Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Reconciling Biblical Dates To Historic Dates

Yesterday, I made a post at my Wash Park Prophet blog entitled Methuselah and Legendary History, which was intended to be posted at this blog, but which ended up there due to a technical error on my part and remained there because its subject matter fits a gray area that could be appropriate for either blog.

I'll call attention to a few big picture conclusions before getting into the details.

First, until the Hebrew Bible reaches the point at which there is a genuine Jewish state with Kings starting around 1000 BCE (3000 years ago), its dates are based on absurdly long life spans and contain anachronistic historical references.  If you revised those dates to fit the realm of possibility, the events of the Bible go back only to about 2000 BCE plus or minus a century or two.

Second, historical references points are increasingly hard to associate with the Biblical chronology from the period of Exodus and earlier, while they are increasingly reliable from roughly the period of King Solomon onward.

Third, there are suggestive hints from history about possible authentic narratives regarding the origins of the Jewish people and religion, but none are definitive.  Ultimately, the Biblical Jewish people of greater Israel almost certainly had origins in the Northern Levant.  But, the extent to which the Biblical narrative of how that happened is correct is not at all clear.  Certainly, many of the details are fantasy.  But, it isn't even obvious if the general outlines of their migrations in the Bible are well supported by historical reality.

Fourth, the discrepancies between history and the Bible mostly reveals the agendas of their authors who wrote about the events described long after those events allegedly happened.

The Genealogies of Genesis.

This led me to explore more generally, the genealogies of the Biblical book of Genesis which includes ten generations of patriarchs from Adam to Noah, and another ten generations of patriarchs from Shem, son of Noah, to Terah who is the father of Abraham.  In the book of Genesis, Abraham is the first person to be a Jew based upon the covenants that he is the first person to enter into with the Jewish God.*  All twenty-one of these patriarchs live lives much longer than are remotely possible in reality, and have children at astonishingly late ages.

These genealogies are set forth in Chapter 5 and 11 of the Book of Genesis.  Chapter 4 of the Book of Genesis also includes a genealogy of some of the early decendants of Adam and Eve including Cain's descendants who are not included in the Chapter 5 genealogy that traces the patriarch descendants of Adam's son Seth.

Some Simple Conversion Rules

There is a school of Biblical criticism which holds that that ages at death and at the birth of their first sons in this twenty-one generation list of patriarchs in Genesis was either mistranslated or deliberately inflated according to a fairly simply scheme that allows them to be converted to "true" ages.

Supporters of this conversion approach note that the ages at which they have children and of their deaths as reported in the Greek Septuagint translation have an interesting property.

The dates of death and ages of patriarchs at the date of birth of their first sons from the Septuagint translation in the first ten generations of patriarchs (i.e. Adam to Noah) can be converted from impossible dates to dates that are possible across the board, simply by dividing them by ten.

Similarly, the dates of death and ages of partriarchs at the date of birth of their first sons from the Septuagint translation for the next ten patriarchs (Seth to Terah) can be converted from numbers that are impossible to numbers that are sensible or at least possible, by dividing them by five.

The ages in the Septuagint at which Abraham has his first child and at which he dies differ by a factor of two from numbers that are sensible or possible.

They also note that the Greek Septuagint translation is derived from a Hebrew text that is actually several centuries older than the source of the authoritative Orthodox Jewish translation known as Masoretic text, which is the other best known documentary traditions for the Torah (the first five books of the Hebrew Bible aka Old Testament).

Applying the Conversion Rules

As summarized in the Wikipedia entry referenced above regarding the genealogies of Genesis, in the Septuagint, there are 2,592 years from the creation of Adam to the death of Noah, there are 1,475 years from the birth of Noah's son Seth (when Noah is 500 years old) to the death of Terah, the father of Abraham, and Noah's flood takes place 2,242 years after the creation of Adam (the abbreviation for dates calculated from the Biblical date of the creation of Adam is A.M. for the Latin words Anno Mundi meaning "in year of the world").  In the Septuagint, Abraham is born 1172 years after the flood (in the Masoretic text, this takes place 292 years later).

