Queries & Comments
If Stephen Vaneck (“Sunday School Fairy Tales,” Queries & Comments BAR 28:03) is correct that the first 11 chapters of Genesis are “folklore and borrowed myth,” then he certainly must add Jesus to his list of whiners. Jesus clearly articulated the historicity of the Bible, and he taught that Adam and Eve were our first parents.
Vaneck, listen carefully to the greatest teacher in the world and accept his word on the matter.
Rev. Glenn C. Welsford
Columbia, South Carolina
No, I am not canceling my subscription. I like hearing all sides of an argument.
Rev. Kenneth D. Vogts
Director of Communications and Church Relations
Concordia University Wisconsin
Zertal a Top Lecturer
I was delighted to read Adam Zertal’s “Philistine Kin Found in Early Israel,” BAR 28:03. It reminded me of his lecture on the Shardana that he gave in Omaha. His lecture style is a cross between Ben-Gurion and Mel Brooks. My only regret is that during his lecture Professor Zertal hid his crutches. There is no shame in having been a soldier for one’s country. [Zertal’s legs were badly injured during the Yom Kippur War of 1973.—Ed.]
Zertal’s Woeful Linguistics
You should save your readership from linguistic nonsense perpetrated by archaeologists who have no proper linguistic or Biblical training. The current case in point is Adam Zertal’s convoluted arguments about the identification of Khirbet el-Ahwat with Biblical Harosheth-hagoiim (Judges 4:2, 13, 16).
Zertal admits that in antiquity the rocky slopes on which Khirbet el-Ahwat is located “were covered with a forest.” It is still a difficult location to reach, even with an SUV, much less with a battle chariot. Zertal also agrees that “Shardana chariots … were only effective on the plain and not in hilly terrain.”
The Biblical statements, however, are clear:
Sisera [the supposed Shardana commander] called together all his chariots, nine hundred iron chariots, and all the people who [were] with him, from Harosheth-hagoyim to the River Kishon (Judges 4:13).
But Barak [the Israelite general] pursued the chariots and the army as far as Harosheth-hagoyim, and all the army of Sisera fell by the edge of the sword; not even one was left (Judges 4:16).
Clearly, Sisera and his chariot force were at Harosheth-hagoiim. They started out from there and they fled back there with the Israelites in hot pursuit. The idea that this chariot force was located at Khirbet el-Ahwat is totally ridiculous!
Even more comical is Zertal’s attempt at a scholarly linguistic discussion. He cites an old article by the late Benjamin Mazar (his footnote cites the 1975 reprint; the original was published several decades earlier; it appeared in English translation in 1986). Mazar argues that Harosheth was related to the Biblical word h
Mazar also based his interpretation of the term as “forest” on one Greek rendering that appears in the Alexandrinus manuscript tradition, where the Hebrew Harosheth-hagoiim is rendered by Greek drumos, “wood, forest.”b But Greek drumos appears only in Judges 4:16, “And Barak chased after the chariots and after the army as far as the woods of the gentiles …” In Judges 4:2 and 4:13 even the Alexandrinus tradition has the same rendering (simply “Harosheth-hagoiim”) as all the other, much older, manuscript traditions. It is a difference between what the original translators [into Greek—Ed.] understood in the third century B.C. and what a later scholar (in one verse only) thought in the second century A.D., at least 500 years later.
What did the original Jewish translator of Judges into Greek think about the Hebrew term Harosheth-hagoiim? He took it as a proper noun and transcribed it into Greek letters.c In the third 012century B.C. he understood Harosheth-hagoiim as “The good cultivable land of the gentiles.” Broad, open fields would be ideal as a place to assemble chariots.
The term Harosheth-hagoiim does not appear in Judges 5, the “Song of Deborah” [a poetic rendition of the same event—Ed.]. Instead, the battle is described as follows:
The kings came, they fought; Then fought the kings of Canaan; At Taanach near the waters of Megiddo, they took no reward of silver.
The great plain to the east of Megiddo, toward Taanach on the south and Shunem on the north, was an ideal assembly ground for large military forces. The Canaanite coalition waited there for Thutmose III in 1457 B.C.; Amenhotep II rested his troops there in 1418 B.C. after a tiring campaign; there was normally a unit of the regular Egyptian army (not auxiliaries like the Sherdanu) there during the Amarna period (14th century B.C.); King Josiah waited there in the seventh century B.C. for the approaching Pharaoh Necho; Emperor Hadrian in the second century A.D. established a base there for his legion and the place was called the Plain of Legio thereafter (hence, modern Khirbet Lajun).
