More Confusion, Civil, and Religion & Mizpah

The people of Benjamin and Gibeah should have given the men up that raped and killed the concubine.  People can be so stupid at times. 

Now that Israel wiped out all of them, or most of them, what are they going to do?

On the east side of the hill are remarkable remains of dwellings dated to the Hasmonean period village (2nd C BC to the 1st C BC). This area was not damaged by the Crusader rock cutting, like on the other sides where the Crusader stonemasons cut deep into the bedrock.
The houses are built along the hillside, and were tightly built like a maze. These two story houses were preserved to a height of 4.5m. They are designed as several rooms located around a courtyard.

“Now the men of Israel had sworn in Mizpeh, saying, There shall not any of us give his daughter unto Benjamin to wife” (Jdg 21:1).

Israel then turned to God, and said,

“…O LORD God of Israel, why is this come to pass in Israel, that there should be today one tribe lacking in Israel?”  (Jdg 21:3).

“And the children of Israel said, Who is there among all the tribes of Israel that came not up with the congregation unto the LORD? For they had made a great oath concerning him that came not up to the LORD to Mizpeh, saying, He shall surely be put to death. 

And the children of Israel repented them for Benjamin their brother, and said, There is one tribe cut off from Israel this day. 

How shall we do for wives for them that remain, seeing we have sworn by the LORD that we will not give them of our daughters to wives? 

And they said, What one is there of the tribes of Israel that came not up to Mizpeh to the LORD?  And, behold, there came none to the camp from Jabesh-gilead to the assembly” (Jdg 21:5-8).

The picture below shows a view of the Hasmonean quarter from the south side.

Israel checked to see what tribes were there or not and it was found that there were none of the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead.  They then sent 12,000 men to go and kill all the men, women, and children, except for the virgins, and they returned with 400 virgins.

They then went to the rock Rimmon to make peace with Benjamin and give them the virgins because even though they had been at war, they were still a part of Israel and they didn’t want them to become extinct, but they wouldn’t give them their own daughters.

“Then they said, Behold, there is a feast of the LORD in Shiloh yearly in a place which is on the north side of Beth-el, on the east side of the highway that goeth up from Beth-el to Shechem, and on the south of Lebonah. 

This shows the houses in the Hasmonean quarter, moving from east to south-west.
This house has two stories, with the street seen behind the wall on the left. The walls are constructed of trimmed stones which are covered with plaster. The lintels (horizontal blocks) and doorposts are made of dressed, squared thin stones (ashlars).
Several stone basins, seen in the courtyard, contained water which was fetched from underground cisterns.

Therefore they commanded the children of Benjamin, saying, Go and lie in wait in the vineyards;

And see, and, behold, if the daughters of Shiloh come out to dance in dances, then come ye out of the vineyards, and catch you every man his wife of the daughters of Shiloh, and go to the land of Benjamin.

And it shall be, when their fathers or their brethren come unto us to complain, that we will say unto them, Be favorable unto them for our sakes: because we reserved not to each man his wife in the war: for ye did not give unto them at this time, that ye should be guilty. 

And the children of Benjamin did so, and took them wives, according to their Number, of them that danced, whom they caught: and they went and returned unto their inheritance, and repaired the cities, and dwelt in them.

And the children of Israel departed thence at that time, every man to his tribe and to his family, and they went out from thence every man to his inheritance. 

In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes” (Jdg 21:19-25). 

We have a very evil and corrupt government, but image the chaos if there was no order.  The scriptures below are wise to follow:

“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.  In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.  Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil” (Pro 3:5-7).

Moving towards the south, the neighboring house is seen on the left. It has also two stories, with the upper level reached from the higher street, while the lower level is reached from the lower street.

“Thus saith the LORD.  Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches:

But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the LORD which exercise loving kindness, Judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the LORD. 

Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will punish all them which are circumcised with the uncircumcised” (Jer 9:23-25).

This last sentence does not mean that God is going to kill everyone, just the evil/uncircumcised, as well as the circumcised that are not true, such as a Catholic priest. 

Jesus had said:

Not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. 

Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name?  And in thy name have cast out devils? 

And in thy name done many wonderful works?

And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity (Matt 7:21-23).

Mizpah

Battle of Emmaus/Hasmonean Revolt
The Battle of Emmaus took place in 166 BC between the Hasmonean forces of Judea, led by Judah Maccabee, also called Judas Maccabeus which is also spelled Machabeus, or Maccabaeus, known to history as Judah the Hammer, and the third expedition of Greek forces given by Antiochus IV Epiphanes to Lysias.

As part of the military campaign of 165 B.C., Judas Maccabaeus – the leader of the revolt against the Seleucid empire (167-160 B.C.) – assembled the Jewish forces in Mizpah, and launched a successful attack against the Syrian forces

Mizpah (of Benjamin) is identified by many scholars as the hill of Nebi Samuel, which makes sense for a good place for launching the attack and also protecting the entrance to Jerusalem.

The course of the Emmaus battle is illustrated on the map above.

First, the Syrian forces (commanded by Seleucid Generals Nicanor and Gorgias) arrives and camps in Emmaus (red color), while Judas Maccabeus (blue color) gathered 3,000 men and assembled in Mizpah.

Then, General Gorgias headed at night from Emmaus to Mizpah to seek the camp of Judas.

When Judas learned about the Syrian split, he exploited this opportunity by moving his forces during the night to the outskirts of Emmaus.

In dawn they attacked, defeated the surprised Syrian army, and burnt their camp.

General Nicanor’s troops then flee to Gezer.

Gorgias, who found an empty camp in Mizpah, returns back to Emmaus to find that their camp on fire, and also flees.

This treatment of household archaeology at Tell en-Nasbeh initiates a broader program of research on Iron Age II residential compounds at the site.

By studying ceramics and small finds in their original architectural contexts, I investigated aspects of daily life in a fortified village at the household level. This provides a bottom-up view of Judean society that stands in contrast to the top-down view of royal or elite society typically represented in various texts of the Hebrew Bible during the period of the United and Divided Monarchies.

This household approach also stands in contrast to most Iron Age II excavations in the region that have focused primarily on the archaeology of urban centers and other outposts of the central authorities, such as fortresses.

Were the pillared-houses at Nasbeh the residences of nuclear or extended families?

Data presented allows me to define a particular five-building compound as the home of three nuclear families whose houses were physically linked.

Shared or pooled resources of these three nuclear families, revealed through household archaeology, suggest that this compound housed one extended family.

Approximately 7 miles (11 km) northwest of Jerusalem lies Tell en-Nasbeh, a mound 853 feet long (nearly 260 m)by 426. 5 feet (nearly 130 m) wide, covering a total surface area of about 7.7 acres.

Most scholars identify this site with the Biblical Mizpah.  Little is known about Mizpah during the pre-monarchial period because the city is seldom mentioned in texts and few archaeological remains from this era have been discovered.

Excavations between 1926 and 1935 unearthed three tombs, two caves and various fragments of pottery from the Late Chalcolithic and Early Bronze I periods, which predate any Biblical reference.

The Book of Judges identifies Mizpah as the assembly point for a comibined Israelite military force that attacked the Benjamites at Gibeah.

Mizpah’s central location on the watershed highway between Ramah and Bethel would have made it a natural mustering point, even if no archaeological record of a major settlement exists from that period.

The force then moved north to Bethel to inquire of the Lord before launching its attack, and Mizpah played no further in the account.

By the time of Samuel, Mizpah had become an important regional center. The prophet summoned all the Israelites there to seek forgiveness for their idolatry.

While the assembled Israelites were fasting before the Lord, the Philistines launched an attack, but God intervened with thunder and scattered them (1 Sam 7:5-11).

After this Samuel, who was serving as Israel’s judge, returned to Miz­pah each year as part of a circuit that also included Bethel and Gilgal. It was also at Mizpah that Samuel revealed Saul (not Paul the Apostle)  as Israel’s first king (1 Sam 10:17-21).

Philistine and other local pottery, along with the re­mains of rock-cut cisterns and houses, attests to a resurgence of population around the time of Samuel, as the Biblical text suggests.

During the divided monarchy, Mizpah was a border city between Israel and Judah. In approximately 895 B.C. King Baasha of Israel pushed his territory south as far as Ramah and built a fortification there (1 Kgs 15:17-22; 2 Chr 16:1-6).

This cut off Judah’s primary land route to the coastal plain. King Asa of Judah responded by bribing the Arameans to attack Israel from the north.

Baasha had to redirect his forces to this northern front, and Asa seized the opportu­nity to dismantle the Israelite fortification at Ramah.

He then used the materials to construct Judahite strongholds farther north in Mizpah and Geba.

Excavations at Tell en-Nasbeh have re­vealed the remains of a massive defensive construction of the early 9th century B.C.

Plain of Mizpah, Israel

A wall of roughly shaped and plastered stones reached a height of nearly 46 feet (14 m) and was reinforced by a series often towers.

A stone glacis (slope at the base of the fortification wall) ended in a dry moat 16.4 feet (5 m) wide and 6.56 feet (2 m) deep, while a double gate complex protect­ed the entrance to the city.

It is the only for­tification of this type in the region. Houses were built against the inside of the wall.

Remains of olive oil presses and storage bins from the period have also been unearthed, along with a cemetery on a ridge just out­side the city.

These finds confirm that Asa expended considerable resources in the strengthening of this crucial defensive position.

Following the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem and most of Judah in 586 B.C., Mizpah became the residence of Gedaliah, the Babylonian-appointed governor of Judah (2 Kgs 25:23; Jer 40:1-41:16).

Gedaliah’s tenure was short-lived, for lshmael, son of Nethaniah, and some other political insur­gents assassinated him less than six months after his arrival in Mizpah.

Mizpah Cemetery

The city continued to serve as the regional capital until at least the time of Nehemiah.

During this era of Babylonian control, larger, more elaborate private dwellings and public buildings replaced the smaller houses of Asa’s time.

Subsequent Biblical references to Miz­pah are few and brief. Even so, numerous examples of Persian seals and seal impres­sions, pieces of Greek and Roman pottery, and other items suggest virtually continu­ous habitation on the mound throughout antiquity.

The cemetery at Mizpah remained in use until the Byzantine period, when a Christian church was constructed nearby.

Confusion, Civil, and Religion & The Migration of the Danites

Wow, that’s crazy, there were no laws so people did whatever they pleased. 

Of course, in the United States there are too many laws, a lot of stupid laws. 

Yet, they had Your laws, as we also have still today.  Nothing’s really changed, most of the people then didn’t listen to You, and they don’t today either. 

I’ll tell You, if I was President of the United States, I’d get rid of all the stupid laws and live only by Your laws, but I would never want to be president.

Tel Dan in History
In a land where water is life, it’s no wonder the ancients venerated this area as sacred.

Tel Dan offers the largest of four tributaries that form the headwaters of the Jordan River.

Only the nearby Banias Spring ranks second.

When Joshua parceled out the Promised Land, the tribe of Dan received a wide strip that extended west from the Tribe of Benjamin to the coastal plain at Jaffa (Josh 19:40-46).

But the combination of the local inhabitants who pushed the tribe into the hill country, as well as the presence of the International Highway that remained the envy of all local and foreign powers, the location proved to be more than Danites could endure (Jdg 1:34).

Leaving their allotted land, they migrated north and conquered Leshem, or Laish, and renamed it Dan (Josh 19:47).

In addition to abandoning their territory, they also abandoned the God of Israel and erected a graven image to worship (Jdg 18:27-31).

From days of the Judges, through the reigns of Saul, David, and Solomon, the phrase, “from Dan to Beersheba,” represented the practical north-south borders of the united kingdom of Israel (Jdg 20:1; 2 Saml 24:2;1 Kgs 4:25).

But after the reign of King Solomon, the nation divided—and gave rise to a practical problem.

I don’t know why anyone would want to be president because then you have to live in Washington D.C. and worse than that is that you have to hangout with politicians.

Still no king and a certain Levite that was living on the side of Mount Ephraim took himself a concubine out of Beth-lehem-Judah.

“And his concubine played the whore against him, and went away from him unto her father’s house to Beth-lehem-Judah, and was there four whole months. 

And her husband arose, and went after her, to speak friendly unto her, and to bring her again, having his servant with him, and a couple of asses: and she brought him into her father’s house: and when the father of the damsel saw him, he rejoiced to meet him. 

And his father in law, the damsel’s father, retained him; and he abode with him three days: so they did eat and drink, and lodged there” (Jdg 19:2-4).

The father managed to convince the Levite to stay another day and a half, but then he left.  Once they reached  Jebus, which is Jerusalem, his servant wanted them to stay the night there, but they said

“…We will not turn aside hither into the city of a stranger, that is not of the children of Israel; we will pass over to Gibeah…

And he said unto his servant, Come, and let us draw near to one of these places to lodge all night, in Gibeah, or in Ramah…and the sun went down upon them when they were by Gibeah, which belongeth to Benjamin.  And they turned aside thither, to go in and to lodge in Gibeah: and when he went in, he sat him down in a street of the city: for there was no man that took them into his house to lodging” (Jdg 19:12-15).

An old man saw them and invited them to stay with him.

“Now as they were making their hearts merry, behold, the men of the city, certain sons of Belial, beset the house round about, and beat at the door, and spake to the master of the house, the old man, saying, Bring forth the man that came into thine house, that we may know him. 

Tel Dan’s High Place Discovered
Archaeologists have uncovered Jeroboam’s High Place at Tel Dan.

A large, excavated podium still sits at the highest point on the tell.

Cultic implements were discovered there, including a small horned altar, an incense holder, and the only 8th century incense shovels yet discovered in Israel.

Archaeologists also unearthed one horn of the main altar, the proportions of which betray an altar that once stood ten feet tall.

A massive metal frame represents these dimensions for visitors today.

Remnants of two sets of stairs at the corners show how the priests accessed the altar.

And the man, the master of the house, went out unto them, and said unto them, Nay, my brethren, nay, I pray you, do not so wickedly; seeing that this man is come into mine house, do not this folly.

Behold, here is my daughter a maiden, and his concubine; them I will bring out now, and humble ye them, and do with them what seemeth good unto you: but unto this man do not so vile a thing. 

But the men would not hearken to him: so the man took his concubine, and brought her forth unto them; and they knew her, and abused her all the night until the morning: and when the day began to spring, they let her go.

Then came the woman in the dawning of the day, and fell down at the door of the man’s house where her lord was, till it was light. 

And her lord rose up in the morning, and opened the doors of the house, and went out to go his way: and, behold, the woman his concubine was fallen down at the door of the house, and her hands were upon the threshold. 

Dan – Canaanite City
The Biblical city of Laish/Leshem.

An impressive archaeological site with unique remains of the Canaanite and Israelite cities and a Biblical High Place.

And he said unto her, Up, and let us be going.  But none answered.  Then the man took her up upon an ass, and the man rose up, and gat him unto his place.

And when he was come into his house, he took a knife, and laid hold on his concubine, and divided her, together with her bones, into twelve pieces, and sent her into all the coasts of Israel. 

And it was so, that all that saw it said, There was no such deed done nor seen from the day that the children of Israel came up out of the land of Egypt unto this day: consider of it, take advice, and speak your minds” (Jdg 19:22-30).

“The Levite cutting the concubine’s body up and sending her parts all around Israel was showing that she had been raped and killed by others.  The children of Israel, 400,000 footmen, were not happy.  When they all approached the Levite he asked, Behold, ye are all children of Israel; give here your advice and counsel” (Jdg 20:7).

Sacrificial High Place
A closer view of the four-chamber inner gatehouse is in the above photo.

Two steles stand upright on both sides of the gate.

A sacrificial high place is located on the southern side of the inner gate.

The pit was found to contain bones of kosher animals.

The structure is based on large basalt stones.

It was reconstructed with wood beams to a height of 3M, and is the largest Biblical gate excavated in the Holy Land.

The area of the four-chamber gate covers 520 square meters, compared to other cities which are smaller.

“And the tribes of Israel sent men through all the tribe of Benjamin, saying, What wickedness is this that is done among you? 

Now therefore deliver us the men, the children of Belial, which are in Gibeah, that we may put them to death, and put away evil from Israel. 

