Perhaps Manasseh Only Reigned 45 Years?

An idea sometimes propagated during the late 19th an early 20th centuries was that because only 11 years separate the “early” and “late” dates for Hezekiah’s death (698/7 and 687/6 BC), it makes sense to reduce Manasseh’s reign from 55 to 45 years. If this is so, Hezekiah would have appointed twelve-year-old Manasseh co-regent during the second-to last (or possibly last) year of his reign. This idea is surely more plausible than the idea that Hezekiah appointed a 12-year old co-regent 11 years before his death. If this idea is, in fact, correct, and the lmlk impressions were used from c. 720 to c. 680 BC as a long-term administrative change in Judah’s wage distribution system for government officials in the Shephelah, instead of, as I have originally proposed, a short-term emergency change dating from perhaps c. 705 to c. 697 or c. 704 to c. 700 BC, the Top-Register impressions would belong to the early years of Manasseh, in the late 680s BC. Also, the rate of discovered lmlk handle (not necessarily jar) production under the long-term proposal would be about 35 per year, while that rate would be at least 95 if the ‘short-term change’ view holds.

Hezekiah’s Reign

When did Hezekiah begin to reign? In 716/15 BC, as does the statement “in the fourteenth year” implies? In 726 BC, as supported by a plain counting back from the reign of Josiah to the reign of Hezekiah, Tiglath Pileser’s records, 2 Kings 17:1, and Isaiah 14:28 (which implies Ahaz died in the same year as Tiglath-Pileser III? In 729/28 BC, as supported by the synchronisms in 2 Kings 18? It certainly seems implausible to declare 716/15 BC as the beginning of his reign since the Book of Kings so firmly places the Fall of Samaria in the reign of Hezekiah. The 729 solution suffers from the fact Hezekiah is only said to have reigned 29 years, leaving a two to three year gap between him and Mannaseh. It seems that Galil’s solution, that the three-year siege of Samaria was an artificial (and absurd) construct created by the exilic redactor and forced upon the text of his sources, largely due to his confusion of Shalmaneser’s deposition of Hoshea with Sargon II’s capture of Samaria. Shalmaneser’s capture would thus occur in 723 or 722 BC, while the campaign of Sargon in the 6th year of Hezekiah would refer to Sargon’s 720 BC campaign.

Hebron, Beersheba, and Biblical Dating

Hebron (Tel Rumeida) was inhabited as a Pre-Roman city of any size in four main periods: EB III, Middle Bronze IIB-C, Iron IIB-C, and the Hasmonean period. This fact is not all that useful for dating the Pentateuch, but it is important for dating the Deuteronomistic History. Joshua (21:13), for example, must be dated to the latter two periods, most likely Iron IIC, the commonly accepted date for its composition (the political geography of the land in Joshua, contra the Minimalists, does not resemble that of the Hellenistic period, but does have an uncanny resemblance to that of the Iron IIC). If Joshua goes, so does Judges and Samuel. Samuel is a more interesting case, however, since, while the Conquest was obviously nonhistorical, David’s rise to power seemingly has a far more solid historical basis. Yet, Hebron is mentioned numerous times in Samuel as a power center, even though it contained a relatively limited amount of Iron I pottery and yielded no building remains. This shows that even the Davidic narratives were highly fictionalized and perserve much late among with early tradition. Most of the Chronicles accounts are copied from Samuel, and, therefore, are hardly datable. There last reference is from the Hasmonean period.

The Date of the Fall of Samaria

The Fall of Samaria is, perhaps, the second most important event for determining the chronology of the Bible. According to 2 Kings 17 and 18, firstly, Shalmaneser V came up to Hoshea of Israel, and that, during this campaign, Hoshea became Shalmaneser’s servant and paid him tribute (2 Kings 17:3). However, in 2 Kings 17:4, Shalmaneser put Hoshea in jail due to the fact he had paid no tribute. Shalmaneser conducted three known campaigns in his reign: one in 725 BC, one in 724 BC, and one in 723 BC. He did not conduct a campaign in 726 BC. It seems that the payment of tribute during Shalmaneser’s first campaign and the rebellion are extremely unlikely to have taken place in the same year. Since Samaria was besieged in Hoshea’s seventh year (2 Kings 18:9) and fell in his 9th, and since Tiglath-Pileser III records tribute from Hoshea in 731 BC, the only logical conclusion is that Hoshea (using accession-year dating), seized power between the spring and summer of 731 BC (Israel began its new year in spring), immediately paid tribute to the great Tiglath-Pileser, then, paid tribute to Shalmaneser in 725 BC (his 6th year), then, in 724 BC, revolted, forcing Shalmaneser, as in 2 Kings 18:9, to come up against Samaria and besiege it for three years, Samaria falling in Hoshea’s 9th year, 722 BC. The date of the Fall of Samaria, is, logically, 722 BC.

UPDATE: I now renounce the above reasoning in favor of Galil’s view. I also now view Hoshea’s accession as stemming from Tiglath Pileser’s Galilee campaign of 732 BC, making the above reasoning needless, the fall of Samaria being in 732 BC.

