BAR 27:06, Nov/Dec 2001
Excavating Philistine Gath: Have We Found Goliaths Hometown?
Three of the five cities of the famous Philistine Pentapolis have long been knownAshkelon, Ashdod and Gaza. A fourth, Ekron, has recently been confirmed by an inscription, locating it at modern Tel Miqne. Gath, the fifth, remains somewhat of a mystery. We believe we have found itat Tell es-Safi, where we have been digging now for four years.
According to the Bible, Gath is the hometown of the giant Goliath. As every schoolchild knows, David, the simple shepherd boy (and future king of Israel), armed only with a slingshot and five smooth stones, defeated the fearsome Philistine giant (1 Samuel 17). Davids triumph over Goliath has become one of the most beloved and well-known metaphors for the triumph of the righteous weak over a seemingly invincible oppressor. This powerful metaphor is in no danger of losing its grip on our imagination, even though most scholars today assign the story to legend rather than to history; the Book of Samuel later attributes the defeat of Goliath to the otherwise unknown Elhanan (2 Samuel 21:19).1 (When the story of Elhanans victory is repeated in the Book of Chronicles, it corrects the inconsistency; there, Elhanan kills Lahmi, the brother of Goliath [1 Chronicles 20:5].)