|Tel Lachish||Hebrew||תל לכיש|
|Lakis, Lakisa, Lakisi||el-Amarna Letters|
|Tell ed-Duweir||Arabic||تل الدوير|
Lachish was an ancient Canaanite and Israelite city in the Shephelah ("lowlands of Judea") region of Israel, on the south bank of the Lakhish River, mentioned several times in the Hebrew Bible. The current tell (ruin) by that name, known as Tel Lachish or Tell ed-Duweir, has been identified with the biblical Lachish. The earliest occupation comes from the Neolithic ( Wikipedia).
In order to ensure continuity between the various excavations at the site and to keep the stratigraphic terminology standardized, the Institute's excavations adopted the divisions determined by Starkey for levels VI-I. Because it is impossible to include all the Middle and Late Bronze Age phases excavated in the new excavations within the framework ofStarkey's levels VIII and VII, these layers will be renumbered when the excavation of the section in areaS is complete. The level excavated in the section beneath level VI has so far been labeled VII, while those layers excavated in area P, below level VI, have been temporarily termed P-1-P-5.
it is not at all clear why the fortified city of Lachish Level IV came to an end and Level III was built.Ussishkin (2014:214) noted changes to the the City Gate, building and rebuilding activity in domestic structures in Area S, and changes to the superstructures but not the foundations of the Palace Fort and the Southern Annex. The
city walls seem to have continued in use unchanged.Level III structures were said to resemble their Level IV predecessors. Numerous broken pottery vessels found in Level IV of Area S (domestic dwellings) was thought to
allude to sudden destructionbut
nothing was found that would indicate that this destruction had been intentional or that an enemy had set fire to it.Moshe Kochavi, who had excavated with Yigal Yadin at Hazor in 1955 (Roberts, 2012), was said to have visited Lachish in 1976 and suggested that Level IV was destroyed by the Amos Quake ( Ussishkin, 2014:215). While Excavator David Ussishkin has reported this as a possibility, he has never mentioned it as a certainty or even a probability in a number of subsequent publications about Lachish.
2 Kings 14 recounts the flight of Amaziah, son of Joash from Jerusalem to Lachish (14:19 and 2 Chron 25:27) where he was captured and subsequently killed.In this scenario, Amaziah, the former King of Judah, fled to Lachish with a cohort and walled himself up in the city. The Biblical accounts record that Amaziah was then killed in Lachish - something which would have been done with the
knowledge and even consentof the then King of Judah - Uzziah - Amaziah's son (Roberts, 2012:181 citing Rainey, 1983:14). This, in turn, would suggest that there was a minor battle in the city that led to it's destruction and perhaps a later revamping of parts of the city associated with cultic practices more in line with the policies of Uzziah. Unfortunately, Roberts (2012)'s scenario does not explain all that broken pottery in the domestic dwellings in Area S.
little is known about Lachish Level Vand
no findings were unearthed in the excavation that can dateit. He estimated a date of
the latter part of the tenth century or the fist part of the ninth century BCE [the early stage of Iron Age IIA, according to a division proposed by Ze’ev Herzog and Lily Singer-Avitz]based on
general considerations and the chronology of parallel sites in the southern Land of Israel.
We have no archaeological data to determine the date of the founding of Level IV at the end of the tenth century or the beginning of the ninth century BCE. We should raise the possibility here that the fortified city was established by King Asa (908–867 BCE) or King Jehoshaphat (870–846 BCE), each of whom ruled for prolonged periods. We will also mention that 2 Chronicles (14:5–6; 17:12) says they both built fortified cities in Judah. The problematic piece of biblical information that must be mentioned here is the description of the fortifications of Rehoboam (928–911 BCE) presented in detail in 2 Chronicles 11:5–12,23:Ussishkin (2014:214-215) wrote the following about the end of Level IV:And Rehoboam dwelt in Jerusalem, and built cities for defence in Judah. He built even Beth-lehem, and Etam, and Tekoa, and Beth-zur, and Soco, and Adullam and Gath, and Mareshah, and Ziph and Adoraim, and Lachish, and Azekah, and Zorah, and Aijalon, and Hebron, which are in Judah and in Benjamin, fortified cities. And he fortified the strongholds, and put captains in them, and store of victual, and oil and wine. And in every city he put shields and spears, and made them exceeding strong… And he dealt wisely, and dispersed of all his sons throughout all the lands of Judah and Benjamin, unto every fortified city; and he gave them victual in abundance. And he sought for them many wives.Based on the above text, some scholars — among them Aharoni, Yadin and William Dever — have proposed that the fortified city of Level IV was built by Rehoboam. Others disagree over the dating of the list of that king’s fortification work: Nadav Na’aman attributed it to the era of Hezekiah’s kingdom, Volkmar Fritz to the period of Josiah, while Israel Finkelstein dated it to the Hellenistic period. Indeed, based on the above verses, it is difficult to attribute the construction of Lachish Level IV to Rehoboam. Even if we assume that this is a reliable historical source, Lachish is depicted there in the same breath as a series of other cities fortified by Rehoboam. However, those are all cities of secondary importance while the fortifications of Lachish Level IV show that it was a particularly important city compared to other cities in Judah.
