Na’aman on Solomonic Districts

In light of these conclusions, two alternative dates may be suggested for the district list. According to the first, it was composed in the late eighth century BCE and reflects in outline the combined province systems of Assyria and Judah. According to the second, the overlap between Solomon’s district system and the Assyrian provinces is the outcome of historical continuity between the Israelite and Assyrian administrative systems. The Assyrians had inherited the Israelite district system and organized their province system in accordance with the administrative division that had been established in the land for a very long time. The district list reflects the combined district systems of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah in the eighth century BCE.

page 115 in Nadav Na’aman, “Solomon’s District List (1 Kings 4:7–19) and the Assyrian Province System” 102-119 in Ancient Israel’s History and Historiography: The First Temple Period. Collected Essays, Volume 3. (Eisenbrauns, 2006)

This paragraph is significant. Well, the whole book is significant, of course, really, but for this particular article, this paragraph is quite striking. While Na’aman’s focus is on the eighth century as the time to which the districts belong, and he spends much of it investigating the borders and comparing them to what we know (which is not very much) about the Assyrian system, he even so leaves open this entirely likely possibility: continuity with the previous Israelite and Judahite district systems contributed to the formation of the Assyrian provinces. The other option is wholesale importation of the Assyrian system into the Solomonic narratives, essentially suggesting the text is an anachronism. It is, however, far more likely from what we know of how the Assyrians took over other territories (again, this isn’t much) that the former boundaries of larger territories, and smaller regional boundaries within them were left intact. Numerous entire kingdoms were annexed to the Assyrian state, with a name change being usually the most drastic alteration geography-wise. And most of the Aramaean states annexed were, like the United Kingdom of Israel, founded roughly around the early tenth century. I note this because there is absolutely nothing inherently wrong with seeing an overall continuity in the case of regional subdivisions in any kingdom over the course of a mere two centuries or so. The system was likely Solomonic in origin and changed little over the following two centuries, at which point the Assyrians simply coopted the entire system through the annexed territories of Israel.

Another possible factor, which Na’aman doesn’t mention, is that an alteration of nomenclature for conquered geographic territories was typical Assyrian practice, as several were formerly named after their ruling dynasties (Bīt-Adini, Bīt-Hazaili, Bīt-Humria, etc) which had of course been terminated by the Assyrian annexations. This would require renaming to avoid association with the old regimes. For those Aramaean territories like Bīt-Adini which were in Mesopotamia, older, traditional names would suffice (like Lāqē in place of Bīt-Halupê). For other places, particularly in the west, outside of the Akkadian toponymic tradition, apparently naming the territory after its regional capital city was the practice (Asdūdu, Dimašqa, Qarnīna, Dū’ru, Magidû, Sāmerīna), or local long-established regional names (Supāt, Gal’ad, Hauran). Is it also perhaps possible to suggest that it was the repeatedly rebellious states which were subdivided on annexation? I think there’s not enough evidence to specify this level of detail, but it’s a possibility, as it seems even roughly equivalent or larger territories to the north of Damascus and Israel were left intact.

Anyhow, as always, Na’aman’s articles provide much food for thought.

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