Jericho and the Bible

 Image result for jericho and bible


 Damien F. Mackey



“The contemporaneity of the Exodus with the end of Early Bronze III and the end of the Old Kingdom [of Egypt] has chronological ramifications which alter to a considerable degree the historic structure of the ancient world”.



Joshua’s Jericho





Drs. Donovan Courville and John Osgood, both largely ignored, have nonetheless been able to demonstrate that a true pattern for the Joshuan Conquest, archaeologically, must be one that recognises the nomadic Israelite conquerors, the Middle Bronze I (MBI) people, as those who conquered the Early Bronze III (EBIII) cities of Palestine, such as Jericho and Ai.

The popular model today, as espoused by the likes of Drs. Bryant Wood and David Rohl, arguing instead for a Middle Bronze Jericho at the time of Joshua, ends up throwing right out of kilter the biblico-historical correspondences.

Ronald P. Long (MA) writes as follows when reviewing Dr. Courville’s historical revision set (


Analysis of the archaeology directed Courville … to the fact that Israel entered the Promised Land at the close of Early Bronze III …. Widespread destruction of Canaanite population centers, especially Jericho and Ai, occurred at this time.


All acknowledge the parallelism between the end of the Old Kingdom (specifically Dynasty VI) and the end of Early Bronze III. It is at this juncture in Egyptian affairs that Courville rediscovered that the Exodus happened.


The contemporaneity of the Exodus with the end of Early Bronze III and the end of the Old Kingdom has chronological ramifications which alter to a considerable degree the historic structure of the ancient world. Locating the Exodus in the fifteenth century B.C. gives chronological orientation to Early Bronze and the Old Kingdom. Courville brings the beginnings of Early Bronze and Dynasty I down to the post-Flood era towards the end of the third millennium B.C. This development confronts us with the realization that the accepted Manethonian dynastic scheme, of placing one dynasty after another while not admitting the existence of contemporary dynasties, is fallacious. Within the framework of Biblical chronology Courville concludes that the Old and Middle Kingdoms of Egypt were roughly equivalent in time – that this period was brought to climax and swift collapse with the intervention of God in the Exodus. These discoveries also made known the fact that Dynasty VIII and the Second Intermediate periods were contemporary in Egypt and mirrored the ruinous conditions following the Exodus as the Hyksos invaders filled the void left by the departed children of Israel. Velikovsky over two decades ago drew similar conclusions regarding the Second Intermediate. It has been recognized that the Papyrus Ipuwer is the Egyptian version of what happened.

[End of quote]


Dr. Osgood’s Confirmation of Courville


Osgood, I find, brings a perspective to biblico-historical archaeology that is often quite lacking in other revisionist efforts.

Regarding the MBI people, Dr. Osgood has written, correcting the conventional timetable (“The Times of the Judges -The Archaeology: (a) Exodus to Conquest”)


Characteristics of MB I


Middle Bronze I was primarily a nomadic culture between two settled cultures. This point seemed to bring some weight of unanimity earlier but is being disputed much today for complex reasons, and is now the subject of new theories embracing both nomadic parts and sedentary parts, a theory which itself does little to clear up the historical enigma of this archaeological culture. Kenyon strongly states this nomadic character in a discussion on Jericho: —


“In one area seventeen successive stages in the town walls can be identified. The seventeenth was violently destroyed by fire and its destruction marks the end of the Early Bronze Age town, probably ca.2300 B.C. The catastrophe was the work of nomadic invaders who can be identified as the Amorites, and the succeeding period can best be described as Intermediate Early Bronze—Middle Bronze. The newcomers for long only camped on the site, and when they ultimately built houses, they were of flimsy construction. They never built a town wall.”4


Kenyon’s identification of the invaders as the Amorites is speculative and is here disputed. Indeed, this claim has fallen into some disrepute of late.


However, we wish to put forward a new model based on the evidence to be presented.


Ruth Amiram comments:


“We have refrained in this discussion from dealing with the most intriguing problem of the MB I culture in Palestine, namely its nomadic character usually connected with the Amorites.”5 (emphasis ours)


Albright also comments:


“The settlements were clearly seasonal, since the only time of the year in which such arid districts could provide enough water for beasts, men and growing crops is during the months December–May (preferably January–April). Here people lived in round stone huts of “beehive” type, terraced small valleys and suitable hillsides, utilizing flash floods (suyul) to irrigate specially prepared fields. After the harvest, they probably did not remain long since…”6


To be sure, the nomadic nature of this has been challenged, (e.g. Cohen and Dever 7) but the belief still stands as Amiram has said:


“This theory has long been contested, but much more stratigraphical evidence is required than available at present for any significant advance towards its verification.”5


Sadly, the biblical model of Israel’s wandering and conquest has not been consulted, yet it provides the logical answer, viz, a people nomadic for period, yet stationary in Sinai and the Negev I periods of up to a year at least, at any one spot, but, journeying for ultimate conquest, encampment and settlement.


This model, which is the logical model fitting the facts, will continue not to be consulted so long as the present stubborn resistance to biblical historicity remains, and so the argument over the MB I culture will continue.

[End of quotes]


Dr. Osgood then proceeds to show, including various maps, how the archaeological distribution of the MBI people substantially accords with that of the invading Israelites at the time of Joshua.

Further on, Dr. Osgood will present this argument for the EBIII Jericho as being the level attacked by the forces of Joshua, before concluding that: “The correspondence is exact”.



“Not even the slightest question of the credibility of the accepted chronology is raised.

Its hold on the discipline is too great”.



Region 4—The Conquest of Palestine


The MB I people of Palestine were a new people, a new civilization, and a new culture. Some have disputed this, but the evidence remains strong. For example, Kathleen Kenyon says:


“The final end of the Early Bronze Age civilization came with catastrophic completeness. The last of the Early Bronze Age walls of Jericho was built in a great hurry using old and broken bricks and was probably not completed when it was destroyed by fire. Little or none of the town inside the walls has survived denudation, but it was probably completely destroyed, for all the finds show that there was an absolute break, and that a new people took the place of the earlier inhabitants. Every town in Palestine that has so far been investigated shows the same break. The newcomers were nomads, not interested in town life and they so completely drove out or absorbed the old population perhaps already weakened and decadent that all traces of the Early Bronze civilization disappeared.”28


Ruth Amiram also presses very hard the point that the MB I was a new culture:


“The break with the preceding period was indeed a sharp one and allowed only few left–overs of previous traditions to persist. The succeeding period, however, follows a normal course of development. The MB IIA period, epitomised in the strata G–F at Tell Beit Mirsim and Strata X1V–XIIIB at Megiddo, constitutes the link between the culture of the period under discussion and the ‘true Middle Bronze Age’ (Kenyon’s description of the MB IIB loc.cit.). Some of the characteristic types of pottery have been arranged in Table form in Figure 1 to show their development from MB I through its Megiddo family to MB IIA. This line of continuity constitutes our main reason for retaining the old term and rejecting the new.”5


The end of the Early Bronze Age and the beginning of the Middle Bronze Age, starting with Middle Bronze I therefore, is the most serious contender for the period of the Conquest, and if that be the case, then Middle Bronze I pottery must be a serious contender for the pottery of the nomadic Israelites in the wilderness and in their first settlement of the land.


