GEZER


GEZER (Heb. גֶּזֶר).

(1) Major city in ancient times located in the northern Shephelah at Tell Jazar (also called Tell Abu-Shūsha). Gezer was first settled in the Chalcolithic period (fourth millennium B.C.E.); in the Early Bronze Age I it was occupied by a non-Semitic people who followed the custom of burning their dead. Semitic settlers established there in the Early Bronze Age IIIV (3rd millennium B.C.E.) enclosed the city with a wall. The Canaanite occupation reached its peak of prosperity in the Middle Bronze and Late Bronze I Ages (20th–14th centuries B.C.E.), when a stone wall 10 ft. (3 m.) wide with square towers was built around the city. This period at Gezer also yielded objects testifying to links with Egypt as well as a potsherd in ancient Canaanite script. The city is first mentioned in Egyptian documents in the list of cities captured by Thutmose III (c. 1469 B.C.E.). The importance of Gezer in the 14th century is evident from the Tell *el-Amarna letters. Milkilu, king of Gezer, and his successor Yapahu controlled an extensive area which also included Aijalon and Zorah; their chief rival was the king of Jerusalem. The capture of Gezer is mentioned in the "Israel stele" of Pharaoh Merneptah (c. 1220 B.C.E.) together with Ashkelon and Yeno'am. During the Israelite conquest, Horam, king of Gezer, was defeated in battle by the Israelites (Josh. 10:33). His city was assigned to the Levites in the territory of Ephraim but its population remained predominantly Canaanite (Josh. 16:3; 21:21). Pharaoh Siamun (?) conquered Gezer and ceded it to Israel "for a portion unto his daughter, Solomon's wife." Commanding the approaches to Jerusalem, the city became one of the major strongholds of Solomon who built a gate there identical in plan with gates he erected at Hazor and Megiddo (I Kings 9:15–17). Part of the Solomonic city gate, built of dressed stones, and an adjacent casemate wall have been discovered there. A stepped tunnel 216 ft. (66 m.) long cut to provide access to the water table may date to this period. Also found there is a small contemporary stone tablet of seven lines ("the *Gezer Calendar"). Gezer was conquered by Shishak according to that Pharaoh's inscriptions (c. 924 B.C.E.) and archaeological finds indicate that the city declined at that time. Tiglath-Pileser III's capture of the city (probably in 733 B.C.E.) is depicted on a relief found at Calah. In the Assyrian period Gezer's population was augmented by foreign settlers; contracts of two of these, written in cuneiform from the years 651 and 649 B.C.E., have survived. The city recovered in the Persian period and under the Hellenistic kings it again became an important royal fortress. During the Hasmonean wars Gezer was a major Greek base and remained in Greek hands until its capture in 142 B.C.E. by Simeon, who expelled the aliens. He refortified the city and made it the military center of his state, under the command of his son John Hyrcanus, second only to Jerusalem (I Macc. 4:15; 9:52; 13:43; 16:19). A Hasmonean palace discovered there was apparently built by Greek prisoners of war; a curse was found scratched on one of its stones: "May fire descend from heaven and devour the house of Simeon." Gezer's importance declined after the Hasmonean period and the center of the district was transferred to Emmaus. Eusebius mentions it as a village four miles north (this should read "south") of Emmaus (Onom. 66:19ff.). It does not appear in other ancient sources but a Roman bathhouse and several Christian lamps found there testify to its continued occupation. On the Madaba Map, the legend "Gedor also Gidirtha" apparently refers to Gezer. It was known as Montgisart in the crusader period; there King Baldwin IV defeated the forces of Saladin in 1177 but by 1191 it was in the hands of the Muslims and served as their headquarters in the war against Richard the Lionhearted.

After crusader times the site was completely forgotten. It was re-identified by C. Clermont-Ganneau in 1873 and investigated in excavations conducted at Tell Jazar by R.A.S. Macalister from 1902 to 1912, and A. Rowe in 1934–35.

[Michael Avi-Yonah]

Later Excavations at Gezer

A ten-year project of archaeological excavations was initiated and carried out between 1964 and 1974 under different directors, G.E. Wright, W.G. Dever, and J.D. Seger. An additional season of work at the site was made by Dever in 1984. One of the goals of the expedition was to re-investigate the gates and walls previously uncovered by Macalister as well as to obtain a good stratigraphical sequence. Twenty-six strata were uncovered dating from approximately 3500 B.C.E. to 100 C.E. Five final reports have been published on the results of the excavations as well as numerous articles.

