Someone on this forum recommended I read The Bible Unearthed, as it would perhaps open my eyes to facts I was not aware of, some of them unpalatable. I’ve read it, well part of the way, then skimmed the rest.
This book must be used with caution because it pretends to describe what we now really know about archaeology and how it contradicts various biblical claims; however, it does so in a biased and non-objective manner. Contrary opinions in interpreting the new evidence are not discussed, much less given a fair hearing. The book is ideologically driven and should be treated that way by anyone who reads it.
Richard S. Hess, Ph.D.
Professor of Old Testament
I begin my criticism of this book with this caveat by Professor Richard Hess, who knows more than a little on the subject in question. Israel Finkelstein, an archaeologist, and Neil Asher Silberman, a journalist, make it quite clear they have an agenda and, pretty much like Bart Ehrman and Bishop Shelby Spong, knowing more than all the theologians who went before, seem to know more than all the archaeologists who went before them and ignore clear documentary evidence that has been built up over many years.
I have not watched the documentary on the Discovery Channel, so I cannot comment on that part of it, but there are very few photos to bear witness to their claims, so they are asking us to believe a lot. They are, in fact, the sceptic’s version of young earth creationists.
Now because cannot know with any certainty of the accounts of the Patriarchs, I’m not even going to comment on this section, as there are no contemporary sources from which we can draw comparisons. Thus I’ll ignore this part and move on to the Exodus.
Kenneth Kitchen, one of the finest Egyptologists alive today is the Professor Emeritus of Egyptology at the University of Liverpool. He affirms that the sale price for a slave in the time of Joseph was twenty shekels of silver. This was the price in the first half of the second Millennium BC, but not at the time discussed by the authors, around 700 BC.
Only in the 13th Century BC, did the Pharaoh have his capital at the Eastern delta region. This is the only way Moses and Aaron could visit Pharaoh and return to the home of the Hebrews on the same day. The cities of Pithom and Rameses were within a day’s walk of the Pharaoh’s court. The authors make no attempt to address any contrary evidence, which is a sign of poor scholarship, or a desire for sales. Either way, they got the sales.
As to there being no record of the Exodus in Egyptian records, there is no evidence in Egyptian records of any defeat, so why would they record a defeat by slaves?! Their only mention of the Hyksos was when they finally defeated them, not the previous two occasions when they nearly succumbed.
As to there being no evidence of a vast number of people wandering in the wilderness, that is hardly surprising, as there is eye-witness testimony from Egyptian border guards to the constant nomadic wanderings of thousands of people from Edom. Nomads tend to leave no trace as they wander and the Israelites, in particular, would have left no trace as they were commanded not to erect any idols. So is it surprising they left no trace? Not if you think about it logically and don’t have a built-in bias.
I am neither a scholar nor archaeologist, yet I can see through their manipulations. It’s sensationalism, not scholarship. It’s Bart Ehrman as opposed to CS Lewis. They’ve aimed at the lowest common denominator and hit their mark perfectly.
Erich von Daniken did it in the sixties, Graham Hancock in the nineties. What the authors have done is neatly put together a sensationalist work with an eye on the market, and they’ve succeeded admirably in their aim. Every eminent archaeologist is wrong, in their opinion, and they alone have the answer to the entire story of the Middle East, or the Fertile Crescent, as it was then.
Here is a direct quote from Professor Richard Hess. While surveys from the first half of the twentieth century yielded little evidence for occupation in the Late Bronze Age regions of Edom, Ammon, or Moab; this has changed in recent years. Although small in comparison with later demographic evidence, the population of Jordan was of some significance in the Late Bronze Age. Egyptian scribes of the Late Bronze Age knew of and named sites in this area, such as Dibon. Dibon is also mentioned in the Israelite sojourn, along with Heshbon. The fact that neither Tell Hisban nor Tell Dhiban have revealed evidence of occupation at this time, does not mean that the sites did not exist. The names could have moved to other sites in the region, a phenomenon known elsewhere. Whatever the explanation, the contemporary scribes of Egypt, like the Israelite recorders of these events, clearly knew of population centers such as Dibon and others in the Ammonite/Moabite regions.
The chapter on Joshua is the most one-sided argument against the Biblical story I’ve read in years and their agenda here becomes even clearer. They are out to overturn any prior evidence, no matter how sound, or make money. They’ve succeeded at one, there’s no doubt about that.
One thing the authors conveniently forget, is the fact that cities were built upon cities that had been razed, then built again when those had been razed, as the foundations were still in place, so saying there is no archaeological record of Ai or Jericho is disingenuous in the extreme, as they ignore eye-witness reports of other cities such as Megiddo, which was reported upon by Pharaoh’s regents.
Moving onto Hazor, Amnon Ben Tur, who is presently excavating the site, draws the same conclusions as his predecessor, Yigael Yadin. Hazor seems to have been destroyed by the Israelites as claimed, because of the defacement of the cultic idols by a people intolerant of other religious practices. So Rodkins can run out the genocide ruler again. But the authors are clearly wrong, again.
Again, a quote from Professor Hess: A final point has to do with the authors' tendency to emphasize the massive destruction of most of Judea as a result of the invasion of Sennacherib. However, the historians writing Kings and Chronicles do not emphasize this. Instead, they focus on the miraculous preservation of Jerusalem and praise Hezekiah for his great demonstrations of faith. The authors belittle the accomplishment of Hezekiah and contend that the pragmatic acceptance of non-Yahweh worship and Assyrian control by Manasseh was more successful in the following century. However, they overlook one of the most important facts. During Hezekiah's reign, his main city (Jerusalem) did not fall. This was true despite its endurance of the full force of the Assyrian army under Sennacherib. No other city is known to have resisted and not fallen from Samaria to Babylon. If a miracle did not actually happen, surely Jerusalemites of the time must have believed that one did.
The book is extremely readable and well-written, but so is The God Delusion, and I would recommend neither book to anyone wanting to further their knowledge on a complex subject.
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