The Battle of Qarqar 853 BC : Part 1 – Reliability of the Evidence


R.P. BenDedek 85Today’s academic article was originally published as the first of “The Laws of Evidence & Archaeology” Series and was titled PART 1: The Battle of Qarqar 853 BC. (The Laws & Rules of Evidence (1-4) – and – Issues of Evidence (1-3) are different series in the quest to separate Academic Opinion from Factual Evidence.)

Legal Issues related to Chapter Seven of the King’s Calendar


The intention of this article is to offer a polemical rebuttal of academic methodology in reconstructing the history of Israel and concentrates specifically on the legal processes related to reliability of evidence.

The Battle of Qarqar in 853 BC. is an important event in relation to the chronology of the Ancient Near East. The ‘King’s Calendar’ position however is that current academic attempt to link King Ahab of Israel to the Battle of Qarqar is based upon completely false foundations.

The ‘King’s Calendar’ indicates that King Ahab of Israel died in 863 BC, a decade prior to the Battle of Qarqar (853 BC). Academics relying upon the Kurkh Stele of Shalmaneser III, maintain that King Ahab participated in the battle. As we shall see, reliance on this piece of evidence is not only unjustifiable, but the process of doing so contradicts everything that the academic community tells us about Israel at that point in history.

This article is divided into the following sections:



Derived from the archaeological evidence left to us, it has been determined that king Shalmaneser of Assyria, in the year 853 BC, fought against a coalition of kings at Qarqar on the Orontes.

Ahab king of Israel is named in the Kurkh Stele of Shalmaneser as one of the leaders of this coalition. Although Shalmaneser claimed victory, the records indicate that the battle was probably a stand-off.

The significance of this battle is that despite this particular archaeological identification of Ahab, and current academic insistence that he died shortly after the battle, the ‘King’s Calendar’ demonstrates that he died a decade earlier in 863 BC.

“So what?,” you ask, “It is just your theory against theirs!”

Well actually it is not! It is actually a legal argument based soundly on the principles of law, specifically the laws relating to the giving of evidence, as practiced in (if no where else) the Australian Law Courts. The ‘evidence’ offered by historians for their chronological schemes is ‘false evidence,’ and under any other circumstance, would be unacceptable as ‘legal proof’ of anything at all.

The King’s Calendar Chronological Perspective

Old 256 Qarqar and Ahab Evidence


The Kurkh Stele of Shalmaneser III in the British Museum is the lynch pin upon which all current theories concerning the reign of King Ahab of Israel are hinged, and with good reason. This archaeological record specifically names this King of Israel as being one of the Kings in coalition against Shalmaneser, in the Battle of Qarqar in 853 BC.

This is what is referred to in law as ‘Direct Evidence.’ An historical document has been offered into evidence by the prosecution as legal evidence that ‘proves’ that a specific event occurred, and that the defendant is indeed, the person involved in that incident.


In all matters to do with the proving of a point in a case of law, there are two types of legal evidence that are introduced to the judges. These are: ‘Direct Evidence’ of the facts in contention, and ‘Circumstantial Evidence’ tending to demonstrate the verity of the facts presented to the court.

‘Direct Evidence is evidence of the facts in issue themselves and will be constituted either by the testimony of a witness who perceived the event or the production of a legally admissible document which constitutes the fact in issue.’ (Bates,1985,p.2)

‘Circumstantial Evidence is evidence of facts which are not in issue, from which a fact in issue may be inferred.’ (Bates, 1985, p.2)


What evidence do the historians present to prove that Ahab was at the Battle of Qarqar in 853BC? Interestingly enough, the evidence that they produce exists in duplicate, with just one small detail missing in one of them; his name.

The direct evidence of Ahab’s involvement in the Battle comes from Shalmaneser’s Monolith Inscription (Kurkh Stele), and together with a second record of these events, (‘The Throne Base Inscription’), are direct evidences of ‘A’ fact, which is, that there was a battle at Qarqar against a coalition of specified Kings.

The Bible records no such battle (which is neither here nor there), but were it to contain an account of this battle, it too would be considered ‘direct evidence.’


‘Evidence’ by definition, is not something that we merely ‘claim’ is evidence. While documents do constitute a form of legal evidence, in criminal and civil law cases, it is necessary to establish their reliability. [For legal issues in relation to documentary evidence Refer to Ligertwood, 1988, p.353]

Just because a Document in Evidence is ‘legitimate,’ that does not mean it is correct.

Documents, which are records of “Eyewitness Testimony,” must not only be scrutinised to be certain that they have not been fabricated, but examined for ‘bias.’ They can in fact be so subjective in their recounting of the details of some event, as to be ultimately untrustworthy.

As an example of this, if you go to Bates, 1985, p.2 citing Wooldridge v Sumner [1963] 2 Q.B. 43, you can find an account of twelve (12) qualified witnesses whose combined testimony could not render a precise account of what actually transpired in a particular witnessed incident.

