Sunday, May 18, 2008

Israelites Came From...?

Here is a short article on possible contemporary answers.

None of them particularly blow me away, but a tweaked Albrecht Alt 'infiltration' model seems to be the idea most consistent with the physical evidence and coherent with the stories in Tanach. Various Hebrew tribes entered the land more or less peacefully and settled primarily in the empty highlands (as is coherent with Judges and the archeological data). Perhaps they were associated or identified with the Hyksos who were chased out of Egypt in the 16th century BCE - so perhaps they did come from Egypt, though perhaps they came from other regions. These Hebrews eventually joined forces under a new religious vision imported from the south by a group of escaped Hebrew slaves and the Israelites as we know them were founded.

34 comments:

Baal Habos said...

This type of material is the ultimate in skepticism. Read William Dever for more of it.

Yehudi Hilchati said...

One important newer component is left out of the overview you linked to - what about genetic evidence?

Orthoprax said...

Baal,

Ironically, what tends to bother me far more about literalists is their cockamamy views of history rather than any theological differences we may have. Not particularly on this issue, but about human prehistory. That, for example, all of humanity literally descends from Noah's three sons. It's so divorced from reality that I can't even talk to them.


YH,

What of the genetic evidence? You mean the Cohen markers? I think that does lend credence to the existence of a man like Aaron which lends some credence to a number of personalities in the Torah. Though beyond that I'm not sure how much more one can make of it.

Baal Habos said...

OP, when I mention Dever, I'm also not referring to theological issues; I'm referring to issues of national identity. It's one thing to deny TMS for example, and YT"M. But then to even deny elements such as Joshua's conquest and Yehoshua and Shoftim in General, is another TKO. At least the genetic aspects show that there is some grain of history there with respect to Cohanim. I'm not sure if that's what YH was referring to.

Rabban Gamliel said...

The article shows some misunderstandings. Joshua does not claim the entire land was conquered and there is confirmation for battles overthrowing cities in Canaan in the period of Joshua and the Judges, just not confirmation for all. Further one would not really expect Egypt to mention the Exodus as it had a common attitude of glossing over defeat unless it was part of a story of eventual victory. The period of the Hyksos is quite a mystery from Egyptian records despite it being a period in which foreigners rules Egypt! We can still look for Egyptian records and perhaps there are but don't hold your breath. Also it must be remembered that oral tradition has passed down a tremendous amount of information. If it is powerful enough to pass down custom and mythology it is powerful enough to pass down history too. The date of writing is not equivalent to the date of when the information was gathered.

Rabban Gamliel said...

Another thing the article is wrong on is that Jerusalem was not fully taken in the Tanach until King David conquered it but the Jebusites dwelt there. Only with King David is the conquest said to be complete in the Tanach. Shaul's kingdom for instance looked like pieces of territory with some big globs and some smaller globs. I get the impression that Biblical scholars do not necessarily read books of the Tanach from cover to cover like Rashi or Rabbi Avraham evn Ezra relying instead on second hand information like a Talmudic scholar knowing Nach mostly from the parts that happen to be mentioned in the Talmud.

Orthoprax said...

Baal,

"It's one thing to deny TMS for example, and YT"M. But then to even deny elements such as Joshua's conquest and Yehoshua and Shoftim in General, is another TKO."

Well I'm not prepared to deny it, there probably was a conquest of sorts, I just don't think that's the most likely explanation for how the Israelites came to Canaan.


RG,

"there is confirmation for battles overthrowing cities in Canaan in the period of Joshua and the Judges"

True, but the period of destruction spans over a century. It's interesting to note that both Joshua and Barak/Deborah fight and destroy the great Canaanite king Yabin from Hazor, as reported in Joshua and Judges, respectively.

"The period of the Hyksos is quite a mystery from Egyptian records despite it being a period in which foreigners rules Egypt!"

Where exactly do you think we know of the Hyksos if not from Egyptian sources?

Rabban Gamliel said...

We lack a lot of details as the Egyptians were ashamed of the conquest but were happy to report of the driving out of the Hyksos.

Rabban Gamliel. said...