The Song of Deborah makes it plain that the kings of Canaan had expected to receive rewards of spoil for their efforts (cf. Judges 5:30). But at their customary assembly grounds by Megiddo and Tanaach, they did not enjoy a victory celebration and the apportioning of rewards. Instead their chariots bogged down in the mud facing Mt. Tabor, and the torrent of the flooded Kishon swept them away (Judges 5:21).
I refer the interested reader to the appropriate maps in the fourth edition of the Carta Bible Atlas (2002).
So there is absolutely nothing to support Zertal’s proposed identification of Khirbet el-Ahwat with Biblical Harosheth-hagoiim.
As for Zertal’s other arguments, his archaeological finds at el-Ahwat could suggest an outpost of mercenaries under Egyptian rule. Those mercenaries could have come from the Aegean area, that is, they could have been from among the Sherdanu. There is good reason to suspect that the name Sherdan/Serdan relates to the ancient city name of Sardis, but this is not proven. The Sikels came with the Philistines and the other Sea Peoples to invade Egypt, and they settled at Dor. Later, some of their cousins migrated west instead of east and settled in Sicily. Some Sherdan people may also have gone west and settled in Sardinia. But these movements may be separated by centuries for all we know.
The name Sisera is still an enigma. Zertal’s speculations are just that. However, it is not impossible that the name is of Aegean origin. That Sisera is not mentioned after this episode might suggest that he is a foreigner, but again, nobody knows.
Anson F. Rainey
Emeritus Professor of Ancient Near Eastern Cultures and Semitic Linguistics, Tel Aviv University
Adjunct Professor of Historical Geography, Bar Ilan University, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and Jerusalem University College
Adam Zertal responds:
The identification of Harosheth ha-Goyim is far from being solved. My identification grew from the excavations at el-Ahwat and its Sardinian architecture, its Shardana elements, the Sisera-Sassari connection and details in the Song of Deborah. History, archaeology and Biblical literature came together beautifully. True, problems remain: The topography around el-Ahwat is harsh for chariots, but the Egyptians dismantled their chariots in rugged terrain and transported them on horseback; when they reached a plain, they reassembled the chariots. Also, the Egyptians kept chariots, their most important weapon, only in fortified cities such as el-Ahwat.
Not an Exact Match
It is because you publish articles by such pioneering archaeologists as Adam Zertal that I make a point of purchasing your publication.
His assertion that the ruins at el-Ahwat are related to the nuragic structures of Sardinia is probably correct, though the ruins at el-Ahwat differ in a number of respects from the structures dated to the Sardinian Bronze Age. The square tower to the west of el-Ahwat’s city walls is unlike nuragic towers, which are conical. The Sardinian communities usually consist of round stone towers and other circular buildings, which in later periods were surrounded by an outer defensive wall. At sites like Su Nuraxi and Santu Antine, a large central tower is closely linked to other towers within another broad inner wall. This is not the case at el-Ahwat. Most of the towers are incorporated into the ramparts, while other towers stand outside the wall. The house walls within the main walls are predominantly angular (unlike most of their Sardinian counterparts), and the main house, the “Governor’s house,” is a rectangle.
The ruins at el-Ahwat are also somewhat reminiscent of the Mycenean citadel Tiryns in its general outline as well as having corridors built into its circuit walls. Could el-Ahwat represent a synthesis of Aegean, Achean and nuragic elements, plus some on-the-spot innovations?
Adam Zertal responds:
Mr. Manning is right that the ruins at el-Ahwat differ from nuragic (Bronze Age) Sardinia. I believe the Shardana brought nuragic architectural elements to the countries they settled, and that el-Ahwat is a mixture of local elements (the “Governor’s house,” for example) and foreign elements (corridors, tholoi buildings, the irregular shape of the town). This is typical of immigrants; I assume that the settlers at el-Ahwat were third or fourth generation immigrants who retained remote architectural memories from their homeland. This is the case with the Shardana mercenaries in the Levant (see their colonies in Crete and Ugarit, and later in Egypt).
In his response to my questioning his “The Babylonian Gap,” BAR 26:06 (“There Was No Gap,” BAR 28:03), Ephraim Stern disqualified me as a critic of his published work on the grounds that I am not a professional archaeologist and that I quote scholars who died decades ago.
