There are a couple of places where the translation breaks down, because my translation skills aren't perfect. And anyway, this should not stop those of you who are capable of it from reading the book in the original. It's definitely worth it. For those of you who can't, please write to Schocken and ask them to put out a translation.
For those of you who want to know how Ezion's revised chronology (as presented in "The Lost Bible" differs from mine, his placement of most of the Bronze Age is identical. Where we differ is that Etzion continues the Late Bronze Age down through the Babylonian destruction, and sets the Iron Age as the time from the return of the Jews to Judea through the Hasmonean wars. I end the Late Bronze Age with the onset of the Assyrian invasions, and end the Iron Age with the Babylonian destruction. Etzion feels that the lack of archaeological evidence for the 200-plus year span of the Persian period indicates a need to move another archaeological period there. My view is that the Persian period was quite a bit shorter than 200 years, and that this explains the lack of evidence between the end of the Iron Age and the start of the Hellenistic period.
Inscriptions that have been found in Israel--as well as victory inscriptions of 18th and 19th dynasty kings which have been discovered in Egypt--have brought investigators to the conclusion that Israel was conquered by the Egyptian army during the Late Bronze Age, and became a part of the Egyptian empire.
Do the Egyptian finds in Israel, particularly the contents of the inscriptions, justify this conclusion? In order to try and answer this question, I will first give a brief overview of the most important inscriptions (other than scarabs) which have been found in Israel.
The largest selection of inscriptions was discovered in Beit Shean (Bethsan, Bethsean). Among a wealth a inscriptions which were uncovered in this place, two steles stand out, attributed to the Egyptian king Seti I. In Jaffa, a doorpost was found which had inscribed on it a cartouche, which according to scholars carries the name of Ramesses II. A similar piece was uncovered in Ashdod. In Tel Shara near Nachal Gerar, bowls with Egyptian inscriptions were discovered. A similar bowl was found at Tel Lachish. Small bits of stelae, statues and statue bases carrying Egyptian names were found near the Kinneret, in Meggido and in Gezer, among other places.
Seemingly, this is an impressive wealth of inscriptions; and in fact, if we check things in depth, we will see that the monuments attributed to Seti I that were found in Beit Shean are the only written evidence found in Israel from which we may conclude that there was Egyptian rule in Israel during the Late Bronze Age.
This is the content of the monuments:
Monument 1In my opinion, these inscriptions do not constitute a sufficient basis to conclude that the Egyptians ruled Israel in the Late Bronze Age. The Late Bronze was a lengthy period, and Israel is a wide land. The stelae attributed to Seti I are at most evidence of a campaign fought by the Egyptian king near the city of Beit Shean towards the end of the Late Bronze Age. From here to the conclusion that Israel was a part of the Egyptian empire during the Late Bronze Age is a far stretch.
The inscription on the monument is 22 lines, written in hieroglyphic script. On the third and last lines appear the name of a king called Men-ma-re, son of Ra, Seti Merneptah. Most of the inscription is dedicated to a description of the excellence and courage of the Egyptian king. At the end, it is told that: "On this day they came to tell His Majesty saying: the pitiful enemy in the city of Hamat is gathering himself a large company in order to attack the city Beit Shean, and he intends to join with the men of Pella. He does not give the ruler a street to go out of. Then His Majesty sent the first troop of Amon, 'Brave Archers', to the city of Hamat, and the first troop of Ra, 'The Courageous', to the city of Beit Shean, and the first troop of Set, 'Strong Archers', to the city of Yanoam. After one day, they fell before the glory of His Majesty, the King of Upper and Lower Egypt."
This monument is similar in construction to the first monument, but was not as well preserved. The top and left side of the monument are missing, and the letters are worn and blurry. In the historical part of it, which has been reconstructed by scholars, is told that: "On this day, they came to tell His Majesty--the Apiru from Mount Yarmat along with the Tiru are attacking the Amu from Rahama. And His Majesty said: What do these pitiful Amu think, that they will again seize their bows to inflict punishment? They do not recognize the ruler who is strong as a falcon and the wild bull, wide of stride, one horned, spread winged, all his limbs solid as bronze, in order to destroy the land of Dahi in its entirety. And His Majesty commanded a few of his many soldiers and charioteers to turn to the mountain of Dahe. After two days, they returned in peace from Mount Yarmat with tribute, captives and booty."
