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Near East Kingdoms

Ancient Levantine States

 

Israelites & Israel

Today's Israel and Palestine are irrevocably linked in terms of their history. The former was carved out of a large proportion of the already-expanded latter from 1948. Before that though lies four thousand years of history, sometimes recorded, sometimes alluded to, and sometimes a complete mystery. Unpicking it to establish a relatively stable story has been the work of decades, and even today there are differences of opinion regarding many of the details.

The region in which both names came to be created was Canaan, the long Mediterranean coast between ancient Syria and Egypt which today is known as the Levant. Various independent or united Semitic-speaking city states formed in this region from around 3000 BC onwards, reaching a peak of independent development in the second millennium BC. It was during the climate-induced social collapse of the late thirteenth century BC that both a state known as Israel and a region known as Palestine emerged, giving both terms similar founding dates (very approximately), with the Phoenicians emerging to the immediate north during the same period.

Then came the age of great empires in the form of the Persians, Greeks, Romans, Eastern Romans, Islam, and the Ottomans, until the twentieth century saw the most recent phase of empire-building come to an end and individual sovereign states emerge.

The term 'Israelite' is often used interchangeably with the terms 'Hebrew' and 'Jew', but these terms are not strictly interchangeable. The specific term 'Israelites', or 'people of Israel', is best used only for periods after the followers of Yahweh undertook their exodus from Egypt. It can also be used conveniently for the earlier period in which these people were subject to patriarchs (approximately between the eighteenth and sixteenth centuries BC).

The term loses its accuracy after the united kingdom of Israel under David and Solomon divided into the kingdoms of Samaria and Judah around 927 BC. The Old Testament tends usually to use the term 'Hebrew' for the entire period before 1000 BC, but it is best to avoid it here due to controversy surrounding its origins (regarding whether it descends from 'Eber', the ancestor of Abraham, or habiru, a general term for brigands and the dispossessed).

Phoenicians shifting cedarwood from shore to land

(Information by Peter Kessler and from the John De Cleene Archive, with additional information by Sean Bambrough & Wayne McCleese, from The Amarna Letters, William L Moran (1992), from the Illustrated Dictionary & Concordance of the Bible, Geoffrey Wigoder (Gen Ed, 1986), from Jewish War & Jewish Antiquities, Flavius Josephus, from Unger's Bible Dictionary, Merrill F Unger (1957), from Easton's Bible Dictionary, Matthew George Easton (1897), from Egypt, Canaan and Israel in Ancient Times, Donald Redford (Princeton University Press, 1992), and from External Links: Encyclopædia Britannica, and Bible Atlas.)

Israelites (Canaan)

In the mid-third millennium BC, city states began to appear in Syria as people benefited from interaction with Sumer and from improvements in irrigation. Within five hundred years, around 2000 BC, the same process was happening farther south and west, in the Levant, along the Mediterranean coast. Semitic-speaking Canaanite tribes occupied much of the area, creating a patchwork of city states of their own. The Phoenicians (more Canaanites) also occupied parts of this region, eventually founding their own mighty seaborne trading empire.

According to tradition, the Israelites were Semitic émigrés from southern Mesopotamia who left the city of Ur during the reign of Hammurabi of Babylonia, when his post-Sumerian empire was at its height. Forming a small confederation of tribes, they initially settled on the coast of the Dead Sea, before being forced to emigrated to Egypt. A dramatic return centuries later was recorded only in the Old Testament, during which they forged or took over several small kingdoms in Canaan during the period of deep social unrest in the thirteenth and twelfth centuries BC.

Oral history almost always has a core truth at its heart (something which can sometimes be forgotten by scholars who wander off at tangents with imaginative theories about tribal origins). The assertion that the Israelites came from Mesopotamia has to be taken at face value. However, it doesn't necessarily have to refer to a wave of thirteen tribes and several hundred or more tribespeople wandering into Canaan in the eighteenth century BC. Archaeology alone has disproved such an event.

