Table of Contents
Part IV: Remarkable Biblical Confirmations
Out of the Promised Land and into
From Joseph to Moses
AND SO Abraham
passes into history. The biblical story leads naturally on to
events in the life of Isaac and Jacob, about whom archaeology
has very little to say. But when we come to Joseph and find ourselves
once more in the presence of the Pharaohs, the light of archaeology
begins to shine more brightly again. Nevertheless, even here
we do not have as much detailed information about Egyptian history
in Joseph's time as we do about Babylonian history in Abraham's
1 of 17
Before discussing the general topic
of Joseph's life in Egypt, there is one point of interest which
may be worth mentioning with respect to Genesis 37, in which
Joseph shares a dream with his older brethren. One cannot read
this story without feeling that if ever Joseph displayed a less
pleasant side of his character, it was in this instance. Everywhere
else he seems to have been blameless, but here we apparently
meet with a mixture of pride and lack of wisdom which is unlike
the Joseph we know in Egypt. Was his behaviour really as out
of character as it seems?
When anthropologists began to study
the ways of people living simpler lives than ours -- lives lived
at a slower pace and uncluttered by the thousand and one distractions
and demands for attention which we experience -- they found that
there was an almost universal custom of sharing dreams. Moreover,
this sharing was frequently done first thing in the morning --
while the details of these dreams were still fresh in the mind.
Without the constant bombardment of newscasts and morning papers,
and with the normal uneventfulness of the previous day lacking
any mental stimulation, the telling of the past night's dreams
took the place at the breakfast table of the sports page or the
stocks and shares. Each man, if he had anything at all of interest,
tell his dreams for the
entertainment of the company present. Moreover, the very fact
of this habit sharpened their awareness of the content of the
dream, which tends to be very quickly blurred for us because
of life's complexity and distraction.
In Genesis 37 we are given a picture
which leaves the impression that only Joseph communicated his
dream, the listeners being an otherwise uncommunicative audience.
Since an Arab family will exchange dreams with one another freely,
I have no doubt that Joseph's brethren, being likewise Semitic,
had already had their say being older than he; this sheds a slightly
different light upon the fact that he, too, "volunteered"
to tell his dream. He may even have been requested to do so,
it being his turn. Moreover, he was quite possibly unaware of
their envy of him, a fact which may indicate that he was himself
unenvious of others. And being very young, he may also have been
naive which in youth is hardly a fault. Perhaps he genuinely
believed that they would see his dream as he saw it. At any rate,
I do not think that it was told in any deliberate spirit of boastfulness:
he may even have been wondering about it himself. But his hearers
took a dim view of his words.
The end result was that he became
a slave in Egypt, an Egypt which was at that time ruled by a
line of kings providentially well disposed toward Joseph's own
people. These kings were known as Shepherd Kings (also as Hyksos),
and they were clearly outsiders, not a native dynasty. Their
presence throws much light upon the circumstances surrounding
his rise in Egyptian "royal circles".
The Egyptians considered the Hyksos
barbarians and destroyers of Egyptian culture, yet it appears
that Egyptian dynasties continued to exist with some measure
of authority even while they dominated the country. The period
of their domination is confused, and little is known of these
Shepherd Kings except that the founder may have been Apophis.
(47) Among his
successors there was one king named Kyan, two kings named Apepa,
and one named Yaqeb-her. In view of the fact that these Shepherd
Kings were Semites, it is interesting to find one of them bearing
a name which may very well be a form of the more familiar "Jacob".
(48) Since it is
almost certain that Joseph rose to favour in Egypt while the
Hyksos were dominant, it is conceivable that the name of his
aged father may have been sufficiently revered to have been given
to some child who was in line to become king. Or, of course,
the name Jacob may have been common enough among Semites.
47. Baikie, James, The Story
of the Pharaohs, Black, London, 1908, pp. 86, 93.
48. It should be said that many scholars reject
entirely any connection between the two names, the apparent similarity
of form being quite accidental.
the biblical record of Joseph's life, upon several occasions
important figures are identified specifically as being Egyptians.
This circumstance is analogous to a history of England in which
occasional reference might be made to the fact that a person
of the court was an Englishman. Such an aside would be rather
unnecessary in the circumstances, since one might expect a courtier
in England to be an Englishman. But if the court was not
native, the presence of one courtier who was native might
be worth recording. This little bit of incidental information
indicates clearly that the writer of the record in Genesis had
an understanding of the situation in government at that time.
