The Rise of Israel

Introduction to Biblical Archaeology 3:
The Rise of Some People or Other

by Joel Ng (2004)

This section will probably be the longest and most difficult to follow. Attempts to depict a historical rise of ancient Israel in the Late Bronze/Iron I intermediary have been frought with bitter quarrels, polemics, and name-calling, much of which clouds the issues in which the scholars do closely agree upon. While scholars like William G. Dever, Amihai Mazar, and Lawrence Stager all believe that Israel or proto-Israel may be attested very early in the archaeological record, others like Israel Finkelstein and the various "minimalists" disagree, pushing that date much later. As always, I continue to follow Laughlin's outline in Archaeology and the Bible (2000) although I will try to go further to illustrate the similarities and divisions in contemporary debates.

The Amarna Age

When we last left off, we had just witnessed the demise of the Hyksos at Sharuhen and Avaris, and a century later Egypt rose to power in what we now call the "Amarna Age" based on hundreds of Akkadian tablets found at Tell El-Amarna in Egypt. Several contain correspondence between the pharoah and various petty rulers of Egypt bringing to life a rich but troubled time in Palestine. As we have seen earlier, there is little here that corresponds with the biblical portrait of the era, probably contemporaneous with Joshua and Judges. Instead, we see petty rulers squabbling (and seeking assistance from the Egyptians) over border disputes, rivalries, raiding parties, and the ever-scorned Hab/piru. Could the Hab/piru be the ancestors to our Israelites? Scholars have long noted its similarity to the word "Hebrew" ('ibrî or 'ivrî) and of a people active in Egypt called 'pr.w.

Unfortunately, the connection fails because so-called "Hebrews" are mentioned only in connection with King Abdi-Heba's Jerusalem, which does not correspond to the Biblical account that Jerusalem was only captured much later by King David. In the Amarna letters, they are portrayed as renegades, bandits, and perhaps a class (as Mendenhall argued, below), but are difficult to define being so eclectic. Moreover, as Niels Peter Lemche points out, the term is used identically with the Sumerian SA.GAZ (possibly following after the Akkadian saggasu, meaning "murderers"), which means that our Hab/piru start popping up all over the Ancient Near East, never confined to the hill country or Palestine for that matter. That they are trouble-makers is drawn from a literal reading of the texts (and perhaps the disturbances they caused made possible the rise of Israel later), but Dever sees them as victims, blamed for all sorts of social ills.

Whatever the case, they cannot be confidently identified as Hebrews, and what little we know of them suggests that they were not migrants (perhaps fringe dwellers). Until the 11th century B.C.E., this was to be a continuous period of Egyptian domination over the region, and not an ideal time for the Biblical Israel to emerge (and indeed there is no ideal time), though this may in fact be the time when historical Israelites (or "proto-Israelites") began to emerge, yet even this is disputed as we shall see later.

The Merneptah Stele

One tantalising hint of Israelite origins comes from the "Victory Stele" of Pharoah Merneptah dated to 1207 B.C.E.:

The princes are prostrate, saying "Mercy!" Not one raises his head among the Nine Bows. Desolation is for Tehenu; Hatti is pacified; plundered is the Canaan with every evil; Carried off is Ashkelon; seized upon is Gezer. Yanoam is made as that which does not exist; Israel ( is laid waste; his seed is not; Hurru is become a widow for Egypt! All lands together, they are pacified.

All this of course says nothing of an Exodus or Conquest, but that a certain people termed "Israel" is already inhabiting Palestine by this point. The inscription clearly refers to a people (man + woman + 3 strokes) of Israel, whereas in reference to the others (e.g. Yanoam, Ashkelon, and Gezer), the inscription has three hills for its determinative sign (thus indicating geographical areas). While Philip R. Davies argues that the determinative sign is ambiguous it is likely that we do have here the first extrabiblical mention of Israel. William Dever goes further to argue that in fact the list is a "map" of Merneptah's conquests, with Tehenu (Libyans) west of Egypt, Hatti (Hittites) in northern Syria, Hurru (Hurrians) in Syria, and then Ashkelon, near the modern day Gaza strip, Gezer in the centre of Israel, Yanoam in the North, and therefore Israel in the central highlands, exactly where they need to be to emerge later as a fully-fledged monarchy. Israel Finkelstein disagrees with this somewhat arbitrary claim, and indeed there is no evidence to support this, only the aesthetic appeal to one's eye. It is also unclear whether this Israel is even our biblical one. We will return to the question of ethnicity later.

