Low Chronology

The Low Chronology & the Royal Cities of Solomon

By Vern Crisler

Copyright, 2004

Rough Draft

 

 1.  Introduction

2.  The Age of Solomon

3.  Chronology of Phoenicia

4.  The Tomb of Ahiram

5.  Arguments For & Against the Low Chronology

6.  The Cities of Solomon

7.  Hazor

8.  Megiddo

9.  Gezer

 

 

1.  INTRODUCTION:

 

A few years ago Kathleen Kenyon’s work at Samaria introduced a great deal of controversy into Holy Land archaeology, and has engendered a whole new look at the chronology of the early Iron Age period.

 

The fundamental controversy was her dating of the first pottery found at Samaria to the 9th century (the time of Omri & Ahab).  The difficulty is that under conventional views of the chronology of that era, the pottery she designated as 9th century was being assigned by others to the 10th century, during the century of Solomon.  Thus, Kenyon’s work contradicted the prevailing views of what G. J. Wightman called “Solomonic archaeology.”  Wightman’s essay, “The Myth of Solomon,” in which he discussed this issue, created enough of a problem for conventional chronology that Walter Rast devoted a whole issue of BASOR to a discussion of Wightman’s “low chronology” of the Iron Age.  (BASOR, 1990, 277/278, pp. 5ff.)

 

We have already discussed the stratigraphy of Samaria and laid out what we think is the best approach to its archaeology.  Briefly, we think Kenyon was correct in her dating of the first two periods, and that there are no stratigraphic problems at Samaria that stand in the way of a redating of the “10th century” pottery & archaeology to the 9th century.  In effect, we believe that “Solomonic archaeology” is really Omride or Ahabic archaeology.

 

Nevertheless, though we may agree with the Low Chronologists on the need for a lowered chronology of the Iron Age period, we do not share the same premises of such Low Chronologists as Wightman, Silberman, or Finkelstein, who cast doubt upon the notion of a large Solomonic empire.  In their book, The Bible Unearthed (hereafter TBU), Israel Finkelstein and Neil Silberman adopt a skeptical attitude to biblical history with regard to Israel’s monarchy:

 

“As we have seen, there is no compelling archaeological evidence for the historical existence of a vast united monarchy, centered in Jerusalem, that encompassed the entire land of Israel.” (TBU, pp. 149-50.)

 

Finkelstein denies the truthfulness of the Patriarchal narratives, the Exodus & Conquest narratives, and the stories of a large, prosperous, United Monarchy of Israel under David and Solomon.  The chief critic of the Low Chronology, William Dever, shares Finkelstein’s skepticism with regard to the Patriarchal and Exodus & Conquest periods, but disagrees on the issue of the United Monarchy.  Dever’s “conservative” opposition to Finkelstein is hard to fathom, given his own skepticism about biblical truthfulness, but he understands the consequences of Finkelstein and Wightman’s premises:

 

“Yet if the methodological challenge of our critics in this issue has any validity…we must all face the radical consequences.  If, after a century of progress in Palestinian archaeology, we cannot attribute anything with certainty to the United Monarchy of Israel, “biblical archaeology’ of any persuasion, mine or theirs, has no foundations.  If I read this trend-in-the-making correctly, it amounts to a ‘nihilist agenda.’”  (“On Myths and Methods,” BASOR, 1990, 277/278, p. 123.)

 

From the New Courville perspective, there is no reason to accept Dever’s pessimism.  Once freed from the erroneous conventional chronology, we can accept the Low Chronology, yet reject the view that this would rob Solomon of his empire.  As we have argued before, under New Courville, Solomon is a Late Bronze Age king, not an Iron Age king.

 

Donovan Courville, in his Exodus Problem, anticipated the Low Chronology by almost twenty years.  He rejected the prevailing view that the casemate archaeology and pottery ascribed to Solomon were necessarily related to Solomon (Vol. 2, p. 210).  This rejection of so-called “Solomonic archaeology” served as the basic assumption behind his chapters on the royal cities of Solomon—Megiddo, Gezer, and Hazor (Vol. 2, ch. 10, 11, 14).

 

Nevertheless, while New Courville agrees with Classic Courville on the need to reject conventional views on “Solomonic archaeology,” it cannot go along with Classic Courville’s correlation of the archaeological strata with biblical history.  Courville, following Velikovsky, identified Thutmose 3 with the Egyptian Pharaoh “Shishak” of the Bible, who attacked Israel during the reign of Rehoboam.   Since Thutmose 3 is Late Bronze 1b, this would mean that Saul, David, and Solomon reigned during the latter part of the Middle Bronze Age.  Courville apparently postulates an overlap between the last MB level and the first Late Bronze level, and regarded Thutmose 1 (Late Bronze 1a) as the king who ruled at the time of Solomon (Ibid., p. 212).  It was this pharaoh who allegedly attacked Gezer, and gave it to Solomon as a dowry.

 

As we have said, however, for New Courville, Solomon is to be found near the end of the Late Bronze age, specifically the LB2b levels.

 

2.  THE AGE OF SOLOMON

 

The coffin of king Ahiram has the following warning on it:

 

 “The coffin which Ithobaal, son of Ahiram, King of Gwal [Byblos], made for his father as his abode in eternity.” (Quoted in Velikovsky, Ramses II and His Time, p. 64; hereafter R2AHT.)

Velikovsky points out that, 

 

“[n]ear the entrance to the burial chamber several fragments of an alabaster vase were found, and one of them bore the name and royal nomen of Ramses II.” (Ibid., p. 65.)

 

It was this evidence that led Montet, Frankfort, and others, to assign the coffin of Ahiram to the time of Ramses 2.  In addition, the sarcophagus and the Mycenaean ceramics are from the Late Bronze age, i.e., the time of Ramses 2. (Ibid., p. 68, 70).

 

There is no need to comment about Velikovsky’s desire, expressed in the above book, to drag Ramses 2 all the way down to the 7th century.  What’s important to note is that earlier archaeologists, along with Velikovsky, held that the Phoenician king Ahiram was a contemporary of Ramses 2.  Unfortunately, Velikovsky, in pursuit of his own rather radical theory of chronology, missed a perfectly good synchronism, namely the following:

1.  Ahiram

Hiram

2.  Ramses 2

Solomon

The name “Hiram” is a hypocoristicon, or shortening, of the name “Ahiram,” which is made up of the letters AHRM.  Hiram lived and died during David and Solomon’s reign, and this would logically place the death of Ahiram at the same time too, sometime in the mid-10th century.  Since Ahiram is archaeologically correlated with Ramses 2, this would place Ramses 2 and the last part of the Late Bronze Age (LB2b) at mid to late 10th-century.

 

The letters for “Hiram” in Hebrew are heth, yodh, resh, and final mem.  A similar Hebrew name is given in Num. 26:38 of one named “Ahiram,” i.e., aleph, heth, yodh, resh, and final mem.  Both names contain the “Y” or yodh consonant.  Given that the Bible uses both names with a “Y” the lack of a similar “Y” in Phoenician “Ahiram” (AHRM) may simply reflect the vagaries of orthography between the two cultures.  It is a pretty flimsy basis on which to offer up any denial of the identity of the two names, or the more radical claim that all the transcribers of the Phoenician text have been wrong all this time in reading it as “Ahiram.”

The difference between the biblical form of the names “Hiram” or “Ahiram” and the Phoenician form of the name “Ahiram” is a missing “Y” consonant.  It should be pointed out that this doesn’t have anything to do with the lack of vowels in Phoenician.  Ancient Hebrew lacked vowels, too.  Vowels were added to the Hebrew text by the Massoretes, who worked on the Hebrew from 500 AD through 900 AD.  Moreover, the “Y” or “yodh” is not a vowel, but a consonant.  The use of the “i” in Hiram or Ahiram obscures this since “i” is a vowel, whereas “Y” is a consonant.  The “i” should actually be pronounced with an “ee” sound—e.g., Ah-HEE-rawm, since the “i” is standing for the  Y consonant.  In any case, the reason the “Y” is lacking in the Phoenician inscription would make for an interesting discussion of Semitic word origins or meanings, but this lack of a “Y” has not been seen by scholars as an obstacle in transcribing the Phoenician AHRM as “Ahiram.”

 

The following is a sketch of the basic facts known about Hiram and Phoenician chronology, and I’ll attempt to relate these bits of information to the question of whether  Solomon and Ramses 2 can be temporally correlated.

 

 

3.  CHRONOLOGY OF PHOENICIA
  

BC Date

Neo-Courville

Josephus

Jewish Encyc.

1.   pre-979 BC

Abi-baal

Abibalus

Abi-Ba’al

2.   979-946

Hiram 1 (Ahiram)

Hiram,34 yrs.

Hiram I

3.   946-925

Ithobaal 1

 

 

4.   925-918

Baal-azar 1

Baleazarus,7

Ba’al ‘Azar I

5.   918-909

Abd-Ashtoret

Abdastartus,9

Abd-‘Ashtoret

6.   909-897

Usurpers

Usurpers,12

 

7.   897-887

Metu-Ashtoret

Astartus,12

Metu-‘Ashtoret

8.   887-878

Astherymus

Aserymus,9

Astherymus

9.   878

Phellas

Pheles,8 mos.

Phellas

10.   878-846

Ithobaal 2

Ithobalus,32

Ithobal

11.   846-840

Baal-azar 2

Badezorus,6

Ba’al-‘azar II

12.   840-831

Metten

Matgenus,9

Metten

13.   831-784

Pygmalion

Pygmalion,47

Pygmalion

 

The New Courville chronology of Phoenicia is based on what I can gather from Josephus, the Jewish Encyclopedia, and the inscriptional material from Ahiram’s tomb.  Josephus says that the Jerusalem temple was built in the twelfth year of Hiram’s reign.  Since the temple began to be built in Solomon’s fourth year, this means that Hiram’s reign began in the last eight years of David’s rule.  David reigned from 1011 to 971, so Hiram’s reign began circa 979 BC. 

