God’s Judgment Revealed At Three Cities -- By: Bryant G. Wood

Journal: Bible and Spade (Second Run)
Volume: BSPADE 27:4 (Fall 2014)
Article: God’s Judgment Revealed At Three Cities
Author: Bryant G. Wood

God’s Judgment Revealed At Three Cities

Bryant G. Wood

The Old Testament records God’s final judgment on the idolatrous Northern Kingdom (Israel) when it was taken into captivity by the Assyrians in the later part of the eighth century BC. Archaeology and the written Word provide ample proof of the Israelites’ pagan practices west of the Jordan River. Now, new evidence from east of the Dead Sea reveals that these practices extended to the Transjordanian tribes as well. Based on this evidence, it appears that the judgment actually began over a century earlier, against the tribes of Reuben and Gad. The agent of this divine punishment was Mesha, king of Moab, when he seized the tribal area of Reuben in ca. 850 BC. We have two contemporary accounts of Mesha’s devastating conquest, that of Mesha himself and 2 Kings 3. Mesha’s record, the Mesha Stela, also known as the Moabite Stone,1 is a boastful account of how he took over the area, while 2 Kings 3 tells of the unsuccessful attempt of the Israelites to repulse the invasion and gain back the territory.

Mesha described the capture of three Israelite cities: Nebo, Jahaz and Ataroth. His treatment of the citizens of those cities was merciless. At Nebo, Mesha “killed the whole population, 7,000 male citizens (?) and aliens (?), and female citizens (?) and aliens (?), and servant girls; for I had put it to the ban for Ashtar Kemosh”2 (lines 16-17; Smelik 2000: 138*). Yahwehism was not totally extinguished at Nebo, as Mesha reported confiscating “th[e ves]sels of Yahweh” in the next line (Smelik 2000: 138). At Jahaz, he simply “took” the city, with no details given as to fatalities (Smelik 2000: 138). At Ataroth, Mesha “killed all the people [from] the city as a sacrifice (?) for Kemosh and for Moab” (lines 11-12; Smelik 2000: 137-38).

Nebo remains unidentified, but the locations of Jahaz and Ataroth are known. Ataroth is located at the western edge of the Transjordanian plateau at Khirbat ‘Ataruz, 6.5 mi (10.4 km) east of the Dead Sea and 13.5 mi (21.6 km) south of the northern end of the Dead Sea.3 Jahaz is located at Khirbat el-Mudeyine, 14.3 mi (23 km) east of Ataroth.4 Both have been excavated in recent years. The findings at Ataroth, in particular, vividly illustrate how deeply entrenched the people of the Transjordanian tribes were in paganistic practices.

Bryant G. Wood; based on B...

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