Judahite Refortification of the Lachish Frontier

Jeffrey Alan Blakely, Wilfrid Laurier University


Throughout the history of Judah a series of fortification systems was constructed to assist in the military protection of Judah. These systems changed over time in order to meet the military and political situations then present in the Levant. This thesis is a study of the changing patterns of fortification in southwest Judah throughout its existence.

Prior to the time of Rehoboam, Israel and Judah were protected first by the mobile armies of Saul and David and later by four major centers which garrisoned the troops of Solomon. Additional Solomonic fortification was erected for internal usage in what became known as the Levitical Cities. After the division of the Israelite kingdom and the creation of an independent Judah the earlier systems were destroyed during an Egyptian raid. Rehoboam refortified Judah by constructing major defensive walls around the cities of Judah and by creating a military observation system throughout the hill country of Judah which allowed for rapid transmission of information and for quickly military deployment during a crisis. This system was altered during the reigns of Asa and Jehoshaphat when the observation points were populated and strongly fortified, becoming well defneded cities. Also the other major cities were strengthened. Lachish, having first been occupied as an observation point during the reign of Rehoboam, became the focal point in the system as well as Judah’s largest and strongest fortress outside of Jerusalem. For added defense of southern and western Judah, a subsidiary fortification line was constructed along the Lachish frontier. This subsidiary fortification line placed extended observation points along the wadi system of the northwest Negeb and Philistine Plain, and probably marked the limit of settled agrarian life at this time, the border of Judah. Through the end of the 8th century BCE, Judahite fortification kept utilizing the same plan. The Assyrian conquest of Judah ended the systematic fortification of Judah. A later 7th century BCE system, centered around Lachish and Azekah, was constructed, but it was oriented in a different manner and is not yet understood. The Babylonian conquest of Judah between 589 and 586 BCE ended the political entity of Judah and with it Judahite fortification.