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Biblical Archaeology Review 47:4, Winter 2021

Strata: King Uzziah’s Earthquake

Evidence for a powerful earthquake mentioned by the prophets Amos and Zechariah has been discovered in Jerusalem. According to excavation directors Joe Uziel and Ortal Chalaf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, the evidence was found in a destruction layer at the City of David Archaeological Park. Amid the destruction, which dates to the mid-eighth century B.C.E., they found collapsed walls and shattered vessels, but no signs of fire. After extensive research, the team concluded the destruction must have resulted from the famed earthquake that occurred in the lands of Israel and Judah during the reign of Uzziah, king of Judah.

The earthquake is mentioned twice in the Hebrew Bible, first in Amos 1:1, which says that Amos began prophesying two years before the earthquake. The quake is also referenced in Zechariah 14:5, where Zechariah compares the devastation wrought by the approaching end of days to the earthquake that shook Judah during the reign of King Uzziah. Given that Zechariah lived two centuries after Amos, the earthquake must have been extreme enough to leave a lasting impression on the Judean consciousness.

Evidence for this powerful eighth-century B.C.E. earthquake has now been discovered in several sites across Israel, including Hazor, Gezer, Tel Agol, and Tell es-Safi. The Jerusalem excavation, however, provides the first evidence that the quake impacted the Judean hill country.

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