Likewise, Ruth Amiran rejects a distinct cultural break at the end of Late Bronze as needed by the accepted chronology, and clearly places the new beginning at the beginning of the Middle Bronze Age after the end of Early Bronze III. I quote:


“In the discussion pertaining to the transition from the Early Bronze period to the Middle Bronze, we have emphasized the sharp cultural break between these two worlds. From the MB I onwards, the development from the material culture (to judge by its reflection in the pottery) is continuous, gradual and evolutionary to the end of the Iron Age or even later.”3


Not that Ruth Amiram was proposing a new chronology. On the contrary, she accepted the belief that the Israelite invasion occurred at the end of Late Bronze, and sadly I believe has missed the significance and poignancy of her own words, as has Kenyon before her.


Let us look at the biblical narrative of the Conquest and follow it step by step, looking at what cities have been excavated to see the consistency with the biblical narrative both historically and geographically.




The first conquest of Joshua in Palestine was Jericho. Garstang originally identified the destruction period of Jericho’s Canaanite city as the end of Late Bronze Age.

However Kathleen Kenyon in her monumental excavation of Jericho has identified the destruction level which Garstang uncovered as the end of the Early Bronze Age III. Of this, she says that it came with “catastrophic completeness”28 This was succeeded by a temporary occupation by the MB I people (Kenyon’s Early Bronze—Middle Bronze). She says:


“It is thus probable that there was a phase of occupation of the tell in which there were no solid structures. That there was such a camping phase would fit the evidence from the tombs of the nomadic and tribal organization of the newcomers.”29 (See also Kenyon 30,31)


Such a description matches exactly what we would expect of some of the Israelite host camping on the site after its destruction, until they were finally settled elsewhere.


Jericho at the end EB III is the logical place to see Joshua’s conquest. The same holds true for Ai, Joshua’s next battle zone (Joshua chapters 7 and 8).




Ai has been identified with Et Tell, west of Jericho. This site has been excavated by several expeditions which have concluded that occupation of Et Tell occurred as follows:32


Early Bronze Ib Early Bronze Ic—destruction Early Bronze II—destruction—? earthquake Early Bronze IIIa Early Bronze IIIb—destruction Iron Age I


Et Tell was left a ruin for a long period of time at the end of Early Bronze III.


“Violent destruction overtook the city of Ai ca.2400 B.C. during the Fifth Dynasty of Egypt and a ‘dark age’ fell upon the land with the appearance of nomadic invaders from the desert. The site was abandoned and left in ruins.”32

This was the end of EB III.


As Calloway, the Biblical Archaeologist author just quoted, has accepted the Israelite conquest placed at the end of the Late Bronze Age due to his reliance on the Egyptian and evolutionary–based chronology currently held, an absence of a Late Bronze period at Et Tell was a problem. This has resulted in many doubting that Et Tell is in fact biblical Ai. To quote Calloway:


“It will be seen that the absence of any Canaanite city later than EB greatly complicates interpretation of the biblical Israelite conquest of Ai, for the mound was unoccupied at the time and had not been occupied since before the end of the third millennium BC.”32


The time referred to as “the biblical conquest” in that author’s view was the end of Late Bronze. No question is raised by the author as to the correctness of that currently held chronology, but simply a strained interpretation of the biblical narrative and thus a question of its credibility as an historical document is inferred.


“Whether the tradition in Joshua claims for Israel a conquest in reality attributable to her predecessors in the land (over 1,000 years before!) or whether Israel’s conquest of a different site has in the tradition been transferred to Ai can only be conjectured.”32


Not even the slightest question of the credibility of the accepted chronology is raised. Its hold on the discipline is too great. Had the biblical documents been taken at face value and allowed to be the prime measure, the end of EB III at Ai, as well as at Jericho and other sites, would have confirmed the record of Scripture so vividly that all questions would have dissipated. But the confusion of the accepted chronology is allowed to continue.


It is my claim that the biblical documents must be the rule and these allow the profound destruction of EB III all across Palestine to be identified as the destruction of Joshua’s conquest. It is so at both Ai and Jericho. The correspondence is exact.

[End of quote]




Eglon’s Jericho





“The next mention of Jericho following Joshua’s destruction is in Judges 3 where we are told that Eglon, king of Moab, took possession of the “City of Palms” and built a palace there. The City of Palms, of course, is none other than Jericho (Dt 34:3; 2 Chr 28:15)”.





A very clear demonstration of what I wrote in my article:


Joshua’s Jericho


“The popular model today, as espoused by … David Rohl … arguing instead for a Middle Bronze Jericho at the time of Joshua, ends up throwing right out of kilter the biblico-historical correspondences” [,]


is apparent from the part of Dr. Bryant Wood’s critique (“David Rohl’s Revised Egyptian Chronology: A View From Palestine”), in which Bryant has well pointed out that Rohl’s revised Jericho stratigraphical sequence “completely misses Eglon’s occupation of Jericho”:


In his book Pharaohs and Kings: A Biblical Quest (1995a; it was first published in England as A Test of Time: The Bible – From Myth to History [1995b]), David Rohl purports to have produced a better correlation between the findings of archaeology and the Bible by revising Egyptian chronology.


The Middle Building at Jericho


Concerning occupation at Jericho following the Conquest, Rohl makes the following statement:


…the next time we hear mention of Jericho after Joshua’s destruction of the town is during the reign of David (313).


This is simply incorrect. The next mention of Jericho following Joshua’s destruction is in Judges 3 where we are told that Eglon, king of Moab, took possession of the “City of Palms” and built a palace there. The City of Palms, of course, is none other than Jericho (Dt 34:3; 2 Chr 28:15). Rohl makes a connection between the LB IIA “Middle Building” at Jericho, excavated by John Garstang in 1933, and David’s seclusion of the Israelite delegation at Jericho recorded in 2 Samuel 10:5.


The Bible does not tell us what, if anything, was at Jericho in David’s day. Garstang’s Middle Building, on the other hand, exactly fits the description of Eglon’s palace in Judges 3 using conventional chronology (Garstang 1941a; 1941b; 1948: 175-80). It was an isolated palatial structure with no corresponding town. There was evidence of wealth (expensive imported pottery), and administrative activities (an inscribed clay tablet). The Middle Building was constructed toward the end of the 14th century B.C. by conventional chronology, which matches the time period of the Judges 3 account according to Biblical chronology. It was occupied for only a short period of time and then abandoned, paralleling the Biblical description of an 18 year oppression by Eglon and the subsequent rout of the Moabites by Ehud and the Israelites.


The “Middle Building” was excavated in 1933 by John Garstang on Jericho’s southeastern slope. A palace like structure (28 x 47 ft.), it was an isolated building with evidence of wealth and administrative activity. It date and finds fit very well with Moabite king Eglon’s palace (Judges 3:12-25). Rohl completely misses Eglon’s occupation of Jericho in his reconstruction and tries to relate the Middle Building to the time of David.


[End of quote]


Eglon of Moab


Once again it will be Dr. John Osgood who first properly sorted out the Jericho sequence. Regarding Eglon of Moab’s occupation, Osgood has written (“The Times of the Judges -The Archaeology: (b) Settlement and Apostasy”)


A new alignment begins


The land of Israel rested in peace and freedom from oppression for a period of 40 years—here equated with the MB IIA period, or the last portion of it (Judges 3:11).


