Long, long ago in posts far away from here (June-Oct. 2013), I started posting a series of pics that I snapped on a trip to Israel in 2013. I posted at that time a bit in regard to Tel Aviv and neighboring Joppa (Jaffa; Yaffa), Caesarea Maritima, and Megiddo. However, life got full and the series ceased. However, with this post I’m finally getting back around to picking it up again. [Good things come to those who wait, right?]
Today, we began reading the book of Isaiah in MoSt Church’s year-long Bible reading effort (the ‘Read Scripture’ project). Isaiah opens with these words: “The vision concerning Judah and Jerusalem that Isaiah son of Amoz saw during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.” (Isa. 1.1) And, in fact, we can date Isaiah’s vision of the Lord (6.1) to “the year that King Uzziah [of Judah] died” – about 742 B.C.
Now the the book of Isaiah deals with far more than just matters pertinent to Judah (the southern kingdom). For example, we don’t read very far into the book before we learn that Isaiah has a message to deliver to Israel, the northern kingdom (9.8-10.4). And Jeroboam II, king of Israel, was Uzziah’s contemporary.
All of which set me to thinking and remembering one of the places I visited in Israel in 2013: Megiddo. There we saw the remains of a huge grain silo excavated by archaeologists. It had been constructed under the direction of Jeroboam II … the very time of Isaiah. A marker there reads: “A public grain silo from the time of King Jeroboam II (8th century BCE). The silo had a capacity of 450 cubic meters. Straw found between thee stones attests to the function of the installation.”
Here are some pics of that silo that I snapped while in Megiddo.
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.
You’re thinking: “Okay, so these are steps carved out of stone. So what?” The “so what” is that these steps were cut into the rock leading up to the ancient city of Megiddo before the time of Solomon (over 2,900 years ago). They lead up to a water system that supplied the city’s needs at the time. They’re designated as location #1 on the map we posted here.
Archaeological excavations have revealed quite a number of things from the various time periods of Megiddo’s habitation. Consequently, when you’re walking around tel Megiddo looking at different structures, it’s imperative to bear in mind that you’re looking at things from different. By no means were all the structures that can be seen today in use at the same time “back in the day.” This will be obvious in future posts regarding Megiddo for we’ll bounce around a bit on the historical time scale in the posting of pics of some of the various sights.
Remarkably, tel Megiddo has been virtually uninhabited for the past two millennium. It is located just a few miles northeast of the city of Umm al-Fahm (pictured here), a largely Palestinian Arab city with a population of over 40,000.