Models of Israelite Origins

There are three great models of the older schools of archaeologists, championed by many of the late generation of scholars that pioneered work from World War I till the 1960s. Today, none of these are accepted at face value primarily because of the simplistic assumptions, weak methodologies, and paucity of evidence available for study. It has been recognised that there was a significant change in material culture (a discontinuity) between the Late Bronze II and Iron I (circa 1200 B.C.E., ironically around the same time as Merneptah's campaign), which is the best possible time to fit in a sudden conquest, but what is the evidence?

The Conquest Model

William Foxwell Albright, the father of biblical archaeology, developed a "conquest" hypothesis of a unified Israelite push through Canaan citing evidence from his work at Tell Beit-Mirsim (he identified it as the biblical Debir, though this is disputed today), Lachish, and Bethel. Later proponents such as George Ernest Wright, John Bright, and Yigal Yadin also added Heshbon, Jericho, Eglon, and Hazor to cities which supported the conquest model with destruction layers in the Iron I age, akin to the treatment in Joshua 6-12. However, as regional surveys came to be published, this idea was found to be clearly wrong.

Firstly, many of the cities listed in Joshua were not destroyed at a time close enough for them to be carried out in a systematic campaign (Taanach, Megiddo, Kedesh, Jokneam, Dor), or were simply not destroyed (Jerusalem, Hebron, Debir, Tirzah). Others were destroyed, but by invaders who we can identify as either "Sea Peoples" (more on them later) or Merneptah, but not Israelites (Gezer, Aphek, Dor). Further evidence at Lachish has shown that the rebuilt city of Lachish VI (atop the ruins of Lachish VII) was probably an Egypto-Canaanite settlement. Finally, several were simply unoccupied or completely unlike the biblical portrait at the time (Jericho, Ai, Eglon, Arad). That leaves Bethel, and Hazor as the only cities which the Israelites could have captured, which certainly does call into question the conquest model, although a few others are as yet unidentified or unexcavated. The apologist excuse (for those are the only ones who still defend the conquest) that the Israelites simply walked into the cities killing people but not destroying anything cannot be taken seriously.

Moreover for a case to be made for mass migration, Lawrence Stager writes:

  1. The implanted culture must be distinguishable from the indigenous cultures in the new zones of settlement. If the intrusive group launches an invasion (as proponents of the Israelite "conquest" postulate), then there should be synchronous discontinuities, such as destruction layers, separating the previous "Canaanite" cultures from the newly established "Israelite" cultures in the zone of contention.
  2. The homeland of the migrating/invading groups should be located, its material culture depicted, and temporal precedence established in its place of origin. In the case of invading Israel, this should be in Transjordan or in Egypt.
  3. The route of migration/invasion should be traceable and examined for its archaeological, historical, and geographical plausibility. If the new immigrants took an overland route, the spatial and temporal distribution of the material culture should indicate the path and direction of large-scale migrations.

    L.E. Stager (1998), "Forging an Identity", in M.D. Coogan (ed.) (1998), The Oxford History of the Biblical World, Oxford: Oxford University Press, p. 94

This is not a case of setting the bar so high that it is impossible to prove. A similarly large migration has been shown using these standards of the "Sea Peoples" (precursors to the Philistines) from Mycenaea (southern Greece and Crete).

The Migration Model

Meanwhile, in Germany, Albrecht Alt and his students (particularly Martin Noth) were developing a different theory that ignored Joshua altogether and explained Israelite emergence in terms of pastoral nomads slowly infiltrating Canaan over a vast period of time (and fitting nicely with the slow progress in the book of Judges). Perhaps their annual route took them from the Transjordan into Canaan and some decided to settle over time. It was a completely theoretical model, based on his contact with Bedouin nomads around Palestine, and the factors that led to their sedentarisation (settling down into permanent locations).

Yohanan Aharoni later developed some evidence for this theory, locating areas which were empty in the Late Bronze, but with new settlements in the Iron I. While Alt's theory is sometimes known as the peaceful-infiltration model, Aharoni's was more of a conquest-infiltration, only with the conquest carried out over several centuries. Unfortunately, there are several alternative explanations as to why this emergence of settlements in the Iron I may have occurred, and we will deal with them later.

