Old Testament

Over the centuries travellers to the Near East have been attracted to the impressive monuments from the past that can still be seen in Egypt and, to a lesser extent, in Mesopotamia. Comparable wonders are not the draw for those who choose to visit Palestine; the greater attraction is to walk in the footsteps of Old and New Testament personages.


Neolithic Period (c. 8500-4300 B.C.)

Jericho is one of the oldest known cities in the world, but little beyond a stone tower can be seen today. During excavation, however, the archaeologists found simple mud-brick housing. They also uncovered a small shrine containing a massebah, a Hebrew term for roughly shaped stones ("sacred pillar" in English) which were used as abstractions of deity. Such stones, then, were part of worship long before Moses warned the Israelites against making such objects when they entered the land (Levtiticus 26:1; Deuteronomy 16:22). Figurines excavated at Jericho and other sites suggest that Palestine's Neolithic population was engaged infertility worship. Plastered skulls, and human statues up to one-half life-size, are among the other religious finds from this time period. Taken together they illustrate that almost as far back as we can see into the pre-history of Palestine,  iniquity  (Genesis   15:16)  was I already accumulating.


Chalcolithic Period (c. 4300-3300 B.C.)

Dozens of unfortified villages have been found that date to this time range. Publications use terms like "pastoral societies" and "chiefdoms" to characterize the social system. Basically the people were agriculturists and shepherds, but there also seem to have been regional "cottage industries." Among the surprisingly wide variety of artistic expressions that have been found are ivory carvings, wall frescoes, and elaborate copper objects. The art has been termed "extraordinarily opulent." Some of the figurines imply that religion continued to center around fertility, but the specific object of worship is unclear.


Opposite: Stone tower at Jericho. This 30-foot-high (9.1 meter) tower is probably near its original height and is only one part of the earliest known defense system in the world. The tower was built against the inside of a city wall over 6 feet (1.8 meters) wide and still standing to 12 feet (3.6 meters) high at one point. Finally, a 9-foot-deep and 27-foot-wide (2.7 meters by 8.2 meters) trench/moat fronted the wall. Jericho was built beside one of the most powerful springs in all of Palestine. That desirable water source would have attracted many people to the area, people the inhabitants of Jericho felt it necessary to defend themselves against. During excavation, the remains of fifteen bodies were found in the tower's interior staircase (arrows point to its lower entrance and the opening on top).

Copper objects dating to the Chalcolithic period. This sample of copper objects is from a cache of over 400 that were found in a cave on the west side of the Dead Sea, near Engedi. Understandably, the cave has been dubbed the Cave of the Treasure. Initially, some archaeologists thought that the sophistication of the metallurgy required the objects to have been made in the first millennium B.C. Subsequent study of other objects found in the cave, however, together with C-14 analysis, proved their early date. The objects were probably hidden in the cave by priests who had used them in a temple that has been found at Engedi. Similar objects have been excavated elsewhere in the country.


Pottery burial chests. The ossuary was one of several types of interment practiced in the Chalcolithic period. Bodies were first left to desiccate and then the bones of the deceased were gathered and placed in a pottery chest sometimes shaped to imitate a house. This practice of "secondary burial" is not seen again until New Testament times when stone "bone boxes" (see page 194) became popular for a short period of time.

Canaanite "high place." This circular raised platform at Megiddo is about 26 feet (7.9 meters) in diameter, and is the earliest "high place" (bamah in Hebrew) known. When excavated, the area around the base was strewn with animal bones, the remains of Canaanite worship.

Early Bronze Period (c. 3300-2300 B.C.)

During this period there was intensive settlement and rise in population, and formidable defense systems became more of a necessity. Unfortified agricultural villages became overshadowed and controlled by "city-states." Scholars are divided concerning how to explain this shift to urbanization; everything from indigenous adaptation to outside forces has been posited. This land between Mesopotamia and Egypt was experiencing some commercial contact from both sides, but whether it was more than that is unclear. Multiple burials became common and some tombs show evidence that they were used for several generations. The large number of pottery vessels found in the tombs would originally have been filled with food and drink offerings, clear evidence of belief in an afterlife. Such "family tombs" were also popular when the patriarchs began to bury their loved ones at Hebron several centuries later.

Middle Bronze I (also called Early Bronze IV) Period (c. 2300-2000 B.C.)

Suddenly the city-states collapsed and almost all the cities west of the Jordan River were abandoned or destroyed. Internal warfare and invasion are among the explanations posited for what has been called "a radical cultural break." Those who favor invasion point to the shift from multiple burials to more individual interments as an indicator of extreme change. Several additional changes are cited by those who argue that an "ethnic invasion," namely, the arrival of Amorites, had taken place. But other scholars do not believe that they became part of Palestine's population (see Numbers 13:29) this early. Clearly, however, during these centuries Palestine underwent a period of de-urbanization and "chiefdoms" again characterized the social order.


The patriarchal narratives fit within the Middle Bronze II period (c. 2000-1550 B.C.). In several ways, what is known about this archaeological period parallels and amplifies our understanding of patriarchal life. For example, during Middle Bronze II (hereafter MB II) Palestine experienced a gradual re-urbanization and finally a return to the city-state model.

Of the several hundred MB II sites that have been identified, about twenty are large urban centers estimated to have held over half the total population of Palestine. As city-states, these centers dominated surrounding towns and villages. It would be incorrect, therefore, to visualize Palestine as a land filled with tent-dwelling nomads. There have been nomads in all periods of ancient Palestine, just as there are today but they did not constitute a large percentage of patriarchal Palestine's population. Also, living in a tent does not necessarily signal a nomadic lifestyle; some people just prefer that form of housing. The places where Abraham resided after his return from Egypt were relatively close to one another, making it clear how little he moved about in southern Palestine. Further, although the patriarchs sometimes lived in tents, at other times they chose more permanent structures (as in Genesis 33:17).

Archaeologists have found that all but the smallest MB II settlements were fortified, and in some cases it is estimated that the city walls required hundreds of thousands of hours to erect. The gateway was a necessary break in the outer defense wall, and it figures in three patriarchal episodes (Genesis 19:1; Genesis 23; and Genesis 34:20-24).

Through the centuries the gateway underwent design change. Early in MB II the approach was angled to prevent an enemy from making a straight run at its gate door with a battering ram. Later in MB II the three-piered gateway was introduced. Although this meant a straight line of approach, an attacker would have to break down three doors to gain entrance to the city.

