Magi Mike's Blog

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Secrets of the Ramet Rahel Palace and Garden

with 23 comments

A research abstract at tells us:

Researchers have long been fascinated by the secrets of Ramet Rahel, located on a hilltop above modern-day Jerusalem. The site of the only known palace dating back to the kingdom of Biblical Judah, digs have also revealed a luxurious ancient garden with an advanced irrigation system.

Ramet Rahal Persian Palace

The rest of the review shows that this summary statement is wrong. The garden and palace are not from the time of the “biblical kingdom of Judah”, which ended with the Babylonian conquest in 586 BC, but from the Persian period which must have been at least fifty years later, and was more likely 200 years later in the fourth century BC.

The evidence is provided by the nature of the irrigation systems which were like those the Persians were noted for constructing, the exotic plants in the garden which came from Persia and further east, and C14 dating will have left little room for doubt. When it comes to the bible, there is no such thing as lying.

The truth is that the biblical kingdom of Judah is largely fictitious. Little of its scriptural history has ever been found confirmed in the ground, and much of what has, like the claim here, is false or misreported. The evidence as opposed to the myth suggests the kingdom of Judah existed just 150 years—from about 730 BC to 586 BC—as a rump of the previous kingdom of Israel, and a puppet of the Assyrians. It was left poor and uncolonized by the Babylonians, and was not resettled as soon as the Persians took control, as the myth makes out, but much later probably in response to a rebellion in the fifth century that required a Persian punitive expedition to Jerusalem. It is after this that the palace and garden described in this work flourished.

How Darius II founded Judaism is explained in detail at the main askwhy website.

Written by mikemagee

17 February, 2012 at 1:09 am

23 Responses

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  1. Ramat Rahel was inhabited from the Lachish III pottery phase to the Early Roman period (or possibly Hasmonean) with a possible break during the Babylonian era. There are no known Persian building remains at the site (they were wiped out by the Early Roman construction), but Ramat Rahel was certainly the Persian administrative center for the province of Yehud. The main building remains from its days as an administrative center are either Assyrian or late 7th/early 6th C BC. There is no evidence of a large population or a sizable amount of sectarian literary activity in the province of Yehud during the Persian period (Israel Finkelstein’s maximum estimate is c. 35-45 thousand people in the entire province at any given time), while there is evidence for this in the 7th century BC (cf. Silver Scrolls). Indeed, the Iron IIc (late 7th C BC/early 6th C BC period) was the most prosperous era in the history of the Judahite highlands excepting the Ottoman and Byzantine periods. This suggests that your assertion Judaism is primarily a product of the Persian period is false. The Deuteronomic history of the Iron IIB-C Kingdom of Judah is fairly well-confirmed by external sources from at least the 9th-8th centuries BC.


    25 April, 2012 at 7:59 pm

    • Was the palace inhabited from the early Lachish III period or the Late Lachish III period, how long did this phase of pottery last, and how sure are we of it? Biblicists, notably Albright, have made a dogs’ dinner out of Palestinian pottery, and essentially on that basis archaeologists are proceeding to make a worse dogs’ dinner out of biblical archaeology. I notice that you profess skepticism on your website, but put a great deal of trust in some highly dubious biblicist “experts”, people who are so expert that they know they are right because God said so in the bible. I do not believe Finklestein is one of them, but he is still bound by Zionist conventions about the origins of Judaism. His redating needs to be bolder.

      If the Persian structure was destroyed by Roman building, then how did the Assyrian walls remain standing? One of the habits Albright introduced was the dating of Persian artifacts as Assyrian, thereby ensuring that the bible was right, and history was wrong. The archaeologists cannot find much of a Persian period because it has been falsely assigned to the Assyrian period, and some to the Babylonian period. It seems the Persians never happened in Judah. It is plain why. Neither Jews nor Christians could accept that it did, and do their utmost to stop the truth from emerging.

      You say there was a large population in Judah in the seventh century. Such as it was, it is explained by historians as the effect of refugees from Samaria, which was annexed by Assyria in 721-22 BC. Thereafter for about a century Judah was a puppet of Assyria, and therefore considerably influenced by a more advanced civilization. The drive to generate the tribute demanded and the influx of more skilled people from Samaria can account for the improvement in skill and literacy in the sixth century, but those people will hardly have had the time or knowledge to write down speculative “historical” scriptures.

      The Babylonians abducted the intellectuals and craftsmen at the beginning of the sixth century and Judah’s independence ceased. Thereafter, it was impoverished, neglected by the Babylonians, and initially by the Persians who took over Babylon in 539 BC, and, the bible notwithstanding, nothing fits an organized “return” until towards the end of the fifth century. These were colonists deported into Judah by Darius and not particularly exiled Judahites. Ezra read the locals the law–a Persian law! It is now Deuteronomy. The Deuteronomic history was a bogus history to justify the colonists.

      If there was no evidence of these people in the Persian Period, then what effect did the “return” have on Judah at all? None, according to you. According to me, that is the very time that the bible was written, and Judaism began, under the guidance of the Persians, a people with a moral God, Ahuramazda to serve as the model for Yehouah. The Persian period is a dark age in Judah, not because it never happened but because it has been wilfully misassigned.

      All of this is explained in tedious detail on my website linked at the foot of the article. I invite you to read it. If you have the sound evidence that you assert so boldly, maybe you would cite me its source, so that I can consider it.

      Mike Magee

      25 April, 2012 at 11:52 pm

  2. It cannot be known whether the first habitation of Ramat Rahel was pre or post-701 BC. The Lachish III phase lasted sometime until before the building of Lachish II sometime in the 7th century BC (it cannot be known exactly when, though the lmlk bullae may help us in this matter). The Assyrian walls are still traceable because the Persian builders most probably used less destructive building techniques then their successors. Where, exactly, do I “put a great deal of trust in some highly dubious biblicist “experts”, people who are so expert that they know they are right because God said so in the bible” on my blog? I don’t see how the conventional Assyrian period can be smushed into the Persian period. Please name some archaeological strata you would wish to assign to the Persian period. I don’t see any evidence for your assertion that “those people will hardly have had the time or knowledge to write down speculative “historical” scriptures”- Josiah could have certainly found useful a Deuteronomic History to help solidify the first post-Assyrian regime in Judah. Walter Mattfeld’s has a good case for why Deuteronomy should be considered pre-Persian. Also, if you need sources for any of my claims, I would be happy to provide them. I will soon read the section of your website dealing with the beginnings of Judaism.


    26 April, 2012 at 12:53 am

    • Are the pottery sherds dated from the archaeology or the archaeology from the sherds? How are the bullae dated? How do you know they are genuine? Museums everywhere are exhibiting fake bullae! The whole of Palestinian archaeology is, I repeat, a dog’s dinner. Everything was dated from the bible, and the archaeology is now used to date biblical history.

      You have not answered the question about the Assyrian walls remaining when the Persian ones have gone. “Most probably” means you are guessing.

      You give a list of recommended sources which include works by Hoffmeier, a man who suffered serious pangs of anxiety when he learnt from his university tutors that there is no evidence for Abraham and the Patriarchs. In short, he cannot bear hearing evidence that the bible is wrong. He therefore cannot be trusted as a scholar. Kenneth Kitchen is the same.

      Why cannot Persian strata be wrongly assigned? They just assign Persian artifacts as Assyrian. Arrowheads, for example, cannot be distinguished because they were all made by the same methods and design. The Lachish destruction layer was dated using arrowheads to Sennacherib.Using arrowheads for dating would permit it to be Babylonian and Persian too. The arrowheads were the same. The culture of Mesopotamia was a common culture in so many respects that the strata from the Assyrian period to the Persian one are not easy to separate, most especially when, for almost a century, the false assignments have been accepted, and to change them would completely change Jewish “history”, most of which is pure myth or romance.

      The Judahites had no time because they were paying heavy tribute to the Assyrians. That meant hard labor. They were not lolling around in libraries or schools of life, and were not worshipping Yehouah anyway, unless it was as a Canaanite Baal.

      The biblical Josiah’s fortuitous discovery of the lost law after six to eight hundred years after Moses was a Persian invention to justify the new law that THEY were giving to the Am ha Eretz, the native Judahites via the colonists. The archaeology has nothing to suggest a reformation of worship at that time. As for the history, how would Josiah have known it? Were poverty stricken shepherds in the Palestinian hills carefully writing down history from the supposed conquest of Palestine by Joshua? No nations kept detailed records except for extremely rich empires like Egypt, Assyria and Babylonia, organized countries able to support scholars, scribes, and historians. Israel has to be made into an empire early on to support the whole ludicrous idea. Even Samaria was not a nation state as we know it, and its scribes will have been like today’s secretaries of state and accountants, busy running the local economy, not novelists or biographers. The bible can only have been conceived and implemented by a superpower, not by a roaring mouse of a state. As it ends in the Persian era, the Persians are favorites to be the superpower.

