Israel’s Nameless Savior

Credit:, Istanbul Archaeology Museum

In Deuteronomy 25, Israel is command to “Remember what the Amalekites did to you along the way when you came out of Egypt. When you were weary and worn out, they met you on your journey and attacked all who were lagging behind; they had no fear of God. When the Lord your God gives you rest from all the enemies around you in the land he is giving you to possess as an inheritance, you shall blot out the name of Amalek from under heaven. Do not forget!”

Here, Moses is referencing a battle that is mentioned in Exodus 17. “The Amalekites came and attacked the Israelites at Rephidim. Moses said to Joshua, Choose some of our men and go out to fight the Amalekites. Tomorrow I will stand on top of the hill with the staff of God in my hands. So Joshua fought the Amalekites as Moses had ordered, and Moses, Aaron and Hur went to the top of the hill. As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning. When Moses’ hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up, one on one side, one on the other, so that his hands remained steady till sunset. So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword.”

That the course of the battle was determined by the position of Moses’ arms, demonstrates God’s direct involvement in wars. This is a concept reiterated in Deuteronomy 20. “When you go to war against your enemies and see horses and chariots and an army greater than yours, do not be afraid of them, because the Lord your God, who brought you up out of Egypt, will be with you. When you are about to go into battle, the priest shall come forward and address the army. He shall say: Hear, Israel: Today you are going into battle against your enemies. Do not be fainthearted or afraid; do not panic or be terrified by them. For the Lord your God is the one who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies to give you victory.”

This concept of God as deliverer is reiterated in 2 Kings 13. For nearly a century, the Arameans were Israel’s greatest threat, invading, laying siege to Israel’s cities and holding the land. Then it stopped. “Then Jehoahaz sought the Lord’s favor, and the Lord listened to him, for he saw how severely the king of Aram was oppressing Israel. The Lord provided a deliverer for Israel, and they escaped from the power of Aram.”

The archaeological record can explain just who the deliverer was.

Adad-nirari III was the king of Assyria from 811 BCE until 783 BCE. As did earlier Assyrian kings of the Neo-Assyrian Empire, he regularly undertook military campaigns to dominate neighboring regions, including the area of Syria.

The Saba’a Conquest Stele of Adad-nirari III was recovered in Saba’a in Syria. It was recorded by an Assyrian officer Nergalerish. After the kings in Syria stopped paying tribute, Adad-nirari III ordered his army into the region. “I commanded the troops of Assyria to march to the land Hatti. I crossed the Euphrates in flood. … I commanded [my troops to march to Damascus]. I [confined] Mari in Damascus [… He brought to me] 100 talents of gold (and) 1,000 talents of silver as tribute. The word ‘Mari’ here is the Aramean term for a Lord, in this case, the Ben-Hadad of the Bible.

Thus it is the Assyrian king Adad-nirari III who is deliverer, who defeated the Aramenas and ended the Aramean threat to Israel.

The Saba’a Conquest Stele of Adad-nirari III is kept at the Istanbul Archaeology Museums.

Samarian Tribute

Credit:, Ashmolean Museum

Deuteronomy 17 discusses laws that relate to kings. “When you enter the land the Lord your God is giving you and have taken possession of it and settled in it, and you say, Let us set a king over us like all the nations around us, be sure to appoint over you a king the Lord your God chooses. He must be from among your fellow Israelites. Do not place a foreigner over you, one who is not an Israelite.” The king is also not to “take many wives, or his heart will be led astray” and not to “turn from the law to the right or to the left. Then he and his descendants will reign a long time over his kingdom in Israel.”

In 2 Kings 9, Jehu the son of Nimshi set about to take the throne from Joram son of Ahab, the Ahab whose wife Jezebel had turned her husband towards other gods and who killed God’s prophets.

