Synopsis of David Rohl's book "A Test of Time" by John Fulton
The concept of time for us today is taken to be an absolute unchangeable system. We measure time from the fixed point of Christ's birth so that this is the one thousand, nine hundred and ninety-seventh year since he was born. The ancients, however, could not look forward to Christ's birth; instead, they worked on a regnal dating system where events happened in the Nth year of the reign of a particular king.
For most of the Old Testament, we can find a good deal of archaeological evidence in the Middle East to corroborate the historical record e.g.: Moabite, Canaanite, Persian, Assyrian and Babylonian artefacts and excavation. This is not surprising as these neighbouring states had considerable interaction between them. However, from the period of the United Monarchy under Saul, David and Solomon back, only the Egyptian chronology and archaeology is good enough to corroborate the biblical record and here there has been supposedly very little evidence for the existence of Saul, David, Solomon, the Judges, Moses and Joshua or the Patriarchs. This has led some scholars, such as Professor Thomas L. Thompson of Copenhagen University in 1992, to say:-
"If we reflect on how easy it is to challenge the historicity of not only a David or Solomon but of events in the reigns of Hezekiah or Josiah ... the very substance of any historical project that attempts to write a history of the late second or early first millennium BC in Palestine on the basis of a direct integration of biblical and extra biblical sources ... must appear not only dubious but wholly ludicrous."
This was true until the recent work of David M. Rohl in his book A Test of Time: The Bible:- From Myth to History' (Century, London 1995 - ISBN 0 7126 5913 7), of which this paper is a summary. Very simply stated, the problem is to correlate the archaeological ages, the Egyptian pharaonic chronology and the biblical chronology of early Israelite history with the absolute Christological timescale.
The biblical chronology is as follows, based on the widely-accepted work of Edwin Thiele:
|1ST & 2ND TIMELINES - BIBLICAL & EGYPTIAN CHRONOLOGIES|
The Egyptian chronology is based partly on finds during excavation of the sites of ancient Egypt. These include tablets and statues with inscriptions, pottery fragments, tomb relics and hieroglyphic inscriptions. Also of great worth in determining the chronology are the works of early historians, who often used ancient records not available to us today. As the archaeological evidence of Egypt is more extensive than that of any other contemporary civilization, the chronology of Egypt is used as the basis on which the archaeological ages and the chronologies of neighbouring civilizations are built. The ages concerning us are:-
|3RD TIMELINE - ARCHAEOLOGICAL AGES|
Therefore we have:-
These are combined to form part of an integrated whole, the conventional timescale of the ancient world as we know it:
|4TH TIMELINE - INTEGRATION OF 1ST, 2ND & 3RD|
In order to integrate the knowledge gained from different civilizations into the timescale as a whole, we need to have common dates that can be used to link known events in two or more civilizations. Examples are battles or marriage alliances between kings. This done, the relation of these different nations can be ascertained.
There were three basic cross-links made by 19th century Egyptologists to synchronise Israelite and Egyptian history.
The absolute dates for Shishak/Shoshenk I were calculated from the biblical chronology, i.e. counting back regnal years to Rehoboam, the son and successor of Solomon. From this date, the date for Ramesses II was calculated by counting back the regnal lengths of the pharaohs between Ramesses and Shoshenk I. Other Egyptian kings were spread to fill in the gaps between these dates and other data, e.g. from the Ebers Calendar and Leiden Papyrus used to support the chronology.
The problem then arose that when archaeologists searched for materials from the periods, Late Bronze Age to Iron Age IIC, there was little or no evidence of any kind to lend credence to the early biblical account right up to the division of the monarchy. This means that for many years, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges and large parts of Kings and Chronicles were relegated to the realm of mythology rather than historical fact. There was no evidence of the major events of Israelite history recorded in the Bible ever occurring. There were little or no data supporting an Israelite nation of several millions in Egypt, no evidence of the Exodus and none of a conquest of Canaan in the relevant archaeological strata of the Late Bronze Age. The Early Iron Age when Saul, David and Solomon were supposed to have reigned in such splendour was a relatively impoverished time with certainly no evidence of the great building works of Solomon that are recorded in the Bible. This has led many archaeologists of this period to doubt the historicity and validity of a large part of the Bible. What has happened? New evidence now revealed shows how the early Egyptologists, in their eagerness to find archaeological proof for the biblical record, made key assumptions which were wrong.
The first of these was the identification of Ramesses II as the pharaoh of the oppression based on the text of Exodus 1:8-11 which tells of the new pharaoh forcing the Hebrews to build the store cities of Pithom and Raamses. Ramesses II was a great building pharaoh and did build Raamses in Goshen (called Pi-Ramesse or city of Ramesses'). However, this is likely to be the same as saying that the present city of York was built by the Romans; the Romans never actually called their city York but Eboracum. The modern city of York gets its name from the Viking town Yorvik built on the same site. A biblical redactor writing after the event would naturally refer to the city built by the Israelites with the name Raamses to make it familiar to all his contemporaries.
It is remarkable that to identify the pharaoh of the oppression with Ramesses II, the period of the Judges must be reduced by 200 years, which is directly opposed to the biblical narrative. In Judges 11:26, Jephthah (one of the last of the Judges) states that the timespan from the first settlement in Transjordan during the Conquest to his own time, is 300 years. Also in I Kings 6:1, the time from the Exodus to the building of the temple by Solomon in 966 BC is recorded as 480 years, complementing the Judges date. These both place the Exodus around 1450 BC but Ramesses II reigned in the 13th Century (1279 - 1213 BC) under the conventional chronology. Genesis 47:11 also states that Jacob and the Patriarchs settled in the region of Ramesses'. This, however, is centuries before there was a pharaoh named Ramesses, let alone one who built a great city named after him. These early Egyptologists overlooked or ignored the biblical evidence in favour of equating Ramesses II with the pharaoh of the oppression.
Furthermore, the identification of the biblical Shishak (I Kings 14:25,26 and II Chronicles 12:2-9) with Pharaoh Shoshenk I has now been shown to be very shaky. It is based on a misreading of hieroglyphs to read that he captured the kingdom of Judah'. Shoshenk did indeed march north into Palestine but into the region of the Northern Kingdom of Israel; no mention is made of the capture of Jerusalem in this campaign.
