BIBLICAL ARCHAEOLOGY: EVIDENCE OF THE EXODUS FROM EGYPT
One of the most important discoveries that relate to the time of the Exodus is the Merneptah stele which dates to about 1210 BC. Merneptah, the king of Egypt, boasts that he has destroyed his enemies in Canaan. He states: Plundered is the Canaan with every evil; Carried off is Ashkelon; seized upon is Gezer; Yanoam is made as that which does not exist; Israel is laid waste, his seed is not; (ANET 1969, 378).The word "Israel" here is written in Egyptian with the determinative for people rather than land (ANET 1969, 378 note 18). This implies that Israel did not have a king or kingdom at this time. This would be the time of the judges. The text also implies that Israel was as strong as the other cities mentioned, and not just a small tribe. The south to north order of the three city-states may provide a general location for Israel. There is an interesting place named in Joshua 15:9 and 18:15, "well of waters of Nephtoah," that may be the Hebrew name of Merneptah. The well which is probably anachronistically named after Merneptah would be near Jerusalem. The Egyptian Papyrus Anastasi III contains "The Journal of a Frontier Official" which mentions this well. It says:Year 3, 1st Month of the 3rd Season, Day 17. The Chief of Bowmen of the Wells of Mer-ne-Ptah Hotep-hir-Maat--life, prosperity, health!--which is (on) the mountain range, arrived for a (judicial) investigation in the fortress which is in Sile (ANET 1969, 258).Yurco has recently re-analyzed the Karnak battle reliefs, and has concluded that they should be ascribed to Merneptah and not Ramses II (1990, 21-38). There are four scenes which Yurco correlates with the Merneptah stele. One scene is the battle against the city of Ashkelon which is specifically named. Yurco argues that the other two city scenes are Gezer and Yanoam. He concludes that the open country scene must be Israel. Rainey rejects this view because it shows them with chariots and infantry (1990, 56-60). Lawrence Stager suggests that the small horses pulling the chariot belong to pharaoh's army as in the Ashkelon scene (1985, 58). Rainey thinks the Shasu are Israelites, but others identify the Shasu as Edomites (Stager 1985, 60). Both scholars Yurco and Rainey agree that these battle scenes are from Merneptah's reign (Yurco 1991, 61; Rainey 1992, 73-4; Hess 1993, 134). Before the discovery of the Merneptah stele scholars placed the date of the exodus and entry into Canaan much later. They are now forced to admit that Israel was already in Canaan at the time of Merneptah. Israel was big and strong enough to challenge Egypt in battle. This stele puts a terminus ante quem date of 1210 BC for the exodus (McCarter 1992, 132).
ANCIENT BOWL WITH CURSES AGAINST THEIR ENEMIES, METRO MUSEUM OF ART
There are two types of execration texts from the 12th Dynasty of Egypt. The oldest type are inscribed red clay bowls that date to the reign of Sesostris III (1878-1842 BC). The second type, dating a generation or two later (Middle Bronze II, 1800-1630 BC) are clay figurines which list cities along major routes of travel (McCarter 1996, 43). The Egyptians practiced the magical cursing of their enemies by inscribing pottery bowls and figurines with the names of their enemies, and then smashing them to break the power of their enemies. "Iy-'anaq" is named which may be related to the Anaqim or giants who dwelt in Canaan before the conquest (ANET 1969, 328). There is the ruler of "Shutu" named Job. Shutu is probably Moab the sons of Sheth (Numbers 24:17; Ahituv 1984, 184). There are the rulers of Shechem, Hazor, Ashkelon, Laish, Tyre, and Pella ('Apiru-Anu). The ruler of Shamkhuna is Abu-reheni (Abraham). The tribes of 'Arqata and Byblos are mentioned (ANET 1969, 329). Jerusalem is named, but there is no mention of Israel. There is the interesting mention of the personal name "Zabulanu" which is similar to the cuneiform for "Zebulon" (ANET 1969, 329 note 6). This was probably not the son of Jacob, but just a popular name? In Ugaritic zbl is a place name (Gordon 1965, Text 1084:13; Glossary #815). Rohl finds the name Jacob and Joseph (Iysipi, E31), but this is highly questionable (1995, 352; ANET 1969, 329). The Execration texts seems to parallel the time of the patriarchs.
INSCRIPTION OF KHU-SEBEK, CALLED DJAA
A stele found at Abydos tells about an Asiatic campaign by Sen-Usert III (1880-1840 BC) which says: His majesty proceeded northward to overthrow the Asiatics. His majesty reached a foreign country of which the name was Sekmem. His majesty took the right direction in proceeding to the Residence of life, prosperity, and health. Then Sekmem fell, together with the wretched Retenu (ANET 1969, 230b).Some scholars think "Sekmem" is probably Shechem which is located in a pass between Mount Ebal and Mount Gerizim. Shechem controlled an important trade route and the fertile valley to the East. It seems that Shechem was a very powerful and important city at the time of the patriarchs. The city was surrounded by massive embankments of earth with mudbrick walls on top. During the 17th century BC a rectangular fortress temple was built with walls 17 feet thick (Toombs 1985, 936; Wright 1962; See Judges 9:46). In the Amarna Letters the king at Shechem was Lab'ayu who was the most important ruler in central Palestine (Na'aman and Aviv 1992, 288). Lab'ayu is accused of going over to the side of the Hapiru. The Hapiru are probably the Hebrews during the time of the Judges. Joshua renews the covenant with Israel's leaders at Mount Ebal (Joshua 8) and again at Shechem (Joshua 24). Joshua never took Shechem so some scholars think that the Gibeonite deception included the city of Shechem (NIV, Joshua 9). Joseph's bones which were brought out of Egypt were buried at Shechem. There is no mention of Israel in this text.
THE STORY OF SINUHE
The story of Sinuhe also gives us a background picture about Syria-Palestine life in the Middle Bronze Age which is most likely the patriarchal period. Sinuhe flees Egypt on hearing of the death of King Amenemhet I (1960 BC) and becomes an exile like Moses. His path of flight may have been similar to the Exodus, but his destination was Byblos. He says, "I came up to the Wall-of-the-ruler, made to oppose the Asiatic and to crush the Sand-Crossers....I halted at the Island of Kem-wer. An attack of thirst overtook me" (ANET 1969, 19; Lichtheim 1975, vol.1, 224; Gardiner 1916; Anati 1963, 386; Rainey 1972). This "Wall" is the fortresses on the eastern frontier near the present day Suez Canal. Kem-wer is the area of the Bitter Lakes.The ruler of the Upper Retenu (northern Palestine and southern Syria) then befriended him, and Sinuhe marries his eldest daughter. It is a tribal society which fights over pasture land and wells. One battle is similar to the story of David and Goliath.In his old age Sinuhe is allowed to return to Egypt. He leaves his eldest son in charge of his tribe and all his possessions of serfs, herds, fruit, and trees. Finally, Sinuhe receives a proper burial in a pyramid tomb. This story gives helpful background information, but there is no mention of Israel. There is a Movie called The Egyptian (1954) that tells the story of Sinuhe.
It seems most likely that Joseph rose to power during the time of the Hyksos, or just before in the 12th Dynasty when many Asiatics came into Egypt. It also seems most likely that the Exodus from Egypt should be equated with the expulsion of the Hyksos. Not all the Hyksos were Israelites. It says in Exodus that a great mixed multitude came out of Egypt with Moses (Exodus 12:38). The Greek name "Hyksos" was coined by Manetho to identify his fifteenth Dynasty of Asiatic rulers of northern Egypt. The word comes from the Egyptian Hk3(w) h3swt, which means "ruler(s) of foreign countries" (Meyers 1997, 3:133) which Manetho mistranslated as "Shepherd Kings". The Hyksos were of West Semitic background probably from southern Palestine who migrated down into northern Egypt during the 12th and 13th dynasties. At first they lived peacefully with the Egyptians until the deterioration of Egypt's power when in 1648 BC they captured the Egyptian capital at Memphis. The Hyksos made Avaris their capital which is modern Tell ed-Dab'a, which was later known as Piramesse (Exodus 1:11). "Avaris" is the Greek term for the Egyptian Hwt-w'rt meaning "mansion of the desert plateau" (Meyers 1997 3:134). Other important Hyksos cities were Tell el-Yahudiyeh (meaning "mound of the Jews") known for its distinctive black and white ware, and Tell el-Maskhuta (probably Succoth in Exodus 12:37 NIV note, 13:20).
STORE CITIES OF PITHOM AND RAMESES
Exodus 1:11 states, "So they put slave masters over them to oppress them with forced labor, and they built Pithom and Rameses as store cities for Pharaoh" (NIV).
Professor Hans Goedicke believes that the Biblical city of Ra'amezez is incorrectly equated with Pi-Ramesses. Hershel Shanks writing about Goedicke's view states, "But the fact is that the store city of Ra'amezez cannot be identified with Pi-Ramesses, the Residence of the Ramessides. This identification is impossible phonetically, as has been demonstrated conclusively more than 15 years ago (D.B.Redford, "Exodus I, II", Vetus Testamentum, Vol. 13, pp. 408-413, 1963). Moreover, the Residence of the Ramessides is never denoted in Egyptian sources by the use of the royal name Ramesses alone. When the Residence of the Ramessides is referred to, the royal name is always connected with the Egyptian word pr, meaning house or residence: the reference is always in the form "Per Ramesses" (BAR, September/October 1981, p. 44).
Long before Per Ramesses, in the same area was Avaris the capital of the Hyksos kings and a border town when written in hieroglyphic transliteration is R3-mtny (Khatana) which is today called Tell ed-Dab'a and is being excavated by Manfred Bietak, Director of the Austrian Archaeological Institute in Cairo. The hieroglyphic R3-mtny can be projected back into Semitic transcription as Ramesen. Therefore Shanks concludes, "Biblical Ra'amezez can therefore almost certainly be identified with Tell el-Daba (Ibid.).
Pithom is most likely to be identified with Tell el-Rataba according to Goedicke (Ibid.)
According to the Turin king list there were six Hyksos kings who ruled for 108 years. One important ruler was named "Y'qbhr" or "Jacob-hr" (Albright 1934, 11). There have been several different translations of this name. Early scholars purposed the meaning of "Jacob-El" as "Jacob is my god", but Albright observed that the name is a name-pattern verb plus theophorous element (1935, 191, n.59; Ward 1976, 358). In Phoenician and Akkadian hr means "mountain". Ward states:Here hr, 'mountain,' appears as a synonym for 'ilu, 'god, much as Hebrew sur, 'rock,' and similar words were used, e.g., Suri-'el, 'El is my rock.' I would thus render Y'qb-hr as '(My) mountain (i.e. god) protects,' which would be identical in meaning to Yahqub-'il (1976, 359).Hr meaning "mountain" or "rock" is identical to the word El or "god". In the Old Testament Zobel proposes:The name (Jacob) is a hyocoristic form of what was originally a theophorous name belonging to the class of statement-names made up of a divine name and the imperfect of a verb. Its full form, not found in the OT, was 'Jacob-El'(1990, 188-9; Shanks 1988, 24-25).
Therefore the name "Jacob" found in the Bible would be the same as the name "Jacob-El" which is found on a number of Hyksos Scarabs. Although this name was common among the Arameans, but uncommon among the Canaanites and Phoenicians (Zobel 1990, 189), R. Weil was the first to connect the Hyksos princes with the Biblical story of Jacob (Kempinski 1985, 134). In 1969 a scarab of Jacob-El was found in the Middle Bronze II tomb at Shiqmona, a suburb of Haifa, that was from a mid-18th century deposit 100-80 years before the Hyksos (Kempinski 1985, 132-3). The Jacob-El of Shiqmona must have been a local Palestinian ruler, possibly the same Jacob of the Bible. According to Genesis 32:23-33 Jacob's name was changed to Israel. Steuernagel was the first to propose the idea of the "Jacob tribe" or "proto-Israelite Jacob group" (Zobel 1990, 194). It may be that the name "Israel" was not officially used until after the conquest of Canaan when a league of 12 tribes was formed. This would help explain the absence of the name "Israel" from early sources. Joseph Austrian Manfred Beitak excavating Tell ed Dab'a, the ancient capital of the Hyksos, between 1984 to 1987 discovered a palace and garden dating back to the 12th Dynasty with a tomb containing a statue of an Asiatic with a mushroom hairstyle that some scholars think might be Joseph (Aling 1995, 33; 1981; Rohl 1995, 327-367). Much more evidence is needed to claim for certain that this is Joseph's tomb (Redford 1970). There is an interesting study done by Barbara Bell on the records of the Nile's water levels. She concluded that in the middle of the 12th Dynasty there were erratic Nile water levels that caused crop failure (Bell 1975, 223-269). Could this be Joseph's famine? There is "The Tradition of Seven Lean Years in Egypt" written during the Ptolemaic period about the reign of Djoser that states: To let thee know. I was in distress on the Great Throne, and those who are in the palace were in heart's affliction from a very great evil, since the Nile had not come in my time for a space of seven years. Grain was scant, fruits were dried up, and everything which they eat was short. Every man robbed his companion (ANET 1969, 31).
The Story of Two Brothers is an Egyptian text that dates to about 1225 BC that is very similar to the story of Joseph. This tale tells how a young man was falsely accused of a proposal of adultery by the wife of his older brother after he had rejected her advances (ANET 1969, 23-25; Lichtheim 1976, 2:203-211). In the 12th Dynasty Egyptian tomb of Khunum-hotep (1890 BC) at Beni Hasan is pictured a caravan of 37 Asiatics arriving in Egypt trading black eye paint (stibium) from the land of Shutu (ANEP 1969, fig. 3). The leader is named Ibsha and bears the title "ruler of foreign lands" from which the name "Hyksos" is derived (ANET 1969, 229). The land of Shutu is probably an ancient term for Gilead (Aharoni 1979, 146). The Ishmaelites who took Joseph down to Egypt came from Gilead through Dothan (Genesis 37:25). In the 13th Dynasty there were a number of Asiatics serving in Egyptian households. One text lists 95 servants from one Theban household with 37 of the names being Asiatics, and at least 28 females (ANET 1969, 553-4; Albright 1955, 222-233). There is a Asiatic women named Sekratu (line 13) which is related to "Issachar." In line 23 an Asiatic woman is called "Asher," and in line 37 another woman is called Aqaba which is related to "Jacob." This may indicate that some of the tribes of Israel were in Egypt at this time. In the Book of Sothis which Syncellus believed was the genuine Manetho it gives the specific time when Joseph rose to power under Hyksos king, Aphophis who ruled 61 years. It says: Some say that this king (Aphophis) was at first called Pharaoh, and that in the 4th year of his kingship Joseph came as a slave into Egypt. He appointed Joseph lord of Egypt and all his kingdom in the 17th year of his rule, having learned from him the interpretation of the dreams and having thus proved his divine wisdom (Manetho 1940, 239). Halpern has concluded, "Overall, the Joseph story is a reinterpretation of the Hyksos period from an Israelite perspective" (1992, 98).
EXPULSION OF THE HYKSOS
The earliest document that describes the time of the Hyksos is from the Temple of Hat-shepsut (1486-1469 BC) At Speos Artemidos which says: Hear ye, all people and the folk as many as they may be, I have done these things through the counsel of my heart. I have not slept forgetfully, (but) I have restored that which had been ruined. I have raised up that which had gone to pieces formerly, since the Asiatics were in the midst of Avaris of the Northland, and vagabonds were in the midst of them, overthrowing that which had been made. They ruled without Re, and he did not act by divide command down to (the reign of) my majesty (ANET 1969, 231; Breasted 1988, 122-26; Shanks 1981, 49).The Hyksos worshipped Baal which was associated with the Egyptian god Seth. This led to the neglect of other gods and temples which upset the Egyptians. There is debate over the exact period of time that The Admonitions of Ipuwer describes. The text itself is from the 19th-20th Dynasty. John Van Seters strongly argues for the time of the Hyksos (1966, 103-120). It states: Foreigners have become people everywhere....the Nile is in flood....poor men have become the possessors of treasures....many dead are buried in the river....let us banish many from us....the River is blood (ANET 1969, 441; Lichtheim 1975, 1:151). This sounds similar to the event of the first plague against Egypt (Exodus 7:14-24). The river is not actually blood, but looks blood red because the Nile is flooding. Some speculate that the rest of the plagues are a result of the Nile flooding. The expulsion of the Hyksos was a series of campaigns which started with Kamose who was king in Thebes, and rebelled against the Hyksos. His son Ahmose was finally successful in pushing the Hyksos out. A commander named Ah-mose records in his tomb the victory over the Hyksos. He says: When the town of Avaris was besieged, then I showed valor on foot in the presence of his majesty. Thereupon I was appointed to the ship, 'Appearing in Memphis.' Then there was fighting on the water in the canal Pa-Djedku of Avaris. Thereupon I made a capture, and I carried away a hand. It was reported to the king's herald. Then the Gold of Valor was given to me. Thereupon there was fighting again in this place....Then Avaris was despoiled. Then I carried off spoil from there: one man, three woman, a total of four persons. Then his majesty gave them to me to be slaves. Then Sharuhen was besieged for three years. Then his majesty despoiled it (ANET 1969, 233). Note that Avaris was besieged, there is no mention of how Avaris was taken, and there is no burning of Avaris stated which still fits Josephus' account. Bietak who has been excavating ancient Avaris says that there is no evidence for a violent destruction of Avaris. He states: The archaeological material stops abruptly with the early 18th Dynasty. There are no scarabs of the 18th Dynasty type in Stratum D/2. The most likely interpretation is that Avaris was abandoned. No conflagration layer or corpses of slain soldiers have been found so far in the large and widely separated excavation areas A/II and A/V (Bietak 1988). The end of Avaris may have involved a surrender, or as Josephus has stated, an arranged retreat to Palestine (Against Apion 1.14.88, Bietak 1991, 47).
