This post is based on Russell Gmirkin’s chapter, “‘Solomon’ (Shalmaneser III) and the Emergence of Judah as an Independent Kingdom”, in the Thomas L. Thompson festschrift, Biblical Narratives, Archaeology and Historicity. All posts addressing the same volume are archived here.
Russel Gmirkin’s conclusions (p. 77):
• That the area later known as the kingdom of Judah was under direct rule from Samaria from c. 875 to c. 735 BCE.
• That Yahweh worship was also centered at Samaria during this early period and only appeared at Jerusalem as a result of Samarian regional influences.
• That Judah only emerged as an independent political entity in the time of Tiglath-pileser III under Jehoahaz of Judah in c. 735 BCE.
• That the Acts of Solomon originated in the Neo-Assyrian province of Samaria to celebrate Shalmaneser III as legendary conqueror and founder of an empire south of the Euphrates.
• That old local monumental architecture that the Acts of Solomon attributed to Shalmaneser III, including Jerusalem’s temple, is best understood as reflecting Omride building activities c. 875-850 BCE.
A typical chart illustrating the Old Testament chronology of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah is Jonathan Petersen’s on the BibleGateway Blog. I have copied that chart complete (left). If we use contemporary archaeological sources to determine what the kingdoms of Israel and Judah looked like and make adjustments to that chart we end up with something like the following. The United Kingdom disappears entirely. The Kingdom of Judah only emerges after the Assyrians have hamstrung the Kingdom of Israel in the time of King Menahem in the 730s. Before then the area we think of as the kingdom of Judah had been dominated by the kingdom of Israel.
Russell Gmirkin does not use the above chart but he does seek to reconstruct the historical origins of the kingdom of Judah, its Temple and Yahweh worship by means of the contemporary archaeological sources and comes to much the same conclusion as illustrated on the right side of the above chart. In an effort to get a handle on the archaeological sources and their relation to what we read in the biblical texts I made up my own rough grid based on Gmirkin’s list of archaeological sources. Dates and scale are only approximate. Many of the sources are available online for those interested in that sort of detail.
The kingdom of Judah does not register a mark on the world scene until after the Samaria based kingdom of Israel has been weakened by Assyria and on the brink of final collapse. For earlier Vridar posts on this order of events see
- Jerusalem unearthed – archaeology and Jerusalem 1000 to 700 b.c.e.
- Jerusalem’s rise to power: 2 views (this post compares the views of Israel Finkelstein with those of Thomas L. Thompson)
For those interested in following up the archaeological testimony to the kingdoms of Israel and Judah as per the above chart . . .
- the Kurkh Monolith Stele
- the Black Obelisk
- the Mesha Stele
- the Nimrud Slab Inscriptions (for Adad-nirari III)
- the Annals of Tiglath-pileser
- the Display, Pavement and Nimrud Inscriptions (for Sargon II)
- Sennacherib’s Annals & Bull inscription
- the Cylinder texts (for Ashurbanipal)
Consult Glassner’s Mesopotamian Chronicles (I was able to access this volume on Questia in July last year but cannot see them there now; hope you have better luck) for
- Shalmaneser V’s siege of Samaria
- Nebuchadnezzar II’s destruction of Jerusalem
And Pritchard’s Ancient Near Eastern Texts for
- Esarhaddon’s subjugation of king Manasseh of Judah
- Nebuchadnezzar II’s deportation of king Jehoiachin of Judah
Archaeological finds have demonstrated that Israel under Ahab extended its power from the Galilee through to the Red Sea. The map below is from Israel Finkelstein’s The Forgotten Kingdom : the Archaeology and History of Northern Israel (open access link). Read the concluding paragraphs of chapter 3 for Finkelstein’s discussion of evidence that Jerusalem at the time of Ahab was far from being a significant urban site. The map shows the main sites of Ahab’s building activities.
A key passage in Gmirkin’s article establishing the significance of Ahab’s building activity, including an administrative and temple buildings in Jerusalem (pp. 80f):
An analysis of the inscriptional evidence from c. 850-800 BCE supports the hypothesis that Judah was under direct rule from Samaria during this period. The prominence of Israel under Omri and Ahab as a regional power of the southern Levant has been extensively discussed elsewhere (e.g. Finkelstein 2013: 83-117). In economic and political alliance with the Phoenicians, Ahab’s Israel controlled the coastal route through the (‘Solomonic’) chariot cities of Gezer and Megiddo, the northern inland trade route through Hazor, portions of the King’s Highway from Gilead through northern Moab (Dearman 1989: 159, 169), and the southern trade to the Red Sea (Meshel 2012: 69). The zenith of Omride military power and territorial expansion was during the reign of Ahab (874-853 BCE), whose activities as a builder is attested by monumental architectural remains at Samaria, Jezreel, Megiddo, Gezer, Hazor and elsewhere.
