Damien F. Mackey
King Ahab, the husband of the notorious Queen Jezebel, was, in my opinion,
the troublesome Lab’ayu of El Amarna.
Revisionist choices for Lab’ayu
While revisionists tend to consider El Amarna’s Lab’ayu as a king of Israel, they differ as to which king he may have been.
David Rohl thought that Lab’ayu might have been King Saul, before the monarchy became divided. A blogger has commented on this: http://anarchic-teapot.net/2013/03/david-rohl-how-to-fail-a-test-of-time/
The main argument in Rohl’s book is that Labayu, a Hapiru/’Apiru (no, the name is not related to the name Hebrew) chieftain who ruled Shachmu (the Biblical city of Shechem) mentioned in several Amarna Letters (and himself writing three of them) is the same person as the Biblical King Saul, and that the whole Amarna period is the same as the Early Monarchic Period of Israel. Anyone familiar with the chronologies will notice a slight problem there: the Amarna period is dated to c. 1391-1323 BCE, and the Israelite Early Monarchic Period to c. 1000-926 BCE (all dates are Middle Chronology where applicable).
Emmet Sweeney thought that Lab’ayu might have been King Baasha of Israel, who reigned before Omri had made Samaria the capital of Israel (Empire of Thebes, Or, Ages in Chaos Revisited, p. 83):
“… in the Book of Kings we read: “And Jeroboam [I] built Shechem in mount Ephraim, and dwelt there …” (I Kings 12:25). This, from the point of view of the present reconstruction, is a crucial clue. Shechem remained Israel’s capital – more or less – for only two generations, until after the death of Baasha, when Omri built Samaria (I Kings 16:245-25) …”.
As for Velikovsky, he had almost nothing to say about Laba’yu, for, according to Sweeney again (op. cit., p. 82):
‘It is strange, and significant, that Velikovsky makes no mention of Labayu, save for a passing reference in a footnote. Yet any reading of the Amarna documents makes it very clear that this man, whose operations centre seems to have been Shechem – right in the middle of historical Samaria – was a figure of central importance at the time; and that he must figure prominently in any attempt to reconstruct the history of the period”.
Both King Saul (most certainly) and even Baasha, are too early, however, to be candidates for Lab’ayu in relation to my location of the El Amarna era of Egypt’s Eighteenth Dynasty – according to my re-assessment, Baasha (and a fortiori, Saul) had died significantly earlier, during the reign of pharaoh Amenhotep II.
The reign of King Ahab, on the other hand – who has been my own preference for the king of Israel most suitable for being Lab’ayu – had lasted into about the first decade of Amenhotep III of the El Amarna era. “The earlier Amarna letters, dating from the reign of Amenhotep III, are full of the activities of a king named Labayu” (Sweeney, ibid.).
Lab’ayu and Abdi-hiba
The King of Jerusalem (Urusalim) who features in the EA letters at this approximate time is Abdi-hiba, whom I would firmly identify with (following Peter James) King Jehoram of Judah.
Now, previously I have written as a general observation about some of the EA letters for this approximate time:
“One is surprised to find upon perusing these letters of Abdi-hiba, that – despite Rollston’s presumption that Abdi-hiba’s “the king, my lord” was an “Egyptian monarch” – no Egyptian ruler appears to be specifically named in this set of letters. Moreover, “Egypt” itself may be referred to only once in this series (EA 285): “ … Addaya has taken the garrison that you sent in the charge of Haya, the son of Miyare; he has stationed it in his own house in Hazzatu and has sent 20 men to Egypt-(Miṣri)”.
When we include the lack of any reference to Egypt in the three letters of Lab’ayu (252-254) … and likewise in the two letters of the woman, Baalat Neše – ten letters in all – then we might be prompted to reconsider whether the extent of Egyptian involvement was as much as is generally claimed”.
Now, King Jehoram came to the throne only after the death of King Ahab of Israel. That remains the case even in the chronology of P. Mauro (The Wonders of Bible Chronology), according to which Jehoram was already reigning alongside his father, Jehoshaphat. Thus:
…. 0826..Ahab killed in battle with Syrians
…………….Jehoram [J] reigns for Jehoshaphat
…. 0825..Jehoram [I]
…. 0821..Jehoram [J] reigns with Jehoshaphat
…. 0817..Jehoram [J] sole king
So, if Sweeney were correct in these other statements of his, that (op. cit., ibid.): “… Labayu … waged continual warfare against his neighbors – especially against Abdi-Hiba, the king of Jerusalem …”, and again (p. 84): “Labayu’s long suffering opponent, the king of Jerusalem, is commonly named Abdi-Hiba”, then I would have to question, on chronological grounds, my biblical identifications of Laba’yu and Abdi-hiba.
However, when we check the five letters of Abdi-hiba (EA 285-290), we find that it is not Lab’ayu now, but rather “the sons of Lab’ayu” (EA 287 and 289), who are giving trouble to the king of Jerusalem.
Lab’ayu (Labaya) himself is mentioned only once by Abdi-hiba, but this appears to be a reflection back to an event in the past, “he was giving” (EA 289): “Are we to act like Labaya when he was giving the land of Šakmu to the Hapiru?”
Moreover, Shuwardata of Keilah will liken Abdi-hiba to the now deceased Lab’ayu (EA 280): “… Labaya, who used to take our towns, is dead, but now another Labaya is Abdi-Heba, and he seizes our town”.
So it seems that the coast may be bright and clear for identifying Lab’ayu, who died just prior to the reign of Abdi-hiba (= King Jehoram of Judah), as follows:
Lab’ayu as King Ahab of Israel
Continuing on in my thesis assessment, I proceeded to give my view of who king Ahab of Israel was in the EA series.
As far as I was concerned, Ahab was clearly the same as EA’s powerful and rebellious Lab’ayu of the Shechem region. He was a far better EA candidate for Ahab than was Rib-Addi (Velikovky’s choice for Ahab), in my opinion, and indeed a more obvious one – and I am quite surprised that no one has yet taken it up.
Lab’ayu is known to have been a king of the Shechem region, which is very close to Samaria (only 9 km SE distant).
Cook has made this most important observation given the criticisms of Dr. Velikovsky by conventional scholars who insist that the political situation in Palestine in the EA era was nothing at all like that during the Divided Monarchy period: “… that the geopolitical situation at this time in the “(north) [was akin to that of the] Israelites of a later [sic] time”.”
Lab’ayu is never actually identified in the EA letters as king of either Samaria or of Shechem. Nevertheless, Aharoni has designated Lab’ayu as “King of Shechem” in his description of the geopolitical situation in Palestine during the EA period (Aharoni, of course, is a conventional scholar writing of a period he thinks must have been well pre-monarchical):
In the hill country there were only a few political centres, and each of these ruled over a fairly extensive area. In all the hill country of Judah and Ephraim we hear only of Jerusalem and Shechem with possible allusions to Beth-Horon and Manahath, towns within the realm of Jerusalem’s king.
… Apparently the kings of Jerusalem and Shechem dominated, to all practical purposes, the entire central hill country at that time. The territory controlled by Labayu, King of Shechem, was especially large in contrast to the small Canaanite principalities round about. Only one letter refers to Shechem itself, and we get the impression that this is not simply a royal Canaanite city but rather an extensive kingdom with Shechem as its capital. ….
Ahab’s “two sons” in El Amarna
It is gratifying for me to find that King Ahab had,
in his El Amarna [EA] manifestation, as Lab’ayu, two prominent sons.
Two regal sons
Overall, Ahab had many sons. “Now Ahab had seventy sons in Samaria” (2 Kings 10:1).
But these others came to grief all at once, all slain during the bloody rampage of Jehu (vv. 1-10).
“So Jehu killed all who remained of the house of Ahab in Jezreel, and all his great men and his close acquaintances and his priests, until he left him none remaining” (v. 11).