If one divides the Septuagint dates by ten and five respectively, as suggested above, and count first from the creation of Adam to the birth of Seth, and then from the birth of Seth to the birth of Abraham, then Abraham would have been born 486.2 years after Adam was created, and adjusting the years in Abraham's life, Abraham would have died 573.7 years after Adam was created.

From Abraham To King Saul

Wikipedia summarizes efforts of Biblical scholars to develop a timeline of the Bible based upon the Biblical text that goes beyond the genealogies of Genesis.  The date discrepancies that appear between the Masoretic text and the Septuagint in the genealogies of Genesis are largely absent in the timelines that reckon from their respective dates of the Biblical flood.  The scholars have also attempted, in turn, to link this chronology to historically attested dates in the widely used modern AD/CE and BC/BCE system of historical dates.

This summary assigns a date of 1801 BCE to the death of Abraham, 1708 BCE to the sale of Biblical figure Joseph (son of Jacob) into slavery in Egypt, 1669 BCE to the arrival of Joseph in Egypt (at an age of 130), 1557 BCE to the birth of Moses, 1476 BCE to the Biblical Exodus, and 1436 BCE to the entry of the Jews into Caanan.

In the Biblical tradition, the genealogy from Abraham to Moses and Aaron involves eight generations (Issac is the son of Abraham, Joseph is the son of Issac, Jacob is the son of Joseph, Levi is the third son of Jacob, and Moses and Aaron are the great-grandsons of Levi).

Some of the ages in the period from the death of Abraham to the entry of the Jews into Caanan are also exaggerated by about a factor of two that would be similar of the adjustment necessary for Abraham's life to fit the realm of possibility.

Jacob has his youngest son Jacob at the age of 91 years in the Biblical account, moves to Egypt where his son has been appointed as an advisor to the Pharaoh at the age of 130 years, and dies at the age of 150 years, which would suggest that a factor of two adjustment would make sense for both the life of Jacob and the life of Abraham to fit the realm of possibility.

Joseph's life is a less obvious exaggeration.  He is sold into slavery at 17 years of age, becomes an advisor to the Pharaoh at 30 years of age a couple of years after his first prophecy while in jail, is joined by his father in Egypt at age 39, and dies at an age of 90 years.  Cutting those ages in half isn't necessary to fit his story to the realm of possibility, but dates half of the textual ones also aren't entirely implausible themselves in the context of an already extraordinary story.

Moses and his brother Aaron are 81 and 78 years old, respectively, at the time of the Exodus, and die after 39 years in the wilderness at ages 120 and 117 respectively.  Again, these dates are more plausible if reduced by a factor of two, although not quite completely out of the realm of possibility as stated.

The forty years of Exile, is a highly symbolic number in the Bible and could really mean any very long, multiple year period of time.

On balance, the time period of 540 years from the birth of Abraham to the entry of the Jews into Caanan according to the Biblical text (including 365 years after the death of Abraham) seems to be inflated at a fairly consistent factor of two.  Thus, the Jews entry into Caanan, with simple adjustments to make dates in three respective time periods more consistent with plausibility, would have taken place about 756 years after the creation of Adam.

The Biblical text based chronology from the entry of Jews into Caanan until the formation of the first Jewish Kingdom under King Saul, spans 357 years.  During this period, tribal confederation leaders like Joshua (who purportedly lives 110 years), and temporary, non-hereditary Judges** (about 17 or so of them over a period of about 125 years immediately preceding the formation of the first Jewish kingdom under King Saul) preside over the Jewish people in Caanan when they need united leadership.  At least some of these time periods are inflated to some extent, although it is not an easy matter to estimate by how much.

If the dates in this time period really did correspond to modern solar years, this time period considering the conversions above, the time period from the creation of Adam to the coronation of King Saul would span 1,113 years.  If discounted by a factor of two, that span of time would be about 935 years.

The early Jewish Kings and the First Temple

The second Jewish King, King David, begins his reign 38 years after King Saul in the Biblical account and himself reigns for 40 years, and King Solomon reigns in turn after King David for another 40 years.  By tradition, the foundation of the first Jewish temple was laid in the fourth year of Solomon's reign and 480 years after the Exodus.  Needless to say, the 40 year reigns of the respective Kings and 480 year time span since Exodus are questionable because the number of years in question are so symbolic.