The prevalence of fortifications throughout the land is characteristic of a feudal society in which city-states clashed with one another as they tried to enlarge their holdings. Archaeologists have found MB II to have been one of the more prosperous times in Palestine, but the emphasis on defense clearly implies that it was also a precarious time in which to live. This insecurity is reflected in the statement that Abraham had over 300 "trained men" available to rescue Lot (Genesis 14:14). Also, Esau approached Jacob with 400 men, some of whom he offered to leave with Jacob (Genesis 33), and later Jacob complained that his men were "few in number" and would not be able to ensure his household's safety in an attack (Genesis 34:30).

In the story of Sinuhe (see below) there is mention of crime, attack, murder, plunder, captives, and even picked combat, which brings to mind the contest between David and Goliath centuries later. Both biblically and archaeologically, then, patriarchal Palestine can be seen as a land filled with both wealth and worry.

Abraham interacted with the rulers of Jerusalem (Salem), Sodom (Genesis 14: 18-24), and Gerar (Genesis 20). Isaac also had contact with the king of Gerar (Genesis 26). Egyptian texts from this period of time do not happen to mention Sodom or Gerar, but they do identify a ruler of Jerusalem as well as of Shechem. Several other cities are named that appear later in the biblical story.

Archaeologists have uncovered a wide range of housing, both in size and quality. Some of these houses have even been identified as palaces. They have also found that a new houseplan, the "courtyard house," had come into popularity. In at least two instances our knowledge of patriarchal housing helps us understand biblical episodes with more clarity. For example, houses within a city were not free-standing; they were more like row houses. Therefore, that the

Restoration of a typical interior room. The walls are white-washed and have storage niches. Pottery, and furniture similar to that shown on page 104 furnishes the room.

Ground plan of a typical courtyard house, Tell Beit Mirsim. Available space and wealth naturally dictated the size and quality of housing, but variations on this same house style repeat throughout Palestine. A single doorway gave access into an enclosed courtyard (which in this example is about 40 feet (12 meters) wide where much of the daily activity took place. Rooms behind the courtyard generally served as workrooms and for storage. Upstairs rooms would have been reserved for sleeping areas and leisure activities; playing pieces and remains of a game board were found where they had fallen from the upper floor of this house.

men of Sodom "surrounded" Lots house (Genesis  19:4),  should be understood to mean they were milling around in the street outside his courtyard. When Abimelech looked out a window and saw Isaac in a private moment with Rebekah (Genesis 26:8), the king must have been looking down from an upper floor into an open courtyard (for a later instance where a courtyard failed to provide adequate privacy see 2 Samuel 11:2). 

The Canaanites continued to worship gods of their own imagination, and several temples have been found that functioned in MB II times. Archaeologists have also found that a surprisingly wide variety of offerings were involved. Incense  was burned, oil was poured out, and animals were sacrificed. Figurines of doves, cattle, and female deities, as well as several kinds of jewelry, were left at the worship sites.  Still, as Genesis  15:16 states, "the iniquity of the Amorite is not yet complete" ("Amorite" was sometimes used as a general term in place of "Canaanite"). By the time of Abraham the land had already seen a good many burials, and some people were not adverse to reusing older tombs. Multiple burials again became popular, but only twenty or so bodies might occupy a single tomb, rather than the hundreds seen in the Early Bronze period. This practice gives literal meaning to the phrase "gathered to their fathers" (for example, Genesis 49:29; Judges 2:10). Abraham chose to purchase a cave in which to bury Sarah (Genesis 23), and in time he and Isaac, Rebekah, Jacob, and Leah would also occupy that family tomb (Genesis 49:31; 50:13).

The Gateway of Dan

The gateway at Dan from the time of the patriarchs.

In addition to its defensive purpose, the gateway served as the legal and social center of a city. Additionally, an open area was often left just inside the gate to function as a market area. The site of Dan provides a fine example of the gate system that would have been familiar to the patriarchs. Dan's gateway is set within a mudbrick fortification wall still preserved to nearly 23 feet (7 meters) high (center). Traces of the white plaster that originally covered the doorway can still be seen. The gateway is 17 feet (5.18 meters) wide by 12 feet (3.65 meters) high, and the three sets of piers (top) held as many doors. A staircase led up from the surrounding plain to the gateway (bottom), and a shorter interior staircase led down into the city. It is assumed that the top of the wall was crenellated to provide protection for those manning the battlements.

Top: Reconstruction of one of the Jericho tombs, from the Rockefeller Musuem.

Bottom: Reconstructions of tomb furniture. At Jericho a group of family tombs had become so tightly sealed that objects that should have long since perished were still identifiable. Jars contained grain and the residue of liquids. Meat, mostly roasted lamb, still lay on wooden bowls. Woven baskets and scraps of textiles were found. Personal objects like combs, and furniture such as stools, tables (three-legged tables are more stable on uneven surfaces than the four-legged variety), and beds were also recovered. The Canaanites clearly continued to believe that it was necessary to outfit the deceased for their afterlife. There is no reason to think that there would have been any difference between patriarchal possessions and the contents of these tombs.

The Story of Sinuhe

Further insights into patriarchal Palestine are available from both Egypt and Mesopotamia. From Egypt comes the Story of Sinuhe, which was composed early in Egypt's Middle Kingdom, but became such a popular piece of literature that copies were made throughout the second millennium B.C. For some unstated reason, Sinuhe, an Egyptian official, fled the country when a certain pharaoh died. Sinuhe spent many years in MB II Palestine and his story is filled with details of life familiar to Abraham and the other patriarchs when they resided in the same land. One useful corrective given by the story has to do with the land itself. Today many people visit Palestine during the summer season and return home with memories of a dry and browned-out landscape. But in the rainy season that same landscape is lush with color and growth. Sinuhe paints a word picture of this rich and variegated land:

It was a good land. . . . Figs were in it, and grapes. It had more wine than water. Plentiful was its honey, abundant its olives. Every kind of fruit was on its trees. Barley was there, and emmer. There was no limit to any kind of cattle. . . . Bread was made for me as daily fare, wine as daily provision, cooked meat and roast fowl, beside the wild beasts of the desert, for they hunted for me and laid before me, beside the catch of my own hounds. Many ... were made for me, and milk in every kind of cooking.