The second indictment is hard to take, since I systematically compared his results with those of authors in the two most recent encyclopedias of archaeology in the region, one of which Stern himself edited. All of these authors were, or are, directly involved in archaeology in the region, many of them had excavated the sites about which they wrote, and few if any had died decades ago. In most of the cases cited, their conclusions disagreed with those of Professor Stern.
As for the other disqualification, one does not need to be a professional 014archaeologist to know that Tyre was not taken and destroyed by Nebuchadrezzar.
Archaeology is a branch of history. The archaeologist, like the historian, must be prepared to publish his results—preferably with supporting documentation—and take the consequences.
John A. O’Brien Professor Emeritus
University of Notre Dame
Notre Dame, Indiana
Judah Destroyed—But Not Completely
As someone who for many years has had a keen interest in the Babylonian period in ancient Judah, I read with great interest the scholarly tit-for-tat between Joseph Blenkinsopp and Ephraim Stern regarding the supposed gap of 586 to 539 B.C. Both authors are right, and both are wrong, depending how you define the term “gap.”
If by “gap” one means that all human activity in the area ceased, then Blenkinsopp is right—there is plenty of evidence of activity in the kingdom of Judah after the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem. On the other hand, if one defines it to mean a severe reduction in the general population, coupled with the removal of most elite segments of society and their supporting infrastructure (palaces, cult sites, military units, artisans), then Stern is correct. There is no doubt that Judah suffered a severe blow and would not recover as a significant political force for many years.
Let me present a more nuanced view, based on my own work and on the insights gained from the work of many others presented at a conference held last May in Tel Aviv that was devoted to just this topic.
The major problem confronting us when trying to reconstruct anything about this period is the relative lack of archaeological and textual data, compared to the preceding period, Iron Age II (1000–586 B.C.). Of course lack of data does not mean that nothing was going on, but just that, for whatever reasons, the evidence is not available or has not survived. The textual gap was created by the authors and editors of the Bible. These were primarily elite members of society, who were forced into exile in Babylonia. For them the Exile was the purifying and transforming moment that initiated the move away from the religious practices of Iron Age Israel, many of which they considered to be degenerate and pagan, to the emergent Judaism of the Persian (sixth-fourth centuries B.C.) and later periods. For these authors to have mentioned any activities in Israel during the Babylonian period that appeared to have continued Iron Age practices would have added an aura of legitimacy to them, something that was counter to their agenda. When the texts were composed and edited, every effort was made to play up the emptiness of the land as much as possible.
The archaeological gap is created by the lack of any clear destruction layers in Israel that can confidently be dated to the mid-to-late sixth century B.C. Apparently the Babylonian destruction of Judah, Jerusalem and Philistia had the desired effect—the region remained quiet and there was no need for any more retaliatory expeditions by the successors of Nebuchadnezzar. As a result, our knowledge of the material culture at that time is spotty at best. This does not mean that no sites were inhabited. Some sites, such as Tell en-Nasbeh/Mizpah were continuously occupied down to the end of the fifth century B.C. Many sites, however, were poorly excavated or documented, so it is difficult to extract the necessary information from them. Other sites, such as Jerusalem and Lachish, may have been partially reinhabited after 586 B.C. For example, Gabriel Barkay has argued, on the basis of finds at the Ketef Hinnom cemetery in Jerusalem, that well-to-do families continued to be buried there into the latter part of the sixth century.
The archaeological picture is difficult to read, but clearer than it was some 15 years ago. In “Mizpah: Newly Discovered Stratum Reveals Judah’s Other Capital,” BAR 23:05), I showed that the main Iron Age II stratum at Tell en-Nasbeh (Stratum 3) was leveled but not totally destroyed by conquest and was rebuilt on a totally new plan that included large, well-built four-room houses, a Mesopotamian-style courtyard building, possible store rooms and other scattered and fragmentary remains that can confidently be dated to the sixth to late fifth centuries B.C. Clearly, enough resources were on hand for significant urban renewal.
Although the Biblical text and archaeological records do present an overall image of countrywide devastation, a closer examination of both sets of data shows that this image is somewhat, and in some ways purposefully, distorted. Civic and religious life did continue, at least in the northern part of the Judean kingdom, and no doubt those who survived the war, famine and pestilence that accompanied the Babylonian attack in the rest of the kingdom did their best to begin rebuilding their lives as soon as practicable.