The two main pillars of early Egyptian chronology have thus been shown to be unreliable and so the only firm date for tying this period to any timescale is 664 BC, the sacking of Thebes.
However, recent work has now come up with some very interesting finds. These start with archaeological conundrums or puzzles which, detailed in David Rohl's book, shorten the entire length of the Third Intermediate Period (TIP) of Egypt (conventionally dated 1069-664 BC) by 200 years. In essence, there were a lot more co-regencies and parallel dynasties than was previously thought.
Secondly, research has revealed that Ramesses II was known in the Middle East by the hypocoristicon or nickname of Ss'. This comes from Hittite and Egyptian sources. The Egyptian S'is oftenn pronounced Sh' in Hebrew and like Hebrew and Arabic, no vowels are used but some records indicate that the name ShSh' is pronounced Shysha'. The ancient Hebrews may then have added the k' as this would have given Ramesses the nickname Shysak' which in Hebrew means the one who crushes underfoot', a very appropriate title.
Thirdly and most convincing of all is a finding at the Theban Ramesseum. Ramesses II, in the eighth year of his reign, plundered the city of Shalem or Salem, which we know today as Jerusalem. He is therefore the only pharaoh recorded as having plundered this city and his nickname is Shysha!
Finally, there are three important ancient genealogies:-
These all indicate that the length of the TIP has been artificially overestimated in the original piecing together of the Egyptian chronology. These evidences and more have enabled a new chronology to be established by David Rohl in his book which is summarised below:-
|5TH TIMELINE - THE NEW CHRONOLOGY|
The effect of all this archaeological research is that the biblical chronology, rather than being squeezed' to fit into the accepted archaeological timeframe, is now being proved to be very accurate. The biblical timeframe is being verified by a whole wave of new data from the Middle East which under the new chronology of Egypt ties in extremely well with the biblical account.
The first evidence of this is in the subsequent relocation of the Solomonic period to the Late Bronze Age. This was an age of wealth and prosperity in the Levant, reflecting the biblical narrative of the wealth of Solomon's reign. Previously, Solomon was placed in a period of general impoverishment - the Early Iron Age. The contemporaries of Solomon in Egypt are now shown to have been Haremheb and Seti I. Excavations at Megiddo for this period, which I Kings 9:15 records as being built up by Solomon, revealed a Late Bronze Age palace 50 metres long with two-metre thick walls, a royal treasure-room with a magnificent hoard of treasures and the richest collection of Canaanite carved ivory yet discovered' in Palestine (Yigael Yadin of the University of Jerusalem). One of these ivory pieces depicts a king on his throne flanked by two sphinxes with his queen before him. The queen is presenting the king with lotus flowers, a typical Egyptian scene. In I Kings 10:18-20, Solomon is said to have had a throne flanked with lions'. We also know that he married an Egyptian princess (I Kings 3:1). Could this piece, now in the Rockefeller Museum in Jerusalem, represent Solomon and his Egyptian queen at the height of their power? The architecture of Late Bronze Age Megiddo is identical to that described in the Bible as being performed by Phoenician craftsmen (I Kings 6:36).
In I Kings 9:15, Solomon is recorded as having built the Millo' around Jerusalem. This was a massive stone terrace, erected to increase the building area on top of the City of David. This amazing construction was extensively excavated by Dame Kathleen Kenyon; however, due to the chronological problems already discussed, it was wrongly dated to a couple of centuries before Solomon. This has now been revised under the new chronology and given a date in the Late Bronze Age, contemporary with Solomon, the biblical builder.
Furthermore, it is stated in I Kings 7:8 and II Chronicles 8:11 that Solomon built a palace for his Egyptian wife in Jerusalem. The only Egyptian architectural remains ever to be found in Jerusalem now date in the new chronology to the Late Bronze Age II A/B. Previously, it was considered a mystery as to where they had come from and who had been responsible for them.
In 1887, 380 clay tablets were discovered in Egypt at a place called Tell el-Amarna and have come to be known as the Amarna tablets. These tablets were letters from foreign rulers, mainly of city-states but also of the more powerful northern kingdoms of present-day Syria, Turkey and Cyprus, as well as what was once Babylonia and Assyria. They were written to the Egyptian pharaoh of the day; this was Amenhotep IV who soon changed his name to the famous Akhenaten.
Under the old chronology these tablets contained little to interest Bible scholars; however, under the new chronology they are dated to the late 10th century of Saul and David, providing an amazing confirmation and even expansion of the biblical narrative. The tablets were carried to Egypt, transcribed onto papyrus from the original Akkadian/Cuneiform script into heiroglyphs for the pharaoh to read and then the original tablets stored at Amarna to be discovered some 3000 years later.
Akhenaten was the 18th Dynasty ruler who sought to change the entire religion and culture of Egypt to the worship of one deity, the sun-god Re, in the form of the Aten sun disc. Under his rule, however, Egypt became militarily weak and was brought to the brink of revolution. The superpower of the day was crippled, allowing a new power base to emerge in the Levant under the rule of firstly Saul, then David. This culminated in the reign of Solomon, with enough consolidated power to force a marriage alliance between himself and a later pharaoh's daughter.
The Amarna tablets paint a picture of a tribal Palestine ruled by various city-state rulers of Canaanite, Philistine and Israelite/Hebrew origin as well as the larger state of Amurru/Aram to the north, very much corroborating the biblical picture of Samuel. They tell us that the coastal plains were in the hands of Philistines of Indo-European origin, dominated by city-state rulers with Indo-European names who communicate with Pharaoh Akhenaten in the Amarna letters. The Bible tells of the coastal plains being out of the control of Saul and under Philistine rule (p.207, fig. 244). The city of Gezer in the Amarna letters is under Canaanite rulers; Gezer in the Bible is under Canaanite rule until given to Solomon as a dowry by Pharaoh in I Kings 9:16.
Mentioned several times in the tablets are the Habiru' people, who are stateless wanderers outside the rule of the city-states of Palestine and Syria, often employed as mercenaries by these rulers to protect their interests. Their lifestyle closely resembles that of the biblical Hebrews and yet posed problems for scholars under the old dating system as to why groups of Hebrews should be wandering in Palestine 100 years before the Exodus! Now, however, these are the Hebrews of David who finally enter the service of Achish, king of Gath, who quarters them in Gath. David and his Hebrews, portrayed as soldiers of fortune as in I Samuel 27:1-6!
