Gath (city)

Gat or Gath (גת, Winepress) was a common place name in ancient Israel and the surrounding regions. Various cities are mentioned in the Bible with such names as Gath of the Philistines, Gath-Gittaim, and Gath Carmel, and other sites with similar names appear in various ancient sources, including the Amarna letters. A Gittite is a person from Gath.

'Gath of the Philistines' was one of the five Philistine city-states, established in northwestern Philistia. According to the Bible, the king of the city was Achish, in the times of both David and Solomon. It is not certain whether this refers to two kings of this name or not. Gath was also the home city of Goliath, as well as of Itai and his 600 soldiers who aided David in his exile from Absalom. David, while running from Saul, escaped to Gath, and served under its king Achish. During Solomon's reign, Shemei goes to Gath to return his escaped slave (II Kings 2). In II Kings 12:18, the city of Gath of mentioned as being captured by Hazael of Aram Damascus. Recent excavations at the site have produced dramatic evidence of a siege and subsequent destruction of the site in the late 9th century BC, most probably related to this event.

Although in the past various suggestions were raised on the location of Gath of the Philistines, currently, based on analysis of the references to the site, most scholars (in particular following Anson Rainey) identify the Philistine Gath at Tell es-Safi (aka Tel Zafit). Gath is also mentioned in the El-Amarna letters as "Gimti/Gintu", ruled by a king Shuwardata, and possibly by Abdi-Ashirti as well.

Recent excavations at the site, directed by Aren Maeir of Bar-Ilan University, appear to confirm this identification, due to abundant finds from the relevant Late Bronze and Iron Age periods — roughly when Gath is mentioned as existing in the various Biblical and historical sources. Similarly, after the 9th century BC, the volume of archaeological finds from the site recedes, and a stronger cultural connection with the Judean region is felt (as opposed to the coastal or Philistine cultural orientation beforehand). This seems to mirror the fact that Gath is rarely mentioned in post-9th century biblical narratives (and historical texts) and apparently loses its status as one of the main Philistine cities. Interestingly, Gath appears to have a "mirror image" relationship with nearby Tel Miqne-Ekron. During most periods in which Gath was large, Ekron was small, and vice-a-versa.

In 2005, an inscription dating to the Iron Age IIA (ca. 10th-9th century BC), mentioning names very similar to the name Goliath was discovered at the site.



  • Maeir, A.M. 2004. "The Historical Background and Dating of Amos VI 2: An Archaeological Perspective from Tell es-Safi/Gath." Vetus Testamentum 54(3):319–34.
  • Maeir, A., and Uziel, J. 2007. A Tale of Two Tells: A Comparative Perspective on Tel Miqne-Ekron and Tell es-Sâfi/Gath in Light of Recent Archaeological Research. Pp. 29–42 in "Up to the Gates of Ekron: Essays on the Archaeology and History of the Eastern Mediterranean in Honor of Seymour Gitin," eds. S. Crawford, A. Ben-Tor, J. Dessel, W. Dever, A. Mazar and J. Aviram. Jerusalem: Israel Exploration Society.
  • Rainey, A. 1975. "The Identification of Philistine Gath - a Problem in Source Analysis for Historical Geography." Eretz Israel 12:63*-76*.
  • Schniedewind, W. 1998. "The Geopolitical History of Philistine Gath." Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 309:69–77.

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