"RG,

"there is confirmation for battles overthrowing cities in Canaan in the period of Joshua and the Judges"

True, but the period of destruction spans over a century. It's interesting to note that both Joshua and Barak/Deborah fight and destroy the great Canaanite king Yabin from Hazor, as reported in Joshua and Judges, respectively."

No it is not the same. The one in Joshua was king over Hazor and not Canaan. The one in Judges was king over Canaan including Hazor.

Rabban Gamliel said...

"True, but the period of destruction spans over a century."

But that's not my point. My point is that the Israelites had territory already under joshua. Further Merneptah's stele makes it clear that Israel was already in existence as a political entity in his day though not over all the land of Canaan which still enjoyed independent existence.

Orthoprax said...

RG,

"No it is not the same. The one in Joshua was king over Hazor and not Canaan. The one in Judges was king over Canaan including Hazor."

"When Jabin king of Hazor heard of this, he sent word to Jobab king of Madon, to the kings of Shimron and Acshaph...At that time Joshua turned back and captured Hazor and put its king to the sword. (Hazor had been the head of all these kingdoms.)" - Joshua 11:1,10

"So the LORD sold them into the hands of Jabin, a king of Canaan, who reigned in Hazor." - Judges 4:2

Come to your own conclusions.


"But that's not my point. My point is that the Israelites had territory already under joshua."

And I think they had territory even before Joshua. They settled more or less peacefully in the highlands and later had major conflicts with the Canaanites.

Rabban Gamliel said...

"So the LORD sold them into the hands of Jabin, a king of Canaan, who reigned in Hazor." - Judges 4:2

King of Canaan. Further Joshua killed the other Jabin.

Rabban Gamliel said...

The other one was not known as "King of Canaan."

Orthoprax said...

RG,

"King of Canaan."

Yes - are you not paying attention? "Hazor had been the head of all these kingdoms." - Joshua 11:10

"Further Joshua killed the other Jabin."

He also burnt Hazor to the ground. Yet there it stands to still bother the Israelites in Judges.

Rabban Gamliel said...

"Orthoprax said...
RG,

"King of Canaan."

Yes - are you not paying attention? "Hazor had been the head of all these kingdoms." - Joshua 11:10"

Ok but he was not king of Canaan. He was heading other kings. The one in Judges was a king over Canaan whatever the precise amount of territory in Canaan was united under him.

""Further Joshua killed the other Jabin."

He also burnt Hazor to the ground. Yet there it stands to still bother the Israelites in Judges."

Yeah Jerusalem also served as a problem later. When occupation did not establish the territory as your own it could switch. territory fluctuated. Not everything conquered remained so in the face of the enemies of Israel. In any event in the days of Deborah the Canaanites had more political unity.

Orthoprax said...

RG,

What can I say? They're duplicate Yabins ruling from duplicate powerful Hazors both leading powerful chariot armies against the Israelites and both being defeated in an upset by weaker Israelite forces.

Like I said, you can come to your own conclusions.

Rabban Gamliel said...

What you are saying is that if it was made clear that this King Jabin is called king of Canaan that that would not be enough to have the Tanach feel it doesn't have to tell you they were seperate Kings. You except the Tanach to spell it out for you.

Rabban Gamliel said...

On one hand you treat the Tanach as if it was sloppily put together
by people who don't notice what was written, on the other hand you make them more exact than we would be. This was always a weakness with DH not that what you said about Jabin is the scholary consensus.

Rabban Gamliel said...

In other words I am unaware of any scholary consensus.

Orthoprax said...

RG,

I really don't know what you're talking about. I think the two books are bringing down distinct versions of the same event.

If they were different events they'd be, y'know, different. I think it's more likely that we have duplicate accounts rather than the events being duplicated to that degree.

Rabban Gamliel said...

It is definitely two different battles. I never read of anyone arguing otherwise.

smoo said...

WHO WERE THE EARLY ISRAELITES AND WHERE DID THEY COME FROM by: William G. Dever reviews and discounts the various theories like the conquest theory, the peaceful infiltration theory, peasant revolt theory, and Finkelstein's sedentarization theory.


Anti CONQUEST MODEL – 1. Absence of destruction levels at Dibon & Heshbon in Transjordan (as well as no occupations there at the time).

2. Destroyed wall of Jericho was from Egyptian campaign to expel Hyksos (ca.1500). In 13th cent Jericho had long been completely abandoned. (Not even a potsherd from Late Bronze II).

