BIBLE AND SPADE - BY STEPHEN L CAIGER D B - first published at the University Press, Oxford 1936. This Edition prepared for katapi by Paul Ingram 2003.


HOME | Contents | Introduction | Egypt and the Judges | Eighty Years of Egyptian Prosperity | The Decline of Egypt | The Philistines |  Archaeology of the Conquest

THE Book of Judges [For commentary see Burney's Judges and again Garstang's Joshua Judges.] covers an exceedingly debatable period.
We have brought the story of the Hebrew invasion down to 1360 BC with a fair show of independent evidence to supplement the Biblical narrative.
But from that date until the coming of the Philistines, a space of roughly two hundred years, we are very much in the dark.
All we can say for certain is that Egypt was still nominally mistress of Canaan,
but that her effective control was both limited in extent and spasmodic in action,
so that the years 1360 onwards are by no means an impossible period for the triumphant settlement of the Hebrews in the central highlands of Palestine. 

The Bible does not help us much.
Garstang and others, it is true, have made a valiant attempt to sort out the Biblical data into some sort of chronological order, and many extraordinarily interesting suggestions have been put forward linking up the narrative of Judges with various fixed points in Egyptian history.
But the general opinion of scholars remains unshaken:
that the Biblical historian preserves of this period no more than the memory of a few national or rather tribal heroes, whose biographies have been spaced out by an artificial scheme of dating so as to fill up the requisite '480 years' from the Exodus to the Temple (I 

Nevertheless, since recent scholarship tends, as we have said, to confirm the factual basis of this '480 years', and to maintain an early date for the Exodus and Conquest, it follows that presumably many of the pre-Philistine Judges may be assigned to the period we are now discussing, and that therefore all Egyptian references to Canaan at this time are very much to the point.


The situation, then, appears to have been as follows, linking Biblical with Egyptian events.

The reigns of Akhnaton's successors, Sakere (1358),
Tutankhamen (1356),
[The wonderful discovery of Tutankhamen's tomb by Carter in 1922 added little to our knowledge of Biblical history. W.O.P.41.]
Eye (1353),
and Harmhab (1350-1314)
gave the empire forty years of rest.
An inscripton of Tutankhamen shows the Pharaoh receiving a body of Syrian envoys:

'The chiefs of Palestine who knew not Egypt since the time of the god
[i.e. Akhnaton's religious reforms]
are craving peace from His Majesty.
They say,
There shall be no revolters in thy time,
but every land shall be at peace.'

Equally interesting is a monument of the reign of Harmhab, showing him extending hospitality to a number of Syrian refugees:

'Others have been placed in their abodes:
they have been destroyed and their towns laid waste;
their countries are starving, they live like goats in the mountains;
they come begging a home in the domain of Pharaoh,
after the manner of their fathers' fathers from the beginning.'

It is tempting to see (with Garstang) a reference in these inscriptions to the forty years of rest following the deliverance wrought by the Judge Othniel (Jdg.iii.11), and to identify the dispossessed Syrians mentioned above with Canaanites defeated by the Hebrews. 

The forty years of peace ended on the accession of Seti I (1314-1292).
In the very first year of his reign he had to face trouble in Palestine, Bethshan being specially mentioned in one of Seti's inscriptions as having been 'besieged by the wretched enemy who was in the city of Hamath', evidently the Hittites.
Another inscription of this reign mentions the Sutu of the Tell el Amarna tablets:

'In Canaan the vanquished Shashu (= Sutu) are planning rebellion,
rising against the Asiatics of Southern Palestine.
They have taken to cursing and quarrelling,
each of them slaying his neighbour,
and they disregard the laws of the Palace.' 

