Skip to main content

View Diary: Biblical Archaeology (208 comments)

Comment Preferences

  •  As well as no evidence of a great exodus of slaves (33+ / 0-)

    IIRC, there is no evidence, textual or otherwise, in the Egyptian records of an Egyptian army, with or without the Pharaoh, being destroyed while in pursuit of a large group of escaping slaves, and you might think they would have noticed that...
         I would also expect someone might have noticed the plagues. The death of every first-born Egyptian child was probably worth writing down.

    -7.25, -6.26

    We are men of action; lies do not become us.

    by ER Doc on Sun Mar 24, 2013 at 10:11:16 AM PDT

    [ Parent ]

    •  Egyptian Pharaoh's wouldn't (13+ / 0-)

      advertise getting their butts kicked by Hebrew slaves who claimed a different God too.

      Text was special back then. Used for glorifying the Pharaoh.

      snark-didn't you see the movie "The Ten Commandments"?

      Brought To You By That Crazed Sociologist/Media Fanatic rebel ga Be The Change You Want To See In The World! Gandhi

      by rebel ga on Sun Mar 24, 2013 at 11:03:07 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  true, but NOBODY talked about the Hebrews (18+ / 0-)

        There's little archaeological or historical evidence of any kind for the biblical Kingdom of Israel, especially considering how rich and powerful the Bible says it was under David and Solomon.  Even if pharaohs didn't celebrate defeats, the record is equally empty of victories.  And it's not just the Egyptians who are silent on dealings with ancient Israel; we have piles of clay tablets written by the Babylonians and the Assyrians, not all of which are fulsome praise of some king or another, and none of which even tangentially mention Israel.

        Ancient Egypt's New Kingdom also ruled the Levant (including what is now Israel) from the 16th to the 11th Centuries BC: i.e. during the entire period that the Old Testament is supposed to have taken place.  Any ancient Jewish state would have to have formed either afterward as Egypt declined and lost control of that region, or hundreds of years before when the world had not yet been created!

        The stuff actually dug out of the ground between the Jordan and the Mediterranean suggests that the Jews started out as indigenous Canaanites who gradually developed distinct beliefs and practices.  

        •  Further... (8+ / 0-)

          Any significant Hebrew kingdom--David is historically attested outside of the Bible, as is Ahab, but importantly, Solomon is not--any significant Hebrew kingdom would have existed in the duration between the Levant's domination by  the Egyptians and the Babylonians.  During the interregnum between foreign overlords, so to speak.

        •  First Egyptian mention of Israel found so far (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          rktect, samddobermann

          is the Merneptah Stele (wiki):
          http://en.wikipedia.org/...

          Israel is laid waste and his seed is not

          3,200 years ago.

          •  That isn't a reference to Israel (3+ / 0-)

            Wikipedia is wrong.  From your link

            The stele was discovered in 1896 by Flinders Petrie in the ancient Egyptian capital of Thebes. Petrie called upon Wilhelm Spiegelberg, a German philologist in his archaeological team, to translate the inscription. Spiegelberg was puzzled by one symbol towards the end, that of a people or tribe whom Merneptah (also written Merenptah) had victoriously smitten--"I.si.ri.ar?" Petrie quickly suggested that it read: "Israel!" Spiegelberg agreed that this translation must be correct. "Won't the reverends be pleased?" remarked Petrie. At dinner that evening, Petrie who realized the importance of the find said: "This stele will be better known in the world than anything else I have found." The news of its discovery made headlines when it reached the English papers.[1]
            This is from John Roemer.

            "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'.  "

            [Note the difference in spelling, and even that is not quite right;
            its wnn-y s:y:r i*A not Isirir or ...

            The Stele actually talks about campaigns in northern Egypt against Libyan tribes and the last passage which supposedly refers to Syrian towns is simply very poorly translated with the y ending a word from the previous clause.

            Live Free or Die --- Investigate, Incarcerate

            by rktect on Mon Mar 25, 2013 at 04:16:55 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

        •  Actually there IS one stella (iirc) (0+ / 0-)

          that mentions the victory over the Israelites.

          True that "the Jews started out as indigenous Canaanites who gradually developed distinct beliefs and practices."

          I'm asking you to believe. Not in my ability to bring about real change in Washington ... *I'm asking you to believe in yours.* Barack Obama

          by samddobermann on Mon Mar 25, 2013 at 01:36:30 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  Suppose they weren't Hebrews (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Ojibwa

        The Sons of Israel didn't become Hebrew or Jewish for centuries after the Exodus but rather lived among the people of Canaan intermarrying and worshiping their gods.

