Gath

Also known as Tel es-Safieh, Tel Safit, Tell es-Safi, Tell es-Safiyeh, Blanchegarde

Gath from East

The Philistine city of Gath was located near Israelite territory at the end of the Elah Valley, and frequently Gath figured in the biblical record. The most famous inhabitant of Gath was Goliath, the giant who battled David in the Elah Valley, in an attempt to take territory away from the Israelites.

Gat at Gath

The name of the city in Hebrew is “gat,” which means “winepress.” This picture has an ancient winepress in the foreground, with the city behind. The area around Gath was very fertile and it’s likely that the city had a number of winepresses. Archaeological excavations at Gath’s neighbor, Ekron, found an abundance of oil presses on the site.

White Cliffs

Most scholars agree today that Gath is to be identified with Tell es-Safi. This Arabic name for the site means “the white mound” and is appropriate because of the white chalky cliffs visible on the sides of the tell. The biblical site of Libnah (which means “white”) is probably not to be identified with Tell es-Safi in spite of the meaning of the names.

Excavations

The site was identified as Gath in 1887 and excavated by Bliss and Macalister in 1899. At the time, the site was occupied by an Arab village, which was later abandoned in 1948. Bar Ilan University is now excavating the site under the supervision of Aren Maeir.

City Moat

Recent excavations uncovered a 1.5-mile-long (2.4-km-long) moat that surrounded the city on three sides. This moat dates to the 9th century BC, and was apparently built by Hazael and his Aramean army when they were besieging the city in 811 BC. A brief notice of this battle is given in 2 Kings 12:17.

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Related Websites

The Tell es-Safi/Gath Archaeological Project Official (and Unofficial) Weblog (excavation team’s blog) Read for an enjoyable and sometimes humorous look at the ongoing excavations on-site.

Tell It In Gath (Jerusalem Post) This 2001 article discusses the most recent discoveries at that point.

Ancient Gath (History of ANE Compendium) Brief description of the site with photos and links.

Goliath’s Birthplace More Giant Than Believed, New Excavations Show (Jerusalem Post) This 2019 article discusses some of the recent excavations at Gath. Read more from this article on HaAretz.

Colossal Ancient Structures Found at Gath May Explain Origin of Story of Goliath (Times of Israel) While the excavator and article author do not believe Goliath was a historical figure (as is clear from the article title), this 2019 article has some interesting information about excavations of major fortifications at the site.

Tell es-Safi/Gath Excavations (National Geographic) Ten photos with descriptors detail the methods being used in 2013 at the site.