Tekoa, on the Eastern slopes of the Judean hills, is most often identified as the modern Khirbet Taqu`a. (See map opposite.) This region is on the edge of the rain shadow of the higher hills to the west, and was therefore too dry for reliable cultivation.
From the hills of Taqu'a Bethlehem (about 8kms north) and Jerusalem (twice as far again) can just be seen. The main road south along the ridge is not far off, and a small route leads down to the Dead Sea near En Gedi (the "Ascent of Ziz").
The descent from the Judean ridge to the Dead Sea forms a series of broad "steps" (see the wireframe 3-D map right). Although this area is dry, there is sufficient vegetation to allow grazing for part of each year. In the winter flocks are grazed on the lower "terraces" and in summer on the high ground above Tekoa.
The probability that the sheep
farmers of Tekoa in Amos' day were semi-nomadic removes one of the most
telling objections to this identification of Tekoa. For, while it is true that
Sycamore figs (see Am
7:14) do not grow and fruit in the highlands, they are found lower near
the Dead Sea (see the photo below right, from the shores of the Dead Sea,
In any case 7:12 seems to suggest a Southern origin for the prophet. As does the choice of language to speak of Amos as prophet, cf. esp 7:12 (hozeh) and 14 (nabi').
Despite the mention of Tekoa as a "city" built by Rehoboam for Judah's defense (2 Chron 11:6) there is little evidence that the site was a town, although investigations, including a brief dig under the auspices of ASOR in 1955 show the area was inhabited in this period.
A cave was excavated (a tomb?) where among other finds were lamps and pots with the shape and style typical of the pre-exilic, "Iron II" period (1000BCE - 586BCE).
Pottery from cave at Khirbet Taqua, above and below right, and lamps also from the cave, left, note their typical "pinched spout" shape (Clifford).
This page is part of the Hypertext Bible Commentary - Amos,
© Tim Bulkeley, 1996-2005, Tim Bulkeley. All rights reserved.