3. Gibeon- even though Bible didn't claim to destroy it (became servants), there is no 13th or early 12th cent occupation.

4. Debir – has no 13th cent destruction.

5. Lachish destruction took place as LATE as 1170 (there is an inscribed bronze with cartouche of Ramses III (1198-1166)



Anti- PEACEFUL INFILTRATION

Problem: tribal origins sound like foundation myth

1. New society & culture must have characteristics different & distinguishable (observable discontinuities in material culture).

2. Homeland and its culture must be known

3. Route must be traceable and re-constructable.

None of these requirements met here for Israelites. In fact, Amihai Mazar notes that the material culture reflects Canaanite origin/inspiration- architecture, pottery-making, artistic traditions, cult practices.



Anti-PEASANT REVOLT

There is no archaeological evidence for peasant war but there is evidence of social upheaval, mass immigration to Hill country, sudden emergence of distinctive rural lifestyle.



Dever is against Finkelstein's theory because the demographic surge in Iron I hill country came from Canaanite society. Even if all 1,200-1,500 pastoral nomads settled in hill country in 12th cent, it doesn’t explain the huge population explosion. Also Nomads settle under duress (Like government forcing them). They feel their lifestyle is purer. At this time, Egypt was losing grip on Canaan and local feudal dynasties had no power to force such settlement. The withdrawal here was motivated by a QUEST FOR A NEW SOCIETY & LIFESTYLE.



IRON I HILL COUNTY SETTLERS ORIGINATE IN LOWLAND (URBAN & COUNTRYSIDE) AND WERE ALREADY SEDENTARIZED because only experienced farmers could have succeeded in building an extensive, highly integrated (economy &) agricultural society and these people had little to lose. Whether they were landless Apiru, or peasant farmers or villagers, they were already impoverished and socially marginalized. Proto-Israelites were dissidents 1. Urban dropouts (seeking escape from economic exploitation, bureaucratic inefficiency/corruption, taxation, & conscription. 2. Apiru & other social bandits, rebels, & mercenaries 3. Refugees (from Egyptian ‘justice’, displaced villagers, impoverished farmers 4. pastoral nomads of eastern steppe or trans Jordan (Shasu) or even an exodus group among Asiatic slaves in Delta.



Dever believes “LAND REFORM MUST HAVE BEEN THE DRIVING FORCE BEHIND, AND THE ULTIMATE GOAL OF, THE EARLY ISRAELITE MOVEMENT.” It was an agrarian movement with strong reformist tendencies for a new social ideal-utopia. Amarna letters attest to the fact that ancient Canaan believed all lands belonged to the sovereign. In the newly developed society, “sovereign (was) displaced and family unit replaced state apparatus.” There was significant continuity in LBA and Iron I in pottery also between Iron I & II. This supports highland settlers emerging from lowland Canaan rather from outside source.



Read his book for more.

Rabban Gamliel said...

"Canaan is plagued by every evil. Ashkelon is carried off. Gezer is taken. Yanoam is like that which is not. Israel is desolate. It's seed is naught."

The stele of Ramses successor Merneptah 13th century

smoo said...

I should have summed up at the end of that Dever-a-thon. Rather than peaceful infiltration, focus instead an indigenous and probably ideological population that needed to extricate itself from the social upheavals of that period. With that in mind, accept the possibility of some escaped slaves, nomads, refugees, or rebels joining the group. Also allow for their traditions to be assimilated or even for traditions within the Canaanite population that recall a minor exodus (like a memory of the Hyksos expulsion).



[An interesting aside: Consider a possible source of the Israelite religion originating not in Padan-Aram or Egypt (from the Exodus) but rather from the mountains of Seir. Egyptian texts typically refer to Edom as Mt Seir homeland of the ‘Shasu’ and there is a Biblical verse that YHWH comes from Seir.

Deuteronomy 33:2 He said, "Yahweh came from Sinai, And rose from Seir to them.



Judges 5:4 "Yahweh, when you went forth out of Seir, when you marched out of the field of Edom, the earth trembled, the sky also dropped.]

Orthoprax said...

Smoo,

"1. New society & culture must have characteristics different & distinguishable (observable discontinuities in material culture)."

