Journal of Hebrew Scriptures - Volume 6 (2006) - Review

Andrew G. Vaughn and Ann E. Killebrew, eds., Jerusalem in Bible and Archaeology: The First Temple Period (SBL Symposium Series 18; Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2003). Pp. xiii + 510 pp. Paper, US$49.95. ISBN 1-58983-066-0.

This important collection of essays is based on papers held in 1998-2001 during the annual meetings of the Society of Biblical Literature's “Consultation on Jerusalem in Bible and Archaeology.” Originating from a sense of despair that the fields of biblical studies and archaeology are becoming increasingly estranged from one another, this volume attempts to bridge this perceived chasm by bringing together archaeologists and biblicists to discuss issues concerning the history of Jerusalem in the Iron Age.

The volume is arranged in three major sections, which deal with (1) “Jerusalem during the Reigns of David and Solomon,” (2) “The Rise and Fall of Jerusalem at the End of the Judahite Kingdom,” and (3) “Biblical Jerusalem: Toward a Consensus,” a collection of synthetic approaches to the issues discussed earlier in the volume. A helpful introduction by the editors (pp. 1-10), summarizing the contents of the volume, precedes the main body of the work.

Jane M. Cahill leads off the first section with a lengthy article devoted to “Jerusalem at the Time of the United Monarchy: The Archaeological Evidence” (pp. 13-80). In this essay, she begins by reviewing the history of excavations in Jerusalem focusing in particular on those of Kathleen Kenyon and Yigal Shiloh. As a disciple of the latter, she is able to bring much important and previously unpublished material from Shiloh's City of David Excavation into the discussion. Completely rejecting attempts to argue that Jerusalem was an insignificant village in the Late Bronze and Early Iron Ages, she concludes that Jerusalem was indeed the capital of a kingdom during the tenth century (to which the united monarchy is dated). Perhaps presciently, Cahill makes reference to Eilat Mazar's thesis that a Davidic palace is just waiting to be uncovered, something that Mazar has recently claimed to have done, although this identification has not yet won universal acceptance.

Israel Finkelstein takes issue with such a reconstruction in his chapter on “The Rise of Jerusalem and Judah: The Missing Link” (pp. 81-101). According to him, the Jerusalem of Abdi-heba (ruler of Jerusalem in the mid-fourteenth century BCE Amarna Letters) and of David was no more than a small village serving as the seat of rule over a “dimorphic entity.” Through his low dating of archaeological levels, Finkelstein is able to make the claim that the stepped-stone structure, which Cahill dates to the transitional period between the Late Bronze and Early Iron Ages, dates from the ninth century and is evidence of Judah's subservience to the Omride dynasty of Israel. It was only in the late eighth century, following the destruction of Israel, that Jerusalem became the capital of a true kingdom with monumental architecture.

David Ussishkin, like Finkelstein a scholar attacked by Cahill, not surprisingly supports the former in an essay entitled “Solomon's Jerusalem: The Texts and the Facts on the Ground” (pp. 103-115), which appears to contain a veiled allusion to modern Israeli settlement policies. Ussishkin's main argument is supportive of Finkelstein's dating and contends that those who follow the biblical depiction of a united monarchy do so on the basis of limited evidence while hoping to uncover real archaeological proof in the future (cf. Cahill's argument that “the absence of evidence is largely meaningless” [p. 80]).

In his examination of “The United Monarchy in the Countryside: Jerusalem, Judah, and the Shephelah during the Tenth Century B.C.E.” (pp. 117-162), Gunnar Lehmann shifts the focus of investigation from Jerusalem to the Judean countryside while applying Fernand Braudel's methods of analysis of Mediterranean landscapes to ancient Israel in the Iron Age I and IIA (according to the traditional chronology). While he leaves open the possibility that David and Solomon were able to become local chieftains of some import, Lehmann comes to the conclusion that Jerusalem was a small town in a sparsely populated area in which alliances of kinship groups formed the basis of society. Jerusalem was probably no more than a regional centre, one of three to four in the territory of Judah. In any case, neither David nor Solomon would have had the manpower or the requisite social/political administrative structure to rule a large territory such as an empire.

In his brief note on “Solomon's Jerusalem and the Zion Tradition” (pp. 163-170), J. J. M. Roberts, a biblicist, takes issue with the archaeological redatings of Finkelstein and Ussishkin, whom he views as the material culture equivalents of the literary “minimalists.” In Roberts' opinion, the Zion traditions of the Hebrew Bible, as evidenced by the witness of the eighth century BCE prophets such as Isaiah, should be dated to the time of the united Israelite monarchy. He also identifies three essential components of the ancient Zion tradition, namely (1) the view that YHWH is a great king (indeed, ruling over all other nations and gods!), (2) the choice of the Davidic dynasty, and (3) the choice of Zion as God's abode.