This may well represent, from the Egyptian point of view, the Biblical stories of 'oppression' and the triumphant uprising of the Hebrew tribes against it.
One may even hazard a more definite conjecture, assigning to this reign the northern incursion of Jabin and Sisera, whose name is said to be Hittite [Rather than Egyptian (Sise-Ra) as once suggested.].
In that case, the Song of Deborah, admittedly one of the very oldest passages in the Bible, would date from this epoch, and its reference to the tribe of Asher which sat still at the haven of the sea (Jdg.v.17) would receive an unexpected shaft of light from yet another of Seti's inscriptions.
On his temple at Redesieh he is represented holding some captives by the hair and threatening them with a club.
These captives are named, amongst others, Shashu (Bedouins), Megiddoites, and Asuru, the last (it is generally agreed) being none else than the Hebrew tribe of Asher.
This is the earliest mention of a Hebrew tribe by name outside the Bible, except for the reference to the Tribes of Asher and Zabulon in the so-called Keret Tablet of Ras Shamra mentioned above.
[See p.87. It is suggested that the name Keret is concealed in the Cherethites, members of David's newly-formed bodyguard (II Sam.viii.18), who may have been recruited from a district near Gaza known in the Tablets as the Negeb of Keret. See J. Garstang, Heritage of Solomon (1935), pp.350, 371.]

As if to clinch the connexion of Seti I with the Hebrews, a stele of this reign was discovered by Fisher
[See A. Rowe, op. cit. p. 29. Aperiu is variously spelt: Apuriu, Apriu, Aperiu, Apure, &c.]

at Bethshan, in 1921,
giving the name of a people called the Aperiu, or Apriu,
as having been conquered by the Egyptian arms.
They are called 'the Aperiu of the mountains of the Jor[dan]'.
This is the earliest mention of these Aperiu
[The word Aperiu, meaning merely a 'crew', occurs earlier than this.
There is also a reference to the people Aperiu as being in Canaan during the reign of Thothmes III.
If this were correct, the Aperiu were in Canaan long before the Exodus from Egypt, and, therefore, could not be identified with the Hebrews. But see below, p.110, note.]
but we shall meet with them frequently after this.
The word is apparently an Egyptian attempt to reproduce the name Habiru or Hebrew.
We have thus considerable evidence from the records of Seti I to support the belief that the Israelites were already settling in Canaan during his reign. 

But, it will be asked, if Seti was so successful in Canaan,
how is it that the Hebrews were allowed to retain possession of the country?
Jack deals faithfully with this objection:

'One thing is of prime importance
there is no trace in Seti's campaigns of any occupation of Central or Southern Palestine,
which would be the territory in which the Hebrews of the Exodus were settled at this time. ...
Practically all the places taken possession of by Egypt after the time of Amen-hotep II were located either in the far north or in the Maritime Plain and Shephelah.'  

This explains, too, the notorious difficulty that in all the Biblical account of the Conquest and Settlement there is practically no mention of Egypt among the enemies of Israel.

'The military campaigns of Seti I and his successors left the Israelites practically untouched in the narrow highland territory which they at first occupied. ...
They were able to continue without molestation from outside during three-quarters of a century of Egyptian inaction and pacifism.
And there is no evidence to show that the part of the land mainly occupied by them was ever retaken by Egypt.'



We have now entered on a period of continuous Egyptian prosperity and regained strength,
beginning with the last years of Seti I,
persisting throughout the whole of the long reign of Rameses the Great (1292-1325),
and the beginning of Merenptah (1225-1215)
fourscore years in all, from 1301 to 1221.
During this period we may well believe that the land of Canaan 'had rest',
overawed by the near presence of the Egyptian policeman.
And it seems very credible that this long calm is remembered by the Biblical historian in the phrase the land had rest fourscore years (Jdg.iii.30), as Garstang suggests.  

Rameses commenced his reign with a determined effort to crush the Hittites, now grown to the maximum of their power, and the only serious rivals of Egypt.
A terrible battle was joined between the two empires at Kadesh on the Orontes.
Both sides claimed the victory, but both were glad to make and keep a treaty of peace,
the terms of which have been preserved as well in the Egyptian inscriptions
[Especially in the Great Hall of the Temple of Rameses at Abu-Simbel. W.O.P.177.]

as among the Hittite tablets of Boghaz Keui.  

During this campaign the Pharaoh's forces must have thundered continually along the Great North Road through Palestine, though without touching the interior.
Thus the only Hebrews who were affected were the tribes of the far north, and sure enough we once more meet Asher on an Egyptian record of Merenptah's campaigns in Canaan.
We also find the Aperiu turning up again on the inscriptions,
henceforward not as resident in Canaan,
but always as a foreign people employed by the Pharaohs on work in Egypt itself.
How is this to be explained?  