Again they apostasised into idolatry, and soon a new spectre appeared on the horizon. A strong king of Moab began a conquest of Israel which brought him into control of at least the strategic central portion of the land. Eglon of Moab now rebuilt on the ruins of Jericho, ‘the city of palms’, a fortress capable of stationing 10,000 troops, and a palace (Judges 3:12-30).


This apparently was not a rebuilding of the old city which had been cursed by Joshua, later rebuilt by Hiel the Bethelite (1 Kings 16:34), but it was, nonetheless, the same site geographically.


Assisting him in this conquest naturally was Moab’s old sister nation Ammon. This is quite easy to accept. However, surprisingly, also in the raiding force was AMALEK (Judges 3:13).

Now geographically Amalek was in the western Negev (see Genesis) 14:17, Numbers 13:29, Numbers 14:25, 1 Samuel 15:7, 27:8). The related Edomites were between Moab and Amalek, so the alliance does seem a little unusual (see Figure 7).


Figure 7. Map showing the regions/peoples of the Moabite alliance.


However, Amalek has a number of enigmatic statements made about it in the Scriptures (Numbers 24:20). Balaam says of Amalek that it was then ‘the first of the nations’ (first = Hebrew reshith—foremost). This is a truly incredible statement on first glance, but the same concept is supported by Balaam’s other comment about Agag, the Amalekite king. He said that Israel’s kingdom would be higher than Agag, and his kingdom exalted. In other words, the whole idea being conveyed was that Agag occupied a position of immense power (Numbers 24:7).


The implication of these statements is that Amalek was a power to be reckoned with, no longer just a fledgling nation, as before. It is with this in mind that the recent assertions of Velikovsky18 and Courville19 need to be perused. They were united in identifying Amalek with the ‘AMU’( = Hyksos) overlords of Egypt during the Second Intermediate period of that nation. Such an assertion would give weight to statements of scripture that imply an Amalekite nation was the foremost of the nations in Moses’ day. It would also bring meaning into Eglon’s call for help to Amalek for the subjugation of Israel. In fact, it would almost be a necessity for Moab to obtain Amalek’s blessing on her conquest of Israel in order to bear rule over what Amalek (the Hyksos rulers of Egypt) would regard as their sphere of rule. Eglon then would be a vassal ruler of the Amalekite/Hyksos over a subjugated Israel.


It is of interest to note that from this point in Israel’s history as the scriptures record it, Amalek is on the scene more consistently than any other nation in attack against Israel for the next 300 years, first assisting Eglon, then in association with Midian (Judges 6:3), and then in the days of King Saul and David (1 Samuel 15 and 1 Samuel 30).

Such an interval of time adds to the circumstantial weight of the identification of Amalek with the Amu, and the Hyksos, and this author accepts fully at least this part of the theses of Velikovsky18 and Courville19 (This is not, however, a blanket endorsement of other areas of their work.) Hereafter in this work I will assume the identification of Amalekite/Hyksos to be valid, although further discussion on this point will undoubtedly ensue. Taking the above premises, we would expect to find an MB IIB city at Jericho, of larger proportions than the old city (identified as EB III), evidence of a palace, and evidence of Hyksos rule. Furthermore, if we were able to differentiate Moabite culture from Israelite, we would also expect some evidence of Moabite culture in the MB IIB city.


Jericho MB IIB—A new fortress arises


Jericho was definitely rebuilt along different lines in the MB II period—larger than it was before. A regional similarity was also apparent as Garstang says:


“This is indeed fairly clear, because the site lay more or less derelict thereafter for some time, perhaps a century, and when finally the city revived it is found to have been entirely replanned and reconstructed upon fresh lines, with a new and improved defensive system; while an entirely new culture, that of the Middle Bronze Age, replaced the old. Moreover the change was general, and it affected in similar fashion all the great cities on the highlands above the Jordan valley, Jericho nearest surviving neighbours; while many early settlements in and near the southern end of the Rift never revived at all”20 (emphasis ours)


Garstang continues:


“It was during this period that Jericho, under the Hyksos regime attained its greatest extension and the height of its prosperity. The protected area was now about nine acres, which was nearly the size of contemporary Jerusalem.”21


Jericho gave evidence of being a premium city at this time. It was most important to have a palace in the heart of the city—and that a most prominent one. Here in the revised chronology we suggest that this palace was, in fact, that of the Moabite King Eglon, vice regent to his Hyksos/Amalekite overlords of Egypt and the Negev.


“In the heart of the City, on a peak of ground overlooking the spring, rose a royal palace, the most elaborate dwelling uncovered upon the site. The main block, which was square, crowned the highest part of the knoll, and it was surrounded at groundfloor level by a sort of roofed ambulatory, in which would be half-cellar store-rooms, offices, stables, etc., much as in the arcaded basements of many houses of the East to-day.”22


Certainly the description of this palace fits the details of Judges 3:13 and 20–26, but Garstang continues:


“The very proportions and solidarity of the palace building show that the ruler of Jericho at this period had attained both wealth and power; and the contents of the extensive store-rooms committed to his care seem to explain the source of his increased prestige.”23


Moreover, it was during this period that Hyksos power was evident and strong, the many scarabs with the red crown of Lower Egypt pointed out by Kenyon24 testifying to the hegemony of Jericho.


Garstang continues with his details of the Ruler of Jericho at this time:


He became in fact the chief of an important unit in the Hyksos organization. Associated with him as guardian of the Hyksos stores or ‘treasury’ was a resident official, whose title ‘Scribe of the Vezir’ appears upon scarab-signets and jar-sealings recovered from the store-rooms; the names of two persons who held this office were Senb. ef and Se. Ankh, both characteristic of this period.”25


We emphasise our belief that this ruler was, in fact, Eglon of Moab.


It appears that although Eglon’s presence was removed from Jericho, some sort of Israelite presence persisted at the site, as witnessed by its occupation in the days of David’s reign (2 Samuel 10:5).

A new influence


A new influence now affected Palestine, producing the MB IIB culture (Albright nomenclature). The Khabur influence [Osgood had identified this culture with the incursion of Cushan-rishathaim, Judges 3:8] had come briefly and then gone, not being the sort of influence that one attributes to an ethnic movement of people, but eminently in the style of a conquest introduction. The main item of that influence was, in fact, a storage jar which would be suitable for grain or wine.



The new culture was a continuation of the main body of cultural tradition, but gone was the Khabur influence, and a new pottery tradition came, known as the Tell el-Yahudiyeh ware.