The End of the Fortified City of Level IV
It is not at all clear why the fortified city of Lachish Level IV came to an end and Level III was built. The data is as follows: Between Level IV and Level III, the following changes took place:
- the superstructure — but not the foundations — of the Level IV Palace-Fort (Palace B) was destroyed; in Level III the foundations of the Palace-Fort were expanded and a new palace (Palace C) was built on those expanded foundations.
- The Northern Annex of Level IV continued to serve unchanged in the Palace-Fort of Level III, but the Southern Annex of Level IV was now replaced by a similar building, twice the size, and a large courtyard was built in front of the palace.
- The Enclosure Wall of Level IV was partly replaced by the new Enclosure Wall built in Level III along the same lines.
- The city walls seem to have continued in use unchanged.
- The Level IV city gate also continued in use in Level III but underwent significant changes: A massive tower was added in the corner of the outer gatehouse and the superstructure of the inner gatehouse was apparently rebuilt on the foundations of the previous gatehouse. The floors of the gate’s courtyard and the inner gatehouse were raised.
- The Level IV dwelling uncovered in Area S was demolished and in Level III, a house with a similar plan was built, with additional domestic dwellings nearby.
And so it was that most of the Level IV structures — except for the city walls — were replaced by new structures that resembled their predecessors. Numerous clay vessels were found in the Level IV domestic dwelling excavated in Area S, but no evidence of intentional destruction was discerned. No such evidence or signs of fire were found in any of the other areas, either.
These data show clearly that on the one hand, there was continuity between Level IV and Level III but on the other, a break ensued between the two levels following some event that caused the destruction of most of the buildings and their replacement with new ones. The assemblage of vessels found in the Level IV domestic dwelling also alludes to sudden destruction, but there too, nothing was found that would indicate that this destruction had been intentional or that an enemy had set fire to it. All of this data conforms to the proposal raised by Moshe Kochavi in 1976, when he visited the excavation — that Level IV was destroyed by a powerful earthquake that necessitated the rebuilding of most of the structures. As will be recalled, during the reign of King Uzziah, in 760 BCE, and perhaps a few years before, a major earthquake took place, which is mentioned in the book of Amos (1:1):The words of Amos, who was among the herdmen of Tekoa, which he saw concerning Israel in the days of Uzziah king of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash king of Israel, two years before the earthquake.Ze’ev Herzog and Lily Singer-Avitz proposed that this event be viewed as the end of the later stage of the Iron Age IIA at other sites as well. However, there is a great deal to be said for the proposal that Stratum A3 at Gath, which is characterized by a similar pottery assemblage, was destroyed as early as the end of the ninth century. The latter proposal seems to contradict the suggestion that Level IV in nearby Lachish reached its end several decades later. Lacking direct written evidence from the sites themselves, it is difficult to decide among the various possibilities.
Ussishkin (1977:52) noted the following:
Level IV apparently came to a sudden end, but it seems clear that this was not caused by fire. On the other hand, the lower house of Level III and the rebuilt enclosure wall followed the lines of the Level IV structures, while the Level IV city wall and gate continued to function in Level III; these facts point towards the continuation of life without a break. Considering that the fortifications remained intact, we can hardly identify this level with the city which was stormed and completely destroyed in the fierce Assyrian attack. Here we may mention M. Kochavi's suggestion (made during a visit to the excavation in 1976 and quoted here with his kind permission) that the end of the Level IV structures may have been caused by an earthquake. A natural catastrophe of this sort would, perhaps, be compatible with the above findings. Of interest in this connection is the earthquake mentioned in Amos 1:1 and Zech. 14:5, which occurred around 760 B.C.E. during the reign of Uzziah, king of Judah.Ussishkin (1977:43) noted that:
Many of the floors of the main building were covered with relatively large quantities of pottery, including both intact and broken vessels - an indication of sudden destruction. On the other hand, there is only a very small amount of ash remains, lying either on the floors or above them. The layer of debris accumulated above the floors and separating them from the Level III floors was relatively thin, usually less than 50 cm.; in some cases pottery vessels lying on the earlier floors could be discerned while still cleaning the later floors.