We have already noticed these Aperiu, whom we ventured to identify with the Hebrews, among the Canaanite tribes conquered by Seti I.
A second reference, in an historical romance written at the time of Rameses the Great, locates them at Joppa
[The reference here is to a story of the siege of Joppa (Harris Pap. 500)
fictionally set in the far-off days of Thothmes III (1500 BC).

T. E. Peet, Journal of Egyptian Archaeology, xi.225 (1925).].
But all subsequent mention of these people describes them as living in Egypt.
Thus Rameses the Great (c. 1280) tells us that they 'brought up stones for the great tower of Pi-Ramessu',
and twice associates them with the Egyptian army.
Rameses III (c. 1190) connects them with chieftains, nobles, and colonists in Egypt.
Rameses IV (c. 1162) numbers 800 of them among the 'bowmen of Anu'.
After that we hear the name no more.  

Perhaps the best way of harmonizing these puzzling notices is to suppose that the Aperiu were Habiru or Hebrews, some of whom were taken to Egypt as mercenaries or prisoners of war, and laboured there until the advent of the Philistines put an end to Egyptian campaigns in Canaan.
[Others, however, adopting the 'Late Date' view of the Exodus, identify the Aperiu with the Hebrews of the Oppression in Egypt a very unlikely story; while others deny any connexion at all between the Aperiu and the Hebrews.]  

These were great days in Egypt for the writing of romances or novelettes of a semi-historical or wholly fictional character.
Among them is one preserved in the Papyrus Anastasi, called the Travels of Maker.
Here the author describes in Canaan as a dreadful place for a gentleman to live in (the work is not without humour),
but clearly not too dreadful for an Egyptian tourist to explore.
Among the spots visited were Tyre, Sidon, Jezreel, Megiddo, Joppa, and Gaza
places situated chiefly, it will be observed, not in the Hebrew territory,
but on the Great North Road.  

Returning to the inscriptions proper, there is one name on a record of Rameses the Great which has been noted as possibly linking up this reign with the period of the Judges.
'Many a foreigner of Semitic blood found favour and ultimately high station at the Court of Egypt at this time. ...
For instance, a Syrian sea-captain named Ben-Anath (i.e. Son of Anath) was able to secure a son of Rameses the Great as a husband for his daughter' (Breasted).
Garstang gives evidence for presuming an advance attack of Philistine sea-rovers upon the shores of Canaan even at this early date, and would connect this Ben-Anath with Shamgar the son of Anath named in the Song of Deborah (Jdg.v.6).  

So far it must be admitted that the evidence for the presence of the Hebrews in Canaan during the fourteenth century is stronger in its cumulative effect than in any individual item.

Merenptah Stele.

But with Merenptah's [Merenptah, otherwise Merneptah, Mineptah.] famous Israel Stele, discovered by Flinders Petrie in 1896, we come to a very explicit indication.

This inscription,
self-dated as 'the third year of Meren-ptah' (i.e. 1223 BC),
tells in poetical form the glorious victories of the Pharaoh in Canaan:

Devastated is Tehennu;
The Hittite Land is pacified;
Plundered is Canaan with every evil;
Carried off is Ascalon;
Seized upon is Gezer;
Yenoam is made a thing of naught;
Israel is desolated, her seed is not;
Palestine has become a defenceless widow for Egypt;
Every one that is turbulent is bound by King Merenptah,
Giving life like the sun every day.

There is now no controversy among scholars about the identification of Israel on this inscription,
or about the location of the tribe in Canaan.
Here we have the earliest appearance of the name of Israel outside the Bible,
and the natural inference is that the Israelites were already settled in Canaan early in the thirteenth century.

The point thus raised is of extreme importance,
for previous to the discovery of this stele,
the view that the Israelites remained in Egypt until the reign of Merenptah,
and did not reach Canaan until about 1220 BC at the earliest, had remained almost unchallenged.

Thus Rameses the Great was described as the 'Pharaoh of the Oppression' and Merenptah as the 'Pharaoh of the Exodus'.
Even to-day the supercilious mummy of the former still frowns over clawlike hands in most of our 'Bible illustrations', and as late as 1909 Merenptah's mummified heart was sent to the Royal College of Surgeons to see if it was really 'hardened'.
[As a matter of fact. Dr. Shattock reported that it wasfrom a disease called atheroma.]

