Tag Archives: Palestine

Judea, an Ideal State of the Greek Philosophers?

Bust of Herodotus. 2nd century AD. Roman copy ...

Herodotus.  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The ancient Greek world appears to have been ignorant of the Jews (or even Israel) in Palestine until around the end of the fourth century. I still recall my high school disappointment when I read the famous work of the Greek “father of history”, Herodotus, only to find not a single mention of biblical Judea even though surrounding peoples were colourfully portrayed in detail. If Herodotus had truly traveled through these regions as we believed at the time (a view that has been questioned in more recent scholarship) what could possibly account for such a total omission of a people whose customs surely differed so starkly from those of their neighbours. Didn’t Herodotus love to seek out and dwell upon the unusual?

A History of Israel from the Ground Up (i.e. from archaeology)

Perhaps that nagging question prepared me to be more open to the arguments of scholars sometimes labeled as the “Copenhagen School” — Thompson, Lemche, Davies in particular at first — than I might otherwise have been. Their thesis is that biblical Israel, the Israel of the Patriarchs, the Exodus, the united kingdom of Saul, David and Solomon, the rival sibling kingdoms of Israel in the north and Judah in the south up to the time of the captivities, first of Assyria and then of Babylon, and finally the story of Jews undergoing a literary and religious revival by the waters of Babylon, all this was a literary fable as much as the stories of Camelot and King Arthur were. That’s oversimplifying it a little, since the stories functioned quite a bit more seriously than as mere entertainment; and there was indeed a historical kingdom of Israel based around Samaria, although the southern kingdom of Judah led from Jerusalem did not really emerge as a significant power until after Israel was deported by the Assyrians. Leading figures from the Judea really were deported to Babylon but the purpose of this deportation, as with all such deportations, was to destroy the old identities of the captives and reestablish them with new ones. So there was no opportunity for a literary or religious revival.  There was no Bible as we know it during any of this time.

The Biblical books were the product of the peoples subsequently deported by the Persians to settle the region of Palestine in order to establish it as an economic and strategic piece of real estate for the Persian empire. This was the colony of Yehud. (If I recall correctly it was for a time part of the Persian satrapy extending across the biblical land of promise from the Nile to the Euphrates.) Fictionalized narratives of this settlement have come down to us in the books of Nehemiah and Ezra. Scribal schools competed to establish a new narrative and cultural identity for this settlement. The native inhabitants (or “people of the land”) became the godless Canaanites from whom the settlers needed to withdraw in every way. Myths of returning to the land of their fathers to restore the true worship of the god of this land emerged just as they did with other deported populations of which we have some record.

The First Greek Witnesses

Let’s move ahead a little now to the time when we find our first notice of this people among the Greeks. It’s around 300 BCE. The Persian empire has crumbled before the Macedonian phalanxes of Alexander the Great. The old Persian province of Yehud is now under Hellenistic rule. read more »

The Necessity for Mass Arab Transfer

Continuing the series from Nur Masalha’s Expulsion of the Palestinians. . . .

In the previous post we saw the initial reaction of the Zionist movement’s leadership to the Peel Commission’s 1937 recommendation that:

  1. Palestine be partitioned into two states, and
  2. that there be a transfer of 225,000 Arabs and 1250 Jews.

So far we have been looking at the words of Zionist leaders that were for most part hidden from the public arena. With the Peel Commission recommendations the question had to become public. Conventions had to be held. The rank and file needed to be consulted and won over. Fellow Jews who had more respect for the rights of the Palestinian Arabs also needed to be persuaded and won over.

The Peel report was debated by two of the highest organizations of Zionism. The final outcome was an emerging consensus that the two state proposal be rejected (the whole of Palestine should be given to the Jews) while the proposal for mass transfer of the Arab population was agreed upon by large majorities.

Wherever possible I have linked names to their Wikipedia pages so readers can assess the level of influence and standing each person had within the wider community at the time. It is important to know who many of these voices are but to provide details in the post itself would have risked losing the theme in a mass of web-page words.

