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Considering the Reconsidering of LMLK Chronology



Sennacherib devastated the Shephelah region, prompting new development around and to the east of Jerusalem; but he did not completely devastate the economy or demographics of Judah, at least not according to the Bible and LMLK seals.










By G.M. Grena
www.LMLK.org
August 2010



LMLK (למלך) jar-handle seal impressions, the first ancient Israelite inscriptions discovered in modern times,1 predate the oldest Bible texts by about a century.2 Scholars agree that they relate to an important event recorded in three Bible books (Sennacherib's Assyrian campaign against the Judean king, Hezekiah),3 but disagree on the function and span of that relationship.4

For those not familiar with the seals, they are ~1" ovals, more than twice the size of common Judean seals. All of them bear an icon and a 1 or 2-word inscription, the main word meaning "To the King" in Hebrew. The icons are either a 4-winged scarab or a 2-winged light. Scholars commonly interpret this latter symbol as a sun, adopted by Judeans from neighboring cultures (both Egyptians and Assyrians), but this is not necessarily true. Throughout the Bible, God is frequently described metaphorically with wings or as a shining light.5



click for details click for details

Fig. 1: Samples of LMLK Type MIb (Early) and HIIb (Late) Seal Impressions6



The latest academic sortie on this subject comes from Oded Lipschits, Omer Sergi, and Ido Koch ("Lipschits et al" herein). In their article, "Royal Judahite Jar Handles: Reconsidering the Chronology of the lmlk Stamp Impressions", they posit four major points:

1a) LMLK jars represent an administrative/economic feature within an Assyrian vassal kingdom from as early as Ahaz's reign to sometime after Hezekiah's reign;7 1b) they do not represent a brief revolt by Hezkeiah.8

2) Judah manufactured LMLK jars using at least five chronologically distinct sets of seals.

3) Judah used an additional set of seals (known as "private" or "personal") during a brief revolt led by Hezekiah.

4) The Assyrian attack inflicted a severe economic decline in Hezekiah's kingdom, observable in LMLK jar statistics.

I reject #1a, accept #1b,9 accept #2 with clarifications, mostly accept #3, and reject #4. I will also rebut some minor points related to statistical data.10

Rejection of Point #1a

Lipschits et al. fail to present any direct evidence for associating the seals with the payment of tribute to Assyrians. They see them as an initial link in a chain of jar marks:

LMLKs (late-8th to early-7th century)

Circles (mid-7th century)

Rosettes (late-7th to early-6th century)

Yehuds (Persian period)

Stars (Hellenistic period)11

Because significant quantities of all five marks have been excavated at Ramat Rahel, and because the authors view Ramat Rahel as an Assyrian palace, not one founded and used by Judah completely independent of Assyria, they make this connection.

The obvious problem with such logic is that more LMLKs have been excavated from Jerusalem than Ramat Rahel, along with equally prodigious quantities at Mizpah and Gibeon. Elsewhere in their article, Lipschits et al. even recognize Lachish as the main administrative centre. But these jars have been found at more than 75 sites throughout Israel, so I fail to understand why anyone would attempt to explain how the jars functioned by only looking at a few sites where the most jars were found.

If anything, the jars argue against an outsider/Assyrian connection, unless you believe there were numerous Assyrians stationed at, or frequently visiting, small farming sites as well as large towns during Hezekiah's reign. If so, where is the evidence, and more importantly, why are there so few in the northern territory, which was thoroughly conquered by Assyria? Did the Assyrians not care about the economy in those regions they conquered?

While they may be correct that Assyrians occupied or visited the palace at Ramat Rahel, there is still no direct connection between Assyrians and LMLK seals, particularly scarab icons. If, as I agree with Lipschits et al., the first set of LMLK seals bore scarab icons, how would anyone know that this Egyptian or Judean symbol meant that the jar contents belonged to the Assyrians?12 The inscription itself would not help. MLK (מלך) means "king". Would it not make more sense to inscribe them ASUR (אשור) for clarity?

