Wood from Tyre

Photo Credit: BiblePlaces.com, Giza Pyramids

In Exodus 25, God instructs Moses to begin the process of building a tabernacle: The Lord said to Moses, “Tell the Israelites to bring me an offering. You are to receive the offering for me from everyone whose heart prompts them to give. These are the offerings you are to receive from them: gold, silver and bronze; blue, purple and scarlet yarn and fine linen; goat hair; ram skins dyed red and another type of durable leather; acacia wood; olive oil for the light; spices for the anointing oil and for the fragrant incense; and onyx stones and other gems to be mounted on the ephod and breastpiece. “Then have them make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them. Make this tabernacle and all its furnishings exactly like the pattern I will show you.“

In 1 Kings 5, Solomon announced his intention to build a temple. He sent word to Hiram the king of Tyre to initiate an order of wood to build the temple. “I intend, therefore, to build a temple for the Name of the Lord my God, as the Lord told my father David, when he said, Your son whom I will put on the throne in your place will build the temple for my Name. So give orders that cedars of Lebanon be cut for me. My men will work with yours, and I will pay you for your men whatever wages you set. You know that we have no one so skilled in felling timber as the Sidonians.”

In 1 Kings 7, Solomon built a palace. The palace is referred to as the Palace of the Forest of Lebanon, for the large quantity of cedars used in its construction.

At the end of the Late Bronze Age, eastern Mediterranean ports such as Ugarit in the area of Syria collapsed. Trade shifted to other ports. In the Iron Age II, three major coastal cities in the area of modern day Lebanon, Byblos, Sidon and Tyre running north to south, picked up the trade volume.

Tyre is the southernmost of theses cities, less than 15 miles distance from today’s northern border of Israel. In Arabic it is pronounced Tzur, meaning rock, for the rocky outcropping on which it is built.

Tyre evolved to become a major shipping port. It connected inland Mesopotamia with the Mediterranean. Trade routes running along the coast connected Europe and Anatolia with Egypt. Trade routes inland ran into Mesopotamia, to Iraq and beyond. Shipping routes reached to the western Mediterranean and Iberia.

For the all the trade in goods, the region itself was best known for its cedar wood. Iraq and Egypt lack wood, and the cedars of Lebanon were sent elsewhere for use in building projects and other uses. In Egypt, the wood was used for building ships and for the sarcophagi which contained mummified bodies. In the Bible, that wood was used to build Solomon’s temple and palace.

One use for Lebanon’s cedar wood was in the Solar barge of Cheops. This boat was discovered under the sands besides the Great Pyramid of Giza, the pyramid for the Old Kingdom Egyptian king Khufu, in the 3rd millennium BCE. It was constructed using cedar wood from Lebanon. The boat is shown in the image above. It is on display at the Giza Solar Boat Museum.

Shoshenq Was Here

Photo Credit: BiblePlaces.com, Israel, Rockefeller Museum

In Exodus 23, God prepares Israel for their entry into Canaan.  “See, I am sending an angel ahead of you to guard you along the way and to bring you to the place I have prepared. Pay attention to him and listen to what he says. Do not rebel against him; he will not forgive your rebellion, since my Name is in him. If you listen carefully to what he says and do all that I say, I will be an enemy to your enemies and will oppose those who oppose you. My angel will go ahead of you and bring you into the land of the Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Canaanites, Hivites and Jebusites, and I will wipe them out. Do not bow down before their gods or worship them or follow their practices. You must demolish them and break their sacred stones to pieces.”

In 2 Chronicles 12, Israel did not follow God’s ways, and the Egyptian pharaoh Shishak attacked the land that once belonged to the Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Canaanites, Hivites and Jebusites. “After Rehoboam’s position as king was established and he had become strong, he and all Israel with him abandoned the law of the Lord. Because they had been unfaithful to the Lord, Shishak king of Egypt attacked Jerusalem in the fifth year of King Rehoboam. With twelve hundred chariots and sixty thousand horsemen and the innumerable troops of Libyans, Sukkites and Cushites that came with him from Egypt, he captured the fortified cities of Judah and came as far as Jerusalem.”