The World Convention of Ihud of Po’alei Tzion

29 July – 3 August, 1937

Zurich

Better known as Poalei Zion, this was the highest forum for the dominant Zionist world labor movement. It was closely linked with the Mapai political party that dominated Israeli politics until 1968. David Ben-Gurion was a prominent leader in both organizations.

The proceedings of this convention were edited and subsequently published by Ben-Gurion in 1938. All quotations are from these proceedings.

David_BG

Ben-Gurion

Ben-Gurion and others in their respective presentations to the convention went to lengths to distinguish between the concepts of “transfer”, “dispossession” and “expulsion” and to stress the morality of such a transfer. “Transfer” was not the same as expulsion. The Commission’s report, Ben-Gurion made clear, did not speak of “dispossession” of the Arabs but only of “transfer”.

On 29th July he further pointed out that the Jews in Palestine had already been peacefully transferring Arabs through agreements with the tenant farmers and

only in a few places was there a need for forced transfer. . . . The basic difference with the Commission proposal is that the transfer will be on a much larger scale, from the Jewish to the Arab territory. . . . It is difficult to find any political or moral argument against the transfer of these Arabs from the proposed Jewish-ruled area. . . . And is there any need to explain the value in a continuous Jewish Yishuv in the coastal valleys, the Yizrael [Esdraelon Valley], the Jordan [Valley] and the Hula? (From the full report of the Convention, 1938, as are all quotations)

Eliezer_Kaplan

Kaplan

Eliezer Kaplan portrayed the transfer of Arabs as a something of a humanitarian act to make them at home among their own people:

It is not fair to compare this proposal to the expulsion of Jews from Germany or any other country. The question is not one of expulsion, but of organized transfer of a number of Arabs from a territory which will be in the Hebrew state, to another place in the Arab state, that is, to the environment of their own people.

Other speakers doubted the feasibility of transfer. Yosef Bankover, a founder of the Kibbutz Hameuhad movement and member of the Haganah regional command said:

As for the compulsory transfer . . . I would be very pleased if it would be possible to be rid of the pleasant neighbourliness of the people of Miski, Tirah and Qaiqilyah.

Bankover stressed to delegates that the Commission’s report implied that any transfer was to be undertaken voluntarily. Compulsion was against the intent of the report. Given that Bankover did not believe the British would risk further riots and bloodshed by enforcing Arab transfers. He rejected the report’s appeal to the Turkish-Greek transfers as a relevant case-study: these transfers were in effect by force and certainly under threat of being killed if they did not move, he said.

So the issues being debated and discussed were:

  • the moral justification of transfer — (this was generally accepted)
  • would forced transfers be practical?
  • would forced mass Arab transfers be adequate compensation for the Jews giving up their aspirations to have the one and only state over all of Palestine?
  • did the Peel Commission recommend transfer far enough afield? If the Arabs were only moved next door into Transjordan then the expansionist hopes of the Jewish state would be limited. Should not the Arabs be transferred to Syria and Iraq instead?

    read more »

Zionist Plans for Mass Transfer of Arabs: Alive But Discreet

Nur-MasalhaThis fourth installment of a series I began in 2010 is long overdue. The previous posts are:

  1. Zionist Founding Fathers’ Plans for Transfer of the Palestinian Arabs
  2. Redemption or Conquest: Zionist Yishuv plans for transfer of Palestinian Arabs in the British Mandate period
  3. The Weizmann Plan to “Transfer” the Palestinians

My intention is to make a little more widely known a scholarly Palestinian perspective of the history of Israel’s efforts to transfer Palestinians from their lands. A good many myths have long circulated in Western countries about the Palestinian situation, such as the supposed “emptiness” of the land at the time the first Jewish immigrants began to arrive, and about the supposed lack of cultural, religious or ethnic ties Palestinian Arabs had for Palestine, or even the assumption that the Palestinians had no distinctive sophisticated cultural, intellectual and settled urban identities at all. Palestinian historian Nur Masalha has researched the personal, diaries, the letters, the meeting minutes, government archives, of the Jewish leaders and organizations responsible for bringing about the Jewish state of Israel and published one facet of his findings in Expulsion of the Palestinians: The Concept of “Transfer” in Zionist Political Thought, 1882-1948, published in 1992 by the Institute for Palestinian Studies.

