Deutero Iron IIA (3/3)

Continuing from the previous two posts, other sites in the Shephelah are of note in attempting to determine if the Iron IIA covered much of the 10th and 9th centuries BCE and might have had a powerful monarchy led by King David, or if the Iron IIA period was mainly in the 9th BCE and King David only ruled a minor kingdom simultaneous with a more powerful northern Kingdom of Israel.

Lachish Level V can be dated to the latter part of the 10th century BCE, and this layer features a small town surrounded by a 10 foot thick wall built of medium sized stones. This would align with 2 Chronicles 11, where Rehoboam, who following kings David and Solomon, is said to have fortified the towns of Judah, including Lachish.

A large structure on the highest point at Tel ‘Eton, the type which would indicate a royal or governmental presence, was dated from the late 11th to the mid-to-late 10th century BCE and was constructed with a ‘four-room’ house plan, a style prevalent in the Israelite and Judahite regions.

In 1 Kings 11, “Solomon tried to kill Jeroboam, but Jeroboam fled to Egypt, to Shishak the king, and stayed there until Solomon’s death.” With this mention, Shishak becomes the first biblical character who can with near certainty be identified in the archaeological record. At the Temple of Amun-Re in the Karnak Temple Complex, on the Bubastite Portal, the late 10th century BCE Egyptian pharaoh Shoshenq I recorded his campaign into the southern Levant, a campaign recorded in the Bible as having occurred after the reigns of David and Solomon. Beneath of an image of Shoshenq I smiting his captives are 156 ovals, each containing the image of a bound captive and an associated town’s name. Megiddo appears as one of the places Shoshenq I conquered, and a small fragment of a monument to Shoshenq I that was unearthed at Megiddo reinforces the idea that the city was taken by the Egyptians.

Destruction layers in a number of towns in the southern Levant may be attributable to Shoshenq I’s invasion. One place listed on the Bubasite Portal that Shoshenq I is said to have attacked is Rehov. At Tel Rehov, a form of pottery prevalent in the Iron IIA period, burnished and red-slipped pottery, appears in a layer that was destroyed, and then in the next layer that was destroyed. Proponents of the High Chronology argue that the first layer was destroyed by Shoshenq I in the latter part of the 10th century, continued in use, and then the second layer was destroyed in the 9th century BCE during an Aramean invasion. Under this model, the Iron IIA had already begun in the 10th century BCE.

One of the key observations that led to the development of the Low Chronology was that Egyptian and early Philistine pottery did not appear in the same archaeological layers. As Egypt controlled the southern Levant at the onset of the 12th century BCE, the Low Chronology argues that the Philistines only appeared in the latter half of the 12th BCE, after the Egyptians left, and thus the Iron I period clock starts later, compressing the time from for the Iron IIA period. However, more recent discoveries at Jaffa appear to demonstrate that the Egyptians maintained a presence in Jaffa as late as 1125-1115 BCE, and were in the Levant concurrent with the Philistines. The reason that the two pottery forms did not appear together may have instead been because the Egyptians and Philistines were rivals, and the Philistines could have been in the southern Levant by the early 12th BCE, opening up room for a 10th BCE King David. Similarities between early Philistine pottery and early 12th century Cypriot pottery suggest that the early Philistine pottery dates to the early 12th century BCE, again, opening the window for a two century Iron IIA period.

Until 1993, there was no direct evidence for a King David. This appears to have changed with the discovery of the Tel Dan Stele, shown in the image above. In the Tel Dan Stele, an Aramean king claims to have killed [Jeho]ram son [of Ahab] king of Israel, and [Ahaz]iahu son of [Jehoram kin-]g of the House of David. The pairing of the “king of Israel” and the leader of the “House of David” indicates that there was a distinct power that had originated with a leader named David.

By the late 11th BCE the Philistines were firmly established in the southwestern corner of the southern Levant, in the “Philistine Pentapolis” of Gaza, Ashkelon, Ashdod, Ekron and Gath. The Philistines had successfully penetrated into the Jezreel Valley region and posed a threat to the Israelite tribes of the central hill country. Of these tribes, Judah most directly abutted the Philistine region and would have a reason to lead a confederation of tribes to counter the Philistine threat. Thus in the 10th century BCE, there would have been a clear motive for the tribes of the central hill country to coalesce into a United Monarchy, even if the leaders of that entity did not have a well established and developed capital.

The High Chronology vs. Low Chronology debate forced an adjustment amongst those who saw the Iron IIA as being only in the 10th BCE. Amihai Mazar introduced his Modified Conventional Chronology with the Iron IIA starting a bit later than once thought and extending into the latter half of the 9th century BCE. Differences in how to interpret carbon dating results have hindered any ability to eliminate the differences between the High and Low Chronology. But the range of evidence along with a clear motivation demonstrate the distinct possibility that the 10th century BCE did include the presence of a centralized kingdom, operating from Jerusalem, that had emerged with a King David.