 

The tomb of Ahiram (Hiram) says that Ithobaal prepared his tomb, so I’m assuming that Ithobaal 1 followed Hiram as king of Phoenicia.  It doesn’t appear that Baal-azar 1 is the same as Ithobaal 1 since a second Baal-azar is distinguished from the second Ithobaal.  Yet the tomb of Ahiram clearly indicates that an Ithobaal must be placed after Hiram, so I’ve included him on line 3 above.  The Jewish Encyclopedia has Baal-azar 1 starting in 925 BC, so I’ve given a reign to Ithobaal of about 21 years between Hiram and Baal-azar 1.  I’m following Josephus’s reign lengths, as well as including the usurpers who Josephus says reigned for 12 years before Astartus.

 

4.  THE TOMB OF AHIRAM

 

The following is a summary of Velikovsky’s chapter “The Tomb of King Ahiram” from his book, Ramses II and His Time, pp. 64ff.

 

In 1921, Pierre Montet discovered the tomb of King Ahiram at Byblos.  A warning was written on a wall and on the lid of the sarcophagus.  The latter has the words, in part, “The coffin which Ithobaal, son of Ahiram, King of Gwal [Byblos], made for his father as his abode in eternity.”  (Quoting from W. F. Albright, Journal of the American Oriental Society,” LXVII, 1947, pp. 155-56.)  One side of the tomb has Ahiram seated on a throne with two winged sphinxes on each side, and courtiers facing him.  (Note, this is almost identical to the famous Megiddo ivory containing much the same scene, posted at the top of our webpage.)

 

Besides the inscriptions on the wall and tomb, and the throne scene, pottery was found with the cartouche of Ramses 2 on it.  The excavator, Montet, dated the tomb to the time of Ramses 2, i.e., LB2b.  His belief that the Cypriot ware was also LB2b was corrected by Dussaud, but the latter agreed with Montet that the tomb dated from the time of Ramses 2, and that this date “must be accepted.”  (Quoted from Syria, Revue d’art oriental et d’archaeologie, V (1924), 143-44.)  Dussaud argued that the tomb had been raided during the seventh century and the thieves had left behind pottery of their own time.  There were clear signs of intrusion, and seventh century pottery was found strewn on the floor.

 

A debate took place between archaeologists and epigraphists.  Archaeologists would not give up the dating of the tomb to the time of Ramses 2–the LB2b period–but the epigraphists argued that the inscriptions on the tomb could not be dated so early (13th century per conventional chronology).  They argued that the writing on the tomb was similar to the inscriptions of Abibaal and Elibaal on statutes of the Egyptian pharaohs Shoshenq 1 and Osorkon 1.  Since archaeologists correlate  Shoshenq 1 with Shishak, this would bring the Ahiram inscription down to at least the mid 10th century, and thus allow a correlation with Hiram, contemporary of Solomon.

 

Dussaud, however, claimed that it was “beyond any uncertainty” that the tomb, sarcophagus and its inscription “date from the thirteenth century [sic; LB2b] before our era.”  The epigraphist W. Spiegelberg, however, denied a date to the time of Ramses 2.  (From Orientalistische Literaturzeitung, XXIX (1926), cols. 735-37.)  A. H. Gardner argued for the 10th century dating for Ahiram because he could not believe the script could have remained unchanged for 400 years.  (From Quarterly Statement of the Palestine Exploration Fund, 1939, p. 112.)  H. Frankfort ascribed the sarcophagus to the 13th century (LB2b), but tried to compromise with the epigraphists by arguing that the inscriptions were added later.  This view was described as “indefensible” by W. F. Albright, who argued for a 10th century dating for the tomb.  Montet, however, reiterated his view that the tomb belonged to the 13th century.

 

Moving outside Velikovsky’s book, we can still see this disagreement reflected among Phoenician scholars. One the one hand, Giovanni Garbini says:

 

“Even more significant is the dating of an inscription on the sarcophagus of Ahiram, king of Byblos, discovered in the twenties and ascribed to the 13th century B.C. Twenty years later, or reasons that are now not worth recalling, the date was moved forward to the beginning of the 10th century B.C.”  (Sabatino Moscati, ed. The Phoenicians [1997], p. 111.)

 

On the other hand, in the same volume, Sandro Filippo Bondi, says:

 

“We need only recall the ivories of the 14th-13th [sic] century B.C. from Byblos and Sidon, or that true masterpiece of the earliest Phoenician art, the sarcophagus of the king of Byblos, Ahiram, dating from the 13th-12th century B.C….The sarcophagus of Ahiram dates from the eve of that great upheaval known as the invasion of the ‘Peoples of the Sea,’ which throughout almost the whole Syro-Palestinian region put an end to the political experiences of the Late Bronze Age.”  (Ibid., p. 28.)

 

Returning to Velikovsky—the attempt was made to resolve the problem by arguing that the tomb of Ahiram is to be dated both to the time of Ramses 2 and to the seventh century.  We have seen, however, that the latter correlation is stratigraphically impossible since LB2b pottery is several layers underneath IA2c pottery, and as a general matter tomb-ware does not provide nearly enough stratified material with which to overturn relative dating based on tell stratification.  So that leaves Ramses 2 as contemporary of Ahiram, but rules out Velikovsky’s absolute dating for him (to the 7th century).

 

If the chronology given by Josephus is correct, then there is a simple solution to the problems noted above. Ramses 2 can be correlated to Ahiram, and Ahiram can be correlated to Solomon.  Ineluctably then, Ramses 2 would be correlated to Solomon.  Since New Courville dates Shoshenq 1 to around 800 BC, the time difference between the inscriptions on Ahiram’s tomb and the inscriptions on the Abibaal- & Elibaal-ware are now only off by about one hundred years rather than the 400 years of conventional chronology.

 

The identification of Ramses 2 as the king who was contemporary with David & Solomon (and became Solomon’s father-in-law) is strengthened by the probable identification of Shishak—who followed Solomon’s death—with Merneptah.  Merneptah famously invaded the Holy Land after his father’s death, and is in fact the only Egyptian king ever to have mentioned the Israelites.

 

New Courville thus places David & Solomon’s kingdom in the Late Bronze 2b period, drastically reduces the length of the Iron 1 period, and begins the Iron 2a period at the time of Omri.  For these reasons, we see no need to adopt Finkelstein’s skepticism with regard to the existence of Solomon’s empire.

 

5.  In their book, Centuries of Darkness, (hereafter CoD), Peter James, et al., provide the following list of Phoenician kings (from page 249):

 

a.   Ahiram    
b.   Ithobaal; (son of Ahiram)
c.   Yehimilk
d.   Abibaal; contemporary Shoshenq 1
e.   Elibaal; (son of Yehimilk); contemporary Osorkon 1
f.    Shipitbaal; (son of Elibaal)

 

The question arises as to how our list above relates to CoD’s presentation of the history of the Phoenician kings.  If Ahiram is only a couple of reigns away from the reign of Abibaal (contemporary of Shoshenq 1), doesn’t this place Shoshenq 1 much closer to the time of Solomon?

 
As noted above, our list is derived from Josephus–with the addition of the Ithobaal 1 entry, based on the tomb of Ahiram.  We agree that the reigns of Yehimilk, Abibaal, Elibaal, and Shipitbaal are roughly contemporary with Shoshenq 1 and Osorkon 1.  Moreover, we also agree that Shipitbaal is probably the king who was mentioned by Tiglath-pileser 3, c. 740 BC.  Thus the Yehimilk line must have started sometime in the 9th century — c. 820 BC, or so, assuming 20 or 30 years per reign.  (Note that Jezebel was the daughter of Ithobaal 2, i.e., biblical Ethbaal c. 878-846 B.C.  Perhaps Yehimilk came sometime just after Ithobaal and Jezebel’s time.  The proper dating of the Yehimilk line, especially Shipitbaal, has tremendous repercussions for the chronology of the Third Intermediate Period of Egypt (about which more in a later essay, time permitting).

 

The CoD group makes the assumption that Yehimilk is the son, or at least successor, of the Ithobaal who was the son of Ahiram.  At least they appear to make this assumption, since they have Yehimilk as following Ithobaal in a sequence in the list above.  However, we do not see where they have demonstrated this relationship. They cite inscriptions mentioning Ahiram and Ithobaal, “in the same script”–and say that these two kings are “generally” placed before the Yehimilk family.  Yet we need something more specific to connect these individuals.

 

What has happened in current scholarship is that the inscriptions on the tomb of Ahiram are in a script very close to the inscriptions of Abibaal and Elibaal on statutes of the Egyptian pharaohs Shoshenq 1 and Osorkon 1.  Given that Hiram is 10th century, and Shoshenq 1 is conventionally dated to the 10th century (as Shishak), it’s not surprising that scholars would try to correlate the inscriptions.  As noted above, however, the pottery in the tomb of Ahiram was found with the cartouche of Ramses 2 on it, placing Ahiram in LB2b.  This would mean LB2b has to be dated to the 10th century.  But conventional chronologists choose the alternative of gratuitously delinking Ahiram from his LB2b context and placing him in the Solomonic period.

 

Albright said:

 

“For some twenty years many scholars dated a number of the early Byblian inscriptions of the Ahiram group about the thirteenth century, because of the finding of two fragments with part of the name and titles of Ramesses II of Egypt…in the debris which filled the tomb of Ahiram and its entrance shaft….The discovery of several other inscriptions in the same script, incised on statues of the Bubastite Pharaohs Shishak [sic] and Osorkon 1…led an increasing number of scholars to date all documents in this particular type of Phoenician script between 1050 and 900….” (The Archaeology of Palestine, pp. 190-91; note the 150 year range for this script.)

 

He further claimed that Dunand had found sherds in the tomb of Ahiram that proved it couldn’t precede the beginning of the 10th century–though Albright neglected to provide any explanation of why this had to be the case.  Nevertheless, Dussaud, Frankfort, and most recently, Bondi, all agree with Montet, that Ahiram’s tomb, sarcophagus, and inscription are to be dated to the time of the Late Bronze Age on the basis of  overwhelming archaeological evidence.