In the Amarna letters, Jerusalem is ruled by Jebusites, a Hurrian elite race. In II Samuel 5:6,7, this is also the case until the city is conquered by David. The name of the ruler of Jerusalem is given in the Amarna letters as Abdiheba, a mixed Semitic/Hurrian name. The Amarna tablets tell of the whole region of Syria dominated by kings of Amorite stock including a king Aziru. The Bible in II Samuel speaks of this kingdom being Aram and the king being Hadadezer, one of David's enemies. Aziru is considered to be the accepted shortening or hypocoristicon of a longer, more formal name. Given that Hadad was a prominent god of the Arameans and that -Aziru (or -ezer) means helper of', it can be seen that the Amarna letters use the shortened name of the Aramean king Helper of Hadad' or Hadadezer, a startling biblical confirmation.
The hill country to the north of Jerusalem is dominated in the Amarna letters by a king who shows scant respect for the Egyptian pharaoh. His hypocoristic or shortened name is Labayu, translated as Great Lion of (N)' where N is a god's name. The career of the Labayu in the Amarna letters is strikingly similar to that of Saul and this is an alternative name for the biblical Saul, the great lion' of Yahweh.
Another clue to Saul's other name is found in Psalm 57 where his bodyguards are called lebaim', a unique word in the Old Testament meaning great lions'. It is amazing then that as David hides from Saul's men in the cave of En-Gedi (I Samuel 24) he pens Psalm 57:4:-
"I am in the midst of lions (Hebrew 'lebaim'); I lie among ravenous beasts - men whose teeth are spears and arrows, whose tongues are sharp swords."
Labayu in the Amarna letters was active in fighting against the Philistines on the coastal plain to the south-west but was unable to conquer their cities. He was finally killed on Mount Gilboa by a Philistine confederacy. A rebellious king, he even wrote to Pharaoh to warn him not to meddle in his affairs. In letter EA 252 (p208 fig. 245), Labayu writes:-
"If an ant is struck, does it not fight back and bite the hand of the man who struck it?"
It is truly astounding to have in our possession a letter from King Saul. EA 252 was studied in 1943 by the great American archaeologist William Albright. He concluded that the writer knew little of the Akkadian language and that it was idiomatically pure Hebrew, i.e. written in Hebrew first by the king whose beginnings were insignificant (from the house of Benjamin and the least of its families' - I Samuel 9:21) and then translated into Akkadian to be sent to Pharaoh. The untutored Labayu/Saul writes to warn off Pharaoh!
A number of other Amarna tablets attest to this king's disruption of the area. EA 289 states:-
"Are we to act like Labayu when he was giving the land of Shechem to the Habiru?"
Habiru/Hebrews means wanderers' and was a term of contempt used by the other Palestinian leaders. The Jews called themselves Israelites except when speaking of David's Hebrews who were a mercenary group of drifters. Indeed, the Hebrews of David may be seen as a different group of Israelites e.g. I Samuel 13:3-5:-
"Jonathan smashed the Philistine pillar which was at Gibeah and the Philistines learnt that the Hebrews had risen in revolt. Saul had the trumpet sounded throughout the country and the whole of Israel heard the news: 'Saul has smashed the Philistine pillar and now Israel has incurred the enmity of the Philistines.'"
This event is mentioned by Labayu as he writes to the Pharaoh in EA 252, to say that he was recapturing his home town which was taken by the Philistines, even after it had been agreed in the presence of the governor from Egypt that this would not happen!
In EA 254, Labayu's third letter to Pharaoh, he reprimands his own son for consorting with the Habiru/Hebrews without his knowledge. This is also told in I Samuel 20:30,31.
The deaths of Saul and his sons, Jonathan, Abinadab and Malkishua are recorded in I Samuel 31. They occur at the battle of Mount Gilboa in a clash with the Philistines. After gathering at the fountain of Jezreel, the Israelites retreated into the mountains so that the Philistines could not make use of their chariots and cavalry. How the Philistines were successful in pursuing Saul up the mountains is not clear in the Bible but the Amarna tablets answer some intriguing questions. In EA 250, a ruler of a city-state reports to Pharaoh that Saul's surviving sons have asked for help to inflict revenge on a city called Gina (biblical En-Ganim) for killing their father. Also, in EA 245, Biridiya, Philistine ruler of Megiddo, writes to say that when he arrived on the battle field, Labayu was already dead and so could not be taken alive and sent to Egypt for public execution as Pharaoh had wanted.
In a map of the battle (p.218, fig. 259), it can be seen that Saul took up position facing the Philistines over the steep, northern slopes. To the south of his position atop Mount Gilboa lay the gentle slopes of the Vale of Gina and the town of Gina. It is envisaged that the men of Gina had been positioned to guard the southern slopes but that they betrayed Saul and allowed the Philistine archers and chariots to outflank and surprise Saul's army. Then, when the Philistine ruler Biridiya arrived on the battlefield with the main Philistine army, Saul and his sons were already dead. In the biblical account, Saul was mortally wounded by Philistine arrows; rather than being taken alive, he fell on his own sword to kill himself.
After the death of Saul/Labayu, we know from the biblical account that Saul's son Ishbaal/Ish-Bosheth and David vied for power (II Samuel 3:1). Ishbaal fled across the Jordan after the death of his father and from there he wrote to Pharaoh the tablet EA 256 (in the British Museum) which reads:-
"Say to Yanhamu, my lord: Message of Mutbaal, your servant. I fall at the feet of my lord. How can it be said in your presence, Mutbaal has fled. He has hidden Ayab'? How can the king of Pella flee from the commissioner, agent of the king, his lord? As the king, my lord, lives, as the king my lord lives, I swear Ayab is not in Pella. In fact, he has been in the field (i.e. on campaign) for 2 months. Just ask Benenima. Just ask Dadua. Just ask Yishuya."
There are several points of note in this extract:-
Who, however, is the Ayab that Pharaoh speaks of? It has been ascertained by linguists that Ayab is none other than Joab, commander of David's Hebrew army! Furthermore, it has been worked out that Benenima is Baanah, one of Israel's chieftains, Dadua is a form of the name David, king of Judah and Yishuya is the name Jesse (Heb. Yishay), the father of David.
