This article, which is a composite presentation of two newsletters originally published years ago at KingsCalendar (No 16 – and – No 17), principally concerns King Ahab of Israel and Ben-Hadad of Syria and its content directly relates to issues raised in the article Bible Misidentification of Kings 8th Century BC and to the The Battle of Qarqar 853 BC : Reliability of the Evidence.
Bible History Chronological Confusion
The King’s Calendar demonstrates not only that there are chronological errors in the Bible but how those errors occurred, and of course much of that work revolves around the fact that Bible chronology is not recorded in regular solar years or any other type of year that has so far been played with by a wide variety of people. Perhaps the biggest single example of chronological trouble in biblical error can be appreciated when one compares the chronologies for the northern and southern kingdoms of Ancient Israel.
Rehoboam of Judah (Son of Solomon) and Jeroboam of Israel (who took control of the 10 tribes upon Solomon’s death), commenced in the same year, and Ahaziah of Judah and Jehoram of Israel died in the same year (both being slain by Jehu¹).
If you calculate the chronological details provided for the lengths of the reigns of the various kings in both kingsdoms, you find that the time lapse between the stated parameters for the southern Kingdom of Judah (95 years), is different to that recorded for the Northern Kingdom (98 years). Appendix 5 makes it obvious why.
Biblical chronology is so unreliable in the eyes of secular and religious academics that were it not for the lack of other records they would simply not rely on the Bible at all.
From Solomon’s death circa 937 BC until 842/841 BC. when Jehu is alleged to have slain the kings of Israel and Judah, there are only three ‘non biblical’ references to events in Israel. These are:
1. Pharaoh ‘Shishak’s’ invasion shortly after Solomon’s death; (not applicable to this discussion)
2. The Battle of Qarqar in 853 BC in which one of two ‘almost identical’ archaeological records lists King Ahab as a member of the coalition against the Assyrians
3. The Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser identifies Jehu as the King of Israel who paid tribute to him in 841 BC.
The issue of the Battle of Qarqar was dealt with in the Rules of Evidence Series in which it was argued that King Ahab died 10 years before the battle. From points two and three above you can see how illogical it is (if Jehu paid tribute to Shalmaneser just 12 years after the Battle of Qarqar), to maintain that Ahab was at the Battle of Qarqar because the Bible indicates that fourteen (14) years elapsed between Ahab’s death and the deaths of Ahaziah of Judah and Jehoram of Israel.
In ‘The King’s Calendar’ Chapter Seven: The Battle of Qarqar: 853 BC – a long, detailed and polemical ‘LEGAL’ argument is undertaken to repudiate current academic claims. The Issue of Ahab’s death is the only issue for which the ‘King’s Calendar’ has no substantive support and so must argue ‘legal principles’ involved in ‘evidentiary testimony.’
Whilst the ‘Kurkh Stela’ and ‘the Throne Base Inscription’ are Direct Evidence of the Battle of Qarqar, academics acknowledge that they are full of lies (propaganda), and even then they failed to get their stories straight about Ahab’s presence at the Battle. These records are not credible witnesses. The content of the Bible on the other hand, whilst legally constituting Direct Documentary Evidence, has provided no record of the battle, and so cannot provide ‘direct evidence of Ahab’s participation or otherwise.’ It can however offer ‘circumstantial’ evidence against it.
Since academics put Ahab’s death in 853/852 BC, and Biblical Direct Evidence equates this with Ahab’s 22nd year and Jehoshaphat’s 19th year, there are 16 Biblical years in Judah and 14 Biblical Years in Israel, until Jehu takes power. The ‘Biblical Direct documentary Evidence’ provides circumstantial evidence that 853 BC is not the year in which Ahab died.
Of course in a court of law it would be argued that the Bible contradicts itself at this point and is therefore unreliable as a witness. The Court, declaring it to be an unreliable witness would ‘require’ that no future Biblical evidence be presented by archaeologists and historians in support of their claims. Take the Bible away from them and they quite often have nothing to work with to substantiate their claims.
