Are the Biblical Descriptions of 8th-C BC Territories and Geopolitics Accurate?

As I have studied modern archaeology, I have found out several rulesregarding ancient geo-politics:

1. Territories gained are kept. Any decent kingdom worth its salt strongly fortifies a territory (especially the borders!) with fortresses. In the 8th Century, Gaza (Hesi), Ashdod (‘Erani and probably Shokef), Israel (Gezer, Hazor, Dan, Ramath-Gilead) and Judah (Lachish+Azekah+Mizpah) were fortified at or near their borders

2. When a kingdom invades another kingdom to grab territory, it plans to take as much territory as it can afford to grab. All wars are fought for total control.

3. Garrisoned tribute states are more likely to revolt if the state garrisoned is naturally weak. The converse also applies.

4. Interactions with states come in more ways than simple, direct, confrontation: Israel, for example, would readily control any attempted Judahite expansion into Philistia.

The Bible gives us some indication of geopolitics in the 8th century BC.

According to Chronicles 26, Uzziah broke down the wall of Ashdod, Gath, and Yavneh. This is an accurate description of the major towns of 8th C BC Ashdod. The only way he might have done this was with the support of Israel so that Ashdod may become a vassal state of Israel, the dominant state in the region. Ashdod was most assuredly not transformed into a territory of any state. Also, Uzziah could have conquered Elat in the 790s (Joash controlled as far as Kuntillet ‘Ajrud).

According to 2 Kings 14:25, Jeroboam II ruled as far as Lebo-Hamath. If Lebo-Hamath is the same as the late 7th C BC one (cf. Josh 13:5) there is no chance this is so. However, the definition of this term may change over the decades.

Micah’s Times and Shephelah Towns

Micah 1 appears to have been written in the days of Hezekiah’s revolt, as indicated by v. 15, which mentions Mareshah, apparently occupied only after the fall of Samaria, and mentions, in a thoroughly negative context, that “the glory of Israel” will enter Adullam. This would make far more sense after the fall of Samaria than before. A clincher is v. 14, which mentions Achzib becoming a deception to the kings of Israel, an ambiguous statement which would only make sense after the fall of Samaria. A further attestation of this is Micah 3:9-10.

An Attempted Chronology of the Conquests and Destructions of Nebuchadnezzar

In 604 BC, all the kings of Palestine and Phoenicia except Ashkelon (Gaza refused at first, but apparently paid after Ashkelon’s destruction) paid tribute to Nebuchadnezzar II. Ashkelon was totally ruined in the same year by the forces of Nebuchadnezzar (see Babylonian Chronicle).

In Winter 601/600 BC, Gaza was conquered by Necho II of Egypt after a devastating defeat of the forces of Nebuchadnezzar II, king of Babylon, at the city of Migdol (Tell Kedua) in Egypt. Judah rebelled against Nebuchadnezzar. According to 2 Kings 24:7, this is the last time Necho campaigns outside of Africa.

In 598 BC, Tyre, Gaza Sidon, Arvad, Ashdod (Yam, not mainland), (apparently) Samsimuruna (apparently modern Kaslik, Lebanon), and a city-name not preserved, possibly Ekron or Byblos, paid tribute to Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon.

In 597 BC, Jerusalem was besieged by the Chaldeans. Its king was replaced.

In 593 BC, Edom, Moab, Ammon, Tyre, and Sidon attempt to establish a pact with Judah to rebel against Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon. The coalition does not come to fruition.

In 589 BC, Zedekiah rebelled against Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon. This is most likely done as part of a coalition of the kingdoms of Ammon, Moab, Tyre, Sidon, Gaza, Ashdod, and Ekron, but not Edom, and was most likely done under Hophra’s  pressure (it is probably during this time he attacked Tyre and Sidon). Damascus, Samsimuruna, and Byblos, may have also rebelled. An army is sent to quell the rebellion, Nebuchadnezzar establishing his quarters at Riblah, a town on the Orontes, 34°27’37″N, 36°32’21″E (Jeremiah 39:5).

