Tel Be'er Sheva City Gate

By the Editors of the Madain Project

The ancient city of Be'er Sheba (تل السبع) was protected by fortification which included a casemate wall and a double gate system. The patriarch Abraham pitched his tent and dug a well at Beersheba, a wilderness location identified in the Scriptures as the southern limit of the Promised Land.


The city gate was an important element of urban planning in Beer-sheba during the Judean Monarchy. Since all traffic in the city eventually led to or from the city gate, the housing grid was planned accordingly, the streets spreading out fanwise from the gate area. Two tall towers guarded the main gate. The towers have not been preserved, but the remains of the first floor of a watchtower can be seen, with stone benches inside.

Outer Gate

circa 1000 BCE

This gate (peek outside) was a secondary protection, in addition to the main inner gate. It was part of the stratum 4/5 city, but later dismantled. The base of the wall is made of rough stones, as seen in the photograph below. The upper section of this eastern corner tower, which was reconstructed, is made of sun-baked mud bricks (inspect). The stone based foundation is intended to reinforce the mud bricks wall, and prevent water to weaken the foundations.

circa 1000 BCE

The outer gate stands next to a water well, dated to the 12th century BCE, the time of the patriarchs, and behind it is the main gate. The gates during this time become more sophisticated, with large towers at the main entrance in front of the gate, a right angle bend (inspect) in the road inside the gate, and the entrance to the city itself is perhaps through an inner gate (like the Israelite gate of Tel Dan and later Lachish).

circa 1000 BCE

The outer frame (inspect) of the city is its fortifica­tion system. This outer gate large adjoined by an internal four-chambered gate protected the entrance into the city. It is believed that this gate was destroyed in an earthquake during antiquity and was dismantled and never rebuilt.

Inner Four-Chambered Israelite Gate

circa 1000 BCE

The inner city gate, with a four-chambered gatehouse was installed somewhere around the mid-ninth century BCE. The layout of the gate is typical of Israelite military architecture of that period, as it is evident at other sites as well, like, Hazor, Gezer and Megiddo. Inside the gate an incense altar at the high place of the gate area was discovered. During king Josiah’s reforms, he “defiled the high places where the priests had burned incense, from Geba to Beersheba; and he broke down the high places of the gates which were at the entrance of the gate…” (2 Kings 23:8).

circa 1000 BCE

In the gatehouse itself the gate chambers were open to the passageway and furnished with built-in benches. Together with the city square, these gate rooms provided a focal point for the daily civil requirements of the citizens—an ideal place for ministers, judges, merchants and prophets to carry out their functions. The inner gate was the main gate of the city, and was planned with design which was common in the Israelite Kingdom cities. Plastered benches are located around the inner side of one of the chambers.

circa 1000 BCE

These benches were used during peaceful times as seats for visitors and merchants, and served as a reception area for the adjacent palace of the Governor. This was also the place of elders, as described in numerous places in the Bible (Deuteronomy 21:19): "...bring him out unto the elders of his city, and unto the gate of his place;". Close by was very likely the house of the Commander of the Guard, built against the city gate, making it possible to climb by way of its roof to the gate towers and the ramparts on top of the city wall.

circa 1000 BCE

The fortifications at Beersheba date to the 10th century BCE, and are likely the result of Solomon’s building projects. The city has a casemate wall, found at other cities that Solomon is known to have built at, as well as a chambered gate reminiscent of Hazor, Megiddo, and Gezer (although Beersheba is slightly different because it has four chambers instead of six). The main gate at Lachish was of a six-chambered type while the main gate at Beersheba was of a four-chambered type.

Well of Abraham (بئر السبع )

circa 1000 BCE

A deep well (peek inside), dubbed as the Well of Abraham, is located on the southwest side of the city, adjacent to the outer gate. This hewn well, 70m deep, reaches a depth 50m lower than the level of the valley of Beersheba stream. This depth gave the well a year round supply of water. It may have been hewn in the time of Iron Age stratum 9 (12th-11th century BCE). The digging of the well is mentioned by the Bible in two cases, first mentioned in Genesis 21 27-32, and second in Genesis 26: 23,33.

circa 1000 BCE

It is one of a number of historical wells at Beersheba, Israel/Palestine. According to the bible, Abraham’s well was seized by Abimelech’s men (Genesis 21:25), and Isaac’s servants dug a well at Beer-sheba also (Genesis 26:25). Dug to the depth of about seventy meters it received its water supply from the aquifer. It served the town's inhabitants as well as travelers.

circa 1000 BCE

The expansive water system at Be'er Sheva was used to collect and store the run-off water by leading it through the main drainage channel into this ancient well located just outside the city gate. Apparently the Elders of the City understood that they could thus enrich the natural underground water reserves in the area—perhaps the earliest example known, of a system for increasing the underground water supply by channeling rainwater into it.


See Also


Let's bring some history to your inbox

Signup for our monthly newsletter / online magazine.
No spam, we promise.

Privacy Policy