 

And yet the type of inscription (re: Ramses 2) is very similar (in fact, the “same” according to Albright, allowing a 150 year variance of course) to the type of Phoenician inscription from later times (Shoshenq 1 and Osorkon 1).  Again, the New Courville conclusion is that both groups of scholars are half-right, and half-wrong.  If we bring LB2b down to the 10th century, this will greatly decrease any gap between the Ahiram type of inscriptions and the later Phoenician type of inscriptions.  It will also allow us to correlate Ahiram of the time of Ramses 2 with the Hiram of Solomon’s day without wrenching the archaeological evidence out of its context.

 

They bottom line on CoD is that they appear to be following epigraphists, along with Albright, in correlating Ahiram’s inscriptions to the later Phoenician time.  But even so, we still don’t see how they get a direct correlation with Ithobaal son of Ahiram and the Yehimilk who lived around the time of Shoshenq 1.

 

Perhaps we can put some tentative dates on these kings.  Shipitbaal can be synchronized with Tiglath-pileser 3, c. 740 B.C.  Shoshenq 1 and Osorkon 1 each reigned 21 and 36 years respectively (A. Gardiner, Egypt of the Pharaohs, p. 448.)  If we assume that Shipitbaal began his reign close to TP-3’s suzerainty, this would place him around 744 BC.

 

These are the proposed reign lengths:

 

a.  20, Yehimilk (hypothetical reign length)

b.  21, Shoshenq 1

c.  36, Osorkon 1

d. 20, Shipitbaal (hypothetical reign length).

 

The BC dates would be:

 

 

Name

Description

Date

 

 

 

 

a’.

Abibaal

contemporary Shoshenq 1

c. 801 BC

b’.

c’.

Yehimilik

Elibaal

 

son of Yehimilk; contemporary Osorkon 1

c. 780 BC

c. 760 BC

d’.

Shipitbaal

son of Elibaal

c. 738 BC

 

The correlation of Shipitbaal with Tiglath-pileser 3 was made by archaeologist Benjamin Mazar (cf. Centuries of Darkness, p. 250).  It’s always possible that this is a different Shipitbaal, but it seems likely they are the same king.   CoD theorizes that Abibaal (and Shoshenq 1) “must then have reigned not much before 800 B.C.” (p. 251).  This means that even though we reject their view that Yehimilk was the son of, or directly followed Ithobaal, son of Ahiram, we accept the CoD thesis that Shoshenq 1 should be dated close to 800 BC.  This follows from the synchronism between Shiptibaal and Tiglath-pileser 3. 
 
Addendum, 10/14/09, from an email discussion:
 
The inscriptions in question are:

“Wall built by Shipitbaal, king of Byblos, son of Elibaal, king of Byblos….”  (S. Moscati, The World of the Phoenicians, 1973, p. 50.)

An Assyrian inscription from a war annal of Tiglath-pileser 3, dated to 738 BC, says:

“[I (Tiglath-pileser) received] the tribute of Kushtashpi of Kummuh, Urik of Que, Sibittibael of Byblos…Jehoahaz of Judah….” (D. D. Luckenbill, in J. B. Pritchard, Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament, 1969, p.
282.)

Currently, Shipitbaal is divided up into a I & II simply because conventional chronologists cannot square such a late date with their dating of Shoshenq to the 10th century BC (time of Solomon). However, one can just as easily divide
Shoshenq into I & II using such ad hoc reasoning.

The following is the currently accepted view of the Byblos dynasties and their association with Egypt (based on Phoenician inscriptions mentioning contemporary Egyptian kings):

Abibaal – Shoshenq 1
Yehimilk – Shoshenq 1/Osorkon 1
Elibaal – Osorkon 1
Shipitbaal – Tiglath-pileser 3 – [Jeho] Ahaz (741-725 BC)

For a good discussion of this, see David Rohl’s, Pharaohs andKings, pp. 370ff.; also Peter James, Centuries of Darkness, p. 250; Mazar, The Early Biblical Period, 1986, pp. 244-45.

I should make it clear that conventional chronology believes that the Shipitbaal who follows Elibaal is not the same as the Shipitbaal who is mentioned by TP3.   However, it is a gratuitous delinking IMO.

As can be seen, if we give each ruler a 20 year reign, Abibaal must have reigned close to 800 BC, which would put Shoshenq 1 around the same time. This is one reason, among others, that chronological revisionists believe that it is a
mistake to equate Shoshenq 1 with biblical Shishak. This also has a bearing on the accuracy of c14 dating for the early Iron age.

End Addendum
  

5.  ARGUMENTS FOR & AGAINST THE LOW CHRONOLOGY:

 

According to Wightman, the high chronology of the Iron Age was initially developed in the context of absolute dates for the beginning and end of the Iron Age.  (BASOR, 1990, 277/278, p. 5.)  These dates provided terminal points for the pottery styles found in Palestine, allowing them to be correlated with pottery dated to the B.C. time scale from non-Palestinian sources, i.e., a supposedly correct Egyptian chronology.  Ashlar masonry found at Megiddo was dated between these terminal points, and it was the American Schools of Oriental Research’s “big digs” at Tell Beit Mirsim, ‘Ain Shems, and Megiddo that “crystallized the fundamental concepts of ‘Solomonic archaeology.’” (Ibid., p. 6.)

 

The first terminal point of the Iron Age was correlated with what archaeologists have called “Philistine ware.”  In our opinion, this is a highly misleading designation, and it should have been called Sea People’s ware, but we must save a full discussion of it for a future essay on the Philistines.

 

Since the Philistine domination of Palestine was brought to an end by David & Solomon, and since the first terminal point for the pottery was (erroneously) keyed to the biblical Philistines of the pre-monarchy period, it was only natural that the pottery coming after the so-called “Philistine-ware” was the pottery of the United Monarchy period.  This is the red-slipped, hand-burnished pottery:

 

“[T]he post-Philistine [sic] stratum contained a casemate city wall similar to the Omride citadel walls at Samaria.  Overall pottery continuity with the earlier Philistine [sic] stratum at each site, along with the biblical tradition that Solomon was the first great Israelite builder, encouraged the scholars to date Tell Beit Mirsim Stratum B3 and ‘Ain Shems Stratum IIA to the tenth century B.C….The pottery associated with the casemate walls at both sites was henceforward used as a yardstick for chronology at other sites, one of the most important of which was Megiddo.” (Ibid., p. 6.)

 

This “post-Philistine” stratum included the following:

 

a.  red-slipped, hand-burnished pottery

b.  six-chambered gateways

c.  casemate walls

d.  stables

 

These four archaeological characteristics are used as a “yardstick” for the relative dating of all other sites with similar indicia.  Since this stratum was correlated to the biblical verse describing Solomon’s building program, these indicia were then used to absolute-date similar finds to the 10th century, i.e., c. 999-900 B.C.

 

Note: 1 Kings 9:15 speaks of Solomon’s building program:

 

“And this is the reason for the labor force which King Solomon raised: to build the house of the LORD, his own house, the Millo, the wall of Jerusalem, Hazor, Megiddo, and Gezer.”

 

We will argue later that this verse is too ambiguous for precise pottery or archaeological correlation.  Indeed, it is the contention of the low chronologists that this correlation with Solomon is gratuitous, and it’s just as likely that the above characteristics correspond to the time of Ahab or after.

 

What are some of the arguments brought in defense of the conventional views as against the low chronologists?  As we’ve pointed out, William Dever is the primary opponent of the low chronologists, and it would prove beneficial to examine his arguments regarding the archaeological merits of the Low Chronology in comparison to the High Chronology.

 

Dever’s attack on the Low Chronology started out with his characteristic procedure of attacking the scholarly credentials of his opponents.  There is a shirt out on the market today that has the following saying emblazoned upon it: “Your opinion, while interesting, is irrelevant.”  In logic, some arguments are regarded as being irrelevant, the ad hominem form being one of them.  Thus we could simply say in response to Dever that his opinions regarding the low chronologists, while interesting perhaps, are quite irrelevant.  In other contexts, low chronologists have responded to the ad hominems, so Dever’s irrelevancies need not detain us here.   Nevertheless, once Dever moves out of the circle of irrelevancy, his arguments against the low chronology include at least these reasons (from “Of Myths and Methods, BASOR, 1990, 277/278).  He argues that,

 

a)  Wightman relies too much on Kenyon’s dating of her Samaria stratigraphy, and instead he should have accepted Wright’s “classic reworking of the Samaria material” (p. 122).

 

b)  Wightman does not pinpoint the “critical datum” of when the shift occurred from hand-burnished to wheel-burnished pottery; and that Finkelstein does not provide objective evidence for the date of the “crucial hand-burnished pottery” (p. 123).

 

c)  Dever’s dating of the relevant Gezer fortification wasn’t based “on any biblically-inspired predisposition,” as Wightman & Finkelstein charge, but “solely on the consensus since Albright’s day on what appear to be clear diagnostic features of tenth to ninth century pottery (especially burnished)” (p. 123).

 

d)  Finkelstein’s preference for a 9th century—low chronology–date for the relevant Gezer defenses, as well as his agreement with Ussishkin’s work at Lachish, are based, according to Dever, on the same “ad hoc historical arguments” that Finkelstein charges against conventional dating.

 

e)  Finkelstein “downplays” one of the “fixed chronological points” upon which Dever’s “tenth century B.C. dating did indeed depend, namely the Shishak destruction ca. 920 B.C” (p. 125).  In Dever’s view, this was the destruction of the Gezer gateway by Shoshenq 1 (regarded as Shishak), “which we have always attributed to Shishak on the basis of his well-known inscription” (p. 125).