Instead, as with tribal associations everywhere in history, the arrivals probably formed a small but powerful - and possibly more technologically advanced - group which quickly became important in regional events. As with other such cases, such as various tribes of the Celts and Germanics, or the Mitanni when they arrived to dominate the Hurrians, the new arrivals were in command, but their own customs were quickly replaced by those of their majority subjects (if they differed at all), making them also look Canaanite in origin. Given that they were most likely Semitic-speakers anyway, the transition would not have been a great one.

In at least part of their existence in Canaan the Israelites may have been part of the habiru phenomenon (which may or may not be a source for the name 'Hebrew'), possibly when they migrated into Canaan from Mesopotamia, but even more likely in the twelfth century BC. This was when they supposedly invaded Canaan through Edom and Moab, penetrating as far north as Amurru in Syria. This term seems first to have been used for a range of outsiders, from unemployed farm labourers and vagrants to mounted mercenary archers. The context differed depending upon where the references were found. Although it may originally have referred to just about any marginal people who lived outside state controls, there is nothing to preclude one such group becoming the later Hebrews.

While the Bible's Old Testament is the primary source for much of the information on the second and first millennium BC Israelites, the Jewish historian, Flavius Josephus, also provides a highly interesting interpretation in Greek for his predominantly Roman audience in his massive work, Jewish Antiquities. The early parts of this list are largely made up of a combination of incidents from both sources.

The dating here agrees with sources such as Oxford, but others date Abraham to about 2000 BC, Joseph at about 1800 BC, Moses at about 1400 BC, and David and Solomon at 1000/900 BC, a timeline stretched to about two centuries longer than Oxford's. There are various other chronologies which differ to some degree (including the orthodox dating, or Thiele, Usher, or Rohl (an exceptionally unorthodox dating which has been greeted with near-universal disdain), or Velikovsky, or even Courville).

The book of Genesis provides Terah's ancestry back to Noah, but many of these names are fanciful attempts to link to ancient kingdoms and states. Additionally, the ages of the earliest figures mentioned here must be taken with a pinch of salt. The names of direct descendants, though, may well be correct, part of an oral tradition which, in any culture, has always placed a strong emphasis on ensuring an unbroken list of ancestors. The first set of names are shown below with a lilac background to highlight their near-mythical status. Spellings vary, taken from Hebrew and Greek sources mainly.

Phoenicians shifting cedarwood from shore to land

(Information by Peter Kessler and from the John De Cleene Archive, with additional information by Sean Bambrough (on Israelite dating, the figure of Joseph, and the Amarna letters), and Wayne McCleese (the list of Abraham's ancestors), from The Amarna Letters, William L Moran (1992), from the Illustrated Dictionary & Concordance of the Bible, Geoffrey Wigoder (Gen Ed, 1986), from A Test of Time, David Rohl (Arrow, 2001), from A Dictionary of the Targumim, the Talmud Babli and Yerushalmi, and the Midrashic Literature, Marcus Jastrow (G P Putnam's Sons, 1903), from the Book of Jubilees (otherwise known as the Lesser Genesis (Leptogenesis), by unknown ancient Jewish religious authors), from Jewish War & Jewish Antiquities, Flavius Josephus, from Encyclopaedia Britannica (Eleventh Edition, Cambridge (England), 1910), and from the NOVA/PBS documentary series, The Bible's Buried Secrets, first broadcast 18 November 2008.)

fl c.2090s? BC

Noah

Son. Aged 100 when Arphaxad born.

c.2090? BC

The Old Testament provides a list of descendants from Noah to Abraham, along with the ages of each descendant at the time his own son is born. While many of those ages seem plausible, the earliest do not. A rough calculation of about twenty to thirty years for each generation supplies an approximate date of 2090 BC for Noah.

