help determine the era in which the Torah was written
From the book Reishit
Yisrael by Prof. Israel Finkelstein and Neil Asher Silverman, Tel Aviv: Tel
Aviv University Publishing, 5763 (2003).
Daat Emet's introduction
to the findings:
One who wants to study
the Holy Writ assumes, in this act, that he is dealing with a human creation.
How can a person research the Holy Writ, which is all the words of the living
G-d, and who would risk or fall into the sin of arrogance in trying to "research"
that which is above all men? Theologians who treat the Scriptures as the Holy
Writ have expressed this well:
The Torah preceded the creation of the world and, of course, the birth of
Moses our teacher. It is taught to us through tradition that it was written in
black fire on white fire. Moses, like a scribe, copied the primordial book and
wrote it down. (Nachmanides' introduction to Genesis)
"What can the human mind understand of the teachings of the
Lord?" (Introduction to the Qazot HaChoshen)
A "holy" text
cannot be understood by human (secular) means, and anyone who wishes to examine
and test the text through secular means, to draw from it historical or cultural
events without connection to the worship of the Lord, has turned the Holy Writ into
a secular creation. The very attempt to try and find when the Torah was written
clearly and explicitly testifies that the working assumption is that the Torah
was written by flesh and blood men part of the society, culture, and faith of
their own period. Biblical researchers follow the trail of changes in language,
internal contradictions, and coordination of historical events back to the
author of the Scriptures. This is done with rational tools and through the
accepted approach of academic methodology. Similarly, there are archeologists
who dig and burrow for every piece of information reflecting on the events
mentioned in the Scriptures, to see if they match the findings of scientific
methodology or not. To illustrate we will bring an example of the difference
between the religious, who believe that the Torah was written by G-d, and
researchers. The verse which deals with the location of the Garden of Eden
states: "And the name of the third river is Hiddekel, which goes toward
the east of Assyria, and the fourth river is the Euphrates" (Genesis
2:14). A researcher who wishes to determine the date of the writing of the text
will first check the Assyrian period, for it is a logical assumption that the
text was written after Assyria began to exist. Religious people, though they
will admit to the findings which show that there was no Assyria in the time of
Moses our teacher (the time at which the Torah was written, they believe) will
hold fast to their faith and will not be shaken; they will maintain, as does
the Talmud, that Moses wrote this using terms that would be understood only in
the future (Ketubot 12b).
To the religious person,
the "historic" events and stories in the Scriptures have no purpose
and even seem extraneous. The Scriptures, as a holy text, is naught but the
demands of G-d toward man, demands that man keep and obey His commands, and
anything which does not serve this demand is questionable. Maimonides, in his
book "Guide to the Perplexed," took the trouble to explain the Scriptural
stories and "historic" events so they would not appear as lacking
relevance for the keeping of the commandments. He wrote, "Every narrative
in the Law serves a certain purpose in connection with religious teaching. It
either helps to establish a principle of faith, or to regulate our actions, and
to prevent wrong and injustice among men; and I will show this in each
case" (part three, chapter 50). To explain the reason why the Torah
detailed the journeys of the Children of Israel, from their exodus from Egypt
until their entry into Israel (which apparently have no connection with
religious teachings), he wrote: "But God knew that in the future people
might doubt the correctness of the account of these miracles, in the same
manner as they doubt the accuracy of other narratives… In order to remove all
these doubts and to firmly establish the accuracy of the account of these
miracles, the Scripture enumerates all the stations" (ibid.). The
whole story of the Israelites' wandering, with details of their stops and
starts, is meant to strengthen the faith, and this is a real, true story.
