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 Post subject: Historical Validity of the Biblical Exodus
PostPosted: 23 Feb 2009 11:13 
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Sergeant Major of the USMC
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Location: Wandering the Wastes
Call me a glutton for punishment, a fool or what have you, but I like to go against what is usually accepted by the sheep, err, I mean society with its regards to history and its meanings. Call me a rebel if you will, but I prefer the name of independent thinker.

After doing some research for a book of mine I came across a novel hypothesis about the validity of the Exodus of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. I call it novel because it uses, gasp, archeology as the basis for the statement that the Exodus may be a real event that happened, but not when most folks think, including the Jews themselves.

Like I said novel, because it pisses everybody off, Biblical scholars because it says the Bible is wrong in its dating, and the athiests because it says, hey the Bible MAY BE a work that accurately depicts events from the past.


The Exodus from Egypt was not only the seminal event in the history of the Israelites, but was an unprecedented and unequaled catastrophe for Egypt. In the course of Pharaoh's stubborn refusal to let them leave and the resultant plagues sent by God, Egypt was devastated. Hail, disease and infestations obliterated Egypt's produce and livestock, while the plague of the first born stripped the land of its elite, leaving inexperienced second sons to cope with the economic disaster. The drowning of the Egyptian armed forces in the Red Sea left Egypt open and vulnerable to foreign invasions.

From the days of Flavius Josephus (c.70 AD) until the present, historians have tried to find some trace of this event in the ancient records of Egypt. They have had little luck.

According to biblical chronology, the Exodus took place in the 890th year before the destruction of the Temple by the Babylonians in 421 BC. Thus it was dated to 1310 BC. In this year, the greatest warlord Egypt ever knew, Tuthmosis III, deposed his aunt Hatshepsut and embarked on a series of conquests, extending the Egyptian sphere of influence and tribute over Israel and Syria and crossing the Euphrates into Mesopotamia itself. While it is interesting that this date actually saw the death of an Egyptian ruler - and there have been those who tried to identify Queen Hatshepsut as the Pharaoh of the Exodus - the power and prosperity of Egypt at this time is hard to square with the biblical account of the Exodus.

Some historians have been attracted by the name of the store-city Raamses built by the Israelites before the Exodus. They have drawn connections to the best known Pharaoh of that name, Raameses II, or Ramses the Great, and set the Exodus around his time, roughly 1134 BC. In order to do this, they had to reduce the time between the Exodus and the destruction of the Temple by 180 years, which they did by reinterpreting the 480 years between the Exodus and the building of the Temple (I Kings 6:1) as twelve generations of forty years. By 'correcting' the Bible and setting a generation equal to twenty five years, these imaginary twelve generations become 300 years.

Aside from the fact that such 'adjustments' of the biblical text imply that the Bible cannot be trusted, in which case there is no reason to accept that there ever was an Exodus, Ramses II was a conqueror second only to Tuthmosis III. And as in the case of Tuthmosis III, the Egyptian records make it clear that nothing even remotely resembling the Exodus happened anywhere near his time of history.

We appear to be at a standstill. The only options are to relegate the Exodus to the status of myth, or to conclude that there is something seriously wrong with the generally accepted dates for Biblical history.

Both Tuthmosis III and Rameses II date to a period called the Late Bronze Age, which ended with the onset of the Iron Age. Since the Iron Age has been thought to be the time when Israel first arrived in Canaan, the Late Bronze Age has been called 'The Canaanite Period,' and historians have limited their search for the Exodus to this time. When we break free of this artificial restraint, the picture changes drastically.

Before the account of the Exodus itself, the Bible tells of the enslavement of the Israelites and the first 80 years of the life of Moses. One remarkable feature of this story is apparent from the following sequence of events:

1. A new king comes to power in Egypt who 'did not know Joseph.' (Exodus 1:8 )
2. This king orders the death of all newborn Hebrew boys. (Exodus 1:22)
3. Moses is born into this regime. (Exodus 2:2)
4. Moses is adopted by the Pharaoh's daughter. (Exodus 2:5)
5. Moses grows up, murders an Egyptian, and flees the country. (Exodus 2:12,15)
6. Moses marries Zipporah and they have a son. (Exodus 2:12,15)
7. Eventually, 'in the course of those many days', the king of Egypt dies. (Exodus 2:23)
8. God meets Moses and sends him to the new Pharaoh. (Exodus 3,4)
9. Moses is 80 years old when he stands before the new Pharaoh. (Exodus 7:7)

The Bible indicates that the same Pharaoh whose daughter adopted three-month-old Moses died when Moses was nearly 80 years old. This Pharaoh must have reigned for a very long time.