This new hypothesis ignores the Bible's clear description of Hezekiah's administration, beginning with his first year of reign; and for scholars who distrust the Bible, that is an attractive element. 2Kings/Isaiah and 2Chronicles present Hezekiah as both a religious and political rebel, a bold leader who attempted to unify the northern kingdom of Israel with his southern kingdom of Judah, rebelling against Assyria (albeit with a brief burst of infidelity when he made a tribute payment to Sennacherib at Lachish). This interpretation of history stands in complete contrast to that presented by Lipschits et al., where Hezekiah inherits the Assyrian vassal kingdom from his father, Ahaz, and remains mostly subservient, like a bird in a cage.

Further countering Point #1 is the chronological transition (Point #2) from the scarab to the light, or sun as a pagan would view it. While this is definitely a symbol used by the Assyrians,13 Lipschits et al. would have us believe that Hezekiah switched to it precisely when he began to withhold tribute payments to Assyria! They could successfully argue that the latter sets of "sun" seals indicate submission to Assyria as a vassal kingdom, but the archaeological evidence is completely against this interpretation.

Point #1 fails scrutiny due to its ignorance of Hezekiah's personality when he began to reign, and his relationship with the northern tribes.14 The Bible provides crucial clues that complement the archeological data, and help determine what the purpose of the jars might have been. Vaughn capitalized on this evidence (in his dissertation about the Chronicler's account of Hezekiah),15 positing that the LMLK seals represent an economic build-up within the kingdom of Judah, unrelated to any Assyrian tribute.16

Clarification of Point #2

On the back cover of my 2004 book, I show drawings of five sets of LMLK seals arranged with a chronological division between them:17



Fig. 2: Back cover of "LMLK--A Mystery Belonging to the King vol. 1"



Lipschits et al. have essentially made the same observation. Only one archeological stratum exists that can be associated with Hezekiah's reign;18 three of the sets were sealed under this layer; the other two are mostly above it.19

I drew the 21 LMLK seals using computer-aided tools after examining and photographing hundreds of actual handle impressions (nearly 200 from American institutions that had sponsored excavations in Israel, and nearly 200 others from unprovenanced collections obtained through the antiquities market). 20 Lipschits et al. made minor modifications, and deleted two of them, leaving 21 total.21 Then they applied the classification system published by Andre Lemaire in 1981.22 If you apply their system to the arrangement on the back of my book, the classes are shown here from top to bottom (with the chronological dividing line for reference):

IIc (2-winged icon, usually no bottom-register inscription)

IIb (2-winged icon, divided bottom-register inscription)

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

IIa (2-winged icon, undivided inscriptions)

Ib (4-winged icon, lapidarist/elegant design)

Ia (4-winged icon, cursory/crude design)

Lipschits et al. claim, "The following examination of the lmlk stamp impression types is limited to those found at sites not destroyed in the course of Sennacherib’s 701 BCE campaign, none of them discovered in the destruction level of Lachish III or in other sites associated with the 701 BCE destruction."23

One cautionary note on this chronology point upheld by me and them, which they did not mention, is the data from Gezer since it is technically in the Hill Country, but close to the Shephelah border. It definitely contained all LMLK classes, and definitely suffered from an Assyrian destruction around the same time as the Shephelah sites.24 Macalister excavated this site from 1902-1909, and found about three-dozen handles; later excavations by Dever and Seger from 1964-1974 found a half-dozen more.25

Lipschits et al. emphasize their claim by throwing down a gauntlet, "If we could demonstrate that these types appeared only at sites that could be clearly dated to the 7th century BCE, then the logical conclusion would be that stamping of new types of lmlk jar handles was carried on in the 7th century."26

Gezer crashes that criteria.27 Though most of its handles have not been published in detail, there were at least four specimens belonging to the later classes: two of IIc by Macalister,28 and two of IIb entered into the IAA inventory during 1974.29 Finds from the ongoing renewed excavations could tip the scales toward or against this point. But for now, Gezer's "portion" of artifacts seems to resemble that of Tel Batash (Timnah) more than that of Mizpah and Gibeon.

