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Homework answers / question archive / THE QUEST FOR THE HISTORICAL ISRAEL PATRIARCHS, EXODUS, CONQUEST 65 Moabite kingdom at the end of the Late Bronze Age, though current research at Moab has revealed several fortified sites of the twelfth to eleventh centuries tribal allotment of Manasseh and Ephraim

THE QUEST FOR THE HISTORICAL ISRAEL PATRIARCHS, EXODUS, CONQUEST 65 Moabite kingdom at the end of the Late Bronze Age, though current research at Moab has revealed several fortified sites of the twelfth to eleventh centuries tribal allotment of Manasseh and Ephraim


THE QUEST FOR THE HISTORICAL ISRAEL PATRIARCHS, EXODUS, CONQUEST 65 Moabite kingdom at the end of the Late Bronze Age, though current research at Moab has revealed several fortified sites of the twelfth to eleventh centuries tribal allotment of Manasseh and Ephraim. In Israelite tradition, this was the B.C.E. (see part 3). place where the covenant between the tribes of Israel and their God was made We may conclude that in some cases there is an outright conflict between (Josh 24). The story of Abimelech (Judgingicates that a local Canaanite the archaeological findings and the biblical narratives, while in others, the population remained at Shechem until a late stage in the period of the Judges. archaeological data do not contradict the Conquest stories. Archaeology Indeed, in the opinion of the excavators, the Canaanite city at Shechem con- cannot confirm that Israelite tribes were responsible for the destruction of tinued to thrive until the eleventh century B.C.E certain Canaanite cities. The devastation of Canaan did not take place in one In sum, archaeology negates the biblical "Israelite Conquest" as an histor- sweeping, single military campaign. Rather, the destruction of Canaanite ical event, yet it may shed some light on the various ways in which memories cities resulted from a long-drawn-out process of regional conflicts, the nature of actual situations and events rooted in the second millennium B.C.E., early of which cannot be identified at the present time. Local destructions brought aetiologics and invented stories all found their way into the later, "melting on by unknown factors such as at Hazor, or local clashes between clans or pot" we call today the Pentateuch and the book of Joshua. tribal groups that perhaps made up part of the later Israelite and Canaanite urban populations, may eventually have found their way into the collective memory of the Israelites. The Conquest tradition may be understood as a tele- scoped reflection of a lengthy, complex historical process in which many of the Canaanite city-states, weakened and impoverished by three hundred years of Egyptian domination, were demolished during the thirteenth and twelfth centuries B.C.E Two additional examples of possible historical recollections in the bibli- cal narrative should be mentioned. The first is the concept of Canaan as a country divided into many city-states. This concept is reflected in the vari- ous conquest stories that mention cities and their "kings," as well as in Josh 12, which lists thirty-one kings of Canaan. Such a geopolitical structure fits well with the reality of second-millennium Canaan, but is hardly known in the period of the monarchy or later, when the book of Joshua was written. It can hardly be conceived that a late author would invent such an idea without having some recollections of the past. At the same time, it must be noted that neither Joshua nor any other Israelite tradition makes mention of a major his- orical reality of the second millennium B.C.E., namely, that Canaan was under Egyptian domination for three hundred years. A second example are the lists of unconquered territories in Canaan (Judgl:27-35; Josh 13:2-6). These include mainly the Beth-shean and Jezreel Valleys and the coastal plain; cities like Beth-shean, Taanach, Dor, Jibleam, Megiddo, Gezer, and Acre are mentioned as well as cities in the valley of Ajalon and others. Archaeological exploration in many of these cities, such as at Beth-shean, Tel Rehov, Megiddo, Dor, and Gezer, have confirmed the continuity of Canaanite urban culture throughout the Iron I period (twelfth to eleventh centuries B.C.E.), thus surprisingly supporting these biblical tra- ditions as reflecting a pre-monarchic historical reality. Another example, though less secure, is that of Shechem, which is located in the heart of the