In the Biblical account, at the end of Solomon's reign, a united Jewish kingdom in the Levant splits into a northern Jewish Kingdom called Israel and the Southern Jewish Kingdom called Judah.  This event is assigned a date by the Biblical scholars referenced in Wikipedia of 961 BCE.

Judah and Israel

The historical event which is used by Biblical scholars to tether textual dates in the Bible to attested secular history is the reign of the last king of Judah, Zedekiah, who ruled from 597 to 587 BCE (or possibly 586 BCE), whose reign ended with the destruction of the first Temple when he is defeated by the Babylonians.  Jewish exile in Babylonia begins then and ends in 538 BCE, the year after the historically attested King Cyrus of Persian conquered Babylon.

Meanwhile, in 719 BCE, the Northern Kingdom of Israel fell to the Kingdom of Assyria.

After the Babylonian exile ends, a Jewish state is reconstituted and a second Jewish temple is built, this state eventually comes under the control of the Roman Empire, and then the Roman Empire destroys the Second Jewish Temple in 70 CE at which point the Jewish diaspora begins as does the end of Temple Judaism.  At this point, Rabbinic Judaism and a short lived Messianic Judaism movement emerged to replace it.

Other Reference Points

Noah's Ark

The specifications for Noah's Ark are quite close to an exaggerated version of a ship that might have been crafted in North Semitic Phoenicians at Byblos in modern Lebanon, and is quite different from contemporaneous ships of Egyptian design.  Comparing that design to archaeological reference points for Phoenician ships might help to identify when that kind of ship building was done historically.

The Earliest Attested Semites.

The earliest attested Semitic language, Akkadian spoken and written, in modern day Iraq not later than 2500 BCE, predates the ethnogenesis of a Jewish people.  Significant parts of the Biblical creation story, the Tower of Babel story, the story of Noah's flood, and the story of the infancy of Moses show clear signs of borrowing from earlier Mesopotamian myths, either acquired in Babylonian exile or at some earlier point when the Semitic and Sumerian cultures came into contact with each other, such as through Akkadian Semites who may have been ancestral to the Jews before they became Jews.

Early Egyptian Reference Points

There is really no solid historical evidence for the Exodus story or anything that precedes it in the chronology of the Hebrew Bible.  Obvious, there was an Egyptian state led by Pharaohs from the Copper Age until well into the Roman era, with only brief interruptions, but that provides no real guidance connecting a Biblical narrative to historical dates.  This Egyptian state was actively engaged in trade with Semitic peoples of the Levant pretty much at least as far back as there is historically or archaeologically attested evidence that Semitic people existed as such.

There is also nothing in the account of the Jews in Egypt prior to entering Canaan in Genesis and Exodus that convincingly demonstrates any real knowledge regarding Bronze Age Egyptian society that wouldn't have been available through information exchanged incident to trade in the Levant itself during the Iron Age.  Generally speaking, Genesis and Exodus show more Mesopotamian and Levatine than Egyptian influences in mythological sources and worldview.

There was a period in the Bronze Age when Semitic Canaanite Hyskos rulers governed parts of Egypt from about 1800 BCE to 1550 BCE, and it appears from the context of the pre-Exodus account of Jews in Egypt is that any such period must have come before, rather than after, the Biblical narrative of the Jewish people in Egypt begins.

It is very tempting to associate the emergence of a movement of monotheistic or henotheistic Semites who would become the Jews with the reign of Pharaoh Akhenaten who reigned from seventeen years from 1352 BCE to 1335 BCE, plus or minus a year, and who tried to replace traditional Egyptian polytheism with the worship of the god Aten on that kind of basis, a decision disavowed by his successor and son, King Tut.  But, there is nothing solid historically or archaeologically that establishes this connection.

It is likewise tempting, if one adopts this theory, to associate the Exodus with the climate events that may have given rise to Bronze Age collapse (ca. 1250 BCE to 1150 BCE), a couple of hundred years later, rather than earlier Bronze Age Egyptian natural disasters also analogized to the plagues of Exodus.

The Cult of Baal and Asarte

The cults of Baal and Asarte are attested in the Bible and the Bible's text implies that the cult of Baal in particular was apparently the original religion of the Semitic people who subsequently became the Jewish people.