 

These are the basic arguments.  In response, we refer to our previous essay on Samaria in answer to Dever’s point “a”.  There just is no solid reason for accepting Wright’s “classic reworking” of the first pottery periods of Samaria.  Moreover, Wright’s redating already assumes the point in question—that the High Chronology is correct, for the pottery at Samaria 1 and 2 was similar to pottery that had hitherto been dated to the 10th century.  Nevertheless, it’s the assumed date of the “10th century” pottery that the Low Chronology challenges.

 

On the second point, pottery sherds do not have B.C. dates stamped on them, so they have to be dated in terms of a relative chronology.  Thus pottery cannot be a “critical datum” for dating purposes until some independent means is available for pegging them to the B.C. time scale.  As Wightman points out, this pottery came just after the so-called “Philistine” stratum and before the ware regarded as late Israelite.  Hence, the biblical references to David’s defeat of the Philistines, and Solomon’s building program, were keyed to the “Philistine” stratum and served as the basis for the “10th century” date for this pottery.  Hence, the hand-burnished, red-slipped pottery is not an independent “yardstick” for dating the archaeology of the 10th century (casemate architecture, etc.).  It first has to be demonstrated that the “Philistine” stratum has been correctly dated, and second that the pottery belongs to the time of Solomon based on the biblical references.  This is the very point at issue, however, for the low chronologists.

 

In the third point, Dever’s claims about the “clear diagnostic features” of 10th and 9th century pottery already assume, as above, that this pottery has been independently dated, when in fact, it is still only a relative indicator of date.

 

The fourth point is a tu quoque.  It’s true that Finkelstein uses “historical arguments” (i.e., biblical correlations) and Dever rightly acknowledges that “we are all arguing in a circular fashion.”  (BASOR, 1990, 277/278, p. 125.)  But circular arguments and tu quoques hardly count as evidence against the Low Chronology, or evidence for the High Chronology.

 

The fifth point is based on the idea that Shoshenq 1 is Shishak—an idea that has not been proven.  Moreover, the Shoshenq 1 inscriptions were not, as Ussishkin and Rast point out, found in a stratigraphically relevant context, so cannot provide any basis for absolute dating.  Dever acknowledges Ussishkin’s point, but finds Ussishkin’s “reasoning provocative but ultimately unconvincing,” on the basis of both “textual and archaeological grounds” (p. 125).  Dever doesn’t specify what these archaeological grounds are, but he fails to grasp the relevant lesson from Ussishkin’s article, something Rast had no difficulty in understanding.  The Shoshenq 1 stela was found in one of the archaeologists’ excavation dumps, not in a stratum.  As Rast said, this places under question the only written evidence from Palestine supporting a connection between the archaeological data and biblical Shishak.  Thus, Dever cannot support conventional chronology, nor undermine the Low Chronology, by an appeal to the destruction of the Gezer gateway by Shoshenq 1, since he has not shown that Shoshenq 1 is Shishak, nor that Shoshenq 1 can be archaeologically related to the “10th-century” stratum.

 

Finkelstein does not help move his argument beyond circularity (as Dever has charged) by adopting Wright’s “reworking” of Samaria pottery (p. 116.)  His disagreement with Wightman on this point leaves his Low Chronology with little more than a skeptical motivation for its basis.  He says,

 

“Archaeologically and historically, the redating of these cities from Solomon’s era to the time of the Omrides has enormous implications.  It removes the only archaeological evidence that there was ever a united monarchy based in Jerusalem and suggests that David and Solomon were, in political terms, little more than hill country chieftains, whose administrative reach remained on a fairly local level, restricted to the hill country.”  (The Bible Unearthed, pp. 189-90.)

 

Nevertheless, Finkelstein has wholeheartedly adopted the main contention of the Low Chronology–the redating of “10th century” pottery and archaeology to the 9th century, and “9th century” materials to the 8th century.  (Ibid., p. 187.)

 

Wightman, Dever, and Finkelstein claim not to be using the Bible as a primary source for correlating the archaeological data.  However, Wightman allows the biblical text regarding Samaria to have a great deal of influence over his interpretation of the data.  Dever prefers (whether intentionally or unintentionally) the Solomonic correlation.  Finkelstein claims not to be using the biblical text, but his use of the archaeology of Jezreel is an unintentional use of the biblical text since the Bible correlates Jezreel to Ahab (via Naboth).  So in a sense, the argument between the Low Chronology and the High Chronology of the Iron Age depends to a large extent on the most plausible biblical correlation with the archaeological strata.

 

Does this commit us all to circular reasoning, as Dever maintains?  What exactly is circular reasoning?  Basically, if A appeals to evidence {x, y, z} to support theory T, it’s crucial that x, y, or z not already be part of the assumptions of T.  If any of them were part of the assumptions of T, the argument would be circular, i.e., begging the question.  In the case of critics of the Low Chronology, if they were to appeal to the archaeological equivalent of x, y, or z, and yet at the same time, not realize that at least x or y or z was already part of the assumptions of the High Chronology, they would be arguing in a circle.  Of course, this is precisely what low chronologists charge them with, begging the question at issue—and it’s hard to fault the low chronologists for making this complaint.  Dever points out, however, that the low chronologists are doing the same thing, since they are assuming a correlation between the biblical history of Ahab and the archaeology of Samaria.

 

Nevertheless, I don’t think circular reasoning is involved in correlating archaeological indicia with biblical texts.  Circular reasoning is a fallacy in argument—that is, if one is defending a theory, care needs to be taken in constructing arguments for that theory, since the possibility of placing one’s conclusion in one’s premises is an ever present argumentative danger.  Yet the correlation of archaeological data with biblical history is not firstly a matter of argument, but is instead a matter of discovery and probability.  The problem with the high chronologists is that instead of striving to find independent evidence for the High Chronology, they settle for an appeal to features of the very theory that is under challenge.  This is complacency rather than discovery.

 

 

6.  THE CITIES OF SOLOMON

 

Solomon’s building program was quite extensive.  The following outline gives some idea of it as can be gleaned from 1 Kings 9:15-17:

 

I.  Solomon built (vs. 15):

 

a.  the house of the Lord

b.  his own house

c.  the Millo (terracing)

d.  the wall of Jerusalem

e.  Hazor

f.  Megiddo

g.  Gezer

 

II.  Pharaoh burns Gezer, gives it as a dowry (v. 16)

 

III.  Solomon built (vs. 17)

 

a.  Gezer (rebuilt after Egyptian conquest)

b.  Lower Beth-Horon

c.  Baalath

d.  Tadmor

e.  storage cities (for chariots & cavalry)

f.  inner Jerusalem

g.  in Lebanon

h. in all the land

 

The above verses indicate that Solomon built architectural structures in both Israel and in Lebanon.  Nevertheless, very little information is given regarding what type of construction took place during this building program.  Did Solomon build from scratch?  Did he knock down structures and rebuild new ones?  Did he repair already existing structures?  Or did he order his labor force to build add-ons to already existing structures?  The texts are ambiguous.  It could be any one of the above, any combination of the above, or all four of them together in the same city.

 

We could look at three of the major cities noted above–Hazor, Megiddo, and Gezer—and attempt to correlate their stratigraphy to Solomon’s building program.  Yet the problem is much the same.  The testimony of their archaeology is as ambiguous as the testimony of the text, as we shall see starting with Hazor.

 

7.  HAZOR

 

(a)  Conventional Chronology: In conventional chronology, Solomon’s time is located at the 10th level of the Upper City of Hazor.  This level shows casemate wall and six-chambered gate architecture.  As we have seen, these indicia are characteristic of what is currently regarded as the “Solomonic” period in Israel under the High Chronology theory.  There are no archaeological strata for the Lower City at this time, since the last level of the Lower City was 1-a, corresponding to Upper City level 13.  (See, E. Stern, ed., New Encyclopedia, Vol. 2, p. 606, chart.)

 

Hazor Upper City stratum 9 was putatively brought to an end—a “conflagration”–by Ben-hadad 1.  Omri and Ahab are assigned to stratum 8, and Uzziah’s earthquake is correlated to stratum 6.  On this view, Tiglath-pileser 3 put an end to stratum 5, and the Assyrians were replaced by the Persians in stratum 2, and by the Greeks in stratum 1.  No stratum is assigned to the Babylonians–they are simply skipped over.  This is a problem for conventional chronology since the prophet Jeremiah specifically says that the inhabitants of Hazor and its surrounding kingdom will not be spared from Nebuchadnezzar’s conquest:

 

“Against Kedar and against the kingdoms of Hazor, which Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon shall strike. Thus says the LORD: ‘Arise, go up to Kedar, and devastate the men of the East!’”  (Jer. 49:28)

 

“‘Flee, get far away! Dwell in the depths, O inhabitants of Hazor!’ says the LORD.  ‘For Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon has taken counsel against you, and has conceived a plan against you.’”  (Jer. 49:30.)

 

Where then is the Babylonian level?  In the Shechem essay, it was pointed out that the neo-Babylonian level is missing in the Holy Land, primarily due to a misdating of the so-called “Assyrian” Palace ware.

 

(b) Classic Courville:  Courville believes that the Amarna period came after the time of Solomon.  This is due to his belief that Thutmose 3 (pre-Amarna king) was biblical Shishak, the pharaoh who invaded Israel five years after Solomon’s death (1 Kings 14:25).  Logically, then, since Thutmose 3 would be post-Solomonic, and since Amarna followed Thutmose 3, then Amarna must be farther down into the post-Solomonic period.  In terms of current stratigraphic classification, the time of Thutmose 3 to Amarna is represented at Hazor Upper City levels 15 to 14.  (New Encyclopedia, 2:606.)  Thus, Courville places the period from Solomon to Amarna within Upper City levels 15 and 14.  He dates the Amarna period to c. 857 to 840 B.C.  (Exodus Problem, 2:125; 247.)  Notable architectural elements of these strata include: reconstruction of a temple with an “impressive orthostat entrance” in level 15; and “many shrines and cult installations” in level 14.  (New Ency, p. 2:600.)