The Book of Chronicles focuses on events in the southern Kingdom of Judah, and pays less attention to events in the northern Kingdom of Israel. There is no mention in Chronicles of Shishak’s northerly excursion. But if Shishak and the Egyptian pharaoh Shoshenq I are one and the same, then evidence points to Shoshenq I’s presence in the north. The Karnak Temple lists Megiddo as one of the cities Shoshenq I captured in his invasion of the north. A destruction layer at Megiddo may have been left by Shoshenq I’s troops.

A common practice was for kings to leave monuments of their conquests at the sites they captured. The New Kingdom 19th Dynasty Egyptian ruler Seti I left a monument at Beth Shean that recorded his defeat of local Canaanites. The fragments that remain of the Tel Dan Stele belonged to a monument recording the Aramean king’s triumph there. Shoshenq I appears have done the same at Megiddo.

A small fragment of a monument to Shoshenq I was unearthed at Megiddo. The king’s name appears in a cartouche, an oval containing hieroglyphs with the king’s name, along with incomplete praises to the king. This fragment further solidifies the likelihood that Shoshenq I made his way to northern Israel, and that he asserted his power enough to set up a monument in his own honor.

An image of the fragment is shown in the image above. It is on display at the Rockefeller Museum in Jerusalem.

For this last of the posts on Shoshenq, the closing music to Shawshank:


David on the Map

Photo Credit: BiblePlaces.com, Egypt, Karnak Temple

In Exodus 18, Moses’ father-in-law was pleased to learn of the turn of events: Jethro was delighted to hear about all the good things the Lord had done for Israel in rescuing them from the hand of the Egyptians. He said, “Praise be to the Lord, who rescued you from the hand of the Egyptians and of Pharaoh, and who rescued the people from the hand of the Egyptians.”

In 2 Chronicles 12, the news about the Egyptians was not as good for Judah. “Shishak king of Egypt attacked Jerusalem in the fifth year of King Rehoboam. With twelve hundred chariots and sixty thousand horsemen and the innumerable troops of Libyans, Sukkites and Cushites that came with him from Egypt, he captured the fortified cities of Judah and came as far as Jerusalem.”

At the Karnak Temple in Egypt, in the Bubasite Portal, the Egyptian king Shoshenq I recorded his triumphs over the cities and towns of the southern Levant. On the wall, 156 names were each recorded within an oval, against the backdrop of a prisoner with arms bound above the elbow. This can be seen in the image above, a photo of Shoshenq I’s list. Some of the names are easily recognizable and familiar: Beth-Shean, Gibeon, Megiddo.

The listing of the names reveals a pattern of travel. Shoshenq I first attacked northern cities that were within the realm of the Bible’s Kingdom of Israel, and later attacked locations in the Negev and around Arad. Not every name is clear. Some appear to have been erased or damaged over the course of time. Some place names cannot be identified with an exact location.

One location that cannot be identified is what is listed as the 106th name on the list. Transliterated, the name is written as ‘dwt.’ The Egyptologist Kenneth Kitchen has suggested that this could be a reference to King David. He notes that elsewhere in Egypt, the ‘d’ sound could be transcribed as a ‘t’ sound. This occurs in versions of the name Megiddo, which in places is written with the consonants ‘mkt.’

The name ‘dwt’ appears amongst the locations in the south. King David was associated with the southern Kingdom of Judah, increasing the odds of a possible connection.

The 9th century Tel Dan Stele contains the first broadly accepted mention of a ruler in the southern hill country name David. The 9th century Moabite Stele may contain an earlier mention. Assuming that the Bible’s Shishak and Egypt’s Shoshenq I are one and the same, if Shoshenq I’s list does indeed refer to location named after King David, this 10th century monument could contain the earliest known reference to the Bible’s King David.

