According to recent news reports, archaeologists in Jerusalem have unearthed a 2700 years old, 1.5cm diameter Seal inscribed in ancient Hebrew with the name of the town Bethlehem. The Israel Antiquities director of excavations, Eli Shukron, has said that this is the first time that the city's name has turned up in artifacts from this period of Israelite History.
2700 years ago - 700 BCE, King Hezekiah was ruling in Jerusalem, the capital of Judah, and had just survived an invasion (701BCE) by Sennacherib of Assyria. Samaria, the capital of the Northern Kingdom of Israel had 22 years previous fallen to the Assyrians, and the population was sent into exile.
An Historical Overview:
This particular period of Jewish history (756-701 BCE) is, from a chronological perspective, a difficult period in which to easily and accurately define the Kings and their Rules in Israel and Judah. The difficulties arise from several discrepancies in the Biblical Narratives concerning the kings of Israel and Judah, and a lack of precise information contained in the Assyrian sources.
745-727 BCE Tiglath-Pileser III commences reasserting Assyrian power after a 50 year dormancy.
734/32 BCE Tiglath-Pileser campaigned against King Rezin of Damascus (killing him) and King Pekah of Israel (who was dead within the year).
725/22 BCE Shalmaneser IV campaigned against King Hoshea of Israel, capturing the capital and deporting the citizens.
720 BCE King Sargon of Assyria Campaigned in Southern Syria-Palestine.
714/12 BCE King Sargon campaigned against Ashdod.
701 BCE King Sennacherib invaded Judah and held King Hezekiah under siege.
Take King Hezekiah for instance.
Point 1: Hezekiah's 14th year 701 BCE
In Second Chronicles Chapter 32:1, 2 Chronicles 32:24, Second Kings Chapter 18:9-19:36, 2 Kings 20:1 & :6 we read about Sennacherib's invasion of Judah, the siege against Hezekiah, the miraculous deliverance from the Assyrians, and Hezekiah's illness and subsequent healing.
The primary text reading of the Biblical Narratives suggest that in his 14th year Hezekiah was besieged by Sennacherib (historically tied to 701 BCE), and that in the same year he fell seriously ill, was divinely healed, and received a fifteen year extension of life. The difficulty is that the narrative also alleges that subsequent to his healing he received envoys from Merodach Baladan of Babylon, who, apart from a few months in 703 BCE, was out of Power circa 710 BCE.
Most scholars accept that the biblical narrative is confusing and that the records at this point appear to contain a composite of two sieges. No one has yet pinpointed the second campaign. (The 'King's Calendar' proposes that while the narratives are composites of two events, Sennacherib's siege is the second of the two, with the first being the Ashdod Campaign of 714/713 BCE.)
Point 2: Hezekiah's 6th year 722 BCE
2 Kings 18:9-10 relates that the 4th and 6th years of King Hezekiah of Judah are synchronized with the 7th and 9th years of King Hoshea of Israel. King Hosea was defeated in his 9th year, and as mentioned earlier, that was 722 BCE.
If 722 BCE was Hezekiah's 6th year, then 701 BCE was his 27th year not his 14th year. (The King's Calendar suggests that the redactors confused the names of the Kings and in the 2 Kings 18 reference above, they should have referred to King Ahaz).
Take King Ahaz for instance.
Point 3: Contradictions regarding King Ahaz of Judah
Isaiah Chapter 7, 2 Kings 16 and 2 Chronicles 28, all relate that Rezin of Damascus and Pekah of Israel came against King Ahaz in Jerusalem but 2 Kings 15:37 points out that it was during the reign of Jotham, that Rezin and Pekah commenced to come against Judah.
Isaiah 7:1 and 2 Kings 16:5 make it plain that Rezin and Pekah could not conquer King Ahaz but 2 Chronicles 28 :5 clearly describes Ahaz' defeat.
2 Kings16:7-9 tells us that King Ahaz sent messengers to Tiglath-Pileser king of Assyria asking for help against the aforementioned kings and that Ahaz also took the silver and gold from the Temple to bribe the King of Assyria. He comes to King Ahaz' aid and defeats the two kings.
Therefore the Lord his G-d gave him into the hand of the King of Syria, who defeated him and took captive a great number of his people and brought them to Damascus. He was also given in to the hand of the King of Israel, who defeated him with great slaughter.
2 Chronicles 28:16, 19-21 however, tells a different story. It says that Tiglath-Pileser king of Assyria came against King Ahaz, and afflicted him instead of strengthening him.
