Abrahamic Religions – Politics and Religion
There are three main “Sister” religions listed under the term Abrahamic Religions:
Christianity is the largest religion (ranked by adherents worldwide), Islam is the second largest, and Judaism is the twelfth largest. All three of these religions claim Abraham as a part of their sacred history. All three of these religions claim that their religious scriptures were “given to them by God.” All three of these religions, with a few exceptions, fall under religions that teach or practice Exclusivism (“Exclusive Principle”), i.e. that only their religion leads to “God and salvation.” With their common connection to Abraham, one might wonder why these Abrahamic Religions can’t get along with each other.
- – “Salvation is found in only one religion.” “Exclusivism” (or “Particularism”) is the view that there is only one way to God and salvation. Thus one religion is uniquely and supremely true and all other religions are false. Christianity is often viewed as an exclusive religion because of Jesus’ statement in John 14:6: “I am the way, the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” In addition to Christianity, the religions of Islam and Judaism have traditionally been considered to be exclusive religions. Those who hold to Exclusivism usually affirm that other religions possess elements of truth, but these religions do not teach ‘the truth’ that is able to save its followers. In fact, much of what is taught in other religions is viewed by exclusivists as false. It should be noted that some groups within Judaism and Christianity have drifted away from Exclusivism in recent decades.
The history of warfare between these Abrahamic Religions is a long one, and the history of their destructiveness upon other nations is just as long. Interestingly, Christianity and Islam basically used Judaism as the ‘Foundation Block’ for the building of their own religions, even though the history of Judaism is nowhere near as long as claimed, and the accuracy of Jewish texts is not only highly questionable, but in many cases the biblical stories have been plagiarized from much older religions, texts, and stories. Before continuing, check out the following Interactive display, created by Maps of War – History of Religion:
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Here is a current map of countries with Abrahamic Religions in them:
Map of Abrahamic (purple) and Eastern (yellow) religions.
The History of Religion in that Interactive display didn’t mention the Ancient Egypt and Sumer civilizations, probably because their religions are not around today. Hinduism is considered to be the “Oldest Religion” in practice today, but the civilizations of Ancient Egypt and Sumer are as old as that of Ancient India. Judaism and/or Israel weren’t even around when those civilizations began, and all three were around millenniums before Judaism and/or Israel finally emerged. Abraham was born in a Sumerian city around 1813 BCE, was exposed to the religions of Sumer, and later to the religions of Egypt. The Interactive display basically suggests that Judaism began at Abraham’s birth, but that is absolutely false. The ancient written records, of Egypt and Sumer, do not mention Judaism and/or Israel and/or Jews. The earliest date for Jewish writings or texts to show up was no earlier than around 950 BC (a highly questionable ‘Guess’ at best), and probably closer to 538 BC, when Cyrus released the Jews, and “unexpectedly told the Jews that they could return to their homeland.”; however, I will have more on that later in this post.
Dates regarding biblical figures and events cannot be confirmed.
The above quote comes from the JEWISH VIRTUAL LIBRARY, and it is a source that I will be using for most Hebrew and/or Jewish references in this post. That quote is found throughout the JEWISH VIRTUAL LIBRARY, e.g. – The Dawn of “History”* and Context of Ancient Israelite Religion*. Notice the Asterisk symbol next to the topics…the above quote – “Dates regarding biblical figures and events cannot be confirmed” – can been seen by clicking on the linked Asterisk or by manually scrolling to the bottom of the page.
When realizing one’s own natural Spirituality or ‘Knowing’ God becomes forgotten or lost, mankind has historically turned to religions or created religions – such as the Abrahamic Religions. Spirituality and/or ‘Knowing’ gets replaced with having to Believe. Truth is factual, actuality, and reality and it does not need or require belief, faith, or credence. Religions became a powerful force as mankind moved from hunter-gathers to farmers, and in the creation of ancient civilizations.
Ancient civilizations had formed first in areas conducive to farming, like the Fertile Crescent and Indus Valley areas, as humans moved from hunter-gathers to farmers. Rivers were a major requirement for this transformation, since farming required water. Cities would then form in and around these areas, offering protection, trading posts, etc. As these areas grew, means of organization had to be developed in order to handle surpluses of crops, cattle, fisheries, a growing labor force, and even a government. Writing developed from the need to keep such records in these early forming civilizations. Again, nothing is ever mentioned in any of these ancient writings about Hebrews, Jews, Judaism or Israel until millenniums later. Which civilization was the first, i.e. the ‘Cradle of Civilization’…take your pick – There are five rivers that scholars cite as being possible locations for the ‘Cradle of Civilization.’ They are: the Tigris-Euphrates in modern day Iraq, the Nile in Africa, the Indus in South Asia, and the Huang-He-Yangtze in China. However, for the purpose of this post, I will mainly be focusing on the civilizations that sprung up in and around the Fertile Crescent area.
- The Fertile Crescent is a crescent-shaped region in the Middle East incorporating the Levant, Ancient Mesopotamia, and Ancient Egypt, known as the “Cradle of Civilization.” The region was named the “Fertile Crescent” because of its rich soil and half-moon shape.
- Watered by the Nile, Euphrates and Tigris rivers… As crucial as rivers were to the rise of civilization in the Fertile Crescent, they were not the only factor in the area’s precocity. Ecologically the area is important as the “bridge” between Africa and Eurasia. This “bridging role” has allowed the Fertile Crescent to retain a greater amount of biodiversity than either Europe or North Africa, where climate changes during the Ice Age led to repeated extinction events due to ecosystems becoming squeezed against the waters of the Mediterranean Sea.
- Fertile Crescent possessed the wild progenitors of the eight Neolithic founder crops important in early agriculture (i.e. wild progenitors to emmer wheat, einkorn, barley, flax, chick pea, pea, lentil, bitter vetch), and four of the five most important species of domesticated animals — cows, goats, sheep, and pigs — and the fifth species, the horse, lived nearby.
- As a result the Fertile Crescent has an impressive record of past human activity. As well as possessing many sites with the skeletal and cultural remains of both pre-modern and early modern humans, later Pleistocene hunter-gatherers and Epipalaeolithic semi-sedentary hunter-gatherers, this area is most famous for its sites related to the origins of agriculture.
- The western zone around the Jordan and upper Euphrates rivers gave rise to the first known Neolithic farming settlements (referred to as Pre-Pottery Neolithic A), which date to around 9,000 BCE (and includes sites such as Jericho). This region, alongside Mesopotamia (which lies to the east of the Fertile Crescent, between the rivers Tigris and Euphrates), also saw the emergence of early complex societies during the succeeding Bronze Age. There is also early evidence from this region for writing, and the formation of state-level societies.
One might wonder, and then ask – Where was the God of the Abrahamic Religions during those ancient times?! Great civilizations like Ancient Sumer and Ancient Egypt were beginning to take form as far back as 9000-7000 BC, and nowhere in this history is there any mention of Hebrews and/or a Hebrew nation. When did writing actually start? 4000 BC? 3000 BC?
Epic of Gilgamesh – Library of Halexandria:
- Written 1500 years before the Homeric sagas, the Epic of Gilgamesh is one of the great classics of literature. Discovered in the late nineteenth century among the Nievah Library — “Written down according to the original and collated in the palace of Assurbanipal, King of the World, King of Assyria” — the Epic was the first clue to a Sumerian version of the Great Deluge/Flood, whose hero was King Zi-u-sudra (aka Noah).
- .. His first clue is the legend of the day which insisted that King Zi-u-sudra (aka Noah) had not only survived the Flood, but had entered the company of the gods and been taken faraway “to live at the mouth of the rivers”.
- .. Gilgamesh’s meeting with Zi-u-sudra (Noah) begins with more “wisdom” of the type that man should be content with his lot in life (however short it might be).
- .. Zi-u-sudra then does an accounting of his experience in the Flood. According to Zi-u-sudra, the Flood came about after a meeting of the council of the gods — any such meeting typically implying really bad news for mankind — in which Enlil again took the part of the advocate for destroying mankind, while Enki apparently was silent, and spoke his mind by aiding Zi-u-sudra in surviving the Flood.
- It is noteworthy that the dreadful havoc of the Deluge and Flood appalled even the gods. Enlil had, apparently, spared no effort to use the horrors of storm, lightning, hailstones, and coals of fire raining down in order to exterminate mankind. And unlike the Biblical story, the Sumerian version is based on a group of factious, flustered, and fallible deities. Importantly, there is no Covenant that the gods will not do as much again, but Inanna’s exclamation that she will not “forget these days”, and the immortality and semi-divine status which Zi-u-sudra obtains from the gods, might be indicative of some respite from anxiety. As a matter of face, “Noah” means “respite”!
Noah – rest, respite. That’s from the Biblical Baby Names website. Floods stories existed in most of the ancient civilizations, and again nothing in those written stories ever mention the Hebrews, Jews, Judaism or Israel, even though some were written over a millennium before any Hebrew writings.
This article suggests that the Epic of Gilgamesh was written 1500 years before the “Homeric sagas”, which would put its written date at around 2690-2350 BC. The Sumerian writings on the Deluge or Flood story are very similar to the biblical Book of Genesis version, but the Epic of Gilgamesh predates Genesis by at least 1500 years, and by over 2000 years if one uses the date of Genesis’ current form, which is dated around “450 BC”. “The Sumerian language is the oldest sophisticated form of writing in existence, and dates from at least 3400 B.C.E.”
The Sumerian Deluge or Flood story isn’t the only story that is similar to the biblical Book of Genesis, i.e. there is also the Sumerian Epic of Creation – also known as the Enûma Eliš – version of creation and/or how the world began. Laurence Gardner points out some of the similarities:
The Enûma Eliš is recorded on seven clay tablets, and Genesis says that God rests on the “seventh day”. Hard to give an exact date of the Enûma Eliš, but it is clearly older than the book of Genesis. A little off topic from the older Epic of Gilgamesh, so I’ll return to the current topic…
- The Epic of Gilgamesh is, perhaps, the oldest written story on Earth. It comes to us from Ancient Sumeria, and was originally written on 12 clay tablets in cuneiform script. It is about the adventures of the historical King of Uruk (somewhere between 2750 and 2500 BCE).
- The translator chose to eliminate Tablet XII for personal reasons, with support from many literary, archaeological, and linguistic experts because it appears to be more of a sequel to the first 11 tablets, containing a story about Enkidu volunteering to retrieve some objects that Gilgamesh dropped into the Netherworld.
- This translation is based on the “standard” Akkadian “edition”, but is filled in with excerpts from the Old Babylonian where necessary.
