I Laughed ‘Till I Cried…

while reading George Grena’s remarks regarding this blog on his new post. The funniest parts:

  • December 13, 2011: Rehoboam’s Cities; anachronistic link to his May 2012 Map; “clearly” it does not date to 2011; it seems this post “dates from a combination of periods“; his orthography of “seperate” may help scholars determine when he actually composed it, though we can’t rule out a “Hasmonean interpolator“.
  • December 16, 2011: The Solomonic Districts; another “seperate” orthographic datum, separated by 3 days (or 3 possibly million or billion years if you’re not sure when a historical narrative refers to ordinary Earth-rotation periods).

(and, yes, I literally did laugh until tears came out of my eyes after reading that).

In any case, I am glad that he pointed out the numerous spelling errors this blog has accumulated over the months. I usually fix errors in posts without giving the future reader any hint of the previous existence of these errors as long as the errors are not serious enough as to affect the main ideas of the post. So I do with most of the errors Grena points out.

Below are some of George Grena’s comments (in italics) and my responses to them.

(ironically undated) Chronology; very thorough, yet thoroughly wrong beginning at “1,600,000 BC“, though kudos for “BC” instead of “BCE” since he’s not a Christian; at least we agree completely on the Mandate & State of Israel dates; links to LRW G2T, S2DR, & Rosette pages; also to my 1st BibleInterp article.

-I see nothing “thoroughly wrong” with a date of c. 1.6 mya for the human remains at the ‘Ubeidiya formation-Miriam Belmaker has written a thorough case that the fauna at the earliest human remain-bearing layers ‘Ubeidiya are consistent with a 1.6-1.2 mya date. I am fine with use of both BC and BCE; whichever is suitable for the context. I usually pick BC since it is shorter.

Almost? Labor-union isotopes threatened to strike?

-The ratio of C-12 to C-14 barely changed between c. 790 and c. 400 BC. However, it did change, so researchers can pick the most likely date(s) out of several available to them if they know the approximate historical context of the radiocarbon sample(s), as at Qudeirat and Beth-Shemesh.

curious phrase: “the possibility the fact“; spoken like a true evolutionist.

-The context of that group of words is  “In short, biblical testimony is far too great to consider the possibility the fact the last pottery in the building in the rock-cut pool is Iron IIA is anything but a coincidence.”-This was stated in defense of the statements in 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles that Hezekiah built Hezekiah’s Tunnel. Perhaps “the possibility that the fact” would be better wording. I don’t see what is so evolutionistic about a statement which defends a statement in the Bible!

woo-hoo! I’m famous!

-This blog only gets some 50 views per day, often fewer.

like as if an atheist would know what God deserves! Ha! Ha! Ha!

-One who is frequently exposed to religious practices might. However, I’m not one of them.

typo s/b S2DR

-I definitely had these two mixed up somewhere in my head.

if it would be Albrightian to “expect” certain evidence, isn’t it Aesopian to “wish” for it?

-I don’t understand the Aesop reference.

you might want to check with David Ussishkin before you toot that horn too loudly!

-I don’t think I need to. Too many at poorly fortified En Gedi and Ramat Rahel, not enough at well-fortified Gibeon and Mizpah.

not sure how/why incised circles would indicate wine age.

-They might have been stamped on jars filled with wine over several years old. However, due to the fact the concentric circle lmlk system seems to have died out during the 7th century BC, I do not think this is the most plausible explanation (though I still find it a plausible one).

if a Bethel bulla indicates Josiah, whose reign does a Bethel x4L indicate? Ditto for the SUKE bulla.

-If Isaiah 10 had mentioned Bethel, or if it was Hezekiah who was famed for destroying the Bethel cult (he certainly would have had no problem with doing so), I would be convinced a pre-Josianic date for the lmlk bullae is plausible. The Beitin lmlk handle has no more political implications than the several lmlk handles that have been found around the Jezreel Valley. My reference to the SUKE bulla was due to the ‘3rd year’ mention in it. I now think the fact an Ahaz bulla has been found may refute my prior assumption that widespread Judahite literacy only began after Hezekiah’s 6th year (when Sargon invaded Samaria, thus, spurring Judah to become the most powerful state in the region). Perhaps there was an earlier wave of Ephraimite refugees in 732 BC.