According to the midrash, the Pharaoh of the Exodus was named Adikam. He had a short reign of four years before drowning in the Red Sea. The Pharaoh who preceded him, whose death prompted Moses' return to Egypt (Exodus 2:23, 4:19), was named Malul. Malul, we are told, reigned from the age of six to the age of one hundred. Such a long reign - ninety four years - sounds fantastic, and many people would hesitate to take this midrash literally.

As it happens, though, Egyptian records mention a Pharaoh who reigned for ninety four years. And not only ninety four years, but from the age of six to the age of one hundred. This Pharaoh was known in inscriptions as Pepi (or Phiops) II. The information regarding his reign is known both from the Egyptian historian-priest Manethos, writing in the 3rd century BC, and from an ancient Egyptian papyrus called the Turin Royal Canon, which was only discovered in the last century.

Egyptologists, unaware of the midrash, have wrestled with the historicity of Pepi II's long reign. One historian wrote:

"Pepi II... appears to have had the longest reign in Egyptian history and perhaps in all history." The Turin Royal Canon credits him with upwards of ninety years. One version of the Epitome of Manethos indicates that he "began to rule at the age of six and continued to a hundred." Although modern scholars have questioned this, it remains to be disproved.

While the existence of a two kings who reigned
1. ninety four years
2. in Egypt, and
3. from the age of six
is hard enough to swallow as a coincidence, that is not all. Like Malul, Pepi II was the second to last king of his dynasty. Like Malul, his successor had a short reign of three or four years, after which Egypt fell apart. Pepi II's dynasty was called the 6th Dynasty, and was the last dynasty of the Old Kingdom in Egypt.

Following his successor's death, Egypt collapsed, both economically and under foreign invasion. Egypt, which had been so powerful and wealthy only decades before, suddenly could not defend itself against tribes of invading bedouin. No one knows what happened. Some historians have suggested that the long reign of Pepi II resulted in stagnation, and that when he died, it was like pulling the support out from under a rickety building. But there is no evidence to support such a conclusion.

A papyrus dating from the end of the Old Kingdom was found in the early 19th century in Egypt. It seems to be an eyewitness account of the events preceding the dissolution of the Old Kingdom. Its author, an Egyptian named Ipuwer, writes:

Plague is throughout the land. Blood is everywhere.
The river is blood.
That is our water! That is our happiness! What shall we do in respect thereof? All is ruin!
Trees are destroyed.
No fruit or herbs are found...
Forsooth, gates, columns and walls are consumed by fire.
Forsooth, grain has perished on every side.
The land is not light [dark].

Some Biblical scholars recognized this as an eyewitness account of the ten plagues. Since modern men are not supposed to believe in such things, it has been interpreted figuratively by most historians. The destruction of crops and livestock means an economic depression. The river being blood indicates a breakdown of law and order and a proliferation of violent crime. The lack of light stands for the lack of enlightened leadership. Of course, that's not what it says, but it is more palatable than the alternative, which is that the phenomena described by Ipuwer were literally true.

When the Bible tells us that Egypt would never be the same after the Exodus, it was no exaggeration. With invasions from all directions, virtually all subsequent kings of Egypt were of Ethiopian, Libyan or Asiatic descent. When Chazal says that King Solomon was able to marry Pharaoh's daughter despite the ban on marrying Egyptian converts until they have been Jewish for three generations because she was not of the original Egyptian nation, there is no reason to be surprised.


In the Wake of the Exodus

It was not only Egypt which felt the birth pangs of the nation of Israel. The end of the Old Kingdom in Egypt preceded only slightly the end of the Early Bronze age in the Land of Israel. The end of this period, dated by archeologists to c.2200 BC, has long puzzled archeologists. The people living in the Land of Israel during Early Bronze were the first urban dwellers there. They were, by all available evidence, primitive, illiterate and brutal. They built large but crude fortress cities and were constantly at war. At the end of the Early Bronze Age, they were obliterated.