As well as confirming the names of these characters, the Amarna letters even contain the name Goliath in its Akkadian form Gulatu (in EA 292 and 294)!
David's power begins to rise after the death of Saul; after seven and a half years, he is king of all Israel. As his power increases, we read in the Amarna letters desperate pleas for help from Pharaoh against the rampaging Hebrews. Most poignant of all comes from the Jebusite king of Jerusalem, Abdiheba. In EA 288 he writes that he is an island amidst a sea of violence as cities fall to the Hebrews round about him. The fall of Lachish is recorded and Pharaoh is reminded that he has done nothing to help. The king asks to be brought to Egypt with his brothers for safety. However, there never was a rescue as in 1003 BC, David conquered Jerusalem; nothing is ever heard from Abdiheba again in the Amarna letters!
The Amarna letters are not a recent find but have been around for over a century. However, due to the chronological misinterpretation, they were not seen as letters dating from the time of Saul and David. Even then, it greatly puzzled scholars as to how strikingly similar the Palestine of the Amarna letters was to the biblical Davidic picture, because they thought that the letters dated from 100 years before the Exodus. Now with the new dating, the similarities are there because the Amarna letters describe the United Monarchy period of Israelite history. The time gap was simply an illusion of the conventional chronology.
Another document and astronomy confirm the new chronology date for the Amarna period as a record survives of a solar eclipse near sunset at Ugarit in April/May. In 1988, using powerful mainframe computers, it was determined that the only date in the whole 2nd millennium BC when this could have happened was 9th May 1012 BC. This is 350 years earlier than the reign of Amenhotep III was previously dated and backs up the new chronology of David Rohl.
It is interesting to note that the only other mention of David found to date is the Tell Dan Stela/Tablet, dated to the mid-9th century BC and mentioning the House of David'. In this light, the Amarna tablets are clearly an incredible find but the greatest amongst them must be the letter from the Israelite king Saul to Pharaoh, written by the untutored Benjamite king in Hebrew and then translated roughly into Akkadian to be sent off to Pharaoh, the most powerful man on earth at that time. EA 252 is surely a priceless artefact!
One of the most troubling problems for biblical archaeologists was the lack of archaeological evidence for Moses and the Israelites in Egypt. Prior to the Exodus, there were hundreds of thousands of Israelites in Egypt, yet little or no evidence of their existence has been found, even though the sojourn is recorded as lasting for centuries in the Scriptures!
The biblical chronology dates the birth of Moses to around 1527 BC. In the new chronology of Egypt, the pharaoh on the throne of Egypt was Neferhotep I of the 13th Dynasty.
The early Christian historian Eusebius in his work Evangelicae Preparationis' quotes from a book Peri Ioudaion' (Concerning the Jews) by the Jewish historian Artapanus. This work of Artapanus has not survived down to the present but is also quoted in Clement's Stromata'. Artapanus, writing in the 3rd century BC, had access to ancient records in Egyptian temples and perhaps even the famous Alexandrian library of Ptolemy I.
Artapanus writes that a pharaoh named Palmanothes was persecuting the Israelites. His daughter Merris adopted a Hebrew child who grew up to be called prince Mousos. Merris married a pharaoh Khenephres. Prince Mousos grew up to administer the land on behalf of this pharaoh. He led a military campaign against the Ethiopians who were invading Egypt; however, upon his return, Khenephres grew jealous of his popularity. Mousos then fled to Arabia to return when Khenephres died and lead the Israelites to freedom. It may be only a Mosaic story with similarities to the biblical account, yet the only pharaoh with the name Khenephres was Sobekhotep IV, who took the name Khaneferre at his coronation. He reigned soon after Neferhotep I of the 13th Dynasty, as mentioned above, the pharaoh in power at Moses' birth!
Josephus in his Antiquities of the Jews', with access to very old manuscripts and writing in AD 93, also mentioned Moses' Ethiopian or Kushite war. Here, Moses led an Egyptian army down the Nile valley, past the Third Cataract, deep into Kush (modern Ethiopia). In the British Museum is a stela (page 261, fig. 289) which tells of a 13th Dynasty pharaoh undertaking a campaign south into the region of Kush. That pharaoh is none other than Khaneferre, the step-father of Moses according to Artapanus. He is the only 13th Dynasty pharaoh who is recorded as having campaigned into Upper Nubia or Ethiopia. At Kerma on the Nile an official Egyptian building was found, outside of which was discovered a statue of Khaneferre, so dating this building to the 13th Dynasty. This is many hundreds of kilometres south of the known boundaries of 13th Dynasty Egypt and may have been a governor's residence'. It would have been built to secure Egyptian interests in the area after the military victory of the Egyptians led by Moses, as this was the only Kushite war at that time with Egypt. As Moses was a prince of Egypt and was 40 years old according to the Bible when he fled to Arabia, he could certainly have led this military operation - an Israelite leading an Egyptian army to war! If this part of Josephus' account is true then it adds weight to the rest of his account of the life of Moses and also gives us some firmer evidence of the existence of this charismatic leader!
Excavations have been continuing for over 30 years near the Egyptian village of Tell ed-Daba. Here in the Nile Delta region, a large Middle Bronze Age settlement has been uncovered. This is the region of Goshen and the excavation is at the location of the biblical city of Raamses or Pi-Ramesse, the city of Ramesses II (Exodus 1:11). Settlement here spans a period from the 12th to the 20th Dynasties of Egypt. The ancient city at its peak covered an area of ten square kilometres, making it one of the largest cities of the ancient world. It existed for 800 years before being abandoned, when its stones was used to build Tanis.
The city of Pi-Ramesse or Raamses is, of course, famous because it was here that the early Israelites settled as they sojourned in Egypt and here also that they were enslaved. Raamses, however, was not the original name for the city built by the Israelites but as discussed earlier, was a later redaction. The city of Pi-Ramesse was indeed built by the 19th Dynasty ruler Ramesses II (the Great) but, below it, the Austrian team led by Manfred Bietak uncovered a much older city called Avaris which was the actual city built by the Israelites, long before any pharaoh Ramesses had ever reigned.