The earliest remains from Gezer, including architectural remains and caves, date from the Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Age and represent the remains of small villages. During the Early Bronze II the city expanded but was still not surrounded by a city wall. Following a period of abandonment, Gezer was resettled at the beginning of the Middle Bronze Age, growing into a large urban site during the Middle Bronze Age II (c. 1750 B.C.E.) with the construction of structures on terraced slopes. During the latter part of the Middle Bronze II (c. 1650 B.C.E.) the site was fortified with an encircling wall and rectangular towers, one of which was built of cyclopean stones. A three-entryway monumental gate with a mud-brick superstructure and a glacis of tamped chalk and debris were also excavated. The "high place" with ten massive standing stones (masseboth) excavated by Macalister also dates from the Middle Bronze Age. The Middle Bronze Age city was destroyed in a violent fire and this has been attributed to Pharoah Thutmosis III who mentioned Gezerin the Karnak Inscription. A cache of gold jewelry and much pottery was found within the destroyed houses. Following another period of abandonment, Gezer's fortunes revived during the Late Bronze IIA (c. 1400 B.C.E.). A large building – perhaps a palace or Egyptian-style residency – was uncovered. Ten of the Amarna tablets written by kings of Gezer date from this time. One of the excavators (Dever) has suggested that the site was fortified at that time, but this has been contested by others who have suggested an Iron Age date instead. A tomb with 68 individuals was uncovered, containing numerous luxury items and imports. Late Bronze Age Gezer declined, and it was probably conquered in 1207 B.C.E. during the campaign of Pharoah Merneptah. From about 1200 the first typical Philistine pottery appears at Gezer. One building from this period was destroyed in a violent fire (c. 1150 B.C.E.).

The Iron Age stratum from the tenth century B.C.E. includes the fortifications previously excavated by Macalister. In the present excavation they were redated to Solomonic times, following a suggestion by Yadin that these fortifications resembled gates and walls found at Hazor and Megiddo. The fortifications of the site were rebuilt in the eighth century B.C.E. and dwellings from this period were also unearthed. The destruction of this stratum probably took place in c. 733 B.C.E. at the time of the campaign of Tiglath Pileser III, and it may very well have been depicted on a relief in the Assyrian king's palace at Nimrud, which depicts a town by the name of gaz (ru). The city of the late eighth to sixth centuries B.C.E. was more modest than the previous city, and it too was destroyed with the Babylonian invasion of Judah in 598–586 B.C.E. Remains of settlements from the Persian, Hellenistic, and Roman periods were also found. Gezer was the residence of Simon Maccabaeus for a time, as well as the headquarters of John Hyrcanus. A number of boundary stones have been found in the fields around the site, one referring to the "the boundary of Gezer" and another to the landlord of an agricultural estate by the name of "Alkios."

[Shimon Gibson (2nd ed.)]

(2) Gezer is a kibbutz in central Israel, E. of *Ramleh, and is affiliated with Iḥud ha-Kevuẓot ve-Kibbutzim. Its land was originally acquired by the Ancient Order of Maccabaeans in England because of its proximity to *Modi'in. The settlement was founded in 1945 by settlers from Central Europe together with Israel-born youth. In the Israel *War of Independence (1948), Gezer, located in the thin chain of settlements connecting Jerusalem with the Coastal Plain, was involved in a hard battle with the Arab Legion and served as a vantage point in Operation Dani (July 1948), which resulted in the inclusion of the towns of Ramleh and Lydda in the State of Israel. Gezer ran various farms branches and had a factory for adhesives. It also operated a special educational park, Ginat Shorashim, dedicated to peace and the environment and rooted in Jewish sources and Jewish soil. A pumping station of the Yarkon-Negev water pipeline is located nearby. In the mid-1990s, the population was approximately 280, increasing to 340 by 2002.

[Efraim Orni /

Shaked Gilboa (2nd ed.)]

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

Clermont-Ganneau, Arch, 2 (1899), 224ff.; R.A.S. Macalister, Excavation of Gezer, 3 vols. (1912); Abel, in: RB, 35 (1926), 513ff.; Rowe, in: PEFQS, 67 (1935), 19ff.; EM, 2 (1965), 465–71; A. Malamat (ed.), in: Bi-Ymei Bayit Rishon (1961), 35ff.; Yadin, ibid., 66ff.; idem, in: IEJ, 8 (1958), 80ff.; W.G. Dever, in: Jerusalem Through the Ages (1968), 26–32; idem, in: Qadmoniot, 3 (1970), 57–62; idem, in: The Biblical Archaeologist, 30 (1967), 47–62; H. Lance, in: ibid., 34–47; J. Ross, in: ibid., 62–71. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: W.G. Dever, et al., Gezer I: Preliminary Report of the 1964–66 Seasons (1970); idem, Gezer II: Preliminary Report of the 1967–70 Seasons in Fields I and II (1974); W.G. Dever, "Solomonic and Assyrian 'Palaces' at Gezer," in: IEJ, 35 (1985), 217–30; S. Gitin, Gezer III: A Ceramic Typology of the Late Iron Age II, Persian and Hellenistic Periods at Tell Gezer (1990); W.G. Dever et al., Gezer IV: The 1969–71 Seasons in Field VI, the "Acropolis" (1986); J.D. Seger, Gezer V: The Field I Caves ( 1988); W.G. Dever, "Further Evidence on the Date of the Outer Wall at Gezer," in: BASOR, 289 (1993), 33–54. WEBSITE: www.gezer.org.il.


Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.