In contrast to the sparseness of Egyptian victory stelae in Israel, in Egypt itself inscriptions have been discovered which tell of Egyptian campaigns in Israel. I will deal again with two such inscriptions after I discuss the problem of whether and how it is possible to connect the kings of the Egyptian 18th and 19th dynasties with Late Bronze strata.
For all its importance, the Egyptian finds raise a problem: scholars who have tried to date the strata according to the Egyptian finds have at times reached mistaken chronological conclusions. Of particular note is the story of the digs in Beit Shean: there, as Albright claimed, excavators dated the strata too early because of an over-reliance on the Egyptian material found there.
The scarabs constituted a problem of their own. The digs at Lachish, for example, supplied a particularly rich find of scarabs; but scholars were at pain to point out that "the condition of the graves does not allow for stratigraphic documentation of their contents. Grave 4004, for example, contained more than 150 scarabs, from the 12th to the 19th dynasties, which were compressed into a black level only 30 cm deep."
Kathleen Kenyon summarized the state of the investigation in this way:
Unfortunately, only relatively seldom is it possible to connect the Egyptian material and the archaeological evidence into a solid chronological framework which derives from the strata and the finds. There is a significant lack of clarity in the definition of the characteristics of ceramics from the Late Bronze Age, due in large part to poor technique [for establishing] the precise stratigraphy for most of the important sites that have been excavated. One of the main sources of error is the use of Egyptian objects--like memorial monuments and scarabs--without considering the true significance of the precise spot where they are discovered.Scholars have therefore learned to be wary of dating the strata according to Egyptian finds. Today it is the norm to date the various levels primarily according to pottery finds.
According to Kathleen Kenyon, scholars found it difficult to precisely date the strata according to Egyptian objects because of erroneous interpretations of their stratigraphic state. In my opinion, the reason is entirely different.
According to the conventional view, Late Bronze strata are dated to the second half of the second millenium BCE. At that time, Israel was Canaan, and its historical background has been reconstructed by scholars using external sources. In the course of this book, I have shown multiple times how much a change in the historical background is liable to alter the interpretation of archaeological finds from one pole to the other. According to the alternative stratigraphy, the Late Bronze Age was the period of the First Commonwealth. Against the background, the Egyptian finds in Israel gain an entirely different explanation.
As has been mentioned, in the First Commonwealth, there were three cultures in the fertile crescent, living beside one another: the Egyptian culture, the Hebrew culture and the Mesopotamian culture. While Mesopotamian and Hebrew finds are attributed to various nations--Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Hebrews, Moabites, Phoenicians and others--Egyptian finds area are almost always attributed to Egyptians themselves.
There is no justification for this. To what conclusions might scholars arrive were they to attribute every object with Hebrew writing on it to the Israelites, or if they were to attribute every cuneiform inscription to the Assyrians? There is no historical basis for the presumption that the culture we call Egyptian belonged solely to the Egyptian people.
Scholars point out the local, "Canaanite" flavor of Egyptian finds in Israel. Is it therefore possible that in the Late Bronze Age, a nation dwelled in Israel whose culture was Egyptian? And if this is so, who would that nation be?
In order to clarify this question, let us go back to the excavations at Tel Beit Shean.
Initially, the excavations took place at the peak of the tell and at its western approach. It quickly became clear to scholars that the job they had undertaken was too much for them. From season to season, the area of the dig shrank--first to the peak of the tell, and then to the southern corner of the peak. As the excavators went deeper, the area of the dig got smaller, until they wound up with a single pit, reaching down to the bedrock 21.5 meters below.
The excavation revealed that the culture of Beit Shean in the Late Bronze Age was primarily Egyptian. Among the things uncovered were the remains of four temples at the pinnacle of the tell, which were built one atop the other, with a similar design to those built in Egypt. Two mushroom-shaped capitals were uncovered, called lotus capitals, a characteristic Egyptian ornamentation.
In the view of scholars, LBA Beit Shean was an Egyptian central administrative city, and served as the main base for their garrison. In the opinion of Yohanan Aharoni, the Egyptian templs which were unearthed were built by the Egyptians as part of their military base.
A monument was discovered at the site which was erected by a man named Paremheb, who according to Aharoni was an Egyptian soldier. Nevertheless, the monument was dedicated to a local deity, and not to an Egyptian one. The cultic implements were also of a local flavor. In the area of the temples, statues of Astarte were uncovered, along with cultic implements bearing images of serpents and birds; a collection of stamps and an axe all in North Syrian style were discovered as well.