Painting from a tomb at Beni Hasan in Egypt. This painting adds to the word pictures. It dates to within about a decade of Abraham's entry into Palestine and depicts an Egyptian escorting a group of Palestinians who had come to Egypt. The painting shows the multicolored clothing and hairstyles then fashionable in Palestine. The men have trimmed beards but no mustache; when Sinuhe returned home to Egypt notice was made that his beard was "plucked." It may be assumed that the patriarchs would have adopted the styles current in their new home; if so, this painting illustrates how they would have appeared. The lyre being carried by one of the men shows that music was part of the lifestyle. When Abraham rescued Lot (Genesis 14), no mention is made of the weaponry his men used. This painting reveals that bows and arrows, spears, swords, and battleaxes were available for warfare. The story of Sinuhe adds shields, javelins, and daggers to the list. Neither source makes note of maces, but excavation has found that the club was a popular weapon and it should be added to the list (see, for example, the maceheads on page 98).

Fish and vegetables failed to receive mention in Sinuhe's story, but they, too, were available for consumption. All in all, Sinuhe's words nicety expand on the Bibles repeated description of the land as a place "flowing with milk and honey" (for example, Exodus 3:8).

Sinuhe was not the only Egyptian living in Palestine and his story gives evidence that several ethnic groups resided in the land centuries before the Bible takes notice of the mixture of peoples (for example, Exodus 23:23). Sinuhe was befriended by an Amorite named Ammi-enshi and married that man's eldest daughter. Similar intermarriage is known from the Bible, for example, Esau married "foreign" women. Despite the dangers inherent in the land, hospitality was still important. Both Abraham and Lot were gracious to travelers, and Sinuhe boasted that he "gave water to the thirsty... put him who had strayed back on the road [and] rescued him who had been robbed." Sinuhe's story goes on to recount his years in Palestine, years filled with battles, and increasing family and wealth.

Sinuhe was finally encouraged to return to Egypt because, "It should not be that you should die in a foreign country. . . . You should not be placed in a sheepskin." Before going home Sinuhe transferred his property to his children: ". . . my eldest son being responsible for my clan. My clan and all my property were in his charge" In the Bible the birthright normally went to the eldest son, who received a double portion of the family wealth at his father's death. He also assumed whatever leadership role his father had exercised.

The Nuzi texts

More than 4,000 cuneiform tablets were found at the site of Nuzi in Mesopotamia. These "Nuzi texts" are dated after the close of the patriarchal period but, because of the static condition of ancient Near-Eastern culture, they reveal social norms extant for centuries on either side of their actual composition. Most of the texts deal with private contracts and public records—those having to do with adoption and inheritance rights are especially important for the insights they lend to certain patriarchal decisions. For example, a marriage was expected to produce children and if it did not, the man was free to divorce his wife and remarry. But the childless couple also had the option to adopt, and this is the course of action Abraham intended to take with Eliezar (Genesis 15:1-3). In return for being made an heir, the adopted child was expected to care for his new parents in their old age and, when the time came, to give them proper burial. Through adoption the couple also ensured that the family name was not extinguished, a consideration as important as the distribution of the family's wealth. Whether or not the adoption of Eliezer had taken place, God informed Abraham that he would have a son, and that Eliezer would not become his heir (Genesis 15:4). In the Nuzi texts the adoptee lost his primacy if the adopting couple subsequently had a son.

When Sarah gave her handmaid Hagar to Abraham (Genesis 16:2) and Ishmael was born, she was electing another solution acceptable in their milieu. Such surrogate mothers took on the rank of "other wife." It was so important for a wife to produce children that she could be required to provide her husband with another woman: "If Kelimninu does not bear [children], Kelimninu shall acquire a woman of the land of Lullu as wife for Shennima [the bridegroom], and KeHmninu may not send the offspring away." This last stipulation reveals that Sarah was not within her rights when she subsequently pushed Hagar and Ishmael away (Genesis 21:10).

As noted above, the birthright conveyed both wealth and power. Esau gave his birthright to Jacob for little more than a bowl of soup (Genesis 25:29-34). Although there is no direct parallel to this transfer in the Nuzi texts, there are instances where at least part of an inheritance exchanged hands between brothers. In one Nuzi text the exchange seems as unequal as that of Jacob and Esau: Tupkitilla gave Kurpazah an orchard as his inheritance share in exchange for only three sheep.

Jacob lived for twenty years of his life in Haran, and returned to southern Palestine with four wives and twelve children. His twelfth son, Benjamin ("son of the south") was born subsequent to his return. Eventually Jacob moved the Israelites into Egypt where they stayed for several generations and grew in number. By the time they returned to Palestine under the leadership of Moses and then Joshua, the MB II period had ended, and the Late Bronze I period (c. 1550-1400 B.C.) was also just about to end. During LB I Thutmose III imposed control over much of Palestine and began to take Palestinian princes into Egypt for acculturation and future use as puppet kings (see page 79).


The Conquest

Under Moses' leadership the people east of the Jordan River were pacified and the land was granted to two and a half tribes as their inheritance share. By the time Joshua assembled the tribes near the northeast corner of the Dead Sea to cross into the Promised Land, there had been many changes on the other side of the Jordan River. Palestine was economically and politically in turmoil as Egypt's recently established empire slipped into neglect—a neglect that allowed Israel to settle into the land without Egyptian opposition. These chaotic conditions are revealed in the "Amarna Letters," nearly 400 cuneiform tablets from the royal archives of pharaohs Amenhotep III and Akhenaten. Nearby half of the letters were written between the Egyptian court and various princes in Syria-Palestine. They reveal a Palestine in which caravans were waylaid, armed escorts were necessary, and protection money was demanded. Princes were afraid to leave their cities, others were killed by their own people. Princes who stayed stubbornly loyal to Egypt were not supported, and their pleas for sanctuary were ignored. Abdu-Heba, prince of Jerusalem, wrote:

To the king, my lord ... It was not my father and not my mother but the arm of the mighty king that placed me in the house of my father ... Let my king take thought for his land! The land of the king is lost. . . . The Apiru capture the cities of the king. . . . Let the king send archers to his land! ... If there are no archers here this year, let the king send a commissioner, and let him take me to himself together with my brothers, and we shall die near the king, our lord!

There are repeated references in the letters to the land being troubled by Apiru (Habiru in non-Amarna letters). Habiru is etymologically equatable with Hebrew, but what is elsewhere known about Habiru does not correspond with the Hebrews in terms of time, place, or activity. It seems apparent that the Canaanites used Habiru as a "dirty word" directed against anyone they disliked. So although no specific event in the Bible can be tied to any of the Amarna Letters, it is possible that some of their references to Habiru do fill gaps in the book of Joshua's summary account of conquest. At the very least the letters provide a glimpse into the political picture in Palestine at the time of conquest.