“A close analysis of MB IIA and B–C pottery shows many differences between the two periods, but a definite continuity of form and decoration can undoubtedly be observed.”26


The Tell el-Yahudiyeh pottery was not totally new to the MB IIB but was present already to a small extent in the MB I. However, its popularity peaked in MB IIB then continued into MB IIC, finally to leave a remnant in the LB I (Late Bronze I).27

This ware appears to have been produced in Palestine, some exported to Cyprus, Egypt and north into Phoenicia, but its centre was in Palestine (assumed by current thinking to be CANAANITE, but by this revised chronology it would almost certainly be Israelite).28


Despite the difference that is generally assumed between MB I and the MB IIA–C pottery, it is not inconceivable that the Tell el-Yahudiyeh decorations on the juglets which form the distinctive feature, were ultimately conceived from the very features already inherent in the MB I; viz, incisions and ‘notches’ in the MB I pottery made by a comb or fork,29 and ‘punctured decoration’ and ‘designs delineated by grooves’ also reminiscent of the use of comb or fork, in MB IIB Tell el-Yahudiyeh ware.30


Considering the general features of the MB I to MB IIA–C sequence, there is every reason to believe that what we are seeing was the ongoing development of the early Israelite pottery tradition.


Moreover, the pottery of MB I Palestine shows at least some affinity with the late 12th Dynasty of Egypt, which is of course, what we would expect if the MB I to MB IIA to MB IIB–C sequence is postulated as Israelite. As Kenyon says:


“As a result, the royal tombs at Byblos can be closely dated by Egyptian objects. In tombs of the period of Amenemhet III and IV (second half 19th–beginning 18th centuries BC) there appears pottery which is very close to this new pottery in Palestine. Moreover, on a number of other sites in coastal Syria we find the same kind of pottery, and it is clear that part at least of the new population of Palestine must have come from this area.”31 (emphasis ours)


Mackey’s comment: This corresponds perfectly with my reconstruction according to which the Egyptian Twelfth Dynasty period of Amenemhet III and IV was that of Moses’s confrontation with Pharaoh, and the Exodus:


Pharaoh of the Exodus


Dr. Osgood continues with his discussion of Eglon of Moab, as a governor on behalf of Amalek (= the Hyksos), ruling a Middle Bronze IIB Jericho:


From the point of discussion of the new influence in Palestine in the MB IIB, the most significant features are those which point to a significant Hyksos influence in the land; and this is considerable.


As Amiram has said:


“The correspondence of MB IIB to the Hyksos Dynasties in Egypt is also established with a fair measure of certainty and is generally accepted.”32


With this statement I would make no objection, only with the question of who the Hyksos were would we differ. It follows that if the chronology here espoused is the correct view, then the generally held view on Hyksos origins must fall and be replaced by one which conforms to the scriptural details—the Hyksos would be the biblical Amalekites, found in the area of the Negev, mainly in the west, south of the Wadi Besor, then extending their influence into Egypt. Much that has been called Hyksos in Palestine would in fact be Israelite, but showing evidence of Amalekite hegemony, by scarabs and similar artifacts. Such intricacies of interpretation do not come freely with the sole use of archaeological evidence, but demands a basic framework of hypothesis against which to evaluate the findings. This the biblical record provides.


The major change of influence in Palestine in the MB IIB–C period was to the Hyksos influence. This influence was found, to judge by the scarab evidence, mainly in the area of Palestine south of the Carmel Ridge, a geographic fact worthy of note.


In my earlier discussion on the details of the servitude under the Midianites and Amalekites and their subsequent deliverance under Gideon,33 particular attention was paid to the evidence that this servitude was confined to Israel south of the Carmel Ridge. As soon as the northern deliverance from Jabin’s yoke had been completed, the Midianites and Amalekites moved over the Carmel range to fill the political vacuum, but were quickly defeated by Gideon.


Likewise, it was pointed out that the song of Deborah testified to a presence of Amalek in some sort of controlling influence in the area of Ephraim during the time of Jabin’s rule in the north. The later part of this period, however, was seen to be contemporary with the Midianite/Amalekite rule in the south (see Figure 8).


Figure 8. Map showing the expected distribution of Amalekite artifacts in Palestine compared with the actual distribution of Hyksos scarabs.


Also, it was reasoned that Eglon’s (Moab) rule was with the influence of Amalek.


Thus I am suggesting that the Amalekites of the Bible must be seen to be the same as the Hyksos who ruled over Egypt.


When all the above reasoning is brought together, it becomes apparent that the distribution of the Hyksos artifacts (as here defined by the scrabs) occupied exactly this distribution geographically, and no other. And as this period in the biblical record Eglon and onward corresponds most particularly to the MB IIB–C period on my revised Archaeological Table, the possible correctness of the revised chronology is upheld.


“Most interesting is the fact that Hyksos royal-name scarabs and sealings have not been discovered at sites in the Galilee, the Huleh Valley, Lebanon, or Syria.”34


And again:


“Only one Hyksos royal-name scarab and but a handful of contemporary private name-and-title scarabs have been found north of the Carmel Ridge.”35


Weinstein then argues that the principal centres of Hyksos power in Palestine were in the southern and inland regions south of the plain of Esdraelon. He concludes that the Hyksos were in fact simply southern and inland Palestinian princes.


Against the revised chronology here presented it becomes apparent that the Hyksos were in fact the Amalekites of the southern and western portion of Palestine, viz, the Negev, and that during the MB IIB–C period of Palestine they not only controlled Lower Egypt, but extended their influence up to the Carmel Ridge with the help of firstly Moab under Eglon, who ruled from Jericho on their behalf ….


As for the names and order of the Hyksos kings of the 15th and 16th Dynasties who were so involved, their details are in great confusion still. The whole question of the Hyksos is a confused question, with hardly any authority agreeing with the next on details of even the place of the individual kings in the scheme of the period. We need, however, to remind ourselves of the fate of the Amalekite nation, Exodus 17:14 records that God said He would “blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven.”


Hiel’s Jericho


Part One: Stratigraphical level



Joshua 6:26: “At that time Joshua pronounced this solemn oath: “Cursed before the LORD is the one who undertakes to rebuild this city, Jericho: At the cost of his firstborn son he will lay its foundations; at the cost of his youngest he will set up its gates”.”


I Kings 16:34: “In Ahab’s time, Hiel of Bethel rebuilt Jericho. He laid its foundations at the cost of his firstborn son Abiram, and he set up its gates at the cost of his youngest son Segub, in accordance with the word of the Lord spoken by Joshua son of Nun”.






A clear demonstration of what I wrote in my article:


Joshua’s Jericho


“The popular model today, as espoused by … David Rohl … arguing instead for a Middle Bronze Jericho at the time of Joshua, ends up throwing right out of kilter the biblico-historical correspondences” [,]


is apparent from Dr. Bryant Wood’s critique (“David Rohl’s Revised Egyptian Chronology: A View From Palestine”), in which Bryant points out that Rohl’s revised Jericho sequence incorrectly dates Hiel’s building level at Jericho to an apparently ‘unoccupied’ phase there:






Rohl dates the next phase of occupation at Jericho following the Middle Building to the LB IIB period (314). He then equates this phase to the rebuilding of Jericho by Hiel of Bethel (1 Kgs 16:34). Rohl is once again incorrect in his dating. The next occupational phase at Jericho following the Middle Building dates to the Iron I period, not LB IIB (M. and H. Weippert 1976). There is no evidence for occupation at Jericho in the LB IIB period.

[End of quote]
If Dr. Bryant is correct here, then the city built by the mysterious Hiel of Bethel must belong to the Iron Age “occupational phase” of Jericho (Tell es-Sultan).



Part Two (a):

Who was this “Hiel of Bethel”?