On Jehu’s dash to reach Joram son of Ahab, the lookout recognized who was coming. “The lookout reported, “The driving is like that of Jehu son of Nimshi, he drives like a maniac.” Jehu found Joram and “drew his bow and shot Joram 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.” Jehu then found the wife who led Joram astray. “He looked up at the window and called out, Who is on my side? Who?” Two or three eunuchs looked down at him. Throw her down! Jehu said. So they threw her down, and some of her blood spattered the wall and the horses as they trampled her underfoot.”

Jehu’s taking of the throne initiated a new dynasty. He would be followed by his descendants Jehoahaz, Jehoash and Jereboam.

In 2 Kings 13, Jehu’s grandson Jehoash, by then king, would retake territory from the Arameans. “Hazael king of Aram died, and Ben-Hadad his son succeeded him as king. Then Jehoash son of Jehoahaz recaptured from Ben-Hadad son of Hazael the towns he had taken in battle from his father Jehoahaz. Three times Jehoash defeated him, and so he recovered the Israelite towns.”

While Jehoash had success against the Arameans, he appears not to have been impervious to danger.

Adad-nirari III was the King of Assyria from 811 to 783 BC, and like many of his forerunners, he had a military policy to extract resources from neighboring states. In the Tell al-Rimah Stela, Adad-nirari III records that “I received 2,000 talents of silver, 1,000 talents of copper, 2,000 talents of iron, 3,000 linen garments with multicolored trim – the tribute of Mari’ – of the land of Damascus. I received the tribute of Jehoash the Samarian, of the Tyrian ruler and of the Sidonian ruler.” The Jehoash the Samarian appears to be the one mentioned in the Bible, identified by the city from which he ruled, Samaria.

It is notable that in the earlier Assyrian ‘Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser’ the Israelite king is identified as coming from the land of Omri, Ahab’s father. The Tell al-Rimah Stela appears to recognize that this king of Israel, Jehoash, is not a descendent of Omri and Ahab, but rather is from a different line and is identified by his capital city at Samaria.

An image of the Tell al-Rimah stela can be seen in the image via this link below:

The image above is of a cylinder seal of Adad-Nirari III, held at University of Oxford’s Ashmolean Museum.

Ancient Trench Warfare on the Landscape

Source:, Louvre Museum

In Deuteronomy 11, Moses tells Israel what they will be required to do once they have entered the land of Canaan to capture it. “When the Lord your God has brought you into the land you are entering to possess, you are to proclaim on Mount Gerizim the blessings, and on Mount Ebal the curses. As you know, these mountains are across the Jordan, westward, toward the setting sun, near the great trees of Moreh, in the territory of those Canaanites living in the Arabah in the vicinity of Gilgal. You are about to cross the Jordan to enter and take possession of the land the Lord your God is giving you. When you have taken it over and are living there, be sure that you obey all the decrees and laws I am setting before you today.”

In the Bible, the Canaanites were just one of the nations that Israel was expected to defeat when they captured the land. Similarly, in 2 Kings, when Aram attacked the land, the Israelites were but one of the entities they were seeking to defeat. Another group was the Philistines.

The Philistines were centered in the southwestern corner of the land of Canaan. The Philistine Pentapolis of five major cities included the cities of Gaza, Ashkelon, Ashdod, Ekron and Gath. These cities ran along the trade route to Egypt and to the north, with ports that could transport shipped goods into the interior. As such the area would be attractive to an invader.

In the 9th century BCE, the largest and most powerful of these cities was Gath, which has been determined to have been at the site of today’s Tell es-Safi.

In 2 Kings 12, after defeating the Israelites, the Aramean king turned his attention from the Kingdom of Israel to the Philistines. “About this time Hazael king of Aram went up and attacked Gath and captured it.”

How Aram fought the Philistines is hinted at on an archaeological artifact and on the landscape.

The Stele of Zakkur is a monument that was created by King Zakkur of Hamath and Luhuti in Syria in the early 8th century BCE. In the stele, Zakkur records that “Bar-Hadad, son of Hazael, king of Aram, united against me seventeen kings . . .all these kings laid siege to Hazrach.” But the god “Baalshamayn” told King Zakkur not to be afraid, and he triumphed.

