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The Untold Story of the Kingdom of Judah

(C2) The Untold Story of the Elah Valley Clan

Prof. Oded Lipschits

In this chapter I argue that the “Elah Valley Clan” lived and existed on its land for 1100 years, starting from the beginning of the Middle Bronze Age I, around 1800 BCE, until the destruction by Sennacherib, King of Assyria in 701 BCE. For most of this long period, this tribe was active in the geopolitical space of the local lowlands cities, between Gath, Ekron, Beth Shemesh and Lachish, and was not connected to the geopolitical system that developed in the hill country. The city established at Tel Azekah was the center of the tribe, and for long periods in the second millennium BCE it was a strong, rich and fortified urban center.
The kings of Judah established their rule over the Elah Valley clan and the urban center of the area, in a gradual process that began after the destruction of Gath by Hazael, King of Aram-Damascus in the last third of the 9th century BCE and probably ended no earlier than the early 8th century BCE. Sennacherib’s campaign brought an end to the Elah Valley clan and the city of Azekah. A large part of the population that survived the campaign was deported, and it is assumed that others escaped, some of which found refuge in the Jerusalem area. Only after the Assyrian withdrawal from the area west of the Euphrates in the 630's BCE, during the days of Josiah, could Judah return to control the lowlands in general and the Elah valley in particular. The place became an important center in the kingdom’s olive oil industry, and Azekah was restored and built as an administrative center and a military fortress on the border of Judah, when, for the first time, a population originating from the Kingdom of Judah was living there. Among them, perhaps, the grandchildren of those who escaped from Azekah to Jerusalem during Sennacherib’s campaign.

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