ON the date we assign to the Exodus
depends of course our dating of the Oppression,
the Forty Years,
the Invasion by Joshua,
the period of the Judges,
and (in short) our whole interpretation of the archaeological evidence.
[The problem is fully stated in J. W. Jack's Date of the Exodus (1925).]
Quite briefly, one scholar or another has conjectured nearly every possible
and impossible date for the Exodus, from 1580 BC to 1144 BC, during the past
But towards the end of it, opinion settled down upon a moderately Late Date, ascribing the Oppression to Rameses the Great (1292-1225 BC), the Exodus to his successor Merenptah (1225-1215 BC), and the Invasion of Canaan to the period of anarchy in Egypt preceding the establishment of the XXth Dynasty (1205-1200 BC), the era of the Conquest and Settlement being thus shortened to roughly two centuries (1200-1000 BC).
According to this theory, the chronology given in the Bible itself had to be entirely rejected.
This became the orthodox 'Late Date' view of the majority of responsible
of whom perhaps the leading exponent (on this question) was C. F. Burney.
For details, read his commentary on Judges,
and his Schweich Lectures Israel's Settlement in Canaan.
Now it so happened that this view crystallized at a time when the major
successes of Biblical archaeology seemed to have been achieved, and when
the new 'Light on the Bible' had stimulated popular interest to such an extent
that there was no end to the books on the subject.
Thus it came to pass that practically all the standard commentaries,
Bible dictionaries, 'Helps' to the Bible,
and one-volume handbooks acquired almost a vested interest in the 'Late Date' view,
and in their reprints of text, pictures, chronological charts, &c., propagate it to this day.
Towards the end of the nineteenth century, however, a different view began
to prevail, as the evidence of the recently discovered Tell el Amarna Tablets,
the Israel Stele, and other records began to be fully assimilated.
Thus Max Muller in 1897 wrote that 'the popular theory that Merenptah was the Pharaoh of the Exodus has been routed by the discovery of the "Israel Stele" '.
In the same year Breasted declared that 'the idea that Merenptah was the Pharaoh of the Exodus must be given up, unless the Wilderness Wandering be given up also'.
And the learned Norwegian scholar Lieblein immediately elected for the 'Early Date', that is, for the date assumed throughout this present work.
According to this view, the chronology explicitly given in the Bible itself
is held, after all, to be correct in essentials.
The Exodus is thrown back to about 1447 BC,
Amenhotep II thus becoming the 'Pharaoh of the Exodus'
and his predecessor Thothmes III the 'Pharaoh of the Oppression'.
The Wandering lasted, as the Bible says, for Forty Years (1447-1407 BC),
thus dating the Invasion by Joshua at the time of Amenhotep III.
And the full '480 years' claimed by the Bible is allowed between the Exodus and the founding of Solomon's Temple in 967 BC.
This 'Early Date' view has now been adopted with minor modifications by
one acknowledged scholar after another,
such as H. R. H. Hall and A. H. Gardiner (1913),
E. Peet (1922), C. A. F. Knight (1922),
J. W. Jack (1925), J. Garstang (1931),
T. H. Robinson (1932), A. S. Yahuda (1933),
W. J. Phythian-Adams (1934), E. O. James (1935),
and now (as will be seen from the preface) by Dr. A. W. F. Blunt.
The 'Early Date' chronology has therefore been whole-heartedly adopted by the present writer.
For details, see Chronological Table No. 1, 'From the Oppression to the Judges'.
Most interesting of all are the glazed potsherds,
eighteen in number, inscribed in ink with Hebrew writing,
which have been found under the debris of a guard-room within the bastion,
shattered when Nebuchadrezzar besieged the city at the beginning of the sixth century BC.
The Biblical narrative tells us that Lachish and Azekah were the last of the 'fenced cities' of Judah to fall before his assault in 587 BC(Jer.xxxiv.7), and both places are named on shards that seem to belong to this period of excitement and alarm.
Thus LETTER IV (for the inscriptions are evidently letters) refers to the watch-signals exchanged between one fortress and another:
May Yahweh let my lord hear now today tidings of good.
According to whatever my lord has sent, so has thy slave done. ...
if in his survey tour he had inspected,
he should have known that as for the signal stations of Lachish
we are observing according to all the signals which my lord gave,
because we do not see the signals of Azekah.
