Archeology / Earthquake Evidence

760BC± 5y

Event #2413: The Amos Earthquake

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Geographical sites:

  • Jerusalem (click here to focus in map) (see also Pleiades #687928)
    Pleiades_icon Ierusalem/Hierosolyma/Col. Aelia Capitolina settlement, temple Description: The city of Jerusalem.
  • Iudaea (click here to focus in map) (see also Pleiades #687934)
    Pleiades_icon Iudaea region Description: Iudaea was an historical region of the Levant located in the mountainous southern part of the Land of Palestine, roughly corresponding to the southern West Bank. The region's name derives from the biblical tribe of Judah and the associated Kingdom of Judah (ca. 934 until 586 BC).


Text #6281

Franz, & Frost. "Amos's Earthquake: An Extraordinary Middle East Seismic Event of 750 B.C.". International Geology Review
[pp. 657--671]

Earthquake in Israel c. 760 BC

A major earthquake had occurred in Israel c. 760 BC, which may have been during the time of Jeroboam II, towards the end of his rule. This earthquake is mentioned in the Book of Amos as having occurred during the rule of “Jeroboam son of Jehoash” (Amos 1:1).

Geologists believe they have found evidence of this big earthquake in sites throughout Israel and Jordan. Archeologists Yigael Yadin and Israel Finkelstein1 date the earthquake level at Tel Hazor to 760 BC based on stratigraphic analysis of the destruction debris. Similarly, David Ussishkin arrives at the same date based on the “sudden destruction” level at Lachish.

According to Steven A. Austin, the magnitude of this earthquake may have been at least 7.8, but more likely as high as 8.2. “This magnitude 8 event of 750 B.C. appears to be the largest yet documented on the Dead Sea transform fault zone during the last four millennia.”

The epicenter of this earthquake may have been 200–300 km north of present-day Israel.

Multiple biblical references exist to this earthquake in the Book of Amos (3:14, 6:11, 8:8, 9:1), and also in Zechariah 14:5. Indirect references may be found in Isaiah 2:19, Joel 3:16, and Hebrews 12:28.

  1. Y. Yadin, Hazor, the Rediscovery of a Great Citadel of the Bible (New York: Random House, 1975). I. Finkelstein, “Hazor and the North in the Iron Age: A Low Chronology Perspective,” Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 314 (1999) 55–70. Both are cited in Austin et al., “Amos’s Earthquake,” p. 658.

Text #3375

Roberts. "Terra Terror"
[Ch. 4 p. 45]



Over the last fifteen years a number of studies have focused on sediment cores from recently emerged shorelines along the Dead Sea. In the fall of 1997 three cores were drilled along the Dead Sea shorline: one each from Ein Gedi, Ein Feshkha, and the Ze’elim fan, located east of Masada.1 The cores preserved deformed, unconsolidated, sedimentary, layers in the Dead Sea Basin - now known as intraclast breccia - and are a new clue to understanding the earthquake history of the Dead Sea Transform. In short, intraclast breccias are made as deposits are formed in the Dead Sea lake bed but then are disrupted and deformed by ground shaking - in other words - an earthquake. … it is possible to identify deformations that align with historical earthquakes. …

By using radiocarbon dating and counting layers in the core, they were able to collate and identify the disturbed sections in the core with recent and historical strong quakes, including the major earthquakes of 1927, 1837, 1212, 1033, 749 CE, and 31 BC. Once they established the correlation between disturbed layers and historic earthquakes, they also suggested earthquake estimates. For Amos’s earthquake, they estimated a magnitude of 7.3 due to local intensities of previous studies Based upon the disturbed layers, they also suggest the recurrence of large earthquakes: in other words, how often one can expect a large quake in the region. Between 2100 BCE and 1 BCE they calculate a mean recurrence interval of approximately 190 years. The disturbed layers in the core appear to bear out the mean recurrence interal argued by Migowski et al. as they believe quakes occurred aournd 1050 BCE, 700 BCE and 525 BCE. This insight provides the most current information on Levantine earthquakes during the biblical period and has yet to be integrated into Near Eastern scholarship. …