Shoshenq I’s Path of Destruction

Photo Credit: BiblePlaces.com, Samaria and the Center, Megiddo

In Exodus 14, after the Israelites left Egypt, Pharaoh led his army after them. “So Pharaoh prepared his chariot and took his army with him. He took 600 of the best chariots, and all the other chariots of Egypt, with officers over all of them. And the LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt so that he pursued the Israelites, who were marching out defiantly. The Egyptians, all Pharaoh’s horses and chariots, horsemen and troops, pursued the Israelites and overtook them as they camped by the sea near Pi-hahiroth, opposite Baal-zephon.”

Rehoboam led the northern tribes to secede from the Davidic kingdom, creating a Kingdom of Israel in the north and the Kingdom of Judah in the south. In 2 Chronicles 12, shortly after this split, the Egyptian king Shishak led his army to attack the descendants of those escaped slaves. “After Rehoboam’s position as king was established and he had become strong, he and all Israel with him abandoned the law of the Lord. Because they had been unfaithful to the Lord, Shishak king of Egypt attacked Jerusalem in the fifth year of King Rehoboam. With twelve hundred chariots and sixty thousand horsemen and the innumerable troops of Libyans, Sukkites and Cushites that came with him from Egypt, he captured the fortified cities of Judah and came as far as Jerusalem.”

The Book of 2 Chronicles focuses on the southern Kingdom of Judah, but Shishak’s invasion appears to have reached beyond the Kingdom of Judah and into the Kingdom of Israel.

The Karnak Temple north of Luxor was a major temple complex serving Egypt’s southern capital of Thebes. On the Bubasite Portal within the Precinct of Amun-Re, the pharaoh Shoshenq I recorded his campaign into the southern Levant. Beneath of an image of him smiting his captives were 156 ovals containing the image of a bound captive and an associated name. Many of these ovals have been damaged or are illegible, but there are enough names there to track his route.

Early on in his campaign, Shoshenq I headed north, capturing the cities of  Ta’anach, Shunem, Beth-Shean and Megiddo. He crossed the Jordan, capturing Mahanaim. Only after this did he head south and eventually get to the Negev.

Destruction layers are among the most prominent features at an archaeological site. Destruction layers can create a clear break between an earlier period and a later period. Signs of destruction might be collapsed walls with human skeletons beneath them. If a site was destroyed by war, it might show evidence of fire, or many arrowheads or stone slingshot balls.

If destruction layers show evidence of destruction in war, they do not necessarily reveal who did the destruction. If there is no specific evidence pointing to a particular perpetrator, archaeologists can look at the pottery within the destroyed layer to align it to layers at other sites and establish a relative chronology. This can be used to assign the destruction to a particular period.

Archaeological findings are subject to interpretation and are therefore subject to dispute. There is not agreement about who is responsible for each destruction. But according to Amihai Mazar in his book Archaeology of the Land of the Bible, ten sites show evidence of an attack by Shoshenq I. These are Timnah, Gezer, Tell el-Mazar, Tell el-Hama, Tell el-Sa‘idiyeh, Megiddo, Tell Abu Hawam, Tel Mevorakh, Tell Michal, and Tell Qasile.  Notably, Megiddo is explicitly mentioned on Shoshenq I’s list. Beth-Shean contains a destruction layer that may also be attributable to Shoshenq I’s invasion.

The Bible focuses attention on Shishak’s attack on Jerusalem. The record on the Bubasite Portal shows Shoshenq I’s invasion to be a larger campaign. But it creates a synchronism between the Bible and an external source of an invasion by a similarly named Egyptian king in the latter part of the 10th century BCE.  Destruction layers attributable to Shoshenq I reinforce this synchronism.

The image above is of Megiddo, where Shoshenq I left a destruction layer. This song is about the creation of a destruction layer in America.

Rehoboam’s Yesterday and Tomorrows

Photo Credit: BiblePlaces.com, Egypt, Karnak Temple

In Exodus 12, God delivered the 10th plague, the killing of the firstborns. The pharaoh relented and ordered the Israelites to leave Egypt, where they would begin their long journey to Canaan. The pharaoh would soon change his mind and pursue the Israelites to the Reed Sea, but would be thwarted there.

