“And Solomon gathered chariots and horsemen; he had one thousand four hundred chariots and twelve thousand horsemen, whom he stationed in the chariot cities and with the king in Jerusalem”. 1Kings 10:26.
Tell el-Mutesellim covers the site of Megiddo of the Bible and lies at the heart of a unique scenic setting. Into the distance stretches the great plain... The ‘Valley of Jezreel’. Where the plain ends Carmel stands guard over the Mediterranean shore. To the north the hills of Galilee with the little village of Nazareth sweep upwards, and far off to the right Mt’ Tabor bars the view into the Jordan Valley.
This fertile triangle lies peacefully perhaps a welcome break after being unwilling witness to many thousands of years of momentous battles. From Pharaoh Thutmose who attacked the Canaanites in 1500 B.C., continuing through Saladin’s battle with the Crusaders, to the 1918 British Cavalry’s attack on the Turkish army encamped on the plain.
In 1903 Tell el-Mutesellim was horizontally dissected slice by slice, each layer signifying a chapter of world history. Ruins from the Persian and Babylonian empires, evidence of Assyrian rule, and the Israeli period. (Incidentally two of the very important finds were two seals with Hebrew letters on them. On bore the inscription “Shema, servant of Jeroboam”. Jeroboam was the first king of Israel after the kingdom was divided. A stone preserved another familiar name. Pharaoh Sheshonk 1 of Israel, called Pharaoh Shishak in the Bible. He attacked Palestine in the Fifth year of Jeroboam’s reign.). Remarkable discoveries but the best was yet to come.
During the course of the excavation there appeared on the edge of the Tell a flat stone surface, studded with stone stumps, ranged one behind the other in long rows and square in shape. There seemed to be no end to the series of flat surfaces emerging yard by yard out of the rubble and opinion quickly grew that they had discovered stables of a sort.
They found that several large stables were grouped round a courtyard, which was laid down with beaten limestone mortar. A ten-foot wide passage ran down the middle of each stable. It was roughly paved to prevent the horses from slipping. On each side, behind the stone stumps, lay roomy stalls, each of which was exactly ten foot wide. Many of them had remains of feeding troughs and parts of the watering arrangements were still recognizable. Even by modern day standards they were luxury stables and extra ordinary care had been lavished on the buildings.
When it was all uncovered they counted single stalls for at least 450 horses and sheds for 150 chariots. A gigantic and royal stable indeed.
Considering that similar stables and chariot sheds have been found at Tell el-Hesi, Taanach and Jerusalem, the Bible references only hint at the lavishness of Old Israel. Meggido was, after all, only one of the garrisons of Solomon’s chariot corp.
The Biblical ‘Error’ About Saul’s Body
“Out of all these people 700 choice men were left-handed; each one could sling a stone at a hair and not miss”. (Judges 20:16.
“And they put his weapons in the temple of Ashtaroth, and they fastened his body to the walls of Bethshan”. (I Samuel 31: 10).
“And they put his armor in the house of their gods and fastened his head in the house of Dagon” (1 Chron 10:10).
Saul, the first king of Israel’s fortress at Gibeah has been excavated. One of the most significant finds was that slingshots were one of the most important weapons of the day.
The Biblical account of Saul’s head being placed in the temple of Dagon (The Philistine corn god) and his body in the temple of Ashtaroth (A Canaanite fertility Goddess) in Bethshan was always taken to be an error as it seemed very unlikely that enemies would have temples in the same place. However archaeological excavations have discovered that there are two temples at the site, one for Dagon and the other for Ashtaroth. The two temples were seperated by a hallway.. Apparently the Philistines had adopted the Canaanite goddess.