"The Jewish people as a whole will be its own Messiah. It will attain world domination by the dissolution of other races...and by the establishment of a world republic in which everywhere the Jews will exercise the privilege of citizenship. In this New World Order the Children of Israel...will furnish all the leaders without encountering opposition..." (Karl Marx in a letter to Baruch Levy, quoted in Review de Paris, June 1, 1928, p. 574)

Monday 26 April 2004

The Exodus and the Expulsion of the Hyksos - Archaeology of the Bible

My comments are shown {thus}

Current Egyptology and Archaeology deny that there was an Exodus. Instead, they say that this is a confused memory of the Expulsion of the Hyksos from Egypt.

Archaeologists Israel Finkelstein and Neil Asher Silberman agree with Egyptologist Donald B. Redford that there was no Exodus.

Redford, in attacking Freud's linking of Moses with Akhnaten, misses Freud's point. Freud admits that Yahweh is a vindictive tribal god, but TRANSFERS Jewish Monotheism to the allegedly universalist deity of Akhnaten. I say "allegedly", because of Akhnaten's intolerant iconoclasm.

Freud on Akhnaten and Moses: moses.html.

Redford and Finkelstein say that the geographical place-names in Biblical accounts are reliable for the 7th & 6th centuries BC, but not for earlier times, showing that it cannot be regarded as a "history" of those earlier times.

(1) The Exodus story as the foundation of Judaism (2) Egyptologist Donald B. Redford on the Exodus story (3) Israel Finkelstein and Neil Asher Silberman, The Bible Unearthed (4) Jewish chutzpah in praise of the Hyksos (5) Martin Bernal, in Black Athena, equates the Exodus with the Expulsion of the Hyksos (6) John Romer on the Exodus (7) David Ben-Gurion on the Exodus (8) Thomas L. Thompson, "one of the world's leading Biblical archaeologists", branded an "Anti-Semite" for saying that the Bible is not History but Literature (9) The Israel Stela (Merenptah Stele); more from Romer, Finkelstein and Silberman (10) The Sea Peoples destroy the Hittite Empire, weaken Egypt, and lead to the formation of the Hebrew states - Redford

(1) The Exodus story as the foundation of Judaism

The Exodus myth is the foundation of the notion of "liberation" within Judaism. It's not like the personal (individual) concept within Buddhism or Christianity, but a collective, political, concept as "national liberation" struggle against an external oppressor.

The liberation myths, celebrated on Jewish holidays, provide the motivation for Jews to free themselves - in Zionism - and to free other oppressed minorities, in "international socialism".

These two causes can collide, e.g. when the push for Eretz (Greater) Israel conflicts with solidarity with the Palestinians.

Yet Archaeologists are increasingly concluding that the Bible stories are not history but fiction.

"LONDON: The first 10 books of the Old Testament are almost certainly fiction, written between 500 and 1500 years after the events they purport to describe, according to a 15-year study of archaeological evidence.

"The study, whose conclusions would mean Abraham, Jacob, Moses, King David and King Solomon never existed, was carried out by Professor Thomas Thompson, one of the world's foremost authorities on biblical archaeology, yesterday's Independent on Sunday newspaper reported.

"The claims by Professor Thompson, of Marquette University, Milwaukee, are outlined in a new book, The Early History of the Israelite People. ...

"Professor Thompson ... says the inevitable conclusion is that the Israelite exile in Egypt, the Exodus and Israelite conquest of the Promised Land never took place.

"Excavations have found no trace of a settled population around Judea and Jerusalem during the 10th century BC, when the Kingdom of David and Solomon was supposed to have flourished.

"A community that could have supported a kingdom did not form in Judea until at least a century later, Professor Thompson said. Jerusalem did not become a large and politically influential city until about 650 BC. ... - AAP"

- Canberra Times, March 29, 1993.

Folk Christianity does not make much of the "Exodus" story; it merely serves as a backdrop for the Ten Commandments. The Passover holiday of Judaism is replaced by Easter within Christianity, and the Crucifixion story contains a quite different theme of Liberation - Liberation from Judaism.

(2) Egyptologist Donald B. Redford on the Exodus story

Donald B. Redford, Egypt, Canaan and Israel in Ancient Times (Princeton University Press, Princeton NJ, 1992).


There is perhaps no other scriptural tradition so central to the recontruction of Israel's history that Deuteronomy presents us with than the Exodus of the Hebrews from Egypt. It has become a prototype of salvation, a symbol of freedom and the very core of a great world religion. Yet to the historian it remains the most elusive of all the salient events of Israelite history. The event is supposed to have taken place in Egypt, yet Egyptian sources know it not. On the morrow of the Exodus Israel numbered approximately 2.5 million (extrapolated from Num. 1:46); yet the entire population of Egypt at the time was only 3 to 4.5 million! The effect on Egypt must have been cataclysmic - loss of a servile population, pillaging of gold and silver (Exod. 3:21-22, 12:31-36), destruction of an army - yet at no point in the history of the country during the New Kingdom is there the slightest hint of the traumatic impact such an event would have had on economics or society. As we have already seen, the Asiatic population in Egypt had lingered during the New Kingdom and a part of it had been assigned construction tasks (p. 221ff.); but the "store-cities" of the Exodus story (1:11) are a purely Israelite phenomenon, and the progressive assimilation of the Asiatic population during the New Kingdom is not reflected in the Exodus at all. Clearly something is wrong. Are we approaching the subject from the proper direction? Have we been reading the primary source in Exodus too naively? Is there evidence we have missed? The almost insurmountable difficulties in interpreting the Exodus narrative as history have led some to dub it "mythology rather than ... a detailed reporting of the historical facts" and therefore impossible to lo-

{p. 409} cate geographically. This is a curious resort, for the text does not look like mythology (at least on the definition of the latter as a timeless event set in the world of the gods). The Biblical writer certainly thinks he is writing datable history, and provides genealogical material by means of which the date may be computed. He also thinks it is possible to locate this event on the ground, and packs his narrative with topographical detail. That the resemblance in plot pattern and motif (especially in the "Song of the Sea") to the "Hero-god versus the Monster Sea" suggests a mythic basis to the story, which only later underwent historicization, is more ingenious than illuminating. After all, the feats of Ramesses II on the battlefield occasion the abundant use of imagery drawn from the motif Hero-god versus Chaos; but Kadesh was a real battle nonetheless!

Of prior concern here should be the date of the sources in Exodus 1- 14 judged empirically on the basis of datable details. The latter, it must be admitted, are few and most are of a toponymic nature. Research on these place-names, however, has proceeded far beyond the stage of Cazelle's classic article of thirty-five years ago; and we can now genuinely speak of a unanimity of the evidence. Whoever supplied the geographical information that now adorns the story had no information earlier than the Saite period (seventh to sixth centuries B.C.). The eastern Delta and Sinai he describes are those of the 26th Dynasty kings and the early Persian overlords: his toponyms reflect the renewed interest in the eastern frontier evidenced for this period by fort building and canalization. He knows of "Goshen" of the Qedarite Arabs, and a legendary "Land of Ramesses." He cannot locate the Egyptian court to anything but the largest and most famous city in his own day in the northeastern Delta, namely Tanis, the royal residence from about 1070 to 725 B.C. (cf. Psalm 78:12, 43), which survives as a metropolis into Roman times; and he mistak-

{p. 410} enly presses into service the adjacent marshy tract "the reed-(lake)" as the "Reed-sea," the scene of Israel's miraculous passage to safety. The route he is familiar with is that which traverses the same tract as the canal of Necho II (610-594 B.C.) from Bubastis to the Bitter Lakes; then he moves north in his mind's eye past the famous fort at Migdol to Lake Sirbonis (Ba'al Saphon) where Horus had already in the mythical past thrown Seth out of Egypt. In short, with respect to the geography of the Exodus, the post-Exilic compiler of the present Biblical version had no genuinely ancient details. He felt constrained to supply them from the Egypt of his own day and, significantly perhaps, cited several places where Asiatic elements and especially Judaean mercenaries resided in the sixth and fifth centuries.

When we move beyond toponymy, the Egyptian origin of specific details and even the Egyptian locale of the tale become very hazy indeed. The Nile and its plant life are mentioned, as well as mud brick as a building material (especially common in the Delta); and certain plagues (e.g., frogs, gnats, flies) seem appropriate to a Nilotic setting. A knowledge of the agricultural year in the Nile Valley may also be attested by 9:31-32. But apart from these few features of the plot, the story could have taken place anywhere.

A perusal of the Bondage and Exodus narratives strains the imagination to elicit Egyptian background; but the following details may be passed in review. The term "Pharaoh" is ubiquitous and is used, as it was in the first millennium B.C., as a synonym for the word "king," or even misunderstood as a personal name (cf. Exod. 6:29). The birth of Moses and his being secreted in the rushes has been likened to the fate of Horus in late mythology; but in fact the motif of the "Birth of the Hero" has much wider currency in antiquity and is not Egyptian in origin. The rod that turns into a serpent (Exod. 4:2-4, 7:10-12) recalls the wax model

{p. 411} that turns into a live crocodile when grasped; and the "magicians" who can emulate this trick derive their designation from an Egyptian loanword. Apart from a vague appropriateness of some of the afflictions, the Ten Plagues are not especially "Egyptian" in background, although pestilence and cataclysm were very well known in ancient Egypt. The motif of turning the river into blood (7:20-24) is known from Mesopotamia, as well perhaps as a plague of flies. Darkness (10:21-23) certainly was feared by the Egyptians, and failure of the sun to shine signaled a desperate state of affairs; but it could not be construed as a plague. The slaying of the firstborn does, indeed, enjoy some parallels in Egyptian mythology (none however of much prominence); and attention has been drawn with respect to blood on the doorposts (12:22) to the apotropaic use of the color red among the Egyptians. The possibility of offending the Egyptians by offering items that are somehow taboo (Exod. 8:26) recalls the piety attached to wholesale animal worship in the Late Period and the revulsion caused by the inadvertent killing of individuals. The "pillar of fire" curiously recalls a common figure used in high-flown jargon of the Egyptian king leading his troops into battle as a "sun disk (or other luminary) at the head of his army." Finally, the rolling back of the water to get at the dry bottom, and the flood of water to drown enemies are both known in Egyptian folklore.

None of this suggests a close familiarity with Egypt. But it might be explained as a "demythologizing" tendency, or even a sort of Interpretatio Hebraica of certain myths and cultural traits, indulged in by Israelite

{p. 412} aliens living among Egyptians, or close enough to have limited and distorted knowledge of their customs.

Despite the lateness and unreliability of the story in Exodus, no one can deny that the tradition of Israel's coming out of Egypt was one of longstanding. It is found in early poetry (e.g., Exod. 15) and is constantly alluded to by the prophets. One cannot help but conclude that there was an early and persistent memory of a voluntary descent into Egypt by pastoralists in which one Jacob, who was later to achieve a reputation as an ancestral figure, played a leading role. Those who had made the descent the tradition went on to elaborate, had not only prospered and multiplied, but had for a period of four generations grown exceedingly influentlal in Egypt. Subsequently a strong hostility had been evinced by the autochthonous population toward the Asiatic interlopers; and the latter had been forced to retire to the Levanthine littoral whence they had come.

There is only one chain of historical events that can accommodate this late tradition, and that is the Hyksos descent and occupation of Egypt (see chapter 5). The memory of this major event in the history of the Levant survived not only in Egyptian sources. It would be strange indeed if the West Semitic speaking population of Palestine, whence the invaders had come in MB IIB, had not also preserved in their folk memory this great moment of (for them) glory. And in fact it is in the Exodus account that we are confronted with the "Canaanite" version of this event, featuring the great ancestral leader Jacob, the four-generation span, the memory of political primacy, the occupation of the eastern fringe of the Delta, and so on. It became part of the origin stories of all the Semitic enclaves of the area, and from there it even spread to the north and west where It became current among the non-Semites.

Since we have next to nothing by way of textual witnesses to the folklore of the Canaanites of the Levant, traces of an "Exodus" tradition apart from the Hebrew version are difficult to find. But they do exist Strabo preserves the memory of an army drowned in the sea, localized on the Palestinian coast north of Acre, and is aware of similar phenon-lena at Mount Caslus "near Egypt." Legend had it that certain communities in Asla and Mesopotamia had originated in Egypt; and in early Roman times the population of Palestine was considered to have originated from "Egyptian, Arabian and Phoenician tribes."

But the best-preserved non-Biblical memory of the sojourn and Exodus

{p. 413} was that preserved in "Phoenician" legend, and surviving today in classical sources. From at least as early as the fifth century B.C. and perhaps earlier - the details are already a commonplace in Herodotus - Levantine communities remembered a descent to the Nile of one Io, her marriage to the reigning king and the list of her descendants through her son Epafos (Apophis). Io's line ruled over Egypt for four generations, whereupon her great grandson Agenor retired to Phoenicia, where he became a great king, and his brother Belos (Ba'al) to Mesopotamia. Belos's son Danaos, after a contretemps with his brother Aegyptos, fled to Argos. Both the origin and the ultimate settlement, however, of the main elements of the movement are linked with "Phoenicia": Epaphos's brother is said to be "Phoenix" and Epaphos himself at one stage in his career was in Byblos, while Kadmos, son of Agenor, in concert with Danaos, led the foreigners expelled from Egypt.

In sum, therefore, we may state that the memory of the Hyksos expulsion did indeed live on in the folklore of the Canaanite population of the southern Levant. The exact details were understandably blurred and sub-consciously modified over time, for the purpose of "face-saving." It became not a conquest but a peaceful descent of a group with pastoral associations who rapidly arrived at a position of political control. Their departure came not as a result of ignominious defeat, but either voluntarily or as a flight from a feud, or yet again as salvation from bondage. Nor are we justified in construing as a difficulty the discrepancy between the bondage tradition of Exodus 1:11-14 and the historical reality of the Hyksos expulsion: the Biblical writer has here incorporated another figment of legend for which, in fact, he had Egypt to thank.

During the Saite and Persian periods there took shape in Egypt two types of popular story, redolent with a patriotic jingoism. One took as its plot the invasion of Egypt from the north, the destructiveness of a foreign occupation, and the eventual expulsion of the invaders by Egyptian forces coming from the south. The other centered upon the infestation of Egypt by plague-ridden or leprous peoples (usually foreign), and the steps taken

{p. 414} to rid Egypt of their plight. It takes little discernment to recognize in the first plot pattern a repeated motif in Egyptian history - Thebes in the south had thrice attempted to spearhead wars of liberation against the north - but in its present formulation the story owes more to the national fervor awakened by the disastrous invasions (or attempted invasions) of the Assyrian, Neo-Babylonian, and Persian states from 671 to 525 B.C. The second story-type, on the other hand, has deeper roots, although it too was shaped and brought to relevance by the ubiquity of foreign enclaves in Egypt from Saite times on. As we have them for the Hellenistic age - none earlier have survived - examples show that both plot patterns could be welded into a single tale, although they also appear separately. Certainly the earliest to come down to us in detail - Hecataeus of Abdera bears an earlier but imperfect witness - is the account in Manetho's Aegyptica (first half of the third century s.c.). The "bare bones" of Manetho's account runs as follows:

A. 1. The King (Amenophis/Hor) desires to see the gods.
2. Amenophis son of Paapis the seer declares he may if he cleanses the land of lepers.
3. The King sends all lepers to the quarries east of the Nile.
4. Amenophis the seer predicts an invasion of thirteen years.
5. Amenophis commits suicide.
6. The lepers ask that they be allowed to live in Avaris.
7. In Avaris the lepers choose as their leader Osarsiph, priest of Heliopolis.
8. Osarsiph makes monotheistic and racially exclusive laws.
BRIDGE 9. Osariph invites the Shepherds "back" to Avaris.
B. 10. The Shepherds return.
11. The King hides the divine images and sends his five-year-old son to safety.
12. The King declines to fight the Shepherds and retreats to Ethiopia.
13. The Shepherds lay Egypt waste.
GLOSS 14. Reiteration of the PN Osarsiph and identification with Moses
A + B 15. Amenophis and his son Rapsaces drive out the Shepherds.

It is clear that numbers 10-13 with the addition of 15 is but a variant of the "Invasion-from-the-North" theme. In fact, the details of numbers

{p. 415} 12 and 13 point directly to the inspiration of the popular view of events in the seventh and sixth centuries. Both Tararqa and Tanwetaman, as noted, had beat a hasty retreat from Memphis to Nubia, not wishing to engage the Assyrians in battle. And in the slaughter of the sacred animals, the Shepherds emulate the reputed acts of the Persians.

But items 1-8 and one form of 15 compose our version of the tale of the unclean ones, and here at least the underlying historical reality can be extracted easily. "Amenophis" the king (or Hor, a sobriquet) is Amenophis III, and his desire to see the gods a folk interpretation of passages from his inscriptions. Amenophis son of Paapis is Amenhotep son of Hapu, the historical secretary of labor who served under Amenophis III, gained a reputation for wisdom while he lived, and for over fifteen centuries was revered as a healing "demigod." The dispatch of the impure ones to quarries east of the Nile is an etiological explanation of the whirlwind of quarrying and construction that went on during the reigns of Amenophis III and Akhenaten, prominent textual records of which remained on view for all to see. Memorial stelae commemorating the quarry work were inscribed at Tura opposite Memphis in Middle Egypt under Amenophis III; and the stela of Akhenaten at Gebel Silsileh is the most prominent monument at the site. The text of the latter suggests a magnitude for the operation not much different from that of Amenophis's roundup of lepers: "The first occasion when His Majesty issued a command ... to pursue all work from Elephantine to Sam-behdet, and to the commanders of the army to levy a numerous corvee for quarrying sandstone in order to make the great benden of Re-harakhty ... the princes, courtiers, supervisors and managers were in charge of its impressment for transporting the stone." The use of the Greek terms "lepers" and "unclean" suggests a pejorative in the original Egyptian (or demotic) that in Pharaonic propaganda was customarily attached to undesirable antisocial elements, whether native or foreign. In the present case it seems clear that the devotees of Akhenaten's sun cult are the historical reality underlying the "lepers," and this is confirmed by the iconoclastic nature of the lepers' legislation and the figure of thirteen years for the occupation, which corresponds to the period of occupation of Amarna. Osarsiph moreover is remembered as a priest of Heliopolis,

{p. 416} where sun worship was endemic, and his name may be construed as a perjorative applied in later tradition to Akhenaten.

From what has been adduced to this point it is clear that the first half of Manetho's Osarseph tradition (the "A" pattern) descends from an etiological tale bearing upon the Amarna period of Egyptian history. The story probably originally concluded with the 19th Dynasty kings Sety I (Mernepath) and his son Ramesses II finally putting an end to the Amarna interlude; thus it would conform to the revised king list of later Ramesside times, in which the four "Amarna" reigns are excised and their years added to Horemheb, so that the 19th Dynasty follows Amenhotep III immediately. The pattern A, then, would probably have originated toward the end of the New Kingdom, as one of the many legends told of illustrious kings of the 17th and 18th Dynasties; but it must have come into Manetho's hands in a demotic version of the Saite or early Persian periods.

The fate of the victims in the Osarsiph legend differs from that of the Hyksos. The latter were expelled through war, whereas the lepers were enslaved. It is from Osarsiph or its prototype that the "Bondage" tradition of Exodus originated. To the conceivable argument that the direction of dependence might be reversed, a cogent rebuttal can be given. The assignment of quarry work and heavy-stone construction to captives in Egypt is better attested than brick making, and is thus more appropriate in a tale with an Egyptian setting. The use of brick is, of course, ubiquitous in Egypt, and especially in the Delta; but "store-cities" are an Asiatic phenomenon and brick making as the appropriate job for a captive servile population is well known in the Neo-Assyrian empire. If one cannot resist the urge to read scripture uncritically as history, the blocks of material describing the lives and careers of Moses and Joseph teem with pitfalls. For there are no more enigmatic and elusive figures in the entire Bible.

Moses, in the final form the P-editor gave to the Pentatuch, is tied to

{p. 417} four major traditions: the Exodus itself, the law-giving at Mt. Sinai, the wandering in the wilderness, and the initial stages of the conquest. The question as to which of these traditions did Moses originally belong, if not to all, is one that has bedeviled scholarship for decades. It is tempting to argue that the law-giving as well as the institution of passover and related agricultural feasts had in their origin nothing to do with the Exodus, and should be removed from the previous list. The blanket denial of the Prophets that Israel in the wilderness had possessed the elaborate cultic laws that are now credited to Moses' mediation in Exodus and Leviticus could only have meaning if this was a commonly accepted view at the time.115 It was only in post-Exilic times, then, that Moses became the great "lawgiver." On the other hand, that Moses is somehow associated with formulation of the Yahweh covenant, as a "prophet," may enjoy deeper roots in Israelite tradition. That is not to say that this was Moses' historical origin; but a quasi-priestly role is one of his functions in the tradition.

The connection with Egypt in the Mosaic tradition holds primacy of place in popular and scholarly thinking. But this belief cannot look to the birth narrative for support, for the motif of the exposed child has nothing intrinsically to do with Egypt. Nor can one base this contention on Moses' confrontation with Pharaoh, since it would appear that this was secondarily imposed on an earlier tradition in which the Israelite elders directly negotiated with the Egyptian monarch. Yet, it has been maintained, the PN "Moses" (Hebrew Moseh]) enjoys excellent credentials as an Egyptian name; and indeed it does. The verbal affix -mose, which turns up in such well-known names as Thutmose, Amenmose, and Ptahmose, was in the New Kingdom pronounced -mase, and in the first

115 Cf. Amos 5:21-25; Jer. 7: 22; cf. Hos. 8:12-13; Mic. 6:6-8.

{p. 418} millennium -mose. Moreover, whereas the vocalization did not fossilize but kept pace with the tomes, the sibilant with which the name was transcribed into Hebrew shows that the name must have entered the language before the eighth century B.C., and perhaps even in the late New Kingdom itself.

That Moses was originally a "priestly" figure with Midianite connections and associated with an early cult center of the proto-Israelite tribes at Kadesh has of late become popular. Does not the presence in neighboring Se'ir of a Shasu tribe that bore the tetragrammaton as a designation lend support to such a suggestion?

It is hard in the present state of our knowledge to come to any decision in this matter. One cannot rid oneself of the dismay attendant upon the realization that our lengthy and detailed account of Moses, in all his roles, is late, either Exilic or post-Exilic; and that, although the figure of this charismatic leader may well have been the focus of legend much earlier, for us this prior stage in the formulation of the tradition is a dead letter. Moreover, one cannot help but sense in the entire Mosaic tradition, as we now have it, a pervasive, informing element, which produces nought but effect. From the outset Moses' rejection by his own people provides a tension that runs through the whole; his slowness of wit and inarticulateness make him virtually useless to god. He is, in addition, skeptical of his ability and at times of the almighty as well. All this constitutes a convenient backdrop against which the power of Yahweh may be seen to greater advantage. All this may be highly entertaining; but it is literary artifice, not history. The author is playing secondarily upon a primary Mosaic tradition that he does not allow us to see. The vast majority of the "facts" he now gives us about Moses are demonstratively late, and worthless in the task of uncovering the historical basis for the early "hero."

Another source of chagrin is the suspicion that even the present P-redaction of the Moses story is not a prime source, but conceals and omits certain details widely known at the time. The burial on Mount Nebo (Deut. 34:1-6) and the hint of a Mosaic origin for the Danite priesthood are passing allusions to stories now lost. To what extent would they shift the center of our search for the historical Moses to Transjordan and the Jordan Valley? It is sometimes maintained that, of all the Israelite tribes,

{p. 419} only that of Levi displays Egyptian names in its onomasticon; but this is somewhat misleading. Apart from "Moses" the only PNN that are indubitably of Egyptian origin are Hophni and Phinehas, and once again we find ourselves in a certain milieu at Shiloh, with a priesthood explicitly stated to date from the time of the Bondage (1 Sam. 3:27-28). Again: the laconic reference to Moses' marriage in Numbers 12:1 (immediately followed by the editor's assurance that this had taken place) is an inadvertent slip apprising us of the sometime existence of an incident now lost. It is usually assumed that this is the ultimate source of much of the tangential midrash about Moses' early career that one finds in Judaica of the intertestamental period. And yet, could this not be a reference to a preexistent tale relating Moses to Kush? In particular, Artapan has been thought to preserve a genuine, extra-Biblical tradition, although it is quite true that most of his work takes the form of an implicit rebuttal of Manetho. In particular his story of the invasion of the Kushites and the great seige of Hermopolis in which Moses took part is a clear reminiscence of the invasion of Piankhy around 717 B.C. There are parallels between Moses and Tefnakhte of Sais (c. 724-717 B.C.): both organized peoples in the Delta against oppression, and both led hosts into "Arabia" where living proved rigorous.


It seems fatuous to attempt to answer this question, but perhaps it must be posed.

To this point the discussion has established the following scenario. In Egypt the Hyksos occupation and expulsion were remembered fairly accurately in the king list tradition, although the folk memory tended to confuse the events of the fall of Avaris with the siege of Megiddo. In Canaan it was remembered too, but here no fixed narrative or king list held imagination in check. Memory fastened on the century of occupa-

{p. 420} tion, translated into a four-generation span; the names of illustrious leaders Sheshy, Ya'akob, Io, and Apophis; the antipathy between Egyptian and Asiatic; the withdrawal of the Hyksos to Palestine; and the attendant cataclysm.

One might dwell for a moment on this final point. Sources contemporary with the expulsion of the Hyksos apprise us of curious atmospheric disturbances, strange for the Nile Valley, although not entirely unknown there. The snippet of a diary now preserved on the verso of the Rhind Mathematical Papyrus records the final events leading up to the fall of Avaris: "Year 11, tenth month - one entered Helipolis; first month, day 23 - the Bull of the South(?) gores his way as far as Tjaru; day 20 [+ x] - it was heard tell that Tjaru was entered; year 11, first month, 'Birth of Seth' - the sky rained." This rainstorm may or may not be identical with another downpour that proved very destructive and was recorded on a stela of Ahmose together with the measures the king took to alleviate the resultant misery of the people. "The sky came on with a torrent of rain, and [dark]ness covered the western heavens while the storm raged without cessation ... [the rain thundered(?)] on the mountains, (louder) than the noise at the 'Cavern' that is in Abydos. Then every house and barn where they might have sought refuge [was swept away, .. and they] were drenched with water like reed canoes ... and for a period of [x] days no light shone in the Two Lands."

The striking resemblance between this catastrophic storm and some of the traditional "plagues" seems more than fortuitous. The subsequent interpretation of such an event by the Canaanites as divine punishment on the Egyptians in this moment of triumph would be a natural construction to place upon it. And it is but a step from interpreting the disaster as punishment on Egypt for an expulsion, to construing it as pressure exerted to effect a release. One other legend helped to shape the tradition, and this was a native Egyptian reworking of the Amarna event. Here the "renegade leader"

{p. 421} entered the Canaanite tradition and partly transformed it. ...