The identification is applied, for example, to Potiphar, a man
whose name is undeniably Egyptian and to whom Joseph was sold
by the Midianites. Genesis 39 states that Potiphar was an officer
of Pharaoh, more properly a eunuch. He is also termed "captain
of the guard", a title which, it is now believed, should
be rendered "chief of the executioners". It was assumed
at one time that this meant animal slaughterers, i.e., butchers,
but it is now believed that this was not the case. Potiphar is
specifically identified as an "Egyptian" (Genesis 39:1).
Verse 2 says that Joseph was in the house of his master, the
"Egyptian"; this statement is repeated three verses
later. The point is of some importance, because when Joseph was
accused by Potiphar's wife of a very serious offense, one might
expect that Potiphar, as the official executioner, would certainly
have Joseph put to death. However, the ruling house was Semitic
and Joseph was a Semite, whereas Potiphar was an Egyptian. Discretion
governed Potiphar's actions.
in time, a man of great importance to his master in the management
of his affairs. In the tomb of a certain high priest, paintings
were found which enabled a plan of the priest's house to be made:
it appears from this plan that the storerooms of all such houses
including Potiphar's, presumably were at the back. Joseph had
charge of these storerooms, which could only be reached by passing
through the house. This sheds light on Genesis 39:11, in which
it is stated that he went into the house to do his business.
It was this circumstance that led to his temporary debasement
through Potiphar's wife.
After his imprisonment was ended
and Joseph was restored, we are told in Genesis 40:22 that the
chief baker "was hanged". On the other hand, Joseph
also said that "Pharaoh shall lift up his head from off
him," i.e., decapitate him (verse 19). Does one behead a
man and hang him, too? Apparently the Egyptians did! The
condemned man was first
of all beheaded, and then his body was hanged on a tree to be
a prey for the birds.
In Joseph's final advancement to a supreme position of authority,
many details are given which, like those we have already briefly
considered, were often thought to be purely fictional and based
upon misinformation but now appear to be absolutely substantiated.
One of the most striking of these is the statement that runners
went ahead of Joseph when he was prime minister and cried before
him, "Bow the knee" (Genesis 41:43). This is an interpretation
of an Egyptian word, abreth. It was thought to be related
to the Hebrew word harak, which means "to kneel down."
But it is now known that this was a mistake. (49) Actually it was a word of warning in Egypt which
has persisted even to the present time, meaning apparently, "Look
out!" Lord Kitchener was perhaps the last counterpart of
Joseph in this regard, for Arab runners went before him with
swords in their hands shouting, "Abreth!" As
Yahuda a few years ago said, "It is amazing that even the
expression which was shouted by the runners in Joseph's time
is still alive in present-day Egypt." (50)
Consider one more case, found in
Genesis 50:4. After the death of Jacob, Joseph -- still prime
minister -- is reported to have said to members of the court,
"If now I have found grace in your eyes, speak I pray thee
in the ears of Pharaoh. . . ." The critics jumped on this
as a major inconsistency in the record. At one moment, they said,
Joseph is introducing his father himself to Pharaoh, and a little
later he does not even have direct access to the king at all.
But the monuments have answered this little problem, indicating
that Egyptian custom forbade mourners, however high their position,
to approach the king while their dead was yet unburied.
So many and so striking have
been the confirmations from archaeology of one detail after another
in Joseph's story -- confirmations which have been even clearer
where it was thought the contradictions were most obvious --
that the record must certainly have been written by someone with
an intimate knowledge of the life of Egypt during the time of
these Shepherd Kings. As we have already observed, these kings
became increasingly distasteful to the natives, and their very
monuments in due time were accordingly obliterated as far as
possible until all shepherds became an abomination to
the Egyptians. It is exceedingly difficult to believe
49. On this, see T. Miller Neatby, Confirming
the Scriptures, Marshall, Morgan and Scott, London, no date,
50. Yabuda, A. S., "Joseph in Egypt in the Light of
the Monuments," Transactions of the Victorian Institute,
vol. 65, 1933, p.47. This paper contains a great many
remarkable incidental confirmations of Joseph's life.
that with all the circumstantial
evidence gone, a scribe living centuries later could successfully
invent the story of a foreigner in the land (as Joseph was) with
such complete authenticity.
