C.) – the interpretation of the evidence that seems most persuasive to me – then Rameses II (ruling from c.a. 1264–1198 B.C.) was the builder of these gates in Jaffa and was the pharaoh in Egypt when Joshua led the Israelites into Canaan in c.a. 1250 B.C.