Prior to this, Ahab had been succeeded on the throne by his two prominent sons. We read about them, for instance, at: https://bible.org/seriespage/7-my-way-story-ahab-and-jezebel
“Yet their influence lived on in their children. And this is often the saddest side effect of lives like Ahab’s and Jezebel’s. Two sons of Ahab and Jezebel later ruled in Israel. The first was Ahaziah. Of him God says, “And he did evil in the sight of the Lord and walked in the way of his father and in the way of his mother and in the way of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who caused Israel to sin. So he served Baal and worshiped him and provoked the Lord God of Israel to anger according to all that his father had done” (1 Kgs. 22:52, 53). The second son to reign was Jehoram. As Jehu rode to execute vengeance on the house of Ahab, Jehoram cried, “Is it peace, Jehu?” Jehu summed up Jehoram’s reign with his reply: “What peace, so long as the harlotries of your mother Jezebel and her witchcrafts are so many?” (2 Kgs. 9:22)”.
The short-reigning Ahaziah was, in turn, succeeded by Jehoram.
Lab’ayu (my Ahab in EA), likewise, had two prominent sons, as is apparent from the multiple references by the correspondent Addu-qarrad to “the two sons of Lab’aya [Lab’ayu]” in EA Letter 250: http://fontes.lstc.edu/~rklein/Documents/labaya_files/labaya.htm
“EA 250: Addu-qarrad (of Gitti-padalla) ….
To the king my lord, say: message from Addu-qarrad your servant. At the feet of the king my lord, seven and seven times I throw myself. Let the king my lord know that the two sons of the traitor of the king my lord, the two sons of Lab’aya, have directed their intentions to sending the land of the king into ruin, in addition to that which their father had sent into ruin. Let the king my lord know that the two sons of Lab’aya continually seek me: “Why did you give into the hand of the king your lord Gitti-padalla, a city that Lab’aya our father had taken?” Thus the two sons of Lab’aya said to me: “Make war against the men of Qina, because they killed our father! And if you don’t make [war] we will be your enemies!” But I responded to those two: “The god of the king my lord will save me from making war with the men of Qina, servants of the king my lord!” If it seems opportune to the king my lord to send one of his Grandees to Biryawaza, who tells him: “Go against the two sons of Lab’aya, (otherwise) you are a traitor to the king!” And beyond that the king my lord writes to me: “D[o] the work of the king your lord against the two sons of Lab’aya!” [..]. Milki-Ilu concerning those two, has become [..] amongst those two. So the life of Milki-Ilu is lit up at the introduction of the two sons of Lab’aya into the city of Pi(hi)li to send the rest of the land of the king my lord into ruin, by means of those two, in addition to that which was sent into ruin by Milki-Ilu and Lab’aya! Thus say the two sons of Lab’aya: “Make war against the king your lord, as our father, when he was against Shunamu and against Burquna and against Harabu, deport the bad and exalt the faithful! He took Gitti-rimunima and opened the camps of the king your lord!” But I responded to those two: “The god of the king my lord is my salvation from making war against the king my lord! I serve the king my lord and my brothers who obey me!” But the messenger of Milki-Ilu doesn’t distance himself from the two sons of Lab’aya. Who today looks to send the land of the king my lord into ruin is Milki-Ilu, while I have no other intention than to serve the king my lord. The words that the king my lord says I hear!”
EA correspondences pertaining to Lab’ayu, such as this one, are generally presumed by historians to have been addressed to pharaoh Akhnaton (= Amenhotep IV, EA’s Naphuria).
No pharaoh, however, is actually referred to in these letters, as I observed before.
Tentatively, I had suggested, in my postgraduate thesis:
A Revised History of the Era of King Hezekiah of Judah
and its Background
that the one son of Lab’ayu actually named in the EA correspondence, Mut-Baal, may have been Ahab’s older son, Ahaziah (Volume One, pp. 87-88):
“Like Lab’ayu, the biblical Ahab could indeed be an outspoken person, bold in speech to both fellow kings and prophets (cf. 1 Kings 18:17; 20:11). But Lab’ayu, like all the other duplicitous Syro-Palestinian kings, instinctively knew when, and how, to grovel …. Thus, when having to protest his loyalty and readiness to pay tribute to the crown, Lab’ayu really excelled himself: … “Further: In case the king should write for my wife, would I refuse her? In case the king should write to me: “Run a dagger of bronze into thy heart and die”, would I not, indeed, execute the command of the king?”
Lab’ayu moreover may have – like Ahab – used Hebrew speech. The language of the EA letters is Akkadian, but one letter by Lab’ayu, EA 252, proved to be very difficult to translate. ….
Albright … in 1943, published a more satisfactory translation than had hitherto been possible by discerning that its author had used a good many so-called ‘Canaanite’ words plus two Hebrew proverbs! EA 252 has a stylised introduction in the typical EA formula and in the first 15 lines utilises only two ‘Canaanite’ words. Thereafter, in the main body of the text, Albright noted (and later scholars have concurred) that Lab’ayu used only about 20% pure Akkadian, “with 40% mixed or ambiguous, and no less than 40% pure Canaanite”. Albright further identified the word nam-lu in line 16 as the Hebrew word for ‘ant’ (nemalah), נְמָלָה, the Akkadian word being zirbabu. Lab’ayu had written: “If ants are smitten, they do not accept (the smiting) quietly, but they bite the hand of the man who smites them”. Albright recognised here a parallel with the two biblical Proverbs mentioning ants (6:6 and 30:25).
Ahab likewise was inclined to use a proverbial saying as an aggressive counterpoint to a potentate. When the belligerent Ben-Hadad I sent him messengers threatening: ‘May the gods do this to me and more if there are enough handfuls of rubble in Samaria for all the people in my following [i.e. my massive army]’ (1 Kings 20:10), Ahab answered: ‘The proverb says: The man who puts on his armour is not the one who can boast, but the man who takes it off’ (v.11).
“It is a pity”, wrote Rohl and Newgrosh … “that Albright was unable to take his reasoning process just one step further because, in almost every instance where he detected the use of what he called ‘Canaanite’ one could legitimately substitute the term ‘Hebrew’.”
Lab’ayu’s son too, Mut-Baal – my tentative choice for Ahaziah of Israel (c. 853 BC) …. also displayed in one of his letters (EA 256) some so-called ‘Canaanite’ and mixed origin words. Albright noted of line 13: … “As already recognized by the interpreters, this idiom is pure Hebrew”. Albright even went very close to admitting that the local speech was Hebrew: ….
… phonetically, morphologically, and syntactically the people then living in the district … spoke a dialect of Hebrew (Canaanite) which was very closely akin to that of Ugarit. The differences which some scholars have listed between Biblical Hebrew and Ugaritic are, in fact, nearly all chronological distinctions.
But even these ‘chronological distinctions’ cease to be a real issue in the Velikovskian context, according to which both the EA letters and the Ugaritic tablets are re-located to the time of the Divided Monarchy.
And on pp. 90-92 of my thesis, I wrote regarding:
There are several letters that refer to the “sons of Lab’ayu”, but also a small number that, after Lab’ayu’s death, refer specifically to “the two sons of Lab’ayu” (e.g. EA 250). It follows from my reconstruction that these “two sons of Lab’ayu” were Ahab’s two princely sons, Ahaziah and Jehoram; the former actually dying in the same year as his father.
Only one of the sons though, Mut-Baal of Pi-hi-li (= Pella, on the east bank of the Jordan), is specifically named. He, my tentative choice for Ahab’s son, Ahaziah … was the author of EA 255 & 256.
Campbell,232 rightly sensing that “Mut-Ba‘lu’s role as prince of Pella could conceivably coincide with Lab‘ayu’s role as prince of Shechem …”, was more inclined however to the view that “Mut-Ba‘lu would not be in a prominent enough position to write his own diplomatic correspondence until after his father’s death”.
But when one realises that Lab’ayu was not a petty ruler, but a powerful king of Israel – namely, Ahab, an Omride – then one can also accept that his son, Mut-Baal/Ahaziah could have been powerful enough in his own right (as either co-rex or pro-rex) to have been writing his own diplomatic letters.