In 1 Kings, after the reign of King Solomon, his son King Rehoboam increased the royal burden on the tribes of Israel. In response, Jeroboam son of Nebat led the tribes to secede from the union, creating the northern Kingdom of Israel and leaving King Rehoboam as leader of the diminished southern Kingdom of Judah.

On the heels of the split in the Davidic kingdom, in 1 Kings 14, a pharaoh succeeded in making his way to Canaan. “In the fifth year of King Rehoboam, Shishak king of Egypt attacked Jerusalem. He carried off the treasures of the temple of the Lord and the treasures of the royal palace. He took everything, including all the gold shields Solomon had made.”

2 Chronicles 12 describes Shishak’s attack as encompassing more than just Jerusalem. “After Rehoboam’s position as king was established and he had become strong, he and all Israel with him abandoned the law of the Lord. Because they had been unfaithful to the Lord, Shishak king of Egypt attacked Jerusalem in the fifth year of King Rehoboam. With twelve hundred chariots and sixty thousand horsemen and the innumerable troops of Libyans, Sukkites and Cushites that came with him from Egypt, he captured the fortified cities of Judah and came as far as Jerusalem.” And ultimately, Jerusalem was spared destruction by Shishak. “Because Rehoboam humbled himself, the Lord’s anger turned from him, and he was not totally destroyed.”

The start of King David’s rule has commonly been assigned a date of 1010 BCE. In the Bible, King David ruled for 40 years, followed by King Solomon’s 40 year rule. This would have King Rehoboam’s reign beginning in 930 BCE, and Shishak’s attack in 925 BCE.

The Karnak Temple Complex is situated just north of Luxor, the site of Egypt’s ancient capital of Thebes in southern, or Upper Egypt. The largest structure within the temple complex is the Temple of Amun-Re. Within the Temple of Amun-Re, between the temple of Ramesses III and the second pylon, is the Bubastite Portal.

As seen in the image above, on the walls of the Bubasite Portal, Shoshenq I recorded a military campaign in the area of biblical Canaan. At the top right hand side, a now eroded area once would have featured Sheshonq I grasping the hair of captives in the lower center of the image and about to strike them. Surrounding the images is space for 156 place names, rings that contain an image of a bound prisoner with the place name below. These represent the places Shoshenq I subdued. Of the 156, a fair number have been damaged and are no longer legible or visible. The list mainly features areas along the coastal plain, regions within the northern Kingdom of Israel, a number of towns in the Transjordan and sites in the Negev. Jerusalem does not appear on the list.

Gebel Es-Silsilah was the site of an ancient rock quarry. A monument there, identified as Silsilah Stele No. 100, records that in Shoshenq I’s 21st year as king he assigned workers to begin quarrying stone for construction at the Karnak Temple, where he would record his triumphs in the southern Levant.  

The dates assigned to Shoshenq I’s reign are debated, with some placing his reign from 945-924. Others down date this to 943-922. Thus the timing of Rehoboam’s reign and Shoshenq’s invasion prior to the 21st year of his reign appear to align, as well as generally align with the biblical timeline.

1 Kings restricts mention of Shishak’s invasion to Jerusalem. Jerusalem does not appear on Shoshenq’s list, but not all the names are legible and it is not clear what criteria Shishak might have had to include the name of a location or not. The Bible does not mention the attack on the Kingdom of Israel, but the Bible, and especially the Book of Chronicles is written from the perspective of the southern Kingdom of Judah and may not have felt the need to include that information. 2 Chronicles does acknowledge an attack of fortified towns of Judah, which could include the southern cities in the Negev.

Thus, while there are loose ends to this story, from a timing and Egyptian king perspective, Shishak’s invasion in the Bible does appear to align with Shoshenq’s invasion that is recorded on the Bubasite Portal in the Karnak Temple. For scholars that make this connection, this alignment can be used to establish an anchor point for the biblical account.