Level IV apparently came to a sudden end, but it seems clear that this was not caused by fire. On the other hand, the lower house of Level III and the rebuilt enclosure wall followed the lines of the Level IV structures, while the Level IV city wall and gate continued to function in Level III; these facts point towards the continuation of life without a break. Considering that the fortifications remained intact, we can hardly identify this level with the city which was stormed and completely destroyed in the fierce Assyrian attack. Here we may mention M. Kochavi's suggestion (made during a visit to the excavation in 1976 and quoted here with his kind permission) that the end of the Level IV structures may have been caused by an earthquake. A natural catastrophe of this sort would, perhaps, be compatible with the above findings. Of interest in this connection is the earthquake mentioned in Amos 1: 1 and Zech. 14:5, which occurred around 760 B.C.E. during the reign of Uzziah, king of Judah.113Thus, Moshe Kochavi, who had begun digging at Hazor with Yadin in 1955, and was no doubt influenced by the earthquake damage he saw at Hazor, provided the suggestion to Usshiskin, a suggestion that was based more on a process of elimination (not caused by fire, outer walls still standing so no military incursion), than by diagnostics associated with earthquake damage. To Usshiskin’s credit he has remained neutral regarding the ambiguous evidence both in the preliminary reports as well as his article twenty years later in The New Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land.114 The conclusion reached by William Dever in 1992, however, would argue that Hazor and Lachish were two of the few sites that have put forward “concrete” evidence of earthquake damage and in his view the evidence at Lachish is “perhaps the strongest.”115 Dever does not elaborate on what he sees as evidence of seismic damage. Since that time the final reports from the 1973-1994 excavations at Lachish have been published but there is nothing to change the state of Ussishkin’s conclusions. He writes:
Pottery was found upon the floors of the Level IVa buildings, but there was no evidence for destruction by fire. It is quite possible that this phase was destroyed by an earthquake rather than intentionally destroyed by human attackers, though no unequivocal proof of this is available. Further support, however, may be seen in the fact that the builders of Level III attempted to restore the destroyed city, behaviour which might be considered as an indication that the builders of Level III were no new, intrusive population.116While the evidence remains up for debate the evidence in the archaeological and historical record, as well as the excavators’s comments on the destruction, may point to internal reasons for the destruction. 2 Kings 14 recounts the flight of Amaziah, son of Joash from Jerusalem to Lachish (14:19 and 2 Chron 25:27) where he was captured and subsequently killed. The text lists the conspirators in the plural
[וַיִּשְׁלְח֤וּ אַחֲרָיו֙ לָכִ֔ישָׁה וַיְמִתֻ֖הוּ שָֽׁם׃]Amaziah’s life, as depicted by the Deuteronomist, was filled with challenge and misfortune that is characterized by frequent confrontation and political scheming.117 To my knowledge, little attention has been given to exploring the implications of Amaziah fleeing to Lachish.118 When Amaziah fled he would have taken a close cohort of trusted advisors and bodyguards with him to Lachish where he appears to have barricaded himself in the city. The conspirators were likely organized by Azariah, as Anson Rainey notes, “it (the conspiracy) could hardly have been done without the knowledge and even the consent of Azariah [aka King Uzziah].”119 Further, the local population who were against the high places that Amaziah kept also aided in his overthrow. In sum, when Amaziah fled the capital city for Lachish he was not met by trusted loyalists in his kingdom but by conspirators from Azariah as well as locals against his rule.
“But they sent after him to Lachish and they killed him there.”