Avaris was built on a series of sandy hillocks to avoid the annual floodwaters of the Nile. The people who lived in Avaris, however, were not Egyptian but Asiatic Palestinian or Syrian.
The finds there included numerous pottery fragments of Palestinian origin. Several factors about the graves were particularly fascinating:-
The continuing archaeological discoveries here in the ancient city of Avaris mirror exactly the early Israelites revealed in the Old Testament. For two centuries no evidence was found for the Israelites when looking in the strata of the 19th Dynasty. Now that the chronologies have begun to be amended and the sojourn in Egypt placed in the 12th and 13th Dynasties, we have a wealth of archaeological evidence corroborating the biblical account.
Before Moses, the Bible records that the Israelites were enslaved by their Egyptian hosts (Exodus 1:8-14). In the Brooklyn Museum (p.276, fig. 310) resides a papyrus scroll numbered Brooklyn 35:1446 which was acquired in the late 19th century by Charles Wilbour. This dates to the reign of Sobekhotep III, the predecessor of Neferhotep I and so the pharaoh who reigned one generation before Moses. This papyrus is a decree by the pharaoh for a transfer of slaves. Of the 95 names of slaves mentioned in the letter, 50% are Semitic in origin. What is more, it lists the names of these slaves in the original Semitic language and then adds the Egyptian name that each had been assigned, which is something the Bible records the Egyptians as doing, cf. Joseph's name given to him by pharaoh (Genesis 41:45). Some of the Semitic names are biblical and include:-
That 50% of the names are Israelite means that there must have been a very large group of them in the Egyptian Delta at that time, corroborating the testimony of Exodus 1:7 which alludes to how numerous the Israelites became. Also, the female slaves outnumber the male slaves on the papyrus by about 3 to 1, again hinting at the culling of male Hebrew children. There was no military campaign into Palestine in the 13th Dynasty to account for these large numbers of slaves.
The Tenth Plague to be sent on Egypt just before the Exodus was the plague on the first-born, recorded in Exodus 12:29,30. At the end of stratum G/1 at Tell ed-Daba or the ancient city of Avaris (p.293), archaeologists found shallow burial pits into which the victims of some terrible disaster had been thrown. These death pits were not carefully organised internments; the bodies were simply thrown in on top of one another. Could these be the burial pits of the first-born Egyptians? What is more, immediately after this disaster, the remaining population left Avaris en masse; this fits perfectly with the Exodus of the Israelites following the final terrible plague.
A completely new settlement of Avaris by a purely Asiatic people occurs approximately 50 years after the Exodus. These people are not Egyptianised' like their predecessors the Israelites who had resided in Egypt for many generations. These are identified in Egyptian history as Hyksos hordes from Arabia - the biblical Amalekites. They invaded Egypt at the end of the 13th Dynasty, ravaging the country, establishing their own rule and appointing their own king to reign in the north of the country. They received tribute and levy from the rest of the land, dominating Egypt for more than two centuries. Their barbarity is shown in Avaris where ritual burials of young women have been uncovered, evidence of a cruel religious rite. Also, these Hyksos invaders plundered the tombs of previous pharaohs, their tomb relics being found in the Hyksos graves.
Although not directly confirming the biblical account, it does pose the question as to how these people were able to invade, settle and dominate the most powerful country on earth at that time. The Bible, of course, provides the answer as in Exodus 14:28 it records the complete destruction of Pharaoh's army as the waters closed in over them after Moses parted the sea. Egypt without an army would be completely open to invasion by the Hyksos hordes.
The identity of the pharaoh of the Exodus is an interesting conundrum. The Bible dates the Exodus to 1447 BC. The new chronology suggests that the pharaoh at that time was Dudimose. A writer in Ptolemaic Egypt called Manetho records the invasion of the Hyksos hordes. He is quoted by Josephus as he writes:
"Tutimaos: In his reign, for what cause I know not, a blast of God smote us; and unexpectedly, from the regions of the East, invaders of obscure race marched in confidence of victory against our land (Egypt). By main force they easily seized it without striking a blow and having overpowered the rulers of the land, they then burned our cities ruthlessly, razed to the ground the temples of the gods and treated all our natives with cruel hostility, massacring some and leading into slavery the wives and children of others."
Tutimaos is of course pharaoh Dudimose. The Hyksos invaders were confident of victory and could seize the land without striking a blow because Egypt's army had perished! Again, a remarkable corroboration of the biblical chronology.
Following the Exodus, the Israelites wandered in the desert of Sinai for 40 years. The book of Exodus closes with Moses' death and the story of the conquest of the Promised Land begins in the book of Joshua. Until David Rohl's new chronology, there was thought to be little evidence of the conquest in archaeology because the conventional chronology dated the conquest to the Early Iron Age IA. However, under the new chronology, the conquest is in the Middle Bronze Age IIB. Here there is a multiplicity of evidence, giving insight into the events recorded in the Bible.
The first major event recorded in the book of Joshua is the capture of Jericho. Excavations at Jericho have been carried out for almost 100 years but the most exacting work was done by Dame Kathleen Kenyon of the Institute of Archaeology, London, in 1952. With the old chronology, the history of Jericho which she found did not correlate to the accepted timing of the conquest. She found a substantial Middle Bronze Age city with a large outer wall 12 feet thick on top of a glacis or steep slope which was plastered smooth so that any enemy could not get a foothold to come near the wall. The slope was held in place by a large revetment wall of heavy field stones built along the bottom of the glacis. Beyond this wall was a deep ditch. The ditch was found to be filled with the remains of the bricks of the city wall.
The walls of Jericho had indeed come tumbling down' (Joshua 6) and they had in many places filled the defensive ditch at the foot of the steep glacis slope, so enabling the Israelite troops to storm the city. Also found in Jericho were many large earthen jars of carbonised or burnt grain, indicating that the city had been captured rapidly and not after a long siege and famine, as there were lots of supplies. The city, after a sudden capture, had been burned to the ground as is recorded in Joshua 6:24. A layer of ash, in places up to a metre thick, was found, indicating the scale of the fire. Before the redating of the conquest to the Middle Bronze Age, the reason for the destruction of Jericho was unknown. However, now it can easily be viewed as the result of that which Joshua 6:24 speaks of. The city of Jericho after the conquest remained a desolate ruin for several centuries. I Kings 16:34 maintains that Jericho was not rebuilt until the reign of king Ahab in around 850 BC, 550 years later. This is now in the Late Bronze Age and is at the exact time that archaeologists have placed the building of a much smaller settlement at Jericho.