The split in Rehoboam’s united kingdom of the tribes was followed shortly thereafter by Shishak’s attack. The quick turn of events might have had Rehoboam thinking along the lines of this song:

The Bible’s First Name with a Face

Sphinx of King Sheshenq, ca. 945-712 B.C.E. Bronze, 1 15/16 x 13/16 x 2 7/8 in. (4.9 x 2.1 x 7.3 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 33.586. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 33.586_SL1.jpg) https://www.brooklynmuseum.org/opencollection/objects/3324

In Exodus 6, God gives Moses instructions. “So the LORD said to Moses, “Go and tell Pharaoh king of Egypt to let the Israelites go out of his land.” But in the LORD’s presence Moses replied, “If the Israelites will not listen to me, then why would Pharaoh listen to me, since I am unskilled in speech? Then the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron and gave them a charge concerning both the Israelites and Pharaoh king of Egypt, to bring the Israelites out of the land of Egypt.”

One of the challenges in pinning down the timing of the exodus story is that the pharaoh is not named. A proper name might have helped scholars isolate the story in a particular period. Instead, for most it requires guesswork.

The term pharaoh comes from the Egyptian “per aa” meaning ‘great house.’ During Old Kingdom Egypt in the 3rd millennium BCE, the term referred to the royal household. During the New Kingdom, in the 14th century BCE, the term pharaoh is used in reference to Akhenaten, but without revealing the associated king’s proper name. Only later is the title pharaoh attached to the king’s name. Thus when a king is referred to by the title Pharaoh in Exodus, it fits this early usage of the term.

The Dakhla Oasis is one of the larger oases in Egypt’s western desert. It lies roughly 250 miles directly west of Luxor in Upper Egypt. The oasis is large, stretching across an area over 50 miles east to west and 15 miles north to south. At the site, archaeologists uncovered the Large Dakhla stela. The monument it is dated to Year 5 of ‘Pharaoh Shoshenk.’ This Shoshenq is the first ruler of Egypt’s Egypt’s 22nd Dynasty in the 10th century BCE. But this is not the only time Shoshenq’s name is significant.

In 1 Kings 11, God begins to penalize Solomon for his worship of other gods. First Solomon faced challenges from Edom and then from Aram. Then Jeroboam son of Nebat, from the tribe of Ephraim, rebelled against the king. Solomon attempted to eliminate the threat, but Jeroboam escaped. “Solomon tried to kill Jeroboam, but Jeroboam fled to Egypt, to Shishak the king, and stayed there until Solomon’s death.”

A seemingly minor part in this affair, the Egyptian king, is an important detail for the archaeological study of the Bible. Most scholars of the Bible believe the Egyptian king Shishak in 1 Kings 11 and the Egyptian king “Pharaoh Shoshenq” to be one and the same. This would make Shoshenq the first figure in the Bible whose name is proven by a record outside of the Bible. The image above is of a sphinx with the face of Shoshenq, the first human biblical character for whom we have an image. It is kept at the Brooklyn Museum.

Its better to be first:

From Libya, a New King in Town

Photo (C) RMN-Grand Palais (musée du Louvre) / Georges Poncet

In Exodus 1, Jacob’s remaining sons died. With their passing, the Israelites lost their connection to Egyptian royalty. “Then a new king, to whom Joseph meant nothing, came to power in Egypt. “Look,” he said to his people, “the Israelites have become far too numerous for us. Come, we must deal shrewdly with them or they will become even more numerous and, if war breaks out, will join our enemies, fight against us and leave the country.” So they put slave masters over them to oppress them with forced labor, and they built Pithom and Rameses as store cities for Pharaoh. But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread; so the Egyptians came to dread the Israelites and worked them ruthlessly. They made their lives bitter with harsh labor in brick and mortar and with all kinds of work in the fields; in all their harsh labor the Egyptians worked them ruthlessly.