The bottom line on Point #2 is that this chronological division is currently a scientific fact that complements the Bible's record. It can only be falsified by a new excavation at any Shephelah site destroyed by Sennacherib that produces large quantities of specimens from all the seal sets in a clear archeological context. Since so many sites have already been excavated, I believe this chronological division is a safe interpretation.

Pointed Acceptance of Point #3

Lipschits et al. correctly observe that not enough archeological data exists to associate the personal seals with the LMLK system throughout its duration. They also document each of the inscriptions,30 tabulating the sites where they were found. Here is their deduction:

"The unique nature of private stamp impressions on the royal Judahite jars combined with their limited duration before Sennacherib’s campaign, their distribution mainly in the Shephelah of Judah and their relative scarcity, lead to the hypothesis that the private stamp impression system was adopted for a short period by the administrative and economic system of the lmlk stamp impressions, and was used as part of the preparations for the Assyrian onslaught."31

So we agree that these personal seals were mostly made just prior to the Assyrian destruction, but I would like to clarify the final phrase of their statement.

Who were the people represented by these seals? Were they necessarily military leaders? Could they have been other government bureaucrats such as tax collectors, friends of the king, royal functionaries, land-grant recipients?32 Or possibly Levites or priests?33 A lack of title on all but one of these seals would seem to support this latter interpretation, which I still prefer.

If Judah were indeed a subservient Assyrian vassal during the beginning of Hezekiah's reign as Lipschits et al. have asserted, the personal seals could indeed have belonged to military leaders assigned during a rebellion. However, along with Point #1 being untenable, a single critical artifact argues against this interpretation, which Lipschits et al. forthrightly mention:

"The lnr'/sbn' stamp impression from Ramat Rahel seems to deserve further discussion concerning the date of the private stamp impressions, since it was stamped next to an HIIb lmlk stamp impression on the same handle. Nevertheless, the uniqueness of the stamp and the fact that it was the only stamp impression stamped on the same handle with a late type of lmlk stamp impression, make it exceptional."34

Actually, this dual-stamp handle is not unique; two similar handles exist.35 Nonetheless, this single artifact disproves their point,36 because after the destruction layer preceding the birth of seal-class IIb, there was no reason for a member of Hezekiah's "revolt" to stamp a fresh jar.

Lipschits et al. also discuss an enigmatic seal impression, known only from one specimen excavated at En-Gedi, with a controversial inscription.37 Although it bears no upper light rays (or icon "head"), the paleography of its inscription is nearly identical to that of LMLK seals, particularly HIIc.38 They said:

"The En-Gedi exemplar is very similar to other late 7th–early 6th century appearances of the winged disc motif (Parayre 1993: 37–38), and one can see it as a unique combination of a late private stamp impression together with a major motif from the royal seals."39

Dominique Parayre made drawings of 58 seals bearing 2-winged sun/light ("disque") icons. Her Fig. 10 represents a generic LMLK IIa design with very wavy wings, which contrast with a couple of the later designs in IIb and IIc. Her Fig. 46 is the headless En-Gedi design. I do not see any justification for Lipschits et al. to accept a "late 7th-early 6th" date for this seal, when they argue elsewhere for interpreting the same basic design and same basic paleography for late 8th, early 7th century seals.

These "exceptional" seals weaken the point being made by Lipschits et al., but harmonize well with my general proposal, that these personal seals belonged to cult-officials, possibly instituting some additional layer of bureaucracy during the special preparations for the/an Assyrian campaign.40 The basic tithe-jar system would have continued in use following Judah's victory over Assyria at Jerusalem, with the special seals gradually phased out.