      Walter, like you, is a traditionalist, hooked on the essence of the Jewish scriptures, if disputing some details. I can find no sense in any history based on the scriptural tradition. It does not gel, it is incoherent, and as no one now, except perhaps believers like Hoffmeier who get physically sick when any of the bible is contradicted, thinks anything in the scriptures is before Omri, the rest of it has to be sincerely questioned. In my view, there is, as Mattfield might say, a historical kernel to it, but who could have provided it? Persians! They had the Assyrian and Babylonian records.

      Mike Magee

      26 April, 2012 at 2:03 am

  3. The Lachish III phase is dated by the Sennacherib’s relief and the rapid expansion of Judahite settlement in the Shephelah in this phase, supposedly after the fall of the Kingdom of Israel. The Book of Jeremiah dates the destruction of Lachish II to Nebuchadnezzar’s 588-6 BC campaign. The bullae are dated by the fact they mention regnal years. Only one of them was found in a controlled excavation (at the end of 2011), and, while we have no way of knowing all of them are authentic, most of the former Kingdom of Judah is in the present-day West Bank, where looting is frequent and controlled excavations are rare. The fact Hoffmeier and Kitchen are Christian apologists does not discount the legitimacy of all that they have written in regards to the Bible. I still recommend Hoffmeier’s green book as the best case anyone has ever made for a historical Exodus. You have not answered my question in regards to which strata now dated to the Assyran period you would redate to the Persian period. Megiddo III? Definitely Assyrian (Megiddo is mentioned as a province in Assyrian records, and an Egyptian fortress replaced it after its abandonment). Hatseva? Too well dated by Edomite pottery (which is dated by association with Judahite pottery, which is dated by association with Greek pottery, which is dated by means of the Babylonian destruction of Ashkelon in 604 BC and the founding of Greek colonies in the 7th century BC). The pottery chronology of the ANE is too heavily interconnected for any major revision to it to be made.

    As for your absurd claim Yhwh was not worshipped until the Persian period-see the 8th century Israelite (not Judahite) ostraca from Kuntillet ‘Ajrud, and numerous other ostraca from sites such as Arad and Khirbet el-Qom. Your claim that “the Judahites had no time because they were paying heavy tribute to the Assyrians. That meant hard labor.” is even more easily applied to the inhabitants of the province of Yehud. The first edition of Deuteronomy was written precisely because the Judahite government was, as of the 620s BC, free from the Assyrian yoke and could afford to write such propaganda. The vision of “poverty stricken shepherds in the Palestinian hills carefully writing down history from the supposed conquest of Palestine by Joshua” is a strawman-Joshua (or the vision of Palestine behind it-Joshua itself might be exilic) was written in the days of cultured, civilized Judahites, not the days of the poverty-stricken villages of Yehud. Besides, I do not claim that Joshua is anything but a fiction-one would not have to know much history to write it. 7th C BC Judah was an organized country “able to support scholars, scribes, and historians” much more so than the (mostly) poor and (wholly) sparsely-settled Achaemenid-era Yehud.

    Besides, the supposedly Persian-period accounts in the Hebrew Bible are, in fact, Late Hellenistic-there is no evidence of Nehemiah’s wall or any pre-Late Hellenistic fortification project resembling that of the Rehoboam of Chronicles. There are a few pre-Omride slivers in the Bible-Shiloh and Shishak being the most obvious. Also, who, exactly, is by your definition, not a traditionalist?


    26 April, 2012 at 1:17 pm

    • You confirm what I have said about dating. It is circular–dated from the bible or from pottery dated from the bible. Biblical books are often pseudepigraphs as many scholars will admit, and so cannot be so simply interpreted. Daniel is an agreed example, but Jeremiah or the others could be the same. They are attributing to earlier periods events in their own. There are no firm anchor dates to fix the fragmentary sequences, even if they are themselves correct. External pottery links with Attic and Cypriot pottery have been frequently ignored because they suggest conventional Albrightian dating is way out. Much of the archaeology is dated from Seshonq’s invasion in the time of Jereboam I, a fictitious king, indeed Jereboam II written back in history. That is a supposed anchor date, yet Shishak = Shoshenq is an assumption, and there were five Shoshenq’s!

      Only one bulla, you admit, was found, in situ. The rest are valueless for dating.

      “The fact Hoffmeier and Kitchen are Christian apologists does not discount the legitimacy of all that they have written in regards to the Bible.” If you stand by this then I can only conclude you are a believer. The believer has a choice of abandoning belief in favor of historical reality or the reverse. Naturally most remain believers and so put belief before history. I accept that some Christians are honest enough to own up to and to publish evidence that contradicts their belief. The two here are not among them. They are, as you state, apologists, so they are “bent scholars”. I cannot see how Hoffmeier’s book can be any good at all except as an apologetic work, because there is nothing that anyone honest could produce as incontrovertible evidence for any exodus, and few honest scholars accept it. I take it you do not either, so this argument seems singularly pointless.

      Your next point seems to be a misunderstanding, possibly wilful, as my point seems clear enough. I am not saying that there were no Assyrians ever in history. Plainly there were, and so there are genuinely Assyrian strata. There are also, however, places where Albright and his all pervading school have deliberately assigned layers that were Persian to the Babylonian and Assyrian periods, so that the Hellenistic layers are preceded by Babylonian and Assyrian with no Persian layer at all. Moreover, few Biblical archaeologists have ever been willing to spend the time on careful excavation like Kathleen Kenyon, so layers are mixed up and confused, conveniently. Biblical archaeology has always been bad archeology, and sites have been trashed and repeatedly dug over, sometimes with no report at all on what was found.

      You ought to be a little more careful deciding what is “absurd”. It is biblical “history” that is absurd. I said that Yehouah, if he was worshipped, was a Canaanite Baal. Now what is it about the objects you mention that show that this was the Jewish Yehouah and not a Canaanite Baal? The fact that the one as depicted at Kuntillet Ajrud, for example, looked suspiciously like a cartoon bull and had a Mrs Yehouah? An Asherah! The point is that there is no trace of monotheism in this period’s archaeology. Quite the opposite, the shrines and temples seem dedicated to more than one divinity.

      Socio-historical studies show that people cannot just become classical writers overnight, or even in centuries. There is little to indicate widespread literacy in Judah before the Hellenistic period, bearing in mind that the Persian period has almost vanished. But the Persians had an advanced empire, had inherited the culture of Assyria and Babylon, had a sophisticated chancellery, and had given their colonists in Yehud every assistance to write a bogus history as part of their geopolitical policy. Besides that, my guess is that the Persian Deuteronomic history was little more than an outline history that was filled in to yield something approximating to what we now have not until the third century Ptolemies had the Jewish scriptures rewritten in the form of the first parts of the Septuagint.In other words, the present bible is Hellenistic anyway, but the Jewish religion was conceived and started in Babylon ans Susa.

      Those who do not accept that the Jewish scriptures tell a true history of the Jews are the ones who are not traditionalists–biblical minimalists, one might say.

      Mike Magee

      26 April, 2012 at 8:34 pm

      • The Bible is, indeed, often used as a ‘cheat sheet’ for the writing of the history of the Iron Age. However, if we did not have the Bible, we would still have the Assyro-Babylonian records and archaeology, and thus we would still know that late 7th century BC Ashkelon was destroyed in 604 BC and that Lachish and Tel Batash III was destroyed in 701 BC. However, we would have no anchor for the end or the beginning of the Lachish II phase, thus forcing scholars to postulate a would-be unconfirmed Babylonian destruction of Judah and a revival of Jerusalem towards the beginning of the Persian period. The Bible’s account of the Babylonian conquest and return from exile admirably explains and clarifies this archaeological observation, unlike its account of Nehemiah’s wall or Solomon’s constructions, which are not backed by any sure archaeological evidence. You still have not cited any specific archaeological stratum presently conventionally dated to the Assyrian era which you would extend or redate to the Persian period (see the Chronology page on my blog for a list of strata names). Also, you have cited no evidence for the claim that “external pottery links with Attic and Cypriot pottery have been frequently ignored because they suggest conventional Albrightian dating is way out”. I agree that there is no evidence of any monotheism in Judah until (possibly, though not with certainty) the days of Hezekiah (there is evidence of cult centralization in his reign, cf. the abandonment of the temple at Arad in Stratum VIII). Josiah’s reforms left no evidence in the archaeological record since the biblical description is certainly an exilic exaggeration; only the destruction of the shrine at Bethel and the cleansing of state (not private) religion may be said to be historically plausible. There is also no evidence of obedience to the second commandment in the Persian period. Thus, the first truly monotheistic theocracy in Palestine was that of the Hasmoneans, when there is evidence of stringent monotheism. I do not suggest that people can “just become classical writers overnight”, but, rather, I acknowledge that writing was transformed from having a purely official function in early Iron IIB Israel to its use in economic, funerary, and official contexts in Hezekiah’s Judah. There most certainly is evidence for literacy among the top 10% in late Iron Age Judah in any corpus of ancient Hebrew inscriptions.

        The best evidence I can presently see for a pre-exilic context for at least some of the Bible’s authors is the mention of some definitely pre-Exilic place-names in the Deuteronomic History (such as Ekron and Beth-Shemesh).