In the middle of the 10th century in Egypt, power changed hands to a new Egyptian dynasty, the 22nd Dynasty.

Libyan tribes from across Egypt’s western desert had long posed a threat to Egypt. In the 12th century BCE, the 20th Dynasty pharaoh Ramesses III reported defeating the invading Libyan tribes, including the Libu, Tehenu, Temehu and Meshwesh. During the 21st dynasty, the Meshwesh gradually settled in the northwestern delta region in northern Egypt, and eventually reached a critical mass to be able to challenge for hegemony.

Shoshenq I was the commander of the Egyptian army and advisor to the 21st Dynasty king Psusennes II. Shoshenq I married his son Osorkon to Psusennes II’s daughter. When Psusennes II died, Shoshenq I took the reigns of Egypt to become the founder of the 22nd Dynasty.

Shoshenq I’s Libyan roots are recorded in the Stela of Pasenhor. The Stela of Pasenhor was discovered at Saqqara, the site of the necropolis, where dead royalty was buried, for the traditional northern Egyptian capital of Memphis. The Stela of Pasenhor records the death of the Apis bull, the divine bull of Memphis during the reign of a late 22nd king. But on the stele it records the author’s origins, which he traces back through Shoshenq I, to the patriarch, the Libyan Buyuwawa.

The Libyans descended from speakers of a Berber language. Their Libyan roots are also evidenced by names such as Shoshenq and Osorkon, which are not typical Egyptian names.  

The image above is of the Stela of Pasenhor, kept at the Louvre Museum in Paris, France.

For the new king in the Bible and the new king of Egypt, Shoshenq I, a little Prince:

From Parsonage to Power in the Third Intermediate Period

Photo Credit: BiblePlaces.com, Egyptian Museum, Cairo

In Genesis 50 Jacob’s body was given a royal sendoff, befitting his son Joseph’s position. “So Joseph went up to bury his father. All Pharaoh’s officials accompanied him, the dignitaries of his court and all the dignitaries of Egypt, besides all the members of Joseph’s household and his brothers and those belonging to his father’s household. Only their children and their flocks and herds were left in Goshen. Chariots and horsemen also went up with him.”

Despite Joseph’s royal position, there were still areas where his rule did not reach. In Genesis 47, during a famine, Joseph was able to take control of the land, but he could not control the priesthood. “So Joseph established it as a law concerning land in Egypt, still in force today, that a fifth of the produce belongs to Pharaoh. It was only the land of the priests that did not become Pharaoh’s.

In Egypt, in the 11th century BCE, Ramsses XI’s death marked the end of the 20th Dynasty, and with it the end of Egypt’s New Kingdom. Ramesses XI was replaced by Smendes I, the first king of the 21st Dynasty, thus beginning Egypt’s Third Intermediate Period.

In the Bible’s account, Joseph’s dominion did not extend to the priesthood. This was also the case for Egypt’s 21st Dynasty. The 21st Dynasty rulers controlled northern, or Lower Egypt, In the south, in Upper Egypt, the priests of the god Amun were able to assert control. During the reign of Smendes I, the high priest of Amun, Pinedjem I, declared himself ruler of Upper Egypt. The two power centers married into each other’s families, but Egypt was not unified under a single ruler.

The 21st Dynasty ruled from Tanis, in the eastern Delta in Lower Egypt. The city sat along the once active Tanitic branch of the Nile, but this branch has since dried up. In the Bible, the city was known as Zoan, and it makes an appearance in the prophetic works. In Isaiah 19, he writes that “The officials of Zoan are nothing but fools, the wise counselors of Pharaoh give senseless advice. How can you say to Pharaoh, “I am one of the wise men, a disciple of the ancient kings.”

According to the view that King David began his rule at roughly the beginning of the 10th century BCE, the rule of David and his son Solomon would have been concurrent with the reign of the 21st Dynasty.

