The Bible and Archaeology: The Battle at the Pool of Gibeon

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The Bible and Archaeology

The Battle at the Pool of Gibeon

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Before David had secured leadership over all the tribes of Israel, Abner, who had been Saul's general, served one of Saul's sons. Abner brought his army to fight David's army, led by Joab. Abner's and Joab's troops met beside a famous water supply of that day called the pool of Gibeon.

“And Joab the son of Zeruiah, and the servants of David, went out and met them by the pool of Gibeon. So they sat down, one on one side of the pool and the other on the other side of the pool. Then Abner said to Joab, 'Let the young men now arise and compete before us.' And Joab said, 'Let them arise.' So they arose and went over by number, twelve from Benjamin, followers of Ishbosheth the son of Saul, and twelve from the servants of David. And each one grasped his opponent by the head and thrust his sword in his opponent's side; so they fell down together. Therefore that place was called the Field of Sharp Swords, which is in Gibeon. So there was a very fierce battle that day, and Abner and the men of Israel were beaten before the servants of David” (2 Samuel 2:13-17 2 Samuel 2:13-17 13 And Joab the son of Zeruiah, and the servants of David, went out, and met together by the pool of Gibeon: and they sat down, the one on the one side of the pool, and the other on the other side of the pool. 14 And Abner said to Joab, Let the young men now arise, and play before us. And Joab said, Let them arise. 15 Then there arose and went over by number twelve of Benjamin, which pertained to Ishbosheth the son of Saul, and twelve of the servants of David. 16 And they caught every one his fellow by the head, and thrust his sword in his fellow’s side; so they fell down together: why that place was called Helkathhazzurim, which is in Gibeon. 17 And there was a very sore battle that day; and Abner was beaten, and the men of Israel, before the servants of David.
American King James Version×
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James Pritchard conducted an exploration of this site from 1956 to 1962. He discovered 31 jar handles bearing the Hebrew name Gibeon, which confirmed the site. Early in his search archaeologist Pritchard located a round water shaft, 37 feet in diameter, that led to a pool used by the city. This shaft, comments Biblical Archaeology Review, “was cut into the limestone bedrock to a depth of over 82 feet. Also cut into the limestone are a staircase and railing, which wind down to a level floor about halfway to the bottom of the shaft. From there, the stairs drop straight down another 45 feet-to the level of the water table” (May-June 1995, p. 43).

In the same issue archaeologist Bryant Wood concludes: “A large pool at Gibeon is no doubt the pool where the forces of Israel's second king, David, fought under Joab against the forces of Saul's son Ishbosheth under Abner” (p. 33).

This find was listed by Biblical Archaeology Review as one of the top 10 discoveries in biblical archaeology. It reveals yet another example of the accuracy of even the incidental details of the biblical account.

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