Of the other cities mentioned as having been captured and burned by the invading Israelites in the book of Joshua, excavation of their sites has revealed that 80% of them were destroyed by fire in the Middle Bronze Age, including Bethel, Lachish, Hazor, Debir, Arad and Hebron.
Another interesting find from the excavation of Jericho and other sites in Palestine are numerous scarabs with the name of the Anakite king Sheshai' who ruled in the Middle Bronze Age. Joshua 15:14 and Judges 1:10 both record that Caleb defeated King Sheshi of Hebron during the conquest.
In 1992, the joint Israeli/Spanish mission were digging at the ruins of Hazor, the largest city of Palestine in the Middle Bronze Age. They found a tablet on which was recorded the name of the powerful king of the city (p.317, fig.338). That name was Jabin, the same as the king of Hazor who Joshua defeated as recorded in Joshua 11:1,10! Again, Hazor was found to have been completely destroyed during the Middle Bronze Age as recorded in the biblical account of the conquest.
Archaeology at Shechem, one of the most prominent sites in the early biblical history of Israel, has revealed a remarkable consistency with the biblical account. Here Abraham rested under the Oak of Moreh (Genesis 12:6), here Jacob erected an altar to El, the God of Israel' (Genesis 33:18-20). Joshua set up a large stone here as a memorial to the covenant God made with Israel (Joshua 24:25,26). Abimelech, son of Gideon, burned the people of Shechem alive in punishment for their rebellion against him, as they sheltered in their massive temple-fortress (Judges 9:46-49).
A temple dating to Middle Bronze Age IIB, the time of Joshua, has been found there. It has been identified as that in which the people of Shechem sheltered from Abimelech. The sacred stone which Joshua erected (Joshua 24:25,26) has been found and now stands for tourists to see; it was discovered in the earlier part of this century by Ernst Sellin who re-erected it in its place. This action was viewed with skepticism by many under the old chronology where the conquest was dated to the Early Iron Age. However, there can now be little doubt that this large white rock is indeed the stone erected by Joshua, standing to this day to witness the renewing of the covenant over 3000 years ago.
The length of the sojourn of the Israelites in Egypt is now taken by many biblical scholars as around 215 years. The key verse in the determination of this is Exodus 12:40. In the Masoretic text, this verse says:-
"Now the length of time the Israelite people lived in Egypt was 430 years."
However, the Masoretic Hebrew text dates from the 4th century AD and the earliest surviving copy is from the 10th century. The Greek translation of the Old Testament (the Septuagint or LXX) was made under Ptolemy I in the 3rd Century BC and the earliest copy is centuries older than the oldest full Masoretic text we possess. It records the full version of Exodus 12:40 as:-
"Now the length of time the Israelite people lived in Egypt and Canaan, was 430 years."
This rendering of the verse is also found in the Samaritan Pentateuch, again older than the Masoretic text. Josephus in his Antiquities of the Jews' (XV:2), writing in the 1st century, also gives the length of time from Abraham entering Canaan to the Exodus as 430 years. Therefore, in the Masoretic text, it is safe to say that the words "and Canaan" - i.e. the time of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob - have been omitted in transcription over many centuries. Furthermore, I Chronicles 7:22-27 records ten generations from Joshua back to Joseph's son Ephraim, who was a boy of around five years when Jacob arrived in Egypt. Taking a standard average generation length of 20 years, we again arrive at a sojourn time of approximately 200 years. Josephus (op.cit.) records that from the time of Jacob's entry into Egypt until the Exodus there was a period of 215 years. Adding this to the Exodus date of 1447 BC from Edwin Thiele's biblical chronology, we arrive at a date of 1662 BC for Jacob's arrival in Egypt. Alternatively, by adding 430 years, we arrive at a figure of 1877 BC for Abraham's arrival in Canaan.
Joseph was therefore appointed vizier of Egypt, second only to pharaoh, in the 12th Dynasty, according to the new chronology and specifically in the long reign of Amenemhat III.
Do we have any evidence of famine during the reign of Amenemhat III? Remarkably, we do! The Egyptians depended on the annual flooding of the Nile to irrigate and fertilise the Black Land' of the Nile Valley and Delta. When the flood waters subsided, the enriched soil was then ploughed and sown for a reliable harvest. The German Egyptologist Karl Richard Lepsius, in 1844, worked at the Second Cataract of the Nile, at the ancient sites of the twin fortresses of Semna and Kumma. Here he found records for the heights of the Nile floods during the reign of Amenemhat III. The average height was eleven to twelve metres above the normal river level, which would have given a good harvest.
However, by the twelfth year of his reign, the floods recorded were around seventeen metres; this increased the silt deposited on the Delta and therefore gave richer, more abundant crops - the years of plenty'. This continued for seven to eight years. Then there is recorded a series of extra-high floods averaging 21 metres. This would have brought down three or four times the normal volume of water to the Delta. By the time the floodwaters receded, it would have been too late in the year to plant the crops, so resulting in a number of years of famine! It is interesting to note that Pharaoh's dream, as recorded in Genesis 41:1-4, tells of seven fat and seven thin cows, representing the years of plenty and famine; both came up' from the Nile, indicating that the Nile would have something to do with the famine! The grain produced in the Nile Delta was exported all over the Levant, so it is little wonder that the rest of the area suffered during the famine and Joseph's brothers came to buy grain in Egypt.
Around the time of Amenemhat III, the power of the pharaohs was severely compromised by a number of baronies or local chieftains who controlled large parts of Egypt. Being quite rich, they could afford quite elaborate tombs to be buried in. Near the village of Beni Hasan, 39 of these tombs were found cut into a cliff face; the last dated to a period approximately 20 years before Amenemhat III. In this tomb, that of a chieftain called Khnumhotep III, was found a scene depicting a trading party of Asiatics arriving in Egypt (p.292). This party is very similar to the Midianite caravaneers to whom Joseph's brothers sold him when he was brought to Egypt (Genesis 37). The inscription below one of these reliefs reads, The chief of the hill country, Abishai' - a good biblical name! These caravaneers are wearing very colourful garments, again showing that it was the custom in the Levant at this time to wear such colourful clothes, cf. Joseph's coat of many colours, presented to him by his father Jacob!
