Identifying Joshua’s Negev Sites

According to the Book of Joshua, the cities of the Negev were (from chapter 15):

Kabzeel, Eder, Jagur, 22 Kinah, Dimonah, Adadah, 23 Kedesh, Hazor, Ithnan, 24 Ziph, Telem, Bealoth, 25 Hazor Hadattah, Kerioth Hezron (that is, Hazor), 26 Amam, Shema, Moladah, 27 Hazar Gaddah, Heshmon, Beth Pelet, 28 Hazar Shual, Beersheba, Biziothiah, 29 Baalah, Iyim, Ezem, 30 Eltolad, Kesil, Hormah, 31 Ziklag, Madmannah, Sansannah, 32 Lebaoth, Shilhim, Ain and Rimmon—twenty-nine towns and their villages.

The first three cannot be identified, except Eder, which might be Arad. If such an identification is to be made, Kabzeel may be identified with Horvat Tov, and Jagur to be found between Kinah and Arad. Kinah is mentioned in the Arad ostraca, and can safely be identified with Horvat ‘Uza (31°12’33″N, 35° 9’56″E), by the Wadi el-Qeni, since nearby Horvat Radum can and should be identified with Ramah of the Negev (Josh 19:8). Adadah is best read “Aroer” ( 31° 9’8″N, 34°58’45″E), since it should appear in this list. Beersheba is the same as modern Beersheba (Tel Beersheba was sparsely inhabited since 701 BC). Rimmon may be identified with Tel Halif or a nearby site. Moladah may be identified with the Roman Malhata, the modern Tell el-Milh. Ezem may be identified with an Umm al-Asm three miles to the southwest of Aroer.

Mount Hor and the Actual Borders of Judah

A little less than a year ago, I postulated a location of Mount Hor on a peak overlooking the west side of the Dead Sea, preferably one on the road from and the assumption the Southern Basin of the Dead Sea was flooded at the time of writing of the Book of Joshua.

Today, I find my previous proposals generally close to reality, but unlikely in themselves. There is no evidence of any Judahite settlement on the coast of the Dead Sea south of En Gedi. Neither is there any evidence of Judahite settlement east of Horvat Radum, at 31°11’23″N, 35°10’3″E. It is, therefore, best to identify Mount Hor as the mountain to the northeast of Horvat Radum or with Horvat Radum itself.

We must also note that there is no evidence the southern portion of the Dead Sea was flooded before the 4th century BC. We could, therefore, postulate the ascent of Akkrabim was actually the ascent of Horvat Radum, not, as is usually thought, of Mampsis, though the ascent of Mampsis was definitely used in the early 1st millennium BC, although that is also a plausible option. The ascent could also be the one by my previously-suggested Mount Hor near the Dead Sea. In short, however, since Horvat Radum is a clear Judahite site, an Ascent of Akkrabim near it is most likely.

Did Ramesses III Repel the Philistines?

This question was first raised by Ussishkin in 1985. However, it was Finkelstein who strongly pressed the question into the scholarly world, throughout 1994 and 1995. The main point of fact being that no evidence of Philistine culture was found in LB III contexts, and that no evidence of Egyptian culture was found in Philistine Monochrome contexts, it seemed to Finkelstein unlikely these were contemporary. Since an ostracon from between years 19 and 10 (1176-1166 BC, of Ramesses III, of course) was discovered at Lachish, and one from between year 22 and 24 (1163-60 BC), it is clear that the entire Egyptian administrative system in Canaan did not collapse in the 8th year of Ramesses III.

But was coastal Philistia in the days of Ramesses III in the hands of the Egyptians or the Philistines? Such would lead to absurdities. According to his own reliefs, Ramesses III fought against Tripoli (or Abu Samra; Ullaza), Asharneh (Tunip; a little to the N. of Salhab, on the Orontes), and another fort. Kitchen, who believes Ramesses III did not repel the Philistines,  denies the truth of these reliefs, claiming they are merely copies of those done by Ramesses II. If Ramesses III was mighty enough to make war against Tunip, he was mighty enough to make war against Ashkelon. Also, the suggestion Ramesses III’s taxmen cautiously tiptoed around Philistia, while Ramesses III simply let numerous square miles of land under his own nose stay in enemy hands without making any campaigns against this land is utterly absurd.