        26 April, 2012 at 10:03 pm

  4. The archaeology will tell us that cities like these were destroyed at intervals, but unless we have complete records of the history of the city in the first place, identifying which destruction is which of the incomplete records we do have is not as easy as you and many others seem to think. At Ashkelon a destruction layer is assigned to the Philistines, but they had also revolted against Ramses and Merneptah. The city then revolted against the Assyrians, several times, including one reportedly with Hezekiah which Sennacherib sorted out. It revolted again some decades later. Egyptians captured it when Assyria itself was conquered, and then deep raids by the Scythians led to its being ransacked, shortly before the Babylonians allegedly destroyed it. There were no monuments planted in the city for the benefit of archaeologists marking each of these events, and the normally pretty impatient and unforgiving Assyrians seem to have been patient with the city because they seem not to have destroyed it at all. Or so the biblicists say. In other words, how is it possible to be so certain of the date of any destruction layer, when there are several choices? Destruction layers are among the more obvious ones to date. Day to day life is much harder to date unless some fortuitous characteristic find datable for other reasons is unearthed.

    At Lachish, Level I covers the Babylonian period, the Persian period, and the Greek period–all mushed together–the city’s end being dated to around 150 BC–400 years in round numbers. Level II is the level containing the so called Lachish letters which are used to identify the destruction in it as that of the Babylonians in 587 BC.

    The next level is III and is a destruction layer again, but the identity of this destruction is still disputed. Was it the one to which you refer in 701 BC, or, as some believe, Nebuchadrezzar in 597 BC? Before then, Level IV was that of a Canaanite fortified city. Now the disagreement over the Level III destruction illustrates my earlier points. It is not that easy to distinguish events happening in a common culture unless someone is inscribing “Sennacherib was here”, or “Nebuchadrezzar was here”.

    Now my point would be, how can we be sure this latter destruction is by Nebuchadrezzar. You mentioned above that some destructions might not be documented in our existing records, at least explicitly, but we do know that the Egyptians revolted against the Persians in the fourth century and so too did the satrap Bagabukhsha about the same time. Either of these could have been a cause for a Persian punitive expedition which could have included a destruction here, and perhaps equally in Jerusalem. The Lachish letters might properly be assigned to this time, around 370 BC, perhaps.

    We simply know so little about the Persians in general, and Palestine in the Persian era. Why? I am saying that the Persians might have caused destruction in Palestine, but no one wants to know because it holds the secret to the origins of the bible, at least as we know it, and, frankly, we have no other bible. It never emerged into the light of history until the third century, and then only by reports. The earliest bits of it we have are second and first century BC.

    As for pre-exilic place names, the “exile” ended with the so-called “return”, the colonization of the Judaean Hills to set up the Temple State of Jerusalem. Just why wouldn’t someone writing a local history (albeit bogus) at that time not know what the local Am ha Eretz still called their towns and villages? The big difference is that it happened over 100 years after biblicists think. Judahites did not return. They were almost certainly better off where they were in Babylonia. A group of people, maybe dissenters themselves, were deliberately deported into Judah to set up the temple, granted privileges for doing it, and the locals, the original Judahites left behind in Judah were excluded from it.

    Look, Pithom, this is hard work, rehearsing what I have already written at length elsewhere. Perhaps you and other readers might welcome these contributions as a brief outline of the whole thing, but, if you are seriously interested, look at the main pages. I haven’t looked at yours, other than the “about” page, so I too should see what you have to say, if it is relevant. I doubt that I’ll write, though, because I might not pass the grammar and spelling standards you demand.

    Mike Magee

    27 April, 2012 at 12:10 am

    • Firstly, Ashkelon was never abandoned or burnt with fire at any time between the Middle Bronze and Hellenistic periods except during the Babylonian period, when Ashkelon’s Phase 14 in Grid 38 and all other parts of the city were fully burnt with fire and abandoned. The desolation of Ashkelon in 604 BC is reported in the Babylonian Chronicles and implied in a prophecy written just before this destruction in the Book of Jeremiah (Gaza was not destroyed in Nebuchadnezzar 604 BC campaign; thus, the Jeremiah 47 prophecy likely dates before its end). See any volume or excavation report on the Dig Ashkelon website.

      Lachish III’s destruction is dated by all working archaeologists since c. 1980 to 701 BC, with good reason. I have discussed the reasons for dating this destruction at this time on my blog. The only people I know of who have seriously questioned the date of Lachish III’s destruction in 701 BC in recent years are Ed Lipinski and Peter James, neither of them working archaeologists. There is no real debate regarding this subject. Lachish I is a collective name for two or three different levels. It is doubtful Lachish II can be easily stretched out for over 200 years, as would be necessary if it continued into the Persian period (the rosette impressions in Stratum II show it must have been built under the Kingdom of Judah). Also, the idea of Yhwh-worshipping Idumeans does seem a bit strange to me. The mention of Azekah and Lachish being the last fortified cities standing during the Babylonian campaign against Judah in the Book of Jeremiah seems consistent with all the evidence we have.

      Beth-Shemesh and Ekron were utterly abandoned during the Persian period, Beth-Shemesh being destroyed in 701 BC and having a small settlement re-built on top of its tell until the Babylonian conquest and Ekron being destroyed by Babylonians (probably in the 588-6 BC campaign, again, see my blog for a more extensive explanation) and having a small Assyrian courtyard style building toward its south until an undetermined date. Considering these cities are mentioned quite a few times in the Deuteronomic history, it would seem likely that the Deuteronomic historian at least partially, if not solely, relied upon pre-Exilic documents.

      The grammar and spelling requirements on my “About” page are only there to discourage those who write in all lowercase letters from commenting (I have had three such comments so far; I deleted two of them).


      27 April, 2012 at 11:34 pm

      • I take it that as a skeptical secularist you are saying that Jeremiah wrote during the campaign after the attack on Askelon but before any attack on Gaza, assuming Gaza would have the same fate. But Jeremiah in the “prophecy” you cite does not say Ashkelon was torched. As for the Babylonian Chronicles, perhaps they explicitly say the city was burnt, but you mention only a reference to desolation. If burning is specified in some source, and you are right that the city has only one level suggesting a conflagration, then it would be a reasonable anchor. Otherwise you still have to find one.

        At Lachish, the certainty about the 701 dating cannot be divorced from the fact that they have only one paradigm in their heads, and that is the traditional biblical one. Granting then that the biblical one at this point is right, we are left with two more destructions, now both Babylonian ones, but apparently only one in the ground. Perhaps the two are too close to be distinguished, but my point is simply to suggest that these attributions are far from simple. If some discovery forced a reassessment, the new assignments would soon be made and universally accepted as these are. That is the nature of scientific enquiry. Religious certainty does not ride well with it.

        You add: “It is doubtful Lachish II can be easily stretched out for over 200 years, as would be necessary if it continued into the Persian period (the rosette impressions in Stratum II show it must have been built under the Kingdom of Judah).” “It is doubtful” is not an adequate argument. The first level covers 400 years, even though it apparently contains nothing, Babylonian and Persians leaving little to disturb the skylarks, and Hellenistic stuff being pretty characteristic. Babylonian levels are indeed usually fallow, but Persian ones ought not to be. The rosette, curiously, was an Achaemenid symbol. I don’t get your reference to Idumaeans.

        It seems you did not read this: “As for pre-exilic place names, the “exile” ended with the so-called “return”, the colonization of the Judaean Hills to set up the Temple State of Jerusalem. Just why wouldn’t someone writing a local history (albeit bogus) at that time not know what the local Am ha Eretz still called their towns and villages?” Indeed, how could someone write anything purporting to be a real history without knowing some real history. No one is saying that the Deuteronomic history is pure myth or fiction. It has to pass muster as history. It was, however, history meant to put over a distinct propaganda message, and it turned out to be so successful that it is still believed as true history until this day.

        Now, I have started to do what I proposed, which was to read something of what you are saying on your website. Your “Chronology” page looks to be a valuable resource. It is already useful. I have made the following notes as tending to support my thesis.

        Selected quotations from Pithom’s “Chronology” page are followed by my notes.

        “I view all the Bible as a Herodotus or Virgil-like official account of Israel’s history, the earliest parts being the most completely fictitious due to the authors’ lack of knowledge, the latest being merely propagandistic. They were meant by the author to be set in a clear reality. I agree there might be some kernels of history in the biblical account before the Omride era…”

        I agree with your description of the purpose of the Jewish scriptures (“the Bible”) but not your implication that they were the endeavours of a single author with a clear purpose. I doubt that any conventional biblical scholars think the scriptures had a single author, though modern believers mainly seem to think God was the author, and that is it–it must be absolutely true. I do not think the Jewish scriptures were written in sequence, as you seem to do.

        The question is, given the propagandistic purpose of these writings, whose propaganda were they, and so who wrote them? My answer is the Persians when they set up Jerusalem as a Temple State and deported colonists to do it. The Persian chancellery or its servants provided the law–what now is mostly Deuteronomy–and a bogus history to justify the setting up of the colonists over the natives, and to scare them into accepting that their status is provisional–they had to be obedient to the law and thereby be rewarded as a great nation, or disobey the law, and suffer decimation, leaving only a remnant of the most righteous–those who had been obedient. The outline history was to show that this had been the ancient pattern of the Jews, and lack of obedience (righteousness) would lead to the repeating of history. God was, of course, the God of the Persians in all this, but the Persians apprarently gave Him the Canaanite name El, initially, then, presumably faced with a faction who favored Yehouah, they changed to that name. These account for the E and J passages in the Pentateuch.