Hiel of Bethel who rebuilt the city of Jericho (I Kings 16:34)

will be here, in Part Two, identified as King Mesha of Moab.


Does Mesha tell us straight out in his inscription that he built Jericho –

and with Israelite labour?






Chapter 16 of the First Book of Kings will, in the course of its introducing us to King Ahab and his no-good ways as follows (vv. 30-34):


Ahab son of Omri did more evil in the eyes of the Lord than any of those before him. He not only considered it trivial to commit the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, but he also married Jezebel daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, and began to serve Baal and worship him. He set up an altar for Baal in the temple of Baal that he built in Samaria. Ahab also made an Asherah pole and did more to arouse the anger of the Lord, the God of Israel, than did all the kings of Israel before him.


suddenly interrupt this description with its surprising and bloody note about Hiel the Bethelite’s building of Jericho at the cost of the lives of his two sons. A surprising thing about this insertion (apart from the horrific sacrifice of the sons) is that an otherwise unknown personage, Hiel (unknown at least under this name), is found to be building a city at a major and ancient site, Jericho (Tell es-Sultan), whilst the country is under the rulership of two most powerful kings – Omride in the north allied to a mighty king of Judah in the south.


How might this strange situation concerning Hiel have come about?


Before my attempting to answer this question, I should like simply to list a few of the more obvious reasons why I am drawn to the notion that Hiel was a king of Moab, and that he was, specifically, Mesha.

We find that:


  • A king of Moab, Eglon, has previously ruled over a newly-built Jericho (MB IIB);
  • Hiel and Mesha were contemporaneous with King Ahab of Israel;
  • Hiel and Mesha were sacrificers of their own sons (cf. I Kings 16:34 & 2 Kings 3:27).


But, far more startling than any of this is the following potential bombshell:

Does Mesha King of Moab tell us straight out in his stele inscription that he built Jericho – and with Israelite labour?

I have only just become aware of this bell-ringing piece of information – after I had already come to the conclusion that Hiel may well have been Mesha. It is information that may be, in its specificity, beyond anything that I could have expected or hoped for. Thus we read at:


Later on in the inscription he [King Mesha of Moab] says,


I built Qeriho [Jericho?]: the wall of the parkland and the wall of the acropolis; and I built its gates, and I built its towers; and I built the king’s house; and I made banks for the water reservoir inside the town; and there was no cistern inside the town, in Qeriho, and I said to all the people: “Make yourself each a cistern in his house”; and I dug the ditches for Qeriho with prisoners of Israel (lines 21-26).


Since Mesha erected his stela to honor Chemosh in “this high place for Chemosh in Qeriho,” and since the stela was found at Dhiban, identified as ancient Dibon, most scholars believe that Qeriho was the name of the royal citadel at Dibon. Note that Israelite captives were used to cut the timber used to construct Qeriho. ….


[End of quote]


Part Two (b, i):

Different names, Hiel, Mesha?



If, as I am claiming, Hiel of Bethel was the same person as the contemporaneous King Mesha of Moab, then it becomes necessary for me to account for why the Bible would attribute to him two completely different names and geographical locations.






To account for potentially two different names for the one person in the Old Testament, I simply refer the reader to my article:


Toledôt Explains Abram’s Pharaoh


according to which one actual incident involving Abram (Abraham) and Sarai (Sarah), with a powerful king (now “Pharaoh”, now “Abimelech”) – but presented from two totally different perspectives (ethnic and geographical), from two different sources – will convey the impression of being two separate incidents.

This would be my explanation for why the First Book of Kings might refer to Hiel the Bethelite


חִיאֵל, בֵּית הָאֱלִי


Israelite name (perhaps Jehiel) and location – corresponding with the Hebrew name “Abimelech” in the case of Abraham and Sarah – whilst the Second Book of Kings might render him differently, as Mesha king of Moab


מֵישַׁע מֶלֶךְ-מוֹאָב


corresponding to the more foreign and remote “Pharaoh” in the case of Abram and Sarai.

According to the Moabite stele: “I am Mesha, son of Kemosh[-yatti] …”.

These names seem to be built around the name of the Moabite god, Chemosh.


The biblical information that, now Hiel, now Mesha, was a sacrificer of his own son(s), coupled with the likelihood that, as we read in Part Two (a), Mesha (like Hiel) built the city of Jericho (and with Israelite prisoners): “I built Qeriho [Jericho?] … with prisoners of Israel”, emboldens me to persevere in the pursuit of this previously most unexpected identification.



Part Two (b, ii):

A Servant of the Syrians?



If King Mesha of Moab really had ruled the city of Jericho for a time, as Hiel, then he would have been following an ancient tradition, because another king of Moab, Eglon, had ruled over that same city roughly half a millennium earlier.





Mesha of Moab and Ben-Hadad I


A pattern that was determined (following Dr. John Osgood) according to my recent article:


Eglon’s Jericho


of a King of Moab governing Jericho for a time as a servant of a powerful ruling nation, is the same basic pattern that I would suggest for my Hiel = Mesha.

Eglon had, as a subordinate king of the mighty Amalekite nation, ruled over (MB IIB) Jericho “for eighteen years” (Judges 3:14).

Now, much later, with Syria this time as the main power, Mesha will both build and rule over (presumably Iron Age) Jericho – for an indeterminate period of time.

From a combination of information as provided by the Mesha stele and the Old Testament, we learn that Mesha was already king at the time of Omri of Israel, and that he continued on until Jehoram of Israel.

During that period, Ben-Hadad I of Syria was by far the dominant king. In fact I, in my thesis:


A Revised History of the Era of King Hezekiah of Judah

and its Background



(Volume One, p. 66) referred to him as “a true master-king”:


… the Velikovskian equation of EA’s Abdi-ashirta as Ben-Hadad I would seriously contradict the view that the latter was a relatively minor, though problematical, king in the EA scheme of things; for Ben-Hadad I was no lesser king: “King Ben-hadad of Aram gathered all his army together; thirty-two kings were with him, along with horses and chariots” (1 Kings 20:1). Thirty-two kings! The great Hammurabi of Babylon, early in his reign, had only ten to fifteen kings following him, as did his peer kings. Even the greatest king of that day in the region, Iarim Lim of Iamkhad, had only twenty kings in train. …. But Ben-Hadad’s coalition, raised for the siege of Ahab’s capital of Samaria, could boast of thirty-two kings. Surely Ben-Hadad I was no secondary king in his day, but a ‘Great King’; the dominant king in fact in the greater Syrian region – a true master-king.


[End of quote]


With an extraordinary “thirty-two kings” in Ben-Hadad’s following, might it not be going too far to suggest that one of these follower-kings was the contemporaneous Mesha of Moab?

If so, any incursion by king Mesha into Israelite territory (Bethel, Jericho) – and we recall that Mesha boasted of having Israelite captives – would have become possible presumably (and only?) with the assistance of Ben-Hadad I, who caused much trouble for king Ahab of Israel in the earlier part of the latter’s reign.

For example (I Kings 20:1-3):


Now Ben-Hadad king of Aram [Syria] mustered his entire army. Accompanied by thirty-two kings with their horses and chariots, he went up and besieged Samaria and attacked it.He sent messengers into the city to Ahab king of Israel, saying, “This is what Ben-Hadad says:‘Your silver and gold are mine, and the best of your wives and children are mine’.”