That Ahaziah of Israel might also have been called Mut-Baal is interesting. Biblical scholars have sometimes pointed out, regarding the names of Ahab’s sons, that whilst Jezebel was known to have been a fierce persecutor of the Yahwists, Ahab must have been more loyal, having bestowed upon his sons the non-pagan names of ‘Ahaziah’ and ‘Jehoram’. Along similar lines, Liel has written in her ADP context:
One reason for the use of the generic Addu in place of the actual DN, especially in correspondence between nations worshipping different deities, might have been to avoid the profanation of the divine name by those who did not have the same reverence for it. This would be the case especially for the Israelites. Even Israelites such as Ahab, who introduced Baal worship, did not do so, in their estimation, at the expense of YHVH, Whom they continued to revere. Ahab gave his children (at least those mentioned in the Bible) names containing YHVH: Jehoram, Ahaziah, Jehoash and Athaliah. He also showed great respect and deference to the prophet Elijah.
The truth of the matter is that Ahab called Elijah “my enemy” אֹיְבִי (1 Kings 21:20).
Moreover, if, as I am claiming here, Ahaziah were in fact EA’s Mut-Baal – a name that refers to the Phoenicio-Canaanite gods Mot and Baal – then such arguments in favour of Ahab’s supposed reverence for Yahwism might lose much of their force. Given the tendency towards syncretism in religion, a combination of Yahwism and Baalism (e.g. 1 Kings 18:21), we might even expect the Syro-Palestinians to have at once a Yahwistic and a pagan name.
Scholars find that Mut-Baal’s kingdom, like that of his father, spread both east and west of the Jordan. They infer from the letters that Lab’ayu had ruled a large area in the Transjordan that was later to be the main substance of the kingdom of Mut-Baal. In EA 255 Mut-Baal writes to pharaoh to say he is to convey one of the latter’s caravans to Hanigalbat (Mitanni); he mentions that his father, Lab’ayu, was in the custom of overseeing all the caravans that pharaoh sent there. Lab’ayu could have done so only if he controlled those areas of Transjordan through which the caravans were to pass. The area that came under the rule of Mut-Baal affected territories both east and west of the Jordan.
In EA 256 we learn that the kingdom of Ashtaroth bordered on Mut-Baal’s (to the N and E: Ashtaroth being the capital of biblical Bashan) and that this neighbour was his ally.
That Mut-Baal held sway west of the Jordan may also be deduced from EA 250, whose author complains that the “two sons of Labayu” had written urging him to make war on Gina in Jezreel (modern Jenin). The writer also records that the messenger of Milkilu “does not move from the sons of Labayu”, indicating to pharaoh an alliance between these parties, which further suggests that Mut-Baal had interests west of the Jordan.
It will be seen from the above that the territory ruled by Lab’ayu and his sons, which bordered on the territories of Gezer in the west and Jerusalem in the south, also including the Sharon coastal plain, reaching at least as far as the Jezreel valley/Esdraelon in the north, and stretching over the Transjordan to adjoin Bashan, corresponds remarkably well
with the territories ruled by Ahab of Israel and his sons.
Mut-Baal, as a king of a region of Transjordania (no doubt as a sub-king with his father) had been accused to the Egyptian commissioner, Yanhamu, of harbouring one Ayyab (var. Aiab); a name usually equated with Job. Could this though be a reference to his own father, Ahab (by the latter’s biblical name)? Mut-Baal protested against this accusation, using the excuse that Ayyab – whom the Egyptian official apparently suspected of having also been in the region of Transjordania – was actually on campaign elsewhere [EA 256]: “Say to Yanhamu, my lord: Message of Mutbaal, your servant. I fall at the feet of my lord. How can it be said in your presence: ‘Mutbaal has fled. He has hidden Ayab’? How can the king of Pella flee from the commissioner, agent of the king my lord? As the king, my lord, lives … I swear Ayab is not in Pella. In fact, he has [been in the field] (i.e. on campaign) for two months. Just ask Benenima…”.
It should be noted that kings and officials were expected to ‘inform’ even on members of their own family. Lab’ayu himself had, prior to this, actually informed on one of his fathers-in-law.233 These scheming ‘vassal kings’ were continually changing allegiance; at one moment being reckoned amongst the habiru insurgents, then being attacked by these rebels – but, always, protesting their loyalty to the crown.
Queen Jezebel in El Amarna
Baalat Neše, being the only female correspondent of the El-Amarna [EA] series, must therefore have been a woman of great significance at the time.
Who was she?
Dr. I Velikovsky had introduced Baalat Neše as “Baalath Nesse” in his 1945
THESES FOR THE RECONSTRUCTION OF ANCIENT HISTORY
FROM THE END OF THE MIDDLE KINGDOM IN EGYPT TO THE ADVENT OF ALEXANDER THE GREAT
According to Velikovsky:
- The el-Amarna Letters were written not in the fifteenth-fourteenth century, but in the middle of the ninth century.
- Among the correspondents of Amenhotep III and Akhnaton are biblical personages: Jehoshaphat (Abdi-Hiba), King of Jerusalem; Ahab (Rib Addi), King of Samaria; Ben-Hadad (Abdi-Ashirta), King of Damascus; Hazael (Azaru), King of Damascus; Aman (Aman-appa), Governor of Samaria; Adaja (Adaja), Adna (Adadanu), Amasia, son of Zihri (son of Zuhru), Jehozabad (Jahzibada), military governors of Jehoshaphat; Obadia, the chief of Jezreel; Obadia (Widia), a city governor in Judea; the Great Lady of Shunem (Baalath Nesse); Naaman (Janhama), the captain of Damascus; and others. Arza (Arzaja), the courtier in Samaria, is referred to in a letter.
Then he, in his Ages in Chaos I (1952, p. 220), elaborated on why he thought Baalat Neše was, as above, “the Great Lady of Shumen”.
I mentioned it briefly, as follows, in my university thesis (Volume One, p. 93):
Velikovsky had, with typical ingenuity, looked to identify the only female correspondent of EA, Baalat Neše, as the biblical ‘Great Woman of Shunem’, whose dead son the prophet Elisha had resurrected (cf. 2 Kings 4:8 & 4:34-35). …. Whilst the name Baalat Neše is usually translated as ‘Mistress of Lions’, Velikovsky thought that it could also be rendered as “a woman to whom occurred a wonder” (thus referring to Elisha’s miracle).
This female correspondent wrote two letters (EA 273, 274) to Akhnaton, telling him that the SA.GAZ pillagers had sent bands to Aijalon (a fortress guarding the NW approach to Jerusalem). She wrote about “two sons of Milkili” in connection with a raid.
The menace was not averted because she had to write again for pharaoh’s help”.
I continued, referring to Lisa Liel’s rejection of Velikovsky’s hopeful interpretation of the name, Baalat Neše (“What’s In A Name?”: http://www.starways.net/lisa/essays/amarnanames.html):
“Liel, in the process of linguistically unravelling the Sumerian name of this female correspondent, points to what she sees as being inaccuracies in Velikovsky’s own identification of her: ….
This lady’s name is generally transcribed as “Baalat Nese”, which means “Lady of Lions”. Velikovsky either saw a transcription where the diacritical mark above the “s” which indicates that it is pronounced “h” was omitted, or didn’t know what the mark meant.
[Since this character doesn’t show up well in HTML, I’ve used a regular “s”. The consonant is actually rendered as an “s” with an upside-down caret above it, like a small letter “v”.] [Liel’s comment]
He also took the “e” at the end of the word as a silent “e”, the way it often is in English. Having done all this, he concluded that the second word was not “nese,” but “nes,” the Hebrew word for miracle. He then drew a connection with the Shunnamite woman in the book of Kings who had a miracle done for her.
Liel’s own explanation of the name was partly this:
Flights of fancy aside, the name has in truth been a subject of debate, so much so that many books nowadays tend to leave it as an unnormalized Sumerogram. The NIN is no problem. It means “Lady,” the feminine equivalent of “Lord.” Nor is the MESH difficult at all; it is the plural suffix …. What is UR.MAH? One attested meaning is “lion.” This is the source of the “Lady of Lions” reading. ….
