Like a Bird in a Cage–More or Less

[This post is from an archive; the original message was sent Fri 9/9/2005 8:45 PM. Visit to see the Yeshiva University Museum’s handle.]

In this issue of the LMLK mailinglist:

1) More Critiques of Minimalists–a Grabbe Bag!

2) Less Lachish Controversy–“All” Is Well That Ends Well?

3) More Northern Details–the MLK Valley?

4) Less MMSTery at Ramat Rahel

5) More Royal Postage

6) Less English Letters

7) More Lachish Morsels

Foreword: I’ve been hangin’ on to this issue of the mailinglist after drafting it a few weeks ago pending the arrival of the latest issue of BAR magazine (Sep/Oct 2005), & it finally got here a couple of days ago. Big kudos to Jeff Chadwick for a FABULOUS article covering the history of excavations at Hebron! Coincidentally, 2 articles in the latest issue of Hebron Today magazine (Summer 2005) also mention the LMLK handles found in the Tel Hebron Archeological Garden (the site of 2 new apartment buildings–Beit Menachem & Beit Zecharya).


More Critiques of Minimalists–a Grabbe Bag!

I’ve been anxious to express my opinion of Lester L. Grabbe’s book, “Like a Bird In a Cage”, for over a year! I obtained a copy of it while finalizing my LMLK vol. 1 book, which worked out good because its content fits much better into my extended discussion of Chronology surrounding King Hezekiah & Sennacherib in Vol. 2. I wrote a 1,700-word, 16-paragraph review of it for the Eisenbrauns website, but as it turns out, they chose to only publish the 1st paragraph. So in case anybody was curious about what I said in the other 15 paragraphs, I decided to post them on Amazon. Here are convenience links to both sites:

“Like a Bird In a Cage” at Amazon

Who should read my review?
–Anyone interested in Hezekiah’s confrontation with Sennacherib
–Anyone interested in the Minimalist/Maximalist debate
–Anyone who has read Lemche, & either laughed at his work or felt pity for him

Who should NOT read my review?
–Anyone who can read Lemche with a straight face
–Anyone who doesn’t like the fact that God is King of the universe
–Anyone who works for Eisenbrauns


Less Lachish Controversy–“All” Is Well That Ends Well?

In the previous mailinglist, I mentioned my call for BAR to retract or qualify Philip King’s statements about LMLK jars in his review of David Ussishkin’s latest books (Jul/Aug 2005 issue, p. 42):

“all are from Level III,” & “None [were] found in later levels.”

In a phone conversation with Hershel Shanks, he interpreted Ussishkin’s report from a perspective I had never considered; namely, that Ussishkin carefully worded his comments ambiguously so they may be limited to just the 8 stamped jars his team restored, & not the entire corpus of LMLK handles found at Lachish (& certainly not to all 21 LMLK seal designs).

It will be interesting to see which perspective future writers adopt. Note that one restored but unstamped Type 484 jar from Lachish Level II (2) was utilized in the famous 1984 chemical analysis (described as “Type 484” in IEJ vol. 34 #2-3, but “II: SJ-1” in Ussishkin’s latest book). Thanks to Robert Deutsch for bringing it to my attention!


More Northern Details–the MLK Valley?

Following the previous mailinglist announcing the discovery of at least 2 more handles in the northern territory near Jokneam, Dr. David Amit of the IAA was kind enough to pass along a couple more details to me:

1) All the LMLK handles they found have 2-winged icons.

2) The site is located southwest of Jokneam halfway to Bat-Shlomo (I’ve obtained a modern Israel roadmap locating the site precisely), which means it falls in the ancient territory assigned by God to Manasseh (SW). I had speculated that it was Issachar, which encompassed Jokneam, but Manasseh was represented at King Hezekiah’s reformation ceremonies as well.