These cults are well attested historically into the Roman era across North Africa, the Levant and Anatolia.  Baal is a word that is Northwest Semitic in origin and has a core meaning as a title equivalent to "Lord" or "Master."  The cult is historically attested in Ugarit, a minor North Levantine city-state on the modern Syrian coast that was a prize sought by both the Egyptians and the Hittite empire, that flourished from 1450 BCE to 1200 BCE.

Consistent with linguistic position of the Hebrew language, these religious roots also help to identify the early Jews a Northwest Semitic, as opposed, for example, to the South Semitic people of Southern Arabia who were the source of the Ethio-Semitic languages of Ethiopia ca. 2000 BCE to 1000 BCE.

The Biblical references to Asarte describe this cult as intrusive and foreign in the vicinity of the Kingdom of Judah in modern day Southern Israel.  This is consistent with evidence showing centers of Asarte worship in the Phoenician city states of Sidon, Tyre, and Byblos, in Phoenician colonies in Spain and Carthage, in Sicily, and on cities in Mediterranean islands such as Cyprus and Malta.

There is archaeological evidence that the worship of Asarte in Egypt began in the 18th Dynasty (1550 BCE to 1292 BCE) and persisted there into at least the 6th century BCE (although an earlier arrival with the Hyskos rulers of Egypt who immediately preceded the 18th Dynasty would make more sense).

The Baal and Asarte cult persisted until at least the 5th century BCE in Carthage on the North African coast (in the vicinity of modern Tunisia).

Josephus (Antiquities 8.13.1), writing in the first century CE, attests to a temple to Baal of Tyre reputedly built by the Biblically attested Israeli King's consort Jezebel.

The Philistines

The arrival of Mycenean Greeks during the Bronze Age collapse ca. 1175 BCE who then settled in the Southern Levant including Gaza, after they were defeated decisively by Pharaoh Ramses III, and became known as the Philistines (aka the Peleset) is historically attested in Egyptian accounts and is corroborated with archaeological evidence.  Their presence was subject to Egyptian rule until 1150 BCE.

Any Biblical account involving the Philistines living free from Egyptian rule cannot be consistent with history if it took place prior to 1150 BCE.  The Biblical accounts could include anachronistic references, of course, it was compiled into a coherent whole from oral histories and fragmentary earlier written records around the time of the Babylonian exile, possibly in an effort to comply with demands from their new rulers that they explain themselves.  But, to the extent that the Bible can fairly be viewed as "legendary history", the contacts of the Jews and the Philistines may provide a historical reference point that can calibrate other parts of the story.

Biblical accounts claim that Abraham had dealings with a Philistine King Abimelech (Genesis 21), and that the Philistines existed even though they did not encounter the exiled Jews, at the time of their exodus from Egypt (Exodus 13:17).  In a purely textualist chronology, Abraham dies around 1801 BCE and the Exodus begins around 1476 BCE.  If indeed Abraham did have dealings with a Philistine King, however, he would have had to have lived about six hundred years later than the Biblical chronology date.  The coincidence of the name of the Philistine King with whom Abraham dealt and the unjust proto-king of the Jews whose oppression and unpopularity is recounted in Chapter 9 of the Book of Judges, provides one plausible reason why such an anachronistic reference might have been inserted into that story in Genesis, although the name's meaning which might be best translated in an ideomatic manner as "heir to the throne" is fairly generic.

The Philistines were among the territories that the Jews had not yet conquered at the time of the death of Joshua (Joshua 13:1-3), a Biblical book that was probably actually written around the 7th to 6th centuries BCE.  Biblical chronologies place Joshua's death at the age of 110 at 1245 BCE (or earlier, as he is described as one of the spies sent by Moses to Canaan, implying that he was at least an adolescent prior to the death of Moses in the last year of the Exodus).  But, if the references to the Philistines in Chapter 13 of his book of the Bible are not an anachronism, then this date is at least two centuries too early, and the Biblical narrative of the Jews in the Levant must come after that date.  On the other hand:
Almost all scholars agree that the book of Joshua holds little historical value for early Israel and most likely reflects a much later period. Rather than being written as history, the Deuteronomistic history – Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Samuel and Kings – was intended to illustrate a theological scheme in which Israel and her leaders are judged by their obedience to the teachings and laws (the covenant) set down in the book of Deuteronomy. . . . The earliest parts of the book [of Joshua] are possibly chapters 2–11, the story of the conquest; these chapters were later incorporated into an early form of Joshua written late in the reign of king Josiah (reigned 640–609 BCE), but the book was not completed until after the fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonians in 586, and possibly not until after the return from the Babylonian exile in 539.
The absence of any reference to the Philistines in the Book of Joshua, Chapters 2-11, which are the earliest drafted portions of the text, in the context of events that would very likely have brought the early Jews in contact with them if they were present in Canaan at the time, suggest that the references in Joshua 13:1-3 are very likely anachronistic editorial additions made in or after Babylonian exile, about seven to nine centuries after the events recounted.

The Book of Judges covers period of Deuteronomistic history between Joshua, recounting the initial conquest of Canaan by the Jews, and Samuel which recounts the earliest kings of a united Jewish state with boundaries roughly comparable to modern Israel, and in particular their sporadic wars with neighboring tribes.  Only one of the six main narratives of the Book of Judges which are not arranged chronologically, the story of Samson (Judges Chapters 13-16), involves conflict with the Philistines.  A crude and small clay seal described in the media in 2012, depicting a man combating a lion as Samson is described as doing from the 12th century BCE in the vicinity of where the Book of Judges says that Samson was born supports the notion that a Samson myth, either the Biblical one or a preexisting pagan myth, probably existed in the region at about the time that the Philistines first appeared on the historical scene in the Southern Levant.  But, some view the story of Samson as a likely appropriation of a preexisting pagan demi-god into a Biblical framework.  In order for the timing of the Samson story to be squared with historical evidence regarding the Philistines, it would have to be the last of the stories in Judge's chronologically, just as it is the last of the six accounts in the main text between the prologue and epilogue of the Book of Judges.

For Biblical literalists, of course, these are huge problems, although an apologist might argue that the references in Genesis, Exodus and Joshua are actually to the peoples who lived in the area subsequently inhabited by the Philistines, rather than actually being to the Philistines themselves.  This is particularly easy in the case of Exodus 13:17 and Joshua 13:1-3 both of which involve instances of the Jews not actually interacting with the Philistines.  The problem is more severe in the case of Genesis 21 which involves a more fleshed out actual encounter between Abraham and a Philistine King at a point in time that necessarily must come very early in the Biblical chronology.  An apologist has little choice but to argue that the Philistine King that Abraham dealt with actually led a different society than the one that the early Jewish kings encountered, for example, on the theory that the Philistines simply appropriated the ethnonym of their geographic predecessors.

But, for those looking at the books of the Bible merely as a legendary history of the Jews, composed long after the events recounted by people other than the traditionally ascribed authors, the doubtful nature of the three references to the Philistines prior to the initial Jewish entry into Canaan and conquest of much of that territory recounted in the Books of Genesis, Exodus and Joshua make it hard to definitively use those sources to place the arrival of Jews in the Levant at a date after 1150 BCE and potentially well after that date.

Five major battles with the Philistines are recounted in the Biblical book 1 Samuel, including a battle involving David and Goliath before David becomes the second king of the united Jewish Kingdom, and a battle causing the death of King Saul, the first king of the united Jewish kingdom.  Arguably, the Philistines do not become the full fledged arch-enemies of the Jewish state until this state is united in a kingdom at a textually inferred dates that are indeed a century or more after the Philistines arrive on the historical scene in the region.  From here on in the Biblical narrative, there is no problem reconciling the arrival of the Philistines in the Levant with the Biblical chronology, which makes sense: the closer in time one is to the time at which a purportedly historical account is reduced to writing, the more likely it is, all other things being equal, that it will be accurate, if for no other reason than that if you get the dates wrong that someone will detect your error.

Soloman's mines

Another potential reference point is to Biblical references to Solomon's mines which purportedly supplied Bronze for the construction of the First Temple.  There is an archaeological copper mining site in Southern Jordan dating back to the 10th century BCE, that is potentially consistent with such a large scale operation, although in the absence of tin it could have produced only copper and not bronze.  This is generally consistent with a date for the reign of King Solomon determined from the Biblical text.