Whilst Liel would go on to suggest an identification of (NIN.UR.MAH.MESH) Baalat Neše with “the usurper [Queen] Athaliah”, my own preference then in this thesis was for Queen Jezebel. Thus I wrote:
“In a revised context Baalat Neše, the ‘Mistress of Lions’, or ‘Lady of Lions’, would most likely be, I suggest, Jezebel, the wife of king Ahab. Jezebel, too, was wont to write official letters – in the name of her husband, sealing these with his seal (1 Kings 21:8). And would it not be most appropriate for the ‘Mistress of Lions’ (Baalat Neše) to have been married to the ‘Lion Man’ (Lab’ayu)? Baalat (Baalath, the goddess of Byblos) is just the feminine form of Baal. Hence, Baalat Neše may possibly be the EA rendering of the name, Jezebel, with the theophoric inverted: thus, Neše-Baal(at). Her concern for Aijalon, near Jerusalem, would not be out of place since Lab’ayu himself had also expressed concern for that town”.
I am still holding to that identification of Baalat Neše, or Neše-Baal(at), as the biblical Jezebel.
Hiel of Bethel
Joshua 6:26: “At that time Joshua pronounced this solemn oath: “Cursed before the LORD is the one who undertakes to rebuild this city, Jericho: At the cost of his firstborn son he will lay its foundations; at the cost of his youngest he will set up its gates”.”
I Kings 16:34: “In Ahab’s time, Hiel of Bethel rebuilt Jericho. He laid its foundations at the cost of his firstborn son Abiram, and he set up its gates at the cost of his youngest son Segub, in accordance with the word of the Lord spoken by Joshua son of Nun”.
A clear demonstration of what I wrote in my article:
“The popular model today, as espoused by … David Rohl … arguing instead for a Middle Bronze Jericho at the time of Joshua, ends up throwing right out of kilter the biblico-historical correspondences” [,]
is apparent from Dr. Bryant Wood’s critique (“David Rohl’s Revised Egyptian Chronology: A View From Palestine”), in which Bryant points out that Rohl’s revised Jericho sequence incorrectly dates Hiel’s building level at Jericho to an apparently ‘unoccupied’ phase there: http://www.biblearchaeology.org/post/2007/05/23/David-Rohls-Revised-Egyptian-Chronology-A-View-From-Palestine.aspx
…. LATE BRONZE IIB
Rohl dates the next phase of occupation at Jericho following the Middle Building to the LB IIB period (314). He then equates this phase to the rebuilding of Jericho by Hiel of Bethel (1 Kgs 16:34). Rohl is once again incorrect in his dating. The next occupational phase at Jericho following the Middle Building dates to the Iron I period, not LB IIB (M. and H. Weippert 1976). There is no evidence for occupation at Jericho in the LB IIB period.
If Dr. Bryant is correct here, then the city built by the mysterious Hiel of Bethel must belong to the Iron Age “occupational phase” of Jericho (Tell es-Sultan).
Who was this “Hiel of Bethel”?
Hiel of Bethel who rebuilt the city of Jericho (I Kings 16:34)
will be here identified as King Mesha of Moab.
Does Mesha tell us straight out in his inscription that he built Jericho –
and with Israelite labour?
Chapter 16 of the First Book of Kings will, in the course of its introducing us to King Ahab and his no-good ways as follows (vv. 30-34):
Ahab son of Omri did more evil in the eyes of the Lord than any of those before him. He not only considered it trivial to commit the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, but he also married Jezebel daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, and began to serve Baal and worship him. He set up an altar for Baal in the temple of Baal that he built in Samaria. Ahab also made an Asherah pole and did more to arouse the anger of the Lord, the God of Israel, than did all the kings of Israel before him.
suddenly interrupt this description with its surprising and bloody note about Hiel the Bethelite’s building of Jericho at the cost of the lives of his two sons. A surprising thing about this insertion (apart from the horrific sacrifice of the sons) is that an otherwise unknown personage, Hiel (unknown at least under this name), is found to be building a city at a major and ancient site, Jericho (Tell es-Sultan), whilst the country is under the rulership of two most powerful kings – an Omride in the north (Ahab) allied to a mighty king of Judah in the south (Jehoshaphat).
How might this strange situation concerning Hiel have come about?
Before my attempting to answer this question, I should like simply to list a few of the more obvious reasons why I am drawn to the notion that Hiel was a king of Moab, and that he was, specifically, Mesha. We find that:
- A king of Moab, Eglon, has previously ruled over a newly-built Jericho (MB IIB);
- Hiel and Mesha were contemporaneous with King Ahab of Israel;
- Hiel and Mesha were sacrificers of their own sons (cf. I Kings 16:34 and 2 Kings 3:27).
But, far more startling than any of this is the following potential bombshell:
Does Mesha King of Moab tell us straight out in his stele inscription that he built Jericho – and with Israelite labour?
I have only just become aware of this bell-ringing piece of information – after I had already come to the conclusion that Hiel may well have been Mesha. It is information that may be, in its specificity, beyond anything that I could have expected or hoped for.
And so we read at: http://christiananswers.net/q-abr/abr-a019.html
Later on in the inscription he [King Mesha of Moab] says,
I built Qeriho [Jericho?]: the wall of the parkland and the wall of the acropolis; and I built its gates, and I built its towers; and I built the king’s house; and I made banks for the water reservoir inside the town; and there was no cistern inside the town, in Qeriho, and I said to all the people: “Make yourself each a cistern in his house”; and I dug the ditches for Qeriho with prisoners of Israel (lines 21-26).
Since Mesha erected his stela to honor Chemosh in “this high place for Chemosh in Qeriho,” and since the stela was found at Dhiban, identified as ancient Dibon, most scholars believe that Qeriho was the name of the royal citadel at Dibon. Note that Israelite captives were used to cut the timber used to construct Qeriho. ….
A Servant of the Syrians?
If King Mesha of Moab really had ruled the city of Jericho for a time, as Hiel, then he would have been following an ancient tradition, because another king of Moab, Eglon, had ruled over that same city roughly half a millennium earlier.
Mesha of Moab and Ben-Hadad I
A pattern that was determined (following Dr. John Osgood) according to my recent article:
of a King of Moab governing Jericho for a time as a servant of a powerful ruling nation, is the same basic pattern that I would suggest for my Hiel = Mesha.
Eglon had, as a subordinate king of the mighty Amalekite nation, ruled over (MB IIB) Jericho “for eighteen years” (Judges 3:14).
Now, much later, with Syria this time as the main power, Mesha will both build and rule over (presumably Iron Age) Jericho – for an indeterminate period of time.
From a combination of information as provided by the Mesha stele and the Old Testament, we learn that Mesha was already king at the time of Omri of Israel, and that he continued on until Jehoram of Israel.
During that period, Ben-Hadad I of Syria was by far the dominant king. In fact I, in my thesis (Volume One, p. 66) referred to him as “a true master-king”:
… the Velikovskian equation of EA’s Abdi-ashirta as Ben-Hadad I would seriously contradict the view that the latter was a relatively minor, though problematical, king in the EA scheme of things; for Ben-Hadad I was no lesser king: “King Ben-hadad of Aram gathered all his army together; thirty-two kings were with him, along with horses and chariots” (1 Kings 20:1). Thirty-two kings! The great Hammurabi of Babylon, early in his reign, had only ten to fifteen kings following him, as did his peer kings. Even the greatest king of that day in the region, Iarim Lim of Iamkhad, had only twenty kings in train. …. But Ben-Hadad’s coalition, raised for the siege of Ahab’s capital of Samaria, could boast of thirty-two kings. Surely Ben-Hadad I was no secondary king in his day, but a ‘Great King’; the dominant king in fact in the greater Syrian region – a true master-king.
With an extraordinary “thirty-two kings” in Ben-Hadad’s following, might it not be going too far to suggest that one of these follower-kings was the contemporaneous Mesha of Moab?
If so, any incursion by king Mesha into Israelite territory (Bethel, Jericho) – and we recall that Mesha boasted of having Israelite captives – would have become possible presumably (and only?) with the assistance of Ben-Hadad I, who caused much trouble for king Ahab of Israel in the earlier part of the latter’s reign. For example (I Kings 20:1-3):
Now Ben-Hadad king of Aram [Syria] mustered his entire army. Accompanied by thirty-two kings with their horses and chariots, he went up and besieged Samaria and attacked it.He sent messengers into the city to Ahab king of Israel, saying, “This is what Ben-Hadad says:‘Your silver and gold are mine, and the best of your wives and children are mine’.”
