Beersheba – Southern Boundary of Ancient Israel
Beersheba, an ancient city located just a few miles north of the Negev desert, was the southern boundary for Israel. The phrase “from Dan to Beersheba” indicates the entire land of Israel (Joshua 20:1; 1 Samuel 3:20, etc.).
Beersheba – Key Site During the Period of the Judges
The ancient city of Beersheba was occupied as early as the 4th millennium B.C., but it appears that the earliest settlement on the mound dates to the 12th century B.C. during the Judges period, where two of Samuel’s sons judged from.
Beersheba – Fortifications by Solomon
The fortifications at Beersheba date to the 10th century B.C., and are likely the result of Solomon’s building projects. The city has a casemate wall, found at other cities that Solomon is known to have built at, as well as a chambered gate reminiscent of Hazor, Megiddo, and Gezer (although Beersheba is slightly different because it has four chambers instead of six).
There are clear signs of the 10th century B.C. city of Beersheba being destroyed, probably due to the campaign of Shoshenq I, listed on the Bubastite Portal and briefly mentioned in Kings and Chronicles. The city was again destroyed sometime at the end of the 8th century B.C., which has been connected with the Assyrian campaign under Sennacherib against Hezekiah and the Kingdom of Judah.
Beersheba – Site of Abraham’s Ancient Oath
Beersheba is first mentioned in Genesis 21, where it was given its name “well of seven” or “well of the oath.” (The “sheba” refers to the 7 lambs in the oath/covenant between Abraham and Abimelek.) Because Beersheba has a strategic position guarding the south, its fortifications were of the utmost importance, and a great deal of planning and effort was put into the defensive systems of the city. Encircling the city was a moat, and inside that is an earthen rampart almost 7 meters high, and was covered by a sloping glacis making scaling it a very difficult feat. Beyond the rampart the entire city was surrounded by stone walls four meters thick, and in later days a casemate wall. The gate was a chambered type, and inside the gate was discovered an incense altar at the high place of the gate area. During king Josiah’s reforms, he “defiled the high places where the priests had burned incense, from Geba to Beersheba; and he broke down the high places of the gates which were at the entrance of the gate…” (2 Kings 23:8). Another altar, a large horned altar was discovered scattered about and reused in sections of a wall dated to the end of the 8th century B.C. It is believed that this was due to Hezekiah’s reforms in which he removed all altars outside of Jerusalem, only allowing worship at the Jerusalem Temple.