        Live Free or Die --- Investigate, Incarcerate

        by rktect on Mon Mar 25, 2013 at 03:34:41 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Maybe (9+ / 0-)

      On the other hand, Alta California was invaded by massive army/colonizing forces from Mexico consisting of 60 people, 40 people, 120 people.

      Perhaps from the Egyptian point of view, a couple hundred escaping slaves was not a matter of national importance, nor would the turning back of the local constabulary when the Hebrews ran into a swamp to get away from their chariot mounted persuers.

      "The problems of incompetent, corrupt, corporatist government are incompetence, corruption and corporatism, not government." Jerome a Paris

      by Orinoco on Sun Mar 24, 2013 at 11:58:48 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Someone Would Have Noticed. (8+ / 0-)
        37 Now the sons of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand men on foot, aside from children. 38 A mixed multitude also went up with them, along with flocks and herds, a very large number of livestock.

        – Exodus 12:37-38

        So 600,000 men.  Say another 600,000 women and as many children, and you have nearly 2 million people marching out of Egypt with enough livestock to support them.

        I'm thinking someone would have noticed.

        ;o)

        •  Numbers weren't always literal (8+ / 0-)

          Biblical Hebrew does not have numerals; letters were used instead.  And numbers were sometimes poetical -- literalism is not the Jewish tradition, but something that grew out of control in 19th century christianity in a sort of reaction to industrialization.  The Hebrew Bible (Tanach) is largely poetry and should be read as such.

          The number "forty" is thus an expression for "many", as in "twice the number of fingers and toes".  So 600,000 may have been a literary device too.

          The History Channel and Universal Studios version also mistranslates "yam suf" as Red Sea.  The crossing was in the Sea of Reeds, a swamp.  You can imagine how some people got through on foot and an army with horses might have gotten stuck in the muck, especially once the tide rolled in.  Low tide is a "parting" in contrast.

          There has been a push among some supporters of the Palestinian cause to deny the very existence of the Jewish people, claiming that we're all descendants of the Khazars or something.  Israeli settlers make similarly preposterous claims that the Palestinians are foreigners.  A more likely explanation (backed by genetics) is that there were the two Kingdoms, Judea and Israel, and Israel (the northern kingdom) was conquered by Assyria.  Thus, its tribes were "lost".  But the actual people largely remained behind, subjugated and later intermarried with Assyrians.  They became the Samaritans, of whom about 360 still exist as such with their own religion.  But most of them eventually adopted Christianity or especially Islam, and are now called Palestinians and live on the West Bank.  So the Israelis are oppressing the descendants of conquered Jewish tribes.

          •  It's been suggested that "thousands" should be (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Ojibwa, Orinoco, samddobermann

            translated as "platoons" or some term for a military group.  This is supported by the sentence construction, which usually goes, "The tribe of --- had [so many] thousands/platoons and [some number in the hundreds] of people.  

            I like to think the text of Exodus wasn't complete fiction pulled out of thin air.  I could believe Moses was an Egyptian priest or prince who accepted the monotheistic religion that Pharaoh Akhenaten tried to impose on Egypt.  
             http://www.dailykos.com/...
             Moses may have fled Egypt when followers of the traditional polytheistic religion prevailed, rather than after he killed a taskmaster as it says in the Bible.  Later, he may have converted to monotheism a group of slaves, or perhaps when he became their leader they already had a similar monotheistic belief system.  

            Most of the plagues are consistent with some ecological disaster, perhaps beginning with the Nile turning red not from blood but from some freshwater version of red tide algae.  Maybe from his time in the desert Moses picked up some contacts who could give him early warning of some of those plagues.  A time of several ecological disasters would be a good opportunity to lead a group of slaves into escape, and the desert would be a good place to stay for a few years until the plagues had played out.  

            Even the subsequent narrative in the Bible, in which the Children of Israel enter Canaan could have to do with the aftermath of infectious disease plagues.  After conquering some of the native tribes, leaders such as Saul are punished for failing to follow divine instructions to kill all the people and even the livestock.  Perhaps some priest recognized signs of an infection among the conquered group, and recommended genocide as a way to protect the victors from the disease.  If Saul didn't follow that recommendation, the resultant epidemic and epizootic  could easily be seen as divine retribution.

            We're all pretty strange one way or another; some of us just hide it better. "Normal" is a dryer setting.

            by david78209 on Sun Mar 24, 2013 at 08:22:19 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  boy, I hope nothing too important is riding on the (6+ / 0-)

            literal truth of the Exodus story.  Forget about the Red Sea parting, or the fleeing Israelites being 2 million strong.   The evidence now is that

            --the Egyptians did not use slave labor at all in building the pyramids etc
            --the story of Moses itself has clear antecedents in older myths of the mideast
            --most importantly, the people of 'Israel' was in no sense differentiated yet from the Canaanites during the period (1600-1300) of the supposed Egyptian captivity.

