Remember my preference

 
Abstract

Table of Contents

Part I

Part II

Part III

Part IV

Part V

Part VI

     

Part IV: Remarkable Biblical Confirmations from Archaeology

 

Chapter 2

Out of the Promised Land and into it Again:
From Joseph to Moses

 

     AND SO Abraham passes into history. The biblical story leads naturally on to events in the life of Isaac and Jacob, about whom archaeology has very little to say. But when we come to Joseph and find ourselves once more in the presence of the Pharaohs, the light of archaeology begins to shine more brightly again. Nevertheless, even here we do not have as much detailed information about Egyptian history in Joseph's time as we do about Babylonian history in Abraham's time.
     Before discussing the general topic of Joseph's life in Egypt, there is one point of interest which may be worth mentioning with respect to Genesis 37, in which Joseph shares a dream with his older brethren. One cannot read this story without feeling that if ever Joseph displayed a less pleasant side of his character, it was in this instance. Everywhere else he seems to have been blameless, but here we apparently meet with a mixture of pride and lack of wisdom which is unlike the Joseph we know in Egypt. Was his behaviour really as out of character as it seems?
     When anthropologists began to study the ways of people living simpler lives than ours -- lives lived at a slower pace and uncluttered by the thousand and one distractions and demands for attention which we experience -- they found that there was an almost universal custom of sharing dreams. Moreover, this sharing was frequently done first thing in the morning -- while the details of these dreams were still fresh in the mind. Without the constant bombardment of newscasts and morning papers, and with the normal uneventfulness of the previous day lacking any mental stimulation, the telling of the past night's dreams took the place at the breakfast table of the sports page or the stocks and shares. Each man, if he had anything at all of interest, would

     pg 1 of 17      

tell his dreams for the entertainment of the company present. Moreover, the very fact of this habit sharpened their awareness of the content of the dream, which tends to be very quickly blurred for us because of life's complexity and distraction.
     In Genesis 37 we are given a picture which leaves the impression that only Joseph communicated his dream, the listeners being an otherwise uncommunicative audience. Since an Arab family will exchange dreams with one another freely, I have no doubt that Joseph's brethren, being likewise Semitic, had already had their say being older than he; this sheds a slightly different light upon the fact that he, too, "volunteered" to tell his dream. He may even have been requested to do so, it being his turn. Moreover, he was quite possibly unaware of their envy of him, a fact which may indicate that he was himself unenvious of others. And being very young, he may also have been naive which in youth is hardly a fault. Perhaps he genuinely believed that they would see his dream as he saw it. At any rate, I do not think that it was told in any deliberate spirit of boastfulness: he may even have been wondering about it himself. But his hearers took a dim view of his words.
     The end result was that he became a slave in Egypt, an Egypt which was at that time ruled by a line of kings providentially well disposed toward Joseph's own people. These kings were known as Shepherd Kings (also as Hyksos), and they were clearly outsiders, not a native dynasty. Their presence throws much light upon the circumstances surrounding his rise in Egyptian "royal circles".
     The Egyptians considered the Hyksos barbarians and destroyers of Egyptian culture, yet it appears that Egyptian dynasties continued to exist with some measure of authority even while they dominated the country. The period of their domination is confused, and little is known of these Shepherd Kings except that the founder may have been Apophis.
(47) Among his successors there was one king named Kyan, two kings named Apepa, and one named Yaqeb-her. In view of the fact that these Shepherd Kings were Semites, it is interesting to find one of them bearing a name which may very well be a form of the more familiar "Jacob". (48) Since it is almost certain that Joseph rose to favour in Egypt while the Hyksos were dominant, it is conceivable that the name of his aged father may have been sufficiently revered to have been given to some child who was in line to become king. Or, of course, the name Jacob may have been common enough among Semites.

47.  Baikie, James, The Story of the Pharaohs, Black, London, 1908, pp. 86, 93.
48.  It should be said that many scholars reject entirely any connection between the two names, the apparent similarity of form being quite accidental.

     pg.2 of 17     

     In the biblical record of Joseph's life, upon several occasions important figures are identified specifically as being Egyptians. This circumstance is analogous to a history of England in which occasional reference might be made to the fact that a person of the court was an Englishman. Such an aside would be rather unnecessary in the circumstances, since one might expect a courtier in England to be an Englishman. But if the court was not native, the presence of one courtier who was native might be worth recording. This little bit of incidental information indicates clearly that the writer of the record in Genesis had an understanding of the situation in government at that time. The identification is applied, for example, to Potiphar, a man whose name is undeniably Egyptian and to whom Joseph was sold by the Midianites. Genesis 39 states that Potiphar was an officer of Pharaoh, more properly a eunuch. He is also termed "captain of the guard", a title which, it is now believed, should be rendered "chief of the executioners". It was assumed at one time that this meant animal slaughterers, i.e., butchers, but it is now believed that this was not the case. Potiphar is specifically identified as an "Egyptian" (Genesis 39:1). Verse 2 says that Joseph was in the house of his master, the "Egyptian"; this statement is repeated three verses later. The point is of some importance, because when Joseph was accused by Potiphar's wife of a very serious offense, one might expect that Potiphar, as the official executioner, would certainly have Joseph put to death. However, the ruling house was Semitic and Joseph was a Semite, whereas Potiphar was an Egyptian. Discretion governed Potiphar's actions.

     Joseph became, in time, a man of great importance to his master in the management of his affairs. In the tomb of a certain high priest, paintings were found which enabled a plan of the priest's house to be made: it appears from this plan that the storerooms of all such houses including Potiphar's, presumably were at the back. Joseph had charge of these storerooms, which could only be reached by passing through the house. This sheds light on Genesis 39:11, in which it is stated that he went into the house to do his business. It was this circumstance that led to his temporary debasement through Potiphar's wife.
     After his imprisonment was ended and Joseph was restored, we are told in Genesis 40:22 that the chief baker "was hanged". On the other hand, Joseph also said that "Pharaoh shall lift up his head from off him," i.e., decapitate him (verse 19). Does one behead a man and hang him, too? Apparently the Egyptians did! The

     pg.3 of 17     

condemned man was first of all beheaded, and then his body was hanged on a tree to be a prey for the birds.
In Joseph's final advancement to a supreme position of authority, many details are given which, like those we have already briefly considered, were often thought to be purely fictional and based upon misinformation but now appear to be absolutely substantiated. One of the most striking of these is the statement that runners went ahead of Joseph when he was prime minister and cried before him, "Bow the knee" (Genesis 41:43). This is an interpretation of an Egyptian word, abreth. It was thought to be related to the Hebrew word harak, which means "to kneel down." But it is now known that this was a mistake.
(49) Actually it was a word of warning in Egypt which has persisted even to the present time, meaning apparently, "Look out!" Lord Kitchener was perhaps the last counterpart of Joseph in this regard, for Arab runners went before him with swords in their hands shouting, "Abreth!" As Yahuda a few years ago said, "It is amazing that even the expression which was shouted by the runners in Joseph's time is still alive in present-day Egypt." (50)
     Consider one more case, found in Genesis 50:4. After the death of Jacob, Joseph -- still prime minister -- is reported to have said to members of the court, "If now I have found grace in your eyes, speak I pray thee in the ears of Pharaoh. . . ." The critics jumped on this as a major inconsistency in the record. At one moment, they said, Joseph is introducing his father himself to Pharaoh, and a little later he does not even have direct access to the king at all. But the monuments have answered this little problem, indicating that Egyptian custom forbade mourners, however high their position, to approach the king while their dead was yet unburied.
      So many and so striking have been the confirmations from archaeology of one detail after another in Joseph's story -- confirmations which have been even clearer where it was thought the contradictions were most obvious -- that the record must certainly have been written by someone with an intimate knowledge of the life of Egypt during the time of these Shepherd Kings. As we have already observed, these kings became increasingly distasteful to the natives, and their very monuments in due time were accordingly obliterated as far as possible until all shepherds became an abomination to the Egyptians. It is exceedingly difficult to believe

49.  On this, see T. Miller Neatby, Confirming the Scriptures, Marshall, Morgan and Scott, London, no date, pp.42-43.
50.  Yabuda, A. S., "Joseph in Egypt in the Light of the Monuments," Transactions of the Victorian Institute, vol. 65, 1933, p.47. This paper contains a great many remarkable incidental confirmations of Joseph's life.