But the children of Benjamin would not hearken to the voice of their brethren the children of Israel: But the children of Benjamin gathered themselves together out of the cities unto Gibeah, to go out to battle against the children of Israel” (Jdg 20:12-14).

“Between the Benjamines and the inhabitants of Gibeah there were 26,700 fighting men.  The 700 from Gibeah could sling stones at an hair breadth, and not miss” (Jdg 20:16). 

“And the children of Israel arose, and went up to the house of God, and asked counsel of God, and said, Which of us shall go up first to the battle against the children of Benjamin? And the LORD said, Judah shall go up first” (Jdg 20:18).

The next day the fighting began and the Benjamites and the Gibeahs killed 22,000.  Israel again went to God and asked,

“(And the children of Israel went up and wept before the LORD until even, and asked counsel of the LORD, saying Shall I go up again to battle against the children of Benjamin my brother?  And the LORD said, Go up against him” (Jdg 20:23).

“And Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron, stood before it in those days,) saying, Shall I yet again go out to battle agaisnt the children of Benjamin my brother, or shall I cease?  And the LORD said, Go up; for tomorrow I will deliver them into thine hand” (Jdg 20:28).

The Israelites hid and waited round about the city of Gibeah, and after they lost 30 men they decided to flee so the Benjamines would follow them to the highways, so they went to Baal-tamar and waited.

“And there came against Gibeah ten thousand chosen men out of all Israel, and the battle was sore: but they knew not that evil was near them. 

And the LORD smote Benjamin before Israel: and the children of Israel destroyed of the Benjamites that day twenty and five thousand and an hundred men: all these drew the sword. 

The Tribe of Dan
A map of Dan and the 12 Tribes of Israel.

Dan is in the extreme north of the land.

The Biblical description “from Dan to Beersheba” came to denote all of the land of Israel, from north to south.

Indeed, Dan’s meaning in this phrase is twofold.

Originally, Dan settled in the southern portion of the land of Canaan, near the Philistine coast.

Later, a portion of the tribe of Dan would migrate to the north, and capture the city of Laish.

Due to this migration, Dan is listed as part of the Northern tribes of Israel, along with Asher and Naphtali.

They renamed Laish Dan, after their progenitor, the fourth son of Jacob.

The city of Dan became the northernmost limit of the land of Israel.

Thus, Dan was a tribe of the south, and the north; as well as representing the northernmost limits of Israel itself, with Beersheba representing the southernmost limits.

The Danites were the last of the tribes in the book of Joshua to receive its allotment. Yet, Nadav Na’aman asserts it is one of the most important tribes in the delineation of the boundary system within the tribes of Israel

The cities allotted to the tribe of Dan occupy the “territorial gap” (Na’aman 74) left between these three tribes.

Na’aman’s theory regarding this allotment is self-admittedly “highly conjectural”, yet, it would seem to be in accordance with the Biblical account.

The chronology of Scripture supports the theory Dan was the last to receive land.

Na’aman states the author of the town list of the Danites, found in Joshua 19:40-48, created Dan’s borders after the tribes of Judah, Benjamin, and Ephraim had been allotted land.

The tribe of Dan, thus, fell in the gap that existed between these three tribes.

In essence, Na’aman argues this allotment was “an artificial tribal territory”.

Not artificial in the sense of a false account, as the Bible states the tribe of Dan originally settled in this area, and Na’aman agrees. Artificial, perhaps, in the sense the allotment almost seems an afterthought, as if they had forgot Dan, and simply assigned what was left.

So the children of Benjamin saw that they were smitten: for the men of Israel gave place to the Benjamites, because they trusted unto the liers in wait which they had set beside Gibeah.

And the liers in wait hasted, and rushed upon Gibeah; and the liers in wait drew themselves along, and smote all the city with the edge of the sword. 

Now there was an appointed sign between the men of Israel and the liers in wait, that they should make a great flame with smoke rise up out of the city. 

And when the men of Israel retired in the battle, Benjamin began to smite and kill of the men of Israel about thirty persons: for they said, Surely they are smitten down before us, as in the first battle.

But when the flame began to arise up out of the city with a pillar of smoke, the Benjamites looked behind them, and, behold, the flame of the city ascended up to heaven. 

And when the men of Israel turned again, the men of Benjamin were amazed: for they saw that evil was come upon them. 

Therefore they turned their backs before the men of Israel unto the way of the wilderness; but the battle overtook them; and them which came out of the cities they destroyed in the midst of them.

Thus they enclosed the Benjamites round about, and chased them, and trode them down with ease over against Gibeah toward the sun rising. 

And there fell of Benjamin eighteen thousand men; all these were men of valor. 

And they turned and fled toward the wilderness unto the rock of Rimmon: and they gleaned of them in the highways five thousand men; and pursued hard after them unto Gidom, and slew two thousand men of them.

So that all which fell that day of Benjamin were twenty and five thousand men that drew the sword; all these were men of valor. 

But six hundred men turned and fled to the wilderness unto the rock Rimmon, and abode in the rock Rimmon four months. 

And the men of Israel turned again upon the children of Benjamin, and smote them with the edge of the sword, as well the men of every city, as the beast, and all that came to hand: also they set on fire all the cities that they came to” (Jdg 20:34-48).

The Migration of the Danites

The tribe of Dan was unable to occupy its assigned allotment west of Benjamin. The Dan­ites chose to migrate to Laish, which they re­named Dan’.

This took place after the time of Deborah in the late 13th century B.C., around the time of the destruction of Shiloh around 1100 B.C.

The incursion of the Philistines into the southwestern coastal plain in approximately 1177 B.C. may have precipi­tated the migration.

Laish/Dan has been identified as Tell el- Qadi, now called Tel Dan, at the foot of Mount Hermon, approximately 25 miles (40 km) north of the Sea of Galilee.

Excavations have revealed a prosperous Late Bronze Age city that was destroyed by fire early in the twelfth century B.C., most likely by the Danites.

Laish had a strong connec­tion, perhaps as a partner in international trade, with coastal Sidon, approximately 28 miles (45 km) to the northwest. 

The most impressive discovery in the destroyed city of Laish was a tomb contain­ing imported pottery from Greece.

After the destruction a nomadic or semi-nomadic culture occupied the site. This culture is distinctive for its use of pits apparently dug for storing grain.

Large storage jars, well known from the highlands where they are associated with Israelite settlement, were located in the pits.

The jars were fashioned from clay not native to the Tel Dan area, indi­cating that the new settlers had brought them from elsewhere.

Archaeologists have identified this new culture as that of the Danites.  This tribe soon became urbanized, however, and built a dense array of domestic and industrial structures across the site.

This stratum was destroyed in a fierce conflagration in the mid-11th century B.C., possibly at the hands of the Philistines at the same time Shiloh was destroyed.

Micah’s Idols and Priest & Tombs in Ancient Israel

I got the picture here: the gift You gave Samson was supposed to be used to glorify You, but he used it for himself and doing that is a sin, so 1 You allowed him to pay the repercussions.  

Yet, 2 You didn’t fail him, as You said You wouldn’t, when he prayed for forgiveness and the ability to punish his enemies You honored that prayer.  So I see that freewill You give us can cause us some problems if we don’t always walk with you.

And there was a man of mount Ephraim, whose name was 3  Micah. 

Tomb of Ancient Egyptian Princess Unearthed
Researchers from the Czech Institute of Egyptology in Prague announced the discovery of an ancient Egyptian princess’ tomb dating from roughly 2500 B.C.

The location of her final resting place has puzzled experts because it lies more than a mile away from the tombs of other Fifth Dynasty royals.

Archaeologists have unearthed the court and tomb of a previously unknown ancient Egyptian princess who lived some 4,500 years ago.

Led by Miroslav Bárta of the Czech Institute of Egyptology, the team made the discovery at Abusir, a pyramid and necropolis complex located south of Cairo and near the legendary Saqqara site.

Along with clues about a mysterious branch of Fifth Dynasty royals, the dig has yielded a number of beautifully crafted statues, limestone sarcophagi and other precious artifacts.

“By this unique discovery we open a completely new chapter in the history of Abusir and Saqqara necropolis,” Bárta said in a press release issued by the Czech Institute of Egyptology.

And he said unto his mother, The eleven hundred shekels of silver that were taken from thee, about which thou cursedst, and spakest of also in mine ears, behold, the silver is with me; I took it.  And his mother said, Blessed be thou of the LORD, my son. 

And when he had restored the eleven hundred shekels of silver to his mother, his mother said, I had wholly dedicated the silver unto the LORD from my hand for my son, to make a graven image and a molten image: now therefore I will restore it unto thee.Yet he restored the money unto his mother; and his mother took two hundred shekels of silver, and gave them to the founder, who made thereof a graven image and a molten image: and they were in the house of Micah (Jdg 17:1-4).

At this time there was no king in Israel and people did as they pleased.  A man Levite from the family of Judah came to Micah’s house.

And Micah said unto him, Whence comest thou?  And he said unto him, I am a Levite of Beth-lehem-Judah, and I go to sojourn where I may find a place. 

And Micah said unto him, Dwell with me, and be unto me a father and a priest, and I will give thee ten shekels of silver by the year, and a suit of apparel, and thy victuals. So the Levite went in.  And the Levite was content to dwell with the man; and the young man was unto him as one of his sons. 

And Micah consecrated the Levite; and the young man became his priest, and was in the house of Micah. 

Then said Micah, Now know I that the LORD will do me good, seeing I have a Levite to my priest (Jdg 17:9-13).

The tribe of Dan, known as Danites (Samson’s father was a Danite), searched for a place to live because at this time they hadn’t received their inheritance.

While the excavation of the site is still underway, archaeologists have already uncovered a pillared court with inscriptions identifying it as the domain of Shert Nebti, the daughter of a king called Men Salbo.

The princess’ tomb and those of several high-ranking officials—including an individual referred to as Nefer, meaning “beautiful one”—flank the court.

Shert Nebti’s remains have not yet been found, so the researchers can’t confirm whether she was actually interred beside her court.

But the location of her tomb has puzzled experts because most members of Fifth Dynasty royal families are buried over a mile to the north or further south at nearby Saqqara.

Whatever the reason for the tomb’s placement, archaeologists think ancient builders used a natural step in the bedrock to create the court, which reaches 13 feet into the ground.

Bárta and his team believe the site has only begun to give up its many treasures, and that their ongoing excavation might reveal even more monuments and hints as it continues.

And the children of Dan sent of their family five men from their coasts, men of valor, from Zorah, and from Eshtaol, to spy out the land, and to search it; and they said unto them, Go, search the land: who when they came to mount Ephraim, to the house of Micah, they lodged there. 

When they were by the house of Micah, they knew the voice of the young man the Levite: and they turned in thither, and said unto him, Who brought thee hither?  And what makest thou in this place?  And what hast thou here?

And he said unto them, Thus and thus dealeth Micah with me, and hath hired me, and I am his priest. 

And they said unto him, Ask counsel, we pray thee, of God, that we may know whether our way which we go shall be prosperous. 

And the priest said unto them, Go in peace: before the LORD is your way wherein ye go.

Then the five men departed, and came to Laish, and saw the people that were therein, how they dwelt careless, after the manner of the Zidonians, quiet and secure; and there was no magistrate in the land, that might put them to shame in anything; and they were far from the Zidonians, and had no business with any man.

And they came unto their brethren to Zorah and Eshtaol: and their brethren said unto them, What say ye?

And they said, Arise, that we may go up against them: for we have seen the land, and, behold, it is very good: and are ye still?   Be not slothful to go, and to enter to possess the land. 

When ye go, ye shall come unto a people secure, and to a large land: for God hath given it into your hands; a place where there is no want of anything that is in the earth (Jdg 18:2-10).

Six hundred Danites went and camped out in Kirjath-jearim, and from there they went to Mount Ephraim and then to Micah’s house. 

The five men that had spied entered the home, while the 600 stood outside the gate, and they took the ephod, teraphim (idol), graven image, and a molten image.  The priest asked them what they thought they were doing.

And they said unto him, Hold thy peace, lay thine hand upon thy mouth, and go with us, and be to us a father and a priest: is it better for thee to be a priest unto the house of one man, or that thou be a priest unto a tribe and a family in Israel? 

A recently discovered statue in a complex of tombs, including one of a pharaonic princess, in the Abusir region, south of Cairo, Egypt.

And the priest’s heart was glad, and he took the ephod, and the teraphim, and the graven image, and went in the midst of the people (Jdg 18:19-20).

When Micah found out what happened he ran after them.  And he said, Ye have taken away my gods which I made, and the priest, and ye are gone away: and what have I more?  And what is this that ye say unto me, What aileth thee? 

And the children of Dan said unto him, Let not thy voice be heard among us, lest angry fellows run upon thee, and thou lose thy life, with the lives of thy household (Jdg 18:24-25).

Micah knew that he wouldn’t have a chance against them so he went back home, and the Danites went to Laish where they killed everyone, burnt the city, and built the city of Dan.

And the children of Dan set up the graven image: and Jonathan, the son of Gershom, the son of Manasseh, he and his sons were priests to the tribe of Dan until the day of the captivity of the land (Jdg 18:30).

For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.  Because thou has rejected the word of the LORD, he hath also rejected thee from being king (1 Sam 15:23)See 1 Sam 15:17-23 Jn 6:63-64

2 Let not your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee (Heb 13:5).  See Gen 28:15.

This Micah is not the prophet that you will read about much later.

Tomb of ancient Egyptian princess unearthed near Cairo
Statues of two men and a woman in a complex of 4500-year-old tombs, including one of a Pharaonic princess recently discovered south of Cairo.

CZECH archaeologists have unearthed the 4500-year-old tomb of a Pharaonic princess south of Cairo.

Egypt’s antiquities ministry says Princess Shert Nebti’s burial site is surrounded by the tombs of four high officials from the Fifth Dynasty dating to around 2500 BC in the Abu Sir complex near the famed step pyramid of Saqqara.

Tombs in Ancient Israel

Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem.
In Jesus’s day there were already thousands of graves

and tombs on the city’s north, east, and south sides.

One specific area where significant progress has been made by scholars is the subject of 1st century Jewish burial practices.

Jewish writings of the period of the New Testament reveal the implicit general belief among Jews that the spirit survives death.

This is true, the spirit doesn’t die, we (our spirit) will spend eternity in heaven or hell.

Additionally, Jews generally believed that the time of death was determined by God, as Creator.

This is also true:

“And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Heb 9:27).

Judgment is when one finds out if they will spend eternity in heaven or hell.

Among the Jews of the first century, some also believed in the literal resurrection of the dead.

This is incorrect., as the above scripture explains.

Jesus was resurrected, but He was not just a man, but God Himself.

As a result, Jews believed that the body was to be respected in life and death and that a proper burial was a duty of family members.

That is incorrect, the body is just a tent for the spirit, God loves the person, not the body, just like God hates the sinful acts, but loves the person.

The most important feature of ancient Israelite burials is reflected in the interment of Samson in the tomb of his father. Other individuals are specified to have been buried in their father’s tombs, including Gideon (Jdg 8:32), Asahel (2 Sam 2:32) and Ahithophel (2 Sam 17:23).

The first such burial noted in Scripture is that of Abraham, interred in the tomb of Sarah, his wife, later followed by their children and grand-children. Caves were often used for such tombs. Only the wealthi¬est could afford a tomb that had been quarried out of rock; the prophet Isaiah condemned the royal steward Shebna for his arro¬gance in constructing just such a burial monument (Is 22:15-16).

The poor could not afford a rock- hewn tomb and were buried in common graves dug into the soil (cf.2 Kgs 23:6; Jer 26:23).

The graves of the poor have generally not been preserved for archaeologists. Excava¬tions have unearthed many examples of family burials in caves and rock-hewn tombs from the Old Testament period, with in¬stances of more than 100 individuals interred in a single tomb.

These tombs consisted of a square chamber or, in more elaborate examples, up to nine chambers for members of the extended family. Each chamber typically contained three waist-high benches that lined the room on every side except the entrance.

The deceased were laid out on these benches immediately after death, along with burial gifts, including bowls for food, perfume juglets,oil lamps, weapons and jewelry.

