• Annemeet Hasidi-van Der Leij

Bethsaida Excavations Reveal Possible Royal Escape Tunnel


An escape tunnel may have been identified underneath the Iron Age palace at Bethsaida. The tunnel would have served the royal elites living in the palace. Bethsaida was in the early first century CE a fishing village.

According to the New Testament, Bethsaida was known as the birthplace of the Apostles Andrew, Peter, and Philip; John 1:44: "Now Philip was of Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter". The area of Bethsaida was referred in the new testament in conjunction with two of Jesus miracles: healing the blind man; Mark 8 22:" And he cometh to Bethsaida; and they bring a blind man unto him.....",

and the first feeding of the Multitude; Luke 9 16: "And the apostles, when they were returned, told him all that they had done. And he took them, and went aside privately into a desert place belonging to the city called Bethsaida...".

Later, Jesus cursed Bethsaida since its Jewish residents did not follow his teachings; Matthew 11 21: "Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes". Indeed, the cursed city was destroyed during the 4th C CE.

Located on a basalt hill overlooking the northeast coast of the Sea of Galilee, the city identified as Bethsaida was founded in the 10th century BCE. Excavations conducted at the site have uncovered evidence of Iron Age fortifications, a palace and a massive gate complex, suggesting that the city was the capital of the Biblical kingdom of Geshur. In 732 BCE, Geshur was destroyed by the Assyrian King Tiglath-pileser III.

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