Submitted by Mark Esposito, Guest Blogger
In Israel, archeologists began a dig this week at the remains of the Philistine city of Gath. Long regarded in the Hebrew Bible as the “bad guys” of the ancient world, the Philistines are emerging as a complex civilization with Hellenistic roots. In fact, the Philistines arrived from ancient Greece about 1200 BCE, and gained control of the major seaports of Ashkelon and Ashdod, as well as the Gaza strip. The ancient city of Gath stood on the far frontier of the coastal-bound Philistine empire and adjacent to the Israelites, who occupied the inland hills. Gath had been inhabited since prehistoric times and the conquering Philistines were all too happy to take up residence in a ready-made encampment.
As with most primitive tribal cultures war was inevitable and glorified, and, in due course, the most famous Philistine became the warrior Goliath. He was a giant of a man who probably stood no taller than 6 feet in a world where the average man stood around 5 feet, but the varying Biblical accounts have him going from 4.5 cubits (about 6’9″) to the inhumanly height of 6.5 cubits (9’9″). Regardless of his stature we all know the Biblical account of the shepherd boy, David, and the improbable victory over the giant armed only with a sling and a few smooth stones. Fat chance of finding any archaeological proof of that bout, but another Biblical tale holds more promise.
The archeologists from several countries including the U.S., have made an intriguing find that could conceivably support the story of Samson. For newborns out there, Samson was the beautifully adorned Israelite warrior who managed to defeat scores of Philistine warriors (and a lion or two) with only the jawbone of an ass as a weapon. (Insert troll joke here). Ultimately captured, he was undone by the wiles of Delilah who discovered the secret of his strength –his flowing locks — and had a servant girl shave them off while the great warrior slept following a lover’s tryst. Delilah would go on to become the iconic femme fatale, and Samson would go to the stocks.
Bound between two pillars at the temple in Gath, Samson would call upon the Hebrew God for one last moment of physical strength, and pull the imprisoning structure down on him and the gawking Philistine crowd. In one of the first significant finds, the workers uncovered a structure resembling an ancient Philistine temple with two pillars . Coincidence likely, but intriguing in that it matches the design stated in the Bible.
~Mark Esposito, Guest Blogger