That site offers the Epic of Gilgamesh tablets. Also, the site notes that the translation is done mostly from the Akkadian version of the original Sumerian version of the Epic of Gilgamesh. I’ll have more on Sumer and the Sumerians later, but want to point out that the Akkadians were the successors or conquerors of the Sumerians, and had to basically learn the earlier language and earlier writings of the Sumerians since it was clearly more advanced than anything the Akkadians had. In fact, most scribes during those ancient times were already using the Sumerian language for administrative purposes, so the change probably went rather smoothly. This succession from Sumerian to Akkadian may have also been the first recorded exchange and mixing of religions and their God/s. Many people now believe that Judaism was the first monotheistic religion, but it was not…as I will point out later on.
Epic of Gilgamesh – Wikipedia:
- The history of the epic is divided into two periods: old, and late. Many versions exist from this almost 2,050 year span, but only the old and the late periods have yielded significant enough finds to enable a coherent intro-translation. Therefore, the old Sumerian version, and a later Akkadian version, which is now referred to as the standard edition, are the most frequently utilized texts. The standard edition has become the basis of modern translations, and the old version only supplements the standard version when the lacunae – or gaps in the cuneiform tablet – are great.
- .. The Epic of Gilgamesh is widely known today. The first modern translation of the epic was in the 1880s… The discovery of artifacts (ca. 2600 BC) associated with Enmebaragesi of Kish, who is mentioned in the legends as the father of one of Gilgamesh’s adversaries, has lent credibility to the historical existence of Gilgamesh.
- .. The standard Akkadian and earlier Sumerian versions are differentiated based on the opening words, or incipit. The older version begins with the words “Surpassing all other kings”, while the standard version’s incipit is “He who saw the deep”.
- .. Andrew George believes that it refers to the specific knowledge that Gilgamesh brought back from his meeting with Uta-Napishti (Utnapishtim): he gains there knowledge of the realm of Ea, whose cosmic realm is seen as the fountain of wisdom. In general, interpreters feel that Gilgamesh was given knowledge of how to worship the gods, of why death was ordained for human beings, of what makes a good king, and of the true nature of how to live a good life. Utnapishtim, the hero of the Flood myth tells his story to Gilgamesh, which is related to the Babylonian Epic of Atrahasis. (NOTE: “Utnapishtim” is the Akkadian translation of the Sumerian Zi-ud-sura and/or the Ziusudra mentioned earlier.)
- Influence on later epic literature – According to the Greek scholar Ioannis Kakridis, there are a large number of parallel verses as well as themes or episodes which indicate a substantial influence of the Epic of Gilgamesh on the Odyssey, the Greek epic poem ascribed to Homer… Some aspects of the Gilgamesh flood myth seem to be related to the story of Noah’s ark in the Bible… The Alexander the Great myth in Islamic and Syrian cultures is also considered to be influenced by the Gilgamesh story.
Genesis isn’t the only biblical book that plagiarizes – i.e. “to steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one’s own : use (another’s production) without crediting the source : to commit literary theft : present as new and original an idea or product derived from an existing source” – from far older Sumerian versions, and Ancient Sumer isn’t the only source for plagiarizing that the Hebrew authors and scribes used, for example:
“One final example is a comparison between the Bible’s book of Exodus describing the Hebrews leaving Egypt (i.e. the sudden loss of slave-power by the Egyptians), and the Egyptian version of the end of the Old Kingdom provided by the scribe Ipuwer:”
Wisdom of Amenemope dated to around “circa 1200 BC.” The Book of Proverbs dated to around 300 BC.
Papyrus Ipuwer dated to around “ca. 1850 BCE – 1600 BCE.” The Book of Exodus dated to around 450 BC.
Many Jewish scholars will try to argue the biblical dates, but they lack any actual proof that shows the Old Testament being written any earlier than the dates that I have provided. Fact is, that the early Hebrew scribes had plagiarized from ancient Sumerian and Egyptian stories and writings, and then falsely claimed that “God gave them” to the Hebrews. Plagiarism is a Modus Operandi of the Abrahamic religions…simple as that. Christianity plagiarized the Jewish Old Testament, and Islam plagiarized from both Judaism and Christianity.
- Sumer, located in southern Mesopotamia, is one of the earliest known civilizations in the world. It lasted from the first settlement of Eridu in the Ubaid period (late 6th millennium BC) through the Uruk period (4th millennium BC) and the Dynastic periods (3rd millennium BC) until the rise of Babylon in the early 2nd millennium BC. The term “Sumerian” applies to all speakers of the Sumerian language.
- Although other cities pre-date Sumer the cities of Sumer were the first to practice intensive, year-round agriculture (from ca. 5300 BC). The surplus of storable foodstuffs created by this economy allowed the population to settle in one place instead of migrating after crops and herds. It also allowed for a much greater population density, and in turn required an extensive labor force and division of labor. This organization led to the necessity of record keeping and the development of writing (ca. 3500 BC).
- History – The Sumerian city states rose to power during the prehistorical Ubaid and Uruk periods. Sumerian history reaches back to the 29th century BC and before, but the historical record remains obscure until the Early Dynastic III period, ca. the 26th century BC, when a now deciphered syllabary writing system was developed, which has allowed archaeologists to read contemporary records and inscriptions. Classical Sumer ends with the rise of the Akkadian Empire in the 23rd century. Following the Gutian period, there is a brief “Sumerian renaissance” in the 21st century, cut short in the 20th century BC by Amorite invasions. The Amorite “dynasty of Isin” persisted until ca. 1700 BC, when Mesopotamia was united under Babylonian rule.
- Ubaid period – The Ubaid period is marked by a distinctive style of fine quality painted pottery which spread throughout Mesopotamia and the Persian Gulf. During this time, the first settlement in southern Mesopotamia was established at Eridu, ca. 5300 BC, by farmers who brought with them the Samarran culture from northern Mesopotamia.
- Uruk period – The archaeological transition from the Ubaid period to the Uruk period is marked by a gradual shift from painted pottery domestically produced on a slow wheel, to a great variety of unpainted pottery mass-produced by specialists on fast wheels. By the time of the Uruk period (ca. 4100 – 2900 BC calibrated), the volume of trade goods transported along the canals and rivers of southern Mesopotamia facilitated the rise of many large stratified, temple-centered cities (with populations of over 10,000 people) where centralized administrations employed specialized workers. The Uruk period civilization, exported by Sumerian traders and colonists, had an effect on all surrounding peoples… The ancient Sumerian king list includes the early dynasties of several prominent cities from this period. The first set of names on the list is of kings said to have reigned before a major flood occurred.
- Culture – Sumerian culture may be traced to two main centers, Eridu in the south and Nippur in the north may be regarded as a contrasting poles of Sumerian religion. The deity Enlil, around whose sanctuary Nippur had grown up, was considered lord of the ghost-land, and his gifts to mankind were said to be the spells and incantations that the spirits of good or evil were compelled to obey… Eridu, on the other hand, was the home of the culture god Enki (absorbed into Babylonian mythology as the god Ea), the god of beneficence, ruler of the freshwater depths beneath the earth, a healer and friend to humanity who was thought to have given us the arts and sciences, the industries and manners of civilization; the first law-book was considered his creation. (NOTE: The Abrahamic Religions’ God – Yahweh and El (god) can be traced back to Enki/Ea.)
- Language and writing – The most important archaeological discoveries in Sumer are a large number of tablets written in Sumerian. Sumerian pre-cuneiform script has been discovered on tablets dating to around 3500 BC… Sumerians invented picture-hieroglyphs that developed into later cuneiform, and their language vies with Ancient Egyptian for credit as the oldest known written human language. An extremely large body of hundreds of thousands of texts in the Sumerian language has survived, the great majority of these on clay tablets. Known Sumerian texts include personal and business letters and transactions, receipts, lexical lists, laws, hymns and prayers, magical incantations, and scientific texts including mathematics, astronomy, and medicine.
- Religion – Like other cities of Asia Minor and the Mediterranean, Sumer was a polytheistic, or henotheistic, society. Their lives were spent serving the gods in the form of man-made statues… The Sumerians were probably the first to write down their beliefs, which were the inspiration for much of later Mesopotamian mythology, religion, and astrology… The Sumerians worshipped An as the full time god, equivalent to “heaven”—indeed, the word “an” in Sumerian means “sky.” The Sumerian afterlife involved a descent into a gloomy netherworld to spend eternity in a wretched existence as a Gidim (ghost)… As the subterranean destination for all who die, Irkalla is similar to Sheol of the Hebrew Bible or Hades of classic Greek mythology. (NOTE: Sumerian “netherworld” or “Irkalla” is “the hell-like underworld from which there is no return.”)
- Agriculture and hunting – The Sumerians adopted the agricultural mode of life which had been introduced into Lower Mesopotamia and practiced the same irrigation techniques as those used in Egypt… They grew barley, chickpeas, lentils, wheat, dates, onions, garlic, lettuce, leeks and mustard. They also raised cattle, sheep, goats, and pigs… Sumerians caught many fish and hunted fowl and gazelle.
- Technology – Examples of Sumerian technology include: the wheel, cuneiform, arithmetic and geometry, irrigation systems, Sumerian boats, lunisolar calendar, bronze, leather, saws, chisels, hammers, braces, bits, nails, pins, rings, hoes, axes, knives, lancepoints, arrowheads, swords, glue, daggers, waterskins, bags, harnesses, armor, quivers, war chariots, scabbards, boots, sandals and harpoons.
- Legacy – Most authorities credit the Sumerians with the invention of the wheel, initially in the form of the potter’s wheel. The new concept quickly led to wheeled vehicles and mill wheels. The Sumerians’ cuneiform writing system is the oldest for which there is evidence (excluding proto-writing such as the Vinča signs and the even older Jiahu signs). The Sumerians were among the first astronomers, mapping the stars into sets of constellations, many of which survived in the zodiac and were also recognized by the ancient Greeks. The five planets that are visible to the naked eye have Sumerian names… They invented and developed arithmetic using several different number systems including a Mixed radix system with an alternating base 10 and base 6. This sexagesimal system became the standard number system in Sumer and Babylonia. They may have invented military formations and introduced the basic divisions between infantry, cavalry and archers. They developed the first known codified legal and administrative systems, complete with courts, jails, and government records… Several centuries after the invention of cuneiform, the use of writing expanded beyond debt/payment certificates and inventory lists to be applied for the first time, about 2600 BC, to messages and mail delivery, history, legend, mathematics, astronomical records and other pursuits. Conjointly with the spread of writing, the first formal schools were established, usually under the auspices of a city-state’s primary temple… Finally, the Sumerians ushered in the age of intensive agriculture and irrigation. Emmer wheat, barley, sheep (starting as moufflon) and cattle (starting as aurochs) were foremost among the species cultivated and raised for the first time on a grand scale.