{p. 422} It is ironic that the Sojourn and the Exodus themes, native in origin to the folklore memory of the Canaanite enclaves of the southern Levant, should have lived on not in that tradition but among two groups that had no involvement in the historic events at all - the Greeks and the Hebrews. In the case of the latter, the Exodus was part and parcel of an array of "origin" stories to which the Hebrews fell heir upon their settlement of the land, and which, lacking traditions of their own, they appropriated from the earlier culture they were copying. One batch of tales centered upon an "ancestor" called Abram whose memory lived on in Beer Sheva and in the Negeb; another took its rise at Shechem in the highlands and revolved around the figure of a Canaanite leader Jacob. The Canaanite origin of these figures is now only dimly reflected, as most of the Biblical stories told about them took shape much later and served etological needs felt by Israel in the first millennium B.C. But they themselves were un- doubtedly bona fide historical figures of the Middle Bronze Age

One final irony lies in the curious use to which the Exodus narrative is put in modern religion, as a symbolic tale of freedom from tyranny. An honest reading of the account of Exodus and Numbers cannot help but reveal that the tyranny Israel was freed from, namely that of Pharaoh, was mild indeed in comparison to the tyranny of Yahweh to which they were about to submit themselves. As a story of freedom the Exodus is distasteful in the extreme - I much prefer the account of Leonidas and his three hundred at Thermopylae - and in an age when thinking men are prepared to shape their prejudice on the basis of 3,000-year old precedent, it is highly dangerous.


No piece of prose elsewhere in the Bible can equal the literary standard attained by the Joseph story of Genesis 37-50; and few extra-Biblical works in the ancient Near East can rival it for excellence of style and composition. The story is constructed around a beautifully turned and symmetrical plot that displays a unity and integrity that bespeak single authorship. The author's style is spare and unpretentious, and, because of the dramatic effect, achieves a height it might otherwise have missed. No mechanism or tool is alien to this matter: he can retard or accelerate the pace of the plot to heighten suspense; he can develop character more subtly yet deftly than anywhere else in scripture, save perhaps in the Succession Document; he uses a gentle and superb irony throughout his work

{p. 423} to provide unity. Doublets and recapitulation can be deadly, yet in the Joseph story they provide emphasis. Embellishment can be tiresome; yet our author uses it, though sparely, to the best advantage. In short, the nine or so chapters that comprise the Joseph story show all the earmarks of a composition, rather than a record.

For, as has long been realized, the Joseph story is in fact a novella or short story. It shares with other Egyptian and Near Eastern stories of the same genre a number of specific characteristics. As in folktales and wisdom there is a preference for the generic "god" as opposed to the name of the deity, and proper nouns are likewise avoided. Terms of relationship ("father," "older brother," "younger brother") and titles are preferred to names; and toponyms, while a few are present, are generally suppressed. This all contributes to an atmosphere of timelessness and placelessness in the setting of the story: admittedly, as the story is now placed, it takes place in Egypt; but the basic shape of the plot does not demand a Nilotic setting.

The identification of the genre of the Joseph story as that of the novella helps to explain why the narrative makes such a "poor fit" as a component in the chain of Patriarchal Tales in Genesis. Not only is there a marked change in style when one passes from the short and disjointed sections dealing with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to chapter 37 of Genesis, but the author's interest and purpose change also. Unlike the earlier narrative, the Joseph story proper shows no interest at all in cult topography or origin tales; god and his angels do not descend to earth or stand on ladders, make promises, blow up cities, or engage in wrestling matches. Genesis 12-36 has focused repeatedly on the covenant of God with the patriarchs, has reiterated the promises time and again, and sought to establish precedents for the Israelite occupation and cult associations. In the Joseph story these voices fall silent, and these concerns cease to inform the narrative. The "poor fit" of the Joseph story extends to factual detail. According to Genesis 45:11 the descent of Jacob and his family was an ad hoc measure to help them survive the remaining years of famine; elsewhere it is clear their purpose was to settle in Egypt. Again, the Joseph story brings all the sons of Jacob to Egypt, where they live out their lives, even the "baby" Benjamin already blessed with ten sons! This contradicts emphatically the traditions of individual tribes in later times in which the

{p. 424} eponymous ancestors live, marry, raise families, and die in Canaan. Finally, in contrast to the ubiquitous use of "Joseph" as the eponymous ancestor of the "House of Joseph" (Ephraim, Manasseh, Machir) in the central highland, "Joseph" the hero of the novella is almost totally absent from the rest of the Bible until the intertestamental period is reached. In short the Joseph story could easily be excised from the Patriarchal Tales without doing any damage to the main course of the history of Proto-Israel. ...

{p. 429} We conclude that, on a judicious appraisal of the evidence, the Biblical Joseph story was a novella created sometime during the seventh or sixth century B.C. (the end of the Judaean monarchy or the Exile). Its present position provides a free expansion on the theme of Israel's descent to Egypt, although it is wholly unnecessary to the ongoing account of the Patriarchs: Jacob and family arrive on the banks of the Nile without the help of Joseph in the earlier tradition. As the Sojourn and Exodus narrative is an adaptation by Israel of an earlier Canaanite tradition, so the Joseph story is the Hebrew exemplar of a widespread story line much in use in Egypt and the Levant at the time the Pentatuch was being committed to writing. There is no reason to believe it has any basis in fact - the absence of the story from the earlier tradition in the prophets speaks against such a belief - and to read it as history is quite wrongheaded.

{p. 470} THE EVENTS of 586, construed at the time as but a stage in the annihilation of the independent states of the southern Levant, were to prove a major watershed in the history of the Hebrews. The rump community that returned to Jerusalem from Babylon at the close of the century was a new beginning, markedly different from what had gone before in politics, culture, and religion. To us moderns the Judaism of an Ezra or a Nehemiah is familiar and living, the religion of an Amos or a Jeremiah strange and almost "prehistoric."

Egypt's moment of truth was shortly to come, in 525 B.C., when the expanding Median empire of Cambyses overwhelmed the forces of Psammetichos III; but for the Nilotic community the cultural impact was less traumatic. True, the state lost its independence and was demoted to the status of a remote province in a vast, world-empire; but the administration, religion, and cultural expression changed only imperceptibly. Only experts can distinguish between statues and texts of the fifth century and those of the seventh or sixth; and while the fourth century was to throw up Egyptian rebels who took the crown and proclaimed themselves Pharaoh, their short-lived regimes were but extensions of the earlier Saite experience.

The political defeats of 586 and 525 B.C. were destined ultimately to exert a deleterious influence on the intellectual life of both Egypt and the Levant. The reputation of Egypt for "metaphysical" inquiry into imponderables, which brought many a Greek of the seventh and sixth centuries to the feet of an Egyptian priest, vanished in the fifth and fourth, as Greek admiration gave way to contempt. Similarly the heights achieved by the Hebrew prophets in ethics and theology before the Exile dwarf the attainments in the same spheres of the restrictive, ritual-conscious community of the Second Temple. The dominance of foreigners in the affairs of Egypt and Judah set the intelligentsia in both communities in a defensive posture. In Egypt, certainly from the Greek conquest, the ten-lple personnel turned in upon themselves, and with the progressive loss of patronage and approbation by the authorities, began to consider themselves the last repository and bastion of the old ways of pharaonic times. In Judah, in a reactionary effort to hold the line, the sacerdotal mentors of the community linked orthodoxy with nationalism, and produced the intransigence of the Maccabees and the savagery of the zealots. The stultifying trends in both communities may be observed to advantage in the literature each produced: the Egyptian temple, the arcane lore of cryptographic inscrip-

{p. 471} tions; the Judaic community, the Mishnah. Neither enjoyed an acceptable fit in the new world of Hellenism.

One might almost say that "God was dead." The erstwhile parochial deities of Thebes and Memphis, Jerusalem and Tyre had all mutatis mutandis hitched themselves to nationalist resistance, and in so doing had determined their own fate. Their municipal bailiwicks during the two centuries at the turn of the present era became hotbeds of jingoist sentiment; and some, like Thebes and Jerusalem, reveled in the role of beleaguered fortresses of the old order now under attack.

But Amun and Yahweh had failed. Both Egypt and western Asia proved powerless to withstand the onslaught of Greek and Roman arms on the battlefield, and retreated perforce in the realm of ideas as well. Resistance was futile: by the end of the first century the temple of Amun lay derelict, Yahweh's house destroyed. Literary "counterattacks" proved to be nothing more than pitiable attempts to curse the impure 3styw (foreigners) or the vile Kittim (Greeks or Romans). The best this folk literature could offer was the promise of a brighter day ahead, a forlorn and desperate hope. Through all the railing of the faceless apocalyptic writers one can discern the frustration of disenfranchised cultures that have been outstripped by a new and imaginative way of life from across the seas.

Yet in this long and lamentable twilight of the old communities of the eastern Mediterranean, the autochthonous populations might have taken satisfaction in one signal achievement. Where national gods had failed, the numina populi began to exert on the European conquerors an irresistible appeal, which eventually compromised any loyalty they might have showed toward their own pantheons. Zeus could not compete with Serapis, nor Athena with Cybele. The old nation-states whose long and checkered history we have traced were now defunct, and no longer provided security or fulfillment for the communities that had once compromised them. The individual had now perforce to seek his salvation elsewhere, outside the group, outside the nation. He was on his own in a brave new world where no one cared. The personal need thus evinced elicited a response, as far as the masses of the new Hellenized world were concerned, from one source: the circle of personal, "humanized" deities who filled the spiritual void in every psyche. Like the human sufferer, they too had suffered; like the mortal soul, they too had faced death and judgment. The parallel demanded a spiritual union, and called forth piety and repentance. Only in the Mysteries could union with the divine and salvation be achieved.

The effects are still with us. The saving grace of an Isis, a Christ, or Mithra triumphed everywhere in the Mediterranean world of the universal empire of Rome, and in a transmuted state has even descended to the twentieth century. But all this is another story.

{end} Donald B. Redford replies to Freud on the Akhenaten-Moses link: moses.html.

(3) Israel Finkelstein and Neil Asher Silberman, The Bible Unearthed (The Free Press, New York, 2001)

{p. 36} Some Telltale Anachronisms

The critical textual scholars who had identified distinct sources underlying the text of Genesis insisted that the patriarchal narratives were put into writing at a relatively late date, at the time of the monarchy (tenth-eighth centuries BCE) or even later, in exilic and post-exilic days (sixth-fifth centuries BCE). The German biblical scholar Julius Wellhausen argued that the stories of the patriarchs in both the J and E documents reflected the concerns of the later Israelite monarchy, which were projected onto the lives of legendary fathers in a largely mythical past. The biblical stories should thus be regarded as a national mythology with no more historical basis than the Homeric saga of Odysseus's travels or Virgil's saga of Aeneas's founding of Rome. In more recent decades, the American biblical scholars John Van Seters and Thomas Thompson further challenged the supposed archaeological evidence for the historical patriarchs in the second millennium BCE. They

{p. 37} argued that even if the later texts contained some early traditions, the selection and arrangement of stories expressed a clear message by the biblical editors at the time of compilation, rather than preserving a reliable historical account.

But when did that compilation take place? The biblical text reveals some clear clues that can narrow down the time of its final composition. Take the repeated mention of camels, for instance. The stories of the patriarchs are packed with camels, usually herds of camels; but as in the story of Joseph's sale by his brothers into slavery (Genesis 37:25), camels are also described as beasts of burden used in caravan trade. We now know through archaeological research that camels were not domesticated as beasts of burden earlier than the late second millennium and were not widely used in that capacity in the ancient Near East until well after 1000 BCE. And an even more telling detail - the camel caravan carrying "gum, balm, and myrrh," in the Joseph story - reveals an obvious familiarity with the main products of the lucrative Arabian trade that flourished under the supervision of the Assyrian empire in the eighth-seventh centuries BCE.

Indeed, excavations at the site of Tell Jemmeh in the southern coastal plain of Israel - a particularly important entrepot on the main caravan route between Arabia and the Mediterranean - revealed a dramatic increase in the number of camel bones in the seventh century. The bones were almost exclusively of mature animals, suggesting that they were from traveling beasts of burden, not from locally raised herds (among which the bones of young animals would also be found). Indeed, precisely at this time, Assyrian sources describe camels being used as pack animals in caravans. It was only then that camels became a common enough feature of the landscape to be included as an incidental detail in a literary narrative.

Then there is the issue of the Philistines. We hear of them in connection with Isaac's encounter with "Abimelech, king of the Philistines," at the city of Gerar (Genesis 26:1). The Philistines, a group of migrants from the Aegean or eastern Mediterranean, had not established their settlements along the coastal plain of Canaan until sometime after 1200 BCE. Their cities prospered in the eleventh and tenth centuries and continued to dominate the area well into the Assyrian period. The mention of Gerar as a Philistine city in the narratives of Isaac and the mention of the city (without the Philistine attribution) in the stories of Abraham (Genesis 20:1) sug-

{p. 38} gest that it had a special importance or at least was widely known at the time of the composition of the patriarchal narratives. Gerar is today identified with Tel Haror northwest of Beersheba, and excavations there have shown that in the Iron Age I - the early phase of Philistine history - it was no more than a small, quite insignificant village. But by the late eighth and seventh century BCE, it had become a strong, heavily fortified Assyrian administrative stronghold in the south, an obvious landmark.

Were these incongruous details merely late insertions into early traditions or were they indications that both the details and the narrative were late? Many scholars - particularly those who supported the idea of the "historical" patriarchs - considered them to be incidental details. But as Thomas Thompson put it as early as the 1970s, the specific references in the text to cities, neighboring peoples, and familiar places are precisely those aspects that distinguish the patriarchal stories from completely mythical folk-tales. They are crucially important for identifying the date and message of the text. In other words, the "anachronisms" are far more important for dating and understanding the meaning and historical context of the stories of the patriarchs than the search for ancient bedouin or mathematical calculations of the patriarchs' ages and genealogies.

So the combination of camels, Arabian goods, Philistines, and Gerar - as well as other places and nations mentioned in the patriarchal stories in Genesis - are highly significant. All the clues point to a time of composition many centuries after the time in which the Bible reports the lives of the patriarchs took place. These and other anachronisms suggest an intensive period of writing the patriarchal narratives in the eighth and seventh centuries BCE.

A Living Map of the Ancient Near East

It becomes evident when we begin to examine the genealogies of the patriarchs and the many nations that arose from their trysts, marriages, and family relations, that they offer a colorful human map of the ancient Near East from the unmistakable viewpoint of the kingdom of Israel and the kingdom of Judah in the eighth and seventh centuries BCE. These stories offer a highly sophisticated commentary on political affairs in this region

{p. 39} in the Assyrian and Neo-Babylonian periods. Not only can many of the ethnic terms and place-names be dated to this time, but their characterizations mesh perfectly with what we know of the relationships of neighboring peoples and kingdoms with Judah and Israel.

Let us start with the Arameans, who dominate the stories of Jacob's marriage with Leah and Rachel and his relationship with his uncle Laban. The Arameans are not mentioned as a distinct ethnic group in ancient Near Eastern texts before c. 1100 BCE. They became a dominant factor on the northern borders of the Israelites in the early ninth century BCE, when a number of Aramean kingdoms arose throughout the area of modern Syria. Among them, the kingdom of Aram-Damascus was a sometime ally, sometime rival of the kingdom of Israel for control of the rich agricultural territories that lay between their main centers - in the upper Jordan valley and Galilee. And, in fact, the cycle of stories about Jacob and Laban metaphorically expresses the complex and often stormy relations between Aram and Israel over many centuries.

On the one hand, Israel and Aram were frequent military rivals. On the other, much of the population of the northern territories of the kingdom of Israel seems to have been Aramean in origin. Thus, the book of Deuteronomy goes so far as to describe Jacob as "a wandering Aramean" (26:5), and the stories of the relations between the individual patriarchs and their Aramean cousins clearly express the consciousness of shared origins. The biblical description of the tensions between Jacob and Laban and their eventual establishment of a boundary stone east of the Jordan to mark the border between their peoples (Genesis 31:51-54, significantly an E, or "northern," story) reflects the territorial partition between Aram and Israel in the ninth-eighth centuries BCE.

The relationships of Israel and Judah with their eastern neighbors are also clearly reflected in the patriarchal narratives. Through the eighth and seventh centuries BCE their contacts with the kingdoms of Ammon and Moab had often been hostile; Israel, in fact, dominated Moab in the early ninth century BCE. It is therefore highly significant - and amusing - how the neighbors to the east are disparaged in the patriarchal genealogies. Genesis 19:30-38 (significantly, a J text) informs us that those nations were born from an incestuous union. After God overthrew the cities of Sodom

{p. 40} and Gomorrah, Lot and his two daughters sought shelter in a cave in the hills. The daughters, unable to find proper husbands in their isolated situation - and desperate to have children - served wine to their father until he became drunk. They then lay with him and eventually gave birth to two sons: Moab and Ammon. No seventh century Judahite looking across the Dead Sea toward the rival kingdoms would have been able to suppress a smile of contempt at a story of such a disreputable ancestry.

The biblical stories of the two brothers Jacob and Esau provide an even clearer case of seventh century perceptions presented in ancient costume. Genesis 25 and 27 (southern, J texts) tell us about the twins - Esau and Jacob - who are about to be born to Isaac and Rebecca. God says to the pregnant Rebecca: "Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples, born of you, shall be divided; the one shall be stronger than the other, the elder shall serve the younger" (25:23). As events unfold, we learn that Esau is the elder and Jacob the younger. Hence the description of the two brothers, the fathers of Edom and Israel, serves as a divine legitimation for the political relationship between the two nations in late monarchic times. Jacob-Israel is sensitive and cultured, while Esau-Edom is a more primitive hunter and man of the outdoors. But Edom did not exist as a distinct political entity until a relatively late period. From the Assyrian sources we know that there were no real kings and no state in Edom before the late eighth century BCE. Edom appears in ancient records as a distinct entity only after the conquest of the region by Assyria. And it became a serious rival to Judah only with the beginning of the lucrative Arabian trade. The archaeological evidence is also clear: the first large-scale wave of settlement in Edom accompanied by the establishment of large settlements and fortresses may have started in the late eighth century BCE but reached a peak only in the seventh and early sixth century BCE. Before then, the area was sparsely populated. And excavations at Bozrah - the capital of Late Iron II Edom - revealed that it grew to become a large city only in the Assyrian period.

Thus here too, the stories of Jacob and Esau - of the delicate son and the mighty hunter - are skillfully fashioned as archaizing legends to reflect the rivalries of late monarchic times.

{p. 41} The Peoples of the Desert and the Empires to the East

During the eighth and seventh centuries the lucrative caravan trade in spices and rare incense from southern Arabia, winding through the deserts and the southern frontier of Judah to the ports of the Mediterranean, was a significant factor in the entire region's economic life. For the people of Judah, a number of peoples of nomadic origins were crucial to this long-range trade system. Several of the genealogies included in the patriarchal stories offer a detailed picture of the peoples of the southern and eastern deserts during late monarchic times and they explain - again through the metaphor of family relationships - what role they played in Judah's contemporary history. In particular, Ishmael, the scorned son of Abraham and Hagar, is described in Genesis as having been the ancestor of many of the Arab tribes who inhabited the territories on the southern fringe of Judah. The portrait is far from flattering. He is described as a perpetual wanderer, "a wild ass of a man, his hand against every man and every man's hand against his" (Genesis 16:12, not surprisingly a J document).

Among his many children are the various southern tribes who established new contact with Judah in the Assyrian period. Among the descendants of Ishmael listed in Genesis 25:12-15, for example, are the Q(K)edarites (from his son Kedar) who are mentioned for the first time in Assyrian records of the late eighth century BCE and are frequently referred to during the reign of the Assyrian king Ashurbanipal in the seventh century BCE. Before that time, they lived beyond the area of Judah's and Israel's immediate interest, occupying the western fringe of the Fertile Crescent. Likewise, Ishmael's sons Adbeel and Nebaioth represent north Arabian groups that are also first mentioned in late eighth and seventh century Assyrian inscriptions. And finally Ishmael's son Tema is probably linked with the great caravan oasis of Tayma in northwest Arabia, mentioned in Assyrian and Babylonian sources of the eighth and sixth centuries BCE. It was one of the two major urban centers in north Arabia from c. 600 BCE through the fifth century BCE. The group named Sheba, which is mentioned in another list of southern people (Genesis 25:3), also lived in northern Arabia. Since none of these specific names were relevant or even present in the experience of the people of Israel before the Assyrian period,

{p. 42} there seems little doubt that these genealogical passages were crafted between the late eighth and sixth centuries BCE.*

Other place-names mentioned in the patriarchal narratives relating to the desert and surrounding wilderness serve further to confirm the date of the composition. Genesis 14, the story of the great war waged by invaders from the north (led by the mysterious Chedorlaomer from Elam in Mesopotamia) with the kings of the cities of the plain is a unique source in Genesis, which may be dated to exilic or post-exilic times. But it provides interesting geographical information relevant only to the seventh century BCE. "En-mishpat, that is, Kadesh" (Genesis 14:7) is most likely a reference to Kadesh-barnea, the great oasis in the south that would play an important role in the Exodus narratives. It is identified with Ein el-Qudeirat in eastern Sinai, a site that has been excavated and shown to have been occupied primarily in the seventh and early sixth century BCE. Likewise, the site referred to as Tamar in the same biblical verse should most probably be identified with Ein Haseva in the northern Arabah, where excavations have uncovered a large fortress that also functioned mainly in the Late Iron Age. Thus the geography and even the basic situation of frightening conflict with a Mesopotamian invader would have seemed ominously familiar to the people of Judah in the seventh century BCE.

And this is not all. The Genesis narratives also reveal unmistakable familiarity with the location and reputation of the Assyrian and Babylonian empires of the ninth-sixth centuries BCE. Assyria is specifically mentioned in relation to the Tigris River in Genesis 2:14, and two of the royal capitals of the Assyrian empire - Nineveh (recognized as the capital of the empire in the seventh century BCE) and Calah (its predecessor) - are mentioned in Genesis 10:11 (both are J documents). The city of Haran plays a dominant role in the patriarchal stories. The site, still called Eski Harran ("old Haran"), is located in southern Turkey, on the border with Syria; it prospered in the early second millennium BCE and again in the Neo-Assyrian

* It is important to note that some of this genealogical material in Genesis, such as the list of the sons of Ishmael, belongs to the P source, which is dated, in the main, to postexilic times. While some scholars argue that P has a late monarchic layer, and thetefore may very well reflect interests and realities of seventh centurv Judah, it is possible that some allusions may also reflect realities of the sixth centuty BCE. But in no case is there any convincing explanation for the mention of all these desert dwelling peoples in the patriarchal genealogles except as late litetary attempts to incorporate them in a systematic way into the early history of Israel.

{p. 43} period. Finally, Assyrian texts mention towns in the area of Haran that carry names resembling the names of Terah, Nahor, and Serug - Abraham's forefathers (Genesis 11:22-26, a P source). It is possible that they were the eponymous ancestors of these towns.

Judah's Destiny

The German biblical scholar Martin Noth long ago argued that the accounts of the events of Israel's earliest periods of existence - the stories of the patriarchs, the Exodus, and the wandering in Sinai - were not originally composed as a single saga. He theorized that they were the separate traditions of individual tribes that were assembled into a unified narrative to serve the cause of the political unification of a scattered and heterogeneous Israelite population. In his opinion, the geographical focus of each of the cycles of stories, particularly of the patriarchs, offers an important clue to where the composition - not necessarily the events - of the story took place. Many the stories connected with Abraham are set in the southern part of the hill country, specifically the region of Hebron in southern Judah. Isaac is associated with the southern desert fringe of Judah, in particular the Beersheba region. In contrast, Jacob's activities take place for the most part in the northern hill country and Transjordan - areas that were always of special interest to the northern kingdom of Israel. Noth therefore suggested that the patriarchs were originally quite separate regional ancestors, who were eventually brought together in a single genealogy in an effort to create a united history.

It is now evident that the selection of Abraham, with his close connection to Hebron, Judah's earliest royal city, and to Jerusalem ("Salem" in Genesis 14:18), was meant also to emphasize the primacy of Judah even in the earliest eras of Israel's history. It is almost as if an American scripture describing pre-Columbian history placed inordinate attention on Manhattan Island or on the tract of land that would later become Washington, D.C. The pointed political meaning of the inclusion of such a detail in a larger narrative at least calls into question its historical credibility.

As we will see in much greater detail in the chapters to follow, Judah was a rather isolated and sparsely populated kingdom until the eighth century BCE. It was hardly comparable in territory, wealth, and military might to

{p. 44} the kingdom of Israel in the north. Literacy was very limited and its capital, Jerusalem, was a small, remote hill country town. Yet after the northern kingdom of Israel was liquidated by the Assyrian empire in 720 BCE, Judah grew enormously in population, developed complex state institutions, and emerged as a meaningful power in the region. It was ruled by an ancient dynasty and possessed the most important surviving Temple to the God of Israel. Hence in the late eighth century and in the seventh century, Judah developed a unique sense of its own importance and divine destiny. It saw its very survival as evidence of God's intention, from the time of the patriarchs, that Judah should rule over all the land of Israel. As the only surviving Israelite polity, Judah saw itself in a more down-to-earth sense as the natural heir to the Israelite territories and the Israelite population that had survived the Assyrian onslaught. What was needed was a powerful way to express this understanding both to the people of Judah and to the scattered Israelite communities under Assyrian rule. Thus the Pan-Israelite idea, with Judah in its center, was born.

The patriarchal narratives thus depict a unified ancestry of the Israelite people that leads back to the most Judean of patriarchs - Abraham. Yet even though the Genesis stories revolve mainly around Judah, they do not neglect to honor northern Israelite traditions. In that respect it is significant that Abraham builds altars to YHWH at Shechem and Bethel (Genesis 12:7-8), the two most important cult centers of the northern kingdom - as well as at Hebron (Genesis 13:18), the most important center of Judah after Jerusalem. The figure of Abraham therefore functions as the unifier of northern and southern traditions, bridging north and south. The fact that Abraham is credited with establishing the altars at Bethel and Shechem is clear testimony to the Judahites' claim that even the places of worship polluted by idolatry during the time of the Israelite kings were once legitimately sacred sites connected to the southern patriarch.*

* Another exdmple of the unification of northern and southern traditions under Judahite supremacy is the location of the tombs of the patriarchs. This sacred place - where Abraham and Isaac (southern heroes) as well as Jacob (a northern hero) were buried - is located at Hebron, traditionally the second most important city in the hill country of Judah. The story of the purchase of the tomb of the patriarchs is generally ascribed to the Priestly (P) source, which seems to have more than one compositional layer to it. If this tradition is late monarchic in origin (though its final version came later), it is a clear expression of the centrality of Judah and its superiority over the North. The specific land transaction described in the story has strong pararrels in the Neo-Babylonian period - another clue to the late realities underlying the patriarchal narratives.

