What do you think of when someone says, “rock walls?” Maybe you think of a terracing or landscape wall used to border a garden. Or perhaps your mind wonders to a climbing wall in a gym, complete with hand-holds and belay ropes. Call me crazy, but for me the image of an Old Testament fortification wall comes into focus, especially one of those impressive city fortification structures 12 feet wide and 15 feet high. To me, there’s nothing more archaeologically and historically exhilarating! OK, maybe I’m not wired like the a normal pastor or Bible teacher, but to see a Middle Bronze “Canaanite” wall or an Iron Age “Israelite” fortification structure brings the history of the Bible alive in remarkable ways. For instance, when one stand at the southern end of the tel (ancient mound) of Jericho (above) and view the remnants of the double walls that “came tumblin down” with the sound of Joshua’s team of shofar blowers, I enthusiastically marvel at the accuracy of Scripture confirmed by biblical archaeology! Lachish is another site where the city rock walls still stand. It was here that not only the Assyrians, but also the Babylonians came and attacked this city located in the Shephelah (or Lowlands) of Judah. Battering rams were placed against these walls to bring them down. If the rocks could speak, they would testify how the stories of the Bible unfolded.
There are a number of other sites where rock walls can be seen. Some cities of the Early Bronze period were made rock walls built towers (e.g. Arad). Other city walls were actually made with mud bricks (e.g. Beersheba). Still other cities, particularly of the Iron Age period, were made of stones put into place with what is called a “header-stretcher” design, resulting in a much stronger fortification. On the other hand, Masada, a 1st century site, was built with a casemate wall surrounding this “fortress city” located in the Wilderness of Judah. This allowed the city inhabitants to strengthen the outer wall of the city in times of war by filling the back side of the wall with earthen debris. In peaceful times, this area behind the outer rock wall would be left open, providing an “extra room” for the houses bordering the city wall.
Perhaps the ancient “rock walls” of Jerusalem are perhaps the most jaw-dropping. On the eastern slopes of the City of David excavations, one can see not only the Jebusite walls dating to the Middle Bronze period, but also a portion of rock walls refortified by Hezekiah at the time when the Assyrians came to surround the Judean king “like a bird in a cage” (as the inscription referred to as the Taylor Prism found in Ninevah records). Even the Turkish walls of the Old City of Jerusalem (dating to a relatively young, built by Suleiman the Great from 1536-41, AD) capture your attention quickly. You can actually walk on this rampart wall, which is over 2 miles in length!
It’s quite amazing that the rock walls of the past are still standing today. Of course while some walls have been restored by archaeologists, portions of walls can still be seen at sites such as Gezer, Hazor, Megiddo, and Dan, to name a few of the primary biblical sites that can be visited today. To ponder that back 1000′ of year ago real people actually spent years, decades even, to put each stone into place one by one, is truly hard to fathom.
So to me, a rock wall just isn’t a rock wall. It is a preservation of biblical history. And I never get tired at looking at them!