The first section of the book concludes with Richard Elliot Friedman's “Solomon and the Great Histories” (pp. 171-180), in which he presents a literary and linguistic case for the existence of a Solomonic kingdom. In opposition to scholars who date the J-source late, such as John Van Seters and Erhard Blum, Friedman dates it to the reign of Solomon and makes the claim that he can trace it not only through the Pentateuch but into the former prophets until it ends in 1 Kings 1-2 (the accession of Solomon), an argument already advanced in his The Hidden Book in the Bible (San Francisco: Harper, 1998). This source served both the editors of the Pentateuch and the Deuteronomist Historian (DtrH) in composing their works. The latter, however, also had additional documents at his disposal, including another history covering the period from Solomon until Hezekiah. The fact that Solomon is presented in a negative light in DtrH is an indication that DtrH was a levitical priest, descended from those disenfranchised by Solomon. It should be noted that there are a handful of mistakes in the Hebrew typesetting in this article.

The score at the end of the first section is thus tied at 3-3, with Cahill, Roberts and Friedman supporting the existence of the united monarchy as described more or less in the Hebrew Bible, and with Finkelstein, Ussishkin and Lehmann opposed. In framing the essays of the latter group with those of the former, the editors of this volume seem to be lending support—even if unintentionally—to the former group.

The second section of the volume begins with Hillel Geva's look at “Western Jerusalem at the End of the First Temple Period in the Light of the Excavations in the Jewish Quarter” (pp. 183-208). Focusing on Nahman Avigad's extensive excavations in this area between 1969 and 1982, Geva presents an overview of the history of research on the question of the extent of Jerusalem in First Temple times. As he demonstrates, the old thesis that pre-exilic Jerusalem was restricted to the narrow Ophel ridge is no longer tenable; rather, an expansion of the city in the late eighth century BCE that quadrupled the size of Jerusalem and finally made it the largest city in the land until the time of the Babylonian destruction has been proven.

Ronny Reich and Eli Shukron also turn their attention to “The Urban Development of Jerusalem in the Late Eighth Century B.C.E.” (pp. 209-218). However, in their case they focus not on the western expansion of the city but on a small eastern expansion of the city at its south-eastern corner into the Kidron Valley. Providing housing for an estimated 150 people, they conjecture that this expansion was an outgrowth of the natural and gradual growth of the city during the eighth century. It thus predates the unprecedented and large expansion of the city to the west, which was probably occasioned either by refugees from the destruction of the northern kingdom of Israel or by those escaping the wrath of Sennacherib a couple of decades later. The expansion of the city to the west obviated the need for the south-eastern suburb, which was abandoned during the course of the late seventh century.

These two archaeological essays are followed by a number that focus more on texts and their interpretation as historical sources. First, James K. Hoffmeier looks at “Egypt's Role in the Events of 701 B.C. [sic] in Jerusalem” (pp. 219-234). In this article he notes a shift in Egypt's foreign policy as the Kushite dynasty assumed power toward the end of the eighth century BCE and came to realize the danger posed by the expanding Assyrian empire. In his reconstruction of the events of 701, Hoffmeier concludes that the revolt was set in motion by the Ekronites' deposition of their king Padi, who then handed him over to Hezekiah, who joined the revolt at this time. They then contacted the Egyptians, ruled by Shabataka (Shebitku), and his nephew and crown prince/coregent Taharqa (Tirhakah), who sent them military aid under the leadership of the latter. Unfortunately, Hoffmeier stops at this point, without going into detail about what the Kushite military intervention might have accomplished, if anything.

This gap is filled by Hoffmeier's colleague K. Lawson Younger Jr. in his article on “Assyrian Involvement in the Southern Levant at the End of the Eighth Century B.C.E.” (pp. 235-263), which provides a complementary historical perspective to the previous chapter. The focus of this essay is on the last two decades of the century, when the Assyrian kings Sargon II and Sennacherib campaigned in the southern Levant, including against Judah. Younger provides an excellent analysis of the sources, showing how in particular the Assyrian texts are ideological (both theologically and politically) and artificial literary constructs, presenting an interpretation of history rather than a simple report of occurrences. Contrary to Hoffmeier, Younger views Hezekiah and not the Ekronites as the instigator of the revolt against Assyria. As for the Kushite military intervention, Younger posits a pyrrhic victory by the Assyrians at Eltekeh and a threatened attack under the leadership of Taharqa that never materialized.