King Mesha of Moab, who I consider to have been a follower-king of the mighty Syrian master-king, Ben-Hadad I, appears to have had a chequered career in relation to the Omrides, now being subservient, now in revolt.
If Mesha were Hiel, as I am saying, then it must have been during one of his upward phases – when Ben-Hadad was in the ascendant- that he was able to build at Jericho.
In other articles I have discussed geographical perspective. How, for instance, the one person who had ruled over two lands, say Egypt and southern Canaan, could be written of as “Pharaoh” by someone writing from an Egyptian perspective, but by a Semitic (Hebrew) name by one writing from a Palestinian perspective.
And that, too, is the gist of my reasoning as to how one represented by a Hebrew name (Hiel), and a Palestinian location (Bethel), in the First Book of Kings, could be designated by a Moabite name (Mesha) in the Second Book of Kings, and there located in the foreign land of Moab.
The following article (http://christiananswers.net/q-abr/abr-a019.html), to which I shall add my comments, provides us with a comprehensive account as to:
What does the Moabite Stone reveal about the Biblical revolt of Mesha?
||The Mesha inscription, now in the Louvre in Paris
“I am Mesha, son Chemosh[it], king of Moab, the Dibonite.”
So begins one of the most extraordinary ancient documents ever found. (For the unusual circumstances surrounding its discovery, see Archaeology and Biblical Research, Winter 1991: 2-3). Mesha was ruler of the small kingdom of Moab, east of the Dead Sea, in the mid-ninth century BC. He was a contemporary of Jehoshaphat, king of the southern kingdom of Judah (870-848 BC), and Joram, king of the northern kingdom of Israel (852-841 BC). Everything we know about Mesha from the Bible is recorded in 2 Kings 3. But we know a lot more about him from a record he left us, referred to as the Mesha Inscription, or Moabite Stone. It was discovered in Dhiban, Jordan, in 1868 by a French Anglican medical missionary by the name of F.A. Klein.
Both documents, 2 Kings 3 and the Mesha Inscription, describe the same event, the revolt of Mesha, but from entirely different perspectives.
Mesha made his record of the event on a stone slab, or stela, 3 ft. high and 2 ft. wide. Unfortunately, the stone was broken into pieces by the local Bedouin before it could be acquired by the authorities. About two-thirds of the pieces were recovered and those, along with an impression made before the stela was destroyed, allowed all but the last line to be reconstructed. There are a total of 34 lines, written in Moabite, a language almost identical to Hebrew. It is the longest monumental inscription yet found in Palestine.
The heartland of Moab was the territory east of the southern half of the Dead Sea, from the great Arnon Gorge in the north to the Zered River in the south. North of the Arnon River, to about the northern end of the Dead Sea, was a disputed area called the “land of Medeba” in the Mesha Inscription (line 8). Medeba was a major city in the region some 18 mi. north of the Arnon. The area was sometimes under the control of Moab, sometimes under the control of others.
Mackey’s Comment: This last statement reveals the fluctuating fortunes of King Mesha as already mentioned.
The article continues (I do not necessarily accept as exact the dates given in this article):
At the time of the Conquest at the end of the 15th century BC, the region was occupied by the Amorites, who had earlier taken it from the Moabites (Num. 21:26). The Israelites then captured the area (Num. 21:24; Dt. 2:24, 36; 3:8, 16), with the tribe of Reuben taking possession (Jos. 13:16). The area seesawed back and forth for the next several centuries, passing to the Moabites (Jgs. 3:12), Israelites (Jgs. 3:30), Ammonites (Jgs. 11:13, 32-33), and back to Israel (Jgs. 11:32-33).
In the mid-ninth century BC, Mesha was successful in throwing off the yoke of Israel and bringing the area once again under the authority of Moab (1 Kgs. 3:5; Mesha Inscription).
2 Kings 3 recounts how Joram, Jehoshaphat, and the king of Edom combined forces to attempt to bring Moab back under Israelite control. They attacked from the south and were successful in routing the Moabite forces and destroying many towns (2 Kgs. 3: 24-25). But when the coalition tried to dislodge Mesha from Kir Hareseth (modern Kerak), they were unsuccessful. After Mesha sacrificed his oldest son on the ramparts of the city, “the fury against Israel was great; they withdrew and returned to their own land” (2 Kgs. 3: 27).
The campaign must have taken place between 848 and 841 BC, the only time when Joram and Jehoshaphat were both on the throne. Although the campaign met with some success, it appears that Moab retained its independence. This is confirmed by the Mesha Inscription.
The Mesha Inscription gives us “the rest of the story.” It reads, in fact, like a chapter from the Old Testament. Its language, terminology and phraseology are exactly the same as what we find in the Bible. Mesha credits his successful revolt and recapture of Moabite territory, as well as other accomplishments, to Chemosh, national god of Moab. He does not, of course, record his defeat in the south at the hands of the coalition armies. Similarly, although the Bible records Mesha’s revolt, it gives no details on his successes. So each record, accurate in its own way, records events from a different perspective.
Chronology of the Revolt of Mesha
The main problem in correlating the Mesha Inscription with the Bible has to do with synchronizing the chronology of the two sources. 2 Kings 3:5 (cf. 1:1) simply states,
“But after Ahab died, the king of Moab rebelled against the king of Israel.”
Ahab, father of Joram, died in ca. 853 BC, so Mesha’s revolt must have taken place some time after 853 BC. According to the Mesha Inscription,
Omri had taken possession of the land of Medeba. And he dwelt in it in his days and half  the days of his son : 40 years; but Chemosh restored it in my days (lines 7-9).
The Mesha Inscription not only mentions Mesha, king of Moab, known in the Bible, but also Omri, one of the most powerful kings of the Northern Kingdom (1 Kgs. 16:21-28), who ruled 885-873 BC.
Omri established a dynasty which lasted until his grandson Joram was assassinated by Jehu in 841 BC. The term “son” in the inscription simply means descendent, as we know from the Bible and other ancient Near Eastern texts. Adding the years of Omri (12, 1 Kgs. 16:23), the years of his son Ahab (22, 1 Kgs. 16:29), the years of Ahab’s son Ahaziah (2, 1 Kgs. 22:52) and half the years of Joram, brother of Ahaziah, (6, 2 Kgs. 3:1), we obtain a span of 42 years. Some of the reigns of these kings could be common years, making the true span 40 years, or, the 40 year figure simply could be a round number. Thiele gives absolute years for the period from the beginning of the reign of Omri to the sixth year of Joram as 885 to 846 BC, or 40 years (1983: 217). Thus, it appears that Mesha revolted in the sixth year of Joram, ca. 846 BC. The Bible indicates that the retaliation by Joram recorded in 2 Kings 3 took place immediately upon Mesha’s revolt (verses 5-7), or 846 BC. This date falls within the time period of 848-841 BC when both Joram and Jehoshaphat were ruling.
The Gods of Israel and Moab
In describing his victories over Israel, Mesha tells of defeating the town of Nebo. Among the spoils he acquired were the “altar–hearths? of Yahweh” (lines 17-18). This is the earliest mention of Yahweh, God of the Israelites, outside the Bible.
The Bible records the names of many deities worshipped by the nations around Israel. One of those gods is Chemosh. He is mentioned eight times in the Old Testament (Num. 21:29; Jgs. 11:24; 1 Kgs. 11:7, 33; 2 Kgs. 23:13; Jer. 48:7, 13, 46), always (with the exception of Jgs. 11:24) as the national god of the Moabites. The Mesha Inscription verifies that this indeed was the case. Chemosh is mentioned some 11 times in the inscription:
· Mesha made a high place for Chemosh, since Chemosh gave Mesha victory over his enemies (line 3)
· Because Chemosh was angry with Moab, Omri oppressed Moab (line 5)
· Chemosh gave Moab back her territory (line 9)
· Mesha slew the people of Ataroth to satisfy Chemosh (lines 11-12)
· Mesha dragged the altar–hearth(?) of Ataroth before Chemosh (lines 12-13)
· Chemosh directed Mesha to attack the town of Nebo (line 14)
· Mesha devoted the inhabitants of Nebo to Chemosh (line 17)
· The altar-hearths(?) of Yahweh from Nebo were dragged before Chemosh (lines 17-18)
· Chemosh drove the king of Israel out of Jahaz (lines 18-19)
· Chemosh directed Mesha to fight against Horanaim (line 32)
· Chemosh gave Mesha victory over Horanaim (line 33)
The Cities of Northern Moab
Most of the inscription is taken up with Mesha’s success in regaining the land of Medeba, the disputed territory north of the Arnon Gorge. He claims to have added 100 towns to his territory by means of his faithful army from Dibon:
[And] the men of Dibon were fitted out for war because all Dibon was obedient. And I ruled [over a] hundred of towns that I added to the land (lines 28-29).