        One might find what one imagines to be “kernel of history”, meaning “traces” rather than “kernel” in almost anything, but if they are there, only a knowledge of real history can tell you. What is a true kernel and what is a false kernel cannot be determined from purely textual criticism, and even when historical correspondences seem apparent, they may simply be simply coincidence. Shishak may be Shoshenq, as biblicists hypothesize because it suits the scriptural chronology, or an informal name for Rameses II, or simply an insulting mock name punning a rude Canaanite word.

        “The core of Genesis to Kings was, as shown quite a few decades ago, completed in the late 7th century, with additions in the exilic to Hasmonean periods.”

        I do not dispute that the Hasmoneans had a hand in the writing of the scriptures, but do dispute the beginning of it in the seventh century. Judah was still Canaanite in religion, and Canaanite religion was pan-Babylonian, meaning it followed broadly the common religious tradition of the general culture of the Fertile Crescent, which was a pantheon of gods based on a regional fertility myth. Religions are remarkably stable because they are highly conservative for obvious reasons. No one will happily turn against a local cult because they and their neighbors more so will fear divine retaliation. Religions can slowly evolve because each generation can hardly be aware of the changes, but they rarely, if ever, undergo a revolution, without, that is, being forced to. Who forces them? An external conqueror! If Judah suddenly became monotheistic in the seventh century, then only the Assyrians could have done the forcing, a thesis that has been made, but which, in my view, fails in that no one thinks the Assyrian god, Ashur, was worshipped as a monotheistic god, and nor was Ashur a moral god. The Babylonians had no interest in Palestine, but the Persians had a great interest in it, from about half way through the fifth century, and they set up the Jerusalem Temple State from around mid century until it was dedicated in the reign of Darius II, about 417 BC.

        “The works describing the Persian period, meanwhile, were all written during the 2nd C BC.”

        The only parts of the Jewish scriptures still extant from the earliest days were written in the second and first centuries BC, and the Jewish scriptures as a whole only started to be mentioned in history after they had begun to be “translated” from Hebrew into Greek by the Ptolemaic kings of Egypt in the third century BC. I put the word “translated” into quotation marks because my view is that they were not merely translated but virtually rewritten, or indeed often written, from the documents left by the Persian colonists, Deuteronomy and the Deuteronomic history, the Persian outline of Jewish history that gave the present version of it its characteristic Deuteronomistic theme–be righteous and prosper or be unrighteous and be reduced to a remnant, if that! So, a large portion of the scriptures were probably written in the second century, it being generally accepted that the Septuagint was only the Pentateuch initially, and that the rest of the scriptures were added over the subsequent two centuries. As you imply, the books were edited at the least, in the Hasmonean period. Esther was written around 100 BC, probably describing pseudepigraphically events in Persia in the second century BC.

        “Iron IIB (Judahite, 723-701 BC)-Judah grew and prospered significantly during this period. The southern trade routes became better fortified, Judah’s king, Hezekiah (726-798 BC) building Qudeirat and Assyria building Tell el-Kheleifeh (Elat) and Ein Hatzeva (Tamar). The newly formed Province of Samaria was quickly settled by deportees.”

        Deportation was a standard practice of the Assyrians, to pacify troublesome subjects. They cut off the intellectual head of a people and removed also their skilled men, often leaving them elsewhere in charge of a previously decapitated people who were consequently deeply resentful. It struck a balance advantageous to the imperialists. The people were leaderless and lacking in the skills needed for rebelling against the colonists, and the colonists were in a minority but had the assurance they could call upon the might of the imperial army if revolution was attempted. That is what the Persians did in Yehud. Judah “prospered significantly” because nothing had previously existed as an independent entity called Judah–it had never existed before! The divided monarchy was invented by the Persians to give the Yehud Persian deportees a bogus history. The annexation of Israel left Judah as the rump of the former nation, and now a country in its own right, but utterly dependent on Assyria–an Assyrian puppet. Nothing seems to distinguish Judah from being Assyrian in this period, and the next one, the Babylonian, has nothing much indisputably Babylonian. So, as far as the archaeology is concerned, the Assyrian period abuts with the Persian period, with or without an intervening fallow level.

        “Early Persian (539-c. 400 BC)–This phase is called ‘Persian’ since the other Persian periods in Palestine are too short to be clearly distinguished from the phases surrounding it in the archaeological record.”

        Could it be that the Persian period artifacts have been falsely identified as Assyrian? Aharoni identified the palace at Ramat as being Assyrian and surrounded by a courtyard when it was Persian and surrounded by a magnificent garden with water features and oriental fruit trees brought westwards by the Persians. Biblicists from Albright onwards have preferred high dates for levels like these to push them into the supposed golden days of Judah. Rosettes were most likely to have been the Persian rosette, as were “yhwd” and “mwsh” seals, and most of the others, including the genuine bullae. The country had to become literate to be a Temple State, whose ruling class were the priests. It was a nation of priests because it had been set up as a temple state. The temple was the main industry, and anyone else, the local Am ha Eretz, were peasants.

        “Late Persian (c. 400 BC-332 BC)-A period characterized by a revival in Persian interest in Palestine, largely due to its loss of control over Egypt… Yh(w)d stamp impressions continue, but become more standardized, Lipschitz’s types 13-15 (‘Middle’, 53% of assemblage) belonging to this phase and the next. First Yehud coinage appears.”

        Well, the Temple State was set up to provide an anti-Egyptian buffer at the fringe of Asia and Africa, and preparations had been made several decades before if the book Ezra/Nehemiah contains any genuine history. I believe it does because it gives the whole game away, and must have been included by accident and in ignorance, probably when the Hasmonaeans attempted to put back together the scattered library of Nehemiah, mentioned in Maccabees. The Persians had founded Judaism, and many subject people had become Jews. The Temple State was intended to gather revenue from these people and give them a powerful interest in wanting to see Jerusalem preserved from the newly ambitious Egyptians. Nehemiah at some time in the fifth century says the walls of Jerusalem were still ruined. If they had been rebuilt soon after Cyrus had issued his edict that exiles could return, then they had been destroyed again! It suggest to my mind that the Persians had led a punitive force and had laid waste to Jerusalem, destroying any walls that had been restored–or perhaps the walls had never been restored and the lack of them had proved disadvantageous when the Persians sought revenge. Revenge for what? As I have suggested, it implies a rebellion involving the Jews of Jerusalem, and that could have been an Egyptian one which Jerusalem had favored, or the one by Bagabukhsha (Greek, Megabyxos), the satrap who rebelled against Artaxerxes, his friend, because he (at the instigation of his wife) had been dishonorable about the Satrap’s honest treatment of prisoners. For whatever reason, Jerusalem had no walls and had burnt out gates, around 150 years after they were apparently destroyed by the Babylonians. The “return” must have happened much later in actual history than in the chronology of the bible. I figure Ezra dedicated the Persian Temple in Jerusalem, the so called Second Temple but the first Jewish one, in 417 BC.

        I’ll take a look at more of your pages, but many do not seem relevant. Perhaps you’ll point out the more relevant ones.

        Mike Magee

        28 April, 2012 at 7:21 pm

  5. While it is true that neither the Babylonian chronicles nor the Book of Jeremiah actually mention Ashkelon being burnt with fire, the chronicles do say that the city was turned into a tel, while the Book of Jeremiah does say the city has (or will) cease(d). Thus, it seems reasonable to suppose that the massive conflagration and cessation in occupation at the end of Ashkelon Grid 38’s Phase 14 be attributed to Nebuchadnezzar’s western campaign in 604/3 BC, since there is no evidence of destruction of any kind (at least, as far as I know of) in Iron II Ashkelon before Phase 14, whether with or without the use of fire.

    I do not get what you mean by your statement that “the divided monarchy was invented by the Persians to give the Yehud Persian deportees a bogus history”- was there a “United Monarchy” of Israel during the 9th and 8th centuries BC? If so, why would Tell en-Nasbeh be fortified already in what is probably the late 9th century BC (see Israel Finkelstein’s recent paper partially discussing this subject). Why would there be significant differences in the architectural styles of the fortresses of 9th century BC Palestine built at such sites as Hazor and Jezreel and such sites as Lachish and Beersheba? Why does not 1 Kings 4:2-19 (an early 8th C BC list) mention some Judahite districts?

    In regards to Lachish, the Bible does not explicitly mention any sort of destruction of Lachish in its account of Sennacherib’s campaign, thus, it seems nonsensical to conclude that the supposition of Lachish III’s destruction in 701 BC is a result of biblicism. It is, rather, a result of the interpretation of the Assyrian records we have from the reign of Sennacherib. No source we have mentions any destruction of any Judahite site in 597 BC. Thus, we are not left “with two more destructions, now both Babylonian ones, but apparently only one in the ground”. We have one Babylonian destruction in the ground and one implied in the Biblical text.