The benches included ledges to prevent the contents from falling off, and headrests were frequently carved out of the rock to hold the deceased’s head. After the flesh of the corpse had decayed, the bones were collected along with the gifts and deposited into a repository hewn beneath one of the burial benches.

Thus the repositories were filled with the bones and objects of generations of the family. This process of burial makes it clear that the Biblical phrase”gathered to their fathers’ was more than metaphorical.

Samson and Delilah – 1117 B.C. & Samson and the Temple of Dagon

Since Samson is walking with You nobody can hurt him.

But who is this Delilah girl?  I’m assuming she’s a Philistine since he seems to like that type?  You didn’t pick her for Samson, so could it cause problems?

Ancient Gaza
Population pressure in the tiny Gaza Strip is intense, and no doubt numerous potential archaeological sites have been built over and lost.

“But still, according to specialists, what is under ground and under the sea is more, much more, than what has been discovered to date,” says Mr Abdul Shafi.

Ancient ruins in Gaza

Gaza has been strategically important to regional powers

“There is an opportunity to discover things and put them in a place like a national museum, and this is what we’re aiming for.”

For more than 3,500 years Gaza’s history has been shaped by its location.

It sits on the route linking North Africa with the greener lands of the Levant to the north.

This made Gaza strategically important first to the Egyptian Pharaohs, and then to many others who sought to wield power in the region.

“It’s found itself the target of constant sieges – constant battles,” says Gerald Butt.

“Then went Samson to Gaza, and saw there a harlot, and went in unto her. 

And it was told the Gazites, saying, Samson is come hither.  And they compassed him in, and laid wait for him all night in the gate of the city, and were quiet all the night, saying, In the morning, when it is day, we shall kill him. 

And Samson lay till midnight, and arose at midnight, and took the doors of the gate of the city, and the two posts, and went away with them, bar and all, and put them upon his shoulders, and carried them up to the top of an hill that is before Hebron.

And it came to pass afterward, that he loved a woman in the valley of Sorek, whose name was Delilah. 

Ancient Gaza
Archaeologist unearth remains in Gaza which is said to be one of the world’s oldest living cities.

All through the heat of summer archaeologists dug and sifted through the dunes on the edge of Gaza City.

Gradually walls, homes, and the outlines of alleyways emerged from the sand.

These were the bones of the ancient Greek city of Antidon.

And they were testimony to the extraordinary richness of Gaza’s past.

Not only the Greeks passed this way.

The Pharaohs of ancient Egypt, the Persians, the Romans, the Crusaders, the Turks, the British and many others left their mark on Gaza.

It has been described as one of the world’s oldest living cities.

Layers of civilization lie beneath its busy streets and crowded ranks of badly made apartment blocks.

And the lords of the Philistines came up unto her, and said unto her, Entice him, and see wherein his great strength lieth, and by what means we may prevail against him, that we may bind him to afflict him: and we will give thee every one of us eleven hundred pieces of silver. 

And Delilah said to Samson, Tell me, I pray thee, wherein thy great strength lieth, and wherewith thou mightest be bound to afflict thee.

And Samson said unto her, If they bind me with seven green withs that were never dried, then shall I be weak, and be as another man. 

Then the lords of the Philistines brought up to her seven green withs which had not been dried, and she bound him with them. 

Now there were men lying in wait, abiding with her in the chamber.  And she said unto him, The Philistines be upon thee, Samson.  And he brake the withs, as a thread of tow is broken when it toucheth the fire.  So his strength was not known.

And Delilah said unto Samson, Behold, thou hast mocked me, and told me lies: now tell me, I pray thee, wherewith thou mightest be bound. 

And he said unto her, If they bind me fast with new ropes that never were occupied, then shall I be weak, and be as another man. 

Delilah therefore took new ropes, and bound him therewith, and said unto him, The Philistines be upon thee, Samson.  And there were liers in wait abiding in the chamber.  And he brake them from off his arms like a thread.

And Delilah said unto Samson, Hitherto thou hast mocked me, and told me lies: tell me wherewith thou mightest be bound. And he said unto her, If thou weavest the seven locks of my head with the web.

 And she fastened it with the pin, and said unto him, The Philistines be upon thee, Samson.  And he awaked out of his sleep, and went away with the pin of the beam, and with the web.

And she said unto him, How canst thou say, I love thee, when thine heart is not with me?  Thou hast mocked me these three times, and hast not told me wherein thy great strength lieth.  And it came to pass, when she pressed him daily with her words, and urged him, so that his soul was vexed unto death;

A rocket launched by Palestinian militants towards Israel makes its way from the northern Gaza Strip, seen from the Israel Gaza Border, southern Israel (Nov 2012).

Over-crowded living, Gaza City, Gaza Strip, Palestine

It is a district of Gaza City, families piled upon on another in cement buildings.

The house I live in isn’t much different: blistering in summer and numbing in winter, no-frills all around, lucky to have water (albeit water stored in the massive water tanks ubiquitous throughout occupied Palestine), surrounded by other like-constructed concrete ovens.

When drones hover over homes, TVs go fuzzy and even cell communication is affected, not to mention the more obvious disruption of one’s psyche.

They’re flying overhead quite a bit these days, along with the standard IOF warplane fly-overs.

That he told her all his heart, and said unto her, There hath not come a razor upon mine head; for I have been a Nazarite unto God from my mother’s womb: if I be shaven, then my strength will go from me, and I shall become weak, and be like any other man.

And when Delilah saw that he had told her all his heart, she sent and called for the lords of the Philistines, saying, Come up this once, for he hath shewed me all his heart.  Then the lords of the Philistines came up unto her, and brought money in their hand. 

A man walks through remains of St. Hilarion’s monastery in the Jabaliya refugee camp, northern Gaza Strip.

St. Hilarion’s monastery, a reminder of the time in late antiquity when Christianity was the dominant faith in what is now the Gaza Strip, is one of many archaeological treasures scattered across this coastal territory.

And she made him sleep upon her knees; and she called for a man, and she caused him to shave off the seven locks of his head; and she began to afflict him, and his strength went from him.

And she said, The Philistines be upon thee, Samson.  And he awoke out of his sleep, and said, I will go out as at other times before, and shake myself.  And he wist not that the LORD was departed from him. 

But the Philistines took him, and put out his eyes, and brought him down to Gaza, and bound him with fetters of brass; and he did grind in the prison house. 

Howbeit the hair of his head began to grow again after he was shaven.

Then the lords of the Philistines gathered them together for to offer a great sacrifice unto 1 Dagon their god, and to rejoice: for they said, Our god hath delivered Samson our enemy into our hand. 

And when the people saw him, they praised their god: for they said, Our god hath delivered into our hands our enemy, and the destroyer of our country, which slew many of us.

Samson destroys the Philistine temple. Samson destroys the Temple of Dagon
By Philip Galle

Ashdod and the area south of it, including the Gaza Strip, were home to the Philistines in Biblical times (which is why the Romans denigradingly called Judea “Philistia”), and with the Hamas presence in Gaza today, the area continues its tradition as a sanctuary for the enemies of the Jews.

The story of Samson and the Philistines is commemorated near the beach with the above statue.

And it came to pass, when their hearts were merry, that they said, Call for Samson, that he may make us sport.  And they called for Samson out of the prison house; and he made them sport: and they set him between the pillars. 

And Samson said unto the lad that held him by the hand, Suffer me that I may feel the pillars whereupon the house standeth, that I may lean upon them. 

Now the house was full of men and women; and all the lords of the Philistines were there; and there were upon the roof about three thousand men and women, that beheld while Samson made sport.

And Samson called unto the LORD, and said, O Lord GOD, remember me, I pray thee, and strengthen me, I pray thee, only this once, O God, that I may be at once avenged of the Philistines for my two eyes. 

Archaeological site in Palestine on the Mediterranean Sea 15 miles northeast of Gaza.
An ancient city settled in the third millennium B.C. it was taken over by the Philistines in the 12th century B.C. and became one of their five city-states called the Philistine Pentapolis.

It flourished under many rulers as a major port and trade center between Syria and Egypt.

Excavation of the city’s important remains began in 1920.

The modern city is nearby.

Ashkelon was the capital of Canaanite Kings and the harbor of the Philistines and the stomping ground of the biblical hero Samson.

From the Canaanite era Ashkelon is the oldest and largest seaport yet known in Israel and a thriving Middle Bronze Age (2000-1550 B.C.) metropolis of more than 150 acres with commanding ramparts including the oldest arched city gate in the world still standing two stories high.

From the Philistine era (1175-604 B.C.) excavations of the seaport are uncovering remains of the city from the days of Samson and Delilah and the city’s destruction by Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar.

And Samson took hold of the two middle pillars upon which the house stood, and on which it was borne up, of the one with his right hand, and of the other with his left.

And Samson said, Let me die with the Philistines.  And he bowed himself with all his might; and the house fell upon the lords, and upon all the people that were therein.  So the dead which he slew at his death were more than they which he slew in his life. 

Then his brethren and all the house of his father came down, and took him, and brought him up, and buried him between Zorah and Eshtaol in the burying place of Manoah his father.  And he judged Israel twenty years” (Jd 16:1-31).

This story makes women look really evil and men look really stupid.

Dagon, the fish god.
Note the mouth-shaped hat. Compare to the two-horned mitre worn by the Pope and Church officials today.

“Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;

Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron;

Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth.

For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving:

For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.

If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine, whereunto thou hast attained” (1 Tim 4:1-6).

1 Chief god of the Philistines, originally worshiped by the Canaanites before the Philistine invasion of Canaan.  On a wall of a place in Babylon he’s shown as half fish and the head and hands of a man.

Samson and the Temple of Dagon

Only limited excavation has been taken at Gaza, so we have little idea of what the city of Samson’s day was like.

However, grinding houses (Jdg 16:21) and a temple (vv. 23-30) similar to those referred to in Jdgs 16 have been unearthed at other sites.

Grinding houses, known both from ancient texts and exca­vated examples, were places where prisoners would grind grain for their masters.

The tools were simple, hand grinding stones — a loaf-shaped upper stone and a larger, slightly concave, lower stone called saddle quern.

Samson spent his days kneeling in front of a quern, pushing an upper stone back and forth, grinding grain into meal.

Samson’s greatest feat was the destruc­tion of the temple of Dagon.

The only defi­nite Philistine temples found to date are those at Tell Qasile, on the outskirts of modern Tel Aviv.

Three temples, each larger than the pre­vious, were built on the same spot over a period of 150 years.

The latest, from the 11th century B.C., approximately the time of Samson, measured 26 feet (7.8 m) by 48 feet (14.6 m).

Two pillars supported the roof, just as in the temple of Dagon described in Judges 16.

They were made of cedar wood approximately 1 foot (30.5 cm) in diameter and rested on stone bases set in the floor.

Pillar Bases at the Tell Qasile Temple
The two pillars in question were set about 6 feet apart.

A strong man, such as Samson, would be able to push the pillars away from their bases and thereby send the roof crashing down.

It would have been possible to dislodge the cen­tral pillar in the Tell Qasile temple, since it was held in place on the stone base only by the weight of the roof.

A large man with his arms extended could have spanned the 7 foot (2.1 m) distance between the two pillars.

Al­so, it is conceivable that the pillars of Dagon’s temple were closer together than those of the Tell Qasile temple.

The Revenge of Samson & Samson and the Philistines

I see that You made Samson extra strong, and You allowed Samson to hook up with a Philistine woman which You are totally against, so I’m anxious to see why and what is going to happen.

Tell Abu al-Kharaz: New Finds from ‘Sea People’ Settlement.
Tell Abu al-Kharaz is located in the Jordan Valley close to the border to Israel and the West Bank.

It most likely corresponds to the biblical city of Jabesh Gilead.

The Swedish Jordan Expedition has explored the city, which was founded 3200 B.C. and lasted for almost 5 000 years.

The first excavation took place in 1989 and the most recent in autumn 2013.

All in all, 16 excavations have been completed.

Peter M. Fischer and his team of archaeologists and students have surveyed an urban settlement that flourished three times over the 5 000 years: * around 3100–2900 B.C. (Early Bronze Age),

* 1600–1300 B.C. (Late Bronze Age) and

* 1100–700 B.C. (Iron Age).

These are the local periods; in Sweden, they occurred much later.

Remarkably well-preserved stone structures have been exposed during the excavations.

The finds include defensive walls, buildings and thousands of complete objects produced locally or imported from south-east Europe.

“What surprises me the most is that we have found so many objects from far away.

This shows that people were very mobile already thousands of years ago,” says Fischer.

The scientists have made several sensational finds in the last three years, especially during the excavation of the building from 1100 B.C. where containers still filled with various seeds were found.

There are also finds from Middle Egypt that were exported to Tell Abu al-Kharaz as early as 3100 B.C.

The exploration of the 60-meter long building discovered in 2010 continued during the most recent excavation.

It was originally built in two levels of which the bottom level is still standing with walls reaching 2.5 meters in height after more than 3 000 years.

The archaeologists found evidence indicating that the Philistines who lived in the building together with local people around 1100 B.C. utilized a defense structure from 3 000 B.C. in the form of an old city wall by constructing their building on top of it.

In this way, they had both easy access to building material and a solid surface to build on.

“One of our conclusions after the excavation is that “Jordanian culture” is clearly a Mediterranean culture even though the country does not border the Mediterranean Sea.

There were well-organized societies in the area long before the Egyptian pyramids were built,” says Peter M. Fischer.

The excavations in Tell Abu al-Kharaz are funded mainly by the Royal Swedish Academy of Letters, History and Antiquities.

Only about 20% of the city has been exposed so far, and in some places just the top layers.

The Swedish Jordan Expedition 2013 consisted of professional archaeologists and students from Sweden, Austria, Germany, Iceland, Poland, Switzerland and Jordan.

“But it came to pass within a while after, in the time of wheat harvest, that Samson visited his wife with a kid; and he said, I will go in to my wife into the chamber.  But her father would not suffer him to go in.  

And her father said, I verily thought that thou hadst utterly hated her; therefore I gave her to thy companion: is not her younger sister fairer than she?  Take her, I pray thee, instead of her. 

And Samson said concerning them, Now shall I be more blameless than the Philistines, though I do them a displeasure.

Representation of Sea People and Philistines from the Medinet Habu, Luxor, Egypt.
Philistines, also known asThe Sea People,”

throughout their long history the Philistines have been closely associated with God’s chosen people, Israel.

Even to this day the people who live in the area around Gaza, one of the ancient cities of the Philistines, have an extremely stormy relationship with the State of Israel.

The Philistines are mostly remember by two accounts: that of Samson and Delilah and David and Goliath.

So far as the Biblical account is concerned, the Philistines are mentioned in the time of the Patriarchs – Abraham, Isaac and Jacob – although their origins can be traced back to the ‘sea peoples’ originating from the Aegean Sea area (now part of Greece).

Even today the name ‘Philistine’ is used to describe a person who is ignorant of the arts and culture, though the reasons why this is the case are less easy to trace.

We are concerned more with the Philistines in their place in the Bible, because, as we hope to show, they still have an important part to play in God’s purpose with the nations.

And Samson went and caught three hundred foxes, and took firebrands, and turned tail to tail, and put a firebrand in the midst between two tails. 

And when he had set the brands on fire, he let them go into the standing corn of the Philistines, and burnt up both the shocks, and also the standing corn, with the vineyards and olives.

Then the Philistines said, Who hath done this?  And they answered, Samson, the son in law of the Timnite, because he had taken his wife, and given her to his companion.  And the Philistines came up, and burnt her and her father with fire. 

And Samson said unto them, Though ye have done this, yet will I be avenged of you, and after that I will cease.

And he smote them hip and thigh with a great slaughter: and he went down and dwelt in the top of the rock Etam. 

Then the Philistines went up, and pitched in Judah, and spread themselves in Lehi. 

And the men of Judah said, Why are ye come up against us?  And they answered, To bind Samson are we come up, to do to him as he hath done to us. 

Then three thousand men of Judah went to the top of the rock Etam, and said to Samson, Knowest thou not that the Philistines are rulers over us? What is this that thou hast done unto us?  And he said unto them, As they did unto me, so have I done unto them.