Visiting Assistant Professor
Department of Near Eastern Studies
Ithaca, New York
Return to Lachish
What’s Not to Like?
I wanted to write and tell you how much I enjoyed the latest BAR (May/June 2002). There were several articles that were good examples of why I find BAR such fun to read.
“Philistine Kin Found in Early Israel,” BAR 28:03, was full of information I have followed for years on the history of the Sea Peoples. I read every word twice.
Then “The Babylonian Gap” debate (“The Babylonian Gap Revisited,” BAR 28:03, “There Was No Gap,” BAR 28:03, and “Yes There Was,” BAR 28:03) was also fascinating. I was left with a better understanding of the period than I had before I started reading either opinion, and I felt no need to agree with one or the other.
While I was sorry to see the weeds and overgrowth and evidence of vandalism at the site of Izbet Sartah in “After Excavation: What Happens When the Archaeologists Leave?” BAR 28:03, I enjoyed reading about the different war strategies you briefly mentioned, such as fighting on the plain where the Philistine chariots had an advantage.
But I think “Return to Lachish,” BAR 28:03, was my favorite. My biggest complaint was that it was far too short. I’d love to have read more about what Mr. Ussishkin discovered. The six-chambered gates and their various interpretations are always interesting to me, especially when Megiddo is mentioned. The photos were beautiful.
Julie C. Markham
What Really Happened at Lachish
“Return to Lachish,” BAR 28:03, was a fascinating review of and commentary 070on Professor David Ussishkin’s excavation. But the author shouldn’t resort to fairy tale-like remarks such as the angel of God slaughtering 185,000 of the Assyrian troops that were attacking Jerusalem [as stated in 2 Kings 19:35—Ed.].
One can estimate the eighth-century B.C. population of Assyria to have been no more than about 3 million, perhaps 30 percent children, leaving about 2 million adults, half of them assuredly men. Just this one army would thus represent 23 percent of the Assyrian male population, not a likely scenario. So 2 Kings 19 seems caught up in a grand exaggeration—it is extremely unlikely that 185,000 warriors stood before Jerusalem.
Besides, 2 Kings says the angel did it all in one night. Just imagine, 185,000 dead bodies before Jerusalem’s walls in the morning—that may have been more than Jerusalem’s population, so who buried all those corpses? Not enough Assyrians left to do the job. Without quick burial Jerusalem itself could have been wiped out by airborne diseases from the dead bodies.
Of course the rational answer is that King Hezekiah controlled Jerusalem’s water supply via tunnels, leaving Sennacherib’s army outside the walls and without water to carry on. Some died of thirst or tainted water, followed by a gradual abandonment of the Jerusalem siege, not an overnight spectacle of 185,000 slain by an angel, no matter how dramatic sounding.
San Antonio, Texas
A Lesson from Jefferson
Steven Feldman raises a number of important issues in his column about the current debate over the historicity of the Hebrew Bible (“First Person: Is the Bible a Bunch of Historical Hooey?” BAR 28:03). It is interesting to note how little has been achieved in the last century of Biblical archaeology. A century ago, Paul Haupt, future teacher of William Foxwell Albright, and others frequently dated Biblical texts to the Maccabean period (second-first century B.C.E.), just as the minimalists frequently do today. Since then, Iron Age II (the Biblical period) Israel has been described as an offshoot of the Babylonians, of the Amorites, of Ugarit and of the Canaanites, depending on the flavor of the month. This is roughly like defining America simply as derivative of the English or Scotch-Irish or of the Germans (the largest immigrant group to this country). You could be the greatest expert on any of these European cultures and still not be able to understand American society, even though all those peoples who came to this country contributed to it.
Biblical archaeology cannot cope with a Thomas Jefferson. According to the current academic fad in Biblical archaeology, in 1800 Jefferson could only have been a chieftain of a small country based around the city of Washington. How could Washington have been the capital of so large a country when there were so many larger cities around? How could this puny chieftain send a fleet to defeat the Barbary pirates so far away? How could this puny chieftain negotiate as an equal with Napoleon? How could this puny chieftain have sent Lewis and Clark on an expedition thousands of miles across a vast wilderness? How could this puny chieftain have written the Declaration of Independence and then created the University of Virginia?
