David Rohl's "New Chronology"
A New Chronology - It's About Time!
The interrelated chronologies of ancient Egypt, Israel, and Mesopotamia are based on a single "essential synchronism"(1) established over 165 years ago.(2) In 1822, Jean Francois Champollion deciphered the Hieroglyphic Code using the Rosetta Stone, and inaugurated the field of Egyptology. Unfortunately, six years later, he dealt the new discipline a serious setback with his misinterpretation of a military campaign mural belonging to the Egyptian 22nd Dynasty Pharaoh Sheshonq I.(3)
Champollion thought he had found "Judah the Kingdom" among the hieroglyphs of subdued cities listed in Sheshonq's inscription,(4) and concluded that Sheshonq could be none other than the Biblical Pharaoh "Shishak."(5) Shishak, according to 2 Chronicles 12, "captured the fortified cities of Judah" five years after the death of King Solomon. The Bible goes on to say that Jerusalem was spared only after Shishak "carried off ... everything." By 1888, Champollion's "Judah the Kingdom" had been correctly translated as "Monument of the King,"(6) and associated geopgraphically with northern Israel by virtue of its position in the Karnak mural campaign itinerary.(7) However, the mis-identification of Shishak with Sheshonq was not overturned, and has remained the cornerstone of ancient chronology.
In the New Chronology model, the Pharaoh who besieges the fortified cities of Judah and subdues Jerusalem five years after the death of Solomon is re-identified as the 19th Dynasty Pharaoh Ramses II.(8) The well documented campaign of Ramses II against Palestine in his Year 8 corresponds much more closely to that of the Biblical Shishak than that of Sheshonq. Examination of the account of Sheshonq's invasion reveals that it was directed primarily toward the northern kingdom of Israel, and that Judah was deliberately bypassed by the Egyptian army.(9) Moreover, no mention is made in the Bible of the northern kingdom of Israel being humbled by Shishak. On the other hand, Ramses II's campaign did concentrate primarily on Judah and the Shasu nations of the Sinai and southern transjordan, and Ramses II specifically claims to have "plundered Shalom," i.e., Jerusalem.
Furthermore Rohl has determined that Shisha is an acceptable transliteration of the official Egyptian nickname (Sysw)(10) of the Pharaoh Ramses II, and that the liguistic path to the Biblical name Shishak is more straightforward than that of Sheshonq, especially if it is recognized that the final "k" was added as a play on words (a recognized practice used in the Bible when translating foreign names) to render the connotation of "assaulter" in Hebrew.(11)
The New Chronology determination that the Biblical King Rehoboam (besieged by Shishak) and the Pharaoh Ramses II were contempories is secured by several archaeological finds and a completely independent synchronism, that being the recording of a rare solar eclipse in the reign of the 18th Dynasty Pharaoh, Akhenaten.(12) Shortly after the death of his father Amenhotep III, Akhenaten received a letter from his vassal Abimilku(13) of Tyre informing him of a fire that destroyed half of the palace of King Nikmaddu II at the city of Ugarit (north of Tyre on the Syrian coast of the Mediterranean Sea). In the charred remains of that palace, archaeologists found a tablet describing an eclipse of the sun that occurred at sunset in the month of "Hiyaru" (mid-April to mid-May). As the setting sun was considered a goddess in the Ugarit pantheon, the eclipse represented a particularly evil omen, and it was indicated as such on the opposite side of the tablet. Computer retro-calculation has confirmed that an eclipse did occur thirty minutes before sunset on May 9th in the year 1012 B.C., and that this was the only total solar eclipse which occurred within one hour of sunset at this location during the entire 2nd millennium B.C. Rohl therefore deduces that the palace fire and Abimilku's letter to Akhenaten occurred after (and likely no more than a year after) the tablet recording the solar eclipse of 1012 B.C. was inscribed.
Circa 1012 B.C. is the accepted time (in the conventional chronology) for the rise of King David in Israel, however it has until now been believed that the Pharoah Akhenaten ruled in Egypt over 300 years earlier! The letter to Akhenaten was one of 340 political correspondences written primarily in Akkadian, the diplomatic language of the day, and dating to the reigns of Amenhotep III, Akhenaten, and Tutankhamun. The group of letters are collectively known as the Amarna tablets after the site in Egypt where they were discovered in 1887.
