Biblical City's True Location Discovered, Researchers Claim

Scientists think they've finally found the real location of a city called Neta'im mentioned in the Bible.

Based on its proximity to another biblical town, and archaeological ruins dating from the time of the biblical King David's rule, researchers think Neta'im might have been located at the modern site called Khirbet Qeiyafa, in Israel.

Khirbet Qeiyafa contains the ruins of an ancient fortress city on top of a hill overlooking the Elah Valley. Pottery shards and burned olive pits at the site date to about 1,000 B.C. Most scholars think King David ruled during this time.

Archaeologists have previously associated Khirbet Qeiyafa with the biblical city Sha’arayim, which means "two gates," because of the discovery of two gates in the fortress ruins, and because Sha’arayim was also associated with King David in the Bible. But now researchers claim this site is really Neta'im, a town mentioned in the book 1 Chronicles in the Hebrew Bible, or Old Testament.

"The inhabitants of Neta'im were potters who worked in the king's service and inhabited an important administrative center near the border with the Philistines"' said Gershon Galil, a professor of biblical studies at the University of Haifa in Israel.

Galil thinks Neta'im was located at Khirbet Qeiyafa in part because it is near the modern site Khirbet Ğudraya, also near the Elah Valley, which has been identified as the biblical town of Gederah. Both Gederah and Neta'im were mentioned in the same verse of the Bible, 1 Chronicles 4:23: "These were the potters, the inhabitants of Neta'im and Gederah, they dwelt there in the King's service."

Neta'im is only mentioned once in the Bible, and has so far remained unidentified.

In related research, Galil recently deciphered text written on a pottery shard found at Khirbet Qeiyafa, and found it was the earliest known example of Hebrew writing.

"The archeological findings at this site, the discovery of the earliest and most important Hebrew inscription to be found to date, and the understanding, based on the biblical text, that members of the Tribe of Judah inhabited the town and worked in the king's service, testify to Khirbet Qeiyafa – Neta'im – being an important administrative center in the border region of the Kingdom of Israel during the time of King David's reign," Galil said.

Clara Moskowitz
Clara has a bachelor's degree in astronomy and physics from Wesleyan University, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz. She has written for both and Live Science.