2 original maps showing multi-colored Pac-Men eating ancient Judah

-I never thought of that interpretation before!

Was it an “emergency” to indicate the age of wine on jars after Sennacherib left?

-No. It could have been useful. I still have not formulated a solid theory for the Concentric Circle Incisions’ purpose.

tersest blog post in the history of the world.

-It would have been a tweet had I any use for Twitter.

but there is a point in moving hundreds of them from Lachish to the central hill country, then back to Lachish, then to “other great lmlk-impression-centers“???

Considering Lachish is the largest city in the Shephelah and has yielded more lmlk impressions than Jerusalem, I don’t think this idea is overly unreasonable. MMST is the probable exception to my idea, the MMST jars being sent directly to Jerusalem (and possibly Tel Goded).

note that several thousand of those hits were probably from me & Michael Welch; the majority of the others are probably from people who mistyped “MLK” (Martin Luther King).

-About one tenth of the pageviews on my blog are my own. Yes, the lmlk seal impressions are a notoriously ignored subject (except in scholarly publications), there being not even a single YouTube video on the topic.


The Tel Sochoh Excavation Website

The Socoh Excavation, led by Yuval Goren (known most prominently as a clay analyst), has opened a website right here. The website symbol is the S4L lmlk impression. The website suggests it was Socoh-Khirbet ‘Abbad that was the lmlk pottery (my previous guesses were Lachish and Achzib-Tell el-Beidah). Also, only one Socoh lmlk impression (out of over 14 lmlk impressions found at the site) was found at the Tel. Curiously, while the website emblem is an S4L (L for ‘Lapidarist’), the lmlk handle found at the site appears to be an S2U (U for ‘Undivided Bottom Inscription’).

The website’s reasoning behind Socoh being the lmlk pottery appears to be faulty. Socoh was the last geographical name to have its own lmlk impressions (there are no “S4C’s”) and a lone Socoh impression at a major Shephelah city is nothing unusual. If Elah Socoh was lmlk Socoh, we would expect Socoh to be the first GN to have its own lmlk impressions and not just one, but at least seven Socoh lmlk stamp impressions to have been found in the survey of Elah Socoh. I would suggest, if Yuval Goren is right, the lmlk pottery was most likely located at Achzib/Tell el-Beidah. I have always thought the lmlk Socoh to be Shuweika E. of Dahriya since I began doing serious research on the subject of lmlk impressions.

Fiscal Bullae: The ‘Missing Link’ Between Rosettes and Mwshs?

I had my suspicions the lmlk bullae dated to the time of Josiah (on a number of grounds). I also had my suspicions the Rosette system dated to late in the reign of Mannaseh. I now think I have reconciled these ideas and, thus, I can suggest the chief reason no stamped jar-handles date to Josiah’s reign (at least, in my view): they were replaced by the lmlk bullae! Barkay’s explanation for their purpose seems to me satisfactory. I now suspect that, with further careful sifting, more lmlk bullae will be found at Jerusalem (where I suspect all the unprovenanced lmlk bullae were found). I should also make a map of places mentioned in the bullae and a chart of their distribution among Josiah’s regnal years.

UPDATE: According to Robert Deutsch, the Hezekiah bullae, the fiscal bullae, hundreds of other bullae, and a bunch of lmlk stamp impressions (!!%&$#&%&!!!!) were found by looters at Keilah. Apparently, my suspicion of all the lmlk bullae being found at Jerusalem was wrong. I still say any Bethel bullae should be dated to the time of Josiah. Was Keilah the administrative capital of the Mareshah district?