While the ‘evidence was genuine’ and the ‘eyewitnesses’ reliable and trustworthy, the testimony they gave was ultimately too distorted by their own ‘personal’ perceptions. They were in fact, unreliable.

Succinctly, we should be warned not to take anything at face value without proper investigation; and be aware that there is always the possibility that the evidence as presented is fabricated, or results from a ‘prejudiced’ viewpoint.

In this case today, [The State of Current Academic Opinion Vs The KingsCalendar], the “Direct Evidence” offered by the ‘State,’ is the Kurkh Stele in which it is plainly stated that Ahab was at the Battle.


Shalmaneser’s Monolith Inscription – Kurkh Stele records that:

a) Shalmaneser III defeated the coalition, which included Ahab of Israel

– AND –

b) It records the size and composition of the individual armies. Ahab provided 2,000 chariots and 10,000 foot soldiers.

a) Ahab’s Involvement in the Battle

Ahlstrom (1993, p.578 Footnote 2) points out that a second record of this battle recorded on Shalmaneser’s throne base fails to mention Ahab, indicating that he was not one of the leaders of the coalition. [He refers readers to Aharoni.Y. (1966) & Burns and Oates. p 336 and Bright. J.(1981) p. 243.]

He makes the assumption that the failure to mention Ahab on the throne base inscription indicates that Ahab was not a leader in the coalition, without considering the possibility that Ahab was not in fact there. This is what happens when ‘assumptions’ take the place of ‘facts in evidence.’

However, the important point in law is that this failure to mention Ahab in the duplicate copy indicates from a legal viewpoint, that there is no legally acceptable corroboration between the two documents with regard to Ahab’s identity. (Refer to Bates, (1985, p.82) for an elaboration on the legal implications in ‘corroboration.’)

Corroborating testimony must be independent.

…This is not the case in relation to these two Assyrian Records.

…Corroboration must directly indicate or implicate a direct relation to the issue in question.

…In the case of the Throne Base inscription, its’ record in relation to Ahab, does not corroborate.

IRRESPECTIVE OF THIS HOWEVER, is the fact that even if it did corroborate the Kurkh Stele’s assertion, it could still not be considered corroboration, because corroborative testimony must be independently sourced.

In short, of the two documents presented in evidence, only one mentions Ahab. A matter may not be decided on the basis of only one witness – and – a matter will be thrown out of court if two witnesses disagree with respect to basic facts.

b) The Size of Ahab’s Army

The size of Ahab’s army as recorded in the Kurkh Stele is incompatible with the archaeological evidence, particularly in relation to the number of his chariots. Its numerical claim indicates that Ahab ‘alone‘ had an army of equal size to that of the Assyrians. This is assumed to be a scribal error. [Ahlstrom (1993, p.578 Footnote 1, Citing Na’aman.M. 1976 pp89-106)]

Not only do the two documents disagree with each other, but ‘the State’s’ own ‘independent’ evidence is that the testimony of their witness is either deliberately or accidentally erroneous.

Refer to: Rule 902. Evidence That Is Self-Authenticating: Extrinsic evidence of authenticity as a condition precedent to admissibility in relation to both authenticity and accuracy of documents.

Under these circumstances, the legal requirement would be to throw out ‘the evidence’ because it is neither effective as evidence nor effective as a witness to an event.

In this case, if errors exist in one section of the evidence then the defense counsel can claim that errors exist in other sections of the evidence. It can then be asserted that not only is the size of Ahab’s army incorrect, but Ahab’s identity as well. The legality of the evidence is called into question.

Another thing to bring to your attention in relation to legal evidence, is that sometimes third parties are called in to give their ‘expert opinion’ on the reliability of certain evidence.

When it comes to expert opinion about the content of the Kurkh Stele, the experts have differing opinions.

[Ahlstrom, citing Aharoni and Bright, maintains that Ahab was not a leader in the coalition but Miller and Hayes (1986, p.270) disagree.]

From this academic disagreement we learn an important lesson; that academics, and especially experts, often differ in their opinions concerning the same material presented them.


If the claims mentioned above are presented as being based upon ‘expert opinion,’ it becomes obvious that the facts surrounding this historical event are not readily apparent, and that what is offered is not ‘fact’ but ‘opinion’ or ‘assumption.’ [For a legal definition of ‘expert’ see Freckelton 1987, p.18 Quoting: Order 34 Rule 2 (2) of the Australian Federal Court Rules].

1) Presumption:

Presumption and assumption are generally speaking, synonymous. In law, presumptions cannot be given concrete value. That we believe (presume or assume) that something is so, is insufficient in law to justify legal ‘action.’

Presumption and assumption are not permitted as evidence in legal issues. (See Bates, 1985, p.46)

Opinions, assumptions and presumptions are not facts in relation to evidence. [For a sociological explanation of why presumption is often accepted as fact, see Bates, 1985, p.46]

Presumption can rightly be described as an attempt to establish as a fact something for which no legal evidence or proof exists.

