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Archaeology in Israel: Tel Hadid

During the course of the excavations, under the direction of Professor Itzhaq Beit-Arieh and Etti Brand, on behalf of the Tel Aviv University, a typical four room house and numerous potsherds from the Iron Age (9th-8th centuries BCE) were exposed along the fringes of Tel Hadid. Two complete tablets, written in cuneiform and excellently preserved, were uncovered next to the building, but not in a direct archaeological context with it. They were first published by Professors Nadav Na’aman and Ran Zadok of the Tel Aviv University. The two tablets are Assyrian legal documents. The earlier of the two documents is a note recording the sale of land dating from 698 BCE and the latter is a promissory note from 664 BCE. Their text is identical to that customarily used in Assyria during the time of the Assyrian Empire. These documents join two other documents written in Assyrian from the years 651 and 649 BCE that were discovered at Tel Gezer, some 10 kilometers south of Tel Hadid. The names of thirty six people are recorded in the Tel Gezer and Tel Hadid documents. All of them, except for one (Netanyahu from Gezer) are not Israelite names. About half are Akkadian names and the other half Aramean; etymologically they are Western Semitic but not Hebrew.

When did Tel Hadid become foreign?

The date of 698 BCE ascribed to the earlier document is of importance because it indicates the time when the foreigners listed in the document arrived in the region and helps to some extent in identifying them ethnically.

The note of sale we have from Tel Hadid from 698 BCE predates the documents from Tel Gezer by fifty years and shows that the exiles were brought to the region of Tel Hadid many years earlier than what was previously known. We can reasonably assume that the exile to Tel Hadid is connected with Sargon’s war with Merodach-Baladan the Chaldean who took control of Babylonia and rule there at the time of Sargon ascension to the throne in Assur. We can assume that the exiles who arrived at Tel Hadid and wrote the two documents we are dealing with here did so in the wake of Sargon’s war with Babylonia and not during the reign of Sennacherib, his son.

When did the Region of Tel Hadid revert to Jewish Control?

According to the Bible (Nehemiah 7:6, 36) it turns out the foreigners mentioned in the documents from Tel Hadid in the first half of the seventh century BCE either abandoned the area or were expelled from it.

It is therefore reasonable to assume that the expulsion of the exiles from Tel Hadid occurred when Assyria became weak and the Assyrian administration crumbled west of the Euphrates River. It is also possible to associate the expulsion of the foreigners with the extensive religious reforms carried out by Josiah, King of Judah, at the temple in Jerusalem; some of the reform processes may have included the annihilation or expulsion of foreigners in the country.

In any case it is clear that by the end of the period of the Kingdom of Judah Hadid was an established Jewish city and its inhabitants were banished to Babylonia by the Chaldeans and returned from exile to their homes during the time of Ezra and Nehemiah. During the reign of Simon the Hasmonean, Hadid was already an important fortified city in the Hasmonean Kingdom of Judah.

Sources: Israel Antiquities Authority