{p. 45} It is entirely possible and even probable that the individual episodes in the patriarchal narratives are based on ancient local traditions. Yet the use to which they are put and the order in which they are arranged transform them into a powerful expression of seventh century Judahite dreams. Indeed, the superiority of Judah over all the others could not be emphasized more strongly in the last blessing of Jacob to his sons quoted earlier. Though enemies might be pressing on all sides, Judah, it is promised, will never be overthrown.

The patriarchal traditions therefore must be considered as a sort of pious "prehistory" of Israel in which Judah played a decisive role. They describe the very early history of the nation, delineate ethnic boundaries, emphasize that the Israelites were outsiders and not part of the indigenous population of Canaan, and embrace the traditions of both the north and the south, while ultimately stressing the superiority of Judah.* In the admittedly fragmentary evidence of the E version of the patriarchal stories, presumably compiled in the northern kingdom of Israel before its destruction in 720 BCE, the tribe of Judah plays almost no role. But by the late eighth and certainly seventh century BCE, Judah was the center of what was left of the Israelite nation. In that light, we should regard the J version of the patriarchal narratives primarily as a literary attempt to redefine the unity of the people of Israel - rather than as an accurate record of the lives of historical characters living more than a millennium before.

The biblical story of the patriarchs would have seemed compellingly familiar to the people of Judah in the seventh century BCE. In the stories, the familiar peoples and threatening enemies of the present were ranged around the encampments and grazing grounds of Abraham and his offspring. The landscape of the patriarchal stories is a dreamlike romantic vision of the pastoral past, especially appropriate to the pastoral background of a large proportion of the Judahite population. It was stitched together from memory, snatches of ancient customs, legends of the birth of peoples, and the concerns aroused by contemporary con-

* Since the Priestly (P) source in the Pentateuch is da[ed by most scholars to post-exilic times, and the final redaction of the Pentateuch was also undertaken in that period, we face a serious question of whether we can also identify a post-exilic layer in the stories in Genesis. In many ways, the needs of the post-exilic community were quite similar to the necessities of the late monarchic state. Yet, as we try to demonstrate here, the basic framework and initial elaboration of the patriarchal narratives point clearly to a seventh century origin.

{p. 46} flicts.* The many sources and episodes that were combined are a testimony to the richness of the traditions from which the biblical narrative was drawn - and the diverse audience of Judahites and Israelites to whom it was aimed.

Genesis as Preamble

Though the Genesis stories revolve around Judah - and if they were written in the seventh century BCE, close to the time of the compilation of the Deuteronomistic History - how is it that they are so far from Deuteronomistic ideas, such as the centralization of cult and the centrality of Jerusalem? They even seem to promote northern cult places such as Bethel and Shechem and describe the establishment of altars in many places other than Jerusalem. Perhaps we should see here an attempt to present the patriarchal traditions as a sort of a pious prehistory, before Jerusalem, before the monarchy, before the Temple, when the fathers of the nations were monotheists but were still allowed to sacrifice in other places. The portrayal of the patriarchs as shepherds or pastoralists may indeed have been meant to give an atmosphere of great antiquity to the formative stages of a society that had only recently developed a clear national consciousness. The meaning of all this is that both J of the Pentateuch and the Deuteronomistic History were written in the seventh century BCE in Judah, in Jerusalem, when the northern kingdom of Israel was no more. The ideas, basic stories, and even characters behind both compositions were probably

* The territorial ambitions of seventh-century Judah to reclaim Israelite lands conquered by the Assyrians are also expressed in the Abraham traditions. In the story of the great war in Genesis 14, Abraham pursues rhe Mesopotamian kings who captured his nephew Lot, chasing them all the way to Damascus and Dan (14:14-l5). In this act he liberates his kinsman from Mesopotamian bondage and ejects foreign forces from rhe larer northern boundary of the kingdom of Israel. Also relevant to Judah's territorial ambitions in this period is the special focus on the "Joseph" tribes - Ephraim and Manasseh - and the strong message of separation of the Israelites from the Canaanites in the patriarchal narrarives. The immediate agenda for Judah after the fall of the northern kingdom was expansion into the former Israelite territories in the highlands directly north of Judah - namely the territories of Ephraim and Manasseh. The Assyrians, after destroying Samaria, settled deportees from Mesopotamia in the terrirories of the vanquished northern kingdom. Some were settled in the area of Bethel, close to the northern border of Judah. The Pan-Israelite idea had to take into consideration this situation of new "Canaanites" living in the territories Judah saw as its inheritance. The patriarchal narratives, which place strong emphasis on the importance of marriage with kinfolk and avoidance of marriage with the other peoples of the land also perfectly fit this situation.

{p. 47} widely known. The J source describes the very early history of the nation, while the Deuteronomistic History deals with events of more recent centuries, with special emphasis on the Pan-Israelite idea, on the divine protection of the Davidic lineage, and on centralization of cult in the Temple in Jerusalem.

The great genius of the seventh century creators of this national epic was the way in which they wove the earlier stories together without stripping them of their humanity or individual distinctiveness. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob remain at the same time vivid spiritual portraits and the metaphorical ancestors of the people of Israel. And the twelve sons of Jacob were brought into the tradition as junior members of more complete genealogy. In the artistry of the biblical narrative, the children of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were indeed made into a single family. It was the power of legend that united them - in a manner far more powerful and timeless than the fleeting adventures of a few historical individuals herding sheep in the highlands of Canaan could ever have done.

{p. 52} Canaan, possessing a typically Mediterranean climate, is dry in the summer and gets its rain only in the winter, and the amount of rainfall in any given year can vary widely ... And in times of severe famine, there was only one solution: to go down to Egypt. Egypt did not depend on rainfall but got its water from the Nile.

... Yet

{p. 54} archaeology has provided a far more nuanced picture of the large communities of Semites who came in the Bronze Age from southern Canaan to settle in the delta {Egypt} for a wide variety of reasons and achieved different levels of success. Some of them were conscripted as landless laborers in the construction of public works. In other periods they may have come simply because Egypt offered them the prospect of trade and better economic opportunities. The famous Beni Hasan tomb painting from Middle Egypt, dated to the nineteenth century BCE, portrays a group from Transjordan coming down to Egypt with animals and goods - presumably as traders, not as conscripted laborers. Other Canaanites in the delta may have been brought there by the armies of the pharaohs as prisoners of war, taken in punitive campaigns against the rebellious city-states of Canaan. We know that some were assigneJ as slaves to cultivate lands of temple estates. Some found their way up the social ladder and eventually became government officials, soldiers, and even priests.

These demographic patterns along the eastern delta - of Asiatic people immigrating to Egypt to be conscripted to forced work in the delta - are not restricted to the Bronze Age. Rather, they reflect the age-old rhythms in the region, including later centuries in the Iron Age, closer to the time when the Exodus narrative was put in writing.

The Rise and Fall of the Hyksos

The tale of Joseph's rise to prominence in Egypt, as narrated in the book of Genesis, is the most famous of the stories of Canaanite immigrants rising to power in Egypt, but there are other sources that offer essentially the same picture - from the Egyptian point of view. The most important of them was written by the Egyptian historian Manetho in the third century BCE; he recorded an extraordinary immigrant success story, though from his patriotic Egyptian perspective it amounted to a national tragedy. Basing his accounts on unnamed "sacred books" and "popular tales and legends," Manetho described a massive, brutal invasion of Egypt by foreigners from the east, whom he called Hyksos, an enigmatic Greek form of an Egyptian word that he translated as "shepherd kings" but that actually means "rulers of foreign lands." Manetho reported that the Hyksos established themselves in the delta at a city named Avaris. And they founded a

{p. 55} dynasty there that ruled Egypt with great cruelty for more than five hundred years.

In the early years of modern research, scholars identified the Hyksos with the kings of the Fifteenth Dynasty of Egypt, who ruled from about 1670 to 1570 BCE. The early scholars accepted Manetho's report quite literally and sought evidence for a powerful foreign nation or ethnic group that came from afar to invade and conquer Egypt. Subsequent studies showed that inscriptions and seals bearing the names of Hyksos rulers were West Semitic - in other words, Canaanite. Recent archaeological excavations in the eastern Nile delta have confirmed that conclusion and indicate that the Hyksos "invasion" was a gradual process of immigration from Canaan to Egypt, rather than a lightning military campaign.

{But Redford disagrees (p. 413). Martin Bernal also provides contrary evidence: gimbutas.html}

The most important dig has been undertaken by Manfred Bietak, of the University of Vienna, at Tell ed-Daba, a site in the eastern delta identified as Avaris, the Hyksos capital (Figure 6, p. 58). Excavations there show a gradual increase of Canaanite influence in the styles of pottery, architecture, and tombs from around 1800 BCE. By the time of the Fifteenth Dynasty, some 150 years later, the culture of the site, which eventually became a huge city, was overwhelmingly Canaanite. The Tell ed-Daba finds are evidence for a long and gradual development of Canaanite presence in the delta, and a peaceful takeover of power there. It is a situation that is uncannily similar, at least in its broad outlines, to the stories of the visits of the patriarchs to Egypt and their eventual settlement there. The fact that Manetho, writing almost fifteen hundred years later, describes a brutal invasion rather than a gradual, peaceful immigration should probably be understood on the background of his own times, when memories of the invasions of Egypt by the Assyrians, Babylonians, and Persians in the seventh and sixth centuries BCE were still painfully fresh in the Egyptian consciousness.

But there is an even more telling parallel between the saga of the Hyksos and the biblical story of the Israelites in Egypt, despite their drastic difference in tone. Manetho describes how the Hyksos invasion of Egypt was finally brought to an end by a virtuous Egyptian king who attacked and defeated the Hyksos, "killing many of them and pursuing the remainder to the frontiers of Syria." In fact, Manetho suggested that after the Hyksos were driven from Egypt, they founded the city of Jerusalem and constructed a temple there. Far more trustworthy is an Egyptian source of the

{p. 56} sixteenth century BCE that recounts the exploits of Pharaoh Ahmose, of the Eighteenth Dynasty, who sacked Avaris and chased the remnants of the Hyksos to their main citadel in southern Canaan - Sharuhen, near Gaza - which he stormed after a long siege. And indeed, around tne middle of the sixteenth century BCE, Tell ed-Daba was abandoned, marking the sudden end of Canaanite influence there.

So, independent archaeological and historical sources tell of migrations of Semites from Canaan to Egypt, and of Egyptians forcibly expelling them. This basic outline of immigration and violent return to Canaan is parallel to the biblical account of Exodus. Two key questions remain: First, who were these Semitic immigrants? And second, how does the date of their sojourn in Egypt square with biblical chronology?

A Conflict of Dates and Kings

The expulsion of the Hyksos is generally dated, on the basis of Egyptian records and the archaeological evidence of destroyed cities in Canaan, to around 1570 BCE. As we mentioned in the last chapter in discussing the dating of the age of the patriarchs, I Kings 6:1 tells us that the start of the construction of the Temple in the fourth year of Solomon's reign took place 480 years after the Exodus. According to a correlation of the regnal dates of Israelite kings with outside Egyptian and Assyrian sources, this would roughly place the Exodus in 1440 BCE. That is more than a hundred years after the date of the Egyptian expulsion of the Hyksos, around 1570 BCE. But there is an even more serious complication. The Bible speaks explicitly about the forced labor projects of the children of Israel and mentions, in particular, the construction of the city of Raamses (Exodus 1:11). In the fifteenth century BCE such a name is inconceivable. The first pharaoh named Ramesses came to the throne only in 1320 BCE - more than a century after the traditional biblical date. As a result, many scholars have tended to dismiss the literal value of the biblical dating, suggesting that the figure 480 was little more than a symbolic length of time, representing the life spans of twelve generations, each lasting the tradiional forty years. This highly schematized chronology puts the building of the Temple about halfway between the end of the first exile (in Egypt) and the end of the second exile (in Babylon).

{p. 57} However, most scholars saw the specific biblical reference to the name Ramesses as a detail that preserved an authentic historical memory. In other words, they argued that the Exodus must have occurred in the thirteenth century BCE. And there were other specific details of the biblical Exodus story that pointed to the same era. First, Egyptian sources report that the city of Pi-Ramesses ("The House of Ramesses") was built in the delta in the days of the great Egyptian king Ramesses II, who ruled 1279-1213 BCE, and that Semites were apparently employed in its construction. Second, and perhaps most important, the earliest mention of Israel in an extrabiblical text was found in Egypt in the stele describing the campaign of Pharaoh Merneptah - the son of Ramesses II - in Canaan at the very end of the thirteenth century BCE. The inscription tells of a destructive Egyptian campaign into Canaan, in the course of which a people named Israel were decimated to the extent that the pharaoh boasted that Israel's "seed is not!" The boast was clearly an empty one, but it did indicate that some group known as Israel was already in Canaan by that time. In fact, dozens of settlements that were linked with the early Israelites appeared in the hill country of Canaan around that time. So if a historical Exodus took place, scholars have argued, it must have occurred in the late thirteenth century BCE.

The Merneptah stele contains the first appearance of the name Israel in any surviving ancient text. This again raises the basic questions: Who were the Semites in Egypt? Can they be regarded as Israelite in any meaningful sense? No mention of the name Israel has been found in any ofthe inscriptions or documents connected with the Hyksos period. Nor is it mentioned in later Egyptian inscriptions, or in an extensive fourteenth century BCE cuneiform archive found at Tell el-Amarna in Egypt, whose nearly four hundred letters describe in detail the social, political, and demographic conditions in Canaan at that time. As we will argue in a later chapter, the Israelites emerged only gradually as a distinct group in Canaan, beginning at the end of the thirteenth century BCE. There is no recognizable archaeological evidence of Israelite presence in Egypt immediately before that time.

{p. 58} Was a Mass Exodus Even Possible in the Time of Ramesses II?

We now know that the solution to the problem of the Exodus is not as simple as lining up dates and kings. The expulsion of the Hyksos from Egypt in 1570 BCE ushered in a period when the Egyptians became extremely wary of incursions into their lands by outsiders. And the negative impact of the memories of the Hyksos symbolizes a state of mind that is also to be seen in the archaeological remains. Only in recent years has it become clear

{p. 59} that from the time of the New Kingdom onward, beginning after the expulsion of the Hyksos, the Egyptians tightened their control over the flow of immigrants from Canaan into the delta. They established a system of forts along the delta's eastern border and manned them with garrison troops and administrators. A late thirteenth century papyrus records how closely the commanders of the forts monitored the movements of foreigners: "We have completed the entry of the tribes of the Edomite Shasu [i.e., bedouin] through the fortress of Merneptah-Content-with-Truth, which is in Tjkw, to the pools of Pr-Itm which [are] in Tjkw for the sustenance of their flocks."

This report is interesting in another connection: it names two of the most important sites mentioned in the Bible in connection with the Exodus (Figure 6). Succoth (Exodus 12:37; Numbers 33:5) is probably the Hebrew form of the Egyptian Tjkw, a name referring to a place or an area in the eastern delta that appears in the Egyptian texts from the days of the Nineteenth Dynasty, the dynasty of Ramesses II. Pithom (Exodus 1:11) is the Hebrew form of Pr-Itm - "House [i.e., Temple] of the God Atum." This name appears for the first time in the days of the New Kingdom in Egypt. Indeed, two more place-names that appear in the Exodus narrative seem to fit the reality of the eastern delta in the time of the New Kingdom. The first, which we have already mentioned above, is the city called Raamses - Pi-Ramesses, or "The House of Ramesses," in Egyptian. This city was built in the thirteenth century as the capital of Ramesses II in the eastern delta, very close to the ruins of Avaris. Hard work in brick making, as described in the biblical account, was a common phenomenon in Egypt, and an Egyptian tomb painting from the fifteenth century BCE portrays this specialized building trade in detail. Finally, the name Migdol, which appears in the Exodus account (Exodus 14:2), is a common name in the New Kingdom for Egyptian forts on the eastern border of the delta and along the international road from Egypt to Canaan in northern Sinai.

The border between Canaan and Egypt was thus closely controlled. If a great mass of fleeing Israelites had passed through the border fortifications of the pharaonic regime, a record should exist. Yet in the abundant Egyptian sources describing the time of the New Kingdom in general and the thirteenth century in particular, there is no reference to the Israelites, not even a single clue. We know of nomadic groups from Edom who entered

{p. 60} Egypt from the desert. The Merneptah stele refers to Israel as a group of people already living in Canaan. But we have no clue, not even asingle word, about early Israelites in Egypt: neither in monumental inscriptions on walls of temples, nor in tomb inscriptions, nor in papyri. Israel is absent - as a possible foe of Egypt, as a friend, or as an enslaved nation. And there are simply no finds in Egypt that can be directly associated with the notion of a distinct foreign ethnic group (as opposed to a concentration of migrant workers from many places) living in a distinct area of the eastern delta, as implied by the biblical account of the children of Israel living together in the Land of Goshen (Genesis 47:27).

There is something more: the escape of more than a tiny group from Egyptian control at the time of Ramesses II seems highly unlikely, as is the crossing of the desert and entry into Canaan. In the thirteenth century, Egypt was at the peak of its authority - the dominant power in the world. The Egyptian grip over Canaan was firm; Egyptian strongholds were built in various places in the country, and Egyptian of ficials administered the affairs of the region. In the el-Amarna letters, which are dated a century before, we are told that a unit of fifty Egyptian soldiers was big enough to pacify unrest in Canaan. And throughout the period of the New Kingdom, large Egyptian armies marched through Canaan to the north, as far as the Euphrates in Syria. Therefore, the main overland road that went from the delta along the coast of northern Sinai to Gaza and then into the heart of Canaan was of utmost importance to the pharaonic regime.

The most potentially vulnerable stretch of the road - which crossed the arid and dangerous desert of northern Sinai between the delta and Gaza - was the most protected. A sophisticated system of Egyptian forts, granaries, and wells was established at a day's march distance along the entire length of the road, which was called the Ways of Horus. These road stations enabled the imperial army to cross the Sinai peninsula conveniently and efficiently when necessary. The annals of the great Egyptian conqueror Thutmose III tell us that he marched with his troops from the eastern delta to Gaza, a distance of about 50 kilometers, in ten days. A relief from the days of Ramesses II's father, Pharaoh Seti I (from around 1300 BCE), shows the forts and water reservoirs in the form of an early map that traces the route from the eastern delta to the southwestern border of Canaan (Figure 7). The remains of these forts were uncovered in the course of archaeologi-

{p. 61} cal investigations in northern Sinai by Eliezer Oren of Ben-Gurion University, in the 1970s. Oren discovered that each of these road stations, closely corresponding to the sites designated on the ancient Egyptian relief, comprised three elements: a strong fort made of bricks in the typical Egyptian military architecture, storage installations for food provisions, and a water reservoir.

Putting aside the possibility of divinely inspired miracles, one can hardly accept the idea of a flight of a large group of slaves from Egypt through the heavily guarded border fortifications into the desert and then into Canaan in the time of such a formidable Egyptian presence. Any group escaping Egypt against the will of the pharaoh would have easily been tracked down not only by an Egyptian army chasing it from the delta but also by the Egyptian soldiers in the forts in northern Sinai and in Canaan.

Indeed, the biblical narrative hints at the danger of attempting to flee by the coastal route. Thus the only alternative would be to turn into the desolate wastes of the Sinai peninsula. But the possibility of a large group of people wandering in the Sinai peninsula is also contradicted by archaeology.

Phantom Wanderers?

According to the biblical account, the children of Israel wandered in the desert and mountains of the Sinai peninsula, moving around and camping

{p. 62} in different places, for a full forty years (Figure 8). Even if the number of fleeing Israelites (given in the text as six hundred thousand) is wildly exaggerated or can be interpreted as representing smaller units of people, the text describes the survival of a great number of people under the most challenging conditions. Some archaeological traces of their generation-long wandering in the Sinai should be apparent. However, except for the Egyptian forts along the northern coast, not a single campsite or sign of occupation from the time of Ramesses II and his immediate predecessors and successors has ever been identified in Sinai. And it has not been for lack of trying. Repeated archaeological surveys in all regions of the peninsula, including the mountainous area around the traditional site of Mount Sinai, near Saint Catherine's Monastery (see Appendix B), have yielded only neg-

{p. 63} ative evidence: not even a single sherd, no structure, not a single house, no trace of an ancient encampment. One may argue that a relatively small band of wandering Israelites cannot be expected to leave material remains behind. But modern archaeological techniques are quite capable of tracing even the very meager remains of hunter-gatherers and pastoral nomads all over the world. Indeed, the archaeological record from the Sinai peninsula discloses evidence for pastoral activity in such eras as the third millennium BCE and the Hellenistic and Byzantine periods. There is simply no such evidence at the supposed time of the Exodus in the thirteenth century BCE.

The conclusion - that the Exodus did not happen at the time and in the manner described in the Bible - seems irrefutable when we examine the evidence at specific sites where the children of Israel were said to have camped for extended periods during their wandering in the desert (Numbers 33) and where some archaeological indication - if present - would almost certainly be found. According to the biblical narrative, the children of Israel camped at Kadesh-barnea for thirty eight of the forty years of the wanderings. The general location of this place is clear from the description of the southern border of the land of Israel in Numbers 34. It has been identified by archaeologists with the large and well-watered oasis of Ein el-Qudeirat in eastern Sinai, on the border between modern Israel and Egypt. The name Kadesh was probably preserved over the centuries in the name of a nearby smaller spring called Ein Qadis. A small mound with the remains of a Late Iron Age fort stands at the center of this oasis. Yet repeated excavations and surveys throughout the entire area have not provided even the slightest evidence for activity in the Late Bronze Age, not even a single sherd left by a tiny fleeing band of frightened refugees.

Ezion-geber is another place reported to be a camping place of the children of Israel. Its mention in other places in the Bible as a later port town on the northern tip of the Gulf of Aqaba has led to its identification by archaeologists at a mound located on the modern border between Israel and Jordan, halfway between the towns of Eilat and Aqaba. Excavations here in the years 1938-1940 revealed impressive Late Iron Age remains, but no trace whatsoever of Late Bronze occupation. From the long list of encampments in the wilderness, Kadesh-barnea and Ezion-geber are the only ones that can safely be identified, yet they revealed no trace of the wandering Israelites.

{p. 64} And what of other settlements and peoples mentioned in the account of the Israelites' wanderings? The biblical narrative recounts how the Canaanite king of Arad, "who dwelt in the Negeb," attacked the Israelites and took some of them captive - enraging them to the point that they appealed for divine assistance to destroy all the Canaanite cities (Numbers 21:1-3). Almost twenty years of intensive excavations at the site of Tel Arad east of Beersheba have revealed remains of a great Early Bronze Age city, about twenty-five acres in size, and an Iron Age fort, but no remains whatsoever from the Late Bronze Age, when the place was apparently deserted. The same holds true for the entire Beersheba valley. Arad simply did not exist in the Late Bronze Age.

The same situation is evident astward across the Jordan, where the wandering Israelites were forced to do battle at the city of Heshbon, capital of Sihon, king of the Amorites, who tried to block the Israelites from passing in his territory on their way to Canaan (Numbers 21:21-25; Deuteronomy 2:24-35: Judges 11:19-21). Excavations at Tel Hesban south of Amman, the location of ancient Heshbon, showed that there was no Late Bronze city, not even a small village there. And there is more here. According to the Bible, when the children of Israel moved along the Transjordanian plateau they met and confronted resistance not only in Moab but also from the full-fledged states of Edom and Ammon. Yet we now know that the plateau of Transjordan was very sparsely inhabited in the Late Bronze Age. In fact, most parts of this region, including Edom, which is mentioned as a state ruled by a king in the biblical narrative, were not even inhabited by a sedentary population at that time. To put it simply, archaeology has shown us that there were no kings of Edom there for the Israelites to meet.

The pattern should have become clear by now. Sites mentioned in the Exodus narrative are real. A few were well known and apparently occupied in much earlier periods and much later periods - after the kingdom of Judah was established, when the text of the biblical narrative was set down in writing for the first time. Unfortunately for those seeking a historical Exodus, they were unoccupied precisely at the time they reportedly played a role in the events of the wandering of the children of Israel in the wilderness.

{p. 65} Back to the Future: The Clues to the Seventh Century BCE

So where does this leave us? Can we say that the Exodus, the wandering, and - most important of all - the giving of the Law on Sinai do not possess even a kernel of truth? So many historical and geographical elements from so many periods may have been embedded in the Exodus story that it is hard to decide on a single unique period in which something like it might have occurred. There is the timeless rhythm of migrations to Egypt in antiquity. There is the specific incident of the Hyksos domination of the delta in the Middle Bronze Age. There are the suggestive parallels to elements of the Ramesside era relating to Egypt - together with the first mention of Israel (in Canaan, not Egypt). Many of the place-names in the book of Exodus, such as the Red Sea (in Hebrew Yam Suph), the river Shihor in the eastern delta (Joshua 13:3), and the Israelites' stopping place at Pi-ha-hiroth, seem to have Egyptian etymologies. They are all related to the geography of the Exodus, but they give no clear indication that they belong to a specific period in Egyptian history.

The historical vagueness of the Exodus story includes the fact that there is no mention by name of any specific Egyptian New Kingdom monarch (while later biblical materials do mention pharaohs by their names, for example Shishak and Necho). The identification of Ramesses II as the pharaoh of the Exodus came as the result of modern scholarly assumptions based on the identification of the place-name Pi-Ramesses with Raamses (Exodus 1:11; 12:37). But there are few indisputable links to the seventh century BCE. Beyond a vague reference to the Israelites' fear of taking the coastal route, there is no mention of the Egyptian forts in northern Sinai or their strongholds in Canaan. The Bible may reflect New Kingdom reality, but it might just as well reflect later conditions in the Iron Age, closer to the time when the Exodus narrative was put in writing.

And that is precisely what the Egyptologist Donald Redford has suggested. The most evocative and consistent geographical details of the Exodus story come from the seventh century BCE, during the great era of prosperity of the kingdom of Judah - six centuries after the events of the Exodus were supposed to have taken place. Redford has shown just how many details in the Exodus narrative can be explained in this setting, which

{p. 66} was also Egypt's last period of imperial power, under the rulers of the Twenty-sixth Dynasty.

