One of the most significant cities in the Shephelah of Judah, Azekah has never been scientifically excavated. Victim to the spades of Robert Alexander Stewart Macalister and Frederick J. Bliss in 1898-99, Azekah’s secrets have remained hidden while major expeditions have studied the nearby cities of Gezer, Beth Shemesh, Gath, and Lachish. Now the Wissenschaftlich-Theologisches Seminar of Heidelberg University has joined with Tel Aviv University to lead an international consortium in a survey and excavation of the site and vicinity.
The excavation will be directed by Oded Lipschits and Yuval Gadot of Tel Aviv University along with Manfred Oeming of Heidelberg University. The first season runs from July 15 to August 24, 2012 and volunteers are encouraged to apply. Three courses are offered for credit for university students.
The importance of Azekah is clear from its mention in Assyrian and biblical texts.
- The Canaanites escaping from Joshua’s attack fled as far as Azekah (Josh 10:10-11).
- The Philistines and their giant Goliath were camped between Azekah and Socoh (1 Sam 17:1).
- Rehoboam fortified Azekah (2 Chr 11:9).
- An Assyrian king, possibly Sargon II, said of the city, “Azekah is a stronghold which is situated in the midst of the mountains, located on a mountain range like a pointed dagger, it was like an eagle’s nest and rivaled the highest mountains and was inaccessible even for the siege ramps and for approaching with battering rams it was too strong.”
- Azekah was one of the two last cities holding out against the Assyrian king Sennacherib (Jer 34:7; cf. Lachish Letter #4).
- Azekah was resettled after the Babylonian exile (Neh 11:30).
HT: G. M. Grena