I am well aware that some regular readers deplore posts like this thinking they are antisemitic propaganda and some may even loathe this blog and stop reading. Yet this is a far more important question than biblical studies. I can only ask that we pause and check whether we might possibly have not yet truly heard the real story but have relied predominantly upon emotive declamations as filtered through one side of the conflict. If these posts go beyond what the primary evidence of the documented record allows then they can rightly be dismissed. I hope to present the documented evidence for the real plans and hopes of prominent figures that resulted in the Palestine we see today. I see no point in having a blog that only repeats what many others are saying far better than I can. The posts I compose are for most part, I hope, invitations to re-evaluate (on the basis of authoritative sources, clear evidence and valid argument) what many of us (myself included) have long taken for granted.

Rather than add many explanatory footnotes I link directly to (mostly) Wikipedia articles that explain certain names and terms that I bring in to the discussion. I spell names the way they are printed in Masalha’s book.

The Royal (Peel) Commission

The Peel Commission was set up in May 1936 to investigate the causes of the often violent conflict between Arabs and Jews in Palestine throughout the six month period of a strike by Arabs that year. The following year the Commission published the report that initiated efforts to divide Palestine into Jewish and Arab entities. It also recommended the eventual “transfers” of 225,000 Arabs and 1,250 Jews. This post makes clear the thinking of Jewish leaders in the lead up to this Commission’s enquiry and recommendation for population transfers.

Background: British Opposition to Arab Transfers

read more »

Where did the Bible’s Jews come from? Part 1

Kurdistan  .Yazidis  .Judaism . Christianity ....

Kurdistan .Yazidis .Judaism . Christianity .Islam (Photo credit: Kurdistan Photo كوردستان)

This post is based primarily on a few pages in The Mythic Past by Thomas L. Thompson. It is slightly supplemented by fewer notes from a different but complementary discussion on the biblical meanings of “the people of God” in The Israelites in History and Tradition by Niels Peter Lemche. (All bold fonts for emphasis or highlighting key points for ease of reading are mine.)

I conclude with my own thoughts on what all of this means for the first of our Gospels.

The biblical tradition informs us of the meaning and understanding that the biblical authors’ contemporaries attributed to the past. Archaeological evidence points to a different reality of the past.

The religious understanding of Israel’s origin myth

The primary biblical referent for Israel’s ethnic and family identification is found in the stories and metaphors of “exodus”, “wilderness”, “exile” and “return”. Even in the Books of Kings the narrative is couched in the suspense of threats and promises of exile from the land. These themes centre on the motif of the children of Israel as the “people of God”, as Jahweh’s “first-born” and God’s “inheritance”.

These stories all are solidly rooted in the self-defining, grand epochal line of a God without a home or a people [and who was] searching for a people without a home or a God. It is in this metaphor that we find the foundation and matrix for the ethnographic metaphor of all Israel. This metaphor gives voice to the ‘new Israel’ with its centre in Yahweh’s temple of the ‘new Jerusalem’. This is an identity that is formed from the perspective of the sectarian theology of the way. (pp. 255-56, Our Mythic Past by Thomas L. Thompson)

Compare Niels Peter Lemche’s observation of the nature of Israel’s origin myth: read more »

Palestine 1896 (beautiful)

From Gilad Atzmon.

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Redemption or Conquest: Zionist Yishuv plans for transfer of Palestinian Arabs in the British Mandate period

British Mandate of Palestine, 1920s. Created b...
Image via Wikipedia

Yishuv refers to the Jewish community in Palestine. The British Mandate period was from 1922 to 1948.

This post continues from the same reference (Nur Masalha’s Expulsion of the Palestinians) as in my previous post, and looks at a Palestinian historian’s discussion of the fate of the Palestinian people as planned by the Zionist movement from “the beginning”. Some readers may accuse me of stirring up hatred against the Jews by posting this sort of research. I deny any such charge. The ill-feeling and tensions that have resulted from the events and attitudes described in this and in the previous post don’t have to be “stirred up”. But many people in the West certainly do need to be “waked up” to the other side of the story. Obscenely, one is often accused of “anti-semitism” for even daring to raise the Palestinian voice, or even any voice mildly critical of Zionist or Israeli state policies.