 

We have grave doubts about the archaeological feasibility of this scheme.  As has been noted by others, such a placement of LB2a Amarna during or after the time of Omri would bring the Late Bronze Age down too far into the time of the Iron Age.  Ramses 2, of LB2b, would be even further into the Iron Age.  The archaeology of Samaria forbids such a movement of the Late Bronze Age beyond the time of Omri and Ahab, who are clearly linked to the Iron Age.  (See our discussion of Samaria.)  Thus, we must reject Classic Courville’s view on the later archaeology of Hazor, as such an interpretation cannot work if the stratigraphy of the Holy Land is taken seriously.

 

(c) New Courville:  For New Courville, the Solomonic period is reflected in Upper City stratum 13, and Lower City stratum 1-a.  It should be borne in mind that Solomon’s later reign and the reigns of his immediate successors, were not characterized by purity of religion.  We have seen in the case of the MB1 people (whom we regard as the Israelites under Moses & Joshua) that they exhibited an almost pure religion.  There was both a concern for things spiritual—i.e., belief in an afterlife as shown by grave goods—while at the same time idolatry was almost non-existent.  The only object found among the MB1 people that could possibly be classified as a cultic object was a silver goblet from a tomb near ‘Ain Samiya.  (A. Mazar, Archaeology of the Land of the Bible, pp. 166-167.)  According to Mazar,

 

“Actually, it is the only art object from this period.”  (Idem.)

 

This in itself is rather remarkable, given the ubiquity of cultic objects throughout the archaeological record.  If the MB1 people are the Israelites under Moses & Joshua, then the explanation for this near total absence of idols is easily seen to be their obedience to the divine command.  Unfortunately, the apostasy that characterized the later period of Solomon’s rule and the early period of the Divided Monarchy, could be expected to sully the archaeological record.  In comparison to the pure religion of MB1, the Solomonic and post-Solomonic levels would reflect an impurity of religion—exhibited by idols or other cultic objects forbidden by the divine command.  This is why it will not be possible to isolate the Israelite culture from the “Canaanite” culture in the Late Bronze period strictly on the basis of pottery or cultural objects.  At best, we will see objects specified by biblical requirements, but sometimes accompanied by cultic objects.

 

It should not be thought that Solomon built everything from scratch.  Or that is to say, it cannot be an a priori assumption, since it’s possible, perhaps even probable, that Saul, David and Solomon inherited large cities, which retained much of their characteristics from pre-monarchy times.

 

In the Hazor Upper City stratum 13, we see repairs of previous structures in Area A.  (New Ency. 2:599.)  For Hazor Lower City 1-a, we see in area C a reconstruction of city 1-b, with the temple reconstructed.  (New Encyclopedia, 2:596.)  In area F, buildings were renovated (Ibid., 2: 597), and area K showed minor repairs and alterations (Ibid., p. 2:598).  Area H is interesting.  Besides minor repairs and alterations, archaeologists found two round bases similar to the “Jachin” and “Boaz” bases in Solomon’s temple.  Also found was a “sea”—similar to the basin in Solomon’s temple.  Mazar says,

 

“In front of the entrance leading from the porch into the hall, two round bases were found in situ.  Their location indicates that they had a cultic significance similar to that of the pillars Jachin and Boaz in Solomon’s Temple.” (Ibid., p. 2:598.)

 

“A large round basin made of basalt, somewhat like the ‘sea’ of Solomon’s Temple, was found next to the altar….”  (Ibid., pp. 2:598-99.)

 

Compare these archaeological descriptions with the biblical descriptions:

 

“Then he set up the pillars by the vestibule of the temple; he set up the pillar on the right and called its name Jachin, and he set up the pillar on the left and called its name Boaz.  The tops of the pillars were in the shape of lilies. So the work of the pillars was finished.  (1 Ki. 7:21-22.)

 

“And he made the Sea of cast bronze, ten cubits from one brim to the other; it was completely round. Its height was five cubits, and a line of thirty cubits measured its circumference.”  (1 Ki. 7:23.)

 

In keeping with the syncretism of the times, however, some less than savory objects were also found:

 

“Outside the area of the temple proper, fragments of a statute of a deity were found.  This statue, which stood on a bull-shaped base, had a divine symbol on its chest similar to the one on the incense altar [a storm-god]….” (New Encyclopedia, p. 2:599.)

 

It’s well known that Jeroboam led Israel into idolatry, setting up calves at Bethel and Dan and burning incense and making sacrifices to them–also democratizing the priesthood, and introducing a false liturgical calendar.  (1 Ki. 12:26-33.)  His motives for doing so appeared to be political rather than religious.  Nevertheless, as we’ve said, the resulting syncretism has made it difficult to separate the true religion of Israel from the false political religion of Jeroboam (and his imitators) strictly by means of archaeological data.  There is a mixture of biblically specified religious objects along with symbols of idolatry.

 

So which of the chronological interpretations best fits the archaeology of Hazor?  Conventional, Classic Courville, or New Courville?  As we said at the beginning, the problem is that both the biblical text and the archaeological record are ambiguous with respect to what type of building program was involved in the Solomonic period.  In conventional chronology, we have the standard casemate architecture that could fit with the period of Solomon, though this view has come under criticism from the Low Chronology.  In Courville’s chronology, we at least have a reconstructed temple and some cult installations that might reflect the time of Solomon and his idolatrous successors, and in New Courville, we see reconstruction, renovation, repair, and alteration, along with specific examples of biblical religious objects—the two capitals, and the sea, along with cultic objects reflective of post-Solomonic idolatry.

 

Given this ambiguity, it cannot be demonstrated with certainty that any one of these levels reflects the Solomonic period.  Nevertheless, the one thing New Courville has over the other alternatives (besides their own inherent problems) is that the New Courville levels for Solomon are more specific and concrete in their correlations with the time of Solomon, while the other alternatives match the Solomonic period only in general correlations.  Nevertheless, more work will need to be done on Late Bronze levels to determine if there are any further specific LB2b matches with the time of Solomon.

 

8.  MEGIDDO

 

(a) Conventional Chronology: Under conventional views, Joshua’s conquest of the Holy Land should be registered at the point that separates Megiddo stratum 7b from 7a.  This is because conventional chronology places the Conquest—to the extent it is held to have taken place at all—at the beginning of the Iron Age.  (A. Mazar, Archaeology of the Land of the Bible, pp. 301; 334.)

 

A major destruction of the city took place at Megiddo level 7b, giving way to the Iron 1 city, Megiddo level 7a.  At first sight, this might seem to support the biblical narrative of the conquest under Joshua.  However, this interpretation could only work if the biblical data are ignored.  In the Bible, there is no mention of the destruction of Megiddo by the Israelites under Joshua.  In fact, the city was spared and placed under tribute (Judges 1:27).  Thus, the destruction of Megiddo 7b would be anachronistic if the Bible is interpreted in light of conventional views of the Conquest.

 

Going forward in time, conventional chronology interprets Megiddo 6a as “Philistine,” based on the presence of characteristic “Philistine” pottery.  It is held that David was responsible for the destruction of the Philistine city, i.e., Megiddo 6a.  (G. Davies, Cities of the Biblical World—Megiddo, p. 73.)  While it is possible that David fought with the Philistines and destroyed Megiddo, there is no mention in the Bible of the Philistines’ being in possession of Megiddo during David’s time, nor is there a mention that David fought at Megiddo, or that he destroyed the city.  The conventional view is therefore speculative.  Megiddo 5b is regarded as the city rebuilt by David.  (Ibid., p. 76.)  It was poorly built and unfortified and the evidence indicates a “period of decline” in comparison to the previous city.  (E. Stern, Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land, 3:851)

 

The city of Megiddo 4a was early on ascribed to Solomon due to the stables at this level (associated with 1 Kings 9:17).  It was also discovered that the stables were stratigraphically linked to the solid offsets/insets walls.  Yadin said,

 

“There was no doubt, from the stratigraphical point of view, that this wall was contemporary with the famous stables…also attributed to Solomon.” (Yigael Yadin, Hazor, [1970], p. 150.)

 

“The main buildings attributed by the excavators to the Solomonic period were discovered in Stratum IV from the top, which they were compelled…to call Stratum IVa.  This stratum included the two stable complexes….There was no stratigraphical doubt that the stables were contemporary with the offsets/insets wall.  Since the latter was attributed to Solomon, it followed that so should the stables be.” (Ibid., p. 151.)

 

But this created a problem due to the discovery of a palace and other large structures in the previous stratum:

 

“The great complication in attributing Stratum IV to Solomon arose still earlier, as the result of a surprising discovery on the south side of the Tell, east of the southern stables.  Here a building…, a palace or fort, was discovered…built of ashlar, and similar in style to the Solomonic [sic] gate….It became clear to the astonished excavators that the so-called Solomonic offsets/insets wall…had been erected on the ruins of that palace.”  (Ibid., p. 152.)

 

Two alternatives to understanding this situation were offered.  One was that Solomon built the palace, as well as a large structure west of the palace, and later tore them down and replaced them; and the other is that David built the palace and structure, which were later torn down and replaced by Solomon.  Yadin says,

 

“Both these explanations assumed that Solomon himself destroyed the two grandest Israelite structures existing in Megiddo.” (Ibid., p. 153.)

 

Albright & Wright helped clarify things by assigning the palace and other structures to a new stratum classification, i.e., 5a-4b.  Although designated by two numbers, due to a former belief that 5a and 4b were successive, 5a and 4b are now regarded as contemporaneous strata, and are treated as one stratum, 5a-4b.  Nevertheless, Albright & Wright still ascribed the palace and accompanying structures to David’s time, which still left Solomon as the supposed destroyer of these great buildings.  (Idem; cf. also, Yadin, “Biblical Megiddo,” Jerusalem Cathedra, 1981, p. 127.)

 

Yadin made visits to Megiddo in 1960, and during 1966 & 1967, and discovered another palace, its ruins under the offsets/insets wall.  Yadin says,

 

“Its plan proves that it resembles greatly the so-called bit hilani of Zinjirli and sites on the Syrian coast…This additional proof of Phoenician influence on Solomon’s [sic] building activities is of great interest.  (Hazor, p. 155.) 

