Who was this
“Hiel of Bethel”?
Damien F. Mackey
Hiel of Bethel who rebuilt the city of Jericho (I Kings 16:34)
will be here, in Part Two, identified as King Mesha of Moab.
Does Mesha tell us straight out in his inscription that he built Jericho –
and with Israelite labour?
Chapter 16 of the First Book of Kings will, in the course of its introducing us to King Ahab and his no-good ways as follows (vv. 30-34):
Ahab son of Omri did more evil in the eyes of the Lord than any of those before him. He not only considered it trivial to commit the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, but he also married Jezebel daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, and began to serve Baal and worship him. He set up an altar for Baal in the temple of Baal that he built in Samaria. Ahab also made an Asherah pole and did more to arouse the anger of the Lord, the God of Israel, than did all the kings of Israel before him.
suddenly interrupt this description with its surprising and bloody note about Hiel the Bethelite’s building of Jericho at the cost of the lives of his two sons. A surprising thing about this insertion (apart from the horrific sacrifice of the sons) is that an otherwise unknown personage, Hiel (unknown at least under this name), is found to be building a city at a major and ancient site, Jericho (Tell es-Sultan), whilst the country is under the rulership of two most powerful kings – Omride in the north allied to a mighty king of Judah in the south.
How might this strange situation concerning Hiel have come about?
Before my attempting to answer this question, I should like simply to list a few of the more obvious reasons why I am drawn to the notion that Hiel was a king of Moab, and that he was, specifically, Mesha.
We find that:
- A king of Moab, Eglon, has previously ruled over a newly-built Jericho (MB IIB);
- Hiel and Mesha were contemporaneous with King Ahab of Israel;
- Hiel and Mesha were sacrificers of their own sons (cf. I Kings 16:34 & 2 Kings 3:27).
But, far more startling than any of this is the following potential bombshell:
Does Mesha King of Moab tell us straight out in his stele inscription that he built Jericho – and with Israelite labour?
I have only just become aware of this bell-ringing piece of information - after I had already come to the conclusion that Hiel may well have been Mesha. It is information that may be, in its specificity, beyond anything that I could have expected or hoped for. Thus we read at: http://christiananswers.net/q-abr/abr-a019.html
Later on in the inscription he [King Mesha of Moab] says,
I built Qeriho [Jericho?]: the wall of the parkland and the wall of the acropolis; and I built its gates, and I built its towers; and I built the king's house; and I made banks for the water reservoir inside the town; and there was no cistern inside the town, in Qeriho, and I said to all the people: “Make yourself each a cistern in his house”; and I dug the ditches for Qeriho with prisoners of Israel (lines 21-26).
Since Mesha erected his stela to honor Chemosh in “this high place for Chemosh in Qeriho,” and since the stela was found at Dhiban, identified as ancient Dibon, most scholars believe that Qeriho was the name of the royal citadel at Dibon. Note that Israelite captives were used to cut the timber used to construct Qeriho. ….
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