For Amos’s earthquake, they locate the epicenter in the north, and more specifically place it about 100 kilometers north of the Sea of Galilee. …

Based on a critical evaluation of the current evidence identified with earthquake damage, in my view, only Deir ‘Alla and Rehov (and Dan upon further excavation) contain clear evidence of seismic damage. This is not to say that other sites such as Hazor may contain damage, but it is not as telling as the evidence at Deir ‘Alla and Rehov. At the same time, neither Deir ‘Alla nor Rehov has widespread damage in their mid eighth century strata. The evidence is based on only what is left, largely where residents built over the existing damage. Thus future excavations, especially those north of the Carmel Ridge must be attuned to finding small sections of seismic damage in their mid eighth century strata. Sites such as Abel-Beth-Maacah, Tel Kinrot,2 Tell Keisan (stratum 6), Bethsaida, Jezreel (if more Iron II remains can be excavated), and Beth-Shean (if more Iron II remains can be excavated) should all be sites that suffered measureable seismic damage. Other sites such as Yoqneam, Tell Qiri, Taanach, Tel Amal, Dothan, Tirzah, Tell es-Saidiyeh, Shechem, and Tell el-Mazar are all sites that may have shook strongly but did not suffer as much damage.

  1. See Claudia Migowski, Amotz Agnon, Revital Bookman, Jorg F. W. Negendank, and Mordechai Stein, “Recurrence Pattern of Holocene Earthquakes along the Dead Sea Transform Revealed by Varve-Counting and Radiocarbon Dating of Lacustrine Sediments,” EPSL 222 (2004): 301-14. [OF]

  2. See the preliminary comments about possible earthquake damage in Juha Pakkala, Katri Saarelainen, Kirsi Valkama, Stefan Münger, and Jürgen Zangenberg, “Kinneretin kaivaukset vuonna 2007,” TA 3 (2008): 195–208. Martti Nissinen and Stefan Münger, “Down the River…A Shrine Model from Tel Kinrot in its Context,” in A Timeless Vale. Archaeological and related essays on the Jordan Valley in honour of Gerrit van der Kooij on the occasion of his sixty-fifth birthday (ASLU 19; ed. E. Kaptijn and L. P. Petit; Leiden: Leiden University Press, 2009), 129-144, regarding Iron IB evidence, “Tilted or distorted walls with, in some cases cracked boulders and skewed or overthrown mudbrick architecture clearly indicate that this settlement phase fell victim to a massive earthquake. As a secondary effect, parts of the dwellings went up in flames.” [OF]

Text #8829

Ambraseys. Earthquakes in the Mediterranean and Middle East
[p. 70]

The date of this earthquake is very uncertain, since archaeological evidence is hampered by the unresolved differences between conventional chronology and New Chronology. The description by Josephus, whether really of the earthquake mentioned by Amos, Josephus and Nathan or not, is at least evidence of the effects of an earthquake that had occurred before their time somewhere in Judaea for which there are no means today of assessing its location and magnitude. … Archaeological reports give little or no technical justification to support the conclusion that damage was due to earthquake, and if so, due to the very same earthquake as that mentioned by Amos. … An earthquake that could obliterate man-made structures within an epicentral area of radius about 100 km, an area including all the sites listed as destroyed [by various scholars], is an earthquake of a size beyond the limits of the possible.

Text #3377

Josephus. The Complete Works
[Joseph. AJ. 9.10.4. Translated by William Whiston. Christian Classics Ethereal Library pp. 522--523]