The Hyksos were finally overthrown
by Aahmes (sometimes read "Amosis") who was the founder
of the eighteenth dynasty and probably reigned from 1500 to 1300
B.C. This eighteenth dynasty included all the Pharaohs who figure
most prominently in the events of the oppression, the Exodus,
and less directly in the conquest of Canaan by the Israelites.
Not unnaturally, every member of this dynasty -- with one notable
exception, and some of them with particular vehemence -- looked
upon everything reminiscent of this period of alien domination
with utter distaste.
Now, this distaste was transferred
to the Israelites, who continued largely as herdsmen in the land
of Goshen. The common people may not have felt such hostility
toward them, for later on they contributed as neighbours to the
wealth which the Israelites took away with them (Exodus 11:2,
3). But the aristocracy and the court finally became completely
hostile. The circumstances surrounding this rather sudden change
of attitude, which appears to have taken place during the time
of Moses' early manhood, are now reasonably clear. This clarification
has resulted from the establishment of the date of the Exodus
with a fair degree of assurance, thereby enabling us to identify
the royal persons chiefly responsible.
If we could with certainty determine
the date of the fourth year of Solomon's reign, it might be a
simple matter to extrapolate backward to the date of the Exodus.
It is necessary to say "it might be", rather than "it
is", because the Hebrew year was not quite the same as ours
and adjustments were made to bring it in line with the solar
calendar as soon as it became apparent that the seasons were
out of kilter. The actual words of Scripture that provide the
basis of calculation are as follows (1 Kings 6:1):
And it came to pass in the four
hundred and eightieth year after the children of Israel were
come up out of the land of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon's
reign . . . he began to build the house of the Lord.
The time periods
given for the Hebrew kings have been a source of constant confusion
because the figures were apparently being misinterpreted. Edwin
R. Thiele made a special study of this problem and wrote a remarkable
book on the subject, entitled The Mysterious Numbers of the
Hebrew Kings, (51)
in which he
51. Thiele, Edwin R., The Mysterious Numbers of the
Hebrew Kings, University of Chicago Press, 1951.
showed that, properly
understood, there was a perfect order and consistency in Scripture
which made complete good sense of all the dates given for these
kings. Thiele concludes that Solomon died in 931 B.C. His reign
lasted forty years (1 Kings 11:42), so that the fourth year of
his reign would be 967 B.C. Proceeding back 480 years, we reach
a date of 1447 B.C. for the Exodus. In view of what we have said
about the different calendar, this date must still be considered
to be inexact, but in error by not more than a few years at the
At this point it is desirable to
set forth briefly a list of the successive Pharaohs who figure
most prominently in the events leading up to the Exodus. Assuming
that the Exodus took place in about 1440 B.C. as a round figure,
and that Moses was then eighty years old, it is evident that
he was born about 1520 B.C. At this time Thotmes I was Pharaoh,
his reign lasting from 1539 to 1514 B.C. (52) He probably did not like the Hebrew people, but did
not have sufficient energy to oppress them continuously, attempting
only to limit their numbers. His daughter was a most remarkable
woman: Hatshepsut. There is a possibility that she was the princess
who in 1520 B.C., when her father had been ruling for twenty
years, came upon the little child in a basket of bulrushes on
A curious circumstance must be
introduced at this point in which one might surely discern the
providence of God. Hatshepsut was rejected by her descendants
for reasons which we shall consider briefly so that the majority
of her inscriptions were mutilated. While she succeeded her father,
Thotmes I, as Pharaoh (her brother, Thotmes II, being too young
to rule and even when he did come to the throne, surviving only
to the age of thirteen years) and was, therefore, in the strictest
sense as absolute a monarch as any other Pharaoh, she held the
position apparently only by sufferance. When she died, her successor,
Thotmes III, made determined attempts to erase all records of
her reign. The obliteration of her inscriptions leaves us with
very little knowledge of her personal qualities, but James Baikie
observes (53) that
one little fragment of great importance has been preserved, an
admission to the effect that she had a particular liking for
foreigners. Among these foreigners we must surely include the
Israelites. The preservation of this personal note is rather
Toward the end of her long reign,
during which time Moses grew to be forty years of age, Hatshepsut
became increasingly attached to a temple in the Sinaitic Peninsula
at Serabit where evidently there was a form
52. There are disagreements as to the
exact dates to be applied to various Pharaohs, but they do not
seriously affect the basic thread traced here.
53. See Baikie, James, ref.47, p.114.
Fig. 14. Hatshepsut: perhaps the beautiful "daughter
who adopted Moses as a child.
of monotheistic worship carried on by Midianites
(descendants, in part, of Abraham) which has this interesting
feature about it that it was three days' journey into the wilderness.
