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EXODUS AND ARCHAEOLOGY--Prof. Stiebing + related articles


Bible Law. the punishment for adultery
She is to be stoned



Prometheus Books, Buffalo, 89.


And some scholars, following the lead of John Van Seters, deny that the Lists of tribal Territories in Joshua 1324, the Story of Davids Rise in I Samuel, the Succession Story (or Court History) in II Samuel 920 and I Kings 12, and other supposedly early sources used by the Deuteronomistic historian ever existed as separate documents (25).

But in recent years a number of scholars have argued persuasively that the Yahwistic material in the Pentateuch was composed or collected during or after the Babylonian Exile rather than in the tenth century B.C.

The earliest known reference to Israel outside of the Bible occurs in a stele of the Egyptian pharaoh Merneptah, which celebrates a military campaign that took place near the end of the thirteenth century B.C. Israel is listed among Merneptahs vanquished enemies in Palestine. But the absence of detailed information about the Israel mentioned in the inscription allows for a variety of interpretations concerning its correlation with the biblical narratives (31).

Moreover, there are no know non-biblical references to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, or Joshua, or for that matter, to David, Solomon, and a host of other biblical characters (31).

Rulers who are named in the biblical Exodus and Conquest accountsthe Amorite king Sihon, Eglon of Moab, or Jabin of Hazor, for exampleare not mentioned in king lists, inscriptions, annals, or other ancient Near Easter historical sources (39). Secondly, it has recently been argued that the structure of the poem requires that Israel been seen as synonym for Canaan (45).

The spelling pr.w (Apiru) is similar to the term Hebrew (ibri in Hebrew) has been emphasized by many scholars (42). But its Egyptian usage does not support this translation, for it is also used for peoples outside the Levant, and in a way best translated as "briggand.".

By the time he died (c. 1450 B.C.) [Thutmose III] had created an Egyptian empire that stretched from the Euphrates in Syria to Napata in Nubia, and he had established himself as Egypts greatest warrior pharaoh (41).

Professor Goedickes attempt to read the Speos Artemidos inscriptions of Hatshepsut as an account of the oppression and Exodus depends on his very questionable translation of a difficult.... Only by a very idiosyncratic translation and a number of unlikely interpretations can.... (50).

The evidence favoring a fifteenth-century B.C. Exodus is clearly not compelling..., its poor fit into the historical and archaeological picture of the time (52).

Why do accounts of the Judges correctly preserve descriptions of the various peoples of Syria-Palestine ... yet totally ignore the Egyptians, who controlled the major cities and roads throughout that area (53)?

The kings who ruled the cities of Jerusalem, Lachish, and Gezer at the time of the Conquest are named in Joshua 10:3 and 33, but the rulers of these cities in the Amarna Letters [Egyptian political correspondance with Babylon] bear quite different names (54).

There are no new cultural features that prove that the inhabitants of the in the villages in the hills must have arrived from outside the area of Canaan (98).

Catastrophes like those mentioned in the Exodus story should surely have left their mark on ancient Egypt. But historians have found no Egyptian references to the Exodus events (101).

There is no archaeological evidence of their [nomadic Hebrews] prior existence in Sinai or in the steppes and desert fringes of Canaan. Yet we know that pastoral groups are usually well adapted to their environments and seek to maintain their free existence, not to settle down (155).

No ancient Near Eastern sources describe a social revolution or a large scale religious conversion like the ones they hypothesize [Mendenhall, Gottwald, et al] (159).

The Dorians do not seem to have settled in the Peloponnese and Crete until a couple of generations or so after the disappearance of the Mycenaean palaces (170).

Such a change [shift in the trade winds] in the weather over a number of years could account for the grain shortages, internal strife, destruction largescale movements of people, and depopulation evidenced in the historical sources and archaeological remains.... Over the past two decades, however, an increasing amount of material from a variety of sources has indicated that there probably was a climatic change that took place between approximately 1300 and 950 B.C. (182-3).

But it seems clear, as a constantly growing number of scholars agree, the Israel was created within Canaan from groups of people whose background was primarily Canaanite (197).

There is a considerable body of evidence favoring the view that Yahweh was originally worshipped as a war goda divine warrior who defended His people and defeat their enemies (199).

The Israelites did not have a distinctive material culture of their own but borrowed everything from the previous inhabitants (98).

In fact, Palestinian pottery styles display continuity and evolutionary development, with no major cultural breaks, from the beginning of the Middle Bronze Age II (c. 1950 B.C.) to the end of the Iron Age (C. 500 B.C.).