Poor Wording

Before moving on to the fourth point, I want to clear up some confusing captions Lipschits et al. attached to their Figs. 3 and 4:41

"The five main Judahite sites where 8th century BCE lmlk stamp impressions were found."

"The five main Judahite sites where 7th century BCE lmlk stamp impressions were found."

Both figures show bar-graphs for the same five sites: Lachish, Jerusalem, Ramat Rahel, Gibeon, and Mizpah. Charts with these captions should list different sites, especially Fig. 3 which should show Beth-Shemesh. More of the 8th-century types were found at Beth-Shemesh (>32) than at Gibeon (>17) and Mizpah (>25).42

Also, the numbers shown in the charts don't seem to match the text. Take Gibeon for example, where Fig. 3 shows 10 and Fig. 4 shows 53, but p. 19 states 17 and 59 respectively. For Mizpah, Fig. 3 shows 20, Fig. 4 shows 30, p. 19 states 25 and 34 respectively.43

A more accurate caption for each figure would have been, "The quantity of X-century BCE lmlk stamp impressions found at the five main sites."

While discussing these charts, they state, "Other important sites during [the late 8th century BCE] ... were Jerusalem, Ramat Rahel and Beth-Shemesh. However, none of these sites yielded more than 20% of the number of stamped handles discovered at Lachish."44

Near the end of their article, they misuse this remark (assuming it refers to the same point), "In each of the 7th century types of stamped handles-—the later lmlk, concentric circles and rosette types—-the amount of impressions is never greater than 20% of the number of the early lmlk types."45

If you look at all known specimens from provenanced excavations, there are 598 early and 297 late (which is 50%).46 If you look at Circles, there are at least 260 (which is 43%).47 Likewise for Rosettes, of which there are about 250 (~42%). Clearly the amount of 7th century marks is far more than 20% of the number of the early LMLKs, especially if you include unprovenanced specimens as we'll see below.

Rejection of Point #4

"The Assyrian destruction and the economic damage caused by the loss of large territories in the Shephelah, as well as the sharp demographic decline, are also attested in the total number of the lmlk stamp impressions. Only 19% of the corpus can be dated to the 7th century BCE."48

Due to ambiguous excavation reports over the years, we know approximately how many specimens of the two sets of Type I stamps were found, and also the three sets of Type II stamps, but we do not know the relative sub-quantities of the Type II sets. This makes it impossible to verify that only 19% of the corpus post-dates the Assyrian destruction.

For example, at Gibeon we know of 16 Type I stamps. Seven can be positively identified with a specific Ia seal design; likewise for five of Ib. The other four cannot be positively identified, but they're definitely Type I, therefore definitely earlier than the Assyrian destruction.

However, only one of the Type II classes also pre-dates the Assyrian destruction. Of the 72 Type II stamps found at Mizpah, only 9 definitely belong to IIa (the earlier one), 32 to the IIb, IIc, and XII. 72-(9+32) leaves 31 unclassifiable, or 35% of the total. Do they mostly belong to the early group or the later group?

If all the unclassifiable Type II stamps are early, then we can claim that only 36% (32 out of 88) of Gibeon's stamps are late. If all the unclassifiable ones are late, then we can claim that 72% (32+31 out of 88) are late. That's a significant difference, and that's the problem with this analysis by Lipschits et al. It's okay to guess since the true quantity probably lies somewhere in the middle, not at one of the extremes; but it's scientifically invalid to make a definitive assertion on speculative data, disguised as a scientific fact.

In my book, I played it safe, and suggested that the corpus evenly straddles the destruction layer. I based this statement on the identifiable quantities of all classifiable specimens, both from documented excavations and unprovenanced collections that are unquestionably genuine.49 Currently, there are 814 total:

73 IIc

314 IIb

----------

164 IIa

179 Ib

84 Ia

52% (427) early, 48% (387) late

Worded in the same style as Lipschits et al., the amount of late impressions is greater than 90% of the number of the early LMLK types!50

This data complements the Bible's statement that Sennacherib attacked Judah in the 14th year of Hezekiah's 29-year reign ... but only when interpreting the LMLK seals as a tithing aid established in the 1st year of his reign.