This is surely significant in the light of Moses' request to
Pharaoh as recorded in Exodus 3:18. Sir Flinders Petrie discovered
and excavated this temple and remarked that, in his mind, it
was almost certainly in part the inspiration of the purified
worship which Moses subsequently was instructed to establish
for the children of Israel. The evidence of Hatshepsut's association
with this place of worship is unmistakable.
further circumstance is of significance in this connection: there
is evidence that the people associated with this shrine used
an alphabetical script. What a preparation this was for Moses!
For forty years the special favourite of a strong woman with
a liking for his people and with all the authority of a Pharaoh,
and the means to educate him in the wisdom of the Egyptians and
perhaps to encourage him in, or to introduce him to, or to share
with him, the worship of one God in a place of solitude far removed
from the grossly polytheistic temples of Egypt, where he was
also exposed to a form of writing vastly superior to the hieroglyphics
of the court.
However, the situation became worse and worse as this great queen
began to age. Her attachment to Moses and his people, whose background
tied them closely in the eyes of the Egyptians to the Shepherd
Kings they abominated and whose prosperity must have aroused
their envy ‹ all these things rankled particularly in the
heart and mind of her stepson, Thotmes III, whom she was finally
forced to associate with herself upon the throne. This Thotmes
III was, it now appears, the most ambitious and violent and powerful
of all ancient conquerors. His campaigns carried him everywhere
victorious, and he soon reduced the then powerful
Canaanite cities to a state of subservience to Egypt.
While Thotmes III was busy in Palestine,
trouble broke out once again in Nubia to the south of Egypt.
The Nubians had apparently been a constant source of irritation
to the Egyptians, but it appears that when Thotmes III returned
from his campaigns in Palestine, he found a delegation of Nubians
waiting to pay tribute to him. Evidently someone commanding an
Egyptian force had, in his absence, successfully subdued them
once more. Although archaeology gives us only this much information,
there is a possibility that the commanding general in this instance
was none other than Moses himself. The reasons for proposing
this are as follows.
Under the protection of Hatshetsup,
Moses had grown up not only as an educated and cultured Egyptian
prince, but very probably also as a warrior: The New Testament
tells us (in Acts 7:22) that he was mighty in deeds, not merely
in words. If Thotmes III disliked the Semites, it is not too
likely he would trust part of an army engaged in subduing Palestine
to a Semite; but he may very well have felt that an accomplished
general like Moses could be entrusted with the putting down of
a Nubian revolt. Indeed, there is a tradition that when
Moses attacked Mero, the capital of Nubia, and began the seige,
the daughter of the Nubian king offered to deliver the city if
he would marry her. This bargain was accepted ‹ or so we
are told by Josephus; the same story is
repeated by Irenaeus.
(54) At any rate,
the circumstance of the tribute and of the Nubian king and his
wife and daughter being "captured" is portrayed by
Hatshepsut on the walls of her magnificent temple at Dier-el-Bahri
at Thebes. If Moses had anything to do with these events, it
might explain why Miriam and Aaron later spoke against Moses
because of the Ethiopian (i.e., Nubian) woman he had married
(Numbers 12:1). The fact that Moses subsequently married again
would not, I think, be in any way an exceptional event at the
It is possible that, flushed with
his recent successes and secure in his position of courtly favour
because of Hatshetsup, Moses may have felt himself well qualified
to deliver his people (Acts 7:25). Perhaps it was just at this
time that Hatshetsup died at the age of fifty-nine. Having killed
an Egyptian and the fact now being publicly known, Moses may
well have felt that discretion was the better part of valour
because, as Exodus 2:15 says, when Pharaoh heard of it he sought
to slay him. This he would hardly have attempted if Hatshetsup
were still there to protect him. Meanwhile, Moses fled the country.
From the moment of Hatshepsut's
death, Thotmes III turned against the Israelites with fury, and
their real oppression began. This surely was the "new"
king who "knew not Joseph", i.e., did not recognize
Joseph's people (Exodus 1:5).