What the stele shows is that the Aramean method of attacking a city would be to lay siege to it.

Gath has a significant destruction layer that appears to have occurred in the latter part of the 9th century BCE. Moreover, after this destruction layer the city never returned to its former size, permanently diminished as a Philistine center after the invasion.

Along with the destruction layer, archaeologists identified a 1.5 mile long trench that extends around three sides of the ancient city. This appears to have been a siege trench dug to encircle the city and prevent an escape or attack by the besieged.

The destruction layer at the end of the 9th BCE is potential evidence of an Aramean invasion, and the siege trench, similar to that which is described in the Stele of Zakkur, may have been the method by which the Arameans defeated the city of Gath.

The Stele of Zakkur is on display at the Louvre Museum in Paris, France.

A Royal Whodunit

Credit:, Israel Museum

In Deuteronomy 7 Moses gives the Israelites confidence for their anticipated invasion of Canaan. “You may say to yourselves, These nations are stronger than we are. How can we drive them out? But do not be afraid of them; remember well what the Lord your God did to Pharaoh and to all Egypt…Do not be terrified by them, for the Lord your God, who is among you, is a great and awesome God. The Lord your God will drive out those nations before you, little by little. You will not be allowed to eliminate them all at once, or the wild animals will multiply around you. But the Lord your God will deliver them over to you, throwing them into great confusion until they are destroyed. He will give their kings into your hand, and you will wipe out their names from under heaven. No one will be able to stand up against you; you will destroy them.”

In 2 Kings, it was the Arameans who entered the territories of the Kingdom of Israel, but with a range of successes and failures in their battles. In 2 Kings 6, “Ben-Hadad king of Aram mobilized his entire army and marched up and laid siege to Samaria, before they experienced a reversal of fortune. In 2 Kings 8, “Ahaziah went with Joram son of Ahab to war against Hazael king of Aram at Ramoth Gilead. The Arameans wounded Joram.” 2 Kings 10, “In those days the Lord began to reduce the size of Israel. Hazael overpowered the Israelites throughout their territory, east of the Jordan in all the land of Gilead (the region of Gad, Reuben and Manasseh), from Aroer by the Arnon Gorge through Gilead to Bashan.” In 2 Kings 15, Aram reaches further south into the Kingdom of Judah. “In those days the Lord began to send Rezin king of Aram and Pekah son of Remaliah against Judah.”

In 1 Kings 12, after Jeroboam led the split of the 10 northern tribes from the Rehoboam’s kingdom centered in Jerusalem, he established two competing sites for ritual worship, one at Dan at his kingdom’s northern edge and another at Bethel near his southern border: “One he set up in Bethel, and the other in Dan.”

Tel Dan is an archaeological site in the northeastern corner of the Hula Valley, north of the Korazim Plateau and the Sea of Galilee. It is located where the Dan River feeds into Jordan River. This location would have been a potential entry point and target for an Areamean army heading south from Syria into the Israelite kingdom.

At Tel Dan, archaeologist Avraham Biran recovered the Tel Dan Stele. The consensus is that the stele dates to somewhere between the mid-9th to mid-8th century BCE. The language of the text is Aramaic, and the monument appears to have been set up by an Aramean king, who credits the Aramean god Hadad for his successes. The text is most famous for the claim that he defeated the king of Israel and the king of the ‘House of David,’ makings this is first generally accepted mention that attaches David of Judah to royalty.

While the stele is notable for its record of a battle between Aram and the combined forces of Israel and Judah, and specifically the mention of a political unit associated with (King) David, it differs from the Bible on one detail. In the Tel Dan Stele, as it is interpreted, the Aramean king claims to have killed Jehoram son of Ahab of Israel and Ahaziahu son of Jehoram kin of Judah, in the Bible the Arameans only wounded Joram, and in a palace coup, Jehu killed Joram king of Israel and Ahaziah king of Judah.

