Ancient “Saviour” of Israel




 Damien F. Mackey





“And the Lord gave Israel a saviour, and they were delivered out of the hand of the king of Syria: and the children of Israel dwelt in their pavilions as yesterday and the day before”.


2 Kings 13:5



Various candidates have been suggested for the “deliverer”, or “saviour” (מוֹשִׁיעַ), of the prayers of Jehoahaz of Israel: e.g., Adad-nirari III of Assyria; Zakir of Hamath - neither of whom is named in the biblical account - Jehoash of Israel, or his son, Jeroboam II. Dr John Bimson had considered, for one, the possibility that Jehoash, amongst other candidates, may have been this “saviour”, whilst also stating the objections to this view (“Dating the Wars of Seti I”, p. 22):


There has been much discussion over the identity of the anonymous “saviour”. One view is that the verse refers to Joash [Jehoash], Jehoahaz’s successor, who defeated Ben-Hadad [II] three times and regained some of the lost Israelite cities (II Kings 13:24-25); or to Jeroboam II, son of Joash, who restored Israel’s Transjordanian territory and even conquered Damascus and Hamath (II Kings 14:25-28). But as J. Gray remarks: “The main objection to this view is that this relief is apparently a response to the supplication of Jehoahaz (v. 4), whereas relief did not come until the time of Joash and Jeroboam” … [Reference: I and II Kings: A Commentary, 2nd edn., 1970, p. 595, where references can be found to scholars who favour Joash and/ or Jeroboam as the deliverer]. Other scholars do not acknowledge this difficulty, pointing to II Kings 13:22 (“Hazael king of Syria oppressed Israel all the days of Jehoahaz”) as evidence that deliverance did not come until after the reign of Jehoahaz … [Reference: K. A. Kitchen in NBD, p. 58].


Some commentators have suggested a three-year co-regency between Jehoahaz and Jehoash. And so it could be argued that the relief for Jehoahaz’s Israel would have begun to arise right near to the end of Jehoahaz’s reign, when there began the co-rule of the now more energetic Jehoash. However, this deliverance was only gradual and its proper effects would become manifest only after Jehoahaz had passed away.

Dr. Bimson’s second option for Israel’s “savior” was pharaoh Seti I, the father of Ramses II ‘the Great’, of the 19th Egyptian dynasty. Bimson had provided a useful account of the similarities between Israel’s wars against Syria at this approximate time and Seti I’s campaigns into Syro-Palestine, leading him to consider the possibility that Seti I may in fact have been the “saviour” of Israel. (It needs to be noted that Dr. Bimson himself does not stand by these views today). Here, nevertheless, is part of what I would consider to be Bimson’s intuitive account of Seti’s I’s campaigns in a revised context (op. cit., pp. 20, 22):


In the chronology which we are testing here, the time of Jehoahaz corresponds to the time when Seti I campaigned in Palestine and Syria. It therefore seems very probable that the Aramaean [Syrian] oppression of Israel is the event of which we have … read on Seti’s Beth-Shan stelae”


Aram is “the wretched foe”. Several parallels confirm that we are reading about the same events in both sources. Firstly we have seen that the stelae refer, in Rowe’s words, to “an invasion by tribes from the east side of the Jordan”; the Old Testament records that in Jehu’s reign Hazael occupied all of Transjordan as far south as the Arnon; it was therefore presumably from there that he launched his further offensives into the centre of Israel in the reign of Jehoahaz.

Furthermore, we have seen that the attacking forces of Seti’s day were operating from a base called Yarumtu, or Ramoth, probably Ramoth-gilead. ….

Once west of the Jordan, the immediate objective of Seti’s opponents was apparently the capture of towns in Galilee and the Plain of Esdraelon. In the time of Jehoahaz this was part of the kingdom of Israel. II Kings 13:25 speaks of towns in Israel which Ben-Hadad “had taken from Jehoahaz … in war”. Unfortunately the captured towns are not named, but we know they lay west of the Jordan, since all the territory east of the Jordan had been lost in the previous reign.