But God was still in charge of
things. Although the one man Moses who might have done something
to relieve their oppression had apparently deserted his people,
God saw to it that he was re-trained for forty years
in another school in the land of Midian. In due time, after Thotmes
III was dead, he returned to Egypt when Amenotep II had succeeded
to the throne. It is apparent from archaeology that this man
was no equal to his predecessor. Very soon, foreign conquests
began to be neglected, although the decay of the empire set in
very slowly (being more evident abroad than at home). But Amenotep
II did not have the strength of Thotmes III, and the events surrounding
the circumstances of his encounter with Moses bear out that he
was a vacillator. As far as the oppression of the children of
Israel was concerned, he continued the policy of his father;
but one has the feeling that it was the challenge to his authority
which made him increase their oppression out of petulance rather
54. See Josephus' Antiquities of
the Jews, Whiston's translation, Milner, London, no date,
p.57, Book 2, Chap.10. And Irenaeus, presumably from Josephus:
see Ante-Nicene Fathers, Scribner's edition,
vol.I, 1913, p.573.
In 1441 B.C., the probable date of the Exodus, the
final challenge came from Moses: the firstborn son of every Egyptian
household died in one fateful night, the night of the Passover.
One might not have expected to find archaeological confirmation
of this event, but it exists nevertheless. When the Sphinx was
first excavated and the accumulated sand of centuries cleared
away from the base of it, an inscription was found on a stele
which stands between its paws. This was written by Thotmes IV,
who succeeded Amenotep II. It is an inscription which indicates
that the writer never expected by natural processes to inherit
the kingship but did, nevertheless, succeed to Amenotep II as
Pharaoh. (55) The
point here is that if Amenotep II's son and heir apparent died
prematurely, i.e., on the night of the Passover, then the successor
naturally came to the throne unexpectedly. He ruled only nine
years approximately, but was succeeded by Amenotep III, during
whose reign Egypt itself (but not the provinces) reached its
period of greatest material prosperity and magnificence.
Meanwhile the Israelites, having
failed to pass into the Promised Land when they first reached
its borders, continued their wanderings in the wilderness. At
the same time, Egyptian conquests in Palestine continued to be
undermined in various ways so that when Israel finally crossed
the Jordan and began their conquest in earnest, instead of a
well-organized province of Egyptian influence capable of uniting
against them, they found the people of Canaan disunited and demoralized
by having lost the strong leadership which had been established
for them under Thotmes III.
Amenotep III was succeeded by Aknaten,
a dreamy-eyed philosopher king who had a great vision of one
God and was determined to replace the established religion of
his land with this new faith. He set up a new capital city since
the old one was too closely controlled by the established priesthood,
and here he dreamed away his days while the people in the Canaanite
provinces wrote desperately asking for help against an invading
horde whom they seemed unable to resist and whom they refer to
as the Habiru. These famous appeals are known today as the Tell-El-Amarna
Letters. (56) One
after another, these frantic calls for help reached the king
and told of the fall of this city or that until it was too late
and Egypt lost her Canaanite dominions.
55. Referred to by Baikie, ref.47, p.151. Also Stephen
L. Caiger, Bible and Spade, Oxford, 1936, p.74.
56. Some of the more interesting of these are translated
in George Barton's Archaeology and the Bible, ref.40,
God had promised that He would prepare the way for
the Israelites and that He would send a hornet to subdue the
land so that they would be enabled to take over their possessions.
These events show how it was done. An utterly ruthless and powerful
monarch (Thotmes III) broke the power of all independent chieftains
there and welded them into an interdependent fortified community.
Thotmes having done this by wiping out virtually all native leadership
and replacing it by puppet governments dependent upon Egypt,
a period of gradual decay was allowed to set in while the court
of Pharaoh revelled in untold splendour under Amenotep III. Then,
when the condition of the country was thoroughly disorganized
and chaotic, the Israelites crossed the border; the appeals of
their opponents to the Egyptian sovereign, for the help which
might have made their resistance effective, fell upon the deaf
ears of a philosopher and dreamer who had now succeeded the magnificent
Amenotep III. And as for the hornet? The emblem of Thotmes III
was none other than a hornet, an image of which appears engraved
upon his scarabs and other insignia. (57)
Thus, through a period of five
hundred years, Israel was taken into Egypt, prospered and grew
and multiplied, was welded by persecution, was unified into a
nation by the greatest escape in history, was purified in the
wilderness, and was finally assisted to obtain their possessions
by kings who did not know they were fulfilling the will of God.
At the beginning, the way was prepared for Joseph on a stage
set in a special way for his coming. At the end, a man was prepared
by circumstances which all dovetailed to reveal a pattern of
Providence. All these things have been made clear by archaeology.