Defenders of a fifteenthcentury-B.C. Exodus also point out that the Bible does not mention campaigns in Palestine by Merneptah and Ramesses III in the thirteenth and twelfth centuries B.C., when Israel was settling Canaan according to the advocates of the late date for the Exodus (54).

Dutch archaeologist H. J. Franken also has stated that archaeologists would be totally unaware of any important ethnic changes at the end of the Late Bronze Age were it not for the biblical tradition (97).




TABLE 3 (page 95)



**  Kadesh-Barnea Deut. 1:19-46. The Israelites spent at any of the most of their 40 years in the wilderness at Kadesh
EVIDENCE : No LB at any of the possible sites for Kadesh-Barnea.

** Arad Num. 21:1-3 indicates that the city was destroyed by Joshua
EVIDENCE: No LB occupation at any of the possible sites for Arad

** Hormah Num. 21:1-3 says the city was destroyed by Joshua
EVIDENCE: No LB occupation at any of the possible sites for

** Heshbon Num. 21:25-26. Heshbon is the capital of King Sihon and is destroyed
EVIDENCE: No LB occupation

** Didon Num. 21:25-26. Didon was destroyed after Heshbon
EVIDENCE: No LB occupation

* Aroer Deut. 2:36. Aroer was conquered after Sihons defeat
EVIDENCE: Occupied only from LB II B onward into the Iron Age.

* Jericho Josh. 6 describes the total destruction of this city and its population
EVIDENCE: MB II C possibly destroyed in LB I, only slight occupation in LB IIA; no LB II B remains

* Gibeon Josh. 9-10:2. Gibeon was a royal city, larger even than Ai and became Israels ally
EVIDENCE: No LB I or LB II B occupation; LB II A pottery found only in tombs.  Gibeon was at best a small unwalled village at that time

Lachish Josh. 10:32. Lachish was captured and its people killed
EVIDENCE: LB I and II occupation; LBII B destruction in the 13th and 12th centuries B.C.

** Hebron Josh. 10:36-37. Hebron was captured and its people killed
EVIDENCE: No LB occupation

Bethel Judges 1:22-25 credits the destruction of Bethel to the house of Joseph
EVIDENCE: No LB I occupation; LB II A-B occupation with an LB II B destruction

Hazor Josh. 11:1-Il. Hazor was burned and its people killed
EVIDENCE: LB I and II A occupation, but no city destruction; LB II B city destroyed

Dan Judges 18:27-29 states that Laish was destroyed and then reoccupied by the tribe of Dan
EVIDENCE Few definite LB I remains; LB II B occupation and destruction

L = late, M = middle, B = Bronze Age, while the Roman numerals refer to subdivisions therein.

MIDDLE BRONZE AGE II-C 1575-1475; LATE BRONZE AGE I 1475-1400; LB II-A 1400-1300; II-B 1300-1200.


Based upon the generations from the Diaspora, the arrival in Canaan is placed between 1449 to 1270 BC. Thus three tables were used by Professor Steibing to cover this entire period.

Table 8 (page 142)



** Kadesh-Barnea EVIDENCE: No MB II occupation at any of the possible sites for Kadesh-banea

** Arad EVIDENCE: No MB occupation at Tel Arad; MB II city at Tel Malhata destroyed at end of MB II C

Hormah EVIDENCE: MB II city at Tel Masos destroyed at end of MB II B; MB II city at Tel Malhata destroyed at end of MB II C

** Heshbon EVIDENCE: No MB II occupation

** Didon EVIDENCE: No MB II occupation

** Aroer EVIDENCE: No MB II occupation

Jericho EVIDENCE: Fortified city destroyed at the end of MB II C (or possibly early in LB I)

** Ai EVIDENCE: No MB occupation at et-Tell; limited MB II settlement at Khirbet Nisya

** Gibeon EVIDENCE: An unwalled town existed at et-Tell; limited MB II; no LB I occupation

** Lachish EVIDENCE: Fortified city in MB II, but no destruction at end of MB II C

Bethel EVIDENCE: Bethel destroyed at end of MB II C;
** el Birch does not seem to have been occupied in MB II

Hazor EVIDENCE: Fortified city destroyed at end of MB II C

DAN EVIDENCE: Fortified city destroyed at end of MB II C

MIDDLE BRONZE AGE II B 1700-1575; II-C 1575-1475

TABLE 9 (page 147)