Part Two (b, iii):

Different geography




King Mesha of Moab, who I consider to have been a follower-king of the mighty Syrian master-king, Ben-Hadad I, appears to have had a chequered career in relation to the Omrides, now being subservient, now in revolt.

If Mesha were Hiel, as I am saying, then it must have been during one of his upward phases – when Ben-Hadad was in the ascendant- that he was able to build at Jericho.




Earlier in this series, and elsewhere, I have discussed geographical perspective. How, for instance, the one person who had ruled over two lands, say Egypt and southern Canaan, could be written of as “Pharaoh” by someone writing from an Egyptian perspective, but by a Semitic (Hebrew) name by one writing from a Palestinian perspective.

And that, too, is the gist of my reasoning as to how one represented by a Hebrew name (Hiel), and a Palestinian location (Bethel), in the First Book of Kings, could be designated by a Moabite name (Mesha) in the Second Book of Kings, and there located in the foreign land of Moab.

The following article (, to which I shall add my comments, provides us with a comprehensive account as to:


What does the Moabite Stone reveal about the Biblical revolt of Mesha?


The Mesha inscription, now in the Louvre in Paris


“I am Mesha, son Chemosh[it], king of Moab, the Dibonite.”[1]

So begins one of the most extraordinary ancient documents ever found. (For the unusual circumstances surrounding its discovery, see Archaeology and Biblical Research, Winter 1991: 2-3). Mesha was ruler of the small kingdom of Moab, east of the Dead Sea, in the mid-ninth century BC. He was a contemporary of Jehoshaphat, king of the southern kingdom of Judah (870-848 BC), and Joram, king of the northern kingdom of Israel (852-841 BC). Everything we know about Mesha from the Bible is recorded in 2 Kings 3. But we know a lot more about him from a record he left us, referred to as the Mesha Inscription, or Moabite Stone. It was discovered in Dhiban, Jordan, in 1868 by a French Anglican medical missionary by the name of F.A. Klein.



Both documents, 2 Kings 3 and the Mesha Inscription, describe the same event, the revolt of Mesha, but from entirely different perspectives.

Mesha made his record of the event on a stone slab, or stela, 3 ft. high and 2 ft. wide. Unfortunately, the stone was broken into pieces by the local Bedouin before it could be acquired by the authorities. About two-thirds of the pieces were recovered and those, along with an impression made before the stela was destroyed, allowed all but the last line to be reconstructed. There are a total of 34 lines, written in Moabite, a language almost identical to Hebrew. It is the longest monumental inscription yet found in Palestine.

The heartland of Moab was the territory east of the southern half of the Dead Sea, from the great Arnon Gorge in the north to the Zered River in the south. North of the Arnon River, to about the northern end of the Dead Sea, was a disputed area called the “land of Medeba” in the Mesha Inscription (line 8). Medeba was a major city in the region some 18 mi. north of the Arnon. The area was sometimes under the control of Moab, sometimes under the control of others.


Mackey’s Comment: This last statement reveals the fluctuating fortunes of King Mesha as already mentioned.

The article continues (I do not necessarily accept as exact the dates given in this article):


At the time of the Conquest at the end of the 15th century BC, the region was occupied by the Amorites, who had earlier taken it from the Moabites (Num. 21:26). The Israelites then captured the area (Num. 21:24; Dt. 2:24, 36; 3:8, 16), with the tribe of Reuben taking possession (Jos. 13:16). The area seesawed back and forth for the next several centuries, passing to the Moabites (Jgs. 3:12), Israelites (Jgs. 3:30), Ammonites (Jgs. 11:13, 32-33), and back to Israel (Jgs. 11:32-33).

In the mid-ninth century BC, Mesha was successful in throwing off the yoke of Israel and bringing the area once again under the authority of Moab (1 Kgs. 3:5; Mesha Inscription).

2 Kings 3 recounts how Joram, Jehoshaphat, and the king of Edom combined forces to attempt to bring Moab back under Israelite control. They attacked from the south and were successful in routing the Moabite forces and destroying many towns (2 Kgs. 3: 24-25). But when the coalition tried to dislodge Mesha from Kir Hareseth (modern Kerak), they were unsuccessful. After Mesha sacrificed his oldest son on the ramparts of the city, “the fury against Israel was great; they withdrew and returned to their own land” (2 Kgs. 3: 27).

The campaign must have taken place between 848 and 841 BC, the only time when Joram and Jehoshaphat were both on the throne. Although the campaign met with some success, it appears that Moab retained its independence. This is confirmed by the Mesha Inscription.

The Mesha Inscription gives us “the rest of the story.” It reads, in fact, like a chapter from the Old Testament. Its language, terminology and phraseology are exactly the same as what we find in the Bible. Mesha credits his successful revolt and recapture of Moabite territory, as well as other accomplishments, to Chemosh, national god of Moab. He does not, of course, record his defeat in the south at the hands of the coalition armies. Similarly, although the Bible records Mesha’s revolt, it gives no details on his successes. So each record, accurate in its own way, records events from a different perspective.


Chronology of the Revolt of Mesha


The main problem in correlating the Mesha Inscription with the Bible has to do with synchronizing the chronology of the two sources. 2 Kings 3:5 (cf. 1:1) simply states,

“But after Ahab died, the king of Moab rebelled against the king of Israel.”

Ahab, father of Joram, died in ca. 853 BC, so Mesha’s revolt must have taken place some time after 853 BC. According to the Mesha Inscription,

Omri had taken possession of the land of Medeba. And he dwelt in it in his days and half [2] the days of his son [3]: 40 years; but Chemosh restored it in my days (lines 7-9).

The Mesha Inscription not only mentions Mesha, king of Moab, known in the Bible, but also Omri, one of the most powerful kings of the Northern Kingdom (1 Kgs. 16:21-28), who ruled 885-873 BC.

Omri established a dynasty which lasted until his grandson Joram was assassinated by Jehu in 841 BC. The term “son” in the inscription simply means descendent, as we know from the Bible and other ancient Near Eastern texts. Adding the years of Omri (12, 1 Kgs. 16:23), the years of his son Ahab (22, 1 Kgs. 16:29), the years of Ahab’s son Ahaziah (2, 1 Kgs. 22:52) and half the years of Joram, brother of Ahaziah, (6, 2 Kgs. 3:1), we obtain a span of 42 years. Some of the reigns of these kings could be common years, making the true span 40 years, or, the 40 year figure simply could be a round number. Thiele gives absolute years for the period from the beginning of the reign of Omri to the sixth year of Joram as 885 to 846 BC, or 40 years (1983: 217). Thus, it appears that Mesha revolted in the sixth year of Joram, ca. 846 BC. The Bible indicates that the retaliation by Joram recorded in 2 Kings 3 took place immediately upon Mesha’s revolt (verses 5-7), or 846 BC. This date falls within the time period of 848-841 BC when both Joram and Jehoshaphat were ruling.


The Gods of Israel and Moab


In describing his victories over Israel, Mesha tells of defeating the town of Nebo. Among the spoils he acquired were the “altarhearths? of Yahweh” (lines 17-18). This is the earliest mention of Yahweh, God of the Israelites, outside the Bible.

