I Suspect Ai Is et-Tell

Look at the Strong’s Hebrew Concordance for ‘Ai (word). Next, look at the Strong’s Hebrew Concordance for Tel (word). Now, remember the name of the 27-acre et-Tell and its identification as ‘Ai. While I still think Khirbet Maqatir is a more likely candidate for ‘Ai, given local tradition and the implication in the Biblical account ‘Ai was a small city, we must also also consider that Beitin was certainly Byzantine Bethel. I also suspect Judges 4:5 could be used as evidence placing Iron Age Bethel at Beitin.

Was there a Late Roman Clysma Just SW. of Ismailia?

The Maskhuta milestone (“From Ero to Clysma, 9 miles”) is often interpreted as evidence Heroopolis should be sought at Tell el-Retabeh. However, there is no evidence Retabeh was inhabited after c. 610 BC. While John Holladay, jr. does not mention any habitation at Maskhuta after the Early Roman period, Eduard Naville records that he found a Latin inscription reading “LOERO POLIS ERO CASTRA” in “a calcareous wall” here, page 21. LOERO may mean “locus of Ero”, that is, the place of Heroopolis. Thus, I suspect the true location of Heroopolis is at Tell el-Maskhuta itself, and that in the Early Byzantine era there were two Clysmas, one near Lake Timsah and the other near Suez.

EA 290 and Bit Ninurta

William Moran’s translation of EA 290 reads as thus:

[Sa]y [t]o the king, my lord: Message of [‘Abdi]-Heba, your servant. I fall at the feet [of the kin]g, my lord, 7 times and 7 times. Here is the deed against the land that Milkilu and Suardatu did: against the land of the king, my lord, they ordered troops from Gazru, troops from Gimtu, and troops from Qiltu. They seized Rubutu. The land of the king deserted to the Hapiru. And now, besides this, a town belonging to Jerusalem, Bit-NIN.URTA by name, a city of the king, has gone over to the side of the men of Qiltu. May the king give heed to ‘Abdi-Heba, your servant, and send archers to restore the land of the king to the king. If there are no archers, the land of the king will desert to the Hapiru. This deed against the land was [a]t the order of Milki[lu and a]t the order of [Suard]atu, [together w]ith Gint[i]. So may the king provide for [his] land.

Note that Gimtu (Gath/Tell es-Safi) and Ginti (Gath-Carmel/Baqa Jatt) are distinct cities. Rubutu is probably Arubboth/Araba in the West Bank, due to its nearness to Ginti and its consistency with being the Rubutu of the Taanach letters and the Shoshenq list. Suardatu is the king of Gimtu and Milkilu is the king of Gazru/Gezer. Qiltu is Keilah, a city of Jerusalem which allied with Gath.

The question here is what this letter’s Bit Ninurta is to be identified as. A number of scholars, including a large number of chronological revisionists (i.e., crazies), interpret the letter a stating “besides this, Jerusalem, Bit-NIN.URTA by name, a city…” and suggest Ninurta stands for Sulmanu, which stands either for Solomon or for the local deity of Jerusalem. This is quite a bit of a stretch, to say the least. Thus, most scholars look to other “Beth” names in Judah to find Bit Ninurta: Beth-Horon and Beth-Lehem (House of Bread). I know of no LB remains at Beth-Lehem. Beth-Horon may have belonged to Shechem or Gezer. Thus, the location of ‘Bit Ninurta’ remains uncertain, though Beth-Horon, near Gezer, is most likely.

What Is It With the LMLKs at Beth-Shemesh?

Let us again list the main sites where lmlk stamp impressions are found:

1. Lachish- Largest city of the Shephelah, fortified, rich, administrative center (415 impressions, by G.M. Grena’s count). Destroyed in 701 BC.

2. Jerusalem-Capital and largest city of Judah, fortified, rich, administrative center (294 impressions, by Grena’s count).

3. Ramat Rahel-A future Persian administrative center (with more Yehud stamp impressions than Jerusalem). Most impressions found in fill below Assyrian (probably) palace.

3. Gibeon-Modestly large economic center of Judah. Possibly fortified. Most impressions come from a large fill in the water system.

5. Mizpah-Small fortified city at the northern border of Judah.

6. Beth-Shemesh-Unfortified oil-producing town. Over 70% of the site has been excavated. Destroyed in 701 BC.

In pie chart form:

As anyone can see, Jerusalem, Lachish, and Ramat Rahel are the ‘big three’ sites when it comes to amount of lmlk jar handles.

My original hypothesis was that lmlk jars were used as military supplies to supply fortified cities. Beth-Shemesh seems to disprove my case. Since Beth-Shemesh has little more to offer for itself than any other oil town and nearby Timnah/Tel Batash (an actual fortress) had only a quarter of the impressions Beth-Shemesh had, I can only explain Beth-Shemesh’s sizable amount of lmlk impressions as a result of Joshua 21:16 (that, and the fact over 70% of the site has been excavated). I now conclude that, instead of the lmlk system being used for solely military preparations, it was used as an emergency non-monetary means of providing wages to government officials. This has parallels with the Persian-era Yehud/Yhwd system, where over 88% of the stamp impressions were found at either Jerusalem (the local cultic center) or Ramat Rahel (Yehud’s Persian administrative center). While this idea does explain why lmlk impressions are found scattered over numerous sites throughout Israel (even in the North), it does not explain why only one lmlk impression (and an early one at that) was found at the completely excavated Tel Beesheba, and why there is such a paucity of lmlk finds in the Negev generally, or at the probable site of Libnah (Tel Burna). This would be explained by the ‘military provisions’ option, but not by the ‘non-monetary wages’ explanation. I still hold to my lmlk chronology.