Isaiah 7:6 and 2 Kings 16:5 make it quite clear that 'Two' Kings (Rezin and Pekah) acting in unison came against Jerusalem. However 2 Chronicles 28:5 makes it clear that attacks from Syria (Rezin) and Israel (Pekah) were independent of each other.
These discrepancies in accounts support the concept that accounts of events during Ahaz' reign are also composite stories drawn from original but unclear material.
The Kingscalendar chronology for this period demonstrates that some of the material provided in the Scriptural references provided above for Ahaz actually referred to his predecessor Jotham, the son of King Uzziah.
Take King Jotham for instance.
Point 4: Jotham's Governorship of Judah
Based solely upon its chronological synchronisms, the Kingscalendar dates Jotham's regency from 749 BCE. On October 14th 2007 in the Jerusalem Post Judy Siegel-Itzkovich published an article entitled: 749 CE Golan quake shows another is overdue, in which mention was made of an earthquake in Israel in 749 BCE. Whilst an earthquake in the time of King Uzziah is mentioned in the prophets, it is Josephus in Antiquities Book 9 Chapter 10:4 who tells us that the earthquake coincided with Uzziah's sin and the punishment of leprosy. See Earthquakes, Leprosy and Jotham's Governorship.
2 Chronicles 27:1 and 2 Kings 15:33 tell us that Jotham reigned 16 years but 2 Kings 15:30 states that "Hoshea the son of Elah made a conspiracy against Pekah the son of Remaliah, and smote him, and slew him, and reigned in his stead, in the twentieth year of Jotham the son of Uzziah".
Take King Uzziah for instance.
Point 5: Uzziah's Reign
Any casual reading on the reign of King Uzziah will turn up chronological problems and generally speaking historians have him in a co-regency with his father Amaziah for an extended period and this is necessary because chronologically speaking his 52 year reign is problematical.
Biblical Chronological synchronisms between the Northern and Southern Kingdoms are out of alignment. When the year 701 BCE is assigned as Hezekiah's 14th solar year of reign, and an attempt is made to then backtrack through history using the Biblical data in Solar Years, numerous discrepancies appear. For Example:
2 Kings 15:27 synchronizing the reigns of Pekah and Uzziah is erroneous.
2 Kings 15:32 synchronizing the reigns of Pekah and Jotham is in error.
2 Kings 15:23 synchronizing the reigns of Pekahiah and Uzziah is in error.
2 Kings 15:17 synchronizing the reigns of Menehem and Uzziah is in error.
2 Kings 15:19 synchronizing the reigns of Menehem and Tiglath-Pileser of Assyria, is in error.
2 Kings 18:1 and :9-10, fails to synchronise the 7th and 9th years of Hoshea with the 4th and 6th years of any Judean King.
Click this link to view the Kingscalendar apologetics for the Assyrian, Babylonian and Israelite History 8th Century BCE and this link on King Hezekiah of Judah which discusses issues of Evidence in Archaeology.
Other related Articles include:
Who was Hezekiah's Father? Jotham or Ahaz?
Manasseh King of Judah - Son of Hezekiah
Ancient History & Biblical Contradictions.
We have King Amaziah who may or may not have been ruling for half the period allotted him; his son Uzziah, whose independent reign may or may not have occupied 52 years; Jotham who was governor for his sick father Uzziah; Ahaz for whom are recorded contradictory narratives, and Hezekiah whose 6th year was 722 BCE and whose 14th year was 701 BCE and who was visited by a King who was no longer a king at a period of time when records seems to be a composite of different events.
That then was the world as it was 2700 years ago at the time the seal mentioning Bethlehem existed. One can only wonder what Bethlehem - the birthplace of that great Muslim Jesus of Nazareth - was like. We do however know what it is like today.
Rewriting History: a list of Muslim articles at Palestinian Media Watch that show that Jesus was a Muslim.
R.P.BenDedek (pseudonym) is the Author of 'The King's Calendar: The Secret of Qumran' (http://www.kingscalendar.com ), and is a guest columnist and stand-in Editor at Magic City Morning Star News. He is also the Editor of the 'Writers Journal' at Kingscalendar.com. An Australian, he has been teaching Conversational English in China since 2003.
Writers Journal Kingscalendar
"The King's Calendar" is a chronological study of the historical books of the Bible (Kings and Chronicles), Josephus, Seder Olam Rabbah, and the (Essene) Damascus Document of The Dead Sea Scrolls.