Sumerian flood tablet
The Sumerian flood story includes a depiction of a large vessel which is packed with various objects and, presumably, animals, clearly showing a basis for the later Old Testament flood story of Noah and the ark

His Israelite descendants supposedly emigrate from Ur around 1750 BC, but while there is no confirmation either way that they have previously been long term residents of Ur or its immediate environs, much of their story probably comes from this region (including the Biblical flood, which can be equated with the Sumerian Flood story).

fl c.2060s? BC

Shem

Son. Aged 100 when Arphaxad born.

The sons of Shem are said to be Arphaxad, Elam, Asshur, Lud, and Aram. While the first name is of uncertain origin (and therefore possibly genuine), the others are clearly attempts to create founder figures for several important ancient kingdoms.

Elam relates to the land of that name, and an important and powerful kingdom at this time. Asshur (Ashur) is the name of a northern Mesopotamian city state - one of three - which together are better known as Assyria. Lud is connected with Lydia (the Luddu of Assyrian records) and their Luwian predecessors (although the Assyrian Lubdu in areas of western Media may be a better connection). Aram is the father of Uz ben Shem, a founder figure for Damascus.

fl c.2030s? BC

Arphaxad / Arpachshad

Son. Aged 35 when Salah born.

fl c.2010s? BC

Salah / Shelah / Sala

Son (or son of Cainan, son of Arphaxad). Aged 30 for Eber.

fl c.1880s? BC

Eber / Heber

Son. Aged 34 when Peleg born. Inhabitant of Babylon?

The name Eber appears to relate to 'crossing over and the beyond'. This has been deciphered as an origin for the name 'Hebrew' and a meaning which suggests the crossing of the Euphrates and the land beyond it, clearly a reference to the later westwards Israelite migration.

Map of Anatolia and Environs 2000 BC
At the start of the second millennium BC, a series of small city states in Anatolia which had existed for perhaps a millennium now began to emerge from obscurity (click or tap on map to view full sized)

Eber is an ancestor figure of the Israelites and the Ishmaelites (Ishmael being a son of Abraham), as well as of the original Arabs in Islamic tradition. Since all are Semitic-speakers, a shared origin is not unlikely.

The Book of Jubilees mentions the Biblical Nimrod, king of Babylon, with the name in its Greek form - Nebrod. He is the father of Azurad who herself becomes the wife of Eber and mother of Peleg. This account would therefore make him an ancestor of the Israelites themselves.

As the Israelite leaders can be dated approximately, so too can Nimrod, although it places him at the very start of Babylon's rise as a major city state. Eber is claimed to be present during the building of Nimrod's 'Tower of Babel', while Peleg witnesses the division of humanity into speakers of different languages (suggestive of enforced migrations out of a homeland which is probably the climate-changed Sumer of around 2000 BC).

fl c.1860s? BC

Peleg / Phaleg

Son. Aged 30 (or 130) when Reu born.

fl c.1830s? BC

Reu / Ragau

Son. Aged 32 when Serug born.

fl c.1800? BC

Serug / Saruch

Son. Aged 30 (or 130) when Nahor born. An inhabitant of Ur.

fl c.1770s? BC

Nahor / Nachor / Naghor

Son. Aged 29 when Terah born. An inhabitant of Ur.

c.1752 - 1750 BC

Terah / Terach

Son. Aged 70 when Abraham born. Began exodus from Ur.

c.1750 BC

Terah leads his people to settle in Harran, a city far up and to the east of the Euphrates. This lies on the approximate border between Syria and the lands of the Hatti in Anatolia. Progress any farther north is unlikely as the Hatti are currently being overwhelmed by the recently-arrived Hittites. Terah dies in Harran.

Israelites
This slightly fanciful view of the migrating Israelites does show a surprisingly small number of participants (more are cropped off from the left, but even so their numbers are very finite), something which chimes with the 'ruling elite' theory of migration detailed in the introduction, above

His son, Abraham, inherits leadership of his community. The Encyclopaedia Britannica, eleventh edition of 1910, suggests that he and his people are Semitic-speaking Amorites rather than Semitic-speaking migrants from Ur. In fact the two options need not be opposing, as Amorites have had about three centuries to integrate into Mesopotamia before this point.

