GE'ZER
2 Samuel 5:25; 1 Chronicles 14:16

An ancient Canaanite city at the junction of the Philistine plain and the Judean foothills. It was taken and retaken by Egyptians and Israelites and was an important stronghold in the Maccabean wars. See Joshua 10:33; 16:3,10; 21:21; Judges 1:29; 2 Samuel 5:25; 6:67; 14:16; 20:4.

The excavation of ancient Gezer was carried out to completion before World War I. The excavation was such a revelation of the extent and character of patriarchal civilization that it completely revolutionized knowledge concerning that age.

At Gezer, together with Lachish, was first learned the real character of the High Place. The city stood on a prominent height overlooking the plain of Sharon, affording an extensive view of the Judean mountains, and so was really a high place, as every High Place was. The worshiper ascended above the distractions of this world and got nearer to God; thus the fundamental idea was good; but, alas, the horrid orgies that were enacted at Canaanite High Places made them objects of abhorrence. Here first at Gezer was learned the real character of such a place of worship. Standing stones, ten in number at this particular High Place, were found in situ. Of the acts of worship of these places little, of course, can now be known, but the cemetery of little children under eight days of age, buried alone alongside the High Place is gruesomely suggestive of the child sacrifice of the firstborn, which was practiced among the Canaanites.

Four distinct periods of history were learned from the layers of debris at Gezer, and these were dated with a good degree of definiteness by the Egyptian remains found in all the layers of history in the mound down to the time of the Israelite monarchy. At that time Solomon gained complete possession of Gezer by marriage with the daughter of Pharaoh (1 Kings 9:15,16).

  1. In the lowest layer of ruins were distinct remains of the earliest inhabitants, cave-dwellers, as first inhabitants are in most lands. The exact ethnic classification of these people cannot be determined from these remains, but the Bible says that the first inhabitants of Canaan were Hamites. It can only be determined from the antiquities here that these earliest inhabitants were not Semites.
  2. These first people were followed by others who were Semites, an invasion from the north. They brought in an extensive civilization, now well known to have been Amorite. Their habits were Semitic and their portraits are unmistakable Semitic. They set up a civilization which developed into a great seacoast Amorite empire.
  3. This Amorite civilization, in the next upper layer of debris in the mound of Gezer, by unmistakable evidence shows the incoming of the Israelites. These learned from the Philistines to make pottery, and, in their Hebron pottery especially, left Cretan forms of pottery with Hebrew names on the jar handles.
  4. Following the Israelites on down to late times, is a mixture of Greek and Maccabean and Roman and Crusader and Arabic ruins.

That the excavations do actually confirm the Book of Joshua as it stands is evident from a careful comparison of the Book with the discoveries. The Israelites are represented to have received the vineyards and olive orchards of the Canaanites and their houses "full of all good things." They have the same materials for pottery and in the main the same use for pots, and in coming in out of the desert it is but natural that they should learn the arts and crafts of the Canaanites. They fell into many of the customs of the Canaanites, even idolatry at the High Places. They intermarried with the people of the land, though contrary to the commandment. They yielded also much to the practices of the Canaanites in religion. Only late in the period of the Judges, toward the great emergence of religion in the time of the monarchy, did the pure religion of the Israelites seem completely to triumph over the religion of the Canaanites. Again this triumph was turned into defeat in the great apostasy, when the Israelites lapsed once more into Canaanite idolatry.

Now exactly such a state of things both in customs and in religion is evidenced by the discoveries. There was perfectly manifest at the ruins of Gezer a change in Canaanite religion when the Israelites came in. The High Place was encroached upon with dwellinghouses, certainly indicating a decline in reverence for the High Place. The human sacrifices cease altogether, the barbaric burial customs, food and weapons in the grave, were supplanted by the symbolism of a lamp smothered in two bowls, a beautiful token of the going out of a light. Thus the result of this great excavation at Gezer is in exact accord with the Book of Joshua as it stands.

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