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Holman Bible Dictionary

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Hebrew - Gezer

(gee' zuhr) Place name meaning, “isolated area.” Major Canaanite city nineteen miles northwest of Jerusalem at tell Gezer on the edge of the foothills of Judah near the Shephelah, seven miles southeast of Ramleh. It provides a military post for the highway junction of the Via Maris and the road leading to the valley of Ajalon to Jerusalem, Jericho, and over the Jordan. A site of 30 acres, it was one of the largest and most important cities in Palestine from 1800 B.C. onwards, though occupation reaches back to 3500 B.C. Archaeologists have found important inscriptions here such as the Gezer calendar, one of, if not the, earliest (before 900 B.C.) examples of Hebrew writing known. Even earlier is an inscribed piece of broken pottery in the “Proto-Sinaitic” script. The largest stone structure in Palestine, a fifty-foot wide wall from about 1600 B.C. was found here. A high place or sanctuary with ten stone stele or masseboth demonstrates Canaanite worship practices about 1600 B.C. Some of these tower over nine feet high. Egyptian sources mention Gezer about 1410 B.C., as do the Amarna letters of 100 years later. Three different kings of Gezer wrote the Egyptian pharaoh. Merneptah's stele from about 1200 B.C. claims the pharaoh captured Gezer. Tiglath-pileser III of Assyria pictured the capture of Gezer about 734 B.C. in his palace at Nimrud.

Joshua defeated the king of Gezer when he tried to aid the king of Lachish (Joshua 10:33). Gezer formed the boundary for Ephraim's tribal allotment (Joshua 16:3), but Israel did not control the city (Joshua 16:10; Judges 1:29). Still, it was assigned as a city for the Levites (Joshua 21:21). David finally wrested control of it from the Philistines (2 Samuel 5:25; 1 Chronicles 20:4). A few years later, Egypt's pharaoh captured the city from the Canaanites and gave it to Solomon as a wedding gift for Solomon's marriage with the pharaoh's daughter. Solomon rebuilt its walls (1 Kings 9:15-17). Between the Testaments, Gezer became known as Gazara. The Seleucid general Bacchides fortified it (1 Maccabees 9:52). In 142 B.C. the Jewish leader Simon Maccabeus captured Gazara and built himself a home there. Then John Hyrcanus, his son, assumed command of the Jewish army and established his headquarters there (1 Maccabees 13:43-53).

Gezer thus is a peripheral city in the Bible whose magnificent history had begun to recede a century before Joshua entered Palestine. Still, it marked an important military outpost for Philistines, Egyptians, Israelites, and Assyrians trying to control the important trade and military routes.

Copyright Statement
These dictionary topics are from the Holman Bible Dictionary, published by Broadman & Holman, 1991. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman & Holman.

Bibliography Information
Butler, Trent C. Editor.. "Entry for 'GEZER'". "Holman Bible Dictionary".
<>. 1991.


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