“Turkey’s Izmir Archaeology Museum recently launched a new, unique exhibition centered around the historical artifact known as a ‘strigil,’ which 2,300 years ago was a tool used for cleansing the body by scraping off dirt, perspiration and oil.”
A new study indicates that Egypt was using copper mined at Timna during the reigns of David and Solomon, suggesting an important trade route was in use at the time.
A journalist proposed that Sennacherib’s failure to capture Jerusalem was owing to Tirhakah’s intervention on behalf of Judah. The Journal of Hebrew Scriptures commissioned eight scholars to evaluate it, with six scholars affirming the theory. Alice Ogden Bellis summarizes the discussion.
From the maker of “Ushpizin,” and now playing in theaters in Israel, “Legend of Destruction” is a 90-minute film that “tells the story of the Jewish revolt against Rome in 70 CE, from the perspective of Ben Batiach, a good-hearted scholar who turns zealot, leading to the Roman siege on the city and the destruction of the Second Temple.”
HT: Agade, Charles Savelle, Ted Weis, Arne Halbakken, Joseph Lauer
Archaeologists have discovered an inscription with the name “Jerubbaal” at Khirbet al-Ra‘i in the Judean foothills, not far from Lachish. Jerubbaal was another name for Gideon (Judg 6:32). If the inscription can be identified with Gideon, this would be the first ancient inscription with the name of a biblical judge.
Jerubbaal inscription. Photo by Dafna Gazit and the Israel Antiquities Authority.
The Sherds: Three pottery fragments were discovered with letters written in brown ink. Two of the sherds join together, but the third does not and its relationship to the other two is unclear. The sherds came from a small jug whose broken pieces had been swept into a stone-lined pit.
The Archaeologists: The excavations at Khirbet al-Ra‘i are directed by Yosef Garfinkel of the Hebrew University, Sa’ar Ganor of the IAA, and Kyle Keimer and Gil Davies of Macquarie University. The lead writer of the journal article is Christopher Rollston of George Washington University. Luke Chandler is credited with organizing a team of volunteers.
Date: The inscription is dated based on its stratigraphical context, pottery typology, and the shape of its letters to the late twelfth or first half of the 11th century, or approximately 1100 BC. This is approximately the time of Gideon. This is also the first Iron Age I inscription found in the Shephelah.
Language: The inscription was written by a trained scribe from right to left. The article’s authors identify the language as “Proto-Canaanite” or “Early Alphabetic,” in part because of their dubious assumption that Hebrew did not exist this early in history.
Baal: Two other inscriptions with the name “baal” have been found in the Shephelah in recent years. The Eshbaal inscription was discovered at Khirbet Qeiyafa, and the Baal inscription was unearthed at Beth Shemesh.
Jerubbaal: Four letters can be read clearly, reading rb‘l, equivalent to “rubbaal.” The initial letter is not fully preserved, but it may be a yod. If so, this would be the first discovery of the name Yrb‘l (Jerubbaal).
Is this the biblical Gideon?: The article’s authors raise the possibility but do not come to a conclusion either way. Here are some factors in favor of each position:
In Favor of Identifying with Gideon:
Name: There is a possible match between the name on the potsherd and the name given to Gideon. There are no other people known from the ancient world with the name Jerubbaal.
Date: This ostracon dates to the time of the judges, but it is difficult to know how close it is to Gideon’s day, because (1) the dating of the inscription is not precise; (2) the dating of Gideon’s judgeship is uncertain. Eugene Merrill dates Gideon to approximately 1180-1140, while Andrew Steinmann dates him to 1172-1133. If the inscription is truly from 1100, it is a few decades too late. In that case, perhaps the individual in the inscription was named after the biblical figure.
Against Identifying with Gideon:
Geography: All of Gideon’s known activity was in northern Israel or Transjordan. The southern Shephelah where this inscription was found is too far away. The tribe of Judah is never mentioned in the context of Gideon’s life. All of the biblical judges served in particular regions; there is no reason to believe that Gideon had a national ministry.
Patronymic: Though no other men named Jerubbaal are mentioned in the Bible, it is possible that there were men with this name at this time. If the sherd had included the name of Gideon’s father (Joash), that would make an identification more compelling.
Incomplete: The initial letter is fragmentary and may not be “J” (yod). It is also possible that there were other letters before or after that have not been preserved. In other words, the name may not be Jerubbaal. Haggai Misgav suggests the name could be Azrubaal. Other possibilities from names known from the ancient world include Zekharbaal and Merib-baal (1 Chr 8:34).
Conclusion: This discovery is valuable because inscriptions are rare in the land of Israel at this time. The potential connection with Gideon’s alternate name, and the proximity of the date, makes the identification possible but by no means certain.
