The Lack of Lachish: Part 2

21 12 2010

In this post I want to focus on the biblical passage mentioning Lachish during the reign of Rehoboam (2 Chronicles 11:9).  In the verses preceding 2 Chronicles 11:9, it is written that Rehoboam builds cities for defense in Judah, in preparation for the attack of Shoshenq (Shishak in the Bible), pharaoh of Egypt.  The Hebrew word is  מָצ֖וֹר meaning enclosure or rampart and coming from the root צ֖וֹר which refers to a siege.  Then a list of cities is mentioned that Rehoboam either fortified or built.  The Hebrew is not clear on this point, Rehoboam could have reinforced already existing fortifications, built new fortifications, or built new settlements with fortifications.  In any event it is clear that Rehoboam is preparing for an attack and accompanying siege, because after the list of cities he is said to have strengthened fortresses with food, wine, oil, shields, spears, and leaders (in Hebrew literally “one in front”).

The cities he built up are Bethlehem, Etam, Tekoa, Beth-zur, Socoh, Adullam, Gath, Mareshah, Ziph, Adoraim, Lachish, Azekah, Zorah, Aijalon, and Hebron. There are a number of problems with this list. Sites such as Azekah and Beth-zur have been excavated and no 10th century BCE remains were found.  Other sites, such as Zorah and Adullam revealed no 10th century remains in survey.  Gath was clearly occupied by the Philistines during this period, so some scholars have amended the name to [Moresheth]-Gath.  The Chronicler is known to have less than 20/20 vision when looking far back into the history of the monarchy, however other dates for the text (the reign of Hezekiah or Josiah) are no more satisfying.

At the very least this group of cities can be easily separated geographically to show a consistent fortification plan.  Bethlehem, Etam, Tekoa, and Beth-zur (2 Chron 11:6-7a) are all along the major north-south road through the Hill Country (sometimes called the Watershed Ridge Route).  Socoh and Adullam connect the first group of towns through the Chalk Moat into the Shephelah to the next group of towns along a route sometimes called the Diagonal Route, [Moresheth]-Gath, and Mareshah (2 Chron 11:7b-8b).  Ziph, Adoraim, and Lachish (2 Chron 11:8c-9b) are the southern most towns along the route through the Shephelah and the route through the Hill Country.  Azekah, Zorah, and Aijalon (2 Chron 11:9c-10b) are cities north of Mareshah along the same Diagonal Route through the Shephelah.  The last city mentioned is Hebron, located between Beth-zur to the north and Adoraim/Ziph to the south, its inclusion here seems random.  Rainey has suggested that it might have been a southern administrative hub, but this is merely a guess.  This list may seem confusing, but there are two main routes that these cities protect.  One is the Diagonal Route running through the Shephelah, beginning at Lachish and running northeast past Mareshah, [Moresheth]-Gath, Azekah, Zorah, and ending at Aijalon.  This route can still be traveled today as a modern road runs along most of it.  The other route is the Watershed Ridge Route through the Hill Country, beginning at Hebron and running past Beth-zur, Etam, and Bethlehem to Jerusalem.  The sites of Adoraim, Ziph, and Tekoa are located just off of this route.  The other two sites Socoh and Adullam connect these two routes through the Chalk Moat, a valley running north-south and separating the Hill Country from the Shephelah.

Now what does this tell us about Lachish in the 10th century BCE?  Unfortunately not much.  The nature of the list as recorded by the Chronicler is problematic.  As is sometimes the case in the Bible, city-lists do not always match up with the archaeological evidence.  It is possible that Lachish was under the control of Judah at this time, or was a later addition to the list.

I would like to conclude with two points for further thought.  The first is that this list of fortified towns fits in nicely with a gap in the list of cities conquered by Shoshenq.  The only city mentioned in the passage in 2 Chronicles and in the Shoshenq list inscribed on the southwest wall of the Karnak temple is Aijalon.  Shoshenq mentions conquering cities along the coast, in the Negev, through northern Judah/southern Benjamin, and throughout Israel but not any sites in the Shephelah or Hill Country of Judah mentioned in 2 Chronicles 11.  Some have suggested that the reason no sites were listed is because no sites were occupied during this time.  This fact leads to my second point; it is very clear from the archaeological record that Lachish was occupied during this time (as were some other sites mentioned in the 2 Chronicles list).  So, next time I will look at the archaeological evidence from Lachish in an attempt to better understand its history from the time of Joshua to the time of Hezekiah, and more specifically during the 10th century BCE.

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3 responses

21 12 2010
Barnea levi selavan

There was never a serious scientific excavation at Azeka; 100 years ago they touched it a bit. Prof. Oded Lifshits of TAU is planning one in several years’ time. No conclusions should be drawn currently from that site.

21 12 2010
ochesnut

Yes of course, I should have been clear what Bliss and Macalister did at Azekah was destruction and not archaeology. I definitely will be waiting anxiously for any results from Prof. Lipschits’ excavations at the site. That being said it is one of only a few sites from this list that have been excavated at all.

8 05 2012
Update: Qeiyafa Cult Finds « Roses and Razorwire

[…] Lack of Lachish Part 1 and Part 2 (unfortunately I never finished this series as my daughter was born and then we left for […]

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