Of the forty
years in the wilderness, archaeology has very little to say.
There is some light to be obtained from sources not strictly
archaeological, but of interest nevertheless, and this is considered
in an appendix. But once the River Jordan is reached for the
second time and the entry into the Promised Land is actually
effected -- not only by the crossing of that river, but by the
capture of Jericho -- then archaeology once more speaks with
no uncertain voice.
Much has been written about the
excavation of Jericho, partly because from the Christian point
of view the story of its capture by the Israelites is such a
dramatic one. In the view of many scholars, earlier excavations
57. See Sir Charles Marston, New
Bible Evidence, Fleming H. Revell, New York, 1935, pp.166,
the city suggested some
remarkable confirmations of the biblical account. Later excavations
seem to have
cast doubts upon the work of earlier archaeologists at the site.
We may never know whether the evidence was correctly interpreted
or not, since their work has now been destroyed.
One thinks of a city as being extensive
in area: Jericho was very small indeed covering approximately
seven acres. It had been a stronghold from its very founding
and seems to have had so many walls that one wonders how it is
possible to sort them out. Yet the Wellcome-Marston Expedition
under the leadership of Starkey was able to establish with certainty
the complete accuracy of many of the details given in the biblical
account of Joshua's capture of it. On the other hand, in popular
reports of more recent excavations, such as have appeared in
the Illustrated London News, one may find absolutely no
reference whatever to the evidence so ably set forth by Sir Charles
Marston on numerous occasions. (58)
I think one reason for this silence
on the part of non-Christian writers is that they are so firmly
convinced that the Exodus took place much later in history than
the 1440 B.C. date which Marston believes is clearly established
by the evidence. They cannot accept this evidence, since it would
require them to change the whole pattern of their thinking.
As a rather
extraordinary example of how one preserves one's bias at all
costs, it may be noted that when archaeologists verified the
presence of the Tribe of Asher already in Palestine by 1300 B.C.,
eighty years before the late date which they sought to establish
for the Exodus, their explanation was almost laughable. Instead
of admitting that this evidence undermined their dating system,
they claimed that it was proof that probably most of the tribes
of Israel never even went down into Egypt at all! As Miller Neatby
said, "This really makes hay of Bible history." (59)
On the other hand, if we assume
that the date 1440 B.C. is essentially correct for the time when
Israel left Egypt, then 1400 B.C. would be the time when they
crossed Jordan and attacked Jericho. Now, the Pharaohs of Egypt
in the interval between 1440 and 1400 B.C. are well-known. We
have already noted that during this interval, even though Egypt
maintained its domination over Palestine (including Jericho),
yet its domination was
58. In addition to his book referred
to in ref.57, see also Sir Charles Marston, The Bible Comes
Alive, Eyre and Spottswoode, London, 1937.
59. Neatby, Miller T., ref.49, p.93.
weakening and in fact,
when the Israelites' conquest of Palestine began in earnest,
the Egyptian Pharaoh, Aknaten, to whom the besieged cities appealed
for help, was no longer concerned with saving them.
The significance of this in the
present context is that the necropolis associated with the city
of Jericho was found by Garstang and excavated. In certain of
the graves were found Egyptian amulets known as scarabs, which
bore inscriptions somewhat as our coins do, identifying the reigning
Pharaoh in Egypt at the time they were manufactured. Scarabs
are found with the names of a number of Pharaohs, including three
of Amenotep III whose reign began in 1413 B.C. (60) No scarabs of later ones were found. This would allow
fourteen years for the burial of people of influence who might
be expected to have such scarabs if we assume that no further
burials took place after the capture of the city. If, on the
other hand, the Exodus were dated somewhere around 1220 B.C.
as the critics like to think, it is surely strange that in this
period of nearly two centuries no further scarabs of Amenotep
III found their way into the necropolis, nor any of his successor,
Aknaten. It seems pretty clear that the cemeteries ceased to
be used as such quite early in Amenotep III's reign.
Passing on for a moment to the
successive campaigns of the Israelites over the next thirty years
or so, as they laid seige to one city after another, the order
of events allows very logically for the arrival at his new capital
of urgent appeals for help to Aknaten, who succeeded Amenotep
III in 1377 B.C. As we have seen, these urgent appeals come from
governors in cities of Palestine who say they are being overwhelmed
by people who are referred to as the Habiru -- almost certainly
to be equated with the name "Hebrew".