            There's a ton of other stuff in the thread along these lines, which I won't rehash but just point you to.   Though the Palestine-descent-from-Israel idea is interesting and I'm not sure that's been mentioned.

            •  The pyramids are much older (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Ojibwa, Cassandra Waites, Orinoco

              Somehow people conflate the biblical era with the pyramid era, and assume that the Hebrew slaves were the ones who built the pyramids.  That's not in the Tanach and it's not in Jewish tradition.  The pyramids go back a lot farther in time.

              There are certainly parallels in the Moses story to other older stories.  That doesn't mean that there is nothing behind them, or that Jews are really the Venezuelan actors hired to push out the Palestinians.  There is reason to suggest that the little-known Hyksos who are said to have conquered Egypt at one time were really the Hebrews, and that when the Pharonic Egyptians (I'm not sure of the right ethnic term; they're probably the ancestors of the Copts) took back control a couple hundred years later, the Hebrews/Hyksos found themselves in deep doodoo.  Jewish religion did not yet exist (since it is based on the Laws of Moses), but early Hebrew monotheism did.

              There were a lot of tribes circulating around the Fertile Crescent in those days.  National boundaries in the modern sense didn't exist.  So "Hebrew", "Canaanite", and other neighboring peoples, especially pastoralists, had overlapping lands, and resorted to national/tribal traditions to maintain their identity and culture.  So the ancestors of today's Jews almost certainly did live in the CisJordan area, but so did others.  The extremist settler view ("ours alone") is wrong, but so is the extremist anti-Jewish view.

              •  They also used solid stone NOT brick (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Orinoco

                for the entire construction of the pyramids.

                There is no way slave labor that included producing bricks with or without straw could have been involved in the actual construction of the pyramids proper. The construction of the living areas near the building sites would have been a different story, but still not something anyone would have necessarily wanted to use slave labor for.

                Prayers and best wishes to those in Japan.

                by Cassandra Waites on Mon Mar 25, 2013 at 08:23:54 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

        •  And the fish I caught (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Ojibwa, ER Doc, samddobermann

          was thiiiiiiiiiiiiiii..................iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiis big!

          Some stories grow with the telling, and that one was probably told a lot before it was ever committed to writing. Say 60 men, and 60 women, and another 60 children, along with a couple herds of goats and some flocks of sheep.

          Really, the Spanish became the dominant culture in Alta California, a place roughly the same size as the fertile crescent in the middle east, on the strength of several hundreds of colonists, soldiers and priests. One of the largest early expeditions, which founded three missions, iirc, had a total of 120 men, women and children, and 40 mules. Around 24 of them were soldiers, there were a couple officers, four or five priests, some mule skinners, farmers and craftsmen and their wives. But the priests and officers kept written records and sent written reports back to their headquarters, so the numbers are known.  

          If two million people had marched out of Egypt and wandered around the Sinai Desert for forty years, we'd still be finding the skeletons, manna or no manna.

          "The problems of incompetent, corrupt, corporatist government are incompetence, corruption and corporatism, not government." Jerome a Paris

          by Orinoco on Sun Mar 24, 2013 at 09:26:15 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  The word elim means clan as well as thousand (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Ojibwa, Orinoco, samddobermann

          six hundred clans being somewhat different from six hundred thousand.

          Live Free or Die --- Investigate, Incarcerate

          by rktect on Mon Mar 25, 2013 at 04:18:20 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Interesting. (0+ / 0-)

            Since this was a great escape, rather than a migration, I wonder how many of those clans might have been represented by only one or two people?

            There was a tradition of obtaining slaves both through warfare, kidnapping and the like, also through selling community members in hard times. I imagine anyone enslaved by either of those methods would try to retain the memory of their clan affiliation, and pass that affiliation down to any children they might have while enslaved.

            Sensible slave overseers would undoubtedly try to break up large clan groups, as they discovered them, by moving people around to different construction sites, farms, mines, even different parts of the country. This would reduce the possibility of slaves organizing themselves along clan lines and creating problems for the overseer. I'd guess most work sites had many clans represented by few individuals.

            Once escaped, though, they would try to organize themselves along clan lines, and were probably surprised to find so many clans represented among so few people.