While Uzziah was in this state, and making preparation [for futurity], he was corrupted in his mind by pride, and became insolent, and this on account of that abundance which he had of things that will soon perish, and despised that power which is of eternal duration (which consisted in piety towards God, and in the observation of the laws); so he fell by occasion of the good success of his affairs, and was carried headlong into those sins of his father, which the splendor of that prosperity he enjoyed, and the glorious actions he had done, led him into, while he was not able to govern himself well about them. Accordingly, when a remarkable day was come, and a general festival was to be celebrated, he put on the holy garment, and went into the temple to offer incense to God upon the golden altar, which he was prohibited to do by Azariah the high priest, who had fourscore priests with him, and who told him that it was not lawful for him to offer sacrifice, and that “none besides the posterity of Aaron were permitted so to do.” And when they cried out that he must go out of the temple, and not transgress against God, he was wroth at them, and threatened to kill them, unless they would hold their peace. In the mean time a great earthquake shook the ground1 and a rent was made in the temple, and the bright rays of the sun shone through it, and fell upon the king’s face, insomuch that the leprosy seized upon him immediately. And before the city, at a place called Eroge, half the mountain broke off from the rest on the west, and rolled itself four furlongs, and stood still at the east mountain, till the roads, as well as the king’s gardens, were spoiled by the obstruction. Now, as soon as the priests saw that the king’s face was infected with the leprosy, they told him of the calamity he was under, and commanded that he should go out of the city as a polluted person. Hereupon he was so confounded at the sad distemper, and sensible that he was not at liberty to contradict, that he did as he was commanded, and underwent this miserable and terrible punishment for an intention beyond what befitted a man to have, and for that impiety against God which was implied therein. So he abode out of the city for some time, and lived a private life, while his son Jotham took the government; after which he died with grief and anxiety at what had happened to him, when he had lived sixty-eight years, and reigned of them fifty-two; and was buried by himself in his own gardens.

  1. This account of an earthquake at Jerusalem at the very same time when Uzziah usurped the priest’s office, and went into the sanctuary to burn incense, and of the consequences of the earthquake, is entirely wanting in our other copies, though it be exceeding like to a prophecy of Jeremiah, now in Zechariah 14:4, 5; in which prophecy mention is made of “fleeing from that earthquake, as they fled from this earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah;” so that there seems to have been some considerable resemblance between these historical and prophetical earthquakes. [OF]

Text #8828

Editorial comment by Laura Knight-Jadczyk

The “Amos Earthquake” has long been used as a chronological lynchpin for Biblical scholars who, almost without exception, utilize the work of Ari Ben-Menahem who dates the “Amos Earthquake” to 11 October 759. He bases this on his reading of 2 Chron 26 and Josephus. The fact is, there is nothing to support such a precise date and there is no scientific justification for linking an earthquake with leprosy inflicted on the king. A close reading of the biblical texts suggests strongly that Josephus was “just making stuff up.” Ben-Menahem’s reliance on Josephus reveals an uncritical use of his sources. It should also be noted that Ben-Menahem linked the quake with an eclipse in 763 that was known from an Assyrian list. (Alan Millard, The Eponyms of the Assyrian Empire 910-612 BC (SAAS2; Helsinki: Neo-Assyrian Text Corpus Project, 1994), 41, 59.) Ben-Menahem (“Earthquake Catalog”, p. 262) finds the eclipse in Amos 8:8-9, “Shall not the land tremble on this account, and everyone mourn who lives in it, and all of it rise like the Nile, and be tossed about and sink again, like the Nile of Egypt? On that day, says the Lord GOD, I will make the sun go down at noon, and darken the earth in broad daylight.” Also, Zechariah 14:4-7 and Jeremiah 4:23-24.

The traditional view of earthquakes in Palestine is that they were very frequent, but recent studies suggest otherwise. Following an earthquake around 1050 BC, no (or little) evidence for a severe quake has been uncovered until the mid-eighth century. The most recent studies now suggest that two earthquakes occurred during that period according to Ryan Roberts as described in his Ph.D. thesis “Terra Terror”.1

What is of more interest in Roberts’ thesis is the idea that this earthquake, affecting primarily the northern kingdom of Israel, while sparing the southern kingdom of Judah, was the impetus for the rise of religious reform, i.e. the emergence of a new kind of prophet and changes in religious practice formulated in an effort to appease the god (in this case, YHWH). (Amos was the first prophet to act outside of the model of Elijah/Elisha who were mainly wonder workers and who transmitted their prophetic expertise from master to pupil.)