Jericho was located at the eastern gateway into Palestine, and it was the first city taken in the seven-year war. Earlier, when Moses' spies had scouted out the land, they reported that the cities were fortified (Numbers 13:28). Archaeologists have found that some cities continued to use defenses from MB times, while other cities merely let the back walls of outer buildings serve for defense. The Bible makes it clear that Jericho was a

An Amarna letter. In this Amarna letter Biridiya, prince of Megiddo, claims he is being attacked by Labayu, prince of Shechem. Biridiya begged desperately for a hundred garrison troops to defend his city. In another letter Labayu wrote of his innocence and swore that he was so loyal to pharaoh that he would even commit suicide if so ordered. The Amarna Letters were written in Akkadian, the diplomatic language in the Near East. It is thought that every main city in Palestine had a scribe who could read and write cuneiform.

walled city, and when Joshua's spies entered Jericho they would have passed through a three-piered gateway similar to that on page 103 (Dan).

In the 1930s an archaeologist claimed that he had found the walls brought down by Joshua, but these were subsequently found to date to a much earlier period. Later it was claimed that, contrary to the biblical account, Jericho was uninhabited at the time of the conquest. In the 1990s, after a reexamination of the excavation records done by Dame Kathleen Kenyon, it was concluded that she misread certain evidences and that Jericho's walls had, in fact, been breached about 1400 B.C.


The conquest of the next city has also been the center of archaeological controversy. In the 1930s the site of et-Tell was suggested as the location of Biblical Ai (Joshua 7 to 8). When excavators found that et-Tell was unoccupied between 2200-1200 B.C., liberal scholars began to redact the Bible to fit the archaeological   conclusion.   Conservative scholars countered that the city could be under the modern city adjacent to the excavated area, or that some other location should be sought. As of this writing, some archaeologists claim to have found Biblical Ai at a nearby site. Chapter 1 pointed out that archaeology does not prove the Bible. In fact, here archaeology has presented a problem that we were not aware of—and one that is not yet positively resolved.

The defeat of Ai provided Joshua's forces with a foothold into the central hill country. Several battles were fought in southern Palestine and then Joshua led a surprise attack on a coalition forming in the north under the leadership of Hazors king. A normal city in Palestine averaged 15 to 20 acres (6 to 8 hectares) in size, but archaeologists found that Hazor occupied about 200 acres (82 hectares). Truly,  as the Bible states, Hazor was the "head of all these kingdoms" (Joshua 11:10), and it was imperative that it be neutralized.

Above: Relief of Amenhotep II sitting on the lap of his nurse with his feet on a footstool provided by a defeated enemy. As the southern phase of the conquest was winding down, Joshua followed the Near-Eastern custom of instructing some of his men to put their feet on the necks of the five kings who had been captured (Joshua 10:24; see also Psalm 110:1). In Egypt enemies are often depicted on footstools on which, as here, the pharaoh would place his feet.

Right: Figurine found at Megiddo. Overlaid with gold leaf, it is presumably a representation of El, the chief god of the Canaanites. Texts, temples, and objects like this provide insights into Canaanite religion. Fertility continued to be a main focus in their worship. If Hebrew sacrificial detail seems excessive, Canaanite sacrificial ritual was more so— and sometimes included human sacrifice. God had finally had enough; the "cup of iniquity" was now full, and Joshua's army became the instrument of judgment.

The Period of the Judges

Following the death of Joshua, a cycle of subjugation and salvation began. Enemy forces repeatedly took over portions of the land only to be finally repulsed by military leaders called shophetim (translated "judges" in English). Early in this period Egypt's interest in empire was rekindled, but there is no mention in the Bible that Egypt was among those troubling Israel. Egypt did set up a network of small forts and administrative strongholds along the coastal highway, but Seti I was focused on territories north of Palestine where Hittite expansion into Syria worried him. Ramses II repeatedly marched along the   coastal highway, but ignored the hill country where the Israelites had settled. When Egypt and the Hittites signed a peace treaty, they did not specify where their common border ran, but it was probably somewhere in northern Syria. Technically, then, Ramses II claimed Palestine, but he did little to pursue active control. The period of the Judges therefore continued without Egyptian interference.

The sole evidence of contact between Israel and Egypt in this period is found in the Merenptah Stele (see page 85). Perhaps one of the tribes came too close to the Egyptian line of march, but the stele's claim that "Israel is laid waste" is obviously another example of Egyptian hyperbole. Following Merenptah, Egypt's expansionist ambitions again began to fade.

It is shortly after Merenptah that archaeologists assign the beginning of Palestine's Iron I period (c. 1200-1000 B.C.). About 1200 B.C. a mixed group, collectively dubbed Sea Peoples by the Egyptians, emigrated from the Aegean and tried to enter Egypt. When they were repulsed by Ramses III, many settled along Palestine's coastal plain. Some Philistines had been in Palestine since patriarchal times, but more came as part of this migration. The Sea Peoples brought with them the ability to fire furnaces hot enough to smelt iron—an ability that is sometimes said to be their most important contribution to Palestine.

The Iron I period witnessed a building explosion in the central hill country that can be seen at least partly as evidence that Israel was beginning to adopt a more urban lifestyle. Archaeologists are seldom able to tell Canaanite from Israelite settlements and, since the material culture was neutral, there is no reason why Israel's material remains should look different from those of the people around them. What were once thought to be distinctive evidences of Israelite occupation, collared rim jars, pillared courtyard houses, and even the presence or absence of pig bones, are no longer recognized as clear markers.

During the period of the Judges, Palestine! became increasingly cosmopolitan.  For example, a fragment of the Gilgamesh Epic was discovered at Megiddo, and a piece of trilingual dictionary was found at Aphek. Archaeologists identify a variety of objects as imports from Egypt, Mesopotamia, and the  Mediterranean.  Arguably the most important discovery dating to this period, however, was indigenous, not imported. An alphabetic writing system, "one of the great revolutions in the development of human civilization," was invented and had come into use.

Top: Ramses III commissioned wall reliefs to commemorate his stoppage of the Sea People's attempted invasion. These reliefs allow us to see the dress and weaponry of people who harassed Israel until the days of David. The Philistines wore tall "feathered" helmets, and some are shown wearing body armor. Other reliefs show that women and children were part of the migration.

Below: A collection of Philistine pottery. The pottery shapes and decoration are clearly Aegean in origin. Although it is difficult to distinguish between Canaanite and Israelite settlements, the Philistine material culture distinctively marks their sites.

Top: The houses mentioned on the next page are a modification of the courtyard house introduced in the MB II period. For example, pillars were erected so that sheds or more elaborately shaded areas could be added in the courtyard. Archaeological reports speak of "pillared" courtyard houses, and this style became typical throughout the country.