Abraham begins to formulate his theories of a single God to replace the typical polytheism of the vast majority of Near Easterners. He determines to persuade all others of the virtues of worshipping a single deity, unless they can come up with a better theory which will persuade him otherwise.

Abraham also adopts his late brother's son, Lot, as his own (presumably as his potential successor in light of his own failure to produce a son). The group heads south into Canaan where Abraham and his immediate followers occupy the region around the later Jebusite city of Hebron, while Lot settles his followers on the plain near the River Jordan and the city of Sodom.

Mount Sodom near the Dead Sea
Mount Sodom near the Dead Sea may have overlooked the 'Vale of Siddim' and the five cities which are mentioned in this instance of attempted eastern domination of Canaan

The Old Testament also reports on the 'five cities of the plain' in Canaan, which include Salem, as well as their overlords who come into conflict not only with Abraham's people but also with the rebelling cities. Lot comes to the assistance of his neighbours, the people of Sodom (the cities are defeated anyway, but apparently continue to thrive). Later in his life, Abraham is credited with introducing circumcision to his followers, at a time at which they are clearly still tent dwellers.

fl c.1750 - 1700 BC

Abraham / Avram / Abram

Son. Led the tribe to Canaan, and introduced 'Yahweh'.

fl c.1750 BC

Aram ben Nahor / Haran / Aran

Brother. Ancestor figure of all Aramaeans. Died in Ur.

fl c.1750 BC

Lot

Son of Aram ben Nahor. Adopted by Abraham.

c.1740 BC

Moab, first son of Lot (after the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah) and grandnephew of Abraham, gains the stretch of land between the River Arnon and the Brook of Zered on the coast of the Dead Sea. This area forms the kingdom of Moab. Ben Ammi, an illegitimate son of Lot, gains Ammon, east of the River Jordan and on Moab's northern border.

Plains of Moab
The Plains of Moab lay on the eastern side of the River Jordan, opposite Jericho, and it was here that the Israelites mourned the death of Moses

fl c.1740 BC

Moab

Son of Lot. Ruler of Moab.

fl c.1740 BC

Ben Ammi

Son of Lot. Ruler of Ammon.

fl c.1700 BC

Ismael / Ishmael

Son of Abraham. Ancestor figure of Kedarites & Nabataeans.

fl c.1700 BC

Isaac

Son of Abraham.

c.1700 BC

A late son of Abraham, Isaac is his successor as leader of the early Israelites. He lives much of his life in Hebron and eventually dies there, but with at least one interruption in the meantime - during a period of famine he (and by inference his tribe) is forced to seek refuge with the Canaanite ruler of later Philistine territory, Abimelech of Gerar (son of the Abimelech who had previously had dealings with Abraham).

Abimelech later visits Isaac when he is encamped at Beer-sheba, and expresses a desire to renew the covenant which had been entered into between their fathers.

Isaac's eldest son is Esau, and he eventually gains his birthright (despite his brother's attempts to steal it from him). This is territory which is centred around Mount Seir, from the Brook of Zered to the Sinai peninsula, which becomes the kingdom of Edom.

Possible location of Edom
While some scholars continued to insist that the lack of historical evidence for an Edomite state meant that there was no such state at all, some of the required archaeological proof may have been unearthed in 2019 (see sources, above)

fl c.1700 BC

Esau

Son. Ruler of Edom.

fl c.1650 BC

Jacob / 'Israel'

Brother. Named 'Israel' to reflect new covenant.

c.1650 BC

Jacob spends some years in Harran, where he meets his wives. As he returns them and his large family to Hebron, Jacob stops off at the Canaanite city of Shechem where his daughter is attacked, so Jacob's sons slay all the males within the city walls. Upon his return home, Jacob succeeds Isaac as the leader of his people, with his twelve sons forming the basis of the later tribes of Israel.