I have just been reading through Finkelstein's book and he does report that the highland communities were at a lower state of civilization than the peoples in the lowlands. That the pottery too is actually distinct.

"2.Homeland and its culture must be known 3. Route must be traceable and re-constructable.""

Both of these assume they came as a united group. Archeological records indicate that the Apiru were widespread throughout the whole Middle East and probably held various cultural identities. Indeed, the Amarna letters indicate that they were giving the Egyptian officials in Canaan a real headache around the reign of Akhenaton.

"None of these requirements met here for Israelites. In fact, Amihai Mazar notes that the material culture reflects Canaanite origin/inspiration- architecture, pottery-making, artistic traditions, cult practices."

Actually, again, according to Finkelstein, the highland settlements were virtually bereft of art and cultural artifacts as they lived an essentially subsistence-style lifestyle.


"Rather than peaceful infiltration, focus instead an indigenous and probably ideological population that needed to extricate itself from the social upheavals of that period."

I think the social upheaval theory is a bit weak. Not that some internal movement of people couldn't have contributed to the Israelite population, but it's essentially a romantic notion without real evidence. Finkelstein points out the oval-shaped arrangement of the villages likening them to a recently sedentarized pastoral population which would have encamped in a similar arrangement.

I think that if a people hold a traditional belief that they came from elsewhere and battled for control of the land then that should be taken rather seriously. And if that can jive more or less with the other evidence then that's the best option.

Rabban Gamliel said...

The Moabites for instance had taken over a previous population exactly as the Tanach says. I have no doubt that the Israelites while they were in Canaan had marriages with the Canaanites but I do not think their origins were Canaanite. They rather absorbed Canaanites into the population and I'm sure in Egypt the same was with Egyptians. They were a limited in number group at first and so had to mix with the neigbors.

alex said...

Something tells me that the Infiltration model mentioned in your post is probably not the same as R' Aryeh Kaplan's Infiltration model -->
http://www.innernet.org.il/article.php?aid=352

smoo said...

I think it prudent to read Dever alongside of Finkelstein. I respect both of them and find many of their points very cogent. I briefly reviewed The Bible Unearthed and also The Quest For The Historical Israel (both by Finkelstein) and Dever's Who Were The Early Israelites...Dever has some in-depth challenges against Finkelstein, specifically relating to the stratum and findings that Finkelstein uses to prove his points (and specifically regarding sites used to prove oval-shaped village plan). I'm not qualified to assess the validity of those details so I shall await Finkelstein's refutation. On the simpler level Dever also challenges the idea of the uniqueness for such an oval plan because realistically a hilltop settlement will be such, based on topography (how many rectangular mountains are there?) as well as even bedouins do not regularly form the round camp except in the most dangerous situations. {Maybe we watched to many cowboy and Indian movies with the wagon trains}

"That the pottery too is actually distinct"
Which book (and page) refers to the pottery being distinct? On p. 77-79 in The Quest for the Historical Israel. FINKELSTEIN says there are signs of continuity with LBA pottery and the signs of discontinuity should be attributed more to environmental and social factors rather than ethnic markers (He applies the same to declassifying the four-room house as specifically an Israelite ethnic marker).
He does feel that avoidance of pigs could be an ethnic marker because nomads can't herd pigs. The problem with this is that he posits three periods of sedentarization of nomads in the highlands (extending back to the Early Bronze Age). How come there are pig bones in their faunal assemblages? He did make an interesting point that I'm more inclined to accept at this juncture. He said that perhaps the proto-Israelites subjectively identified pigs as ethnic markers for Philistines and to mark their distinctiveness, the Israelites avoided being like the goyim/Philistines and avoided pig.

"I think the social upheaval theory is a bit weak...it's essentially a romantic notion without real evidence."
It's interesting that is how Dever describes Finkelstein's theory.
I mentioned before an important point from Dever p.156- Using Finkelstein's estimates: Even if all 1,200-1,500 pastoral nomads settled in hill country in 12th century B.C., it doesn’t explain the huge population explosion (10 fold increase can’t be result of natural increase even if each family had 50 surviving children!).

"I think that if a people hold a traditional belief that they came from elsewhere and battled for control of the land then that should be taken rather seriously."

