Tel Beersheva

Beersheva is intimately related with Dan in the Scriptures. It is one of the southernmost cities in Israel. In Biblical times, this was essentially the southern end of the kingdom. In modern times the country officially extends further southward to the Gulf of Eilat (or Aqaba). The modern city lies 3 miles west of the tell. Beersheva sits at an important crossroads: Mt. Hebron to the north, the Judean desert and the Dead Sea to the east, the costal plain to the west, and Kadesh-barnea and Eilat to the south.

Tel Beersheva
Tel Beersheva

Location

 

Tel Beersheva Location
Tel Beersheva

 

Tel Beersheva  Region
Tel Beersheva Region

31° 14′ 40″ N,
34° 50′ 28″ E

979′ Elevation

Archaeology

Beersheva is identified as Tell es-Saba‘ (aka Tel Beersheba or Tel Sheva). The main fortified Iron Age II summit of the tell is 2.8 acres. Beersheva was likely destroyed by Sennacherib in 701 BCE.

Occupation History

From the Biblical record we know that the Patriarchs lived at Beersheva, but their settlement was not substantial enough to leave archaeological remains.

  • Chalcolithic (4500-3300 BCE)
  • Iron Age I (1200-1000 BCE)
  • Iron Age II (1000-586 BCE)
  • Babylonian/Persian (586-332 BCE)
  • Hellenistic (332-37 BCE)
  • Hasmonean (167-63 BCE)
  • Herodian (37 BCE – 70 CE)
  • Roman (37 BCE – 324 CE)
  • Early Arab (638-1099 CE)

Excavation History

  • 1969-1975 Y. Aharoni
  • 1976 Z. Herzog

Major Discoveries

Replica 4-horned altar
Replica 4-horned altar
  • A deep well (20m of fill were removed and the bottom was still uncovered) among the Iron Age I findings which predate the other findings. Aharoni suggests this may be a well from Genesis 21:1-22:1ff (though other scholars disagree).
  • Foundation for one of earliest house-type dwellings in the basic four-room house model.
  • Three large, pillared storehouses covering 600 sq m.
  • A horned altar made of well-dressed stones measuring 1.6m square incorporated into the storehouse building walls. Probably destroyed by Hezekiah or Josiah.
  • Large, impressive underground cistern system.

Biblical Records

  • Gen. 21.14 Hagar is ready to die in the wilderness of Beersheva.
  • Gen. 21.22-34 Abraham names the place after an oath over a well made with Abimelech
  • Gen. 26.23,33 Isaac dwells there
  • Gen. 28.10 Jacob dwelt there
  • Gen. 46.1-5 Jacob stops there to offer sacrifices on his way to Egypt
  • Josh. 19.1-2 Simeon inherits Beersheva
  • Judges 20.1; 1 Sam. 3.20; etc. Used as a reference to all the land of Israel (“from Dan to Beersheba”)
  • 1 Sam. 8:1-3 Samuel’s wicked sons were judges in Beersheva
  • 1 Kings 19.1-4 Elijah fled from Jezebel by way of Beersheva
  • Amos 5.5; 8.14 condemns worship at Beersheva

Noteworthy Things

  • The well next to the tamarisk tree probably dates to about 1200 BCE
  • The modern city of Beersheva (population: 186,800) lies about 7.3km to the west.
  • Beersheva is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Visiting

Excavations of Tel Beersheva
Excavations of Tel Beersheva

What to See

The site is quite well excavated and very fun to visit.

  • As one enters the park, immediately to the right is a replica of the horned altar found at Beersheva.
  • The Iron Age well and a tamarisk tree stand right next to the gate of the city.
  • In approximately the center of the city is an observation tower to give an aerial view of the site.
  • Don’t forget to grab a hardhat at the entrance to the park so you can explore the underground water cistern system! The entrance to the underground water system is on the far right side of the city as you enter the gate and face the observation tower. The exit places you near the entrance to the park.
  • The storehouses are to the right as you enter the city facing the observation tower.

How to Get There

  • Access modern Beersheva by Road 40 from the North or South, Road 25 from the West or East, or Roads 31 and 60 from the East.
  • To access Tel Beersheva: Continue on Road 60 (Derek Hevron) east from modern Beersheva. At Tel Sheva Junction where Road 40 intersects Road 60, turn south toward Tel Sheva. Tell Beersheva is on the south side of the road before Tel Sheva.

Admission

For More Information

Underground water system entrance
Underground water system entrance

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