The discovery of the Israel Stele, however, together with that of the Tell el Amarna letters, and of Asuru and Aperiu in the inscriptions, all seems to show that the Hebrews had been gone from Egypt and settled in Canaan long before the days of Rameses or Merenptah.
It is true that many scholars refuse to abandon the earlier view.
The Habiru, they say, were not the Hebrews, nor were the Aperiu either.
As to Asher and Israel, the appearance of these names on the inscriptions simply proves that part of the Hebrews had never left Canaan at all!
For the most ingenious attempt to reconcile the jarring sects, the palm must go to those
[e.g. O. A. Toffteen, The Historic Exodus (1909).]

who would have us believe in a double Exodus,
one in 1447 and the other in 1144 BC;
which, however, seems to have satisfied few.  

The Israel Stele, commemorating Merenptah's triumphs in Canaan, had scarcely been set up, when a coalition of entirely fresh enemies from overseasthe same Libyans, Phrygians, Sardians, and Achaeans who were soon to besiege Troythreatened the very existence of the empire.
They were beaten off, but the effort was costly: for twelve years after Merenptah's death Egyptian prestige reached its lowest ebb under the last monarchs of the XIXth Dynasty.  

To this period belongs a romance called the Tale of the Two Brothers by one Anna, a scribe of Seti II.
It runs briefly thus:

There were two brothers,
Anup the elder and the younger Bata,
who were much attached to each other.
One day when they were ploughing together,
Bata went to his elder brother's house for some seed, leaving Anup in the field.
On finding the young man in the house, Anup's wife attempted to seduce him, but in vain.
None the less, when Anup came home that evening, she complained that Bata had outraged her.
Anup, believing her story, rushed back. to the field to slay his brother,
but the latter was protected by the sun-god and escaped.
After many adventures all ended happily, for he became King of Egypt!  

This quaint story has often been compared to that of Joseph and Potiphar's wife.
But Gardiner points out that it is really a religious myth, Bata and Anup (Anubis) being intended for Immortals.
In any case there is no need to dwell upon coincidences in stories revolving round so commonplace a plot.  

Nor is there any need more than briefly to mention a certain Arisu [Otherwise written Alisu.], who lived about this time,
and who has been put forward as yet another of the many 'prototypes' of Joseph.
Of him we read in the Harris Papyrus that

During years of famine,
Arisu, a Canaanite, raised himself to be a prince in Egypt,
compelling all the people to pay him tribute.
Whatever they had gathered together,
that he robbed them of.



The XXth Dynasty opened gloriously with the powerful monarchs Set-Nekht (1200-1198) and Rameses III (1198-1167).
Twice the latter repelled raids made by the piratical sea-rovers from the Aegean already mentioned.
The second of these raids is important for us,
since in the Egyptian records the Philistines (Pelesetu) are now mentioned for the first time,
those mysterious intruders who were destined to leave their name for all time in Palestine,
the Land of the Pelesetu.  

We shall hear little more of Egypt for the next 250 years
[There are no historical inscriptions, save those mentioned in this paragraph, until we come to Shishak (930).]
There is an inscription of Rameses III mentioning 'the miserable king of the Amorites,
and the leader of the hostile bands of the Bedouins conquered by the might of Pharaoh',
which may be no more than an idle boast.
There is also a brief sentence from an inscription of Herihor (c. 1090 BC)
indicating that he still laid formal claim to suzerainty over Canaan:

'The chiefs of the Retenu do obeisance to my fame everyday'.
If this claim were true (which nobody believes) it would imply that the Philistines, then supreme in Palestine, still regarded themselves as agents of the Pharaoh.  

Showing how merely nominal was the hold of Egypt over her northern 'province' at this period,
the Story of Wen-Amon (from an Egyptian papyrus of the eleventh century) may here be quoted:
[Weigall, Treasury of Ancient Egypt, p.112.]

Wen-Amon, envoy of the Pharaoh, sailed for Caesarea to procure cedar from the Lebanon.
Rebuffed here, he moved on to Byblus, where he was kept waiting no less than three weeks before gaining admission to the king's presence, only to be rudely told that the supremacy of Egypt was no longer recognized in Syria.
An appeal to religious sentiment, however, proved more successful:
Wen-Amon obtained his timber.
But his troubles were by no means ended.
After terrifying adventures with pirates and a storm at sea,
he was cast upon the hostile island of Cyprus ...

Here the papyrus tantalizingly breaks off.  