And they said unto him, We are come down to bind thee, that we may deliver thee into the hand of the Philistines.  And Samson said unto them, Swear unto me, that ye will not fall upon me yourselves. 

And they spake unto him, saying, No; but we will bind thee fast, and deliver thee into their hand: but surely we will not kill thee.  And they bound him with two new cords, and brought him up from the rock.

And when he came unto Lehi, the Philistines shouted against him: and the Spirit of the LORD came mightily upon him, and the cords that were upon his arms became as flax that was burnt with fire, and his bands loosed from off his hands. 

And he found a new jawbone of an ass, and put forth his hand, and took it, and slew a thousand men therewith. 

And Samson said, With the jawbone of an ass, heaps upon heaps, with the jaw of an ass have I slain a thousand men.

And it came to pass, when he had made an end of speaking, that he cast away the jawbone out of his hand, and called that place Ramath-lehi. 

And he was sore athirst, and called on the LORD, and said, Thou hast given this great deliverance into the hand of thy servant: and now shall I die for thirst, and fall into the hand of the uncircumcised?

But God clave an hollow place that was in the jaw, and there came water thereout; and when he had drunk, his spirit came again, and he revived: wherefore he called the name thereof En-hakkore, which is in Lehi unto this day. 

And he judged Israel in the days of the Philistines twenty years” (Jdg 15:1-20).

Samson and the Philistines

Samson Slaying a Philistine, about 1562, Giambologna (1529-1608).
Archaeologists Find Cultural Connections With Europe In Ancient Jordanian Settlement,
January 24, 2014.

Swedish archaeologists in Jordan led by Professor Peter M. Fischer from the University of Gothenburg have excavated a nearly 60-metre long well-preserved building from 1100 B.C. in the ancient settlement Tell Abu al-Kharaz. The building is from an era characterized by major migration.

New finds support the theory that groups of the so-called Sea Peoples (Philistines) emigrated to Tell Abu al-Kharaz.

They derive from Southern or Eastern Europe and settled in the Eastern Mediterranean region all the way to the Jordan Valley.

“We have evidence that culture from present Europe is represented in Tell Abu al-Kharaz. A group of the Sea Peoples of European descent, Philistines, settled down in the city,” says Peter Fischer.

“We have, for instance, found pottery resembling corresponding items from Greece and Cyprus in terms of form and decoration, and also cylindrical loom weights for textile production that could be found in central and south-east Europe around the same time.”

As the Philistines expanded their territory into the Shephelah, conflict with Israel was inevitable. The tribes of Dan and Judah claimed portions of these rolling hills and the strategic wadis that led up into the heart of Judah.  

The Samson stories portray the struggles between Philistines and Israelites for control of the Shephelah.

Samson was a Danite born at Zorah in the hills flanking the eastern Sorek Valley He married a Philistine  woman from nearby Timnah and later fell in love with Delilah, who came from the same area.  

Betrayed in love, Samson exacted his revenge against the Philistines by slaying thirty men of Ashkelon and setting afire the grain fields surrounding Timnah. 

Although the treachery of Delilah brought him into the hands of his enemies, his famous strength returned a final time to bring the walls of Dagon’s temple crashing down upon the citizens of Gaza.

But Samson’s deeds failed to relieve Philistine pressure upon Dan.  The tribe abandoned its original allotment and migrated north in search of new land. 

Philistine power reached its peak in the mid-eleventh century as they continued to oppress Israel.  Philistine remains at Tell Zeror, Megiddo, Beth-shan, and numerous sites in the Shephelah (Timnah, Lachish, and Beth-shemesh) indicate the scope of the threat posed to Israel.   

The Philistine lords were capable military rulers who coordinated their strategy carefully.  The Philistine army with its chariots, archers, horsemen, and infantry was superior to Israel’s military forces.  

First Samuel 13:19-20 implies that the Philistines maintained a monopoly on  sharpening metal tools, thereby hindering the Israelites from obtaining weapons.

 

 

 

Samson, the Thirteenth Judge – 1137 B.C. & Human Sacrifice in Israel

Since You sent Your angel to tell Samson’s parents about him, is he gonna be like Moses or more powerful than that?

Timnath-heres or Timnath-serah was the town given to Joshua in the Bible.
He requested it and the people gave it to him “at the order of the Lord”.

He built up the town and lived in it (Josh 19:49-50).

On his death, he was buried there (Josh 24:30).

Jewish tradition also places the tomb of Caleb there.

Location:

It was in the mountainous region of Ephraim, north of Mount Gaash.

Some identify the place with Kifl Hares about 30 km southwest of Shechem, located northwest of Ariel.

Etymology:

Mark of grave attributed to Caleb

In Josh 19:49-50 and Josh 24:30, the town is called Timnath-serah, whereas in Jdg 2:9 it is mentioned as Timnath-heres.

The name Timnath-serah signifies in Hebrew an “extra portion” or “portion of abundance”.

Similarly, the name Timnath-heres means “portion of the sun”.

In the book of Josh 24:30; it is written in thirteen different published editions of the Old Testament as Timnath-Heres or some variation of it where the second word begins with an ‘h’, or ‘H’ and ends in ‘s’, either with or without the intermediate dash.

The inversion of “serah” to make “heres”, as sometimes means sun, as in Job 9:7; some Jews observe, the name signifies the figure of the sun, the Jews say was put on his monument, in commemoration of the miracle of the sun standing still for him.

“And Samson went down to Timnath, and saw a woman in Timnath of the daughters of the Philistines. 

And he came up, and told his father and his mother, and said, I have seen a woman in Timnath of the daughters of the Philistines: now therefore get her for me to wife. 

Then his father and his mother said unto him, Is there never a woman among the daughters of thy brethren, or among all my people, that thou goest to take a wife of the uncircumcised Philistines?  And Samson said unto his father, Get her for me; for she pleaseth me well.

But his father and his mother knew not that 1 it was of the LORD, that he sought an occasion against the Philistines: for at that time the Philistines had dominion over Israel.  

To learn more click on the Image.
Israel is the original “old world” wine region. The Middle East and Eastern Mediterranean was the cradle of the world’s wine culture thousands of years before the vine reached Europe.

Wine in the Bible
Wine has been produced in the Land of Israel since Biblical times.

Ancient wine presses and wine making equipment are frequently found in archaeological digs.

Often, these finds have even occurred at new wineries that have opened up only in the past decade.

In fact, wine making is thought to have originated in the area between the Black Sea, Caspian Sea, and Sea of Galilee.

Noah was the first recorded viticulturist who, after the flood, “planted a vineyard.”

As the vine traveled throughout the Middle East and Mediterranean, the Jewish attraction to wine was shown in the developing literature.

In 1800 B.C. there was a communication that the land of Israel was “blessed with figs and with vineyards producing wine in greater quantity than water.”

The prophet Micah’s vision of peace included every person sitting “under his vine and under his fig tree.”

In the book of Numbers, the story is told about how two men sent by Moses to scope out the land of Israel returned with a great cluster of grapes that they had to carry together.

That image is now used by Carmel Winery and the Israeli Tourism Ministry.

The Bible also speaks of the Israelite kings have vast vineyards.

King David’s wine stores were so vast that he had a special official just in charge of his wine.

The vineyards of ancient Israel are mentioned throughout the Bible.

Excavations frequently uncover ancient presses and wine storage vessels from the Golan Heights to the Negev Desert.

Grapes and vines were frequent motifs on coins and jars in ancient times.

Then went Samson down, and his father and his mother, to Timnath, and came to the vineyards of Timnath: and, behold, a young lion roared against him. 

And the Spirit of the LORD came mightily upon him, and he rent him as he would have rent a kid, and he had nothing in his hand: but he told not his father or his mother what he had done. 

And he went down, and talked with the woman; and she pleased Samson well.

And after a time he returned to take her, and he turned aside to see the carcass of the lion: and, behold, there was a swarm of bees and honey in the carcass of the lion. 

And he took thereof in his hands, and went on eating, and came to his father and mother, and he gave them, and they did eat: but he told not them that he had taken the honey out of the carcass of the lion. 

So his father went down unto the woman: and Samson made there a feast; for so used the young men to do.

And it came to pass, when they saw him, that they brought thirty companions to be with him.  And Samson said unto them, I will now put forth a riddle unto you: if ye can certainly declare it me within the seven days of the feast, and find it out, then I will give you thirty sheets and thirty change of garments:

But if ye cannot declare it me, then shall ye give me thirty sheets and thirty change of garments.  And they said unto him, Put forth thy riddle, that we may hear it.

And he said unto them, Out of the eater came forth meat, and out of the strong came forth sweetness.  And they could not in three days expound the riddle. 

And it came to pass on the seventh day, that they said unto Samson’s wife, Entice thy husband, that he may declare unto us the riddle, lest we burn thee and thy father’s house with fire: have ye called us to take that we have?  Is it not so?

And Samson’s wife wept before him, and said, Thou dost but hate me, and lovest me not: thou hast put forth a riddle unto the children of my people, and hast not told it me.  And he said unto her, Behold, I have not told it my father nor my mother, and shall I tell it thee? 

The ritual sacrifice of a ram is depicted in this third-millennium B.C.E. Mesopotamian mosaic.

Ritual Sacrifice in Ancient Israel
Many ancient cultures practiced ritual sacrifice, and ancient sacrifice in Israel was a part of religious worship at the Jerusalem Temple.

While ritual sacrifice is now discouraged in many modern religions–with the ritual sacrifice now often represented by symbolic acts and gestures—ancient sacrifice in Israel and many other ancient cultures was a common part of religious worship.

While ancient sacrifice in Israel was common practice, it wasn’t original to the Hebrews. The most convincing evidence of the practice of ritual sacrifice comes from the much older Mesopotamian civilization.

Ritual sacrifice to the gods in Mesopotamia developed as a means of justifying meat consumption by human beings – a privilege generally reserved for the elite of society – and that by the beginning of the third millennium B.C. ritual sacrifice was understood as a means of feeding the Mesopotamian gods.

Ancient sacrifice in Israel was also a means of sanctifying meat consumption, but it also took on several additional layers of meaning and significance.

Ancient sacrifice in Israel was seen as a method for sanctifying certain human activities and as a way of imparting greater significance to certain rituals.

Animal sacrifice was also a means of redress and was seen as a way of atoning for human transgressions.

And she wept before him the seven days, while their feast lasted: and it came to pass on the seventh day, that he told her, because she lay sore upon him: and she told the riddle to the children of her people.

And the men of the city said unto him on the seventh day before the sun went down, What is sweeter than honey?  And what is stronger than a lion?  And he said unto them, If ye had not plowed with my heifer, ye had not found out my riddle.

And the Spirit of the LORD came upon him, and he went down to Ashkelon, and slew thirty men of them, and took their spoil, and gave change of garments unto them which expounded the riddle.  And his anger was kindled, and he went up to his father’s house. 

But Samson’s wife was given to his companion, whom he had used as his friend” (Jdg 14:1-20).

1 God even uses the sinful weaknesses of men to accomplish His purposes and bring praise to His name (Gen 45:8, 50:20; 2 Chr 25:20; 1 Ki 13:24, 20:36; Josh 11:20; Acts 2:23, 4:28; Rom 8:28-29).

Human Sacrifice in Israel 

Lessinia (Verona, Veneto, italy), vineyards at summer and village with ancient church.

Did the spiritual decline during the days of judges involve human sacrifice, an issue raised by Jephthah’s vow ? 

Before Jephthah went into battle against the Ammonites, he vowed to God that if victorious he would offer as a burnt offering whatever came forth from the doors of his house to meet him upon his return. 

After the victory his only child, a daughtger, rushed out to meet him as he came back home.  There has been endless discussion in biblical literature over this ill-considered vow.

Some argue that Jephthah was a rather wild man, living on the fringes of Israelite religious influence in an area where human sacrifice would have been practiced by pagans.  He had made a vow, and one would expect him to keep it. 

Others argue just as cogently that human sacrifice was an abomination to God, and it is inconceivable that any God-fearing person could have committed such a crime.  They say his daughter was allowed two months to bewail her virginity, not her loss of life.

Lion Wood observes that if he did literally sacrifice his daughter, the place of sacrifice would have been the tabernacle, and no priest would have been willing to officiate. 

He also notes that the latter part of Judges 11:31 may be translated “shall surely be the Lord’s or I will offer it up for a burnt offering” – the first part indicating that Jephthah would have done if a human being had met him and the latter if an animal.

Do you think Jephthah sacrificed his own daughter?  I must say yes because a vow is a vow – If a man vow a vow unto the LORD, or swear an oath to bind his soul with a bond; he shall not break his word, he shall do according to all that proceedeth out of his mouth.

It is true that life is important to God, He is the creator of it, but life on earth is only for a moment.  God allowed Jesus to be sacrificed; yet, He is very much alive, just like Jephthah’s daughter.

The Second Jealousy of Ephraim & Samson

You aren’t joshing when You say a vow is a vow.

A Man Named Ammon
Ben-ammi commonly known as Ammon was the son of an incestuous union of Lot with his younger daughter.

He was the brother of Moab, who was also a child of Lot’s incestuous relationship with his eldest daughter.

Both were conceived after the destruction of Sodom.

Ammon became the ancestor of the Ammonites.

He is on the Biblical Timeline around 1900 B.C.

Just like the Moabites, Ammonites were usually in conflict with the Israelites.

The Bible relates an incident when the Ammonites refused to let the Israelites pass through their land.

They were also mentioned as one of the nations who fought against Judas Maccabeus.

Another incident was when the Ammonites allied with the Moabites in a war against the Israelites.

And the men of Ephraim gathered themselves together, and went northward, and said unto Jephthah, Wherefore passedst thou over to fight against the children of Ammon, and didst not call us to go with thee?  We will burn thine house upon thee with fire. 

And Jephthah said unto them, I and my people were at great strife with the children of Ammon; and when I called you, ye delivered me not out of their hands. 

And when I saw that ye delivered me not, I put my life in my hands, and passed over against the children of Ammon, and the LORD delivered them into my hand: wherefore then are ye come up unto me this day, to fight against me? (Jdg 12:1-3).

Jephthah gathered all his men of Gilead and fought Ephraim, and the Gilead’s smote them, and took the passages of Jordan. Some of Ephraimite’s men escaped, but when they caught up with them they said,

…Let me go over [the Jordan]; that the men of Gilead said unto him, Art thou an Ephraimite?  If he said, Nay;

Then said they unto him, Say now Shibboleth: and he said Sibboleth: for he could not frame to pronounce it right.  Then they took him, and slew him at the passages of Jordan: and there fell at that time of the Ephraimites forty and two thousand (Jdg 12:5-6).

Jephthah judged Israel for six years and died and was buried in one of the cities of Gilead.

After him was Ibzan of Beth-lehem and he had 30 sons and 30 daughters, and he judged Israel for seven years and died and was buried in Beth-lehem.

Israel and Judah were related Iron Age kingdoms of the ancient Levant.
The Kingdom of Israel emerged as an important local power by the 9th century B.C. before falling to the Neo-Assyrian Empire in 722 B.C.

Israel’s southern neighbor, the Kingdom of Judah, emerged in the 8th century and enjoyed a period of prosperity as a client-state of first Assyria and then Babylon before a revolt against the Neo-Babylonian Empire led to its destruction in 586 B.C.

Following the fall of Babylon to the Persian king Cyrus the Great in 539 B.C., some Judean exiles returned to Jerusalem, inaugurating the formative period in the development of a distinctive Judahite identity in the Persian province of Yehud.

Yehud was absorbed into the subsequent Hellenistic kingdoms that followed the conquests of Alexander the Great, but in the 2nd century B.C. the Judaeans revolted against the Hellenist Seleucid Empire and created the Hasmonean kingdom.

This, the last nominally independent Judean kingdom, came to an end in 63 B.C. with its conquest by Pompey of Rome.

With the installation of client kingdoms under the Herodian Dynasty, the Kingdom of Israel was wracked by civil disturbances which culminated in the Jewish Revolt, the destruction of the Temple, the emergence of rabbinical Judaism and Early Christianity.

Elon, a Zebulonite, judged Israel for 10 years, died and was buried in Aijalon in the country of Zebulun.

