Why Did Hezekiah Not Feel a Threat to the South From Sennacherib

Hezekiah concentrated his defense outside Jerusalem on two sides: the passes to Jerusalem, especially those near the border of Samaria (Gibeon+Mizpah), and the three (four?) fortified cities in the Shephelah (Beth-Shemesh, Lachish, and Azekah, and possibly Socoh). He did not concentrate his defense on the Beersheba Valley. Why? Because Sennacherib had a purpose for taking over Gibeon, Mizpah, and the Shephelah. He did not, however have any clear purpose for taking over the Beersheba Valley. Why? Because the Shephelah made Judah far too politically influential in Philistia for Assyria to allow, and, more importantly, it could be administered by Ashdod and Gaza. Mizpah and Gibeon could be used to stop trade coming to Judah from the Assyrian provinces in the North or be used as springboards to take over the southern part of the province of Samaria. Both could also be administered as unfortified cities within Samaria. The Beersheba Valley, meanwhile, was a vital trade artery, offered very little threat of political influence in Edom or Gaza, and could not be competently administered by any polity except Judah. Exiling the population of the Beersheba Valley would, as Hezekiah likely reasoned, be the last part of Judah Sennacherib would want to attack.

Of course, the Assyrians did end up destroying the Beersheba Valley, probably as a make-work project for Judah, to keep it from growing too strong again any time soon.

(Regarding LMLKS) Socoh Used The Shephelah, Not Hill Country Road

Note that Socoh had a sizeable amount of impressions at Lachish and Timnah, Goded and Mareshah, Gath and Azekah, but not Beth-Shemesh, right next to Timnah. This strongly suggests Socoh used the Shephelah, not Hill Country road for spreading its wares. Also, it suggests the Southern Socoh at modern Shuweikah near Eshtemoa is the lmlk Socoh, since, if the northern Socoh was intended, more impressions would have been found at Beth-Shemesh.

Best Candidate for MMST: Khirbet Abu et-Tuwein

Looking at this sourcebook, basing my search on my idea that MMST should probably be in the Halhul district of Judah, I narrowed my guesses for MMST to two sites: Khirbet el-Hubeila (site 835), 31°39’41″N, 35° 6’31″E, with its primary remains being from the Iron IIc and Byzantine periods, with some remains from the Iron IIb, Persian, Hellenistic, and Ottoman periods, and Khirbet abu et-Tuwein (site 830), a single period site with “IA2b fortress and dwelling structures”(!!!). Since Khirbet el-Hubeila was occupied during the Iron IIc, we should expect it to be listed in Joshua 15:59. Khirbet abu et-Tuwein (31°40’6″N, 35° 5’10″E), meanwhile, is the perfect candidate for MMST- a single period site, with a 45×30 m fortress (as from Google Earth) with surrounding “dwelling structures” dating to the Iron IIb (not later, nor earlier!), located in the Halhul district! And on my blog-o-versary, as well!

UPDATE: Apparently, the sourcebook did not tell the whole story. Firstly, the fortress is 31×30 m. Secondly, it was most probably destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar. Thirdly, it was not a single-period site, but was, rather, re-settled in the Persian period. Thirdly, it was not one of a kind, but, rather, there were three other such sites in the vicinity. So, is Khirbet abu et-Tuwein the best candidate for MMST? I’m leaning toward “no”.

Happy Blogoversary!

Just before it occurs, I would hereby like to announce my blog-o-versary, which occurs today. My blog has now grown to being the second result (first non-video) on the second page for jebel al lawz in Google, the fifth result on the first page for jebel al lawz in bing, and being the top non-image, non-video result for against jebel al lawz in both search engines. My blog has received a grand total of 8938 views, has gained 3 followers (2 comment, 1 blog), and has received a grand total of 14 comments. It currently has 220 posts.

Finkelstein on Tell-el Ful

Israel Finkelstein points out that the only evidence for an Iron I-IIa settlement at Tell el-Ful comes from a fill, that there is not the least bit of evidence for a fortress at Tell el-Ful, but only for a tower built by Assyrian architectural methods and dating to the reign of Sennacherib (or possibly, Esarhaddon) which survived into the Babylonian period. The tower was then rebuilt during the 3rd or 2nd C BC, and survived fairly well (though in ruins) until the Late Ottoman period. In short, there is no archaeological evidence for Tell el-Ful being biblical Gibeah. However, I find Finkelstein’s identification of the settlement with Parah/Pharathon however, unkikely, since Parah belonged to East, not, as with Ramah, West Benjamin, to which Tell el-Ful would have probably belonged.

