Assyria displaced Israelites from Hadid. What happened next?

New research aims to provide insights on life after a peoples’ forced resettlement, which was common in the antiquity.

Building at Tel Hadid dating back to the eighth and seventh centuries B.C.E. (photo credit: COURTESY OF THE TEL HADID EXPEDITION)
Building at Tel Hadid dating back to the eighth and seventh centuries B.C.E.
Israeli and American archaeologists are working to shed light on what happened to the Israelite city of Hadid and its surroundings after Assyria conquered the ancient Kingdom of Israel and deported its inhabitants in the eighth century BCE. The research aims to provide new insights on the life of people who were forced to resettle, which was common in antiquity.
“Shalmaneser king of Assyria came up against Samaria, and besieged it. And at the end of three years they took it... And the king of Assyria carried Israel away unto Assyria, and put them in Halah and in Habor by the river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes” (II Kings 18: 9-11). That moment marked the beginning of the exile of the Ten Lost Tribes, the vast majority of whom would never come back to be part of the Jewish people.
As explained in a paper published in the latest issue of Biblical Archaeology Review, Hadid was on a hill that dominated all the surroundings and had strategic importance. As was common for the Assyrians, after their conquest, they deported its Jewish inhabitants and forcibly relocated to Hadid a different defeated population, probably from Mesopotamia.
“The Bible tells us how harsh deportation was for the Jews when they were brought to Babylon in the sixth century,” Tel Aviv University archaeologist Ido Koch, a co-author of the paper, told The Jerusalem Post. “We know that it was one of the most traumatic events in ancient times, being forced to move to a place with unknown language, climate and customs. So we asked ourselves, What about other populations who were deported?”
Indeed, the Assyrian practice of resettling populations is reflected in other Jewish sources as well, for example, in a debate between two sages of the Talmud.
“Rabban Gamaliel asked R. Joshua, ‘But has it not been said, “An Ammonite or a Moabite shall not enter into the assembly of the Lord?”’(Deut. 23:4). R. Joshua answered him, ‘Do, then, the Ammonites and Moabites still inherit their lands? Did not Sennacherib, king of Assyria, long ago come up and confuse all the nationalities? As it is said, “I have removed the bounds of the peoples, and have robbed their treasures, and have brought down as one mighty the inhabitants” (Is. 10:13); and whoever issues [from a mixed body] issues from the majority’” (Talmud Berakhot 28a, translation
In Tel Hadid, the archaeologists uncovered two clay tablets dating back to the beginning of the seventh century BCE. They carry several names, probably Akkadian and Aramean, and only a single name appears to be Israelite. The tablets offer insights on the cultural affiliation of those living there at the time. But at the same time, other elements featured by the site, like the architecture, still looked local, not influenced by foreign customs, Koch said.
“I asked myself if perhaps we have not looked in the right place,” he said. “And there is another issue: After the first newcomers arrived from their land, what happened to the second or the third generations living in Hadid? Did they maintain some of their traditions, or were they influenced by the local ones? For example, we know that Jews in Babylonia adopted Babylonian names.”
In Gezer, a site near Tel Hadid, another clay tablet dating back to the mid-seventh century was found. It mentioned several names. Most were likely Babylonian or Aramean, and one of them sounded remarkably Hebrew: Netanyahu, Koch said.
“Was this person an Israelite? Or perhaps a third-generation deportee?” he asked.
To pursue the question of what the life of this deported population in the Kingdom of Israel looked like, the researchers are going to explore several unconventional paths, Koch said.
“We are going to analyze animal bones from the site and other organic residues to see if they are not local,” he said. “We are going to try to understand butchering techniques. We are going to look into the production and consumption of objects and other practices.”
In the meantime, a new season of excavations at Tel Hadid is set to begin next week, and the site still has a lot to reveal.
“We do not know anything about the upper part of the hill, where I believe the remains dating back to the 11th and 10th centuries probably stand. There is still a lot to excavate,” Koch said.