A third tidbit available on the IAA website is that 3 LMLK handles were found:

Additionally, Prof. Alan Millard alerted my attention to General Moshe Dayan’s discovery of a LMLK handle on his family’s farm in Nahalal (as reported by him on p. 114 of his book, “Living with the Bible”). There’s probably a copy in your local public library, or you can easily obtain a used copy for less than $5 at Amazon.

(There are also a couple of copies on the market autographed by General Dayan for <$100.)

So that brings the total # of northern handles to at least 7, representing H, M, & Zinscriptions (no S yet):

1 Nahalal (found on Dayan’s farmland, probably during the 1930s, but possibly as late as the 1950s)
1 Jezreel (found west of the tel by children in 1960)
1 Tel Sharti (found on the surface in the early 1960s)
1 Jezreel (formally excavated in the late 1980s)
3 Nahal Tut (formally excavated in 2005)

It’s interesting that all 4 northern sites form a triangular region from Qiryat Ata near Haifa Bay down to Jezreel through the Plain of Megiddo, but none have ever been found at Megiddo. See the new Northern map I added to the Geography page of the LMLK Research website:

(Note: The locations of Nahalal, Jezreel, & Nahal Tut are precise, but I’m still guessing on the ballpark location of Tel Sharti [Khirbet Sharta]. If you can confirm that my guess is accurate, or if you can specify a more precise location, please let me know! In my Winter 2005 Bible & Spade article, I showed Tel Sharti closer to Acco where I presumed Kfar Ata to be. A friend of mine who lived in the area told me Kfar Ata was renamed to Qiryat Ata, so now I show it a little south of Acco, but I’m still not sure of the exact location for Tel Sharti.)

If these northern LMLK handles represent only a shortlived remnant of Israelites following King Hezekiah’s reformation, I would’ve expected only x4C stamps. If they were dropped by the Assyrians on the way back to Nineveh, I’d expect them strictly along the coast after departing from the Lachish/Eltekeh region, or through the center of Israel heading north from Jerusalem. Why just along this NW/SE diagonal skipping over central Israel (Shiloh, Shechem, & Samaria in particular which Assyria controlled during Sennacherib’s campaign to Judah)?

When I wrote my Bible & Spade article, I chose my words carefully (e.g., I didn’t say the northern handles proved the jars represented tithes). It is still valid to believe that all the northern handles were strays that the Assyrian army &/or Judean captives dropped along the way after the war, just not probable based on what’s been published so far (i.e., they’re all x2x seals, & the 2 confirmed ones are M2D suggesting they were probably manufactured after Sennacherib left). Hence, if the theories I’ve presented/revived turn out to be true, then these northern handles would imply that some priests/Levites may have continued their practice throughout the 29-year reign, even after most of northern Israel had been resettled in Mesopotamia by the Assyrians. “Imply”–not “prove”.

Is it possible that some refugees may have returned safely to their homeland after witnessing the angelic massacre of the Assyrians? We know that the Assyrians not only didn’t discourage people from worshipping the God of Israel–they actually sent a captured priest to train resettled Babylonians in Samaria how to worship God. Could a remnant of the refugees from Israel have returned to the Plain of Esdraelon (north of Samaria) after the conquest of Samaria? Could they have returned there following a defeat of Sennacherib at Jerusalem?

Then again, maybe these LMLK jars survived the 7th & 6th centuries in Judah around Jerusalem, & ended up north via Persian/Greek/Roman trade caravans!

An entire chapter of my Vol. 2 book will be devoted to this new branch of LMLK research; it raises new questions that deserve special attention. I’ve never visited Israel, but I found an online reference to the region SW of Jokneam as the Wadi Milik. I immediately wondered if any association could be made to LMLK handles, but soon discovered that it’s actually called Salt (MLH) Valley. Maybe if more stamped handles show up there in the future, the whole region may become known as the MLK Valley!