My Guess for MMST

Due to my finding that Hebron, Ziph, and Socoh are in separate 7th C BC districts, and might have been their capitals, I presently propose that MMST is an unidentified town in the Halhul district. Due to lack of significant finding at Azekah (but we’ll see in the upcoming excavations) and great quantities in the North, I suggest looking to the north (NE?) of Bayt Umar.

The Joshua 18 Districts and Map of Judah

This is a continuation from my previous post on how Joshua’s districts relate to 7th C BC Judah.

Joshua 18

21 Now the cities of the tribe of the sons of Benjamin according to their families were Jericho and Beth-hoglah and Emek-keziz, 22 and Beth-arabah and Zemaraim and Bethel, 23 and Avvim and Parah and Ophrah, 24 and Chephar-ammoni and Ophni and Geba; twelve cities with their villages. Zemaraim and Bethel’s locations  are known only approximately.

-Notice Beth-Aravah, a part of Judah’s Wilderness district, is included in this (“East Benjamin”) district. Apparently, this is due to the fact the tribal boundaries of Benjamin included Beth-Aravah.

25 Gibeon and Ramah and Beeroth, 26 and Mizpeh and Chephirah and Mozah, 27 and Rekem and Irpeel and Taralah, 28 and Zelah, Haeleph and the Jebusite (that is, Jerusalem), Gibeah, Kiriath; fourteen cities with their villages.

-Kiriath is Kiriath-Jeraim. Chephirah is just N. of Qatane.

And now the map (note that the Kiriath-Jeraim district is non-existent in reality, probably being a part of the Tekoa-Bethlehem district):

The Joshua 15 Districts

In here, I shall look at the text of Joshua 15, describing the inheritance of the tribe of Judah. I have already looked at the Negev. The towns whose locations are known are highlighted in bold italics. It has been well known and agreed from the days of Alt that the lists of Joshua date to between 623 and 609 BC (any other dates would create absurdities).

33 In the Shephelah:

Eshtaol, Zorah, Ashnah, 34 Zanoah, En Gannim, Tappuah, Enam, 35 Jarmuth, Adullam, Socoh, Azekah, 36 Shaaraim, Adithaim and Gederahfourteen towns and their villages.

-This district (“Azekah”) is a fairly sizeable, encompassing both the Elah valley and Eshatol regions. Its borders can be fairly well determined, as can the timescale (Beth-Shemesh is not mentioned). Beth-Shemesh was settled lightly in the 7th century BC, when this list was composed, and it might have belonged to either Ekron or Judah.

37 Zenan, Hadashah, Migdal Gad, 38 Dilean, Mizpah, Joktheel, 39 Lachish, Bozkath, Eglon, 40 Kabbon, Lahmas, Kitlish, 41 Gederoth, Beth Dagon, Naamah and Makkedah—sixteen towns and their villages.

-This district (“Lachish”) is a very curious one. Only Lachish (Tell ed Duweir) is certain, and, possibly, Makkedah (from Eusebius’s Onomasticon, apparently Khirbet el-‘Qom). Eglon is not Tell el-Hesi, but rather either Tel ‘Erani or Tel Nagila. A good archaeological survey for 7th century sites in the area south of Lachish needs to be seen for any of the above sites to be identified. The district’s north border is that of the next one, and its south border is that of the Negev.

42 Libnah, Ether, Ashan, 43 Iphtah, Ashnah, Nezib, 44 Keilah, Achzib and Mareshahnine towns and their villages.

-Since Mareshah is on the road from Lachish, and Keilah is on the road from Mareshah, we can be sure that this district (“Mareshah”) extends to Tel Burna. Ether is Khirbet el-‘Ater, 31°37’2″N, 34°52’58″E. Keilah is the mound at Qilla. Nezib is Khirbet Beit Nesib, a mile (not more) south of Keilah. Achzib may be Khirbet el-Beidah, 31°38’32″N, 34°57’9″E. Libnah may be identified with Tel Burna, since Tel Goded did not seem to reveal fortifications from the Hezekian era, nor did it seem to be inhabited in the 7th century. Idhna may be identified with either Iphtah or Ashnah.

45 Ekron, with its surrounding settlements and villages; 46 west of Ekron, all that were in the vicinity of Ashdod, together with their villages; 47 Ashdod, its surrounding settlements and villages; and Gaza, its settlements and villages, as far as the Brook of Egypt and the coastline of the Mediterranean Sea.

-Ashkelon is not mentioned due to its having almost no surrounding villages (though it did have some) and Gath being unoccupied in the 7th century. Ashdod was a remnant of an Assyrian province, ruled from present-day Ashdod-Yam, Gaza probably gained back the territory owned by Assyria by the time this was written, and Ekron was the most powerful kingdom.