The great kings of that dynasty, Psammetichus I (664-61O BCE) and his son Necho II (61O-595 BCE), modeled themselves quite consciously on Egypt's far more ancient pharaohs. They were active in building projects throughout the delta in an attempt to restore the faded glories of their state and increase its economic and military power. Psammetichus established his capital in Sais in the western delta (thus the name Saite as an alternative for the Twenty-sixth Dynasty). Necho was engaged in an even more ambitious public works project in the eastern delta: cutting a canal through the isthmus of Suez in order to connect the editerranean with the Red Sea through the easternmost tributaries of the Nile. Archaeological exploration of the eastern delta has revealed the initiation of some of these extraordinary building activities by the Saite Dynasty - and the presence of large numbers of foreign settlers there.

In fact, the era of the Saite Dynasty provides us with one of the best historical examples for the phenomenon of foreigners settling in the delta of the Nile. In addition to Greek commercial colonies, which were established there from the second half of the seventh century BCE, many migrants from Judah were present in the delta, forming a large community by the early sixth century BCE (Jeremiah 44:1; 46:14). In addition, the public works initiated in this period mesh well with the details of the Exodus account. Though a site carrying the name Pithom is mentioned in a late thirteenth century BCE text, the more famous and prominent city of Pithom was built in the late seventh century BCE. Inscriptions found at Tell Maskhuta in the eastern delta led archaeologists to identify this site with the later Pithom. Excavations there revealed that except for a short occupation in the Middle Bronze Age, it was not settled until the time of the Twenty-sixth Dynasty, when a significant city developed there. Likewise, Migdol (mentioned in Exodus 14:2) is a common title for a fort in the time of the New Kingdom, but a specific, very important Migdol is known in the eastern delta in the seventh century BCE. It is not a coincidence that the prophet Jeremiah, who lived in the late seventh and early sixth centuries BCE, tells us (44:1; 46:14) about Judahites living in the delta, specifically mentioning Migdol. Finally, the name Goshen - for the area where the Israelites settled in the eastern delta (Genesis 45:1O) - is not an Egyptian

{p. 67} name but a Semitic one. Starting with the seventh century BCE the Qedarite Arabs expanded to the fringe of the settled lands of the Levant, and in the sixth century reached the delta. Later, in the fifth century, they became a dominant factor in the delta. According to Redford, the name Goshen derives from Geshem - a dynastic name in the Qedarite royal family.

A seventh century BCE background is also evident in some of the peculiar Egyptian names mentioned in the Joseph story. All four names - Zaphenath-paneah (the grand vizier of the pharaoh), Potiphar (a royal officer), Potiphera (a priest), and Asenath (Potiphera's daughter), though used occasionally in earlier periods of Egyptian history, achieve their greatest popularity in the seventh and sixth centuries BCE. An additional seemingly incidental detail seems to clinch the case for the biblical story having integrated many details from this specific period: the Egyptian fear of invasion from the east. Egypt was never invaded from that direction before the attacks by Assyria in the seventh century. Yet in the Joseph story, dramatic tension is heightened when he accuses his brothers, newly arrived from Canaan, of being spies who "come to see the weakness of the land" (Genesis 42:9). And in the Exodus story, the pharaoh fears that the departing Israelites will collaborate with an enemy. These dramatic touches would make sense only afer the great age of Egyptian power of the Ramesside period, against the background of the invasions of an Egypt greatly weakened by the Assyrians, Babylonians, and Persians in the seventh and sixth centuries.

Lastly, all the major places that play a role in the story of the wandering of the Israelites were inhabited in the seventh century; in some cases they were occupied only at that time. A large fort was established at Kadeshbarnea in the seventh century. There is a debate about the identity of the builders of the fort - whether it served as a far southern outpost of the kingdom of Judah on the desert routes in the late seventh century or was built in the early seventh century under Assyrian auspices. Yet in either case the site so prominent in the Exodus narrative as the main camping place of the Israelites was an important and perhaps famous desert outpost in the late monarchic period. The southern port city of Ezion-geber also flourished at this time. Likewise, the kingdoms of Transjordan were populous, well-known localities in the seventh century. Most relevant is the case of

{p. 68} Edom. The Bible describes how Moses sent emissaries from Kadesh-barnea to the king of Edom to ask permission to pass through his territory on the way to Canaan. The king of Edom refused to grant the permission and the Israelites had to bypass his land. According to the biblical narrative, then, there was a kingdom in Edom at that time. Archaeological investigations indicate that Edom reached statehood only under Assyrian auspices in the seventh century BCE. Before that period it was a sparsely settled fringe area inhabited mainly by pastoral nomads. No less important, Edom was destroyed by the Babylonians in the sixth century BCE, and sedentary activity there recovered only in Hellenistic times.

All these indications suggest that the Exodus narrative reached its final form during the time of the Twenty-sixth Dynasty, in the second half of the seventh and the first half of the sixth century BCE. Its many references to specific places and events in this period quite clearly suggest that the author or authors integrated many contemporary details into the story. (It was in much the same way that European illuminated manuscripts of the Middle Ages depicted Jerusalem as a European city with turrets and battlements in order to heighten its direct impact on contemporary readers.) Older, less formalized legends of liberation from Egypt could have been skillfully woven into the powerful saga that borrowed familiar landscapes and monuments. But can it be just a coincidence that the geographical and ethnic details of both the patriarchal origin stories and the Exodus liberation story bear the hallmarks of having been composed in the seventh century BCE? Were there older kernels of historical truth involved, or were the basic stories first composed then?

Challenging a New Pharaoh

It is clear that the saga of liberation from Egypt was not composed as an original work in the seventh century BCE. The main outlines of the story were certainly known long before, in the allusions to the Exodus and the wandering in the wilderness contained in the oracles of the prophets Amos (2:1O; 3:1; 9:7) and Hosea (11:1;13:4) a full century before. Both shared a memory of a great event in history that concerned liberation from Egypt and took place in the distant past. But what kind of memory was it?

The Egyptologist Donald Redford has argued that the echoes of the

{p. 69} great events of the Hyksos occupation of Egypt and their violent expulsion from the delta resounded for centuries, to become a central, shared memory of the people of Canaan. These stories of Canaanite colonists established in Egypt, reaching dominance in the delta and then being forced to return to their homeland, could have served as a focus of solidarity and resistance as the Egyptian control over Canaan grew tighter in the course of the Late Bronze Age. As we will see, with the eventual assimilation of many Canaanite communities into the crystallizing nation of Israel, that powerful image of freedom may have grown relevant for an ever widening community. During the time of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah, the Exodus story would have endured and been elaborated as a national saga - a call to national unity in the face of continual threats from great empires.

It is impossible to say whether or not the biblical narrative was an expansion and elaboration of vague memories of the immigration of Canaanites to Egypt and their expulsion from the delta in the second millennium BCE. Yet it seems clear that the biblical story of the Exodus drew its power not only from ancient traditions and contemporary geographical and demographic details but even more directly from contemporary political realities.

The seventh century was a time of great revival in both Egypt and Judah. In Egypt, after a long period of decline and difficult years of subjection to the Assyrian empire, King Psammetichus I seized power and transformed Egypt into a major international power again. As the rule of the Assyrian empire began to crumble, Egypt moved in to fill the political vacuum, occupying former Assyrian territories and establishing permanent Egyptian rule. Between 640 and 630 BCE, when the Assyrians withdrew their forces from Philistia, Phoenicia, and the area of the former kingdom of Israel, Egypt took over most of these areas, and political domination by Egypt replaced the Assyrian yoke.

In Judah, this was the time of King Josiah. The idea that YHWH would ultimately fulfill the promises given to the patriarchs, to Moses, and to King David - of a vast and unified people of Israel living securely in their land - was a politically and spiritually powerful one for Josiah's subjects. It was a time when Josiah embarked on an ambitious attempt to take advantage of the Assyrian collapse and unite all Israelites under his rule. His program was to expand to the north of Judah, to the territories where Israelites

{p. 70} were still living a century after the fall of the kingdom of Israel, and to realize the dream of a glorious united monarchy: a large and powerful state of all Israelites worshiping one God in one Temple in one capital - Jerusalem - and ruled by one king of Davidic lineage.

The ambitions of mighty Egypt to expand its empire and of tiny Judah to annex territories of the former kingdom of Israel and establish its independence were therefore in direct conflict. Egypt of the Twenty-sixth Dynasty, with its imperial aspirations, stood in the way of the fulfillment of Josiah's dreams. Images and memories from the past now became the ammunition in a national test of will between the children of Israel and the pharaoh and his charioteers.

We can thus see the composition of the Exodus narrative from a striking new perspective. Just as the written form of the patriarchal narratives wove together the scattered traditions of origins in the service of a seventh century national revival in Judah, the fully elaborated story of conflict with Egypt - of the great power of the God of Israel and his miraculous rescue of his people - served an even more immediate political and military end. The great saga of a new beginning and a second chance must have resonated in the consciousness of the seventh century's readers, reminding them of their own difficulties and giving them hope for the future.

Attitudes towards Egypt in late monarchic Judah were always a mixture of awe and revulsion. On one hand, Egypt had always provided a safe haven in time of famine and an asylum for runaways, and was perceived as a potential ally against invasions from the north. At the same time there had always been suspicion and animosity toward the great southern neighbor, whose ambitions from earliest times were to control the vital overland passage through the land of Israel northward to Asia Minor and Mesopotamia. Now a young leader of Judah was prepared to confront the great pharaoh, and ancient traditions from many different sources were crafted into a single sweeping epic that bolstered Josiah's political aims.

New layers would be added to the Exodus story in subsequent centuries - during the exile in Babylonia and beyond. But we can now see how the astonishing composition came together under the pressure of a growing conflict with Egypt in the seventh century BCE. The saga of Israel's Exodus from Egypt is neither historical truth nor literary fiction. It is a powerful expression of memory and hope born in a world in the midst of

{p. 71} change. The confrontation between Moses and pharaoh mirrored the momentous confrontation between the young King Josiah and the newly crowned Pharaoh Necho. To pin this biblical image down to a single date is to betray the story's deepest meaning. Passover proves to be not a single event but a continuing experience of national resistance against the powers that be.


(4) Jewish chutzpah in praise of the Hyksos

(4.1) http://www.hebrewhistory.org/factpapers/10-1egypt.html

Fact Paper 10-I

© Samuel Kurinsky, all rights reserved

The dean of Egyptian archaeologists, James Henry Breasted, to whom Egyptology is everlastingly indebted for having spent a lifetime copying and preserving Egyptian inscriptions, wrote of what he had learned about the Pre-Dynastic people of Lower (northern) Egypt. They were Asiatics, he pointed out, Semites who played a critical role in the birth of Egyptian civilization. As far back as 1905 Breasted wrote: "It was chiefly at the two northern corners of the Delta that outside influences and foreign elements, who were always sifting into the Nile valley, gained access to the country... The Semitic immigration from Asia, examples of which are also observable in the historic age, occurred in an epoch that lies below our remotest historical horizon." ...

(4.2) http://www.hebrewhistory.org/factpapers/10-IIegypt.html

Fact Paper 10-II

© Samuel Kurinsky, all rights reserved

Egyptian Progress to Stagnation

Immigrants from southwest Asia with Semitic characteristics established villages in the Nile Delta and Fayoum regions of Lower (northern) Egypt from 5500 to 3100 B.C.E., as was seen in Fact Paper 10-I. They introduced husbandry and agronomy, the twin foundations of civilization, as evidenced by the wide variety of Asiatic plants and animals raised in their settlements The agricultural tools employed by these villagers and the other technological and cultural attributes they possessed contrasted sharply with the hunter-gatherer culture of the indigenous Stone-Age populations of Egypt of the period.

As F. Wendorf pointed out, this new population of Asiatic peoples instituted a cultural foundation in Lower Egypt on which all subsequent Egyptian civilization was based.1

The inhabitants of Upper (up-river or southern) Egypt began to absorb some of the Asiatic agronomic and technological attributes from the Semitic traders passing by up the Nile on their way to Nubia. This traffic became frequent at the end of the Predynastic period (Gerzean Period, 3500 to 3170 B.C.E.). As a result, the Egyptians began to emerge from the Stone Age into the Chalcolithic (Copper-Stone) Age. Irrigation began to be employed, enabling the arid region to sustain a larger population than had heretofore been possible.

Egyptian overlords ensconced in enclaves along the Nile also benefitted from the imposition of tribute. As Nile traffic increased, as agricultural areas widened, and as the population burgeoned, a new Egyptian social order arose, in which power was wielded by an ever-growing hierarchy. As overlords gained power, they took to raiding each other.

One such warlord attained the right to wear the "White Crown" of Upper Egypt, that is, to rule over all of Upper Egypt. Eventually he became powerful enough to raid and conquer Lower Egypt. He donned the symbol of this conquest by donning the "Red Crown" of Lower Egypt and commemorated the event on the so-called "Narmer Palette." ...

All these and many other Asiatic revolutionary cultural and technological innovations were soon to be implanted in Egypt under a succession of six Hyksos kings during whose reign Egypt was propelled into the Bronze Age. Unfortunately, the record of the most progressive period of ancient Egyptian history was compromised by three factors:

The succeeding Egyptian "Warrior Pharaohs" of the Eighteenth Dynasty ruthlessly ravaged every trace of the presence of the Canaanite kings. They almost succeeded in obliterating two centuries of Egyptian history.

Our knowledge of the events of the early Dynastic periods is skewed because it derives in great measure from the writings of Manetho (323-245 B.C.E.), a highly prejudiced source. Manetho was an Egyptian who rose to become the High Priest of the cult of Serapis at Heliopolis during the reign of Ptolemy II (283-246 B.C.E..

Manetho's version of Egyptian history, taken from inscriptions that the ravagers left to justify their actions, became the standard by which that history is written! His system of dynastic succession was perpetuated by archaeologists despite the fact that it has long been proven to be inaccurate, misleading and prejudicial.

Manetho and Egyptian History

Manetho wrote on Egyptian history during turbulent times in which the Jews were making a profound impact upon Ptolemaic society. A massive immigration of Jews began to tale place under Ptolemy I, swelling the numbers of Semites who traditionally inhabited the Nile Delta. Ptolemy II freed Jewish slaves upon his ascension to the throne and decreed privileges to the literate, technologically proficient Jews that were denied to the illiterate, unskilled Egyptian masses. Jews, including the former Jewish slaves, were placed in a social class above that of the Egyptians.

The humbling Ptolemaic statutes were undoubtedly among the causes of the festering hate that Manetho, who has been dubbed "The First Anti-Semite," bore toward the Jews. As an Egyptian he resented the demeaned status of the Egyptians. In this he identified with the Upper Egyptian barons who had rebelled fourteen hundred years earlier against the "Hyksos" whom Manetho identified as the forefathers of the Jews. Manetho repeated the slanders that the baronial conquerors employed to justify their overthrow of Semitic rule. Manetho embellished them with new anti-Semitic scuttlebutt. ...

Archaeological evidence likewise draws a different picture of events. It is clear that a peaceful infiltration of Semitic peoples of Lower Egypt took place over centuries, and that by the time of Hyksos rule, scores of their villages were in existence. Hundreds of scarabs and seals of the heads of these villages have been unearthed. They bear mute testimony to that fact, as do several surviving lists of "kings" (that is chieftains) of the period bearing Semitic names. The villages headed by these chieftains functioned autonomously. As Manetho and the future warrior pharaohs who overthrew Hyksos rule all stated, these chieftains "appointed" one of their own to become the chief-of-chiefs, the Hyksos who then assumed rule over all Egypt and Canaan, evidently with Egyptian consent.

The truth begins with the correction of an error in the translation of the phrase Hyk-Khase. The condensed version "Hyksos" is taken to refer to an entire race, and is thus blithely employed by historians. The word has been translated variously as "sand-dwellers'" "desert raiders," "barbarians," "bedouin invaders," and "desert despoilers." The myth of a mysterious invading horde of unknown race who came from an unknown area and disappeared just as mysteriously was born. The myth was promulgated throughout the corpus of scientific literature with scarcely a critical murmur to be heard.

Until, that is, that Sir Alan Gardiner came along. Gardiner, whose philological expertise and archaeological scholarship deserves the high respect accorded to it, pointedly took Egyptologists to task. "The word Hyksos undoubtedly derives from the expression Hyk-Khase, 'chieftain of a foreign hill country'... It is important to observe, however, that the term refers to the rulers alone, and not, as Josephus thought, to the entire race."3

"The invasion of the Delta by a specific new race is not out of the question." continues Gardiner... Some, if not most of these Palestinians were Semites. Scarabs of the period mention chieftains with names like "Anat-her'" and Yacob-her'" and whatever the meaning of her, "Anat was a well-known Semitic goddess, and it is difficult to reject the accepted view that the patriarch Jacob is commemorated in the other name.4

The term that the Egyptians employed for the peoples who came into Egypt from beyond the Sinai was Aamu. The term had earlier appeared as the designation for Southwest Asiatic captives and hirelings residing in Egypt as servants.5

Aamu has a marked similarity to the Akkadian word Amurru. Significantly, the Akkadian Amurru means "westerner," referring to the Semitic people to the west, whereas the Egyptian word Aamu means "right hand," or "East"! From the Egyptian point of view the Aamu were from the east and are clearly none other than the Amurru.

It will be recalled that the ancestral home of the Jews is biblically identified as Aram-Naharaim, the town in which Abraham's relatives dwelt, in which his father Terach and brother Nahor returned and stayed while Abraham and his entourage went on to Canaan. It is also the native town of the mothers of the Jewish people, Rebecca, Leah and Rachel. They were Amurru by Akkadian definition, and Aamu by Egyptian definition.

Aramaic, the ancestral language of the tribe of Abraham, become the lingua franca of international discourse during the Hyksos period.

Manetho unmistakably identified the Hyksos as progenitors of the Jews. First, he states that the Hyksos "built a great capital walled city Avaris, extending over an area of ten thousand acres from which successive "foreign kings" ruled for 511 years." The biblical reference to Avaris is thus confirmed.

Then, reporting on the exodus of the Aamus from Egypt, Manetho wrote: "They went away with their whole family and effects, not fewer in number than two hundred and forty thousand, and took their journey from Egypt, through the wilderness for Syria... They built a city in that country which is now called Judea, and that large enough to contain a great number of men, and called it Jerusalem.6

The parallels with the biblical account of the Exodus is obvious. How much more definitive can it get?

Manetho's fulminations are mindlessly repeated by most historians and their disciples. who promulgate and perpetuate Manetho's myth of cruel and massive invasion by the Hyksos. ...

The Second Intermediate Period

The Hyksos, or chieftains from hilly Canaan, erected no gigantic monuments, self-glorifying statuary and temples such as those that had drained Egypt of its resources of labor and material over many centuries, for there were none among them that claimed godly status. As Manetho sarcastically relates, the Hyksos kings were without divine attributes, for their king was no more than a chief-of-chiefs, appointed by the other chieftains to rule over them and over Egypt! The statement has two implications. That village chiefs enjoyed a great deal of autonomy, and that the accession to power of the six Hyksos rulers took place peacefully by election. The records show that they enjoyed among the most enduring reigns of Egyptian history!

The Hyksos recognized but one god, to whom they prayed at their capital at Avaris. He was named Sutekh, and he is depicted in clothes and a headdress that resembled that of the Semitic god Baal8. .. Is it significant that Sutekh is also the name of the Egyptian God who slew Osiris? ...

The Hyksos sculpted neither great statues of themselves nor idols of fabulous gods. But the arts and expertise they infused into the fabric of the culture of Egypt were of a subtler nature, more durable than the stone of which the idols were carved, The innovations they wrought benefitted all Egyptians through all the generations to come. ...

During the tenure of the Hyksos chieftains Egypt leaped forward into a new era, advancing enormously in every field of knowledge and endeavor. ...


Here's a painting of Egyptian women - 18th Dynasty, c. 1400 B.C. - from The British Museum Dictionary of Ancient Egypt, by Ian Shaw and Paul Nicholson (The British Museum Press, London 1995; pocket edition 2002), p. 193: egypt-women-2.jpg.

Here's another: egypt-women.jpg.

These images of Egyptian women - I could not help noticing how beautiful they were, not at all "Feminist" - are clearly not "Aryan". Nor are they "Semitic".

Rather, their frizzy Afro hair looks "African".

Egypt called Semites "Asiatics". Our concept "Asia" comes from Egypt; the Greeks adopted it.

Egyptian artwork always depicts Asiatic (Semitic) men as having thick beards. Egyptrian men are always deicted as unbearded - they shaved their faces.

Cheikh Anta Diop argues that many Ancient Egyptians were Black Africans; but they was also mixing with the Semitic peoples (Phoenicians and Hyksos, the people of Babylonia and Assyria, and later the invading Arab armies) and, after the Hyksos invasion, with Indo-Europeans ("Aryans"). More at diop.html.

(5) Martin Bernal, in Black Athena, equates the Exodus with the Expulsion of the Hyksos

Black Athena: The Afroasiatic Roots of Classical Civilization Volume II The Archaeological and Documentary Evidence (Rutgers University Press, New Brunswick NJ, 1991).


In Chapter V, I mentioned our good fortune in having such a relatively well-established chronology for the 12th Dynasty. In stark contrast to this, the period that followed was one of the most confused periods of Egyptian history. This problem is all the more acute because, until very recently, Egyptian chronology has been the one upon which all those of the East Mediterranean - Levantine, Cypriot, Anatolian and Aegean - have been based. Thus, up to now any attempt to reconstruct Egyptian history on the basis of ceramic evidence from these areas has required circular reasoning. Now, however, the situation has improved somewhat with the anchors provided by the independent datings from Thera, though this does not by any means eliminate the many problems involved.

There is even dispute about the beginning of this Intermediate Period. As mentioned in Chapter V, in this book I use the compromise of 1801 BC. The end of the 2nd Intermediate Period and the beginning of the 15th Dynasty and the New Kingdom are also debated. Conventional wisdom, as represented by Gardiner in his Egypt of the Pharaohs, put it at 1575 BC. However, the Cambridge Ancient History places it at 1567, most German scholars have it at 1550 and one radical puts it as low as 1539 BC.


The nature of the Hyksos invasion or infiltration will be discussed below. Here, we are merely concerned with chronology and the question of when the Hyksos period began. One solution is to suppose that it began at the end of the 13th Dynasty.

Thus, Hyksos rule would have begun around 1650 BC. Manetho refers to a 15th Dynasty of 'six foreign kings from Phoenicia', but there are two different versions of the names and order of these kings in the epitome of his work by the early Christian chronographer Africanus and in a long quotation from it by the Jewish historian Josephus which will be discussed below. The reign figures for these rulers add up to from 284 to 250 years, which is clearly impossible. However, the Christian church father and chronographer Eusebius, referring to a Hyksos 17th Dynasty with some similar names and a scholia or commentary on Plato's Timaeus, gave a shorter length to this dynasty - 103 years. This, in fact, corresponds well to the period of 108 years given to the kings in the Turin Canon. It has therefore led a number of Egyptologists to postulate absolute dates for the Hyksos 15th Dynasty of c. 1650 - c. l540.

Such an interpretation requires a very low dating for the end of the 2nd Intermediate Period and the beginning of the 15th Dynasty. As with the 12th Dynasty, the anchor for the 15th is based on an observation of the rising of Sirius or a Sothic date, which in this dynasty is recorded as having taken place in the ninth year of the pharaoh Amenhotpe I. Until recently, Egyptologists have assumed that this observation was made at Memphis, as was customary, and deduced - on the basis of reign lengths - that the Dynasty began around 1570. More recently, however, scholars have argued that, since Thebes was the administrative capital at the time the observation was made, and the papyrus recording the Sothic date was found at that city, this should be seen as the point of observation. Such a site would lower the ninth year of Amenhotpe I and the beginning of the Dynasty by some twenty years to 1550. The German scholar Krauss has gone even further and argued that the observation was made at Elephantine, still further to the south, thus bringing the start of the dynasty to 1539.

There is something to be said for this last argument in that the Nile Flood was believed to have started at Elephantine. Nevertheless, it and Thebes would seem less likely than Memphis or neighbouring Heliopolis, which are the conventional sites for astronomical observations. Thus, we should consider both c. 1570 and c. 1550 as possible dates for the beginning of the 15th Dynasty. Either of these make it difficult to squeeze in 103-108 years for the 15th Dynasty after 1650.

In any event, how much can we trust this figure of a century plus given for the 15th Dynasty? Very little of the Turin Canon survives for this dynasty, though what there is would seem reliable. Like Manetho, it states that there were six Hyksos rulers.


At this point it would seem useful to consider the archaeological breakthrough made since 1965, and especially in the 1970s, by Manfred Bietak and his Austrian team in excavating at Tell el Daba'a, in the Eastern Delta. He has demonstrated that this is the site of the Hyksos capital Avaris. With meticulous archaeological technique in the very difficult digging conditions of the water-logged Egyptian Delta, Bietak has established clear stratigraphies for his site. As one would expect, given earlier knowledge of the Hyksos, the city contained a mixture of Egyptian and Syro-Palestinian material, indicating the place of origin of most of the Hyksos.

Apart from that Tell el Daba'a tells us about Hyksos culture, it also provides some interesting data on chronology. Unfortunately, Bietak has tried to fit this information into the low or ultra-low dates preferred by German-speaking scholars, neither of which fit the higher Aegean and Mesopotamian chronologies. Even in terms of orthodox Syro-Palestinian archaeology, his dates are disconcertingly low. Where, for instance, conventional wisdom places the transition of the Syro-Palestinian Middle Bronze Age IIA to IIB in the middle of the IXth century BC, Bietak placed it about 1700. As he sees LBIIB as ending at around 1590, this involves considerable compression of

{p. 331} what had clearly been a very long ceramic period in Palestine. It saw, for instance, five substantial rebuildings of the city defences of Shechem, near the modelll Nablus. In Bietak's latest article on the subject, he based his low dating on three pieces of evidence, which he claimed have provided dates that could not be raised. All of these are from styles of scarabs.

Scarab typology, seriation and dating are extraordinarily difficult subjects and theories based on them are notoriously liable to be overturned. Bietak himself has already destroyed one of his props. Since 1984, he has found a so-called Rhy-R scarab - which he had previously claimed were not made before 1650 - in a stratum that even by his own chronology comes before that date. Thus, this cannot be used as evidence. Bietak sees another indicator in the 'lotus back' scarab found in his Stratum G.2-3. This type, he claims, was uniquely a product of the reigns of the Sebekhotpe pharaohs and Neferhotpe and therefore to be dated after 1730. As we have seen above, however, the dating of these pharaohs is extremely uncertain and they may well have reigned some thirty or forty years earlier. The third diagnostic type of scarab was that 'deeply cut' with animal or human figures, found in Stratum F of Tell el Daba'a. These scarabs, he claims, began only in the reign of M3 ib R / Ssy. Therefore, according to his chronology, this can be no earlier than the beginning of the 17th century. However, as mentioned above, a case can be made for this ruler's having reigned in the 18th century.