Omride interest in controlling trade routes in both the Transjordan and the Negev in this period calls into question the existence of a kingdom centered at Jerusalem in this period. The geographical territory of Judah was adjacent to the hills of Ephraim and immediately opposite Ammon and Moab. It is difficult to imagine a strong military power such as Israel under Omri and Ahab having overlooked Judah, a relatively easy target whose possession would consolidate Omride control of Ammon and northern Moab as well as giving Samaria full control of the fertile Jericho plain (cf. 1 Kgs 16:34). Omride rule of Jerusalem and Judah would also have given Israel control of the trade route that ran south from Samaria through Judah and the Negev to the Red Sea. Indeed, the royal establishment of the site of Kuntillet ‘Ajrud as a Samarian outpost [see below] indicated to excavator Meshel that Israel must have ruled Judah during the period Kuntillet ‘Ajrud was occupied (Meshel 2012: 69).
The above discussion points to the strong likelihood that Samaria ruled Judah and Jerusalem during the period c. 875-800 BCE. Construction of the Temple Mount’s palace and temple in the ninth century BCE, modeled on the royal compounds on the artificially leveled acropolises at Samaria and Jezreel (Wightman 1993: 29-31; Ussishkin 2003: 535; 2011: 18-21; Finkelstein and Silberman 2006: 105), is best attributed to the Omrides in line with their building activities (Omri at 1 Kgs 16:24, Ahab at 1 Kgs 22:39) well-documented in other cities such as Megiddo, Gezer and Hazor (Finkelstein and Silberman 2006: 163-7, 275-81). Several of these cities had a palace for the governor of the city. Jerusalem in the ninth century BCE is best understood as another such Omride city with governor’s palace and temple (like the temples at nearby ninth-century BCE Tel Motza and eighth-century BCE Arad; cf. Garfinkel and Mumcuoglu 2016: 166-72).
(Finkelstein 2013, Ussishkin 2003, Ussishkin 2011 & Finkelsetin-Silberman 2006 links are to full text open access)
On the Kuntillet ‘Ajrud outpost mentioned above:
The Inscriptions at Kuntillet ‘Ajrud. The archaeological remains at Kuntillet ‘Ajrud on an isolated hilltop in the eastern central Sinai consist of a single layer of occupation (in two phases) dated to c. 820-750 BCE. The inscriptions at Kuntillet ‘Ajrud famously mentioned ‘Yahweh of Teman and his Asherah’ and ‘Yahweh of Samaria and his Asherah’ (Meshel 2012: 3.1, 3.6, 3.9, 4.1.1), but omitted Jerusalem and its temple.
(Gmirkin, p. 80)
Given that the Temple Mount’s palace and temple are modelled on the royal compounds of ninth century Samaria as Gmirkin points out, the evidence of “Yahweh of Samaria and his Asherah” at Kuntillet ‘Ajrud makes a strong case for the Jerusalem temple being instituted for Yahweh worship at the behest of Ahab of Samaria/Israel.
That’s not the way the Bible story tells it, of course. But Gmirkin is only half done at this point. Next post we look at the possible sources for the biblical accomplishments of Solomon.
Gmirkin, Russell. 2020. “‘Solomon’ (Shalmaneser III) and the Emergence of Judah as an Independent Kingdom.” In Biblical Narratives, Archaeology and Historicity: Essays In Honour of Thomas L. Thompson, edited by Lukasz Niesiolowski-Spanò and Emanuel Pfoh, 76–90. Library of Hebrew Bible / Old Testament Studies. New York: T&T Clark.
Petersen, Jonathan. 2017. “Updated: Chart of Israel’s and Judah’s Kings and Prophets.” Bible Gateway Blog (blog). July 17, 2017. https://www.biblegateway.com/blog/2017/07/updated-chart-of-israels-and-judahs-kings-and-prophets/.
Latest posts by Neil Godfrey (see all)
- Reconstructing the History of “Biblical” Israel and Judah - 2020-10-15 08:27:55 GMT+0000
- Laughs, Ghosts & Peace Crimes - 2020-10-13 09:45:28 GMT+0000
- Philosophy for a Civil Society - 2020-10-10 11:30:34 GMT+0000
If you enjoyed this post, please consider donating to Vridar. Thanks!