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Historical and Geographical Notes on the "Lowland Districts" of Judah in Joshua xv 33-47

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image of Vetus Testamentum

The somewhat peculiar order of the three districts of the Judaean Shephelah presented in Josh. xv 33-44 and the appearance of three major Philistine cities (Ekron, Ashdod, and Gaza; vv. 45-47) following these districts raise both literary and historical questions relating to this text. Though commentators generally agree that the inclusion of the Philistine cities represents a secondary addition to an older document detailing the patrimony of Judah, a question remains as to what historical circumstance ultimately prompted the insertion. Keys to credible explanations for both the districts' order and the secondary insertion lie in the third campaign of Sennacherib in 701 B.C.E., which targeted major portions of Philistia and the Judaean Shephelah. The ordering of districts in the biblical list seems to follow Sennacherib's line of march through the region; and the addition of these specific Philistine cities grew out of Assyria's evolving relationship with them during the reign of Sargon II and especially during the third campaign of Sennacherib, when a political realignment of unnamed towns occurred in the borderlands between the coastal plain and the Shephelah.

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