That 9th Century Israelite-Judean border conflict…

In 1 Kings 15:16-22, an interesting story of a border conflict is told. According to 2 Chronicles 13, Abjah took Bethel in a conflict with Jeroboam I. This is, however, unlikely, or, if Abjah did take Bethel, he held it for only a limited time period. According to the 1 Kings narrative, Baasha of Israel first fortified Ramah “in order to prevent anyone from going out or coming in to Asa king of Judah”. Was this Ramah er-Ram or, as in Judges 4:5, Ramallah? Geba is surely the present Jaba, and Mizpah is very likely the present Tell el-Nasbeh, on the main road between Bethel and Jerusalem (Nebi Samwil is not on the main road and does not have any Iron I remains to correlate with Samuel). Considering that the fortification of Ramah was meant “to prevent anyone from going out or coming in to Asa”. It was probably er-Ram, south of Geba.

Who be Zerah?

According to 2 Chron 4, in the 11th year of Asa (902 BC), Zerah the Cushite tried to invade Judah by way of Mareshah (just south of Beit Guvrin). Since the reign of Asa (912-871 BC) corresponds well with the reign of Osorkon I (924-889 BC) of Egypt, a Libyan, not a Cushite, Zerah must not be the name of a king, but of a military commander. Unfortunately, even with all Zerah’s chariotry, he was struck down as far as Gerar (Tel Haror, 31°22’54″N, 34°36’26″E), due to the military preparedness and superior position (higher usually beats lower) of Asa’s troops. Asa also managed to get a significant amount of booty from the villages surrounding the then-small town of Gerar and from Zerah’s own troops. However, Chronicles does not state Asa acquired the newly devastated territory.