Sheshonq’s Campaign and the “Low Chronology”

Sidebar to: Did Pharaoh Sheshonq Attack Jerusalem?

One of the great debates in Biblical archaeology during the past two decades involves the so-called “Low Chronology” proposed by Israeli archaeologist Israel Finkelstein.a He (and his like-minded colleagues) has down-dated pottery types that had previously been dated to the tenth century B.C.E. to the ninth century B.C.E. This, in turn, means that structures in archaeological strata that had previously been identified as belonging to the tenth-century kings David and Solomon were really built by the ninth-century Israelite rulers Omri and Ahab, and that David and Solomon didn’t actually build anything!

Following this reasoning, Finkelstein and others have concluded that David and Solomon, if they existed at all, were really minor tribal chieftains, not kings of a great empire, as the Bible claims. And, assuming this to be true, Sheshonq’s campaign was not really directed at the kingdoms of Israel and Judah, but at the still-Canaanite cities of the coastal regions and valleys. This would explain why Rehoboam, Jeroboam, their kingdoms and their capitals (including Jerusalem!) are not mentioned in the record of Sheshonq’s campaign on the Bubastite Portal.

Ironically enough, if Gottfried Schumacher had excavated more carefully at Megiddo and we knew in which stratum the fragment of Sheshonq’s victory stela had come from—the Israelite Stratum V or the Canaanite Stratum VI—we would know whether Sheshonq destroyed the Israelite city or the earlier Canaanite city.b Unfortunately we don’t know, so the debate rages on.

Join the BAS Library!

Already a library member? Log in here.

Institution user? Log in with your IP address.