Hebrew Scriptures vs. Historical Assumptions

The answer to the question of when the production of the stamped jars began cannot be more than a historical assumption with no clear-cut archaeological evidence supporting it.

So said Oded Lipschits in Archaeological Facts, Historical Speculations and the Date of the LMLK Storage Jars: A Rejoinder to David Ussishkin, published this week in Journal of Hebrew Scriptures vol. 12, Article 4. Unfortunately, he did not acknowledge the existence of either of my 2010 or 2012 BibleInterp articles, but that’s his problem, not mine.

Ironically for a journal about Hebrew Scriptures, Lipschits bases his refutation of Ussishkin strictly on archeological data isolated from Hebrew Scriptures (except for briefly mentioning “the town lists of Judah and Benjamin” found in Joshua), whereas mine remains founded on the historical veracity of 2Kings, Isaiah, and 2Chronicles.

Along with not mentioning my 2004 book, Lipshits hasn’t mentioned the northern LMLK sites because they remain a problem for his interpretation. From his perspective, the “late” handles have no business being at sites belonging to Israel. When we met in person at ASOR/SBL 2007 in San Diego, he claimed these were irrelevant in the context of what he calls “an ongoing administrative system” in the JHS article. Back in 2007, 4 years after I had web-published the seal-set chronological division theory (distinct from the iconic chronological division held by many 20th-century scholars), Dr. Lipschits did not necessarily believe in a chronological division of the sets or understand which types were found at the northern sites (if he did, he kept it a secret from me when we met).

From his perspective, it wouldn’t matter if LMLK seals were found anywhere because they could be explained as strays; however, he’s not being consistent, because now he doesn’t call the “early” types (that have been found under Assyrian destruction layers) “strays”, nor does he call the “late” types (at sites not conquered by Assyria) “strays”. So calling the northern-site specimens strays would be an example of special pleading.

They were not found along the main road traveled by Assyrians visiting Judah; nor were they found near the Israelite capital that Assyria conquered. They were found at sites that (from the terse excavation reports) are Israelite/Judean (i.e., non-Assyrian). And now that Lipschits has committed to this chronological division theory, he needs to explain late types found in archeological contexts where according to conventional scholarship, Judeans did not live, & at a time when the northern sites had been vacated by Israelites … INCLUDING Levitical priests (assuming such critters existed, which many scholars don’t).

However, as I argued in my Winter 2005 Bible & Spade article, they can be explained in light of the Hebrew Scriptures, where minority groups within certain Israelite territories remained on friendly terms with Judah out of respect for God’s ways. That was during the beginning of Hezekiah’s reign before Assyria had conquered northern Israel. It is not unreasonable to expect some northern LMLKs even afterwards since 2Kings 17:27-32 records priests resettling there who would’ve known about LMLKs, & would’ve had imperial authority to interact with Judah on behalf of people living in northern Israel. Alternately, some Israelites might have remained & not been exiled by Assyrians, especially refugees who lived temporarily in Judah. After Sennacherib’s defeat, we should not be surprised if some returned to their home territory. Obviously I’m making historical assumptions here, but I have a basis for them. A reliable basis:

… the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.“–1Peter 1:23

Oh, & Dr. Lipschits made another mistake on p. 4 of his JHS article:

…Ia- is with lapidary inscriptions…; Ib- is the same but with cursory inscriptions…

When I developed the classification system for the LMLK Research website 10 years ago, I dropped the Roman numeral & Latin lettering system in lieu of abbreviations that would be easy to remember, such as “L” for “lapidarist” (Lemaire’s Ib) & “C” for “cursory” (Lemaire’s Ia). Diringer believed the cursory inscriptions were older (Lemaire built upon Diringer/Lapp/Aharoni’s system that named this set “ia”), but as I mentioned on p. 385 of my LMLKv1 book, Diringer didn’t consider the possibility that an old person (like Isaiah) could’ve inscribed the seals with an older style around the same time as a young person with a later style. Maybe Lipschits, Sergi, & Koch will also discover this hypothesis several years from now.

G.M. Grena

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