Tel Lachish Gate

By the Editors of the Madain Project

The Tel Lachish city gate was the main entrance to the fortified city from the time of the kings of Judah. It was an impressive gateway enclosure consisting of an outer and an inner gatehouse, between which was an open, paved plaza. It was the beating heart of the city, the scene of commerce, judgement, punishment and cult activities. The gateways were where the prophets spoke, the kings sat and the elders and judges assembled to hear the latest news in the city and the kingdom.

Overview

The iron-age gate of Tel Lachish, now exposed and preserved to a height of four meters (around 13 feet), consists of six chambers, measuring some 80 by 80 feet in total. The gate at Tel Lachish is the largest one in Israel dating to the First Temple period, named for the temple built in Jerusalem by King Solomon nearly 3,000 years ago. The Tel Lachish gate is a well-preserved example of a city gate from this period, and provides evidence of the city's architectural and defensive features.

The remains of iron-age gate at Tel Lachish, dating back to first temple period it was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar in his campaign against Judah in 586 BCE (Jeremiah 34:7). The size of the gate is consistent with the historical and archaeological knowledge we possess, whereby Lachish was a major city and the most important one after Jerusalem. The gate at Tel Lachish is the largest one in Israel dating to the First Temple period.

The plan of the gate complex was rectangular, with a spacious paved courtyard in its center. The courtyard was located between the outer and inner towers. According to biblical narrative, the gate would have been right at the heart of the city’s most important activities.

Architecture

circa 950 BCE

Outer Gate
The outer gate (illustration) was located on the western flank of the "tel" (mound), and was the only access to the fortified city. The access to the gate was via a somewhat steep path that was located to the left of the fortifications.

After the Starkey (James Leslie Starkey) excavation, the western tower (inspect) of the gate was still standing to a height of 10 feet. But it later collapsed. The restoration was based on old photographs in order to reassemble the massive stone of the tower. The restoration of the city gate started in 1985 CE, in order to present the city gate to the non-professional visitors. It was named for the temple built in Jerusalem by King Solomon nearly 3,000 years ago.

circa 950 BCE

Central Plaza
The paved plaza (illustration) is where the day to day business took place, not only commerce activity happened in the paved plaza between the inner and the outer gate, government officials also presided here. Kings also sat in the same place. It was the government office, a market place, security area and common gathering place for the public.

circa 950 BCE

Inner Gate
The inner gate dates back to the time of king Hezekiah. It measures approx. 25 meters in length and 24.5 meters in width, with three chambers located on each side, and the ancient city’s main street running in between them. The eastern most chamber of the southern side of the inner gate was a small shrine dedicated to a diety. The southern chambers were partially reconstructed, with the gate-shrine chamber. High-ranking people, including kings, governors, judges, city elders (Proverbs 31:23) and other officials, would sit on benches while attending over affairs there.

The inner gate (Levels IV-III) is the largest and most massive city gate from the Israelite period in the Land of Israel, even without taking into account the adjoining outer city-gate complex. The gate is a four-entry style, meaning it has four entries along the gate passage with three pairs of narrow chambers in between. Its layout is similar to the "Solomonic city gates" found in Megiddo, Hazor, Gezer, and Ashdod. The outer entrance is flanked by two massive towers that are connected to the inner city wall, which extends to both sides of the gatehouse along the edge of the mound. The city wall is over 4 meters wide and has protruding towers that are more than 6 meters wide. Both the inner city gate and the city wall are made of bricks and built on stone foundations.

circa 950 BCE

Gate-shrine
The gate-shrine at Tel Lachish (illustration), dating back to the first temple period, marks the first time archaeologists have found evidence of desecration mentioned in Bible, outside of biblical narrative. Before the Assyrian army destroyed the city’s gate-shrine, the archaeologists believe, it had been desecrated as part of King Hezekiah’s fierce war on idolatry (II Kings 18:4). A stone toilet was found in the rear room of this sanctuary (II Kings 10:27).

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Notes

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References

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