During all that time, not a word from the Hebrews, and not a word about the Hebrews, Jews, Israel, and/or Judaism. There were thriving civilizations for millenniums before the Hebrews or Israel even shows up in recorded history! Let’s check out the Sumerian God Enki next.
- Enki was a deity in Sumerian mythology, later known as Ea in Babylonian mythology, originally chief god of the city of Eridu. He was the deity of crafts, water, intelligence and creation. The exact meaning of his name is uncertain: the common translation is “Lord of the Earth”: the Sumerian en is translated as a title equivalent to “lord“…(NOTE: see “Religion” under “lord” – “The Lord refers to God in Judaism or Islam, or to God, Jesus, or the Holy Spirit in Christianity. In many Christian Bibles (such as the King James Version), the Hebrew name YHWH (the Tetragrammaton) is rendered LORD (all caps) or LORD(small caps).”)
- Confuser of languages – From Enmerkar and the Lord of Aratta (ca. 2100 BC):
“.. The whole universe, the people in unison
To Enlil in one tongue spoke.
.. Endowed with wisdom, the lord of Eridu
Changed the speech in their mouths, brought contention into it,
Into the speech of man that (until then) had been one.”
(NOTE: Book of Genesis plagiarized that Sumerian story also, with the much later Judaism version of the Tower of Babel.)
- Champion of humankind – .. Enraged Enlil, convenes a Council of Deities and gets them to promise not to tell humankind that he plans their total annihilation. Enki, does not tell Atrahasis, but tells of Enlil’s plan to the walls of Atrahasis'(aka Noah) reed hut, thus covertly rescuing the man Atrahasis, or Ziusudra by either instructing him to build some kind of a boat for his family, or by bringing him into the heavens in a magic boat. After the seven day Deluge, the flood hero, Utnapishtim, Atrahasis or Ziusudra frees a swallow, a raven and a dove in an effort to find if the flood waters have receded. On the boat landing, a sacrifice is organized to the gods. (NOTE: pointing out the plagiarizing by Judaism can almost get tiresome.)
- Influence – .. As Ea, Enki had a wide influence outside of Sumeria, being equated with El (at Ugarit) and possibly Yah (at Ebla) in the Canaanite ‘ilhm pantheon, he is also found in Hurrian and Hittite mythology, as a god of contracts, and is particularly favourable to humankind… Enki/Ea is essentially a god of civilization, wisdom and culture. He was also the creator and protector of man, and of the world in general… It is, however, as the third figure in the triad (the two other members of which were Anu and Enlil) that Ea acquires his permanent place in the pantheon. (NOTE: ‘shades’ of the Christian Trinity, i.e. that God exists as three persons, the “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit”.)
- Ea and West Semitic deities – .. Much of the written material found in these digs was later translated by Dr. Giovanni Pettinato. Among other conclusions, he found a tendency among the inhabitants of Ebla to replace the name of El, king of the gods of the Canaanite Pantheon, with Ia… Jean Bottero and many others have suggested that Ia in this case is a West Semitic (Canaanite) way of saying Ea, Enki’s Akkadian name. Ia (two syllables) is declined with the Semitic ending as Iahu and may have developed into the later form of Yahweh.
Early in the history of mankind’s civilized societies, religions played an important part, and not only were they made more powerful…they made nations more powerful. Onlookers would take notice of how powerful ancient Sumer and Egypt were, and in many cases, these onlookers sought to emulate such powerful societies. God/s and their religions would be adopted into the nation’s Political Arena. Religions quickly became more about politics and power, than about realizing one’s own natural Spirituality and/or ‘Knowing’ God. Belief and Faith replaced Truth and ‘Knowing’. Priests could cover for your faults…Priests could mediate for you with God…Priests could even help to get you in the ‘Afterlife’! Now that last one is real power.
Conquering nations began to incorporate the conquered nations’ God/s into their own religions, just to make sure that they didn’t offend a God. This incorporation of other God/s and religions would be repeated throughout human history. The Abrahamic Religions claim to be monotheistic, but their tiers of God/s suggest otherwise, e.g. God, Devil, Angels, Demons, Jesus, Mohammed, and the Trinity.
As mentioned above – under the Sumer section – the “Sumerians were probably the first to write down their beliefs”, and those writings later influenced many other religions. Also, the Sumerians had practiced a form of monotheism, with An being their “full time god.”
The other power in the Fertile Crescent region during those ‘early’ ancient times, was Egypt.
- Ancient Egypt was a civilization in eastern North Africa, concentrated along the middle to lower reaches of the Nile River in what is now the modern nation of Egypt. The civilization began around 3150 BC with the political unification of Upper and Lower Egypt under the first pharaoh, and it developed over the next three millennia. The rule of the pharaohs officially ended in 31 BC when the early Roman Empire conquered Egypt and made it a province.
- The civilization of ancient Egypt thrived from its adaptation to the conditions of the Nile River Valley. Controlled irrigation of the fertile valley produced surplus crops, which fueled social development and culture…the early development of an independent writing system, the organization of collective construction and agricultural projects, trade with surrounding regions, and a military that defeated foreign enemies and asserted Egyptian dominance. Motivating and organizing these activities was a bureaucracy of elite scribes, religious leaders, and administrators under the control of a divine pharaoh who ensured the cooperation and unity of the Egyptian people through an elaborate system of religious beliefs.
- Predynastic Period – By about 5500 BC, small tribes living in the Nile valley had developed into a series of unique cultures demonstrating firm control of agriculture and animal husbandry… Contemporaneous with the Maadi, Buto and Heliopolitan cultures to the north, the Badari culture was known for its high quality ceramics, stone tools, and its use of copper… During the last phase of the predynastic, the Naqada culture began using written symbols that evolved into a full system of hieroglyphs for writing the Egyptian language.
- Old Kingdom – Stunning advances in architecture, art, and technology were made during the Old Kingdom, fueled by the increased agricultural productivity made possible by a well developed central administration. Under the direction of the vizier, state officials collected taxes, coordinated irrigation projects to improve crop yield, drafted peasants to work on construction projects, and established a justice system to maintain peace and order. Along with the rising importance of a central administration arose a new class of educated scribes and officials who were granted estates by the pharaoh in payment for their services… By the end of the Old Kingdom, five centuries of these feudal practices had slowly eroded the economic power of the pharaoh, who could no longer afford to support a large centralized administration. As the power of the pharaoh diminished, regional governors called nomarchs began to challenge the supremacy of the pharaoh. This, coupled with severe droughts between 2200 and 2150 BC, ultimately caused the country to enter a 140-year period of famine and strife known as the First Intermediate Period. (NOTE: remember the term “drafted peasants” for later reference.)
- First Intermediate Period – After Egypt’s central government collapsed at the end of the Old Kingdom, the administration could no longer support or stabilize the country’s economy… Free from their loyalties to the pharaoh, local rulers began competing with each other for territorial control and political power. By 2160 BC, rulers in Hierakonpolis controlled Lower Egypt, while a rival clan based in Thebes, the Intef family, took control of Upper Egypt… Around 2055 BC the Theban forces under Nebhepetre Mentuhotep II finally defeated the Herakleopolitan rulers, reuniting the Two Lands and inaugurating a period of economic and cultural renaissance known as the Middle Kingdom. (NOTE: Still no mention of Israel or the Hebrews, over a period from 5500 BC to 2055 BC, and Abraham hasn’t been born yet.)
- Middle Kingdom – The pharaohs of the Middle Kingdom restored the country’s prosperity and stability, thereby stimulating a resurgence of art, literature, and monumental building projects… From Itjtawy, the pharaohs of the 12th Dynasty (Roughly from 1991 BC to 1802 BC.) undertook a far-sighted land reclamation and irrigation scheme to increase agricultural output in the region… Moreover, the military reconquered territory in Nubia rich in quarries and gold mines, while laborers built a defensive structure in the Eastern Delta, called the “Walls-of-the-Ruler”, to defend against foreign attack… In contrast to elitist Old Kingdom attitudes towards the gods, the Middle Kingdom experienced an increase in expressions of personal piety and what could be called a democratization of the afterlife, in which all people possessed a soul and could be welcomed into the company of the gods after death… The last great ruler of the Middle Kingdom, Amenemhat III, allowed Asiatic settlers into the delta region to provide a sufficient labor force for his especially active mining and building campaigns… During this decline, the foreign Asiatic settlers began to seize control of the delta region, eventually coming to power in Egypt as the Hyksos. (NOTE 1: Remember the term “laborers” for later reference. “Asiatic settlers” would mostly be a mixture of people from the former Sumerian Empire and from the area between Egypt and Sumer known as Canaan. Abraham was born at the end of the 12th Dynasty, in 1813 BCE, later moving from the Sumerian area to Egypt. Both Sumer and Egypt had experienced times of instability, warfare, and famine up to this point. NOTE 2: Prior to the birth of Abraham, Egypt had begun to recognize that “all people possessed a soul”, and their rules on religion started to become more open to personal choice, i.e. “expressions of personal piety” were acceptable.)
I’ll end the Ancient Egypt section there, since it’s topic on “Religious beliefs” it coming up soon, and it doesn’t cover Egypt’s religious history very well at all. Also, it had covered most of the time up until Abraham’s birth, and I want to move on to the religious aspects of Egypt, since a lot of it is lays the ground work for pre-Judaism and post-Judaism. Nothing is mentioned about the Hebrews or Israel to this point, so there is still no Non-Biblical confirmation of any Hebrew existence at this point in history.
- Ancient Egyptian religion encompasses the various religious beliefs and rituals practiced in Egypt from the predynastic (prior to 3100 BC) period until the adoption of Christianity and later Islam. Religion in Egypt underwent evolution during its millennial history from the Old, Middle and New Kingdoms to the Late and Graeco-Roman periods.
- The majority of these religious cults were polytheistic, believing in a great number of deities, and were also henotheistic focusing on the worship of only one of those deities. Some scholars, (such as Dr. Ramses Seleem) have detected elements of pantheism in scriptures such as the Book of the Dead, however this is disputed. There were also some short-lived minor examples of cults which could be called monotheistic, such as Atenism. (NOTE: Unlike the false claims by the Abrahamic Religions, monotheism existed before Judaism. Pantheism “literally means “God is All” and “All is God”.” Through the Torah, some of Judaism’s roots can be traced back to Pantheism, and the same goes for Christianity and Islam. Atenism “is the earliest monotheistic religion”. Atenism “was Egypt’s state religion for around 20 years” during the 14th century BC.)
