Historians from the University of Haifa claim that Khirbet Qeiyafa, a provincial town in Israel's Elah Valley region, is 'Neta'im',  an adminstrative center mentioned in the biblical book of Chronicles.

Archaeological excavations carried out at Khirbet Qeiyafa have dated the site to the beginning of the 10th century BCE, namely the time of King David's rule. A Hebrew inscription on a pottery shard found at the site also dating back to the 10th century indicates the presence of scribes and a high level of culture in the town.

The genealogy of the Tribe of Judah dated to the same period is recorded in 1 Chronicles. The last verse of this genealogy, 1 Chronicles 4:23, mentions two important cites: Gederah and Neta'im, both of which were administrative centers, since they were inhabited by people who work "in the king's service": "These were the potters, the inhabitants of Neta'im and Gederah, they dwelt there in the King's service." Gederah has been identified near the Elah Valley, but Neta'im, which is mentioned only once in the Bible, remained unidentified.

Khirbet Qeiyafa (Elah fortress), Western gate

Photo: Wikipedia

American archaeologist William Albright proposed associating Neta'im with Khirbet En-Nuweiti', which is also located near the Elah Valley, based on the phonological similarity between the two names. Archaeological surveys at Khirbet En-Nuweiti', however, revealed that it was only inhabited during Hellenistic and Roman-Byzantine times, and not during the Iron Age.

The identification of Khirbet Qeiyafa with Neta'im is based on the proximity of Khirbet Qeiyafa to biblical Gederah/Khirbet Ğudraya; on the archaeological findings – including impressive fortifications - dating from the time of King David's rule and indicating that this was an administrative center; and on the preserved name of nearby Khirbet En-Nuweiti'.

"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," says Prof. Gershon Galil of the Department of Bible Studies at the University of Haifa.