The Israelites are presumed to descend into Egypt to escape famine just as Lower Egypt is being invaded and governed by the Hyksos. This fact probably makes Israelite entrance and acceptance easier. They settle in the region of modern Cairo, at first as welcomed guests but later enduring worsening conditions and eventually slavery.

More recent theories have diverted away from the idea that it is Hyksos Egypt which the Israelites enter. Some scholars place the early Israelites even earlier, by as much as four centuries, with them interacting with Twelfth Dynasty Egypt. Another school of thought prefers a much earlier period, Third Dynasty Egypt under Zoser, based on the idea that early Egyptian dating is still incorrect, with Menes being placed up to seven hundred years too early.

Depictions of the Hyksos
The Hyksos were foreign invaders who brought chaos when they invaded Egypt, although chemical analysis of tooth enamel reveals that they had actually settled in Egypt for some years before taking power

fl c.1625 BC

Joseph / Zaphnath-Paaneah

Son. Leader of the Israelites in Hyksos Egypt.

According to the available sources, Joseph (as the vizier, Zaphnath-Paaneah) is the focus of Hebrew leadership when the Israelites first arrive in Egypt, but their deteriorating conditions mean that the situation four hundred years later is very different, with no apparent ruling house, although a Hebrew nobility survives.

fl c.1625 BC

Ephraim & Manasses

Sons. Israelite tribal ancestors.

fl c.1625 BC

Reuben / Reven

Elder brother of Joseph. Founded tribe of Reuben.

fl c.1625 BC

Simeon

Brother. Founded tribe of Simeon. Possibly a later addition.

fl c.1625 BC

Levi

Brother. Founded the tribe of Levi.

fl c.1550? BC

Caath / Kehath / Kohath

Son. Founded the Kehathites (a Levite division).

c.1500 BC

Archaeological dating for the destruction of Jericho places it around this point in time, right in the middle of the period in which the Israelites are supposedly in Egypt. Any attribution of the act to Joshua must be a later act, one which compresses several centuries of events.

Walled Jericho
During the third millennium BC Jericho was gradually expanded and enriched with improved building work and stone walls

fl c.1500? BC

Amram

Son. Father of Moses.

1500s - 1200s

The direct line of descent between Joseph and Moses is hopelessly short for the timescale involved. Abraham is generally dated to the eighteenth century BC (although various contesting theories can tend to place him even earlier). As his great-grandsons, Joseph and Levi are therefore likely to live in the 1600s BC, and even then the dates given here are generous.

Likewise, giving the longest reasonable life spans for Levi and his succeeding generations - Caath and Amran - still leaves a hole of about a century and-a-half - at least. Should the timescale be compressed to remove this difference or are there names missing? Given that much of this Old Testament 'history' is only written down in any permanent sense in the sixth century BC during the 'Princes in Exile' period, the latter option is certainly a possibility.

c.1371 - 1358 BC

The Amarna letters between Egypt and Assyria, and the city states of Syria and Canaan, describe the disruptive activities of the habiru, painting them as a threat to the stability of the region.

Rohl's discredited theory is that the habiru of the Amarna letters are the later Israelites of David. Findings may indicate that the three years of drought, famine, and plague of the Amarna letters and those of David's time may be the same, but of course there is nothing to say that similar drought-related events could not be repeated over the course of the three or four hundred years between the usual dating for these two periods.

Tushratta tablet to Amenhotep III
The cuneiform tablet inscribed with a letter from Tushratta, king of Mitanni, to Pharaoh Amenhotep III, covers various subjects such as the killing of the murderers of the Mitanni king's brother and a fight against the Hittites

Another theory is that Moses (an individual who is undoubtedly much closer to the period in which the Amarna letters are written than is David) is 'the rebel Mesh' of amelut-sagaz-Mesh (habiru) of the Amarna letters.

c.1230 BC

Roughly four hundred years have passed since the Israelite descent into Egypt (a few scholars say only two hundred years). The Hebrews have multiplied from a band of seventy into a people who number thousands, but they have been reduced to slavery.