62 THE QUEST FOR THE HISTORICAL ISRAEL PATRIARCHS, EXODUS, CONQUEST 63 Lachish and Hazor, were indeed important Canaanite cities, yet they were not book of Joshua was probably composed in the seventh century B.C.E. or later, destroyed as part of the same military undertaking since approximately one a time when Hazor had no importance. The reference to the burning of Hazor hundred years separate the destruction of Hazor (in the mid-thirteenth cen- in Josh 11:11 (an exception in this respect to all the other "conquered" cities tury B.C.E.) from that of Lachish (in the mid-twelfth century B.C.E.). At other is supported by the archaeological evidence: a tremendous fire destroyed the sites, the archaeological evidence is even more meager. Canaanite palace at Hazor and its temples sometime during the thirteenth It is thus now accepted by all that archaeology in fact contradicts the bib- century B.C.E. (probably during the first half of this century). Yigael Yadin did lical account of the Israelite Conquest as a discreet historical event led by one not hesitate to identify the conquerors as the Israelites led by Joshua; Amnon leader. Most scholars of the last generation regard the Conquest narratives as a Ben-Tor, the current excavator of the site, finds no other candidates for the literary work of a much later time, designed to create a pan-Israelite, national destroyers of Hazor more appropriate than the Israelites or "proto-Israelites." saga. Nonetheless, even this latter view does not exclude the possibility that I would explain the biblical description as a reflection of historical memo- certain conquest stories echo isolated, individual historical events that may ries about the traumatic event that put an end to Hazor, the largest city in have occurred during the late-second millennium B.C.E., though perhaps not Canaan. Such memories could have been retained among the Canaanite pop specifically in relation to Israel as a nation or to Joshua as a military leader. ulation that remained in the country during the twelfth to eleventh centuries Other stories seem to be actiologies rooted in situations relating to the period and eventually were incorporated into Israelite tradition in the late-monar of the Settlement. chic period, when the conquest was attributed to Joshua, The antiquity of the Several examples provide more specific test cases for how ancient recol- memory itself is significant, though the identification of the thirteenth-cen- lections of the past made their way into the later biblical narrative. The Bible's tury B.C.E. destroyers of Hazor remains enigmatic. description of the conquest of ' Ai details its location: "Ai, which is near Beth Other conquest stories have no archaeological verification or explanat Aven to the east of Bethel" (Josh 7:2). Assuming the identification of ' Ai with tion whatsoever. One example is the case of Arad. In the book of Numbers, modern et-Tell, the only prominent site east of Bethel, is correct, the story of the Israelites are described as crossing the Negev highlands from Kadesh its conquest in Josh 8 is negated by the archaeological finds. No Late Bronze barnea and attacking "the Canaanite king of Arad who lived in the Negev" Canaanite city was found at this place or in its vicinity. Thus, the conquest (Num 21:11 see also 21:3). Many years of archaeological research at Arad and narrative in Josh 8 cannot be based on historical reality, despite its topograph- in its vicinity have not revealed any evidence for a Canaanite settlement of the ical and tactical plausibility. The story can be explained, though, in light of the Late Bronze Age. Yohanan Aharoni, the excavator of Arad, looked in vain for archaeological evidence at the site, as an actiological story. An Iron I village an alternative site for Canaanite Arad. All that he found were two Canaanite was built above the prominent ruins of the much-earlier, fortified, third-mil- towns of the Middle Bronze period in the region. Yet, these are too early to lennium (or Early Bronze III) city, and its inhabitants must have known of be related directly to the conquest story. Benjamin Mazar suggested that the the older fortification, which was destroyed more than one thousand years phrase "king of Arad" refers to the leader of a nomadic or semi-nomadic pop- earlier and whose ruins can partly be seen even today without excavation. It ulation of which no material remains have survived. This is a very unlikely is reasonable to suppose that the story of the conquest of "Ai was created by explanation. It is more feasible that the biblical stories were formulated as a the Iron Age I settlers to explain the ruins upon which they had built their much later literary creation of no historical value when the Israelites began own village. As the site was abandoned at the end of the Iron I period, the settling this region. As we will see below, Kadesh-barnea, the Negev highlands, actiological story might have been created during the time of the Settlement and Arad were settled on a wide scale during the tenth century B.C.E. and the (twelfth to eleventh centuries B.C.E.) and transmitted orally for centuries until later-monarchic periods, and so the Conquest story may have been created in it found its way into the biblical Conquest narrative. relation to this later process of settlement. A second example is Hazor. This seventy-hectare city was the largest in