Part 1 – Tel Dan, Megiddo, Hazor, Bethsaida, Bet-Shean – Towards an Identity

The ancient sites of Tel Dan, Hazor, Megiddo, Bethsaida and Bet-Shean are important as archaeological sites. They demonstrate the ancient settlement patterns in the land that the Israelites ultimately regarded as their own, given to them by their god. These sites attest to the ancient emerging identity of the people amidst their neighbours. At these sites there is evidence of pre-Israelite settlement, with evidence of forms of worship and artefacts from which the Israelite identity emerges[1]. Notable at Tel Dan is the three-arched gate, often referred to as ‘Abraham’s Gate’. This structure is ancient.[2] Hazor, Megiddo and Bethsaida share features with Tel Dan, notably the constructions of walls and city gates as well as cultic features and cultural artefacts that effectively demonstrate the fortunes of the people who eventually would emerge as the People of God. These artefacts assist archaeologists to date sites and establish relationships between them. This has assisted biblical scholars to assess the historicity of the biblical texts and the dating of biblical events. [3]

P1060011As noted, the idea of the covenant emerges as the key ‘shaper’ of Israelite identity. Through the excavations at these sites, the identity becomes ever more distinctive through significant archaeological finds that confirm them in their religious artefacts, temple features and dietary laws. A notable series of artefacts from Tel Dan confirm the use of music and dancing, perhaps liturgically. This corresponds to other civilisations in the Near East and the Levant. [4] Psalm 42, the lament of a Levite in exile may well have been written in Dan[5], as the psalmist laments ‘as a doe longs for running streams, so longs my soul for you my God…When my soul is downcast within me, I think of you; from the land of Jordan and of Hermon, of you, humble mountain!’ (Psalm 42:1-2; 6-7), recalling the sounds of rushing water (Psalm 42:7-8).

Interestingly, these sites demonstrate also the invasions by the Assyrians and other groups, giving testimony to many of the biblical accounts. [6]

There is evidence that the sites were burned, evidence that the people were carried away. These events find a place in the Psalms as the people of Israel lamented their exile and questioned how they could continue to worship their God in a strange land…The God who had temporarily abandoned them revealed his mercy yet again through forgiveness and calling the people back to the covenant. [7]

those he has redeemed from the oppressor’s clutches, by bringing them home from foreign countries,from east and west, from north and south.Some had lost their way in the wilds and the desert, not knowing how to read an inhabited town;they were hungry and desperately thirsty, their courage was running low. Then they called to YHWH in their trouble and he rescued them from their sufferings, guiding them…’Ps 107:2-7.

[1] For example, cultic high place, temple foundations and incense shovels at Dan excavated by Biran.

[2] Though not authentic, this structure is referred to as Abraham’s Gate on the basis that Abraham is reported to have gone to Dan to rescue his nephew Lot. It demonstrates a sophisticated arch structure.

[3] The biblical account was not intended to be an historical account, but biblical scholars and archaeologists have often sought to ‘prove’ the historicity of the texts through archaeology. See Bryan, The Quest for the Historical Israel.

[4] The Dancer of Dan, ritual utensils and ‘high places’, coupled with the lack of pig bones suggest that over time these sites became less Canaanite or Philistine and more Israelite. See Biran.

[5] Judith Gardiner, Tour notes, p33

[6] Avrahim Biran, From Tel Dan is the Hazael inscription, evidence of treaties and Assyrian dominance.

[7] Kasper, Mercy

About Judith Gardiner

I'm a pilgrim, a traveller, a tourist! I'm on a journey of life, and my life is like a rich and varied garden, with new growth, blooms and even some weeds which I keep trying to eradicate! I'd like people to read my blog and feel positive about life and the earth we share. The world is a place of good news stories and experiences we can share.
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