The world, and Palestinians and Israelis in particular, are living today with the legacy of the past. Justice, the precondition for peace, can only emerge after all the facts — from both parties — are laid out for all to see. Hiding one side’s story under the rocks of the desert will never extinguish injustice and hatred.  We have lauded Truth and Reconciliation Commissions and National Apologies in cases of other ethnic horror stories. They could never have happened unless both sides — especially that of the defeated — were fully aired.

The General Approach toward the Palestinians in the Mandatory Period

I had not realized until I read this section of Masalha’s account that the current practice of the Israeli government relying on third parties such as the US today (formerly Britain), and other Arab leaders, to facilitate discussions with (or without) Palestinian Arabs, originated in this period. Masalha’s explanation for this is:

At the root of this notion — that Palestinians did not have to be dealt with directly — was the denial of a distinct Palestinian identity or any semblance of Palestinian nationalism. This was unquestionably grounded in the dismissive attitude that had always attended anything relating to Palestinians or Palestinian culture. (p.17)

Population shifts and Arab protests

Jewish population in Palestine, 1917-1940:

  • 1917 = 10% of population; own 2% of the land.
  • 1931 = 17% of population
  • 1940 = 33% of population
  • (1948 Jews owned only 6% of the land — via purchase)

Growing Arab awareness of Zionist aims in Palestine, reinforced by Zionist calls for unrestricted Jewish immigration and unhindered transfer of Arab lands to exclusive Jewish control, triggered escalating protests and resistance that were eventually to culminate in the peasant-based great Arab Rebellion of 1936-39.

So two forces were beginning to collide:

  1. On the one hand it was increasingly clear that a Jewish state was an eventual likelihood (Balfour Declaration and the British Mandate offered real hope for this);
  2. but on the other hand it was becoming increasingly clear that the Palestinian Arab population were intent on keeping their land.

Predictable result: early 1920s saw the first indigenous demonstrations against Jewish immigration.

Problem

The Balfour Declaration had not only promised a national home for the Jews; it had also promised that the Palestinian Arabs would not lose any of their rights as a result. read more »

Zionist Founding Fathers’ Plans for Transfer of the Palestinian Arabs

The following quotations by early Zionist leaders are from Expulsion of the Palestinians: The Concept of “Transfer” in Zionist Political Thought, 1882-1948 by Nur Masalha, published by the Institute for Palestinian Studies.

Nur Masalha opens his book with

When in the late nineteenth century Zionism arose as a political force calling for the colonization of Palestine and the “gathering of all Jews,” little attention was paid to the fact that Palestine was already populated. Indeed, the Basle Program adopted at the First Zionist Congress, which launched political Zionism in 1897, made no mention of a Palestinian population when it spelled out the movement’s objective: “the establishment of a publicly and legally secured home in Palestine for the Jewish people.” (p.5)

It was in order to secure support for their enterprise that “the Zionists propagated in the West the idea of ‘a land without a people for a people without a land,’ a slogan coined by Israel Zangwill” (who is quoted a number of times in this post).

Even as late as 1914 Chaim Weizmann (one of the founding fathers of political Zionism) stated:

Chaim Weizmann

Image via Wikipedia

In its initial stage, Zionism was conceived by its pioneers as a movement wholly depending on mechanical factors: there is a country which happens to be called Palestine, a country without a people, and, on the other hand, there exists the Jewish people, and it has no country. What else is necessary, then, than to fit the gem into the ring to unite this people with this country?

But “neither Zangwell nor Weizmann intended these demographic assessments in a literal fashion. They did not mean that there were no people in Palestine, but that there were no people worth considering within the framework of the notions of European supremacy that then held sway.” (p.6)

20 May 1936, according to Arthur Ruppin, head of the colonizing department of the Jewish Agency, Chaim Weizman (to become the first president of Israel) replied, when asked about the Palestinian Arabs

“The British told us that there are there some hundred thousands negroes [Kushim] and for those there is no value.”