A nobility still exists, however, and is represented in the sources by the descendants of Levi. The most recent of his descendants is Moses, who possibly fulfils the role of an advisor or even minister to an unnamed pharaoh who may be Ramses II.

fl c.1230 - 1170 BC

Moses

Son. Died after the conquest of Moab.

Moses now leads the loose confederation of Israelite tribes out of Egypt, shortly after his marriage to a Midianite woman, Zipporah, daughter of Jethro the priest-king of the Midianite sub-tribe, the Kenites.

Mount Nebo
Mount Nebo in the north of Moab is reputedly the spot at which Moses died, within sight of the promised land on the other side of the Dead Sea

Moses is also claimed as an ancestor figure of the early Ethiopian kings. Strangely, and perhaps not coincidentally, the Old Testament has Moses first encountering his god, Yahweh, in the form of a burning bush when he reaches the land of the Midianites. Egyptian records mention that the Midianites (whom they know as Shasu) are found at a place called YHW (probably pronounced 'yahoo') in the deserts of southern Jordan. The name seems to be picked up by the Israelites and passed on to others they meet in Canaan.

c.1200s - 1020 BC

This is the period of Israelite settlement after the traditional exodus from Egypt. At this time, there is general instability in the region: the Hittite empire is destroyed in Anatolia, the Canaanites begin to be reduced to owning the shores of Lebanon (eventually to become the sea traders known as the Phoenicians), the Philistines and other Sea Peoples are first settling on the lower coast of the Levant, and various neo-Hittite city states are arising in northern Syria, many of which come into contact with the Israelites.

It has been strongly suggested that the Israelites themselves are Canaanites (they have certainly interbred with Canaanites prior to their time in Egypt), and that the exodus never occurs. This theory seems to be backed up by archaeological finds, and in recent years the idea has gained strength.

Habu relief at Medinet
Attacks by the Sea Peoples gathered momentum during the last decade of the thirteenth century BC, quickly reaching a peak which lasted about forty years

The climate-induced social collapse of the end of the thirteenth century BC - and the long lead-up towards it of perhaps a century - results in groups of dispossessed people congregating in Canaan in new groups, new communities. Known by the established powers by various names, including habiru, these groups would appear in essence to be drop-outs from established society, people who want to find a new way of living outside what they see as an unjust and restrictive society.

Following the social collapse these new communities seemingly emerge as a new people, with new, unfussy pottery, little art, simplistic houses with no grand structures, and the beginnings of a monotheistic culture (the followers of Yahweh). They have formed the people who come to be known as the Israelites (probably alongside several other new groups).

If, on the other hand, the exodus is at its core accurate, if somewhat exaggerated, then the Old Testament affords an almost unique look at the settlement of a people in the ancient Near East. There is no evidence to support a mass migration, but the movement of a smaller group is viable.

Relief from Medinet Habu
Shown here is a relief from Medinet Habu which details Philistines with their distinctive feathered headdresses, making them an unusual sight on the battlefield

As they arrive and settle in the region, these Israelites may join up with the habiru who have settled in the hill country, and they may be joined by late additions to their confederation of tribes: the tribes of Asher and Dan appear to originate from the Weshesh and Danya. In local politics the Israelites have various dealings with the city states in the Dead Sea region of Canaan and southern Syria. These are mostly attempts at conquest, successful or otherwise.

1208 BC

In a brief addendum to his victory stele. Pharaoh Merneptah of Egypt mentions that Ashkelon, Gaza, and Yanoam (in the north Jordan Valley) have been captured and that Israel 'has been shorn. Its seed no longer exists'.

The first two cities have probably already been captured by the invading Philistines and are therefore targets for 'rescue' by a civilised king. Israel, too, is the name given to a recently-arrived or formed group which would need to be brought to heel (although the claim that its seed no longer exists is mere boastfulness). This is the earliest definitive mention in history of a people named 'Israel'.

