Exodus

16 Sep 2015

Exodus is going to feature in one of our talks at the speaker meeting in Watford this weekend so it might be worth while if you get a handle on it before the talk is uploaded on to our web site. The following links were provided by SIS member Adam Stuart. At http://fontes.lstc.edu/~rklein/Documents/how_reliable_is_exodus.htm ... an excellent rebuff to critics of the Exodus event by A Millard - or at least support for a movement of people out of Egypt by a group of Asiatics steeped in Egyptian culture. The place names of Ra'amese and Pithom (as revealed by Manfred Bietak) and Biblical Zoan (Tanis) are testimony of such a link - but see SIS Review III:3 John Bimson, 'A Chronology for the Middle Kingdom and Israel's Bondage in Egypt'

Modern historians dislike anything miraculous is the argument Millard makes, and the parting of the waters comes into that category. These miracles are usually brushed aside by modern historiographers as fables and folklore of no value. In contrast, those schooled in Velikovsky take the opposite view - such miracles are telling us about unusual events in the natural world preserved in the folklore of people around the world, and this sort of thing should definitely not be ignored.

Millard makes the point that miracles are recorded in Assyrian annals but that does not mean the annals are ignored as a historical resource, so why do historians use miracles as a reason to suppress the Exodus story? He provides such an example, the gods of Assyria sent a thunderbolt (or meteor) from heaven to consume one of the enemies of Ashurbanipal - who is dated to the 7th century BC.

There is also an article by Alan R Millard on Solomon and the tradition of wealth and wisdom associated with that king, or eponymous ancestor of Israel. It was reproduced from his article in Palestine Exploration Quarterly (January to June 1991) - go to www.biblicalstudies.org.uk/article_solomon_millard.html ... but we should remember from the outset that Millard is working within the strictures of the mainstream chronology framework and interpreting the literary evidence solely from that angle. In spite of this he presents some nice arguments.

See also www.biblicalstudies.org.uk/article_solomon2_millard.html ... which is again reproduced from Palestine Exploration Quarterly (July to December 1991) which was written in response to criticism of the first article by J Maxwell Miller. Again, we have to allow that Millard is working within the straitjacket of conventional chronology which locates Solomon firmly within early Iron Age, a transitionary stage between the collapse of the Late Bronze Age world and the re-emergence of stability and normalisation of climate in the 9th century BC. Obviously, an empire with far reaching boundaries could not have existed in such an impoverished environment. Egypt and Assyria at this time were in the depths of despair, and severely restricted in territorial ambition - which I suppose was a chronological indicator for the average historian, a sort of niche to implant Solomon into a period where Israel could have lived and thrived without threat from foreign invasion and control - but is that looking at the situation in a realistic manner? The united kingdom of David and Solomon looks very much like the boundaries of the Egyptian empire in the Levant - as it was in the Late Bronze Age. The collapse of the united kingdom late in his reign is reminiscent of several downturns in the fortunes of Egypt - from the Amarna period to that of late dynasty 19 or even the mid to late dynasty 20 period.  The inference is that the Bible's later authors or editors have disguised the link with Egypt purely for political reasons - or rather, politico-religious reasons. The same thing can be seen in the 9th century where the dynasty of Omri and Ahab, allied with Jehosaphat control a region that includes the Transjordan that encompasses the field of conquest as described in Shoshenk's victory declaration - the area under Egyptian control during the time of Shoshenk I and Osorkon I. In the 7th century we have something similar where Manasseh's territory is clearly that of an Assyrian province, and one that was economically successful (but did not recognise Yahweh as the supreme deity). The Deuteronomist author is critical of the Omride dynasty and of Manasseh simply because by being vassals they had accepted a foreign god above that of their own god - and when we look at the way Solomon is portrayed we have that same kind of criticism, he worshipped many gods (and so forth). It is quite likely that the Bible, when it is describing the extent and prosperity of the reign of Solomon it is actually describing the situation in the LB age. In addition, when it is describing the wisdom and magnificence of Solomon it is describing the god of Jerusalem that resided in the Temple of Sulman (as revealed in an EA letter). It is likely that the Song of Songs should be viewed in the same way, a eulogy to the god and its consort (later transcribed as the Queen of Sheba, possibly to avoid the role of a female deity). Finkelstein upset many people by saying the wealth and splendour of the court of Solomon was actually a description of the court of Ahab (otherwise ignored by the Bible). However, the Bible does not really describe the palace culture of any king of Israel or Judah so why should it go out of its way to describe that of Ahab, not exactly a figure of pride to later generations. We may instead visualise the story of Solomon as a mixture of heavenly and earth bound features, and stories with an attachment to temple tradition (which would have been Canaanite as well as Israelite). Wisdom is a feature of ancient gods in the Near and Middle East - and lots of literature has been written on the subject. Some of it is guff, no doubt, but wisdom is not necessary then what it says now in a dictionary definition. It had a wider meaning. Having said all that we can see that Millard struggles because he is unable to shift the Solomonic period into the Late Bronze age - during dynasty 18 or 19 or even in the early to mid phase of dynasty 20.