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City Where Samson Courted Delilah Uncovered by Archaeological Team

Remains identified with Timnah, the Philistine city where Samson courted Delilah and slew a lion, have been uncovered by archaeologists working in collaboration with the Institute of Archaeology of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

The team has just concluded its first season of excavations at Tel Batash. The site, located in the Sorek Valley, seven kilometers west of Beth Shemesh, is the site of the biblical city of Timnah.

The expedition, sponsored by an institutional consortium, including New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, Mississippi College and Louisiana College, in collaboration with the Hebrew University’s Institute of Archaeology, was under the direction of Dr. George L. Kelm, expedition director, and Amihai Mazar, archaeological field director. The four-week project was conducted with a 40-member staff and volunteer work force from the United States and Israel.

The excavations revealed a Canaanite city which was destroyed by a tremendous fire near the end of the late Bronze Age (circa. 1200 B.C.E.). The building remains of the Canaanite city included a part of a large public building and a defensive city wall. Among the finds were a Canaanite cylinder seal, bronze tools and weapons, and typical Canaanite pottery vessels.

IMPORTANCE OF THE CITY

On the ruins of the Canaanite city, remains of Philistine occupation were discovered. Floors, ovens silos and typical Philistine pottery shards were recovered. The special finds included a Philistine conical stamp sea and clay molded bull-head. This occupation may be identified with the Philistine city of Timnah, well-known in the Samson stories in the Book of Judges.

During the latter part of the iron Age (the period of the Israelite monarchy–10th to 11th Centuries B.C.E.), a fortified city existed on the site. A massive, four-meter wide city wall and the city gate were exposed during the excavations. The city gate was a large complex, about 16 meters square. On both sides of the wide central passage, three piers created guard rooms. The gate was destroyed and reconstructed according to a modified plan towards the end of the Israelite period. A well-protected ramp led to the city gate along the eastern slope of the site.

The importance of this border city between Philistia and Judea is emphasized in the biblical account of its capture by the Philistines during the reign of King Ahaz, and its mention in the account of Sennacherib’s campaign through Philistia in 701 B.C.E. The expedition plans to continue and expand its research on the site during a projected six-year program.

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