Israelite Chariots in the Assyrian Period

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In our November/December 2010 issue, we published a letter from Professor Boyd Seevers concerning what Israelite chariots looked like in the Assyrian period in response to an article in our July/August 2010 issue by David Ussishkin titled “Jezreel—Where Jezebel Was Thrown to the Dogs.” Professor Ussishkin’s response to Professor Seevers arrived too late for publication with Professor Seevers’s letter, so we present them both here.


Ussishkin Should Have Checked with Ussishkin

I very much enjoyed David Ussishkin’s “Jezreel: Where Jezebel Was Thrown to the Dogs” (BAR 36:04). However, he says that we know precious little about Israelite chariots at the time that Ahab and Jezebel apparently used Jezreel as a royal chariot center (mid-ninth century B.C.E.). Dr. Ussishkin writes, “Unfortunately, we have no archaeological evidence of Israelite chariots. They probably looked much like the Assyrian chariots of the time.”

But we do have archaeological evidence of Judahite chariots from the late eighth century B.C.E. The Assyrian king Sennacherib carved beautiful reliefs in his palace at Nineveh that include at least one chariot from Judah. Sennacherib conquered the Judahite stronghold of Lachish in 701 B.C.E., and his artists portrayed a Judahite chariot among the spoils (pictured at right). It was probably the Judahite governor’s ceremonial chariot rather than a typical Judahite war chariot; note its close similarity to Sennacherib’s ceremonial chariot (pictured below).

Did the Judahites make or buy chariots like the Assyrians? Or did the Assyrian artists simply portray the Judahite chariot in the style they knew so well? We cannot answer these questions, but we can appreciate this one clear picture of a Judahite chariot from the period of Assyrian domination.
Interested readers can find beautiful portrayals of this Judahite chariot in Figs. 69 and 90 in The Conquest of Lachish by Sennacherib, by, of all people, David Ussishkin (Tel Aviv: Tel Aviv University, 1982).

Boyd Seevers
Professor of Old Testament Studies
Northwestern College
St. Paul, Minnesota

For more than two thousand years, Jezebel has been saddled with a reputation as the bad girl of the Bible, the wickedest of women. But just how depraved was Jezebel, really? Read Janet Howe Gaines’s article How Bad Was Jezebel? for free in Bible History Daily.


Ussishkin Reply to Seevers

We are grateful to Professor Boyd Seevers for drawing our attention to the beautiful Judean chariot shown in detail in the Lachish relief. For three reasons I preferred to compare Ahab’s war chariots to those of Shalmaneser III king of Assyria rather than to the chariot from Lachish: First, the chariot portrayed in the Lachish relief was a ceremonial chariot and not a war chariot. Second, this was a Judean rather than Israelite chariot. And, third and most important, the Lachish chariot is more than 150 years later in date than the reign of Ahab. As we know from the Assyrian reliefs the Assyrian chariots were drastically changed during this period. For instance, the chariot car became heavier, hence the wheels in the chariots of Ahab’s time have each six spokes, while those of Sennachrib’s time are more massive and have each eight spokes.

Professor David Ussishkin
Institute of Archaeology
Tel Aviv University
Tel Aviv, Israel

BAS Library members: Read Ussishkin, David. “Jezreel—Where Jezebel Was Thrown to the Dogs” as it appeared in Biblical Archaeology Review, Jul/Aug 2010, 32-42, 75-76.

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1 Responses

  1. Lori Nastari says:

    Was there only one Charlotte’s to each iron chariot in Judges 4?

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1 Responses

  1. Lori Nastari says:

    Was there only one Charlotte’s to each iron chariot in Judges 4?

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