The exact nature of the ties between the two regions during this time in unclear from the archaeology alone. The end of the New Kingdom coincided with Egyptian withdrawal from Canaan, and at the beginning of the Third Intermediate Period, Egyptian centralized rule was weaker, not stronger.

In 1 Kings 9, the ties are close. “Here is the account of the forced labor King Solomon conscripted to build the Lord’s temple, his own palace, the terraces, the wall of Jerusalem, and Hazor, Megiddo and Gezer. (Pharaoh king of Egypt had attacked and captured Gezer. He had set it on fire. He killed its Canaanite inhabitants and then gave it as a wedding gift to his daughter, Solomon’s wife. And Solomon rebuilt Gezer).” In the biblical account, Solomon had marriage ties to Egypt and the Egyptian military was active in Canaan.

The pharaoh Siamun ruled for roughly 20 years during the first half of the 10th century BCE. He is believed to have expanded the Temple of Amun at Tanis. On the walls of the Temple of Amun at Tanis there is a relief depicting this pharaoh smiting his enemies. An argument has been extended that this is an image of him smiting the inhabitants of Gezer, based on the Aegean style design of an axe in the hands of possibly a Philistine prisoner, but this interpretation is neither clear nor universally accepted.

The image above is of the funerary mask of the 21st Dynasty pharaoh Amenemope, which was discovered at Tanis. Amenemope would have been a contemporary of King David in the early 10th century BCE.

For the Third Intermediate Period, Third Degree blues:

A Weak Egypt, an Israelite Window

Photo Credit: BiblePlaces.com, Egyptian Museum, Cairo

In the Book of Genesis, the specter of Egypt hangs over many of the stories. Without a major river system traversing the land, Canaan was dependent upon rain for its irrigation, leaving its inhabitants vulnerable to the threat of starvation during periods of drought. It was a desire to survive drought that brought Joseph’s brothers before him in Genesis 44 and which ultimately brought Jacob to Egypt in Genesis 46.

The Late Bronze Age (LBA) Collapse led to the demise of the major kingdoms of the early 12th century BCE. The Mycenaean Greek civilization collapsed, as did the Hittite Kingdom and Kassite Babylonian Kingdom. The Assyrian Kingdom shrunk to become a rump state.

The Egyptian New Kingdom was not impervious to the changes. The LBA Collapse ushered in a period of slow decline in Egypt. Yet even as Egyptian power waned, Egypt still had an influence in the broader region. A cartouche is an oval symbol containing hieroglyphs. A cartouche with the name of Ramesses IX was found in Gezer, roughly between today’s Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, indicating that in the late 12th century BCE, Egypt still remained involved in the southern Levant. Eventually though, a weaker Egypt gradually withdrew from Canaan, until by the late 12th century it seemingly had little to no significant presence there.

Egypt’s New Kingdom 20th Dynasty began with Setnakhte’s ascension to the throne in 1189 BCE. The remaining pharaohs of this dynasty were all name Ramesses. It started out well enough with Ramesses III defeating the Sea Peoples, but presumably difficulties securing food led to a workers strike and later Ramesses III was assassinated. The 20th Dynasty kings Ramesses IV, Ramesses VI and Ramesses VIII were all children of Ramesses III, indicating problems in royal succession.

In this slow winding Egyptian collapse, Libyan tribes such as the Libu, Tehenu, Temehu and Meshwesh attacked Egypt.

The Meshwesh, a Libyan tribe with Berber origins, were speakers of the Afroasiatic language Berber, distantly related to the Semitic and Egyptian languages. The Meshwesh do appear to have been defeated by the Egyptians during Ramesses III’s reign, but they continued to harass the Egyptians throughout the 20th Dynasty.

Eventually, Egypt’s 20th Dynasty could not hold power. The priests of Amun took power in southern, or Upper Egypt, while new rulers emerged in northern, or Lower Egypt. This ushered what has been coined the Third Intermediate Period. At the outset the Egyptian kings were weaker than they had been earlier. As in the Genesis stories, conditions in Egypt in the Iron Age had an impact on the southern Levant. In the Iron IIA period, a diminished Egypt enabled new states such as the Ammonite, Moabite, Aramean and Israelite kingdoms to emerge.