The Queen of Sheeba

There are historical kingdoms in Southern Arabia and adjacent areas of Ethiopia that had Queens as rulers in approximately the right historical era, one or more of whom could correspond to the Biblical figure of the Queen of Sheeba.  This Kingdom may have been the one that brought the Ethio-Semitic languages to Ethiopia from Southern Arabia, or an immediate successor to the one that did.

End Notes

* I use the term "Jewish God" because while the Hebrew Bible makes it unequivocally clear that the Jewish god YVHW is the most powerful and supreme god, in many instances it is not at all clear whether the text takes the position that other gods simply do not exist and are delusions of the people who follow them, or are merely gods who are secondary to and inferior to YVHW.  The theological term for this is henotheistic.  Anyway, there is a good argument to be made that strict monotheist beliefs in which only one God actually exists, as opposed to being the particular god among many who is supreme and paramount, is a later theological gloss, possibly inspired by Platonic philosophical concepts, that may not necessarily have been shared by many of the authors or co-authors of many of the books of the Hebrew Bible.

** Mostly wartime military positions appointed by tribal leaders that were more analogous to George Washington's position as commander in chief for the colonial states united in their revolution from 1776 until 1789 CE when the modern U.S. Constitution was adopted, with a very limited judicial rule incident to what amounts to martial law during times of war.


Maju said...

I must admit I'm a bit perplex on reading at your blog about ancient Jews' origins and history. Not your usual fields of interest, right?

However I was also pondering about discussing at my blog (but never really got to it) on the interesting hypothesis of Moses being actually an exiled Amenmesses, i.e. Amun-Moses (son of Amun), whose stories seem oddly similar in many aspects and whose mummy was not found in his tomb. You can read about him in Wikipedia and you can google for other sources with apparent support for this story, including one which claims that the 12 tribes began as Asian miner slave camps of Egypt in the Negev, to whom Amenmesses (Moses) offered freedom in exchange for joining his cause as competing pharaoh.

Also I found curious similitudes in the cult of Amun and that of Judaism, but even more so with Christianism (replace Khonsu by Jesus and don't forget to say "amen", a non-Hebrew word believed by some to mean Amun in fact). It'd seem that Amenmesses (Moses) would have been sensible to whatever beliefs his loyal Semitic minions might have by concealing the name of his god and fusioning mythologies (although Aaron, Moses Semitic "brother", seems to have played a key role in the forging of this strange henotheistic synchretism). I wonder why you don't name Aaron in the list of key Ancient Jews, really, if nothing else, he'll always be the first in all alphabetical listings (this is a joke of course: he was no doubt very important in the genesis of Judaism, almost at the level of Moses, who wouldn't have been able to do much without his interested help).

andrew said...

I have a very comprehensive knowledge of religious subjects due to a religious upbringing and a history minor in college that focused a lot on the history of Western European Christianity, as well as due to explorations over many years connected with become an atheist gradually at a fairly late age. I just don't use it very often. The series of conceptual leaps that led to the latest posts are too obscure and random to bear mentioning.

I've read a couple of fictional novels and read a few shorter non-fiction works on the possible links of the cult of Amun and Judaism (good anthropology fiction is fun to read but hard to come by), so I'm familiar with some of the theories.

Your observations may spur me to take another look at some of it. It is a very compelling connection to make, but there is just so little evidence to back it up or rule out possibilities. Another big question, if the link is valid, is precisely how these particular Semites in Egypt arrived and why they ended up in the state that they were in.

Christian origins are even more tricky. They were undoubtedly a lot of synchretism involved. Lots of the borrowings from Judaism are more direct at the level of Jewish liturgical material than they are at the level of the Hebrew Bible. Stir in several different Roman cults, Zoroastrian ideas (probably through Judaism and acquired during Babylonian exile), Neo-Platonic philosophy (probably through St. Paul and his gentile disciples), Messianic Jewish ideas, and a lot of special sauce from St. Paul and to a lesser extent from the Book of Enoch and the author of Revelations.

A likely source of Egyptian influences would have been via the Dead Sea Scroll Essenes, some located in Egypt, who were particularly influential Jewish contributors to the Jewish Jesus movement before it really became Christian (a position I would normally assign primarily to the branch of the faith derived from St. Paul).

