An ancient Jewish festival on the 17th of Adar (March) commemorates a joyous day in Jewish history when enemies of the
Jews in Lebanon and Syria may have been overcome by a violent earthquake. The veracity and year of this account are in question as is discussed in Textual Evidence.
... and when Janaeus came down to kill the scribes they escaped from him and went to Syria and stayed in country of Koselikos and the gentiles there rose to kill them and they
heziu them a great zia [shocked them a great shock, scared them great scare] and they struck them a great blow and left some survivors and they went to Bet Zabadi Rabbi
Hidka says the day the natives wanted to kill the scribes of Israel the sea upwelled and destroyed a third in the settled land.
The Megillat Taanit, written before the destruction of the second Temple in 70 AD, summarizes oral traditions listing 35 days to celebrate joyous events in early Jewish history;
primarily during the Hasmonean period (167 BC – 37 BC) (Karcz (2004)).
One such day on the 17th of Adar (February-March) is described as such
... on the 17th the natives attacked the remnant of scribes in the country of Belikos and Beit Zabdai and a salvation came to the House of Israel.
The original Megillat Taanit text neither mentions King Alexander Janneus nor describes an earthquake and a possible tsunami. Karcz (2004) reports that the quote in the
Megillat Taanit may, according to some Judaic scholars, refer to something that occurred during the rule of the more favorably viewed Hasmonean King
Jonathan Maccabeus (who ruled from 160 BC – 142 BC) while he was fighting King
Demetrius Nicator and the Arabs in Lebanon and Syria rather than fellow Jews (the Pharisaic rebels) thus
potentially resolving the mystery of why this occasion might be viewed as joyous. For this reason, Karcz (2004) suggests the possibility that this description may
refer to the alleged
Dead Fish and Soldiers Earthquake of ~142 BC
– the date of which he notes is elastic when one examines sources. See the
Notes Section of the Dead Fish and Soldiers Quake for further discussion.
Paleoseismic Evidence for an earthquake(s) associated with the Seventeenth of Adar Quake or an unreported quake from around 92 BCE is summarized below:
Tekieh Trenches Syria
possible - ~2 m displacement
unlikely to be Seventeenth of Adar Quake - Type B (microbreccia) 1 cm. thick
unlikely to be Seventeenth of Adar Quake - 1 cm. thick
Nahal Ze 'elim
possible from around this time - 8 cm. thick intraclast breccia
Taybeh Trench Jordan
possible from around this time
Qatar Trench Jordan
no events seen around this date
Each site will now be discussed separately.
Tekieh Trenches Syria
Gomez et. al. (2003, p. 15)
may have seen evidence for an earthquake in the 1st or 2nd century BCE in paleoseismic trenches in Syria (Event B).
Event B is estimated to have created ~ 2 meters of displacement Gomez et. al. (2003, pp. 16-17).
Wechsler at al. (2014) records event CH4-E6 (modeled age 392 BCE – 91 CE) in paleoseismic trenches at Bet Zayda just north of the Sea of Galilee (aka Lake Kinneret).
92 BC date assignments in the Dead Sea at En Feshka (Kagan et. al., 2011) and
En Gedi (Migowski et. al., 2004) are not plausible as they are too far away from
the supposed epicenter to produce a seismite. Thus, they likely point to an unknown earthquake from around this time.
(Kagan et. al., 2011) in
Table 3 identified a 1 cm. thick
Type B (microbreccia) seismite at a depth of 387.0 cm. which they associated with a 92 BCE earthquake.
Migowski et. al. (2004)
identified a 1 cm. thick seismite in the En Gedi Core (DSEn) at a depth of 294.93 cm. which they assigned to a 92 BCE earthquake
Nahal Ze 'elim (ZA2)
Kagan et al (2011)
in Table 3 report
an 8 cm. thick seismite at a depth of 516 cm. due to an earthquake which struck around this time.
In paleoseismic trenches near Taybeh, Jordan, LeFevre et al. (2018)
dated an earthquake Event (E6) on the Arava Fault to have occurred between 160 BC and 117 BC.