Bottom: Ivory inlay found at Megiddo. The ivory inlays from Megiddo provide a source for studying the physical appearance, furniture, dress, weaponry, and even the chariots then in style. In this example a Canaanite prince sits on a sphinx-decorated throne, and his feet rest on a footstool. Behind him two servants stand beside a jar and a table on which there are two cups in the shape of animal heads. The prince is attended by a woman and a musician strumming on a lyre. Captives tied to chariot horses are being led to the prince. In one of the Amarna Letters, the ruler of Jerusalem refers to an enemy who attacked with bows and copper arrows. Copper arrowheads have been found; the metal was no longer too precious to lose. In this inlay the charioteer is armed with a bow, a quiver with arrows, and a spear. "Chariots of iron" mentioned in the Bible (for example, Joshua 17:16, 18) were not made of iron, but the chariot boxes were plated with it to protect the charioteers. The person on the far right in the inlay is carrying a sickle sword, a weapon designed to hack through the body armor that had recently been introduced.



As instability marked the period of the Judges, the desire for a king grew, even to the point that Abimelech, Gideon's son, led a short-lived attempt at kingship. About 1050 B.C. Samuel anointed Saul as Israel's first king (1 Samuel 10:1). The Bible gives no hint that Saul ever accumulated the regal trappings usually associated with kingship, and archaeology supports the impression that he was a "rustic" king. Much of Saul's reign found him involved with enemies, both external and internal. The Philistines were Saul's most persistent enemy, and their advantage in military hardware is obvious in the battle of Michmash where only Saul and Jonathan were properly outfitted (1 Samuel 13:22). Until the time of David the Philistines held a monopoly on working with iron, and 1 Samuel 13:19 states, "No blacksmith could be found in all the land of Israel, for the Philistines said, 'Lest the Hebrews make swords or spears.'"

Artist's restoration of Saul's residence at Gibeah. This was found to be small, only 115 by 170 feet (35 by 51 meters), and a fort more than a palace. Nothing found in the excavation would have been out of place in a typical private home of the day. Unfortunately, what remained of the structure was destroyed in the 1960s to make way for a palace King Hussein intended to build on the site. Only a shell of the palace had been erected when the Six Day War of 1967 brought construction to a permanent halt.


The best-known encounter between the Philistines and Israel is found in 1 Samuel 17 as the Philistines were trying to gain a foothold into the hill country by controlling the valley of Elah. Conventions of warfare in those days could lead two armies to taunt each other until one side became angry enough to attack. Another alternative was to send out a picked champion from each side to decide the battles outcome. The losing side would retreat, thus avoiding further bloodshed. In 1 Samuel 17, the Philistines and Israel confronted each other for over a month with Goliath dairy taunting the Israelites to send out someone to fight him to the death. The challenge was met when David finally appeared at the battle site. Goliath wore a helmet and body armor, and carried a "javelin" (there is some dispute over the correct translation of the Hebrew word), spear, and sword. David met him with nothing more than a shepherds staff, a sling, and a bag of stones.

This confrontation needs to be understood within the context of that day. Despite his bravado, Goliath knew David was approaching him with a deadly weapon. Slingers were common in the ancient Near East and the best ones could "sling a stone at a hair and not miss" (Judges 20:16). The sling had an effective range of over 100 yards (91 meters) and the slingstone could be propelled in excess of 100 miles an hour. Clearly, both men were lethally armed, but David had the advantage of both mobility and range over any weapon the armor-clad Goliath carried. After Saul's death David moved to Hebron where he was recognized as king of Judah. For seven years there was civil war until Saul's surving son, Ishbosheth, was murdered. The Bible records: "Then all the tribes of Israel came to David at Hebron, and said, 'Behold we are your bone and your flesh'. . . and then they anointed David king over Israel" (2 Samuel 5:1, 3b).

One of the first needs for the new king over a unified Israel was a capital city in a more centralized location, one not identified with Judah alone. Jerusalem was chosen. Estimates of the Jebusite city's size range from 9 to 12 acres (3.6 to 5 hectares). Although the city was small, deep valleys on all but the north side provided it with such good protection that the Jebusites boasted the "blind and lame" were sufficient to defend it. The Gihon Spring in the Kidron Valley to the east was Jerusalem's only source of fresh water, and a tunnel had been cut to channel that water from the spring into the city. David chose to launch his attack "through the water tunnel" (2 Samuel 5:8). For years it was thought that the spring lay outside Jerusalem's defenses, but excavation has found an outer eastern wall and at least two towers protecting the spring. The attack on Jerusalem was led by Joab (1 Chronicles 11:6). Perhaps he took a few men past the towers

Left: Artist's conception of Jerusalem as seen from the east. A wall surrounds the city. On the east a second wall was built down the slope with towers in the wall and over the Gihon Spring. Much still remains to be clarified. The drawing suggests that the towers were part of the city gateway.

Top: Jerusalem in the time of David and Soloman. The size of David's Jerusalem is indicated by the dotted lines. Solomon extended the city northward (white line).

and into the water system, surprised and overpowered any guards, and then opened the city gates to allow more attackers to swarm in.

David had no intention of being a "rustic" king, and soon he contracted with the Phoenicians for a palace in Jerusalem. Considered the master builders in the Near East, the Phoenicians also controlled the supply of the best wood available, the cedars of Lebanon. David wished also to have a temple built in Jerusalem (excavation seems to indicate that Shiloh was destroyed by the Philistines near the end of the period of the Judges), but by divine revelation he was told to leave the construction of it to his son.


David had stockpiled materials for a temple, and commissioned its architectural plans, but Solomon was the builder of the "great and wonderful" Temple to the Lord (2 Chronicles 2:9). It took seven years to build a structure only 90 feet (27.4 meters) long, 30 feet (9 meters) wide, and 45 feet (13.7 meters) tall; in that day size did not determine the greatness of the place of worship. Solomon's Temple is close in plan and size to temples excavated in Syria and, like his father, Solomon made use of Phoenician expertise. Touches of Phoenician decoration could be seen in the Temple but, as was noted earlier with regards to material culture, the architecture itself is neutral. We are told in 1 Kings 8:10-11 that God was well pleased with the results.

It has long been understood that Solomon's (and Herod's) Temples were built where the Golden Dome now stands, but some years ago an argument was made for the Temple having actually been a few hundred feet to the north. The proposed relocation caused considerable religious and political agitation. Later study, however, has confirmed that the placement was as originally thought (see pages 184-185).


