Tirzah (1 Kings 15)

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Tirzah was the capital of the northern kingdom for about 40 years, including the 24-year reign of its third king, Baasha (1 Kings 15:33). It is located at Tell el-Far’ah (“North”) in the tribal area of Mannasseh, approximately 58 km north of Jerusalem. Baasha was buried at Trizah (16:6) – the only Israelite king whom the Bible specifically states was interred there. Baasha’s son Elah, who ruled for two years (16:8), was overthrown by a chariot commander named Zimri around 885 B.C. (16:9-10). After only seven days on the throne, Zimri was supplanted by Omri, the army general (16:15-20). Recognizing his  imminent defeat, Zimri went into the citadel of the royal palace and set the palace on fire around him (16:18). Excavators at Tell el-Far’ah have found evidence of destruction by fire in the ninth century B.C., with the debris layer as much as 0.9 m thick in some places.

Reconstruction of Tirzah began after a short period of abandonment. The major building of this time was a solidly constructed structure of 9,3 m by 13,4 m, built of well-dressed masonry. It was never completed, however, as evidenced by the presence of abandoned building materials, partly dressed stones and the absence of ruins. This fits the Biblical record, which states that Omri ruled at Tirzah for only six years, after which he established a new capital at Samaria (16:23-24). Omri abruptly halted the rebuilding of Tirzah when he started construction on Samaria. Tirzah’s significance dwindled thereafter; by the postexilic period the city was abandoned. Song of Songs 6:4 sets Trizah alongside Jerusalem as one of Israel’s two great cities, indicating that the Song was written during Tirzah’s glory days.


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