It is reasonable to
suppose that Maimonides, one of the great Jewish philosophers, was aware of the
internal logic failure of his claim. One who believes that the Torah text is
Divine will not question what is written, even without a detailing of the
journeys of the Israelites in the desert, and those who think this is a human
text will not be convinced of its
divinity because of the detailing of the journey; a story with detailed
locations can also be invented. Therefore it seems that, according to
Maimonides, one should understand the journey of the Children of Israel as
actual events and not as allegory. It is not that this is the way it actually
happened, this is the way one must believe that it happened, for this outlook
strengthens the faith of the believer. This outlook was adopted by Echad-Ha'am,
though on the nationalistic and not religious plane: "The existence of
Moses I do not find in doubt, and his essence is clear to me and is unlikely to
change because of some archeological 'finding'" (Echad Ha'am, essay
"Moses," from Al Parashat Derachim, pg. 220). Archeological
findings so not add to nor detract from the one who believes in the sanctity of
the Scriptures or the one who identifies with the nation of the Scriptures.
To the secular person
there is no relevance to Scriptural commands and stories which detail G-d's
demands for the observance of commandments and the worship of G-d. Their only
dealing with the Scriptural text is for reasons of nationality and culture and
for reasons of intellectual curiosity, as is the case for the investigation and
comparison of the Scriptures with history. Neither investigators who try to
verify the historical truth of the forefathers, the actual existence of
Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, nor those who deny it accept the story of the
sacrifice of Isaac, of G-d's promise to Abraham "And I gave to you and to
your children after you the land in which you live, the whole of the land of
Canaan" (Genesis 17:8), nor of the Divine revelation at Mt. Sinai…even
though each of these is one of the main messages of the Scriptures.
It is this approach which
the book by Israel Finkelstein and Neil Asher Silverman, Reishit Yisrael, follows, a scientific
approach whose pivot is archeological findings.
Their conclusion, in
light of the findings, is that the Scriptures was written in the seventh
century BCE. This is for a simple reason: the details of historical events
attributed to the eighth and seventh centuries match archeological findings,
while events before those centuries do not match the findings and sometimes
even contradict them. We will bring selected quotations from the book advancing
archeological findings which contradict the Scriptural story before the eighth
and seventh centuries, and those which confirm the Scriptural events of the
eighth and seventh centuries, accompanied by Daat Emet's clarifying commentary.
The story of the forefathers:
According to the
Scriptural timeline following the historians chronology, the story of the
forefathers is dated to circa 2100 BCE. According to rabbinic tradition Abraham
was born in 1810 BCE. The main reasons for this gap stem from historians'
dating the era of Persian sovereignty as starting in 538 BCE and the sojourn of
Israel in Egypt at 400 years. According to tradition, the era of Persian
sovereignty started in 368 BCE and the sojourn of Israel in Egypt lasted only
210 years. (See the table in the essay <a
href=http://www.daatemet.org.il/daathalacha/en_esther.html>The Scroll of
Esther--A Historical Romance</a>.)
Verifying the story of
the forefathers is a controversial subject amongst archeologists, and here we
would like to express our consternation at this strange conflict. Everyone
agrees that the writing of the Torah happened after the time of the forefathers
(during the wanderings of the Jews in the desert, after the exodus from Egypt).
The entire book of Genesis is anachronistic according to everyone, and all they
disagree about is "just how anachronistic is the book of Genesis?" Is
it just a few hundred years out of date or several centuries? All researchers
admit that one cannot rely on the historical facts related in a book written
hundreds of years after the events, unless there is testimony about them. I want
to tell those who support verification of the Scriptural story in its
"historical" aspect that they should no more be bothered by the
forefathers being apocryphal than by the story of the creation of Man or the
story of Noah and the flood. Thus it seems that the tenacity (it is impossible
to find any archeological evidence of "the sacrifice of Isaac") of
those who support the verification of the forefathers' story do so more for
theological reasons than academic. Even so, we will bring Finkelstein and Silverman's
proofs that the story of the forefathers was told hundreds of years after the
exodus from Egypt:
Camels: "And he dealt well with Abram for her sake and he
had sheep, and oxen, and he-asses, and menservants and maids, and she-asses and
camels" (Genesis 12:16).
thanks to archeological research, we know that camels were not domesticated for
use as beasts of burden before the end of the second millennium, and that the
use of them in this role was not common in the ancient East until the first millennium
BCE (pg. 54).