In January 588 BC (2 Kings 25:1), Jerusalem, Azekah, and Lachish were besieged. Since an Egyptian army came to help in this year (Jeremiah 37:5), and Gaza was destroyed sometime in the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, and the Saqqara Papyrus mentions the need for an Egyptian force to help out Ekron, it seems likely all these events took place in this year (except for the destructions of Gaza and Ekron, which might have taken place a year later, though not the beginning of the siege, which did take place this year). The sieges of Samsimuruna and Byblos might have also begun this year.

In July 586 BC (2 Kings 25:3), Jerusalem was burned to the ground. Mizpah was declared the new capital.

In 585 BC, the sieges of Tyre (and, likely, Sidon) began.

In 582/1 BC, Ammon and Moab were conquered. Their capitals were likely destroyed. According to Jeremiah 52:30, a revolt also broke out in Judah.

In 580/79 BC (or, perhaps, earlier), Sidon was conquered. Its inhabitants were exiled to Uruk.

In 572 BC, Tyre was conquered.

Regarding Babylonian Policy, or, Why Assyria Has Few Persian-Period Strata

It has always been my opinion that the finest proof of the conventionally accepted chronology of the Ancient Near East has been stratigraphy. Palestine, being the best-excavated, published, and discussed of all lands there, is by far the best place for stratigraphy to be used to prove a point.

Here, I shall demonstrate the Neo-Assyrians were not the Persians (man, I told you someone will believe my proposed duplication of American presidents):

Thus,

Lachish III was destroyed by Sennacherib (Sennacherib’s Nineveh relief and 2 Kings 18:17, 19:8).

Lachish II was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar (Lachish letters and Jeremiah 34:7).

Lachish I was established in the late Persian period (though some settlement existed before that) and survived until the conquest of Idumea by the Hasmoneans (Nehemiah 11:30).

Q. E. D.

I could also cite the more devastating Argument From Greek Pottery.

But, seriously folks, is there any archaeological reason to support the idea the Neo-Assyrians were the Persians?

Let us hear the testimony of Xenophon, who tells us the tale of the ruin of Nineveh, and describes the ruins of Calah, showing these cities were long destroyed in his time.

Also, we do not need to find a Persian stratum at Babylon; the Chaldean buildings there were already good enough to last a few more centuries, and we must also remember that they were cleaned out routinely. Also, it must be pointed out that, like the Chaldeans did to Assyria, the Persians did to Chaldea, encouraging agriculture rather than urbanism, and it is obvious that, especially in a place like Iraq, rural farmsteads might not be detected as they might be in Israel.

Thus, I can find no evidence the Neo-Assyrians and the early Persians were the same.

Concentric Circle Marks: Their Date and Purpose

Sometimes, near a lmlk impression, there is found on the handle a concentric circle mark, made after the firing of the jar. More often than not, the circle mark is near a 2D (two winged; divided inscription) impression. Viewing G.M. Grena’s statistics, it is clear the top six sites where these concentric circle marked handles were found were inhabited after the revolt. It is also curious that Lachish and Beth-Shemesh, which heavily suffered from Sennacherib’s campaign, both have revealed under five concentric-circle marked handles, even though a large portion of their surface has been excavated and they have yielded numerous lmlk impressions. Also notable is the fact that there are circle marks without lmlk impressions. Note, too, that the distributions of Rosettes and Concentric Circle marks are markedly different (the former were almost absent from Gibeon and Mizpah).

For date, it is certain concentric circle-marking was done for the first half of the 7th century, but, as stratigraphy is uncertain, it might have begun after the revolt. However, it is likely the beginning of Lachish II long post-dated the use of lmlk-era storage jars, so it is possible, but not very plausible, that marking already began in the days of the revolt.

As for purpose, it is likely the circles had something to do with local tribute, or, as Michael Welch suggested, tithing. Since only a modest amount of marks were found at Ramat Rahel, this marking was probably not connected with centralized government. In only one case was more than one concentric circle mark inscribed on a jar handle. The circle marks could also have indicated the age of the wine.