     pg.4 of 17     

that with all the circumstantial evidence gone, a scribe living centuries later could successfully invent the story of a foreigner in the land (as Joseph was) with such complete authenticity.
     The Hyksos were finally overthrown by Aahmes (sometimes read "Amosis") who was the founder of the eighteenth dynasty and probably reigned from 1500 to 1300 B.C. This eighteenth dynasty included all the Pharaohs who figure most prominently in the events of the oppression, the Exodus, and less directly in the conquest of Canaan by the Israelites. Not unnaturally, every member of this dynasty -- with one notable exception, and some of them with particular vehemence -- looked upon everything reminiscent of this period of alien domination with utter distaste.
     Now, this distaste was transferred to the Israelites, who continued largely as herdsmen in the land of Goshen. The common people may not have felt such hostility toward them, for later on they contributed as neighbours to the wealth which the Israelites took away with them (Exodus 11:2, 3). But the aristocracy and the court finally became completely hostile. The circumstances surrounding this rather sudden change of attitude, which appears to have taken place during the time of Moses' early manhood, are now reasonably clear. This clarification has resulted from the establishment of the date of the Exodus with a fair degree of assurance, thereby enabling us to identify the royal persons chiefly responsible.
     If we could with certainty determine the date of the fourth year of Solomon's reign, it might be a simple matter to extrapolate backward to the date of the Exodus. It is necessary to say "it might be", rather than "it is", because the Hebrew year was not quite the same as ours and adjustments were made to bring it in line with the solar calendar as soon as it became apparent that the seasons were out of kilter. The actual words of Scripture that provide the basis of calculation are as follows (1 Kings 6:1):

     And it came to pass in the four hundred and eightieth year after the children of Israel were come up out of the land of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon's reign . . . he began to build the house of the Lord.

     The time periods given for the Hebrew kings have been a source of constant confusion because the figures were apparently being misinterpreted. Edwin R. Thiele made a special study of this problem and wrote a remarkable book on the subject, entitled The Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings, (51) in which he

51.  Thiele, Edwin R., The Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings, University of Chicago Press, 1951.

     pg.5 of 17     


showed that, properly understood, there was a perfect order and consistency in Scripture which made complete good sense of all the dates given for these kings. Thiele concludes that Solomon died in 931 B.C. His reign lasted forty years (1 Kings 11:42), so that the fourth year of his reign would be 967 B.C. Proceeding back 480 years, we reach a date of 1447 B.C. for the Exodus. In view of what we have said about the different calendar, this date must still be considered to be inexact, but in error by not more than a few years at the most.
     At this point it is desirable to set forth briefly a list of the successive Pharaohs who figure most prominently in the events leading up to the Exodus. Assuming that the Exodus took place in about 1440 B.C. as a round figure, and that Moses was then eighty years old, it is evident that he was born about 1520 B.C. At this time Thotmes I was Pharaoh, his reign lasting from 1539 to 1514 B.C.
(52) He probably did not like the Hebrew people, but did not have sufficient energy to oppress them continuously, attempting only to limit their numbers. His daughter was a most remarkable woman: Hatshepsut. There is a possibility that she was the princess who in 1520 B.C., when her father had been ruling for twenty years, came upon the little child in a basket of bulrushes on the Nile.
     A curious circumstance must be introduced at this point in which one might surely discern the providence of God. Hatshepsut was rejected by her descendants for reasons which we shall consider briefly so that the majority of her inscriptions were mutilated. While she succeeded her father, Thotmes I, as Pharaoh (her brother, Thotmes II, being too young to rule and even when he did come to the throne, surviving only to the age of thirteen years) and was, therefore, in the strictest sense as absolute a monarch as any other Pharaoh, she held the position apparently only by sufferance. When she died, her successor, Thotmes III, made determined attempts to erase all records of her reign. The obliteration of her inscriptions leaves us with very little knowledge of her personal qualities, but James Baikie observes
(53) that one little fragment of great importance has been preserved, an admission to the effect that she had a particular liking for foreigners. Among these foreigners we must surely include the Israelites. The preservation of this personal note is rather remarkable.
     Toward the end of her long reign, during which time Moses grew to be forty years of age, Hatshepsut became increasingly attached to a temple in the Sinaitic Peninsula at Serabit where evidently there was a form

52.  There are disagreements as to the exact dates to be applied to various Pharaohs, but they do not seriously affect the basic thread traced here.
53.  See Baikie, James, ref.47, p.114.

     pg.6 of 17     



Fig. 14. Hatshepsut: perhaps the beautiful "daughter of Pharaoh"
who adopted Moses as a child.