Re: Aaron. He just didn't have the quality of the PR guy that Moses did.

Maju said...

I have only considered the issue a couple of days, so my information is limited. However I was already persuaded that Moses must be shortening of some X-moses (or -meses), so typical of Egyptian names, in which X is a god's name (Rameses, for example), what fits well with his biblical narrative. So when I discovered the Amenmeses connection I found it most interesting.

"... how these particular Semites in Egypt arrived and why they ended up in the state that they were in".

The proto-history of Hebrews might well begin with the Hyksos, almost certainly Semitic invaders, who ruled much of Egypt around 1500 BCE. That means that many Asians were established in Lower Egypt, as well as surely in the Eastern Desert, near the Red Sea) since those dates. After that, Egypt worked hard to control the Levant, and often achieved it. Wars produce slaves but also other kind of more well-off new subjects, who help the conquerors, so possibly there were some Semites in all kind of positions within the Egyptian state, much as there were Nubians, even if Egyptians proper would be the backbone of it.

I don't see the mystery, much less if the alleged 12 mining camps can be confirmed. This source also proposed that Mt. Horeb is not Sinai (a Christian tradition only) but a mountain in the Eliat range, precisely where the miners lived and worked - and not strictly in Egypt. Maybe the Hebrews never crossed the Red (or Reed) Sea, or maybe only some of them (as troops of Amenmesse). The issue of the plagues seems rather related to the dynastic conflicts between Amenmesse and his rival, and possibly brother, Seti II, and is clearly very distorted.

I guess that initially Amenmesse only used the Semitic tribes (or miners or whatever) as allies in his struggle for the throne, which is obscure and complex, but later, upon defeat, he had to assume the exile with them, what resulted in some critical changes to the version that arrived to us with the Bible: oriented to the Semitic society and the new sect-people that rose as result of this defeat and exile. A dynastical defeat became then a story of slave emancipation.

Alternatively maybe Moses was some other high ranking officer, of course, but he seems neatly Egyptian in any case... before the exile. And then he becomes something else: the founder of a new Semitic people-cult that wanders in the desert - but later conquers Canaan for themselves. This story was later replicated in many aspects by Mohamed and John Smith, prophet of the Mormons, so we can easily get an idea of how it happened.


Maju said...


But in any case, not only the Semites (I'm reluctant to call them Hebrews before Moses) arrived to Egypt (either as conquerors or as servants) but also Egypt arrived to the Western Semites with the 18th Dynasty first (reaction to the Hyksos' invasion) and later again with the 19th Dynasty (competing with the Hittite Empire in that area). So the interaction was very much real in that period because often much of the Levant was part of Egypt and often Semitic tribes arrived to the edges of the Nile as well.

As for the Christian mythology, it's clear that there is synchretism involved. But the Egyptian influence is also found in the Genesis, whose creation account is almost identical to the Egyptian one attributed to Ptah. So it's not just a Christian thing and, actually it seems more difficult to attribute influence to Egypt when it had ceased to exist as independent state altogether and its best known religious export was Isianism, not Amunism. So I wonder why would the Christian myth adopt not just so many Egyptian themes but specifically those of Amun and Khonsu? Of course it may just be a coincidence... but it could also be that some of the Egyptian roots of Judaism remained alive among some sects. Only a millennium had passed anyhow and we still remember the Viking myths for example, even if they are obviously not mainstream right now (or gnosticism or whatever: all those things that survive with modifications at the edges of mainstream beliefs but have ancient foundations anyhow).

"A likely source of Egyptian influences would have been via the Dead Sea Scroll Essenes"...


"Aaron. He just didn't have the quality of the PR guy that Moses did".

Moses would have achieved nothing without him. It's quite obvious that he was the real boss (always in connivance with Moses, who might have more prestige, maybe because of his pharaoh-cum-supreme-priest origins): the one who held the real control over the unruly tribes with iron hand. I really think he deserves to be in the list, much like Joshua.

andrew said...

A new study claims to have found 6 clay seals from the 10th century BC which could correspond to Solomon and David.

Maju said...

Israelite or Philistine? The area is an historical borderland and nothing in the text clarifies the provenance of the seals, just that they imply political activity of some sort.