    My reference to Idumeans was a result of the fact Lachish was not a part of the Persian province of Yehud, but, rather, a part of the supposed Persian-era predecessor of the Hellenistic province of Idumea. As I have already said, “Lachish I is a collective name for two or three different levels”. What did you mean by “Babylonian and Persians leaving little to disturb the skylarks” at Lachish I? There was a fortified city (with a governor’s residency) in the Late Persian period at Lachish.

    If all the rosette and mwsh jar marks are Perso-Hellenistic, how does one explain the fact that rosette marks are primarily found at Lachish II, Azekah, Jerusalem (City of David Str. 10, before the Babylonian destruction) and Ramat Rahel, while mwsh marks are primarily found at Mizpah/Tell en-Nasbeh (over 70% of our assemblage; the rest are found no further south than Ramat Rahel), while the vast majority of yh(w)d jar marks are found at either Ramat Rahel of Jerusalem? It seems more reasonable to identify the rosette marks as an Assyrian-influenced tax-collection system. The lmlk bullae are lmlk (royal, “belonging to the king”) bullae. There were no kings in the Persian province of Yehud.


    29 April, 2012 at 1:27 am

    • It turns out that there were a lot of times when Ashkelon might have been destroyed, one of which was by fire, and that one is assumed to be the one caused by the Babylonians. The assumption might be sound but it is not proven.

      My point about the “divided monarchy” is precisely that there was always only one monarchy in this region and it was Israel/Samaria. Israel was blown up into an empire in the purely mythical parts of the Jewish scriptures, and then, in the same mythical parts, of this biblical “history”, it was divided into Israel and Judah–two monarchies. I cannot quite understand what you are asking about fortifications. Why was Jerusalem fortified? Almost anything of any substance was fortified, even houses. Certainly most cities were. The same with your puzzlement about architectural styles. Why should architectural styles be identical even in neighboring constructions built in different decades or centuries, let alone when they are 100 miles apart and subject to different influences, Phoenician and Aramaean in the kingdom, and Egyptian, Arab, Philistine, in the south. Such differences do not require there to have been two kingdoms. Your final point either supports what I am saying or makes no sense. There was a single kingdom in the period when this list was compiled. The fewer southern cities were still independent city states.

      I am assuming there may have been destruction associated with either campaign of Nebuchadnezzar, and a hypothetical punitive expedition by the Persians. Lachish letters persuade biblicists that the one they have found is the later Babylonian campaign. With the lack of extra biblical evidence for a Persian campaign, only Nebuchadnezzar remains, but I am trying to argue that, given a reason to think there had been such an expedition, then one would have to find some way of determining which it was. Or putting it rather the other way round, evidence that might point to a Persian siege might be being discounted because it doesn’t match the current paradigm, and consequently the Persian period is being obscured by this false paradigm.

      Now I understand what you were saying about Idumea. Yes, you are right. If there had been no kingdom of Judah, and at best it had been a region, as one refers, say, to “the Rockies”, in the USA, then it could well have been occupied by Edomites. In fact, the antipathy between Edomites and Jews may stem from the very fact that Yehud was effectively carved out of a part of what had become Edom. A more realistic reason for the mutual dislike is needed than the biblical myth supplies.

      What I said about the skylarks was irony, intended to illustrate your view and the conventional belief that the Persians made little impact on Judah. By propagating that belief, the crucial role of Persia in setting up the whole caboodle is easily dismissed as the fancies of eccentrics like me.

      The identification of the levels is deliberately tilted towards high dates, as I have said. If there was no king in Persian provinces like Yehud then who was the Shah of Persia?

      Mike Magee

      29 April, 2012 at 5:22 pm

      • The Kingdom of Judah under Ahaz was already mentioned in Summary Inscription 7 as paying tribute to Assyria in 734 BC. No future Judahite cities are mentioned as city-states in any Assyrian inscription. Also, the Amarna letters point to the existence of a Kingdom of Jerusalem (extending to Keilah!) when the City of David was even smaller than it was in Iron Age IIa, and probably resembled more a private estate than a city-state. Had we not the Amarna letters, we might suspect Jerusalem did not exist as a political entity in the Late Bronze II. I suspect, along with Israel Finkelstein, that the Divided Monarchy might have been a result of a power vacuum stemming from the destruction of a supposed Saulide polity centered at Gibeon and Mahanaim. Also, the City of David was not fortified until at least the mid-8th century BC, although it seems (from 2 Kings 14:13, at least) that the Temple Mount was already fortified in the 9th-early 8th Cs BC.

        I consider the antipathy between Judahites and Edomites to be a result of archaeologically documented Edomite settlement attempts in the Negev in the Late Iron IIC and the supposed Edomite revolt against Judahite rule of its copper mines (which it inherited from the Tel Masos Chiefdom; also cf. 2 Kings 3) in 849 BC.

        As for your question “Why should architectural styles be identical even in neighboring constructions built in different decades or centuries, let alone when they are 100 miles apart and subject to different influences, Phoenician and Aramaean in the kingdom, and Egyptian, Arab, Philistine, in the south.”, one can point out clear architectural similarities between Omride-era Hazor X and Khirbet el-Mudeyine on the Wadi et-Tamad (the probable site of Jahaz), almost exactly 100 miles apart. The Omride kingdom was a centralized state-it had no need to be affected by any local “influences” excepting topography. The most notable difference between the Omride and Iron IIa Judahite architectural styles is the absence of deliberate use of fills to build a podium at any Judahite site fortified in the Iron IIa (at least, as far as I know).

        The phrase “lmlk” on bullae seems to have been used during the rule of the Kingdom of Judah, as suggested by the universally accepted fact that the lmlk jar handles date exclusively to the days of the Kingdom of Judah. Also, there is no evidence Gibeon (the city named on the only lmlk bulla found in a controlled environment) was inhabited too deeply into the Persian period.

        I would also suggest that while questioning the paradigm archaeologists have presently accepted one should also point to a reasonable amount of archaeological and historical evidence for a competing paradigm. As an example, when questioning the conventional theory that the Philistines settled in Canaan in the reign of Ramesses III, Israel Finkelstein and David Ussishkin did not merely speculate about a possible “second (or third, if counting from Merenptah’s) wave” of Sea People attacks, but demonstrated with near certainty that Egyptian administration continued in all of Canaan long after the 8th year, and probably after the death, of Ramesses III. I suggest you make a similar case for any of your ideas about the possibility of re-dating the Iron Age IIC to the Babylonian or Persian periods.


        29 April, 2012 at 10:00 pm

  6. […] am currently discussing a number of subjects with Mike Magee (primary author of on this post on his blog. So far, there are 11 blog post-length comments there, six by me. This substitutes for […]

    • Judah is mentioned in Assyria in 734 BC because that was when it was set up by the Assyrians as an independent puppet, along with Edom. It remained as an independent tribute paying rump state when Samaria was annexed. To all intents and purposes, it replaced Israel as the independent kingdom in that area, but existed only for around 150 years. You are saying Jerusalem was not a city state! “Had we not the Amarna letters, we might suspect Jerusalem did not exist as a political entity in the Late Bronze II.” Yet we do have some of them, and they suggest a place called Urusalim existed as some sort of entity, albeit a fairly insignificant one. The archaeology suggests it remained insignificant until it was swelled by refugees from Samaria, and certainly can find no such thing as a temple to Yahu. One of Finkelstein’s failings is that he cannot rid himself of the fact that Saul, David and Solomon are fictitious. If there is a “kernel” of truth in these Jewish myths it is that minor bandit chieftains squabbled over villages, something that must have happened everywhere before civilization, so hardly tells us anything specific. I thought you agreed that the bible is bunk before Omri! Your dependence on the bible suggests you are a biblicist yourself, despite your telling us you are a skeptic. The historical books of the bible certainly contain history, but, like the instance you just mentioned about the Amarna letters, we cannot know what it is unless we find confirmation. The only local kingdom that had a king Solomon was Moab! What does that suggest?

      No kingdom of Edom existed in 849 BC, and, in my view, neither did Judah, but the region was Edomite rather than Judahite.

      You seem to get easily confused. You begin asking why there should be significant differences between places 100 miles apart, then in response to my saying there is no good reason why they should be the same, you start telling me they are the same! Your argument is in any case just bluster. Phoenician architecture and art in general was heavily influenced by Egypt, yet for you a centralized state does everything in its own quite separate and utterly distinct way throughout! If that were so, I believe archaeology would be a lot easier than it is. Similarities, especially decorative ones, I suggest, indicate influence, and when they are structural they may do or they may be simply that structural features are how they are out of necessity.

      The “lmlk” word on bullae, you say, “seems to have been used during the rule of the Kingdom of Judah”, but that is exactly my point. “Seem to” is weaselly. They “seem to” have been despite the fact that bullae are so rarely found stratified, as you accept, that they cannot be given reliable type dates. Then you say, “there is no evidence Gibeon (the city named on the only lmlk bulla found in a controlled environment) was inhabited too deeply into the Persian period”. Weasel wording again! You do not seem aware that you are doing it. What you have said is that Gibeon was indeed inhabited in the Persian period. Since my point is that the dating around the Persian period is awry, the “depth” of it into the Persian period can hardly be a meaningful argument. In brief, it is begging the question, the question being, “what is Persian?”.