Solomon carried out several other building projects in Jerusalem, and 1 Kings 9:15 notes that he also built in Hazor, A'legiddo, and Gezer. These three cities have been excavated, and their gateways found to be very similar to one another. At Megiddo the excavators found tripartite buildings (a building divided into three parts), which they identified as "Solomons Stables." For many years this discovery was linked to 1 Kings 9:19 which refers to "the cities for his [Solomon's] chariots and the cities for his horsemen." Later on, however, the identification became far from certain; for almost as many years scholars have debated

lllumination of the temple was provided by seven-wicked lamps. The menorah was not in use this early.

whether the buildings at Megiddo, and similar structures found elsewhere, could have actually functioned as stables. Some scholars insist tripartite buildings served as storehouses (1 Kings 9:19, also refers to "all the storage cities which Solomon had"); others insist that such a simple architectural plan could have served either purpose. To confuse matters even more, some scholars now believe that the "stables" found at Megiddo actually date to the time of Ahab, and are not linked with Solomon at all.

Gezer is identified as a city Solomon rebuilt after Egypt's pharaoh "had given it as a dowry to his daughter, Solomons wife" (1 Kings 9:16; see also 3:1). This marriage and dowry carried great significance. Egypt's diplomatic policy allowed a prince to leave the country to strengthen ties with another power; but never a princess. Years before Solomon, for example, as the king of Babylon forged an alliance with Egypt, he sent a princess to the Egyptian court. When he inquired why he had not received a princess in return, he was informed that a daughter of pharaoh was never given in this manner. The Babylonian king went on to make the charge that pharaoh was acting in bad faith. Then he suggested that pharaoh send a woman who could be passed off as a king's daughter. During Solomon's reign, however, for the first time Egypt faced a power so strong on its northern border that it broke a policy that had stood for centuries. Also, as noted in the previous chapter, Egypt was relinquishing its last vestige of empire.

Solomon's Cities

Below: Gateways at Megiddo, Hazor, and Gezer. Unlike in earlier times, four sets of gates now barred an enemy from entry. At Hazor and Gezer casemate walls (double walls joined by cross walls) protected the city. From the outside they appeared as formidable as the solid wall at Megiddo, but they saved in labor and material. In time of peace, the spaces within the two walls could be utilized for storage or housing. In time of war, the casemate wall could be filled in at whatever point the defenses were threatened.

Bottom: One of the "stable" areas as found at Megiddo and (inset) a model showing the buildings restored, cutaway to show their interior, and as actually excavated. One objection made to these tripartite buildings being stables is that there would not have been sufficient width in the outer aisles to maneuver stallions past one another. The debate over function shows no sign of resolution.



(931-722 B.C.)

Early in Solomon's reign Egypt had thought it wise to defer to Israel and give a princess in marriage to Solomon. However, when Shishak founded Egypt's Dynasty 22 toward the end of Solomon's reign, that marriage would have held no significance for the new pharaoh. After Solomon died in 931 B.C. and the United Kingdom split in two, Shishak must have realized that a potential threat was no longer poised on his northern border.

Jerusalem was now reduced to being the capital only of Judah, and Jeroboam chose Shechem as the capital of the breakaway north, Israel. Five years after the death of Solomon, in 926 B.C., Shishak made his move and "came up against Jerusalem. . . . And he captured the fortified cities of Judah and came as far as Jerusalem," and carried off treasures from the Temple and the palace (2 Chronicles 12:2, 4, 9). The Bible provides no more detail than that, but the figure on page 89 shows a portion of a wall relief, which adds detail to this campaign. In the relief Shishak claims to have attacked close to 200 places. About a third of the preserved place names cluster in the southwest of Judah where archaeologists have found that Solomon established a string of small forts and settlements to support caravans moving between Judah and the Red Sea. One of Shishak's goals was to destroy that network and cut Judah's link to the shipping lanes so that Egypt could regain control over trade with Arabia and Africa.

By plotting out the place names on the relief, Shishak's advance can be followed up into the heart of Judah. Surprisingly, since Shishak had earlier given political asylum to Jeroboam (1 Kings 11:40), the place names indicate that Egypt's march continued deep into Israel before returning home via the coastal highway. Clearly, Shishak's interests were not limited to Judah as one would infer from the Bible; his aim was to impose again Egyptian control over all of Palestine. Although Shishak sometimes exaggerated his military accomplishments by adding names from conquest lists of earlier pharaohs, a stele fragment found at Megiddo proves that his Karnak list can be believed.

Early in the Divided Kingdom Israel closed its common border with Judah and proclaimed Bethel and Dan as new worship centers for the northern nation (1 Kings 12:28-29). Excavation at Dan has uncovered

Fragment of a victory stele found at Megiddo. This fragment contains the birth name of Shishak in the right cartouche, and his throne name in the left one. The throne name distinguishes him from other pharaohs who had the same birth name. Despite his plans, Shishak's campaign proved to be little more than a raid, but his army paused at Megiddo at least long enough to erect a stele.

Carved ivory inlay from Samaria. More than 200 ivories were found during the excavation of Samaria, and they provide an insight into the artistic tastes of the kings and the rich in Israel. Most of the inlays were strong in Phoenician, or, as here, Egyptian motifs. (See also ivory inlay from Megiddo, page 111.)

a stairway and platform that might have been made for the golden calf that was placed in that city.

Jerusalem was the capital of Judah throughout the southern nations history, whereas in Israel the capital was first at Shechem, then Tirzah, and finally Samaria. Samaria was built by Omri and his son Ahab, but subsequent construction by Herod the Great left little Old Testament period architecture intact. In 1 Kings 22:39 there is mention of "the ivory house" that Ahab built. The reference is not to a house actually made of ivory, but to a house containing ivory panels and inlay. For those who could afford it, furniture, door frames, and the like could be decorated in ivory.

The biblical writers were primarily interested in the religious condition of the various kings, not in their political abilities. It was therefore not until the Moabite Stone was translated that a biblical puzzle was resolved and a little more about Omri as king was revealed. The Bible states that the Moabites fell to David, but that they declared their freedom after the death of Solomon. In the next mention of the Moabites they are paying tribute to Ahab, but nothing is said as to how they came to be subdued again. The Moabite Stone supplied the answer: "As for King Omri of Israel, he humbled Moab many years, for Chemosh [a Moabite god] was angry at his land. And his son [Ahab] followed him and he also said, 'I will humble Moab.'"