This exit from Egypt by the Hyksos probably included the Israelites as well. The story of the Exodus is most likely bases on the expulsion of the Hyksos from Egypt, for there is no other record of any mass exit from Egypt (Robertson 1990, 36; Halpern 1994, 89-96; Redford 1897, 150). The evidence seems to fit well with Josephus' account. Although the Egyptians saw the expulsion of the Hyksos as a great military victory, the Israelites viewed this as a great salvation victory for them. This seems similar to other events recorded in ancient history where both sides claim a great victory. Ramses II battled with the Hittites and almost lost his life, yet he calls this a great victory, but so do the Hittites. In reality it was a stalemate, so they both signed a treaty (ANET 1969, 201; Soggin 1993, 213) Ahab is seen as a powerful king (ANET 1969, 279). Sennacherib claims a great victory over the Jews by taking 46 cities and surrounding Jerusalem. Hezekiah is said to be "like a bird in a cage" (ANET 1969, 288), yet he claims a great victory because Jerusalem is not captured. In the Mesha or Moabite stone (ANET 1969, 320) the king of Moab, Mesha claims a great victory over Israel, yet Israel claims a great victory over Moab (II kings 3:4-27). So it seems that what the Egyptians saw as a great victory over the expulsion of the Hyksos, the Israelites saw as a great exodus victory of salvation.
Archaeological surveys and excavations show that there was very little occupation during the Late Bronze Age (Anati 1986). This seems most likely due to Ahmose's campaign against the Hyksos, and to the Israelites migration to Canaan. The Israelites could not have come out of Egypt in the 14th century because of the lack of archaeological evidence in the Sinai. Two of the most influential German scholars von Rad and Noth argued, "The Exodus and Sinai traditions and the events behind them were originally unrelated to one another" (Nicholson 1973, 1). Von Rad saw the Sitz im Leben of the Sinai covenant in the feast of Tabernacles celebrated at Shechem while the settlement tradition was celebrated at Gilgal with the feast of Weeks. Von Rad also saw Heilsgeschichte (salvation history) strikingly silent about Sinai events (Deut. 26:5b-9). Noth put forth the idea that "early Israel took the form of a tribal league on the analogy of the city-state confederations later attested in Greece and Italy and known to the Greeks as "amphictyonies" (Nicholson 1973, 12-13). On the other hand Weiser vigorously debated the view that the Sinai and Exodus traditions were independent of one another (Nicholson 1973, 33). In 1954 Mendenhall put forth the idea that the Sinai covenant is similar to the Hittite suzerainty treaties (1954, 50-76). Nicholson concludes that one is at an "impasse" since none of these views are convincing (1973, 53). There does seem to be clear parallels between the Sinai covenant and ancient suzerainty treaties, and ancient tribal leagues did exist (Chambers 1983, 39-59). There are various suggestions as to where Mt. Sinai is. De Vaux believes that the theophany of Sinai was a description of a volcanic eruption in northern Arabia (1978, 432-8). Exodus 19:18 describes the mountain like a furnace of smoke. From a distance it would look like a pillar of cloud in the day, and a pillar of fire at night. Following this cloud of smoke would lead them right to the volcano. There are no volcanoes in Sinai, but there are several in northern Arabia (Lee 1996, 20). The only known large eruption around this time is Santorini on the Greek island of Thera (Simkin et al. 1981, 111). Professor Goedicke thinks a giant tidal-like wave called a tsunami caused by the eruption of Santorini, destroyed the Egyptian army, and the eruption formed the pillar of cloud and fire in Exodus (Shanks 1981, 42-50; Oren 1981, 46-53). Note that at the time of Ogyges there occurred the first great deluge in Greece. Ogyges "lived at the same time of the Exodus from Egypt" (Eusebius 1981, 524). Maybe a tsunami caused this deluge in Greece? Jewish tradition seems to place Mt. Sinai in Arabia. Demetrius stated that Dedan was Jethro's ancestor which is identified with the oasis of el-'Ela, and when Moses went to Midian he stayed in Arabia (De Vaux 1978, 435). In Josephus' book Antiquities of the Jews he placed Sinai where the city of Madiane was (Antiquities, II.264; III.76). In the Babylonian Talmud (Sotah 5a) R. Huna and R. Hisda say, "the Holy One, blessed be He, ignored all the mountains and heights and caused His Shechinah to abide upon Mount Sinai" (Freedman and Simon 1935, 18-19). According to Old Testament passages Mt. Sinai is identified with Seir and Mt. Paran. Deuteronomy 33:2 says, "The Lord came from Sinai, and rose up from Seir unto them; he shined forth from mount Paran" (KJV, see also Judges 5:4-5, Hab. 3:3,7; Axelsson, 1987; Simons 1959). It seems that the itinerary that was followed in Numbers 33:18-36 locates Sinai in northern Arabia. Midian was also located here (I Kings 11:18) where Moses lived with Jethro, priest of Midian, for forty years (Exodus 2:15, 3:1).
According to the New Testament, Paul in Galatians 4:25 states, "For this (H)Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia" (KJV). Paul is probably following Jewish tradition that placed mount Sinai in northern Arabia. From Egyptian topographical lists one area the Shasu lived in was Seir. One place is called "land of the Shasu Yhw" (Axelsson 1987, 60). Yhw is used as a toponym, a place-name, which is most likely named after a deity. Yhw corresponds to the Old Testament YHWH, which would make this the earliest known reference. Axelsson concludes, "Thus it is conceivable that the full name of the area in question was Yhw's land, Yhw's city, Yhw's mountain, or the like" (Axelsson 1987, 60). After further study Astour places this city north of Israel in Lebanon (1979, 17-34; for more on the origins of YHWH see, De Moor, 1990, Huffmon, 1971, Murtonen, 1951).
MIDDLE BRONZE AGE DESTRUCTION
The Late Bronze Age begins with the wide spread destruction of the Middle Bronze Age. This may be the result of Ahmose, the Hyksos, or even Israel. There is some question as to how far Ahmose went into Canaan. He did get as far as Sharuhen which a number of scholars think is Tell el-'Ajjul (Rainey 178-85; Shea 1979, 3-5). He besieged it for three years before he took it (ANET 1969, 233). This may be as far as Ahmose got (Hoffmeier 1989). This may also be as far as Israel got. Two years after the Exodus (Numbers 10:11) Israel tried to take Canaan from the South, but failed (Numbers 14:45). This would be at the same time Ahmose was still besieging Sharuhen. Moses may have thought while the Egyptians were keeping the Hyksos of Canaan contained at Sharuhen, that they could conquer the land, but since the Hyksos were strong enough to hold off the Egyptians for three years, they could easily beat Israel. With the defeat of the Hyksos by Ahmose 40 years later Joshua would be able to conquer Canaan, but only a small part of the central highlands was settled by Israel. In the past scholars concluded that Ahmose must have caused the destruction of the Middle Bronze Age, but Reford has shown that Ahmoses' campaign was restricted to Sharuhen and its neighborhood to punish the Hyksos (Redford 1979, 274; Bietak 1991, 58; Weinstein 1981, 1-28). The first substantial campaign against inland Palestine was by Thutmose III (Bietak 1991, 59). From a survey of the central hill country Finkelstein does not connect the Egyptian conquest with the end of the Middle Bronze Age. He states: There is no solid archaeological evidence that many sites across the country were destroyed simultaneously, and such campaigns would fail to explain the wholesale abandonment of hundreds of small rural settlements in the remote parts of the land (Hoffmeier 1990, 87). There are several key cities that will be considered, Jericho, Ai, and Hazor. First of all, is the city of Jericho which is highly controversial about when it was destroyed.
The ancient city of Jericho is identified with Tell es-Sultan. The first large scale excavation was by Sellin and Watzinger from 1907 to 1909. The next major excavation was directed by Garstang from 1930 to 1936. Garstang believed that the fourth city was destroyed by Joshua just after 1400 BC A third major excavation was done by Kenyon between 1952 to 1958. She challenged Garstang's date by insisting that the fourth city double walls were from the Early Bronze Age. Jericho was mainly abandoned during the Late Bronze Age, but the Middle Bronze Age was violently destroyed by fire. Kenyon states: The date of the burned buildings would seem to be the very end of the Middle Bronze Age, and the destruction may be ascribable to the disturbances that followed the expansion (expulsion) of the Hyksos from Egypt in about 1560 BCE (Stern 1993, Vol. 2, 680). Could these disturbances be the Israelite conquest? Both Kenyon and Garstang agree that the Middle Bronze Age city of Jericho was destroyed as a result of the expulsion of the Hyksos from Egypt. There have been many proposals to solve the time of Joshua's conquest. Courville cuts out over 600+ years by equating the end of the Early Bronze Age with Joshua's conquest around 1400 BC (1971, 151; Bimson 1981, 119). On the other hand Aardsma adds 1,000 years between the book of Judges and I Samuel (1993; Wood 1993, 97). Rohl has subtracted 300+ years from Egyptian history, and James also lowers Egyptian chronology by 250+ years (Rohl 1996; James 1991). One that has been influential in the public is Velikovsky's radical views that deletes 800+ years from history (1950; 1952; Newman 1973, 146-151; Yamauchi 1973, 134-39). Bimson (1981) only lowers the chronology by 100 year, but there is no need to be adding or subtracting years. Equating the Exodus with the Expulsion of the Hyksos from Egypt solves this problem. All the archaeological data seems to fit Biblical chronology when this is done, except AI which is highly controversial.
AI has been located at Et-Tell by Albright. A brief excavation was conducted here by Garstang in 1928. A second excavation was done from 1933 to 1935 by Marquet-Krause. A third excavation was conducted by Calloway sponsored by the American Schools of Oriental Research from 1964 to 1970. The major problem here is that AI was destroyed at the end of the Early Bronze Age, and was abandoned until the beginning of the Iron Age, yet Joshua is said to have destroyed it (Stern 1993; Zevit 1985, 58). There are several explanations for this. Livingston locates AI at Khirbet Nisya, yet there is no clear evidence for this (Bimson and Livingston). Yadin interprets the Bible etiologically here (Shanks 1988, 64). It explains how the ruins of AI got this way according to the writer. Millard believes that the villagers would only use Et-Tell as a stronghold when under attack (1985, 99). The name "AI" means "ruin," so AI was destroyed earlier, but reused only as a fort. This seems to be the best explanation.
Hazor was a major commercial center. It is mentioned in the Mari documents, and in the Egyptian Execration Texts (Stern 1993, 594). The first major excavation here was by Yadin from 1955 to 1958. Excavations were resumed in 1968 and in 1990. There is speculation that an archive is located in the royal palace (Rabinovich 1996, 8). This would be a major find, and shed much light on the Late Bronze Age in Israel. The Canaanite city of Hazor has been destroyed several times. The final destruction was at the end of the 13th century which Yadin believes was done by Joshua (Stern 1993). Judges chapter 4 tells about the battle of Deborah and Barak with Jabin the king of Hazor, and his commander Sisera. How could this happen if Hazor was destroyed by Joshua? Bimson thinks that the 13th century destruction of Hazor should be equated with Judges 4 (1981, 181-7). It is wrong to assume that Jabin, king of Hazor is the same person in Joshua 11 and Judges 4. Jabin is probably a dynastic name like Abimelech (Kitchen 1966, 68). A clay tablet with the name Jabin (Ibni) has been found at Hazor (Horowitz 1992, 166). Joshua's conquest of Hazor should be connected with the end of the Middle Bronze Age destruction. Dever places the destruction of Middle Bronze sites from 1550 to 1450 BC (Hoffmeier 1990, 87; Dever 1990, 75-81). This would be at the same time period that Joshua is conquering Canaan. Recent scientific radiocarbon dating of cereal grains from Tell Es-Sultan (Jericho) place the end of the Middle Bronze Age (MB-IIC) around 1540 BC (Bruins and Plicht 1996, 213-14). This would rule out the 1406 BC (Late Bronze Age) date by conservative scholars. Bimson states, "The admittedly poor 'fit' between Biblical tradition and Late Bronze Age archaeological evidence is universally conceded by scholars" (Bimson and Livingston 1987, 41; see Table 11). The problem with Bimson's view is that he eliminates one hundred years from history when there is no need to do this according to radio-carbon dating. New advances in tree ring dating correlated to Carbon 14 will be able to achieve more accurate dates (Bower 1996, 405-6; Renfrew 1996, 733-34; Kuniholm 1996, 780-83).
EGYPTIAN TOPOGRAPHICAL LISTS
The topographical lists of Thutmose III (ca. 1481 BC) can be divided into two parts; the "Megiddo-list" or "Palestine-list, and the "Naharina-list, or "Northern-list" (Simons 1937, 28). The "Megiddo-list" names towns and places whose chiefs took refuge within the walls of Megiddo, and were taken captive by Thutmose III to Thebes. There are only three copies of this list that contain 119 topographical names (Rainey 1982, 345-359). The "Naharina-list" is just the extension of the "Megiddo-list" containing over 300 place-names. These lists are found in the temple of Amon at Karnak. The lists are probably grouped geographically by regions according to three administrative districts (Aharoni 1979, 158). There were three headquarters during the El Amarna letter which seems to divide this list nicely; Gaza, Sumur, and Kumidi. The first four regions belong to the district of Kumidi; southern Beqa'(#3-11, 55-56), Damascus vicinity (#12-20), Bashan (#21-30), and the northern Jordan valley (#31-4). There are four regions of the Gaza district; the plains of Jezreel (#35-54), the coastal plain and the Sharon (#57-71), Judean hills (#103-6), and the Ephraimite hills (#107-17). The next two regions belong to the district of Sumur; the northern Beqa' (#72-9) and Upper Galilee (#80-102), (Aharoni 1979, 158). North sees the list reflecting the march of Thutmose's army first with numbers 53-119 in the right column, then with numbers 1-52 in the left column (Aharoni 1979, 157). Aharoni sees only a South to North geographic arrangement of place-names along the coastal plain of Sharon (#57-71), (1979, 157). Redford argues for a typical Bronze Age itinerary in numbers 89-101 of the list (1982, 55-74). Hoffmeier does an excellent job of comparing the Annal of Thutmose III with Joshua 1-11 (1994, 165-179; cf. Hess 1996, 160-170; 1994, 191-205; Younger 1990). There are many Old Testament names that are recognized in these lists, but there are two important place-names that effect this study. The first is number 78, Joseph-El, which indicates the tribe of Joseph was already in Canaan before 1481 BC (Redford 1979, 277) which is the 23rd year of Thutmose's coregency (ANET 1969, 235). The second is number 102, Jacob-El, which also indicates the tribes of Israel were already in Canaan at this time. A date earlier than 1481 BC is needed for the Exodus. It may be argued that the name Israel was not yet used at this time until a league of 12 tribes was formed. Others have studied these toponym lists in detail (Giveon 1979, 135-141; Ahituv 1984). Several different locations have been proposed for these palce-names. There are three other interesting name correlations given by Yeivin who states: There is a group of three such names, all connected with the same geographical unit, in which appears also the place-name Jacobel. The first is No. 100, i-i-rw-tw, which could be transcribed 'Ard, and identified in all probability with the Benjamine clan....The second is No. 106 M-(M)-Q-R-W-T, which is transcribed Miqlot (Mikloth), and identified with another Benjaminite clan, descended from the 'Father of Gibeon'....The third place name is No. 108 S3-RW-TY-Y, which is to betranscribed Shelat, and most plausibly identified with Shela, the third and surviving son of Judah by his Canaanite concubine,Bat-shua(1971, 22).
