Thoughts on the Judahiteness of Tell el-Hesi

According to Sennacherib’s prism, a part of Hezekiah’s kingdom was given to Gaza. Before today, I had no idea what specific ruins were given to Gaza. However, I now have a good candidate for one of those ruins:  Tell el-Hesi. Though before today I thought 8th C BC Tell el-Hesi should be considered Gazite due to the lack of characteristic Judahite artifacts found there, Rollston, Hardin, and Blakely’s analysis of the Hesi material has demonstrated to me that Hesi was a Judahite, rather than Gazite, border post built to prevent Ashdodite expansion. Hardin and Blakely pointed out that Hesi (and, indeed, every fortified site nearer to Judah than Kh. Summeily) lacks 8th C BC Philistine pottery, has some architectural parallels with Lachish (including measurement units), and contains a nearly identical ceramic repertoire to Lachish III. Perhaps, the most convincing pieces of evidence for Hesi’s Judahiteness were the Judahite bulla and paleo-Hebrew ostracon found at the site. Before today, I had strong doubts about Hesi’s Judahiteness, or even whether its City VI survived into the late 8th C BC, due to the surprising lack of lmlk impressions, pillar figurines, or horse and rider figurines found at the site. The situation with the lmlk impressions is paralleled at Tel Burna-the only lmlk handle found there had an H2D impression, the most common of the late types. Indeed, considering the amount of area exposed, it is a surprise to me that not a single early lmlk impression has been discovered at Burna, which is, like Hesi, effectively a fort/watchtower. This suggests to me that the lmlk impressed jars were used for civil government purposes, although we must remember that Tel ‘Erani, also a part of the Judah-Ashdod fortress line, yielded thirteen lmlk impressions (including some early ones), and that Tel Shokef, only a mile NW of Hesi, yielded, like Burna, a single late (S2DW) lmlk impression (note that, unlike Burna, Shokef was Gazite in the 7th C BC). However, while at least one pillar figurine has been discovered at Burna, such pillar figurines are found in not just Judahite, but Israelite and Philistine sites as well.

The surprising lack of early lmlk impressions at Hesi and Burna also makes me suggest Tel Sera VI (see this book, although its stratum numbers and site history description are incorrect, as shown by this book) was also an 8th C BC Judahite fortress. Judahite presence W. of Tel Sera in the reign of Hezekiah is suggested by 1 Chronicles 4 (Gedor=Gerar/Tel Haror; this is confirmed by Tiglath Pileser III’s mention of Meunites at the Brook of Egypt). However, as the Tel Sera VI material has not yet been evaluated by competent scholars and demonstrated Judahite by them, I cannot comment on this matter.

If Hesi City VI was Judahite, it destroys my presupposition that all Assyrian Palace Ware-using sites must have been founded by Sargon II. Perhaps, if not Sargon II, it was Esarhaddon who built up the Assyrian Palace Ware-bearing strata at Hesi and Tel Sera.

Necho, Magdolos, Migdol, Cadytis, and Gaza

According to Herodotus, “on land Necos engaged battle at Magdolos with the Syrians, and conquered them; and after this he took Cadytis, which is a great city of Syria; and the dress which he wore when he made these conquests he dedicated to Apollo, sending it to Branchidai of the Milesians”. So, where is Cadytis? According to Herodotus,

“Now by this way only is there a known entrance to Egypt: for from Phoenicia to the borders of the city of Cadytis belongs to the Syrians who are called of Palestine, and from Cadytis, which is a city I suppose not much less than Sardis, from this city the trading stations on the sea- coast as far as the city of Ienysos (Khan Yunis) belong to the king of Arabia, and then from Ienysos again the country belongs to the Syrians as far as the Serbonian lake, along the side of which Mount Casion extends towards the Sea.”

Since Herodotus is using Cadytis as a reference point for coastal cities, it is obvious Cadytis must be situated near the Southern Philistine coast. The only major city in South Philistia is Gaza. Therefore, Cadytis must be Gaza (31°30’17″N, 34°27’50″E). The Greeks might have pronounced Gaza’s Akkadian, Assyrian (and Persian) name Khazita, used by Sargon II (incorrectly called “Shalmaneser” by some 19th century scholars) or Hazzatu, used in the Amarna letters, as Cadyta, naturally adding an “is” as a masculine ending. The battle at Magdolos might refer to the encounter with Josiah at Megiddo, but most likely refers to the battle with the Chaldeans at Migdol (Jeremiah 44:1, 46:14, Ezekiel 29:10, 30:6)/Tell Kedua (30°58’60″N, 32°28’31″E) in December 601/January 600 BC. By Nebuchadnezzar II’s admission, the Chaldean army was catastrophically defeated. The conquest of Gaza/Cadytis after this victory by Pharaoh Necho II, also known as Necos or Nekau Wehemibre, is reflected in Jeremiah 47:1. The idea Cadytis is Jerusalem is totally disproven by the fact Persian Period Jerusalem, said by Herodotus to be the size of Sardis, was limited entirely to the hill of the City of David, east of the modern road, with no room for a connection between that poor settlement and the Temple Mount (no settlement was found at the Stepped Stone structure; this fact alone destroys Martin’s idea).