In direct contrast to the position held by Lipschits et al. (based on a flawed interpretation of the data), consider (or reconsider) the validity of Isaiah 37:30-1 and 2Chronicles 32:23 about Judah after the Assyrian destruction:

"Ye shall eat this year such as groweth of itself; and the second year that which springeth of the same; and in the third year sow ye, and reap, and plant vineyards, and eat the fruit thereof. And the remnant that is escaped of the house of Judah shall again take root downward, and bear fruit upward..."

"And many brought gifts unto the LORD to Jerusalem, and presents to Hezekiah king of Judah: so that he was magnified in the sight of all nations from thenceforth."

Yes, Sennacherib had devastated the Shephelah region, prompting new development around and to the east of Jerusalem; but no, he did not completely devastate the economy or demographics of Judah, at least not according to the Bible and LMLK seals.



Literature

Barkay, Gabriel; Marilyn J. Lundberg, Andrew G. Vaughn, Bruce Zuckerman (2004). "The Amulets from Ketef Hinnom: A New Edition and Evaluation". Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 334 (May): 41–70.

Deutsch, R., and Heltzer, M. 2004. Forty New Ancient West Semitic Inscriptions. Tel Aviv-Jaffa.

Fox, N.S. 2000. In the Service of the King—Officialdom in Ancient Israel and Judah (Monographs of the Hebrew Union College 23). Cincinnati.

Grena, G.M. 2004. LMLK--A Mystery Belonging to the King vol. 1. Redondo Beach.

Lemaire, A. 1981. Classification des estampilles royales judeennes. EI 15: 54–60.

Lipschits, O., Sergi, O., Koch, I. 2010. Royal Judahite Jar Handles: Reconsidering the Chronology of the lmlk Stamp Impressions. Tel Aviv 37: 3-32.

Parayre, D. 1993. A propos des sceaux ouest-semitiques: le role de l'iconographie dans l'attribution d'un sceau a une aire culturelle et a un atelier. In: Sass, B. and Uehlinger, Chr., eds. Studies in the Iconography of Northwest Semitic Inscribed Seals (Orbis Biblicus et Orientalis 125). Fribourg and Gottingen: 27–51.

van der Veen, Pieter Gert. 2005. The Final Phase of Iron Age IIC and the Babylonian Conquest: A Reassessment with Special Emphasis on Names and Bureaucratic Titles on Provenanced Seals and Bullae from Israel and Jordan. Trinity College Bristol.

Vaughn, A.G. 1999. Theology, History and Archaeology in the Chronicler’s Account of Hezekiah. Atlanta.

Warren, Charles 1870. Phoenician inscription on jar handles. PEQ 2: 372.



Notes


1 Charles Warren found the first specimens while digging under the Temple Mount during the late 1860s, and published the first drawings of them in 1870. The far-more famous Siloam Inscription, found in Hezekiah's Tunnel, was not discovered until 1880.

2 The silver scrolls found during an excavation of Ketef Hinnom by Gabriel Barkay, bear texts similar to Exodus 20:6, Numbers 6:24-26, Deuteronomy 5:10, Deuteronomy 7:9, Daniel 9:4, and Nehemiah 1:5.

3 2Kings 18:13-19:36; 2Chronicles 32:1-23; Isaiah 36:1-37:37.

4 Grena (2004: chapters 8-13).

5 A detailed defense of my position is beyond the scope of this article. I'm merely pointing out an alternate interpretation, for which there is abundant indirect textual support in the Bible. Furthermore, Isaiah 6:5 (and numerous other passages in the Bible) refer to God as "MLK" (King).