of monotheistic worship carried on by Midianites (descendants, in part, of Abraham) which has this interesting feature about it that it was three days' journey into the wilderness. This is surely significant in the light of Moses' request to Pharaoh as recorded in Exodus 3:18. Sir Flinders Petrie discovered and excavated this temple and remarked that, in his mind, it was almost certainly in part the inspiration of the purified worship which Moses subsequently was instructed to establish for the children of Israel. The evidence of Hatshepsut's association with this place of worship is unmistakable.

     pg.7 of 17     


     One further circumstance is of significance in this connection: there is evidence that the people associated with this shrine used an alphabetical script. What a preparation this was for Moses! For forty years the special favourite of a strong woman with a liking for his people and with all the authority of a Pharaoh, and the means to educate him in the wisdom of the Egyptians and perhaps to encourage him in, or to introduce him to, or to share with him, the worship of one God in a place of solitude far removed from the grossly polytheistic temples of Egypt, where he was also exposed to a form of writing vastly superior to the hieroglyphics of the court.
However, the situation became worse and worse as this great queen began to age. Her attachment to Moses and his people, whose background tied them closely in the eyes of the Egyptians to the Shepherd Kings they abominated and whose prosperity must have aroused their envy all these things rankled particularly in the heart and mind of her stepson, Thotmes III, whom she was finally forced to associate with herself upon the throne. This Thotmes III was, it now appears, the most ambitious and violent and powerful of all ancient conquerors. His campaigns carried him everywhere victorious, and he soon reduced the then powerful
Canaanite cities to a state of subservience to Egypt.
     While Thotmes III was busy in Palestine, trouble broke out once again in Nubia to the south of Egypt. The Nubians had apparently been a constant source of irritation to the Egyptians, but it appears that when Thotmes III returned from his campaigns in Palestine, he found a delegation of Nubians waiting to pay tribute to him. Evidently someone commanding an Egyptian force had, in his absence, successfully subdued them once more. Although archaeology gives us only this much information, there is a possibility that the commanding general in this instance was none other than Moses himself. The reasons for proposing this are as follows.
      Under the protection of Hatshetsup, Moses had grown up not only as an educated and cultured Egyptian prince, but very probably also as a warrior: The New Testament tells us (in Acts 7:22) that he was mighty in deeds, not merely in words. If Thotmes III disliked the Semites, it is not too likely he would trust part of an army engaged in subduing Palestine to a Semite; but he may very well have felt that an accomplished general like Moses could be entrusted with the putting down of a Nubian revolt. Indeed, there is a tradition that when Moses attacked Mero, the capital of Nubia, and began the seige, the daughter of the Nubian king offered to deliver the city if he would marry her. This bargain was accepted or so we are told by Josephus; the same story is

     pg.8 of 17     


repeated by Irenaeus. (54) At any rate, the circumstance of the tribute and of the Nubian king and his wife and daughter being "captured" is portrayed by Hatshepsut on the walls of her magnificent temple at Dier-el-Bahri at Thebes. If Moses had anything to do with these events, it might explain why Miriam and Aaron later spoke against Moses because of the Ethiopian (i.e., Nubian) woman he had married (Numbers 12:1). The fact that Moses subsequently married again would not, I think, be in any way an exceptional event at the time.
     It is possible that, flushed with his recent successes and secure in his position of courtly favour because of Hatshetsup, Moses may have felt himself well qualified to deliver his people (Acts 7:25). Perhaps it was just at this time that Hatshetsup died at the age of fifty-nine. Having killed an Egyptian and the fact now being publicly known, Moses may well have felt that discretion was the better part of valour because, as Exodus 2:15 says, when Pharaoh heard of it he sought to slay him. This he would hardly have attempted if Hatshetsup were still there to protect him. Meanwhile, Moses fled the country.
     From the moment of Hatshepsut's death, Thotmes III turned against the Israelites with fury, and their real oppression began. This surely was the "new" king who "knew not Joseph", i.e., did not recognize Joseph's people (Exodus 1:5).
     But God was still in charge of things. Although the one man Moses who might have done something to relieve their oppression had apparently deserted his people, God saw to it that he was re-trained for forty years
in another school in the land of Midian. In due time, after Thotmes III was dead, he returned to Egypt when Amenotep II had succeeded to the throne. It is apparent from archaeology that this man was no equal to his predecessor. Very soon, foreign conquests began to be neglected, although the decay of the empire set in very slowly (being more evident abroad than at home). But Amenotep II did not have the strength of Thotmes III, and the events surrounding the circumstances of his encounter with Moses bear out that he was a vacillator. As far as the oppression of the children of Israel was concerned, he continued the policy of his father; but one has the feeling that it was the challenge to his authority which made him increase their oppression out of petulance rather than strength.