In any event, the extreme unreliability of Bietak's use of scarabs for dating has been shown in a detailed argument by the specialist in ancient relatioIls between Egypt and the Levant, William Ward. In a recent article Ward has used the corpus of Egyptian and Levantine scarabs to argue in favour of a date in the early 18th century BC - in the reigns of Sesostris II and III - for the shift from MBIIA to MBIIB, that is to say 150 years before that claimed by Bietak. Bietak argues that:

Palestinian chronology is dependent on Egyptian absolute chronology. Therefore, it would be methodologically wrong to date the Tell el Daba'a sequence according to Palestinian dates in order to find its proper setting within the Egyptian framework.39

As mentioned above, this sentiment may be true in general, but it is certainly false for the 2nd Intermediate Period, for which Egyptian chronology needs all the outside help it can get. Given the newly established higher chronology for the Aegean, there can now be no question of lowering the conventional dates of the Syro-Palestinian

{p. 332} ceramic periods; the likelihood is, in fact, that they should be raised, though, if one accepts Parker's dating of the 12th Dynasty, this process cannot be taken too far. Ward's dating of the key transition from MBIIA to MBIIB to the early 18th century BC is untenable if, as he does, Ward accepts the accuracy of Bietak's stratigraphy. The application of Ward's chronology to Tell el Daba'a would mean that Stratum F should be placed before 1850 and Stratum G some decades earlier than that. At the centre of Tell el Daba'a, there was an Egyptian palace before Stratum G which appears to have been destroyed and the area settled by Syro-Palestinians for two centuries. The idea that such a thing could happen at the height of the powerful 12th Dynasty is unthinkable. Thus, it is impossible to reconcile Ward's chronology, Bietak's stratification and any of the conventional datings of the 12th Dynasty.

It would seem better to take a date for the transition from MBIIA to MBIIB closer to the conventional 1750 or a little earlier. This would be Bietak's Stratum F, which he sees as the beginning of the Hyksos period at Tell el Daba'a. There have been only two radiocarbon dates from Tell el Daba'a Stratum G but, for what they are worth, they have 'central dates' in the mid-18th century BC. Bietak himself admits that the first of these 'fit very well into the absolute chronological scheme generally accepted by Palestinian archaeology'. There is no destruction layer associated with Stratum F. As mentioned above, however, a thick layer of ashes separates its predecessor from the one before that. Thus, according to the chronology proposed here, the Egyptian palace of the 12th Dynasty would have been destroyed and replaced by a predominantly Asiatic population late in the 19th or early in the 18th century BC, that is to say near the end of the 12th or the beginning of the 13th Dynasty.


The notion that Syro-Palestinians or Hyksos were in power - at least in the Eastern Delta - during the 18th century BC is made more credible by a stela found at Tanis to the north of Tell el Daba'a commemorating the 400th anniversary of the foundation of a temple of Seth. There has been considerable debate as to whether or not this has any connection with the establishment of Hyksos power at Avaris. No one contests that the Hyksos were especially devoted to Seth or that there was an important temple dedicated to him at Avaris. Although there were arguments in favour of Tanis being the site of Avaris, these have now been silenced by Bietak's discoveries at Tell el Daba'a.

{p. 333} The stela at Tanis was erected by Seti (an ancestor of the pharaohs of the 18th Dynasty) who was an official under Haremheb, the last ruler of the 18th Dynasty. Haremheb is generally thought to have ruled between 1348 and 1320 BC. There have been some questions about the exactitude of the period of 400 years inscribed on the stela but most scholars have accepted that the figure should be taken at face value. Thus there is a range of dates for the temple's original foundation between 1748 and 1720 BC.

Despite the great general uncertainty, there is widespread agreement that this cult of Seth was in some ways linked to a king Nehesy, whose name appeared in the Turn Canon. This is because a fragment has been found with the inscription 'Nehesy beloved of Seth, Lord of R-3ht'; R-3ht, meaning 'Entry into the Fertile Land', was probably used for Avaris, the Hyksos capital. Conventional wisdom has seen Nehesy as a king belonging to the 14th Dynasty. However, all versions of Manetho insist that that dynasty was based at Xois in the West Delta, while inscriptions with the name of Nehesy come from Tanis and Tell el Daba'a in the East. It would seem better to follow the Canadian ancient historian John van Seters's more modest claim that Nehesy was simply a local ruler in the region of Avaris. Given the proven Hyksos dedication to Seth at the end of their period of dominance, van Seters is plausible when he speculates that one reason for establishing the cult at Avaris was that there was already a strong Asiatic presence in the region. However, like other scholars, he assumes that, as Nehesy's name meant Nubian (Nhs), he must have been an Egyptian official and this precludes his having been Asiatic.

Nehesy may well have been Nubian. On the other hand, we know that Semitic speakers used the same name. The biblical name Pinhas comes from the Egyptian P3 Nhs, 'The Nubian' or 'The Black'. It is particularly interesting to note that the first attested use of this name was for a grandson of Aaron referred to in Exodus (the connections with the Hyksos will be explored below). There is, of course, no way of telling the age of this name. However, as names tend to be the elements most resistant to change in myth and legend, it could well date back to the 2nd millennium or even to the period of the Exodus itself.

This is in no way to propose a connection between Nehesy and Pinhas. It is merely to indicate that the name Pinhas (The Black) was in use among Canaanite speakers with no direct contact with Nubia. The name Pinhas also casts an interesting light on the 'racial' make-up of this population with its indication that there were people with pigmentation darker than the Mediterranean norm, but that this feature was uncommon enough to be remarkable. Thus, given our knowledge of the Sro-Palestinian presence in 18th-century Tell el Daba'a

{p. 334} and the later Hyksos dedication to Seth. I see no reason to deny the possibility that Nehesy (Black) was himself an Asiatic dynast. ...

{p. 343} However, Wolfgang Helck ... argued

{p. 344} and maintained against the objections of the dominant school, that many of the Hyksos pharaohs' names cannot be explained in terms of Semitic or Egyptian. Helck's need to make such a sharp distinction between the 'Semitic' and the 'High Hyksos' periods came from his acceptance of the low chronology for Mesopotamia. This appears to have prevented him from postulating the presence of Hurrians in Egypt before the middle of the 17th century BC, which in turn leaves him with the Semitic invaders or infiltrators of the 18th. If one accepts the 'long' chronology it becomes possible to admit 'northern' elements in Palestine by the beginning of MBIIB, c. 1760. With the middle chronology they can be there in the 1740s. It is only with the low chronology that Helck's apparently clumsy two-stage solution is necessary.

Even though he did not believe that they were there in the 18th century, Helck still argued that the presence of Hurrians in Syro-Palestine should be dated earlier than was commonly accepted. At this point, we encounter one of the strongest arguments for a Hurrian and possibly Indo-Aryan presence among the Hyksos. This is based on the fact that, while there is no indication of their presence among the Syro-Palestinian population in Egyptian documents from the Old and Middle Kingdoms, Hurrians are reported in considerable numbers in those of the New Kingdom, to such an extent that by the Ramessid period in the 13th century, one of the names of Palestine was 'Land of the Hurru'. Furthermore, both Egyptian and Ugaritic documents attest the names of princes in the region with Indic names. These Hurrians and Indo-Aryans clearly placed a great cultural emphasis on chariot warfare. Nevertheless, the New Kingdom references to Hurrians and Indo-Aryan warriors or 'Maryannu' begin only with the conquests of Tuthmosis III in the lsth century, that is, two centuries later than Helck posits his Hurrian-Hyksos invasion of Egypt. Van Seters maintains that the fact that the Egyptians knew the name of the Hurrians and used it from the 15th century means that their use of the old term 3mw for the Hyksos indicates the absence of Hurrians among the outsiders.

Van Seters also believes that the Hurrian presence in Palestine in the 18th century can best be explained as the result of early 18th Dynasty attacks on the Semitic-speaking Amorite principalities in Syria leaving a power vacuum then filled by Hurrians. For instance, Van Seters and other writers have pointed out that the archives from Level VII of the Syrian coastal city of Alalakh refer to horses and chariots but give no indication of Hurrians or Indo-Aryans. However, if one accepts the 'long' chronology for Mesopotamia, one can

{p. 345} see the Hurrian and Kassite movements (the latter was into Mesopotamia from the noltheast) back into the early 18th century. Furthermore, Alalakh VII would be placed not in the 17th or 16th but in the lXth century BC, as the city was destroyed by the Hittite king Hattusili I, who according to the 'long' chronology reigned before 1700, and in the second quarter of the 17th century according to the middle chronology.

The linguist and ancient historian Anneliese Kammenhuber points out that the westernmost expansion of the Hurrians in Anatolia took place in the reign of the Hittite king Hattusili I, which she dates to the 16th century. But this evidence has a very different significance if one accepts the long or middle chronology and places him decades or more than a century earlier. It would then seem to strengthen the case that there were Hurrians in the Levant by the IXth century.


In recent years, Manfred Bietak, the excavator of Tell el Daba'a, has developed a new picture of the Hyksos. He has noted the huge quantity of Syro-Palestinian storage jars for wine and oil found at his site and has shown that in Hyksos times there must have been a massive trade up and down the Nile and into the Mediterranean. On this basis he argues that the ancient sources and previous archaeologists must have been wrong in seeing the Hyksos as land-based conquerors. Instead, he postulates that there was a sea-borne migration of Semitic-speaking Levantines from Byblos to Avaris and that the rise at the latter can be corellated with a decline at Byblos. Thus his vision of the Hyksos is of an essentially unwarlike commercial network with power like that of the Phoenicians in the lst millennium BC.

Bietak's evidence for the massive trade carried out under Hyksos auspices is incontrovertible. However, the conclusions he draws from it are much less secure. Firstly, there is no Egyptian or later reference to a migration from Byblos to Avaris at this or any other period. Furthermore, it seems risky to ignore the widespread tradition in Antiquity which stated clearly that there was a major invasion by land from the northeast - the only one referred to in Egyptian history before that of the Assyrians in the 7th century BC. This view is not contradicted by archaeology and, as we shall see below, some archaeologists believe they have found material evidence to back it. Bietak himself has found destructions at Tell el Daba'a congruent with conquest and tombs with armed men with pairs of 'equids' buried in front of them. ...


Before concluding with a general survey of the eclectic nature of Hyksos culture, I should like to consider one of the two non-Egyptian traditions that preserve some folk memories of the Hyksos conquest and of an expulsion from Egypt. The Greek version in the stories of the rivalry between Danaos and Aigyptos has been discussed in Volume I and will be looked at further in the next chapter of this volume. Here we shall consider the other tradition, that of the sections of the end of the Book of Genesis and the beginning of Exodus.

Genesis tells, with some diversions and many folkloric flourishes the story of Joseph's being sold into slavery in Egypt and his rise to power as seal bearer or vizier there. Then, in a period of hunger in Canaan, his father Jacob and his brothers seek food in Egypt and Joseph settles them there as serfs to the pharaoh.

The story is taken up again in Exodus approximately three generations later. By this time the Hebrews have multiplied greatly and a new pharaoh saw them as a threat and used them to build his new cities in the Eastern Delta. Moses, a Hebrew boy brought up as an Egyptian, identified himself with his people and became involved - with his god's backing in a political/magical struggle to allow the Jews to leave Egypt and return to Canaan. Some of the plagues God and he inflicted on Egypt have been described in the last chapter because of their volcanic nature, but there were many others, culminating in the killing of all the first-born in Egypt, from which the Israelites were spared. This broke down the pharaoh's resistance. He allowed the Jews to go and they immediately slipped away, being guided by the pillar of smoke by day and fire by night. Pharaoh then changed his mind and set out with all his chariots to bring them back. After some hesitation the Israelites went on and God parted the sea for them to bring it crashing down on the Egvptian army. Howeever, the Israelites' problems were not over and it took them forty vears in the wilderness before, under Moses' successorJoshua, thev ere able to enter the Land of Canaan. The Bible gives conflicting evidence on the date of the Exodus. The

{p. 356} Book of Kings puts it 480 years before the building of the Temple in c. 965, that is, c. 1445 BC. If one adds up the years mentioned chronologically in the books of Exodus, Judges, Samuel and Kings one arrives at a total of 554 years, with considerable periods unaccounted for. This would give a date in the 16th century. In the Book of Exodus itself, however, there are references to the building of the 'store cities' of Pithom and Rameses, which point to the l8th Dynasty between 1308 and 1194. This later date seemed to fit the statement that a grandson of Moses was alive around 1150 BC. Thus, conventional wisdom tended to prefer a reign near the end of the l8th Dynasty, probably that of Mereneptah 1224-1214. Even this, however, did not accommodate the reference in Exodus to the Philistines who are mentioned in Egyptian sources only from the 12th century BC. Nevertheless, as discussed in the last chapter, the dating to the reign of Mereneptah was ruled out by the discovery of a stela from this time which referred to Israel as a people already settled in Palestine.

The early confusion has been confounded by modern archaeology. Arguments about the dates of the likely destructions of Canaanite cities mentioned in the conquest narrative have raged for over a century. Essentially, however, controversy has been between a 15th-century date backed by the quotation from Kings and a 13th-century one that would fit the genealogies. The latest round of this has come in the work of the British biblical archaeologists John Bimson and David Livingston. They have revived the Kings I5th-century dating, and have shown conclusively that there are no 13th-century destructions to match those of the Bible. The only band of sufcient scale to satisfy them comes at the demarcation between MBIIC and LBI. This is conventionally put at around 1550 but they have brought it down to 1420 to fit the Kings dating.

The incompatibility of this chronological shift with all other evidence, and particularly the compression of the LBI period that would be involved, has made this hypothesis unacceptable to other scholars. On the other hand, the defenders of the 13th-century date have failed to answer Bimson's and Livingston's basic criticism that there is no archaeological evidence to back the hypothesis of a conquest of Canaan in the 13th century. Against the latter, however, is the fact that the 16th and l5th-century destructions in Palestine can best be explained as the results of Egyptian campaigns which we know to have taken place from Egyptian records.

Thus, just as an immense amount of wasted time and effort has gone into tracing with misplaced precision the geographical track of

{p. 357} the Exodus, it would seem equally futile to attempt to pinpoint its date. Clearly many different strands have been used or fabricated to create the legend as a whole. Nevertheless, it seems to me that the most important single base for the stories of the sojourn in Egypt and the Exodus are the historical facts of the Hyksos' occupation of Egvpt and their expulsion from it. The relationship between the Hyksos and the Israelites is uncertain; that is to say, it is impossible to discover whether or not Israel existed as an ethnic identity in the 17th and 16th centuries or, if it did, what role it played among the invaders. If, as would seem more likely, Israel developed later, did some of the elements from which it was constructed come from a Hyksos alliance? Or was it simply that the Israelites borrowed from the legends of other peoples?

Apart from the general suggestion of a connection by the fact that the majority of the Hyksos were, like the later Israelites, West Semitic speakers from Canaan, there are two specific reasons for supposing a more direct relationship. Firstly, there is the attestation in both Palestine and Lower Egypt of the name Ykb hr or Ykb as a Hyksos ruler in the late 18th century. This name is remarkably similar to Jacob, Ya'aqov. Jacob Israel was not only the eponym and the specific ancestor of Israel, he was also the patriarch who, according to tradition, led the Israelites into Egypt. Secondly, there is the archaeological evidence from the fact that by far the highest density of Hyksos scarabs is to be found in the territory now known as the West Bank, which at the end of the Bronze Age was the Israelite heartland. It is also interesting to note that the computation of the chronology of the Book of Judges, mentioned above, gives a date that is compatible with a mid-16th-century expulsion of the Hyksos.

The equation of the Hyksos and Israelites is not new. Hekataios of Abdera, writing at the end of the 4th century BC, maintained that the Jewish tradition of the Exodus - and the Greek traditions of the migrations of Danaos and Kadmos - both came from the expulsion of the Hyksos. In one version of his history, Manetho saw the first pharaoh of the 18th Dynasty, whom he called Tethmosis, as having expelled the 'shepherds'. In another they are called 'Jews' under their leader Moses. It is uncertain if it was Manetho who made the equation, rather than the later excerpters, but it would seem very likely. There is absolutely no doubt that Apion, the Alexandrian anti-Semite of the 1st century AD, and his poremical opponent Josephus treated the Hyksos and the Jews as identical; Josephus in fact described them as 'the so-called Shepherds, our ancestors'.

{p. 403} ... Despite the new discoveries, we still know very little about the Hyksos period there. In the long term, however, there is no doubt that, despite the resurgence of Egyptian nationalism and culture in the 18th Dynasty, a major cultural transformation did take place during the Hyksos period. Furthermore, the excavations at Tell el Daba'a show that Stubbings's image of the Hyksos as purely a warrior caste has to be discarded. While Hurrian and Aryan elements were small, the Hyksos invasion also involved a mass movement of Syro-Palestinians into at least the Northeastern Delta. Nevertheless, numbers are likely to have been smaller when it came to overseas voyages to Crete and beyond.

Furthermore, as stated above, I do find the common analogy between the Hyksos and the Mongols a fruitful one. Like the later peoples of the Steppe, the Hyksos seem to have had their own vital but 'barbaric' art forms. However, their chief long-term cultural im-

{p. 404} pact seems to have been in transmitting other civilizations - Semitic into Egypt and 'Minoan', Levantine and Egyptian into Greece, etc. Thus, the Shaft Graves reflect both the barbaric style and the cultural mixture. While these elements tended to disappear in Egypt and Crete with their strong traditions of civilization, Helladic Greece was much more susceptible to change and therefore the Hyksos would be likely to have had an altogether greater influence in both material and non-material culture. Nevertheless, for Stubbings, as for any scholar reared in the Aryan Model, any profound Greek borrowings from Egyptian or Semitic culture or language were unthinkable. ... {end}

Bernal on the Hyksos invasion as part of the Aryan intrusion into the Middle-East: gimbutas.html.

(6) John Romer on the Exodus

John Romer, Testament: the Bible and History (Michael O'Mara Books, London, 1988).

{p. 46} What must the Egyptian nobles and scribes have thought as they sat high in their Delta palaces watching these tribesmen arrive, strange men from the desert with dusty beards and heavy cloaks, their guard against the desert sun. Wanderers like Abraham, who, as the Book of Genesis tells us, would offer their wives as concubines and, at the call of an obscure god, were prepared to sacrifice their children on distant windy hillsides. To the Egyptians they must have seemed hardly human and, in fact, they would not have been considered to be properly so until they had conformed to the Egyptian way of life. Unlike most modern people, the ancient Egyptians had little interest in dividing populations into ethnic types. Blonde Lybians and black Nubians were all Egyptians if they lived in the Egyptian way. The difference was not racial but cultural; Egyptian artists differentiated between foreign tribes and nations by describing their hats and haircuts, their tattoos and weapons.

As well as the nomads seeking pasture and trade, a great many other foreigners came down the 'Way of Horus' to live and work in Egypt. Foreigners found places in every stratum of Egyptian society; in the armies, at court, as servants, as labourers and as taskmasters in the great households. They dressed in Egyptian clothes, took Egyptian wives and names and became a part of Egypt. Nefertiti, that most famous of Egyptian queens, is thought by many historians to have been born of foreign parents. After the invasions of Canaan and Syria, Egypt became a magnet for many of its subject peoples and as in many empires, people also came from beyond the imperial frontiers. Pharaoh's first charioteers came from Anatolia along with their war chariots and their horses. And with them came the Anatolian vocabulary of their trade. Regiments of foreign mercenaries who had sometimes threatened Egypt itself joined the Egyptian armies and introduced their foreign gods into the Nile Valley along with new weapons, strange costumes and pottery. In this genuine historical environment, the Egyptian careers of the Patriarchs, of Joseph, who entered Egypt as a slave and rose to control the civil administration of the land; or the biblical adventures of Moses, a foreign foundling raised in an Egyptian court, are entirely plausible. Even Abraham's ephemeral brushes with Pharaoh (Genesis 12:14-20) - this 'Pharaoh' however was probably Pharaoh's officer at a frontier post of the 'Way of Horus' - could well refer to an incident similar to that recorded by the scribe Inena at the pools of Per-Atum. Until quite recently, however, this was all that could be said on the subject.

In the last few years, however, excavations at an ancient town in the heart of the eastern Delta at the modern mound of Tell el Dab'a have uncovered startling fresh evidence of the extent of the foreign settlement in ancient Egypt. A century ago, translated Egyptian poems had already told us that, with a good wind behind you, you could sail from Tell el Dab'a upstream to the capital at

{p. 47} Memphis in a day and they had also told us that cultured Memphites regarded this Delta city as the start of foreign lands. These new excavations have shown us why. They have also shown us the only foreign settlements in Egypt that correspond, in some measure, to the Bible's description of Israel in Egypt.

A town, a royal foundation, had been established at Tell el Dab'a from at least 2000 BC, part of the re-settlement of that region in which Governor Khnumhotep was involved. The town had fine stone temples, at least five noble palaces and rich trading contacts with Syria, Crete and Mycenae. Over the following centuries, northerners came to this town, not just to trade or water their herds like the bedouin, but to settle down and to live. And with this foreign population came many foreign innovations too. Most interestingly, careful analysis of the large quantities of imported pottery found at Tell el Dab'a shows that the normal Egyptian practice of occasional trading did not apply at Tell el Dab'a, rather there were strong and continuing links with the coastal towns of Lebanon and northern Canaan. Chariots and foreign weapons were made at Tell el Dab'a; moulds for long swords, tough little axes shaped like a duck's bill and shields of un-Egyptian type have been found still lying in the damp earth of the ancient city. Recent excavations at a site close to modern Haifa have recovered Egyptian scarabs (one bearing the name of a prince called Jacob) and other importations, and this would seem to be a part of the other end of this Canaanite connection. Similarly, many Tell el Dab'a houses were of a square design, that although typical of Syria and Canaan at this period, are otherwise unknown in Egypt. Canaanite temples, too, have been found at Tell el Dab'a close by some small traditional Egyptian temples. Here, then, deep inside the borders of Egypt was a remarkable foreign town; a part of Canaan in Egypt.

After some 300 years of existence this city was overrun by a wave of northern invaders; this at a time when Egyptian military power was at a low ebb and, one might guess, the frontier forts along the roads of Sinai were left unmanned. About 1640 BC using the old city of Tell el Dab'a as their military base, these newcomers conquered all of northern Egypt, which they then ruled from the ancient capital of Memphis. About a century later, these so-called Hyksos kings, the 'shepherd' kings, were expelled from Egypt by a dynasty of southern Theban princes, but not before one of the southern pharaohs, Sekenenre, had been killed in battle. His mummy, found at Thebes, still bears the devastating head wounds made by a northern axe and the Pharaoh's face still registers the pain and horror of that assault. Theban royal texts tell of their final victories over the northerners in the 1530s BC; archaeological evidence shows that the city of Tell el Dab'a was again burned and its new fortress abandoned at this same time. Every one of the Canaanite temples was destroyed; the large cemetery where Canaanites lay buried with their horses, weapons, dogs and jewellery was heartily plundered. The victory inscriptions

{p. 48} of these southern pharaohs tell us that they threw these foreigners out of Egypt, then pursued them into Canaan and beyond. And this is the only mass-migration, an Exodus from ancient Egypt, for which there was any evidence at all in the archaeological records.

Inevitably, after the episode of the Hyksos, the centre of Egypt moved north from the Nile Valley to the Delta. Pharaoh needed a finger on the international pulse and the court moved, leaving the temples and tombs of Thebes behind.

{p. 51} Obviously there is a great deal in the biblical Egyptian tales that places them firmly into a genuinely Egyptian environment, just as there is with Genesis' Mesopotamian stories. But however strong such cultural concordances are, they can never supply the proof that such stories record genuine historical events or that characters in them ever lived - just as Tolstoy's careful descriptions of Napoleon's army in War and Peace does not prove that the novel's characters once had real existence. And there is nothing in Genesis' Egyptian tales that will allow them to be placed on a timechart of Egyptian history. Theories that attempt to link biblical details with ancient lifestyles rely more on our ignorance of the past than our knowledge of it; for there are few manners and customs that can be precisely charted throughout ancient Egyptian history. There is, however, one effective link between the Old Testament and ancient Egypt that provides a rough indication of the age of these Bible texts, and that is the very designs of the texts themselves. Just as some Old Testament texts have obvious Mesopotamian origin, so others are clearly Egyptian. Passages in the Books of Genesis and Exodus and the Book of Proverbs, and in some of the Psalms as well, show direct connection with well-known ancient Egyptian texts. One especially famous poem, the 'Hymn to Aten', reputedly written by the heretic Pharaoh Akhenaten about 1345 BC, shows clear and subtle parallel with Psalm 104.

{p. 52} Hymn to the Aten

When thou dost set in the western horizon
The earth in darkness, like to death.
Men sleep in a bed-chamber, their heads covered,
One eye unable to behold the other.
Were all their goods beneath their heads stolen,
They would be unaware of it.
Every lion has come forth from his lair;
All the reptiles bite.
Darkness prevails, and the earth is silence,
Since he who made them rests in his horizon.

Psalm 104:20ff.

Thou makest darkness, and it is night:
wherein all the beasts of the forest do creep forth.
The young lions roar after their prey,
and seek their meat from God.

Hymn to the Aten

Ships sail up and down stream alike,
Since every route is open at thine appearing.
The fish in the river leap before thee,
For thy rays are in the midst of the sea.

Psalm 104:25ff.

So is this great and wide sea,
wherein are things creeping innumerable,
both small and great beasts.
There go the ships:
There is that leviathan, whom thou hast made to play therein.

Hymn to the Aten

How manifold is that which thou hast
made, hidden from view,
Thou sole god, there is no other like thee!
Thou didst create the earth according to
thy will, being alone.

Psalm 104:24

O Lord, how manifold are thy works!
in wisdom hast thou made them all:
the earth is full of thy riches.

Though this Egyptian hymn was composed for a brief and schismatic faith, echoes of it persist in later Egyptian writings. Its date, about 1345 BC, several centuries before the earliest evidence of ancient Israel's existence, serves as an indication of the earliest possible date for the composition of the biblical Psalm, nothing more. Most of the other parallels of Old Testament and Egyptian texts will yield us similarly elusive results. One unique concordance, however, allows us to narrow down one 'earliest possible' date by a century or so, for the biblical story of Joseph and Potiphar's wife was also a well-known Egyptian tale that first appears in the ancient literature about 1200 BC.