Of course, if the court accepted the overwhelming testimony of the ‘King’s Calendar,’ then the witness of the Biblical Narrative would be accepted as sufficient repudiation of the witness of the Kurkh Stele of Shalmaneser.
King Ahab’s Last Years
In the few years preceeding his death Ahab had proven himself superior to Benhadad of Syria, yet according to the Kurkh Stela, Benhadad was the leader of the coalition. The Biblical Evidence would indicate otherwise. The Bottom line is: Ahab was not at the Battle of Qarqar in 853 BC. He had been dead for a decade. If anyone, it was Jehoram his son who joined the coalition in this battle.
The ‘King’s Calendar’ reconstruction of the events leading up to Ahab’s death relies upon the record of the Biblical Narrative and the assumption that First Kings Chapter twenty-two is the chronological continuation of Chapter Twenty (The Encyclopaedia Judaica:’Ahab’ Vol 2, p.438), that is to say, that the three years of peace spoken of in 1 Kings 22:1 is the result of the pact with Ben-Hadad of Syria in 1 Kings 20:34
The ‘King’s Calendar’ requires that Ahab died between May 863 BC and April 862 BC., and given that Spring is the usual time for battles, we will assume that Ahab died in the Spring, i.e. between March/April and June/July of 863 BC. We will also assume that the event at Ramoth Gilead was organised between Ahab and Jehoshaphat sometime during or prior to winter (to provide sufficient time to organise the event), even up to a year in advance.
Ahab’s last years with events listed in reverse chronological order
a) Ahab slain in Battle at Ramoth Gilead 863 BC.
Ahab’s twenty-second year commences (according to the King’s Calendar) in May 863 BC. Since battles usually take place in the spring, he probably died within a few months of this date. 2 Chronicles 18 provides details of the pact between Jehoshaphat of Judah and Ahab of Israel to retake Ramoth-Gilead. During the battle, Ahab, although disguised, was struck by an arrow and died later that day.
b) Ahab and Jehoshaphat meet (1 Kings 22:2) during 864 BC.
It is unlikely that the decision for Ahab and Jehoshaphat to march together to retake Ramoth Gilead, was made too hastily.
1 Kings 22:2 says that these plans were concocted during the third year of peace with Syria. We might legitimately conclude that the plans that they made were intended to be effected during the fourth spring. Therefore we conclude that the battle took place in the fourth year, and that 864 BC is the third year of peace.
c) The Three Year Peace with Syria. 1 Kings 22:1
It is difficult to determine the extent of a three year peace.
If the spring of the year following Ben-Hadad’s defeat is considered the first year of peace, then the three years of peace (1 Kings 22:1) can be counted as those from and including the Spring of 866 BC to 864 BC. (Since the 3rd year is 864 BC, the second will be 865 BC, and the first will be 866 BC)
d) Ben-Hadad’s defeat at Aphek in the Spring of 867 BC. (1 Kings 20:26)
Ben-Hadad was defeated by Ahab at Aphek, the result of which was a three year peace. Depending upon whether the three years commences as of the following spring, or whether it includes the ‘spring’ in which the battle occurred, this battle will have been fought in either Spring of 867 BC or perhaps 866 BC.
For our purposes here, we will conclude that the battle occurred in 867 BC.
e) Ben-Hadad’s siege of and defeat in Samaria in 868 BC (1 Kings 20:20)
If we assume that the events of 1 King’s 20:1 (Ben-Hadad’s siege of Samaria) and 1 Kings 20:26 (Battle at Aphek) are consecutive annual events, then it can be assumed that the siege of Samaria in 1 Kings 20:1 occurs in 868 BC.
A reconstruction of events then for this period of time would be:
The Significance of Ahab’s death.
If in fact Ahab’s death occurred immediately after the Battle of Qarqar in 853 BC. it would be anomolous to have him as a subordinate to Benhadad, a king who was effectively his inferior.
The ‘King’s Calendar’ indicates that the events of Chapters Twenty and Twenty-two of First Kings demonstrate that Benhadad/Ben-Hadad was not yet a strong military leader at the time of Ahab’s death, and that the events they describe certainly occurred well prior to the Battle of Qarqar (approximately 14 years earlier), before he came to prominence as leader of the Syro-Palestinian coalition.