Abdon, the son of Hillel, a Pirathonite, had 40 sons and 30 nephews.  He judged Israel for eight years, died and was buried in Pirathonite in the land of Ephraim, in the mount of the Amalekites.

And the children of Israel did evil again in the sight of the LORD; and the LORD delivered them into the hand of the Philistines forty years. 

And there was a certain man of Zorah, of the family of the Danites, whose name was Manoah; and his wife was barren, and bare not. 

And the angel of the LORD appeared unto the woman, and said unto her, Behold now, thou art barren, and bearest not: but thou shalt conceive, and bear a son.

Now therefore beware, I pray thee, and drink not wine nor strong drink, and eat not any unclean thing:

For, lo, thou shalt conceive, and bear a son; and no razor shall come on his head: for the child shall be a Nazarite unto God from the womb: and he shall begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines.

Bethlehem
Bethlehem is a Palestinian city located in the central West Bank, neighboring south Jerusalem, with a population of about 25,000 people.

It is the capital of the Bethlehem Governorate of the Palestinian Authority.

The economy is primarily tourist-driven.

The Hebrew Bible identifies Bethlehem as the city of David.

The New Testament identifies Bethlehem as the birthplace of Jesus.

The town is inhabited by one of the oldest Christian communities in the world, although the size of the community has shrunk due to emigration.

Bethlehem was sacked by the Samaritans in 529, but rebuilt by the Byzantine emperor Justinian I.

Bethlehem was conquered by the Arab Caliphate of ‘Umar ibn al-Khattāb in 637, who guaranteed safety for the city’s religious shrines. In 1099, Crusaders captured and fortified Bethlehem and replaced its Greek Orthodox clergy with a Latin one.

The Latin clergy were expelled after the city was captured by Saladin, the sultan of Egypt and Syria.

With the coming of the Mamluks in 1250, the city’s walls were demolished, and were subsequently rebuilt during the rule of the Ottoman Empire.

Then the woman came and told her husband, saying, A man of God came unto me, and his countenance was like the countenance of an angel of God, very terrible: but I asked him not whence he was, neither told he me his name:

But he said unto me, Behold, thou shalt conceive, and bear a son; and now drink no wine nor strong drink, neither eat any unclean thing: for the child shall be a Nazarite to God from the womb to the day of his death.

Then Manoah entreated the LORD, and said, O my Lord, let the man of God which thou didst send come again unto us, and teach us what we shall do unto the child that shall be born. 

And God hearkened to the voice of Manoah; and the angel of God came again unto the woman as she sat in the field: but Manoah her husband was not with her. 

And the woman made haste, and ran, and shewed her husband, and said unto him, Behold, the man hath appeared unto me, that came unto me the other day.

And Manoah arose, and went after his wife, and came to the man, and said unto him, Art thou the man that spakest unto the woman?  And he said, I am. 

And Manoah said, Now let thy words come to pass.  How shall we order the child, and how shall we do unto him? 

And the angel of the LORD said unto Manoah, Of all that I said unto the woman let her beware. 

She may not eat of anything that cometh of the vine, neither let her drink wine or strong drink, nor eat any unclean thing: all that I commanded her let her observe.

And Manoah said unto the angel of the LORD, I pray thee, let us detain thee, until we shall have made ready a kid for thee.

And the angel of the LORD said unto Manoah, Though thou detain me, I will not eat of thy bread: and if thou wilt offer a burnt offering, thou must offer it unto the LORD. For Manoah knew not that he was an angel of the LORD. 

And Manoah said unto the angel of the LORD, What is thy name, that when thy sayings come to pass we may do thee honor?

Lower Gilead Yarmuk Valley
The Yarmuk River is the northern border of Gilead and the southern border of Bashan (modern Golan Heights).

The Yarmuk is never mentioned by name in Scripture.

In the bottom of the valley, on the border of Israel and Jordan, is Hammath Gader, a region of hot springs (hammath) in the district of Gadara.

These baths were built and visitors flocked to the site in the Roman and Byzantine periods.

And the angel of the LORD said unto him, Why askest thou thus after my name, seeing it is secret?  

So Manoah took a kid with a meat offering, and offered it upon a rock unto the LORD: and the angel did wondrously; and Manoah and his wife looked on.

For it came to pass, when the flame went up toward heaven from off the altar, that the angel of the LORD ascended in the  flame of the altar.  And Manoah and his wife looked on it, and fell on their faces to the ground. 

But the angel of the LORD did no more appear to Manoah and to his wife.  Then Manoah knew that he was an angel of the LORD.

And Manoah said unto his wife, We shall surely die, because we have seen God. 

But his wife said unto him, If the LORD were pleased to kill us, he would not have received a burnt offering and a meat offering at our hands, neither would he have shewed us all these things, nor would as at this time have told us such things as these.

Tell el-Husn
Ramoth Gilead has been identified with three sites in close proximity to each other.

Tell er-Rumeith (pictured above) was excavated by Paul Lapp in the 1960s and has Iron Age remains.

Some scholars feel that the site is too small to fit the biblical description.

Tell el-Husn (pictured left) is another possibility, though the Muslim cemetery on top prevents excavation.

A third candidate is er-Ramtha, but the modern city sits on top of this site and makes excavation impossible.

And the woman bare a son, and called his name Samson: and the child grew, and the LORD blessed him. 

And the Spirit of the LORD began to move him at times in the camp of Dan between Zorah and Eshtaol (Jdg 13:1-25).

Samson

Samson and the Lion
by Gleb W. Derujinsky, Russian-American sculptor.

Samson, a member of the tribe of Dan, was one of the Judges of Israel.  He Judged Israel for 20 years. Samson’s mother received a visit from an angel, who told her she would give birth to an unusual son, a Nazirite, and not to cut his hair.  Samson had great strength, he killed a lion with his bare hands,

and later killed 1,000 Philistines with a jawbone of a donkey.  He had romantic encounters with three Philistine women.

He fell in love with one of the women, Delilah.  The five leaders of the Philistine nation went to Delilah, and demanded that she find out from Samson what made him so strong, so they could subdue him.  She eventually found out it was because his hair had never been cut.  While asleep, Samson’s hair was cut off.  Losing his strength, he was captured by the Philistines, who gouged out his eyes, and made him grind grain in prison.

Later, the Philistines stood Samson in the center of a temple during a celebration, his hair had now grown back.  Samson was placed between the two main pillars of the temple.  He asked God to strengthen him one more time “so that I may pay back the Philistines for the loss of at least one of my eyes.”  Then Samson pushed against the pillars with all his might.  “Let me die with the Philistines,” he prayed.

The temple crashed, killing more Philistines at the time of his death, than during his entire lifetime. His brothers brought him back home and buried him between Zorah and Eshtaol, where his father, Manoah was buried.  The story of Samson is found in the Book of Judges, chapters 13-16.  The name Samson means “Little Sun.”

Jephthah, the Ninth Judge & Syria And Lebanon

Don’t You get tired of the Israelites? 

Who’s going to be their next judge?

We learn that Jephthah is a Gileadite who was a mighty Warrior, and the son of a prostitute.

His father’s name was Gilead.

Gilead’s wife had several other sons , when Jephthah’s half-brothers grew up they threw him out of the house telling him,

”You are not going to receive any of our father’s Inheritance.

For you are the son of a prostitute.”

Jephthah then flee’s from his brothers, living in the land of Tob, a district of Syria.

It wasn’t long before he would be followed by a bunch of rebels.

Meanwhile, the Ammonites would began their war against Israel.

“Now Jephthah the Gileadite was a mighty man of valor, and he was the son of a harlot: and Gilead begat Jephthah. 

And Gilead’s wife bare him sons; and his wife’s sons grew up, and they thrust out Jephthah, and said unto him, Thou shalt not inherit in our father’s house; for thou art the son of a strange woman. 

Then Jephthah fled from his brethren, and dwelt in the land of Tob: and there were gathered vain men to Jephthah, and went out with him” (Jdg 11:1-3).

Later, the Ammons attacked Israel so the elders of Gilean ran to Jephthah and asked him to come back and be their captain and fight the Ammons they knew that God was with him.

“And Jephthah said unto the elders of Gilead, Did not ye hate me, and expel me out of my father’s house?  And why are ye come unto me now when ye are in distress?” (Jdg 11:7).

He agreed to go and fight for them as long as he could stay and be in charge after God gave the Ammons to him, and they agreed and even promised God that they would do that.

“And Jephthah sent messengers unto the king of the children of Ammon, saying, What hast thou to do with me, that thou art come against me to fight in my land? 

And the king of the children of Ammon answered unto the messengers of Jephthah, Because Israel took away my land, when they came up out of Egypt, from Arnon even unto Jabbok, and unto Jordan: now therefore restore those lands again peaceably” (Jdg 11:12-13).

He sent more messengers to the king of the Ammons denying it and explained that they had requested to go through the land and they weren’t allowed to do so. 

Also the king of Edom, the king of Moab, king Sihon of the Amories, and the king of Heshbon would not let them go through so God killed them and gave the land to Israel, all the coasts of the Amorites even to Jabbok and from the wilderness to Jordan.

The king of the Ammons said,

“So now the LORD God of Israel hath dispossessed the Amorites from before his people Israel, and shouldest thou possess it?  

Edom – Nahal Zered
The Zered River is believed by most to be Wadi al-Hesa.

There are some difficulties with this identification, but most follow it.

It is 35 miles (55 km) long and 3.5 to 4 miles (5.5 to 6.5 km) wide, and drains into the Dead Sea near the southeastern corner.

The Zered forms the southern border of Moab and the northern border of Edom.

The Israelites crossed the Zered 38 years after they first left Kadesh Barnea (Deut 2:13-14).

Wilt not thou possess that which Chemosh thy god giveth thee to possess?  So whomsoever the LORD our God shall drive out from before us, them will we possess” (Jdg 11:23-24).

“And Jephthah said, Wherefore I have not sinned against thee, but thou doest me wrong to war against me: the LORD the Judge be judge this day between the children of Israel and the children of Ammon” (Jdg 11:27).

Children Sacrificed to Molech
There is a reference to children being sacrificed to Molech in Lev 18:21.

Molech was a large brass idol, that was half man and half bull, with a hollow abdomen.

Its hands were out stretched as if to receive something.

It was a diety of sex and fire for the Ammonites that was very similar to the Moabite god Chemosh.

Fire-gods were common to all the Canaanite, Syrian and Arab tribes, and were worshiped with the most inhuman of rites.

A fire was kindled in the hollow belly until the abdomen glowed with heat.

Priests then took babies and placed them in the red hot hands or belly of Molech where the child screamed out in pain until it finally sucumbed to death.

Molech was also worshiped in Egypt as Amun, or Amun-Ra, “the king of gods”, where the brass idol was heated red hot by fire inside and children were shaken over the flames, passed through the hot arms, or burned alive in order to receive Molech’s favor.

Dancing and sexual activity took place in front of the god while children were burned alive in the hands, or the heated belly of the idol.

The burnt remains of the children were then removed and discarded the following day.

Some Hebrew scholars believe the root word for Molech should be translated “sacrificed as a votive offering” rather than as the proper name, Molech.

Near the ruins of ancient Carthage there is a garden where the remains of thousands of children are buried.

Though most are infants, some remains have been found for children as old as four years.

Each was burned alive as a votive offering to the goddess Tanat.

There was some favor the parents wanted so badly that they were willing to offer this pagan goddess the life of their child in hope of obtaining it.

“Then the Spirit of the LORD came upon Jephthah, and he passed over Gilead, and Manasseh, and passed over Mizpeh of Gilead, and from Mizpeh of Gilead he passed over unto the children of Ammon. 

And Jephthah vowed a vow unto the LORD, and said, If thou shalt without fail deliver the children of Ammon into mine hands,

Then it shall be, that whatsoever cometh forth of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the children of Ammon, shall surely be the LORD’S, and I will offer it up for a burnt offering” (Jdg 11:29-31).

God gave the children of Ammon to him, as well as Aroer, Minnith, and 20 other cities.

“And Jephthah came to Mizpeh unto his house, and, behold, his daughter came out to meet him with timbrels and with dances: and she was his only child; beside her he had neither son nor daughter. 

And it came to pass, when he saw her, that he rent his clothes, and said, Alas, my daughter!  Thou hast brought me very low, and thou art one of them that trouble me: for I have opened my mouth unto the LORD, and I cannot go back.

And she said unto him, My father, if thou hast opened thy mouth unto the LORD, do to me according to that which hath proceeded out of thy mouth; forasmuch as the LORD hath taken vengeance for thee of thine enemies, even of the children of Ammon. 

Ancient Syria covered a substantially larger area than the modern, troubled country.

Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and Israel were all part of this ancient area that is often distinguished by the label “Greater Syria.”

Located between the Mediterranean Sea and the desert, it was an important area mainly because it formed a land-bridge among three continents, Europe, Asia and Africa.

Syria was fertile and also supplied lumber.

Major cities in Syria established by the middle of the second millennium B.C. were Damascus, Aleppo, Hamah, Byblos, Joffa, Homs, Gaza, and Tyre.

And she said unto her father, Let this thing be done for me: let me alone two months, that I may go up and down upon the mountains, and bewail my virginity, I and my fellows.

And he said, Go. And he sent her away for two months: and she went with her companions, and bewailed her virginity upon the mountains. 

And it came to pass at the end of two months, that she returned unto her father, who did with her according to his vow which he had vowed: and she knew no man.  And it was a custom in Israel,

That the daughters of Israel went yearly to lament the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite four days in a year” (Jdg 11:34-)40.

Syria and Lebanon

The term “Levant” describes the habitable land along the eastern Mediterranean coast sandwiched between the Mediterranean Sea on the west and the Syro-Arabian Desert to the east. 

Syria and Lebanon comprised the northern sections of the Levant, while Palestine anchored the southern end.  The Levant served as a land bridge, connecting the great cultural centers located in Mesopotamia and Egypt.

 The modern states of Syria and Lebanon occupy most of the northern Levant today, but portions are in southern Turkey.  The Amanus Mountain (up to 7,000 feet), marked the northern limits of ancient Syria.

Syria was south-west of the Euphrates, and the great city of Carchemish that is on the Euphrates, connected Syria with Assyria by way of Haran (Where Jacob’s Uncle Laban lived) across the steppe land known as Al-Jazirah. 

The Orontes River descends from the Beqa Valley, emptying into the Plain of Antioch (after Jesus was crucified the people here started calling His disciples Christians, that’s how there Christian came about – Acts 11:26 – but the majority of the population believed in other gods). 

Ancient Ugarit, where excavations yielded important religious texts detailing the myths of Baal, was a key Syrian port.  

Antioch, on the Orontes River (Antakya, Turkey).

The Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary has this information:

Principal river of Syria which originates east of the Lebanon ridge (modern Asi [Turkish], Nahr el-’Asi [Arabic]), rises near Heliopolis (Bealbek) in the Beka Valley of Lebanon, and flows north some 250 miles through Syria and Turkey before turning southwest into the Mediterranean south of Antioch-on-the-Orontes (Antakya) to reach the coast just south of ancient Seleucia, the seaport of Antioch.

This river is never actually mentioned in the Bible but was famous for its association with Antioch, which owed to the river the fertility of its district.

Cities of the Orontes Valley include Antioch (Acts 11:19; 13:1), Hamath (2 Sam. 8:9; 2 Kings 17:24; 2 Chr 8:4; Isa. 11:11), Qarqar, where King Ahab of Israel joined a coalition of Syrian kings warring against Shalmaneser III, and Riblah (2 Kgs 23:33; 25:6, 21).

Nahr el-’Asi (rebellious river) is the modern name of the Orontes.

Inland, the International Coastal Highway passed through Hamath, Ebla, and Aleppo, all lying in the valleys and plains east of the mountains. 

Caravans traversed the Syrian Desert along an important route that connected Mari with Damascus (where Paul was going to imprison Christians when Jesus spoke to him from Heaven) by way of Tadmor/Palmyra, one of the great caravan cities of the ancient world.  South and east of this route, travel was virtually impossible.

A depression called the “Horns-Tadmor Corridor” gave access to the Mediterranean Sea near Arvad. 