 

The bit hilani style is found mainly on the Phoenician coast starting at the beginning of the 9th century.  (Cf., Yadin, Jerusalem Cathedra, 1981, p. 130.)  This style would be correlated to the “casemate” level at Megiddo 5a-4b.  Yadin could not believe that Solomon destroyed the great structures of 5a-4b only to replace them with 4a stables, so he ascribed the 4a levels to later buildings periods.  The following chart, based on Davies’, Megiddo, p. 88, represents Yadin (and Kenyon’s) views of Megiddo’s archaeology for the monarchy and divided monarchy period:

 

 

King

Stratum

Description

David

Megiddo 5b

 

Solomon

Megiddo 5a-4b

casemate wall

Jeroboam 1

Megiddo 4a-1

offsets/insets wall

Omri-Ahab

Megiddo 4a-2

offsets/insets, stables

 

 

Archaeologist Yohanan Aharoni rejected this scheme and denied that there were any casemates at Megiddo.  (Davies, p. 89.)  He affirmed that Megiddo 4a was also Solomonic.  David Ussishkin, however, agreed with Yadin and Kenyon, and ascribed the destruction of 5a-4b to Shoshenq 1 (regarded as biblical Shishak under conventional views).  Davies agrees with the main contentions of Yadin, Kenyon, and Ussishkin, and regards 5a-4b to be Solomonic and 4a to be from the 9th century (during Omride times).  (Ibid., p. 90ff.)

 

The Megiddo gate of 5a-4b matches the “Solomonic” gates of Hazor 10 and Gezer 15.  Yadin describes the resemblance between them as an “absolute similarity.”  (Hazor, p. 150.)  The Megiddo 5a-4b gate then must be “Solomonic” under conventional views.  Nevertheless, the Megiddo 5a-4b gate was linked to the Megiddo 4a offsets/insets walls, not to the 5a-4b “casemate” walls, as would have been expected.  (Yadin, p. 150; Davies, p. 87.)  Yadin’s later expeditions allowed him to discover what he took to be the remains of casemate walls.  However, it was not possible to demonstrate from the remaining evidence that the casemates had been connected to the gate, though Yadin felt that “there seems to be no doubt that these casemates continued westwards to the gate.”  (Yadin, p. 157; Davies, p. 88.)

 

Davies, however, attempts to undermine the view that this gate is contemporary with the 4a walls, and holds out for the view that the gate is “Solomonic” and the walls are 9th century.  (Ibid., p. 92.)  He points to the lack of “bonding” between the gate and the walls as evidence for the possibility that these structures may reflect different times:

 

“Attention has often been drawn to the fact that the wall and the gate are not bonded into one another.  It may be true, as Ussishkin has pointed out, that such bonding in is not essential at the level of foundations.  But the lack of it at least permits the conclusion that the two structures were not built at the same time.”  (Davies, p. 91.)

 

It does not seem to have occurred to the excavators that a natural catastrophe may have brought much of the city down–including the casemate walls—of the so-called Solomonic city.  Naturally, since the gate is the strongest structure in the city, and because an earthquake can sometimes be very selective in what it destroys, such a catastrophe might very well have left the gate intact while destroying other large structures in the city.  This would be the opposite of an invasion, which would begin at the gate and would likely destroy the gate before proceeding to the rest of the city.

 

If a natural catastrophe struck Megiddo 5a-4b, and if the gate survived, the re-builders would simply build the solid offsets/insets wall up to the gate, without necessarily “bonding in” the new walls to the old gate.  Thus, the continuity of the “Solomonic” gate from one level to the next may demonstrate the possibility of a natural catastrophe as the agent of destruction of the city rather than, say, Shoshenq 1’s invasion.  The fact that the builders chose to build a very sturdy offsets/insets wall after the destructions at level 5a-4b may have simply been an attempt to “earthquake-proof” the city.  Indeed, the solid wall lasted well into Megiddo 3.

 

(b) Classic Courville:  Courville calls attention to the difficulty under conventional chronology of determining when the Israelites gained control of Megiddo.  (Exodus Problem, 2:189.)  At the conquest under Joshua and later, the city of Megiddo was spared destruction, and its inhabitants were put under tribute by the Israelites.  If however the Israelites gained complete control over Megiddo during the days of Deborah, this should be clearly marked in the archaeological record by new pottery.  (Courville, 2:189.)

 

Albright believed that a change had occurred between Megiddo 7 and 6, due to a new pottery (Courville, 190).  Engberg denied that the pottery change was as significant as claimed by Albright, and held that Barak lived at the time of Samuel.  (Ibid., p. 190.)  The Bible, however, indicates that Deborah was a Judge in Israel at least within 120 years of the Conquest (c. 1445), so this view cannot be reconciled with the internal chronology of the Bible.  Albright responded that there was really no need to hold that Megiddo was occupied by the Israelites.  (Ibid., p. 191.)  Engberg, however, argued for an occupation and pointed out that Albright’s Megiddo 6 was “Canaanite” and this ruled it out as the stratum occupied by the Israelites.  Albright later agreed with Engberg’s placement of the occupation at Megiddo stratum 5, and argued that this would require a redating of the Barak Conquest to sometime after 1100 B.C.  This has the effect of telescoping the history of the Judges from Deborah to the time of Abimelech to a few years just prior to Saul’s reign—mid-11th century—about 50 years.

 

“This telescoping of events does somewhat upset our usual views, but there is no serious historical objection….”  (BASOR, 78:8; Courville, p. 192.)

 

Wright, however, believed that Megiddo 6 and 5 were both Canaanite, and that Albright’s original view regarding Megiddo 7 and 6 was right.  (Courville, p. 192.)

 

Since Abimelech must follow Barak, and since Barak is placed on conventional views well within the “Philistine” period (prior to Saul), Abimelech must also be well within the “Philistine” period.  But the stratum assigned to Abimelech at Shechem under conventional views is “pre-Philistine Iron 1.”  (Ibid., p. 193.)  Courville points out that there are two difficulties with the conventional views.  If the Barak occupation is placed between Megiddo 6 and 5, then the above stratigraphic paradox results.  On the other hand, if it’s placed between Megiddo 7 and 6, scholars must be content with the evidence of little cultural shift between these two levels.  Courville says,

 

“The situation is somewhat comparable to that of the creation of the split-Exodus theory to account for the insoluble discrepancies at the time of the Conquest.  The theory is in such violent contradiction to Scripture as to require rejection of vast sections of these records as having any historical value, and at the same time the theory is utterly indefensible….The Biblical accounts relative to Megiddo are not merely ‘somewhat upset’ by the interpretation of Engberg; the accounts are completely nullified.”  (Ibid., pp. 193-94.)

 

The city of Megiddo stratum 9 was destroyed by Thutmose 3 (regarded as Shishak by Courville).  (See, E. Stern, Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land, 3:845.)  So this must mean that stratum 9 was Solomon’s.  However, Courville opts for Megiddo stratum 10 as Solomonic, and claims that stratum 9 was occupied by Thutmose 3.  (Courville, 2:200.)  Moreover, Courville denies that Thutmose 3 destroyed Megiddo, and refers to Josephus’ claim that the cities of Judah surrendered to “Shishak” without fighting.  Of course, this argument already assumes that Thutmose 3 was Shishak, a conclusion that is subject to reasonable doubt.  Nevertheless, Courville is at least right in one respect–the textual evidence regarding Thutmose 3’s conquest of Megiddo shows that that there was a siege of the city lasting several months, but it says nothing about whether the city was destroyed.

 

Courville’s views on Megiddo are summarized in the following chart, based on Table IV, p. 196 of his book, and the article on Megiddo in E. Stern’s Encyclopedia, Vol 3:

 

 

Stratum

Conventional

Classic Courville

1

Persian

Persian

2

Josiah

Babylonian

3

Assyrian

Assyrian

4

Omri/Ahab

Assyrian

5a-4b

Solomon

Assyrian

5

David

Philistines & Assyrians

6

Philistines

Israelites after Samaria’s fall

7

Amarna to LB2b

Israelite monarchy

8

Thutmose 3 to Amarna

Shishak

9

pre-Thutmose 3

City of Thutmose 3

10

MB2c to LB1

Solomon

 

 

Courville chose Megiddo stratum 10 as Solomonic because of the building of a new fortification system at that level.

 

“Stratum X provides the proper background for the era of Solomon.”  (Courville, p. 200.)

 

The gate of stratum 10 lasted until the beginning of the Iron Age, and a palace was also built and rebuilt starting from stratum 10 going all the way through to Megiddo 7a, when it was destroyed.  Wright says that this palace must have rivaled that of Solomon later built in Jerusalem.  (Idem.)

 

Courville believes that Megiddo stratum 9 was occupied by Thutmose 3 (his Shishak) during the post-Solomonic period.  Archaeologists, however, hold that stratum 9 was destroyed by Thutmose 3, meaning that stratum 8 would be the city occupied by Thutmose 3.  (Stern, Encyclopedia, pp. 845-46.)

 

Under Courville’s view, Megiddo stratum 7a was destroyed by the Assyrians early in the 7th century, and stratum 4a is ascribed to the Assyrians as well.  (Ibid., p. 202.)

 

(c) New Courville:  From the point of view of the New Courville interpretation, the Solomonic level at Megiddo is best represented by Megiddo 7b.  This stratum lasted at least from the Amarna period down to the end of LB2b (the early post-Solomonic period in our theory).

 

As can be expected from one of Solomon’s cities, Megiddo 7b was known for its wealth:

 

“This stratum marks Megiddo’s last great period of material wealth in the Bronze Age.” (Stern, Encyclopedia, p. 847.)