            "The problems of incompetent, corrupt, corporatist government are incompetence, corruption and corporatism, not government." Jerome a Paris

            by Orinoco on Mon Mar 25, 2013 at 02:02:31 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Go to numbers 1 (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Orinoco
              And the children of Reuben, Israel's eldest son, by their generations, after their families, by the house of their fathers, according to the number of the names, by their polls, every male from twenty years old and upward, all that were able to go forth to war;

              Those that were numbered of them, even of the tribe of Reuben, were forty and six thousand clans and five hundred.

              46 clans = 500 men so roughly ten men to a clan in the tribe of Reuben; probably a thousand people in the tribe

              For the total of all the fighting men

              These are those which were numbered of the children of Israel by the house of their fathers: all those that were numbered of the camps throughout their hosts were six hundred thousand clans and three thousand and five hundred and fifty.
              600 clans, totaling three thousand five hundred and fifty men

              six fighting men to a clan on average; I'm guessing the ages ranged from twenty to forty ie; 20, 24, 28, 32, 36, 40. Some tribes may have had more or less.

              Maybe two thirds of the Exodus was formed of the tribes of Israel and there were others who accompanied them

              Live Free or Die --- Investigate, Incarcerate

              by rktect on Mon Mar 25, 2013 at 03:08:49 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  I don't think they added those numbers correctly (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                rktect

                If you look at the numbers for each individual tribe, you get a total army of 5,500.

                I'm guessing a 'clan' might be an extended family: a patriarch and all direct descendants. So a 60 year old man might have 5 or 6 sons under the age of 40, and maybe 3 or 4 grandsons of military age. So figuring 10 fighting men per clan makes sense.

                So, 5,500 military age men, 5,500 wives of those men, 600 clan patriarchs, 600 clan matriarchs gives us 12,500 adult Israelites, probably an equal number of children (under military age, so infants to 19 years old) plus an equal number of non-Israelites along for the ride... 37,500 people.

                Seems a reasonable number for a migration out of Egypt, but still a bit high for a bunch of escaped slaves running from the bounty hunters.

                Since the census was taken twenty six months after the great escape, I'm thinking we may have a 'Cain's wife' situation here: the escapees went back to their old stomping ground in the Sinai, and spent a couple years rounding up members of the clans who had not been in Egypt.

                "The problems of incompetent, corrupt, corporatist government are incompetence, corruption and corporatism, not government." Jerome a Paris

                by Orinoco on Mon Mar 25, 2013 at 07:44:39 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  The sons of Israel went to Mount Horab (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Orinoco

                  They arrived there after leaving Egypt and crossing the Red Sea from Elim to Elat at the head of the Gulf of Aqaba.

                  The story is clear that these people however oppressed they felt by their new overseers weren't slaves but rather professional people, skilled craftsmen, doctors, lawyers, diplomats, priests, scribes and competent administrators wearing silk and scarlet leather and loaded down with many talents of gold and silver.

                  Most were probably men, few of them children or old, their women and families similar to those who accompanied the western migrations that settled the new World with those who were too young or too old, too sick or disabled staying home.

                  In general they would have been adventurers who joined in the migration to exploit the copper boom going on in the mountains surrounding the wadi Arabah which heads north from Elat up towards the Dead Sea.

                  Like the miners that traveled west to the gold strikes in California and Alaska carried with them everything they owned and when they arrived at Elim they bought boats to cross in when they crossed deserts they had carts and wagons drawn by horses and mules.

                  The crossing would have involved vessels the size of those Hatshepset sailed to Punt and possibly even parts of her fleet, trading vessels with multiple decks and large holds making one week round trips with perhaps six clans per vessel per trip. The hundred trips took two months so lets allow one vessel per tribe.

                  Once in Elat at Mount Horab on whose slopes Moses used to tend the flocks of Jethro Midian there is a reunion with the descendants of the people from whose homes these Egyptians left more than four centuries earlier.

                  Its reasonable that as the Exodus continued with the Sons of Israel and those who had joined them walking the metes and bounds of Edom they met a lot more people with associations to their tribes and some of those who had left Egypt settled among them while others who had been living in Edom joined the migration.

                  Over a period of forty years the population in transit may have dwindled or grown but its not likely that
                  a desert could support any large scale movement except between wells.

                  Live Free or Die --- Investigate, Incarcerate

                  by rktect on Tue Mar 26, 2013 at 04:39:55 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

    •  Herod's massacre (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ER Doc, Ojibwa

      of the innocents would have been pretty noticeable as well. And the census. And a guy who rode into town astride a totemic animal along a pathway strewn with palm fronds. And the unheard of meeting of the Sanhedrin on the Sabbath. All of that stuff would have been pretty newsworthy, right? Right?