During the reign of Amenemhat III, these local chieftains or nomarchs ceased to build their tombs, indicating that they had had their power removed. At the same time, Amenemhat III rose to be one of the most powerful pharaohs of the 12th Dynasty. The reason for this is recorded in Genesis 47:13-21 where even the wealthy were forced to sell their land and possessions to Pharaoh in exchange for grain during the famine. So, the power of the local bigwigs was broken and Pharaoh reigned supreme in Egypt thanks to the works of Joseph.
Amenemhat's pyramid in which he was buried at Hawara stands beside the ruins of one of the most impressive buildings of the ancient world - the Egyptian Labyrinth - built during his reign. This has thousands of storerooms and the reason for its building can be determined under David Rohl's new chronology. This was Joseph's administration centre, set up to organise the distribution of grain during the famine. It was only fitting that Pharaoh should wish to be buried beside the very means by which he had obtained absolute power in Egypt. Also nearby is an impressive water work undertaken during the time of Amenemhat III. A canal from the Nile to Lake Moeris (Birket Karun today) in the region of Faiyum was built to channel excess water from the annual Nile flood into this basin to help lower the Delta flood waters. Its modern name is Bahr Yussef - the waterway of Joseph! All these can now be looked at as the building works undertaken under the supervision of Joseph the Israelite.
The historians Herodotus, Manetho and Diodorus Siculus come together to agree that the Egyptian labyrinth was an amazing construction. Herodotus writes in the Hellenist period (Book II, 148):-
"I have seen it and indeed no words can describe its wonders. Though the pyramids were greater than words can tell and each one of them a match for many great monuments built by the Greeks, this maze surpasses even the pyramids."
When Jacob and his family arrived in Egypt, the Bible numbers them at around 70 people. The excavations at Tell ed-Daba (ancient Avaris) show a small village dating to this time when Jacob settled in the land of Goshen (stratum G/4). An analysis of the human remains found at the site in this stratum by the Austrians Winkler and Wifling have shown that:-
This is consistent with an influx of foreign males, the early Israelites, who married the local Egyptian women; it therefore closely parallels the biblical account.
Underneath the palace of Joseph at Avaris (which we will come to shortly) in the lower stratum, dating to the time of the earliest settlement here, we have a building of Syrian design, classified by the Austrian team as a Mittelsaal Haus' or Central Hall house'. This building was of quite modest proportion. The tombs unearthed during the excavation of the garden of this house contained numerous Asiatic artefacts, indicating the occupants to be of Syro-Palestinian origin. From this it is possible to say:-
This house, so different from the design of contemporary 12th Dynasty Egyptian houses, could possibly be the house Jacob built and lived in when he first arrived in Egypt and settled in Goshen.
Following the death of Jacob, the Bible records that Joseph went to live with his father's family (Genesis 50:22). At this time, Joseph had ascended to the position of the second most important man in Egypt. It would be expected, therefore, that a large palace would be built for him. Immediately over Jacob's house in the period of early Avaris, Bietak and his team found a magnificent Egyptian-style palace, dating to the 13th Dynasty. It is extensive with many rooms and a large garden, no doubt built for a very important man (p.358, fig. 382). In the garden, a tomb was uncovered of typical Egyptian style. It was found to be almost empty, having been broken into long ago. However, this was no ordinary tomb robbery as the robbers' had taken everything, including the body! Normal robbers only remove valuables.
The Bible records that Joseph was embalmed after his death and laid in a coffin, with instructions that he be taken with the Israelites when they left Egypt; this was duly done (Genesis 50:22-26). However, Bietak did discover the desecrated remains of a twice life-size colossus or statue of the occupant of the tomb and palace. Over his right shoulder is a throw stick', representing a holder of office and authority. The figure is Asiatic. The face has been mostly cleaved off and there are marks on the head where someone has tried to split the stone (p.364, fig.390). Someone went to a lot of trouble to destroy the statue of Joseph; this is not surprising as the Egyptians were plundered and humiliated in the Exodus, which might very well prompt a vengeful attack on an Israelite statue! After this (stratum G at Avaris), the city is deserted for 50-70 years, to be resettled by the new Hyksos invaders setting up a base here after subduing Egypt.
Around the time of the Exodus, the Egyptians had a habit of making clay figurines of their enemies , inscribed with various curses. The figurines were then broken to activate the curse on the people whom they represented. (p.351, fig.376). One of these execration texts found at Sakkara and now housed in the Brussels Museum dates to the late 12th and early 13th Dynasty, the time of bondage of the Israelites. On it are inscribed the names of none other than Jacob and Joseph himself, written in his non-Egyptian name! This is a dramatic confirmation of the existence of the biblical characters and also the anti-Israelite feeling as they were enslaved, leading up to the Exodus.
The Bible does not call itself a history book but it records the dealing of the real God with real people as they lived real lives in real times. It is important then that the biblical records of the Patriarchs and the early Israelites be lifted out of the category of fable and recognized as true stories. Where the Bible touches history, as it does in many places, then more and more the Word of God is coming out as remarkably accurate. To quote David Rohl, who is an agnostic, at the end of his book:-
"Without initially starting out to discover the historical Bible, I have come to the conclusion that much of the Old Testament contains real history."
The events recorded in the Bible are not small events but include the building and destruction of cities and the movement of nations, as well as wars and battles affecting thousands of people's lives. It details the rise and fall of empires as well as the parts played by individuals in that history. Although we may never come up with archaeological evidence for minor bit players' in the story, major events should not be hard to find. What David Rohl and others are doing is looking at obvious evidence which has always been there and re-interpreting it in the light of new data to find that the broad brush-strokes of history portrayed in the Bible are very accurate. We are no longer waiting for one artefact to prove that the Israelites really were in Egypt but now we see their traces as very clear. The conquest is obvious, as are the reigns of Solomon, David and Saul. Our God did not deal with his people in secret but, as always, in the open for all to see (Acts 26:26). The legacy of how he led his people to create history is there to be discovered.