: Too much info, so I need to slow it down a tad, and try to make the points in a reasonably order. I knew this was going to happen, but thought I could still ‘squeeze’ all the relevant points together. Pantheism tends to have a negative connotation in the Western World and to the Western Mind, probably because the Abrahamic Religions have such a jealousy, dislike, and misconception about Hinduism. Jealous because Hinduism is the “oldest religious tradition” or “oldest living major tradition”, and the dislike and misconception points fall into line after that. Basically, the Abrahamic Religions each want the sole Ownership of God to themselves, but Hinduism stands in their way. I could do another lengthy post on just Hinduism, so there is no room for it in this post. In the Eastern World, Pantheism is closely linked to or defined as monotheism. Religion is a favorite topic of mine, since being raised in Christianity, and later rejecting it. I am not searching for God, and am not a practitioner of any religion…not since having read this:
“Like two golden birds perched on the selfsame tree,
intimate friends, the ego and the Self dwell in the same body.
The former eats the sweet and sour fruits of the tree of life,
while the latter looks on in detachment”. The Mundaka Upanishad
The ideal of monotheism probably originated in India first. The Indus Valley Civilization civilization was very advanced, and has “the world’s earliest” known dock in Lothal, India. I’m willing to bet that the ancient Sumerians and Egyptians had contact with ancient India.
OK…back to the points being made in the Ancient Egyptian religion section. Aten was the God of Atenism, and Aten – “first appears in texts dating to the 12th dynasty, in the Story of Sinuhe.” It is a story or “a narrative set in the aftermath of the death of Pharaoh Amenemhat I, founder of the 12th dynasty of Egypt, in the early 20th century BC.” Amenemhat I “ruled from 1991 BC to 1962 BC.” Abraham was born at the end of the 12th Dynasty, in 1813 BCE, so the concept of and practice of monotheism was around before Abraham’s birth. Getting at the facts is difficult, since Christianity has spent thousands of years burying them. OK…back to “Ancient Egyptian religion.”
- Cults – In Memphis, Ptah was the chief deity, later extended into the triad of Ptah-Sekhmet-Nefertem (“the Ptah-Sekhmet-Nefertem triad of Memphis, unusual in that the gods were unconnected before the triad was formalized, where the chief god was Ptah”). Thebes had the triad Amun-Mut-Khonsu. The cult in Elephantine focussed on the triad Khnum-Satis-Anuket. These regional cults were established by the end of the Old Kingdom (2686 BC to 2134 BC).
Concepts and practice of a Trinity were around for millenniums before Christianity latched onto it. Ptah “was worshipped in his own right”, and I will have more on that in the next section. We still have no mention about the Hebrews or Israel, and have established that the practice of monotheism was around before Abraham was born. Judaism is closer connected to Egypt’s religions, than to those of Sumer; however, the religions and Gods of Sumer and Egypt were very closely connected, and the Egyptians had in fact read and studied the Epic of Gilgamesh, the Enûma Eliš, and other Sumerian religious texts. More on that later, as we now move into the next brief and last section on Egypt.
- Prior to the creation of dynasties in the prehistory of ancient Egypt, god-Kings reigned. These beings were undoubtedly the same Anunnaki of the ancient Sumerian texts, but with different names. For example, Ptah of Egyptian fame is the Sumerian Enki, Isis the same as Inanna, and Ra, the same as Marduk.
- But Egypt was distinct from Sumer — even if the players were essentially the same. In Egypt, Ptah/Enki held sway, while in Sumer, it was his half-brother Enlil. This is a major difference — and accounts for massive differences in their histories, cultures, and those traditions brought down to us today.
The Halexandria site may seem ‘out there’ or outrageous at times, but they do have a vast array of knowledge and opinion, and it does offer another source other than Biblical or Quranic sites. Actually, Halexandria is no more ‘out there’ or outrageous than the Abrahamic Religions are, IMHO.
That about covers Egypt and Sumer for now. Still nothing about the Hebrews or Israel!?! Mankind had been forming advanced civilizations, for millenniums, from South America to China, and none of the Abrahamic Religions have arrived. We have reached the point in time, where the Abrahamic Religions claimed that Abraham was born, but there is still no Non-Biblical confirmation of that claim. Abraham supposedly lived between 1813 BC and 1638 BC – “According to Jewish tradition”, and that God shows up with a ‘deal’ for Abraham, and said to Abraham that he (God) would “make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and be thou a blessing”, if Abraham would follow him (God).
Before this, God has never complained about idols, or even other religions, and apparently never actually made a ‘deal’ with any other humans before Abraham. “Jewish, Christian and Muslim traditions regard him as the founding patriarch of the Israelites, Ishmaelites and Edomite peoples”, but they lack any proof that Abraham even existed. Israelites?!? Who are they? There is no Non-Biblical confirmation of them either, up until this point in history.
- Hebrews vs. Israelites vs. Jew – Hebrews are defined as descendants of Eber, grandson of Noah. Eber was an ancestor of Jacob (six generations removed) and is therefore a distant ancestor of Israelites but also of many other people. Jews are all people of Jewish faith, regardless of ancestry. Israelites and Jews use the Hebrew language. The terms “Hebrews” and “Israelites” usually describe the same people, called Hebrews before the conquest of the Land of Canaan and Israelites afterwards. Occasionally, “Hebrews” is used to designate the Jews, who use the Hebrew language. The Epistle to the Hebrews was probably written for Jewish Christians. The current State of Israel, the homeland of all Jews, is often nicknamed the “Hebrew state”.
OK…”Hebrews” and “Israelites” are basically the same people. I will refer to them as Hebrews, until finding some Non-Biblical confirmation that either of them ever existed.
- According to biblical tradition, the Hebrews are peoples descended from Shem, one of Noah’s sons, through Eber, the eponymous ancestor, and Abraham. Gen. 7:22 f., reports that the flood destroyed all life except that in Noah’s ark; consequently, the whole human family descended from Noah and his sons: Japheth, Ham and Shem. As yet, not all of the names of eponymous ancestors in the family lines can be identified, but some probabilities are listed in Chart 6.
- With Abraham the story of the Hebrews begins, and it is clearly stated that Hebrew origins lay outside Canaan. The summons to leave his ancestral home and journey to Canaan is accompanied by a promise that becomes a submotif in patriarchal accounts, re-appearing again and again, finally taking covenantal form. The promise has two parts: nationhood and divine blessing or protection. The precise location of the nation-to-be is not specified but was, of course, known to those hearing or reading the account. The promise of blessing signified the unique and particularistic bond between Yahweh and his followers, so that the enemies of Abraham or the nation were enemies of Yahweh, and those befriending Abraham and/or the nation would be blessed.
- The descriptions of Abraham are not uniform: at times he appears as a lonely migrant, at others as a chieftain, head of a large family, or as a warrior. Factual details about the patriarch are difficult to establish…
- Gen. 14, in which Abraham is called a “Hebrew” for the first time, records a battle between the patriarch and kings of countries or areas as yet unidentified for certain and associates him with the Canaanite king of Jerusalem. It is possible that reliable historical data are preserved here. The account of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah may also rest in some memory of a shift in the earth’s crust that destroyed the cities of the plain.
- PROBLEMS WITH DATES AND PLACES
- Efforts to date the patriarchal period have not been particularly rewarding, for biblical chronology is complex.
- Whatever the correct date for Abraham may be, he represents the beginning of the nation to the Hebrews. Yahweh’s promise to the patriarch and his successors is considered to be the guarantee of national existence.
- Efforts to determine the date and route of the Exodus have been disappointing…
- Attempts to chart the course followed by the fleeing Hebrews is equally frustrating. No one knows for sure the location of Mount Sinai, and the site chosen for the holy mountain determines, in part, the route suggested. Attempts have been made to identify stopping places mentioned in Num. 33:1-37, but the identifications can be no more than conjectures, for biblical descriptions are vague without distinctive landmarks.
- Etymological analyses of the term “Hebrew” (‘ibri) have given little help to the study of origins. The term has been related to a root, meaning “to go over” or “to go across”; hence, a “Hebrew” would be one who crossed over or one who went from place to place, a nomad, a wanderer, a designation that would fit some aspects of patriarchal behavior. A similar term, habiru, is found in cuneiform documents…At times the Habiru appear to be settled in specific locations; at times they serve in the army as mercenaries, or are bound to masters as servants… The suggestion that the terms ‘apiru, habiru and “Hebrew” relate to those who have renounced a relationship to an existing society, who have by a deliberate action withdrawn from some organization or rejected some authority, and who have become through this action freebooters, slaves, employees or mercenaries presents real possibilities.
This is exactly why the Abrahamic Religions require faith, belief, or FORCE in order to gain acceptance. There is no Truth in them, plagiarism exists throughout their religious texts, discrepancies throughout their texts, and discrepancies even exist between Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. And, all that guessing, frustration, attempts, disappointments, conjecture, vagueness, etc. listed above comes from the JEWISH VIRTUAL LIBRARY!
- Hebrews (or Hebertes, Eberites, Hebreians, “Habiru” or “Habiri”) are an ancient people defined as descendants of biblical Patriarch Eber (Hebrew “traverse or pass over”), a great-grandson of Noah.
- Hebrews are known as the ancestors of the Israelites, who used the hebrew language. Israelites were the writers of the Hebrew Bible and therefore the spiritual and historical forerunners of the Jews, Christians and Muslims. In the Bible and in current language, the word Hebrews is often used as a synonym for Israelites, and sometimes for the users of the hebrew language (Jews and Israelis).
- These areas were politically Phoenicia and of the Philistines in Canaan when they first arrived in the area (this statement is matter of debate: some archaeologists believe that the Israelites simply arose as a subculture within Canaanite society). The extent of the distinction between the culture of the Canaanites and the Hebrews is a matter of great debate, touching as it does on strong religious sensibilities.
Wikipedia doesn’t have much on the Hebrews, but I did notice that the “Habiru” people show up again. Issues and points are still debatable, i.e. there are apparently no facts. Perhaps I’ll try to look up something from the Muslims on or about the Hebrews; however, I don’t want to touch too much on such “strong religious sensibilities” that exists between the religions of the Abrahamic Religion…so to speak.
- Habiru (Ha biru) or Apiru or pr.w (Egyptian) was the name given by various Sumerian, Egyptian, Akkadian, Hittite, Mitanni, and Ugaritic sources (dated, roughly, from before 2000 BC to around 1200 BC) to a group of people living as nomadic invaders in areas of the Fertile Crescent from Northeastern Mesopotamia and Iran to the borders of Egypt in Canaan. Depending on the source and epoch, these Habiru are variously described as nomadic or semi-nomadic, rebels, outlaws, raiders, mercenaries, and bowmen, servants, slaves, migrant laborers, etc.