54.  See Josephus' Antiquities of the Jews, Whiston's translation, Milner, London, no date, p.57, Book 2, Chap.10. And Irenaeus, presumably from Josephus: see Ante-Nicene Fathers, Scribner's edition, vol.I, 1913, p.573.

     pg.9 of 17     


     In 1441 B.C., the probable date of the Exodus, the final challenge came from Moses: the firstborn son of every Egyptian household died in one fateful night, the night of the Passover. One might not have expected to find archaeological confirmation of this event, but it exists nevertheless. When the Sphinx was first excavated and the accumulated sand of centuries cleared away from the base of it, an inscription was found on a stele which stands between its paws. This was written by Thotmes IV, who succeeded Amenotep II. It is an inscription which indicates that the writer never expected by natural processes to inherit the kingship but did, nevertheless, succeed to Amenotep II as Pharaoh. (55) The point here is that if Amenotep II's son and heir apparent died prematurely, i.e., on the night of the Passover, then the successor naturally came to the throne unexpectedly. He ruled only nine years approximately, but was succeeded by Amenotep III, during whose reign Egypt itself (but not the provinces) reached its period of greatest material prosperity and magnificence.
     Meanwhile the Israelites, having failed to pass into the Promised Land when they first reached its borders, continued their wanderings in the wilderness. At the same time, Egyptian conquests in Palestine continued to be undermined in various ways so that when Israel finally crossed the Jordan and began their conquest in earnest, instead of a well-organized province of Egyptian influence capable of uniting against them, they found the people of Canaan disunited and demoralized by having lost the strong leadership which had been established for them under Thotmes III.
     Amenotep III was succeeded by Aknaten, a dreamy-eyed philosopher king who had a great vision of one God and was determined to replace the established religion of his land with this new faith. He set up a new capital city since the old one was too closely controlled by the established priesthood, and here he dreamed away his days while the people in the Canaanite provinces wrote desperately asking for help against an invading horde whom they seemed unable to resist and whom they refer to as the Habiru. These famous appeals are known today as the Tell-El-Amarna Letters.
(56) One after another, these frantic calls for help reached the king and told of the fall of this city or that until it was too late and Egypt lost her Canaanite dominions. 

55.  Referred to by Baikie, ref.47, p.151. Also Stephen L. Caiger, Bible and Spade, Oxford, 1936, p.74.
56.  Some of the more interesting of these are translated in George Barton's Archaeology and the Bible, ref.40, pp.440ff.

     pg.10 of 17     


     God had promised that He would prepare the way for the Israelites and that He would send a hornet to subdue the land so that they would be enabled to take over their possessions. These events show how it was done. An utterly ruthless and powerful monarch (Thotmes III) broke the power of all independent chieftains there and welded them into an interdependent fortified community. Thotmes having done this by wiping out virtually all native leadership and replacing it by puppet governments dependent upon Egypt, a period of gradual decay was allowed to set in while the court of Pharaoh revelled in untold splendour under Amenotep III. Then, when the condition of the country was thoroughly disorganized and chaotic, the Israelites crossed the border; the appeals of their opponents to the Egyptian sovereign, for the help which might have made their resistance effective, fell upon the deaf ears of a philosopher and dreamer who had now succeeded the magnificent Amenotep III. And as for the hornet? The emblem of Thotmes III was none other than a hornet, an image of which appears engraved upon his scarabs and other insignia. (57)
     Thus, through a period of five hundred years, Israel was taken into Egypt, prospered and grew and multiplied, was welded by persecution, was unified into a nation by the greatest escape in history, was purified in the wilderness, and was finally assisted to obtain their possessions by kings who did not know they were fulfilling the will of God. At the beginning, the way was prepared for Joseph on a stage set in a special way for his coming. At the end, a man was prepared by circumstances which all dovetailed to reveal a pattern of Providence. All these things have been made clear by archaeology.