If we follow the Septuagint version of 1 Kings 22:47, which is to say 3 Kings 16:28, and have a deputy ruling not Edom but Syria during Jehoshaphat’s reign, then the ‘King’s Calendar’ suggests that by the beginning of Ahab’s reign, Ben-Hadad I was deceased and that Ben-Hadad II was a minor. From this perspective then Ben Hadad II was only just beginning to exercise his military and political muscle in 868 BC when he besieged Samaria (1 Kings 20). It would be sometime before he would become leader of the Syro-Palestinian Coalition which withstood Shalmaneser in 853 BC.
Placing his death circa 850 BC, the ‘King’s Calendar’ would give Ben-Hadad II a reign of at least 18 years. His minority would date from around 883 BC to around 868 BC (at which time he was old enough to lead his troops and be drinking himself drunk (1 Kings 20:16), a period of about 15 years. With a fifteen (15) year minority and a further reign of 18 years (868-850 BC), Ben-Hadad II will have reigned a total of around 33 years until his murder by Hazael.
Academic objection to this interpretation seems certain² but it appears to be more plausible than accepting that the leader of a strong coalition could be defeated by a vassal kingdom, and remain in that subjection right up to the stand-off against Assyria at Qarqar.
The ‘King’s Calendar’ reconstruction of the reigns of Ben Hadad I & II therefore would be:
Ben Hadad I Pre-893 BC to 883 BC (10+ years)
Regency 883 BC to Pre-868 BC (15 years)
Ben Hadad II Pre-868 BC to 850 BC (18 Years)
The ‘King’s Calendar’ demonstrates that Ahab died 863/862 BC, and did not participate in the Battle of Qarqar in 853 BC.
(Books referred to or quoted on this page may be found listed in the Table of Content Bibliography Section)
¹ Most academics kill off Ahaziah of Judah and Jehoram of Israel around 842/841 BC. If you count back 95 or 98 years from there, you have Solomon dying around 940 – 936 BC. This would be considered a ‘little early,’ but would pass as a general reference to Solomon’s death. Continuing back the other 80 years of David and Solomon’s reigns however would put David on the throne around 1020BC. This would not be acceptable to academics. Interestingly enough when you calculate the chronologies from the deaths of Ahaziah and Jehoram in 842/841 BC to the Fall of Samaria in 722 BC, (9th year of Hoshea and allegedly the 6th year of Hezekiah) a period of only 120 years elapse whereas the Bible records 165 years for the Southern Kingdom of Judah and 143 years for Israel. There is not only a 22 year discrepancy in the Biblical figures [that only the ‘King’s Calendar’ can resolve], but an extra excess 23 years to be accounted for.
² Most people fail to understand that determinations made by historians and archaeologists rely on scant evidence glued together with a lot of guesswork. Refer to Peet. T.E. (1924) Egypt and the Old Testament. University Press of Liverpool page 75 “Archaeology is not an exact science, and deals more often in probabilities and possibilities than in irrefutable demonstrations.’ See also James Et.Al 1991 p.222 citing Sir Alan Gardiner’s (1961) reference to Egyptian History as a collection of rags and tatters.
NOTE: Comments on the Law Pundit Website – The original link for the comments below is http://www.lawpundit.com/blog/2005/12/law-evidence-and-archaeology-errors-in.htm but you will find if you go there that you must redirect to a blogspot. I can no longer find the original entry.
Below is an interesting law-related press release about the work of R.P. BenDedek, a theologian who has become fed up with the subjective and sloppy way in which archaeologists and historians have juggled evidence (or non-evidence) about the history of the Middle East to suit their personal predilections and to warp history. BenDedek tries to remedy the situation by applying the strict evidentiary standards of the law to archaeological inquiry, a process which we have previously named “evidentiary archaeology”.
We have claimed similarly for many years now that mainstream Biblical chronology is flawed [links] and that many archaeological theories of mainstream scholarship about the history of the Middle East would be thrown out of court for lack of evidence.