The Conquest traditions concerning Transjordan can be examined against Canaan, several times larger than any other Canaanite city in the region and the limited available archaeological data. Numbers 21:21-32 records the wars the capital of a sizeable city-state that is well attested in second-millennium of the Israelites against Sihon, king of the "Amorites," and of the conquest of documents from Mari on the Euphrates and from Egypt. The definition of Heshbon. At Heshbon (Tell Hesban), however, the earliest settlement has been Hazor in Josh 11:10 as "formerly the head of all those kingdoms" fits its status dated to the Iron I, and even this is a sparse settlement. There is no evidence in the second millennium B.C.E. and could not have been invented when the for an "Amorite" state of any kind in this region, nor is there evidence of a

60 THE QUEST FOR THE HISTORICAL ISRAEL sponds more or less to the line of the modern Suez Canal The "road of the land of the Phihstines" mentioned in Exod 13:17 is probably a term relating the well-known road named by the Egyptians "the road of Horus," leading From the easternmost branch of the Nile Delta (the Peiusiac branch, which is dry today) to Gan. the main stronghold of the Egyptians in Canaan. One of the earliest madmaps in the historical records, a wall relief carved on the outer wall of the temple of Amun at Kamak during the time of Seti I (ca. 1300 ecu), depicts over twenty stations along this northern Sinai desert route, each having a small fort and a water reservoir. Archaeological investigations in the northern Sinai and south ofGaza have indeed revealed some ofthese fortresses. The road was thus well known to the biblical authors, who. how— ever, named it after the Philistines who occupied the southwestern coast of Palestine at the time ofwriting, The Israelites aresaid to have avoided this for ii?ed road through nordiern Sinai, as would have slaves escapingfmm Egypt, like those mentioned in papyri dating lo the end of the Egyptian New King- dom. Such references to runaway slaves may be taken as typological parallels to the genesis of the Exodus narrative. In spite of the late-second—millennitun n.c.e. relics in the biblical nar- rative and the few geographical features in the story that may be identi?ed, the Exodus story, one of the most prominent traditions in Israelite common memory, cannot be accepted as an historical event and must be de?ned as a national saga. We cannot perceive a whole nation wondering through the desert for forty years under the leadership of Moses, as presented in the bib- lical tradition. And yet it mayr be conjectured that the tradition is rooted in the experience of a certain group of West Semitic slaves who ?ed from the northeastern Delta region into the Sinai during the late—thirteenth century, as paralleled by events recorded on papyri from the late New Kingdom in Egypt. Such a group might have joined what would become the Esraelite confederacy and have brought with them both the Exodus story as well as new religious ideas. As archaeologists, however. we cannot provide any clues to the Exodus as an event that indeed happened. We cannot identify Mount Sinai and marry other place-names in the story; nor were any remains from this period found anywhere in the Sinai. including at the oasis of Kadesh-barnea, which plays such an important role in the story. Yet, the Exodus story re?ects a good knowledge of the geography and natural conditions of the eastern Delta, the Sinai peninsula, the Negev, and Transjordan. This has led various scholars to try and identify speci?c 560v graphical features related to the Exodus route, such as the location of Mount Sinai. The search for this mountain has gone on since the Byzantine em and at least five candidates in various parts of the Sinai, the Negev, and. northwest Arabia have been suggested, with no convincing solution. The biblical "Red PATRIARCHS. EXODUS, CONQUEST 61 Sea" should be manslaml from the Hebrew as the Sea of Reeds, and thus the term probably refers to a sweet-water lake. James Hoffmeier recently explored this issue and goggle-nod identifying this sea with an ancient sweet-water lake. which be located close to the northern end of the Suez canal. Yet, even if this identi?cation is correct, it would only corroborate the geographic and envi- ronmental background to the story, but it cannot verify its historicit'y as a major founding event in Israel's history. All that can be said is that the Exodus story is based on some remote. memories rooted in the reality of the thirteenth century 3.0.12. and on a rather good knowledge of the geographical and envi— ronmental conditions of the territories included in the narrative. Other components of the Exodus tradition relating to the Negev and Transjordan refer to later features not established before the time of the' Israelite monarchy (such as the kingdom of Edam) or entirely unknown from actual