     Of the forty years in the wilderness, archaeology has very little to say. There is some light to be obtained from sources not strictly archaeological, but of interest nevertheless, and this is considered in an appendix. But once the River Jordan is reached for the second time and the entry into the Promised Land is actually effected -- not only by the crossing of that river, but by the capture of Jericho -- then archaeology once more speaks with no uncertain voice.
     Much has been written about the excavation of Jericho, partly because from the Christian point of view the story of its capture by the Israelites is such a dramatic one. In the view of many scholars, earlier excavations of

57.  See Sir Charles Marston, New Bible Evidence, Fleming H. Revell, New York, 1935, pp.166, 223. 

     pg.11 of 17     


the city suggested some remarkable confirmations of the biblical account. Later excavations seem to have
cast doubts upon the work of earlier archaeologists at the site. We may never know whether the evidence was correctly interpreted or not, since their work has now been destroyed.
     One thinks of a city as being extensive in area: Jericho was very small indeed covering approximately seven acres. It had been a stronghold from its very founding and seems to have had so many walls that one wonders how it is possible to sort them out. Yet the Wellcome-Marston Expedition under the leadership of Starkey was able to establish with certainty the complete accuracy of many of the details given in the biblical account of Joshua's capture of it. On the other hand, in popular reports of more recent excavations, such as have appeared in the Illustrated London News, one may find absolutely no reference whatever to the evidence so ably set forth by Sir Charles Marston on numerous occasions.
(58)
     I think one reason for this silence on the part of non-Christian writers is that they are so firmly convinced that the Exodus took place much later in history than the 1440 B.C. date which Marston believes is clearly established by the evidence. They cannot accept this evidence, since it would require them to change the whole pattern of their thinking.

     As a rather extraordinary example of how one preserves one's bias at all costs, it may be noted that when archaeologists verified the presence of the Tribe of Asher already in Palestine by 1300 B.C., eighty years before the late date which they sought to establish for the Exodus, their explanation was almost laughable. Instead of admitting that this evidence undermined their dating system, they claimed that it was proof that probably most of the tribes of Israel never even went down into Egypt at all! As Miller Neatby said, "This really makes hay of Bible history." (59)
     On the other hand, if we assume that the date 1440 B.C. is essentially correct for the time when Israel left Egypt, then 1400 B.C. would be the time when they crossed Jordan and attacked Jericho. Now, the Pharaohs of Egypt in the interval between 1440 and 1400 B.C. are well-known. We have already noted that during this interval, even though Egypt maintained its domination over Palestine (including Jericho), yet its domination was

58.  In addition to his book referred to in ref.57, see also Sir Charles Marston, The Bible Comes Alive, Eyre and Spottswoode, London, 1937.
59.  Neatby, Miller T., ref.49, p.93.

     pg.12 of 17   


weakening and in fact, when the Israelites' conquest of Palestine began in earnest, the Egyptian Pharaoh, Aknaten, to whom the besieged cities appealed for help, was no longer concerned with saving them.
     The significance of this in the present context is that the necropolis associated with the city of Jericho was found by Garstang and excavated. In certain of the graves were found Egyptian amulets known as scarabs, which bore inscriptions somewhat as our coins do, identifying the reigning Pharaoh in Egypt at the time they were manufactured. Scarabs are found with the names of a number of Pharaohs, including three of Amenotep III whose reign began in 1413 B.C.
(60) No scarabs of later ones were found. This would allow fourteen years for the burial of people of influence who might be expected to have such scarabs if we assume that no further burials took place after the capture of the city. If, on the other hand, the Exodus were dated somewhere around 1220 B.C. as the critics like to think, it is surely strange that in this period of nearly two centuries no further scarabs of Amenotep III found their way into the necropolis, nor any of his successor, Aknaten. It seems pretty clear that the cemeteries ceased to be used as such quite early in Amenotep III's reign.
     Passing on for a moment to the successive campaigns of the Israelites over the next thirty years or so, as they laid seige to one city after another, the order of events allows very logically for the arrival at his new capital of urgent appeals for help to Aknaten, who succeeded Amenotep III in 1377 B.C. As we have seen, these urgent appeals come from governors in cities of Palestine who say they are being overwhelmed by people who are referred to as the Habiru -- almost certainly to be equated with the name "Hebrew".
     What did Garstang find when he excavated Jericho? The walls of the city proved to have been built of sun-dried bricks, some of which were surprisingly large. The city had been surrounded by two parallel walls, fifteen feet apart, the outer one of which was six feet thick and the inner one twelve feet. Both walls were about thirty feet high, and because of limited space within the walls, houses appear to have been built spanning the two. Excavation showed that the foundations of these walls were defective in both cases, so that in all probability the houses which spanned them contributed to some extent to their strength . . . and their weakness.
(61)
     In the biblical story, the children of Israel were told not to make an immediate frontal attack upon the city, but rather to march completely around it once a day until the seventh day and then seven times on the final day.