Some 12 towns in the land of Medeba are mentioned, all of them known from the Old Testament.
“I am Mesha …the Dibonite” (line 1)
Mackey’s Comment: The next statement is the one that I believe actually refers to the re-building of Jericho, as foretold by Joshua.
The son-slaying Mesha (contemporary of Ahab) here meshes with the son-slaying Hiel (contemporary of Ahab). Thus we read:
Later on in the inscription he says,
I built Qeriho: the wall of the parkland and the wall of the acropolis; and I built its gates, and I built its towers; and I built the king’s house; and I made banks for the water reservoir inside the town; and there was no cistern inside the town, in Qeriho, and I said to all the people: “Make yourself each a cistern in his house”; and I dug the ditches for Qeriho with prisoners of Israel (lines 21-26).
Since Mesha erected his stela to honor Chemosh in “this high place for Chemosh in Qeriho,” and since the stela was found at Dhiban, identified as ancient Dibon, most scholars believe that Qeriho was the name of the royal citadel at Dibon. Note that Israelite captives were used to cut the timber used to construct Qeriho.
Mackey’s Comment: I do not believe that Mesha’s “Qeriho” was in Dibon.
Dibon was captured from the Amorites by Israel (Num. 21:21-25, 31) and assigned to the tribe of Reuben (Jos. 13:17). But evidently it was reassigned to the tribe of Gad, since Gad built the city (Num. 32:34) and it was called “Dibon of Gad”; (Num. 33:45, 46).
The site of Dhiban and was excavated 1950-1956 and 1965. A city wall and gateway were found, as well as a large podium which the excavators believe supported the royal quarter constructed by Mesha. In addition, a text from around the time of Mesha was found which refers to the “temple of Che[mosh],” and nearly 100 cisterns were found on the site and in the surrounding area, possibly made in response to Mesha’s directive to “make yourself each a cistern in his house” (lines 24- 25).
Mackey’s Comment: Jericho, too, had its own impressive cisterns.
The article continues:
In his prophecy against Moab, Isaiah states, “Dibon goes up to its temple, to its high places to weep” (15:2, NIV). Jeremiah predicted that the fortified cities of Dibon would be ruined (48:18; cf. 48:21-22).
“And I built Baal Meon, and made a reservoir in it” (line 9)
Baal Meon was allotted to the Reubenites (Jos. 13:17, where it is called Beth Baal Meon), and built by them (Num. 32:38). An eighth century BC ostracon [an inscribed potsherd] from Samaria (no. 27) contains a reference to “Baala the Baalmeonite.” Jeremiah predicted that the judgment of God would come upon the city (48:23, where it is called Beth Meon). Ezekiel said God would expose the flank of Moab, beginning with its frontier towns, including Baal Meon (25:9). It is thought to be located at Kh. Ma’in, 5 mi southwest of modern Madaba, which has not been excavated.
Toward the end of the inscription, Baal Meon is mentioned again when Mesha records,
“And I built… the temple of Baal Meon; and I established there […] the sheep of the land” (lines 29-31).
The reference to sheep is significant, as it reflects the main occupation of the people of Moab, in agreement with the Bible. 2 Kings 3:4 tells us,
Now Mesha king of Moab raised sheep, and he had to supply the king of Israel with 100,000 lambs and with the wool of 100,000 rams.
“And I built Kiriathaim” (lines 9-10)
Kiriathaim was another city allotted to the Reubenites and built by them (Jos. 13:19; Num. 32:37). Jeremiah predicted that the city would be disgraced and captured (48:1), and Ezekiel said God would expose the flank of Moab, beginning with its frontier towns, including Kiriathaim (25:9). It is possibly located at al Qureiye, 6 mi. northwest of Madaba.
“And the men of Gad had dwelt in the land of Ataroth from of old” (line 10)
Mesha devoted 3 lines of his memorial to a description of his operation against Ataroth. Although mentioned only twice in the Old Testament, the city seems to have been an important place. The name means “crowns” and was said by the Reubenites and Gadites to be a good place for livestock (Num. 32:3-4). The Gadites built up Ataroth as a fortified city, and built pens there for their flocks (Num. 32:34-36). This agrees with Mesha’s inscription which says that the men of Gad had lived there “from of old.” Ataroth is most likely located at Kh. ‘Attarus, unexcavated, 8 mi. northwest of Dhiban.
The entire section dealing with Ataroth reads as follows:
And the men of Gad had dwelt in the land of Ataroth from of old, and the king of Israel built Ataroth for himself, but I fought against the town and took it, and I slew all the people: the town belonged to Chemosh and to Moab. And I brought thence the altar–hearth of his Beloved, and I dragged it before Chemosh in Kerioth/my town. And I settled in it the men of Sharon and the men of Maharath (lines 10-14).
“And I brought thence the altar–hearth of his Beloved, and I dragged it before Chemosh in Kerioth/my town” (lines 12-13)
Kerioth was judged by God (Jer. 48:24), with the town being captured and its strongholds taken (Jer. 48:41). Its location is uncertain. If “my town” is the correct reading in line 13, then the text refers to Dibon, Mesha’s capital.
“And Chemosh said to me: ‘Go! Take Nebo against Israel’” (line 14)
Mesha’s assault of Nebo is detailed in 4 lines, the most of any of the cities mentioned in the stela. Nebo is mentioned seven times in the Old Testament, being one of the cities built by the tribe of Reuben (Num. 32:38). In his prophecy against Moab, Isaiah wrote that Moab would wail over Nebo (15:2, NIV). Similarly, Jeremiah said that judgment would come upon her, and she would be laid waste (48:1, 22).
Mesha’s nighttime foray against Nebo is reported as follows:
And Chemosh said to me: “Go! Take Nebo against Israel.” And I went by night and fought against it from break of dawn till noon. And I took it and slew all: 7,000 men, boys, women, girls, and pregnant women, because I had devoted it to Ashtar-Chemosh. And I took thence the altar-hearths of YHWH and I dragged them before Chemosh (lines 14-18).
It appears that there was a worship center for Yahweh at Nebo since among the spoils were “altar hearths(?) of Yahweh.” It is perhaps for this reason that Mesha devoted the inhabitants to his god(s) Ashtar-Chemosh. The word used for “devoted” is the same as the Hebrew word harem used in the Old Testament for offering a city completely to Yahweh, such as Jericho (Jos. 6:17, 21). Nebo is most likely Kh. al Muhaiyat, northwest of Madaba and just south of Mt. Nebo.
“And the king of Israel had built Jahaz” (lines 18-19)
Jahaz is the town where the Israelites fought and defeated Sihon and his Amorite army as they first approached the promised land (Num. 21:21-31; Dt. 2:31-36; Jgs. 11:19-22). It was included in the Reubenite allotment (Jos. 13:18), and later transferred to the Levites (Jos. 21:36; 1 Chr. 6:78). Jeremiah predicted doom for the city as part of God’s judgment against Moab (48:21, 34). Mesha goes on to say,
And the king of Israel had built Jahaz, and dwelt therein while he fought against me; but Chemosh drove him out from before me, and I took from Moab 200 men, all the chiefs thereof, and I established them in Jahaz; and I took it to add it to Dibon (lines 18-21).
Here, Mesha refers to a northern campaign by the king of Israel which is not recorded in the Old Testament. In order to achieve victory, Mesha had to marshal the best of his forces, 200 chiefs. Once captured, Jahaz became a daughter city of Dibon. The location of Jahaz is uncertain, although Kh. Medeineyeh 10 mi southeast of Madaba is a likely candidate.