{p. 57} The Bible itself shows a deliberate intention to fix the date of the Exodus; 'the sojourning of the children of Israel, who dwelt in Egypt, was four hundred and thirty years' (Exodus 12:40). And this biblical number can quickly supply us with a hypothetical date for the Exodus, or at least, an 'earliest possible' date. For the oldest-known text that records the Israelites living in the Promised Land is dated to 1207 BC and if we add to that figure the forty years of biblical Wandering in Sinai and the 430 years of the sojourn in Egypt, we will arrive at the year 1677 BC as the earliest possible date of the Exodus. All that, however, is roundly contradicted by another biblical passage, 'And the children of Israel journeyed from Ramesses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand on foot' (Exodus 12:37), part of the description of the departure. Now this city, Ramesses, is the Delta city of Ramesses II (see page 48) and that king lived four centuries after the date that we have calculated above, when the City of Ramesses was not in existence! If we assume, then, that this figure of 430 is wrong in some way and that the Israelites really did pass by the city, and if we again use the benchmark of 1207 BC and add to that the forty years of the Wandering, we obtain another 'earliest possible' date of 1247 BC for the Exodus departure. And, as we know that Ramesses II ruled from 1279 to 1212 BC, we can further narrow this down to a time slot of thirty-two years, that is, between 1279 and 1247 BC! However, any number of editors could have added that phrase about the City of Ramesses to the text at a later date, in helpful explanation of Egyptian geography, just as the phrase 'of the Chaldees' was

{p. 58} probably added to the Ur of the Book of Genesis (see page 22). Can we really trust the 'forty year Wandering' to be an accurate figure? To tease such precise dates from the Bible's texts requires faith and a selective eye.

Hard evidence of the Exodus event in the preserving deserts of the Sinai, where most of the biblical Wandering takes place, is similarly elusive. Although its climate has preserved the tiniest traces of ancient bedouin encampments and the sparse 5000-year-old-villages of mine workers there is not a single trace of Moses or the Israelites; and they would have been by far the largest body of ancient people ever to have lived in this great wilderness. Neither is there any evidence that Sinai and its little natural springs could ever have supported such a multitude, even for a single week. Several nineteenth-century vicars realized this fact within a day or two of the start of numerous expeditions in search of Moses' footsteps. 'Escaping from the rigours of an English winter,' as one of them says, 'in a land of the flock and the tent to which our only guide was the Bible' they quickly realized that the biblical Exodus was logistically impossible and that the Bible was a most ambiguous guide to that desolate region. The biblical description of the Exodus, then, flies in the face of practical experience; indeed, the closer you examine it the further it seems removed from all of ancient history.

If then, you would still try to prove this tale, you must begin by extracting from the ancient text the little phrases that hold probability in them. And you must also dispose of errors of information. The improbable figure of 600,000 people may quite properly be shrugged off with the observation that ancient texts are often as cavalier with large numbers as are modern journalists. But shall we then discard all the fantastic elements of the story as it is written; Moses' plagues, the miraculous crossing of the Red Sea, Jehovah guiding his people in a pillar of fire? Then, the entire significance of the story disappears and you are left with a few 'primitives', people more credulous than ourselves, more god-ridden than god-fearing, undertaking puny and haphazard adventures.

That, of course, was not the ancient way. Such carefully made stories as that of the Exodus were designed for other purposes than a mere record of events. In the second century AD, when the Jewish population of Egyptian Alexandria was large and influential, a new version of the Exodus story was in common circulation. It told not of Moses, but of a Mesopotamian priest called Osarseph, the leader of a band of 80,000 lepers whom Pharaoh had first enslaved then sent to live in a deserted Hyksos fortress close by Ramesses City. From there Osarseph sent a message to the Hyksos, who were then living in Jerusalem, calling them to return to Egypt. And this they did, joining forces with Osarseph's lepers, 'ravaging Egypt together, committing all kinds of blasphemies'. Then, the Egyptian kings, who had first retreated south, took the field and attacked the lepers and the Hyksos 'killing many, and pursuing

{p. 59} the others even to the frontiers of Syria'. Now, this is hardly the grand saga of the Exodus; in fact it is a travesty, an anti-Jewish tract born of a city celebrated for intercommunal prejudice.

A contemporary Jewish historian, Josephus, said it was the result of historians following 'certain prejudiced informants'. And yet the excavations at Tell el Dab'a close by Ramesses City have indeed uncovered two separate eras of occupation, just as the story of Osarseph describes. Indeed, the scurrilous tale is as much confirmed by modern science as is the Book of Exodus and shows how misleading it will be to try to fit the biblical Exodus into history with such small scraps of information that the Bible gives us. It reminds us, too, that the real purpose of such ancient stories was not mere record making. For the Book of Exodus is the story of a nation's birth. The Alexandrian version recognizes that fact, then reverses the Bible's story to provide an ignoble ancestry for the Jews. To deny that more than half-a-million people walked unprepared into a savage desert and survived for forty years does not deny the extraordinary significance of the story. For there is real history in the tale, a vital part of Western history, too. Yet in this ancient book, this history is told in the language of the ancient world: the language, so common in the Book of Genesis, is taken up once more.

It is a language, too, that is used throughout the books of the Old Testament. The legendary struggle between Pharaoh and Moses is occasionally mentioned in odd phrases that tell of Moses fighting not Pharaoh, but the great dragons that, the Book of Job (e.g. 26:12) tells us, Jehovah had fought at the time of the Creation. Some of the Psalms (e.g. 89:10) and the Prophets describe these same combats. Suitably enough, they re-appear in the Bible's last Book where these same beasts that were at the world's beginning also attend its ending. Today it is sometimes said that these sophisticated monsters were merely hippopotami or crocodiles beheld by simple people. But it is difficult to imagine that such celebrated monsters as Leviathan, Rehab and Behemoth were quite that suburban, these terrifying things that breathed smoke and fire, stood ten feet high and, it was reported by an ancient rabbi, had even frightened the angels. These were the things that went bump in the ancient night and they were much better known at that time than their brief Bible appearances might suggest.

As an image of wicked Egypt, the demon Rehab is an especial favourite (e.g. Isaiah 30:7 NEB; Psalm 87:4). A Mesopotamian goddess of chaos and salt water, another of Rehab's names was Tiamat the mother-goddess that Marduk slaughters in the Enuma Elish. Here, then, in the Book of Exodus, these ancient stories have come full circle. Just as they were once used to build and underpin the Bible's story of Creation, so here they have been used again to describe the creation of a nation, ancient Israel. In this second creation Tiamat is the Red Sea and Marduk has become Moses the divider of the waters; a rare direct allusion to the Mesopotamian imagery that underlies so much of Genesis ...

{p. 62} Fortunately it is easier to discover the age of the Book of Exodus than the route of an Exodus journey - and all the indications are that this was a very long time after Ramesses City had descended into ruin. For running alongside the ancient theme of creation and re-creation is the no-less powerful theme of a liberation from slavery and of Jehovah's revenge upon the slave masters. And it is in this account of Israel's enslavement that the Exodus story departs from the reality of the world of Genesis and Exodus. Slavery on such a scale and of the type described in the Book of Exodus did not exist in ancient Egypt nor anywhere in that ancient world, where mankind was set inside a holy order in which everyone from a pharaoh to a bonded peasant was at the disposal of the gods and the state. In such a world modern conceptions of slavery and freedom, even of ownership and buying and selling, have little meaning. Furthermore, explicit documentary evidence from ancient Egypt shows that foreigners who lived in that country, either as prisoners of war or as peaceful immigrants, were carefully and quickly integrated into the general mass of the population. (In this sense, the city of Tell el Dab'a was an exception, indeed, the Egyptians themselves regarded it as a foreign place). Ancient notions of race and culture were very different and Exodus' theme of liberation from oppression is entirely inappropriate to ancient reality. To periods, that is, before the times of the Greeks and Romans.

{p. 63} But the long age between the Israelite Exile in Babylon, in the fifth to sixth century BC, and the terror that accompanied the Roman presence in Judaea in the first to second century AD was an age in which ghetto life and slavery were hard realities for many Jews. Then the people of Israel had frequent cause to pray for a new Moses, a Messiah to lead them to a land of milk and honey. And in these later periods of ancient history, we will also find several cultures with conceptions of deity similar to those of Jehovah in Sinai, the same awareness of space and time and the belief that man can directly influence his own destiny. The Book of Exodus, then, is a document which joins the most ancient creation stories of civilization with the bones of a national saga and a later powerful theme of national liberation. Ancient stories of the national Patriarchs have been re-cast with a new conception of god at their centre, a god that holds within him all these national aspirations. It is this out-of-time god that gives the ancient tales their eerie and ambiguous air, an air of simultaneous reality and unreality.

(7) David Ben-Gurion on the Exodus

David Ben-Gurion wrote, in his book, BEN-GURION LOOKS AT THE BIBLE


{p. 4} In days of old our neighbors were Egypt and Babylon. These

{p. 5} two nations were not only superior to Israel in number, in wealth, in military strength, and in the scope of their political power, but also in many spiritual attainments and scientific accomplishments.

The idea which we have about Egypt from the Book of Genesis and the Book of Exodus is one-sided. According to what we learned in school, Egypt was a slave-camp in which our forefathers did back-breaking work; and the exodus from Egypt is accepted to this very day in Israel as an exodus from slavery to freedom. But in fact, ancient Egypt was one of the few nations in the world which created an original, advanced culture. ...

{end} More from Ben-Gurion: bengur-bible.html.

(8) Thomas L. Thompson, "one of the world's leading Biblical archaeologists", branded an "Anti-Semite" for saying that the Bible is not History but Literature

Thompson replies to a review published in the Jerusalem Post, which accuses him of Anti-Semitism, and says that he believes in the Protocols of Zion.

Thompson comments, "This open and unabashed accusation still takes my breath away".

The fact that such smears are made over Biblical Archaeology shows that the veracity of the Bible is at the core of the Zionist project.

(8.1) The Mythic Past: Biblical Archaeology and the Myth of Israel, by Thomas L. Thompson


The Mythic Past : Biblical Archaeology and the Myth of Israel - Thomas L. Thompson: - Amazon.com writes,

"One of the world's leading Biblical archaeologists concludes that the Old Testament offers absolutely no credible historical data on the early history of Israel. The Jewish people's historical claims to Israel, the small area bordering the eastern Mediterranean, is not only the foundation for the modern state of Israel, it also lies at the very heart of Judeo-Christian belief. This is the first comprehensive overview and synthesis of the latest archaeological research from the Middle East written for the general reader


... From Kirkus Reviews

"Arguing that the Bible should be read as literature rather than history in the modern sense, biblical archaeologist Thompson (Biblical Studies/Univ. of Copenhagen) sweepingly reassesses the historical evidence for the existence of ancient Israel. Bitter scholarly controversies, fueled by religious belief, have raged for decades about the historical authenticity of such Bible stories as the Garden of Eden, the Flood, and the flight from Egypt. These debates are misconceived, argues Thompson: much of the Bible was never intended to be read literally, or even to be understood as history as modern readers conceive it. Instead, much of the Bible consists of tall stories and other types of literature that, in ancient Jewish society as in other ancient cultures, provided people with an understanding of a common past. Relying on archaeological rather than biblical evidence, the author sketches the ancient economy and society of the people of Palestine. Rather than the unified "kingdom of Israel" depicted in the Bible, he paints a picture of a turbulent tribal Palestine, buffeted by drought, waves of immigrants from the Aegean, and expansionist neighbors. Contrasting this evidence with biblical narratives, shot through as they are with elements of the miraculous and the fantastic, Thompson questions the historicity of such scriptural accounts as the stories of the kingships of Saul, David, and Solomon and the Babylonian exile. Thompson finds magnificent poetry in the Bible, brilliant epic narratives and folktales, and great philosophical and moral writing that raises important questions about the meaning of life and the name of God: "it is only as history that the Bible does not make sense." ...

(8.2) Thompson replies to Jerusalem Post review of his book The Bible in History: How Writers Create A Past

A view from Copenhagen: Israel and the History of Palestine

By Thomas L. Thompson Professor of Old Testament, University of Copenhagen


The Bible in History: How Writers Create A Past, entered what had already been a quarter-century long debate, one which William Dalrymple could accurately describe as an "enjoyably ill-tempered exchange between fiercely hostile academic enemies." Archaeology and theology have never been among the academy's kindest fields of study. Nevertheless, the extraordinary criticism that my new book and the works of scholars who have expressed a similar perspective, have received, has been so ferocious that I fear discussions on the history of Israel, have moved well beyond the "intemperate" debates that Dalrymple had anticipated. Slander and libel have displaced the academic interests of history and theology with a purpose that is far from innocent and unreflective.

This unhappy conclusion was forced on me as I read a review of my book published on December 24th, 1999 in The Jerusalem Post by Magen Broshi, the former director of the Israel Department of Antiquities. As I had expected, the review was negative. However, the very last statement of the review caught my attention: "Is it possible he does not believe in anything? Apparently there is a certain book that he does take seriously. A mutual acquaintance told me that Thompson confided in him that he is a staunch believer in The Protocols of the Elders of Zion." This open and unabashed accusation still takes my breath away. I do realize that it follows well-established rules of propaganda: The more outrageous the lie the better and, if repeated often enough, it becomes fact. The irony of such a writer creating a past is not lost on me.

Rumor and gossip, such as expressed in Gary Rendsburg's essay on McGill University's home page, had long since prepared the ground for The Jerusalem Post's Christmas message. Repetition now attempts to make it fact. I mention only a few of the most egregious that I myself have experienced, but there have been many, many more. At a conference in October, 1999 at Northwestern University, in which I participated, William Dever did not accuse me directly of anti-Semitism, but softened this judgement of my work with such adjectives as 'anti-Israel', 'anti-Bible' and 'nihilistic'. Dever charged that I and my colleagues "are no longer honest scholars." In early November, 1999, the internet's Miqra engaged in airing an accusation by Hershel Shanks, the editor of the magazine The Biblical Archaeology Review, of anti-Semitism against Ze'ev Herzog, Niels Peter Lemche and myself. At the same time, the newspaper Ha-Aretz, published Shank's attack on Ze'ev Herzog and like-minded scholars as "anti-Zionist," "anti-Bible" and "anti-Israel." "At the extreme, they can even be viewed as anti-Semitic."

Over the past year, this form of criticism has proven very effective, as a recent cover story by Netty Gross in The Jerusalem Report on an Israeli-Palestinian archaeological conference indicates. Here, Israel Finkelstein and David Ussishkin, are accused of encouraging the arguments of the Palestinian Authority's director of antiquities, Moain Sadek, who, in his turn, is not only accused of using archaeology for political purposes, but, borrowing a biblical trope, is accused of "treading a path that the "Copenhagen school" walked in the early 1990s."

These Copenhagen "claims, she asserts, have no scholarly basis," as they have been met by what she calls "mainstream scholarship" with "counter-accusations of anti-Semitism, anti-Zionism and even intellectual dishonesty on the scale of holocaust denial". One recent example of such hysteria appears in the Biblical Archaeological Review, in which Frank Cross is quoted as broaching an issue that "is not talked about too much: they [the "minimalists"] are kept alive by anti-Semitism. It bothers me." Whether Cross meant to join Broshi in suggesting that I and my colleagues live by anti-Semitism or whether he meant that anti-Semitic interests support our work, Hershel Shanks, by quoting this venerable scholar, has succeeded once again in associating us with anti-Semitism. These examples seem to be fairly representative of remarks that have been made in a number of public forums dealing with history and archaeology in recent years, such as the forum on the Bible and archaeology held in May and June in Los Angeles. At one meeting, William Dever summarized what he described as 7 "tenets" of the Copenhagen school. Among these are three whose wording seems hardly to be explained by either mistake or misreading: that there was no pre-history of ancient Israel, no early Israelite states or capitals, including Jerusalem and that there was no Judaism as a religion before about 135 CE. ...

The accusation of our being "anti-Semitic" and William Dever's charges in Los Angeles that we deny the existence of Israel as an historical and political reality or of early Judaism as a religious factor in Palestine's history, are obviously cases of intentional misprision. This also seems true of the many personal attacks on the integrity of our scholarship. ...

Thomas L. Thompson is a distinguished Professor of the Old Testament at the University of Copenhagen


(9) The Israel Stela (Merenptah Stele); more from Romer, Finkelstein and Silberman

A reader wrote to me, " Is it valid to claim that despite the name Israel mentioned on the Merenptah stele the Egyptians never mentioned them in their records during the supposed exodus? I might have my dates mixed up and I wonder if this is a valid statement to dispel the comparison between the israelites and the hyksos."

Romer, Redford, Finkelstein and Silberman, the archaeologists quoted above, explain that the Merenptah stele has no relationship to the supposed Exodus.

John Romer shows a photo of the black granite stele, and writes, inTestament: the Bible and History (Michael O'Mara Books, London, 1988):

{p. 41} PLATE 3 (Opposite): the Israel Stela from ancient Thebes. Its text celebrates, in the form of a long poem, Pharaoh Merneptah's campaign in Canaan. The second line of hieroglyphs from the bottom contains the first-known reference to Israel in history. Merneptah's raid into Canaan was in the fifth year of his rule, which by most modern estimates was the year 1207 BC. Black granite. Cairo Museum.

{p. 72} The First Israelites

Nowhere in the world is there more ancient history preserved than in Egypt, and when the ancient Kings of Israel ruled and fought, the sacred capital of that kingdom was the city of Thebes. No neat mound like Jericho, Thebes today is a ten-mile sprawl of stony ruins where excavations progress not only by the trowel and brush but with cranes, hawsers and massive scaffolding.

Six years after his work at Tell el-Hesi, Flinders Petrie was digging at Thebes, sifting his way through ton upon ton of sharp stone fragments, the pitiful debris of royal temples. It was, he recalled later, disastrously dull labour, and he was tempted to leave it. Then, all at once, objects that had been buried for millenia among the rubble started to turn up. A fine portrait sculpture of the king who had built one of the temples was found, the first ever discovered of the Pharaoh Merneptah, that son of Ramesses II who in those days was widely believed to have been the 'Pharaoh of the Exodus'. Then his men came across a huge rectangular granite block lying face down in the rubble, a great grey stela covered in small lines of hieroglyphic (see Plate 3). The block was massive and Petrie did not have the equipment to move it; but what a fascination! A huge new monument, well preserved and covered in history. Petrie had his men clear some of the rubble out from under the stone so that, as he says, 'one could crawl in and lie on one's back, reading a few inches from one's nose'. Then he asked a visiting scholar, who specialized in inscriptions, to examine the lengthy text. 'There are the names of various Syrian towns', he reported after a miserable afternoon on his back in Petrie's trench, 'and one which I do not know, Isirir'. 'Why,' said Petrie, 'That is Israel'. 'So it is,' his friend replied, 'and won't the reverends be pleased'. And so they were and have been ever since, for the Israel Stela as the great block is now called, holds upon it the most ancient mention of Israel yet discovered. During almost eighty years of field work in archaeology, Petrie wrote more than a 1000 books and articles. He excavated royal tombs, opened pyramids and discovered golden treasures but, as he himself said at dinner on the evening of the day the great grey stone was first deciphered, 'This stela will be better known in the world than anything else I have found'. Such was, and such remains, the allure of the Bible in archaeology.

Now the mention of Israel upon the stela was brief enough, part of a poem, a list of peoples conquered by Merneptah in a campaign in the thirteenth century BC.

Canaan has been plundered
and every sort of woe,
Askelon has been overcome,
Gezer has been captured,
Yano'am made non-existant,
Israel laid waste, his seed is not.

{p. 73} It was soon observed that the names of the three towns listed before the name of Israel, Askelon, Gezer and Yano'am, were each followed by the circular hieroglyph that signifies 'city', but that the sign which followed the phonetic hieroglyphs of the word Israel was different, a sign that signified a nomadic community, a tribe. To biblical archaeologists this suggested that in Merneptah's time the Israelites had yet to settle down in farms or towns and this fitted perfectly with Merneptah's reputation as 'Pharaoh of the Exodus'. Yet so formulaic, so commonplace was the stela's text that many scholars doubted that it had any basis in fact at all. After all, many of these Egyptian victory hymns were merely copies of older ones made to decorate the reign of a new pharaoh. If this was true, of course, Merneptah's lists of conquered towns and tribes were but distant echoes of other ancient wars. And there, for almost a century, the argument and speculation came to a full stop.

Then, in the 1970s, a young student working in the Temples of Karnak at Thebes noticed that a modest group of texts and pictures long assumed to have been a minor memorial of Ramesses II was, in fact, made for his son and successor Pharaoh Merneptah. Four badly damaged scenes accompanied four brief texts on a wall of one of the temple's many courtyards, and all of them were of a type so commonplace that no one had studied them carefully before. Now, three of these scenes showed foreign fortresses being attacked by Pharaoh and his army, and one scene still preserved the name of the city under attack: Askelon. Here the Canaanites are shown fighting for their lives, falling before Pharaoh's arrows. Egyptian infantry scale the city ramparts; a soldier chops at the wooden gates; fathers lower their children from the walls of the doomed city, while Askelon's elders beg Pharaoh for mercy.

In short, the scenes are regular run-of-the-mill ancient Egyptian battle scenes, common enough at Thebes. The fourth picture of this group, however, though badly damaged is somewhat different. For here there is no fortress, merely a melee of corpses lying on a plain, abandoned before Pharaoh's army. In this group of pictures the student recognized a direct parallel between these four scenes of battle and the poem on Merneptah's stela; in both the wall-scenes and the poem three Canaanite towns appear and one of them is called Askelon. So in the fourth picture, the one that has no city wall, the bodies that lie upon the plain should represent the army of Israel. This, then, would appear to be the oldest-known picture of Israelites made while they yet roamed Canaan. Though they still lived outside the great cities of the region, they were of sufficient strength to be remembered and memorialized by Pharaoh's artists. If nothing else, this second account of Merneptah's campaign confirmed the Israel Stela's status as a record of genuine historical events. Now, so accurate are the records of ancient Egyptian history that labels such as 'Bronze Age' and 'Iron Age' have long been as redundant as a flint axe. At ancient Thebes, historians often talk in individual years, sometimes even months and days. And

{p. 74} Merneptah's campaign in Canaan, most modern historians would agree, took place about 1207 BC. Here, then is the earliest evidence of ancient Israel, a date in its history to which all other events can be related.

The Land of Canaan

Ancient Canaan was full of those tough little fortresses that Pharaoh attacks so heartily on the Egyptian temple walls. There are hundred upon hundred of tells in Syria and Israel, usually lonely steep-sided hills as smooth as burned-out volcanoes set close by perennial springs that feed wild fennel and cyclamens as well as the ancient city wells and the crops of the surrounding plains. These tells hold the residences and warehouses of the princes that once ruled the area. There is a lively drawing of one of these courts cut onto a slip of Syrian ivory; the local ruler sits proudly upon an Egyptianesque throne; all around him is his little court, musicians, scribes, soldiers, priests, ostlers and servants; there is a bustling air about it all, a lively intelligence. Tablets of Mesopotamian cuneiform, even of fragments of the great myth Enuma Elish, have been found in these tells; Egyptian seals and statuary, jewellery and weapons show the other major influences in these ancient lives. This Canaanite culture was so heterodox, so lacking in distinctiveness that if the fragments of the little ivory drawing had been excavated a 1000 miles from its modern findspot, no one would think

{p. 75} it the least bit out of place. Only the local architecture and pottery, that invariable index of ancient cultures, give the land its own distinctive style. Yet, through the Books of the Old Testament the people of these cities have influenced all the West.

Canaan's miscellaneous landscape, framed by sea and desert, by Egypt and Anatolia, part bad lands, part green plains, never lent itself to the notion of nationhood. In the mountains it was hard enough to survive, let alone indulge in the luxury of court politics. And in the plains, the cities of central and southern Canaan were all on the ancient highways, on the roads to somewhere else, sometime vital links in the Egyptian empire. Many of these cities were also fat enough to encourage many Pharaohs to plunder their treasures and their harvests; cities like Megiddo, Hazor, Gezer and Beth Shan: black bands of ash in these cities' strata tell of numerous sackings.

Megiddo is the most famous of these Canaanite towns. This is the biblical city of Armageddon that stands above the plain where, at the end of the world, the final battle between the armies of the Lord and the kings of the earth will be fought out, as the Book of Revelations tells (Revelations 16:16). Armageddon is 'Ha-megiddo' - the hill of Megiddo. Unlike Jericho, where archaeologists cut trenches down into the strata like the slices of a cake, the tell of Megiddo has been shaved off horizontally, strata by strata, city by city. The depression of the 1930s put a stop to the whole expensive enterprise but by that time, American archaeologists had exposed the Iron Age city, the period of the biblical Israelite kingdom. At one end of the mound, however, in the area that overlooks the fatal plain, they continued their work cutting down vertically right to bedrock, through the strata of much older cities. There, standing straight upon the limestone hill, they found temples that were some 5000 years old; ancient temples of gods that the Bible's prophets had so reviled. Yet these most ancient temples of Megiddo shared something of their design with the Tabernacles and Temples of Jehovah: courts with water basins and altars for incense and animal sacrifices. A great circular altar made of undressed stone, just as the Book of Leviticus commands, stands in the oldest levels of the tell. When it was first excavated, it was found to be scattered with burned bones, ritual offerings of a type that would later be made to Jehovah and which the Bible calls olah - from which the word 'holocaust' is derived by way of the Greek. As both archaeology and the Bible tell, carved stones that held the presences of gods were often set up upon these altars. Though the books of the Old Testament often record the destruction of these shrines by pious prophets and righteous kings, Israel was never rid of these sacred forms and ancient gods which must have seemed as old as the land itself.

Contrary to the biblical story that a savage Israelite army destroyed Canaan's wicked old cities and established a new faith and a new nation in their place, archaeoloy shows that the reality of chane between Bronze and Iron Age

{p. 76} Palestine was a gradual transformation in which the traditional forms of worship were maintained, as powerful expressions of men's relationship to the sacred, whether to biblical Jehovah or to the ancient gods of Canaan.

And, of course, without such basic continuities few would have recognized the divinity of Israel's new god. So, although the Bible stresses the novelty, the uniqueness of Jehovah, archaeology shows that the differences between the biblical ritual of his faith and the old cult of Canaan was slight - and this indeed was doubtless why the prophets so vigorously attacked the ancient gods for century after century, so that their new faith was not absorbed into the ancient ways. Were it not for the Bible's violent repudiation of the Canaanites, it would be hard for archaeologists to recognize that the ruins of Iron Age cities sitting atop the Bronze Age cities of Canaan were anything other than their natural successors. Ironically, this vehement opposition to Canaanite culture and faith, which the Bible often expresses in sacred rules and prohibitions that cover every aspect of daily life has left an inadvertent Canaanite legacy: that sort of negative of piety so innocently embraced by necromancers and followers of the occult!


Israel Finkelstein and Neil Asher Silberman write in The Bible Unearthed (The Free Press, New York, 2001)

{p. 18} Although identification of the specific pharaohs mentioned in the stories of Joseph and of the Exodus remained uncertain, other direct connections became clear. A victory stele erected by Pharaoh Merneptah in I207 BCE mentioned a great victory over a people named Israel. In a slightly later era, Pharaoh Shishak (mentioned in I Kings I4:25 as having come up against Jerusalem to demand tribute during the fifth year of the reign of Solomon's son) was identified as Sheshonq I of the Twenty-second Dynasty, who ruled from 945 to 924 BCE. He left an account of his campaign on a wall in the temple of Amun at Karnak, in Upper Egypt.