David Rohl's book is essentially a new look at old discoveries to see the big picture'. However, as further work is done, more of the background to how the people of the Bible lived will be made known. Even now, hundreds of new discoveries are about to be published to further expand our knowledge of biblical history. Archaeologists have thousands more sites to dig but as they do this, they dig up new evidence in support of the historicity of the Bible.
In 1964, Dr. Paolo Matthiae, professor of Near East archaeology at the University of Rome began to excavate Tell Mardikh in north-western Syria. It soon became clear that they were excavating the ruins of the ancient city of Ebla. In 1975, as the dig progressed down to Early Bronze Age levels, a remarkable find was made in the form of nearly 20,000 clay tablets which constituted the royal archives of the city. These tablets date back to the middle of the 3rd millenium BC, almost 4,500 years ago. They are written in Sumerian wedge-shaped cuneiform script which is the world's oldest known written language. Deciphering these tablets, Professor Pettinato, also of the University of Rome, found the language used to be what he called Old Canaanite' even though the script was cuneiform Sumerian. This very ancient language is closer in vocabulary and grammar to biblical Hebrew than any other Canaanite dialect', including Ugaritic; this therefore gives evidence as to the age of the Hebrew language.
This mass of information from Ebla will take years to digest but already it is very exciting. The city was a large one of 260,000 inhabitants; it traded widely over the known world at that time. A flourishing civilisation existed with many skilled craftsmen in metals, textiles, ceramics, and woodwork. It existed 1,000 years before David and Solomon and was destroyed by the Akkadians in around 1600 BC.
To date, only about one third of the Ebla tablets have been translated. Already, however, Eber has been named as one of its kings. Eber was the great-great-great-great-grandfather of Abraham (Genesis 10:21). Could this Eber, King of Ebla, be the same Eber of the Bible? Other names found, later to be used by biblical men, include Abraham, Esau, Saul, Michael, David, Israel and Ishmael. The supreme god of Ebla was called Yah', a shortened version of Yahweh'; so, some residual knowledge of the one true God was left at this time before Abraham. Another god was called El', short for Elohim', used later by the Hebrews as the generic name for God.
Tablet 1860 names the five cities of Genesis 14:2 in the same order, i.e. Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, Zeboiim and Zoar. Up until the discovery of the Ebla tablets, the existence of these biblical cities was questioned; yet, here they are mentioned as trade partners of Ebla. This record predates the great catastrophy involving Lot when Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed.
Also included in the archive are very early Canaanite creation and flood stories which very closely resemble that of the Bible. This is not surprising as these people would have descended from the generation after the flood and so would have had a common history of these events!
These tablets provide much evidence of early life in Syro-Palestine and give a rich background to the lives of Abraham and the Patriarchs. It will be truly amazing once the excavations are completed and the tablets fully deciphered.
As with all new research, David Rohl's work needs to be carefully examined in order to be sure that the conclusions he has reached are sound and do not contradict clear evidence which is in opposition to it. As many of those who read this website will not be in a position to critically evaluate the arguments due to lack of knowledge and familiarity, we thought it would be useful to include a short summary of some correspondence which we have undertaken with both the author and Professor Kenneth Kitchen of Liverpool University. Professor Kitchen is a widely respected authority on the TIP and his book The Third Intermediate Period in Egypt' (Warminster 2nd ed. 1986, augmented reprint 1996) was the first publication that brought together all the available evidence on the TIP and worked it into a whole framework of dating for the period. This was by all estimations a landmark publication; Professor Kitchen's contributions to Egyptology are of undoubted significance, irrespective of whether or not the conventional chronology is proven to require adjustment, as is suggested by David Rohl's work.
There now follow some of the main points raised by Professor Kitchen in reply to David Rohl's book and, alongside them, David Rohl's responses to those points. In order to explain a little more for those unfamiliar with the material, the main conclusion of David Rohl's book with regard to redating was that the 21st and 22nd dynasties of pharaohs, instead of following on one from the other, actually occurred partly simultaneously, requiring a shrinking down of the conventional dates. This is a crucial part of the argument and so a large part of what follows concerns this overlapping of the two dynasties. Much of the detail has been left out in order not to confuse and it is therefore of necessity very brief. Those who have an interest are encouraged to study the topics in more depth. The books by David Rohl and Professor Kitchen, referenced in the main text, provide ample material and references for the hungry mind.
The founder of the 22nd Dynasty, Shoshenk I, dedicated a statue to his immediate predecessor, Psusennes II, the last king of the 21st Dynasty. This obviously shows that the 21st and 22nd Dynasties did not overlap at all.
This inscription is certainly not conclusive. We know of two kings named Psusennes but are still in the dark as to which came first. Within the framework of the conventional chronology, it is assumed that the Psusennes recorded on this statue must be Psusennes II but there is no hard evidence on which to base this conclusion. Indeed, if Har-Psusennes turns out to be Psusennes I it is actually further proof that Dynasties 21 and 22 were contemporary.
Shoshenk I's son Osorkon I married the daughter of Psusennes II, again demonstrating the continuity of the two dynasties. This is recorded on statue BM8 in the British Museum. The inscription does not inform us which king Osorkon it concerns. His identification is again dependent on the assumption that the two dynasties were continuous. It can easily be argued that if we are dealing with Osorkon II then the same evidence shows them to overlap.
There is a single line of high priests of Amun in Thebes and of Ptah in Memphis, both of which pass right through the change between 21st and 22nd Dynasties, removing any possibility of overlapping the two dynasties.
These lines of succession are, as before, totally dependent on key assumptions which are wrong. The data used are found on burial dockets which give the year of a king's reign without specifying which king it is referring to. Once the underlying assumptions are shown to be wrong, the edifice comes crashing down.
An inscription from the reign of Merenptah of the 19th Dynasty relating to the annual inundation of the Nile shows conclusively that any folding-up of the dynasties is impossible. The data concern a specific point in a 1460-year cycle which can be accurately located in absolute time. There is thus no room for moving the dynasties around because of this firm date.
Professor Kitchen has not seen the inscription himself; he has referred to an article written by a man who has also not seen the inscription but only a facsimile of it. The published reading of the text is quite wrong and has been checked personally by David Rohl when in Egypt. The correct reading actually supports the revision of the dynasties as the fixed point referred to in the inscription has itself been wrongly dated due to the misreading.
borrowed from http://debate.org.uk/topics/history/rohl-1.htm