Main Gate, Tel Lachish

Main Gate, Tel Lachish. By Wilson44691 – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

The quick transmission of messages over long distances was as important in ancient warfare as it is today. In ancient times, visual or aural signals communicated messages from point to point. This is documented both in the Bible and in other ancient Near Eastern texts.

For example, an aural signal is mentioned in Jeremiah 6-1- “Blow the trumpet in Tekoa [where Amos lived], and raise up a signal on Beth ha-kerem, [probably to be identified with Ramat Rahel, outside Jerusalem].”

In clay tablets from Mari (18th century B.C.), we read of “fire signals” from one site to another. The writer of one tablet-letter complained that “so far, I have not ascertained the meaning of those signals,” indicating that messages must have been sent by fire signal according to a prearranged code.

The best-known example of this kind of signal is from the last line of a sixth-century B.C. Hebrew letter found at Lachish and recently discussed in a BAR Jr. column (November/December 1982)-
“And let [my lord] know that for the beacons of Lachish we are watching, according to all the indications which my lord hath given, for we cannot see Azekah.”

Read the rest of Scholars’ Corner: Network of Iron Age Fortresses Served as Military Signal Posts in the online Biblical Archaeology Society Library.