A Tool of God’s Anger

Credit:, Louvre Museum

In Deuteronomy 3, Moses tells the assembled that God was angry with him due to their actions. “But because of you the Lord was angry with me and would not listen to me. That is enough, the Lord said. Do not speak to me anymore about this matter. Go up to the top of Pisgah and look west and north and south and east. Look at the land with your own eyes, since you are not going to cross this Jordan. But commission Joshua, and encourage and strengthen him, for he will lead this people across and will cause them to inherit the land that you will see.”

In 2 Kings 13, God was similarly angry, and this time Israel paid the price. “In the twenty-third year of Joash son of Ahaziah king of Judah, Jehoahaz son of Jehu became king of Israel in Samaria, and he reigned seventeen years. He did evil in the eyes of the Lord by following the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, which he had caused Israel to commit, and he did not turn away from them. So the Lord’s anger burned against Israel, and for a long time he kept them under the power of Hazael king of Aram and Ben-Hadad his son.

This tool of God’s anger is found in the archaeological record.

During Hazael’s reign, he appears to have ruled over a swath of territory that included much of modern Syrian and the southern Levant. One record of his rule appears to come from Arslan Tash in northern Syria. The Arslan Tash Ivory Inscription is a small ivory plaque, dated to the 9th century BCE with an inscription in Aramaic, the language spoken by the Arameans. The inscription includes the words “son of Amma, engraved for our lord Hazael in the year.” The setting for the inscription was in an 8th BCE palace of the Assyrian governor, indicating that site was connected to executive function.

The Arslan Tash Ivory Inscription is held in the collection of the Louvre Museum in Paris, France.

Fragment of a Fragmentizer

Credit:, Walters Museum

At the outset of Deuteronomy, Moses tells Israel that they will be going to war to capture Canaan. “East of the Jordan in the territory of Moab, Moses began to expound this law, saying: The Lord our God said to us at Horeb, You have stayed long enough at this mountain. Break camp and advance into the hill country of the Amorites; go to all the neighboring peoples in the Arabah, in the mountains, in the western foothills, in the Negev and along the coast, to the land of the Canaanites and to Lebanon, as far as the great river, the Euphrates. See, I have given you this land. Go in and take possession of the land the Lord swore he would give to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and to their descendants after them.”

But Moses also clarifies to them that God fights Israel’s wars. “Then I said to you, Do not be terrified; do not be afraid of them. The Lord your God, who is going before you, will fight for you, as he did for you in Egypt, before your very eyes, and in the wilderness. There you saw how the Lord your God carried you, as a father carries his son, all the way you went until you reached this place.”

In 2 Kings, the king of Israel does not maintain his fealty to God, and the Arameans defeat Israel in battle. In 2 Kings 8, “Ahaziah went with Joram son of Ahab to war against Hazael king of Aram at Ramoth Gilead. The Arameans wounded Joram; so King Joram returned to Jezreel to recover from the wounds the Arameans had inflicted on him at Ramoth in his battle with Hazael king of Aram.” In 2 Kings 10, the next king of Israel, Jehu, “was not careful to keep the law of the Lord, the God of Israel, with all his heart. He did not turn away from the sins of Jeroboam, which he had caused Israel to commit. In those days the Lord began to reduce the size of Israel. Hazael overpowered the Israelites throughout their territory east of the Jordan in all the land of Gilead, the region of Gad, Reuben and Manasseh, from Aroer by the Arnon Gorge through Gilead to Bashan.”

Hazael king of Aram is said to be the conqueror of Israel, and he is attested in archaeology.

Shalmaneser III was the king of the Neo-Assyrian Empire, centered in today’s northern Iraq, from 859-825 BCE. His reign is marked by an expansionary military policy and he waged war to the south, east, north and west. One of those regions he attacked was Syria, the home of the Arameans.

A fragment of stele purchased on the antiquities market in Baghdad lists the genealogy of Assyrian kings and their exploits. It includes Assyria’s defeat of King “Haza’ilu” of Damascus, the Hazael of the Bible.