 

Thus, any city later than the LB2b city would be incongruous with the biblical descriptions of Solomon’s great wealth and building program.  Despite the building program, however, there were no great archaeological changes at Megiddo from earlier periods.  For instance, the ablution chamber and sea-shell floor continued from the earlier Amarna period, though there were some alterations and repairs:

 

“The basic plan of the fortified sanctuary remained unchanged in stratum VII-B.  In various places its walls were repaired with large hewn stones, and the niche was replaced by a 1.1-meter-high plastered altar that extended the entire length of the south wall.” (Idem.)

 

It should also be recalled that Rehoboam refortified Megiddo and other cities, and forsook the Mosaic law, and this occasioned the divine judgment that brought Shishak up to Israel.  In our opinion, the destruction of Megiddo 7b should then be ascribed to Shishak (i.e., Merneptah per New Courville):

 

“Between the remains of the palaces of stratum VII-B and stratum VII-A was a thick layer of debris.”  (Idem.)

 

If we are right in identifying Merneptah with Shishak, then Shishak apparently confined his destruction primarily to palaces in his attacks upon Israel, and left other public buildings standing:

 

“The layer of debris and the clear signs of destruction separating the architectural remains of VII-B and VII-A, especially in the palace, indicate that these were two separate strata of occupation.  It seems, however, that the same or at least very similar inhabitants occupied both levels, since some of the public buildings of VII-B (most notably the sanctuary) were re-used in VII-A.” (Stern, p. 847.).

 

Megiddo 7a could thus be the post-Shishak city, and was still occupied by Israelites.  Shishak placed the cities under tribute rather than relocating the inhabitants, unlike the later Assyrians and neo-Babylonians.  Thus, there would be no change in population.

 

Since Megiddo 7a has cartouches of Ramses 3 and Ramses 6, we could therefore date the end of stratum 7a to circa 866B.C as per our chart of the Third Intermediate Period.

 

“The settlement of stratum VII-A was brought to an end by a sudden and total destruction.”  (Stern, p. 850.)

 

The Philistines probably destroyed the city and occupied Megiddo 6b to 6a.  Megiddo 6a shows late Philistine pottery.  (Stern, p. 851.).  This city was in turn destroyed, and as we have argued elsewhere, the next stratum 5a-4b would be the stratum caught in the great earthquake of Uzziah’s day.  Stratum 4a would then be the rebuilding of Megiddo at the time of Jeroboam 2, after the earthquake.

 

As noted above, if a natural catastrophe struck Megiddo 5a-4b, and if the gate survived, those responsible for rebuilding the city walls would likely choose a much stronger wall than the casemate type.  Since the gate survived the earthquake, the new solid offsets/insets wall could be built up to the gate.  Thus, an earthquake would be a good explanation as to why a “Solomonic” gate would be found together with a post-“Solomonic” wall.  Under the New Courville view, the gate was built in Ahabic or post-Ahabic times, but before the Uzziah earthquake.  Since it survived the earthquake, there was no need to tear it down, though there was a need to rebuild the walls.  A more functional stables was apparently built instead of a new palace.

 

Returning to Megiddo stratum 7b, which we identified as the Solomonic or early post-Solomonic period, let us review some facts about it:

 

–Megiddo ivory handle: 

 

This is a famous ivory that depicts a Semitic king receiving, as well as taking part in, a victory procession.  This king is seated on a lion throne, and has a woman standing before him.  The throne appears to have a rounded back, armrests, and lions on the sides of the chair.  A stringed instrument is being plucked, and the woman appears to be offering the king some kind of food, and the king is drinking wine perhaps.  Could this be the Queen of Sheba standing before Solomon?  Or could it be his Egyptian queen on the occasion of his marriage to her?  The conquered enemies in the scene might then be the spoils from the Pharaoh’s conquest at Gezer.  (Cf., Stern, p. 838.)  Compare the biblical description of Solomon’s throne:

 

“Moreover the king made a great throne of ivory, and overlaid it with pure gold.  The throne had six steps, and the top of the throne was round at the back; there were armrests on either side of the place of the seat, and two lions stood beside the armrests.”  (1 King 10:18-19; emphasis added.)

 

“And the king made steps of the almug wood for the house of the LORD and for the king’s house, also harps and stringed instruments for singers.”  (1 King 10:12; emphasis added.)

 

Thus, the rounded throne, the armrests, the lions, and the stringed instruments correlate very well with the Solomonic period, not just in general, but also in detail.  The woman standing before the throne even correlates with a major event in Solomon’s reign, either his meeting with the queen of a foreign land or his marriage to the daughter of Pharaoh.

 

–Ivory cache:  One of the largest and richest collections of “Canaanite” ivories was found in a sanctuary attached to the palace.  (Stern, p. 849.)  These ivories date to Megiddo 7b:

 

“[T]he treasury and its treasure originated before the reign of Ramses III.  It can be assumed that the majority of these ivories actually belong to the VII-B palace.  Many of the plaques were used originally as inlay panel decoration for palace furniture.”  (Idem.)

 

Of course, Solomon was known for his importation of ivory:

“For the king had merchant ships at sea with the fleet of Hiram. Once every three years the merchant ships came bringing gold, silver, ivory, apes, and monkeys.”  (1 King 10:22; emphasis added.)

 

–In Megiddo 7a, a holy-of-holies niche was added to the poorly constructed 7a temple, built above the ruins of the 7b temple.  Our view is that Merneptah (or Shishak) destroyed the 7b temple, and after this, the Israelites built a high place or bamah (platform) in front of the niche.  (Stern, p. 849.)  The building of high places to worship idols was characteristic of Solomon’s later years, and of the post-Solomonic period, and amazingly enough lasted almost until the days of Nebuchadnezzar 2, for it was Josiah who finally destroyed them:

 

“Moreover the altar that was at Bethel, and the high place which Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel sin, had made, both that altar and the high place he broke down; and he burned the high place and crushed it to powder, and burned the wooden image.”  (2 Kings 23:15; emphasis added.)

 

The high place at Megiddo did not last that long, however, since the city of 7a was brought to a “sudden and total destruction.”  (Stern, p. 850.)

 

9.  Gezer

 

(a) Conventional:  Gezer is known from Egyptian, Assyrian, and biblical sources.  It suffered conquest or occupation under Thutmose 3, Thutmose 4, under the Amarna pharaohs, later under Merneptah, and then by Tiglath-Pileser 3.  (Stern, New Encyclopedia, 2:496, Dever article.)  The Bible mentions that the king of Gezer was killed at the time of Joshua’s Conquest, though it does not say the city was destroyed, only put under tribute by the tribe of Ephraim.  Perhaps the most famous incident involving Gezer was a Pharaoh’s conquest of the city, i.e., the Egyptian king who gave the city to Solomon as a dowry for his daughter (I Kings 9:15-17).

 

Solomonic” Gezer:  The “10th century” stratum under conventional views is Gezer 8 (General Stratum 8).  This level has typical four-entry way gates and casemate walls, regarded as “Solomonic” by the High Chronologists of the Iron Age, but ascribed to Ahab’s time by Low Chronologists.  The destruction of Gezer 8 is usually correlated with “Shishak”—the biblical Pharaoh who invaded the Holy Land soon after Solomon’s death.

 

“Post-Philistine, Pre-Solomonic” Gezer:  Strata 10 & 9 have characteristic red-slipped, unburnished pottery.  The “post-Philistine” architecture was poorer than the “Philistine” levels and ended in a “violent destruction”–which supposedly took place at the hands of the Pharaoh who became Solomon’s father-in-law.  (Ibid., 2:504.)

 

“Philistine” Gezer:  Going back further (or deeper), Strata 13 to 11 are regarded as “Philistine” of the Iron 1 period, i.e., starting with the Sea Peoples’ ware.  There were three major destructions of Gezer during this period: the first destruction was of a grain warehouse, which was rebuilt.  The second put an end to the warehouse, while a third took out domestic architecture.  The pottery of the latest stages was a local range of “degenerate” Late Bronze Age pottery, mixed with a “sudden appearance of the characteristic Philistine bichrome ware.” (Ibid., 2:504.).

 

Post-Merneptah Gezer:  Stratum 14 is the phase following the destruction of stratum 15.  Stratum 14 is held to represent the city after Merneptah’s foray into the Holy Land, which is recorded on the “Israel Stele.”  This stele is famous for its unique mention of Israel, but it also mentions Gezer.  Dever says,

 

“It would be tempting to relate this to the destruction claimed by Pharaoh Merneptah, in about 1207 BCE [sic] (among Macalister’s finds is a sundial bearing the cartouche of Merneptah).  It would explain the curious fact that nowhere did the excavations encounter a real destruction accompanying the arrival of the Philistines, or Sea Peoples, in the early twelfth century BCE [sic].”  (Ibid., 2:504.)

 

Ramses 2 Gezer:  Since General Stratum 15 is LB2b, it would represent the time of Ramses 2 at the least.  It represents a “decline” from the Amarna period, but that’s a high standard to pass, given the prosperity of Amarna.  (For comparison, recall the rich tomb of Tutankhamun, a minor Pharaoh of the Amarna period).  In any case, LB2b represents some fairly large building operations.  Macalister’s “Canaanite” castle was built at this level, and some large buildings–regarded as “Egyptian” in style—were also built at this time.  (Ibid., 2:503.)

 

Amarna Age Gezer:  This was stratum 16, and represents the LB2a archaeological level.  Little remains of this level due to later pitting operations, but Dever speaks of “hints” that preserve what must have once been “an impressive material culture.” (Ibid., 2:502.)  This level does not appear to have come to an end in a violent destruction, but as Dever says, no element of the architecture of stratum 16 survived to be reused in the LB2b stratum 15.  (Ibid., 2:503.)