      Lastly you ask me to make a case for the possibility of redating IA IIC to the Persian period. Well, just what do you imagine we have been arguing about? If you are saying I should be onsite reviewing the evidence as a professional archaeologist, that is plainly impossible because I am not, any more than you are, and what is more, if I were, I would never have been able to get a professional post. It happened to Thomas Thompson, whom I noticed you disparaged somewhere. The biblical paradigm is the only one admissible. I take Finkelstein to be a reasonably honest man unlike many of his colleagues, but even he steers clear, as far as I can judge, from the questionable strata. He’s already been under heavy fire from Zionists.

      Mike Magee

      29 April, 2012 at 11:47 pm

  7. There is no evidence of any Assyrian attacks directly on Israel in 734 BC. The campaign in that year was meant to distinguish the pro-Assyrian and anti-Assyrian parties and to establish Assyrian rule along several key cities on the coast. I know of no examples of the Assyrian Empire breaking apart or uniting kingdoms rather than cutting off a part of a kingdom and giving it to another. As I have already said, “no future Judahite cities are mentioned as city-states in any Assyrian inscription”. Thus, your idea that Judah was some sort of ad hoc Assyrian-created client state is baseless.

    I am not saying Late Bronze Jerusalem was not a city-state (it certainly acted like one), but, rather, that the city it was based upon looked nothing like a city, but perhaps a small cluster of structures serving the king and the local Egyptian force. The temple to Yhwh in the Iron Age was on the Temple Mount, as were most of the important government buildings.

    Edom is mentioned in the reign of Adad-nirari III in the Nimrud Slab, thus rendering the biblical account more credible in this regard. Indeed, I would not believe in the existence of the Kingdom of Edom at such an early date were it not for this slab (there is no archaeological evidence for the existence of any substantial state of Edom before the mid-to late 8th century BC). There is no evidence any part of Judah was Edomite before the Iron IIC.

    I strongly agree with your claim that “You are certainly correct that “If there is a “kernel” of truth in these Jewish myths it is that minor bandit chieftains squabbled over villages, something that must have happened everywhere before civilization, so hardly tells us anything specific.”. The biblical account of Saul and the reign of David is almost entirely fiction, except for some possible shreds of tradition (such as the existence of the main characters, which is itself not completely certain). I do not know of any King Solomon in Moab at any time. The supposition of a Saulide polity is certainly allowed (and, indeed, suggested) by the archaeology of Gibeon and Shoshenq I’s list.

    In regard to the architecture of the Omride state, I do not see how I am confused by stating there are clear architectural parallels between sites 100 miles apart (their plan is certainly not “exactly the same”!!). Omride architecture was certainly influenced by Syrian (e.g., use of the bit hilani palace), Phoenician (e.g., mason’s marks at Samaria and Megiddo) and Egyptian (e.g., widespread use of the short Egyptian cubit) architectural elements. However, it just as certainly used these elements “in its own quite separate and utterly distinct way throughout”. I do not see any “necessity” to use massive fills at every large fortified city a state happens to build.

    I am not asking you to make a case for possibility here (which you have made) but, rather, a case for probability. There was a “possibility” that the Philistines settled in Canaan only c. 1120 BC, but it took Israel Finkelstein’s 1994 article to make it a probability. 90% of new syntheses of archaeology and history are made exclusively in the library. Today’s library is largely on-line. While it is unlikely either you or I could get an academic position, several polite emails to prominent academic figures could, with strong evidence and a calm tone, get your ideas to be published in some footnote of a paper on a subject only vaguely related to the original content of your ideas (although I have doubts whether even this is probable). The scholarly community is always open to new ideas, but those ideas can only be be introduced by the right people. Finkelstein is not so much an honest man as one willing to make bold revisions to conventional biblical interpretation on the basis of what is primarily non-biblical data. While maximalists such as Eilat Mazar may be honest to the public as to what they think, they are simply unable to wrap their heads around the idea that most of the Bible may be fiction. Throughout my reading of Finkelstein’s papers, I could see no evidence that he “steers clear, as far as I can judge, from ‘the questionable strata'”. Indeed, he seems to attack them as no other could (cf., his revision to Ashdod’s chronology, and his explanations of what is interpreted by the maximalists as “evidence” for a United Monarchy). I see no political role in the series of archaeological disputes Finkelstein’s been in.


    1 May, 2012 at 1:40 am

    • Pithom, thanks for referring me to that interesting article, though the direct link you gave did not work for me. It gave a 400 error, “Bad Request”, but the source was evident in the link, so I got it directly. Nevertheless your ability to read what I have not said is a match for your faith in archaeology as unequivocal history written in tablets of gold. You are not a Mormon are you, by any chance? I did not say there were “Assyrian attacks directly on Israel in 734 BC”. I said Judah was set up as an independent state around then. You dismiss it citing the paper by Dubovsky.

      You write, “I know of no examples of the Assyrian Empire breaking apart or uniting kingdoms rather than cutting off a part of a kingdom and giving it to another.” To be meaningful, this implies that there is nothing about Assyrian history that you do not know, but, if you know of instances when political entities were “cutting off a part of a kingdom and giving it to another”, just how does it differ from the “breaking apart” of kingdoms that evidently you do know about?

      The article you offer says, “The heavy tributes paid by Rubiktu of Ashqelon, Mitenna of Tyre and Hoshea of Samaria suggest that all three kings were usurpers who had to pay to get their kingship recognized.” So, if the biblical Ahaz had led a sedition against Israel convenient to the Assyrians, you will maintain he could not have been supported by Assyrians as a useful ally! Moreover, the same source says that at “that time the Assyrians had at their disposal quite a sophisticated intelligence network”. Are we to imagine that you know in its entirety what this intelligence network consisted of, and it categorically excludes the possibility that the Assyrian king’s agents could have fomented a dissenter to arise in Israel whom Tiglath-pileser would not have immediately recognized. The whole paper’s aim was to show “Tiglath-pileser III carefully prepared his intervention in order to achieve such impressive victory”. Later the Persians similarly prepared their conquests in advance.

      The bible (2 Kgs 16:5-9) claims that Ahaz asked Tiglath-pileser III for help. Well that is just what modern imperialism always does–sets up a puppet, and the puppet invites an intervention. Does your omniscience categorically exclude such a possibility. I imagine it does. Well the source also adds, “It is possible that from the Assyrian point of view the territory called Bit-Humri included not only what remained of the Israelite kingdom but also of Judah”. If that were so, then Judah could, as I am hypothesizing, have been split from Israel as part of Tiglath-pileser’s plotting. Your source also infers “the city of Gezer at that time exercised a certain amount of independence from Samaria”, and if that is so, then one can also infer that Judah could have similarly obtained a certain amount of independence from Samaria, which previously had hegemony over it. When Samaria, a few years later, disappeared, Gezer did not become independent but became an Assyrian administrative center. Judah simply remained an “independent” Assyrian puppet a little longer.

      Your source adds, “Edom, Moab, and Amon also paid tribute to Tiglath-pileser III”, and the Assyrians had gotten to these places east and south of Israel by defeating the Arabs, suggesting they had traveled south along the route to the east of Israel, and had set up a ring of weak dependences around the more prosperous state. Judah appears in history–as opposed to the bible–just at this point!

      Then you say something about “future Judahite cities” being mentioned in Assyrian inscriptions. The bible claims the ability to record prophecies, but I never realized the Assyrians could predict the future, so I don’t really get your point, but, as far as I can see, Judah was itself the city state of Jerusalem. Gezer was only 20 miles west of Jerusalem but was not within Judah, as I just said. Judah was, it seems, no more than Jerusalem and about 20 miles each way of agricultural land to sustain it. That, at any rate, is what Yehud was under the Persians at the outset, and it wasn’t a lot more by the time it was called Judaea. It was therefore a city state, a Temple State under the Persians.

      Your conclusion that what I say is baseless simply demonstrates your unwillingness or inability to analyze texts, and its concomitant delusion that whatever biblical archaeologists decide can be nothing but the pure and absolute truth. They are offering an opinion, an interpretation, and it is one most often conditioned by their religious belief that the bible is God’s word and is therefore infallible. I thought I had read you say somewhere that it was propaganda. That is my own view. Propaganda is not necessarily false, but it is also rarely the pure truth you seem to imagine it is, at least in the historical books of the bible.

      “The temple to Yhwh in the Iron Age was on the Temple Mount, as were most of the important government buildings.” How do you know either of these “facts”?

      You seem to agree with me about Edom, because you clearly say on your own pages it had no culture, even its own pottery until after 734 BC. Before that it was just a deserted region, all bar a few Bedouins, no doubt, except when it had a short industrial phase, based on copper.