During the ninth and eighth centuries B.C. Assyria increasingly intruded into the history of Palestine. Assyria had appeared on the horizon during the reign of Omri, but Ahab was the first to meet that rising power on the battlefield. When he died, Ahab left a strong and prosperous Israel, but only a dozen years afterward Jehu was forced to pay tribute to Shalmaneser. A period of Assyrian weakness allowed a time of relative-peace and prosperity during the reigns of Jeroboam II of Israel, and Uzziah of Judah. Then, when Tiglath-pileser III ascended the throne of Assyria, the disintegration of Israel began. The final blow was delivered by Sargon II. (For Assyria's repeated involvement in Palestine during the Divided Kingdom, see pages 48-53.)


(722-586 B.C.)

As of 722 B.C. Israel was no longer an entity, and the Assyrians considered all of Palestine vassal territory. When Hezekiah began his reign with a series of religious reforms, he was probably motivated by the knowledge of what had just befallen Israel.

Sargon II continued to send armies into Palestine, but after his death Hezekiah joined in the revolt against Assyrian control. Assyrian reliefs and texts record what happened (see pages 54, 58-59). Excavation in Palestine pro-

The Moabite Stone.

Made of black basalt and 3.25 feet (1 meter) high. In the stele, Mesha, the Moabite king, celebrates his successful revolt against Israel. Interestingly, the Bible and the stele present two different viewpoints. Israel acknowledged the revolt after the death of Ahab while, from the Moabite perspective, they were already in revolt during his reign. The stele was originally found whole, but it was shattered before it reached scholarly hands. Fortunately, impressions of the stele had been made before this tragedy, and it was possible to recover most of the inscription.

vides insight into Judahs preparation for Assyria's expected response, as well as graphic evidence of the fury unleashed by Sennacherib, successor to Sargon II.

Hezekiahs preparation of Jerusalem for possible siege included the cutting of "Hezekiah's Tunnel" (also called the Siloam Tunnel) to channel water from the Gihon

The Dan Inscription. Jehu murdered his way to the throne of Israel and although he enjoyed a respectably long reign for a northern king, he was never politically powerful. He not only paid tribute to the Assyrians, but he also lost portions of his kingdom to the Syrians (2 Kings 10:32-33). These fragments are from a stele set up by Syria at Dan. The stele shows that Dan, a northern city, was within the territory Jehu lost. A second importance of the fragments is that they contain the first recognized extrabiblical reference to David. Ever since the excavation of these fragments in 1993 and 1994, this Syrian reference to the "house of David" has been extremely troublesome to a small group of liberal scholars ("minimalists") who deny the historicity of David.


Spring down into a collection pool at the south end of the city. Today people who walk through the approximately 1,750-foot-long (533.5-meter) tunnel gain a sense of the magnitude of the undertaking. During its Old Testament use, gravity fed water through the tunnel to the pool where people could go to fill their jars. The folio wing inscription (the Siloam inscription) was found on the tunnel wall near the south end:

. . . when the tunnel was driven through. And this was the way in which it was cut through: While ... were still ... axes, each man toward his fellow, and while there were still three cubits to be cut through, there was heard the voice of a man calling to his fellow, for there was an overlap in the rock on the right and on the left. And when the tunnel was driven through, the quarrymen hewed the rock, each man toward his fellow, ax against ax; and the water flowed from the spring toward the reservoir for twelve hundred cubits, and the height of the rock above the heads of the quarryraen was one hundred cubits.

A horned altar, a little over 5 feet (1.5 meters) tall, excavated at Beersheba. The top of the altar is charred, indicating that it had been used for burnt offerings. Horned altars are mentioned several times in the Old Testament (for example in Exodus 37:25) but "legal" altars were not to be made of cut stone as seen here (Exodus 20:25). This altar, probably used for pagan worship, was found dismantled, likely as a result of Hezekiah's religious reforms.

Stamped jar handle. Several hundred of these jar handles have been found at various sites in Judah. Before the jars were fired, their handles had been stamped with seals reading Imlk, "belonging to the king," together with the name of a specific city. At some sites the handles were found in connection with destruction levels dating to Sennacherib's invasion in 701 B.C. The stamps are understood to be royal seals put on jars designated for the storage of provisions in anticipation of an Assyrian attack on the country.

Dozens of cities in Judah fell to the Assyrians. Excavation at Lachish, one of those cities, adds to the Assyrian account of conquest. Earthen ramps were found where the Assyrians had brought their siege towers up against the city Avail, and hundreds of arrow heads were found inside the city where they had been spewed by the Assyrian archers. More graphically, a mass grave containing over 1,500 skeletons is witness to the clean-up necessary after Lachish fell.

Judah continued to exist as a vassal nation and tribute moved from Jerusalem into Assyrian coffers until suddenly the Assyrian empire faltered and fell to a combined attack by the Medes and Chaldeans. Thanks to this collapse, Judah experienced a few years of freedom but that was ended, briefly by the Egyptians, and then by Nebuchadnezzar, who Swept Judah into the new Chaldean empire. Judah festered under Chaldean control and during the reign of Zedekiah withheld tribute one time too many. As Nebuchadnezzar marched west, Judah desperately sought help from Egypt. By this time Lachish had been rebuilt and excavators of the site found twenty-one ostraca (broken pieces of pottery that were used much as notepaper is today) dating to the death throes of Judah.

The Siloam inscription. Late in the nineteenth century, thieves cut the inscription from the tunnel wall. It was soon recovered, but in this damaged condition.

One ostracon from these "Lachish Letters" mentions that a "commander of the host" was en route to Egypt; another refers to the use of fire signals to communicate between cities. Still another ostracon complains that someone in Jerusalem was not supporting the war effort—could this be a reference to Jeremiah? In 586 B.C. Jerusalem went up in flames.


Palestine suffered several deportations while under Assyrian and Babylonian control. In the north the Assyrians had brought in people from elsewhere in the empire and they intermarried with Jews who had been

Bulla. Bullae (singular, "bulla") are thumbnail-sized pieces of clay that were impressed with a seal and used, together with string, to secure papyrus documents (see illustration page 92, and Nehemiah 9:38; 10:1). Hundreds of bullae have been found in Palestine, but in every case the papyrus that they protected had perished. Jeremiah dictated his messages to "Baruch the son of Neriah" (Jeremiah 36:4). This bulla is stamped, "Belonging to Berekhyahu son of Neriyahu the scribe." The "yahu" suffix is an abbreviation for God, so Baruch's full name was "blessed of God." Likewise, Neriah and Neriyahu are one and the same person. An inference drawn from this bulla is that Baruch had been an official royal scribe before he made a career move and began working for Jeremiah.

left behind. These became known as Samaritans. 


The Babylonians had no policy for repopulating the south, and 2 Kings 25:12 and Jeremiah 39:10 state that only the poorest people were left in Judah. It is true that widespread destruction and abandonment has been found at many of the population centers, but Judah was not as destitute as is sometimes assumed.