Dr. Aardsma's chronology places the Exodus 2447+/-12 BC. The difference of 247 years between these two dates is close enough for such ancient times to regard the dates as the same. Uncertainties of a few hundred years in historical/archaeological chronologies are normal at such early periods in the history of civilization.

Nicholas Grimal notes that "The chronological span of the First Intermediate Period [which must be known to date events in the Old Kingdom accurately] is also a problem." Haas et al. have suggested, based on an extensive suite of radiocarbon dates (totally independent of Dr. Aardsma's work), that the First Intermediate Period should be lengthened by about 260 years. This would push the secular date for the end of the Old Kingdom back to around 2460 B.C., indistinguishable from Dr. Aardsma's Biblical date of 2447+/-12 B.C. for the Exodus. Pottery analysis in the Sinai Peninsula by E. D. Oren and Y. Yekuteli is also supportive of this adjustment.

But the question remains, who destroyed Early Bronze Age Canaan? Some early archeologists, before the vast amount of information we have today had been more than hinted at, suggested that they were Amorites. At the time, they thought, was more or less right for Abraham. So why not postulate a great disaster in Mesopotamia, which resulted in people migrating from there to Canaan? Abraham would have been thus one in a great crowd of immigrants (scholars of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries often felt compelled to debunk the idea of divine commands).

Today, the picture is different. The invaders of the Early Bronze/Middle Bronze Interchange seem to have appeared out of nowhere in the Sinai and the Negev. Initially, they moved up into the transjordan, and then crossed over north of the Dead Sea, conquering Canaan and wiping out the inhabitants. Of course, since we are dealing with cultural remnants and not written records, we don't know that the previous inhabitants were all killed. Some of them may have remained, but if so, they adopted enough of the newcomers' culture to 'disappear' from the archeological record.

Three archeologists have already gone on record identifying the invaders as the Israelites. In an article published in Biblical Archeology Review in 1983, Israeli archeologist Rudolph Cohen demonstrated that the two invasions match in every detail. Faced with the problem that the two are separated in time by some eight centuries, Cohen backed down a bit:

"I do not necessarily mean to equate the MBI people with the Israelites, although an ethnic identification should not be automatically ruled out. But I am suggesting that at the very least the traditions incorporated into the Exodus account may have a very ancient inspiration reaching back to the MBI period."

The Italian archeologist Immanuel Anati has come to similar conclusions in 1986. He added other pieces of evidence, such as the fact that Ai, Arad and other cities destroyed by Israel in the invasion of Canaan were destroyed at the end of the Early Bronze Age, but remained uninhabited until the Iron Age. Since the Iron Age is when Israel supposedly invaded Canaan, we have been in the embarrassing position of having the Bible describe the destructions of these cities at the very time that they were being resettled for the first time in almost a millennium.

When the conquest is redated to the end of the Early Bronze Age, the Bible and physical evidence, archeology, are in harmony. Anati goes further than Cohen in that he claims the invaders really were the Israelites. How does he get around the eight hundred year gap? By inventing a 'missing book of the Bible' between Joshua and Judges that originally covered this period.

In 1990, Gerald E. Aardsma, Ph.D, proposed a major adjustment to traditional biblical chronology. He proposed that the '480' of 1 Kings 6:1 was originally '1,480' but the Hebrew letters corresponding to the 'one thousand' were lost at an early stage of copying.

The new biblical date for the Exodus then becomes ca. 2450 BC, and prior biblical events are similarly shifted to earlier times, by exactly 1000 years relative to traditional biblical chronology.

This change is radical, and at first unimaginable. However, as one begins to examine the archaeology at the new dates, the harmony between biblical and secular accounts is overwhelming. Egypt is struck by national disaster, effectively causing the collapse of the Old Kingdom at the end of the sixth dynasty. The trail of the Israelites in the desert at the time of the Exodus, and remains of their encampment dating to exactly this time period have been found. Both Jericho and Ai were destroyed ca. 2400 BC, with destruction layers accurately fitting the biblical descriptions. The evidence that Dr. Aardsma's proposal is correct has become overwhelming and continues to mount.