history {such the Amorite kingdom of Silton). Thus, the few details that are rooted in thirteenthecenmry realia still cannot corroborate the historicity of the Exodus, but they may provide a hint as to the earliest date of the emergence of this story. Eventually. the story was transmitted and adapted as a major pan-Israelite narrative. During several centuries of transmission, it was constantly changed and elaborated on until it received the form known to us from the Hebrew Bible. THE CONQUEST TRADITION The Conquest narrative in the book of Joshua and other conquest sto- ries in the books of Numbers and Judges have long attracted archaeologists. Destroyed cities are something that archaeologists should be able to discover. and if indeéd Israel destroyed many Canaaniie cities as described in various conquest narratives [in particular. but not only. in the book of Joshua), then archaeologists should be able to uncover those ruined cities: in the early years of biblical archaeology, historians and archaeologists tended to accept the conquest narrative at face value. Archaeologists like John Garstang, William F. Albright. Yigael Yadin, and others presented the Israelite conquest of the country as a short-lived event that could be identi?ed archaeologicallv Yadin was perhaps the last to present Joshua as a real military hero who conquered city after city in Canaan in line with the biblical narrative. ' Since the 19605. however. it has become obvious that this was not the historical reality. Archaeological investigations have shown that many of the sites mentioned in those conquest stories turned out to be uninhabited during the assumed time ofthe Conquest, ca. 1200 no.2. This is the ease with Arad, Henhbon, 'Ai. and Yarmuth. At other sites, there was only a small and unimA portant settlement at the time. as at. Jericho, and perhaps Hebron. Others. like

58 THE QUEST FOR THE HISTORICAL ISRAEL PATRIARCHS, EXODUS, CONQUEST 59 Bronze II period. Most of the cities mentioned in the Patriarchal stories-for example, Shechem, Bethel, Jerusalem, and Hebron-were settled and fortified Yet, the questions of when and with whom these stories originated and during the Middle Bronze period. The second-millennium setting conformed what is the background to their creation can still be asked. I continue to to that of the Patriarchal narratives: the personal names in these narratives believe that some of the parallels between the second-millennium B.C.E. cul- ture of the Levant and the cultural background portrayed in the Patriarchal are mostly of the "Amorite" type known from the second millennium B.C.E.; stories as mentioned above are too close to be ignored, indicating that per- thus the name of Jacob appears as a component in the name of one of the haps certain components in the biblical stories are recollections of memories Hyksos rulers in Egypt as well as of a place-name in Thutmoses III's list of rooted in the second millennium and preserved through common memory captured cities in Canaan, but the name is unknown in the first millen- and oral traditions. Such stories and traditions could have been transmitted nium B.C.E. The archives of cuneiform documents from Mari on the middle orally over many generations until they were inserted into the biblical narra- Euphrates (eighteenth or seventeenth century B.C.E.), Nuzi (fifteenth century ive sometime during the first millennium B.C.E. To be sure, in the process of B.C.E.), and Emar (thirteenth century B.C.E.) have yielded abundant informa- oral transmission, many features had been lost, expanded upon, distorted, or tion concerning the social structure, daily customs, ritual, and laws of the changed over the ages, and still others, reflecting much later historical situa- ime. Some of these find parallels in the book of Genesis and in other books tions, added. This does not mean that the stories should be taken at face value of the Pentateuch; the wanderings of Abraham from Ur to Haran and from as reflecting the deeds of actual people, nor should they be taken literally as there to Canaan have been explained as reflecting the international connec- reflecting actual Israelite ancestral history. On the contrary, this aspect of tions along the Fertile Crescent during the Middle Bronze II period. The high the stories may indeed be a late innovation. I merely wish to claim that some position of Joseph in Egypt has been viewed as fitting well with the Hyksos elements of the second-millennium B.C.E. milieu mentioned above, such as period when Semitic princes ruled Lower Egypt and established the Fifteenth private names, place-names, and the status of a Semitic prince in the Egyptian Dynasty there in the mid-sixteenth to mid-fifteenth centuries B.C.E. Various court, may suggest that the stories contain kernels of old traditions and stories other phenomena in the book of Genesis that apply to later periods, such as rooted in second-millennium