112 David Ussishkin, “Lachish,” NEAHL 3: 897-911.
113 David Ussishkin, “The Destruction of Lachish by Sennecherib and the Dating of the Royal Judean Storage Jars,” TA 4 (1977): 28-60. See also Ussishkin’s statement concerning Area S, Level IV (43), “Many of the floors of the main building were covered with relatively large quantities of pottery, including both intact and broken vessels - an indication of sudden destruction. On the other hand, there is only a very small amount of ash remains, lying either on the floors or above them. The layer of debris accumulated above the floors and separating them from the Level III floors was relatively thin, usually less than 50 cm.; in some cases pottery vessels lying on the earlier floors could be discerned while still cleaning the later floors.”
114 In Ussishkin, “The Destruction of Lachish,” 51, he wrote, “The transition from Level IV to Level III is characterized by both continuation and some clear-cut changes and rebuildings.” In his encyclopedia article, he simply notes that, “M. Kochavi has suggested that the destruction was caused by an earthquake.”
115 Dever, “The Earthquake,” 28*, 35*.
116 Gabriel Barkey and David Ussishkin, “Area S: The Iron Age Strata,” in The Renewed Archaeological Excavations at Lachish (1973-1994) (5 vols.; Tel Aviv: Tel Aviv University, 2004), 2:447.
117 J. Maxwell Miller and John H. Hayes, A History of Ancient Israel and Judah (2d ed.; Louisville: John Knox, 2006), 352, simply mention that Amaziah was apparently, “involved in some political scheme, fled to Lachish, and there was put to death.”
118 M. Haran, “Observations on the Historical Background of Amos 1:2-2:6,” IEJ 18 (1968): 201-12, focuses on the effects of Amaziah’s victory over the Edomites and the dating of sections in Amos that mention Edom. Anson Rainey, “The Biblical Shephelah of Judah,” BASOR 251 (1983): 1-22, “If Amaziah had hoped to gain the support of a local governor at Lachish (perhaps a member of the royal family), he was sadly mistaken.”
119 Rainey, “The Biblical Shephelah,” 14, 16.
120 Ussishkin, “The Destruction of Lachish,” 44.
121 I would like to thank Kyle Keimer for strengthening my argument about the transition between Lachish IV and III by pointing me to the evidence at Timnah.
122 Amihai Mazar and Nava Panitz-Cohen, “” in Timnah (Tel Batash) II: the Finds from the First Millennium BCE (2 vols.; Jerusalem: Hebrew University, 2001), 156–160.
123 Orna Zimhoni, Studies in the Iron Age Pottery of Israel: Typological, Archaeological and Chronological Aspects (OP 2; Tel Aviv: Tel Aviv University, 1997), 141–156.
124 See, for example, the numerous accounts of governmental overthrow and the destruction of government buildings in Jonathan Kandall, “Iraq’s Unruly Century,” Smithsonian Magazine 34 (May 2003): 44–52.
|Broken Pottery (found in fallen position ?)||Area S (domestic dwellings)
The renewed excavation areas and the various grids:
|Broken Pottery (found in fallen position ?)||Area S (domestic dwellings)
The renewed excavation areas and the various grids:
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S. B. Parker, Uncovering Ancient Stones (H. N. Richardson Fest.; ed. L. M. Hopfe), Winona Lake, IN 1994, 65–78
J. Renz, Die Althebräischen Inschriften, 1 (Handbuch der Althebräischen Epigraphik), Darmstadt 1995, 74–76, 217–219, 280, 312–315, 405–437, 439
W. Nebe, Zeitschrift für Althebraistik 9 (1996), 48; D. Pardee, OEANE, 3, New York 1997, 323–324
P. Boudreuil et al., NEA 61 (1998), 2–13
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I. M. Young, VT 48 (1998), 408–422; Z. B. Begin (& A. Grushka), EI 26 (1999), 226*–227*; id., VT 52 (2002), 166–174
P. A. Kaswalder, La Terra Santa Feb. 1999, 25–30
H. Misgav, EI 26 (1999), 231*
N. Na’aman, PEQ 131 (1999), 65–67; id., VT 53 (2003), 169–180
H. Eshel, Zeitschrift für Althebraistik 13 (2000), 181–187
W. M. Schniedewind, ibid., 157–167
J. A. Emerton, PEQ 133 (2001), 2–15
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R. G. Lehmann, Bote und Brief: Sprachliche Systeme der Informationsübermittlung im Spannungsfeld von Mündlichkeit und Schriftlichkeit (Nordostafrikanisch/Westasiatische Studien 4; ed. A. Wagner), Frankfurt am Main 2003, 75–101
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