(539-332 B.C.)

Cyrus the Great took control of the Babylonian empire in 539 B.C. For Palestine the transition seems to have been smooth; there are no records of battles fought, and no destruction levels are dated to this time. Palestine became part of the satrapy (province) called "Beyond the River" (beyond the Euphrates River). Phoenicia, Syria, and Cyprus were also included in this satrapy, and Damascus was made its capital. There is irony in that choice; over the centuries Palestine had repeatedly fought off the Syrians and now Palestine found itself governed from the Syrian capital. Palestine was divided into four areas: Galilee, Samaria, Judah, and Idumea. Tyre and Sidon were each given control of several cities along the coast.

The Jews who returned to Palestine in 538 B.C. settled into a narrow strip of the central hill country. They rebuilt the Temple in Jerusalem and, later on, Nehemiah was instrumental in the repair of the city walls. (Archaeologists found that Old Testament Jerusalem reached its largest size during the reign of Hezekiah, but that in the time of Nehemiah it had shrunk back to a size slightly smaller than in Solomon's day.) The Jews were not alone in the land; for example, the Edomites, now called Idumeans, were strongly settled in the region from Hebron southwards.

Regardless of how enlightened the Persians were in ruling their subjects, there

A silver amulet, unrolled. This amulet was found in one of a series of tombs on the south side of Jerusalem's Hinnom Valley. The amulet is presently dated to the seventh century B.C. and bears an abbreviated version of Numbers 6:24-26. It contains, therefore, the earliest biblical text known—it is even earlier than the Dead Sea Scrolls. This amulet, and another like it, testify both to the custom of wearing amuletic texts in Old Testament times, and the personal use of the priestly blessing at least this early.

A silver coin minted in Jerusalem during the Persian period. This coin is only 1/4 inch (0.6 centimeter) in diameter. Not mentioned in the Bible prior to the time of Ezra and Nehemiah (for example, Ezra 2:69; Nehemiah 7:70), coinage is

thought to have been invented in Asia Minor in the sixth century. It spread as a medium of exchange under the Persians. In this example a lily is on the obverse; on the reverse is a falcon and, in Aramaic, Yehud (Judah).

were periods of unrest. A number of destructions in central Palestine, for example, date to 485 B.C. when the Persian army put down a rebellion that followed the death of Darius the Great. In 359 B.C. the persistent Egyptian dream of controlling Palestine caused a Dynasty 30 pharaoh to lead 10,000 Greek mercenaries as far north as Sidon before he was finally stopped.


Alexander the Great swept through the Near East, and 332 B.C. marks the year that Palestine and its Jewish population were transferred from Persian to Greek control. When Alexander died a few years later, Palestine came under the rule of Ptolemy I, one of Alexanders generals, who took control of the Egyptian portion of the empire. Ptolemy I was one of the more enlightened of Alexanders successors, and he continued the liberal policy the Jews had known under the Persians. This same policy was also maintained by the succeeding Ptolemaic rulers.

Greeks had been trading along the eastern Mediterranean for centuries and some trading colonies had even been established along the coast, but Hellenism (it was then the "golden age of Greece") and Judaism now came into more immediate contact. Some Jews accepted Hellenistic culture, while others argued that it was not compatible with Judaism.

Another of Alexander's generals, Seleucus I, established himself to the north and was the founder of Antioch (see Antioch of Syria, pages 237-238). Both the Seleucids and the Ptolemies needed mercenaries as garrison troops and as reinforcements for their military campaigns, and they encouraged entire Greek and Macedonian towns to immigrate into their lands. Estimates of the number of men, women, and children who relocated run as high as a quarter of a million people. As expected, they brought their own lifestyle with them, and this large influx of Hellenism added to the cultural tensions in Palestine.

The Seleucids repeatedly tried to take possession of Palestine and to that end

Opposite: Tomb at Marisa. Judaism stayed strongly linked to the Old Testament, but much of the cultural background of the New Testament had its origin and development during the last centuries b.c. Marisa, about 21 miles southwest of Jerusalem, provides an example of Greek culture that was grafted into Palestinian soil. A Greek inscription found within the city identifies a man as Marisa's "agora official." The tomb plan (bottom inset) is very different from anything that had ever been seen in Palestine. Low benches ring the walls of the three main chambers and forty-one burial slots extend out from the chambers. The interior walls of the tomb were decorated, and short inscriptions were found by the burial slots: "Let no one disturb [my daughter];" "This too is occupied." This tomb plan would become popular by New Testament times (see page 194). The photograph is taken from the entryway (A) and looks into the main chamber (D).

fought five major battles with the Ptolemies. The Jews were caught in this political struggle, and some even wished for Seleucid victory in the hope that it would end the heavy taxation that the Ptolemies were exacting to support the war effort. In 198 B.C. the Seleucids finally took control of Palestine. There was no change with regard to religious freedom, but culturally the Jews continued to argue among themselves about whether or not Hellenism was acceptable. The Sadducees said yes; the Pharisees said no.

The centuries of religious freedom ended when the Seleucid king Antiochus IV began to plan for a pan-Hellenic league able to withstand the encroaching Roman legions. He felt that by compelling his subjects to adopt Greek ideals and customs, he would bring about greater unity in his realm. Instead, in 167 B.C., his suppression of Judaism precipitated the Maccabean Revolt. Two years later the Jews were again granted their religious freedom, but fighting continued because they now wanted political freedom as well.

By 129 B.C. the Jews had won their political freedom, and John Hyrcanus was proclaimed ruler of a nominally independent Hasmonean kingdom. John Hyrcanus is generally given good marks as a king, but one of his policies was to have serious consequences—he forced the Idumeans either to convert to Judaism, or to leave southern Palestine. The ancestors of Herod converted. At the death of the Hasmonean ruler Queen Salome Alexandra, such intense infighting broke out that various factions made overtures to Rome for help in bringing peace. Pompey responded by taking over Palestine. In 63 B.C. it became part of the Roman province of Syria-Palestine.

Herod's father, Antipater, so ingratiated himself with Rome that he was made governor of Judea, Samaria, and Galilee. After Antipaters untimely death by poisoning in 43 B.C., both Herod, and a Hasmonean named Antigonus, each wanted to be his replacement and made petitions to Rome. Herods friendship with Marc Antony won the political battle but when Antigonus bribed the Parthians to invade Palestine on his behalf, Herod had to linger in Rome. Finally, in 37 B.C., Rome could spare troops, Antigonus was defeated, and Herod could begin his reign as king.