This ‘Fragment of a Stele’ that mentions Israel’s rival Hazael, who carved out pieces of Israel, is housed at the Walters Museum in Baltimore, MD and is shown in the image above.

Moab’s Stand and an Altar Stand


In Numbers 31 and 32, the action takes place east of the Jordan River basin. In Numbers 31, Israel takes revenge on the Midianites, killing five kings of Midian and Bilaam ben Beor. In Numbers 32, the tribes of Reuben and Gad request to stay east of the Jordan, as the land was suitable for their livestock. Moses agreed to the arrangement provided those tribes contributed fighters to the anticipated invasion of Canaan. “Then Moses gave to the Gadites, the Reubenites and the half-tribe of Manasseh son of Joseph the kingdom of Sihon king of the Amorites and the kingdom of Og king of Bashan, the whole land with its cities and the territory around them. The Gadites built up Dibon, Ataroth, Aroer, Atroth Shophan, Jazer, Jogbehah, Beth Nimrah and Beth Haran as fortified cities, and built pens for their flocks. And the Reubenites rebuilt Heshbon, Elealeh and Kiriathaim, as well as Nebo and Baal Meon (these names were changed) and Sibmah. They gave names to the cities they rebuilt. The descendants of Makir son of Manasseh went to Gilead, captured it and drove out the Amorites who were there. So Moses gave Gilead to the Makirites, the descendants of Manasseh, and they settled there. Jair, a descendant of Manasseh, captured their settlements and called them Havvoth Jair. And Nobah captured Kenath and its surrounding settlements and called it Nobah after himself.”

In 2 Kings 3, the kings of Israel and Judah were called back to this land, to suppress a revolt by King Mesha of Moab. They entered through the Desert of Edom and at the outset succeeded in battle. However, as the chapter finishes it appears to show a reversal. “When the king of Moab saw that the battle had gone against him, he took with him seven hundred swordsmen to break through to the king of Edom, but they failed. Then he took his firstborn son, who was to succeed him as king, and offered him as a sacrifice on the city wall. The fury against Israel was great; they withdrew and returned to their own land.”

In Numbers 32, some of the areas that the Reuben and Gad request are “Ataroth, Dibon, Jazer, Nimrah, Heshbon, Elealeh, Sebam, Nebo and Beon.” In the Mesha Stele, the Moabite king records that “the men of Gad dwelled in the country of Ataroth from ancient times, and the king of Israel fortified Ataroth. I assaulted the wall and captured it, and killed all the warriors of the city for the well-pleasing of Chemosh and Moab, and I removed from it all the spoil, and offered it before Chemosh in Kirjath; and I placed therein the men of Siran, and the men of Mochrath.”

Khirbat Ataruz is an archaeological site located 15 miles southwest of Madaba, a city east of the northern edge of the Dead Sea. Based on name and location, the site is identified as ancient Ataroth.

At Khirbat Ataruz, archaeologists discovered an inscription on a stone altar pedestal. Based on stratigraphy, the stone altar would be dated to roughly the 9th century BCE. The inscription is written in the distinctive Moabite language and script and appear to refer to “scattered foreigners.” It is unclear if this is referring to the event recorded in the Bible and in the Mesha Stele, but the fact that the language and script are both Moabite is perhaps another indication that the Moabites eventually held this city.

The image above is a sample of an altar stand.

The Multifaceted Mesha Stele

In Numbers 22, the king of Moab, Balak, sought out Balaam to curse Israel, but that plan failed when Balaam blessed Israel. If Moab could not effectively fight or curse Israel, they could love them to death. In Numbers 25, “While Israel was staying in Shittim, the men began to indulge in sexual immorality with Moabite women, who invited them to the sacrifices to their gods. The people ate the sacrificial meal and bowed down before these gods. So Israel yoked themselves to the Baal of Peor. And the Lord’s anger burned against them.”