    •  The Sons of Israel were not slaves (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Ojibwa

      but according to the story they might well have been the Hyksos who once held power but no longer had any clout under a new Pharoah who didn't know Joseph.

      According to the Biblical Account they included a lot of professional people, competent administrators, skilled artisans, thieves, priests, people with the ability to conduct a census, doctors, lawyers, diplomats, military men, cattlemen with herds, goldsmiths, and people dressed in silk and scarlet leather carrying many talents of gold and silver, so probably not slaves, but perhaps people disgruntled by their change of circumstance.

      There is pretty good evidence in the list of the stations of the Exodus that they left from the tombs of Karnak taking with them the bones of Joseph from Succoth, the dark place. This occurred when Thebes was the capital of Egypt so they went to Thebes port in what was known in Greek times as the chain of Aphrodite. The first seven stations are in Egypt between Succoth and Elim from where they sailed to Elat following a common well documented trade route for that period.

      Live Free or Die --- Investigate, Incarcerate

      by rktect on Mon Mar 25, 2013 at 03:31:50 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  There are several questions I have (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Ojibwa, rktect

        there are no tombs at Karnak, and what port are you talking about with the "thebes port"?  One on the Red Sea?  Thebes had nothing itself other than a river landing.  What is the Chain of Aphrodite?  I admit I do not know Greek Egypt as well as later and earlier periods but I am unfamiliar with the designation.

        •  I see below that you refer to the tombs (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Ojibwa

          of Karnak as being on the West Bank.  Why are these called tombs of Karnak?  I have never heard that designation.
          Our disciplinary backgrounds are obviously extremely different!  It may be that this is what is leading to my confusion.

        •  Great Questions (0+ / 0-)

          In most of Egypt the Egyptians who were not among the nobility were often illiterate working people agricultural workers, laborers, miners, sailors, or serfs

          Before 1500 BC in the intermediate periods the foreign kings or Hyksos had been powerful in Egypt at places like Sais and Avaris  because they established and  controlled what the Greeks called emporia, the ports and points of entry that controlled international trade.

          Generally small villages along the Nile were not well enough organized  to resist the domination of the sea peoples Libyans and other proto Greek foreign adventurers.

          Not only along the Mediterranea Sea where there was trade with Canaan, Libya, Syria, Lebanon and points beyond through intermediaries but also along the Chain of Aphrodite, the string of oasis bordering the Red Sea there was trade with Thebes furnishing supplies to the mortuary trade in Karnak which had tombs, temples and mortuaries galore.

          The Chain of Aphrodite running south from the tip of the Sinai included Myos Hormos, Bernice, Ptolomais, Adulis, Avalities, Malao or  Marsa Alam, Mudus and Mdsylium

          Thebes was linked to several ports but in terms of the Exodus specifically Ptolomais or as it was known then Pi ha Harorth, the mouth of Hathor reached by the wadi Hadramat and located opposite Baal Zephon so that the temple of the god of the west wind was across from that of his consort Asherah or Hathor.

          The oasis were full of sacred groves of tall straight palm trees suitable for use as masts known as teraphim.

          During the disruptions in the 13th, 14th, 15th, 16th and 17th dynasties hordes of Libyans and other foreign bandits expenaded their interests in Egypt raided the villages of the delta set themselves and their crews up as barons and lived like kings

          In the urban emporia the Hyksos trading houses furnished professional classes, foreign workers, scribes and skilled administrators, the priests, skilled craftsmen, merchants, lawyers, investment bankers, diplomats and mercenary troops.

          In the 17th Dynasty the Hyksos were defeated and driven out of the delta. In the 18th Dynasty Thebes continued as  the capital of Egypt based on its monopoly of the mummification industry at Karnak which was located across the Nile.

          Recent excavations have pushed the history of Karnak back to around 3200 BC (4), when there was a small settlement on the bank of the Nile where Karnak now stands.

          Two brick-built mastaba tombs dating from the 3rd or 4th dynasty have been found in the Theban area, and a small group of tombs have been found dating from the 5th and 6th Dynasties in the area of the necropolis known as el-Khokha. In addition, no buildings survive in Thebes older than the portions of the Karnak temple complex, which date from the Middle Kingdom, although the lower part of a statue of King Niuserre of the 5th Dynasty has been found in Karnak.(2)

          The 18th dynasty mortuary temples at Karnak are famous, richly decorated and full of tales of Egypts campaigns against the Hyksos and other foreign invaders.

          Live Free or Die --- Investigate, Incarcerate

          by rktect on Tue Mar 26, 2013 at 08:18:01 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site