B.C.E. realia. As we will see below, this line of the extensive use of camels and the appearance of Arameans and Philistines in thought can be applied to the Exodus and Conquest traditions the Patriarchal stories, have been considered as anachronisms introduced by later editors and compilers of the old oral traditions. Nevertheless, the kernels THE EXODUS of these stories were generally considered to be rooted in the Middle Bronze II period. A variation on this hypothesis has been suggested by scholars such No direct evidence on the Israelite sojourn in Egypt and the Exodus can as Manfred Weippert who, in a paper published in 1979, proposed that the be extracted from archaeology. The only evidence that one might seriously Patriarchs may have been actual pastoralists who lived as Shasu or nomadic consider is circumstantial. The biblical story of the Hebrews living in the people who are mentioned in Egyptian texts of the Late Bronze age, the time Land of Goshen (the eastern Delta of Egypt) during the time of the Egyptian of the Egyptian New Kingdom of the mid-sixteenth to twelfth centuries B.C.E., New Kingdom can be understood in the context of the rich evidence for West which parallels most of the Late Bronze Age. Semitic populations living in this area through most of the second millen- This approach has been opposed by scholars who propose that the stories nium B.C.E. As is now well known, these West Semites founded the Fifteenth were created in a much later period closer to the time of their written compi- or Hyksos, Dynasty in Egypt. During the thirteenth century, Ramesses II, the lation. Benjamin Mazar had suggested in 1963 that Genesis was compiled in mighty pharaoh of the Nineteenth Dynasty, built a new city called Pi-Ramesse the court of David and Solomon, and that it reflects the reality of their times very close to the location of the older capital of the Hyksos at Avaris. It was or of the slightly earlier period of the Judges. During the 1970s, John Van a huge city built of mudbrick in an area where large West Semitic popula- Seters and Thomas Thompson suggested, in two detailed monographs, exilic tions lived for centuries. The story in the book of Exodus where the Hebrews are portrayed as building the city of Ramesses may reflect this huge building or post-exilic dates for the entirety of the Patriarchal traditions, and argued operation of the thirteenth century. against their affinity to any second-millennium B.C.E. backgrounds. Their The theme of escape to the Sinai desert is also something that was not views became influential, and today most scholars indeed define the Patriar unknown during this period. Papyri describe small groups of slaves escaping chal tradition as a late invention with no historical validity. to the Sinai through the eastern fortification system of Egypt, which corre-

THE PATRIARCHS, EXODUS, AND CONQUEST NARRATIVES IN LIGHT OF ARCHAEOLOGY Amihai Mazar The origins of Israel and its crystallization as an ethnic or geopolitical entity I are today among the most controversial topics in biblical history. Prior to the 1970s, it was a common practice to identify the Patriarchal period, the route of the Exodus, and the Israelite Conquest of Canaan in direct relation to archaeological finds. This was a dominant agenda among leading scholars like William F. Albright and his followers, Roland de Vaux, and the founders of biblical archaeology in Israel, which included Benjamin Mazar, Yigael Yadin, and others. This approach has been criticized severely over the last thirty years, and, today, many scholars regard these stories as late literary creations with distinct theological and ideological messages and little or no historical value. Others assert that these stories reflect and preserve certain components that are rooted in second-millennium B.C.E. realia, while some conservative scholars still claim that many of these stories reflect true historical events. It is today accepted by almost all scholars that the stories as they have come down to us are a product of Israelite literary work of the late monarchy or later. The questions, to what extent are these literary works preserved ancient stories that passed orally through generations? and, to what extent can we identify any second-millennium B.C.E. realia in these biblical narratives in light of the vast archaeological research conducted in the region? can still be asked THE PATRIARCHAL TRADITION In the years leading up to the 1970s, many scholars shared the common belief that the cultural environment of the Middle Bronze II period (ca.1800/1750-1550 B.C.E.) provided the most suitable background for the Patriarchal stories in the book of Genesis. The land of Canaan appears in these stories as having a prosperous urban culture with pastoral clans living in between fortified cities, and indeed this was the case during the Middle -57-

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