Zangwell made the meaning of his slogan clear in 1920:

Israel Zangwill

Image via Wikipedia

If Lord Shaftesbury was literally inexact in describing Palestine as a country without a people, he was essentially correct , for there is no Arab people living in intimate fusion with the country, utilising its resources and stamping it with a characteristic impress: there is at best an Arab encampment.

But Zangwell and other Zionists also were very well aware that far from being an empty land, the Palestinians were there in very large numbers. Zangwell had visited Palestine in 1897 and in a speech in 1905 said:

Palestine proper has already its inhabitants. The pashalik of Jerusalem is already twice as thickly populated as the United States, having fifty-two souls to the square mile, and not 25 per cent of them Jews.

Early Zionist texts do indeed show that its leaders were concerned about what to do with the “Arab problem” or “Arab question.”

As an example of the attitudes of Zionist groups and settlers concerning the indigenous Palestinian population, Zionist author and Labor leader who immigrated to Palestine in 1890, Moshe Smilansky, wrote:

“Let us not be too familiar with the Arab fellahin lest our children adopt their ways and learn from their ugly deeds. Let all those who are loyal to the Torah avoid ugliness and that which resembles it and keep their distance from the fellahin and their base attributes.”

Minority Jewish voices against racist attitudes

Some Jews spoke out against these attitudes. One was Ahad Ha’Am (Asher Zvi Ginzberg), a liberal Russian thinker who visited Palestine in 1891. He published a series of articles criticizing the “ethnocentricity of political Zionism as well as the exploitation of Palestinian peasantry by Zionist colonists.” He wrote that Zionnist “pioneers” believed that

“the only language that the Arabs understand is that of force…. [They] behave towards the Arabs with hostility and cruelty, trespass unjustly upon their boundaries, beat them shamefully without reason and even brag about it, and nobody stands to check this contemptible and dangerous tendency.”

He suggested that this aggressive attitude of the colonists stemmed from their anger

“towards those who reminded them that there is still another people in the land of Israel that have been living there and does not intend to leave.”

Another early settler (he arrived from Russia in 1886) who spoke out against such attitudes, Yitzhaq Epstein, warned that the methods of Zionist land purchases and dispossession of Arabs in the Galilee were stirring up resentment such that a future political confrontation was inevitable.

Early Transfer Proposals of the Founding Fathers

Theodor Herzl, founder of the Zionist movement, recorded in his diary in 1895: read more »

Jerusalem’s rise to power: 2 views

This post is an extension of an earlier one, Jerusalem unearthed.

Israel Finkelstein describes Jerusalem’s rise to power in the seventh century b.c.e. as a result of integrating itself within the Assyrian imperial economy after the fall of Samaria. He writes of Jerusalem being the capital of a politically integrated kingdom of Judea.

Thomas L. Thompson likewise argues that Jerusalem rose to power with Assyria’s blessing. Jerusalem did not extend its influence to the north or any other Assyrian conquered areas, but to the southwest and south, the Shephelah and the Negev. Further, Judea was not a politically integrated kingdom or nation, but was dominated politically by city-state Jerusalem imposing its hegemony over other city states like Hebron.

Jerusalem’s population multiplied greatly at this time, and for the first time “acquired the character of a regional state capital. One must doubt Jerusalem’s capacity for such political aggrandizement at any earlier period.” (Thompson, p.410)

King :en:Sennacherib of :en:Assyria from http:...

Jerusalem’s growth

For background to this, see earlier post, Jerusalem unearthed.

Commercial rival Lachish had been destroyed, never to be rebuilt, and this opened up the possibility of more of the southern area’s resources to Jerusalem.

But the Assyrians had also, led by Sennacherib, diminished Jerusalem’s influence when they invaded parts of Judea.

Thompson suggests that given Samaria had been a longstanding enemy of Jerusalem, it is unlikely that refugees from Samaria would have sought refuge in Jerusalem. They would more likely have gone to allies in Phoenicia. Moreover, Jerusalem would have been drawn into “the direction of a hopeless confrontration with Assyria” had they accepted large numbers of Samarian refugees.

