March 15, 2008
A previous blog at this site discussed an article by Norman Franklin (“Lost Tombs of the Israelite Kings”) in the July-August, 2007 issue of Biblical Archeology Review. That article asserted that the tombs of some of the ancient kings of Israel had been found at Samaria, and that they most likely were the tombs of Kings Omri and Ahab. I thought Ms. Franklin’s arguments and documentation were persuasive.
However, as those readers who read issues of BAR realize, almost every new “find” or biblical analysis is disputed by other scholars in that magazine’s pages. Anything which affirms the narratives of the Bible is especially challenged by a group of habitual skeptics called the “minimalists.” These minimalists are given that term as they always seek to undermine the Bible’s accounts concerning any archaeological discovery. Ms. Franklin’s article lent support to biblical narratives about ancient Israel, so it is not surprising that her article was disputed. In her case, a writer named David Ussishkin challenged the conclusions of her article. In the current issue (March/April, 2008) of Biblical Archaeology Review, Ms. Franklin’s defense of her original article is published. Her response is in the “Another View” section and is entitled “Don’t Be So Quick To Be Disappointed, David Ussishkin.” A link to the story is provided below.
In her response, Ms. Franklin points out inconsistencies in Mr. Ussishkin’s objections, and points out that it is a mistake for Mr. Ussishkin to assume that a “…ninth-century B.C.E. Israelite tomb [will] resemble eight-and seventh-century Judahite tombs…” Ms. Franklin’s observation is quite well-taken as the Bible makes it clear that the kingdoms of Israel and Judah took separate cultural paths after the historic breach in which the northern ten tribes became the kingdom of Israel and the southern tribes became the kingdom of Judah. I Kings 12:25-33 records the efforts of King Jeroboam, the first king of Israel, to create a complete cultural and religious breach between Israel and Judah. Indeed, Jeroboam took extraordinary measures to cut off physical contacts between the subjects of each kingdom. After this breach, the culture, language and religion of the northern kingdom of Israel essentially merged with the “Phoenician” culture of Tyre, Sidon, etc. while Judah generally preserved a more classic “Hebrew” culture. Given the state-sanctioned efforts by Israelite kings to create a cultural breach between the two kingdoms, one would expect to see different royal burial customs as well.
Also favoring Ms. Franklin’s assertions is the fact that they are consistent with biblical statements about the burial locations of Israelite kings. As she notes in her response, Isaiah 14:18 states that “All the kings of the nations reposed each one in his own house,” and her identifications of the burial tombs are, indeed, built into the ancient Israelite palace complex. Her original article also noted that I Kings 16:28, 22:37, II Kings 10:35, 13:9, and 14:16 and 29 all indicate that the kings of ancient Israel were buried at Samaria. This biblical narratives confirm that the tombs of the Israelite kings must be found at the ruins of ancient Samaria, and that is exactly where Ms. Franklin has found them, so I still find her conclusions to be persuasive.
On a related point, the lead article in the March-April, 2008 issue of BAR concerns the documentation and controversy over the finding of what is arguably the royal seal of the wicked ancient Israelite Queen Jezebel. Jezebel was from the royal house of Sidon (I Kings 16:31) and her intermarriage with King Ahab of the royal house of Israel confirms that the cultural link and political alliance between Israel and the “Phoenician” cities of Tyre and Sidon were very strong long after the Kingdom of Israel split from the kingdom of Judah. I’ve put the word “Phoenician” in quotation marks because, as readers of my books know, the Phoenician Empire was great in its Golden Age period due to the inclusion of the northern ten tribes in the Phoenician alliance. The Bible relates that Kings David, Solomon, Jeroboam I and Ahab all maintained a very close alliance with the city-states of Tyre and Sidon, and the Phoenician navy and merchant fleet was jointly crewed by Israelite, Tyrian and Sidonian crews (I Kings 9:26-27, 10:22, II Chronicles 8:17-18, 9:21). Ms. Franklin’s article about the tombs of the Israelite kings pertains to the reigns of Kings Omri and Ahab (the husbands of Jezebel) so the articles concern the same historical periods in ancient Israel. The link to the article on Queen Jezebel’s royal seal is also provided below.