Commerce: "And behold, a caravan of Ishmaelites came from
Gilead, with their camels bearing spicery and balm and ladunum, going to carry
it down to Egypt" (Genesis 37:25).
caravan "bearing spicery and balm and ladunum" in the story of Joseph
shows clear knowledge of the main commercial products of the Arabia peninsula,
commerce which flourished under the control of the Assyrian empire in the
eighth and seventh centuries BCE (pg. 54).
Ninveh: "Out of that land went forth Asshur and
built Ninveh and Rechovot Ir and Calach" (Genesis 10:11).
became the capital of the Assyrian Empire in the seventh century BCE (pg. 59).
Philistines and Gerar: "There was a famine in the land -- aside from the
previous famine that had occurred in the days of Abraham -- and Isaac went to
Abimelech, king of the Philistines, in Gerar" (Genesis 26:1).
Philistines were a group of immigrants from the Aegean Sea or the eastern basin
of the Mediterranean. They did not found settlements along Canaan's sea coast
until some time in the 12th century BCE. Their cities flourished in the
eleventh and tenth centuries, and continued, albeit diminished, through the
Assyrian era...Gerar can be identified in Tel Harror, northwest of Be'er
Sheva...in the first iron age (1150-900) it was naught but a small, unimportant
village, but at the end of the eighth century and in the seventh century BCE
the place became a strong and well-fortified Assyrian outpost, a
self-explanatory topographic and military feature (pg. 54).
"These are the kings who reigned in the land of Edom before any king
reigned over the Israelites" (Genesis 36:31).
appears in early documents as a separate entity only after Assyria's conquest
of the area. It did not become a serious rival of the Judean kingdom until it
strengthened commercial ties with the Arabian peninsula under Assyrian
patronage. Archeological facts are also clear: It is possible that the first
large wave of Edomite settlement, accompanied
by the founding of fortresses and large villages, began at the end of the
eighth century BCE, but its peak was reached only in the seventh and the start
of the sixth centuries BCE. Before that the area was sparsely settled (pg. 57).
It should be added that
the words "before any king reigned over the Israelites" show the
passage was written after Saul, the first king to reign over Israel, was
Areas of settlement of Ishmael and his sons: Nebaioth, the
first-born of Ishmael, Kedar, Adbeel, Mibsam, Mishma, Dumah, Massa, Hadad, Tema,
Jetur, Naphish, and Kedmah" (Genesis 25:13-15).
Kedar: "a group which first appears in Assyrian documents at
the end of the eighth century BCE and is often mentioned during the course of
the reign of Assyrian king Ashurbanipal, in the seventh century BCE" (pg.
Nebaioth and Adbeel: "Adbeel
and Nebaioth represent groups from the northern Arabian peninsula. They are
also first mentioned in Assyrian writings of the late eighth century and the
seventh century BCE" (pg. 58).
Tema: One of two principal urban centers in the
northern Arabian peninsula, starting circa 600 BCE and throughout the fifth
century BCE" (pg. 58).
The Exodus from Egypt:
The exodus from Egypt took place in 1440 BCE, calculating 480
years backwards from the reign of Solomon, as mentioned in the Scriptures:
"In the four hundred and eightieth year after the Israelites left the land
of Egypt, in the month of Ziv -- that is, the second month -- in the fourth
year of his reign over Israel, Solomon began to build the House of the
Lord" (I Kings 6:1) (pg. 71). As we have noted above, according to
tradition it took place in 1310 BCE.
The story of the exodus from Egypt is a
central Scriptural motif in the coalescence of the Jewish nation. As we wrote
at the start of this essay, one must completely ignore the
"theological" view, for we deal with research, not faith. All the
miracles, acts of Divine revelation, and the Giving of the Law are not related
to research, though from a theological standpoint they are the main point and the
background story is secondary. A researcher who wishes to look at the
Scriptures as a historical text must treat it like any other history book
(Thucydides, Herodotus, etc.), some of which may be sprinkled with imagination,
legend, and myth, and some (it is possible) match the facts. Moreover, the
scriptural books are clearly primarily books of theology, and the historic
events related therein are a means and instrument of the faith-based
conclusions, so it is more suspect of inventing facts in service to faith. Researchers
investigate whether there are any findings which support the Scriptural story
of the exodus from Egypt or whether it was all made up, a legend divorced from
reality. It can be asked: Is the mythic Scriptural story of the exodus from
Egypt based on a specific event or is the "event" based on the myth?