After the time of Rameses III, in fact, 'there is evidence to show that Egyptian prestige in Canaan began to fade rapidly, even from the memory' (Garstang), so that it becomes easy to understand why the mention of Egypt as a power to be reckoned with appears so seldom in the Biblical narrative of the Judges.  

Egypt, then, is no more.
The Hittites have been broken in pieces by Tiglath-Pileser of Assyria (c. 1100),
their name and culture alone surviving among the 'Kings of the Hittites',
their capital no longer at Boghaz Keui but at Carchemish [For the Neo-Hittites see below, p.125.].
The tribal Judges have dealt faithfully with the surrounding Canaanites, either by conquest or absorption.
Henceforward the destinies of Palestine depend upon the result of the inevitable clash between Philistine and Hebrew
on the deliverance wrought by Samson, Eli, Samuel, and the Kings.
[The older school of Biblical scholars, however, see in the situation here described the most likely opportunity for the Hebrew invasion of Canaan (under Joshua). Hebrew and Philistine, they say, were contending for Egypt's abandoned prey.]




Who were these Philistines that so nearly wrested the Promised Land from Israel? 

After much research, their origin still remains uncertain.
They appear to have come from the Aegean islands by way of Crete (Caphtor),
their armour and portraits showing them to have resembled not a little the Achaean warriors of Homeric times.

From the beginning of the XXth Dynasty they were largely employed by the Egyptians as mercenaries,
and were afterwards allowed as a reward to settle on the shores of Canaan.
Thus about 1190 BCand onwards we find them firmly established on the maritime plain,
first as Egyptian vassals,
but every year increasing in independence and power, as the star of the Pharaohs waned.  

The date of the Philistine supremacy over Palestine (c. 1118-1026) and thus of the last phase of the Judges is not seriously questioned, so that now at length the scholars of the early and the late school join hands in amity.
But there are few actual remains of the Philistine occupation: of their art and literature (if any) practically none
a fact which lends force to the popular use of the name Philistine today.  

Some few characteristically Philistine remains in the shape of pottery, weapons, architecture, and so on, have been identified at such places as Beth-Shemesh, Gath, Gerar, and Beth-Pelet.
At Gerar, for instance, a sword-furnace has been unearthed, a small cubical receptacle with a flue, showing signs of violent heat.
To such a forge as this the Hebrews must have brought their implements to be reset (I Sam.i.19).
Here, too, the discovery of iron of about 1150 BC has confuted those who regarded the Biblical references to iron as anachronisms.  

Very interesting is a Philistine tomb at Beth-Pelet.
'In one tomb dating 1100 BC the coffin had a pottery mask which gives some idea of the Philistine type of face
a large aquiline nose, short beard under the lower lip, and plaited locks' (Duncan).
In the tombs were many weapons of bronze or iron,
side by side with old-fashioned flint knives and sickles such as the Hebrews were still compelled to use.  

At Gezer has been excavated a Philistine house of the type which Samson pulled over the heads of his enemies (Jdg.xvi.29).
'Sometimes a chamber was too wide to be spanned by a single roof beam.
In that case two lengths of timber were used, their ends supported by a column.
It is probable that such columns were of wood, but a flat stone was placed under their feet to support them.
To slip the pillar from the footstones would not be an impossible task for a strong man, and to do so would obviously bring the house down' (Macalister).


Such is practically all the available archaeological evidence for the Conquest and Settlement of Israel in Canaan from about 1400 to 1000 BC.  

It is not very much to show for all the excavations of the past century, but, after all, it is perhaps as much as we could expect. The Hebrews of these early years were not builders, as the Bible clearly shows: they destroyed cities, but did not rebuild the shattered walls.
Thus no Hebrew architecture earlier than the Monarchy survives to tell its tale.  

Nor did the 'squatter settlements' of the early Hebrews leave any distinctive examples of handicraft or art.
They seem to have adopted without much modification the utensils of their Canaanite environment.
For this reason the pottery remains both of Palestine and Egypt tell us little about the Hebrews as such;
while of Hebrew inscriptions and of inscriptions alluding to the Hebrews there is, as we have said, a remarkable dearth.
Thus 'the early part of the Hebrew period, prior to the founding of the Kingdom under Saul, is practically a blank, so far as definite archaeological knowledge of the Hebrew civilization is concerned' (Duncan).