All three archeologists are in the unenviable position of having discovered truths which conflict with the accepted wisdom. So it would seem the only alternative would be to suggest a radical redating of the archeology of the Bible. And there is good reason to do this. It is not only the period of the Exodus and Conquest which suddenly match the evidence of ancient records and archeology when the dates of the Biblical events are brought down:

1. The Middle Bronze Age invaders, after some centuries of rural settlement, expanded almost overnight into an empire, stretching from the Nile to the Euphrates. This empire has been termed the 'Hyksos Empire,' after a group of nomads that invaded Egypt, despite the fact that there is no historical evidence for such an identification. History knows of one such empire. Archeology knows of one such empire. The same adjustment which restores the Exodus and Conquest to history does the same to the United Kingdom of David and Solomon.

2. The Kingdom fell, bringing the Middle Bronze Age to an end. Archeologists and Egyptologists are currently involved in a great debate over whether it was civil war or Egyptian invasions which destroyed the 'Hyksos' empire. The biblical accounts of the revolt of the ten northern tribes and the invasion of Shishak king of Egypt make the debate more weighty on the side of Egyptian invasion.

3. The period following the end of the Kingdom was one of much unrest, but saw tremendous literary achievements. Since this period, the Late Bronze Age, was the last period before the Iron Age, and since the Iron Age was believed to have been the Israelite Period, the Late Bronze Age was called the 'Canaanite Period'. Strangely, these Canaanites spoke and wrote in beautiful Biblical Hebrew. Semitic Canaanites? Did the Bible get it wrong again? But then, if they came after the time of David and Solomon, they wouldn't really be Canaanites. The speakers and writers of Biblical Hebrew would be, as might be surmised - Biblical Hebrews.

4. Finally we get to the Iron Age. This is when Israel supposedly arrived in Canaan. But it has been obvious to archeologists for over a century that the archeology of the Iron Age bears little resemblance to the biblical account of the conquest of Canaan. There were invasions, but they were from the north, from Syria and Mesopotamia, and they came in several waves, unlike the lightning conquest under Joshua. The people who settled the land after the invasions also came from the north, though there is much evidence to suggest that they weren't the invaders, and merely settled an empty land after it had been destroyed by others. The south remained in the hands of the Bronze Age inhabitants, albeit on a lower material level.

The conclusions drawn from this evidence could be devastating. The people in the south, who constituted the kingdom of Judah, from whence came the Jews, may have been determined to be of Canaanite descent. If not biologically, then culturally. And the people in the north, the other ten tribes of Israel, may have been determined to have been no relation to the tribes of the south. The idea of twelve tribes descended from the sons of Jacob may as well be removed from the history books and recatalogued under 'Mythology, Jewish'.

What is most strange is that multiple waves of invasion followed by northern tribes settling in the north of Israel is not an event which has gone unmentioned in the Bible. The invaders were the Assyrians. The settlers were the northern tribes who eventually became the Samaritans. And if the people in the south were descended from the Late Bronze Age inhabitants of the land, why, that merely means that the kingdom of Judah was a continuation of the kingdom of Judah. The only historical claims which are contradicted by the archeological record are those of the Samaritans, who claim to have been the descendants of the ten tribes of Israel.

A simple redating of the Biblical events brings the entire scope of biblical history into synchronization with the ancient historical record. Only time will tell whether more archeologists will follow Cohen, Aardsma and Anati in their slowly dawning recognition of the possible historicity of the Bible.

_________________
Benno the Mad Wrote:
man, you gotta realise that thor and bos fell out of the patriot tree (like the ugly tree, but instills patriotism instead of ugly) and hit every branch on the way down.


"Gone now, dispersed by the brutal destruction of this one day, was the belief that the Darkman and his army of the dead were so superior as to be invincible. By attempting to destroy the morale of the Marines, the Darkman had restored it to full vigor. Dia De La Muerto had failed in its objectives."
The Gunny: Stand of the 300

Si vis pacem, para bellum
If you want peace, prepare for war

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