What came first: the event or the myth?
The answer to this question is given in Reishit Yisrael.
According to the archeological findings, there was an event of
immigrants entering Egypt and being banished to Southern Canaan, though the
details and dates do not match the Scriptural timing. So the story of the
exodus from Egypt could have been based on a factual event.
The Egyptian historian Manetho, who lived in
the third century BCE, documented the story of the expulsion of the Hyksos, dated to 1570 BCE…Much more reliable than Manetho
is a 16th century BCE Egyptian source which describes the deeds of Ahmose I of
the 18th Egyptian dynasty, who conquered Avaris and expelled the remaining
Hyksos to their central fortifications in Southern Canaan -- Sharuhen near Gaza
-- which he also conquered after a siege. Tel Al-Daba'a was abandoned in
the middle of the 16th century BCE, and its abandonment signaled the end of
Canaanite influence in the Egyptian delta...Independent archeological and
historical sources speak of Semitic
emigrations from Canaan to Egypt, and of their forced expulsion by the
Egyptians. This basic description parallels the Scriptural story of the exodus
from Egypt...The expulsion of the Hyksos is dated to circa 1570 BCE (in
contrast to the Scriptural date of 1440 BCE). (pp. 69-71)
The city Pi Ramses was built in the days of
the great Egyptian king Ramses II, who reigned 179-1213 BCE (pg. 71).
The first mention of Israel is at the end of
the 13th century BCE (1207). Pharaoh Merneptah -- son of Ramses II -- in his
campaign destroyed a group named Israel: "Israel is laid waste, his seed is not" (pg. 71).
There are no findings which can be connected
to a separate alien ethnic group which lived in the eastern delta in the 13th
century (pg. 73).
The Israelites' wandering in the desert for 40 years:
Repeated excavations and studies which have been conducted
throughout the area (Kadesh Barnea, the northern Sinai peninsula) have not
uncovered a shred of proof for activity in the Late Bronze Age (1550-1150), not
even a solitary pottery shard (pg. 76). The story of the Israelites' 40 year
wanderings in the desert is just a legend.
king of Arad dwelt in the Negev: After the death of Aaron, when the Children
of Israel were in the desert, there is a story which seems artificial and
lacking any connection to the narrative sequence. Ibn Ezra brings the opinion
of many, that this section was written by Joshua. This section tells the story
of the king of Arad, who fought the Israelites: "When the Canaanite, king
of Arad, who dwelt in the Negev, learned that Israel was coming by way of
Atharim, he engaged Israel in battle and took some of them captive"
is not to be found in the remains of the Late Bronze Age. This
is also true of the Be'er Sheva region. Arad simply did not exist in the Late
Bronze age (1550-1150). (pg. 77)
Edom: Moses and the
Children of Israel had to pass through Edom. The Scriptures relate that they requested
permission to pass from the king of Edom: "From Kadesh, Moses sent
messengers to the king of Edom" (Numbers 20:14).
In the Late
Bronze Age (1550-1150)
archeology shows that there were no kings in Edom for the
Children of Israel to run into (pg. 77).
The city of Heshbon: The city was conquered before the Israelites entered Canaan: "Israel
took all those towns, And Israel settled in all the towns of the Amorites, in
Heshbon and all its dependencies" (Numbers 21:25).
Excavations at Tel
Hisban, south of Amman, where ancient Heshbon lay, showed that in the Late
Bronze Age there was no city there, nor even a small village (pg. 77).