60.  Garstang's findings are reported by Sir Charles Marston, ref.57, p.153.
61.  Jericho's walls are described by Sir Charles Marston, ref.58, p.84.

     pg.13 of 17     

     A wall thirty feet high would seem to be a pretty strong defense, but the height of the wall contributed materially to the success of the plan which the Lord had given to Joshua. In Joshua 6:10, explicit instructions were given to the people that they should make no noise by shouting too soon. The reason for this and for the seven circuits of the final day, climaxed at the end with the blowing of all the trumpets they had accompanied by a mighty shout, is apparent now. The steady tramp of feet day after day set up vibrations in the ground which slowly weakened the already deteriorating foundations of the walls. On the last day the cumulative effect of physical vibration from marching feet and the shock wave of the mighty shout served to bring down what otherwise must have seemed a strong defense. But it needed the period of several days in order to ensure that a substantial section of the wall would come down all at once. If the vibration had been initiated too soon, a collapse would have been piecemeal perhaps, and the enemy might successfully have plugged the gap. Moreover, the very mode of attack of so novel a kind and delayed for so long must have served at first to confuse the defenders and in the end to have given them a false sense of security. At any rate, the plan worked perfectly, the walls fell down outward, the very fact of their being tied together by the houses spanning them serving to ensure that both walls would come tumbling down together. To make such a march around a modern city would be impossible for such a large nondescript group of people, but Jericho, as we have seen, was only seven and a half acres in extent, so that seven trips around on the last day would still only amount to walking around a quite moderate-sized field seven times -- a feat well within the capacity of people who had made the trip daily for a whole week.
     A few years ago, just after the war, Salisbury Cathedral was found to be in danger of collapse. It was not the design of the building that was faulty -- it had stood for centuries secure. But it was discovered, perhaps as a result of wartime explosions, that the walls were becoming increasingly sensitive to vibrations within a certain range which were causing a steady disintegration of the stone. The source of these vibrations proved to be the thirty-two foot stops of the cathedral organ; until steps were taken to repair the damage, it became unsafe to use these particular notes. This is therefore a modern illustration of what the trumpet blast effected in Joshua's day. Furthermore, if an army is set to march across a bridge, it is quite customary to order the men to break step, because the steady tramp of feet in unison can have a disastrous effect upon a structure capable of

     pg.14 of 17     

responding to the vibrations. The Lord told Joshua what to do: I am quite sure that Joshua had no scientific understanding of the "why", but he did it.
     Garstang found, in his excavations of the walls, that not all the wall had fallen down. At one point it had remained undamaged and a house which had spanned it had clearly suffered very little, except that in the conflagration which followed when the city had been put to flames, this house had been burnt along with the others. In one of the rooms was found a piece of charred rope.
(62)
     The children of Israel were explicitly ordered to touch nothing in the city except silver, gold, and metal articles. In the rooms and store chambers have been found the scorched remains of foodstuffs -- wheat, barley, lentils, dates, onions, olives, and pieces of dough. As Sir Charles Marston has put it, "Despite the lapse of more than 3,300 years, these mute witnesses remain today to testify that though Jericho was burnt, it was not plundered." And when he says "burnt", he means burnt. Garstang found burnt strata three and four times as thick as any normal ones such as are commonly found when excavating other cities that have been sacked and burnt. It was as though the conqueror had collected combustible materials deliberately in order to increase the conflagration. Joshua 6 seems to indicate that this is what was done, as though to ensure that nothing should be saved.
     Sir Charles Marston believes that the vibrations set up by the feet of the children of Israel were not alone responsible for the collapse of the wall, but that God may have sent an earthquake at the time of the crossing of Jordan which had thus already contributed to the weakening of the defenses. This surmise has been reinforced by the words of Psalm 114:3, 4: "The water saw it and fled: Jordan was driven back. The mountains skipped like rams and the little hills like lambs." By way of comment upon this, it may be pointed out that some sixteen miles upstream from the probable crossing of Jordan, at the place known as el-Damieh, the river takes a sharp bend; when it is in flood, it has a tendency to undercut the steep bank against which it impinges. In 1927, at just such a season and apparently accompanied by a very mild quake, a substantial section of the bank of the cliff broke away and fell into the water, damming the river for some hours until the pressure of the backed-up