Perhaps you could look at it differently. What if diverse groups over a long period converged on one particular area where each had some of their traditions merge with those of others. Some where the nomads, others from Aram (Abraham tradition), still others urban dropouts or refugees as noted in my previous comment. Perhaps one particular group has more influence whether by virtue of might or by persuasion that this mixed multitude starts to identify along their line (while preserving aspects of the original traditions). Did they use force to conquer? Perhaps, they came to cities and saw ruins from previous occupations and incorporated a story of how THEY triumphed over the previous people in the land. Certainly they did clash with Philistines and other groups just as the Canaanites of the LBA had such strife as described in the Amarna letters.

Rereading your actual post, I don't feel that we are far apart in our overall image of the emergence of the Israelites. While you describe it as infiltration, I will call it assimilation from multiple source (more internal, some external) who later became the 'Hebrews'

Orthoprax said...

Smoo,

"Which book (and page) refers to the pottery being distinct?"

Regarding the peasant-revolt theory, Finkelstein writes (page 104 of The Bible Unearthed), "Unfortunately, this theory has no archeological evidence to support it - and indeed, much of the evidence flatly contradicts it. As we have seen, the material culture of the new villages was completely distinct from the culture of the Canaanite lowlands; if the settlers had been refugees from the lowlands, we would expect to see at least more similarity in architecture and pottery styles."

"He said that perhaps the proto-Israelites subjectively identified pigs as ethnic markers for Philistines and to mark their distinctiveness, the Israelites avoided being like the goyim/Philistines and avoided pig."

I think it's worth noting that pig revulsion was actually common in Egypt. I have a post somewhere on my blog where I talk about that.

"I mentioned before an important point from Dever p.156- Using Finkelstein's estimates: Even if all 1,200-1,500 pastoral nomads settled in hill country in 12th century B.C., it doesn’t explain the huge population explosion (10 fold increase can’t be result of natural increase even if each family had 50 surviving children!)."

That's am excellent point and one which I think points to a significant extra-Canaanite source.

"Rereading your actual post, I don't feel that we are far apart in our overall image of the emergence of the Israelites. While you describe it as infiltration, I will call it assimilation from multiple source (more internal, some external) who later became the 'Hebrews'"

Well, yes. As I said previously, I'm confident that a share of the population was composed of internal persons too, but I think they were mostly extra-Canaanite.

Seriously, if we could find some reliable evidence of several ten-thousand Hebrews coming out of Egypt during the 13th century (and I don't think it impossible) then I think everything would fit neatly into place. Until we get that though we just have a big mess of a coalescing population coming from uncertain sources.

Rabban gamliel said...

I would be very hesitant to ascribe cultural features to ProtoIsraelites who are a hitherto unknown segment of some other population. It is too speculative. But with the way the discussion is proceeding it is starting to become purely historical in nature with me contending that there is too much subjectivity with the revisionists. In terms of theology it doesn't matter if the Tanach calls Israelites what some critic who accepts the Exodus and revisionism would call a segment of the population that later would go into what would be called by critics Israelites and is urging them to have Judaism as they see it accepted. On the contrary the Tanach calls the nation of Israel, Israel even when they were just a family, progenitors of tribes and clans. So it can with some openness to both the traditional view and to what I consider monstrous revisionism, be a matter of vocabulary, what you choose to call Israel and its Judaism in what context.

smoo said...

Mazar specifically mentions the point you (and Finkelstein in Bible Unearthed) make- " the material culture of the new villages was completely distinct from the culture of the Canaanite lowlands."

Not sure what to make of it as other archaeologists like Dever do find more of a connection- claiming significant continuity in LBA and Iron I in pottery also between Iron I & II. Of course as the Highlanders coalesce and become isolated, they will take on distinctive characteristics. They will choose to adopt technology that is appropriate to their environment, they will not be as effective in reproducing pottery equal to that of the city-level sites. Not being a pottery expert, again I'll sit on the fence. I would love for Dever and Finkelstein to square off in a detailed debate on these very particulars.

Lady-Light said...

...this feels like I'm back at XGH's. Miss his blog...

Anonymous said...

miley cyrus nude miley cyrus nude miley cyrus nude

Anonymous said...

Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now keep it up!