Archaeologist Uncovers Biblical Bethsaida’s Unique Gate

July 13, 2018

2 min read

Professor Rami Arav, has uncovered an enormous city gate, after digging at the Biblical city of Zer in the Golan Heights.

Arav, a professor at the University of Omaha, has been digging in the region for nearly 30 years and this season, his efforts were rewarded. Arav and his team,speculate that King David probably passed through this gate seeking a bride.

The archaeological potential at Zer is enormous, justifying Arav’s efforts. The unexplored ruins dating back to the eighth century BCE cover 20 acres, setting it as one of the largest ancient cities in the region.

“So far, I have only found monumental remains: the palace, the fortifications, the storehouses,” Arav told Breaking Israel News. “I have only explored about four percent of the site. I am planning on leaving a challenge for the next generation.

This season, Arav and his team focused their digging on the city’s gate. It is massive, the largest and the best-preserved city gate found in the region. Arav believes the gate was in use from the 11th century BCE to 920 BCE, when the settlement was destroyed. After 50 years of lying vacant, the city was reinhabited after 875 BCE.

The site also displays a Jewish community in the Hasmonean and Herodian periods, occupation in the Early Roman period, settlement in the Mamluk period, and a village in the late Ottoman period.

In addition to the city gate, the excavation revealed a massive fortification system that included two parallel city walls and towers. This is the earliest appearance of towers in the military architecture of this region.

In addition to its enormous archaeological significance, the site has massive Biblical relevance.

“The city, under different names, was referred to in the Bible, in the New Testament, and even in the Talmud,” Arav said. “It was clearly important throughout many periods.”

The city was referred to as Zer until the First Temple period and is mentioned as such in the Bible.

Its fortified towns were Ziddim, Zer, Hammath, Rakkath, Chinnereth, Joshua 19:35

In the Second Temple period, the city was a major Aramean urban center of the kingdom of Geshur, also mentioned in the Bible.

But the Israelites failed to dispossess the Geshurites and the Maacathites, and Geshur and Maacath remain among Yisrael to this day. Joshua 13:13

The gate dates to 1000 and 550 BCE, the period of the biblical kings David and Solomon. Arav guesses that it is most probable that  David entered this gate to meet Talmai, king of Geshur, prior to requesting the hand of his daughter.

His second was Chileab, by Avigail wife of Naval the Carmelite; the third was Avshalom son of Maacah, daughter of King Talmai of Geshur; II Samuel 3:3

The city of Bethsaida is mentioned several times in the New Testament as a place Jesus frequented and as such, the archaeological dig is a popular destination for Christian tourists.

“The New Testament places several stories about Jesus in Bethsaida but is not really a Christian archaeological site,” Arav told Breaking Israel News. “There are no Christian artifacts since there was never really a Christian population in Bethsaida. There are no churches or anything from the Byzantine period. From the Second Temple period, it was connected with the life of Jesus, but as most people know, Jesus was born, lived, and died a Jew. Everything around him was Jewish. Christianity as an independent religion only came several centuries after the death of Jesus. By the time the Christian population arose in the fourth century, Bethsaida was already abandoned due to a major earthquake.”

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