For Those of You Who Aren’t Getting Updates…

You should be.
TEL AZEKAH 113 YEARS AFTER: Preliminary Evaluation of the Renewed Excavations at the Site
Tel ‘Eton Excavations (2006-2009): A Preliminary Report, Palestine Exploration Quarterly 143 (2011): 198-224
-Huzzah! A publication on Azekah! Mentioning Iron IIa remains being found all over the Tel!

By Jove! Censorship at Azekah!

The people at the Tel Azekah YouTube channel have deleted one of mine and all of George Grena’s comments! This means war!!!

Note: George’s comments were the relevant parts of his comments on the linked post, my deleted comment was “Was that a reference to the Tabor ‘fish’ fiasco earlier this year?” in response to Grena’s “Absalom’s Tomb phase” reply to my still-visible comment.

Update: Apparently, my still-visible comment is only visible to me. It is “A four-winged MMST? These are pretty rare! A clear photograph is a necessity (to determine whether the seal used to stamp the jar was of Grena’s Cursory or Lapidarist phase).”

Update: G. M. Grena posted a series of upside down jpegs on his blog chronicling the saga.

Update (one day later): Peace has probably been made.

“The Archaeology of the Days of Manasseh” and the Date of the Rosette Jar-Marks

The “Archaeology of the Days of Manasseh” was a concept developed in the late 1980s which, in effect, argues for a revival of Judah in the E. and S. largely due to Manasseh’s integration of Judah into the New Assyrian Order, even though the Shephelah never fully regained its population until the Hasmonean era. Thus, Tel Goren (ancient En Gedi) Str. V, Tel ‘Ira VII, Tel ‘Aroer III, and the Wilderness district sites in Judah (Tabaq, Samrah, Maqari, Feshkha, Qumran, Ghuweir) would all begin in the early to mid-7th C BC, in the days of King Manasseh (697-643 BC). The Arabian trade and Shephelah refugees are important components in this historical reconstruction. The rebuilding of Azekah and Lachish in the Shephelah is also an important part of the “Archaeology of the Days of Manasseh”. My placement of the Rosette jar-marks in the Assyrian, rather than, as Oded Lipschits does, post-Assyrian period, is sufficient, though not necessary, evidence for the acceptance of this Manassite paradigm.

The evidence for the Manassite paradigm from the finds in the Negev is rather clear: while two lmlk handles were found in Stratum VIII of Arad (destroyed in 701 BC), three were found in Stratum VII. Thus, Arad VII was built in the early 7th C BC, when lmlk jars were still in use. Likewise, four late (“Divided Inscription”) lmlk handles were found at Lachish, thus suggesting it was built some years before (though certainly not too long before!) lmlk jar use ended. Lipschits’s suggestion that Josiah built the Ramat Rahel Va citadel/palace is simply bizarre: why build a 70×47 meter citadel two miles (just within viewing distance) outside the capital and use it as a storehouse when your capital is already fortified and has a great royal palace and storehouses already in use? Na’aman’s interpretation of Ramat Rahel Va as an Assyrian Governor’s Residence is far more plausible. In general, the situation with the Rosette marks is much better placed in the Assyrian than Josianic period. Since the Rosette system is inherently connected with the beginning of Ramat Rahel Va (which probably represents a new phase of Assyrian administration in Judah), and it is likely the preceding Ramat Rahel Vb was also an Assyrian residence (if it was built before 701 BC, it would certainly be emptied by the time Sennacherib began his Shephelah operations) we may suppose Ramat Rahel Va, Lachish II, and Iron IIc Azekah were built either in the reign of Esarhaddon or Ashurbanipal. While the latter two may have been built later than the establishment of Ramat Rahel Va and the Rosette system due to the fortification system at Lachish being such an integral part of its administration and the modest amount of Rosette impressions there compared to Jerusalem and Ramat Rahel, a date in the reign of Ashurbanipal or Esarhaddon is still likely, and the fortification system(s?), paralleled by that of Ekron, might have been considered necessary by the Assyrians to defend Palestine against Egypt.

Thus, it seems likely that Judah already revived to almost its Josianic state by the time of Amon.


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.

The Date of the Azekah Inscription

Firstly, it is known that Sargon II’s artists made numerous reliefs in his palace at Room V at Dur-Sharrukin. Several of these reliefs are extremely helpful in the precise dating of the rise and falls of certain cities in Philistia. The first slabs show the Raphia and Samaria campaigns of 720 BC, on the lower and upper registers respectively. On the lower register, after Raphia, defended by Nubians, comes Gibbethon, also defended by Nubians. Whether this is Philistine Gibbethon or a place near Raphia is uncertain. After Gibbethon, a large city (some 70-150 acres), with an acropolis, is seen in Slab 6. No city north of Gibbethon is this large, and the only candidates are Gaza, Gath, and Ashdod. Gath’s walls do not, as in the relief, extend to the valley, the only candidates are, therefore, Ashdod and Gaza. By the appearance of the relief, it appears to be Ashdod, but, by the fact Ashdod is not mentioned in the Sargonite annals of 720 BC, around which campaign much of the room seems to revolve around (although they may date to the 711/12 campaign, but Ekron is not mentioned in the accounts of this campaign), but Gaza is, it appears to be the latter. On Slab 11, Ekron, pictured as a small city, and definitely the small, fortified acropolis of Stratum II, is pictured below Sargon’s 720 BC Hamath campaign.

In short, most of the reliefs in Room V relate to the 720 BC campaign of Sargon II.

Secondly, it is known that, in 712/11 BC (14th/15th year of Hezekiah), Sargon’s Tartan captured Ashdod. According to Sargon himself, after Yamani fled, he captured on this campaign Ashdod, Gath, and Ashdod-Yam (Tel Mor, on the N. bank of the Nahal Lachish, some 1400 meters from its mouth). These cities are mentioned entirely in the context of the Ashdodite campaign, and show that Ashdod ruled Gath (stratum F8) before 711/12 BC. Neither Biblical nor Assyrian source mentions any other kingdom in the area of Judah this campaign was fought against.

Thirdly, it is known that, in 701 BC, Sennacherib fought with the Nubians at Eltekeh (Tell esh-Shalaf?= 31°53’35″N, 34°46’6″E) and took over the kingdom of Ekron, re-instating Padi (taken hostage by Hezekiah) as king, and captured forty-five of the fortified cities of Judah, most notably, Lachish Stratum III.

The “Azekah Inscription” is a damaged Assyrian tablet, mentioning a curious form of the god Ashur as “Ashan”, and the conquest of two cities, firstly, Azekah, and “a royal city of the Philistines, which Hezekiah had captured and strengthened for himself”.

There are several reasons why the Azekah Inscription far more likely came from the reign of Sennacherib than that of Sargon II. Firstly, the 720 BC campaign of Sargon nowhere mentions any city of Judah, although it was very varied in its purpose (Hamath, Samaria, Raphia, Gaza, Ekron), it seems that Hezekiah, if anything, supported this campaign (2 Kings 18:8?). Also, since Ekron, portrayed in Sargon’s reliefs as a small city, could not have been an inspiration for the Azekah text, and there is not the least bit of archaeological or inscriptional evidence for Gath being a re-fortified Judahite city in 720 BC, it is extremely implausible the 720 campaign inspired the Azekah text. The 712/11 campaign campaign is definitely not the campaign that inspired the Azekah text, for obvious reasons (Gath an Ashdodite city, Tartan, not Sargon campaigned, no mention of Ekron, in any case). The result of all this negative evidence is that the Azekah Inscription must reflect the 701 BC campaign of Sennacherib.