An expedition from the Bar Ilan University has discovered the fortifications and giant-sized entrance gate of the biblical city of Gath of the Philistines, home of Goliath. The extraordinary size of the gate was surely enough to make way for the famed giant, though he never did return from meeting David.
Gath was the largest city in Israel during the 10th-9th century BCE, about the time of the “United Kingdom” of Israel. The city is located in the Judean foothills about halfway between Jerusalem and Ashkelon in central Israel.
Prof. Meir Ettinger of the Department of Land of Israel Studies and Archaeology says that the city gate is among the largest ever found in Israel and is evidence of the status and influence of the city of Gath during this period.
Among the various building discovered in the city is an iron production facility large enough to produce the kind of weapons used by Goliath as mentioned in the Bible. The city was eventually conquered and destroyed by Hazael, king of Damascus, around 830 BCE.
The gate of the Philistine city Gath was so impressive that it received mention in I Samuel 21 in the story of David’s escape from King Saul to Achish, king of Gath.
Gath is one of the largest tells or ancient ruin mounds in Israel and was settled almost continuously from the 5th millennium BCE until modern times.
Among other significant findings at the site is evidence of an earthquake in the 8th century BCE connected to the earthquake mentioned in the Book of Amos 1:1. There was also found the earliest Philistine inscription ever to be discovered which contains two names similar to the name Goliath. In addition, a large assortment of weapons used by the Philistines were uncovered along with extensive evidence of the capture and destruction of the city by Hazael, as mentioned in 2 Kings 12:18. There is also evidence of the first Philistine settlement in Canaan around 1200 BCE.
And there is more to this giant story…
Scripture tells us that David chose five smooth stones when he went out to meet Goliath (I Samuel 17:40). Was he thinking that he might miss with the first? Or did he think that Goliath would wait for him if he did?
We know that Goliath had four giant brothers called “Lords of the Philistines” in Joshua 13:3. When David goes out to meet the humongous warrior of Gath he knows that he will also need to deal with his oversized brothers. Indeed, the other four Philistine giants eventually do show up in II Samuel 21:22 only to be defeated by David and his men.
David understood that in order to achieve full victory, Israel must cast out all the giants from the land. You cannot deal with just one stronghold (or sin), but must be prepared to go all the way. Better not to cast that first stone only to discover we are in a battle for which we are not prepared.