Less MMSTery at Ramat Rahel

Congratulations to the team led by Dr. Oded Lipschits! Their renewed excavations have recovered several new/ancient LMLK handles along with representatives of other stamped handles from later periods. We all look forward to his upcoming formal publication of the material! In 1993 Dr. Gabriel Barkay suggested that the royal palace at Ramat Rahel may be the ancient site of MMST seen only on LMLK seals, but as I demonstrated in my LMLK vol. 1 book (Table 32, p. 360), Ramat Rahel holds the distinction of preserving more ZYF stamps than any other site, & even more HBRN stamps were found there than MMST. It came as no big surprise to me that Dr. Lipschits’ team found only H, S, & Zstamps this season!


More Royal Postage

Noteworthy new additions to the Stamp departments of the LMLK Dotcom Shop:

Commemorative envelopes & postcards issued earlier this year featuring Hezekiah’s Tunnel & the Siloam Inscription; & don’t miss the link to a full transcription of Dr. Chaim Weizmann’s historic speech at the first Knesset (it’s the 5-pruta envelope just above his 75th birthday envelope):

A complete pane of 50 LMLK stamps & central strip of 20 from the rare 2nd printing:

A proof printing of blue 20-mil LMLK stamps overlapping green 5-mil, made under heavy security in the midst of the 1948 War of Independence–a rare artifact from the early months of the modern history of Israel, fulfilling Biblical prophecy of the restored nation:


Less English Letters

I heard a rumor that English may become the official language of the European Union instead of German. As part of the negotiations, the British Government conceded that English spelling had some room for improvement, and has accepted a 5-year phase-in plan that would become known as “Euro-English”. In the first year, “s” will replace the soft “c”. Sertainly, this will make the sivil servants jump with joy. The hard “c” will be dropped in favour of “k”. This should klear up konfusion, and keyboards kan have one less letter. There will be growing publik enthusiasm in the sekond year when the troublesome “ph” will be replaced with “f”. This will make words like fotograf 20% shorter. In the 3rd year, publik akseptanse of the new spelling kan be expekted to reach the stage where more komplikated changes are possible. Governments will enkourage the removal of double letters which have always ben a deterent to akurate speling. Also, al wil agre that the horibl mes of the silent “e” in the languag is disgrasful and shuld go away. By the 4th yer peopl wil be reseptiv to steps such as replasing “th” with “z”, and “w” with “v”. During ze fifz yer, ze unesesary “o” kan be dropd from vords kontaining “ou”, and after ziz fifz yer ve vil hav a reil sensibl writin styl. Zer vil be no mor trubl or difikultis and evrivun vil find it ezy tu understand ech oza. Ze drem of a united urop vil finali kum tru. Und after ze fifz yer, ve vil al be speking German!


More Lachish Morsels

1) Kris Udd has now produced replicas of the 3 most important Lachish ostraca that mention the prophet, the signal fires of Lachish & Azekah, & the one that ends with “LMLK” (interpreted by scholars as “seed to the king”, “benefit/injure the king”, & “royal grain”). They’re great for museums & classroom lectures, & they’re all available for purchase right now at:

2) I love rock ‘n roll, especially the Metal genre, & finally broke down & bought a CD produced a few years ago by a Near Eastern Speed Metal band named Melechesh (neat name!) containing the song, “The Siege of Lachish”. It did not live up to my expectations! Here is a link to my Amazon review of it.

3) I’m hot on the trail of another handle in New York that may have been from the Lachish excavations. It’s presently on display through October 2nd at the Yeshiva University Museum’s “Mining the Collection” exhibit, after which time it will go into storage. I’m corresponding with the curator to identify its seal type & confirm its provenance. Details should be forthcoming in the next mailinglist.


G.M. Grena (no spelin korektion nesesary)


2 Responses to “Like a Bird in a Cage–More or Less”

  1. james Says:

    I read it (twice—now & the original post); I work for Eisenbrauns; I edited it.

  2. G.M. Grena Says:

    And I am grateful for the 1 paragraph! Better 1 than none! Thanks!

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