“I built Aroer, and made the highway through the Arnon” (line 26)
The name Aroer means “crest of a mountain,” and that certainly describes this site. It was a border fortress located at Kh. ‘Ara’ir on the northern rim of the Arnon river gorge. Three seasons of excavation were carried out there between 1964 and 1966. Remnants of the fortress constructed by the king of Israel were found, as well as a substantial new fortress constructed by Mesha over the earlier one. In addition, a reservoir to store rainwater was built on the northwest side of the fortress.
Aroer marked the southern boundary of the Transjordanian territory originally captured by the Israelites (Dt. 2:36; 3:12; 4:48; Jos. 12:2; 13:9, 16, 25). It was occupied and fortified by the Gadites (Nm. 32:34). Later, the prophet Jeremiah said that the inhabitants of Aroer would witness fleeing refugees as God poured out His wrath on the cities of Moab (48:19-20).
“I built Beth Bamoth, for it was destroyed” (line 27)
The Beth Bamoth of the Mesha Stela is most likely the same as the Bamoth Baal of the Old Testament. It was here that God met with Balaam (Num. 22:41-23:5); the town was later given to the tribe of Reuben (Jos. 13:17). The location of the place is uncertain.
“And I built Bezer, for it was in ruins” (line 27)
Under the Israelites, Bezer was a Levitical city and a city of refuge (Dt. 4:43; Jos 20:8; 21:36; 1 Chr. 6:78). It may be the same as Bozrah in Jer. 48:24, a Moabite city judged by God. Its location is uncertain.
“And I built [the temple of Mede]ba” (lines 29-30)
The city of Medeba was conquered and occupied by Israel (Nu. 21:30; Jos. 13:9, 16). It suffered under the hand of God when He poured out His judgment on Moab (Isa. 15:2). The ancient site is located at modern Madaba, and remains unexcavated.
“And I built …the temple of Diblaten” (lines 29-30)
Diblaten is mentioned in Jeremiah’s oracle against Moab as Beth Diblathaim (48:22) and is possibly the same as Almon Diblathaim, a stopping place for the Israelites as they approached the promised land (Num. 33:46-47). It is perhaps located at Deleitat esh-Sherqiyeh 10 mi. north-northeast of Dhiban, but that location is far from certain.
The House of David and Southern Moab
“And the house [of Da]vid dwelt in Horanaim” (line 31)
Line 31 is perhaps the most significant line in the entire inscription. In 1993, a stela was discovered at Tel Dan in northern Israel mentioning the “House of David” (Bible and Spade, Autumn 1993: 119-121). This mid-ninth century BC inscription provided the first mention of David in a contemporary text outside the Bible. The find is especially significant since in recent years several scholars have questioned the existence of David. At about the same time the Dan stela was found, French scholar Andre Lemaire was working on the Mesha Inscription and determined that the same phrase appeared there in line 31 (Bible and Spade, Summer 1995: 91-92). Lemaire was able to identify a previously indistinguishable letter as a “d” in the phrase “House of David.” This phrase is used a number of times in the Old Testament for the Davidic dynasty.
From this point on in Mesha’s record it appears that he is describing victories south of the Arnon river, an area previously controlled by Judah. Although there are only three lines left in the surviving portion, Lemaire believes we only have about half of the original memorial (1994: 37). The missing half would have told how Mesha regained the southern half of Moab from Judah. The complete text regarding Horanaim reads as follows:
And the house [of Da]vid dwelt in Horanaim […] and Chemosh said to me: “Go down! Fight against Horanaim.” And I went down, and [I fought against the town, and I took it; and] Chemosh [resto]red it in my days (lines 31-33).
Horanaim is mentioned in Isaiah’s prophecy against Moab (15:5). He says that fugitives would lament their destruction as they travelled the road to Horanaim. Jeremiah says much the same in 48:3, 5, and 47. The town is located south of the Arnon, but exactly where is a matter of conjecture. …”.
But the location and identification of some of the places to which Mesha refers are, as a according to the above, “a matter of conjecture”.
No apparent mention here of “Bethel”, the town with which Hiel is associated. Earlier we referred to Dr. John Osgood’s view that Bethel was the same as Shechem – a town that we have found figuring importantly in the EA letters associated with Laba’yu, my Ahab.
Now, according to EA letter 289, written by Abdi-hiba of Jerusalem, Lab’ayu had actually given Shechem to the rebel hapiru: “Are we to act like Labaya when he was giving the land of Šakmu to the Hapiru?”
The cuneiform ideogram for the hapiru (or habiru) is SA GAZ which occurs in EA sometimes as Sa.Gaz.Mesh, which Velikovsky thought to relate to Mesha himself (Ages in Chaos, I, p. 275):
“… “sa-gaz”, which ideographically can also be read “habatu”, is translated “plunderers”, or “cutthroats”, or “rebellious bandits” … sometimes the texdt speaks of “gaz-Mesh” as a single person … and therefore here Mesh cannot be the suffic for the plural. I shall not translate Mesh … because it is the perosnl name of King Mesha …”.
King Mesha, unable to make any progress against Israel in the days of the powerful Omri, was able to make deep inroads into Israelite territory later, however, when he was powerfully backed (I think) by Ben-Hadad I and the Syrians (before Ahab had defeated them).
Ahab, as EA’s Lab’ayu, was pressurised to hand over to the invading rebels (hapiru) a large slice of his territory in the important Shechem region.
Since Shechem was also Bethel, this would be how Mesha – known variously as Hiel – would be connected with the Bethel which he must have occupied.
This is how he was able to build his Iron Age Jericho with Israelite labour.
Naboth of Jezreel
A suggested identification here of the contemporaneous ‘Obadiah,
Master of King Ahab’s Palace, with Naboth whom the king murdered.
The two accounts, ‘Obadiah (I Kings 18) and Naboth (I Kings 21), are replete with similarities. For instance:
I Kings 21:1: “… Naboth of Jezreel had a vineyard close by the palace of Ahab king of Samaria, and Ahab said to Naboth …”.
I Kings 18:3-4: “…. In Samaria, Ahab summoned ‘Obadiah, the master of the palace …”.
The common Hebrew name ‘Obadiah (עֹבַדְיָהוּ), meaning “servant of Yahweh”, is rendered in Greek as Tobit (Τωβίτ), or Tobith (Τωβίθ), without the theophoric yahu, and with the Hebrew letter ayin (ע) being replaced by the letter tau (Τ).
My suggestion is that the name Naboth (נָבוֹת), apparently being “of uncertain derivation” (http://biblehub.com/hebrew/5022.htm), is simply a variant of ‘Obadiah similar to “Tobith”, this time with the ayin (ע) being replaced by the Hebrew letter nun (נ).
Next we find King Ahab and his servant dividing the country in their search for resources – presumably commencing from two ‘adjoining’ pieces of land:
I Kings 21:2: “… Ahab said to Naboth, ‘Give me your vineyard to be my vegetable garden, since it adjoins my house [palace] …’.”
I Kings 18:5: “…Ahab said to ‘Obadiah, ‘Come along …’. … They divided the country for the purpose of their survey; Ahab went one way by himself and ‘Obadiah went another …”.
In neither case does the king exhibit any sort of animosity or intentional disrespect towards his servant. However, his request for Naboth’s vineyard – for which the king is prepared to pay – was actually (though the apostate Ahab may have been completely unaware of this) a blatant flouting of the Torah.
“What an unthinkable demand. Not only did the Torah forbid such a thing [See Leviticus 25:23; Numbers 36:7; and Ezekiel 46:18] … to give away or sell one’s inheritance … this vineyard embodied Naboth’s life, as it had his father’s and distant generations before him”.
Jewish legend has it that Naboth was in fact a kinsman (cousin?) of Ahab’s.
According to Josephus, Naboth came from an illustrious family (Ant. 8.358).
In the mind of King Ahab, who was no doubt used to getting his own way, what he was proposing to Naboth was merely a reasonable business transaction.
But for the fervently Yahwistic Naboth (‘Obadiah), the king’s offer was unconscionable.