The problem with Alt's theory is that the idealised "nomadic" phase of many cultures is often fictitious (and Alt had been basing much of his work on the biblical accounts of the wandering patriarchs), and what we do know of nomadic cultures shows that they are notoriously difficult to settle: The Mari tablets detail the attempts to control and tax the Amorite movements in the 18th century B.C.E., largely unsuccessful. The eventual sedentarisation process of the Amorites took over 500 years! Ironically (when we look at the next theory), a different Marx, Emmanuel, showed that Bedouin nomadism is a deeply ideological value, not prone to swift transitions due to changing climatic conditions or economic factors (though this says nothing of nomads 3000 years ago). Alt's theory is rarely taken seriously today. Aharoni's theories were made obsolete by his own students with his methods of regional surveys (as we shall see below).

The Peasant's Revolt

George Mendenhall developed a new theory of Israelite origins that departed wholly from the Bible altogether. He had spotted that the Hab/piru of the Amarna were a social class around 1947, and that the city-states in Canaan had deep class divisions between the rulers (and the urban classes) and the rural peasants. Uniting under a single religion (Yahwism), they were able to overthrow the rulers of the city-states and develop an emerging nation of Israel. Perhaps the Israelites knew of Akhenaten's 14th century monotheistic revolution, or were influenced by the Shasu nomads who worshipped Yhw. Norman Gottwald, meanwhile, had independently identified sites he believed to be Israelite since being on the fringe, one could escape the closely controlled areas and urban problems (as we saw in the Amarna age), a process called "withdrawal". Many of the features identified here became marks of identification for "Israelite" culture (he believes Yahwism was a result, not a catalyst, of the revolt). The revolt for Gottwald, was in fact a revolution.

William G. Dever

Although initially rejected for its overtly Marxist formulation, William G. Dever developed this theory further based primarily on archaeological evidence (he calls it an "agrarian frontier reform model"). His proto-Israelites are seen as the direct ancestors of ancient Israel which would develop its distinctiveness under the united monarchy of David and Solomon. So, who were the early Israelites, and where did they come from? (I will discuss this in reverse.)

Firstly, as we have seen, the best possible time for Israelite emergence is marked by the Late Bronze II/Iron I transition. Secondly, older models have proven obsolete, though they may provide important insights or methods. Thirdly, we have seen the shortcomings of the biblical portrait, and must base our evidence primarily on archaeological evidence. Fourth, the evidence for indigenous, Canaanite origins of the Israelites is overwhelming, as we have seen in dealing with the "conquest" hypothesis. Finally, alongside the archaeological evidence, a multi-disciplinary enquiry must take place utilising palaeozoology, palaeobotany, anthropology, radiometric dating, linguistics, and other areas of research relating to the past. No longer can biblical archaeology stand aloft from other modes of inquiry.

Several distinctive features in the hill country (our modern West Bank), as well as a population explosion in the Iron I are caused by none other than our proto-Israelites. Drawing on Israel Finkelstein's 1988 work, The Archaeology of Israelite Settlement, the highland areas show a marked population increase: Some 93% of Iron I sites surveyed did not exist in the Late Bronze, and most of these are in the hill country. In the Late Bronze, the total population of the area was some 50,000 inhabitants; by the Iron II, it was perhaps 150,000. Clearly, population growth cannot fully account for this (population explosions were never sustained prior to the last two centuries), but an influx of people is necessary to explain this explosion.

Dever argues that it was simply a quest for a new lifestyle that drove this micro-exodus, not Yahwistic belief, nor class oppression, not unlike various attempts by Quakers, Hamish, Mayflower Pilgrims, and others. He also draws on David Hopkins' work that shows how incredibly difficult to settle a hill country area unless there is previous agricultural experience in the population (accompanied by the development of hill terraces to increase the available land suitable for agriculture). However, whether cisterns and terracing show resultant innovation from living in the hill country, or were factors that made settlement possible is difficult to determine. Meanwhile, he, like Mendenhall and Gottwald, speculates that the troubled Amarna period in Canaan spurred the migration into the hills—pastoral nomads would probably have gone further. These are indirect rebuttals to Finkelstein's hypothesis, which we come to now.