Aharoni writes: "Even though everything points to the temples having been built by the Egyptians as part of their military base, their cult was not dedicated to Egyptian gods, but to local Canaanite ones." From what is related in the Bible, it appears that Beit Shean was never an Israelite town. In the settlement period, Israel was unable to conquer the town: "And Menasseh did not inherit Beit Shean and its suburbs and Tanaach and its suburbs and the inhabitant of Dor and its suburbs and the inhabitants of Yibleam and its suburbs and the inhabitants of Megiddo and its suburbs and the Canaanite was able to dwell in the land. And because Israel was strong, they made them tributaries, but they did not dispossess them." (Judges 1:27-28)
In the days of Saul, Beit Shean was a Philistine city, and only in the days of the greatness of the Israelite empire were the Israelites able to overcome it. In the days of King Solomon, his kingdom was divided into twelve principalities. Beit Shean, Tanaach and Megiddo were included in one of these principalities (I Kings 4:12). Afterwards, the city is no longer mentioned in the Bible.
According to the alternate stratigraphy, the Late Bronze Age was the time of the First Commonwealth. In this period, Beit Shean was almost certainly a Philistine city. Is it possible that the material culture of the Late Bronze Age uncovered at Beit Shean is Philistine? Is it possible that Philistine culture was Egyptian?
Beginning in the settlement period, the land of Israel was divided between the Israelite tribes and the Philistines. Who were the Philistines, who played such an important part in the history of the Israelite people at their beginnings?
In archaeological research, "Philistine" denotes a type of ceramic with a biblical name, just as it sounds. Scholars have invested a great deal of work in the study of "Philistine Ware" and in analysis of the stratigraphy of the sites where this ware is found, but the customs, religion and language of the Philistines remain hidden.
The birth-place of Israelite archaeology is in Egypt. The primary source of knowledge about the Philistines was found in an Egyptian temple near Luxor, about 1,000 km from Gaza, Ashdod, Ashkelon, Gath and Ekron--the cities of the Philistines. About a hundred and fifty years ago, Champollion read the consonants PRST in a group of hieroglyphics graven on the walls of the temple. The decypherer of hieroglyphic writing suggested that these symbols be read as the name of the biblical Philistines.
Following this identification, which is accepted until today, the tablets and inscriptions in the Egyptian temple becaume "the most important source by which to recognize the Philistine army, with its clothing and weaponry, it's chariotry and navy and means of war."
It is accepted that the builder of this temple, Ramesses III, lived at the beginning of the twelfth century BCE, in the last days of greatness of the gyptian New Kingdom. It was determined, therefore, that the Philistines arrived in Israel at around the same time. Scholars are barely troubled by the fact that the Bible describes the Philistines as a nation dwelling in Israel when Abraham the Hebrew arrived there. As in many other cases, when a lack of correspondance is discovered between "external sources" and the Bible, scholars have prefered to place their faith in ancient inscriptions which were discovered outside the borders of Israel.
Nevertheless, the difficulty of non-correspondance with the Bible was only one of a group of problems which came to light following the identification of the Philistines with the Peleset in the distant Egyptian inscriptions.
Archaeological scholarship showed that along with the destruction of the cities of the land of Israel, the end of the Late Bronze Age also saw the destruction of many cities in Lebanon, Syria and Anatolia. In the view of scholars, there was at that time "a tremendous movement of peoples, the likes of which have scarcely been seen in the history of nations... this movement changed the entire ethnic and national makeup of the Mediterranean shores and the lands of the Fertile Crescent... [and brought] the end of the rule of the city states, which characterized Israel and Syria for such a long time."13 The new conquerers are called "Sea Peoples", and the Philistines were, according to what is accepted, one of the many nations which flooded the region at that time.
According to the inscriptions in the Egyptian temple, Ramesses III struck the "Sea Peoples" a mortal blow. Scholars have found it difficult to understand how the stricken Philistines were transformed into the rulers of the coastal lowlands of Israel.
A solution to this problem was found in an ancient papyrus, called "Papyrus Harris A". According to this document, Ramesses settled many captives in fortresses in Egypt, and apportioned food to them. Scholars assume that the Egyptian king settled part of the beaten Philistine army in Egyptian fortresses in Israel. When its empire fell apart not many years after this, the defeated Philistines became the new masters of of the land.