- The sources – Scholars pointed out similarities to Biblical accounts of Hebrews putting people under the ban as they moved along the route of the kings highway through Edom and Moab into the territory of Ammon, Aram and the Amurru and realized that those records seemed to provide independent confirmation of the invasion of Canaan by Habiru fighting under Joshua, Saul, and David. As more texts were uncovered throughout the Near East, however, it became clear that the Habiru were found mentioned in contexts ranging from unemployed agricultural workers and vagrants to mounted mercenary bowmen. The context differed depending upon where the references were found…“the principle area of historical interest is in their engagement with Egypt.” Carol Redmount concluded that the term “Habiru” had no common ethnic affiliations, that they spoke no common language, and that they normally led a marginal and sometimes lawless existence on the fringes of settled society. She defines the various Apiru/Habiru as “a loosely defined, inferior social class composed of shifting and shifty population elements without secure ties to settled communities” who are referred to “as outlaws, mercenaries, and slaves” in ancient texts. In that vein, some modern scholars consider the Habiru to be more of a social designation than an ethnic or a tribal one. That does not, however, exclude the possibility that the Biblical Hebrews were descended from one specific group of Habiru and that with them it eventually became an ethnic name; such shifts in the meaning of names and designations are well-known elsewhere.
- Abdi-Heba, the Egyptian vassal ruler of Jerusalem in the Amarna period (mid-1330s BC), wrote a series of letters to the Egyptian king in which he complained about the activities of the “Habiru.” The Habiru were plundering the lands of the king. (NOTE: even though Jerusalem dates back to 4000 BC, by the mid-1330s BC there is still no Non-Biblical records of any Hebrews or Israelites.)
- Sumerian records – Sumerian documents from the reign of Shulgi of Ur (around 2150 BC) describe a class of “unclothed people, who travel in dead silence, who destroy everything, whose menfolk go where they will — they establish their tents and their camps — they spend their time in the countryside without observing the decrees of my king”. The SA.GAZ logogram in some ancient vocabulary lists is glossed as the Akkadian word habbatu which means a “brigand” or “highway robber”.
- Early Mesopotamian sources – The Sumerian logogram SA.GAZ appears in texts from Southern Mesopotamia, dated from about 1850 BC, where it is applied to small bands of soldiers, apparently mercenaries at the service of local city-states and being supplied with food or sheep. The Tikunani Prism, dated from around 1550 BC, lists the names of 438 Habiru soldiers or servants of king Tunip-Tessup of Tikunani, a small city-state in central Mesopotamia. The majority of these names are typically Hurrian (Northeast Caucasian, non-IndoEuropean), the rest are Semitic, one is Kassite.
- Canaanite sources – A number of the Amarna letters—sent to pharaohs Amenhotep III, Akhenaten and, briefly, his two successors from vassal kings in Canaan and Syria in the 1300s BCE — mention the “Habiru”. Those people are identified by the Sumerian logogram SA.GAZ in most of the letters, and by the Akkadian name Hapiru in a few from the area of Jerusalem. They appear to be active on a broad area including Syria (at Upe near Damascus), Phoenicia (Sumur, Batrun and Byblos), and to the south as far as Jerusalem . None of the kings of the region, with the possible exception of one Abdi-Ashirta, are called Habiru or SA.GAZ.
- Egyptian sources – Several Egyptian sources, both before and after the Amarna letters, mention a people called `PR.W in the consonant-only Egyptian script, where .W is the plural marker. The pronunciation of this word has been reconstructed as apiru. From similarity of context and description, it is believed that the Egyptian `PR.W are equivalent to the Akkadian Habiru/Hapiru. A stela from the reign of Seti I (around 1300 BC) tells that the pharaoh sent an expedition into the Levant, in response to an attack of “the apiru from Mount Yarmuta” upon a local town.
- A list of goods bequeathed to several temples by Pharaoh Ramesses III (around 1160 BC) includes many serfs, Egyptian and foreign: ..The foreign serfs are described as “maryanu (soldiers), apiru, and people already settled in the temple estate”. The laborers that Ramesses IV (1151 to 1145 BC or 1155 to 1149 BC) sent to the quarry of Wadi Hammamat in his third year included 5,000 soldiers, 2,000 men attached to the temples of Pharaoh as well as 800 Apiru. This is the last known reference to the Apiru in Egyptian documents.
From 4000 BC to 1145 BC there is not a single document or a written record that mentions anything about the Hebrews or Israelites or Israel, even though there are thousands and thousands of documents, records, and other writings. Civilizations and/or Societies – throughout the Fertile Crescent area – were documenting and recording almost everything that happened or was done, and not even a word about the Hebrews! The modern Hebrews and/or Israelites and/or Jews can’t even produce one document from 1145 BC, that shows any Hebrews and/or Israelites existed back then…not even one of their own documents!
– 1850 to 1750/1700 BC. – 1713 to 1533 BC. – 1653 BC to ? (Dates on him either don’t exist or conflict or don’t mention death). – 1562 to 1452 BC. – 1393 to 1273 BC. Egypt and the Wanderings – 1500-1250 BC. Not one document by anyone or any Hebrew about the existence of Hebrews or Israelites from 1850 to 1250/1145 BC.
- Shasu is an Egyptian term for nomads who appeared in the Levant from the fifteenth century BCE all the way to the Third Intermediate Period (1070 to 664 BC).
- The name evolved from a transliteration of the Egyptian word š3sw, meaning “moving on foot”, into the term for Bedouin-type wanderers. The term first originated in a fifteenth century list of peoples in the Transjordan, with one of the Shasu territories described as “Yhw in the land of the Shasu”.
- From this evidence, some scholars, including Donald B. Redford and William G. Dever, conclude that the people who would eventually be the “Israel” recorded on the Merneptah Stele (widely known as the Israel Stele) and later form the Kingdom of Israel were originally a Shasu tribe. However, the proposed link between the Israelites and the Shasu is undermined by the fact that in the Merneptah reliefs, the Israelites are not described or depicted as Shasu.
- Shasu of Yahweh is a term that appears in Egyptian inscriptions of the 18th and 19th Dynasties (c. 1540-1190 B.C.). One, found at Amarah or Amrah in Upper Nubia, dates to the reign of Seti I (c. 1300 B.C.). An earlier inscription, probably from the reign of Amenhotep III (c. 1400 B.C.) was found at the Temple of Amun in Soleb, Sudan.
- With time, however, it has generally become recognized for what it is. Redford states that “For half a century it has been generally admitted that we have here the tetragrammaton, the name of the Israelite god, ‘Yahweh’; and if this be the case, as it undoubtedly is, the passage constitutes a most precious indication of the whereabouts during the late fifteenth century B.C. of an enclave revering this god.”
The Habiru seem more likely to be ancestors of the Hebrews than the Shasu, but even that would only be a guess, and both side of the argument are disputed. The Merneptah Stele is interesting…originally erected by Amenhotep III (ruled from roughly 1391/1388 to 1353/1350 BC), “but later inscribed by Merneptah who ruled Egypt from 1213 to 1203 BC.” Apparently this Merneptah Stele had inscriptions added to it.
- The stela is dated to 1209/1208 BC, and begins with a laudatory recital of Merneptah’s achievements in battle.
- The stele has gained much notoriety and fame for being the only Ancient Egyptian document generally accepted as mentioning “Isrir” or “Israel”. It is also, by far, the earliest known attestation of Israel. For this reason, many scholars refer to it as the “Israel stele”. This title is somewhat misleading because the stele is clearly not concerned about Israel— in fact, it mentions Israel only in passing. There is only one line about Israel: “Israel is wasted, bare of seed” or “Israel lies waste, its seed no longer exists” and very little about the region of Canaan.
- Merneptah inserts just a single stanza to the Canaanite campaigns but multiple stanzas to his defeat of the Libyans. The line referring to Merneptah’s Canaanite campaign reads: Canaan is captive with all woe. Ashkelon is conquered, Gezer seized, Yanoam made nonexistent; Israel is wasted, bare of seed.
- As the stela mentions just one line about Israel, it is difficult for scholars to draw a substantial amount of information about what “Israel” means in this stela. The stela does make clear that Israel, at this stage, refers to a people since a hieroglyphic determinative for “country” is absent regarding Israel. While the other defeated enemies listed beside Israel in this document such as Ashkelon, Gezer and Yanoam are given the determinative for a city-state—”a throw stick plus three mountains designating a foreign country“—the hieroglyphs which refer to Israel instead employ the determinative sign used for foreign peoples: a throw stick plus a man and a woman over three vertical plural lines. This sign is typically used by the Egyptians to signify nomadic groups or peoples without a fixed city-state, thus implying a seminomadic or rural status for Israel in Merneptah’s Year 5. Apart from this, there is little else that can be concluded about Israel at this time.
The descriptions still don’t mention anything about Hebrews or Israelites, though “Isrir” or “Israel” seems to be about a nomadic people and not a city or state…more like the Habiru than the Shasu, IMHO. Interesting, and I shall note the date 1209/1208 BC as a possibility of there being a mentioning of Hebrews around that time.
Before Moses is born (1393 BC), there are already worshippers of a God known as ‘Yahweh’…before Moses first meets ‘Yahweh’, there are already worshippers of a God known as ‘Yahweh’, and yet Judaism teaches that Moses was the first to introduce ‘Yahweh’ to the yet unknown Hebrews and/or Israelites and/or Jews!? Worshippers of the God ‘Yahweh’ had been around since at least 1540 BC, and they were not Hebrews or Israelites. Again, still nothing about the Hebrews, and we now head into the era of Moses.
- Along with God, it is the figure of Moses (Moshe) who dominates the Torah. Acting at God’s behest, it is he who leads the Jews out of slavery, unleashes the Ten Plagues against Egypt, guides the freed slaves for forty years in the wilderness, carries down the law from Mount Sinai, and prepares the Jews to enter the land of Canaan. Without Moses, there would be little apart from laws to write about in the last four books of the Torah. (NOTE: Quite the ‘intro’ for Moses; however, at this time there is still no record of there being any Hebrews or Israelites or Jews. The closest Non-Biblical confirmation is the Merneptah Stele dated at 1209/1208 BC, and the actual meaning of “Isrir” or “Israel” is questionable. Moses was born in 1393 BC.)
- Moses is born during the Jewish enslavement in Egypt, during a terrible period when Pharaoh decrees that all male Hebrew infants are to be drowned at birth. His mother, Yocheved, desperate to prolong his life, floats him in a basket in the Nile. Hearing the crying child as she walks by, Pharaoh’s daughter pities the crying infant and adopts him (Exodus 2:1-10). It surely is no coincidence that the Jews’ future liberator is raised as an Egyptian prince. Had Moses grown up in slavery with his fellow Hebrews, he probably would not have developed the pride, vision, and courage to lead a revolt. (NOTE: The Biblical account doesn’t say what the name of “Pharaoh’s daughter” is; however, I’ll have more on her later.)