Israel Finkelstein

Finkelstein's theory is that the rapid increase in population in the hill country was brought about by nomads coming from the east (modern Jordan). It does bear some similarity to Alt's model, but it is based primarily on archaeology rather than speculative extrapolation of theories about Bedouins. Finkelstein's nomads simply became farmers as they moved into the hill country, and were hardly Israelite or even proto-Israelite ("hill country settlers" according to him). In fact, this was the third time such sedentarisation had taken place in the hill country, having taken place in the Early Bronze I and Middle Bronze II.

It should be important to note, firstly, what Finkelstein and Dever agree upon. First, they both are reliant on Finkelstein's 1988 work that demonstrated the rapid increase in population in the hill country in the Iron I. Secondly, they both accept that population growth alone cannot account for the increase. Thirdly, they both agree that long-term cycles of pastoralism and sedentarisation take place, with various periods demonstrating various shifts between each lifestyle. Like Dever, he agrees that archaeological evidence must be the primary source of reconstruction, but the debate between them shows how theory-laden even "evidence" can be, and dare I say, incommensurable.

The hill country settlements have distinctive features, particularly oval-shaped buildings. Like circled caravans, Finkelstein concludes that livestock were kept in these areas at night, and show the pastoral characteristics of the people who lived here. At Izbet Sartah, a crucial site has been excavated displaying his oval pattern, although it may be somewhat conjectural. Others have argued that it may simply be a matter of following contour lines, or possibly defence, though neither of these arguments would significantly trouble the pastoral theory. Elsewhere, he has found Transjordanian Iron I sites that are identical to the hill country sites in terms of pottery and material culture, and this gives rise to the possibility of an east-west movement of pastoral nomads.

In answer to Hopkin's difficulties regarding hill country agriculture, Finkelstein notes only that they produced only enough to survive, there was little social stratification (something only surplus economies are able to produce), and little trade routes or greater administration. He also dates these settlements to late in the 12th century and early 11th, considerably later than the time most others would (and his radical chronology is not accepted by most.

Questions of Ethnicity

If Dever seems to have something of an upper hand in the debate over the rise of the hill country peoples, much of the problems are technical and deal with the interpretation of archaeological evidence. Leaving aside the question of where these hill dwellers came from, we must now ask, were these people "Israelite", "proto-Israelite", or just "hill country settlers"? We have already seen that someone called "Israelites" existed, at least, as early as the late 13th century, but what else can we say? Again, we'll follow the discussion between Dever and Finkelstein, but first, a boring discussion of the problems involved.

The sociological literature on defining "ethnicity" is complex, but we can say a little on how it is formed. Firstly, it emerges from an "us vs. them" distinction. It has two identifiers: how groups define themselves, and how others define them. Most of the labels are descent-conscious; that is, they reflect an inherited identity and broad kinship. Finally, ethnicity is to be distinguished from totemism in which differences are born out of equal relationships. Instead, ethnicity derives historically from unequal relations such as resource competition and social evolution of society (simple to complex?).

Clearly, archaeologists have long sought marks of self-identification (called "type fossils"), such as distinctive pottery styles, architectural plans, and so forth. As David Small points out, this does not even fit the definition of ethnicity, but rather one must look for assymetrical relations which are the basis for ethnic division. Secondly, in cases such as architecture or technologies, much of it may simply be environmentally constrained (perhaps Finkelstein's oval plans?) and thus fit a geographical region well, while not being a sign of ethnicity. As you can see, this discussion cannot simply be a matter of assumption and rhetoric, something Dever is prone to.

Dever's problems lie in insisting that there are both LB/Iron I continuities (hence the indigenous origins of Israelites) and significant enough distinctions to identify a new ethnic group (the shortcomings of using Fredrik Barth's 1969 definitions apparent). Israelite type-fossils include four-room (or pillared courtyard) houses, hewn cisterns (water drainage specially developed for rocky outcrops), terracing, and collar-rimmed store jars. However, all of them have been found to be located in the Transjordan or elsewhere in the Ancient Near East and across time—hewn cisterns having existed in the Bronze Age.

The type-fossils approach sets itself up for refutation (unless it can find overwhelming numbers of artifacts), nor does it even consider environmental factors. Even with respect to Philistine artifacts, some such as Philistine bichrome ware may be signifiers of wealth and social status, and hence not useful for ethnic labelling. Secondly, Dever's evidence can be selective: Iron I sites such as Tell en-Nasbeh and Bethel (not in the hill country) are materially identical to Shiloh and et-Tell, yet Dever considers the latter to be proto-Israelite, and the former not to be. A stronger methodology must come forth.