Location of discovery of “Jerubbaal inscription”; map from the Satellite Bible Atlas
Archaeologists have announced the discovery of a portion of Jerusalem’s city wall dating to the time of Hezekiah and Josiah. The story is reported in many outlets, including The Times of Israel, The Jerusalem Post, and Haaretz. A 2-minute video has been created by the Israel Antiquities Authority. Here are the main points:
Newly discovered wall; photo by Koby Harati/City of David
Location: The excavated portion is on the eastern slope of the City of David just south of the Gihon Spring, between previously known sections of this wall to the north (a 100-foot section in Kathleen Kenyon’s trench) and to the south (a 300-foot section in Yigal Shiloh’s Area E).
City of David from the southeast; marked portion shows entire extent of all wall sections discovered to date
Size: The excavated sections are about 15 feet (5 m) wide and up to 10 feet (3 m) high. One section is 130 feet (40 m) long, and the other is 10 feet (3 m) long.
Date: The wall is believed to have been built in the late 8th or early 7th centuries BC. This corresponds to the reign of Hezekiah whose sole reign was from 715 to 686 BC. The archaeologists have not determined if the wall was built before or after the Assyrian invasion in 701. We do know that Hezekiah built a massive wall (the “broad wall”) on Jerusalem’s western hill (cf. Isa 22:10). The archaeologists have not yet received results from material submitted for radiocarbon dating.
Archaeologists: The excavation was directed by Filip Vukosavović of the Ancient Jerusalem Research Center and Joe Uziel and Ortal Chalaf on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority.
Archaeologists (from l to r): Vukosavović, Chalaf, Uziel; photo by Koby Harati/City of David
Significance: The discovery ends the debate that portions of the wall found by Kenyon and Shiloh were not city fortification walls. These three known sections allow archaeologists to reconstruct the line of Jerusalem’s eastern wall for about 650 feet (200 m).
Small finds: Near the wall, archaeologists uncovered a building, LMLK seal impressions, rosette-stamped handles, a Babylonian stamp seal, and a seal impression with the name “Tsafan.”
Seal of Tsafan; photo by Koby Harati/City of David
Contradiction: Stories are more interesting if there is a conflict, and so some reporters have framed this discovery of a standing wall as a “contradiction” to the biblical notice in 2 Kings 25:10 that the Babylonians destroyed all of Jerusalem’s walls. But this is a poor interpretation of the biblical text.
In the context of 2 Kings, the Babylonians had previously besieged Jerusalem (in 597; 2 Kgs 24:20-17), but they did not destroy the walls when they captured the city. This time (in 586), they destroyed the walls.
Contrary to some translations in the news reports, 2 Kings 25:10 simply reads that the Babylonians “destroyed the walls around Jerusalem.” It does not say that they destroyed every wall in every place.
By destroying the walls around Jerusalem, the biblical author is indicating the extent of the damage. The Babylonians did not destroy only the massive (broad) wall on the northern side.
The destruction of a wall does not require removing every stone from its place. By comparison, the Romans destroyed the Temple Mount and knocked down many but not all of its stones.
The archaeologists have suggested that this portion of the wall was not torn down because the slope of the hill in this area is quite steep, making it more difficult to access.
That the Babylonians sufficiently destroyed Jerusalem’s walls is evident from the fact that the city lay in ruins for many years, and the reconstruction of the walls required a major effort under Nehemiah.
Imagine if today’s Old City walls of Jerusalem were destroyed, but that stretches of the wall were preserved to 10 or 15 feet in height. Would it be inaccurate to say that the walls around Jerusalem were destroyed?
Conclusion: This is an outstanding discovery that contributes significantly to our knowledge of ancient Jerusalem. There is no need to try to make it more exciting by inventing contradictions.
“In ‘Legend of Destruction,’ Gidi Dar’s new film about the destruction of the Second Temple, artists David Polonsky and Michael Faust faced a serious challenge: make an animation movie composed entirely of still paintings. It took them eight years to complete” (Haaretz premium).
“Scientists have reconstructed the Eastern Mediterranean silver trade, over a period including the traditional dates of the Trojan War, the founding of Rome, and the destruction of Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem.”
A survey has located 11 new hills around Gobeklitepe, and a major study will be released in September. Tourism officials are referring to the area as “12 hills” and the “pyramids of southeast Turkey.”
An excavation of an underground complex in the Western Wall Tunnels is a candidate for an international award.
Carl Rasmussen explains, with photos, how the Lycian League was a model for the United States.
The first issue of the Jerusalem Journal of Archaeologyis a special issue on “State Formation Processes in the 10th Century BCE Levant”, edited by A. Faust, Y. Garfinkel and M. Mumcuoglu. All 16 articles may be downloaded for free.
The SBL website has an updated list of works in their ANE Monographs series, all available for purchase or free download.
The BiblePlaces Blog provides updates and analysis of the latest in biblical archaeology, history, and geography. Unless otherwise noted, the posts are written by Todd Bolen, PhD, Professor of Biblical Studies at The Master’s University.