Living in Truth: Archaeology and the Patriarchs
The Bible describes great kings of Israel who are said to have ruled between the Nile and the Euphrates. However, the archaeology of traditional Israel does not support this claim. In Egypt there is the archaeology of pharaohs who boasted of an empire stretching from the Nile to the Euphrates. However, a detailed narrative record of their family history and culture has not been found. Could it be that the archaeology of Egypt and the cultural memory of the Bible are two facets of the same royal history, which should logically complement one another? In other words, did the pharaohs also reign as kings in Israel, but under Hebrew names? Is the Bible then the memory that Egyptian kings left in Israel? Did the kings of Israel in fact have a far greater sphere of influence than is acknowledged in Scripture? Was the identity of these kings in Egypt later disguised for political reasons or other purposes? These are obvious questions, yet they have not been asked much less answered . until now.
In Part I, it is shown that the Patriarchs listed in the Book of Genesis are one and the same as the great "God-Kings" of the ancient world. The first Patriarch Adam is identified as Atum the primeval god of Egypt. Biblical Adam was commanded to "be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it."a The Hebrew word for subdue means to "conquer, oppress, subjugate," and implies that Adam and his immediate descendants were in fact authorized to rule as kings. Consistent with this, the "genealogy" of Adam given in Genesisb correlates precisely with the succession list of the gods of Egypt. After the Flood, the first renowned conqueror is named in Genesis as Nimrod (Namer). He corresponds to the Egyptian pharaoh Narmer, founder of the Egyptian Old Kingdom. In Narmer the rival lines of inheritance from both Ham and Shem were recombined. From that time forward the "world" of the Near East was lorded over by a single royal family who considered themselves to be equally Semitic and Hamitic.c The Bible traces the history of that dynasty which ruled literally for a thousand years over the dual regions of Egypt and Mesopotamia.
The various books of the Old Testament are an anthology. They were written by different authors and are not fully consistent in either theology or philosophy. Furthermore, the books of the Old Testament collectively do not represent either a unified or sequential account of ancient history. In Part I, it is shown that the major Old Testament accounts, namely the Torah, the Books of Joshua and Judges, and the Kings/Chronicles narrative, actually overlap considerably in time and vary widely in their opinion of many of the same persons and events. For example, the Torah and the Biblical Kings/Chronicles narrative each provide their own version of the period corresponding to the Egyptian New Kingdom. They were written from entirely different viewpoints. For that reason they are infinitely more valuable to us now as an aid in reconstructing the history of that critical era.
Both the Torah and the Kings/Chronicles narrative make use of composite characters, however they are formed in very different ways. In the Kings/Chronicles narrative, David and Solomon are composites. Each combines the memory of two real-life kings who shared the same name and ruled one after the other.d These composite figures reflect the ancient mindset that the life and kingship of a father could go on through his male descendants. It was fundamental to the notion of "dynasty." The Torah embodies an even more sophisticated ancient mindset that "history repeated itself." Patriarchal history during the Egyptian New Kingdom period was considered to be a repetition of the Middle Kingdom. The Middle Kingdom was a repetition of the Old Kingdom, which in turn was a repetition of the ante-Diluvial world of the gods. Consistent with that belief, the major characters of the Torah are also composite in nature. However, in contrast to the Kings/Chronicles narrative, a king is not merged with his immediate predecessor, but persons of one era are viewed as "second comings" of ancestors who lived in a much earlier period. Primarily, Torah characters are royal family members of the Egyptian New Kingdom who are melded with great ancestors who lived and ruled during the Middle Kingdom.
The climax of the Torah is the Exodus of Moses. It is also the most pronounced cycle of the Torah. Four of the five books of the Torah are devoted to this event. Only one book, Genesis, describes all of previous Patriarchal history. There were two very distinct Moses figures in Patriarchal history, however only one Exodus account is included in the Torah. The story of Moses is therefore not a pure biography but a composite of those two men, who were separated by more than one hundred years in time. The Moses of the New Kingdom (Akhenaten) was depicted as a repetition of the archetypal Moses who lived in the Middle Kingdom (Hammurabi). Material belonging to both persons and events was integrated into a single narrative.
The Books of Joshua and Judges are not part of the Torah and were not written in the style of the Torah. More specifically, the history included in Joshua and Judges is not formulated as a repetition, but pertains entirely to events that followed the first Exodus of the Middle Kingdom. The Moses referred to in that account is the Middle Kingdom Moses. The Book of Joshua has nothing to do with the second Moses of the New Kingdom. However, for lack of a more appropriate place, the Books of Joshua and Judges come after the Torah in the Bible's table of contents. This has only served to further ingrain the misconception. But, it will become apparent just how misleading a "table of contents chronology" can be.e It is demonstrated in Part I that the histories of Joshua and Judges do not represent an interlude between the Torah and Kings/Chronicles narrative. The Books of Joshua and Judges do not follow the Egyptian New Kingdom Exodus of Akhenaten (Rehoboam-Moses II), but the Middle Kingdom Exodus of Hammurabi (Eber-Moses I).f
Both the Torah and Kings/Chronicles narrative of the Bible are clearly partisan and radically different in style, but when combined they provide an accurate, detailed, and balanced picture of the Egyptian New Kingdom. Heroes in one Biblical history are invariably depicted as personae non grata in the other. However, with the loss of historical context complementary accounts became mythical founts. These overlapping histories were later thought of as parochial legends of persons and events that were separated by the hundreds of years of additional history found in the books of Joshua and Judges. Only by realigning the independent histories of the Old Testament with the help of archaeology can an accurate ancient chronology be determined, and the true identities of Biblical characters be recovered.