48 In the hill country:

Shamir, Jattir, Socoh, 49 Dannah, Kiriath Sannah (that is, Debir), 50 Anab, Eshtemoa, Anim, 51 Goshen, Holon and Giloh—eleven towns and their villages.

This district (“Eshtemoa”) includes Shamir/el-Bireh, Jattir (Khirbet Yatir, 31°20’35″N,35° 1’39″E), Debir/Rabud, Anab at Khirbet Anab es-Seghireh, 31°24’44″N, 34°57’16″E, Eshtemoa at Samu’a, and the two Anims being on the NE and SW sides of Shani-Livne.

52 Arab, Dumah, Eshan, 53 Janim, Beth Tappuah, Aphekah, 54 Humtah, Kiriath Arba (that is, Hebron) and Ziornine towns and their villages.

Beth-Tappuah is Tapuah, Ziot is Si’ir. Hebron is Tel Rumeidah. Arab may be al-‘Arub, near Bayt Fajar.

55 Maon, Carmel, Ziph, Juttah, 56 Jezreel, Jokdeam, Zanoah, 57 Kain, Gibeah and Timnah—ten towns and their villages.

Maon, Carmel, Juttah, and Ziph are well identified with the present-day villages of the same names.

58 Halhul, Beth Zur, Gedor, 59 Maarath, Beth Anoth and Eltekon—six towns and their villages.

Halhul, Beth-Zur, and Gedor have kept their identification well. Beth Anoth may be Bayt Ula (if Zior is Si’ir, Bayt Anun is an implausible candidate), Maarath may be Bayt Umar or Marah al-Baqr, Eltekon may be Umm ‘Allas. There is also a Khirbet el-Hubeila with Iron IIC remains just NE of Bat Ayin.

The district of Bethlehem and Tekoa, preserved only in the Septuagint, should also be mentioned.

It reads as thus: Tekoa, Ephrathah which is Bethlehem, Peor, Etam, Koulon, Tatam, Zobah, Karem, Gallim, Bether, and Manahath-11 cities and their villages.

Etam is just south of the cisterns south of el-Khadr, Manahath may be on the north side of modern Manahat, Peor is Khirbet Faghur half a mile ESE of modern Rosh Tsurim, Karem is modern ‘Ayn Karim/Ein Kerem, Bethlehem is Bethlehem, Bether is the mound just north of modern Batir, Zobah is less than half a mile east of modern Tsuba, and has the Castle Belmont at its top.

60 Kiriath Baal (that is, Kiriath Jearim) and Rabbah—two towns and their villages.

-Kiriath Jeraim is at 31°48’9″N, 35° 5’48″E . Rabbah is almost certainly not Aharoni’s Khirbet Bir el-Hilu, near Aijalon, apparently a part of Dan (=Ekron). Rabbah is most likely one of the hills east of Kiriath-Jeraim. This district was probably an attempt by the author to accommodate both the tribal and administrative boundaries of the kingdom of Judah.

61 In the wilderness:

Beth Arabah, Middin, Secacah, 62 Nibshan, the City of Salt and En Gedisix towns and their villages.

-Beth Arabah is (was?) near the pools at 31°50’46″N, 35°29’40″E, En Gedi is En Gedi, on the north side of the wadi. The rest are some combination of sites in the Judean Buqei’a (Khirbet Abu Tabaq (31°44’30″N, 35°24’23″E), Khirbet es-Samrah (31°43’1″N, 35°23’31″E) and Khirbet el-Maqari (31°41’57″N, 35°22’57″E)) along with Qumran, ‘Ain Ghuweir, and ‘Ain Feshkha. The sites have already been discovered, it’s just up to the observer to identify them!

Nimrod=Ninurta(?)

The name “Nimrod” is mentioned in Genesis 10:8-12 and Micah 5:6. The latter mentions Assyria as “the land of Nimrod”, and was clearly written during the time when the destruction of Lachish was still a fresh memory in the minds of Judahites. Due to the Micah reference, it may have been so that Nimrod is either a corruption of “Nineveh” or “Ninurta”. Ninurta was a warrior, which would argue for a connection of him with the The word is corrupted so as to make the name mean roughly “let us rebel”. According to Genesis 10:10-11, Nimrod began his conquests with Babylon, Uruk, Akkad, and Calneh (possibly Cuthah). This list probably reflects an early 1st milennium BC reality (Isin and Larsa are not mentioned; neither are Ur(im) or Lagash). Since Cush is mentioned as being the father of Nimrod, Nimrod might be loosely based on Sargon of Akkad.

So, it is likely that Nimrod originated in the early 1st milennium BC (8th-5th centuries) as a corruption of Ninurta with some element of Sargon of Akkad.