Archaeology and an Iron Age I Exodus and Conquest

** Kadesh-Barnea EVIDENCE: fortresses were constructed at Ain Qudeirat and Ain Qedeis only at the END of Iron I.

** Arad EVIDENCE: Small unwalled village at Arad in Iron

Hormah Evidence: Unwalled Iron I villages at Tel Masos and Tel Malhata; Tel Masos destroyed at end of Iron I period

** Heshbon EVIDENCE: Occupied in Iron I

** Dibon EVIDENCE: Occupied in Iron I

** Aroer EVIDENCE: Occupied in Iron I; apparently it was a small unwalled village

** Jericho EVIDENCE: No Iron I occupation

** AI EVIDENCE: Small, unwalled village in Iron I; no Iron I destruction

** Gibeon EVIDENCE: El-Jib was a walled town in Iron 1

** Lachish EVIDENCE: Unoccupied for most of Iron I; rebuilt at the end of that era

** Hiberon EVIDENCE: Occupied in Iron I

** Bethel EVIDENCE: Apparently Bethel was a small, unwalled village in Iron I

** Hazor EVIDENCE: apparently Hazor was a small unwalled village in Iron I; no evidence of destruction

** Dan EVIDENCE: Apparently Dan was a small, unwalled village in Iron I

IRON AGE I 1200-950 BC

IN ALL 3 TABLES THERE WERE MORE MISSES THAN HITS AND NEAR HITS. This and other problems (the most important being the lack of evidence of a cultural break caused by a foreign peoples) have caused the author to conclude that the Exodus-conquest account was written with a 6th century BC understanding of this much earlier period.

Literary and Historical Criticism of the Pentateuch
By Professor William Stiebing, "Not out of the Desert"

Traditionally, the Pentateuch the Books of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy have been credited to Moses. This attribution would make the Exodus narrative an eyewitness account by the person in the best position to know all of the facts. But careful study of the Pentateuch has gradually made scholars aware of many inconsistencies, duplications, contradictions, and differences in style and vocabulary. This evidence, in turn, has raised the question of whether all of this material could have been written by the same person.

In Exodus 6:2-3, for example, God tells Moses that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had known Him as El Shaddai (God Almighty), not Yahweh, His true name. Yet the patriarchs refer to God as Yahweh a number of times in Genesis, and God Himself is depicted as revealing His name Yahweh to Abraham (Genesis 15:7) and to Jacob (Genesis 28:13).

Other discrepancies abound even in the account of the Exodus, the portion of Israels early history that Moses should have known intimately. According to Exodus 3:1 and 18:1, Moses father-in-law was named Jethro, but in Numbers 10:29 (as well as in Judges 4:11) he is called Hobab. Numbers 21 describes a route that the Israelites followed from Mount Hor into Canaan that differs from the one described in Numbers 33. Moses brother Aaron died and was buried at Mount Hor, according to Numbers 20:22-29, 33:38, and Deuteronomy 32:50. But Deuteronomy 10:6 claims that Aaron died and was buried at Moserah (also known as Moseroth), a place that Numbers 33:30-37 places six stages before Mount Hor in the Israelites itinerary.

There are also differences among the various accounts of the laws that God is supposed to have given Moses. According to Exodus 20:24, sacrifices are to be offered on altars built in every place God chooses to have His name remembered. Yet Deuteronomy 12:1-14 states that there shall be only one sanctuary of God and only there should sacrifices be performed. Exodus 21:2-7 specifies that male Hebrew slaves are to be freed after six years of service, but that female Hebrew slaves are not entitled to such release. On the other hand, Deuteronomy 15:12 states that both male and female Hebrew slaves are to be released after six years.

Indeed, many passages in the Pentateuch clearly were written long after Moses. As early as the second century A.D. doubts arose over the Pentateuchs reference to Moses death.4 The medieval rabbi Isaac ibn Yashush (died 1056) recognized that Moses could not have described Edomite kings as reigning before any king reigned over the Israelites (Genesis 36:31), since in Moses time there was no way of knowing that Israel would one day have a king. And Abraham ibn Ezra (1089-1164) noticed that Genesis 12:6 (and the Canaanites were then in the land) must have been written when the Canaanites no longer represented a major portion of Palestines population. Ibn Ezra also saw a problem with Deuteronomy 1:1, which refers to the territory east of the Jordan as the other side of the Jordan. Obviously, this passage was written from the perspective of someone on the western side of the Jordan (Canaan)yet Moses died east of the Jordan, having never reached Canaan.5

In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries many other anachronisms and discrepancies were recognized; and, since the latter part of the nineteenth century, virtually all biblical scholars have agreed that Moses did not write the first five books of the Bible. A consensus developed in support of the theory that the Pentateuch was formed by weaving together four distinct documents, or sources, that were written down in stages from the time of the monarchy through that of the Babylonian Exile. These sources were called J (for The Yahwist or Jahwist), E (for The Elohist), D (for The Deuteronomist), and P (for The Priestly Author)(6).