UPDATE (4/20/2013): I now view Hoshea’s accession as being sometime in the winter of 732-31 and not as stemming from Tiglath Pileser’s Galilee campaign. The above reasoning is still needless.

Is the Chronology of Ahaz Workable?

By far, one of the most frustrating problems of OT chronology is the chronology of Ahaz. According to Isaiah 14:28, Ahaz died in the same year as a prominent king of Assyria-almost certainly Tiglath-Pileser III. This would make Ahaz die in 727/726 (Tiglath-Pileser died in Tebet (December/January) of 727/726). This fits with a plain counting back of years from Josiah to Hezekiah, which puts the ascension of Hezekiah in 726 BC. Unfortunately, this chronology does not fit with 2 Chron 30-32, 2 Kings 17:1, or any of the synchronisms in 2 Kings 19. It seems that Ahaz’s 16 years must be amended to eight, 2 Kings 17:1 must be amended to “second year”, and Hezekiah must have been made co-regent in 729 BC and counted years from the religious reforms of 715 BC late in his reign.

Is Tiglath-Pileser Pul?

The Biblical Tiglath-Pileser (otherwise known as Tiglath-pilneser) is identified by all with the Assyrian Tukultī-apil-Ešarra III, who, reigning from 745 to 727 BC, mentioned Menahem as paying tribute in 738 (or 743) BC. He is also identified by most with the biblical “Pul“, as 1 Chronicles 5:26 (probably emended by later scribes to its present state of having “Pul” and “Tiglath-pilneser” be referred to separately) and Tiglath-Pileser’s own mention of Menahem strongly imply. This is supported by Tiglath-Pileser being mentioned as “Pulu” in the Babylonian King List A and “Porus” in Ptolemy’s Canon, Ptolemy’s dates being fixed by the eclipse records in his Almagest. It seems certain Tiglath Pileser, and no previous monarch, was the true author of the Iran Stele, as shown by the fact the Stele references several events (such as the siege of Arpad) which are known to have been done by no other than Tiglath-Pileser. Following literal Biblical chronology is not going to lead anyone anywhere.

Is Jehu the same as the Son of Omri on the Black Obelisk?

In 841 BC, Shalmaneser III says he received tribute from Aram-Damascus, Tyre, Sidon, and from Jehu, “son of Omri”. As we all know, Jehu was an usurper to the Omride dynasty, and did not help the cult of Baal in Israel in any way. He was, also, a valiant warrior. However, this does not mean he could not respect Shalmaneser III’s power. It is unlikely Shalmaneser III is simply borrowing a record of conquest from his ancestors-Jehu is, in the obelisk, bowing before Shalmaneser III and no other king, and, besides, would, if he was borrowing a record, not replace Jehu with the king reigning during his time? Assyrians could fact-check. The fact Jehu is stated as a “son of Omri” is no problem, kings of Israel were referred to as “sons of Omri” well into the reign of Sargon II, due to the Assyrian usage of “son of x” to mean “inheritor of x’s property”. Indeed, the Black Obelisk supports the identification of the Assyrian Jehu with the Biblical one, and not some random Jehu in any old place, since kings of Samaria were referred to as “sons of Omri” well into the reign of Sargon II. As for Ahab and Ahab of the land of Siriala, it is well known the Kurkh Monolith of Shalmaneser III can sometimes be a bit unreliable with numbers, it not being written under the close supervision of Shalmaneser III. After all, no one in the whole ANE could possibly own 2,000 chariots (each horse cost 150 shekels each!). Besides, there are no other known Ahabs of Sirialas.

The author in the previous link’s statement that “very few archeologists are Christians” is bullshit. Does Kenneth Kitchen (influential 13th century Exodus Evangelical orientalist) not exist? Even us secularists are not inherently hostile to the bible! We just treat it as and with all other ancient texts, and do not dogmatically assume the Bible is THE Word of God (Yes, this is an assumption, and an unjustifiable one. One should start with a position of agnosticism and change one’s mind as new evidence appears-all this talk of worldviews in most fundy literature in effect states it is futile to convert secularists like me since there is no basis for fundyism that does not rely on assuming it).

What Does Ezekiel 4:4-12 mean for Biblical Chronology?

Since the always sinful house of Israel only began in 931/930 BC (see Assyrian records), Ezekiel 4:5 must mean Israel has 45 more years, according to Ezekiel (remember, this is an Atheist blog) to exist, that is, to 541 BC. Judah, however, sins only because of its kings, and therefore is not considered by Ezekiel to be currently sinful. As Clarke says, “Reckon, says Archbishop Newcome, near fifteen years and six months in the reign of Manasseh, two years in that of Amon, three months in that of Jehoahaz, eleven years in that of Jehoiakim, three months and ten days in that of Jehoiachin, and eleven years in that of Zedekiah; and there arises a period of forty years, during which gross idolatry was practiced in the kingdom of Judah. Forty days may have been employed in spoiling and desolating the city and the temple.”.