62.  The finding of this piece of charred rope is noted by Sir Charles Marston, ref.58, pp.86-87.

     pg.15 of 17     


waters broke the dam and restored the normal flow. (63) In this interval it was possible to cross the river downstream at certain shallows on dry land for several hours.
      It might be felt that this is really an attempt to "explain away" the miraculous element entirely -- assuming that a similar occurrence took place in Joshua's time. But this is not really the case at all. In Joshua 3 we are told specifically that the Jordan was in full flood and that the children of Israel -- with their priests going on before them bearing the ark of the covenant in obedience to God's instructions through Joshua -- marched straight up to this torrent without hesitation and even began to step into the water before, suddenly, the flood ceased. Scripture says (verse 15): "As they that bear the ark were come unto Jordan, and the feet of the priests were dipped in the brim of the water (for Jordan overfloweth all his banks at the time of harvest), that the waters which came down from above stood and rose up upon a heap very far from the city of Adam." This city is none other than the present el-Damieh.
     This is, surely, a miracle of timing. Moreover, if the people had hesitated, the "drying up" of the river would have occurred before they reached it perhaps, and they might still have walked over dry shod. This would have been a miracle of provision in which the timing was still dramatic enough, but not nearly so wonderful as what actually happened. The circumstance which made this such an exceptional event was really the extraordinary obedience and faith of the priests who were willing to step boldly into a river of no mean size which was in flood. It seems to me that so many Old Testament miracles were miracles, not so much because of the events themselves, which often turn out to have natural explanations -- such as the turning of the bitter waters sweet by Moses (see appendix), but because of some act of obedience requiring great faith. I do not believe that the day of miracles is past. A scientific age does not encourage us to believe that God will set aside His own firmly established natural laws to meet our own special needs. And this might seem to make miracles remote from our day. But I do believe that if we pay attention to circumstances, we shall find miracle once more not in the event itself, but in the timing of it, for in more than one sense "our times are in His hands".
     Perhaps this answers the problem which not a few people have when they learn that some natural explanation has been discovered for an event which in their minds was sheer miracle. Some years ago I remember hearing a lecturer in Toronto speaking on the whale, or  "great fish," which swallowed Jonah.

63.  Reported by Sir Charles Marston, ref.57, pp.142-43. 

     pg.16 of 17    


Perhaps with less wisdom than enthusiasm, I went to see him after the lecture and told him of an authenticated instance of a man who was in a whaling crew who suffered a similar fate and enjoyed a similar escape. But the lecturer, who was no mean scholar, was genuinely offended and rebuked me with some vehemence, stating in no uncertain terms that Jonah's escape was miraculous and that it was almost sacrilege to suggest that there might have been any subsequent parallels. I believe, however, that the real miracle in Jonah's case was once again the matter of timing. In the more modern example, one may suppose (though one cannot be sure) that it was pure chance. In the case of Jonah this is not so at all, for as Jonah 1:17 says, "Now the Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. . . ." and this makes all the difference.
     Perhaps the first lesson to be learned from all this is that if we did but recognize the matter of timing in the Lord's dealings with us, we should suddenly discover that our lives are as luminously full of divine interferences as were those of any of the great saints of the Old Testament times. No, the age of miracles is not passed.

*     *     *

 

     The main thesis of this essay is that in the study of the Bible we have passed from a primitive stage of unquestioning and sometimes unintelligent acceptance, through a period of criticism and doubt, sometimes sound but often hypercritical, to a position where we are entitled to claim that the best and most untrammeled scholarship can be shown to have vindicated its authenticity and its trustworthiness.

--Sir Frederic G. Kenyon (64)

 

64.  Kenyon, Sir Frederic, The Bible and Modern Scholarship, Murray, London, 1949, p.1.

     pg.17 of 17     

Copyright © 1988 Evelyn White. All rights reserved

 

Previous Chapter                                                                      Next Chapter



Home | Biography | The Books | Search | Order Books | Contact Us