The image above is a statue of Ramesses III, one of the last powerful kings of the 20th Dynasty, on display at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.

King David in the Borderlands of Dan

In Genesis 41, the pharaoh made Joseph part of Egyptian royalty. “So Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I hereby put you in charge of the whole land of Egypt.” Then Pharaoh took his signet ring from his finger and put it on Joseph’s finger. He dressed him in robes of fine linen and put a gold chain around his neck. He had him ride in a chariot as his second-in-command, and people shouted before him, “Make way!” Thus he put him in charge of the whole land of Egypt.”

In the Bible, King David underwent a multi-stage process on the way to becoming the king over Israel. In 1 Samuel 16, after Saul had disobeyed God’s command, God pointed out David to the prophet Samuel. “So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon David.”

In 2 Samuel 2, after King Saul was killed in battle, “Then the men of Judah came to Hebron, and there they anointed David king over the tribe of Judah.” After he defeated Saul’s son, in 2 Samuel 5 “When all the elders of Israel had come to King David at Hebron, the king made a covenant with them at Hebron before the Lord, and they anointed David king over Israel.” King David secured his leadership over all of Israel.

In the 1970s, certain academics began to take a more skeptical approach to events described in the Bible. They argued that many of the stories and characters were fictional. They questioned the existence of King David, of a united monarchy of 12 tribes, and of the establishment of a Davidic kingdom centered in Jerusalem. Scholars pointed to the lack of corroborating evidence for King David as evidence that this central story was a later invention.

In Joshua 19, the tribe of Dan was allotted territory along the central coastline of the southern Levant. “The territory of their inheritance included Zorah, Eshtaol, Ir Shemesh, Shaalabbin, Aijalon, Ithlah, Elon, Timnah, Ekron, Eltekeh, Gibbethon, Baalath, Jehud, Bene Berak, Gath Rimmon, Me Jarkon and Rakkon, with the area facing Jaffa.” However, the tribes were unable to conquer and hold this territory and the tribe of Dan was forced to find land elsewhere.

In Judges 18, the tribe members of Dan went north, to the northern edge of modern day Israel, to look for suitable territory. “So the five men left and came to Laish, where they saw that the people were living in safety, like the Sidonians, at peace and secure. And since their land lacked nothing, they were prosperous. Also, they lived a long way from the Sidonians and had no relationship with anyone else.”

The Danites decided this was perfect land for themselves. “They attacked them with the sword and burned down their city. There was no one to rescue them because they lived a long way from Sidon and had no relationship with anyone else… The Danites rebuilt the city and settled there. They named it Dan after their ancestor Dan, who was born to Israel, though the city used to be called Laish.”

One skeptic about King David was Philip Davies. In his 1992 book In Search of “Ancient Israel”: A Study in Biblical Origins, he wrote “there are no literary criteria for believing David to be more historical than Joshua, Joshua more historical than Abraham, and Abraham more historical than Adam. An additional problem, in fact, is that there is no non-literary way of making this judgment either, since none of these characters has left a trace outside the biblical text!  Even within the text, the David of 1 Samuel is not the David of 2 Samuel, literarily speaking. These are two characters, created by (probably) different authors.”

In 1993, an excavation of Tel Dan led by Avraham Biran unearthed a stele at Tel Dan in northern Israel. In it, what appears to be an Aramean king boasts of killing the king of Israel and a king of the ‘House of David.’ There are some who question the reading of the monument, but the consensus is that this is a 9th century recognition of a ruler descending from the royal lineage of a King David. How powerful this Davidic kingdom was is a different debate, but the clear attestation of a “House of David” after its mention of a king of Israel has produced a consensus amongst scholars that King David is indeed a historical figure.

The image above is of the Tel Dan Stele, discovered in 1993 and now on display at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.

With confirmation of King David, a little Milli Vanilli: