King Saul – c. 1093 B.C. & Beth Shemesh

It seems like they have already made up their mind and probably didn’t listen to what Samuel said when he told them what the king would do to them. 

And You have told everyone not to depend on our own minds because the devil can trick us, we need to look to You for assistance (Prov 3:5).

Canaanite – Worship of the Sun
Beth Shemesh was a large Canaanite city.

It was built as an oval mound on the south bank of Nahal Sorek.

The area of the city, within the walls, is 203 long by 157m wide – a total size of 32 dunam (8 acres) .

The Canaanite city may have been named Ir-Shemesh (“Sun City”) since its people worshiped the sun, although no such temple was yet found.

The practice of sun worship was common in ancient times, and the Bible warns against it:

“And lest thou lift up thine eyes unto heaven, and when thou seest the sun, and the moon, and the stars, even all the host of heaven, shouldest be driven to worship them, and serve them, which the LORD thy God hath divided unto all nations under the whole heaven” (Deut 4 19) .

There were several cities named after the sun or the moon, and the practice was common even later during the period of the Israelite Kingdom.

“And he put down the idolatrous priests, whom the kings of Judah had ordained to burn incense in the high places in the cities of Judah, and in the places round about Jerusalem; them also that burned incense unto Baal, to the sun, and to the moon, and to the planets, and to all the host of heaven” (2 Kgs 23 5).

The archaeological excavations identified in the 9th layer a massive destruction during the 14th century B.C. when the city was burnt down, and later rebuilt.

The archaeological evidence indicate that the city was destroyed at the end of the 12th C, and was shortly reoccupied.

Perhaps, this resettlement was due to the change of the population from Canaanite to Israelite.

“Now there was a man of Benjamin, whose name was Kish, the son of Abiel, the son of Zeror, the son of Bechorath, the son of Aphiah, a Benjamite, a mighty man of power. 

And he had a son, whose name was Saul, a choice young man, and a goodly: and there was not among the children of Israel a goodlier person than he: from his shoulders and upward he was higher than any of the people” (1 Sam 9:1-2).

Kish lost his asses and he told Saul to go and look for them. 

After going through Ephraim, Shalish, Shalim, the land of the Benjamites, and Zuph he still didn’t find them. 

Saul told his servant to forget about it, he wanted to go back home.  But his servant told him that in the city of Zuph was a man of God and they could ask him where they were.

“Then said Saul to his servant, But, behold, if we go, what shall we bring the man?  For the bread is spent in our vessels, and there is not a present to bring to the man of God: what have we? 

And the servant answered Saul again, and said, Behold, I have here at hand the fourth part of a shekel of silver: that will I give to the man of God, to tell us our way. 

(Beforetime in Israel, when a man went to enquire of God, thus he spake, Come, and let us go to the seer: for he that is now called a Prophet was beforetime called a Seer.) 

Then said Saul to his servant, Well said; come, let us go.  So they went unto the city where the man of God was” (1 Sam 9:7-10).

As soon as they entered the city they walked up to Samuel, not knowing he was the one they were looking for, Samuel knew because God had told Samuel the day before that Saul would come to talk to him, and he was to anoint him to be captain over the people of Israel.

“Then Saul drew near to Samuel in the gate, and said, Tell me, I pray thee, where the seer’s house is. 

And Samuel answered Saul, and said, I am the seer: go up before me unto the high place; for ye shall eat with me today, and tomorrow I will let thee go, and will tell thee all that is in thine heart. 

And as for thine asses that were lost three days ago, set not thy mind on them; for they are found. And on whom is all the desire of Israel?  Is it not on thee, and on all thy father’s house?

And Saul answered and said, Am not I a Benjamite, of the smallest of the tribes of Israel?  And my family the least of all the families of the tribe of Benjamin?  Wherefore then speakest thou so to me?” (1 Sam 9:18-21).

After they finished eating and they came down from the high place they slept on the top of the house (back then the houses didn’t have peaks). 

In the morning they went into the city and Samuel told him to send his servant on because he was going to tell him all that God had told him.

“Then Samuel took a vial of oil, and poured it upon his head, and kissed him, and said, Is it not because the LORD hath anointed thee to be captain over his inheritance? 

