You are here

Biblical Archaeology Review 46:3, Summer 2020

First Person: What Does Archaeology Say about Effective Peace Treaties?

Ancient history can tell us a lot about what works and what doesn’t when it comes to successful treaties

By Robert R. Cargill

I recently lectured on ancient treaties. These fall into two main categories: parity treaties between two relatively equal parties and suzerain-vassal treaties between a dominant, usually foreign polity (suzerain) and a subject tributary state (vassal). We have evidence for both types from the eastern Mediterranean and Mesopotamia.

The lecture was part of a course I teach on global religious conflict into which I incorporate as much biblical archaeology as I can. By giving my students ancient examples of peace treaties, I hoped they could glean key elements present in the effective treaties and absent from the ineffective ones.

We talked about two treaties discussed in the Bible for which we have no archaeological evidence: the treaty between King Hiram of Tyre and King Solomon in which both parties received benefits (1 Kings 5:1-12) and the deceptive treaty proffered by the Gibeonites to the Israelites (Joshua 9:3-27), which led to the mistreatment—but not the death—of the Gibeonites. While the first treaty is described positively, the second is cast in a negative light—even though it benefitted the Israelites.

Join the BAS Library!

Already a library member? Log in here.

Institution user? Log in with your IP address.