Perhaps The Lions and Early Yhwds Were Partially Contemporary

Due to the fact paleographic dating surely places at least some Early yhwd impressions in the late 6th C BC, it seems only fair to conclude that, while lion-impressed jars were surely used as the chief tax-collecting jars in Yehud at least until Lipschits’s Type 5 (or, more likely, 6, the most common of the early yhwds and one with a reasonable distribution), some governors did begin the practice of issuing jars in their own name (and not the central Achaemenid government’s) since the beginning of Persian rule over Judah. Nehemiah probably ruled in a post-lion stamp impression phase.

Oded Lipschits Proposes King’s Garden to Be in Rephaim Valley

See here. He and Nadav Na’aman also propose Ramat Rahel to have formerly been Ba’al Perazim. I do not have any ideas of how they reconcile Nehemiah 3:15 with their hypothesis, but linking the Valley of the King with the Rephaim valley is surely an attractive proposal.

The Mwsh/Lion/Early Yhwd Map!

Above: A map of Early Yhwd, Lion, and Mwsh impressions. Blue=Mwsh Impressions, Orange=Lion Stamp Impressions, Yellow=Early Yhwd Impressions. The anachronistic political boundaries are c. 705-701 BC.

For the corpus of mwsh seal impressions, see here.

For En Gedi’s lions, see here.

For the Rogem Ganim data, see here.

For Mizpah’s five lions, see here.

For a corpus of lion impressions, see here and here.

For Gibeon’s two lions, see here.

For Jericho’s lion, see here.

For a mostly complete corpus of Early Yhwds, see here.

For more early Yhwd data, see here.

WARNING: There might be more jar-marks at Mozah. Khirbet er-Ras’ impressions are not included here.

For the same map with outline of Seleucid Yehud, see below (ignore the outlines of the 8th C BC Philistine kingdoms):

Note that most of these pre-4th C BC impressions seem to be concentrated in the North and East of the province. I will likely soon do a map comparing Early to Middle and possibly Late Yhwd Impression prevalence. Also, it is now obvious to me that the Lion Impressions are Persian period (before Ezra-Nehemiah??)- did the the Babylonians manage to completely alter Judah’s settlement system in less than a half-century, re-founding En Gedi, Ramat Rahel, Rogem Ganim (?), Jerusalem (!!!) and Nebi Samwil while making Mizpah a secondary administrative center and producing more of their lion stamp impressions in some 47 years than the Persians managed to produce in over 130?

Lions: The Seekrit Impressions

You all know of lmlks. Some of you may know of yhwds. Some of the more learned ones among you may know of yrslm impressions/pentagrams/stars (these are Hasmonean and ended with the minting of Hasmonean coins) and mwsh impressions and concentric circle incisions and rosettes. But does anyone but the most learned ever recall the most arcane system of jar-marks in Judah of all?

After the fall of Jerusalem, there appear lion stamp impressions. Little has been published regarding them. Some impressions are circular in shape, others rectangular. According to an excavation volunteer, one he discovered had yhwd lettering on it, suggesting a Persian date. It is known most (77 out of about 110) were excavated at Ramat Rahel, 5 were excavated at Mizpah, and at least 17 were excavated in the City of David. Unlike the yhwd stamped jars (all made in the province of Yehud), the clay of some jars stamped with the ‘lion’ mark originated from the Shephelah, while other lion stamped jars’ clay originated from the Jerusalem area. It is ambiguous as to what period (Early Persian or Babylonian) this system should be assigned, but it was certainly larger in size than the mwsh (Moza) system, having its center at the known Babylonian gubernatorial center of Mizpah (30 out of 42 known mwsh-stamped jars were found at Mizpah). It might either be the link between the yhwd and mwsh systems, or might have been used concurrently with one of these systems. Due to these marks’ sizable appearance at Jerusalem, I strongly suspect they date later than the mwsh system (only four mwsh impressions were found at Jerusalem, while 17 yhwd impressions were found at Jerusalem).