      I am glad we agree so well about David and Solomon, though, for some odd reason, not Saul. If you are using your adjective “Saulide” to indicate a time period, I cannot agree with this practice at all. It would be like calling some real post-Roman object in Great Britain “Arthurian”, or some Greek object Heraklean. “Arthurian” is a valid adjective to apply to the time of king Arthur, but it refers to the myths. As I understand it, and I imagine you would know better than I do, the Moabites had a king Solomon, Salamanu, a contemporary of Tiglath-pileser III (744-727 BC)! Unless we are to suppose that Solomon is Shalmaneser transferred to Israel, not at all impossibly, if the myth was based on the Assyrian kings.

      I think you are right either way about the styles, but you were trying to make two different points, beginning by saying the architecture was different, with the implication intended, I imagine, that it indicated two distinct kingdoms. I said I couldn’t, and cannot, understand why even adjacent buildings, especially built at different times, should be identical. Whereupon you rounded on me again with the information that there are clear similarities in buildings 100 mile apart. That is the point at which you forgot your initial argument. Of course, there are no reasons why buildings subject to the same broad and often diverse cultural influences should not be both similar and different. That being true, neither differences nor similarities can say a lot (unless they were peculiarly characteristic). The famous Solomonic gates were not Solomonic, nor even built at the same time, yet had biblicists convinced they were built by the great albeit imaginary king, because they were so similar and such gates were mentioned as his in the bible. What biblicists never seem to remember is that some substantial structures may have been still recognizable when the bible was written, and so legends could have been built around them. Anyway, we seem to agree sufficiently here.

      In your last paragraph, you begin by asking me to make a probable rather than a possible case and quickly accept that that is itself impossible. “The scholarly community is always open to new ideas, but those ideas can only be be introduced by the right people.” Quite so, but this scholarly community is more of a communion than scholarly. I mean, again, that they are religious, and unable to accept an hypothesis like this because it would destroy their careers, their lifetime beliefs, and their religions as they are now known. Few of the scholars in this field are, or even can be honest. Honesty would get them fired. Even if they are intrinsically honest, their employers, mainly US Christian and Jewish universities or faculties, would not tolerate their undermining religious tradition. I refer again to Thomas L Thompson who had to support his family by doing menial work for years because he had the gall to demonstrate that nothing in Abraham can be definitively assigned to any of the several supposed periods when Abraham could have, biblicists say, lived. He eventually got a job in Copenhagen.

      As for “political role”, modern Israel is ruled by Zionists, for many of whom religion is probably bunk, but who depend upon the beliefs of pious Jews and Christians to maintain their dollar lifeline with the USA. I do not follow the Israeli press, but I understand that honest archaeologists have had to cope with media abuse and disdain from some of their colleagues when they have tried to put forward honest and well founded opinions, such as–despite your admiration for Hoffmann–that nothing even remotely confirms an exodus from Egypt. To suggest that Judaism was founded by the Iranians–even 2500 years ago–would not go down well today in Israel or the USA, yet my view is that it explains far more than the biblical fantasies do, and does it realistically and convincingly. It also explains the diaspora!

      Now, has Finkelstein tackled any of the levels I question at the edge of the Persian and the Persian periods in Judah? I suspect he dare not, but, if you know of some, I would like to read them. I have found Ephraim Stern about the best single source for the Persians in Judah so far, but a lot of the archaeological data are so suspiciously suggestive to me, as you have apparently noted, that I think it possible we are verging on a revelation, though every weapon will be out to cut whoever reveals it down. It would have to be someone like Finkelstein.

      As for calm emails to boundlessly interested scholars, I fear you seem to think this whole idea is my own, and that I am a crank like those you rightfully attack on your pages. But there have been scholars who have supported this notion in papers and even collections published as books, though my website might be unique in attempting to argue a much more complete case than any academic paper. I, of course, have no academic reputation to maintain, so I can look at the evidence the archaeologists present, and think, “that does not hold water”, but there is nothing I can do about it except grumble, and suggest an alternative interpretation. Of course, I am up against it. Even apparently sincere people like you are gulled into believing the bible and its apologists uncritically. Whence all this hard work :-).

      Mike Magee

      1 May, 2012 at 11:27 pm

  8. This is the first of your comments on this thread from which I’ve actually had something substantial to learn! I’m rather embarrassed by the fact I did not remember to look just a few words above “Jehoahaz of Judah” to see “Salmanu of Moab”! Anyway, the pro-Assyrian usurper kings arose only after Tiglath Pileser directed attacks on their respective kingdoms. Moab, Edom, and probably Ammon, mentioned as paying tribute to Assyria in 734 BC, were not states without an older origin. Moab existed as early as the 13th century BC, and a kingdom certainly existed under Mesha in the late 9th, while Edom existed as a state (or, more properly, an independent chiefdom) probably since the mid-9th century BC (certainly since the very early 8th). Why should Judah and Ammon be the exceptions, especially considering the existence of an archaeologically barely-attested Late Bronze Kingdom of Jerusalem? The states of Edom and Moab (and very likely Ammon and Judah) were all direct or indirect vassals of the Kingdom of Israel who wished to take on the Assyrian yoke to free themselves from the Israelite (in the case of Edom, more likely Judahite) one. In any case, the extraordinary claim that a united Judah stretching from the Beersheba Valley to Lachish to Mizpah to the Dead Sea did not exist until the late 8th century BC requires some extraordinary evidence.

    My adjective “Saulide” is a name for a possible Late Iron I polity. Much as one can speak of a “Minoan” culture and accept the ahistoricity of King Minos, this “Saulide” polity need not have been ruled by an actual King Saul. While the existence of this polity is not absolutely certain, the supposition of its existence explains Shoshenq I’s Benjaminite campaign, the destructions in Benjamin toward the beginning of the Iron IIa, and the biblical traditions of the Saulide kingdom and dynasty.

    My reference to “future Judahite cities” was to cities which were Judahite in the Iron IIB-C which were by your view city-states in the Late Iron IIa/Early Iron IIB. Lachish would be the most prominent example. It is unanimously agreed upon by all scholars that the temple to Yhwh in Jerusalem was located within the present Haram ash-Sharif at all periods. The Bible places numerous government buildings on the Temple Mount. Also, few (no??) important Iron Age or Persian government buildings of Lachish III Palace-level importance have been discovered in the City of David or the Western Hill, thus suggesting most palaces and monumental governmental structures in Iron Age/Persian Jerusalem were located on the Temple Mount.

    The earliest Edomite pottery appears in the earliest Iron IIB stratum at Tel Beersheba (Stratum III), which would date after c. 770 BC, but likely before c. 734 BC (Stratum I was supposedly destroyed in 701 BC, although this is debated by scholars). Settlement in the Edomite plateau was nonexistent (barely existent??) in the Iron IIa, when the Nimrud Slab records Edom paying tribute to Assyria.
    “I fear you seem to think this whole idea is my own”-It has some parallels with theories/hypotheses I have heard from the likes of John van Seters (who argues for an Achaemenid-era composition of P and parts of Samuel), although I have not heard cases for a late return, or such a degree of Achaemenid intervention in the establishment of Jewish religion as you propose, from established scholarship (please direct me to such (a) case(s) if you can find one). One’s academic reputation may actually be strengthened by a solid refutation of a weak theory (note the iconoclasm of Finkelstein on numerous issues and that of Ussishkin on the dating of Lachish III/Tell Beit Mirsim A). Generally, the toeing of the line you speak of as applying to scholars broadly applies only to those who choose to work at religious institutions or in academic positions dependent on the existence of religion. Finkelstein has not attempted any redating of Babylonian-Persian strata, though Alexander Fantalkin and Oded Lipschits have worked on chronological refinements in that period. Of course, a case for probability can be made outside scholarly circles (such as on the askwhy website; please direct me to the relevant page if you have made such a case for the downdating of some of the Iron IIc strata).


    3 May, 2012 at 11:01 pm

    • I cannot see what there is to be embarrassed about in not knowing a minor fact about a minor country so long ago unless it is that it has dented the delusion of omniscience you have displayed earlier in this correspondence. Someone who knows everything already has nothing to learn, and fortunately for your fragile character, here I only jolted your memory about something you actually did know! You have a trait typical of the believer in the infallible bible–certainty!–based on no, or negligible, evidence.

      Places without the basic signs of any culture, as you admit on your own pages, you say were indisputably kingdoms. You say, “pro-Assyrian usurper kings arose only after Tiglath Pileser directed attacks on their respective kingdoms”, apparently excluding Judah, but then revise Edom’s status downwards into being only a chiefdom, not necessarily a kingdom. Well, I am suggesting that Tiglath-pileser obliged these chiefdoms to unite as puppet nations of Assyria for his imperialist ambitions. Samaria was attacked, and for its presumption was taken into the empire, all but a rump–Judah–which was set up as a puppet like the others mentioned. “The states of Edom and Moab (and very likely Ammon and Judah) were all direct or indirect vassals of the Kingdom of Israel who wished to take on the Assyrian yoke to free themselves from the Israelite (in the case of Edom, more likely Judahite) one.” Quite so, except for you final qualification, and dissidents among them were happy to accept one master in preference to another. You seem to be agreeing with me.

      “In any case, the extraordinary claim that a united Judah stretching from the Beersheba Valley to Lachish to Mizpah to the Dead Sea did not exist until the late 8th century BC requires some extraordinary evidence.” Not exactly a mighty place was it? So, what is your own extraordinary evidence that it did? The Bible?