Finkelstein, admirably, has pursued such a path. He admitted that his methodology in identifying "ethnicity" in the 1988 paper was simply naive, identifying ethnicity merely on territorial and socioeconomic aspects. His rebuttal of himself includes the questioning of the historicity of the biblical texts on the united monarchy, that differentiating sedentary and non-sedentary people in the LB/Iron I for the sake of ethnic identification is "meaningless", and so forth. Likewise, the Merneptah stele cannot confidently give us a location of the early Israelites, no matter the interpretations. Finkelstein finally rests ethnicity on the issue of foodways—dietary patterns—primarily, pig bones.

However, in 1994, at a conference where Finkelstein retracted, the use of pig bones (and hence consumption) to signify ethnic lines was being questioned—in fact they were rarely consumed by people all over Palestine, and much of the Ancient Near East. The factors that provided for large-scale consumption of pork (and then people identifying themselves through nonconsumption) would only come about in Hellenistic times.


Because of the complexity of this particular piece, I have only dealt with the major theories, and the biggest recent debate. Plenty of other ideas have been mooted—in particular, the Shasu nomads who worshipped Yhw, and adaptations of the major models have been around us for a long time, and will continue to do so. The debate between Finkelstein and Dever over the origins of ancient "Israelites" is far from over, and much work has yet to be published. In many ways, the debates over interpretations and methods have strengthened the field considerably, though it has also been frought with acrimonious arguments.

I have not dealt much with the minimalists, since they have not actively engaged the archaeological record. Most notably, Keith Whitelam has deconstructed the approaches of several older generations of scholars (and a few current ones) in showing how the inexorable search for "Israel" has sidelined a search for other indigenous people of the period, though not specifically tackling assumptions of ethnic identity (which would have made for a much stronger work). Niels Peter Lemche views this period, not unlike Dever, as one of turmoil and strife, in which the decadence of the Canaanite city-states, suffering from the withdrawal by Egyptian forces, allowed the periphery (in his view, nomads, like Finkelstein) to overtake the centre in much the same way we saw at the Intermediate Bronze Age (between Early and Middle Bronze). Perhaps that is as far as the consensus goes. Next, we will look at even more arguments as we cover the Iron II and the Israelite monarchy.

  No.     Ancient Place-Name     Archaeological Evidence
  1.   Jericho   Meager LB II occupation
  2.   Ai   No occupation from 2250 to 1200 B.C.E.
  3.   Jerusalem   No destruction at end of LB II
  4.   Hebron   No evidence
  5.   Jarmuth   Continuous LB II to Iron I occupation
  6.   Lachish   City VII destroyed in late 13th century,
  City VI destroyed ca. 1150
  7.   Eglon   Tell 'Aitun; LB occupation unclear
  8.   Gezer   LB destruction, probably Merneptah or Philistines
  9.   Debir   Tell er-Rabud; no destruction at end of LB
  10.   Geder   Khirbet Jedur; LB II and Iron I pottery; not excavated
  11.   Hormah   Identification unknown
  12.   Arad   No LB occupation
  13.   Libnah   Identification unknown
  14.   Adullam   Khirbet 'Adullam; not excavated
  15.   Makkedah   Identification unknown
  16.   Bethel   Destruction in the late 13th century
  17.   Tappuah   Tell Sheikh Abu Zarad; not excavated
  18.   Hepher   Tell el-Muhaffer; not excavated
  19.   Aphek   LB destruction followed by Iron I "Sea Peoples" occupation
  20.   Lasharon   Identification unknown
  21.   Madon   Identification unknown
  22.   Hazor   LB city Stratum XIII, destroyed in 13th century
  23.   Shimron-meron   Identification unknown
  24.   Achsaph   Khirbet el-Harbaj; LB II and Iron I pottery
  25.   Taanach   Meager LB II remains; Iron I village destroyed
  in latter half of 12th century
  26.   Megiddo   LB II/Iron I city, Stratum VIIA, destroyed in
  latter half of 12th century
  27.   Kedesh   Tell Abu Qudeis; Iron I settlement Stratum VIII,
  destroyed in latter half of 12th century
  28.   Jokneam   LB II settlement, Stratum XIX, destroyed in
  late 13th or 12th century; gap follows
  29.   Dor   "Sea Peoples" known as Sikils occupy city in 12th century;
  transition from LB to Iron I not yet determined
  30.   Goiim   Identification unknown
  31.   Tirzah   Tell el-Farah (North); LB II and Iron I occupation;
  no evidence of destruction

from Stager (1998), pp.98-99.