Nevertheless, this solution is not compatible with archaeological finds in Israel. If Ramesses III actually defeated the "Sea Peoples"--it is unclear who destroyed the cities of the coastal plain at the end of the Late Bronze Age. Furthermore, excavations have shown that at the end of the Late Bronze Age, there was an intermediate period between the destruction of the cities and the appearance of "Philistine Ware". Yohanan Aharoni writes:
In the Philistine capitols, there is no continuity between the Canaanite and Philistine cities, as we might expect when an occupying garrison became the master upon the disappearance of the Egyptians. In a section which was performed in Ashkelon by Pythian Adams, a thick burnt layer was discovered betwen the last Canaanite settlement and a level which contains Philistine Ware. It is even more clear in Ashdod, where widespread excavations were performed by Dothan and others.Two alternative solutions were suggested for this new problem: Either the Philistines arrived in Israel before the "Philistine Ware", or the beaten Philistines waited about thirty years, and only then, in some unknown way, took control of the land. This is a snarl of difficulties characteristic to scholarship which tries to navigate in the land of the Bible by means of Egyptian hieroglyphics.
Here too, the last [Late Bronze Age] city ends with a burnt layer, and there is an intermediate stage from the beginning [of the Iron Age] 1, where Myceanean and Cypriot imports ceased, but there is still no Philistine Ware.
The southern coast of Israel is called by the Bible the land of the Philistines, or Philistia. According to traditions from the First Commonwealth, the Philistines came to Israel from Caphtor. The prophet Amos says, "Did I not take Israel out of Egypt and the Philistines from Caphtor and Aram from Kir?" (Amos 9:7). About two hundred years later, Jeremiah brings the same tradition: "For the Lord has plundered the Philistines, the remnant of the Isle of Caphtor." (Jeremiah 47:4)
The use of the expection "Isle of Caphtor" brought scholars to the conclusion that the origin of the Philistines was on one of the Mediterranean islands. This conclusion is one of the milestones in the study of the history and culture of the Philistines. Consideration of this topic results in a different picture: Various verse in the Bible show that the word "Ee" [generally translated as "island"--translator's note] has a much wider sense than that which is attributed to it today: This sense being "land". This is particularly clear in the second half of the book of Isaiah; for example: "Be silent until me O lands and let nations renew their strength. Let them approach then let them speak; together, let us draw near for judgement." (Isaiah 41:1) Or: "I will destroy mountains and hills, and I will dry up all their vegetation. I will turn rivers into land and I will drive up lakes." (Isaiah 42:15)
According to this interpretation, the meaning of the term "Ee Caphtor" during the First Commonwealth was "Land of Caphtor".
The scholar Pythian Adams raised the possibility that the Greek name of Egypt, Egyptos [with a hard "g"--translator's note], finds its origin in the ancient phrase "Ai Kebt", which sounds much like "Ee Caphtor". According to Adams, Caphtor is the biblical name for the Egyptian delta. If this is really so, it is close to certain that the Egyptian Christians--whom the Arabs call Copts--have preserved remnants of the biblical name Caphtor in their name.
What were the ethnic origins of the Philistines? In the Bible, we find lengthy passages dedicated to various genealogical lists. One of these is a detailed list of the races and nations and their relationships from generation to generation, which is found in the book of Genesis. According to those list, there was a racial relation between Kush, Egypt, Put and Canaan, who were all descendents of Ham. Further on, there appears a list of the nations which derived from Egypt: "And Egypt begat the Lydians and the Anamians and the Lahabians and the Naphtuchians, and the Patrusians and the Kasluchians, from whence came the Philistines, and the Caphtorians." (Genesis 10:13-14)
The ancient tradition about the origin of the nations was preserved for many generations, and its __________ continued through Talmudic literature. In Jewish Antiquities, Josephus brings the following version: "And Egypt had eight sons, all of whom took possession of the land from Gaza up to Egypt. But the land kept only the name of Philistia."
According to the Bible and to ancient Jewish tradition, the ethnic origins of the Philistines was Egyptian!
Archaeologists uncovered two cultures in the land, and thought they had discovered "Canaanite" culture and "Egyptian" culture. But in fact, scholars, although they did not realize it, had uncovered Israelite culture and Philistine culture.
The Philistines dwelled in the southern coastal lowlands, and during some periods even in the center of the country. Intensive archaeological digs have been carried out in these areas for years. And indeed, it is in the southern lowlands and the central valleys that the main "Egyptian" remains have been found in the land of Israel. These remains show us the Philistine culture in all its glory.--from cemetaries to palaces and broken statues of "Philistine princes", which archaeologists have identified as statues of Egyptian officials and governors. Scarabs bearing the names of "Egyptian kings" are, for the most part, Philistine scarabs, and Israeli Egyptologists are often Philistine scholars without even knowing it.
