June 10, 2018

Ahab's Head Found in Israel?

Timothy Birdnow

Recently an archaeological team excavated a glass bust of a man in the ruins of the Biblical town of Abel Beth Maacah. Dating back to 900 to 800 B.C., the sculpture appears to be a king or some royal personage of note. Abel Beth Maacah was a crossroads city near the borders between the ancient Kingdom of Israel, the Kingdom of Tyre, and Damascus.

According to this WaPo story, the head may well have dated back to the reign of King Ahab and Jezebel, his immoral and corrupt wife.
ABM was a fortified city mentioned briefly in the Second Book of Samuel, a place where King David's second in command Joab  pursued a traitor. The city, unwilling to surrender to David, kindly removed the traitor's head and pitched it over the wall to appease the Hebrew King.

That is the only record of the place.

The effort and care that went into the sculpting of this ancient bust makes it obvious he was a person of some importance, likely a king. Radiocarbon dating suggest it was carved about a century after David's reign, after Israel seceded from Judah and Benjamin.

Given the position of ABM at the juncture of three great kingdoms, the bust may represent either of three kings - King Ahab of Israel, King Hazael of Aram-Damascus, or King Ethbaal of Tyre. Determining which will be most difficult.

Personally, I'm rooting for Ahab. He was a bad king, one of the reasons God destroyed the Kingdom of Israel, but it would be nice to be able to put a face to the Biblical character. I know little about Ethbaal or Hazael, and really don't care about them.

At any rate, it's good that something new has turned up in the history of the Holy Land!

Read more on the little that is known of the city here.


Here are the pertienent Biblical passages:

1Kings: 20:

20 Ben-hadad listened to King Asa, and sent the commanders of his armies against the cities of Israel. He conquered Ijon, Dan, Abel-beth-maacah, and all Chinneroth, with all the land of Naphtali.

2 Samuel 20:14-22 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

14 Sheba[a] passed through all the tribes of Israel to Abel of Beth-maacah; and all the Bichrites assembled, and followed him inside. 15 Joab’s forces[d] came and besieged him in Abel of Beth-maacah; they threw up a siege ramp against the city, and it stood against the rampart. Joab’s forces were battering the wall to break it down. 16 Then a wise woman called from the city, "Listen! Listen! Tell Joab, ‘Come here, I want to speak to you.’” 17 He came near her; and the woman said, "Are you Joab?” He answered, "I am.” Then she said to him, "Listen to the words of your servant.” He answered, "I am listening.” 18 Then she said, "They used to say in the old days, ‘Let them inquire at Abel’; and so they would settle a matter. 19 I am one of those who are peaceable and faithful in Israel; you seek to destroy a city that is a mother in Israel; why will you swallow up the heritage of the Lord?” 20 Joab answered, "Far be it from me, far be it, that I should swallow up or destroy! 21 That is not the case! But a man of the hill country of Ephraim, called Sheba son of Bichri, has lifted up his hand against King David; give him up alone, and I will withdraw from the city.” The woman said to Joab, "His head shall be thrown over the wall to you.” 22 Then the woman went to all the people with her wise plan. And they cut off the head of Sheba son of Bichri, and threw it out to Joab. So he blew the trumpet, and they dispersed from the city, and all went to their homes, while Joab returned to Jerusalem to the king.

Posted by: Timothy Birdnow at 10:32 AM | No Comments | Add Comment
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