6 You can view the entire jar handles for these two stamps at LMLK.com/research/lmlk_gg21.htm and LMLK.com/research/lmlk_gg62.htm.

7 Lipschits et al. (2010: 7): "[W]e may tentatively date the beginning of the lmlk stamp impression system to the last quarter of the 8th century, the period when Judah became a vassal kingdom, either in the final years of King Ahaz’ rule or the early days of King Hezekiah’s reign."

8 Lipschits et al. (2010: 6): "It is implausible that such an elaborate system could develop in the three or four years between the revolt of Hezekiah and the Assyrian campaign."

9 For those not familiar with my extensive writings on this subject, I believe LMLK jars indicate the tithing system restored by King Hezekiah, which persisted throughout his reign, fell into disuse during Manasseh's lengthy reign, then reappeared with different symbols (Rosettes) during Josiah's reign.

10 I will eventually publish a detailed list of many minor corrections to the technical data presented by Lipschits et al., but such esoterica is beyond the scope of interest in this present forum. One brief example is on p. 15 where they count two HIIb specimens found at Lachish, one being "No. 68", which I had corrected on two web pages, LMLK.com/research/lmlk_errs.htm and LMLK.com/research/lmlk_lachish-corp.htm in 2005 after doing an extensive review of David Ussishkin's 5-volume final report.

11 The well-known Jerusalem stars are not mentioned specifically, but implied in Lipschits et al. (2010: 9): "The same system probably persisted throughout the Persian and early Hellenistic periods, when jars were marked with the yhwd stamp impression, and disappeared with the Hasmoneans in the second half of the 2nd century BCE."

12 Lipschits et al. (2010: 17): "[T]he four-winged scarab is associated with Egypt, whose culture was probably more dominant in Judah before the arrival of the Assyrians." Lipschits et al. (2010: 7): "[The LMLK system with a scarab icon] was encouraged by the [Assyrian] imperial rule in order to increase the [Assyrian] empire's revenues, and as one of the main sources of supply for the Assyrian administration and its local garrisons." I injected specific terms in brackets to emphasize the implausibility of their hypothesis.

13 Panel #13a (XI), British Museum #124914 shows Sennacherib's royal chariot at Lachish, bearing what appear to be 3-dimensional representations of this winged-sun icon.

14 Further complicating the overall investigation is the debate about whether Sennacherib led two campaigns or only one. But it is surprisingly irrelevant to this discussion. Unlike the two Babylonian campaigns against Jerusalem a century later, the outcome of the two Assyrian campaigns would have been different. We would not expect to find two distinctly Assyrian destruction strata at any Judean site.

15 Vaughn (1999: 7-14).

16 Vaughn (1999: 167).

17 Lipschits et al. (2010: 10): "To date there has been no examination of the distribution of the stamp impressions according to detailed typology." In addition to the material presented in my 2004 book, I have displayed detailed distribution maps for each of the 21 seal types since 2003 at LMLK.com/research/lmlk_maps.htm.

18 According to 2Kings 18:13 and Isaiah 36:1, the (or an) Assyrian destruction occurred in the 14th year of Hezekiah's 29-year reign.

19 I have to use the word "mostly" because there are at least two specimens that were found out-of-context in an even-earlier stratum, which Lipschits et al. did not comment on: an "HIIb" from Arad (ID #15287/1) found in Level 74.60 of Square K15 (stratum IX), and an unclassified "II" from Room 546 at Tell en-Nasbeh (referred to by Lipschits et al. as Mizpah).

