Solomon And Israel’s Golden Age Part III — Trading With Sheba -- By: Clifford A. Wilson
BSP 1:4 (Autumn 1972) p. 107
Solomon And Israel’s Golden Age
Part III — Trading With Sheba
In our last article, we referred to the trade relationship between Israel and the kingdom of Sheba in Solomon’s time. In this concluding article we shall look at some of the archaeological evidence of fortresses along Israel’s trade routes.
Writing in the ISRAEL EXPLORATION JOURNAL (Volume 17 No. 1, 1967), Professor Yohanan Aharoni of the Hebrew University, Jerusalem, reported on surveys of Iron Age fortresses in the Negev. In this comment on some of his findings and interpretations, it is not our purpose to give a technical appraisal, but to select some points of interest to Bible students.
Dr. Aharoni commented that “the story of the Queen of Sheba is a faithful reflection of the rich trading caravans that plied from Judah to Southern Arabia along the highways of the Negev and the desert.” He pointed out that Elath, on the northern end of the Gulf of Aqabah, was a key point in the control of the trade routes. As a result, the kings of Israel and Judah did their utmost to maintain firm control over this area. The archaeological surveys showed that the control of this southern area of Israel (for Negev literally means “south” in Hebrew) was by a system of fortresses and settlements along the highways which constituted the trade routes. This was a continuation and development of a survey first done by the late Professor Nelson Glueck and described in his fascinating book RIVERS IN THE DESERT, published in 1959.
The forts were built on hills so that there was a good view of the surrounding areas. Larger fortresses were built at important crossroads. Usually the walls were made of stone, for this was plentiful in the Negev. The normal pattern was to have a central yard around which rows of rooms were built. Usually they were square or oblong but sometimes they were round. The shape was largely dictated by the topographical contours of the area. All the forts so far discovered dated to the times of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah — between the 10th and 7th centuries B.C. Some lasted for longer periods than others. These forts are similar in plan to others which had been discovered many years previously. One such fort with a tower was
BSP 1:4 (Autumn 1972) p. 108
discovered at Kadesh-barnea by archaeologists C. L. Wooley and T. E. Lawrence over 50 years ago. Similar forts have now been found at Tel Arad, east of the Dead Sea; Horvat Uza, a few miles southeast of Tel Arad and, further to the north, Tel Goded. All these were forts with towers. Some were built without towers.
Dr. Aharoni goes on to discuss a whole series of forts which have been found in this ge...
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