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