Wednesday, July 03, 2024

Progress on dating the reign of King Hezekiah?

(UNPROVENANCED) NORTHWEST SEMITIC EPIGRAPHY: When Did King Hezekiah Reign? Controversial Artifacts May Resolve Biblical Controversy. The Bible contradicts itself on the regnal years of the king of Judah who rebelled against Assyria. Study of seal impressions from the antiquities market claims to break the impasse (Ariel David, Haaretz).
A private collection of artifacts that had been bought on the antiquities market and has since disappeared may, nonetheless, hold the key to resolving a biblical mystery that has bedeviled researchers for more than a century, a leading Israeli scholar says.

The new study by Nadav Na'aman, emeritus professor of Jewish history from Tel Aviv University, uses information from the collection's tiny clay seal impressions, ostensibly dating to more than 2,700 years ago, to clear up contradictory information in the Bible on the reign of King Hezekiah of Judah.


I do not have access to the underlying Festschrift article (by the way, congratulations to Gabriel Barkay!), so my comments are based on this Haaretz article summary.

As I have said for a long time, our default assumption should be that an unprovenanced inscription is a forgery unless and until scholars present a credible case that it is genuine. And establishing "credible" isn't getting any easier.

I have summed up the current situation with unprovenanced artifacts, notably inscribed bullae, here. Briefly, even artifacts seemingly thoroughly authenticated by laboratory tests can and do turn out to be forgeries. And the unprovenanced bullae that are the subject of this article are lost. We can't even authenticate them.

There are some arguments in favor of their being genuine. I'm not sure if they add up to "credible." I blog, you decide.

The study summarized here is potentially signficant. I accept it as part of the discussion, but flagged as based on doubly doubtful evidence (unprovenanced and lost). Any historical reconstructions based on it should bear this in mind.

Visit PaleoJudaica daily for the latest news on ancient Judaism and the biblical world.