Damascus, also a great caravan city, was located east of the Anti-Lebanon Mountains (up to 10,000 feet) in an oasis formed by the Barada River (the Abana River in 2 Kgs 5:12) as it flowed eastward from the slopes of the Anti-Lebanon into the army of the Damascus kings, referred to the fresh water of the Abana and Pharpar Rivers that sustained Damascus (2 Kgs 5:1-14).

The identity of the latter river is uncertain, but may refer to the el-Away south of Damascus.

Lebanon was a mountainous enclave tucked between the sea and the desert.  Two high chains of mountains – the Lebanon Mountains (up to 10,115 feet) and the Anti-Lebanon Mountains (up to 10,000 feet) lies at the southern end of the Anti-Lebanon chain. 

The name “Lebanon” comes from a Hebrew root meaning “white,” likely a reference to the snow-capped peaks of the region. 

Cedars of Lebanon (Cedrus libani) was prized throughout the ancient Near East.

The Palermo Stone indicates cedar was imported to Egypt in the reign of the 4th dynasty king Sneferu, ca. 2613-2589 B.C.

One of its primary uses was for boat construction.

The Egyptian tale of Wen-Amun, from ca. the 11th century B.C., recounts the travels of an Egyptian official to Byblos to negotiate for cedar wood.

One of the earliest references to cedar in Mesopotamia comes from the reign of Sargon of Akkad, ca. 2334-2279 B.C.

The mountains were the source of the famous “cedars of Lebanon,” prized throughout the Ancient Near East.  Their great size made the cedars desirable for construction of ships and large public buildings such as temples and palaces. 

Solomon used cedars from Lebanon in his temple and palace (1 Kgs 5:6; 7:11).  The Egyptians covered the cedars, using them for sacred barques (sacred boats used in transporting the image of a god) among other things.  Byblos, port of access for the cedars, shows much Egyptian influence in the second millennium B.C.

The fertile Beqa Valley lies between the Lebanon and Anti-Lebanon Mountains. Well-watered at an elevation of 3,000 feet, the Beqa serves as a watershed for the region. 

The Orontes River flows northward from the Beqa while the Litani River drains the valley southward, curing west to join the sea just north of Tyre, Baal-bek, with its magnificent Roman temples, sits near the middle of the Beqa.

The cultural identity of Syria varied historically; but from at least the beginning of the Iron Age (ca 1200 B.C.), the Arameans increasingly dominated the region.  Aramean kingdoms like Aram-Damascus, Aram-zobah, and Hamath appear repeatedly in the biblical record. 

The Phoenicians inhabited the narrow coast of Lebanon.  The Lebanon Mountains restricted the available agricultural land. 

Lebanon Mountains
Mountain range of western Lebanon.

Together with the Anti-Lebanon Mountains, it defines the geographical boundaries of the modern state of Lebanon, divided by the Bekaa Valley.

It is usually suggested that name of the mountains, and from that, the name of the country are from these mountains.

Snow clad in winter, they may have had their name from luban, Aramaic for “white.”

The length is approximately 160 km, and the highest mountain peak is Qornet es-Sawda, 3,088 meters.

The Lebanon Mountains are dominated by valleys and steep mountain sides.

Phoenicia faced the sea; numerous natural harbors – Tyre, Byblos (Gebal), Sidon, Beyrutus, and Arvad – induced the Phoenicians to take to the sea.  Ultimately, the Phoenicians became perhaps the greatest merchant seafarers of the ancient world.  

Phoenician merchants plied the Mediterranean basin planting colonies (Carthage, Cadiz, and Marseilles) as they went.  Israel developed a close commercial relationship with Phoenicia as early as the time of Solomon.

The Phoenicians needed Israel’s agriculture surplus while Israel profited from a link with Phoenicia’s trading ventures.

Judge Tola & Eastern Plateau (Transjordan)

I’ve noticed that when You get tired of people being wickedly evil You help them.  Some get right with You and others just stop breathing.

Tola Biblical Judge
Tola the son of Puah was a judge of Israel whose reign spanned a total of 23 years.

His reign started after the death of Abimelech.

This is supported by the Biblical Time Line Chart.

Not much was recorded about the life and reign of Tola.

This judge of Israel is actually the least spoken of or recorded judge.

There are no recorded deeds of this Tola.

Tola was buried at Shamir located in Mount Ephraim where he resided until he died.

Dodo of the tribe of Issachar was the grandfather of Tola.

Tola is a Hebrew name that means worm, grub or scarlet.

Biblical Recordings of Tola
Jug 10:1-2.
Tola takes over and leads the charge to defend Israel after the death of Abimelech.

These two verses are the only biblical recordings of Tola.

“And after Abimelech there arose to defend Israel Tola (scarlet-worm) the son of Puah (probably red dye), the son of Dodo, a man of Issachar; and he dwelt in Shamir in mount Ephraim.  And he judged Israel twenty and three years, and died, and was buried in Shamir” (Jdg 10:1-2). 

After him was Jair, a Gileadite, and he judged Israel 22 years, and was buried in Camon.

“And the children of Israel did evil again, and served Baalim, Ashtaroth, the gods of Syria, the gods of Zidon, the gods of Moab, the gods of the children of Ammon, and the gods of the Philistines” (Jdg 10:6).

Fertile Moab
Moab is the land where Ruth lived.

She married one of the sons of Elimelech and Naomi, before following her mother-in-law to Bethlehem.

At the time Judah was experiencing a severe famine, but Moab was apparently receiving more rainfall.

This may be explained by the elevated plateau that Moab is on and/or the response of the Lord to the faithlessness of the Judeans during the days of the Judges.

God was angry and sold them into the hands of the Philistines and to the children of Ammon for 18 years. 

Aside from that, the children of Ammon passed over the Jordan and fought against the people of Judah, Benjamin, and Ephraim, and of course since they walked away from God they didn’t do well. 

And again they cried out to God, but God was fed up with their whining and stabbing Him in the back.

“And the LORD said unto the children of Israel, Did not I deliver you from the Egyptians, and from the Amorites, from the children of Ammon, and from the Philistines? 

The Zidonians also, and the Amalekites, and the Maonites, did oppress you; and ye cried to me, and I delivered you out of their hand. 

Yet ye have forsaken me, and served other gods: wherefore I will deliver you no more. 

1 Go and cry unto the gods which ye have chosen; let them deliver you in the time of your tribulation.

And the children of Israel said unto the LORD, We have sinned: do thou unto us whatsoever seemeth good unto thee; deliver us only, we pray thee, this day. 

And they put away the strange gods from among them, and served the LORD: and his soul was grieved for the misery of Israel.  

Then the children of Ammon were gathered together, and encamped in Gilead.  And the children of Israel assembled themselves together, and encamped in Mizpeh. 

Infernal illustration of Baal
The word Baalim is the Hebrew plural for Baal, the pagan god of nature and fertility.

Usually spelled Baal in English, also sometimes called “Bael”, is one of the seven princes of Hell in Christian demonology.

He is mentioned widely in the Old Testament as the primary pagan idol of the Phoenicians, often associated with the heathen goddess Ashtaroth.

His name is a Northwest Semitic word and title meaning “master” or “lord” which is used for various gods including Hadad who were patrons of cities in the Levant and Asia Minor, cognate to Akkadian Bēlu.

Nevertheless, few if any Biblical uses of Baal refer to Hadad, the lord over the assembly of gods on the holy mount of Heaven, but rather refer to any number of local spirit-deities worshiped as cult images, each called Baal and regarded in the Hebrew Bible in that context as a “false god”.

Baal is a Christian demon who was ranked as the first and principal king in Hell, ruling over the East.

According to some authors Baal is a Duke of Hell, with 66 legions of demons under his command.

The term “Baal” is used in various ways in the Old Testament, with the usual meaning of master, or owner.

It came to sometimes mean the local pagan god of a particular people, and at the same time all of the idols of the land.

It is also found in several places in the plural “Baalim”, or Baals (Jdg 2:11, 10:10).

There were many variations, such as the sun god, the god of fertility, and Beelzebub, or the “lord of flies”.

During the English Puritan period, Baal was either compared to Satan or considered his main assistant.

According to Francis Barrett, he has the power to make those who invoke him invisible, and to some other demonologists his power is stronger in October.

According to some sources, he can make people wise, speaks hoarsely, and carries ashes in his pocket.

While his Semitic predecessor was depicted as a horned man or a bull, the demon Baal was in grimoire tradition said to appear in the forms of a man, cat, toad, or combinations thereof.

An illustration in Collin de Plancy’s 1818 book Dictionnaire Infernal rather curiously placed the heads of the three creatures onto a set of spider legs.

And the people and princes of Gilead said one to another, What man is he that will begin to fight against the children of Ammon?  He shall be head over all the inhabitants of Gilead” (Jdg 10:11-18).

1 This is in the Song of Moses:

“And he shall say, where are their gods, their rock in whom they trusted,

Which did eat the fat of their sacrifices, and drank the wine of their drink-offerings?  Let them rise up and help you, and be your protection. 

See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god with me: I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal: neither is there any that can deliver out of my hand. 

For I lift my hand to heaven, and say, I live forever” (Deut 32:37-40).

Via Nova Traiana, King’s Highway
Two highways ran north to south through Edom and Moab: the King’s Highway (shown here) and the Way of the Wilderness.

The advantage of the King’s Highway was the accessibility of water and food, but its disadvantage was difficult crossings of deep canyons.

The Israelites wanted to pass through Edom on the King’s Highway, but the Edomites forced them to go around, utilizing the Way of the Wilderness (Num 20:17-18; Deut 2:1-8).

After that it was ruled by Argon, the son of Ninus.  His posterity held the kingdom of Lydia for 505 years, or 22 generations.

Each son succeeded his father to the throne until the time of Candaules, the son of Myrsus.

Semiramis, the daughter of Dercetidis, was the wife, first of Menon and later of Ninus.  Diodorus Siculus stated that she reigned for 42 years over all Asia, with the exception of India, and lived 62 years.

Ctesias Cnidos described her noble acts at length, especially those against Strabrobates king of India.  We find this also recorded in Strabo, quoting from Megasthenes, who wrote expressly of the Indian affairs.

Arrian said that she died before she ever came into India. 

Herodotus stated that she constructed very large works around Babylon, whereas formerly the Euphrates River had overflowed all the lower parts of it.  Justin also mentioned Semirarmis and stated:

She built Babylon and walked it round with bricks, laying the stones with brimstone, instead of sand.  This brimstone erupted naturally from the earth everywhere in that area.  

This queen did many other very memorable acts.  Not content to keep her husband’s conquests, she added Ethiopia to her dominions and she also made war on India.  She was the first to enter India and Alexander the Great was next.

All other writers agree that Dionysus or Bacchus conquered all of India.  It was Diordorus and Trogus who falsely reported that this queen enclosed Babylon with wall of brick. 

Strabo also is refuted by the sacred history of Genesis and by Eupolemus.  It was Nebuchadnezzar (you will hear more about him and his pride in the book of Daniel, where God punishes him) and his daughter-in-law, Nectoris, who built the wall of Babylon many years later. 

Ishtar
In Babylonian and Assyrian religion, goddess of fertility, love, war and sex.

She was known for being unreliabe and vengeful.

She was a continuation of the Sumerian goddess, Inanna.

The Babylonians considered her the divine personification of the planet Venus.

Her symbol was a star of 8 points.

Central in her cults was sexuality, and sacred prostitution was an important part of her veneration.

She was noted for many lovers, but her love was fatal, causing destruction or even death.

She was the daughter of Sin, or of Anu.

Her main cult centers were at Nineveh and Arbela.

A ziggurat was built for her in Uruk around 2000 B.C.

The goddess, Astarte, is often suggested to be derived from the myths and ideas of Ishtar.

Erranius notes that Babylon was built 1002 years before Semiramis was born.  If he had said 1022 years, this date would very nearly agree with the Babylonian calendar sent from there by Callisthenes, as reported by Porphyry.

Eusebius stated further that this Sanchuniathon lived in the days of Sermiramis, Queen of the Assyrians, who is said to have lived before the Trojan wars at that time. 

This agreed with Ussher’s account of having her live after the war of Troy by 11 years after reigning for 42 years.

Troy was destroyed by the Greeks 408 years before the first Olympiad (the Latin copy states it was 405 years).

According to Greek chronologers the first Olympiad took place in 776 B.C.  Julius Africanus had reported that Choroebus of Elis won the first race ever ran. 

This is also when, due to mythological happening, Greek history seems to begin.

Eastern Plateau (Transjordan) 

The lands rising sharply to the east of the Jordan Rift form a high plateau or tableland often called Transjordan. 

This plateau, ranging in height from 2,000 to more than 5,000 feet, towers above the Jordan Rift, then slopes gradually eastward to the Syro-Arabian desert.

Four large wadis – Jabbok, Arnon, and Zered – bisect the plateau, carrying the runoff into the rift.  Considerable amounts of rain fall on the plateau as clouds reform in the higher altitudes beyond the rift.

Northern and central sections are well watered (20 to 40 inches in Bashan, 12 to 20 inches in parts of Gilead).

Further south, the encroaching desert restricts rainfall amounts.  The larger cities developed along the important commercial route known as the King’s Highway, which traversed the top of the plateau from the Gulf of Aqabah to Damascu. 

The wadis helped divide the region into four major sections: Bashan, Gilead, Moab, and Edom.

Bashan

Bashan is the northernmost region of the Eastern Plateau.  Lying between the towering slopes of Mount Hermon (9,263 feet; also known as Sirion and Senir [Deut 3:9]) and the Yarmuk River.

Bashan is a fertile land blessed with abundant water and rich volcanic soil.Extinct volcanic cones protrude from the landscape, while oak trees graced portions of the Bashan in biblical times.

Often, Biblical writers referred to the well-fed cattle that grazed in the Bashan.

During the Old Testament period, Israel seldom controlled this region, although portions of Bashan originally were allotted to the half-tribe of Manasseh. 

The Arameans, especially the kings of Damascus, controlled the Bashan from about 900 to 732 B.C.  herod’s son Philip governed this land during the New Testament era when various parts of the region bore the names Gaulanitis, Trachonitis, and Batanea.

Gilead was a mountainous region east of the Jordan River divided among the tribes of Gad and Manasseh, and situated in modern-day Jordan. It is also referred to by the Aramaic name Yegar-Sahadutha, which carries the same meaning as the Hebrew (Gen 31:47). From its mountainous character, it is called “the mount of Gilead” (Gen 31:25). It is called also “the land of Gilead” (Num 32:1), and sometimes simply “Gilead” (Ps 60:9; Gen 37:25). As a whole, it included the tribal territories of Gad, Reuben, and the eastern half of Manasseh (Deut 3:13; Num 32:40). In the Book of Chronicles, Segub controlled twenty-three towns in Gilead (1 Chr 2:21-22). It was bounded on the north by Bashan, and on the south by Moab and Ammon (Gen 31:21; Deut 3:12-17). “Half Gilead” was possessed by Sihon, and the other half, separated from it by the river Jabbok, by Og, king of Bashan.

Gilead

Gilead, a mountainous region noted for its heavy forests in ancient times, stretches south of the Yarmuk to the top of the Dead Sea.  A natural passage links Gilead with the lands west of the Jordan.

Queen Semiramis by KejaBlank
The old sumerian rulers called her Inanna, goddess of vegetation and war.

The Babylonian kings called her Ishtar, the woman of the tower.

The myths tell about Semiramis, the girl that changed into a dove and flew away.

They suggest she was mother and wife of the giant Nimrod at once.

The Bible knows her as the great whore infecting the whole earth with sin.

And that is how she might have looked like.

The Jabbok River (Nahr ez-Zerka), dividing Gilead into two parts, lies opposite the Wadi Farah, which affords easy access to Samaria.

 The Israelite tribes of East Manasseh and Gad, who settled Gilead, thus maintained contact with their kinsmen beyond the Rift. 

The Kingdom of Ammon, centered on Rabbah, occupied the lands bordering the desert southeast of Gilead.  By New Testament times, portions of Perea and the Decapolis fell within Gilead.

Moab

The region due east of the Dead Sea is Moab, a land divided by the deep gorge of the Arnon River (Wadi Mujib).