The Exodus story generally has been regarded as a composite account formed by blending together all of these sources. Two books of the Pentateuch, Leviticus and Deuteronomy, are essentially unitary works. Leviticus, a series of instructions about cultic matters, seems to be primarily the work of the Priestly Author, who compiled his material during the Babylonian Exile (the sixth century B.C.).7 And except for Chapters 1-4 and 30-34, which seem to have been added by later editors, Deuteronomy was the product of the Deuteronomist, who composed it probably no more than

4. Talmud, Baba Bathra I5a.
5. Bermant and weitzman 1979: 46.
6. For a description of the methods and results of source criticism of the Pentateuch, see Pfeiffer 1948: 134-141; Rowley 1950b: 15-46; Speiser 1964: xx-xxxvii; Bermant and weitzman 1979: 44-58.
7. Milgrom 1976: 541. Martin Noth (1965: 10-IS) credited the narrative portions of the book to P, but argued that the Holiness Code (Leviticus 17-26) and other blocks of material were combined with the P narrative by a later editor.




Professor Thompson's brief presentation of traditional critical commentary on Old Testament History

2 The Bibles many views of the past

When one begins to describe historical developments within the regions of South Syria on the basis of archaeological data, one finds a very different picture of Palestines past than in many books of biblical archaeology. The sketch of ancient Israel that comes from a harmonizing of archaeology with the biblical story is not congruent with the Bibles view. Even if one were to adopt the most conservative of methods urged by scholars today, and try to accept a biblical view of the past wherever this has not been proven false, one faces nearly insurmountable difficulties. Removing the unbelievable and the impossible, correcting what is clearly wrong and tendentious, and reconstructing what remains in a more or less coherent account is hardly adequate and fails to deal with the Bibles unhistorical qualities. Removing miracles or God from the story does not help an historian, it only destroys narratives. One can never arrive at a viable history with such an approach.

For example, consider the question of how the Israelites of the Bible come to occupy Jerusalem. In Joshua 10, Jerusalems king, Adonizedek, the leader of five Amorite kings, was defeated by Joshua and his army in a running battle. Yahweh killed more enemies than Joshua did by throwing huge stones down on them from heaven. The kings were captured hiding in a cave and executed by Joshua. To endorse this story, the author tells us that five of these large stones are laid at the entrance of the cave to this day.

The humour of this closing ought not be missed. The author is very aware of the audiences critical sensibilities. Just as Yahweh is hurling the large stones down from heaven, killing the enemy, the dead are described as having been killed by hailstones. After all, everyone knows even the minimalist that God sends hailstones. And this is where the author traps his listeners! The memorial set up at the cave, five of Yahwehs stones, is an obvious argument for the storys historicity. Such an argument is a common folktale motif, quite like the closure of Hans Christian Andersens story of the princess and the pea with its historicizing details that the pea is still in the museum . . . that is, if someone hasnt stolen it.

Similarly, in allowing Yahwehs stones to be hailstones, the biblical author intentionally subverts his monument to the tales historical authenticity! Such deconstructive humour highlights some of the difficulties that occur when such a story is taken for history by readers of any time. We simply cannot escape the discomfort of this glimpse of the author laughing at us. The laughter wont be resolved if tries to remove the big stones, the melted hailstones or God from the story.

While Joshua 10 tells this tale about the defeat of Jerusalems king, Joshua 18 tells of Jerusalem being given as spoils of war to the tribe of Benjamin. This narrative obviously confirms the assumption of the story of chapter 10 that the city of Jerusalem was one of the cities of Joshuas conquest, part of what one might call Joshuas view of the past.

Judges I, on the other hand, sets its tale of Jerusalems conquest to a time after Joshua had died. Jerusalem is not Amorite in this story, but Canaanite. Even more surprising, it is Jacobs sons, the founders and patriarchs of the tribes themselves, Judah and Simeon, who defeat the Canaanites in Jerusalem, kill the inhabitants and burn the city to the ground. Accordingly, in I Samuel 17: 54, Jerusalem is already part of Israel, when the young David brings Goliaths head there as a trophy!