Comparisons between the frequently mentioned "Habiru" of the Amarna tablets and the Biblical descriptions of David and his band of "mighty men" (2 Samuel 10:7) have been made by noted scholars. However, due to the 300 year offset in the conventional chronology, an association with the Biblical accounts had not been seriously considered. A new study of the Amarna tablets by Rohl has revealed that the ethnic and political makeup of Palestine, and the activities of the Habiru are even more similar in their correspondence with the Biblical record that was originally suspected.(14)
King Saul (a symbolic name meaning "Asked For" by virtue of Israel's request that God appoint a king to rule over them) of the Bible is revealed in the Amarna letters as Labayu (meaning "Great Lion"), and "the Habiru who was raised up against the lands." In Psalm 57, Saul's bodyguards are referred to as lebaim ("great lions"). Specific details relating to Labayu's activities, betrayal, and death as recorded in the Amarna letters precisely match the Bible account of Saul's rise and ultimate fall on Mount Gilboa in battle with the Philistines. After Labayu's death, the Amarna tablets record the pleas to Akhenaten from his Jebusite vassal at Jerusalem, and from his Canaanite vassal at Gezer to send either reinforcement troops or an escort to allow them to escape before their cities were to fall to the Habiru who were now based in "Tianna" (Akkadian Tianna -> Hebrew Tsiyon -> English Zion). This sequence of events in the Amarna tablets closely corresponds to the Biblical account of David's capture of Jerusalem and his victories over the Philistines after the death of King Saul.
Finally, a letter from Labayu's son and successor, Mutbaal (identified as the Biblical Ishbaal, the sole surviving son of King Saul) to Akhenaten is a response to his being questioned by Egyptian authorities about the whereabouts of one Ayab (Akkadian translation of the Biblical Joab). Mutbaal states, "he has been in the field for two months. Just ask Benenima. Just ask Dadua. Just ask Yishuya..." The letter implies an intimate knowledge of the major proponents of the Hebrew movement on the part of Akhenaten, including the Biblical David, named by the Akkadian version of his name, Dadua.(15)
If the other associations are correct, then it would make perfect sense for Ishbaal to refer Akhenaten to David as to the whereabouts of Joab, as Joab was David's nephew and the commander of his Army (1 Chronicles 2:16, 2 Samuel 8:16)!
The recent discovery at Tel Dan (in northern Israel) of an inscription containing the word "bytdwd" (translated by some as "House of David") created an international sensation.(16) However, a variant of this same name (i.e., Dadua), as well as numerous other Biblical name associations in the Amarna tablets have been overlooked for more than 100 years! This can only reflect the extent of the bias that the conventional chronology has imposed on historical scholarship.
David and Solomon are portrayed in the Bible as two of the greatest kings of the ancient world, yet within the conventional chronology, a suitable context for their reigns cannot be found. Quoting from the book, Archaeology of the Land of the Bible, "The Bible is the only written source concerning the United Monarchy ,(17) and it is therefore the basis of any historical presentation of the period."(18) There is such a complete void of external sources that the archaeologist, author and leading authority on the era, Donald Redford writes in frustration that "such topics as the foreign policy of David and Solomon, Solomon's trade in horses or his marriage to Pharaoh's daughter must remain themes for midrash and fictional treatment."(19) Other researchers have arrived at even more dramatic conclusions. Quoting Phillip Davies' book, In Search of Ancient Israel (1992, JSOT Press, Sheffield, England), "The evidence recently accumulated by Jamieson-Drake(20) at least shows the impossibility of a Davidic empire administered from Jerusalem ... The range of indices considered by Jamieson-Drake make it necessary for us to exclude the Davidic and Solomonic monarchies, let alone their 'empire' from a non-biblical history of Palestine."
Ironically, the zeal of the early archaeologists to find evidence of the Biblical world led to a chronological framework in which it could not possibly have existed. The New Chronology convincingly resolves the long standing and disturbing 300 year discrepancy between the Bible and archaeology, and provides a more accurate, albeit radically different context in which the historicity of the Bible accounts and characters can be fully reconsidered, i.e., an infrastructure in Palestine of fine cities endowed with new temples and palaces, and political correspondences from palestine rulers to Egyptian Pharaohs that contain a reference to David, as well as many other Biblical associations.