DAY 10 – TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 12: THE “SHEPHELAH” – LOWLANDS OF JUDAH: GEZER, BETH SHEMESH, SOCOH, LACHISH, LIBNAH, JERUSALEM
Today we headed west from Jerusalem to the Shephelah (lowlands) of Judah. The sun would greet us again, with temps around 80. We have been enjoying perfect weather so far!
We left our hotels shortly after 7:30 again, driving westward out of Jerusalem. We arrived at Tel Gezer, a Canaanite and Israelite city mentioned in the Bible. Gezer is located along the Aijalon Valley. We read from Ecclesiastes 3 that matches well with the Gezer Calendar that was found here about 100 yeas ago that mention the agricultural seasons of ancient Israel in the 10th century BC. We also read from Joshua 10 as Joshua chased the 5 Canaanite kings through this valley while the “sun stood still.” At the site we saw Canaanite fortification towers walls, and gates, the water system, and the Israelite ruins. This included a 6-chambered gate built by Solomon (1 Kings 9. The city was given to his wife, most likely Pharoah Siamun’s daughter). Leaving the site we saw the standing stones of Gezer.
Located along the Sorek Valley, Beth Shemesh was the next site to visit. Near by on the other site of the valley was the city of Zorah where Samson was from. Further west down the valley is where his Philistine wives were from (the second one being Delilah, Judges 13-16). We also read from 1 Samuel 6. The Ark of the Covenant was returned here from Ekron by the Philistines. After visiting the site, we ate lunch at the modern Beth Shemesh mall.
“We connected with more stories from the Bible today. I am amazed about how many sites there are that are mentioned in the Bible. I never really paid attention to these details. My pastor needs to come here with Dr. John and learn about the Bible and the land of Israel!” -Tour Member-
Socoh was our next stop. This is an un-excavated site located along the Elah Valley. It is also mentioned in 1 Samuel 17. The Philistines took a position here (and between Azekah). We read from this 17th chapter about how David from Bethlehem defeated Goliath (from Gath to the west) in the “narrow part” of the valley somewhere below. We were challenged to face our spiritual battles with the same confidence!
Because Beit Guvrin was closed today, we drove to Lachish. We climbed the site that was once a Canaanite city destroyed by Joshua in 2 days (Joshua 10). Later, this double-walled Israelite city was attacked by the Assyrians (Isaiah 37, 2 Kings 19), and 115 years later or so destroyed by the Babylonians. In front of the gate where Lachish Letter #4 was found in 1935, we read from Jeremiah 34:7 (Lachish and Azekah were the two last-standing cities of Judah!). We saw the broad fortification walls, the chambered gate, and the palace most likely most likely connected with Rehoboam and other Judean kings to follow.
As the sun was setting, we snuck in an extra site – Libnah. We walked about 15 minutes through a field to get to the top of Tel Burna. Here we saw some fortification walls the gate, and other structures in the area where Dr. John dug this past summer. Libnah is mentioned in Joshua 10:29 The city was taken by Joshua. Later, the city was one of the Levitical towns in the tribe of Judah (Joshua 21:13). The city also revolted against the Judean king Jehoram (2 Car. 21:8-10). Eventually, the city was destroyed by the Assyrians (Isaiah 37:8) at the end of the 8th century BC.
We drove back to Jerusalem in the dark for dinner and an optional walk.