It has long been the consensus that the book of Amos is the oldest book of the Hebrew Bible. Roberts attempts to demonstrate that there are elements of the book of Amos that reveal eye-witness accounts of a great earthquake suggesting that the “prophecy” was certainly written after the event (though Roberts does not emphasize that point). Roberts also mentions that it might be possible to de-couple Amos from the mid-eighth century earthquake and place his book at a later time, such as following the second earthquake, a century later. However, as will be shown below, the Amos passages, while containing earthquake imagery, also include strong images of military devastation, exile, and even floods! It can also be noted that there is an abundance of earthquake imagery in Isaiah and Micah which would suggest that others followed the Amos model of prophecy in general, but these are only allusions and neither of them ever mention Amos’ earthquake specifically as the book of Zechariah does three centuries later. That raises the question, as Roberts points out, why, if the earthquake was so severe, did it go unmentioned for 300 years between the time that Amos was allegedly active, and the time of Zechariah?

What the Hebrew Bible2 has to say about the alleged “Amos Earthquake”:

Amo 1:1 The words of Amos, who was among the shepherds of Tekoa, which he saw concerning Israel in the days of King Uzziah of Judah and in the days of King Jeroboam son of Joash of Israel, two years before the earthquake.

Amo 1:4 So I will send a fire on the house of Hazael, and it shall devour the strongholds of Ben-hadad.

Amo 1:5 I will break the gate bars of Damascus, and cut off the inhabitants from the Valley of Aven, and the one who holds the scepter from Beth-eden; and the people of Aram shall go into exile to Kir, says the LORD.

Amo 1:7 So I will send a fire on the wall of Gaza, fire that shall devour its strongholds.

Amo 1:8 I will cut off the inhabitants from Ashdod, and the one who holds the scepter from Ashkelon; I will turn my hand against Ekron, and the remnant of the Philistines shall perish, says the Lord GOD.

Amo 1:10 So I will send a fire on the wall of Tyre, fire that shall devour its strongholds.

Amo 1:12 So I will send a fire on Teman, and it shall devour the strongholds of Bozrah.

Amo 1:14 So I will kindle a fire against the wall of Rabbah, fire that shall devour its strongholds, with shouting on the day of battle, with a storm on the day of the whirlwind;

Amo 1:15 then their king shall go into exile, he and his officials together, says the LORD.

Amo 2:2 So I will send a fire on Moab, and it shall devour the strongholds of Kerioth, and Moab shall die amid uproar, amid shouting and the sound of the trumpet;

Amo 2:3 I will cut off the ruler from its midst, and will kill all its officials with him, says the LORD.

Amo 2:5 So I will send a fire on Judah, and it shall devour the strongholds of Jerusalem.

Amo 3:14 On the day I punish Israel for its transgressions, I will punish the altars of Bethel, and the horns of the altar shall be cut off and fall to the ground.

Amo 3:15 I will tear down the winter house as well as the summer house; and the houses of ivory shall perish, and the great houses shall come to an end, says the LORD.

Amo 4:2 The Lord GOD has sworn by his holiness: The time is surely coming upon you, when they shall take you away with hooks, even the last of you with fishhooks.

Amo 4:6 I gave you cleanness of teeth in all your cities, and lack of bread in all your places, yet you did not return to me, says the LORD.

Amo 4:7 And I also withheld the rain from you when there were still three months to the harvest; I would send rain on one city, and send no rain on another city; one field would be rained upon, and the field on which it did not rain withered;

Amo 4:8 so two or three towns wandered to one town to drink water, and were not satisfied; yet you did not return to me, says the LORD.

Amo 4:9 I struck you with blight and mildew; I laid waste your gardens and your vineyards; the locust devoured your fig trees and your olive trees; yet you did not return to me, says the LORD.

Amo 4:10 I sent among you a pestilence after the manner of Egypt; I killed your young men with the sword; I carried away your horses; and I made the stench of your camp go up into your nostrils; yet you did not return to me, says the LORD.