Also notable is the fact that, while imported Mycenaean IIIC:1b is utterly missing from Megiddo, it is sparsely found at Beth-Shean. This suggests the Beth-Shean Egyptian garrison slightly outlasted the one at Megiddo, and that a blockade was implemented by Ramesses III as a response to the events of his eighth year, which was ended after the Sea Peoples took over the coast, perhaps in the reign of Ramesses VI, in whose time the last clearly dateable Egyptian artifacts appear in Canaan (Megiddo statue, scarabs, ect.). However, Mycenaean IIIC:1a appears at Beth-Shean as well, suggesting Megidddo, lacking this ware, was simply not as important as Beth-Shean or, as Mazar states, Beth-Shean, Tell Keisan, and Acco were “exceptional situations” in a period of heavy decline in trade after the first wave. Even more curious is that Beth-Shean of the 20th Dynasty, built on top of a destruction layer, became ten times more Egyptianized than the Beth-Shean of the 19th Dynasty, and was quite long-lived, having two construction phases, with a governor’s palace being built in the later phase, on top of a stronghold in the earlier phase. This itself strongly argues against Egypt somehow being too weak to take over Philistia; how could it manage to not take over Philistine Ashkelon while keeping fortresses to defend property in the Jezreel Valley? The destruction of the Jezreel Valley sites at the end of LB IIB may be associated with a revolt or the events of the eighth year of Ramesses III or both.

Consequently, it seems that the answer to the question “did Ramesses III repel the Philistines” is an extremely probable “yes”.


Libnah is mentioned in the Bible as a Shephelah town near the border of Gath, fortified in Hezekiah’s time, existing during the mid-9th, late 8th, and late 7th century BC.

Only Tel Erani, Tel Burna, and Tel Goded, may be viable candidates for this site, as far as I’m concerned. Of these, I have my doubts Tel ‘Erani was inhabited in the 9th century (Late Iron IIA), and, while there are Iron IIa remains at Goded, the Bliss excavation surprisingly did not find evidence of pre-Selucian fortification, though Goded is certainly of greater importance than Burna, though I doubt it could secede.

Tell el-Beidah is more likely Achzib (the lmlk pottery???), and, even though its name is suggestive of Libnah, it is as of yet untested archaeologically, though, if Azekah was Gittite (which will be confirmed or denied in the upcoming excavations), this certainly would be a plausible option.

Ramat Rachel: Hezekian, Assyrian, Persian

Ramat Rachel is a very curious site. It was founded in the days of Hezekiah, and had boatloads of lmlk impressions (3rd in quantity, after Lachish and Jerusalem), both before and after the Revolt (of 701 BC, of course). It also had a palace with Assyrian Palace Ware on its floors after the destruction of the Hezekian stratum, which, when found in Palestine, is a clear indicator of Assyrian presence, since none of it was found at Tell en-Nasbeh II (Babylonian). It may also be noted the Assyrian-era stratum contained a sherd portraying a man seated on a throne, possibly a king, or, more likely, the governor. This stratum contained numerous Rosette impressions (2nd in quantity, after Jerusalem) After the destruction of this stratum, Persian remains were found, containing the largest number of Yhwd impressions discovered at any site.

To discover the purpose of this site, and, possibly, its identification, we must examine the jar marks it contained. The jar marks with the clearest purpose are the Yhwds. They are surely connected with the Persian government, and extremely likely with the taxation system, possibly being sent to the minor cities to be filled, then sent back to the provincial center. This is supported by their findspots: 93% of Yhwds were found in either Ramat Rachel, the City of David, or Mizpah. It seems, therefore, that Ramat Rachel can, like Jerusalem, be treated as a tax-collection and storage center of Yehud. It might have served as the Persian administrative center to supervise the Jewish one at Jerusalem, roughly half the taxes of Judah supporting each.

It is unknown which Assyrian king established Ramat Rahel VA, but both Sennacherib and Esarhaddon (Ezra 4) are options. While in the Persian administration, Ramat Rahel gained some 200 stamp-impressed jars, it only gained a total of some 50 Rosette impressions, found on the descendants of the lmlk storage jars, which held oil and wine. It is not known whether the Rosette impressions are to be associated with Assyrian or post-Assyrian administration. It is, however, known that Rosette impressions are four times fewer at Jerusalem than the lmlks, fifteen times fewer at Lachish, and over ninety times fewer at Gibeon and Mizpah. It is also known that, unlike the Yhwds, there were four main places where Rosettes were found: firstly, Jerusalem, secondly, Ramat Rachel, thirdly, Lachish, and, fourthly, Azekah. Tel ‘Ira, with only three, might be included, since it is not sufficiently excavated. All the rest come from sites with trade or other types of connections with these. It is clear the Rosette impressions cannot be associated with preparations for any revolt, and the fact they are found along with Assyrian Palace Ware goblets at Ramat Rahel, which might have been destroyed during Josiah’s passover (it was not destroyed), which corresponded with the accession of Sin-sharra-ishkun of Assyria, Sin-Shara-ishkun’s Uruk campaign, or, less likely, 586 BC. If Ramat Rahel was destroyed in 623 BC (or thereabouts), the Rosette impressions would date to Assyrian Iron IIC, not the Late Iron IIC, as most scholars would place them. Considering the above data, it seems likely that Rosettes served as a part of the Assyrian-supervised taxation network in Judah. It should be noted that five Rosette impressions were traded with the Ekronite city of Timnah, and that Ekron imported great quantities of Judahite oil. It may have been so that (state-owned?) oil producers of the (Hebron?) Hill Country would produce the oil to transport to Ramat Rahel and Jerusalem, where it would be sold to the inhabitants of the city and re-sold to the Shephelah.