Various considerations have led the explorers to identify
the mound of Tell Duweir as the site of Lachish,
and this is now generally accepted in place of the old identification with Tell el Hesy.
The city was destroyed, as we have said, in 587 BC,
but the bulk of the 'Lachish Letters' seem, from internal evidence, to date from a time about ten years earlier,
in the reign of Jehoiakim, when Nebuchadrezzar attacked Judah on his first Palestinian campaign in 598 BC.
The importance of these potsherds will be realized when we remember that
they are the only Hebrew inscriptions of any length which have survived from
the pre-exilic period.
From the Biblical point of view, their value can scarcely be overestimated,
for here, if Dr. Torczyner's interpretation is correct,
we make intimate contact for the first time with the inner life of Israel as depicted in the pages of Scripture.
And here for the first time outside the Old Testament we find mention of a 'prophet',
of the class that played so large a part in Hebrew history.
Thus, there is a set of four or five letters all referring apparently to
the same incident,
where we may even find confirmation of a passage in Jeremiah dealing with one such prophet.
LETTER III mentions
three persons who are named in the Biblical narrative of the period—
Achbor and Einathan (Jer.xxvi.22),
and Nedabiah a son of Jehoiachin (I Ch.iii.18).
The commander of the army,
Achbor the son of Einathan,
went down to come to Egypt.
And Hodaiah the son of Ahijah and his men he sent to take them from here.
And a letter has Nedabiah the grandson of the king (= Jehoiakim)
brought to Shallum the son of Yaddua from the Prophet,
VI seems to give us further particulars about the reasons for this
referring to a certain unnamed 'seer':
... a seer ... whose words are not good:
to loosen the hands of the guards,
and to weaken the hands of the country and the city ...
bring him to the king, to Jerusalem.
LETTER XVI gives us the name, unfortunately only decipherable in part, of the seer concerned, viz.'...iah the prophet'.
Dr. Torczyner here definitely identifies the story of Uriah the Prophet
Uriah was a native of Kirjath-Jearim, close to Lachish.
Like Jeremiah, he roused the anger of Jehoiakim:
he weakeneth the hands of the men of war who remain in the city,
and the hands of all the people, in speaking these words unto them.
He was warned, and fled for his life to Egypt, but was dragged back to Jerusalem by Elnathan the son of Achbor (sic), and put to death.
'Here, in the Lachish Letters', observes Dr. Torczyner, 'for the first time we have authentic, contemporary, internal confirmation of the political, military, and religious struggles during the last phase of the Judean kingdom, as told in the Holy Scriptures.'
BEFORE the discoveries of modern archaeology,
our only sources of information for the prehistory of the ancient East were the following:
the Old Testament,
Chief among the latter are:
|1798||Napoleon's Expedition to Egypt. Beginning of modern archaeology.|
|1830||Egyptian hieroglyphs first deciphered, by Young and Champollion.|
|1845||Layard's excavations in Babylonia.|
|1850||Babylonian cuneiform deciphered by Rawlinson.|
|1865||Foundation of Palestine Exploration Fund.|
|1868||Moabite Stone found by Klein.|
|1871||Gilgamesh Epic deciphered by George Smith.|
|1880||Siloam Inscription found by Schick.|
|1887||Tell el Amarna Tablets found.|
|1896||Merenptah's Israel Stele found by Petrie.|
|1901||Code of Hammurabi found by de Morgan.|
|1902||Macalister's excavations at Gezer.|
|1905||The Elephantine Papyri interpreted.|
|1907||Boghaz Keui Tablets found by Winckler.|
|1915||Sumerian Epic of Paradise published by Langdon.|
|1919||Hittite cuneiform deciphered by Hrozny.|
|1921||Fisher's excavations at Bethshan.|
|1923||Woolley's excavations at Ur.|
|1928||Garstang's excavations at Jericho.|
|1930||Ras Shamra Tablets deciphered by Dhorme.|
|1934||Starkey's excavations at Lachish (Tell Duweir).|
NOTE. The student must add several years to each of the above dates, before
he can expect to find the respective discoveries authoritatively digested
and described in volume form.