The Bible records the names of many deities worshipped by the nations around Israel. One of those gods is Chemosh. He is mentioned eight times in the Old Testament (Num. 21:29; Jgs. 11:24; 1 Kgs. 11:7, 33; 2 Kgs. 23:13; Jer. 48:7, 13, 46), always (with the exception of Jgs. 11:24) as the national god of the Moabites. The Mesha Inscription verifies that this indeed was the case. Chemosh is mentioned some 11 times in the inscription:


·         Mesha made a high place for Chemosh, since Chemosh gave Mesha victory over his enemies (line 3)

·         Because Chemosh was angry with Moab, Omri oppressed Moab (line 5)

·         Chemosh gave Moab back her territory (line 9)

·         Mesha slew the people of Ataroth to satisfy Chemosh (lines 11-12)

·         Mesha dragged the altarhearth(?) of Ataroth before Chemosh (lines 12-13)

·         Chemosh directed Mesha to attack the town of Nebo (line 14)

·         Mesha devoted the inhabitants of Nebo to Chemosh (line 17)

·         The altar-hearths(?) of Yahweh from Nebo were dragged before Chemosh (lines 17-18)

·         Chemosh drove the king of Israel out of Jahaz (lines 18-19)

·         Chemosh directed Mesha to fight against Horanaim (line 32)

·         Chemosh gave Mesha victory over Horanaim (line 33)

The Cities of Northern Moab


Most of the inscription is taken up with Mesha’s success in regaining the land of Medeba, the disputed territory north of the Arnon Gorge. He claims to have added 100 towns to his territory by means of his faithful army from Dibon:


[And] the men of Dibon were fitted out for war because all Dibon was obedient. And I ruled [over a] hundred of towns that I added to the land (lines 28-29).

Some 12 towns in the land of Medeba are mentioned, all of them known from the Old Testament.

“I am Mesha …the Dibonite” (line 1)


Mackey’s Comment: The next statement is the one that I believe actually refers to the re-building of Jericho, as foretold by Joshua.

The son-slaying Mesha (contemporary of Ahab) here meshes with the son-slaying Hiel (contemporary of Ahab). Thus we read:


Later on in the inscription he says,


I built Qeriho: the wall of the parkland and the wall of the acropolis; and I built its gates, and I built its towers; and I built the king’s house; and I made banks for the water reservoir inside the town; and there was no cistern inside the town, in Qeriho, and I said to all the people: “Make yourself each a cistern in his house”; and I dug the ditches for Qeriho with prisoners of Israel (lines 21-26).


Since Mesha erected his stela to honor Chemosh in “this high place for Chemosh in Qeriho,” and since the stela was found at Dhiban, identified as ancient Dibon, most scholars believe that Qeriho was the name of the royal citadel at Dibon. Note that Israelite captives were used to cut the timber used to construct Qeriho.


Mackey’s Comment: I do not believe that Mesha’s “Qeriho” was in Dibon.


Dibon was captured from the Amorites by Israel (Num. 21:21-25, 31) and assigned to the tribe of Reuben (Jos. 13:17). But evidently it was reassigned to the tribe of Gad, since Gad built the city (Num. 32:34) and it was called “Dibon of Gad”; (Num. 33:45, 46).


Dhiban Nabatean temple ruins

The site of Dhiban and was excavated 1950-1956 and 1965. A city wall and gateway were found, as well as a large podium which the excavators believe supported the royal quarter constructed by Mesha. In addition, a text from around the time of Mesha was found which refers to the “temple of Che[mosh],” and nearly 100 cisterns were found on the site and in the surrounding area, possibly made in response to Mesha’s directive to “make yourself each a cistern in his house” (lines 24- 25).


Mackey’s Comment: Jericho, too, had its own impressive cisterns. For example:



The article continues:


In his prophecy against Moab, Isaiah states, “Dibon goes up to its temple, to its high places to weep” (15:2, NIV). Jeremiah predicted that the fortified cities of Dibon would be ruined (48:18; cf. 48:21-22).

“And I built Baal Meon, and made a reservoir in it” (line 9)

Baal Meon was allotted to the Reubenites (Jos. 13:17, where it is called Beth Baal Meon), and built by them (Num. 32:38). An eighth century BC ostracon [an inscribed potsherd] from Samaria (no. 27) contains a reference to “Baala the Baalmeonite.” Jeremiah predicted that the judgment of God would come upon the city (48:23, where it is called Beth Meon). Ezekiel said God would expose the flank of Moab, beginning with its frontier towns, including Baal Meon (25:9). It is thought to be located at Kh. Ma’in, 5 mi southwest of modern Madaba, which has not been excavated.

Toward the end of the inscription, Baal Meon is mentioned again when Mesha records,

“And I built… the temple of Baal Meon; and I established there […] the sheep of the land” (lines 29-31).

The reference to sheep is significant, as it reflects the main occupation of the people of Moab, in agreement with the Bible. 2 Kings 3:4 tells us,

Now Mesha king of Moab raised sheep, and he had to supply the king of Israel with 100,000 lambs and with the wool of 100,000 rams.

“And I built Kiriathaim” (lines 9-10)

Kiriathaim was another city allotted to the Reubenites and built by them (Jos. 13:19; Num. 32:37). Jeremiah predicted that the city would be disgraced and captured (48:1), and Ezekiel said God would expose the flank of Moab, beginning with its frontier towns, including Kiriathaim (25:9). It is possibly located at al Qureiye, 6 mi. northwest of Madaba.

“And the men of Gad had dwelt in the land of Ataroth from of old” (line 10)

Mesha devoted 3 lines of his memorial to a description of his operation against Ataroth. Although mentioned only twice in the Old Testament, the city seems to have been an important place. The name means “crowns” and was said by the Reubenites and Gadites to be a good place for livestock (Num. 32:3-4). The Gadites built up Ataroth as a fortified city, and built pens there for their flocks (Num. 32:34-36). This agrees with Mesha’s inscription which says that the men of Gad had lived there “from of old.” Ataroth is most likely located at Kh. ‘Attarus, unexcavated, 8 mi. northwest of Dhiban.

The entire section dealing with Ataroth reads as follows:

And the men of Gad had dwelt in the land of Ataroth from of old, and the king of Israel built Ataroth for himself, but I fought against the town and took it, and I slew all the people: the town belonged to Chemosh and to Moab. And I brought thence the altarhearth of his Beloved, and I dragged it before Chemosh in Kerioth/my town. And I settled in it the men of Sharon and the men of Maharath (lines 10-14).

“And I brought thence the altarhearth of his Beloved, and I dragged it before Chemosh in Kerioth/my town” (lines 12-13)

Kerioth was judged by God (Jer. 48:24), with the town being captured and its strongholds taken (Jer. 48:41). Its location is uncertain. If “my town” is the correct reading in line 13, then the text refers to Dibon, Mesha’s capital.

“And Chemosh said to me: ‘Go! Take Nebo against Israel’” (line 14)

Mesha’s assault of Nebo is detailed in 4 lines, the most of any of the cities mentioned in the stela. Nebo is mentioned seven times in the Old Testament, being one of the cities built by the tribe of Reuben (Num. 32:38). In his prophecy against Moab, Isaiah wrote that Moab would wail over Nebo (15:2, NIV). Similarly, Jeremiah said that judgment would come upon her, and she would be laid waste (48:1, 22).