{p. 76} A Different Kind of Canaan

As with the Exodus story, archaeology has uncovered a dramatic discrepancy between the Bible and the situation within Canaan at the suggested date of the conquest, between I230 and I220 BCE.* Although we know that a group named Israel was already present somewhere in Canaan by I207 BCE, the evidence on the general political and military landscape of Canaan suggests that a lightning invasion by this group would have been impractical and unlikely in the extreme.

* This date, as we saw in the last chapter, was suggested by presumed references to the Ramesside pharaohs in the Exodus narratives and by the date of the Merneptah Stele (1207 BCE) that indicated "Israel" was present in Canaan by that time.

{p. 77} There is abundant evidence from Egyptian texts of the Late Bronze Age (I550-II50 BCE) on affairs in Canaan, in the form of diplomatic letters, lists of conquered cities, scenes of sieges engraved on the walls of temples in Egypt, annals of Egyptian kings, literary works, and hymns. Perhaps the most detailed source of information on Canaan in this period is provided by the Tell el-Amarna letters. These texts represent part of the diplomatic and military correspondence of the powerful pharaohs Amenhotep III and his son Akhenaten, who ruled Egypt in the fourteenth century BCE.

The almost four hundred Amarna tablets, now scattered in museums around the world, include letters sent to Egypt by rulers of powerful states, such as the Hittites of Anatolia and the rulers of Babylonia. But most were sent from rulers of city-states in Canaan, who were vassals of Egypt during this period. The senders included the rulers of Canaanite cities that would later become famous in the Bible, such as Jerusalem, Shechem, Megiddo, Hazor, and Lachish. Most important, the Amarna letters reveal that Canaan was an Egyptian province, closely controlled by Egyptian administration. The provincial capital was located in Gaza, but Egyptian garrisons were stationed at key sites throughout the country, like Beth-shean south of the Sea of Galilee and at the port of Jaffa (today part of the city of Tel Aviv) .

In the Bible, no Egyptians are reported outside the borders of Egypt and none are mentioned in any of the battles within Canaan. Yet contemporary texts and archaeological finds indicate that they managed and carefully watched over the affairs of the country. The princes of the Canaanite cities (described in the book of Joshua as powerful enemies) were, in actuality, pathetically weak. Excavations have shown that the cities of Canaan in this period were not regular cities of the kind we know in later history. They were mainly administrative strongholds for the elite, housing the king, his family, and his small entourage of bureaucrats, with the peasants living scattered throughout the surrounding countryside in small villages. The typical city had only a palace, a temple compound, and a few other public edifices - probably residences for high officials, inns, and other administrative buildings. But there were no city walls. The formidable Canaanite aties described in the conquest narrative were not protected by fortificatlons!

The reason apparently was that with Egypt firmly in charge of security for the entire province, there was no need of massive defensive walls.

{p. 102} The "Israel" stele of Merneptah offered no additional information about the exact location, size, or nature of this people. Yet other surviving Egyptian records - though providing only a small glimpse at what must have been a much fuller account - mention two groups of outsiders who chose to live or were pushed to live on the margins of the Canaanite urban society. Both are of particular interest in the search for the early Israelites.

The first are the Apiru, a group described in the Tell el-Amarna letters of the fourteenth century BCE (as well as other Bronze Age texts) in a variety of unflattering ways. Living outside mainstream Canaanite society, uprooted from their homes by war, famine, or heavy taxation, they are sometimes described as outlaws or brigands, sometimes as soldiers for hire. In

{p. 103} one case they are even reported to be present in Egypt itself as hired laborers working on government building projects. In short, they were refugees or rebellious runaways from the system, living on the social fringe of urban society. No one in power seemed to like them; the worst thing that a local petty king could say about a neighboring prince was that "he joined the Apiru." In the past, scholars have suggested that the word Apiru (and ir alternative forms, Hapiru and Habiru) had a direct linguistic connection tc the word Ibri, or Hebrew, and that therefore the Apiru in the Egyptian sources were the early Israelites. Today we know that this association is not so simple. The widespread use of the term over many centuries and throughout the entire Near East suggests that it had a socioeconomic meaning rather than signifying a specific ethnic group. Nonetheless, a connection cannot be completely dismissed. It is possible that the phenomonon of the Apiru may have been remembered in later centuries and thus incorporated into the biblical narratives.

The second group mentioned in the Egyptian texts were the Shosu. They were apparently pastoral nomads, herders of sheep and goats who lived mainly in the frontier regions of Canaan and Transjordan. An account of an Egyptian raid against rebels in southern Canaan in the days of Ramesses III, in the early twelfth century BCE, provides a good description of these people. The Egyptian writer describes the plunder of their "tent camps of people and possessions and their cattle likewise, their being without number." They were obviously a problematic and uncontrollable element with an especially large presence in the wilderness and the highland frontiers. They were also known to have occasionally migrated to the eastern delta of Egypt, as the thirteenth century papyrus reporting their movments through the Egyptian border fortresses testifies.

Could either of these have been the mysterious "Israel" simply called another name?

Uprooted Peasants?

Alt's peaceful-infiltration theory came under fierce attack in the I970s because of new and far more detailed ethnographic data and anthropological theories on the relationship between pastoral nomads and sedentary communities in the Middle East. The main criticism of the earlier ideas of the

{p. 104} struggle between the desert and the town was that farmers and herders were much more integrated and less alien to each other. They were essentially components of a single society. And so, during the I960s and I970s, another unique theory of Israelite origins arose. First put forward by the American biblical scholar George Mendenhall and later elaborated by the American biblical historian and sociologist Norman Gottwald, this theory suggested that the early Israelites were neither invading raiders nor infiltrating nomads, but peasant rebels who fled from the cities of Canaan to the empty highlands. ... Unfortunately, this theory has no archaeological evidence to support it - and indeed, much of the evidence flatly contradicts it. As we have seen, the material culture of the new villages was completely distinct from

{p. 105} the culture of the Canaanite lowlands; if the settlers had been refugees from the lowlands, we would expect to see at least more similarity in architecture and pottery styles. ...

Hence we really do not see hordes of uprooted people leaving their villages in the lowlands in search of new life on the highland frontier. The answer to the question "Who were the Israelites?" had to come from some where else.

A Sudden Archaeological Breakthrough

The early identifications and wider sociological theories about the early Israelites were based on the decipherment of scattered, fragmentary inscriptions and on the subjective interpretation of the biblical narrative - not primarily on archaeology. The sad fact was that for decades, archaeologists had been looking in all the wrong places for clues to the origins of the Israelites. Because many of them took the Joshua narrative at face value, the concentrated nearly all their efforts digging the major tells of Canaanite cities - such as Jericho, Bethel, Lachish, and Hazor. Today we know that this strategy was mistaken, for while these major tells revealed a great deal about Late Bronze Age urban culture, they told us next to nothing about the Israelites.

These major Canaanite cities were located along the coastal plain and the valleys - far from the wooded hill country regions where early Israel emerged. Before the late I960s, only one comprehensive archaeological survey was ever undertaken to search for evidence of purely Israelite sites. It

{p. 106} was conducted by the Israeli archaeologist Yohanan Aharoni in a marginal region - at the very northern edge of the later area of Israelite control in the rugged and wooded mountains of upper Galilee. Aharoni discovered that the area was empty of Late Bronze sites and that it was settled on a score of small, poor Iron Age I (c. twelfth-eleventh centuries BCE) sites, which he identified with the early settlers of the tribes of Naphtali and Asher. Aharoni's fieldwork in upper Galilee seemed therefore to provide support for the peaceful-infiltration theory. The only problem was that his survey was far to the north of the heartland of Israelite settlement.

Surprising as it may seem, that Israelite heartland in the highlands of western Palestine between the Jezreel and the Beersheba valleys was virtually an archaeological terra incognita. The lack of archaeological exploration in the central hill country was not due to scholarly preferences alone. From the I920s to I967, war and political unrest in the Middle East discouraged thorough archaeological investigation in the heart of the hill country. But later, after the I967 war, the archaeological landscape changed completely. A young generation of Israeli archaeologists, influenced by new trends in world archaeology, took to the field with a new method of investigation: their goal was to explore, map, and analyze the ancient landscape of the hill country - rather than only dig.

Beginning in the 1940s, archaeologists had recognized the importance of regional studies that examined settlement patterns over time. Excavations at single sites produce highly localized pictures of the material culture of ancient populations - uncovering the sequence of styles of pottery, jewelry, weapons, houses, and tombs of a particular community. But regional surveys, in which the ancient sites of a large area are mapped and dated by the characteristic pottery sherds collected on the surface, exchange depth for breadth. These surveys reveal where ancient people settled and the size of their settlements. The choice of certain topographic niches (such as hilltops rather than valleys) and certain economic niches (such as grain growing rather than horticulture), and ease of access to main roads and water sources, reveals a great deal about the lifestyle and, ultimately, social identity of populations of large areas rather than individual communities. No less important, surveys in which sites from many different periods are mapped allow archaeologists to track changes in the demographic history of a given region over long periods of time.

{p. 107} In the years since I967, the heartland of the Israelite settlement - the traditional territories ofthe tribes of Judah, Benjamin, Ephraim, and Manasseh - have been covered by intensive surveys. Teams of archaeologists and students have combed virtually every valley, ridge, and slope, looking for traces of walls and scatters of pottery sherds. The work in the field was slow, with a day's work covering, on the average, about one square mile. Information on any signs of occupation from the Stone Age to the Ottoman period was recorded, in order to study the highlands' long-term settlement history. Statistical methods were used to estimate the size of each settlement in each of its periods of occupation. Environmental information each site was collected and analyzed to reconstruct the natural landscape various eras. In a few promising cases, excavations were undertaken as well.

These surveys revolutionized the study of early Israel. The discovery of the remains of a dense network of highland villages - all apparently established within the span of a few generations - indicated that a dramatic social transformation had taken place in the central hill country of Canaan around I200 BCE. There was no sign of violent invasion or even the infiltration of a clearly defined ethnic group. Instead, it seemed to be a revolution in lifestyle. In the formerly sparsely populated highlands from Judean hills in the south to the hills of Samaria in the north, far from Canaanite cities that were in the process of collapse and disintegration, about two-hundred fifty hilltop communities suddenly sprang up. Here were the first Israelites.*

Life on the Highland Frontier

Excavations of some of the small Iron Age I sites discovered in the course of the surveys showed how surprisingly uniform the sudden wave of highland settlement was. The typical village was usually located on a hilltop or steep ridge, with a commanding view of the surrounding landscape. It was set in an open area surrounded by natural forests comprised mainly of oak and terebinth trees. ...

* Although there is no way to know if ethnic idenities had been fully formed at his ime, we identify these distinctive highland villages as "Israelite" since many of them were continuously occupied well into the period of the monarchies - an era from which we have abundant sources, both biblical and extrabiblical, testifying that their inhabitants consciously identified themselves as Israelies.


(10) The Sea Peoples destroy the Hittite Empire, weaken Egypt, and lead to the formation of the Hebrew states - Redford

Donald B. Redford writes in Egypt, Canaan and Israel in Ancient Times (Princeton University Press, Princeton NJ, 1992):

{p. 241} The Coming of the Sea Peoples

THE FIFTY YEARS following the Egypto-Hittite peace treaty were halcyon days for the entire Near East. In the Levant, borders were now open from Egypt to the Black Sea, and from the Euphrates to the Aegean; and international trade flourished as never before. Not only did the great treaty guarantee the peace, but a widely celebrated marriage between Hattusilis IlI's daughter and the mighty Ramesses ll cemented relations on a family level; and although the unfortunate girl may have disappeared into the harem at Mi-wer, rarely to be seen again, nonetheless the cordial relations between Egypt and Khatte remained intact until the end of the Hittite empire. While we know that relations between Khatte and Assyria had reached the stage of a cold war, the correspondence between Tudkhaliyas IV and Ramesses is concerned with nothing of greater import than perceived insults and the exchange of technicians.


During the New Kingdom, Greece and the islands had enjoyed consistently good relations with Egypt, even though for popular consumption the Egyptians had passed off trading overtures from the Aegean as the proffer of tribute. By about 1520 B.C. the language of "Keftiu" (Canaanite Kaphtor) was sufficiently familiar to the Egyptians that spells could be transcribed into hieroglyphs. Under Thutmose lll, the procession of Aegean benevolence bearers in their colorful costumes (recalling Aegean frescoes) became familiar in Memphis and Thebes;4and under Amenophis IIIthe sea routes around the Aegean were so familiar to Egyptian sailors that the "periplus" could be rendered into Egyptian, so that towns like Knossos Amnissos, Pylos, and others appear in hieroglyphic script.

{p. 242} The period between 1400 and 1200 B.C. (i.e., from the reign of Amenophis IIIto the close of the 19th Dynasty) is dubbed the Mycenaean age, so extensively did trade centered upon the Achaan monarchy and the civilization of mainland Mycenae spread all over the Middle East. It was an age when exports from the Greek world were coveted everywhere in the Levant. And so ubiquitous is the astoundingly beautiful Mycenaean pottery that it becomes a chronological yardstick for Levantine archaeologists. Not only did Egyptian and Greek bottoms ply the sea lanes of the eastern Mediterranean: it was common for merchant ships from Syria to make voyages to "Kapturi," touching at Cyprus en route. Such vessels, one of which has been excavated off the south coast of Turkey, having foundered in foul weather, carried copper ingots, pottery, utensils, and perhaps foodstuffs to the Aegean, along with sesame and cumin, gold, and purple dye. From Egypt came grain in return for olive oil and aromatics; to the Levant went resins, fats, and oil. Over this commerce, and undoubtedly benefiting mightily from it, sat the "great king of Akhkhiyawa" as the Hittites called him, one of the five great kings of the earth at that time. In contemporary Linear B documents, he is the wanax, the great overlord of all other lords temporal in the area. There is no reason to doubt that the Egyptian court was at all times

{p. 243} during the Mycenaean age in correspondence with the court at Mycenae, although the letters have not as yet been recovered. Pharaoh corresponded with the king of Alashiya (Cyprus), as the Amarna Letters show, and Cyprus was an entrepot in the trade with Greece.

But Egypt also had experience of Aegeans less welcome than emissaries and tribute bearers. The small communities in the islands and on the lonian coast, hemmed in by the rugged terrain, had long subsisted on limited agriculture, fishing, and sea raiding; and this latter activity had long since been directed toward the rich cities of the Levant and the Egyptian coast. The Lukka, in whom we should see the Lycians, and the Shardana from the lonian coast near Cyme had a name for piracy and exceptional fighting skills. The latter at the beginning of the reign of Ramesses II had attacked the Delta coast, thus bringing themselves within Pharaoh's purview; and the young Ramesses was not tardy in appreciating their military prowess. Having frustrated their attack, the king lost no time in recruiting a contingent of Shardana into the Egyptian armed forces; and they were to distinguish themselves shortly at the battle of Kadesh.l3


While for the Middle East the closing decades of the thirteenth century were a period of peace, trade, and prosperity, there were on the horizon harbingers of evil times. The Aegean was the first region to feel the brunt of the troubles to come.

A series of largely unrelated events, which at this distance in time we can only dimly appreciate, combined to propel across the eastern Mediterranean one of the largest and most important migrations in history. It is no exaggeration to claim that the movement of the Sea Peoples, to anticipate a term to be coined for them in Egypt, changed the face of the

{p. 244} ancient world more than any other single event before the time of Alexander the Great. In the history of the Near East the movement marks the end of - indeed brought to an end - one era and began another, with no continuum between the two. In Egypt, the obvious goal of the movement, the effect proved negligible when compared with what the movement ofthese migrants wrought in Palestine and Syria.

The ultimate causes of the movement are difficult to assess, but suspicious occurrences and conditions seem to have prevailed in concert. On the economic side it has been maintained that the Mycenae suffered an inherent weakness in being dependent on a single, high-yield crop, and having to import many raw materials. The age-old piracy and the recent success of the Shardana may have tempted peoples within the penumbra of the Mycenaean world to strike at the sources ofthe raw material. Others opt for natural disaster as the primary factor in setting the Sea Peoples in motion. Although it cannot be proved that widepread famine and crop failure in the last third of the thirteenth century disruptedlife on the north shore of the eastern Mediterranean, four sources of evidence, eight centuries removed from each other, seem to corroborate such a hypothesis. Diodorus and Herodotus preserve memory of a famine that forced peoples from Syme, Naxos, and Sardis to emigrate, and indeed contemporary documents from Egypt and Ugarit speak of famine in Anatolia. It is easy to understand how the abundance of food stocks in the Nile Valley would have proved an irresistible attraction to the hungry enclaves in the Aegean. That bubonic plague or a similar epidemic played a role is possible, but impossible to verify at this distance in time.

{p. 245} Did political trends assist in the collapse? Are we clear-sighted in discerning an incipient breakdown in the system of Late Bronze Age super-powers, the "great kingships"? If this was indeed taking place, it might have led to the fragmentation of the former empires, and the consequent internecine strife among the erstwhile vassals (Table 1). In this connection it should be noted that the Hittite king Tudkhaliyas IV, sometime between and 1240 B.C., was faced by a confederacy of twenty-two rebellious states along the lonian coast from Caria (Lycia) to Wilusa (llion, i.e., Troy). The Hittites defeated this coalition, but the western periphery of their empire had begun to break up. It was apparently this same Tudkhialiyas who conquered the island of Cyprus, thus terminating another of the prominent and prosperous exponents of the Late Bronze Age political system.

The Greek mainland yields the first archaeological evidence of what was to come. About 1300 B.C. there are signs of a movement from Thessaly into Epirus of a pastoral people, later to be associated with the Dorian Greeks. Half a century later they were again on the move southward, at just the time that mainland Greece seems to have been experiencing a considerable degree of internal feuding. Legend too remembers a southward flow of peoples, this time from Thrace, which swept over Naxos, Samothrace, and Euboea, and made life difficult for Thebes and Attica. The sudden and thorough refortification of such places as Mycenae, Tiryns, Corinth, Athens, and Miletos about 1250 to 1240 B.C. seems to bear out the evidence just cited. If this action betrays fear on the part of the Achaean inhabitants of Greece, it was well justified; for within a generation the first blow fell. About 1220 violent destruction overtook Mycenae, Tiryns, Pylos, Crisa, and Gla, to name a few, effectually terminating the culture phase called Late Helladic IllB. The once great empire of Akhkhiyawa had suffered a crippling blow.


Th net effect of the weakening of Akhkhiyawa and the turmoil of TudCaliya's reign was to liberate those lesser states in the islands and along eastern coast of Asia Minor that lay between the former empires. The

{P. 247} international treaties between the great powers did not bind them, and the rich states of the east were "fair game." Their fighting qualities and in particular their superior weaponry gave them a confidence the Levantine states lacked. For the Aegean and the lonian coast had fallen heir to the great metallurgical advances attested in the Balkans during the fourteenth and thirteenth centuries, advances that manifested themselves in the long swords, shields, helmets, and body armor of sundry members of the "Sea Peoples."

If, as we know it did, Egypt acted on the northerners like a great magnet, two possible routes lay open to those who wished to attack Egypt from across the Mediterranean. The most obvious lay along the coast of the eastern Mediterranean, with Cyprus as an Intermediate halting point. A less obvious, but well-traveled route, would take the voyager via Crete due south to the north African coast, with a landfall in the neighborhood of modern Mersa Matrukh. Here recent excavations have revealed an entrepot serving trade between Crete, Cyprus, and the Delta in the fourteenth century B.C., and perhaps giving access to the inland route into Africa by way of the western oases. In any event, by the last quarter of the thirteenth century B.C., the coast west of the Egyptian Delta was familiar to seamen and caravaneer alike, and provided a direct access to Cyrenaica, which had to be carefully guarded; for in those days this vast region supported a sizable and bellicose population.

The aged Ramesses II had passed away in about 1237 B.C. after a reign of sixty-seven years, and had been succeeded by his thirteenth son (in order of birth), Ramesses II having outlived the first dozen of his many sons. Merenptah was already an aged and decrepit man when he came to the throne, and although he had earlier been trained as a soldier, his active career in the army was long past. In his second year he traveled down to Thebes from his capital in the Delta "to see his father Amun, King of the Gods" and to authorize an inventory of temple treasures; but while this peaceful activity was in progress an enemy force was on the move.

From the dawn of Egyptian history, Libyan tribesmen had always been a thorn in the side of the pharaonic government, but their small numbers had prevented them from posing any serious threat to Egypt. During the New Kingdom, however, these older tribal groups had been replaced or absorbed by newcomers from the west: the Labu (who eventually gave

{p. 248} their name to "Libya"), the Meshwesh, the Asbuta, the Hasa, and others. With long, cutaway gowns, bearded, and wearing their hair in a long curl on one side, the Labu and Meshwesh had long sinced graced Ramesside triumph scenes as the enemy whose defeat is to be celebrated. But if under the great Ramesses they had been easy prey for Pharaoh's forces, under Merenptah they proved much more formidable. For now they were joined by piratical elements from the Aegean: the sea route to Libya was now a supply route.

In his fourth book, Herodotus gives a fairly detailed account of Libyan tribes of his day, and in chapter 191 describes one called the Myes (Meshwesh): "West of Triton ... Libya is inhabited by tribes who live in ordinary houses and practice agriculture. First come the Maxyes, a people who grow their hair on the right sides of their head and shave it off on the left. They stain their bodies red and claim to be descended from men of Troy." In a similar vein Pindar (Pythian 5.81-83) preserves a tradition that sons of Antenor migrated to Cyrenaica from Troy. Another legend had it that, in the generation preceding the Trojan War, a certain Mopsus (or Moxos), serving as seer with the Argonauts, died of a snake bite on the north African coast and was buried at Cyrene. All these traditions attest to the survival in folk memory of a historic fact: at time of the breakup of the Akhkhiyawan kingdom, and the expedition against Troy, the route to the Libyan coast was well traveled by Aegean freebooters. The inscriptions of Merenptah record the facts of which traditions are a dlm memory.

To judge from Merenptah's account, the capital was apprised of the Libyan invasion only at the beginning of April in Merenptah's fifth year. By that time the horde, with the Labu taking the lead numerically and politically, had swept over the northernmost of the string of western oases, and had entered the Delta. Encouraged by Ptah in a dream, the king mustered his forces and decided to attack the invaders in early May. The enemy he faced represented a coalition consciously conceived and put together by the chief of the Labu, Mereye. Besides the Meshwesh who tagged along with their cogeners, Mereye had enlisted the help of the people of the island Kos and the Lycians. These in turn had persuaded

{p. 249} smaller groups of Shardana, Tyrsenoi, and Shekelesh to accompany them. For six hours the opposing armies hammered each other at Par-Yeru near Buto in the northwest Delta until the invaders cracked and fled. Unlike the patently smaller engagements of the time of Thutmose III or Amenophis II, the rout turned into a slaughter: while the Egyptian sources conceal their own losses, over nine thousand of the enemy were killed.

But the Libyans were not to be denied. In the twenty-five years of weak government by the regimes of four short-lived kings who followed Merenptah, the Labu and the Meshwesh entered the western Delta unhindered and settled as far east as the bank of the central Nile, destroying the towns of the Xoite township. The unfortunate Siptah, who suffered not only from the effects of polio but also from the machinations of his sister(?) Tawosret and his Canaanite chancellor Bay, was powerless to stop them. It was left to the family of the victor in a palace revolution, one Sethnakht, to deal with the problem; and in Ramesses lll, the latter's son, Egypt had at last found a competent avenger.

The initial outbreak of hostilities centered upon the dynastic succession among the Labu. Ramesses lll apparently refused to release one of the chief's children, whom he had taken captive, to succeed his father; and pursuant thereto the Libyans crossed the frontier and attacked. As before the Labu were accompanied by auxiliaries: from Libya itself the Meshwesh, Asbutae, and Hasa; from the Aegean, again a contingent from the southwest corner of Asia Minor, this time the Karkisa, as well as another contingent from Samos and Abdera. This time the victory was more complete than under Merenptah: "See! I (Ramesses III) destroyed them and slew them at one stroke. I overthrew them, felled them in their own blood, and turned them into heaps of corpses. I turned them back from treading the frontier of Egypt. ... l brought the rest ... as numer-

{p. 250} ous prisoners, pinioned like fowl before my horses, and their wives and children by tens of thousands."

The Libyan menace was thus at an end. Although on another occasion six years hence, the Meshwesh would mount an invasion on their own, their effort would prove feeble. But a minor detail in the records of Ramesses lll in his great mortuary temple at Thebes is a harbinger of things to come: two of the captive chiefs bear quite un-Libyan types of names, Melie and Moschion, each determined by a kneeling captive with a floppy, plumed headdress.43 Egypt was soon to see a veritable ocean of such plumes.


Previous encounters with the Aegean pirates had accustomed Egypt to look for hardy warriors in a few "long ships," bent on a speedy raid to be followed by as speedy a retirement. (Such raids are commemorated in the Odyssey 14.246ff., which may well be a faint memory of the expeditions under Ramesses II or Merenptah.) Even the Levant from time to time had been visited by individuals from the Ionian coast or the Cyclades. What neither Egypt nor Palestine had experienced heretofore, however, was an outright invasion of peoples from the Aegean, intent on settling down. While trade with Greece and the islands had flourished as we have seen during the Late Bronze Age, there is not a particle of evidence to support the contention that prior to year 8 of Ramesses III, early waves of Sea Peoples had already settled on the coastal plain of Palestine. The invasion of year 8 was sudden and unique; and all references to "Philistines" in the Bible must postdate it.

One is accustomed to think of the coalition of the seven groups that constituted the horde as taking shape suddenly, and the invasion as following quickly. In fact, year 8 simply marks the record of their defeat at the hands of the Egyptians; the founding of the confederacy may well date

{p. 251} several years earlier. Until recently, the only record still preserved of this incursion of peoples into the Near East was that of Ramesses III himself, preserved on the walls of his mortuary temple, Medinet Habu, at Thebes; and in spite of the exciting finds at Ugarit, this remains the sole contemporary account.