Responding to the two previous articles, J. J. M. Roberts mainly takes issue with a number of aspects of Hoffmeier's historical reconstruction in his article “Egypt, Assyria, Isaiah, and the Ashdod Affair: An Alternative Proposal” (pp. 265-283). First, he criticizes Hoffmeier's reliance on Kenneth Kitchen's dating of events, in spite of new evidence from the recently published Tang-i Var Inscription (see Grant Frame, “The Inscription of Sargon II at Tang-i Var,” Or 68 [1999] 31-57). Second, he does not follow Hoffmeier in assuming that the Kushite/Nubian pharaohs Shabako and Shabataka followed a policy of appeasement toward Assyria until 702 BCE, when the latter responded to a supposed call for help from the Ekronites against the Assyrians. And third, Roberts does not accept the premise that Hezekiah did not call upon the Egyptians and that the oracles in Isaiah 30-31 consequently date to an earlier period.

Hoffmeier succinctly responds to Roberts in his “Egypt's Role in the Events of 701 B.C.: A Rejoinder to J. J. M. Roberts” (pp. 285-289). Essentially, he makes three points: (1) that the Tang-i Var Inscription does not necessitate a redating of the accession of Shabataka, (2) that it is not Hoffmeier who downplays Hezekiah's role and elevates the Ekronites' in the revolt of 701, but Sennacherib himself in his inscriptions, and (3) that the reference to Ephraim in the oracles in Isaiah 28-31, which include injunctions not to seek aid from Egypt, indicates that these oracles as a group are to be dated to the time around the fall of Samaria.

In his article about “Jerusalem in Conflict: The Evidence for the Seventh-Century B.C.E. Religious Struggle over Jerusalem” (pp. 291-306), Lynn Tatum argues for the application of anthropologist Colin Renfrew's model of state collapse to the final century or so of Judah's existence. While most of the claims made in this article are not on the whole controversial, and indeed the model is particularly applicable to the construction of a “golden age” following the collapse, the following contentions may be debatable: First, Tatum claims that the lmlk-jars are to be dated to the early part of Hezekiah's reign and bear no relation to his preparations for an Assyrian assault. Second, he argues—against Peter Welten—that “It is difficult to understand why the Chronicler would have fabricated a story about the refortification of Jerusalem [2 Chr 33:14] and then have attributed that refortification to the evil [sic] king Manasseh.” However, this contention completely ignores the context of the passage, which is part of the Chronicler's rehabilitation of Manasseh (2 Chr 33:12-19). And third, as Tatum already realizes, many would object to his claim that the collapse of Judah had no single cause (i.e., the Babylonian conquest of 586 BCE).

Gary N. Knoppers rounds out the second section of this volume with an essay on “‘The City Yhwh Has Chosen': The Chronicler's Promotion of Jerusalem in Light of Recent Archaeology” (pp. 307-326), setting himself three aims: (1) to examine how the Chronicler emphasizes the importance of Jerusalem in his genealogical lists and in his account of the united monarchy, (2) to answer the question why the Chronicler, living in the Persian period, chose to stress the centrality of Jerusalem to such a great extent, and (3) to demonstrate in what way the Chronicler was responding to the international situation of his time. He does this with his normal thoroughness, concluding that the primacy of Jerusalem and its temple was not a given in the Achaemenid period. Hence, the Chronicler tried to assert it using whatever literary powers he possessed.

Essays by the editors of this volume frame the third, synthetic section. First, Ann E. Killebrew discusses “Biblical Jerusalem: An Archaeological Assessment” (pp. 329-345). In this chapter, Killebrew surveys the archaeological evidence for the history of Jerusalem from the Middle Bronze (MB) Age II through Iron Age (IA) II. Her conclusion is that while Jerusalem was a large and important walled city in the MB IIB and IA IIC (ca. 1800-1550 and 720-586 BCE), during the intervening Late Bronze (LB) and IA I and IIA/B Ages Jerusalem was a small and relatively insignificant and unfortified town, thus rejecting suggestions such as that of Cahill earlier in the volume that the MB II walls continued in use during the subsequent periods. On the other hand, Killebrew does agree with Cahill against Margreet Steiner in positing the existence of Jerusalem on the south-eastern hill (the so-called City of David) during the LB. Nonetheless, Davidic Jerusalem was probably not much more than a small regional administrative center and not the capital of a glorious empire.