The invaders whom Seti confronted also had objectives further afield; they were attempting “to lay waste the land of Djahi to its full length”. We have seen that Djahi probably comprised the Plain of Esdraelon and the coastal plain to the north and south, extending southwards at least as far as Ashkelon. The capture of towns such as Beth-shan was probably an attempt to gain control of the Plain of Esdraelon, which provided access from the Jordan to the coastal strip, both to the north and (via the pass at Megiddo) the south. The coastal plain to the south was certainly one of Hazael’s objectives.

… In short, the movements and objectives of Hazael’s forces exactly parallel those of the forces opposed by Seti I, so far as they can be reconstructed. This is not to say that specific moves recorded in the Biblical and Egyptian accounts are to be precisely identified .… Seti’s two stelae from Beth-shan show that the invaders pushed westwards on more than one occasion, so it would be a mistake to envisage one invasion by the Aramaeans, repulsed by one attack by Seti. The important point is that in both sources we find the same objectives, the same direction of attack, and the probability that in both cases the enemy was operating from the same base.


Furthermore, commenting on the text of the smaller stela, Albright notes that since the attacking Apiru [Habiru] “are determined in the hieroglyphic text by ‘warrior and plural sign’ [not merely ‘man, plural sign’], they were not considered ordinary nomads” …. The stela is not describing mere tribal friction, as is conventionally assumed, but an attack by an organised and properly equipped military force. This would certainly fit an attack on Israel by Hazael’s troops in the late 9th century BC.


Bimson now proceeds to consider other of Seti I’s inscriptions:


Turning from the Beth-shan stelae to the other sources of Seti’s campaigns, we may now suggest that some of Seti’s larger measures, not just his forays into northern Israel, were also directed against the growing power of Damascus. “… at the close of the ninth century, Hazael and Ben-hadad had imposed Aramaean rule upon vast South-Syrian territories, including Samaria, as far as the northern boundary of Philistia and Judah”. [Reference: H. Tadmor, Scripta Hierosolymitana 8, 1961, p. 241.]. It is logical that Egypt would see this expanding power as a threat to her own security and act to curb it. Seti’s military action in Palestine’s southern coastal plain (first register of his Karnak reliefs) may well have been aimed at establishing a bulwark against southward Aramaean advances along the coastal strip. …. His campaign into Phoenicia and Lebanon may have been to protect (or reclaim?) the coastal cities of that region (important to Egypt for supplies of timber and other commodities) from the westward expansion of Hazael’s rule. ….

We have already noted Faulkner’s suggestion that the reference to a campaign by Seti into “the land of Amor”, on the damaged Kadesh relief, refers to the conquest of “an inland extension of Amorite territory into the country south of Kadesh, possibly even as far south as Damascus” [Reference: Faulkner, JEA 33, 1947, p. 37, emphasis added].


[End of quotes]


What this shows, I think, is that the revision of history that has the 19th Egyptian dynasty situated considerably lower than the conventional C13th BC view has a lot to recommend it. Whether or not Dr. Bimson managed to get the precise correspondence, he seems to have been, at least, not far off the mark.

Fine tuning of the biblical and revised Egyptian dates may still be required.

My own tentative suggestion at this stage for the “saviour”? Jeroboam II.

More than king Jehoash, whose efforts did not satisfy, but, rather, angered the prophet Elisha (2 Kings 13:19): “The man of God was angry with him and said, ‘You should have struck the ground five or six times; then you would have defeated Aram and completely destroyed it. But now you will defeat it only three times’,” Jeroboam II was a “deliverer”, a “saviour”. In fact 2 Kings 14:27 tells us straight out: “And since the Lord had not said he would blot out the name of Israel from under heaven, he saved (וַיּוֹשִׁיעֵם) them by the hand of Jeroboam son of Jehoash”.

Compare here the root word וֹשִׁיעֵ (from the verb, yasha, to save/deliver) with the identical וֹשִׁיעַ in the word for “saviour: מוֹשִׁיעַ

The mighty Jeroboam II (2 Kings 14:25): “… was the one who restored the boundaries of Israel from Lebo Hamath to the Dead Sea, in accordance with the word of the Lord, the God of Israel, spoken through his servant Jonah son of Amittai, the prophet from Gath Hepher”.



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