I Kings 21:3: “But Naboth answered, ‘Yahweh forbid that I should give you the inheritance of my ancestors!’”
I Kings 18:3: “… ‘Obadiah held Yahweh in great reverence …”.
The king’s servant had in fact been prepared to risk his life for the cause of Yahweh (18:4): “While Jezebel was killing off the Lord’s prophets, Obadiah had taken a hundred prophets and hidden them in two caves, fifty in each, and had supplied them with food and water”.
Now, again, he was going to stand firm, even though it might mean provoking the wrath of Ahab (not to mention, Queen Jezebel).
Did Jezebel have well in mind ‘Obadiah’s early track record for Yahweh when she proposed this murderous plan to the sulking Ahab for acquiring the servant’s (as Naboth) vineyard? (21:5-10):
“His wife Jezebel came to him and said, ‘Why are you so depressed that you will not eat?’ [Cf. 18:2: “Now the famine was severe in Samaria …”]. He said to her, ‘Because I spoke to Naboth the Jezreelite and said to him, ‘Give me your vineyard for money; or else, if you prefer, I will give you another vineyard for it’; but he answered, ‘I will not give you my vineyard’.’ His wife Jezebel said to him, ‘Do you now govern Israel? Get up, eat some food, and be cheerful; I will give you the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite’.
So she wrote letters in Ahab’s name and sealed them with his seal; she sent the letters to the elders and the nobles who lived with Naboth in his city. She wrote in the letters, ‘Proclaim a fast, and seat Naboth at the head of the assembly; seat two scoundrels opposite him, and have them bring a charge against him, saying, ‘You have cursed God and the king.’ Then take him out, and stone him to death’.”
Not surprisingly, the prophet Elijah – a foe of Ahab’s and Jezebel’s – was on the side of the Yahwistic servant:
I Kings 18:7: “While ‘Obadiah went on his way whom should he meet but Elijah …?”
I Kings 21:17-18: “Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah the Tishbite, saying: ‘Go down to meet King Ahab of Israel, who rules in Samaria; he is now in the vineyard of Naboth, where he has gone to take possession’.”
Jerome T. Walsh has made the interesting observation (in Style and Structure in Biblical Hebrew Narrative, p. 145, n. 2) that:
“… Elijah’s meticulous obedience to YHWH is revealed when the narrative repeats the words of YHWH’s command in describing Elijah’s compliance (I Kings 17:3-6); Obadiah’s veracity is shown when he describes himself in the same words the narrator has already used (I Kings 18:3-4; 12-13, see above, p. 140); Ahab reveals something about himself and his opinion of Jezebel by not repeating accurately the conversation he had withNnaboth (I Kings 21:2, 3-6)”.
In the time of ‘Obadiah, Jezebel had been busy ‘butchering the prophets’.
Now she saw to it that ‘Obadiah himself (as Naboth) was eliminated once and for all (21:15): “As soon as Jezebel heard that Naboth had been stoned and was dead, Jezebel said to Ahab, ‘Go, take possession of the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite, which he refused to give you for money; for Naboth is not alive, but dead’.”
King Ahab had customarily, in the case of the elusive Elijah (18:10), “… made [kingdoms] swear an oath that they could not find [him]”.
Now Queen Jezebel was ordering in the king’s name for ‘false witness’ against Naboth (21:10): ‘… seat two men, scoundrels, before [Naboth] to bear witness against him, saying, ‘You have blasphemed God and the king’. Then take him out, and stone him, that he may die’.
Some time after the death of King Ahab, when Jehu was on the rampage against the king’s son, Jehoram, we learn from the mouth of the same Jehu that Naboth’s sons had also been wiped out in this bloody episode (2 Kings 9:24-26):
“Then Jehu drew his bow and shot Jehoram between the shoulders. The arrow pierced his heart and he slumped down in his chariot. Jehu said to Bidkar, his chariot officer, ‘Pick him up and throw him on the field that belonged to Naboth the Jezreelite. Remember how you and I were riding together in chariots behind Ahab his father when the Lord spoke this prophecy against him: ‘Yesterday I saw the blood of Naboth and the blood of his sons, declares the Lord, and I will surely make you pay for it on this plot of ground, declares the Lord’. Now then, pick him up and throw him on that plot, in accordance with the word of the Lord’.”
Queen Jezebel would have realised that it was necessary for Naboth’s sons to die as well if Ahab were to inherit the vineyard.
Elijah the Tishbite had made himself inimical to King Ahab (and his wife):
I Kings 18:16-17: “Ahab went to meet Elijah. When he saw Elijah, he said to him, ‘Is that you, you troubler of Israel?’
I Kings 21:20: “Ahab said to Elijah, ‘Have you found me, O my enemy?’ …”.
Elijah was not to be cowed on either occasion:
I Kings 18:18: “‘I have not made trouble for Israel’, Elijah replied. ‘But you and your father’s family have. You have abandoned the Lord’s commands and have followed the Baals’.”
I Kings 21:20-24: “[Elijah] answered, ‘I have found you. Because you have sold yourself to do what is evil in the sight of the Lord, I will bring disaster on you; I will consume you, and will cut off from Ahab every male, bond or free, in Israel; and I will make your house like the house of Jeroboam son of Nebat, and like the house of Baasha son of Ahijah, because you have provoked me to anger and have caused Israel to sin. Also concerning Jezebel the Lord said, ‘The dogs shall eat Jezebel within the bounds of Jezreel.’ Anyone belonging to Ahab who dies in the city the dogs shall eat; and anyone of his who dies in the open country the birds of the air shall eat’.”
This was because (21:25-26): “(Indeed, there was no one like Ahab, who sold himself to do what was evil in the sight of the Lord, urged on by his wife Jezebel. He acted most abominably in going after idols, as the Amorites had done, whom the Lord drove out before the Israelites)”.
According to a recent article: http://www.ancientpages.com/2017/08/03/biblical-vineyard-naboth-existed-found/
Biblical Vineyard Of Naboth Existed And Has Been Found
AncientPages.com – From the Bible we learn that Naboth’s vineyard was located near the palace of King Ahav [Ahab] at Jezreel. This place is mentioned in 1 Kings in the Bible and it’s a place associated with the infamous queen Jezebel.
To grow vegetables, the king offered to buy Naboth’s vineyard or exchange it for a better one, but Naboth refused. When King Ahav returned home and told he couldn’t buy the vineyard, Queen Jezebel had Naboth convicted on false charges and stoned to death.
Archaeologists have long wondered whether Naboth’s vineyard did exist or was just a mythical place. It now seems we can answer this question as researchers say they have located the Biblical place.
According to Dr. Norma Franklin, one of the leaders behind the Jezreel Expedition, Jezreel Valley was indeed a major wine producing area in biblical times, which lines up with the story of Naboth’s vineyard as found in 1 Kings in the Bible.
The area of the discovery (Photo: Jezreel Expedition)
Using laser technology researchers analyzed data from the region and discovered several wine and olive presses, including over 100 bottle-shaped pits carved into the bedrock, which Franklin believes were used to store wine.
“As an archaeologist, I cannot say that there was definitely a specific man named Naboth who had a particular vineyard,” Dr Franklin told Breaking Israel News. “The story is very old but from what I have found, I can say that the story as described in the Bible quite probably could have occurred here in the Jezreel.”
The archaeologist suggested that the vineyard was established somewhere before 300 BCE, which coincides with the time-frame for when Naboth was producing wine at the site.
“The Biblical narrative takes place in the fertile Jezreel Valley, an agricultural center to this day. According to the 21st chapter of the Book of Kings, Naboth owned a vineyard on the eastern slope of the hill of Jezreel near the palace of King Ahab,”
“The king coveted the land but Naboth did not want to sell the plot, and since it was an inheritance, Torah law forbade him from selling it outright. Queen Jezebel intervened, staging a mock trial in order to seize Naboth’s property.”
“Owning a vineyard would make him wealthy since wine was an important commodity. I reckon that since he was from the aristocracy he probably lived in Samaria and had more than one vineyard. There is no doubt that the Bible is a useful source,” Dr. Franklin said. ….