Yet a third story of Jerusalems conquest is offered to us. It comes in two variations: one in II Samuel 5: 6b, and the other in I Chronicles 11: 49. Both offer aetiologies of Jerusalem as City of David and Fortress of Zion. The capture of Jerusalem in this tale is set during Davids reign as king in Hebron. Jerusalem is neither Amorite nor Canaanite; it is a Jebusite city, as in the story of Judges 19: 1012. Drawing on motifs well-known from 1-bomers sack of Troy, Jerusalems fortifications are presented as so strong that it could not be successfully stormed. What cannot be taken by storm needs to be taken by wit and courage. Joab enters the city by stealth, crawling up the water tunnel whose construction II Kings 20: 20 has described as one of the great deeds of Hezekiah. Ignoring both the storys tradition in epics of war and its anachronism, this most famous of Jerusalem conquest stories has become an essential part of biblical archaeologys view of the past. That three different books of the Bible have at least three different stories about how Israel came to possess Jerusalem is hardly to be wondered at. Jerusalem is a city at the very centre of the tradition, and would naturally attract many such stories.

Thompson, Thomas L., The Mythic Past: Biblical Archaeology and the Myth of Israel, Basic Books, 1999, P. 44.


Hyksos, Encyclopedia Britannica

The group of mixed Semitic-Asiatics who settled in northern Egypt during the 18th century BC. In about 1630 they seized power, and Hyksos kings ruled Egypt as the 15th dynasty (c. 1630–1521 BC). The name Hyksos was used by the Egyptian historian Manetho (fl. 300 BC), who, according to the Jewish historian Josephus (fl. 1st century AD), translated the word as “king-shepherds” or “captive shepherds.” Josephus wished to demonstrate the great antiquity of the Jews and thus identified the Hyksos with the Hebrews of the Old Testament. This view is not now supported by most scholars, though it is possible that Hebrews came into Egypt during the Hyksos period or that some Hyksos were the ancestors of some Hebrews. “Hyksos” was probably an Egyptian term for “rulers of foreign lands” (heqa-khase), and it almost certainly designated the foreign dynasts rather than a whole nation. Although traditionally they also formed the 16th dynasty, those rulers were probably only vassals of the 15th-dynasty kings. They seem to have been connected with the general migratory movements elsewhere in the Middle East at the time. Although most of the Hyksos names seem to have been Semitic, there may also have been a Hurrian element among them.

The Hyksos introduced the horse and chariot, the compound bow, improved battle axes, and advanced fortification techniques into Egypt {a thing that Hebrew shepards would not have done—jk}. At Avaris (modern Tall ad-Dab'a) in the northeastern delta, they built their capital with a fortified camp over the remains of a Middle Kingdom town that they had seized. Excavations since the 1960s have revealed a Canaanite-style temple, Palestinian-type burials, including horse burials, Palestinian types of pottery, and quantities of their superior weapons.

Their chief deity was the Egyptian storm and desert god, Seth, whom they identified with an Asiatic storm god. From Avaris they ruled most of Lower Egypt and Upper Egypt up to Hermopolis directly. South to Cusae, and briefly even beyond, they ruled through Egyptian vassals. When under Seqenenre and Kamose the Thebans began to rebel, the Hyksos pharaoh Auserre Apopi I tried unsuccessfully to make an alliance with the rulers of Cush who had overrun Egyptian Nubia in the later years of the 13th dynasty (c. 1650 BC).

The Theban revolt spread northward under Kamose, and in about 1521 Avaris fell to his successor, Ahmose, founder of the 18th dynasty, thereby ending 108 years of Hyksos rule over Egypt. Although vilified by the Egyptians starting with Hatshepsut, the Hyksos had ruled as pharaohs and were listed as legitimate kings in the Turin Papyrus. At least superficially they were Egyptianized, and they did not interfere with Egyptian culture beyond the political sphere.


As a lover of wisdom (the Greek meaning of philosophy), I am sadden when authorities write of that period that the Hyksos were the Hebrews. 

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The skeptic is one who judges all things according to the evidence.  The common herd affirms many things to a degree well beyond what the evidence supports; and conversely doubts that which is worthy of greater affirmation.  The humanistic skeptic applies a second measure, that of  harm resulting from such beliefs.  Issues of economics and politics, of religion, quackery and corporate medicine, and of imprudent behavior top the harm done list.   Education and scientific psychology are gateways to following the dictates of reason.