There is an interesting story about how Joppa was captured by soldiers who hid in 200 baskets that were brought into the city on a ruse (ANET 1969, 22). This probably happened on Thutmose III's first campaign.
Amenhotep II was the son of Thutmose III who ruled Egypt from 1453-19 BC There are three known military campaigns into the land of Canaan (Aharoni 1979, 166). The lists of prisoners gives a cross-section of the population at that time. Aharoni states: The first group included 550 maryannu (noble chariot warriors), 240 of their wives, 640 Canaanites, 232 royal sons, 323 royal daughters and 270 concubines. A final summary lists: 127 rulers of Retenu, 179 brothers of the rulers, 3600 'apiru, 15,200 living Shasu, 36,300 Huru, 15,070 living Neges, and 30,652 families thereof.... Among the residents of Palestine the Horites account for 66 per cent, the Shasu 27.5 per cent and the 'apiru 6.5 per cent (1979, 168-9; Lemche 1991, 43-46). The Israelites have been associated with both the 'apiru and the Shasu (Akkadian Shutu). Some scholars think the name "Hebrew" came from "'apiru." This does seem to give clear evidence for the Hebrews being settled in Canaan at this time.
In the temple of Amon in Soleb (Nubia) there is a topographical list from the time of Amenhotep III (1408-1372 BC). In column IV.A2 is written t3 ssw yhw3 which means "Yahweh of the land of the Shasu" (Giveon 1964, 244; Redford 1992, 272; Astour 1979, 17-34). In the ancient Near East a divine name was also was given to a geographical place where the god was worshipped (Axelsson 1987, 60). This is the first clear extra-biblical evidence of the name "Yahweh." The land of the Shasu may be the same area as the Midianites in the Bible where Moses stayed for 40 years (Axelsson 1987, 61; Giveon 1964a, 415-16). De Vaux says, "Geographers place Midian in Arabia, to the south-east of the Gulf of 'Aqabah" (1978, 332). This also is where Mount Sinai may be located. Astour locates the land in Lebanon (1979, 17). The Shasu were Bedouins who led a nomadic existence. "Shasu" was a general term the Egyptians used to describe any Bedouins East of the Delta. The Egyptians would define certain Shasu according to their location. For example there are the Shasu of Edom (ANET 1969, 259). The word "Shasu" became in Coptic shos meaning "shepherd" (ANET 1969, 259 note 2). It may be that the Israelites when they were wandering in the desert were probably grouped with the Shasu by the Egyptians. Giveon points out marked similarities between the Shasu and the Hebrews (1967, 193-196; Bietak 1987, 169). When they came out of the desert and into the hill country of Palestine, they were probably called Hapiru as in the El Amarna letters instead of Shasu.There is another very interesting name in the temple of Amon in Soleb on Column XA.2 it says, iswr or "Asher" (Giveon 1964, 250). From the position of iswr which is right after qrqms (Carchemish) in the list and before ipttn (column XA4) which may refer to Abez of Issachar (Joshua 19:20), the location of this place would be in northern Palestine. Giveon prefers the translation of "Asher" which may refer to the tribe of Israel. Giveon says, "Les autres toponymes de cette colonne indiquent une region a l'Ouest d'Assur, il est donc preferable d'opter pour Asher" (Translation: The other names in this column indicate a region to the West of Assur, it is therefore preferable to opt for Asher. 1964, 251).
On a statue-base of Amenhotep III at Kom el Hetan which is the funerary temple of Amenhotep III there is a topographical list with the place-name Yspir (Series a:1; Kitchen 1965, 2). This is the same name translated "Joseph-El" in Thutmose III's Topographical list (ANET 1969, 242). After Yspir in both lists the place-name Rkd appears (Series a:2 in Amenhotep III's list, and #79 in Thutmose III's list; Simons 1937, 112). Rkd is the same place-name as Ruhizzi in the El Amarna letters (EA 53:36, 56; EA 5426; EA 56:26; EA 191:2; Rainey 1982, 354). The ruler of Ruhizzi is Arsawuya who seems to be located in northern Palestine or southern Syria (EA 53:36, 56; Moran, 125).
Seti I is the founder of the 19th Dynasty whose goal was to revive the Egyptian empire. The kings of the 19th Dynasty identified themselves with the Hyksos religious tradition of worshipping the god Seth (Baal) whom Seti (Seth's Man) was named after. In 1320 BC Seti celebrated the 400th year of the reign of Seth, and the beginning of the Hyksos rule (1720 BC). Ramese II (1279 BC) set up a 7.2 foot high granite monument called "Stele of the Year 400" at Avaris which he renamed Pi-Ramese, "House of Ramese" (ANET 1969, 252-3; Breasted 1988, 3:238-42; McCarter 1996, 46-7). This founding of the Hyksos rule is most likely alluded to in Numbers 13:22 which says, "Now Hebron was built seven years before Zoan (Avaris) in Egypt" (KJV; Mazar 1986, 21; Albright 1957, 242). In Seti's first campaign there is a battle with the Shasu which is pictured on the Karnak reliefs (ANEP 1969, fig. 323-9). The tribal chiefs of the Shasu are gathered on the mountains of kharu (upper Galilee) to fight the Egyptians. It says: The foe belonging to the Shasu are plotting (5) rebellion. Their tribal chiefs are gathered in one place, waiting on the mountain ranges of Kharu. They have taken to clamoring and quarreling, one of them killing his fellow. They have no regard for the laws of the palace (ANET 1969, 254; Breasted 1988, 3:52).
Seti claims victory against "the Shasu from the fortress of Sile to the Canaan" which includes the "Upper Retenu" (ANET 1969, 254; Aharoni 1979, 177; Lemche 1991, 46-48; Giveon 1971). It seems that this general term "Shasu" is referring to the Hebrews who lived in the mountain ranges of upper Galilee. "They have no regard for the laws of the palace" may be because they are following the laws of Moses. "They have taken to clamoring and quarreling" seems to describe the period of the Judges. Note that they have "tribal chiefs" and no king at this time. There is one important name on the topographical list from Karnak, i-s-r (Simons 1937, 147). Aharoni believes that this name is "the earliest reference to the Israelite tribe of Asher. I-s-r (#265) also occurs in Ancient Egyptian Onomastica by Gardiner (1947, 192-3; Paton 1913, 39). A stele of Seti I discovered at Beth-Shean states that the Hapiru from Mount Yarumta with the Tayaru attacked the Asiatics of Rehem (ANET 1969, 255; Rowe 1929, 88-93). Mount Yarumta is probably Jarmuth of the tribe Issachar (Joshua 21:29). It seems that the tribe of Issachar is already in Canaan by this time (1303 BC; Aharoni 1982, 124). Breasted concluded that these Shasu (Bedwin) are the same as the Hapiru of the El Amarna letters. He says, "The attempt of the Hebrews to gain a footing in Palestine is undoubtedly involved in the larger movement of the Bedwin, which Seti here records" (1988, 50). On the next page is a summary of the keys names found in ancient Egyptian topographical lists (Table 12).
Rameses II at U of Penn Museum. Ramses II came to power in about 1279 BC And reigned for 67 years. A stele from his 9th year was discovered at Beth-shean that mentions the Shasu and the city of Per-Ra-messu which is the same name in Exodus 1:11 (Rowe 1929, 94-98). In the Nubian city of Amara-West the remains of a temple of Ramses was uncovered. A list of 104 Asiatic names were discovered which names places in the Negeb, Edom, the city of Dor, and some think Jericho (Horn 1953, 201-3). One interesting name that was found is yhw which is "Yahweh" in Hebrew (Horn 1953, 201; Giveon 1964, 244). The line reads t3 s3sw yhw which I translate as "Yahweh of the land of the Shasu" (Horn 1953, 201; Giveon 1964, 244; Astour 1979, 17). In reliefs from Luxor the land of Moab (m-w-i-b) and Dibon (t-b-n-i) are first mentioned in Egyptian (Aharoni 1979, 182). In Ramses II's topographical list the place-name "Jacob-El" (#9) appears again (ANET 1969, 242; Simons 1937). The first appearance was in Thutmose III's list. This means that this city of Jacob has been around for two hundred years. Contemporary with Ramses II is "A Satirical Letter" that describes the geography of Canaan. In this letter it mentions "Qazardi, the Chief of Aser" (i-s-r, Asher; ANET 1969, 477).
TABLE 12 Egyptian Topographical Lists
III (1481 BC)
|AMENHOTEP II (1440)||AMENHOTEP III (1386)||SET I (1291)||RAMSES II (1275)|
See ANET, 242-3.
Aharoni states, "The use of this name to define a tribal group in Canaan at that time proves that it must be equated with the Israelite tribe of Asher" (1979, 183; Mazar 1986, 37). This description of Canaan seems to match the description of the border land of Canaan in Numbers 34. This brings us up to the time of Merneptah where Israel is specifically mentioned. One important group of letters that must be considered in depth is the El Amarna letters.
THE AMARNA LETTERS
In 1887 an Egyptian peasant woman discovered a collection of cuneiform tablets at the site of Akh-en-Aton's capital from the 14th century BC, now called Tell El-Amarna. There were a total of 377 tablets found. Later some more tablets were found. About half of them were written in Akkadian by Canaanite scribes in Palestine describing the conditions there. One major problem was the "Hapiru" who were taking over the land. They wanted the king of Egypt to send reinforcements."Hapiru" is probably related to the word "Hebrew" (Greenberg 1955, 91-2). Hapiru (Akkadian) is sometimes spelled "Habiru" or "'apiru" (Egyptian). The Egyptian word is 'pr. In these letters "Hapiru" is spelled with the Sumerian logogram SA.GAZ. Hapiru was a general term for "robber" or "migrant" (Astour 1962, 382). Na'aman states, "Common to all the people designated as 'Habiru' is the fact that they were uprooted from their original political and social framework and forced to adapt to a new environment" (1986, 272; Buccellati 1977, 145-7). He believes the best meaning of Habiru is migrant, but in the Amarna letters it went beyond this to "a derogatory appellation for rebels against Egyptian authority" (Na'aman 1986, 275). Rowton says: The term 'apiru is of West Semitic origin, and it first appears in Mesopotamian urban society at a time when that society was being penetrated by Amorites. This suggests that it was brought in by the Amorites and that it originally denotes some aspect of tribal society....the economically and socially uprooted" (1976, 17). The use of the term "Hebrew" in the Old Testament is found primarily in the pre-monarchical period, and used in unfavorable contexts by foreigners like the Egyptians (Gen 39:14,17, 41:12; Ex. 1:16, 2:6) and the Philistines (ISam 4:6,9; 13:3,19; 14:11; 29:3). The bands of David and Jephthah give some of the clearest pictures of what the Habiru were like (Mazar 1963, 310-20). It seems that later in history the social meaning of Hapiru was changed to an ethnic term for Israel. The social term Hapiru disappeared in ancient texts (12th century BC) mainly due to the rise of national states, but was kept in Israel and developed into an ethnic term (Na'aman 1986, 286).
The El Amarna letter 288 from Jerusalem says: The strong arm of the king seizes the land of Nahrima and the land of Cush; but now the Hapiru are seizing the cities of the King! There is not a single governor (left) to the king; all are lost. Behold, Turbasu was slain at the gate of Zilu (but) the king kept silent. Behold Zimredda, the (sons of) Lachish smote him, slaves who have become Hapiru (Na'aman 1979, 678; Moran 1992, 330-32; ANET 1969, 488-89; Na'aman and Aviv 1992; Pfeiffer 1963, 50).
The El Amarna (EA) 299 from Gezer says, "Now the Hapiru are prevailing over us. So may the King, my Lord, take me away from the land of the Hapiru, so that the Hapiru will not destroy us" (Na'aman 1979, 679; Moran 1992, 340). EA 273 says, "May the king, my lord, be informed that war is waged in the land and that the land of the king, my lord, is being ruined by going over to the Hapiru" (Na`aman 1979, 680; Moran 1992, 318).
In EA 256 (line 18) the name "Yashuya" appears which some have tried to connect to the name "Joshua" (Weippert 1962, 128; ANET 1969, 486; Moran 1992, 309). Rohl equates this name with "Jesse" father of David (1995, 228). Albright does not think "Yashuya" is Joshua because Joshua would probably be written as Ya-hu-su-uh (1943, 12 note 27). This letter is from Mut-Ba'lu, prince of Pella, to the Canaanite Yanhamu who was the Egyptian commissioner for Palestine and Syria. Mut-Ba'lu denies he has hid Ayyab (Job), the prince of Ashtaroth (in Bashan) who was wanted by Yanhamu for robbing a Babylonian caravan (Albright 1943, 9-10; Na'aman and Aviv 1988, 181). "Yanhamu" may be of Hebrew origins (ANET 1969, 486 note 11). In lines 22-24 it says, "all the towns of the land of Garu (Golan) were hostile--Udumu" (Albright 1943, 14). Albright says, "The name (Udumu) is clearly identical with that of Edom ('Udumu) and the legendary land of 'Udm ('Udumu?) in the Keret Epic of the fifteenth century BC" (1943, 14 note 36).
Pfeiffer says, "Although the place names of the Amarna texts are parallel to those of the Old Testament, the personal names are totally different" (1963, 53; Ahituv 1984). In the Amarna letters Abdi-Khepa is king of Jerusalem where as in Joshua Adoni-zedek is king (Joshua 10:3). Meredith Kline has therefore concluded that the Conquest by Joshua of Canaan precedes the Amarna Age. He sees the Hapiru as the oppresses in the book of Judges (1957; Pfeiffer 1963, 53).
Cities that are not mentioned in the El Amarna letters are also important to note. Bimson says: The fact that various Canaanite cities important in other periods do not feature in the Amarna correspondence is adequately accounted for by the fact that the incoming Israelites had destroyed them just a few decades before. Cities which do not feature include Gibeon, Jericho, Hebron (?), and Bethel (1981, 227).
The important cities of the El Amarna letters are the cites which weres not taken by the Hebrews. These are Jerusalem (Judges 1:21), Megiddo (Judges 1:27), and Gezer (Judges 1:29). The cities of Hazor and Lachish revived quickly from destruction while Shechem probably went over to the Hebrews with the Gibeonites, and was never destroyed. In Joshua 11:10 Hazor is called "the head of all those Kingdoms" which are mentioned in the first three verses of Joshua 11. This description of Hazor as "the head of all those Kingdoms" does not fit well with the El Amarna letters (Late Bronze Age), but is an excellent description of the Middle Bronze Age (Bimson 1981, 228). The king of Hazor in EA 148 is charged with aiding the Hapiru which is just the opposite of what happens in the book of Joshua. EA 148 says, "The King of Hasura (Hazor) has abandoned his house and has aligned himself with the 'Apiru" (Moran 1992, 235).
Ahlstrom states, "several letters seems to indicate that most of Palestine is 'apiru territory" (1993, 245). The Hapiru of these Amarna letters seem to clearly be identified with the Hebrews of the Old Testament during the time of the judges before the monarchy.
The Hapiru are not just mentioned in the Amarna letters. In Ugaritic a tablet (2062:A:7; Gordon 1965, Glossary #1899) found in the oven when Ugarit was abandon shows that the Hapiru were active here around 1200 BC Not all Hapiru were Hebrews. Greenberg states, "Since the time of Bohl it has become commonplace that 'all Israelites were Hebrews (Hapiru), but not all Hebrews (Hapiru) were Israelites'" (1955, 92).
In a letter found at Taanach the personal name Ahiyami, or Ahiyawi was found which suggests this name is compounded with Yahweh. Paton says, "This favors the theory that the Habiru in Canaan were Israelites" (1913, 38). Albright claims that in EA 252 there is an archaic Hebrew proverb. About 40% of EA 252 is written in pure Canaanite (or Hebrew). In lines 15-18 there is a proverb which Albright compares with Proverbs 6:6 and 30:25 about the ant which says, "If the ants are smitten, they do not accept (the smitting) quietly, but they bite the hand of the man who smites them" (1943, 29). This is more evidence that the Hapiru in Canaan were Hebrews.
There is a newly discovered prism of a new king named Tunip-Tessup of the kingdom of Tikunani that names a number of Hapiru (438) who were soldiers or servants (Shanks 1996, 22; Salvini 1996). When this is translated this may give us some more clues to who are the Hapiru.