What did Garstang find when he
excavated Jericho? The walls of the city proved to have been
built of sun-dried bricks, some of which were surprisingly large.
The city had been surrounded by two parallel walls, fifteen feet
apart, the outer one of which was six feet thick and the inner
one twelve feet. Both walls were about thirty feet high, and
because of limited space within the walls, houses appear to have
been built spanning the two. Excavation showed that the foundations
of these walls were defective in both cases, so that in all probability
the houses which spanned them contributed to some extent to their
strength . . . and their weakness. (61)
In the biblical story, the children
of Israel were told not to make an immediate frontal attack upon
the city, but rather to march completely around it once a day
until the seventh day and then seven times on the final
60. Garstang's findings are reported
by Sir Charles Marston, ref.57, p.153.
61. Jericho's walls are described by Sir Charles Marston,
wall thirty feet high would seem to be a pretty strong defense,
but the height of the wall contributed materially to the success
of the plan which the Lord had given to Joshua. In Joshua 6:10,
explicit instructions were given to the people that they should
make no noise by shouting too soon. The reason for this and for
the seven circuits of the final day, climaxed at the end with
the blowing of all the trumpets they had accompanied by a mighty
shout, is apparent now. The steady tramp of feet day after day
set up vibrations in the ground which slowly weakened the already
deteriorating foundations of the walls. On the last day the cumulative
effect of physical vibration from marching feet and the shock
wave of the mighty shout served to bring down what otherwise
must have seemed a strong defense. But it needed the period of
several days in order to ensure that a substantial section of
the wall would come down all at once. If the vibration had been
initiated too soon, a collapse would have been piecemeal perhaps,
and the enemy might successfully have plugged the gap. Moreover,
the very mode of attack of so novel a kind and delayed for so
long must have served at first to confuse the defenders and in
the end to have given them a false sense of security. At any
rate, the plan worked perfectly, the walls fell down outward,
the very fact of their being tied together by the houses spanning
them serving to ensure that both walls would come tumbling down
together. To make such a march around a modern city would be
impossible for such a large nondescript group of people, but
Jericho, as we have seen, was only seven and a half acres in
extent, so that seven trips around on the last day would still
only amount to walking around a quite moderate-sized field seven
times -- a feat well within the capacity of people who had made
the trip daily for a whole week.
A few years ago, just after the
war, Salisbury Cathedral was found to be in danger of collapse.
It was not the design of the building that was faulty -- it had
stood for centuries secure. But it was discovered, perhaps as
a result of wartime explosions, that the walls were becoming
increasingly sensitive to vibrations within a certain range which
were causing a steady disintegration of the stone. The source
of these vibrations proved to be the thirty-two foot stops of
the cathedral organ; until steps were taken to repair the damage,
it became unsafe to use these particular notes. This is therefore
a modern illustration of what the trumpet blast effected in Joshua's
day. Furthermore, if an army is set to march across a bridge,
it is quite customary to order the men to break step, because
the steady tramp of feet in unison can have a disastrous effect
upon a structure capable of
responding to the vibrations. The Lord told Joshua what to do:
I am quite sure that Joshua had no scientific understanding of
the "why", but he did it.
Garstang found, in his excavations
of the walls, that not all the wall had fallen down. At one point
it had remained undamaged and a house which had spanned it had
clearly suffered very little, except that in the conflagration
which followed when the city had been put to flames, this house
had been burnt along with the others. In one of the rooms was
found a piece of charred rope. (62)
The children of Israel were explicitly
ordered to touch nothing in the city except silver, gold, and
metal articles. In the rooms and store chambers have been found
the scorched remains of foodstuffs -- wheat, barley, lentils,
dates, onions, olives, and pieces of dough. As Sir Charles Marston
has put it, "Despite the lapse of more than 3,300 years,
these mute witnesses remain today to testify that though Jericho
was burnt, it was not plundered." And when he says "burnt",
he means burnt. Garstang found burnt strata three and four times
as thick as any normal ones such as are commonly found when excavating
other cities that have been sacked and burnt. It was as though
the conqueror had collected combustible materials deliberately
in order to increase the conflagration. Joshua 6 seems to indicate
that this is what was done, as though to ensure that nothing
should be saved.