20 My initial publication of the seal drawings was in February 2002 on the Internet. The current URL is LMLK.com/research/lmlk_typo.htm. I included enlargements of them in Figs. 33-38 of my 2004 book, and the entire actual-size set in Fig. 39. Each book includes a 1:1 clear-plastic template that allows researchers to overlay the seals to compare differences. Archeologists and curators also use it to identify partial or weak impressions. After encountering so many obstructions over copyright issues by institutions that hindered my research, I deliberately relinquished copyrights to my work to encourage research into this generally esoteric subject. Since 2004, I have made several minor updates to the drawings, which are available on the LMLK Research Website, and the "LMLK seal" entry of the English Wikipedia. I am honored to see it being used by Lipschits et al. in their research.

21 Figs. 1 and 2 credit Ido Koch with the drawings, which contain these modifications to my own: 1) my dotted lines (indicating no known specimens defining this evidence) were removed or made solid, 2) all word-divider dots and slashes were erased, 3) thicker lines were added to give a more isometric appearance.

22 They discarded my rare type Z4CY and assume it is the same seal that made the common Z4CI impressions. They discarded my common type S2DW and assume it is the same seal that made the rare S2DR impressions. According to Lipschits et al. (2010: 15), no SIIc impressions have been found; whereas in my system, there is no such vacancy. They also ignore Lemaire's OII. Having made this clarification I am using Lemaire's system herein to avoid confusion. Other differences between our systems are not relevant to this particular discussion.

23 Lipschits et al. (2010: 11).

24 Four photos showing Assyrian destruction evidence are currently available at http://gezer.swbts.edu/photos.html (August 2010). Read with caution the erroneously worded statement by Lipschits et al. (2010: 16): "Since no stamp impressions of this type were found at sites destroyed in 701 BCE, we may conclude that it functioned as part of the 7th century system."

25 Vaughn (2009: 191). Other excavations were conducted in the 20th century, but publication has been sparse. See http://gezer.swbts.edu/history.html for details.

26 Lipschits et al. (2010: 10).

27 No big surprise because on p. 15 Lipschits et al. admit, "A few stamp impressions of this type come from sites destroyed by Sennacherib."

28 Oddly enough, Lipschits et al. mention these on p. 16 without commentary.

29An HIIb (Reg. No. 1674, Locus 51043.1, Element 1058, IAA #1974-905) and an MIIb (Reg. No. 1738, Locus 04043, Element 1516, IAA #1974-906).

30 Lipschits et al. completely ignore two important anepigraphic/pictographic seals listed by Vaughn (1999: 219) as types XXXIX and XL, the latter known only from Ramat Rahel, which would weaken their point.

31 Lipschits et al. (2010: 26).

32 Fox (2000: 230-2).

33 Grena (2004: 377).

34 Lipschits et al. (2010: 26, footnote 45).

35 One was just excavated from Umm Tuba, published by the Israel Antiquities Authority online in 2009 probably after Lipschits et al. had already submitted their article for publication. Another lacks provenance, published by Deutsch and Heltzer (1994: 33). Before you dismiss this artifact as being unreliable, not belonging in a scientific journal such as Tel Aviv, consider that Lipschits et al. (2010: 22) indirectly utilize another rare dual-stamp handle from the antiquities market in their footnote #40, not to mention their use of my LMLK drawings, which were partially based on unprovenanced specimens.

36 The En-Gedi handle discussed below also disproves their point, though they don't accept it as belonging to the LMLK phenomenon.

37 van der Veen (2005: 126-136). Alternate readings are MRA (מרא), MRT (מרת), NRA (נרא), NRT (נרת).

39 Lipschits et al. (2010: 26, footnote 42).

40 An analogous special circumstance of a government figure interacting with a religious one is in 1Samuel 21:1-6.

41 Lipschits et al. (2010: 19 and 21 respectively).

42 It's also highly probable that more were found at Tel Goded, but photos of its 39 handles were never published, only eight identifiable drawings, all of which represented the earlier types.

43 My research of these two collections stored in the USA show 15 and 59 at Gibeon, 21 and 32 at Mizpah. All three sets of numbers are roughly the same, and the differences could be due to disagreement over difficult-to-decipher impressions.

