In the north of Israel, at the base of Mount Hermon, is an ancient settlement dating back over 5000 years. Once known as the Canaanite city of Laish, it was conquered and resettled by the Israelites and renamed Dan. The story of Dan is fascinating in and of itself, and will be covered in later articles. This is a story about Abraham’s Gate.
Four thousand years ago, the Canaanites who lived in Laish built a mud-brick structure unlike anything the world had seen up to that point. They built an arched gate to their city. Until 1979, archaeologist and experts in classical history believed that the Romans invented the arch. But in Israel they found an arched gate over seven meters tall that predates anything the Romans built by over 1500 years.
Constructed of mud bricks, the gate consists of three arches built on top of each other and flanked by two tall rectangular towers. It is a remarkable piece of ancient engineering and architecture, but unfortunately the humidity of the region is detrimental to this building material. Within 50 years of its construction, the mud bricks began to erode. The locals filled in the gate with earth to keep it from collapsing and built another gate in a different part of the city. Covered in soil, the gate was preserved for four millennia.
But why is it called Abraham’s Gate? Archaeologists refer to it by this name because it existed during the time when Abraham lived and is known to have visited the city. Genesis chapter 14 tells the story of a great battle among ancient kings that took place in the Dead Sea Valley. The victors carried off plunder and slaves, including Abraham’s nephew Lot. When he learned of his nephew’s capture, Abraham pursued him all the way to Dan (Laish). After successfully rescuing Lot, Abraham and his men chased the kidnappers all the way to Damascus.
You can learn more about Abraham’s Gate and the ancient city of Laish here.