Here Finkelstein and Thompson part. Finkelstein sees Jerusalem’s population swelling primarily as a result of refugees from the northern kingdom rather than those of the Shephelah area. Finkelstein argues for cultural-historical affinities between the peoples of the northern and southern “kingdoms” but Thompson sees no archaeological evidence for these. Thompson sees the various geographical regions of Palestine as a hotch-potch of ethnic and cultural groups until the Persian era at the earliest.

The size of Jerusalem — a great city in the seventh century — time meant it could no longer be economically sustained “solely by the Jerusalem saddle and the Ayyalon Valley.” Thompson sees Jerusalem as a city-state compelled to secure itself by dominating the resources of neighbouring areas to the south and south west.

Comparing Ekron — a mirror to Jerusalem’s rise?

At the same time Ekron expanded its influence to dominate the coastal plain lands and cities. Ekron was able to do this as a result of cooperation with the Assyrian empire. Ekron served Assyria’s interests by establishing itself as a centre of a vassal state in Judaea.

Assyrian reorganization of Judea under Jerusalem

Assyria destroyed Lachish and other towns of the Shephelah and these were not resettled. “Rather, during the seventh-century, Judaea, and with it the Shephelah, was reorganized around a number of new fortified towns, apparently subject to Jerusalem . . . ” (Thompson, p.411)

According to Thompson, Jerusalem’s growth and expansion was that of an imperial city state over subject peoples and cities like Hebron. Unlike the erstwhile northern kingdom of Israel, Judea was not a politically integrated united kingdom. It maintained its hegemony as an imperial city state only.

Jerusalem expanded southward to the Judaean highlands, the Shephelah and perhaps the northern Negev. “It is unlikely, however, that the exercise of this warrant was carried out in opposition to the firmly established Assyrian authority in the region.” (Thompson, p.411)

Finkelstein concurs that Jerusalem benefitted from cooperation with Assyria, but sees Judea becoming an integrated kingdom, not merely an area under the hegemony of a newly giant city-state. “The question is, where did this wealth and apparent movement toward full state formation come from? The inescapable conclusion is that Judah suddenly cooperated with and even integrated itself into the economy of the Assyrian empire.” (Finkelstein, p. 246)

Where Finkelstein and Thompson part

Finkelstein’s interpretation of the evidence hinges on his belief that much of the biblical literature, in particular the history of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah beginning with the United Kingdom of David and Solomon, was the product of the pre-exilic Kingdom of Judah.

Thompson instead argues that the themes of the biblical literature find no basis of origin before the Persian period. The archaeological evidence is against the existence of a united kingdom of Israel or large-scale influx of a new ethnic-cultural-religious group dominating Palestine in the Iron Age. It is not until the Persian era that Palestine is united politically and religiously, and this with the migration of a new group of peoples at the behest of the Persian imperial authority.

Such a development [the creation of a Jerusalem led “nation-state”] came about only with the ideological and political changes of the Persian period, centered around the Persian supported construction of a temple dedicated to the transcendent elohe shamayim, identified with Yahweh, the long neglected traditional god of the former state of Israel, who, in his new capital at the center of the province of Yehud, might, like Ba’al Shamem of Aramaic texts, be best described as a Palestinian variant of the Neo-Babylonian divine Sin and of Persia’s Ahura Mazda. (Thompson, pp.411-2)

I think that both Thompson and Finkelstein would agree that history tells us as much or more about those who wrote it as it does about the past.

Finkelstein sees the biblical history being concocted by propagandists of King Josiah’s court to justify his presumed interest in expanding his kingdom north to incorporate Samaria. This history supposedly exaggerated events of the past to justify Josiah’s ambitions:

Yet it is clear that many of the characters described in the Deuteronomistic History — such as the pious Joshua, David, and Hezekiah and the apostate Ahaz and Manasseh — are portrayed as mirror images, both positive and negative, of Josiah. The Deuteronomistic History was not history writing in the modern sense. It was a composition simultaneously ideological and theological. (Finkelstein, p. 284)

Personally I don’t understand why such propagandists would create negative images of Josiah.