In the spring of 1928 a Syrian farmer was plowing his field when he uncovered a stone over a grave. Archaeologists were called in which led to the discovery of the near by ancient city of Ugarit, modern day Ras Shamra (Curtis 1985, 18; Craigie 1983, 7). Many clay tablets were uncovered which were written in cuneiform in a language now called "Ugaritic." See also Ugarit and the Bible. Since Ugaritic is very similar to Hebrew it can help illuminate Hebrew words. One of the most interesting personal names is ysril which equals "Israel" in Hebrew (Gordon 1965, Text 2069:3; Glossary #1164). It is the name of a charioteer (mrynm; Zobel 1990, Vol.6, 399). While this is not referring to Israel as a nation, it does show the use of this personal name in the Late Bronze Age. The name "Israel" may have originally meant "El rules" in Ugaritic (Zobel 1990, 401).
Another interesting name is yw (CTA 1 IV:14; Herdner 1963, 4) which may be identified with "Yahweh" in Hebrew according to Dussaud (Cooper 1981, 367). Herdner states that the reading yw is certain (1963, 4 note 3). Murtonen also argues for this reading (1951, 6-8). Gordon says, "Yahwe with -h- corresponds to Yw exactly like yhlm to Ug. ylm" (1965, Glossary #1084). The name yw appears in the Baal and Yam text which is part of the cycle of Baal myths. The supreme god El instructs Kothar-and-Khasis (the craftsman god) to build a palace for Yam (Sea) who is also called judge Nahar (river). As El sits in his banqueting hall he declares to the other deities that Yam's personal name was yw, but his new name is to be "darling of El" (Deut. 33:12). In order to secure his power Yam must drive his rival Baal from his throne. El then holds a feast to celebrate this naming ceremony (Gibson 1977, 3-4). The actual text in line 14 (CTA 1 iv:14; Herdner 1963, 4; Gibson 1977, 39) says, sm. bny. yw which I translate as "the name of my son is Yahweh." This would make Yahweh a rival of Baal which is reminiscent of the conflict of Elijah with the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel (I Kings 18).
Could Yahweh have originally been associated with the sea god Yam of the Canaanites? Murtonen sees Yw as a variant or epithet of Yam (Cooper 1981, 367). MacLaurin sees 'elohim as a composite of 'eloh + Yam meaning "the god Yam" (Cooper 1981, 368). This is probably very unlikely. Pope states, "Morphologically it ('elohim) is the plural of 'eloah" (1955, 9; Dijkstra, 1995, 53; Cross, 1973, 65). Pettinato suggested that Ya appears in Eblaite at the end of names like Baal does in Ugaritic. One example is dmrb'l meaning "Baal is my sentinel" compared to dmry meaning "Ya is my sentinel" (Pettinato 1981, 277; Compare this with Exodus 15:2). Pettinato later states that Ya does not refer to an individual god, "but rather an absolute or divine god" (1991, 180).
The Ugaritic personal name abmlk corresponds to the Hebrew name "Abimelech" (Gordon 1965, 348). The ab means "father", and mlk means "king", therefore meaning "father of the king." Closely related is the name abrm which corresponds to the Hebrew "Abiram" or "Abram" which Abraham was called before his name was changed (Genesis 17:5; Gordon 1965, Text #2095:4; Albright 1935, 193). The word abrm is probably from AB (father) plus rm (high) meaning "exalted father" (Clements 1974, 52-53; See the summary chart in Table 13). The place-name ablm in Ugaritic "probably connects with such Hebrew toponyms as Abel-beth-Maacah, Abel ha-Shittim, Abel Mizraim" according to Gaster (Astour 1975, 255). Barton thinks that Daniel and Aqht were pre-Israelite heroes of Galilee, and translates qrt.ablm as "city of the meadows" and identifies it with Abel-beth-Maacah in I Kings 15:20, 29 (Astour 1975, 255). The word ablm may also mean "mourners" (Gordon 1965, 349; Glossary #27).
Ugaritic Texts with Old Testament Names
|TRANSLITERATION||TRANSLATION||UGARITIC TEXT *|
|qrt . 'ablm||city of Abel||CTA 19 IV:165|
|AB . 'adm||father of mankind (Adam)||CTA 14 III:151|
|atr . B'l||Asher Baal (place-name)||UT 62:7|
|wl . 'udm . trrt||and to well-watered Edom||CTA 14 III:109|
|bnmt||son of Moses||UT 2046:rev.5|
|yw||Yahweh||CTA 1 IV:14|
|y'l||Ya(hweh) is God||UT 311:7|
|*UT-Ugaritic Textbook by Gordon in 1965. CTA-Corpus Tablettes Alphabetiques by Herdner in 1963|
The city ablm in Aqht is the "meadow" were Aqht, son of Daniel, was slain (CTA 19 IV:163-166; Astour 1975, 254; Gibson 1977, 199). Because of the spilling of Aqht's blood there would be crop failure for seven years. The land would dry up. Could there be a double meaning here, and in Genesis 4 for Abel meaning "meadow" and "mourner" (or dried up) was slain in a field? Cain also would have crop failure (Gen. 4:12).
The Ugaritic mt according to Aistleitner is derived from the Egyptian ms meaning "child" (Gordon 1965, 440; Glossary #1579). Gordon states, "The vocalization of the Eg.(Egyptian) mose (as in 'Thutmose') suggests that 'Moses' is the same n.(noun) that appears in Ug.(Ugaritic) lit.(literature)" (1965, 440; Glossary #1579).
In Ugaritic the place-name zbl is mentioned that is the same in Hebrew as "Zebulon" (Gordon 1965, Text 1084:13; Glossary #815). Both words come from the same root meaning "to raise, elevate" (Astour 1975, 284). This text is a list of the quantities of wine from the areas it was produced. Astour notes that zbl is "A town in the Piedmont district of the Kingdom of Ugarit, now Karzbil" (1975, 284). Although this does not refer to the tribe of Zebulon, it shows the use of this word during the Late Bronze Age (1550-1200 BC).
There is one tablet among the administrative records at Ugarit that mentions a man from Canaan. The text says y'l. kn'ny, "Ya'el the Canaanite" (Gordon 1965, 206; Text 311:7; Rainey 1963, 45). Ya'el may have been a Hebrew. This also seems to indicate that Canaan was "a district separate and distinct from the kingdom of Alalah" (Rainey 1963, 43; Na'aman and Aviv 1994, 403). The Ugaritic story of Keret is about a just king named Keret who had no heir. He was told by El in a dream to gather an army and march seven days to Udm (Edom). He is then to wait seven days before he asks for the daughter of the king of Udm in marriage. He will then have eight sons and daughters. Albright says, "The name (Udumu) is clearly identical with that of Edom ('Udumu) and the legendary land of 'Udm ('Udumu?) in the Keret Epic of the fifteenth century BC" (1943, 14 note 36). Gordon states, "It is no accident that Udm (cf. & 'Idomeneus' the Cretan leader of the Iliad) occurs in the Krt text....The Caphtorians settled in Canaan, from Ugarit to Edom" (1965, 352; Glossary #85; CTA 14 III:108-9). The seven day wait is reminiscent of the seven day wait around the city of Jericho (Joshua 6:3-4). This story shows that Edom is already a kingdom at this time.
Around 1200 BC the Philistines migrated in great numbers to Canaan after the great sea battle with the Egyptians. On the walls of Ramses III's temple of Medinet Habu there are reliefs showing the battle with the Philistines (ANEP 1969, figs. 7,9,57,& 341; Yadin 1963, 336-43; Dothan 1992, 16-22). In the topographical list of Ramses III the city of Jacob-El is listed as well as the city of Levi-El (ANET 1969, 242-3).
In the book of Judges the Philistines do not come into the picture until the end of the judges with Samson (Bimson 1981, 86-88). So most of the book deals with problems before the Philistines came to power in 1200 BC The Philistines probably fled their homeland of Crete after the eruption of Santorini on the island of Thera. They are mentioned in the Iliad of Homer (Book I, Bierling 1992, 51, 72). Probably after the Trojan War the Philistines migrated south and tried to take over Egypt. Because they were not successful they settled in Canaan.
There are five groups of sea people, Philistines, Tjeker, Shekelesh, Denye(n), and Weshesh (ANET 1969, 262). One group of sea peoples called "Denye(n)" or "Dannuna" is what Dothan suggests could be the tribe of Dan in the Bible (1992, 215-19; Iliad, Book 1.56, 87).
There have been a number of theories that have questioned the conquest of Canaan. They opt for a peaceful infiltration or a peasant's revolt in the hill country. It was Alt who first suggested in 1925 that the Israelites gradually infiltrated into Canaan peacefully (Yamauchi 1994, 16). In 1962 George Mendenhall first proposed the "Peasant Revolt Model" which was further developed by Norman Gottwald (Mendenhall 1962, 66-87; 1973; 1958, 61-64). Mendenhall suggested that "Israel came into existence as the result of sociopolitical upheaval and retribalization among the Canaanites at the end of the Late Bronze Age" (Yamauchi 1994, 17-18; Freedman and Graf 1983). Some of the evidence that is put forth is that tribes are already in the land, but this is because they are assuming a late date for the Exodus. The names of the tribes, or patriarchs show that they were already settled in Canaan by Thutmose III's campaigns into Canaan (1490 BC).
An analysis of the genealogies in the Bible is very illuminating. According to the book of Chronicles there is no genealogy for the tribe of Dan, and Zebulon. Manassah had an Aramean concubine, while some claim Gad and Asher are Canaanite divinities. Yeivin states, "it should be observed that many of the names occurring in these genealogies are either blatantly geographical or connected with place-names; while others are definitely personal names" (1971, 11; De Geus 1993, 74-5). De Vaux goes into much detail on the origins of the different tribes mentioned in the genealogies of the Bible (1978).
The best explanation of this seems to be that Israel is a confederation of Hapiru tribes in the hill country of Canaan, that formed the nation of Israel in the Iron Age. Originally Abraham was part of an Amorite migration south into Canaan from Mesopotamia which continued down to Egypt climaxing in the Hyksos rule. In Deuteronomy 26:5 Jacob is called a "wandering Aramean" which is a late term for Amorite (De Vaux 1978, 200). The exodus is to be identified with the expulsion of the Hyksos from Egypt by Ahmose (1570 BC). Then they wandered in the wilderness being included among the Shasu, and caused the fall of MBIIIC cities in Canaan (the conquest). The Conquest was not total but just in the highlands for Egypt controlled the lower lands and coast. They were called Hapiru (from which the name Hebrew originates) in the Amarna period (time of the judges) until their league was consolidated into 12 tribes which became the nation of Israel in the Iron Age.
It seems clear after looking at a number of ancient writers that all the ancient Jewish writers took the 430 or 400 years to cover the time in Egypt as well as Canaan. The Book of Jubilees counted 400 years from Abraham's entry into Canaan. Most of the Jewish writers counted the 400 years from Isaac's birth to the exodus. The actual time in Egypt was only 185 to 215 years according to most writers; however, Midrash Abkhir specifically states 86 years in Egypt (Rappoport 1966, Vol.2, 286-7). Another important note is that most of the Jewish writers pushed the date of the exodus back to about the time of the expulsion of the Hyksos. Joseph would have risen to power just before or during the time of the Hyksos.
Josephus says there are 592 years from the Exodus to the founding of Solomon's Temple (960 BC), while Sedar Olan Zutta says 480 years. The best explanation of this discrepancy is the omission of the oppressions in the Book of Judges (111 years). This was a common ancient practice as seen in ancient Egyptian king lists.
Josephus goes into detail quoting Manetho showing that the Jews were in Egypt. He equates the Jews with the Hyksos, and the Exodus with the expulsion of the Hyksos from Egypt by Ahmose who founded the 18th dynasty (1570-50 BC). Manetho had access to the original Egyptian hieroglyphics that modern scholars do not have. Yet modern scholars today, both liberal and conservative place the Exodus much later, and claim there is no evidence of the Exodus in Egyptian writings. The best explanation is to identify the Exodus from Egypt with the expulsion of the Hyksos for there is no other mass exit from Egypt. A number of secular writers tell about the origin of the Jews with disdain. Some picture the Jews as leprous. They identify the Jews with the Hyksos who were expelled from Egypt by Ahmose. This expulsion is seen as a great defeat and humiliation, yet the Jews claim a great victory. This scenario is seen in other ancient writings like Ramses II and the war with the Hittites. Each side claims victory. Sennachrib destroyed 46 cities in Judah, yet Hezekiah claims a victory because he did not take Jerusalem.
The early Church Fathers all equated the Hyksos with the Jews, and the Exodus with the expulsion of the Hyksos from Egypt by Ahmose. The only exception is Eusebius who did not account for overlap of reigns, and omits the years of oppression.
A look at the New Testament gives convincing proof that Paul in Galatians 3:17-18 saw the 430 years starting with the promise to Abraham. The Jews were not in Egypt for 400 years, but the 400 years applied to their sojourn in Canaan as well which was controlled by Egypt. The LXX interprets it this way in Exodus 12:40. In Acts 13:20 it is clear that there are 450 years for the time of the judges, but this does not seem to square with the 480 years from Solomon's Temple to the Exodus, because the years of oppression are omitted. This would place the exodus back to the time of the expulsion of the Hyksos from Egypt.
A look at all the archaeological evidence shows that the best fit of the data is to identify the Exodus with the expulsion of the Hyksos from Egypt around 1570-50 BC The most important discovery is the Merneptah stele that mentions Israel which forced the revision of a number of liberal theories. Before the discovery of this stele scholars placed the date of the exodus and entry into Canaan much later. They were now forced to admit that Israel was already in Canaan at the time of Merneptah. This puts a terminus ante quem date of 1210 BC for the exodus.
The execration texts which date back to at least 1630 BC mention city-states like Jerusalem, Shechem, and Hazor, but no mention of Israel. Another inscription of Khu-Sebek mentions Shechem, but not Israel.
Most scholars will place the Jews, pro-Israelites, or even Jacobites in Egypt at the time of the Hyksos. There are many scarabs with the name "Jacob-El." This seems most likely to refer either directly or indirectly to Jacob of the Old Testament.
The expulsion of the Hyksos seems to fit well with the story of the Exodus. Not all Hyksos were pro-Israelites. It says in Exodus that a "mixed multitude" left Egypt. Although the Egyptians saw the expulsion of the Hyksos as a great military victory, the Israelites viewed this as a great salvation victory for them. This seems similar to other events recorded in ancient history where both sides claim a great victory.
The evidence from the Sinai shows little occupation during the Late Bronze Age which is probably due to the expulsion of the Hyksos, and when Ahmose marched to Sharuhen, and besieged it for three years. The Middle Bronze Age destructions seem to fit well with the conquest of Canaan by Joshua.
Egyptian topographical lists are key in showing who and where people lived. The oldest list is from Tuthmosis III which names "Jacob-El" and "Joseph-El" as cities in Canaan. It is paramount to understand that cities were named after an important person or god. This seems to be clear evidence that pro-Israelites were in Canaan at this time (1481 BC).
During Amenhotep II's reign (1453-1419 BC) there is a list of prisoners that mentions 3600 'apiru, and 15,200 living Shasu that were taken as prisoners from Canaan. Some of these were probably Hebrews.
In the temple of Amon in Soleb (Nubia) there is a topographical list from the time of Amenhotep III (1408-1372 BC) That gives the name "Yahweh of the land of the Shasu" (Giveon 1964, 244; Redford 1992, 272; Astour 1979, 17-34). In the ancient Near East a divine name was also given to a geographical place where the god was worshipped (Axelsson 1987, 60). This is the first clear extra-biblical evidence of the name "Yahweh." Also named are "Asher" and "Joseph-El" which indicates that the Hebrews were in Canaan at this time.
In Seti's first campaign (1291 BC) There is a battle with the Shasu which is pictured on the Karnak reliefs (ANEP 1969, fig. 323-9). The tribal chiefs of the Shasu are gathered on the mountains of kharu (upper Galilee) to fight the Egyptians. It seems that this general term "Shasu" is referring to the Hebrews who lived in the mountain ranges of upper Galilee at this time.
In Ramses II's topographical list (ca.1275 BC) the place-name "Jacob-El" (#9) appears again (ANET 1969, 242; Simons 1937). The first appearance was in Thutmose III's list. This means that this city of Jacob has been around for two hundred years. Another interesting name that was found is yhw which is "Yahweh" in Hebrew (Horn 1953, 201; Giveon 1964, 244).
It seems abundantly clear from all these topographical lists concerning Canaan that the Hebrews were in Canaan at this time, but they did not use the name "Israel" until their league of tribes was well formed by the time of Merneptah.
The El Amarna letters describe the troublesome Hapiru that were taking over the land of Canaan. This seems to fit well with the Hebrews during the time of the judges. The word "Hebrew" probably came from the word "Hapiru."
