History Of The Holy Land-Israelite Culture

Four-Room House
Better known as an Israelite pillared building, this typical structure has been found around the country throughout the Iron Age (1200-600 BC).

Subdivided by pillars into smaller rooms, these houses were often built against the city wall, with the house’s back wall forming a portion of the city’s casemate wall.
(photo from BiblePlaces.com)

(article from the Archaeological Study Bible)

The Holy Land, at times variously named Canaan, Israel, the Levant or Palestine, has changed hands many times and has often been the center of conflict. The archaeology of Palestine is complex, in that it reflects all eras of the region’s long history.

Although the Israelites appear to have invaded Canaan around 1400 B.C., they left almost no archaeological footprint until about 1200 B.C. During Iron I (usually dated c. 1200-1000 B.C.) the nation of Israel began to take shape. Examples of what appears to be Israelite material culture, such as the “four room house” and “collar-rim” pottery, appear in the archaeology of this time. Hundreds of villages in central Canaan dated to this period may be regarded as Israelite. The Philistines first appeared in Canaan at this time as part of the migration of the “Sea Peoples,” and examples of their material culture (such as a distinctive bichrome pottery that is comparable to a type of Mycenaean Greek pottery) began to appear.

Inasmuch as the Biblical record indicates that Israel was in the land and contending with various other enemies long before the Philistines became a threat, the argument that the Philistines and Israelites emerged in Canaan at about the same time is erroneous. Indeed, the presence of “Israel” on the Merneptah Stele (c. 1210 B.C.) strongly suggests that Israel was well established in the land prior to 1200 B.C., the beginning of the Iron I Age.

During the Judges period the Israelites were held together by their common covenant with God, but constant pressure from outside enemies led them to seek protection in stronger political unity (1 Sa 8:19-20). Saul was Israel’s first king, but the nation reached its cultural and political apex under David and Solomon (tenth century B.C.), when Israel dominated the entire Levant. Important physical remains from the united monarchy have been excavated at Hazor, Megiddo and Gezer, where triple-gated city entryways and casement walls illustrate the fortification work described in 1Kings 9:15.

Israelite supremacy was weakened by the division of the kingdom between Rehoboam and Jeroboam I (1 Ki 12) and shattered by the raid of the Egyptian Shishak (1 Ki 14:25-26). Indeed, Shishak’s attack seems to have been little more than a slash-and-burn campaign aimed at reducing Israel’s power vis-a-vis Egypt. The fortunes of Samaria (the northern kingdom of Israel) vacillated during the next two centuries. Samaria was sometimes powerful, under kings such as Hazael of Damascus. Samaria finally succumbed to Assyria around 720 B.C., and Judah, a relatively minor state, hung on until it was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon in 586 B.C.

(Next: The Persian Period)


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