Amo 4:11 I overthrew some of you, as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah, and you were like a brand snatched from the fire; yet you did not return to me, says the LORD.

Amo 4:12 Therefore thus I will do to you, O Israel; because I will do this to you, prepare to meet your God, O Israel!

Amo 5:4 For thus says the LORD to the house of Israel: Seek me and live;

Amo 5:5 but do not seek Bethel, and do not enter into Gilgal or cross over to Beer-sheba; for Gilgal shall surely go into exile, and Bethel shall come to nothing.

Amo 5:6 Seek the LORD and live, or he will break out against the house of Joseph like fire, and it will devour Bethel, with no one to quench it.

Amo 5:7 Ah, you that turn justice to wormwood, and bring righteousness to the ground!

Amo 5:8 The one who made the Pleiades and Orion, and turns deep darkness into the morning, and darkens the day into night, who calls for the waters of the sea, and pours them out on the surface of the earth, the LORD is his name,

Amo 5:9 who makes destruction flash out against the strong, so that destruction comes upon the fortress.

Amo 5:16 Therefore thus says the LORD, the God of hosts, the Lord: In all the squares there shall be wailing; and in all the streets they shall say, “Alas! alas!” They shall call the farmers to mourning, and those skilled in lamentation, to wailing;

Amo 5:17 in all the vineyards there shall be wailing, for I will pass through the midst of you, says the LORD.

Amo 5:18 Alas for you who desire the day of the LORD! Why do you want the day of the LORD? It is darkness, not light;

Amo 5:19 as if someone fled from a lion, and was met by a bear; or went into the house and rested a hand against the wall, and was bitten by a snake.

Amo 5:20 Is not the day of the LORD darkness, not light, and gloom with no brightness in it?

Amo 5:24 But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.

Amo 5:26 You shall take up Sakkuth your king, and Kaiwan your star-god, your images, which you made for yourselves;

Amo 5:27 therefore I will take you into exile beyond Damascus, says the LORD, whose name is the God of hosts.

Amo 7:10 Then Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, sent to King Jeroboam of Israel, saying, “Amos has conspired against you in the very center of the house of Israel; the land is not able to bear all his words.

Amo 7:11 For thus Amos has said, ‘Jeroboam shall die by the sword, and Israel must go into exile away from his land.’”

Amo 7:12 And Amaziah said to Amos, “O seer, go, flee away to the land of Judah, earn your bread there, and prophesy there;

Amo 7:13 but never again prophesy at Bethel, for it is the king’s sanctuary, and it is a temple of the kingdom.”

Amo 8:4 Hear this, you that trample on the needy, and bring to ruin the poor of the land,

Amo 8:5 saying, “When will the new moon be over so that we may sell grain; and the sabbath, so that we may offer wheat for sale? We will make the ephah small and the shekel great, and practice deceit with false balances,

Amo 8:6 buying the poor for silver and the needy for a pair of sandals, and selling the sweepings of the wheat.”

Amo 8:7 The LORD has sworn by the pride of Jacob: Surely I will never forget any of their deeds.

Amo 8:8 Shall not the land tremble on this account, and everyone mourn who lives in it, and all of it rise like the Nile, and be tossed about and sink again, like the Nile of Egypt?

Amo 8:9 On that day, says the Lord GOD, I will make the sun go down at noon, and darken the earth in broad daylight.

Amo 8:10 I will turn your feasts into mourning, and all your songs into lamentation; I will bring sackcloth on all loins, and baldness on every head; I will make it like the mourning for an only son, and the end of it like a bitter day.

Amo 9:1 I saw the LORD standing beside the altar, and he said: Strike the capitals until the thresholds shake, and shatter them on the heads of all the people; and those who are left I will kill with the sword; not one of them shall flee away, not one of them shall escape.

Amo 9:2 Though they dig into Sheol, from there shall my hand take them; though they climb up to heaven, from there I will bring them down.

Amo 9:3 Though they hide themselves on the top of Carmel, from there I will search out and take them; and though they hide from my sight at the bottom of the sea, there I will command the sea-serpent, and it shall bite them.

