Lachish in the Early Iron Age

Posted: June 10, 2014 in Ancient Near Eastern History, History
Tags: ,

The Canaanite city of Lachish was destroyed in the 12th century BCE. It is unclear as to who was responsible for this destruction, but there are two main candidates. The first of these is the invading Hebrews or Israelites, who had moved down from the Eastern Judean hills, where they had initially settled into the Shephelah. Lachish is listed as one of the cities captured and destroyed during the initial Israelite invasion. There is less evidence for the alternative candidate, but some historians have suggested that by the 12th century the Israelites were already in control of this area, and thus the most likely destroyers were raiders from the coastal city states. These previously Canaanite cities had already been conquered by the Philistia or sea people, perhaps better known to us as the Philistines. Whoever owned the city or indeed destroyed it, occupation on the site was then absent for around two centuries until the city was rebuilt as a heavily fortified city in the 10th century BCE. There is firm archaeological evidence that the occupants of this city were Judean and in most timelines of Judean history, this coincides with the move form a regionally based tribal system of government to a centralised monarchical system. Lachish was not alone in being rebuilt and the fortified at this time as other cities in the Shephelah , such as Azekah and Khirbet Qeiyafa, show a similar development in this same time period. This development may have been a response to the increasing threat from the coastal city states of the Philistia, as documented in the Judean texts, but also may have reflected a statement from the Jerusalem-based government sending a message to the previously semi-independent tribes of the area regarding who had the power and control.
However, this new city was not long-lived as evidence shows that sometime in the 10th century BCE. It was destroyed again, at least to some degree. It is possible that this could be linked to the campaign of the Egyptian Pharaoh Shishak or Sheshonk I, who is known to have invaded Judah in 925 BCE. This campaign was supposedly in support of an attempt by King Jeroboam of Samaria to reunite Samaria and Judah. It failed but as a result of city looting and probably tribute paid by King Rehoboam of Judah, Shishak went home a far richer man. Following this destruction, occupation continued at Lachish but on a much smaller scale. After about 100 years there was a refortification of the city and it has been commented that at this time it was the largest Judean city outside of Jerusalem.

Thebes - South Wall of Court of Sheshonk
The victory list of Sheshonk I in Thebes
Photo by Carsten ten Brink (https://www.flickr.com/photos/carsten_tb/_

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