As for its beginnings, see my lmlk post. It likely was the main storehouse of state-produced oil, as mentioned in 2 Chronicles 32:28, meant for distribution to the villages and fortresses surrounding it. Since it was never attacked by the Assyrians, the lmlk jars remained there for two and a half thousand years for Aharoni to discover.

UPDATE: Since the fall of Ekron is now dated by me to roughly the same time as that of Jerusalem, I now reject the necessity of dating the Rosettes before Babylonian domination.

Why Tell ed-Duweir Is Lachish

Everyone agrees Tell ed-Duweir is Lachish. However, in the 1980s, Gota Ahlstrom rejected this identification in favor of Tell ‘Etun. Let us look at the evidence. Tell ‘Etun has no known 7th C BC remains. Neither does Tell Beit Mirsim (no stratum was detected between the Roman and Hezekian remains). Tell ed-Duweir does have Iron IIC remains (str. II). Ergo, since Lachish was the mightiest fortress in Judah besides Azekah, it makes perfect sense to postulate that it lay on the jutting wadi-carved ridge of Duweir. However, there are other criteria for Lachish. A double wall should be found on the site, and it should be a mighty fortress on a hill, as the Sennacherib relief shows. Also, it is to be expected it would have a similar culture as Azekah. This only fits Tell ed-Duweir and no other site in the Shephelah.

The Assyrian Settlements in the Philistine Negev

One should note that there are five known Western Negevite settlements with copious amounts of Assyrian Palace Ware. They are:

Tell Jemmeh Strata EF (III) and CD (II), over half a mile to the west of Re’im, eight miles south of Gaza.

Khirbet Hoga (not sufficiently excavated/published), eight and a third of a mile to the east of Gaza, one third of a mile to the southeast of Gevim.

Tel Haror/Gerar (not sufficiently excavated/published), one half of a mile to the southeast of Melilot

Tel Sera Strata V and IV, four and a third miles to the east of Shibolim

Tell el-Hesi Stratum as of the 2000s, VII, as of the 1980s, VI, nonexistent in Bliss’s reports, two miles WSW of Ahuzam.

All these sites are on trade routes diverging at Beersheba, Sera, Hesi and Hoga controlling the Ashkelon road, Tel Haror and Tell Jemmeh controlling the way to Ruqeish (a great Assyrian entrepot), and Hesi and Hoga controlling the Lachish-Gaza/Ruqeish road.

Assyrian palace ware is a fine ware dating to the 7th century BC, produced in Assyria both before and after the fall of the Assyrian Empire. The Western Negevite settlements were clearly founded by exiles from Media and Mesopotamia. Since there is no evidence Babylon had any policy of exiling Elamites or any other eastern peoples to western lands, the Assyrian empire must be the culprit. The only known times Assyria when deportees were settled in the West were after the campaigns of 652 (Babylonia), 720 (all lands), 716/15 (Brook of Egypt), and 712 BC (Ashdod, not royal campaign). It was produced locally, but apparently in more than one place. The largest amount of Palace Ware was found at Tell Jemmeh. Tell Jemmeh had rib vaulting, a style characteristic of Media, which was campaigned against by Sargon II in 719 and 716 BC. In 716/15 BC, Sargon II settled deportees at the border of the Brook of Egypt (or, as Lipinski translates, “The Palm-Grove of the borderland”). Therefore, the most likely period for the settlement of these deportees is after or during the campaign of 716/15 BC.

Nadav Na’maan, the pioneer in the area of Assyrian policy towards the Negev,  theorizes that the entire Beersheba Valley was utterly desolated in the 716/15 campaign, to revive with the Judahite settlements of Tels ‘Ira and ‘Aroer sometime in the 7th C BC. But why, if the Assyrians intended control of trade, did they not erect, as of yet, a single known fortress on top of one of those they supposedly destroyed in the 716 BC campaign, as they did with South Philistia (Sera and Hesi were destroyed before being built over)?

But, how large was this Assyrian region? Tell Abu Salima, Laban, and Raphia were part of one Assyrian province known as “the border of Nahal Musur”, stretching, probably, from the Besor to the el-Arish. But Tell el-Hesi and Khirbet Hoga could not have possibly belonged to this region. The network established by Sargon II was, consequently, intended to control the spice trade and the exports of spices to ports, and was related, but partially or fully not a part of, the Assyrian effort to administer the border of Nahal Musur.