In Ugaritic texts one of the most interesting personal names is ysril which equals "Israel" in Hebrew (Gordon 1965, Text 2069:3; Glossary #1164). While this is not referring to Israel as a nation it does show the use of this personal name in the Late Bronze Age. Another interesting name is yw (CTA 1 IV:14; Herdner 1963, 4) which may be identified with "Yahweh" in Hebrew. While one of these names alone is not conclusive, yet when all of the personal names and place names are considered, there seems to be abundant evidence for the Hebrews living in Canaan during the Late Bronze Age.
Therefore the best explanation for all of the archaeological evidence seems to be that Israel is a confederation of Hapiru tribes in the hill country of Canaan, that formed the nation of Israel in the Iron Age. Originally, Abraham was part of an Amorite migration south into Canaan from Mesopotamia which continued down to Egypt climaxing in the Hyksos rule. The exodus is to be identified with the expulsion of the Hyksos from Egypt by Ahmose (1570-50 BC; Frerichs and Lesko, 1997, 82, 96). Then they wandered in the wilderness being included among the Shasu, and caused the fall of MBIIIC cities in Canaan (the conquest). The Conquest was not total but just in the highlands for Egypt controlled the lower lands and coast. They were called Hapiru (from which the name Hebrew originates) in the Amarna period (time of the judges) until their league was consolidated into 12 tribes which became the nation of Israel in the Iron Age.
This paper has shown that most of the ancient writers equated the Exodus with the expulsion of the Hyksos from Egypt around 1570-50 BC Most ancient writers put the Jews in Egypt for 215 years or less. According to most ancient writers the 430 years in Egypt was taken to start with the promise to Abraham, and the 400 years from the birth of Isaac. Others begin these years with Abraham's entry into Canaan. All of the ancient Jewish and Christian writers considered in this paper took the 430 or 400 years to cover the time in Egypt as well as Canaan. Biblical writers also agree with these ancient traditions, and the archaeological evidence reinforces these views.
THE EXODUS AND ANCIENT EGYPTIAN RECORDS
"And Moses said unto the people: Do not fear! Stand and see the deliverance of Hashem which he shall do for you this day. For as you have seen Egypt this day, never will you see it again." (Exodus 14:13)
WHEN WAS THE EXODUS
The Exodus from Egypt was not only the seminal event in the history of the Jewish People, but was an unprecedented and unequaled catastrophe for Egypt. In the course of Pharaoh's stubborn refusal to let us leave and the resultant plagues sent by Hashem, Egypt was devastated. Hail, disease and infestations obliterated Egypt's produce and livestock, while the plague of the first born stripped the land of its elite, leaving inexperienced second sons to cope with the economic disaster. The drowning of the Egyptian armed forces in the Red Sea left Egypt open and vulnerable to foreign invasions. From the days of Flavius Josephus (c.70 CE) until the present, historians have tried to find some trace of this event in the ancient records of Egypt. They have had little luck. According to biblical chronology, the Exodus took place in the 890th year before the destruction of the Temple by the Babylonians in 421 BCE (g.a.d. 587 BCE) . This was 1310 BCE (g.a.d. 1476 BCE). In this year, the greatest warlord Egypt ever knew, Thutmose III, deposed his aunt Hatshepsut and embarked on a series of conquests, extending the Egyptian sphere of influence and tribute over Israel and Syria and crossing the Euphrates into Mesopotamia itself. While it is interesting that this date actually saw the death of an Egyptian ruler - and there have been those who tried to identify Queen Hatshepsut as the Pharaoh of the Exodus - the power and prosperity of Egypt at this time is hard to square with the biblical account of the Exodus. Some historians have been attracted by the name of the store-city Raamses built by the Israelites before the Exodus. They have drawn connections to the best known Pharaoh of that name, Ramses II, or Ramses the Great, and set the Exodus around his time, roughly 1134 BCE (g.a.d. 1300 BCE ). In order to do this, they had to reduce the time between the Exodus and the destruction of the Temple by 180 years, which they did by reinterpreting the 480 years between the Exodus and the building of the Temple (I Kings 6:1) as twelve generations of forty years. By "correcting" the Bible and setting a generation equal to twenty five years, these imaginary twelve generations become 300 years. Aside from the fact that such "adjustments" of the biblical text imply that the Bible cannot be trusted, in which case there is no reason to accept that there ever was an Exodus, Ramses II was a conqueror second only to Thutmose III. And as in the case of Thutmose III, the Egyptian records make it clear that nothing even remotely resembling the Exodus happened anywhere near his time of history. We appear to be at a standstill. The only options are to relegate the Exodus to the status of myth, or to conclude that there is something seriously wrong with the generally accepted dates for Egyptian history. In 1952, Immanuel Velikovsky published Ages in Chaos, the first of a series of books in which he proposed a radical redating of Egyptian history in order to bring the histories of Egypt and Israel into synchronization. Velikovsky's work sparked a wave of new research into ancient history. And while the bulk of Velikovsky's conclusions have not been borne out by this research, his main the-sis has. This is that the apparent conflict between ancient records and the Bible is due to a misdating of those ancient records, and that when these records are dated correctly, all such "conflicts" disappear. Both Thutmose III and Ramses II date to a period called the Late Bronze Age, which ended with the onset of the Iron Age. Since the Iron Age has been thought to be the time when Israel first arrived in Canaan, the Late Bronze Age has been called "The Canaanite Period," and historians have limited their search for the Exodus to this time. When we break free of this artificial restraint, the picture changes drastically. According to the midrash , the Pharaoh of the Exodus was named Adikam. He had a short reign of four years before drowning in the Red Sea. The Pharaoh who preceded him, whose death prompted Moses's return to Egypt (Exodus 2:23, 4:19), was named Malul. Malul, we are told, reigned from the age of six to the age of one hundred. Such a long reign - ninety four years! - sounds fantastic, and many people would hesitate to take this midrash literally. As it happens, though, Egyptian records mention a Pharaoh who reigned for ninety four years. And not only ninety four years, but from the age of six to the age of one hundred! This Pharaoh was known in inscriptions as Pepi (or Phiops) II . The information regarding his reign is known both from the Egyptian historian-priest Manetho, writing in the 3rd century BCE, and from an ancient Egyptian papyrus called the Turin Royal Canon, which was only discovered in the last century. Egyptologists, unaware of the midrash, have wrestled with the historicity of Pepi II's long reign. One historian wrote:  Pepi II...appears to have had the longest reign in Egyptian history and perhaps in all history. The Turin Royal Canon credits him with upwards of ninety years. One version of the Epitome of Manetho indicates that he "began to rule at the age of six and continued to a hundred." Although modern scholars have questioned this, it remains to be disproved. While the existence of a two kings who reigned a) ninety four years, b) in Egypt, and c) from the age of six, is hard enough to swallow as a coincidence, that is not all. Like Malul, Pepi II was the second to last king of his dynasty. Like Malul, his successor had a short reign of three or four years, after which Egypt fell apart. Pepi II's dynasty was called the 6th Dynasty, and was the last dynasty of the Old Kingdom in Egypt. Following his successor's death, Egypt collapsed, both economically and under foreign invasion. Egypt, which had been so powerful and wealthy only decades before, suddenly could not defend itself against tribes of invading bedouin. No one knows what happened. Some historians have suggested that the long reign of Pepi II resulted in stagnation, and that when he died, it was like pulling the support out from under a rickety building. But there is no evidence to support such a theory. A papyrus dating from the end of the Old Kingdom was found in the early 19th century in Egypt . It seems to be an eyewitness account of the events preceding the dissolution of the Old Kingdom. Its author, an Egyptian named Ipuwer, writes: " Plague is throughout the land. Blood is everywhere. " The river is blood. " That is our water! That is our happiness! What shall we do in respect thereof? All is ruin! " Trees are destroyed. " No fruit or herbs are found... " Forsooth, gates, columns and walls are consumed by fire. " Forsooth, grain has perished on every side. " The land is not light [dark]. Velikovsky recognized this as an eyewitness account of the ten plagues. Since modern men are not supposed to believe in such things, it has been interpreted figuratively by most historians. The destruction of crops and livestock means an economic depression. The river being blood indicates a breakdown of law an order and a proliferation of violent crime. The lack of light stands for the lack of enlightened leadership. Of course, that's not what it says, but it is more palatable than the alternative, which is that the phenomena described by Ipuwer were literally true. When the Bible tells us that Egypt would never be the same after the Exodus, it was no exaggeration. With invasions from all directions, virtually all subsequent kings of Egypt were of Ethiopian, Libyan or Asiatic descent. When Chazal tell us that King Solomon was able to marry Pharaoh's daughter despite the ban on marrying Egyptian converts until they have been Jewish for three generations because she was not of the original Egyptian nation, there is no reason to be surprised.
IN THE WAKE OF THE EXODUS
It was not only Egypt which felt the birth pangs of the Jewish People. The end of the Old Kingdom in Egypt preceded only slightly the end of the Early Bronze age in the Land of Israel. The end of this period, dated by archeologists to c.2200 BCE (in order to conform to the Egyptian chronology), has long puzzled archeologists. The people living in the Land of Israel during Early Bronze were the first urban dwellers there. They were, by all available evidence, primitive, illiterate and brutal. They built large but crude fortress cities and were constantly at war. At the end of the Early Bronze Age, they were obliterated.
Who destroyed Early Bronze Age Canaan? Some early archeologists, before the vast amount of information we have today had been more than hinted at, suggested that they were Amorites. The time, they thought, was more or less right for Abraham. So why not postulate a great disaster in Mesopotamia, which resulted in people migrated from there to Canaan? Abraham would have been thus one in a great crowd of immigrants (scholars of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries often felt compelled to debunk the idea of divine commands).
Today, the picture is different. The invaders of the Early Bronze/Middle Bronze Interchange seem to have appeared out of nowhere in the Sinai and the Negev. Initially, they moved up into the transjordan, and then crossed over north of the Dead Sea, conquering Canaan and wiping out the inhabitants. Of course, since we are dealing with cultural remnants and not written records, we don't know that the previous inhabitants were all killed. Some of them may have remained, but if so, they adopted enough of the newcomers' culture to "disappear" from the archeological record.
Two archeologists have already gone on record identifying the invaders as the Israelites. In an article published in Biblical Archeology Review , Israeli archeologist Rudolph Cohen demonstrated that the two invasions match in every detail. Faced with the problem that the two are separated in time by some eight centuries, Cohen backed down a bit:
I do not necessarily mean to equate the MBI people with the Israelites, although an ethnic identification should not be automatically ruled out. But I am suggesting that at the very least the traditions incorporated into the Exodus account may have a very ancient inspiration reaching back to the MBI period.
The Italian archeologist Immanuel Anati has come to similar conclusions . He added other pieces of evidence, such as the fact that Ai, Arad and other cities destroyed by Israel in the invasion of Canaan were destroyed at the end of the Early Bronze Age, but remained uninhabited until the Iron Age. Since the Iron Age is when Israel supposedly invaded Canaan, we have been in the embarrassing position of having the Bible describe the destructions of these cities at the very time that they were being resettled for the first time in almost a millennium. When the conquest is redated to the end of the Early Bronze, history (the Bible) and physical evidence (archeology) are in harmony. Anati goes further than Cohen in that he claims the invaders really were the Israelites. How does he get around the eight hundred year gap? By inventing a "missing book of the Bible" between Joshua and Judges that originally covered this period.
Both Cohen and Anati are in the unenviable position of having discovered truths which conflict with the accepted wisdom. Their "tricks" for avoid the problem are lame, but the only alternative would be to suggest a radical redating of the archeology of the Land of Israel. And there is good reason to do this. It is not only the period of the Exodus and Conquest which suddenly match the evidence of ancient records and archeology when the dates of the archeological periods are brought down:
1. The Middle Bronze Age invaders, after some centuries of rural settlement, expanded almost overnight into an empire, stretching from the Nile to the Euphrates. This empire has been termed the "Hyksos Empire," after a group of nomads that invaded Egypt, despite the fact that there is no historical evidence for such an identification. History knows of one such empire. Archeology knows of one such empire. The same adjustment which restores the Exodus and Conquest to history does the same to the United Kingdom of David and Solomon.
2. The Empire fell, bringing the Middle Bronze Age to an end. Archeologists and Egyptologists are currently involved in a great debate over whether it was civil war or Egyptian invasions which destroyed the "Hyksos" empire. The biblical accounts of the revolt of the ten northern tribes and the invasion of Shishak king of Egypt make the debate irrelevant.
3. The period following the end of the Empire was one of much unrest, but saw tremendous literary achievements. Since this period, the Late Bronze Age, was the last period before the Iron Age, and since the Iron Age was believed to have been the Israelite Period, the Late Bronze Age was called the Canaanite Period. Strangely, these Canaanites spoke and wrote in beautiful Biblical Hebrew. Semitic Canaanites? Did the Bible get it wrong again? But then, coming after the time of David and Solomon, they weren't really Canaanites. The speakers and writers of Biblical Hebrew were, as might have been guessed - Biblical Hebrews.
4. Finally we get to the Iron Age. This is when Israel supposedly arrived in Canaan. But it has been obvious to archeologists for over a century that the archeology of the Iron Age bears little resemblance to the biblical account of the conquest of Canaan. There were invasions, but they were from the north, from Syria and Mesopotamia, and they came in several waves, unlike the lightning conquest under Joshua. The people who settled the land after the invasions also came from the north, though there is much evidence to suggest that they weren't the invaders, and merely settled an empty land after it had been destroyed by others. The south remained in the hands of the Bronze Age inhabitants, albeit on a lower material level.
The conclusions drawn from this evidence have been devastating. The people in the south, who constituted the kingdom of Judah, from whence came the Jews, has been determined to be of Canaanite descent! If not biologically, then culturally. And the people in the north, the other ten tribes of Israel, have been determined to have been no relation to the tribes of the south. The idea of twelve tribes descended from the sons of Jacob has been removed from the history books and recatalogued under "Mythology, Jewish."
What is most strange is that multiple waves of invasion followed by northern tribes settling in the north of Israel is not an event which has gone unmentioned in the Bible. The invaders were the Assyrians. The settlers were the northern tribes who eventually became the Samaritans. And if the people in the south were descended from the Late Bronze Age inhabitants of the land, why, that merely means that the kingdom of Judah was a continuation of the kingdom of Judah. The only historical claims which are contradicted by the archeological record are those of the Samaritans, who claim to have been the descendants of the ten tribes of Israel. A simple redating of the archeological periods in the Land of Israel brings the entire scope of biblical history into synchronization with the ancient historical record. Only time will tell whether more archeologists will follow Cohen and Anati in their slowly dawning recognition of the historicity of the Bible.
|THE HISTORICAL VIEW OF THE HISTORY OF THE LAND OF ISRAEL|
|PROTO-CANAANITES||AMORITES||HYKSOS EMPIRE||CANAANITES||NORTHERN TRIBES|
|EARLY BRONZE AGE||MIDDLE BRONZE AGE||LATE BRONZE AGE||IRON AGE|
|CANAANITES||CONQUEST AND JUDGES||UNITED MONARCHY||DIVIDED MONARCHY||SAMARITANS|
|THE BIBLICAL VIEW OF THE HISTORY OF THE LAND OF ISRAEL|
A NEW CHRONOLOGY
SYNOPSIS OF DAVID ROHL'S BOOK "A TEST OF TIME" BY JOHN FULTON
The concept of time for us today is taken to be an absolute unchangeable system. We measure time from the fixed point of Christ's birth so that this is the one thousand, nine hundred and ninety-seventh year since he was born. The ancients, however, could not look forward to Christ's birth; instead, they worked on a regnal dating system where events happened in the Nth year of the reign of a particular king.
For most of the Old Testament, we can find a good deal of archaeological evidence in the Middle East to corroborate the historical record e.g.: Moabite, Canaanite, Persian, Assyrian and Babylonian artifacts and excavation. This is not surprising as these neighbouring states had considerable interaction between them. However, from the period of the United Monarchy under Saul, David and Solomon back, only the Egyptian chronology and archaeology is good enough to corroborate the biblical record and here there has been supposedly very little evidence for the existence of Saul, David, Solomon, the Judges, Moses and Joshua or the Patriarchs. This has led some scholars, such as Professor Thomas L. Thompson of Copenhagen University in 1992, to say:-
"If we reflect on how easy it is to challenge the historicity of not only a David or Solomon but of events in the reigns of Hezekiah or Josiah ... the very substance of any historical project that attempts to write a history of the late second or early first millennium BC in Palestine on the basis of a direct integration of biblical and extra biblical sources ... must appear not only dubious but wholly ludicrous."