When thou art departed from me today, then thou shalt find two men by Rachel’s sepulcher in the border of Benjamin at Zelzah; and they will say unto thee, The asses which thou wentest to seek are found: and, lo, thy father hath left the care of the asses, and sorroweth for you, saying, What shall I do for my son?

Then shalt thou go on forward from thence, and thou shalt come to the plain of Tabor, and there shall meet thee three men going up to God to Beth-el, one carrying three kids, and another carrying three loaves of bread, and another carrying a bottle of wine:

And they will salute thee, and give thee two loaves of bread; which thou shalt receive of their hands.

After that thou shalt come to the hill of God, where is the garrison of the Philistines: and it shall come to pass, when thou art come thither to the city, that thou shalt meet a company of prophets coming down from the high place with a psaltery, and a tabret, and a pipe, and a harp, before them; and they shall prophesy.

And the Spirit of the LORD will come upon thee, and thou shalt prophesy with them, and shalt be turned into another man. 

Weli Abu Meizar

East of Tel Beth Shemesh was a small Arab village (‘Ain Shems), with houses around a mosque named Weli (chapel) of Abu Meizar.

This sacred shrine, now almost totally ruined, was a long room with a prayer niche on its south side.

The other structures of the village are also gone,.

There are several traditions with this shrine.

One of them relate to the return of the Ark, and suggest that the cart went up the eastern side of Tel Beth Shemesh and arrived into the field of Joshua, to a great stone which was located at the present location of the Weli.

“And the cart came into the field of Joshua, a Bethshemite, and stood there, where there was a great stone…And the Levites took down the ark of the LORD, and the coffer that was with it, wherein the jewels of gold were, and put them on the great stone” (1 Sam 6 14).

This sacred rock became a holy place, and it could have been the reason for the location of a Muslim shrine.

The excavators in 1911-1912, who used it for a shelter, noted that the shrine was located on a rock platform, and concluded it was a likely place where the cart carrying the Holy Ark has stopped.

Another tradition gave the mosque the Arabic name of “Shemshum el Jebbar” ( ” Samson the Hero”) or Abu Al-Azam (“the father of the might”).

According to this tradition, Abu Meizar is Samson, the great Biblical hero (1 Sam 13-16).

According to this tradition, Samson-Abu-Meizar toppled the temple at this location, similar to the Biblical story.

On the southeast side of Tel Beth Shemesh are the ruins of a 5th century A.D. Byzantine monastery.

Dr. Masterman of the PEF wrote about the ruins of the monastery in 1913, following the first excavation of the site:

“There are capitals and drums of columns, a door lintel ornamented with a cross, and various beveled stones which certainly were not cut for their present situations.

This earlier building may be the one which marked the site of the Bethsamis which Eusebius and Jerome state was visible from the highroad to Nicopolis”.

Dr. Masterman continued:

“After the Arabs captured and largely destroyed the convent, they squatted in it.

One of the long halls was used for a stable, and the mangers, which the conquerors placed there, can be seen today.

Later on stone houses were built among, and along side of, the massive convent walls until perhaps about 1000 A.D., when the site was entirely and finally deserted.

The whole building was about 210 feet by 140 feet, and it is a matter of historic interest to realize that this is one of many such institutions which flourished over the land in pre-Islamic days.”

And let it be, when these signs are come unto thee, that thou do as occasion serve thee; for God is with thee. 

And thou shalt go down before me to Gilgal; and, behold, I will come down unto thee, to offer burnt offerings, and to sacrifice sacrifices of peace offerings: seven days shalt thou tarry, till I come to thee, and shew thee what thou shalt do. 

And it was so, that when he had turned his back to go from Samuel, God gave him another heart: and all those signs came to pass that day” (1 Sam 10:1-9).

Everything happened as Samuel had told Saul, and when it was all done his uncle saw him and asked where they had been, so Saul told him they went looking for the asses and talked to Samuel. 

His uncle was excited to know what Samuel had said because everyone knew that he was a prophet, but Saul only told his uncle where the asses were, nothing else.

Samuel called all the people to Mizpeh and told them all that God had said.

Saul was taller than anyone and they were happy that God had given them a king.

“And they ran and fetched him thence: and when he stood among the people, he was higher than any of the people from his shoulders and upward. 