Margreet Steiner is given an opportunity to respond to Killebrew's criticism in her article on “The Evidence from Kenyon's Excavations in Jerusalem: A Response Essay” (pp. 347-363), in which she discusses three controversies in the archaeology of Jerusalem. First she argues against Killebrew that the lack of LB architecture and fourteenth century ceramics even in later fills is an indication that the Amarna period Urusalim of Adbi-heba was not a major city but the residence of a royal overseer, perhaps no more than an isolated house. Second she argues against Cahill that the stepped-stone structure and underlying terraces were not built at the same time, but originally had different functions and extents, with the terraces dating to the early IA I and the stepped-stone structure to the early IA II. And third she posits that IA II Jerusalem was no more than an administrative center until the late eighth century, when it finally became the capital of a kingdom. In her opinion, whatever the extent of IA IIA Jerusalem was, it was a new city, built where there had not been one since the MB. A recurrent and amusing typo in this article changes the name of the German Erlöserkirche “Church of the Redeemer” in Jerusalem to the Erlöscherkirche “Church of the Extinguisher”!

Shifting gears from the archaeological to the literary, Yairah Amit examines the question “When Did Jerusalem Become a Subject of Polemic?” (pp. 365-374). Positing that the centrality of Jerusalem and its pre-eminent position in national and religious thought began to develop following the seemingly miraculous rescue of Jerusalem in 701 BCE, Amit looks at the various stages in the growth of a Jerusalem theology as it developed in both biblical (e.g., Deuteronomy, Deuteronomistic History, prophetic writings, Chronicles) and post-biblical Jewish literature, particularly in the latter of which Hezekiah of Judah takes on explicitly messianic dimensions, while his opponent Sennacherib of Assyria becomes the symbol of the godless. She identifies a tension between those who advocated the centrality of Jerusalem in religious life and those who advocated the centralization of the cult, a tension she finds reflected in the deliberate editorial decision to avoid referring to Jerusalem explicitly in the Torah.

William M. Schniedewind combines archaeological, literary, and social scientific approaches in his “Jerusalem, the Late Judahite Monarchy, and the Composition of the Biblical Texts” (pp. 375-393). In this essay he takes aim against those who date the composition of many of the biblical texts into the Persian period or later. While Philip Davies and Charles Carter are the main objects of his wrath, it is surprising that Schniedewind makes no reference to any of the countless continental scholars who advocate a similar position. Among his major arguments is the observation that the language of many of the texts that Davies and others date to the Persian or Hellenistic periods does not evidence the influence of either Persian or Greek (unlike Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, and Daniel). Using archaeology and social history Schniedewind attempts to show that the conditions in late monarchic Jerusalem were indeed conducive to the composition of (large parts of) works such as Amos, Hosea, Isaiah, and the Deuteronomistic History, although his argument basing his dating of Amos to the late seventh century partially on the basis of the reference to Philistine Gath in Amos 6:2 would seem to be contradicted by the results of recent excavations, which would seem to be more supportive of an earlier date.

In his meditation on “Archaeology, Ideology, and the Search for David and Solomon” (pp. 395-405), Neil Asher Silberman argues that much of the vitriol expressed by advocates of differing reconstructions of ancient Israelite history are based on a failure to appreciate the subjective and time-bound nature of different readings of the past, in particular one's own. In this manner Silberman does not deal with issues concerned with the search for “truth,” but with the very post-modern attempt to understand contrasting narratives. His approach is heavily influenced by the works of anthropologist Misia Landau, who argued that all archaeological work is essentially literary. Using a discussion of Yigael Yadin's (in)famous dating of the “Solomonic gates” as his point of departure, Silberman argues that every archaeologist still digs with a spade in one hand and a bible in the other, the question is however which bible the archaeologist is holding. In his view there is no such thing as true objectivity in scholarship, not even in a supposed science such as archaeology.

The final word in this volume belongs to Andrew G. Vaughn, who asks and then answers his own question: “Is Biblical Archaeology Theologically Useful Today? Yes, A Programmatic Proposal” (pp. 407-430). In light of a demonstrated lack of archaeological and historical consensus, Vaughn wonders whether biblical archaeology can serve theological needs in a post-modern world that rejects the concept of “truth.” After rejecting the “essential continuity approach” (in which the continuity between textual and external evidence is emphasized at the expense of the dissonances) and “rhetorical and literary approaches” (in which the text becomes a timeless object of linguistic analysis), Vaughn advocates an approach that he terms “historical imagination,” which he takes “to include both critical history (negative history that asks yes/no questions) and background history (positive history that illuminates the setting of the period without asking yes/no questions)” (p.416). He then applies this mode of analysis to the topic of Jerusalem in the biblical period as outlined in the various oftentimes mutually contradictory essays in this volume. While this method does serve a useful analytical function in historical inquiry, Vaughn's designation of it as a specifically theological method seems somewhat limiting in scope. Nonetheless, his attempt at providing a consensual synthesis of the information contained in the previous chapters serves a valuable function in tying the book together.

Carl S. Ehrlich, York University, Toronto