Appendix B: The "Sea Peoples" and Philistines

One might begin to ask, are archaeologists asking too much in order to prove the early existence of Israelites? Well in order to prove the biblical Israelites, where the Egyptian origins, migration route, and invasion are clear, we have a good comparative case study with the "Sea Peoples" who started to leave Mycenaea possibly as early as the late 14th century, and the people specifically known as the Philistines in the early 12th century B.C.E. (the anachronism in Genesis 26 notwithstanding). Their migration is so distinctive that they were the ones who gave their names to many of the Mediterranean areas: Philistines eventually gave their name to Palestine, the Sikils to Sicily, and the Sherden to Sardinia (Cyprus was renamed from Alashiya to Yadanana, although one wonders why this name didn't stick). Aegeans and Denye even correspond with Homer's Achaeans and Danaoi.

Stage I (1175-1150 B.C.E.)

The first stage of the Philistines' exodus involves their arrival in southern Canaan destroying several Late Bronze cities along the way, including areas along coastal Cilicia, Cyprus, and Palestine. This shows the route they took in finally reaching the southwestern coast of Canaan, where they finally settled. Indeed there are recorded correspondences between the king of Cyprus and the last king of Ugarit detailing the threat the "Sea Peoples" posed. Their origins are distinctive, since they arrive with pottery which we now call Mycenaean IIIC:1b, even though it is found in Palestine (but also elsewhere along the Mediterranean coast, Cyprus). It is shown to share a common tradition or style with other Aegean LB cultures, but the Philistines also bring with them new cultural traditions: "domestic and public architecture focusing on the hearth; weaving with unperforated loom weights; swine herding and culinary preference for pork; drinking preference for wine mixed with water; and religious rituals featuring female figurines of the mother-goddess type" (Stager 1998, p. 115). This is still a period of Egyptian hegemony in Canaan, so Egyptian and Canaanite garrisons in the south make desperate attempts to contain these invaders. As yet, there is little sign of infiltration of cultures, except perhaps as war booty.

Stage II (1150-1050 B.C.E.)

Egyptian hegemony collapses after the death of Rameses III (1153 B.C.E.), and the Philistines begin their second phase of expansion, and their pottery is now known as Philistine bichrome ware (that is, using two colours), and shows sign of Canaanite contact and acculturation. According to the Bible, they accepted Canaanite gods early on (Dagon and Baal Zebub as recorded in the Bible are Semitic names), but we know that they worshipped Ashdoda, an equivalent of the Mycenaean "Great Mother" at least as late as the latter half of the 12th century. On this, Finkelstein disagrees and argues that it is here that the Philistines actually arrive (thus revising the chronologies considerably), since he disagrees that they could have made an impact during Egyptian control of the region. This has ramifications elsewhere, pushing much of the period usually ascribed as 10th century B.C.E. into the 9th, filling some gaps (and devastating the period of "united monarchy"), but causing other problems elsewhere, particularly at Hazor. I will try to deal with the implications of this later in the series.

Stage III (1050-950 B.C.E.)

Aegean characteristics among the Philistines begin to diminish, though still recognisable, and complex geometrical patterns and elegant waterbird motifs have diminished into simple spirals. One might say that the Philistines began to dumb down after meeting the Canaanites, and by now they are almost fully integrated. Although maximalists argue that their defeat by King David brought about their end, the process of acculturation was also significant. Their eclecticism allowed them to assimilate rapidly but it also meant they lost their distinctiveness in equally quick fashion (the loss of language early on may be shown by the lack of Philistine inscriptions).

What we clearly see, however, is the process by which one culture migrates or invades another. In this case, the clear origins, route, and invasion by the Philistines followed by their rise and fall in Canaan are well-attested archaeologically. Their distinctive ethnicity and culture allow for easy identification, while their assimilation and disappearance attest to the complex social interactions that took place following their arrival. For our early "Israelites", no distinctive Egyptian pottery, Yahwist religion, tribal social organisation or other distinctive features show the biblical account to be fanciful and unreflective of actual events.

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