Centuries later in the Bible, Moab remained a rival to Israel and Judah. In 2 Kings 3, Moab was controlled by Israel, and under its king Ahab was forced to pay a large tribute to Israel. After Ahab died and was replaced by his son Joram, Mesha king of Moab rebelled against Israelite control. While the Israelites appeared to have been winning the fight, “When the king of Moab saw that the battle had gone against him, he took with him seven hundred swordsmen to break through to the king of Edom, but they failed. Then he took his firstborn son, who was to succeed him as king, and offered him as a sacrifice on the city wall. The fury against Israel was great; they withdrew and returned to their own land.”

The end of this story appears to show Moab having succeeded in expelling Israel from its land.

A similar version of this account is recorded on one of the most significant archaeological artifacts that relate to the Bible, the Mesha Stele. The stele was discovered in Dhiban, Jordan, biblical Dibon, in the region of Moab.

The Mesha Stele is important for numerous reasons. It contains the first known mention of Israel’s God YHWH. It shows evidence of the Moabite language, which was closely related to Hebrew. It mentions the Moabite god Chemosh, the same one that, “On a hill east of Jerusalem, [King] Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the detestable god of Moab, and for Molek the detestable god of the Ammonites. He did the same for all his foreign wives, who burned incense and offered sacrifices to their gods.” Depending on the interpretation of the damaged letters, it may also have a reference to the “House of David,” the kingdom of Judah.

The Mesha Stele references “Gad.” In the Bible, the tribes of Reuben, Gad and half of Manasseh settled on the eastern banks of the Jordan River. In Numbers 32 “The Reubenites and Gadites, who had very large herds and flocks, saw that the lands of Jazer and Gilead were suitable for livestock. So they came to Moses and Eleazar the priest and to the leaders of the community, and said, Ataroth, Dibon, Jazer, Nimrah, Heshbon, Elealeh, Sebam, Nebo and Beon, the land the Lord subdued before the people of Israel are suitable for livestock, and your servants have livestock. If we have found favor in your eyes, they said, let this land be given to your servants as our possession. Do not make us cross the Jordan.” In Numbers 33, during Israel’s travels “They left Iye Abarim and camped at Dibon Gad.” In the Mesha Stele, “And the men of Gad dwelled in the country of Ataroth from ancient times.”

On top of all these, it appears to reference the revolt that is mentioned in 2 Kings 3. In the Mesha Stele, also known as the Moabite Stele, Mesha revolted against Ahab’s son and defeated the Israelites to capture Ataroth, Nebo and Jahaz. In the biblical account, it is Israel that triumphs on the battlefield before Mesha sacrificed his son, while on the Mesha Stele, Moab succeeds on the battlefield. Whatever the actual result, the Bible and the Mesha Stele appear to be referring to the same event.

The Mesha Stele is on display at the Louvre Museum in Paris, France.

Destruction in Hazael’s Path

Credit:, Jezreel

In Numbers 21, the Israelites left a wake of destruction in their path. First they laid waste to a town in southern Canaan. “When the Canaanite king of Arad, who lived in the Negev, heard that Israel was coming along the road to Atharim, he attacked the Israelites and captured some of them. Then Israel made this vow to the Lord: If you will deliver these people into our hands, we will totally destroy their cities. The Lord listened to Israel’s plea and gave the Canaanites over to them. They completely destroyed them and their towns; so the place was named Hormah.

Later, they conquered parts to the northeast, on the eastern side of the Jordan River. “But Sihon would not let Israel pass through his territory. He mustered his entire army and marched out into the wilderness against Israel. When he reached Jahaz, he fought with Israel. Israel, however, put him to the sword and took over his land from the Arnon to the Jabbok, but only as far as the Ammonites, because their border was fortified. Israel captured all the cities of the Amorites and occupied them, including Heshbon and all its surrounding settlements. Heshbon was the city of Sihon king of the Amorites, who had fought against the former king of Moab and had taken from him all his land as far as the Arnon.”

