Very few times does archaeology harmonize to what is mentioned in text. Yet, both text and archaeology are lenses by which we view the world and neither one usually give the whole picture. It is the interpretation of this picture, which is what we call “history.”
There is a passage in the book of 1 Kings in 9:15 that says “And this is the account of the forced labor that King Solomon drafted to build the house of the YWHW, his house, the Millo, the wall of Jerusalem and Hazor, and Megiddo and Gezer.”
The passage refers to the reinforcement and building projects King Solomon implemented on the temple, his own palace, the walls of Jerusalem, and the walls of some major cities within his kingdom -- at Hazor, Megiddo and Gezer. There is not evidence of his building projects on the Temple since it was destroyed in 586 BCE and later built over by Herod the Great in the 1st Century BCE. What may remain from Solomon’s palace is under centuries of occupations in Jerusalem which is also not to mention a living, thriving city. However, the building projects for rebuilding walls of these other cities in interesting may provide a clue to King Solomon himself.
In gate structures during this period, we have what are called “chambered gates.” This is a particular architectural gate style which emerges in the Iron Age II period (10th – 9th Centuries BCE). There are two chamber gates, four chamber gates and six chamber gates reflecting the amount of chambers each gate has (see schematic image above). The purpose of these chambers was span from their use in cultic shrines for travelers to offer sacrifices, to watering areas for animals and livestock.
Around this time period we have only three examples of what are known as the 6 Chamber Gates, which are the largest and more significant of the three types. The sites which contain this mysterious architectural feature are only found at Hazor, Megiddo and Gezer, the three cities where Solomon supposedly reinforced the city walls mentioned in 1 Kings 9.
Do the discoveries of these three gates exhibit the building projects implemented by Solomon during his reign in Israel? The topic of David and Solomon’s historicity is another hotly debated subject and many have used this architectural feature to champion for Solomon’s relevancy.
See you tomorrow with number 10 of our countdown!
First on our list are a group of artifacts known as the Tel El-Amarna letters. These letters were found in Egypt and date the Late Bronze Age New Kingdom of Egypt 1360-1322 BCE. They are a collection of over 300 clay tablets which are correspondence between the 18th Dynasty Egyptian Pharaoh, Akhenaten, and the major kingdoms of the Ancient Near East.
These tablets were inscribed in cuneiform (wedge writing) and written in a language known as Akkadian which was the lingua franca, or common language of the ancient world in this time period. Most of the correspondence contain devotion and praise to the pharaoh as well as providing details as to the culture and events of these distant kingdoms.
This information provides biblical scholars with a wealth of knowledge since majority of these tablets are written from kings living in the areas of modern day Syria, Lebanon, and Canaan. Evaluation of these texts can help quite literally “set the stage” and provide the historical and geographic context for the emergence of the Israelites in Late Bronze/Early Iron Age in Canaan.
Some of these texts also mention the troubles the Canaanite kings have had with two people groups known as the Hapiru and the Shasu. Both of these groups have been linked with the “Hebrew” people. Some prominent scholars have suggested that these are in fact the emerging ethnic group of the Israelites infiltrating the land of Canaan however this is heavily debated.
Tune in tomorrow for Day 11 in the 12 Days of Archaeology and the Bible!
Sources and for further Reading.
Dever, William G. (1997). "Archaeology and the Emergence of Early Israel" . In John R. Bartlett (Ed.), Archaeology and Biblical Interpretation, pp. 20–50. Routledge.
Hoffmeier, James K. (2005). Ancient Israel in Sinai, New York: Oxford University Press, 240–45.
Rainey, Anson F. (1995). "Unruly Elements in Late Bronze Canaanite Society". In Wright, David Pearson; Freedman, David Noel; Hurvitz, Avi (eds.). Pomegranates and Golden Bells. Eisenbrauns.
Stager, Lawrence E. (2001). "Forging an Identity: The Emergence of Ancient Israel". In Michael Coogan (Ed.), The Oxford History of the Biblical World, pp. 90–129. New York: Oxford University Press.
El-Amarna Tablets, article at West Semitic Research Project, website of University of Southern California accessed 12/12/19.
Christmas is the month of giving. Among the lights, gifts and Mariah Carey music, we like to use this time to be with family. This is a welcome break for most academics because we are taking a break from classes and research until the new year.
I am often asked questions about archaeology and more specifically “Biblical Archaeology” concerning discoveries, interpretations, and of the latest documentary on the History Channel. Usually the questions center around three subjects: Dinosaurs, the Ark of the Covenant, and Noah’s Ark. All of which are very interesting topics but unfortunately true academic archaeology does not provide many answers for these subjects. Since there is so much debate over these subjects, is there any archaeological evidence that I can hang my hat on? What is agreed upon amongst most scholars and archaeologist that can help introduce us to the world of the Bible?
So, for this Holiday Season I thought I would do something slightly different from my traditional monthly blog post. We have no doubt heard of the “12 days of Christmas” that begin with twelve drummers drumming and ends with a partridge in a pear tree. Traditionally the 12 Days of Christmas begin December 25th and end on January 5th. However, I will be counting down this month from the 13th to the 24th, Christmas Eve, with my favorite 12 archaeological discoveries for biblical studies that give insight into the world of the Bible.
We will begin with number 12 tomorrow!
BTW, if anyone wants to make a song of my list, feel free to submit it and I will play it on my website.