ALALAKH


ALALAKH
ALALAKH (Alalach, Alalah), ancient city situated south of Lake Antiochia, near the bend of the Orontes River in Turkey; now Tell Atshana. The site was excavated by the English archaeologist Sir Leonard Woolley in 1937–39 and in 1946–49. Mesopotamian documents mentioning Alalakh and its kings and archaeological finds have added greatly to the understanding of the history of this city and its importance in the area west of the Euphrates during the first half of the second millennium B.C.E. Alalakh sheds indirect light on the Syro-Palestinian context of biblical realia. The most important finds for ancient Near Eastern studies are the 450 clay tablets written in Akkadian. These tablets are from the royal archives of the city and are with minor exceptions from two periods: an early archive from Stratum VII dating from the 18th century B.C.E. and a later archive from Stratum IV from the 15th century. The archives contain a few international treaties and many administrative, economic, and legal documents. They throw light upon the history of Alalakh, its royal and administrative organization, social strata, mode of life, and ethnic origins, and on the economic activity of its inhabitants during these two periods. Of special importance to scholarship is the possibility of tracing the development of a city-state and of understanding the political, ethnic, economic, and social development of Alalakh from the 18th to the 15th centuries B.C.E. In addition to the documents, a statue of a king inscribed with the history of Idrimi (who ruled in Alalakh approximately at the end of the first half of the second millenium B.C.E.) was found. The inscription consists of a narrative which differs in tone and content from the ordinary run of res gestae in the ancient Near East, though it closely resembles biblical narratives. Some of its details are reminiscent of the history of David during his premonarchial period, a fact that indicates the widespread prevalence of certain literary motifs in the biographical style of the books of Samuel. These epigraphic finds are part of the ever-growing corpus of documents from the Fertile Crescent that shed light on linguistic, economic, social, and ethnic conditions in pre-Israelite Palestine and on the ancient Near Eastern origins of Israel's institutions (law, customs, government) and spiritual culture. Thus Alalakh furnishes fresh evidence added to that of nuzi and ugarit for the right of a father to determine which of his sons should be considered the eldest, disregarding the custom of primogeniture. According to this right, Abraham could prefer Isaac over Ishmael (Gen. 21:10 ff.), and Ephraim could be elected in the place of Manasseh, Joseph's elder son (ibid. 48:13 ff.). Jacob's seven additional years of work to earn the right to marry Rachel (ibid. 29:18, 27) may also find its parallel in marriage contracts from Alalakh. One of the conditions of such contracts is the option given to a husband to marry a second wife if the first fails to bear children for seven years. In other spheres, mention should be made of the contribution of the international treaties from Alalakh regulating, inter alia, the extradition of escapees from one country to another. This may contribute to the understanding of the extradition of the two servants of shimei by Achish, king of Gath (I Kings 2:39 ff.), suggesting the possibility of a similar treaty between Solomon and Achish (but cf. Deut. 23:16–17). There is also an illustration from another document of the manner in which Jezebel acquired for Ahab the property of Naboth the Jezereelite (I Kings 21:8 ff.). It is clear from the document in question, that the king had the right to confiscate the property of a rebel or a person guilty of a crime against the king and executed for this reason. -BIBLIOGRAPHY: D.J. Wiseman, The Alalakh Tablets (1953); idem, in: D. Winton Thomas (ed.), Archaeology and Old Testament Study (1967), 119–35; S. Smith, The Statue of Idri-mi (1949); C. Fensham, in: JBL, 79 (1960), 59–60; G. Buccellati, in: BO, 4 (1962), 95–96; W.F. Albright, in: BASOR, 118 (1950), 14–15; I. Mendelsohn, ibid., 156 (1959), 38 ff.; S. Loewenstamm, in: IEJ, 6 (1956), 225; M. Tsevat, in: HUCA, 29 (1959), 125 ff. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: M. Astour, in: ABD, 2, 42–45. (Hanoch Reviv)

Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.

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