2. Opinion

A clear connection may be seen between ‘opinion’ and ‘subjective inferences,’ which like presumption and assumption are inadmissible in court. [Ligertwood (1988, p.284) in discussing ‘opinion evidence’ makes it clear that opinion is an attempt to establish a fact from other facts]

Archaeologists and historians must be permitted their opinions; to draw inferences from fragmentary evidence, but they cannot, by commission or omission, be allowed to pass off opinions as ‘actual evidence of the facts’ in question.

3. Partiality

In law, expert witnesses are not permitted to become involved in final decision making with regard to the ‘fact’ of a disputed matter or issue. [Gobbo. Et.Al.(1979, p.430) Cross on Evidence 2nd Edition. Sydney. Aust. Butterworths Pty.Ltd.]

The exception occurs when there is no other way of concluding the matter. In such cases, experts must be both highly qualified and impartial. This is clearly not the case when it comes to this particular issue of Ahab’s presence or otherwise at the Battle of Qarqar.

It is paramount to academic interests that Ahab be at the Battle of Qarqar, for it is the lynchpin upon which their chronologies turn. They are anything but impartial.


Criminal cases require matters to be proved beyond reasonable doubt. If reasonable doubt exists as to a person’s guilt, the ‘benefit of the doubt’ is required to be given. It is also the duty of judges to draw attention to ‘legal’ weaknesses in evidence. (Ligertwood, 1988, p.111)

When we rely on the testimony of highly qualified expert witnesses, the question of ‘doubt’ becomes clouded by our inability to assess the validity of the testimony.

This is especially so in cases in which experts offer conflicting opinion. [See: Freckelton.I.R. (1987) The Trial of the Expert. A Study of Expert Evidence and Forensic Experts. Melbourne.Aust.Oxford University Press. p.165. : see also p.137 for his discussion on cognitive and affective decision making processes in relation to decisions made by jurors. Refer also to: Vinson.D.E. (How to Persuade Jurors: 1985)]

In short, the ‘experts’ have a vested interest in the outcome of the evaluation of the evidence. They know that the evidence they present in support of their claim is untrustworthy, and they even demonstrate how and where it is untrustworthy, but in the final analysis, they insist that the evidence is reliable.

See also: Legal Information Institute : Federal Rules of Evidence
– may testify if (1) the testimony is based upon sufficient facts or data, (2) the testimony is the product of reliable principles and methods, and (3) the witness has applied the principles and methods reliably to the facts of the case.]


The only evidence that places King Ahab of Israel at Qarqar in 853 BC comes from the Kurkh Stele of Shalmaneser III. This Stele finds no support in the Syrian record, is repudiated by the biblical chronologies and narratives, and finds no corroboration in the Throne Base Inscription.

The Jury is Back:
The Verdict is Given to the Judge:

In Rules of Evidence Part 2 we will continue with a discussion on the various evidential witnesses and discuss the ‘legal acceptability or otherwise of certain evidence.’ We will look at The Documentary Evidence. There are only five (5) sources that qualify as legally valid witnesses to the historical event known as the Battle of Qarqar. They are:

i) The Witness of the Biblical Narrative
ii) The Witness of the Syrian Documents
iii) The Witness of the Stele of Mesha
iv) The Witness of the Kurkh Stele and Throne base Inscription
v) The Testimony of the Expert Witness of Archaeology.

The KingsCalendar The Secret of QumranR.P. BenDedek
Articles at

Author of
The King’s Calendar : The Secret of Qumran
“Finding Myself in China: A Politically Incorrect Story”

Legal Bibliography

Bates.F. (1985) Principles of Evidence. 3rd Edition. Sydney The Law Book Company Limited.
Freckelton. I.R. (1987) The Trial of the Expert. A Study of Expert Evidence and Forensic Experts. Melbourne.Aust.Oxford University Press.
Ligertwood. A.L.C. [ 1988 ] Australian Evidence. First Edition. Butterworths P/l. North Ryde
Vinson.D.E. (1985) How to Persuade Jurors. American Bar Association Journal 72, 76
Gobbo. J.A., Byrne. D., Heydon J.D. (1979) Cross on Evidence 2nd Edition. Sydney. Aust. Butterworths Pty.Ltd.
Vinson.D.E. (1985) How to Persuade Jurors. American Bar Association Journal 72, 76
Legal Information Institute : Federal Rules of Evidence


Ahlstrom.G.W. (1993) The History of Ancient Palestine. USA Minneapolis. Fortress Press.
Aharoni.Y. (1966) The Land of the Bible (2nd Edn) London. Burns
Bright. J. (1981) A History of Israel. 3rd Ed. Philadelphia. Westminster Press.
Miller,J.M., Hayes,J.M. (1986) A History of Ancient Israel and Judah. USA. Westminster Press.
Na’aman.M. (1976) Two notes on the Monolithic Inscription of Shalmaneser III from Kurkh. Tel Aviv 3. pp89-106)
Bright. J.(1981) A History of Israel (3rd Edn) Philadelphia. Westminster Press. p 243.

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