{quote} The foreign lands made a convocation (?) in their islands, bursting forth and scattering in the strife of the lands at one time; no land could stand before their arms, beginning with Khatte, (then) Qode, Carchemish, Arzawa(?) and Alashiya (Cyprus) - all cut off [at one stroke(?)]. A camp [was established] at one spot within Amurru, and they ruined his people and his land like something that had never existed. On they came, with fire prepared at their front, faces toward Egypt. Their main protection (?) was the Peleset, the Tjekru, the Shekelesh, the Da'anu, the Washosh, and the lands all united. They laid their hands on countries as far as the circuit of the earth, their hearts trusting and confident: "Our plans will succeed!" {endquote}

Unlike our sources for the onslaught under Merenptah, the records of Ramesses III's year 8 give us graphic depictions as well as text; thus it becomes possible to use the accoutrements of the peoples named as evidence of their origin. Most prominent in both reliefs and texts are the Peleset, with Tjekru running a close second. These wear, characteristically, a fillet from which protrudes a floppy "hoplite's" plume (unless long, natural hair has been misconstrued), and a protective piece down the nape of the neck (Figure 7, no. 6). Their armament includes long swords, spears, circular shields, and sometimes body armor. Now it has

{p. 252} long been realized that the plumed headdress of the Egyptian reliefs finds a parallel in a sign (possibly a determinative) in the script of the curi "Phaistos Disk," discovered in the early part of this century at Phaistos, Crete. Several classical authors, moreover, state that crests were first used on helmets in Caria, in southwest Asia Minor, north of Lycia; and interestingly, both "Carians" and "Cretans" appear as ethnic indicators in the lists of bodyguards of Judaean kings recruited from Philistia. As for the terms "Peleset" and "Tjekru," the former has been compared with the "Pelasgians," a vague and rather enigmatic designation of the pre-Greek inhabitants of the Aegean. The "Tjekru" recall the eponymous hero Teuker of the Troad, as well as "Zakro" in Crete. Of the others, the Shekelesh (and the Teresh) wear cloth headdresses and a medallion on their breasts, and carry two spears and a round shield; their place of origin has long been considered to be Sagalassos in Pisidia. The Washosh seem linked to the island of lassos off the coast of Caria, and the Da'anu have long been considered identical with the "Dana'ans" of Homer, the appellative given to Greeks in general, but originally to an Argive community.

{p. 253} In the great invasion of year 8, then, we appear to be dealing with a coalition of peoples that encompassed the lonian and Pisidian coasts, centering especially on Caria, and which may have involved mainland Greeks. The nautical record bears this out: the ships of the Sea Peoples, as depicted at Medinet Habu, are very much in the Aegean (rather than Cretan) tradition. Can anything else be said?

The period of the onslaught of the Sea Peoples, the close of the thirteenth century B.C. is the inception of the Iron Age. It is the earliest period that lies within the compass of the dim historical memory of the later Greeks, in the historical legends of the sixth to fourth centuries B.C. Despite the passage of time, the tendency to personalize impersonal events, and the inevitable distortion or anachronism, the legends are most illuminating. Mopsus of Colophon, for example, said to have been the offspring of fugitives from Boeotia, in the years immediately following the Trojan War led "the peoples" from the lonian coast across the Taurus mountains and into Pamphylia and Cilicia, whence some migrated further afield into Syria and Palestine. Likewise, Amphilochus is also connected with a movement from the Aegean to Pamphylia after the Trojan War, and became the reputed founder of Poseidion in Syria. Similarly, Teuker, brother of Ajax, who had fought in the Trojan War, led migrations that ended up in Cyprus and Cilicia; and Agapenor too, king of the Arcadians, is supposed to have come to Cyprus after the Trojan War. If these legends, the salient exemplars of a numerous array of similar tales, take the migration as far as Syria, founding legends linked to the later Philistine cities carry the account one step further by linking Ashkelon with migrations from Lydia and Gaza with refugees from Crete.

The contemporary, as well as the classical, evidence permits us to draw the following sketchy picture. At the end of the thirteenth century B.C. a desperate effort to reunite the disintegrating Mycenaean community directed a loose coalition of former member states against Troy, the former leader of the erstwhile lonian confederacy against the Hittites. In the

{p. 254} years immediately following the reduction of Troy some of the members of the Mycenaean expedition, under the leadership of enclaves in Caria, banded together in a loose federation and moved east along the southern coast of Asia Minor, along with their families, to settle in the plains of Cilicia and North Syria. Branch movements spread far and wide. Sardis was occupied by Greeks around 1200 B.C., and ships of the movement made for Cyprus. In vain, Suppiluliumas Il, last of the Hittite kings, attempted to salvage the situation: "Against me the ships from Cyprus drew up in line three times for battle in the midst of the sea. I destroyed them, I seized the ships and in the midst of the sea I set them on fire." Yet a few lines later we hear once more that "the enemy in multitudes came against me from Cyprus." Indeed, the ships of the raiders were appearing all over the coast of Cyprus and Syria. In the latter region the autochthonous states were in no way weak or decadent, as a century of free trade had made them extremely prosperous. Ugarit alone could muster a fleet of 150 ships, a larger force than any of the fleets of the individual Greel states as reflected in the lliad. Yet the last archives of Ugarit, in the oven for hardening as the city fell, reflect the unthinkable scenario of Ugaritial forces fighting the unnamed enemy in the Taurus mountains as allies of the Hittites, while at the same time ships of the enemy raided the coast. Cyprus is hard pressed, but the king and vizier of the island can offer advice: "Beware! Twenty enemy ships were here, but now are gone, where we do not know! Enemy ships are sighted off the Syrian coast! Enclose your cities with fortifications, and take your troops and chariots inside! Watch out for the enemy and be strong!" But the town cannot hold out. The last king of Ugarit sends a desperate message to Cyprus "Now the ships of the enemy have come, and they have burned my citiy in fire and have committed atrocities in my land. My father! Do you not know that all my troops are in Khatte and all my ships are in Lycia."

{p. 255} The end was near. In truth, no one could stand before these raiders. Hattusas was destroyed, and the Hittite empire swept away in one stroke. Tarsus was laid waste, as was Enkomi on Cyprus. Alalakh and Ugarit were razed to the ground, never to be rebuilt. The Late Bronze Age of the Levant vanished in an instant: archaeology gives a graphic dimension to the terror conveyed by the written record.

From their camp in Amurru - that is, in the Eleutheros Valley - the confederacy trundled south, women and children in oxcarts, while the ships kept pace off the coast. It is one of the ironic gaps in our records that nowhere has the precise location of the final battle (or battles) been conveyed to us. But in the reliefs Ramesses does (perhaps unwittingly) indicate that it was not in, or even on the border of, the Egyptian Delta. Pharaoh knew they were coming, and to that end he established a fortified line in Asia: "I prepared my frontier in Djahy and fortified it against them with chiefs, garrison commanders and maryannu. I had the Nile mouths fortified like a strong wall with a fleet of warships, cargo vessels and boats ... manned completely from stem to stern with brave soldiers with their weapons, and infantry - all the choicest warriors of Egypt." To take command of the counterattack "His Majesty departed for Djahy." Djahy is too vague and archaic a term to help us in this regard; but a tradition that apparently derives from Xanthos (fifth century B.C.) places a "Lydian" army in the vicinity of Ashkelon in the period this chapter treats of. And it may well be that the movement was only stopped on the southern coastal plain.

While the victory Ramesses lays claim to may not have been as complete as he would wish to have us think, nonetheless his firm stand was enough to break up the coalition and send its component members to flight. Ships that managed to break through to the Delta were quickly

{p. 256} dealt with: "Those who came upon the sea, the consuming flame face them at the Nile mouths ... they were dragged up, surrounded and cast down upon the shore, slaughtered in heaps from head to tail.'' Some of the Shekelesh sailed westward to Sicily (to which they gave their name), the Da'anu may have found a haven on Cyprus, the Washosh disappeared. What became of the Peleset and Tjekru will be discussed in the next chapter.

{p. 257} THE PATIENT and observant reader will have noted that, up to this point in our study, no mention has been made of Israel or its ancestral patriarchs. The reason for this is an empirical one: in our sources, both Egyptian and west Asian, there are virtually no references to Israel, its congeners, or Biblical associates prior to the twelfth century B.C.; and beyond that point for four centuries a mere half dozen allusions can be elicited.


This dearth of citations is also paralleled on the Biblical side by a similar absence of any specific references betraying a knowledge of Egypt or the Levant during the second millenium B.C. There is no mention of an Egyptian empire encompassing the eastern Mediterranean, no marching Egyptian armies bent on punitive campaigns, no countermarching Hittite forces, no resident governors, no Egyptianized kinglets ruling Canaanite cities, no burdensome tribute or cultural exchange. Of the latest and most disastrous migration of the second millennium, that of the Sea Peoples, the Hexateuch knows next to nothing: Genesis and Exodus find the Philistines already settled in the land at the time of Abraham (cf. Gen. 26, passim;Exod.13:17, 23:31).The gleat Egyptian kings of the empire, the Amenophids, the Thumosids, the Ramessides, are absent from the hundreds of pages of holy writ; and it is only in occasional toponyms unrecognized by the Hebrew writer that a faint echo of their names may be heard. Elsewhere historical figuges have been transmogrified into historical heroes: the Hyksos Sheshy into a legendary Canaanite giant (Num. 13:22); Ssy-r', the sobiquet of Ramsses Il, into the name of a Canaanite general (Jud. 5,. passim). Errors persist even in periods closer in time to

{p. 258} the period of the Biblical writers. ...


The sparsely populated hill country of central Palestine, already partly stripped of its inhabitants under the 18th Dynasty, held little attraction for the Egyptians who felt basically disinclined to police it. It was necessary, however, to deny it to others who might pose a threat to Egyptian interests in the region. In the fourteenth century during the Amarna period, Egypt conceived of these highlands as encompassing two spheres of responsibility, the matat Urusalim, "the lands of Jerusalem," centered upon Jerusalem and synonymous with the Judaean highlands; and the northern hill country controlled from Shechem. Since these thinly settled uplands constituted ideal staging areas and terrain for settlement for renegades, some kind of imperial presence was necessary to save the valleys and coastlands from marauders. Both areas, however, the Egyptians were content, if not obliged, to leave in the hands of local dynasties. Shechem's sphere of influence and interference was extensive, stretching from Megiddo and the caravan crossing of the Jordan in the north to Gezer in the southwest; but Lab'ayu, the local sheikh under Amenophis III and Akhenaten, unfortunately failed to operate in Egyptian interests

{p. 270} and had to be removed. The damage was done, however, and the 'Apiru could operate freely around Shechem. In the south the Egyptian authorities suspended the right of primogeniture, perhaps an indication of Egypt's greater concern for this region, and installed a younger scion of the Jerusalem house, one Abd-i-khepa. Several times, in contexts in which he is defending himself against misrepresentation at court, Abdi-khepa denies strenuously that he is a hazanu, a position obviously beneath him in his own view. No, he is a we'u (Egyptian w'w), a "soldier." As I have demonstrated elsewhere, this is to be taken to mean that Abdi-khepa had been one of those "children of the chiefs" dispatched to Egypt and given military training there. He was now an "Egyptian soldier," and proud of it. Thus Abdi-khepa in his letters unconsciously stresses the importance the Egyptian administration placeed on Jerusalem in its strategic planning: the city was not to be abandoned by a military authority. The most persuasive argument he can hope to use is that "the lands (of Jerusalem) are lost," and that either a garrison is to be sent or he is to be taken back to Egypt. Jerusalem is a city "in which the king has set his name," a sure indication of the presence of an Egyptian stela in the city. In fact an Egyptian building (temple?) may .once have stood either within the circuit of the original walls or to the north of the present Damascus gate.

{p. 271} It thus seems clear that a real fear on the part of the pharaonic administration was that the central highlands could be used as a base by elements inimical to Egyptian interests. From here they could with impunity raid the lowlands and threaten the coastal route. (It is in this context that Abdi-khepa is outraged that Ashkelon, Gezer, and Lachish - the very cities whose integrity he was trying to guarantee - had given supplies to the 'Apiru.) The sheikhdom at Shechem in which the Egyptians had put their faith, had proved too obstreperous; but in all probability Jerusalem stood fast and the ruling family rewarded the confidence the Egyptians had placed in it. Nonetheless, it was into this inhospitable upland, where it was still possible to enjoy an existence largely free of imperial authority, that the great folk movement of the end of the Late Bronze Age made its dramatic ingress.

Egyptian Nilotic society had, since the dawn of time, given practical and moral priority to sedentary life and poured contempt on the uncon- trolled movement of people. The verb s3s(pronounced perhaps shas) meant basically to move on foot, and it is often used of journeys or of the daily motion of the sun, which is all innocent enough. But very early it took on a nuance of speed and furtiveness: messengers speed on foot to far-off places, and malcontents flee punishment. A participial form was applied from at least as early as the 5th Dynasty to those "wanderers" the Egyptians habitually came into contact with in the north, and rapidly became a term with societal implications. The resultant S3sw (shasw), the "Shasu," came to be used of wandering groups whom we would call bedu, with the significant distinction that unlike their modern counterparts they lacked the camel. Their lawlessness and their proclivity to

{p. 272} make raids gave rise in Canaanite (and Hebrew) to the denominative verb sasa(h), "to plunder."

Shasu are found in Egyptian texts from the 18th Dynasty through the Third Intermediate Period. They most frequently occur in generalizing toponym lists where the context helps little in pinpointing their location. But lists from Soleb and Amarah, ultimately of fifteenth century origin, suggest that an original concentration of Shasu settlements lay in southern Transjordan in the plains of Moab and northern Edom. Here a group of six names is identified as in "the land of the Shasu" and these include Se'ir (i.e., Edom), Laban (probably Libona, south of Amman), Sam'ath (cf. the Shim'ethites, a clan of the Kenites: 1 Chron. 2:55), and Wrbr (probably the Wady Hasa). Elsewhere in texts of the 19th and 20th Dynasties, the consistent linking of Shasu with Edom and the Arabah (Timna) places the identifications on the earlier lists beyond doubt.

The localization of the "Land of the Shasu" in the mountainous districts of Se'ir east of the Arabah has an interesting consequence for one name in the mentioned lists from Soleb and Amarah - "Yhw the land of the Shasu." For half a century it has been generally admitted t we have here the tetragrammaton, the name of the Israelite god, "Yah-

{p. 273} weh''; and if this be the case, as it undoubtedly is, the passage constitutes a most precious indication of the whereabouts during the late fifteenth century B.C. of an enclave revering this god. And while it would be wrong to jump to the conclusion that "Israel" as known from the period of the Judges or the early monarchy was already in existence in Edom at this time, one cannot help but recall the numerous passages in later Biblical tradition that depict Yahweh "coming forth from Se'ir" and originating in Edom. The only reasonable conclusion is that one major component in the later amalgam that constituted Israel, and the one with whom the worship of Yahweh originated, must be looked for among the Shasu of Edom already at the end of the fifteenth century B.C.

While the homeland of the Shasu must be located in Moab and Edom, several corridors took these nomads on a seasonal basis for pasturage, service, and brigandage into other parts of the eastern Mediterranean. Northward a natural route, in existence at least as early as the Middle Bronze Age, led via Damascus to northern Syria; and through the Jordan Valley and Jezreel the wanderer could gain access to the coast and Coele-Syria. Again, via the Jordan and such Wadys as Far'a or Qilt the central highland of Palestine could be reached with ease. Westward the Arabah and Negeb offered passable routes by means of which the Shasu could approach the Nile Delta.

Although the Shasu, ever hovering just beyond the periphery of Egyptian control, had always been a thorn in Pharaoh's side, they burst with especially grievous force just before the beginning of the 19th Dynasty across the Arabah and into the Negeb and northern Sinai, cutting off Egypt's coastal route. Though Sety I had little trouble in beating them back, the Shasu had thus begun to frequent a new transit corridor west-

{p. 274} ward to the Egyptian border; and during the thirteenth and the twelfth centuries they are more than once reported along the "Suez" frontier. Hither they trekked with their cattle on a seasonable pattern to gain access to the watering holes in the Wady Tumilat. A second route, easily negotiated, attracted them south of the eastern Delta; and reference to the "Shasu of the Inverted Water" and later settlements in Middle Egypt at Atfih and Spermeru prove this route to have passed through the Wady el-Shuna and the Wady 'Arabah, debouching opposite the Fayum.

In the northern hill country the presence of similar elements around Shechem posed a threat to Beth Shean, and the route between the coastal road and the Jordan was already in jeopardy at the outset of Sety l's reign. While he was again able to quell the disturbances, his records betray the presence of a strong dissident group (whom he terms 'Apiru) in the hill country where, three generations earlier, Lab'ayu had run amok. One wonders to what extent these elements encouraged the Canaanite towns of the Esdraelon and Galilee to join in the revolt against Egypt on the morrow of Ramesses lI's defeat at Kadesh.

Egyptian reaction to the Shasu can be explained largely in the light of Egypt's prime concern with keeping the routes to the north open. By the end of his first decade on the throne Ramesses II had reconquered the coast, and the Egyptians had reappeared in the environs of Byblos. Later in the reign, though undated, must fall Ramesses's wars in Transjordan, clearly occasioned by the hostility of elements there that sought to deny

{p. 275} Egypt access to the north-south route. In the same context must be viewed Ramesses's attack on Ashkelon from which, in the relief, Shasu captives are shown being led away. For numerous reasons the reduction of Ashkelon ought to be dated late in the reign, certainly after the treaty of year 21, and construed broadly as part of the grand strategy that involved Ramesses in southern Transjordan. Thus in the sixty-year period, from about 1320 to 1260 B.C., the Shasu are chronicled as continuing to foment trouble in their native habitat of the steppe, and as pressing westward through the Negeb toward major towns along the Via Maris. It is not, in my opinion, an unrelated phenomenon that a generation later under Merneptah an entity called "Israel" with all the character of a Shasu enclave makes its appearance probably in the Ephraimitic highlands; and the strengthened presence of the Egyptians in such towns as Beth Shean and Deir 'Allah must be seen in the light of their recent settlement in the uplands.


As there is no reason to believe the Shasu were literate - Judges 8:14 curiously provides a correct reflection of this - there is no reason to expect any contemporary documents from them describing their way of life. We must instead view the Shasu/lsrael of the thirteenth century B.C. through two disparate fields of vision, one contemporary but unsympathetic {the Egyptian}, the other centuries removed from the period in question. {the Bible}

{p. 283} In 1075 B.C. the Egypt of the Ramesside empire still existed, albeit weakened, impoverished, and disillusioned; one short generation later the country had crossed a "great divide" and entered the deepening twilight of the postimperial, "Tanite" era. What had happened?


One can, of course, appeal persuasively to a concatination of economic and climatic factors that wrought havoc with Egyptian society in the twelfth century B.C. The destruction of the Hittite empire and the overrunning of the Levant by the Sea Peoples had effectually deprived the Pharaohs of access to the silver- and iron-bearing regions of Anatolia, just wlien these metals were about to become all important in international coffers and arsenals. By the third-quarter of the century the Sinai turquoise mines had shut down, the Timna copper mines were less frequented (if not abandoned), and the Nubian gold mines had begun to show signs of exhaustion. Consequently, by 1115 B.C. both gold and copper grew suddenly much more expensive. An extended period of drought in northeast Africa resulted in successive low Niles and poor harvests, and the country was plagued by inflation and labor stikes. A quantity of emmer wheat (2.25 bushels) that was valued at 1 copper deben at the close of Ramesses IlI's reign cost 5 scarcely twenty years later; and the official reports of investigating commissioners frequently contained such notes as "regnal year 29, 2nd month of proyet, day 10 - on this day the workers crossed the 5 checkpoints of the necropolis and said 'We are hungry! Sixteen days have gone by in the month!' and they sat down (i.e., refused to work).

With prices high and wages low or in arrears, it was difficult to resist

{p. 284} the temptation posed by the enormous treasure Iying buried in the royal and private tombs on the west bank at Thebes. During the reign of Ramesses IX (last quarter of the twelfth century) come the first reports of grave robbing both in the royal and private necropolises. Starting with accessible graves of the Second Intermediate Period at the north end of the cemetery, the robbers had graduated by the end of the century to the main interments of the empire period, and were even rifling the eternal resting places of Sety I and Ramesses II. The authorities tried to post guards and apprehend the culprits, and in many cases were successful, as the surviving transcripts of the tomb-robbery trials eloquently attest. But, as in the case of the drug problem in our present society, the need for a recirculation of this wealth was too great and government officials too corrupt to do much more than attack the tip of the iceberg. By the eleventh century B.C. the pious priests were driven to the resort of secreting the mummies of the royal ancestors in a succession of tombs, one step, as it were, ahead of the indefatigable robbers. At last, in the tenth century B.C., they transferred in desperation the remaining royal mummies of the 17th through the 20th Dynasties to a secret shaft at Deir el-Bahari where they rested in peace until discovered in the nineteenth century of our own era.

In making the obligatory search for "causes" in history, one sooner or later turns to the human factor. The details elude us, but the testimony is unanimous: after Ramesses III died, "kings succeeded to the throne for seven generations who were confirmed sluggards and devoted only to indulgence and luxury. Consequently in the priestly record no costly building of theirs nor any deed worthy of historical record is handed down in connection with them." Although this is in part an etiology on the very lack of record Diodorus seeks to explain, the impression is a correct one: the family of Ramesses III had fallen into a prolonged internecine feud, perhaps because of the circumstances of the assassination, and the latter end was completely discredited.

The long-lived but ineffectual Ramesses Xl (c. 1105-1075 B.C.) whom one cannot help but regard with a degree of pity (although why is difficult to say in want of evidence), proved to be the last of the Ramessides and the last imperial Pharaoh. His equivocal reputation was won while he yet lived: "As for Pharaoh, how can he ever reach this land (i.e., Thebes in the south)? Of whom, indeed, is Pharaoh the master? ... do not be con-

{p. 285} cerned about what he might do!" Thus a magnate of Thebes to his timorous secretary during the last years of Ramesses X1. An outbreak of civil war during the first decade of his reign had contributed to the impression of Ramesses Xl's weakness. Although the troubles had not unseated him, it had nonetheless wrought havoc in Thebes and Middle Egypt, and temporarily removed the king's protege, the high priest of Amun, one Amenophis. The viceroy of Kush, Paynehsi, the principal opponent of the king, was with difficulty driven back into Nubia where the rebellion had started; but it was at the cost of appointing another power-seeking army officer, Herihor, to the high priesthood of Amun. Beginning with the grandiose titles of "he-who-is-over-the-Two-Lands, ... high priest of Amonrasonther, Field Marshal of Upper and Lower Egypt, and duke," Herihor, in year 19 of Ramesses Xl and after receiving a favorable oracle from Amun, without further ado proclaimed himself king. Ramesses Xl is scarcely heard of again.

Egypt entered the second quarter of the eleventh century B.C. in a state of military and economic decline, and there could be no question of maintaining traditional forms of empire. The Ramesside house had wholly discredited itself. Amun had set them aside and declared in favor of Herihor. In the north, in the oracular parlance of the times, Amun had "appointed" as an "officer" for "the north of his (Amun's) land" a certain Nesubanebdjed, who had in all probability been nought but a trusted official of the last Ramesses. This worthy, catapulted (by marriage?) to the kingship, and the four generations that followed him, ruled from Tanis, the new city that had arisen "Phoenix-like" from the ruins of Pi-Ramesses in the northeast Delta. Founded on flats called "the Field of the Storm" close to the mouth of the easternmost, Bubastite, branch of the Nile, Tanis was intended to replace Pi-Ramesses, about thirty kilometers to the south (Plates 30, 31). For some reason the great Ramesside residence was abandoned at the close of the 20th Dynasty ...

{p. 312} CHAPTER 12

Egypt and Israel in the World of Assyria

FOR A BRIEF PERIOD, datable to the two generations spanning the last quarter of the tenth century and the first quarter of the ninth, there is evidence of an attempt, on Egypt's part, to revive the empire by force. Enough evidence has already been amassed in this book to demonstrate the recurring pattern of growth of political power in Palestine exciting Egyptian concern, and followed by military action (or the threat of it) to reduce or subvert this power. The pharaonic government never failed to be greatly exercised by any political structure in Palestine beyond a segmentary society. Any threat to the freedom of passage along coastal or inland route, or the potential for any part of Palestine being used as a base for hostility, provoked the same reaction along the Nile: execration by the gods and mustering of the troops. The chiefdom of Saul and the monarchy of David could be viewed as beneficial to Egypt's interests as both leaders directed their belligerence toward the Philistines, Egypt's old enemies. But, the battle won in Israel's favor, the peace and rising prosperity of Solomon's kingdom could only rouse Egypt's anxiety.


At an as yet unknown date, but probably early in his reign (i.e., in the 930s), Sheshonq I founder of the 22nd Dynasty, led a major military campaign across the Sinai frontier into Palestine. He lists 154 towns as having been destroyed by the Egyptian forces, and while neither Judah nor Israel is mentioned by name, the geographical range of place-names indicates that both sectors of the country were targeted by Pharaoh's planners. At some point Sheshonq marched toward Jerusalem and "took away the treasures of the House of Yahweh and the treasures of the king's

{p. 313} house; he took away everything. He also took away all the shields of gold which Solomon had made" (1 Kings 14:26). At last the Bible has given us a definite link between the histories of Egypt and Israel, the earliest, in fact, of the precious few links that have come down to us.

Students of Sheshonq I's great campaign against Judah and Israel have concentrated largely on the toponym list as a reflection of the route taken by the Egyptians, and the evidence that can be adduced bearing on Biblical chronology. The question arises whether the toponym list, which is indeed an itinerary, can still be used in conjunction with destruction levels detected archaeologically as has sometimes been done. The present author has argued against such a use for the 18th Dynasty list of Thutmose III, in the light of the inability of Thutmosid armies to mount successful siege operations. By Ramesside times, however, Egyptian forces were conversant with assault techniques and while siege mounds and rams were still to come in the Iron II period, sappers, scaling ladders, testudines, and covering barrages are already attested. Psusennes I of the 21st Dynasty, moreover, is dubbed in one of the minor objects from his tomb a "seizer of cities," a curious anticipation of poliorkhths. The very sophisticated techniques of siege warfare that emerge suddenly into the full light of history with the Piankly stela of the eighth century must have a considerable antecedent period of development; and it is not at all unlikely that the Libyan kings two centuries earlier were already masters of the art. Thus it is highly likely that Sheshonq's itinerary can also be construed as a swath of destruction and captured cities, reduced either through siege or voluntary surrender.


Richard Friedman: Who Wrote the Bible? bible.html.

Martin Bernal on the Aryan Invasions: gimbutas.html.

Martin Bernal puts the case for African/Semitic influence on the formation of Greek culture and institutions: diop.html.

Volume I of Black Athena is polemical, and not worth buying; Volume II is very stimulating. To purchase Volume II:

To purchase Donald B. Redford's book Egypt, Canaan and Israel in Ancient Times: http://www3.addall.com/New/submitNew.cgi?query=Egypt+Canaan+Israel+Ancient+Times.

To purchase The Bible Unearthed, by Israel Finkelstein & Neil Asher Silberman: http://www3.addall.com/New/submitNew.cgi?query=Bible+Unearthed.




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