This was true until the recent work of David M. Rohl in his book A Test of Time: The Bible:- From Myth to History' (Century, London 1995 - ISBN 0 7126 5913 7), of which this paper is a summary. Very simply stated, the problem is to correlate the archaeological ages, the Egyptian pharaonic chronology and the biblical chronology of early Israelite history with the absolute Christological timescale.
The biblical chronology is as follows, based on the widely-accepted work of Edwin Thiele:
1ST & 2ND TIMELINES - BIBLICAL & EGYPTIAN CHRONOLOGIES
The Egyptian chronology is based partly on finds during excavation of the sites of ancient Egypt. These include tablets and statues with inscriptions, pottery fragments, tomb relics and hieroglyphic inscriptions. Also of great worth in determining the chronology are the works of early historians, who often used ancient records not available to us today. As the archaeological evidence of Egypt is more extensive than that of any other contemporary civilization, the chronology of Egypt is used as the basis on which the archaeological ages and the chronologies of neighbouring civilizations are built. The ages concerning us are:-
3RD TIMELINE - ARCHAEOLOGICAL AGES
Therefore we have:-
i. Egyptian History and Chronology
ii. Israelite History and Chronology
iii. Archaeological Ages
These are combined to form part of an integrated whole, the conventional timescale of the ancient world as we know it:
4TH TIMELINE - INTEGRATION OF 1ST, 2ND & 3RD
In order to integrate the knowledge gained from different civilizations into the timescale as a whole, we need to have common dates that can be used to link known events in two or more civilizations. Examples are battles or marriage alliances between kings. This done, the relation of these different nations can be ascertained.
There were three basic cross-links made by 19th century Egyptologists to synchronise Israelite and Egyptian history.
° The sacking of Thebes in 664 BC by the Assyrian king Ashurbanipal as punishment for a revolt led by Pharaoh Taharka of the 25th Dynasty of kings in Egypt. Assyrian, Babylonian, Egyptian and other sources make this a very firm date, fixing the history of Egypt after this time. This date is beyond contention.
° The identification of Pharaoh Shishak (who is recorded in I Kings 14:25,26 and II Chronicles 12:2-9 as having conquered Jerusalem when Rehoboam was king of Judah) with Pharaoh Shoshenk I of the 22nd Dynasty.
° The identification of Ramesses II (Ramesses the Great, a 19th Dynasty ruler) as the pharaoh of the oppression of the Israelites in Egypt.
The absolute dates for Shishak/Shoshenk I were calculated from the biblical chronology, i.e. counting back regnal years to Rehoboam, the son and successor of Solomon. From this date, the date for Ramesses II was calculated by counting back the regnal lengths of the pharaohs between Ramesses and Shoshenk I. Other Egyptian kings were spread to fill in the gaps between these dates and other data, e.g. from the Ebers Calendar and Leiden Papyrus used to support the chronology.
The problem then arose that when archaeologists searched for materials from the periods, Late Bronze Age to Iron Age IIC, there was little or no evidence of any kind to lend credence to the early biblical account right up to the division of the monarchy. This means that for many years, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges and large parts of Kings and Chronicles were relegated to the realm of mythology rather than historical fact. There was no evidence of the major events of Israelite history recorded in the Bible ever occurring. There were little or no data supporting an Israelite nation of several millions in Egypt, no evidence of the Exodus and none of a conquest of Canaan in the relevant archaeological strata of the Late Bronze Age. The Early Iron Age when Saul, David and Solomon were supposed to have reigned in such splendour was a relatively impoverished time with certainly no evidence of the great building works of Solomon that are recorded in the Bible. This has led many archaeologists of this period to doubt the historicity and validity of a large part of the Bible. What has happened? New evidence now revealed shows how the early Egyptologists, in their eagerness to find archaeological proof for the biblical record, made key assumptions which were wrong.
The first of these was the identification of Ramesses II as the pharaoh of the oppression based on the text of Exodus 1:8-11 which tells of the new pharaoh forcing the Hebrews to build the store cities of Pithom and Raamses. Ramesses II was a great building pharaoh and did build Raamses in Goshen (called Pi-Ramesse or city of Ramesses'). However, this is likely to be the same as saying that the present city of York was built by the Romans; the Romans never actually called their city York but Eboracum. The modern city of York gets its name from the Viking town Yorvik built on the same site. A biblical redactor writing after the event would naturally refer to the city built by the Israelites with the name Raamses to make it familiar to all his contemporaries.
It is remarkable that to identify the pharaoh of the oppression with Ramesses II, the period of the Judges must be reduced by 200 years, which is directly opposed to the biblical narrative. In Judges 11:26, Jephthah (one of the last of the Judges) states that the timespan from the first settlement in Transjordan during the Conquest to his own time, is 300 years. Also in I Kings 6:1, the time from the Exodus to the building of the temple by Solomon in 966 BC is recorded as 480 years, complementing the Judges date. These both place the Exodus around 1450 BC but Ramesses II reigned in the 13th Century (1279 - 1213 BC) under the conventional chronology. Genesis 47:11 also states that Jacob and the Patriarchs settled in the region of Ramesses'. This, however, is centuries before there was a pharaoh named Ramesses, let alone one who built a great city named after him. These early Egyptologists overlooked or ignored the biblical evidence in favour of equating Ramesses II with the pharaoh of the oppression.
Furthermore, the identification of the biblical Shishak (I Kings 14:25,26 and II Chronicles 12:2-9) with Pharaoh Shoshenk I has now been shown to be very shaky. It is based on a misreading of hieroglyphs to read that he captured the kingdom of Judah'. Shoshenk did indeed march north into Palestine but into the region of the Northern Kingdom of Israel; no mention is made of the capture of Jerusalem in this campaign.
The two main pillars of early Egyptian chronology have thus been shown to be unreliable and so the only firm date for tying this period to any timescale is 664 BC, the sacking of Thebes. However, recent work has now come up with some very interesting finds. These start with archaeological conundrums or puzzles which, detailed in David Rohl's book, shorten the entire length of the Third Intermediate Period (TIP) of Egypt (conventionally dated 1069-664 BC) by 200 years. In essence, there were a lot more co-regencies and parallel dynasties than was previously thought.
Secondly, research has revealed that Ramesses II was known in the Middle East by the hypocoristicon or nickname of Ss'. This comes from Hittite and Egyptian sources. The Egyptian S'is often pronounced Sh' in Hebrew and like Hebrew and Arabic, no vowels are used but some records indicate that the name ShSh' is pronounced Shysha'. The ancient Hebrews may then have added the k' as this would have given Ramesses the nickname Shysak' which in Hebrew means the one who crushes underfoot', a very appropriate title.
Thirdly and most convincing of all is a finding at the Theban Ramesseum. Ramesses II, in the eighth year of his reign, plundered the city of Shalem or Salem, which we know today as Jerusalem. He is therefore the only pharaoh recorded as having plundered this city and his nickname is Shysha!
Finally, there are three important ancient genealogies:-
° The graffito genealogy of Khnemibre in the Wadi Hammamat.
° The statue genealogy of Nespaherenhat in the Cairo Museum.
° The Memphite genealogy of the High Priests of Ptah, now in Berlin.
These all indicate that the length of the TIP has been artificially overestimated in the original piecing together of the Egyptian chronology. These evidences and more have enabled a new chronology to be established by David Rohl in his book which is summarised below:-
5TH TIMELINE - THE NEW CHRONOLOGY
The effect of all this archaeological research is that the biblical chronology, rather than being squeezed to fit into the accepted archaeological timeframe, is now being proved to be very accurate. The biblical timeframe is being verified by a whole wave of new data from the Middle East which under the new chronology of Egypt ties in extremely well with the biblical account.
The first evidence of this is in the subsequent relocation of the Solomonic period to the Late Bronze Age. This was an age of wealth and prosperity in the Levant, reflecting the biblical narrative of the wealth of Solomon's reign. Previously, Solomon was placed in a period of general impoverishment - the Early Iron Age. The contemporaries of Solomon in Egypt are now shown to have been Haremheb and Seti I. Excavations at Megiddo for this period, which I Kings 9:15 records as being built up by Solomon, revealed a Late Bronze Age palace 50 metres long with two-metre thick walls, a royal treasure-room with a magnificent hoard of treasures and the richest collection of Canaanite carved ivory yet discovered in Palestine (Yigael Yadin of the University of Jerusalem). One of these ivory pieces depicts a king on his throne flanked by two sphinxes with his queen before him. The queen is presenting the king with lotus flowers, a typical Egyptian scene. In I Kings 10:18-20, Solomon is said to have had a throne flanked with lions. We also know that he married an Egyptian princess (I Kings 3:1). Could this piece, now in the Rockefeller Museum in Jerusalem, represent Solomon and his Egyptian queen at the height of their power? The architecture of Late Bronze Age Megiddo is identical to that described in the Bible as being performed by Phoenician craftsmen (I Kings 6:36).
In I Kings 9:15, Solomon is recorded as having built the Millo around Jerusalem. This was a massive stone terrace, erected to increase the building area on top of the City of David. This amazing construction was extensively excavated by Dame Kathleen Kenyon; however, due to the chronological problems already discussed, it was wrongly dated to a couple of centuries before Solomon. This has now been revised under the new chronology and given a date in the Late Bronze Age, contemporary with Solomon, the biblical builder.
Furthermore, it is stated in I Kings 7:8 and II Chronicles 8:11 that Solomon built a palace for his Egyptian wife in Jerusalem. The only Egyptian architectural remains ever to be found in Jerusalem now date in the new chronology to the Late Bronze Age II A/B. Previously, it was considered a mystery as to where they had come from and who had been responsible for them.
SAUL AND THE AMARNA TABLETS
In 1887, 380 clay tablets were discovered in Egypt at a place called Tell el-Amarna and have come to be known as the Amarna tablets. These tablets were letters from foreign rulers, mainly of city-states but also of the more powerful northern kingdoms of present-day Syria, Turkey and Cyprus, as well as what was once Babylonia and Assyria. They were written to the Egyptian pharaoh of the day; this was Amenhotep IV who soon changed his name to the famous Akhenaten.
Under the old chronology these tablets contained little to interest Bible scholars; however, under the new chronology they are dated to the late 10th century of Saul and David, providing an amazing confirmation and even expansion of the biblical narrative. The tablets were carried to Egypt, transcribed onto papyrus from the original Akkadian/Cuneiform script into heiroglyphs for the pharaoh to read and then the original tablets stored at Amarna to be discovered some 3000 years later.
Akhenaten was the 18th Dynasty ruler who sought to change the entire religion and culture of Egypt to the worship of one deity, the sun-god Re, in the form of the Aten sun disc. Under his rule, however, Egypt became militarily weak and was brought to the brink of revolution. The superpower of the day was crippled, allowing a new power base to emerge in the Levant under the rule of firstly Saul, then David. This culminated in the reign of Solomon, with enough consolidated power to force a marriage alliance between himself and a later pharaoh's daughter.
The Amarna tablets paint a picture of a tribal Palestine ruled by various city-state rulers of Canaanite, Philistine and Israelite/Hebrew origin as well as the larger state of Amurru/Aram to the north, very much corroborating the biblical picture of Samuel. They tell us that the coastal plains were in the hands of Philistines of Indo-European origin, dominated by city-state rulers with Indo-European names who communicate with Pharaoh Akhenaten in the Amarna letters. The Bible tells of the coastal plains being out of the control of Saul and under Philistine rule (p.207, fig. 244). The city of Gezer in the Amarna letters is under Canaanite rulers; Gezer in the Bible is under Canaanite rule until given to Solomon as a dowry by Pharaoh in I Kings 9:16.
Mentioned several times in the tablets are the Habiru people, who are stateless wanderers outside the rule of the city-states of Palestine and Syria, often employed as mercenaries by these rulers to protect their interests. Their lifestyle closely resembles that of the biblical Hebrews and yet posed problems for scholars under the old dating system as to why groups of Hebrews should be wandering in Palestine 100 years before the Exodus! Now, however, these are the Hebrews of David who finally enter the service of Achish, king of Gath, who quarters them in Gath. David and his Hebrews, portrayed as soldiers of fortune as in I Samuel 27:1-6!
In the Amarna letters, Jerusalem is ruled by Jebusites, a Hurrian elite race. In II Samuel 5:6,7, this is also the case until the city is conquered by David. The name of the ruler of Jerusalem is given in the Amarna letters as Abdiheba, a mixed Semitic/Hurrian name. The Amarna tablets tell of the whole region of Syria dominated by kings of Amorite stock including a king Aziru. The Bible in II Samuel speaks of this kingdom being Aram and the king being Hadadezer, one of David's enemies. Aziru is considered to be the accepted shortening or hypocoristicon of a longer, more formal name. Given that Hadad was a prominent god of the Arameans and that -Aziru (or -ezer) means helper of, it can be seen that the Amarna letters use the shortened name of the Aramean king Helper of Hadad or Hadadezer, a startling biblical confirmation.
The hill country to the north of Jerusalem is dominated in the Amarna letters by a king who shows scant respect for the Egyptian pharaoh. His hypocoristic or shortened name is Labayu, translated as Great Lion of (N) where N is a god's name. The career of the Labayu in the Amarna letters is strikingly similar to that of Saul and this is an alternative name for the biblical Saul, the great lion of Yahweh.
Another clue to Saul's other name is found in Psalm 57 where his bodyguards are called lebaim, a unique word in the Old Testament meaning great lions. It is amazing then that as David hides from Saul's men in the cave of En-Gedi (I Samuel 24) he pens Psalm 57:4:-
"I am in the midst of lions (Hebrew 'lebaim'); I lie among ravenous beasts - men whose teeth are spears and arrows, whose tongues are sharp swords."
Labayu in the Amarna letters was active in fighting against the Philistines on the coastal plain to the south-west but was unable to conquer their cities. He was finally killed on Mount Gilboa by a Philistine confederacy. A rebellious king, he even wrote to Pharaoh to warn him not to meddle in his affairs. In letter EA 252 (p208 fig. 245), Labayu writes:-
"If an ant is struck, does it not fight back and bite the hand of the man who struck it?"
It is truly astounding to have in our possession a letter from King Saul. EA 252 was studied in 1943 by the great American archaeologist William Albright. He concluded that the writer knew little of the Akkadian language and that it was idiomatically pure Hebrew, i.e. written in Hebrew first by the king whose beginnings were insignificant (from the house of Benjamin and the least of its families - I Samuel 9:21) and then translated into Akkadian to be sent to Pharaoh. The untutored Labayu/Saul writes to warn off Pharaoh!
A number of other Amarna tablets attest to this king's disruption of the area. EA 289 states:-
"Are we to act like Labayu when he was giving the land of Shechem to the Habiru?"
Habiru/Hebrews means wanderers and was a term of contempt used by the other Palestinian leaders. The Jews called themselves Israelites except when speaking of David's Hebrews who were a mercenary group of drifters. Indeed, the Hebrews of David may be seen as a different group of Israelites e.g. I Samuel 13:3-5:-
"Jonathan smashed the Philistine pillar which was at Gibeah and the Philistines learnt that the Hebrews had risen in revolt. Saul had the trumpet sounded throughout the country and the whole of Israel heard the news: 'Saul has smashed the Philistine pillar and now Israel has incurred the enmity of the Philistines.' "
This event is mentioned by Labayu as he writes to the Pharaoh in EA 252, to say that he was recapturing his home town which was taken by the Philistines, even after it had been agreed in the presence of the governor from Egypt that this would not happen!
In EA 254, Labayu's third letter to Pharaoh, he reprimands his own son for consorting with the Habiru/Hebrews without his knowledge. This is also told in I Samuel 20:30,31.
The deaths of Saul and his sons, Jonathan, Abinadab and Malkishua are recorded in I Samuel 31. They occur at the battle of Mount Gilboa in a clash with the Philistines. After gathering at the fountain of Jezreel, the Israelites retreated into the mountains so that the Philistines could not make use of their chariots and cavalry. How the Philistines were successful in pursuing Saul up the mountains is not clear in the Bible but the Amarna tablets answer some intriguing questions. In EA 250, a ruler of a city-state reports to Pharaoh that Saul's surviving sons have asked for help to inflict revenge on a city called Gina (biblical En-Ganim) for killing their father. Also, in EA 245, Biridiya, Philistine ruler of Megiddo, writes to say that when he arrived on the battle field, Labayu was already dead and so could not be taken alive and sent to Egypt for public execution as Pharaoh had wanted.
In a map of the battle (p.218, fig. 259), it can be seen that Saul took up position facing the Philistines over the steep, northern slopes. To the south of his position atop Mount Gilboa lay the gentle slopes of the Vale of Gina and the town of Gina. It is envisaged that the men of Gina had been positioned to guard the southern slopes but that they betrayed Saul and allowed the Philistine archers and chariots to outflank and surprise Saul's army. Then, when the Philistine ruler Biridiya arrived on the battlefield with the main Philistine army, Saul and his sons were already dead. In the biblical account, Saul was mortally wounded by Philistine arrows; rather than being taken alive, he fell on his own sword to kill himself.