Conquest of the Land:
As was explained above, the exodus from Egypt occurred
in 1440 BCE. Based on this, the conquest of the Land of Israel had to have been
in 1400 BCE, a date based on the Israelites' wandering in the desert for 40
[I will write a note
about the authors of Reishit Yisrael. For some reason the authors
determined an estimated date for the conquest, 1230-1210 BCE, based on a stele
which relates the campaign of Merneptah -- son of Ramses II -- in Canaan
itself at the end of the 13th century BCE, during which he destroyed a group
named Israel: "Israel
is laid waste, his seed is not." This dating I find very questionable, for
according to the Bible the conquest began 40 years after they left Egypt, and
the authors themselves set the date of the Exodus as 1440 BCE, so the conquest
should have begun in 1400 BCE. Moreover, the stele in question does not contradict
the Scriptural date of conquest; mention of Israel in the 13th century BCE does
not contradict the conquest event in 1400 BCE.]
From the El
Amarna writings we see that Canaan was, in the years 1550-1100 BCE, a province
This part of
the Late Bronze Age (1550-1100 BCE) has left an abundance of testimony about
the state of affairs in Canaan, in the form of diplomatic letters, lists of
conquered cities, and sculptures carved on the walls of Egyptian temples. The
El Amarna letters are probably the most detailed information about Canaan in
this era. These letters represent some of the diplomatic correspondence
of the mighty pharaoh Amenhotep III and his son Akhenaten, who ruled over Egypt
in the 14th century BCE. The almost 400 cuneiform tablets of the archive, now
scattered in museums throughout the world, state that Canaan was a province of
Egypt and its capital Gaza. Both contemporary texts and archeological finds
show that the Egyptians ruled the country high-handedly. Canaanite city
princes, described in the book of Joshua as powerful, were in fact pitifully
weak (pg. 88).
population in the land did not exceed, it would seem, 100,000. A symbolic
testimony to this culture's weakness can be found in the request sent by the
king of Jerusalem to Pharaoh in one of the El Amarna letters. He requested
fifty men to defend his land. In another letter the king of Megiddo requests
that Pharaoh send him soldiers to defend him from his aggressive neighbor,
Shechem (pg. 89).
Jericho: "So the people shouted when the horns were sounded. When
the people heard the sound of the horns, the people raised a mighty shout and
the wall collapsed. The people rushed into the city, every man straight in
front of him, and they captured the city" (Joshua 6:20).
There has been found no remnant or hint from
the 13th century, and the older settlement, dated to the 14th century, was
small and worthless, negligible, unfortified. Similarly, there was no sign of a
destruction (pg. 92).
Ai: "The total of those who fell that day, men and women,
the entire population of Ai, came to twelve thousand" (Joshua 8:25).
Nowhere in the entire site was there a
single pottery shard or any hint that would testify to a settlement in the Late
Bronze Age (1550-1100 BCE). Ai was not settled at the date attributed to its
conquest by the Israelites (pg 93).
Gibeon: "For Gibeon was a large city, like one of the royal
cities -- in fact, larger than Ai -- and all its men were warriors"
No relics of the Late Bronze Age (1550-1100
BCE), the dates attributed to the conquest, were found (pg. 93).
The origin of the Israelites is in a population growth in the
mountains of Judea and Samaria:
From the twelfth century BCE there is no sign of a violent
invasion, or even of the penetration of a foreign ethnic group with a clearly
delineated identity. Instead, it seems there was a revolution in lifestyle. In
the mountainous region which spreads from the Judean hills in the south to the
hills of Samaria in the north, far from the Canaanite cities which were deep
into the process of collapse and failure, there suddenly were found some 100
small and poor settlements. Here lived the first Israelites. (pg. 116)
The kingdom of the House of David:
Part of the basalt stele which was found tells a story from
the era of Hazael, king of Damascus, about the
kingdom of Israel in 835 BCE, and establishes the existence of the kingdom of
the "House of David": "And I killed two [power]ful kin[gs], who
harnessed two thou[sand cha]riots and two thousand horsemen. [I killed Jo]ram
son of [Ahab] king of Israel, and I killed Achaz[yahu] son of [Jehoram king] of
the House of David. And I set [their cities to the sword and I turned] their
land to [desolation]. (pg. 136)
Jerusalem in the era of David and Solomon:
himself by marriage with Pharaoh king of Egypt. He married Pharaoh's daughter
and brought her to the City of David until he had finished building his palace,
the House of the Lord, and the walls around Jerusalem" (I Kings 3:1).