And Samuel said to all the people, See ye him whom the LORD hath chosen, that there is none like him among all the people? And all the people shouted, and said, God save the king.

Then Samuel told the people the manner of the kingdom, and wrote it in a book, and laid it up before the LORD. And Samuel sent all the people away, every man to his house. 

And Saul also went home to Gibeah; and there went with him a band of men, whose hearts God had touched.  

But the children of Belial said, How shall this man save us? And they despised him, and brought him no presents. But he held his peace” (1 Sam 10:23-27).

1 The name Saul means prayed for.  It fits; the people prayed for a king.  And the Apostle Paul’s name had been Saul, but God changed it.  King Saul was bad, and so was Apostle Paul, or he was when he was Saul, Jesus changed him, as Moses had been changed.

Beth Shemesh

The city to which the Philistines returned the ark of the covenant, Beth Shemesh, was a prominent site in the near their border with Israel.

Located at the modern village of Ain Shemesh (which preserves the ancient name), there are six major occupation levels at this site.

LMLK Seals
Many seals were found in Israel imprinted on jars with the Hebrew letters LMLK (“L’melekh”), meaning “belonging to the king”.

The royal seals bear the name of the city on the bottom, such as the nearby “Sochoh” (4 Hebrew letters Shin-Vav-Kaf-Hey), as seen in the example below and its corresponding stick figure.

A number of seal types classifications were defined according to their structure and city name, such as “S4L”.

Fifty-five handles have been excavated from Beth Shemesh.

According to G.M. Grena of LMLK.com (who helped us with this section, and provided the following stick figure):

“As for dates, the majority of scholars believe these seal impressions date to the 8th-7th centuries B.C.; however, this equates to about 7th-6th centuries B.C. on the Jewish calendar.

These dates center around the reign of King Hezekiah because the handles appear in strata formed by a destruction layer caused by the Assyrian king, Sennacherib.

Some scholars believe the handles were stamped as early as the reign of Uzziah, & as late as Manasseh (hence the 8th/7th or 7th/6th span of about a century), though some believe they were strictly limited to Hezekiah’s reign”.

The earliest (Stratum VI) is meager and dates to the Early Bronze Age.

Stratum V is a fortified Canaanite settlement from Middle Bronze Age II that was completely destroyed sometime during the second half of the 16th century B.C.

In the centuries following Israel’s conquest of the land, Beth Shemesh’s location along a major route as well as its proximity to the Philistine plain, made the city vulnerable to attack.

Stratum IV dates roughly from the 15th through 13th centuries B.C.

This would have been the city that was alotted to Judah and designated as a Levitical city (Josh 15:10; 21:16).

A few in­scriptions in Ugaritic cuneiform and Hebrew- Phoenician, as well as a hoard of jewelry, were found there. This city was completely destroyed.

The Stratum that follows (Stratum III) is a rather large but unplanned village that dates to Iron I (the late judges period). It, too, was violently destroyed, possibly by Philistines.

The next city, Stratum II, lasted throughout the entire monarchic period until the fall of Judah in 586 B.C., although the city seems to have suffered in the invasion led by Pharaoh Sheshonk (Biblical Shishak) in the late 10th century B.C.

The city suffered major destruction in Sennacherib’s campaign in 701 B.C., and little was left of it when it was finally destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar in 586 B.C.

Recent excavations of Stratum II have revealed a gate, a city square and a large public building.

In addition, a huge under­ground reservoir was hewn inside the city, with a storage capacity sufficient to outlast a three-month siege.

In about 800 B.C. Beth Shemesh was the scene of a battle between the armies of Israel and Judah, in which King Jehoash of Israel carried off King Amaziah as prisoner.

In the days of King Ahaz Judahite weakness allowed the Philistines to temporarily cap­ture the city (2 Chr 28:18).

A large number of royal seal impressions from the time of King Hezekiah indicates that Beth Shemesh was an important supply center during his time.

The portrait of Beth Shemesh in 1 Sam­ 6 accords well with archaeological finds. The city at that time bordered a powerful Philistine population but was itself Israelite.

Excavation at Stratum III, for example, reveals a city that was fundamentally Canaanite but used Philistine bichrome pottery (decorated in two colors), attesting to the influence of the neighboring Philistines.

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