Israelite Laws for Foreigners, Foreign Pots for Israel


Leviticus 17 and 18 discusses rules that apply to foreigners. In Leviticus 17, God holds foreigners to the same standard as Israelites. “Any Israelite or any foreigner residing among them who offers a burnt offering or sacrifice and does not bring it to the entrance to the tent of meeting to sacrifice it to the Lord must be cut off from the people of Israel,” and “I will set my face against any Israelite or any foreigner residing among them who eats blood, and I will cut them off from the people.” In Leviticus 18, God warns Israel not to engage in relations that are permitted amongst non-Israelites: “You must not do as they do in Egypt, where you used to live, and you must not do as they do in the land of Canaan, where I am bringing you. Do not follow their practices.” Yet he warns “Do not defile yourselves in any of these ways, because this is how the nations that I am going to drive out before you became defiled. Even the land was defiled; so I punished it for its sin, and the land vomited out its inhabitants. But you must keep my decrees and my laws. The native-born and the foreigners residing among you must not do any of these detestable things.”

As these rules demonstrate the presence of foreigners, the pottery record of the Iron IIA period demonstrates the presence of interactions with foreigners. And these interactions factor into opinions about the status of the monarchy of kings David and Solomon.

A debate amongst archaeologists about the length of time of the Iron IIA period divides into an extended High Chronology and a shorter Low Chronology, with implications for the time available for kings David and Solomon to rule. Proponents of the High Chronology find support for kings David and Solomon in foreign imported pottery.

Supporters of a High Chronology argue that the Iron IIA period stretches across the 10th and 9th centuries, and that there are sub-periods with different forms of pottery in each. Under this interpretation, in the early Iron IIA period, Phoenician imports, from the areas of today’s northern Israel and Lebanon, featured ‘Bichrome Ware’ that was popular in the earlier Iron I period, but these are largely not found in the 9th BCE. In the later Iron IIA period, Cypriot imports appear in more significant numbers. Additionally, new Black-on-Red Ware, with black decoration on a red background, appears in more significant numbers.

These examples demonstrate foreign contact in the 9th BCE areas of Israel and Judah, and perhaps do tell us more about David and Solomon.

The image above is of a Black-on-Red Ware vessel.