Sir Charles Marston believes that
the vibrations set up by the feet of the children of Israel were
not alone responsible for the collapse of the wall, but that
God may have sent an earthquake at the time of the crossing of
Jordan which had thus already contributed to the weakening of
the defenses. This surmise has been reinforced by the words of
Psalm 114:3, 4: "The water saw it and fled: Jordan was driven
back. The mountains skipped like rams and the little hills like
lambs." By way of comment upon this, it may be pointed out
that some sixteen miles upstream from the probable crossing of
Jordan, at the place known as el-Damieh, the river takes a sharp
bend; when it is in flood, it has a tendency to undercut the
steep bank against which it impinges. In 1927, at just such a
season and apparently accompanied by a very mild quake, a substantial
section of the bank of the cliff broke away and fell into the
water, damming the river for some hours until the pressure of
62. The finding of this piece of charred
rope is noted by Sir Charles Marston, ref.58, pp.86-87.
waters broke the dam
and restored the normal flow. (63) In this interval it was possible to cross the river
downstream at certain shallows on dry land for several hours.
It might be felt that this
is really an attempt to "explain away" the miraculous
element entirely -- assuming that a similar occurrence took place
in Joshua's time. But this is not really the case at all. In
Joshua 3 we are told specifically that the Jordan was in full
flood and that the children of Israel -- with their priests going
on before them bearing the ark of the covenant in obedience to
God's instructions through Joshua -- marched straight up to this
torrent without hesitation and even began to step into the water
before, suddenly, the flood ceased. Scripture says (verse 15):
"As they that bear the ark were come unto Jordan, and the
feet of the priests were dipped in the brim of the water
(for Jordan overfloweth all his banks at the time of harvest),
that the waters which came down from above stood and rose up
upon a heap very far from the city of Adam." This city is
none other than the present el-Damieh.
This is, surely, a miracle of timing.
Moreover, if the people had hesitated, the "drying up"
of the river would have occurred before they reached it perhaps,
and they might still have walked over dry shod. This would have
been a miracle of provision in which the timing was still dramatic
enough, but not nearly so wonderful as what actually happened.
The circumstance which made this such an exceptional event was
really the extraordinary obedience and faith of the priests who
were willing to step boldly into a river of no mean size which
was in flood. It seems to me that so many Old Testament miracles
were miracles, not so much because of the events themselves,
which often turn out to have natural explanations -- such as
the turning of the bitter waters sweet by Moses (see appendix),
but because of some act of obedience requiring great faith. I
do not believe that the day of miracles is past. A scientific
age does not encourage us to believe that God will set aside
His own firmly established natural laws to meet our own special
needs. And this might seem to make miracles remote from our day.
But I do believe that if we pay attention to circumstances, we
shall find miracle once more not in the event itself, but in
the timing of it, for in more than one sense "our times
are in His hands".
Perhaps this answers the problem
which not a few people have when they learn that some natural
explanation has been discovered for an event which in their minds
was sheer miracle. Some years ago I remember hearing a lecturer
in Toronto speaking on the whale, or "great fish,"
which swallowed Jonah.
63. Reported by Sir Charles Marston,
Perhaps with less wisdom
than enthusiasm, I went to see him after the lecture and told
him of an authenticated instance of a man who was in a whaling
crew who suffered a similar fate and enjoyed a similar escape.
But the lecturer, who was no mean scholar, was genuinely offended
and rebuked me with some vehemence, stating in no uncertain terms
that Jonah's escape was miraculous and that it was almost sacrilege
to suggest that there might have been any subsequent parallels.
I believe, however, that the real miracle in Jonah's case was
once again the matter of timing. In the more modern example,
one may suppose (though one cannot be sure) that it was pure
chance. In the case of Jonah this is not so at all, for as Jonah
1:17 says, "Now the Lord had prepared a great fish
to swallow up Jonah. . . ." and this makes all the difference.
* * *
Perhaps the first lesson to be
learned from all this is that if we did but recognize the matter
of timing in the Lord's dealings with us, we should suddenly
discover that our lives are as luminously full of divine interferences
as were those of any of the great saints of the Old Testament
times. No, the age of miracles is not passed.
The main thesis of this essay
is that in the study of the Bible we have passed from a primitive
stage of unquestioning and sometimes unintelligent acceptance,
through a period of criticism and doubt, sometimes sound but
often hypercritical, to a position where we are entitled to claim
that the best and most untrammeled scholarship can be shown to
have vindicated its authenticity and its trustworthiness.
--Sir Frederic G. Kenyon (64)
64. Kenyon, Sir Frederic, The Bible
and Modern Scholarship, Murray, London, 1949, p.1.
Copyright © 1988 Evelyn White. All rights
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