The southern boundary of Moab is the Zered (Wadi al-Hesa), which separates Moab from Edom.  Precipitous wadis leading to the Dead Sea scour the land, making both travel and settlement difficult along the western edge.

The eastern border of Moab is ill defined as the habitable land blends gradually to desert. 

Between the western scarp and desert lies a plateau where conditions favored sheep-herding and cereal crops.  The story of Ruth the Moabites illustrates the agricultural potential of Moab.

Capital of Moab
Known in the Bible as as Kir, Kir Moab, Kir-Heres(eth), and Hereseth, this site (today Kerak) was the capital city of Moab.

It is situated on an isolated hilltop, with a view in all directions.

The Crusaders recognized the defensible aspect of the site and made Kerak one of their strongest fortresses in the Middle East in 1140 A,D, (pictured).

North fo the Arnon, a high flat tableland, in Hebrew Mishor, provided the best agricultural lands of Moab. 

Golan Heights (Biblical Bashan)
Also known as Batanea, Gaulanitis, Geshur, Karnaim Cows of Bashan, oaks of Bashan, Mount Hermon Cows of Bashan, Oaks of Bashan
Cattle have been raised in this area, in ancient times as well as today.

Both beef and dairy cattle are currently raised in the Golan Heights.

In biblical times, this area (known as Bashan) was known for its cattle and its oak trees.

“Hear this word, ye kine of Bashan, that are in the mountain of Samaria, which oppress the poor, which crush the needy, which say to their masters, Bring, and let us drink.

The Lord God hath sworn by his holiness, that, lo, the days shall come upon you, that he will take you away with hooks, and your posterity with fishhooks” (Amos 4:1-2).

“Howl, fir tree; for the cedar is fallen; because the mighty are spoiled: howl, O ye oaks of Bashan; for the forest of the vintage is come down” (Zech 11:2).

Important cities of the Mishor include Heshbon and Dibon.  Although the Moabites claimed this region, the Israelite tribe of Reuben settled north of the Arnon, leading to frequent hostilities between Israel and Moab over control of this territory.

Edom

South of the Zered, striking red Nubian sandstone mountains deco­rate the land of Edom.  The name Edom comes from the Hebrew word meaning “red.” 

Occasion­ally, underlying granite rocks protrude through the earth’s crust giving the region a more dra­matic visual impact.

Some mountains reach heights in excess of five thousand feet.  Tucked between the desert and the Arabah, Edom is something of a fortress consisting of a narrow band of mountains affording protection to its inhabitants.

Sufficient rainfall occurs in the west­ern area to produce small clumps of juniper, oak, and hawthorn forests.  Seir is another name for Edom although sometimes the name refers to land south of Judah.

The Edomites, descendants of Esau and ancestral enemies of Israel and Judah, built their cities in the rugged mountains of this region.

Bozrah, Capital of Edom
The modern city of Buseirah preserves the name and location of ancient Bozrah, the ancient capital of the Edomites (cf. Isa 34:6; 63:1; Jer 49:13).

The earliest significant remains at Buseireh are from 800 B.C.

It has the largest Iron Age buildings found in Transjordan, among which was perhaps the king’s palace.

Later, the Nabateans carved out of the living rock the city of Petra – a feast of beauty with its mul­ticolored sandstone monuments.   

The Conspiracy of Abimelech & Life in Ancient Palestine (Transjordan)

I guess people are just sinners by nature.

The Temple of Baal-Berith at Shechem
The book of Judges describes the situation at Shechem after the death of Gideon.
Abimelech, the son of Gideon was such a desperate politician that he took money from the Shechemites from the temple of Baal-Berith (Judges 9:4). Dr. Bryant Wood describes the temple of Baal-Berith.
G. Ernest Wright says, “Before 1903 biblical geographers all thought that Shechem was once located where the modern city of Nablus is.” They associated the Roman city of Neapolis with Nablus. The German scholar Herman Thiersch found the walls of “old Shechem” June 26, 1903. He said, “The place is somewhat under cultivation with vegetables and seed-crops.” (G. Ernest Wright, Biblical Archaeologist: Vol. 20 1-4, electronic ed. (Philadelphia: American Schools of Oriental Research, 2001, c1957). This site is identified with the mound of Tell Balata.
The first excavations at Shechem were conducted by Prof. Ernst Sellin in 1913 and 1914. More extensive excavations took place between 1926-1928.

Abimelech went to Shecehm to his mother’s house and his brothers gave him 70 pieces of silver out of the house of Baal-berith. 

He then went to his father’s house at Ophrah and slew his brethren the sons of Jerubaal, being 70 people.  Only Jerubbaal wasn’t killed because he had hid himself.

“And all the men of Shechem gathered together, and all the house of Millo, and went, and made Abimelech king, by the plain of the pillar that was in Shechem.

And when they told it to Jotham he went and stood in the top of mount Gerizim and lifted up his voice, and cried, and said unto them, Hearken unto me, ye men of Shechem, that God may hearken unto you.

The trees went forth on a time to anoint a king over them; and they said unto the olive tree, Reign thou over us.

But the olive tree said unto them, Should I leave my fatness, wherewith by me they honor God and man, and go to be promoted over the trees?

And the trees said to the fig tree, Come thou, and reign over us.

But the fig tree said unto them, Should I forsake my sweetness, and my good fruit, and go to be promoted over the trees?

Then said the trees unto the vine, Come thou, and reign over us.

And the vine said unto them, Should I leave my wine, which cheereth God and man, and go to be promoted over the trees?

Then said all the trees unto the bramble, Come thou, and reign over us.

And the bramble said unto the trees, If in truth ye anoint me king over you, then come and put your trust in my shadow: and if not, let fire come out of the bramble, and devour the cedars of Lebanon.

Now therefore, if ye have done truly and sincerely, in that ye have made Abimelech king, and if ye have dealt well with Jerubbaal and his house, and have done unto him according to the deserving of his hands;

(For my father fought for you, and adventured his life far, and delivered you out of the hand of Midian.

And ye are risen up against my father’s house this day, and have slain his sons, threescore and ten persons, upon one stone, and have made Abimelech, the son of his maidservant, king over the men of Shechem, because he is your brother;)

If ye then have dealt truly and sincerely with Jerubbaal and with his house this day, then rejoice ye in Abimelech, and let him also rejoice in you:

But if not, let fire come out from Abimelech, and devour the men of Shechem, and the house of Millo; and let fire come out from the men of Shechem, and from the house of Millo, and devour Abimelech” (Jdg 9:6-20).

The Killing of Seventy Brothers
According to the Book of Judges, Abimelech went to Shechem to meet with his mother’s brethren and his mother’s father, and claimed that he should be the only ruler over his mother’s brethren and the men of Shechem and not his brothers.
He asked them whether they would prefer to be ruled by seventy rulers or just one, and he claimed them equal brothers. Because Abimelech claimed them his brothers, the men inclined to follow him, and gave him seventy shekels of silver out of the house of Baal Berith.
He and the men went to the house of Gideon which is in Ophrah to kill the seventy sons of Gideon, Abimelech’s brothers. They were killed on the same stone, but only one had escaped, Jotham.
Abimelech Declared King
Since Abimelech was merely a son of Gideon’s concubine, he made good of his claim to rule over Manasseh by killing his half-brothers. Jotham was the youngest brother, and he was the only one to have escaped Abimelech’s wrath.
Abimelech was later declared “king” by the people of Shechem and by the house of Millo next to a pillar within Shechem. When Jotham was told of this news, he went on top of Mount Gerizim and cursed the people of Shechem and the house of Millo for their declaration, then fled to Beer to hide in fear of Abimelech.

And Jotham ran away and went to Beer because he feared Abimelech.  After Abimelech reigned over Israel for three years God sent an evil spirit between Abimelech and the men of Shechem, and the they dealt with him treacherously. 

So that the cruelty he had done to the 70 sons of Jerubbaal might come.  The men of Shechem sat in wait for him in the top of the mountains and whoever came by they robbed.

Gaal, the son of Ebed came with his brethren and went to Shechem, and the men trusted him.

“And Gaal the son of Ebed said, Who is Abimelech, and who is Shechem, that we should serve him?  Is not he the son of Jerubbaal?  And Zebul his officer?  Serve the men of Hamor the father of Shechem: for why should we serve him?

And would to God this people were under my hand! then would I remove Abimelech. And he said to Abimelech, Increase thine army, and come out.

And when Zebul the ruler of the city heard the words of Gaal the son of Ebed, his anger was kindled.

And he sent messengers unto Abimelech privily, saying, Behold, Gaal the son of Ebed and his brethren be come to Shechem; and, behold, they fortify the city against thee.

Now therefore up by night, thou and the people that is with thee, and lie in wait in the field:

And it shall be, that in the morning, as soon as the sun is up, thou shalt rise early, and set upon the city: and, behold, when he and the people that is with him come out against thee, then mayest thou do to them as thou shalt find occasion” (Jdg 9:28-33).

At night, Abimelech and all his people rose up and laid in wait against Shechem in four groups.  When Gaal showed up Abimelech and his men rose up and when Gaal saw them he told Zebul they were coming.

“Then said Zebul unto him, Where is now thy mouth, wherewith thou saidst, Who is Abimelech, that we should serve him? Is not this the people that thou hast despised?  Go out, I pray now, and fight with them.

And Gaal went out before the men of Shechem, and fought with Abimelech.

And Abimelech chased him, and he fled before him, and many were overthrown and wounded, even unto the entering of the gate” (Jdg 9:38-40).

Abimelech when to Arumah, and Zebul threw Gaal and his brethren out of Shechem.  The next day the people went out into the field and told Abimelech. 

He then divided the people into three groups, and laid in wait in the field, and when the people came out of the city Abimelech and his men killed them and then went into the city and killed everyone.

When all the men of the tower of Shechem heard they entered the house of the god Berith, and Abimelech went to Mount Zalmon.  And Abilimech took an axe in his hand and cut down a bough from the trees and laid it on his shoulder. 

He told his people to do what he did, and they did and followed Abimelech.  They then set the fire and people on fire, about 1,000 men and women.

Next they went to Thebez and took it, but there was a strong tower within the city.  Abimelech when to the tower  and tried to burn it down.

“And a certain woman cast a piece of a millstone upon Abimelech’s head, and all to brake his skull.

Then he called hastily unto the young man his armor-bearer, and said unto him, Draw thy sword, and slay me, that men say not of me, A woman slew him.  And his young man thrust him through, and he died.

Millo
The Millo was a structure in Jerusalem referred to in the Hebrew Bible, first mentioned as being part of the city of David in 2 Samuel 5:9 in the Books of Chronicles, and in the Books of Kings.
However it previously seems to have been a rampart built by the Jebusites prior to Jerusalem’s being conquered by the Israelites. The texts also describe the Millo built by Solomon and repaired by Hezekiah, without giving an explanation of what exactly the Millo was: there is therefore some debate among scholars as to the Millo’s specific nature.
The most common assumption among archaeologists and historians of ancient Israel is that the Millo is the Stepped Stone Structure uncovered by Kathleen Kenyon and demonstrated by Eilat Mazar to be connected to the recently uncovered Large Stone Structure.
Archeology
A recent excavation by Eilat Mazar shows that the structure connects with and supports the Large Stone Structure. Mazar presents evidence that the Large Stone Structure was an Israelite royal palace in continuous use from the tenth century until 586 BC.
Her conclusion is that they are parts of a single, massive royal palace which makes sense of the biblical reference to the millo as the House of Millo in II Kings 12:20 and II Chronicles 24:25 as the place where King Joash was assassinated in 799 BC while he slept in his bed.

And when the men of Israel saw that Abimelech was dead, they departed every man unto his place.

Thus God rendered the wickedness of Abimelech, which he did unto his father, in slaying his seventy brethren.

And all the evil of the men of Shechem did God render upon their heads: and upon them came the curse of Jotham the son of Jerubbaal” (Jdg 9:53-57).

For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.  Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus (Rom 3:23).

Life in Ancient Palestine (Transjordan) 

Map of Palestine/Canaanite
Though a small region, the map of Palestine is littered with different geographical regions.

The Coastal Plain runs right off of the Mediterranean coastline.

The coast produced few natural harbors.

In fact, the coastline was mostly sand dunes and hard limestone ridges, thus uninhabitable. As a result of these geographical features, these people were not great seafarers.

Ancient Israel only occupied parts of this area in times of military and political might.

The Jezreel Valley is considered by many to be an extension of the Coastal Plain.

It is a very important feature of Palestine geography.

Ancient routes permeated the Jezreel, making it a strategic location in Palestine.

A map of the Palestine and its diverse geography.

The valley’s strategic importance can be seen on any map of Palestine.

It led to the heartland of Canaan, and sat amidst influential trading routes.

Great cities in antiquity, such as Megiddo, and Ibleam, sat in this valley.

These cities guarded passes through Mount Carmel, thus they were of strategic interest.

The valley was fed by numerous springs, and produces an abundance of crops.

Barley and wheat are the specialized crops of the area.

The valley will occasionally flood, and can create marshes.

The major area in Biblical history concerns the Western Mountains.

This mountain range stretches the length of Palestine.

Only the Jezreel Valley interrupts this chain.

The Western Mountains range anywhere from 1,500 to 4,000 feet in height.

These mountains divide the map of Palestine into three regions: from south to north these regions are; Judah, Samaria, and Galilee.

People today have great difficulty understanding life in ancient societies.  Our urban world of computers, advanced technology, and heavy industry separates us decisively from that of ancient people.

Their world centered village, and their livelihood came primarily from agriculture and herding of animals (pastoralism). The seasons of the year determined the pace of life; changes occurred slowly

Although the coming of Greece and Rome altered society in some ways, life in Palestine tended to be tied closely to the land – essentially rural agrarian.

Location of Settlements

Palestine was not a land of large cities, like Babylon or Ur.   Most settlements were small villages or towns that sprang up where four factors essential to habitation – water, food, defense, and transportation – converged.   

An adequate water supply was a primary concern in a land not blessed with an abundance of water.  Springs, small rivers, and wells usually met this need, although the development of cisterns to catch store rainwater permitted towns to be established apart from sources of water.

Security, likewise, was a basic necessity.  A preference for a place easily fortified was a marked feature of site selection, at least until the Graeco-Roman Period. Since villages and towns depended on a ready food people settled near good farming land. 

Finally, a location on or near trade routes gave an outlet for surpluses and access to goods available locally.

Sites especially favored by these four elements were occupied for centuries, even millennia.  When a city was abandoned or destroyed, people returned to build again.  

Stela of Khu-Sebek.
He is shown seated, accompanied by members of his family, his nurse, and the superintendent of the cabinet.

Discovered by British archaeologist John Garstang at Abydos, Egypt, in 1901, the stela is now on display in the museum of the University of Manchester, England.

Over the years the debris, held in place by fortification walls, arose in the form of flat-topped mounds that archaeologists term “tells” (or “tels”).

Most tells were quite small, less than 10 acres. The Philistine city Ekron, covering 50 acres, was among the largest tells in Palestine.

Hazor covered 30 acres, although its “Lower City” increased the Canaanite city to 200 acres in size, the largest site in Palestine prior to Graeco-Roman times.

Some cities, such as Hazor, Megiddo, Samaria, and Jerusalem, possessed such strategic, political, or economic importance that they grew larger.

Smaller villages and towns depended on their larger neighbors for protection in times of distress and as markets for goods.

The Assyrian kings pursued three military objectives in their campaigns: 

1) to establish a security zone protecting the Assyrian heartland;

2) to gain and maintain control of vital trade routes; and 

3) to ensure access to necessary raw resources (timber, metals, and horses). In addition, Assyrian kings fought for the glory and prestige of Ashur, the national Assyrian god, whose rightful domain was all the earth.

The first phase of Assyrian expansion began with Ashur-dan (934-912 B.C.).  He consolidated his authority and began to establish control over the Assyrian plain.

His successors, Adad-nirari II (911-891 B.C.) and Tukulti-ninurta II (890-884 B.C.), campaigned against Aramean states in the west and mountain tribes in the north.