The archaeological record simply cannot cope with individual genius in history, nor can it write a history without written records. It is uniquely unqualified to understand David or to write a history of early Israel. America did not begin with the centralization policy of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, just as Israel began long before the big bureaucracies of Omri, Hezekiah and Josiah. The challenge to Biblical archaeology is to determine not how similar these kings were to other kings of the ancient Near East, but how Israel maintained its identity for centuries before the monarchy existed.
Director, Institute for Archaeology and Education
Purchase, New York
Solid Grip on the Wheel
How nice to read your interview with Emanuel Tov (“Chief Scroll Editor Opens Up—An Interview with Emanuel Tov,” BAR 28:03). I learned a long time ago that every profession and area of expertise considers itself to be sacrosanct, be it religion, medicine, archaeology or the sciences. I have enjoyed the scholarly squabbles you have published and the cancellations of subscriptions when 071opinions differ. I even enjoy learning that Mr. Shanks has stirred the pot a little again. But how delightful to discover that Professor Tov seems to have very little scholarly “road rage” and has an objective view about the scrolls. Hurrah!
Phyllis S. Anderson
Overlooked Scroll Scholars
Apparently because they did not bear the grandiose title “Editor in Chief,” the earliest Dead Sea Scrolls editors and those most responsible to their fellow scholars, Professor Millar Burrows, assisted by John Trever and William Brownlee of the American Schools of Oriental Research, and Professor E. L. Sukenik of the Hebrew University, were not deemed worthy of being mentioned in the “Dead Sea Scroll Stats,” sidebar to “Chief Scroll Editor Opens Up—An Interview with Emanuel Tov,” BAR 28:03. Those of us who were able to make some modest contributions to the field because of them remember them gratefully.
Lou H. Silberman
Excavators Must Also Preserve
I read “After Excavation: What Happens When the Archaeologists Leave?” BAR 28:03, with great interest. You dealt specifically with Izbet Sartah but the issue is, of course, a much larger one.
It seems a little ambitious to hope that a secure fence and a full-time guard could be put in place at relatively small sites such as Izbet Sartah. Even the major sites such as Megiddo and Lachish do not have 24-hour protection, and the fences are much less than secure.
There is something to be said for the neglect that your article decries. After one winter of heavy rains weeds take root, the balks begin to crumble and the exposed archaeological strata enter a new phase in their history: The 20th or 21st century “destruction levels” (meaning the excavation) become a problem in stratigraphy for the next expedition to the site.
A program of partial re-burial might better protect certain sites.
Partial reconstruction of significant site features is of great importance, and it can’t be entered into on a short-term basis with the hope that it will exist into perpetuity. Partnerships such as the consortiums of American or European and Israeli universities that engage in excavations could also be involved in the long-term presentation of sites, as they often are.
As you say in your article, there must be a commitment to the maintenance of a site, and the planning for an excavation has to go beyond just the published report. In this way the site itself can become something of a “publication” in stone.
Architect and Surveyor
Bronx, New York
No Kudo For You
How are the mighty fallen!
How could our usually competent editor allow a caption saying that the venerable Avraham Biran “picks up another kudo” (Strata, BAR 28:03).
Please tell us that this solecism was perpetrated by some unworthy underling totally unaware that “kudos” is not the plural of “kudo” but pure Greek meaning honor, respect.
Professor Emeritus, University of Florida
Winter Haven, Florida
Steven Feldman, unworthy underling, responds:
The Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary (10th ed.) states, “Some commentators hold that since kudos is a singular word it cannot be used as a plural and that the word kudo is impossible. But kudo does exist; it is simply one of the most recent words created by back-formation from another word misunderstood as a plural. Kudos was introduced into English in the 19th century; it was used in contexts where a reader unfamiliar with Greek could not be sure whether it was singular or plural. By the 1920s it began to appear as a plural, and about 25 years later kudo began to appear. It may have begun as a misunderstanding, but then so did cherry and pea.”
A footnote in “Chief Scroll Editor Opens Up—An Interview with Emanuel Tov,” BAR 28:03, gave the wrong year for Avi Katzman’s article on the Dead Sea Scrolls. It appeared in BAR in January/February 1991 (“Chief Dead Sea Scroll Editor Denounces Judaism, Israel; Claims He’s Seen Four More Scrolls Found by Bedouin,” BAR 17:01).
A Note on Style
B.C.E. (Before the Common Era) and C.E. (Common Era), used by some of our authors, are the alternative designations for B.C. and A.D. often used in scholarly literature.