Has the Biblical Goliath Been Found? [Excerpts]
November 10, 2005
CONTACT: Elana Oberlander, Office of the Spokesman, Bar-Ilan University
Has the Biblical Goliath Been Found?
Bar-Ilan University Archaeologists Unearth Earliest Philistine Inscription in Which Names Similar to Goliath Appear
Ramat Gan - A very small ceramic sherd unearthed by Bar-Ilan University archaeologists digging at Tell es-Safi, the biblical city "Gath of the Philistines," may hold a very large clue into the history of the well-known biblical figure Goliath. The sherd, which contains the earliest known Philistine inscription ever to be discovered, mentions two names that are remarkably similar to the name "Goliath." Tell es-Safi/Gath is located in the southern coastal plain of Israel, approximately halfway between Ashkelon and Jerusalem.
The discovery is of particular importance since the Bible attributes Gath as the home town of Goliath. "Gath of the Philistines," was one of the major cities of the Philistines, the well-known arch-enemies of the Israelites in the biblical text. The archaeological find may also be seen as the first clear extra-biblical evidence that the well-known biblical story of the battle between David and Goliath (and, in particular, the very existence of a figure such as Goliath during the biblical period) may be more than just a legend, according to Prof. Aren Maeir, Chairman of Bar-Ilan University's Martin (Szusz) Department of Land of Israel Studies and Archaeology, who has been directing the excavations since they began in 1996.
Other recent findings uncovered at the recent excavations at Tell es-Safi include a large assortment of objects of various types which are linked to Philistine culture. Additional remains relating to the siege system constructed by Hazael, King of Aram Damascus around 800 BCE, were revealed, along with extensive evidence of the subsequent capture and destruction of the city by Hazael, as mentioned in Second Kings 12:18.
Written in archaic "Proto-Canaanite" letters, the inscription found on the sherd, dating to the 10th or early 9th century BCE, contains two non-Semitic names: Alwt and Wlt. Most scholars believe the name Goliath, of non-Semitic origin, is etymologically related to various Indo-European names, such as the Lydian name Aylattes. Following intense examination of the inscription, Prof. Maeir (along with his colleagues Prof. Aaron Demsky, an expert in epigraphy at Bar-Ilan University, and Dr. Stefan Wimmer, of Munich University) has concluded that the two names which appear in the inscription are remarkably similar to the etymological parallels of Goliath.
"It can be suggested that in 10th-9th century Philistine Gath, names quite similar, and possibly identical, to Goliath were in use," says Prof. Maeir. "This chronological context from which the inscription was found is only about 100 years after the time of David according to the standard biblical chronology. Thus, this appears to provide evidence that the biblical story of Goliath is, in fact, based on a clear cultural realia from, more or less, the time which is depicted in the biblical text, and recent attempts to claim that Goliath can only be understood in the context of later phases of the Iron Age are unwarranted" (http://188.8.131.52/focus/f-news/1519321/posts).