Why ABR Should Give Up On the el-Bireh-Bethel Equation

Since the founding of ABR (Associates for Biblical Research, a Protestant ministry), it has since its founding (in 1969) supported the idea that Bethel should not be identified with Beitin, but, rather, with el-Bireh. This was largely David Livingston’s idea, and was proposed due to his miscounting of Roman milestones, his supposition Bethel should be a ‘living town’ (he did not consider in his first article that Beitin’s situation is paralleled by Lachish, Megiddo, Gezer, Hazor, ect.), and his supposition Bethel should have a mountain E. of it, not just a ridge. Note that I now think the statements of Eusebius that Bethel/Beitin was 12, not, as is in fact, 13, milestones from Jerusalem possibly stemmed from the possible lack of the Roman road leading directly to Beitin in his day (there was an eastern service road from Bireh to Nablus on the PEF map; see below). However, since 1995, there has been a split between Bryant Wood and David Livingston on the location of ‘Ai. While Livingston suggests Khirbet Nisya (excavated under his direction between 1979 and 1994) to be ‘Ai, Bryant Wood suggests Khirbet Maqatir (excavated under his direction since 1995) to be ‘Ai. In order for Nisya to be ‘Ai, Bethel has to be identified as el-Bireh. However, if ‘Ai is to be identified at Maqatir, there is no need for ignoring (or misinterpreting) Late Roman data to fit a location of Bethel at el-Bireh.

Even assuming a location of Bethel at el-Bireh, Khirbet Nisya is a poor location for ‘Ai. It contains no remains of a city gate that would have been visible during the time of original composition of Joshua, obviously the late 7th century BC, and, indeed, contains no architectural remains at all prior to the Iron I period. Indeed, it was hardly a ruin between the Iron IIB and the Persian period; a two-winged lmlk handle and three yhwd impressions were discovered at the site. A location of ‘Ai at Khirbet Nisya also suffers from a lack of a good location for Beth-Aven, which would, if Khirbet Nisya was ‘Ai, be better substituted for Mizpah.

Above: Mizpah is just to the W. of HaGiva. Nisya is just to the SE of Psagot. el-Bireh is just to the SW of the map’s “al Bira”. Baytin is Beitin. The remaining two sites are Maqatir and et-Tell, the latter being closer to Deir Dibwan.  The blue line is the Geba-Beitin road.

Thus, we are left with the conclusion that ‘Ai is either Khirbet Maqatir or et-Tell. For our purposes, it does not matter which is ‘Ai, due to the sites’ proximity. It is clear that a location of Bethel at el-Bireh is as consistent with Genesis 12:8 as a location of Bethel at Beitin; one can see both candidates for ‘Ai from the ridge E. of Beitin, but none from the ridge E. of Bireh. Indeed, ‘Ai would, if Bethel was at Bireh, be scattered in a collection of hills just E. of Bethel, and there would be no point stating “between Bethel and ‘Ai” in Gen 12:8. I should also note the Iron Age settlement in the area SW of Beitin was at Ras-et-Tahuneh, a high spot altered by means of ancient fills two hundred meters NW. of Bireh. It has been suggested this is Zemaraim, although Zemaraim might as well be Nisya. Bryant Wood has also used the Beth-‘Aven argument against Beitin, although it is not known for certain what Beth-Aven was (was it a set of EB/IB ruins just E. of Beitin? Site 205?), and the range of possibilities is certainly consistent with the traditionally-attested location of Bethel at Beitin (it is rather unlikely the location of one of the most important sites in the Tanakh was mysteriously lost during the Persian period). Likewise, Joshua 8:13 may mean that the border turned to the South or to the southern shoulder of Luz/Bethel.

Thus, while there is no conclusive evidence against the location of pre-Persian Bethel at el-Bireh, the weight of the evidence points to Beitin being pre-Persian Bethel. Since Bryant Wood’s reasonable identification of Khirbet el-Maqatir as ‘Ai, there has been no good reason I can think of for ABR to continue to identify Bethel with el-‘Bireh.


The PEF map:

I suspect the western roman road to Nablus was built by the Romans, while the eastern one was built by the Byzantines-I do not see any other reason for the eastern service road to Nablus than pilgrimage reasons.