After the death of Saul/Labayu, we know from the biblical account that Saul's son Ishbaal/Ish-Bosheth and David vied for power (II Samuel 3:1). Ishbaal fled across the Jordan after the death of his father and from there he wrote to Pharaoh the tablet EA 256 (in the British Museum) which reads:-
"Say to Yanhamu, my lord: Message of Mutbaal, your servant. I fall at the feet of my lord. How can it be said in your presence, Mutbaal has fled. He has hidden Ayab? How can the king of Pella flee from the commissioner, agent of the king, his lord? As the king, my lord, lives, as the king my lord lives, I swear Ayab is not in Pella. In fact, he has been in the field (i.e. on campaign) for 2 months. Just ask Benenima. Just ask Dadua. Just ask Yishuya."
There are several points of note in this extract:-
° Yanhamu is the official representative of Pharaoh in Palestine.
° Mutbaal is the Canaanite form of Ishbaal, son of Saul. Both mean Man of Baal.
° Pella is one of the Israelite strongholds across the Jordan.
Who, however, is the Ayab that Pharaoh speaks of? It has been ascertained by linguists that Ayab is none other than Joab, commander of David's Hebrew army! Furthermore, it has been worked out that Benenima is Baanah, one of Israel's chieftains, Dadua is a form of the name David, king of Judah and Yishuya is the name Jesse (Heb. Yishay), the father of David.
As well as confirming the names of these characters, the Amarna letters even contain the name Goliath in its Akkadian form Gulatu (in EA 292 and 294)!
David's power begins to rise after the death of Saul; after seven and a half years, he is king of all Israel. As his power increases, we read in the Amarna letters desperate pleas for help from Pharaoh against the rampaging Hebrews. Most poignant of all comes from the Jebusite king of Jerusalem, Abdiheba. In EA 288 he writes that he is an island amidst a sea of violence as cities fall to the Hebrews round about him. The fall of Lachish is recorded and Pharaoh is reminded that he has done nothing to help. The king asks to be brought to Egypt with his brothers for safety. However, there never was a rescue as in 1003 BC, David conquered Jerusalem; nothing is ever heard from Abdiheba again in the Amarna letters!
The Amarna letters are not a recent find but have been around for over a century. However, due to the chronological misinterpretation, they were not seen as letters dating from the time of Saul and David. Even then, it greatly puzzled scholars as to how strikingly similar the Palestine of the Amarna letters was to the biblical Davidic picture, because they thought that the letters dated from 100 years before the Exodus. Now with the new dating, the similarities are there because the Amarna letters describe the United Monarchy period of Israelite history. The time gap was simply an illusion of the conventional chronology.
Another document and astronomy confirm the new chronology date for the Amarna period as a record survives of a solar eclipse near sunset at Ugarit in April/May. In 1988, using powerful mainframe computers, it was determined that the only date in the whole 2nd millennium BC when this could have happened was 9th May 1012 BC. This is 350 years earlier than the reign of Amenhotep III was previously dated and backs up the new chronology of David Rohl.
It is interesting to note that the only other mention of David found to date is the Tell Dan Stela/Tablet, dated to the mid-9th century BC and mentioning the House of David. In this light, the Amarna tablets are clearly an incredible find but the greatest amongst them must be the letter from the Israelite king Saul to Pharaoh, written by the untutored Benjamite king in Hebrew and then translated roughly into Akkadian to be sent off to Pharaoh, the most powerful man on earth at that time. EA 252 is surely a priceless artefact!
MOSES AND THE ISRAELITES
One of the most troubling problems for biblical archaeologists was the lack of archaeological evidence for Moses and the Israelites in Egypt. Prior to the Exodus, there were hundreds of thousands of Israelites in Egypt, yet little or no evidence of their existence has been found, even though the sojourn is recorded as lasting for centuries in the Scriptures!
The biblical chronology dates the birth of Moses to around 1527 BC. In the new chronology of Egypt, the pharaoh on the throne of Egypt was Neferhotep I of the 13th Dynasty.
The early Christian historian Eusebius in his work Evangelicae Preparationis quotes from a book Peri Ioudaion (Concerning the Jews) by the Jewish historian Artapanus. This work of Artapanus has not survived down to the present but is also quoted in Clement's Stromata. Artapanus, writing in the 3rd century BC, had access to ancient records in Egyptian temples and perhaps even the famous Alexandrian library of Ptolemy I.
Artapanus writes that a pharaoh named Palmanothes was persecuting the Israelites. His daughter Merris adopted a Hebrew child who grew up to be called prince Mousos. Merris married a pharaoh Khenephres. Prince Mousos grew up to administer the land on behalf of this pharaoh. He led a military campaign against the Ethiopians who were invading Egypt; however, upon his return, Khenephres grew jealous of his popularity. Mousos then fled to Arabia to return when Khenephres died and lead the Israelites to freedom. It may be only a Mosaic story with similarities to the biblical account, yet the only pharaoh with the name Khenephres was Sobekhotep IV, who took the name Khaneferre at his coronation. He reigned soon after Neferhotep I of the 13th Dynasty, as mentioned above, the pharaoh in power at Moses' birth!
Josephus in his Antiquities of the Jews, with access to very old manuscripts and writing in AD 93, also mentioned Moses' Ethiopian or Kushite war. Here, Moses led an Egyptian army down the Nile valley, past the Third Cataract, deep into Kush (modern Ethiopia). In the British Museum is a stela (page 261, fig. 289) which tells of a 13th Dynasty pharaoh undertaking a campaign south into the region of Kush. That pharaoh is none other than Khaneferre, the step-father of Moses according to Artapanus. He is the only 13th Dynasty pharaoh who is recorded as having campaigned into Upper Nubia or Ethiopia. At Kerma on the Nile an official Egyptian building was found, outside of which was discovered a statue of Khaneferre, so dating this building to the 13th Dynasty. This is many hundreds of kilometres south of the known boundaries of 13th Dynasty Egypt and may have been a governor's residence. It would have been built to secure Egyptian interests in the area after the military victory of the Egyptians led by Moses, as this was the only Kushite war at that time with Egypt. As Moses was a prince of Egypt and was 40 years old according to the Bible when he fled to Arabia, he could certainly have led this military operation - an Israelite leading an Egyptian army to war! If this part of Josephus' account is true then it adds weight to the rest of his account of the life of Moses and also gives us some firmer evidence of the existence of this charismatic leader!
Excavations have been continuing for over 30 years near the Egyptian village of Tell ed-Daba. Here in the Nile Delta region, a large Middle Bronze Age settlement has been uncovered. This is the region of Goshen and the excavation is at the location of the biblical city of Raamses or Pi-Ramesse, the city of Ramesses II (Exodus 1:11). Settlement here spans a period from the 12th to the 20th Dynasties of Egypt. The ancient city at its peak covered an area of ten square kilometres, making it one of the largest cities of the ancient world. It existed for 800 years before being abandoned, when its stones was used to build Tanis.
The city of Pi-Ramesse or Raamses is, of course, famous because it was here that the early Israelites settled as they sojourned in Egypt and here also that they were enslaved. Raamses, however, was not the original name for the city built by the Israelites but as discussed earlier, was a later redaction. The city of Pi-Ramesse was indeed built by the 19th Dynasty ruler Ramesses II (the Great) but, below it, the Austrian team led by Manfred Bietak uncovered a much older city called Avaris which was the actual city built by the Israelites, long before any pharaoh Ramesses had ever reigned.
Avaris was built on a series of sandy hillocks to avoid the annual floodwaters of the Nile. The people who lived in Avaris, however, were not Egyptian but Asiatic Palestinian or Syrian.
The finds there included numerous pottery fragments of Palestinian origin. Several factors about the graves were particularly fascinating:-
° 65% of the burials were of children under 18 months of age, the normal for this period being 20-30%. Could this be due to the killing of the male Israelite children by the Egyptians, recorded in Exodus 1:22?
° A disproportionately high number of adult women as opposed to adult men are buried here, again pointing to the slaughter of male Israelite babies.
° There are large numbers of long-haired Asiatic sheep buried which indicate these people to be shepherds.
° Large numbers of weapons found in the male graves indicate the warlike nature of the people.
The continuing archaeological discoveries here in the ancient city of Avaris mirror exactly the early Israelites revealed in the Old Testament. For two centuries no evidence was found for the Israelites when looking in the strata of the 19th Dynasty. Now that the chronologies have begun to be amended and the sojourn in Egypt placed in the 12th and 13th Dynasties, we have a wealth of archaeological evidence corroborating the biblical account.
Before Moses, the Bible records that the Israelites were enslaved by their Egyptian hosts (Exodus 1:8-14). In the Brooklyn Museum (p.276, fig. 310) resides a papyrus scroll numbered Brooklyn 35:1446 which was acquired in the late 19th century by Charles Wilbour. This dates to the reign of Sobekhotep III, the predecessor of Neferhotep I and so the pharaoh who reigned one generation before Moses. This papyrus is a decree by the pharaoh for a transfer of slaves. Of the 95 names of slaves mentioned in the letter, 50% are Semitic in origin. What is more, it lists the names of these slaves in the original Semitic language and then adds the Egyptian name that each had been assigned, which is something the Bible records the Egyptians as doing, cf. Joseph's name given to him by pharaoh (Genesis 41:45). Some of the Semitic names are biblical and include:-
° Menahem - a Menahem is recorded as the 16th king of Israel in 743-738 BC
° Issachar and Asher - both Patriachs of Israel and sons of Jacob.
° Shiprah - the name carried by one of the Israelite midwives who were instructed in Exodus 1:15-21 to kill Israelite newborn males.
That 50% of the names are Israelite means that there must have been a very large group of them in the Egyptian Delta at that time, corroborating the testimony of Exodus 1:7 which alludes to how numerous the Israelites became. Also, the female slaves outnumber the male slaves on the papyrus by about 3 to 1, again hinting at the culling of male Hebrew children. There was no military campaign into Palestine in the 13th Dynasty to account for these large numbers of slaves.
The Tenth Plague to be sent on Egypt just before the Exodus was the plague on the first-born, recorded in Exodus 12:29,30. At the end of stratum G/1 at Tell ed-Daba or the ancient city of Avaris (p.293), archaeologists found shallow burial pits into which the victims of some terrible disaster had been thrown. These death pits were not carefully organised internments; the bodies were simply thrown in on top of one another. Could these be the burial pits of the first-born Egyptians? What is more, immediately after this disaster, the remaining population left Avaris en masse; this fits perfectly with the Exodus of the Israelites following the final terrible plague.
A completely new settlement of Avaris by a purely Asiatic people occurs approximately 50 years after the Exodus. These people are not Egyptianised like their predecessors the Israelites who had resided in Egypt for many generations. These are identified in Egyptian history as Hyksos hordes from Arabia - the biblical Amalekites. They invaded Egypt at the end of the 13th Dynasty, ravaging the country, establishing their own rule and appointing their own king to reign in the north of the country. They received tribute and levy from the rest of the land, dominating Egypt for more than two centuries. Their barbarity is shown in Avaris where ritual burials of young women have been uncovered, evidence of a cruel religious rite. Also, these Hyksos invaders plundered the tombs of previous pharaohs, their tomb relics being found in the Hyksos graves.
Although not directly confirming the biblical account, it does pose the question as to how these people were able to invade, settle and dominate the most powerful country on earth at that time. The Bible, of course, provides the answer as in Exodus 14:28 it records the complete destruction of Pharaoh's army as the waters closed in over them after Moses parted the sea. Egypt without an army would be completely open to invasion by the Hyksos hordes.
The identity of the pharaoh of the Exodus is an interesting conundrum. The Bible dates the Exodus to 1447 BC. The new chronology suggests that the pharaoh at that time was Dudimose. A writer in Ptolemaic Egypt called Manetho records the invasion of the Hyksos hordes. He is quoted by Josephus as he writes:
"Tutimaos: In his reign, for what cause I know not, a blast of God smote us; and unexpectedly, from the regions of the East, invaders of obscure race marched in confidence of victory against our land (Egypt). By main force they easily seized it without striking a blow and having overpowered the rulers of the land, they then burned our cities ruthlessly, razed to the ground the temples of the gods and treated all our natives with cruel hostility, massacring some and leading into slavery the wives and children of others."
Tutimaos is of course pharaoh Dudimose. The Hyksos invaders were confident of victory and could seize the land without striking a blow because Egypt's army had perished! Again, a remarkable corroboration of the biblical chronology.
Following the Exodus, the Israelites wandered in the desert of Sinai for 40 years. The book of Exodus closes with Moses' death and the story of the conquest of the Promised Land begins in the book of Joshua. Until David Rohl's new chronology, there was thought to be little evidence of the conquest in archaeology because the conventional chronology dated the conquest to the Early Iron Age IA. However, under the new chronology, the conquest is in the Middle Bronze Age IIB. Here there is a multiplicity of evidence, giving insight into the events recorded in the Bible.
The first major event recorded in the book of Joshua is the capture of Jericho. Excavations at Jericho have been carried out for almost 100 years but the most exacting work was done by Dame Kathleen Kenyon of the Institute of Archaeology, London, in 1952. With the old chronology, the history of Jericho which she found did not correlate to the accepted timing of the conquest. She found a substantial Middle Bronze Age city with a large outer wall 12 feet thick on top of a glacis or steep slope which was plastered smooth so that any enemy could not get a foothold to come near the wall. The slope was held in place by a large revetment wall of heavy field stones built along the bottom of the glacis. Beyond this wall was a deep ditch. The ditch was found to be filled with the remains of the bricks of the city wall.
The walls of Jericho had indeed come tumbling down (Joshua 6) and they had in many places filled the defensive ditch at the foot of the steep glacis slope, so enabling the Israelite troops to storm the city. Also found in Jericho were many large earthen jars of carbonised or burnt grain, indicating that the city had been captured rapidly and not after a long siege and famine, as there were lots of supplies. The city, after a sudden capture, had been burned to the ground as is recorded in Joshua 6:24. A layer of ash, in places up to a metre thick, was found, indicating the scale of the fire. Before the redating of the conquest to the Middle Bronze Age, the reason for the destruction of Jericho was unknown. However, now it can easily be viewed as the result of that which Joshua 6:24 speaks of. The city of Jericho after the conquest remained a desolate ruin for several centuries. I Kings 16:34 maintains that Jericho was not rebuilt until the reign of king Ahab in around 850 BC, 550 years later. This is now in the Late Bronze Age and is at the exact time that archaeologists have placed the building of a much smaller settlement at Jericho.
Of the other cities mentioned as having been captured and burned by the invading Israelites in the book of Joshua, excavation of their sites has revealed that 80% of them were destroyed by fire in the Middle Bronze Age, including Bethel, Lachish, Hazor, Debir, Arad and Hebron.
Another interesting find from the excavation of Jericho and other sites in Palestine are numerous scarabs with the name of the Anakite king Sheshai who ruled in the Middle Bronze Age. Joshua 15:14 and Judges 1:10 both record that Caleb defeated King Sheshi of Hebron during the conquest.
In 1992, the joint Israeli/Spanish mission were digging at the ruins of Hazor, the largest city of Palestine in the Middle Bronze Age. They found a tablet on which was recorded the name of the powerful king of the city (p.317, fig.338). That name was Jabin, the same as the king of Hazor who Joshua defeated as recorded in Joshua 11:1,10! Again, Hazor was found to have been completely destroyed during the Middle Bronze Age as recorded in the biblical account of the conquest.
Archaeology at Shechem, one of the most prominent sites in the early biblical history of Israel, has revealed a remarkable consistency with the biblical account. Here Abraham rested under the Oak of Moreh (Genesis 12:6), here Jacob erected an altar to El, the God of Israel (Genesis 33:18-20). Joshua set up a large stone here as a memorial to the covenant God made with Israel (Joshua 24:25,26). Abimelech, son of Gideon, burned the people of Shechem alive in punishment for their rebellion against him, as they sheltered in their massive temple-fortress (Judges 9:46-49).
A temple dating to Middle Bronze Age IIB, the time of Joshua, has been found there. It has been identified as that in which the people of Shechem sheltered from Abimelech. The sacred stone which Joshua erected (Joshua 24:25,26) has been found and now stands for tourists to see; it was discovered in the earlier part of this century by Ernst Sellin who re-erected it in its place. This action was viewed with skepticism by many under the old chronology where the conquest was dated to the Early Iron Age. However, there can now be little doubt that this large white rock is indeed the stone erected by Joshua, standing to this day to witness the renewing of the covenant over 3000 years ago.