While agreeing that the biblical history was ideological and theological, Thompson sees the biblical history being concocted by propagandists among the the leaders of those deported by the Persians to settle in Palestine. This history was apparently inspired by themes of settlement among an indigenous population who did not welcome the newcomers, of a new state arising out of peoples migrating from Mesopotamia, and even from a (Persian created) political entity stretching from Euphrates to the Nile  — compare Genesis 15:18 and 1 Kings 4:24.

I consider this the more plausible explanation.

 

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Jerusalem unearthed – archaeology and Jerusalem 1000 to 700 b.c.e.

Updated 9.00 am (UTC+8) 27th August 09

The biblical legend:

1000 to 700 b.c.e. covers the biblical time from the reign of Solomon to the fall of Jerusalem’s neighbouring northern kingdom of Samaria. According to the narrative of 1 and 2 Kings Jerusalem in the early part of this period was

  • the administrative capital of a kingdom of fabulous, even legendary, wealth;
  • after the breakup of this kingdom Jerusalem remained the centre of the southern Kingdom of Judah and power base of the descendants of David and Solomon.
  • a base from which kings amassed armies of hundreds of thousands;
  • the centre of an empire “from the Euphrates to the border of Egypt” and influential alliances were made with neighbouring kingdoms and wars waged.

This Jerusalem-led kingdom of Judah was said to be an ethnically cohesive society tracing its ancestors back to three sons of Jacob – Judah, Benjamin and Simeon.

And of course Jerusalem retained throughout this period the capital to support and maintain epic royal buildings and the famous Temple. Even when Egyptian invaders plundered the temple and royal treasury, the king of Jerusalem still had the resources to replace the losses with other metal, especially bronze.

The down to earth reality:

Archaeologists have uncovered a very different Jerusalem throughout this period. The following outline of the status of Jerusalem throughout most of the first three hundred years of the first millennium is taken from the archaeological findings extensively surveyed by Thomas L. Thompson in Early History of the Israelite People : from the Written & Archaeological Sources.

Mudmap is mine, not Thompson’s, of course.

mudmap2

Correction: EKRON should not be indicated as part of the Shephelah

Relative size of Jerusalem

Jerusalem was “a small provincial town at best.” “[I]t was not a very large town, and was by no stretch of the imagination yet a city.” (p.332)

It was comparable in size to Lachish and Gezer.

Geographic location of Jerusalem

Jerusalem was isolated from other comparable urban areas in the Negev to the south and the Shephelah area (Lachish and Gezer) east and south-east and, given its size, very unlikely to have had the resource base to have exercized any controlling influence over them.

“Its relative isolation protected its independence in a period absent of any great political power in Palestine. This same isolation restricted its power and political influence largely to its own region, and the small subregions contiguous to it. The limited excavations in Jerusalem confirm the picture of a small provincial commercial center, substantially removedi from the international trade routes and their centers of power.” (p.332 — citing Jamieson-Drake)

Jerusalem did have easy access, however, to the small settlements in the hills area immediately south (the northern part of the Negev).

Hill settlements and forts

The hill area south of Jerusalem was a target of commercial rivalry among Jerusalem, Hebron and cities in the east such as Lachish.

Centres like Hebron were responsible for constructing strings of forts in the south. These appear to have been constructed as part of attempts to increase security for the growing olive oil industry in particular by putting an end to nomadic or seasonal pastoral incursions into the Judean hill and Negev areas. The forts can be interpreted as evidence of an attempt to protect scarce agricultural resources from irregular pastoralists. As these nomadic groups were forced to settle the populations of the hill areas — and numbers of villages here — grew. So did exploitation of the hill areas timber, pastoral and horticultural resources.

Commercial relations of Jerusalem

The hill area south of Jerusalem was dotted with smaller villages that sprang up in response to pastoral and horticultural activity. This hill area, with its timber, pastoral and crop resources, relied on larger towns to the south, such as Hebron, and those to the east, like Lachish, and Jerusalem in the north, to sell their produce. These larger towns can be presumed to have been in commercial rivalry for the resources of the hill areas — especially olive oil, but also timber, pastoral and horticultural products.