- The Torah records only three incidents in Moses’ life before God appoints him a prophet. As a young man, outraged at seeing an Egyptian overseer beating a Jewish slave, he kills the overseer. The next day, he tries to make peace between two Hebrews who are fighting, but the aggressor takes umbrage and says: “Do you mean to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?” ..Pharaoh orders Moses killed, and he flees to Midian. At this point, Moses probably wants nothing more than a peaceful interlude, but immediately he finds himself in another fight. The seven daughters of the Midianite priest Reuel (also called Jethro) are being abused by the Midianite male shepherds, and Moses rises to their defense (Exodus 2:11-22)… The incidents are of course related. In all three, Moses shows a deep, almost obsessive commitment to fighting injustice. Furthermore, his concerns are not parochial. He intervenes when a non-Jew oppresses a Jew, when two Jews fight, and when non-Jews oppress other non-Jews.
Not much detail in that link, so I will end it there. Again, there is no Non-Biblical confirmation that there are any Hebrews at this time. Such an important role in the Bible and even it doesn’t say much about Moses’ earlier life. EXODUS PROBLEMS: Scholarly Pitfalls encountered in setting a Date for the Exodus. “Pitfalls” is an understatement, since there is absolutely no proof that Exodus existed before even 600 BC, and ranges at 450 to 300 BC are probably more correct. Pharaoh’s daughter’s name is not given. No one actually knows when Exodus was written. Not much – if any – credible evidence of there ever having been a Moses.
- According to the book of Exodus, Moses was born to a Hebrew mother who hid him when a Pharaoh ordered all newborn Hebrew boys to be killed, and he ended up being adopted into the Egyptian royal family. After killing an Egyptian slave-master, Moses fled and became a shepherd, and was later commanded by God to deliver the Hebrews from slavery. After the Ten Plagues were unleashed on Egypt, he led the Hebrew slaves out of Egypt, through the Red Sea, where they wandered in the desert for 40 years, during which time, according to the Bible, Moses received the Ten Commandments. Despite living to 120, Moses died before reaching the Land of Israel. According to the Torah, Moses was denied entrance to that destination because he himself disobeyed God’s instructions about how to retrieve water from a stone; according to the Qu’ran the reason was the disobedience of his Israelite followers during the Exodus. (NOTE: Torah and Qu’ran do not agree on why Moses was denied entry into the promised land. Both religions claim that their version came from God.)
- Jochebed, the wife of the Levite Amram, bore a son and kept him concealed for three months. When she could keep him hidden no longer, rather than deliver him to be killed, she set him adrift on the Nile River in a small craft of bulrushes coated in pitch. According to Quran, she is commanded by God to place him in an ark and cast him on the waters of the Nile, thus abandoning him completely to God’s protection and demonstrating her total trust in God. In the Biblical account, Moses’ sister Miriam observed the progress of the tiny boat until it reached a place where Pharaoh’s daughter Thermuthis (Bithiah) was bathing with her handmaidens. It is said that she spotted the baby in the basket and had her handmaiden fetch it for her. (NOTE: Again, Biblical account and Quran account don’t agree.)
- This birth legend is in many respects similar to the 7th century BCE Neo-Assyrian version of the birth of the king Sargon of Akkad in the 24th century BCE who, being born of modest means, was set in the Euphrates river in a basket of bulrushes and discovered by a member of the Akkadian royalty who reared him as their own. Professor Eric H. Cline refers to the story of the birth of Moses as a ‘foundation myth’, similar to those of Sargon, Cyrus the Great and Romulus and Remus. (NOTE: Another example of there being far older stories that show up later as Biblical ones.)
- Challenges to his historicity – There is also the suggestion that Moses was not a real historical figure and that the Exodus did not occur at all. Some archaeologists have claimed that surveys of ancient settlements in Sinai do not appear to show a great influx of people around the time of the Exodus (given variously as between 1500–1200 BCE), as would be expected from the arrival of Joshua and the Israelites in Canaan. This suggests that the biblical Exodus may not be a literal depiction. Archaeologists such as Israel Finkelstein, Ze’ev Herzog and William G. Dever, regard the Exodus as non-historical, at best containing a small germ of truth. According to Prof. Ze’ev Herzog, Director of the Institute of Archaeology at Tel Aviv University “This is what archaeologists have learned from their excavations in the Land of Israel: the Israelites were never in Egypt, did not wander in the desert, did not conquer the land in a military campaign and did not pass it on to the 12 tribes of Israel…. The many Egyptian documents that we have make no mention of the Israelites’ presence in Egypt and are also silent about the events of the exodus.”
Much more information there, and enough for now. Torah, Biblical, and Quran do not fully agree on the accounts of Moses. There is also a “Neo-Assyrian version of the birth of the king Sargon of Akkad in the 24th century BCE” that is similar to the Biblical Moses story. Also, there are other similar ‘foundation myth’ versions of Sargon, Cyrus the Great and Romulus and Remus. Pharaoh’s daughter Thermuthis (Bithiah) finally gets mentioned and I’ll have more on her later. “Challenges” even to there ever being a Moses or an Israel or Israelites, i.e. no proof of there ever being any Hebrews back then, even with the availability of “many Egyptian documents” and other ancient writing mentioned earlier in this post.
Before continuing I want to go over some of the ‘highlight’ points made so far. Religions can be complicated to follow, e.g. I’ve mainly covered just the basics of Sumer’s and Egypt’s religions to this point, and have not yet reached into the much later Abrahamic Religions. Spiritually should not be so complicated, since mankind seems to have a natural Spiritual Instinct; however, complications arise when mankind adds “Politics and Religion” – both creations of mankind – into the mix. The old saying – “Keep it Simple, Stupid” gets ignored when mankind is attempting to gain or maintain power.
Sumer and Egypt had both remained powerful dynasties for several millennia, dating back to as late as the 6th millennium BC, and with writing showing up around 3500 BC. ‘City-States’ arose within these dynasties, especially in Sumer, and these ‘City-States’ would compete for power, God/s, etc. which led to conflicts. ‘Outsiders’ and/or foreigners would later become involved in these conflicts, e.g. the Akkadian Empire’s takeover of Sumer around 2200 BC.
“History written by the victors”, and then rewritten or revised by new ‘Victors’. Each ‘City-State’ usually had its own God, which suggests that monotheism began at a very early stage of societal development. ‘Victors’ would then add or change the name of a God/s from a conquered ‘City-State’. Stories of one ‘City-State’ would eventually trickle down to another nation or empire millenniums later, and become ‘Their’ story or ‘Their’ own history. Passed down verbally at first, and then by writings from roughly 3500 BC. Sumer’s Epic of Gilgamesh being the ‘Foundation Block’ for civilizations and religions arising in the Fertile Crescent area. Egypt also had ancient writings, but the Epic of Gilgamesh seems to be older.
The Sumerian God Enki (“Lord of the Earth”: YHWH – the Tetragrammaton) is the same as the Egyptian God Ptah (“Chief God” – “who called the world into being”), with Ptah/Enki being the focus in Egypt, and Enlil in Sumer. Judaism is connected closer to Egyptian history than to Sumerian history, so we have started focusing closer on Egypt.
- As with most widely worshiped Egyptian godforms, Ra’s identity was often confused with other gods as different regional religions were merged in an attempt to unite the country.
- He is a major deity in ancient Egyptian religion by the fifth dynasty (2498 -2345 BC). Aten (or Aton) was the disk of the sun in ancient Egyptian mythology, and originally an aspect of Ra.
- According to E. A. Wallis Budge, he was the one god of Egyptian monotheism, of which all other deities were aspects, manifestations, phases, or forms. Ra itself, however, was also a monotheistic god. A Hymn to Rah (approx. 1370s BC) was written to stress the pantheistic nature of Rah to combat encroaching polytheism. In it, several deities are described, not as beings in their own right, but certain forms of Rah. For example:
“Praise be unto thee, O Ra, thou exalted Power, who dost enter into the habitations of Ament, behold [thy] body is Atum.”
“Praise be unto thee, O Ra, thou exalted Power, who dost enter into the hidden palace of Anubis, behold [thy] body is Khepera.”
- Composites: Ptah: Ra was rarely combined with Ptah; the sun “crosses” over Ptah in the underworld before Ptah is reborn, thus there would be no sun-Ray when this happens. Other combinations can and do exist, the rising sun with sun ray, and the noon sun with sunray, and sitting sun with sunray. But as per the Memphite creation myth he was often said to be Ptah’s first creation, through his divine will, especially when associated with Atum or Amun.
The Egyptian God Aten (Atenism has shown up in Egyptian writings, when Aten – “first appears in texts dating to the 12th dynasty, in the Story of Sinuhe.” It is a story or “a narrative set in the aftermath of the death of Pharaoh Amenemhat I, founder of the 12th dynasty of Egypt, in the early 20th century BC.” Amenemhat I “ruled from 1991 BC to 1962 BC.”
Monotheism becomes the dominate religion under Akhenaten (aka Amenhotep IV) around 1353-1351 BC. Records date Aten back to at least 1960 BC, before Abraham was born, and long before Moses was born. Akhenaten had “suppressed the worship of other deities, and attacked the power of the priestly establishment.” After Akhenaten’s death, Egypt’s “return to the traditional gods was so comprehensive that the heretic Pharaohs associated with Atenism were erased from Egyptian records.” Records were destroyed; however, not all of them, and it is clear that Akhenaten wasn’t the only Pharaoh who had practiced monotheism.
Akhenaten appeared in recorded history “almost two-centuries prior to the first archaeological and written evidence for Judaism and Israelite culture is found in the Levant.” The Levant is the area between Egypt and Sumer/Mesopotamia…check out its map.
The Habiru and the Shasu have been around for a long time. The Merneptah Stele briefly mentions “Isrir” or “Israel”, and there was – Shasu of Yahweh is a term that appears in Egyptian inscriptions of the 18th and 19th Dynasties (c. 1540-1190 B.C.).
A long Egyptian history that shows Egypt went through periods of famine and strife, the collapse of Egypt’s central government at times, food shortages, political disputes, devastating plagues, small-scale civil wars, rival dynasties, and then a return to prosperity and stability. All such events were recorded, long before Moses and the Hebrews show up.
The last section was on Moses, but as it mentioned, the Biblical history leaves out most of his early life, and I want to dig deeper into that area. Pharaoh’s daughter Thermuthis (Bithiah) is mentioned, and she is up next.
- Meaning: “daughter of Yahweh“; daughter of the Lord; worshipper of Jehovah.