The New Testament Book of Matthew (1:17) informs us that there were 14 generations between Abraham and King David. In Part I of this book, it is instead proven that Abraham was a contemporary of David!g It was later believed that they were widely separated in time due to the respective biases of the Torah and Kings/Chronicles narrative, and the artificial ordering of Old Testament books. This distortion had already become firmly ingrained by the 1st Century AD. In the Kings/Chronicles narrative, David (a composite of pharaohs Thutmose I & III) is the impassioned warrior and founder of the "United Kingdom," a dynasty that ruled from the Nile to the Euphrates. In the Kings/Chronicles narrative Abraham is given the name of Eliab. He has seniority over David, but according to the author of the Kings/Chronicles narrative he has the head but not the heart for true greatness. In the Torah, David is not a composite. Instead, the father and son combination are named separately. The father is called Abimelech ("Father of the King") and is treated with considerable disdain. His natural son Isaac is esteemed, because he is the legal son and heir of Abraham. In the Torah, Abraham (Egyptian General Djehuty) and not David is the intellectual giant who establishes that same "New Kingdom" dynasty in Israel and Egypt through patience and clever strategy.
In the Kings/Chronicles narrative, there is no account of the Exodus. Akhenaten (Moses II) is not venerated as Moses, but instead called Rehoboam, the foolish "son" and successor of wise Solomon. In the final chapter of Part I and continuing with Part II, it is shown that the 40-year reign of Solomon is the cultural memory of the renowned Egyptian New Kingdom pharaohs Amenhotep II and Amenhotep III, with a strong emphasis on the latter of the two pharaohs. Amenhotep III like Biblical Solomon reigned for 40 years and was the predecessor of Akhenaten who in turned ruled for 17 years.h Biblical Rehoboam is also credited with ruling for 17 years. The history of the Torah concludes with the Exodus under Akhenaten (Moses II). However, the Kings/Chronicles narrative continues after the 17-year reign of Akhenaten (Rehoboam) with no apparent interruption. The Kings/Chronicles narrative records the humbling of Akhenaten in his Year 5, but does not mention the more ignominious fall from power in his Year 17. Moreover, the mercy killing of a mixed multitude of sick and dying subjects is also not recalled. This unfortunate event of Lower Egypt was either not considered important from an Upper Egyptian (Theban) perspective or discretely omitted. The survivors of the New Kingdom Exodus of Akhenaten were reintegrated within Egyptian territory, and remained under Egypt's jurisdiction. Life went on.
In Part II of Living in Truth: Archaeology and the Patriarchs, the surprising conclusion is reached that the "Sojourn" of Abraham and his descendants in Egypt did not end with the Exodus of Akhenaten (Moses II). This event did coincide with the collapse of the glorious four-generation-long civilization that was the Egyptian 18th Dynasty. However, this only marked the halfway point in a greater 430 year Saga of "Israelite" royalty in Egypt. After the reign of Solomon, the Kings/Chronicles narrative describes two rival dynasties, which ruled not only in Syria and Palestine, but also in Egypt. Biblical and Egyptian histories continue to be synonymous until the conquest of Nebuchadnezzar in the early 6th Century BC.
Archaeologists presently maintain that Nebuchadnezzar was frustrated in his attempt to conquer Egypt. However, the first century A.D. historian Josephus clearly believed otherwise. He wrote, "This Babylonian king [Nebuchadnezzar] conquered Egypt, and Syria, and Phoenicia and Arabia, and exceeded in his exploits all that had reigned before him in Babylon and Chaldaea."i The implication is that Nebuchadnezzar excelled even the Assyrian rulers of Babylon, namely Esarhaddon and Ashurbanipal, in his subjugation of both Lower and Upper Egypt. In Part II of this book, it is proven that the 21st Dynasty pharaohs "rebelled" against Babylon and were deposed by Babylon. The "Jerusalem" that held out against Nebuchadnezzar for two years was not in Palestine, but Western Thebes in the "Judah" of Upper Egypt.
The royal family and nobility of Upper Egypt were deported to Babylon, but allowed to resettle in Central Palestine during the following Persian Period. These "Jews" would have been bound by oath and upon pain of death to never return to their former power base on the Nile, and to renounce all claims to kingship, past, present and future. This included renouncing that their ancestors had been pharaohs in Egypt. Having both lost their sovereignty over Egypt and being compelled to deny it, the Jews adopted an extremely critical ("sour grapes") attitude toward kingship and for Egypt itself.
In the Kings/Chronicles narrative,j forefathers are named as rulers over part of the former Egyptian Empire in Israel (Palestine), but not in Egypt proper. In the Torah,k an even more extreme position is taken. The same ancestors are on occasion called princes, but it is never explicitly acknowledged that they were also kings, either in Egypt or in Israel. The Torah implicitly upholds the right of Adam (Atum) and his immediate descendants to kingship, however it rejects the notion that Noah and his sons were entitled to do the same after the Great Flood. In Genesis, the family of Noah is instructed to replenish the earth, but the mandate of Adam and Eve to "subdue" it is conspicuously absent.l In fact, they are explicitly prohibited from taking human life, the traditional prerogative of kings.
- Genesis 1:28 (KJV)
- See Chapters 1-3.
- See Chapters 4-8.
- See Chapters 9-14.
- Chart 9 compares the "table of contents" chronology of the Bible with the actual relationships between books.
- See Chapters 7-8.
- For the interleaving of David and Abraham, see Chapters 9-14.
- See Chapters 9 & 16.
- Josephus, Contra Appion. lib. I. c. 19.
- 1 & 2 Samuel, 1 & 2 Kings, and 1 & 2 Chronicles
- Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy
- Genesis 9:1