44 Lipschits et al. (2010: 19).

45 Lipschits et al. (2010: 28).

46 Lipschits et al. (2010: 16-7) report 280 late ones, but did not rely on some of my identifications, which would raise the total to 297. This difference is trivial since the quantity would be far higher if the >350 unclassifiable ones were not so poorly impressed, a factor which must be taken into consideration since all 4-winged stamps are early regardless of their quality. For example, if all 350 are late, that would result in ~125% (i.e., more late than early)!

47 Lipschits et al. (2010: 9) report 274, but details are incomplete in their footnote 9, so this quantity probably includes unprovenanced specimens by mistake, which in contrast to pre-fired LMLK impressions would be relatively easy to forge, and should not be utilized in scientific studies.

48 Lipschits et al. (2010: 20).

49 Ignoring unprovenanced LMLK handles would be like ignoring the Dead Sea Scrolls. With plenty of unstamped handles and poor impressions available on the surface throughout Israel, it would be easier for an opportunist to carve an obviously fake impression on a genuine handle than to manufacture a modern seal to stamp a modern jar, fire it, smash it, and attempt to market it. They would be easy to spot, and there would be plenty for sale, but I am not aware of any (nor are any dealers or fellow collectors I have contacted). For an example of an obvious forgery visit LMLK.com/research/lmlk_mw-f01.htm.

50 Compare my results to what Lipschits et al. (2010: 7-8) already knew: "At least half the lmlk stamped handles were discovered in hill country sites of Judah not destroyed during Sennacherib’s campaign and inhabited during the 7th century BCE." Looking at just the top 11 sites where LMLKs have been found, it just so happens that five are in the Shephelah with 563 specimens, five are in the Hill Country with 654, and the 11th is Gezer, close to their border. So simple arithmetic would make you suspicious of their conclusion that <20% are late, >80% are early.


Comments (4)


G.M. - thanks for your work on this. One small comment: Gezer is in the Shephelah. I'll cite as confirmation the first line in Dever's article in the Anchor Bible Dictionary: "A site in the foothills of the Judean range." The Shephelah = foothills. This graphic shows the city's situation:
http://www.holylandphotos.org/browse.asp?s=1,2,6,27,122
#1 - Todd Bolen - 09/17/2010 - 08:57



Thanks for the clarification, Mr. BiblePlaces.com! This strengthens my point, that Lipschits et al. overlooked a Shephelah site with both classes of late types, though we don't know what their stratigraphical context was. For the record, I mislabeled Gezer as not being in the Shephelah because I was confused by this statement in the "NEAEHL" reference book:

"Gezer is situated on the last of the foothills in the Judean Range, where it slopes down to meet the northern Shephelah."

I mistakenly thought "foothills" meant "hill country", & didn't realize the northern Shephelah as distinct from the southern one; I thought it was referring to the northern section of the Shephelah as a whole. I regret the error.
#2 - G.M. Grena - 09/17/2010 - 11:32



This online article has been cited by Jeff Hudon in NEASB vol. 55 (2010), pp. 27-44, "The LMLK Storage Jars and the Reign of Uzziah: Towards a Mid-eighth Century B.C. Terminus a Quo for the Royal Jars of the Kingdom of Judah". The specific reference is in endnote #5 on p. 38. Hudon joins me in not accepting Lipschits et al. pertaining to Assyrian tribute, but disagrees with me on when & how they were used.
#3 - G.M. Grena - 01/22/2011 - 20:52



On p. 4 of the November 2012 issue of Tel Aviv (vol. 39, #2), editor Israel Finkelstein expressed his opinion that the failure of Lipschits et al. to credit my book, my theory, & my drawings was "an honest oversight," noting that they're in the public domain. In a separate article authored by him ("Comments on the Date of Late-Monarchic Judahite Seal Impressions"), he agreed with the chronological division.
#4 - G.M. Grena - 11/01/2012 - 23:11






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