      In explaining your use of “Saulide” you say it pertains to a POSSIBLE state, the EXISTENCE OF WHICH IS NOT ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN, which NEED NOT HAVE BEEN RULED BY AN ACTUAL KING SAUL, but its SUPPOSED existence explains something, particularly the biblical myth. You reject far less tortuous arguments than this, but contrive to find this nonsense compelling. Evans had nothing other than Greek myths to go on when he coined the adjective “Minoan” but he found a remarkable civilization in which bulls were important, to which “Minoan” was attached for want of a better name. You, in contrast, are trying to make something out of nothing. Saul is far less attested in history even than Solomon, and references to the “time of Solomon” or “of David” are ridiculous and utterly misleading.

      You assure me that all scholars agree the temple to Iewe was always on the temple mount. I too agree it was, but “always” takes it only as far back as its original dedication which was by Ezra a little before 400 BC in my estimation. I suggest that not one of your scholars knows anything at all about any previous temple, there or elsewhere in Jerusalem, other than what they have gleaned from the bible. Plainly they are biblicists whose faith is the only truth they are likely to accept. You have said you are ready to dismiss much of the bible as myth, yet you can write, “the Bible places numerous government buildings on the Temple Mount”, accepting it as authoritative. The bible also has talking donkeys and serpents, a man swallowed by a fish on a sea voyage to an inland destination, and two million people camping for a generation in one place in the desert and leaving no trace at all, as well as a plenitude of additional fantasies, all of which can hardly add to its credibility. Yet you repeatedly cite it as authoritative, and yet claim to be a skeptic. I suggest you are a phony skeptic and a closet apologist.

      You deduce by more tortuous logic that the absence of administrative buildings in Jerusalem suggests they were on the Temple Mount. So, now you are admitting you don’t know what was there, despite assuring me a paragraph ago that everyone that matters knows with certainty what was there. Take a look at this palace we began discussing. Could that have been an administrative building?

      You “have not heard cases for a late return”. You mean you have yourself never thought to question the received “early” return, and you are happy to dismiss any suggestions, like this, of a later return. Well, again, as everything is so cut and dried in your omniscient world, do me the favor of explaining what so certainly demonstrates the “return” was early. As for “Achaemenid intervention in the establishment of Jewish religion”, perhaps you will tell me how the Jewish religion manages to encompass so many features of the Persian religion, especially if the Jews “returned” early and therefore before they had chance to discover what Zoroastrianism was about.

      Of course, you demand “scholarship” as evidence, knowing that most biblical “scholars” are like yourself, and will not entertain having their smug faith disturbed by honest evidence or the the incoherence of their received “learning”.

      “One’s academic reputation may actually be strengthened by a solid refutation of a weak theory.” It is true in science where there are objective criteria, and the scientists are using the skeptical scientific method, but in biblical history only when the “theory” is inconsequential. Were it not for the bible, no scholar would believe any of the farrago of rehashed tripe that many of these “scholars” pass on as scholarship. Nearly all of it is the Jewish scriptures paraphrased. As I have said before, Finkelstein seems to be among the better ones, but he too is constrained by his situation in Israel.

      You mention yourself Alexander Fantalkin and Oded Lipschits. And you pointed me toward an interesting recent article by Lipschitz on the very subject of this discussion, Rahal Ramed. Frankly what he writes yells out to me that the site is Persian, and so too are the supposed seventh century seals and impressed jars. My impression is that the author is being very cagey. He describes the archaeology but still says the impressions are Judahite even though they are above not below Aharoni’s level Va, as he had claimed, and which he dated to the Babylonian period. It means they are Persian.

      The pleasure one has in banging one’s head against a wall is not in the act itself, but in stopping it. As you already know everything with certainty already, I am banging my head against a wall in arguing with you. If you were offering more than the bible and merely conventional authority which amounts to the bible too, the agony might have seemed worthwhile, for I am pleased to learn something. But I have no history to learn from the Jewish scriptures unless it is confirmed by honest archaeology. I have asked you to read the askwhy pages but you seem not inclined to do it. Naturally, it can teach you nothing. Meanwhile, I shall look at some of the other papers you have referred to in the hope that I shall find more from people like Lipschitz.

      Mike Magee

      4 May, 2012 at 5:31 pm

  9. Firstly, I do not know everything, nor am I certain of everything. My embarrassment regarding Salmanu was due to the fact the fact he was mentioned in the very same inscription (Summary Inscription 7) which I cited as demonstrating the existence of the Kingdom of Judah before any direct Assyrian intervention against Israel. Secondly, the identification of a polity as a kingdom does not contradict its identification as a chiefdom. While a state and a chiefdom are indeed distinct things, I may sometimes be caught calling a chiefdom a state when I should not. I am not offering merely evidence from the Bible, but also evidence from archaeology.

    The in situ Rosette handles at Ramat Rahel have been found in the Stratum Va courtyard. Since, as far as I know, no Yh(w)d stamp impressions have been found at Ramat Rahel in situ, I would not be surprised to see rosette handles at Ramat Rahel in later contexts. The evidence for a united Kingdom of Judah in the 9th century BC includes the lack of any evidence against such a kingdom, the mention of a united Kingdom of Judah in such historically likely Biblical passages as 2 Kings 3 and 2 Kings 12:17-18, and the existence of similarly styled Late Iron IIa fortifications at such sites as Arad, Lachish, Tell en-Nasbeh, and Tel Beersheba, to be distinguished from differently-styled Omride fortifications in the North.

    The Bible’s reliability varies throughout its course. Some books (such as Jonah and Ruth) were simply lumped in without any good reason. Others (Genesis, for instance), are wholly fictional but reveal a good deal about their authors. Other parts of the Bible such as the account of Sennacherib’s invasion and the history of Babylonian-Judahite interactions from 604-586 BC are certainly based on historical events. The same goes with Herodotus, who freely wrote events both utterly nonsensical (these are too numerous to count) and historically likely (his history is priceless for periods after c. 660 BC).

    In regards to the temple, it is inconceivable a city having the size and political importance of Iron IIB-C Jerusalem could exist without a temple to a local god. Even such tiny places as Arad and Beersheba had their own local temples in the mid-8th century BC (they were dismantled in the reign of King Hezekiah). So far, the only evidence I can think of for an early return are the Early Yhwd stamp impressions at Jerusalem (however, only 17 impressions were found, compared to 69 at Ramat Rahel) and the fact two mwsh seal impressions, which date to the Babylonian period and would have went long out of use during the century separating the end of Babylonian rule from your proposed time of the return, were found in the City of David. I do not see what the 7th-2nd C BC administrative buildings at Ramat Rahel, whose existence I do not deny (I merely deny that any Persian-era building remains at Ramat Rahel have yet been discovered), have to do with administrative buildings in Iron Age-Persian Jerusalem (where this conversation has ended up).

    I unambiguously state I am not, nor have I ever been, a religious person of any sort. However, I admit I have a tendency toward maximalism which can only be shaken by either an application of common sense (e.g., how could Middle Bronze-era traditions have survived undiluted into the Iron Age?) or very strong evidence. I firmly believe the Solomonic paradigm was more credible than the Omride one before 2007 or so, when radiocarbon evidence collected by the Tel Dor team from a number of sites shifted the burden of proof to the Modified High Chronologists and Finkelstein’s idea of a 10th C BC Saulide polity made more sense of Shoshenq I’s list than the traditional idea of a divided monarchy. In regards to the Saulide polity, I am not trying to make something out of nothing, but merely to offer an interpretation of archaeological evidence (the Mid-to Late Iron I Gibeon fortifications) and other types of evidence which I have already mentioned. As “Evans had nothing other than Greek myths to go on when he coined the adjective “Minoan”, I have nothing but the biblical legends to go on when I use the adjective “Saulide”.


    4 May, 2012 at 11:08 pm

    • Contradicting my above comment, 2 Kings 3 is hardly “historically likely”, since the main part of it reads like historical fiction, though it may hold a germ of history. I should have re-read the relevant chapter before citing it as evidence.


      5 May, 2012 at 12:08 am

  10. OK, Pithom, I accept what you say about yourself. It explains what is so frustrating about you from my viewpoint. You grant that are a biblical maximalist whereas I am a minimalist. Minimalism is the skeptical, scientific position to take, whereas maximalism is the gullible, religious position. That is why you sound like a bogus skeptic to me. And, while you may be not religious, by adopting the religious position regarding interpretation of the bible, you identify with the biblicists, and that is why you sound to me like a closet apologist.

    There are faults in much of what you are arguing here again, but I cannot be bothered to point them out, especially as some seem to be a perverse misunderstanding of what I have said. So we shall have to remain united in our differences!

    Best wishes, Mike

    PS I shall copy this discussion to my main pages together with a leader about Ramet Rahal augmented by material you have pointed me towards. Best MM

    Mike Magee

    5 May, 2012 at 1:24 am

  11. this is fascinating. i have joined your feed and stay up for in the hunt for more of your interesting post.


    6 February, 2014 at 6:13 am

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