The length of the sojourn of the Israelites in Egypt is now taken by many biblical scholars as around 215 years. The key verse in the determination of this is Exodus 12:40. In the Masoretic text, this verse says:-
"Now the length of time the Israelite people lived in Egypt was 430 years."
However, the Masoretic Hebrew text dates from the 4th century AD and the earliest surviving copy is from the 10th century. The Greek translation of the Old Testament (the Septuagint or LXX) was made under Ptolemy I in the 3rd Century BC and the earliest copy is centuries older than the oldest full Masoretic text we possess. It records the full version of Exodus 12:40 as:-
"Now the length of time the Israelite people lived in Egypt and Canaan, was 430 years."
This rendering of the verse is also found in the Samaritan Pentateuch, again older than the Masoretic text. Josephus in his Antiquities of the Jews (XV:2), writing in the 1st century, also gives the length of time from Abraham entering Canaan to the Exodus as 430 years. Therefore, in the Masoretic text, it is safe to say that the words "and Canaan" - i.e. the time of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob - have been omitted in transcription over many centuries. Furthermore, I Chronicles 7:22-27 records ten generations from Joshua back to Joseph's son Ephraim, who was a boy of around five years when Jacob arrived in Egypt. Taking a standard average generation length of 20 years, we again arrive at a sojourn time of approximately 200 years. Josephus (op.cit.) records that from the time of Jacob's entry into Egypt until the Exodus there was a period of 215 years. Adding this to the Exodus date of 1447 BC from Edwin Thiele's biblical chronology, we arrive at a date of 1662 BC for Jacob's arrival in Egypt. Alternatively, by adding 430 years, we arrive at a figure of 1877 BC for Abraham's arrival in Canaan.
Joseph was therefore appointed vizier of Egypt, second only to pharaoh, in the 12th Dynasty, according to the new chronology and specifically in the long reign of Amenemhat III.
Do we have any evidence of famine during the reign of Amenemhat III? Remarkably, we do! The Egyptians depended on the annual flooding of the Nile to irrigate and fertilise the Black Land of the Nile Valley and Delta. When the flood waters subsided, the enriched soil was then ploughed and sown for a reliable harvest. The German Egyptologist Karl Richard Lepsius, in 1844, worked at the Second Cataract of the Nile, at the ancient sites of the twin fortresses of Semna and Kumma. Here he found records for the heights of the Nile floods during the reign of Amenemhat III. The average height was eleven to twelve metres above the normal river level, which would have given a good harvest.
However, by the twelfth year of his reign, the floods recorded were around seventeen metres; this increased the silt deposited on the Delta and therefore gave richer, more abundant crops - the years of plenty. This continued for seven to eight years. Then there is recorded a series of extra-high floods averaging 21 metres. This would have brought down three or four times the normal volume of water to the Delta. By the time the floodwaters receded, it would have been too late in the year to plant the crops, so resulting in a number of years of famine! It is interesting to note that Pharaoh's dream, as recorded in Genesis 41:1-4, tells of seven fat and seven thin cows, representing the years of plenty and famine; both came up from the Nile, indicating that the Nile would have something to do with the famine! The grain produced in the Nile Delta was exported all over the Levant, so it is little wonder that the rest of the area suffered during the famine and Joseph's brothers came to buy grain in Egypt.
Around the time of Amenemhat III, the power of the pharaohs was severely compromised by a number of baronies or local chieftains who controlled large parts of Egypt. Being quite rich, they could afford quite elaborate tombs to be buried in. Near the village of Beni Hasan, 39 of these tombs were found cut into a cliff face; the last dated to a period approximately 20 years before Amenemhat III. In this tomb, that of a chieftain called Khnumhotep III, was found a scene depicting a trading party of Asiatics arriving in Egypt (p.292). This party is very similar to the Midianite caravaneers to whom Joseph's brothers sold him when he was brought to Egypt (Genesis 37). The inscription below one of these reliefs reads, The chief of the hill country, Abishai - a good biblical name! These caravaneers are wearing very colourful garments, again showing that it was the custom in the Levant at this time to wear such colourful clothes, cf. Joseph's coat of many colours, presented to him by his father Jacob!
During the reign of Amenemhat III, these local chieftains or nomarchs ceased to build their tombs, indicating that they had had their power removed. At the same time, Amenemhat III rose to be one of the most powerful pharaohs of the 12th Dynasty. The reason for this is recorded in Genesis 47:13-21 where even the wealthy were forced to sell their land and possessions to Pharaoh in exchange for grain during the famine. So, the power of the local bigwigs was broken and Pharaoh reigned supreme in Egypt thanks to the works of Joseph.
Amenemhat's pyramid in which he was buried at Hawara stands beside the ruins of one of the most impressive buildings of the ancient world - the Egyptian Labyrinth - built during his reign. This has thousands of storerooms and the reason for its building can be determined under David Rohl's new chronology. This was Joseph's administration centre, set up to organise the distribution of grain during the famine. It was only fitting that Pharaoh should wish to be buried beside the very means by which he had obtained absolute power in Egypt. Also nearby is an impressive water work undertaken during the time of Amenemhat III. A canal from the Nile to Lake Moeris (Birket Karun today) in the region of Faiyum was built to channel excess water from the annual Nile flood into this basin to help lower the Delta flood waters. Its modern name is Bahr Yussef - the waterway of Joseph! All these can now be looked at as the building works undertaken under the supervision of Joseph the Israelite.
The historians Herodotus, Manetho and Diodorus Siculus come together to agree that the Egyptian labyrinth was an amazing construction. Herodotus writes in the Hellenist period (Book II, 148):-
"I have seen it and indeed no words can describe its wonders. Though the pyramids were greater than words can tell and each one of them a match for many great monuments built by the Greeks, this maze surpasses even the pyramids."
JACOB'S HOUSE IN EGYPT?
When Jacob and his family arrived in Egypt, the Bible numbers them at around 70 people. The excavations at Tell ed-Daba (ancient Avaris) show a small village dating to this time when Jacob settled in the land of Goshen (stratum G/4). An analysis of the human remains found at the site in this stratum by the Austrians Winkler and Wifling have shown that:-
° The male population derived from outside Egypt, probably from Syria or Palestine. ° The females formed a separate distinct ethnic group, originating from the Egyptians of the Nile Delta region.
This is consistent with an influx of foreign males, the early Israelites, who married the local Egyptian women; it therefore closely parallels the biblical account.
Underneath the palace of Joseph at Avaris (which we will come to shortly) in the lower stratum, dating to the time of the earliest settlement here, we have a building of Syrian design, classified by the Austrian team as a Mittelsaal Haus or Central Hall house. This building was of quite modest proportion. The tombs unearthed during the excavation of the garden of this house contained numerous Asiatic artefacts, indicating the occupants to be of Syro-Palestinian origin. From this it is possible to say:-
° The earliest inhabitants of the settlement were not Egyptian.
° A man of some importance dwelt here.
This house, so different from the design of contemporary 12th Dynasty Egyptian houses, could possibly be the house Jacob built and lived in when he first arrived in Egypt and settled in Goshen.
Following the death of Jacob, the Bible records that Joseph went to live with his father's family (Genesis 50:22). At this time, Joseph had ascended to the position of the second most important man in Egypt. It would be expected, therefore, that a large palace would be built for him. Immediately over Jacob's house in the period of early Avaris, Bietak and his team found a magnificent Egyptian-style palace, dating to the 13th Dynasty. It is extensive with many rooms and a large garden, no doubt built for a very important man (p.358, fig. 382). In the garden, a tomb was uncovered of typical Egyptian style. It was found to be almost empty, having been broken into long ago. However, this was no ordinary tomb robbery as the robbers had taken everything, including the body! Normal robbers only remove valuables.
The Bible records that Joseph was embalmed after his death and laid in a coffin, with instructions that he be taken with the Israelites when they left Egypt; this was duly done (Genesis 50:22-26). However, Bietak did discover the desecrated remains of a twice life-size colossus or statue of the occupant of the tomb and palace. Over his right shoulder is a throw stick, representing a holder of office and authority. The figure is Asiatic. The face has been mostly cleaved off and there are marks on the head where someone has tried to split the stone (p.364, fig.390). Someone went to a lot of trouble to destroy the statue of Joseph; this is not surprising as the Egyptians were plundered and humiliated in the Exodus, which might very well prompt a vengeful attack on an Israelite statue! After this (stratum G at Avaris), the city is deserted for 50-70 years, to be resettled by the new Hyksos invaders setting up a base here after subduing Egypt.
Around the time of the Exodus, the Egyptians had a habit of making clay figurines of their enemies , inscribed with various curses. The figurines were then broken to activate the curse on the people whom they represented. (p.351, fig.376). One of these execration texts found at Sakkara and now housed in the Brussels Museum dates to the late 12th and early 13th Dynasty, the time of bondage of the Israelites. On it are inscribed the names of none other than Jacob and Joseph himself, written in his non-Egyptian name! This is a dramatic confirmation of the existence of the biblical characters and also the anti-Israelite feeling as they were enslaved, leading up to the Exodus.
The Bible does not call itself a history book but it records the dealing of the real God with real people as they lived real lives in real times. It is important then that the biblical records of the Patriarchs and the early Israelites be lifted out of the category of fable and recognized as true stories. Where the Bible touches history, as it does in many places, then more and more the Word of God is coming out as remarkably accurate. To quote David Rohl, who is an agnostic, at the end of his book:-
"Without initially starting out to discover the historical Bible, I have come to the conclusion that much of the Old Testament contains real history."
The events recorded in the Bible are not small events but include the building and destruction of cities and the movement of nations, as well as wars and battles affecting thousands of people's lives. It details the rise and fall of empires as well as the parts played by individuals in that history. Although we may never come up with archaeological evidence for minor bit players in the story, major events should not be hard to find. What David Rohl and others are doing is looking at obvious evidence which has always been there and re-interpreting it in the light of new data to find that the broad brush-strokes of history portrayed in the Bible are very accurate. We are no longer waiting for one artefact to prove that the Israelites really were in Egypt but now we see their traces as very clear. The conquest is obvious, as are the reigns of Solomon, David and Saul. Our God did not deal with his people in secret but, as always, in the open for all to see (Acts 26:26). The legacy of how he led his people to create history is there to be discovered.
David Rohl's book is essentially a new look at old discoveries to see the big picture. However, as further work is done, more of the background to how the people of the Bible lived will be made known. Even now, hundreds of new discoveries are about to be published to further expand our knowledge of biblical history. Archaeologists have thousands more sites to dig but as they do this, they dig up new evidence in support of the historicity of the Bible.
APPENDIX - THE EBLA TABLETS
In 1964, Dr. Paolo Matthiae, professor of Near East archaeology at the University of Rome began to excavate Tell Mardikh in north-western Syria. It soon became clear that they were excavating the ruins of the ancient city of Ebla. In 1975, as the dig progressed down to Early Bronze Age levels, a remarkable find was made in the form of nearly 20,000 clay tablets which constituted the royal archives of the city. These tablets date back to the middle of the 3rd millenium BC, almost 4,500 years ago. They are written in Sumerian wedge-shaped cuneiform script which is the world's oldest known written language. Deciphering these tablets, Professor Pettinato, also of the University of Rome, found the language used to be what he called Old Canaanite even though the script was cuneiform Sumerian. This very ancient language is closer in vocabulary and grammar to biblical Hebrew than any other Canaanite dialect, including Ugaritic; this therefore gives evidence as to the age of the Hebrew language.
This mass of information from Ebla will take years to digest but already it is very exciting. The city was a large one of 260,000 inhabitants; it traded widely over the known world at that time. A flourishing civilisation existed with many skilled craftsmen in metals, textiles, ceramics, and woodwork. It existed 1,000 years before David and Solomon and was destroyed by the Akkadians in around 1600 BC.
To date, only about one third of the Ebla tablets have been translated. Already, however, Eber has been named as one of its kings. Eber was the great-great-great-great-grandfather of Abraham (Genesis 10:21). Could this Eber, King of Ebla, be the same Eber of the Bible? Other names found, later to be used by biblical men, include Abraham, Esau, Saul, Michael, David, Israel and Ishmael. The supreme god of Ebla was called Yah, a shortened version of Yahweh; so, some residual knowledge of the one true God was left at this time before Abraham. Another god was called El, short for Elohim, used later by the Hebrews as the generic name for God.
Tablet 1860 names the five cities of Genesis 14:2 in the same order, i.e. Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, Zeboiim and Zoar. Up until the discovery of the Ebla tablets, the existence of these biblical cities was questioned; yet, here they are mentioned as trade partners of Ebla. This record predates the great catastrophe involving Lot when Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed.
Also included in the archive are very early Canaanite creation and flood stories which very closely resemble that of the Bible. This is not surprising as these people would have descended from the generation after the flood and so would have had a common history of these events!
These tablets provide much evidence of early life in Syro-Palestine and give a rich background to the lives of Abraham and the Patriarchs. It will be truly amazing once the excavations are completed and the tablets fully deciphered.
As with all new research, David Rohl's work needs to be carefully examined in order to be sure that the conclusions he has reached are sound and do not contradict clear evidence which is in opposition to it. As many of those who read this website will not be in a position to critically evaluate the arguments due to lack of knowledge and familiarity, we thought it would be useful to include a short summary of some correspondence which we have undertaken with both the author and Professor Kenneth Kitchen of Liverpool University. Professor Kitchen is a widely respected authority on the TIP and his book The Third Intermediate Period in Egypt (Warminster 2nd ed. 1986, augmented reprint 1996) was the first publication that brought together all the available evidence on the TIP and worked it into a whole framework of dating for the period. This was by all estimations a landmark publication; Professor Kitchen's contributions to Egyptology are of undoubted significance, irrespective of whether or not the conventional chronology is proven to require adjustment, as is suggested by David Rohl's work.
There now follow some of the main points raised by Professor Kitchen in reply to David Rohl's book and, alongside them, David Rohl's responses to those points. In order to explain a little more for those unfamiliar with the material, the main conclusion of David Rohl's book with regard to redating was that the 21st and 22nd dynasties of pharaohs, instead of following on one from the other, actually occurred partly simultaneously, requiring a shrinking down of the conventional dates. This is a crucial part of the argument and so a large part of what follows concerns this overlapping of the two dynasties. Much of the detail has been left out in order not to confuse and it is therefore of necessity very brief. Those who have an interest are encouraged to study the topics in more depth. The books by David Rohl and Professor Kitchen, referenced in the main text, provide ample material and references for the hungry mind.
PROFESSOR KITCHEN / DAVID ROHL
The founder of the 22nd Dynasty, Shoshenk I, dedicated a statue to his immediate predecessor, Psusennes II, the last king of the 21st Dynasty. This obviously shows that the 21st and 22nd Dynasties did not overlap at all.
This inscription is certainly not conclusive. We know of two kings named Psusennes but are still in the dark as to which came first. Within the framework of the conventional chronology, it is assumed that the Psusennes recorded on this statue must be Psusennes II but there is no hard evidence on which to base this conclusion. Indeed, if Har-Psusennes turns out to be Psusennes I it is actually further proof that Dynasties 21 and 22 were contemporary.
Shoshenk I's son Osorkon I married the daughter of Psusennes II, again demonstrating the continuity of the two dynasties. This is recorded on statue BM8 in the British Museum. The inscription does not inform us which king Osorkon it concerns. His identification is again dependent on the assumption that the two dynasties were continuous. It can easily be argued that if we are dealing with Osorkon II then the same evidence shows them to overlap.
There is a single line of high priests of Amun in Thebes and of Ptah in Memphis, both of which pass right through the change between 21st and 22nd Dynasties, removing any possibility of overlapping the two dynasties.
These lines of succession are, as before, totally dependent on key assumptions which are wrong. The data used are found on burial dockets which give the year of a king's reign without specifying which king it is referring to. Once the underlying assumptions are shown to be wrong, the edifice comes crashing down.
An inscription from the reign of Merenptah of the 19th Dynasty relating to the annual inundation of the Nile shows conclusively that any folding-up of the dynasties is impossible. The data concern a specific point in a 1460-year cycle which can be accurately located in absolute time. There is thus no room for moving the dynasties around because of this firm date.
Professor Kitchen has not seen the inscription himself; he has referred to an article written by a man who has also not seen the inscription but only a facsimile of it. The published reading of the text is quite wrong and has been checked personally by David Rohl when in Egypt. The correct reading actually supports the revision of the dynasties as the fixed point referred to in the inscription has itself been wrongly dated due to the misreading.