Jerusalem of the tenth century was very modest in size, and
possibly was no more than a typical mountain town (pg 140).
In Tel El-Amarna, in Egypt, more than 35 cuneiform tablets
from the 14th century BCE, written by Adbi-Heba,
king of Jerusalem ("Urusalim" in the El-Amarna documents). Jerusalem
was a small mountain town which, together with the towns around it, did not
exceed 1500 souls. It seems as though there had been no changes in the area
until the era of the early Bronze Age (1150-900). This raises the possibility
that the Jerusalem institutions, like the Temple and the palace, did not
dominate the lives of the rural population in Judea to the extent which can be
understood from the Scriptures. (pp. 238-239)
Jerusalem in the seventh and eighth centuries BCE:
After the year 720 BCE, with the conquest of Samaria
and the fall of the kingdom of Israel, Judea was surrounded by districts and
vassals of Assyria, and the implications of this new situation for the future
were enormous. Within a single generation Jerusalem went from being the capital
city of a marginal local monarchy to being the political and religious nerve
center of a regional power. At the end of the eighth century BCE the city
experienced a population explosion and turned from a modest mountain town of 50
dunam into a huge municipality of 600 dunam, densely covered with houses. It is
possible that the city's population grew by 15 times, from approximately 1000
residents to approximately 15,000. (pg 242)
Starting from the end of the eighth century, archeological
signs of a mature state can be found in the southern kingdoms: monumental
writings, seals and signet rings, ostracons representing governmental rule,
granite buildings and cornerstones on official buildings. (pg 244)
King Hezkiyahu builds a tunnel: The tunnel, which stretches almost 500 meters and is
tall enough and wide enough for a man to walk through upright, was quarried
expertly...The ancient text which commemorates the work, known now as the
Shiloah inscription, preserves the drama which occurred. This is a unique
monumental tablet, written in Hebrew (in the contemporary writing, which was
ancient Hebrew): "Now this is the history of the tunnel: while the
excavators were still lifting up The pick toward each other, and while there
were yet three cubits to be broken through, the voice of the one called to his
neighbor, for there was an excess in the rock on the right. The excavators
struck, each to meet the other, pick to pick. And there flowed the waters from
their outlet to the pool for a thousand, two hundred cubits; and of a cubit,
was the height of the rock over the head of the excavators." There is also
a positive identification for archeologists: "The other events of
Hezekiah's reign, and all his exploits, and how he made the pool and the
conduit and brought the water into the city, are recorded in the Annals of the
Kings of Judah" (II Kings 20:20). (pg. 254-255)
destroys Judea in the time of Hezkiyahu (701 BCE): A contemporary Assyrian
document reading "As to Hazkiyahu the Judean, who did not submit to my
yoke, and his 46 fortified cities, walled cities, and the uncounted small towns
around them, I have set siege and seized…" (pg. 257) corresponds to the
verse "In the fourteenth year of King Hezkiyah, King Sancherib of Assyria
marched against all the fortified towns of Judah and seized them." (II
[I will write a
note to the authors: In the book it is written, "In contrast to the
Scriptural story of a miracle which saved Jerusalem, Assyrian documents of the
era draw an utterly different picture of the result of Hezkiyahu's revolt"
(pg. 257). This is puzzling, for the Assyrian documents refer only to the towns
around Jerusalem, and this reality is also expressed in the book of Kings,
while Sancherib did not conquer Jerusalem. In the Assyrian documents it is
written, "And [Hezkiyahu] I imprisoned within Jerusalem, his capital city,
like a bird in a cage. I threw up embankments and the exit to his city I made
abominable." This means that Jerusalem was not conquered; if Sancherib had
conquered it, he would have exiled Hezkiyahu and glorified in the conquest of
Jerusalem. The only inconsistency is in the erection of embankments around Jerusalem, which
contradicts the prophecy of Isaiah: "Thus said the Lord concerning the king
of Assyria: he shall not enter this city, he shall not shoot an arrow at it or
advance upon it with a shield, or pile up a siege mound against it" (II
Assyrian capital, in 612 fell into Babylonian hands, matching the description
in Zephaniah (2:13-15): "And destroy Assyria; He will make Ninveh a
desolation, arid as the desert" (pg. 285).