- Historical – Bithiah, in Hebrew Bitya (literally daughter of God) was the daughter of a Pharaoh of Egypt. The name of her father is not in the Bible, but Rabbinic Midrash makes her the daughter of one of the Pharaohs of the Exodus. She was the foster mother of Moses, having drawn him from the Nile. In Jewish tradition, she was exiled by the Pharaoh for bringing Moses the Levite into the house of Pharaoh and claiming him as her own child. Bithiah left Egypt with Moses during the mass exodus of the children of Israel. She married Mered the Judahite. Her children were Miriam, Shammai, and Ishbah.
- In the Bible and Midrash – In the Biblical account, the daughter of Pharaoh who rescued Moses is not named. A daughter of Pharaoh named Bithiah is mentioned in I Chronicles 4:18. The Midrash identifies the two as the same person, and says she received her name, literally daughter of Yah (= YHWH often rendered in English as LORD), because of her compassion and pity in saving the baby Moses. In the Midrash (Leviticus Rabbah 1:3), God says to her that because she took in a child not her own, and called him her son (Moses can mean “child” in Egyptian), God will take her in and call her YHWH’s daughter (which is what Bithiah means). The Midrash portrays her as a pious and devoted woman, who would bathe in the Nile to . She is mentioned in Chron. 1, 4:18, as being the wife of Mered from the tribe of Judah, who is identified in the Midrash as being Caleb, one of the 12 spies. The Midrash (Exodus Rabbah 18:3) also records that she was not affected by the 10 Plagues, and was the only female firstborn of Egypt to survive.
- In Islamic tradition – In the Hadith, Bithiah is known as Asiyah, one of four of “the best of women.” She is also known as the Pharaoh’s wife, not daughter, in Quran.
Not much else can be found on her – over the internet anyway – though the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus mentions Thermuthis in his Antiquities of the Jews around 93 AD. It should also be noted that Flavius Josephus was a Jew of questionable character, who cooperated with his Roman captors, and his writings were done at the behest of his new Roman masters. His writings were not only slanted in favor of the Romans, but the editing by the Romans would’ve also been slanted to what they actually wanted to read or hear. I’ll have more on the Romans in the later sections – Christianity and/or Pauline Christianity.
I find the Midrash version very interesting. Bithiah means – “literally daughter of Yah (= YHWH often rendered in English as LORD)”, and that she – “would bathe in the Nile to .” If she was bathing in order to rid herself Egypt’s idolatrous impurities, then that would suggest that she probably practiced monotheism long before finding Moses. The term “Yah” shows up, which dates back to a Sumerian word. Another interesting Egyptian term that fits in nicely here, is “God’s Wife” – “God’s Wife is a term which was often allocated to royal women during the 18th Dynasty of Egypt. The term indicates an inherited sacral role, in which the role of God’s Wife passed from mother to daughter.” Not the ‘Wife of Gods’, but “God’s Wife”, and monotheistic in the approach (more examples on that in a minute). Judaism and Islamism don’t agree on whether Bithiah was the wife or the daughter of Pharaoh, so the term “daughter of Yah” may have been the same as a ‘Wife of Yah’.
- Enki: Influence – As Ea, Enki had a wide influence outside of Sumeria, being equated with El (at Ugarit) and possibly Yah (at Ebla).
- Ebla – The site is most famous for the archive of about 15,000 cuneiform tablets found there, dated from around 2250 BC, written in the Sumerian language and in Eblaite — a previously unknown Semitic language….there was a change in the theophoric names shown in many of the tablets found in the archive from *El to *Yah, indicated in the example of the transition from Mika’el to Mikaya. This is considered by some to evidence an early use of the divine name Yah, a god who they believe later emerged as Yahweh (YHWH). Bottero, for example, has suggested that this shift may indicate the popular acceptance of the Akkadian God Ea, introduced from the Sargonid Empire which may have been transliterated into Eblaite as YH.
Once again, the Abrahamic Religion’s God can be traced back to Enki and/or to Enki through Egypt’s Ptah. The Abrahamic Religions are no more or no less monotheistic than the much earlier religions that they are founded on. God, Allah, Lucifer, Satan, Raphael, Gabriel, Michael, Angels, Archangels, Demons, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, Virgin Mary (host of idols for her), Paul (Pauline Christianity), the Trinity, Mohammad, etc. is as polytheistic as those other religions that the Abrahamic Religions accuse of being polytheistic!
I can find no dates as to when Bithiah lived; however, we do know (Biblically anyway) that – 1) Moses spent 40 in Egypt before fleeing – 1393 to 1353 BC. 2) Moses spent 40 years in the land of Midian 1353 to 1313 BC. 3) Moses was 80 years old when he met Pharaoh in around 1313 BC. 4) Moses spent 40 years wandering with the Hebrews and died around 1273 BC, at the age of 120 years old. Exodus doesn’t mention much about Moses’ first 80 years, but they have offered or led to interesting clues on him. A lot of speculation goes on about who Moses’ Pharaoh was, i.e. the one downed in the Red Sea, and I’m going to give it a shot now.
From – List of pharaohs:
- 1) Thutmose II (ruled 1492-1479 BC.) and Queen Hatshepsut (ruled 1479-1458 BC.) were married, she exerted a strong influence over him, and she had been a “God’s Wife” in her youth (their daughter, Neferure had also been a “God’s Wife”).
- 2) Thutmose III (ruled 1479-1425 BC.) was the stepson of Queen Hatshepsut, who dominated him until her death.
- 3) Amenhotep III (ruled 1390-1352 BC.) – “The Magnificent King” – married Tiye…becoming his “Great Royal Wife”, and Tiye was a “great queen known as the progenitor of monotheism.”
- 4) Amenhotep IV/Akhenaten (ruled 1352-1334/3 BC.) – Founder of brief period of monotheism (Atenism)… took decisive steps to establish the Aten as the exclusive, monotheistic god of Egypt: the pharaoh “disbanded the priesthoods of all the other gods…and diverted the income from these cults to support the Aten.
- 5) Tutankhaten/Tutankhamun (ruled 1333-1324 BC.) – Commonly believed to be the son of Akhenaten, probably reinstated the polytheistic religion and the name change reflects the change in primary deity from Aten to Amun.
- 6) Kheperkheprure Ay (ruled…around 1323-1319 BC.) – Ay was the penultimate Pharaoh of Ancient Egypt’s 18th dynasty. He held the throne of Egypt for a brief four-year period… Records and monuments that can be clearly attributed to Ay are rare, not only due to his short length, but also because his successor, Horemheb, instigated a campaign of damnatio memoriae (“literally meaning “damnation of memory“, in the sense of removed from the remembrance.”) against him and other pharaohs associated with the unpopular Amarna period.
- 7) Horemheb (ruled 1320-1292 BC.) – Former General and advisor to Tutankhamun. Obliterated images of the Amarna queens and kings (all except Amenhotep III and Tiye)… After Ay’s brief reign of four years and one month, however, Horemheb managed to seize power presumably from his position as Commander of the Army to assume what he must have perceived to be his just reward for having ably served Egypt under Tutankhamun and Ay.
Moses’ Pharaoh was…Kheperkheprure Ay, IMHO. The dates are about 6 years off, i.e. Moses meeting with Pharaoh in around 1313 BC, and Kheperkheprure Ay apparently dying in 1319 BC, but even the Bible has problems with dates, e.g. “Dates regarding biblical figures and events cannot be confirmed.”
There was tension in Egypt between the monotheistic and the polytheistic factions, and tension between Kheperkheprure Ay and Horemheb over Kheperkheprure Ay having pushed Horemheb aside…twice, with the second time involving a military officer named Nakhtmin – “who was possibly Ay’s son or adopted son.” Throw in Moses’ arrival with ‘Plagues-in-Hand’, Kheperkheprure Ay temporarily succumbing to those, and that followed by second thoughts on Ay’s part. I can almost see Kheperkheprure Ay telling Horemheb to ‘STAY’, as he and Nakhtmin ride off towards the Red Sea and Moses, and then Horemheb having the last laugh.
However, to this point, there is still no Non-Biblical confirmation that there was a Moses and/or any Hebrews around at that time in history. Next up…let’s take a closer look at how Moses spent those 40 years in the land of Midian, 1353 to 1313 BC.
- However dim and uncertain Hebrew history is in the age of the patriarchs, there is no question that the migration out of Egypt around 1250 BC is the single most important event in Hebrew history. More than anything else in history, this event gave the Hebrews an identity, a nation, a founder, and a name, used for the first time in the very first line of Exodus, the biblical account of the migration: “bene yisrael,” “the children of Israel.” (NOTE: I have put the “migration out of Egypt” at around 1320-1313 BC, i.e. at the death of Kheperkheprure Ay. Ramesses II ruled from 1279 BC to 1213 BC, which would make the “1250 BC” exit date more questionable than mine.)
- How did this happen? How did this diverse set of tribal groups all worshipping a god they called “god,” suddenly cohere into a more or less unified national group? What happened in Egypt that didn’t happen with other foreigners living there?
- Well, we really can’t answer that question, for we have almost no account whatsoever of the Hebrews in Egypt, even in Hebrew history. For all the momentousness of the events of the migration for the Hebrews and the dramatic nature of the rescue, including plagues and catastrophes raining down on Egypt, the Egyptians do not seem to have noticed the Hebrews or to even know that they were living in their country. While we have several Egyptian records of foreign groups during the New Kingdom, they are records of actively expelling groups they feel are threatening or overly powerful. The Hebrews never appear in these records, nor do any of the events recounted in the Hebrew history of the event.
- We can make some guesses about the Hebrews in Egypt, though. It isn’t unreasonable to believe that a sizable Hebrew population lived in the north of Egypt from about 1500-1250 BC; enormous numbers of tribal groups, most of them Semitic, had been settling in northern Egypt from about 1800 BC. These foreigners had grown so powerful that for a short time they dominated Egypt, ruling the Egyptians themselves; this period is called the Third Intermediate Period in Egyptian history. When the Egyptians reasserted dominance over Egypt at the start of the New Kingdom, they actively expelled as many foreigners as they could. Life got fairly harsh for these foreigners, who were called “Habiru,” which was applied to landless aliens (taken from the word, “apiru,” or foreigner). Is this where the Hebrews got their name?
- Typically, building projects involved heavy taxation of local populations; these taxes took the form of labor taxes. It isn’t unreasonable to guess that the heaviest burden of these taxes fell on the foreigners living in the area, which would include the Hebrews. As best as we can guess, we believe that these building projects form the substance of the oppression of the Hebrews described in Exodus.
