Lecture on Exodus and Conquest

I had hoped to make a recording of my class today, but we ended up discussing points raised by a student’s presentation, and so I recorded the above lecture in my office later in the day, so that I can post it and not take more class time covering the key points.

I’d be interested to hear from scholars whose expertise is primarily in Hebrew Bible and/or the history and archaeology of ancient Israel, to get your input on whether anything could be improved in light of more recent work that I may not have kept up-to-date on. The students watched clips from two documentaries that said more about the archaeology of Jericho and Ai, Israel Finkelstein’s work on the highland settlements, Norman Gottwald’s peasant revolt series, and several other points. And so the above is intended to complement that information, and not to be comprehensive taken on its own.

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  • Susan Burns

    Would you mind if amateur sleuths commented on the LOCATION of the Reed Sea? The “Song of The Sea” gives a few clues and here is my theory: http://falashaleott.blogspot.com/2011/11/reed-sea.html

  • Reeds do grow in fresh water, but fresh water and reeds are also found on the N. Tip of the Gulf of Aqaba.

    • Right, and so an inlet of that sort has been proposed for that very reason!

      • The Gulf of Aqaba is actually pretty deep. I do not view it as the sea the authors of the Bible refer to when they speak of Israel crossing the sea, but I do certainly view it as part of the Yam Suph. See Section 6 of AJaL.

  • Also, James, you’re wrong on the amount of written records from ancient Egypt available to us. The five wine-jar dockets found at Pi-Ramesse aren’t going to do us much good when we’re looking for evidence of the Exodus!

    • It is my impression that we have significantly more than that. For instance, I remember seeing a volume with autobiographical texts from tombs dated to the Ramessid period, if I am not mistaken.

      • What could tomb inscriptions tell us about a hypothetical historical Exodus?

        • If something close to the Biblical story actually occurred, the entirety of Egypt would have been affected. Some hint of the impact would get a mention in a text written in that period, whether an autobiography or a letter or something else.

  • Also, “influx” wouldn’t necessarily be the correct word to use for the proto-monarchical Israelite settlement of Canaan. “Settlement” would be the more appropriate word.

  • I thought the Hyksos were only the rulers of non-Egyptian groups that settled in Egypt, not the groups themselves. I, however, cannot read ancient Egyptian, so my thoughts on this cannot be viewed as certainties.

    • The Hyksos were, if my understanding is correct, non-Egyptian rulers of Egypt who were eventually driven out by the native population.

  • “Many cities” destroyed? [citation needed]

  • Also, the Merenptah stele dates to 1209/08 BC, not 1218 BC.

  • It is next to impossible to keep and control slaves in foreign provinces. Taxpayers, yes. Slaves, no.

  • Also, Hazor was destroyed multiple times. Does one recall Judges 4? Hazor Stratum XVI/Lower City Stratum 3 was destroyed at the same time as Middle Bronze IIB-C Jericho.

  • I view Israel as a nomadic tribal group that settled down only in the late 12th century BC and mixed with Canaanite arrivals from the now-impoverished lowlands. Also, James, you didn’t mention Finkelstein’s nomad-sedenterization theory!

    • You’re right, and I should have. Finkelstein is featured in one of the documentary clips I have the students watch, but it doesn’t go into those details about the arrangement of the dwellings and buildings and how it mirrors nomadic tent arrangements.