Mesha’s nighttime foray against Nebo is reported as follows:

And Chemosh said to me: “Go! Take Nebo against Israel.” And I went by night and fought against it from break of dawn till noon. And I took it and slew all: 7,000 men, boys, women, girls, and pregnant women, because I had devoted it to Ashtar-Chemosh. And I took thence the altar-hearths of YHWH and I dragged them before Chemosh (lines 14-18).

It appears that there was a worship center for Yahweh at Nebo since among the spoils were “altar hearths(?) of Yahweh.” It is perhaps for this reason that Mesha devoted the inhabitants to his god(s) Ashtar-Chemosh. The word used for “devoted” is the same as the Hebrew word harem used in the Old Testament for offering a city completely to Yahweh, such as Jericho (Jos. 6:17, 21). Nebo is most likely Kh. al Muhaiyat, northwest of Madaba and just south of Mt. Nebo.

“And the king of Israel had built Jahaz (lines 18-19)

Jahaz is the town where the Israelites fought and defeated Sihon and his Amorite army as they first approached the promised land (Num. 21:21-31; Dt. 2:31-36; Jgs. 11:19-22). It was included in the Reubenite allotment (Jos. 13:18), and later transferred to the Levites (Jos. 21:36; 1 Chr. 6:78). Jeremiah predicted doom for the city as part of God’s judgment against Moab (48:21, 34). Mesha goes on to say,

And the king of Israel had built Jahaz, and dwelt therein while he fought against me; but Chemosh drove him out from before me, and I took from Moab 200 men, all the chiefs thereof, and I established them in Jahaz; and I took it to add it to Dibon (lines 18-21).

Here, Mesha refers to a northern campaign by the king of Israel which is not recorded in the Old Testament. In order to achieve victory, Mesha had to marshal the best of his forces, 200 chiefs. Once captured, Jahaz became a daughter city of Dibon. The location of Jahaz is uncertain, although Kh. Medeineyeh 10 mi southeast of Madaba is a likely candidate.

“I built Aroer, and made the highway through the Arnon (line 26)

The name Aroer means “crest of a mountain,” and that certainly describes this site. It was a border fortress located at Kh. ‘Ara’ir on the northern rim of the Arnon river gorge. Three seasons of excavation were carried out there between 1964 and 1966. Remnants of the fortress constructed by the king of Israel were found, as well as a substantial new fortress constructed by Mesha over the earlier one. In addition, a reservoir to store rainwater was built on the northwest side of the fortress.




Aroer marked the southern boundary of the Transjordanian territory originally captured by the Israelites (Dt. 2:36; 3:12; 4:48; Jos. 12:2; 13:9, 16, 25). It was occupied and fortified by the Gadites (Nm. 32:34). Later, the prophet Jeremiah said that the inhabitants of Aroer would witness fleeing refugees as God poured out His wrath on the cities of Moab (48:19-20).

“I built Beth Bamoth, for it was destroyed” (line 27)

The Beth Bamoth of the Mesha Stela is most likely the same as the Bamoth Baal of the Old Testament. It was here that God met with Balaam (Num. 22:41-23:5); the town was later given to the tribe of Reuben (Jos. 13:17). The location of the place is uncertain.

“And I built Bezer, for it was in ruins” (line 27)

Under the Israelites, Bezer was a Levitical city and a city of refuge (Dt. 4:43; Jos 20:8; 21:36; 1 Chr. 6:78). It may be the same as Bozrah in Jer. 48:24, a Moabite city judged by God. Its location is uncertain.

“And I built [the temple of Mede]ba (lines 29-30)

The city of Medeba was conquered and occupied by Israel (Nu. 21:30; Jos. 13:9, 16). It suffered under the hand of God when He poured out His judgment on Moab (Isa. 15:2). The ancient site is located at modern Madaba, and remains unexcavated.

“And I built …the temple of Diblaten” (lines 29-30)

Diblaten is mentioned in Jeremiah’s oracle against Moab as Beth Diblathaim (48:22) and is possibly the same as Almon Diblathaim, a stopping place for the Israelites as they approached the promised land (Num. 33:46-47). It is perhaps located at Deleitat esh-Sherqiyeh 10 mi. north-northeast of Dhiban, but that location is far from certain.


The House of David and Southern Moab


“And the house [of Da]vid dwelt in Horanaim” (line 31)

Line 31 is perhaps the most significant line in the entire inscription. In 1993, a stela was discovered at Tel Dan in northern Israel mentioning the “House of David” (Bible and Spade, Autumn 1993: 119-121). This mid-ninth century BC inscription provided the first mention of David in a contemporary text outside the Bible. The find is especially significant since in recent years several scholars have questioned the existence of David. At about the same time the Dan stela was found, French scholar Andre Lemaire was working on the Mesha Inscription and determined that the same phrase appeared there in line 31 (Bible and Spade, Summer 1995: 91-92). Lemaire was able to identify a previously indistinguishable letter as a “d” in the phrase “House of David.” This phrase is used a number of times in the Old Testament for the Davidic dynasty.

From this point on in Mesha’s record it appears that he is describing victories south of the Arnon river, an area previously controlled by Judah. Although there are only three lines left in the surviving portion, Lemaire believes we only have about half of the original memorial (1994: 37). The missing half would have told how Mesha regained the southern half of Moab from Judah. The complete text regarding Horanaim reads as follows:

And the house [of Da]vid dwelt in Horanaim […] and Chemosh said to me: “Go down! Fight against Horanaim.” And I went down, and [I fought against the town, and I took it; and] Chemosh [resto]red it in my days (lines 31-33).

Horanaim is mentioned in Isaiah’s prophecy against Moab (15:5). He says that fugitives would lament their destruction as they travelled the road to Horanaim. Jeremiah says much the same in 48:3, 5, and 47. The town is located south of the Arnon, but exactly where is a matter of conjecture.




  1. The translation used in this article is that of A. Lemaire (1994: 33).
  2. In his translation, Lemaire renders the word hsy as “sum.” We have adopted the meaning “half,” from classical Hebrew, which is the meaning used by most other translators.
  3. Lemaire translates bnh as “sons.” It is uncertain from the consonantal text whether it should be “son” or “sons.” We have chosen “son,” in agreement with most other translations, since it is more consistent with the historical reconstruction proposed here.


  • Dearman, A., ed. 1989 Studies in the Mesha Inscription and Moab. Atlanta: Scholars Press.
  • Lemaire, A. 1994 “House of David Restored in Moabite Inscription”. Biblical Archaeology Review 20/3: 30-37.
  • Thiele, E.R. 1983 The Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings. Grand Rapids MI: Zondervan.


[End of quote]


No clear mention here of “Bethel”, the town with which Hiel is associated.

But the location and identification of some of the places to which Mesha refers are, as a according to the above, “a matter of conjecture”.

It would make sense, though, that were Hiel/Mesha to re-build at the site of Jericho, then he (his Syrian allies) must of necessity have had control over other towns as well in the region.




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