These forays prepared the way for more ambitious campaigns led by shurnasirpal (883-859 B.C.) and his son Shalmaneser III (859-824 B.C.). 

Hazor
The first settlement of Hazor, in the third millennium B.C. (Early Bronze Age), was confined to the upper city.

The lower city was founded in approximately the 18th century B.C. (Middle Bronze Age) and continued to be settled until the 13th century (the end of the Late Bronze Age) when both the upper and lower city were violently destroyed.

Canaanite Hazor is mentioned on several occasions in external records: it is first mentioned in the 19th century B.C. in the Egyptian Execration texts and is the only Canaanite site mentioned in the archive discovered in Mari (18th century B.C.).

The Mari documents clearly demonstrate the importance, wealth and far-reaching commercial ties of Hazor.

There are also several references to Hazor in records of the military campaigns conducted by the Egyptian Pharaohs, during the 15th – 14th centuries B.C.

According to the Biblical narrative, Jabin, the King of Hazor, headed a coalition of Canaanite cities against the advancing Israelites, led by Joshua.

The Israelites won the battle and Joshua burned and ravaged the city.

Evidence of this violent destruction by burning was discovered in various areas of excavation of the site.

Another Israelite battle, this time against a Canaanite army led by Sisera, Jabin’s general, is described in the Book of Judges.

There followed sporadic occupation during the time of the Judges.

A six chambered gate and casemate wall of the 10th century B.C. can most probably be attributed to King Solomon during whose reign only the western part of the upper city was occupied. In the 9th century B.C. most probably under King Ahab, the city expanded.

Hazor suffered repeated destruction, as a result of both the Aramean and Assyrian invasions.

It was finally destroyed by the Assyrian King Tiglath-Pilesser III, who, in 732 B.C. conquered the entire area of Galilee in a campaign that marked the beginning of the end of the independence of the Northern Kingdom of Israel.

Ashurnasirpal II

Ashurnasirpal II campaigned vigorously to the east, north, and west, establishing a large security zone for Assyria.

Ashurnasirpal II, King of Assyria (883-859 B.C.), whose name (Ashur-nasir-apli) means, ‘the god Ashur is the protector of the heir’, came to the Assyrian throne in 883 B.C.

He was one of a line of energetic kings whose campaigns brought Assyria great wealth and established it as one of the Near East’s major powers.

Ashurnasirpal mounted at least fourteen military campaigns, many them were to the north and east of Assyria.

Local rulers sent the king rich presents and resources flowed into the country.

This wealth was ploughed into impressive building works undertaken in a new capital city created at Kalhu (modern Nimrud).

Here a citadel mound was constructed and crowned with temples and the so-called North-West Palace.

Military successes led to further capaigns, this time to the west, and close links were established with states in the northern Levant.

Fortresses were established on the rivers Tigris and Euphrates and staffed with garrisons.

By the time that Ashurnasirpal died, in 859 B.C., Assyria had recovered much of the territory that it had lost around 1100 B.C. as a result of the economic and political problems at the end of the Middle Assyrian period.

He employed brutal tactics against rebellious leaders, setting a pattern of psychological warfare that was followed by succeeding kings of Assyria.  

His subjugation of the powerful Aramean state Bit-adini (the Beth-eden of Amos 1:5) paved the way for a victorious march to the Mediterranean Sea by way of Carchemish into Syria, where he received tribute from cities as far south as Tyre.

Ashurnasirpal rebuilt Calah (Nimrud) on a massive scale, complete with his personal palace.  

From here Assyrian armies marched out in a great arc westward through the Habor region to the Euphrates River and then along the Euphrates to the border of Babylon, collecting tribute and punishing rebellious vassals, a pattern repeated many times in the next 200 years.

Shalmaneser III

Shalmaneser III continued his father’s policy of expansion.  His annals record six campaigns in the west between 853 and 838 B.C.  Though unmentioned in the Bible, Shalmaneser’s first western campaign in 853 B.C. brought him to battle with Ahab of Israel.

Ahab was part of a large coalition of Levantine states formed to oppose Assyrian expansion.  According to an Assyrian inscription.

Shalmaneser engaged the coalition in battle at Qarqar in northern Syria.  Though he claimed a great victory, Shalmaneser may have suffered sufficient losses to prevent any immediate expansion southward.  

Later campaigns, however, took him as far south as Mount Carmel.  In 841 B.C. he took tribute from Jehu and other kings of the southern Levant.

The Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser shows Jehu prostrate before the Assyrian king. Shalmaneser also campaigned northwest into the Nairi lands, maintaining control of routes leading into Cilicia with its rich iron deposits. 

Assyria’s Temporary Decline

Assyria reached unprecedented heights during the reign of Shalmaneser III. However, his death in 824 B.C. led to a prolonged period of Assyrian weakness that lasted until 745 B.C.

Several factors caused this decline in Assyrian power. The successors of Shalmaneser III were quarrelsome and not particularly effective.  Local governors assumed more power, provoking social unrest.  

Moreover, the kingdom of Urartu contested Assyrian control of the northwest regions, including the Upper Euphrates, thus threatening key trade routes.  Consequently, Assyrian power waned as did the frequency of Assyrian campaigns in the west.

An Assyrian winged bull, or lamassu, from Sargon’s palace at Dur-Sharrukin.
Sargon II waged war in his second year (721 B.C.) against the king of Elam, Humban-Nikash I, and his ally Marduk-apal-iddina II (the biblical Merodach-Baladan), the Chaldean ruler of Babylon, who had thrown off Assyrian rule (2 Kings 20:12), but Sargon was unable to dislodge him on this occasion, as told in ABC 1 Col.1:31-37.

Sargon, able to contain the revolt but not actually retake Babylon on this occasion, turned his attention again to Urartu and Aramea, taking Carchemish in 717, as well as re conquering the Medes, Persians and Manneans, penetrating the Iranian Plateau as far as Mount Bikni and building several fortresses.

Urartu suffered a crushing defeat, its capital city was sacked and its king Rusas committed suicide in shame.

The neo Hittite states of northern Syria were conquered, as was Cilicia and Commagene.

Assyria was belligerent towards Babylonia for ten years while Marduk-apla-iddina ruled Babylon (ABC 1 Col.1:41-42).

In 710 BC, Sargon attacked Babylonia and defeated Marduk-apla-iddina, who fled to his protectors in Elam (ABC 1 Col.2:1-3).

As a result of this victory the Greek rulers of Cyprus gave allegiance to Assyria and king Midas of Phrygia, fearful of Assyrian power, offered his hand in friendship.

Sargon also built a new capital at Dur Sharrukin (“Sargon’s City”) near Nineveh, with all the tribute Assyria had collected from various nations.

The exception to this rule was Adad-nirari III (810-783  B.C.). He led campaigns westward against Arpad in northern Syria and later against Damascus. The later campaign may have relieved Aramean pressure upon Israel.

The Bible describes a “savior” who delivered Israel from Damascus in the reign of Jehoahaz (2 Kgs. 13:5). Perhaps this “savior” was Adad-nirari III.

Recovery of Israel and Judah

Shortly after 800 B.C. Israel and Judah enjoyed a lengthy period of prosperity and peace.  With little Assrian interference and the stable reigns of Jeroboam II (786-746 B.C.) and Uzziah (783-742 B.C.), both countries expanded their influence and benefited materially.  

Jeroboam “restored the border of Israel from the entrance of Hamath as far as the Sea of the Arabah” (2 Kgs. 14:25), apparently recovering influence northward at the expense of the Aramean states of Damascus and Hamath.

Likewise, in Judah, Uzziah (Azariah) recovered control of the Red Sea port of Elath against Edomite pressure, received tribute from Ammon, and captured cities in Philistia – Gath, Ashdod, and Jabneh (2 Chr. 26).

Statue of Shalmaneser III
Shalmaneser III conducted a series of military campaigns against the eastern tribes.

In 853 B.C. Shalmaneser III lost the Battle of Qarqar (in northwest Syria near the Mediterranean Sea), where he faced a coalition of Egypt, Hamath, Arvad, the Ammonites, and “Ahab of Israel.”

Yes, King Ahab of Israel’s Northern Kingdom .

A seven foot tall monument was discovered by John George Taylor in 1861 called the Kurkh Stela (a round topped stone or wooden slab, generally taller than it is wide).

Tiglath-pileser III

The accession of Tiglath-pileser III (745-727 B.C.) to the Assyrian throne in 745 B.C. marked a new, more aggressive phase of Assyrian expansion.

Tiglath-pileser, or “Pul” as he also was known in the Bible, turned chronically troublesome vassal states into Assyrian provinces.  He also deported rebellious populations and replaced them with foreign captives imported from other areas.

This policy, often practiced by later Assyrian kings, dampened nationalistic fervor among Assyria’s enemies.  Yet Assyrian policy still favored extending Assyrian power through compliant native vassal rulers who received the promise of Assyrian military support in exchange for loyalty, logistical support for the Assyrian army, and yearly tribute. 

Tiglath-pileser reasserted Assyrian control in the west.  Urartu had long fostered anti-Assyrian unrest in Syria.  Tiglath-pileser campaigned westward to break Urartian influence and also brought direct military pressure on Urartu itself.

Rebellious provinces were annexed, while kings of vacillating areas quickly rendered tribute.  By 738 B.C. Menahem of Israel had yielded allegiance to Assyria (2 Kgs 15:18-20).

Tiglath-pileser dealt ruthlessly with other anti-Assyrian plots in the west. Moreover, in 729 B.C.

Tiglath-pileser conquered Babylon, where Aramean and Chaldean elements threatened to create an independent kingdom free of Assyrian influence.  Generally speaking, the reign of Tiglath-pileser signaled the coming of age of a new imperial power whose tentacles none of the Near East could escape.  

A resurgent Assyria led by Tiglath-pileser III soon threatened Israel and Judah. With the deaths of Jeroboam II and Uzziah, neither Judah nor Israel possessed the leadership to negotiate successfully the troubled waters ahead.  

Israel and Judah were related Iron Age kingdoms of the ancient Levant.

Kingdom of Israel emerged as an important local power by the 9th century B.C. before falling to the Neo-Assyrian Empire in 722 B.C.

Israel’s southern neighbor, the Kingdom of Judah, emerged in the 8th century and enjoyed a period of prosperity as a client-state of first Assyria and then Babylon before a revolt against the Neo-Babylonian Empire led to its destruction in 586 B.C.

Following the fall of Babylon to the Persian king Cyrus the Great in 539 B.C., some Judean exiles returned to Jerusalem, inaugurating the formative period in the development of a distinctive Judahite identity in the Persian province of Yehud.

Yehud was absorbed into the subsequent Hellenistic kingdoms that followed the conquests of Alexander the Great, but in the 2nd century B.C. the Judaeans revolted against the Hellenist Seleucid Empire and created the Hasmonean kingdom.

This, the last nominally independent Judean kingdom, came to an end in 63 B.C. with its conquest by Pompey of Rome.

Six kings from five different families ruled Israel from 746-722 B.C. after the death of Jeroboam; most were assassinated in office.  Faithless Ahaz (735-715 B.C.) brought Judah into Assyrian vassalage.  

Only Hezekiah steered a course of independence, although he and his Judean citizens paid a great price for their action.  

Tiglath-pileser’s western campaigns affected Israel by 738 B.C. when Menahem paid tribute to Assyria (2 Kgs. 15:19-20).

Perhaps Menahem displayed anti-Assyrian tendencies that caught Tiglath-pilesers attention.

Tiglath-Pileser III
In 745 B.C., Tiglath-Pileser III became the new king came to the throne of Assyria, who would make it into an empire under absolute rule.

He was also the first outside power to intervene militarily in a war between the kingdoms of Israel and Judah.

Tiglath-Pileser III came to power in a palace coup and killed every member of the royal family to which Ashur-dan III had belonged.

He called himself Ashur-Dan’s grandson, but more likely he had no such relationship.

Possession, even by conquest, was nine points of the law of succession in ancient times.

As soon as he was secure in his throne, Tiglath-Pileser was determined to weaken the power of the noblemen of the court, and to transform his by-now very weak kingdom into an empire.

Assyrian inscriptions also mention an Azariah – perhaps Uzziah of Judah, but this is debated – who resisted the Assyrian advance and, likewise, paid the consequences.  By 738 B.C. all of Syria and Palestine felt the Assyrian yoke.

Syro-Ephraimite War

Anti-Assyrian sentiment flared again, apparently fanned by Rezin, king of Damascus.  Rezin organized an anti-Assyrian coalition that included Pekah of Israel, certain Philistine city-states, and perhaps Edom.

Judah, first under Jotham and then Ahaz, refused to join the coalition even in the face of military pressure.  Damascus and Israel besieged Jerusalem (the “Syro-Ephraimite War”) in 735 B.C. with the intent of replacing Ahaz with a king willing to join the coalition (2 Kgs 16:5; Isa. 7:1-14).

Ahaz, an Assyrian vassal, appealed to Tiglath-pileser for help, resulting in a three-pronged Assyrian attack against the coalition.  In 734 B.C. Tiglath-pileser campaigned along the Mediterranean coast as far south as Gaza.  

This move punished the rebellious Philistine states and checked any support Egypt might give to the coalition.  

Then in 733 B.C. the Assyrian armies marched against Israel, moving down the Huleh Basin taking key cities fortifying the northern approaches: Ijon, Abel-beth-maacah Janoah, Kedesh, and Hazor (2 Kgs 15:29).Assyrian forces ranged throughout Israel taking many captives for deportation.  ABotu 80% of Israel was divided into four New Assyrian provinces (Dor, Megiddo, and Karnaim).Pekah was killed by Hoshea, who subsequently became king of a much-reduced Israel centered on Samaria.  In 732 B.C Tiglath-pileser attacked Damascus and converted the conquered kingdom to an Assyrian province.  

These campaigns greatly reduced Israel and plunged Judah deeper into Assyrian bondage (2 Kgs 16:10-19; 2 Chr 28).

Fall of Samaria

Shalmaneser V (727-722 B.C.) reigned only briefly upon the death of Tiglath-pileser III; he left very few remains.  During Shalmaneser V’s reign, Hoshea rebelled agaisnt Assyria with the expectation of Egyptian aid (2 Kgs 17:1-4).

Khorsabad Inscriptions
As was the custom of Assyrian kings, Sargon II (721-705 B.C.) inscribed his annals in word and picture on stone slabs that lined the palace walls.

Perhaps Tefnakhte, the founder of the 24th Egyptian Dynasty, stirred up the revolt in fear of Assyrian incursions further south.  The rebellion probably was more widespread and may have involved Phoenician cities. 

Shalmaneser responded by besieging Samaria for three years until the city fell in 722 B.C. (2 Kgs 17:5-6).  Though Sargon II (722-705 B.C.), successor to Shalmaneser V, claims credit for the capture of Samaria, the Bible implies that Shalmaneser was primarily responsible for the final destruction of the Northern Kingdom Israel (2 Kgs 17:5). 

Hanunu of Gaza, shown on his knees in front of Tiglath-pileser III, formally submits to the king of Assyria.
Stone relief from the wall decoration of Tiglath-pileser’s palace at Kalhu.

During the reign of Tiglath-pileser III (744-727 B.C.) the city of Gaza was ruled by Hanunu.

In 734 B.C., faced with the advancing Assyrian army, Hanunu fled to neighboring Egypt, control over which was then split between a number of dynasts in the Delta and the kingdom of Kush in the south.

Historically and economically, Gaza and the Nile Delta enjoyed a close relationship and we can safely assume that Hanunu was seeking protection against Tiglath-pileser.

However, no help was forthcoming and Hanunu eventually returned to his city.

During Sargon’s early reign many Israelites were deported and resettled in the         upper Habor Valley (Gozan), near Nineveh at Halah, and as far away as Media (2 Kgs 17:6; 1 Chr 5:26).Sargon’s inscriptions mention 27,290 captives taken from Israel. Captive peoples from the area of Babylon (Cuthah) and Syria (Hamath and Sepharvaim) were resettled in Samaria (2 Kgs 17:24).  

Some Israelites fled southward, seeking refuge in Jerusalem, but most had to suffer the indignity of Assyrian occupation in the newly formed Assyrian province of Samaria.