The ascent of Nebuchadnezzar to king of Bablyon: in 605 Nebuchadnezzar defeated the Egyptian army at Carchemish in Syria, matching what is written in
Jeremiah (46:2), "About the army of Pharaoh Neco, king of Egypt, which was
at the river Euphrates near Carchemish and which was defeated by King
Nebuchadrezzar of Bablyon, in the fourth year of King Jehoiakim son of Josiah
of Jerusalem at the hands of the Babylonians: "Jehoiachin was eighteen years old
when he became king…At that time, the troops of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon
marched against Jerusalem, and the city came under siege" (II Kings
24:8-11). The event, which occurred in 597 BCE, is also documented in
Babylonian chronicles: "In the seventh year of Nebuchadnezzar, in Kislev,
the king went to the land of the Hittites and laid siege to the city of Judah.
On the second of Adar he captured the city of Judah" (pg. 288).
In the year 586
the city of Jerusalem was destroyed and its people exiled: "On the seventh
day of the fifth month -- that was the nineteenth year of King Neduchadnezzar
of Babylon [Nebuchadnezzar assumed the throne in 605, so the 19th year of his
reign was 586]…He burned the house of the Lord…The remnant of the people that
was left in the city...were taken into exile" (II Kings 25:8-11) (pg. 289)
The Kingdom of
Israel -- the Mesha inscription -- King Omri (884-873)
One of the most
important inscriptions is the stele of Mesha, king of Moab, which was
discovered in 1868 in the remote city of Dibon in south Jordan, east of the
Dead Sea -- the site of ancient Dibon, capital of the Moabite kingdom. The
stele describes the achievements of King Mesha, who conquered the territory of
North Moab and established his capital in Dibon. The events described on the
stele took place in the ninth century BCE. It's fragmented text reads: "Omri was the king of Israel, and he oppressed Moab for
many days…And Omri took possession of the whole land of Medeba, and he lived
there in his days and half the days of his son: forty years." It goes on
to detail how Mesha gradually expanded his territory in a revolt against Israel
and destroyed the principal Israelite settlements east of the Jordan (pg. 180).
inscription -- King Ahab (873-852).
itself there was dramatic proof of the power of Israel in the era of Ahab. In
853 BCE Shalmaneser III -- one of the great Assyrian kings -- invaded the small
countries of Syria, Phoenicia, and Israel. Shalmaneser glorified in the victory
in an important text, the "monolith inscription." In cuneiform
writing, the forces allied against Shalmaneser are described: "1,200 chariots, 1,200 cavalrymen, 20,000 foot soldiers
of Adad-'idri of Damascus; 700 chariots, 700 cavalrymen, 10,000 foot soldiers
of Irhuleni from Hamath; 2,000 chariots, 10,000 foot soldiers of Ahab the
Israelite" (pg. 182).
Assyria is not mentioned in the Scriptures in
connection with Ahab. The enemy of Israel in Ahab's era was the king of Aram
(Syria). Assyria is first mentioned as Israel's enemy in the era of King
Menachem, the son of Gadi (747-737). "Menachem the son of Gadi became king
over Israel in Samaria -- for ten years…King Pul of Assyria invaded the land,
and Menachem gave Pul a thousand talents of silver that he might support him
and strengthen his hold on the kingdom. Menachem exacted the money from Israel:
every man of means had to pay fifty shekels of silver for the king of Assyria.
The king of Assyria withdrew and did not remain in the land" (II Kings
In the Scriptures, Shalmaneser is mentioned in the era of King Hoshea
(732-724). Apparently, this refers to Shalmeneser V.
"In the twelfth year of King Ahaz of Judah, Hoshea son of Elah became
over Israel in Samaria., for nine years…King Shalmaneser marched against him,
and Hoshea became his vassal and paid him tribute" (II Kings 17:1-3).