Olive producing villagers in the hill area could bypass Jerusalem and trade directly with Ekron and Lachish, and of course Hebron — which was a major source of the commercial rivalry among centres like Jerusalem, Lachish and Hebron.

There is no reason to believe that Jerusalem had the means to dominate any but the closest villages in the hills and Negev to her south. These were more likely dominated by Jerusalem’s competitors like Hebron and the Shephelah towns of Lachish and Ekron.

Jerusalem ignored by the surrounding evidence

A letter from Arad indicates that Arad was politically independent from Jerusalem.

A text from Kuntillet Ajrud refers to Yahweh of Samaria and Yahweh of Teman, but there are no references to a Yahweh of Jerusalem.

Pharaoh Shoshenk (biblical Shishak) plundered towns in southern Palestine, including the Ayyalon valley adjacent to Jerusalem, but makes no reference to Jerusalem among the town he cited to boast  his victories.

Comparing Judea with other regions, and Jerusalem with Samaria

Especially in the ninth century b.c.e. “the primary agricultural regions of greater Palestine developed significantly centralized regional forms of government (e.g. Phoenicia, Philistia, Israel, [Syria], Ammon . . . ) and . . . Arab controlled overland trade began to make a major economic impact in the emerging capitals of these states.” (p.290)

This was not the case in the Judean area — the Shephelah and Negev and hill regions around Jerusalem. Here each city, like an independent city-state, vied for commercial-imperial type dominance in the surrounding areas, as outlined in the note on commercial relations above. [T]he political development of Jerusalem as a regional state, controlling the Judaean highlands, lagged substantially behind the consolidation of the central highlands further north.” Samaria, for example, established complex regional associations, making itself the capital city of the entire region. The power base in Jerusalem never extended politically beyond Jerusalem itself.

Dramatic changes to Jerusalem from around 700 b.c.e.

721 b.ce. Assyria destroyed Samaria and the northern kingdom of Israel came to an end.

701 b.c.e Assyria moved further south and destroyed Lachish, a leading commercial rival of Jerusalem. Assyria further took charge of the coastal trade that had been based around the oil-processing centre of Ekron.

It is from this time that the population of Jerusalem begins to multiply. From the time of these two events, especially the destruction of Lachish, that “Jerusalem begins to take on both the size and character of a regional capital.” Citing Jamieson-Drake and E. A. Knauf, Thompson adds:

The radically altered political creation in greater Palestine, and the need to absorb a considerable influx of refugees to its population transformed Jerusalem from a small provincial, agriculturally based regional state . . . into a stratified society, with a dominant elite (and perhaps a temple supporting a state cult), in the form of a buffer state lying between two major imperial powers: Egypt to the South and Assyria to the North. These changes, and the radical alteration of the political map of Palestine, brought — at least for Jerusalem’s new elite — considerable growth in wealth and prestige . . . . (pp.333-334)

The rise triggers the fall

Thompson continues:

This growth in wealth and prosperity of its elite, as Jerusalem became increasingly involved in the international politics of trade, ultimately led Jerusalem into direct confrontation with the Assyrian army and its final destruction and dismemberment by the Babylonians. . . . The devastation [by the Assyrians and Babylonians] itself brought to southern Palestine a physical impoverishment and economic depression that ravaged the region. Assyrian and Babylonian military and political policies of administration systematically destroyed the region’s infrastructure and brought about the collapse of the entire society. (p. 334)

When Popeye David beat flabby Goliath and called it a ‘miracle’

Since we’re the good guys we’ve done nothing so bad as to deserve all the headaches we have to put up with from Islamic terrorists and the bad guys in the Middle East. When the bad guys wearing the dark skins and having the wrong religion say that the root cause of all the strife in the Middle East – at least till the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 – is “the Palestinian question” and the occupation by Israel of the West Bank and Gaza since 1967, we can be sure that that is just as fatuous as an armed bank robber appealing for sympathy by telling the judge that he needed the money to pay for his gun and getaway car. read more »