Egyptian jackal-headed deity
Wooden figure of a jackal-headed deity from the Valley of the Kings, Nineteenth or Twentieth Dynasty, representing either Anubis or Duamutef, one of the four sons of Horus

c.1200 - 1198 BC

The Israelites conquer the Canaanite city of Arad and defeat the Amalekites before going on, within the next couple of years, to defeat Moab and subjugate it. It has to be wondered whether the Israelites (and even Moabites) are aware of their shared origins (at least according to the Old Testament).

Have the Moabites been so dominated by Amorites that they are no longer regarded as brothers, or is their connection a fabrication by later Old Testament writers? A number of minor city states are also conquered by the Israelites, including those of the Midianites (more related peoples) and various other Canaanite cities.

c.1186 - 1168 BC

In a reversal of their early good fortune, the Israelites suffer a setback when the Philistines move inland from the coast and briefly conquer and occupy areas of Canaan, including the settlements of the Israelites. Archaeological evidence for a mass settling of people at this time has yet to be found, suggesting that the Philistines are formed of small, mobile groups who take a while to establish themselves and assume control of the region.

Amorites, Semitic-speaking farmers
Amorites, Semitic-speaking farmers from the south who integrated into Mesopotamia, and then Syria and Canaan

c.1170 - 1140s BC

Joshua / Yehoshua

Son of Nun. Leader at start of the Settlement period.

c.1170 BC

Adonizedec, 'Master of Zedec', leads the fragmented Jebusites tribes from his stronghold of Shalem against Joshua, but they are defeated at Gibeon. They apparently suffer again at Beth-horon, not only from attacks by their pursuers, but also from a great hail storm.

A town known as Beroth is included as a supporter of this Canaanite coalition. Thought to be the modern site of El-Bireh, located about fourteen kilometres to the north of Shalem, this should not be confused with the larger Phoenician city of Beroth (modern Beirut).

The five allied kings take refuge in a cave at Makkedah (an allied city which is conquered within the next decade during the Israelite Settlement period), and are imprisoned there until after the battle, when Joshua commands that they be brought before him. They are brought out, humiliated, and put to death, and Jebusite Shalem is conquered by the Israelites.

The mound of Tell Megiddo
The archaeological site of Tel Megiddo in Israel is the location of the city of Megiddo in the Old Testament and other surviving records, as well as being the basis of the New Testament's 'Armageddon' (the Greek form of its name)

They take control of the city, with the region being occupied by the tribes of Benjamin and Judah.However,they apparently lose the city again, twenty years later during an invasion by the Philistines.

c.1160s BC

According to the Old Testament, the Israelites conquer a large number of cities in this decade, mostly Canaanite, and including Dor, Gezer, Megiddo, Shimron-meron, and Tirzah (the original capital of the later kingdom of Samaria). Not all of these conquests can be backed up by archaeological evidence, however.

In fact, archaeology has shown very little evidence of warfare in relation to most Canaanite cities around this time. The archaeological dating for the destruction of Jericho actually places that event at about 1500 BC, right in the middle of the period in which the Israelites had supposedly been in Egypt.

It is also claimed that it is Joshua who finally expels the Anakim from the lands he has claimed, with some going to Philistine cities such as Ashdod, Gath, and Gezer.

Tel Gezer
The modern archaeological site of Tel Gezer was once the Canaanite city of Gezer, a member of the pentapolis which regulated trade into Egypt

c.1150 BC

After apparently being militarily dominant since their arrival half a century before (Philistines aside), the Israelites suffer a reversal in fortunes when at least some of them are subdued by Moab. More of their territory, in the south, is conquered by the Philistines who maintain vassal kings in Israel, while Aram-Nahara'im dominates them in the north.

Jerusalem is possibly freed entirely from Israelite control at this stage, as King David is forced to re-conquer it in 975 BC. In between this reversal and that reconquest though is a period of history in which the Israelite Judges govern in place of the tribal patriarchs.

 
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