 

(b) Classic Courville—As pointed out above, Gezer was notable because it was conquered by a king of Egypt and given as a dowry for his daughter, who became Solomon’s wife (1 Ki. 9:16).  Courville points out that because Shishak is identified in conventional chronology with Shoshenq 1, then the king of Egypt who conquered Gezer for his daughter must be an immediate or close predecessor of Shoshenq 1—one of the later rulers of Dynasty 21.  Thus the conqueror of Gezer must have been either Osochor, Psinaches, or Pasebkheno (Exodus Problem, 2:204).  Courville points out that such an incursion by an Egyptian king into Palestine during this Dynasty would be unlikely:

 

“Not one of these kings leaves a scrap of evidence to indicate that he could have undertaken the conquest of a walled city deep in Palestine to provide a site for a new city for a daughter, supposedly Solomon’s recently acquired wife.” (Exodus Problem, 2:205.)

 

Courville plays down the reference to Gezer by Merneptah.  The well known Merneptah stela is the first (and only) mention of Israel by an Egyptian king.  Along with other cities in the Holy Land, Gezer was “seized upon” by Pharaoh Merneptah.  Courville, however, denies that Merneptah invaded Israel and (implausibly) ascribes the content of the Merneptah stela to the “disaster” that befell Israel when the Assyrians invaded Samaria and the Northern Kingdom (cf., 2:207).  This interpretation, of course, stems from Courville’s identification of Shishak with Thutmose 3, which requires Courville to downdate Thutmose 3 and the following Late Bronze Age kings to a period after 925 B.C.  Merneptah would be near the end of the Late Bronze Age and hence would be dated by Courville to the Assyrian conquests in the late 8th century B.C.  (This has difficult stratigraphic problems, however.)

 

(c) New Courville—The following represents a chart of the relevant archaeology of Gezer correlated to biblical history from the New Courville perspective:

 

 

General Stratum

Field 1 &

Stratum

Field 2 & Stratum

Bible

15

1:5b-c

2:13

Solomon to Shishak (Merneptah); conquered by Shishak.

14

1:5a

2:12

Merneptah period

13-9

1:4, 1:3

2:11b to

2:7a

Sea Peoples & Philistines; level

9 destroyed by Uzziah?

8

 

2:6b

Parts of city destroyed by Uzziah’s

earthquake, c. 783 BC

7

 

2:6a

Post-earthquake period,

Jeroboam 2

6

 

2:5a-b

Assyrian occupation

6

 

2:5a-b

City destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar 2

5

 

2:4

Neo-Babylonian period

5

 

2:4

destroyed by Persians

4

 

2:3a-b

destroyed by Greeks

 

 

Since we believe that the LB2b period is Solomonic, and since Gezer 15 is correlated to LB2b, we would therefore regard this city as the one in existence through the days of Solomon down to the days of Merneptah.

 

Gezer was not one of Rehoboam’s fortified cities (2 Chron. 11:5-12), so it’s not clear that Shishak would have attacked or destroyed the city during his campaign in the Holy Land.  Of course, not being one of Rehoboam’s fortified cities does not mean Gezer lacked fortifications, or that the Egyptian pharaoh would not have regarded it as a traditional target for Egyptian campaigns (e.g., Thutmose 3’s conquest).  Our theory is that besides attacking Rehoboam’s cities—i.e., “Israel’s seed is not”–Merneptah took a swipe at Gezer and some Philistine cities such as Ashkelon.  In terms of the archaeological material, the Late Bronze Age 2b, Gezer 15, was interrupted by a localized destruction in the “heavily burned” courtyard area.  (New Encyclopedia, 2:504.)  There does not appear to have been a widespread or general destruction of level 15.  Dever says:

 

“The best explanation for the various phenomena may be to posit a limited, local destruction by Pharaoh Merneptah, who in the well-known ‘Israel Stela’…claims specifically to have seized Gezer.”  (William G. Dever, ed., Gezer II: Report of the 1967-70 Seasons in Fields I and II, 1974, p. 50.)

 

In stratum 14, post-Merneptah pit-diggers settled in for a while, and as we have argued elsewhere, these were Israelites of the Divided Kingdom period hunting for treasure–but they must have been driven out by the Sea Peoples or left before they arrived, because characteristic “Philistine” ware was found in Gezer stratum 13.  (Dever, Gezer II, chart, p. 5.)

 

Level 16 structures were from the Amarna period (in fields 1 & 6), and these disappeared in the transition from level 16 to level 15.  Level 15—the Solomonic period for us–is known for its “Egyptian style” structures.  As Dever pointed out, almost no architecture from stratum 16 survived, and the new buildings of LB2b were built on a new orientation.  For New Courville, the newly oriented buildings may represent the rebuilding phase that took place after Solomon’s father-in-law burned Gezer and killed the Canaanites who lived there.  During the LB2b phase, the pottery was more functional (i.e., “degenerate”) rather than elaborate.  Crude stick figures were used to decorate some of the pottery (Ibid., pp. 504ff.)  The “degenerate” (or functional) pottery and stick figures would probably represent the latter period of Solomon’s reign, or the immediate post-Solomonic period, when idolatry flourished in the Divided Kingdom.

 

Uzziah’s Earthquake: After Merneptah’s localized destruction, and the pit-diggers’ treasure hunt, and the Sea Peoples’ occupation, attention is directed to stratum 8 of the city of Gezer.  For New Courville, Gezer 8 represents the city that was in existence just prior to Uzziah’s earthquake.  This level has the typical four-entryway gate and casemate walls that mark out Solomon’s building program on conventional views.  As we have seen in the case of Hazor and Megiddo, however, this characteristic architecture and pottery could just as well be Ahabic or post-Ahabic, but prior to the 783 B.C. earthquake. 

 

In this level, the city is described as “unimpressive” and was “little more than a token administrative center.” (Ibid., p. 505.)  A stick figure who resembles a “storm god” was found in this city, as was also the Gezer calendar.  Dever says,

 

“A destruction, particularly heavy in the vicinity of the gateway, brought stratum VIII to an end in the late tenth century BCE [sic].” (Ibid. 2:505.)

 

Dever ascribes this to Shishak, but on our view, this would be a result of the earthquake.

 

 The Outer Wall

 

We have already mentioned the ambiguity of the biblical description of Solomon’s achievements, and how we cannot be certain that his building program refers to a repair of already existing structures, or to a building from scratch.   Among other things, the three cities mentioned are Hazor, Megiddo, and Gezer (1 Ki. 9:15ff.).  Gezer, however, receives more mention than the others.  In verse 16 we are told that Pharaoh had burned the city with fire, and had killed the inhabitants of the city.  Could it be that this is a hint that Gezer had to be built from ground up?  As was pointed out, the evidence shows new structures in Gezer 15.  Dever says,

 

“No large-scale destruction took place at the end of stratum XVI [Amarna], but some disturbance may be evident in the fact that in both fields I and VI almost no element of the architecture survived to be reused in stratum XV.  The rather unimpressive buildings that succeeded were built on a new orientation.” (Ibid., 2:503.)

 

More than likely Gezer, as a dowry from the king of Egypt, would be the political point of contact between Israel and Egypt from then on.  Perhaps the Egyptian style structures in stratum 15 represent a diplomatic staff from Egypt, or perhaps a support group sent by the Pharaoh for his daughter, Solomon’s new wife.

 

Would the new structures of Gezer 15 also be accompanied by a new defensive wall, i.e., the Outer Wall?  Dever and his group could not date with certainty the Outer Wall of Gezer.  It had to have been built after MB2c, for the simple fact that the Outer Wall is built after stratum 7’s “Inner Wall,” which was destroyed sometime during the earliest part of the Late Bronze Age.  It also was built before the “Solomonic” period (Ahabic for us) due to the fact that “10th century” ashlar towers were built into the Outer Wall, and were regarded as “secondary” by one of the earliest excavators.  (Dever, Gezer II, p. 39.)  Dever attributes this wall to the Amarna period, but this is only a guess on his part.

 

“The ceramic evidence for a Late Bronze date for the ‘Outer Wall’ is so scant that it may be considered circumstantial, and at best our argument remains one of silence….the ‘Outer Wall’ preserved no occupational levels against its inner face by which it might have been dated ceramically.”  (Gezer II, p. 37.)

 

His reason for ascribing it to the Amarna period is that:

 

“[O]nly the ‘Amarna Age’ of LBIIA…when the city enjoyed a brief revival under nominal Egyptian hegemony, provides any context for an impressive defense system such as the ‘Outer Wall.” (Gezer II, p. 39.)

 

This would be true, however, only if conventional chronology were correct, but as we have noted, under our theory of an LB2b Solomonic building program, this could easily provide a context for this impressive defense system found at Gezer in the Late Bronze Age.

 

If we are right in ascribing this wall to the time of Solomon, then it was probably built after his Egyptian father-in-law (Ramses 2 under New Courville) killed the Canaanite inhabitants of the city and burned it with fire.  Indeed, there is no evidence that the Outer Wall was burned down, and it lasted down to the time of the ashlar towers.  So it’s likely it was built after Ramses 2’s capture of the city.  Nevertheless, this is not an absolute must, if the destruction mentioned in the Bible was localized rather than general.

 

Is it reasonable to regard the destruction of Gezer as localized?  It’s true that Solomon’s father-in-law killed the inhabitants of Gezer and “burnt it with fire” (I Ki. 9:15, 17), but the biblical statement does not say to what extent the city itself was destroyed.  One would think that the burning of the city was somewhat limited, for what would be the point of handing over a completely destroyed city as a dowry?  Thus, it’s not clear whether this burning of the city described by the Bible should be taken as referring to the walls of the city, and it’s entirely plausible to regard the “burning with fire” as a localized destruction of the city.

 

While the above view is a possibility–that the Outer Wall was built by Solomon–we still need to respect the views of the archaeologists.  Despite the lack of significant evidence, the archaeologists have ascribed the construction of the Outer Wall to the LB2a period, which would be pre-Solomonic on our view of the stratigraphy.  If this is true, New Courville would regard the biblical description of the burning of the city to refer to the interior rather than to the exterior structures of the city.  This would be consistent, as noted above, with the logic of the situation.  If the city was meant to be a dowry-gift to Solomon, it would certainly have been a poor one if all that was left was a mound of dirt and rubble.

 

End

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