As I have been thinking about a possible polity in the Shephelah during the 10th century BCE, I keep coming back to Lachish. The site was proposed by Ido Koch (one of Israel Finkelstein’s PhD students), in his ASOR paper, as the location of a polity during this time period, the main rival to the Philistine city of Ekron (as opposed to Jerusalem). Now Ido was incorrect on several points, including the size of Gath during this time, a point that would require a general rethinking of how he assigned these power centers. Also it seems he didn’t include Qeiyafa within the sphere of Lachish, instead viewing it as a local fortified farmstead (another mistake in my view). Despite these errors Koch has focused on Lachish for a reason. Perhaps the reason is that Lachish was once part of the original argument for creating the Low Chronology, by his doktorvater Israel Finkelstein (in part because of the lack of Philistine bichrome pottery at the site). Or perhaps it has something to do with the absence of Lachish for much of the Old Testament.
The site makes an appearance in Joshua 10 where its king Yaphia is part of the coalition of the 5 led by Adoni-zedek of Jerusalem, who team up against Joshua and the Israelites. Joshua and his men kill the kings and siege the cities, including Lachish. It is as if Joshua has wiped Lachish from the pages of the Old Testament, because other than a brief mention in 2 Chronicles 11 as one of the cities Rehoboam fortified along the Diagonal Route through the Shephelah and 2 Kings 14:19 when Amaziah flees to the site, Lachish isn’t a major focus until 2 Kings 18 and the war of Sennacherib against Hezekiah in the late 8th century BCE. This gap is over 400 years and we know from the excavations at Lachish that the site continued to be a large, strongly fortified site during this period. In the next post I will look at the Rehoboam and Amaziah passages closer, and also try to determine what happened historically to the site after its destruction in the early 12th century BCE.