The "House of David" inscription: From inscriptions, it seems that Hazael, king of Aram, captured the city Dan and erected a
victory stele there in approximately 835 BCE. The inscription commemorates the
words of the victorious Hazael, who angrily accuses: " And the king of Israel penetrated into my father's land" (pg. 180).
Hazael boasts: "[I killed Jo]ram
son of [Ahab] king of Israel, and I killed Achaz[yahu] son of [Jehoram king] of
the House of David. And I set [their cities to the sword and I turned] their
land to [desolation]" (pg. 202).
The monolith of Shalmaneser III: Shalmaneser was king of Assyria from the
era of King Ahab of Israel to the era of King Jehu of Israel. In monumental
inscriptions he mentions both Ahab (see above) and Jehu (842-814).
Jehu is seen, on
the famous black obelisk of Shalmaneser III, bowing at the feet of the great
Assyrian king. The writing details "The tribute of Jehu, of the land of
Omri, silver, gold, bowls of gold, vessels of gold, goblets of gold, pitchers
of gold, lead, scepters for the King's hand, and staves I received" (pg.
The kingdom of Israel is destroyed and Judea survives: Through archeological work and historical research we
can see that the end could indeed not be forestalled. The kingdom of Israel was
destroyed and Judea survived because in the expansion plans of Assyria Israel
-- with its rich resources and creative populace -- was a much more attractive
target than impoverished and remote Judea (pg. 225).
exiled Hoshea in the year 727 BCE: And
thus could Tiglath-pileser glorify
himself in a monumental inscription: "The land of the house of Omri…the entirety of its people, [their goods to] Assyria I
carried away." This matches what is written in the
Scriptures: "In the ninth year of Hoshea, the king of Assyria captured
Samaria. He deported the Israelites to Assyria" (II Kings 17:6). The Assyria
Empire wiped out the northern Israelite kingdom in 720 BCE. (pg. 60).
To determine the date when the Torah was
written, a working research hypothesis must rest on a coordination of what was
told with the findings. The likelihood is that the author knew his own period,
but not the distant past nor the future. Thus, for example, when one wants to
determine the date of the book of Daniel, one follows the story to see up until
which point it matches historical fact and when it stops. At the transition is
when the time of authorship is set. Thus have scholars of Daniel written:
"One who carefully reads Daniel will easily see that most of the
descriptions, in his unique cryptic style, detail historical events as they did
happen, sometimes quite precisely, such as chapters 11, through verse 39. But
from this point forward the author goes on to describe events that never
happened at all. This point is when the book was written…We speak of events
which occurred during the year 166 BCE" (Open University, "From Exile
to Sovereignty," Volume 3, Unit 5, pg. 34).
Thus did the authors of Reishit Yisrael,
who examined whether what is written in the Scriptures matches the events,
discover that there is a clear transition point between incompatibility with
the findings and compatibility with them. This point is the seventh century
BCE, the era of Josiah, king of Judea.
analysis we find that the author of the Torah lived in the seventh century BCE,
coinciding with what is related in II Kings (22, 23) about the discovery of a
scroll of the Teaching: "Then the high priest Hilkiah said to the scribe
Shaphan, 'I have found a scroll of the Teaching in the House of the Lord.' And
Hilkiah gave the scroll to Shaphan, who read it…When the king heard the words
of the scroll of the Teaching, he rent his clothes…The king stood by the pillar
and solemnized the covenant before the Lord: that they would follow the Lord
and observe His commandments, His injunctions, and His laws with all their
heart and soul, that they would fulfill all the terms of this covenant as
inscribed upon the scroll. And all the people entered into the covenant…The
king commanded all the people, 'Offer the Passover sacrifice to the Lord your
G-d as prescribed in this scroll of the covenant.' Now the Passover sacrifice
had not been offered in that manner in the days of the chieftains who ruled
Israel, or during the days of the kings of Israel and the kings of Judah. Only
in the eighteenth year of King Josiah [620 BCE] was such a Passover sacrifice
offered in that manner to the Lord in Jerusalem."