DAY 3 – WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 15: GEZER, BETH SHEMESH, AZEKAH, BEIT GUVRIN, LACHISH, BEERSHEBA
Today was our first full day here in Israel. The weather was nice and sunny, and highs near 70. We spent the entire day in the Shephelah (lowlands) of Judah.
After a great breakfast on the 7th floor of our hotel (with a great view of the Med Sea), we left at 7:30. Our first stop was to Tel Gezer. Located along the Aijalon Valley, Gezer was both a Canaanite and Israelite city. We saw ruins from the Middle Bronze (Canaanite) period. This included a massive fortification tower, wall, and chambered gate. We also saw a replica of the Gezer Calendar. We read from Ecclesiastes 3 about the “seasons of life.” We also saw the water system. At another part of the site we saw ruins from the Iron Age (Israelite) period. This included a city gate built by Solomon (1 Kings 9). The city was given to Solomon’s wife, perhaps Pharaoh Siamun. Before leaving the site we saw the standing stones of Gezer, most likely part of a Canaanite cultic center.
Traveling south, Beth Shemesh was our next site. Located along the Sorek Valley, we stood on top of the site as we remembered that Samson was from this area (, from Zorah across the valley, Judges 13-16). He married a Philistine from Timnah only a few miles down the valley. We also read from 1 Samuel 6 about how the Philistines returned the Ark of there Covenant here. We saw the newly-discovered Israelite ruins on the other side of the road. Also, some in the group descended down into an ancient cistern.
“Today was a great first day. We had perfect weather too. I am already blown away by how close sites are to each other. I didn’t expect this. Plus all the biblical connections Dr. John is making is incredible. This is going to be an amazing trip.” -Tour Member-
Located along the Elah Valley, we drove to Socoh next. We climbed this unexcavated site in order to get a good view of the suggested battle field of David and Goliath. We read from 1 Samuel 17. The story unfolded before our very eyes! God still helps us win our “battles of life” when, like David, we place our total confidence and faith in him.
Continuing southward, the next site was Beit Guvrin. After grabbing a light lunch here, we visited the Roman site first. Here we saw an amphitheater. Near the Old Testament site of Mereshah (the original name of the city and home town of Micah the prophet. ), we descended down into a columbarium. This caves was the home for pigeons. We also read from Micah 1 and 5.
Our last site of the day was Lachish. This was first a Canaanite city taken by Joshua in 2 days (Joshua 10). Later, King Rehoboam of Judah re-fortified this city (2 Chronicles 11). Lachish was a city that was seized by Sennacherib and the Assyrians (2 Kings 19-20, 2 Chronicles 32, and Isaiah 36-37) and later completely destroyed by the Babylonians. We saw a replica of the Lachish Letter #4 that matches perfectly with Jeremiah 34:7. Climbing the site we saw the double stone walls and gates, and the palace area.
From here we drove about 50 minutes to Beersheba in the Negev. We checked into our hotel and enjoyed dinner together. After this great meal, we gathered for a brief time of worship and reflection. It was a great first day here in Israel!