When attempting to glean historical information from the biblical text we should employ the utmost caution. As Kofoed explains,
All sources, primary/secondary and firsthand/secondhand, need to be checked for ideological, propagandistic, religious, or other biases before the encoded historical information can be used for historiographical purposes.
In this post we’ll take a look at how the epigraphical and archaeological evidence related to a couple of tribes can help fill in the picture about just when the Israelites emerged in Canaan.Continue reading
If there’s one archaeological discovery that always comes up in discussions about early Israel it’s the Merneptah Stele. In this post we’re going to take a look at what it is, and what it tells us (and doesn’t tell us) about Israelite origins.Continue reading
In the preceding posts in this series we’ve seen how the scriptures do not speak in one voice when it comes to figuring out exactly where the Israelites came from.
- Instead of there being a single “biblical” date for the conquest we’ve seen that several can be derived from the text.
- Instead of the Israelites running the show in Canaan as we’d expect from the first half of the book of Joshua, we’ve seen that Egypt, for 250-300 years starting from around 1450 BCE, completely dominated the area (and that precisely nothing is said about this in the books of Joshua or Judges).
- And, instead of finding archaeological evidence of sweeping destruction throughout Canaan at a time that lines up with either the Early or Late Date Exodus and Conquest, we find little evidence of systematic destruction, or of cultural change. In some cases we even find that cities said to have been defeated by Joshua didn’t even exist at the time.
It’s felt like a whole load of deconstruction – the rosy picture painted in Sunday School has all but shattered.
From now on in the series we’re going to see what can be salvaged. What can we know about Israelite origins? In this post we’re going to look at the data for the archaeological phenomenon known as the “Israelite Settlement”, but but we’re going to start one stage before that – the Late Bronze Age population decline.Continue reading
This self-indulgent post is about how I managed to locate and visit one of the most obscure and off-the-beaten-track locations in the West Bank related to early Israelite religion. You’ve probably got better things to do with your time than read through it, but you know… /shrug.Continue reading
At around 1200 BCE, during what is now seen as the transition from the Late Bronze Age to the Iron Age, the eastern Mediterranean world suffered mass societal collapse. In his excellent 1177 B.C. The Year Civilization Collapsed Eric Cline sums up just how serious the chaos was:
The magnitude of the catastrophe was enormous; it was a loss such as the world would not see again until the Roman Empire collapsed more than fifteen hundred years later.
Far from being a few squabbles between some knuckle-dragging savages on the edge of some desert somewhere, the Late Bronze Age collapse resulted in the disintegration of international trade, the end of dynasties, and an entirely new world order prompted by mass migration.Continue reading
“…the people who live in the land are strong, and the towns are fortified and very large; and besides, we saw the descendants of Anak there. The Amalekites live in the land of the Negeb; the Hittites, the Jebusites, and the Amorites live in the hill country; and the Canaanites live by the sea, and along the Jordan.”Nu 13:28–29 (NRSV)
Such was the report of the 12 tribal representatives sent by Moses to spy out the promised land. Based on this passage we may imagine that Canaan was a land of strong, well defended city states.Continue reading
Up to now in this series we’ve been slaughtering some sacred cows: claims of biblical dates for the Exodus and subsequent conquest of Canaan, claims that the scriptural narrative of the Israelite conquest matches the archaeological record, and claims that the bible gives us a coherent narrative on where the Israelite people came from.
Scripturally speaking, we’re left with practically nothing. So, we’re going to look at the archaeological record (well, at least what scholars tell us about it) and see what we can work out from there. Continue reading
Just before we get into the historical background of the relevant time period for investigating Israelite origins in Canaan we have one side issue to deal with – the “Late Date” Exodus. The date of the Exodus is intimately connected to the emergence of the Israelites in Canaan when looking at the topic as a Christian because the Israelites, according to a selective and face-value reading of the narratives, arrived in Canaan forty years after they left Egypt. If that’s what happened then we’ve got our Israelite origins sorted, and we can stop this series right now. Continue reading
As we saw in the last post, the narrative found in Joshua that explains how the Israelites came to be in Canaan does not stack up with the archaeological evidence; in fact, it’s completely contradicted by it. The glorious conquest of Canaan and complete annihilation of its indigenous people described in Joshua 10-11 quite plainly did not happen – this is a bit difficult for those who work on the assumption that a plain reading of the biblical text provides reliable historical information. However, if your faith requires scripture to be “true” (read, “historically accurate”) then this discrepancy between the conquest narratives and the archaeological evidence pales into insignificance when it’s pointed out that scripture lacks internally consistency in its narratives of Israelite origins. Continue reading