In 1972, a discovery was made which confused and perplexed scholars, and turned things topsy-turvy. In the course of development in Deir el Balah, south of Gaza, a large cemetary was found, containing more than forty sarcophagi. When the excavators checked the ostraca in these graves, they were surpised to discover that they were from the later part of the Late Bronze Age. Repeated investigation of the ostraca in the graves in Beth Shean pointed to an even earlier date. Since the accepted approach of scholars is that the Philistines only arrived in the land at the very end of the Late Bronze Age, they were compelled to conclude, "that we cannot connect the first appearances of this burial custom to the Philistines."
Who, then, is buried in the ceramic sarcophagi in Deir el Balah, Beth Shean, Lachish and Tel el-Fara? Where they, in the words of Philistine scholar Trude Dotan, "High ranking Egyptian officials and officers who served in Canaan, or Egyptian garrisons who camped in in fortresses throughout Syria-Israel? Or perhaps Canaanite governors and nobles who had absorbed Egyptian culture?"
According to the revised stratigraphy, the Philistines arrived in Israel some fifteen hundred years before the end of the Late Bronze Age. It is Philistines who are buried in those sarcophagi.
From a distance of thousands of years, the faces of the Philistines peer out at us from the the covers of these coffins. Their hair is arranged simply: smooth and long, descending to cheek level, leaving the ears exposed in some cases. Their faces are clean shaven and smooth, and only in a few cases is there a distinctively Egyptian-style beard--the "Osiris beard". There is a serious mien, and the arms are placed on the chest, at times with the hands grasping a lotus or other objects similar to Egyptian religious symbols. The same images appear on a piece of ivory which adorned a scorched wooden box, discovered in one of the rooms in the palace at Tel el-Fara. A Philistine noble appears on it, with long hair and wearing a lengthy garment, sitting on a seat and holding a bowl in his hand. Before him is a person, possibly his wife, pouring him a drink. Behind him it is possible to distinguish the form of a naked dancer.
The tradition of burial in these ceramic sarcophagi is, apparently, relatively late. However, the tradition of burial in coffins is an ancient tradition. Even in the Chalcholithic Era, the inhabitants of the lowlands were accustoned to bury the bones of the dead in ceremic coffins, with the form of a face on the front and a raised stamp on the center.
In ancient Egypt, the open temple prevailed, and this was also the form of Philistine temples. Despite the problems in detaing them, the temples whichwere discovered in Tel Beth Shean can serve as a model for the Philistine temple. Four temples were discovered at this site, built one atop the other. The middle one was made up of an enclosed courtyard, with about a third of its area covered. This created a kind of sanctuary, whose ceiling was supported by two pillars. There were _________ for the length of the walls, and at the end was a narrow room--the holy of holies--reached by means of a column of stairs, and upon which were performed the most important cultic rituals.
In 1962, a cache of bronze tools and weapons was discovered in the Sharon, near Kfar Monash. The cache included gigantic and heavy axeheads, some 40 cm in length. Their size impressed scholars to the point that it was even theorized that they were the heads of primitive battering rams. Along with the tools were discovered about 800 thin bronze tablets, which were apparently the remnants of plate armor. Sheets like these were also discovered at excavations in Tel Erani, near Gath. The cache wasn't found in a stratigrapic context, and its time is unclear. In the First Commonwealth period, the Sharon was under the rule of the Philistine kingdom. The imaginative might see in the cache from Kfar Monash Philistine weapons from the time of Saul and David: "And a champion came out from the camps of the Philistines... and he wore bronze plate armor weihing 5000 shekels... and a bronze javelin between his shoulders, and the shaft of his spear was like a weaver's beam, and the head of his spear weighed 600 shekels." (I Samuel 17:4-7)
 O. Tufnell, Lachish IV, The Bronze Age, London 1958, pp. 92-93
 K. Kenyon, Archaeology in the Holy Land, London 1979, pp. 180-181
 See, for example, Y. Aharoni, The Archaeology of the Land of Israel, Jerusalem 1978, p. 113
 ibid, p. 110
 T. Dothan, The Philistines and their Material Culture, Jerusalem 1967, p. 6
 op.cit. Aharoni, p. 141
 ibid. p. 161
 According to N. Ganor, Who were the Phoenicians, Tel Aviv 1975, pp. 120-124
 Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 1: 6, 2 (136)
 T. Dothan, "The Cemetary Near Deir el Balah", Kadmoniot 17 (1972), p. 25