In Book of Kings 1&2, it is the Arameans who leave a path of destruction in capturing parts of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah. In 1 Kings 15, “Ben-Hadad agreed with King Asa and sent the commanders of his forces against the towns of Israel. He conquered Ijon, Dan, Abel Beth Maakah and all Kinnereth in addition to Naphtali.” 1 Kings 22 the king of Aram’s archer mortally wounded the king of Israel. 2 Kings 6, “Ben-Hadad king of Aram mobilized his entire army and marched up and laid siege to Samaria. There was a great famine in the city; the siege lasted so long that a donkey’s head sold for eighty shekels of silver, and a quarter of a kab of seed pods for five shekels.”

In 2 Kings 10, Aram continues to wreak havoc in Israel, on both sides of the Jordan. “In those days the Lord began to reduce the size of Israel. Hazael overpowered the Israelites throughout their territory east of the Jordan in all the land of Gilead (the region of Gad, Reuben and Manasseh), from Aroer by the Arnon Gorge through Gilead to Bashan.”

There is ample of evidence of invasion and destruction in the southern Levant in the latter half of the 9th century BCE that appears to be the result of an Aramean invasion.

A number of sites appear to have been abandoned in the late 9th BCE, including Megiddo, Yoqne‘am and the royal building at Jezreel. In the Beth-Shean Valley, Tel Rehov, Tel Beth-shean, Tel Amal, and Tell el-Hammah all feature destruction layers. In the central coastal plain, the sites of Tel Michal and Tel Aphek have similarly timed destruction layers, and the destruction continues to the southwest at the Philistine city of Gath. Archaeomagnetic analysis of destruction layers at Gath, Tel Rehov, Horvat Tevet and Tel Zayit demonstrate the destruction occurred at the same time period.

This confluence of data point to Hazael King of Aram leading an invasion of Israel and the Philistine region in the latter part of the 9th century BCE.

The image above is of Jezreel, a site caught up in the wave of 9th BCE destruction.

Layered Conflict at Dan

Credit:, Israel

In Numbers 16 and 17, the desert wandering is the site of conflict. In Numbers 16, “Korah son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, and certain Reubenites, Dathan and Abiram, sons of Eliab, and On son of Peleth, became insolent and rose up against Moses.” Their challenge was defeated when “the ground under them split apart and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them and their households, and all those associated with Korah, together with their possessions. They went down alive into the realm of the dead, with everything they owned; the earth closed over them, and they perished and were gone from the community. At their cries, all the Israelites around them fled, shouting, “The earth is going to swallow us too!” And fire came out from the Lord and consumed the 250 men who were offering the incense.”

In Numbers 17, God told Moses to “Speak to the Israelites and get twelve staffs from them, one from the leader of each of their ancestral tribes.” When only Aaron’s staff “had budded, blossomed and produced almonds,” it sent a message to any challengers to back down.

In the Book of Kings, Tel Dan becomes a contested site. In 1 Kings 12, after Jeroboam led the northern tribes to secede from the Davidic monarchy, he established a worship center at his kingdom’s northern edge at Dan.

In 1 Kings 15, Asa king of Judah went to war against Baasha king of Israel. To better his odds, Asa “then took all the silver and gold that was left in the treasuries of the Lord’s temple and of his own palace. He entrusted it to his officials and sent them to Ben-Hadad son of Tabrimmon, the son of Hezion, the king of Aram, who was ruling in Damascus.” Asa’s new ally then “Ben-Hadad agreed with King Asa and sent the commanders of his forces against the towns of Israel. He conquered Ijon, Dan, Abel Beth Maakah and all Kinnereth in addition to Naphtali.”

One of the sites listed is Dan.

Just as the Bible records both building and destruction at Dan, archaeological excavations at Tel Dan record both building and destruction. The Iron IA layer is notable for its stark destruction layer. In the Iron IB layer, Phoencian, or Canaanite, pottery predominates. The Iron IIA layer that follows is the focus of archaeologists, who are working to determine if this layer is Israelite, or if this next layer was created by the Arameans, whom the Bible states defeated the Kingdom of Israel at Dan.