Amo 9:4 And though they go into captivity in front of their enemies, there I will command the sword, and it shall kill them; and I will fix my eyes on them for harm and not for good.

Amo 9:5 The Lord, GOD of hosts, he who touches the earth and it melts, and all who live in it mourn, and all of it rises like the Nile, and sinks again, like the Nile of Egypt;

Amo 9:6 who builds his upper chambers in the heavens, and founds his vault upon the earth; who calls for the waters of the sea, and pours them out upon the surface of the earth–the LORD is his name.

The majority of references in the above text seem to be death by fire, sword and flood though certainly, elements that would describe an earthquake are present.

The book of Hosea is similarly dated to the late 8th century by scholars, and it does mention King Uzziah who Josephus implicates in the earthquake scenario, but no mention of the earthquake or anything similar to what Josephus wrote.

Hos_1:1 The word of the LORD that came to Hosea son of Beeri, in the days of Kings Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah of Judah, and in the days of King Jeroboam son of Joash of Israel.

Parts of Isaiah are dated to the 8th century BC, parts to the 6th, and parts to the 5th, BC. Notice that he, too, only mentions Uzziah and makes no reference to the earthquake.

Isa 1:1 The vision of Isaiah son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah. \

Isa 6:1 In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lofty; and the hem of his robe filled the temple.

The book of Zechariah is dated to the 5th century BC or later and finally, there is a reference to the alleged “Amos Earthquake”.

Zec 14:5 And you shall flee by the valley of the LORD’s mountain, for the valley between the mountains shall reach to Azal; and you shall flee as you fled from the earthquake in the days of King Uzziah of Judah. Then the LORD my God will come, and all the holy ones with him.

One wonders, of course, if history is being retroactively created by the author(s) of Zechariah.

Finally, the books of Chronicles, which are dated to the 4th century BC or later tell us a story about Uzziah. It’s amazing how the tale has expanded over time though notice the very important fact that Chronicles makes no mention of the earthquake!

2Ch 26:11 Moreover Uzziah had an army of soldiers, fit for war, in divisions according to the numbers in the muster made by the secretary Jeiel and the officer Maaseiah, under the direction of Hananiah, one of the king’s commanders.

2Ch 26:14 Uzziah provided for all the army the shields, spears, helmets, coats of mail, bows, and stones for slinging.

2Ch 26:18 they withstood King Uzziah, and said to him, “It is not for you, Uzziah, to make offering to the LORD, but for the priests the descendants of Aaron, who are consecrated to make offering. Go out of the sanctuary; for you have done wrong, and it will bring you no honor from the LORD God.”

2Ch 26:19 Then Uzziah was angry. Now he had a censer in his hand to make offering, and when he became angry with the priests a leprous disease broke out on his forehead, in the presence of the priests in the house of the LORD, by the altar of incense.

2Ch 26:21 King Uzziah was leprous to the day of his death, and being leprous lived in a separate house, for he was excluded from the house of the LORD. His son Jotham was in charge of the palace of the king, governing the people of the land.

2Ch 26:22 Now the rest of the acts of Uzziah, from first to last, the prophet Isaiah son of Amoz wrote.

Therefore, there is a mystery here and we retain the designation “The Amos Earthquake” even if it is not scientifically correlated with Amos or any other possibly fictitious character in the Hebrew Bible.

  1. Roberts notes the relevant studies: Kagan et al., “Intrabasin Paleoearthquake, “ 23-25 and Macro et al., “Megiddo Earthquakes”. It seems that the former thinks that the two apparent quakes revealed in the seismite record were only a few decades apart, while the latter says that the first was after 800 BC, and the second after 700 BC, i.e. about a century separating them. Another source, E. Zilberman et al, “Neotectonic and paleoseismic study: Bet She’an Valley,” GSI 15 (2004): 1-37, who also found evidence of the two earthquakes being about a century apart. The most exact dating evidence is from Migowski et al., “Recurrence Pattern,” who suggested the quake struck around 700 BC.

  2. NRSV. Copyright © 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America

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