How can Jewish Biblical accounts even be considered, when there is absolutely no Non-Biblical confirmation to back up Jewish assertions. Even the dates of their (Jewish) own religious scriptures – being written – don’t back up these assertions! Then there are the numerous similarities between Biblical stories and much older – recorded in text – stories by other civilizations and/or societies. These Jewish religious scriptures were supposedly given to the Hebrews and/or Israelites by God, e.g. the Ten Commandments, and yet there is no evidence that Moses or the Hebrews existed…and, even if they did exist, then there is no evidence that they could read or write! Again, this is why the Abrahamic Religions require “belief” and “faith”, since they are unable to actually offer Truth and Facts.
Note also, that the article mentions the Habiru as a possible group that the Hebrews came from. They were certainly around for millennia before any recorded evidence of Hebrews or Israelites ever surface.
- Nothing, however, should have prevented these oppressed and miserable foreigners from spilling into the anonymity of history—as so many had done before and since. One figure, however, changed the course of this history and united some of these foreigners into a distinct people; he also gave them a religion and a theology that would forever unite them in a singular purpose in history. That person was Moses. In spite of the masterful portrayal of him in Exodus, he is a difficult figure to pin down. Few people dispute that Moses was a reality in history, whether as an individual or a group of individuals, but there are several perplexing aspects of the man. First, he has an Egyptian name (as do many of his relatives). Second, he seems to spend a large amount of time among a non-Hebrew people, the Midianites, where he marries and seems to learn the Yahweh religion, and some of its cultic practices, from the Midianites. Are there two Moses, an Egyptian and a Hebrew? Or an Egyptian and a Midianite? And are the Midianites the first peoples to worship Yahweh and who then transmit this religion to the Hebrews?
- It is equally difficult to pinpoint exactly who participated in the migration. Although the focus is on the Hebrews, Exodus claims that a “diverse group of peoples” left Egypt with Moses. Who were these? Did they include other Semites? Was the migration to Egypt a staggered affair, or was it a single, heroic migration as indicated in Exodus? What resistance did the Egyptians put up? What was the nature of their battle with the Egyptians at the Sea of Reeds? The account of this battle is vitally important to Hebrew history, for the deliverance of the Hebrews at the Sea of Reeds stands as the single most powerful symbol of Yahweh’s protection of the Hebrews. Exodus gives two accounts; in the first, Yahweh blows the water away to create a ford, and the Egyptians get stuck in the mud and go home. In the second, Yahweh separates the waters and drowns the Egyptians when they try to cross. Which is the correct account?
- The Hebrews did not worship “Yahweh” before the migration, but learned the cult, according to Exodus, from Moses during the migration.
- This introduction to Yahweh and the Yahweh cult occurred in the southernmost region of the Arabian peninsula, in an area around Mount Sinai. This area had been occupied by a nomadic, tribal people called Midianites. They seem to have worshipped a kind of nature god which they believed lived on Mount Sinai. It is here, living with a priest of the Midianites, called Jethro, that Moses first encounters Yahweh (on Mount Sinai) and learns his name for the first time. The name of god, which in Hebrew is spelled YHWH, is difficult to explain. Scholars generally believe that it derives from the Semitic word, “to be,” and so means something like, “he causes to be.” Nevertheless, when Moses returns to Sinai with the people of Israel and stays in the area (this period is called the Sinai pericope), Jethro declares that he has always known Yahweh to be the most powerful of all gods (was the Midianite religion, then, a religion of Yahweh?). During the Sinai pericope, all the laws and cultic practices of the new Yahweh religion are set down. The laws themselves come directly from Yahweh in the Decalogue, or “ten commandments.” The Decalogue is a unique part of the Hebrew Torah in that it is the only part of Hebrew scriptures which claims to be the words of god written down on the spot.
- Whatever happened in the migration from Egypt to Canaan, it is clear that somewhere in this period the general laws and cultic practices of the Hebrews settled down into a definite form. These laws and this new cult of Yahweh would form the eternal character of the Hebrews down to the present day. What began as a “diverse group of peoples” has become one people, who then systematically begin to settle the land of the Canaanites.
One thing is certainly clear, i.e. that monotheism was a lot more popular in ancient times than the Abrahamic Religions have led the world to believe. Monotheism was practiced in Sumer, Egypt, and in remotes areas such as deserts and mountainous regions long before history records there being any Hebrews.
Moses may have been “an individual or a group of individuals”, and for two-thirds of his life, he spent “a large amount of time among a non-Hebrew people”. Basically raised and groomed by Pharaoh’s daughter Bithiah for 40 years, and then he meets a Midianite PRIEST named Jethro, who he ends up spending 40 more years with, in the Land of Midian. No wonder that the Book of Exodus (Shemot) doesn’t dwell much on those first 80 years of Moses’ life!
The Midianites worshipped the God Yahweh, and Jethro was a PRIEST of Midian!
Moses marries one of Jethro’s daughters – Zipporah. Jethro basically adopted Moses as a son, and made him “superintendent of his herds”, so they obviously spent a lot of time together over those 40 years.
- In the Hebrew Bible, Jethro (Hebrew: “His Excellence/Posterity”) is Moses’ father-in-law, a Kenite shepherd and priest of El Shaddai. In the book of Judges, Moses’ father-in-law is recorded as having the name Hobab. In Islam, Jethro is identified with Shoaib, one of the prophets in the Qur’an.
Judaism already had a rather serious problem with its plagiarizing of older stories, and now it looks like the Hebrews and/or Israelites took an established religion and then made it their own.
The Levant is a part of the Fertile Crescent area, located between Ancient Sumer (Mesopotamia) and Ancient Egypt, and in which the Land of Canaan was contained. Dominated mostly by Egypt in early history; however, struggles over the control of it occurred often between Egypt, Mesopotamia, and the local inhabitants. Conflicts and wars over the ownership of the area exist to this day.
So far – as noted earlier in this post – the closest Non-Biblical confirmation of the Hebrews and/or Israelites existence is the Merneptah Stele, dated at 1209/1208 BC, and the actual meaning of “Isrir” or “Israel” in it is questionable. “The black granite stela primarily commemorates a victory in a campaign against the Libu and Meshwesh Libyans and their Sea People allies, but its final two lines refer to a prior military campaign in Canaan in which Merneptah states that he defeated Ashkelon, Gezer, Yanoam and Israel among others.” The stela mentions very little about the region of Canaan, with “Isrir” or “Israel” no more than a passing thought, and it’s main focus was about the “defeat of the Libyans.”
Both Ancient Mesopotamian and Ancient Egyptian writings mention the Land of Canaan and “Canaanites”, but nothing about Hebrews or Israelites. Historians and archaeologists have not been able to verify any of the events recounted in Exodus.
According to Biblical tradition, Exodus and the other four books of the Torah were written by Moses. The Torah consists of – 1) Bereshit – Genesis. 2) Shemot – Exodus. 3) Vayikra – Leviticus. 4) Bamidbar – Numbers. 5) Devarim – Deuteronomy. Moses died around 1273 BC, long before any of those books were written.
- The Jahwist, also referred to as the Jehovist, Yahwist, or simply as J, is one of the four major sources of the Torah postulated by the Documentary Hypothesis (DH). It is the oldest source, whose narratives make up half of Genesis and the first half of Exodus, plus fragments of Numbers. J describes a human-like God, called Yahweh (or rather YHWH) throughout, and has a special interest in the territory of the Kingdom of Judah and individuals connected with its history. J was composed c 950 BC and later incorporated into the Torah (c 400 BC).
- The documentary hypothesis (DH) proposes that the first five books of the Old Testament (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy, known collectively as the Torah or Pentateuch) represent a combination of documents from originally independent sources. According to the influential version of the hypothesis formulated by Julius Wellhausen (1844 – 1918), there were four main sources, and these sources and the approximate dates of their composition were:
* the J, or Jahwist, source; written c. 950 BC in the southern kingdom of Judah. (The name Yahweh begins with a J in Wellhausen’s native German.)
* the E, or Elohist, source; written c. 850 BC in the northern kingdom of Israel.
* the D, or Deuteronomist, source; written c. 621 BC in Jerusalem during a period of religious reform.
* the P, or Priestly, source; written c. 450 BC by Aaronid priests.
We can now conclude that Hebrews or Israelites were around in 950 BC! The Torah was nowhere near finished in 950 BC, but we can see the early beginnings of a new religion being formed. However, it would take over 500 more years before the Torah actually began to gain any recognition as religious “Scripture”…even amongst the Jews.
- The nature and precise dates of events, and the precision by which they may be stated, are subject to continuing discussion and challenge. There are no biblical events whose precise year can be validated by external sources before the possible attack by Pharaoh Shoshenk I, identified with the biblical Shishak (=striker) in 925 BCE. This record, however, shows the Pharaoh’s raid was directed more against Israel rather than Jerusalem, as the Bible suggests, and no rulers of the area are listed in Egyptian records. The first independent confirmation of the biblical record is the early 9th century BCE with the rise of Omri, King of Israel (ruled 876–869 BC or 885–874 BC). Therefore, all earlier dates are extrapolations and conjecture. Furthermore, the Bible does not render itself very easily to these calculations: mostly, it does not state any time period longer than a single lifetime and a historical line must be reconstructed by adding discrete quantities, a process that naturally introduces rounding errors. The earlier dates presented here, and their accuracy, reflect a maximalist view, in that it uses the Bible as its sole source.
- Others, known as minimalists, often dispute that some of the events happened at all, making the dating of them moot: for instance, if the very existence of the United Kingdom is in doubt, it is pointless to claim that it disintegrated in 928 BCE. Philip Davies, for example, shows how the canonical biblical account can only have been composed for a people with a long literate tradition such as found only in Late Persian or early Hellenistic times, and argues that accounts of earlier periods are largely reconstructions based mainly upon oral and other traditions. Minimalists tend to accept those events that have independent archaeological corroborations; see for example Mesha Stele. Their argument comes in the earlier period where the biblical account seems most at odds with what has been discovered by modern archaeology.
- The Mesha Stele (“Moabite Stone”) is a black basalt stone, bearing an inscription by the 9th century BC Moabite King Mesha, discovered in 1868 at Dhiban (biblical “Dibon,” capital of Moab). The inscription of 34 lines is written in the Moabite language. It is the most extensive inscription ever recovered that refers to ancient Israel. It was set up by Mesha, about 850 BC, as a record and memorial of his victories in his revolt against the Kingdom of Israel, undertaken after the death of his overlord, Ahab.
- The inscription has strong consistency with the historical events recorded in the Bible. The events, names, and places mentioned in the Mesha Stele correspond to those mentioned in the Bible. (NOTE: Not to be confused with the – Merneptah Stele)
- Omri (“The Lord is my life”) was king of Israel and father of Ahab. William F. Albright has dated his reign to 876–869 BC, while E. R. Thiele offers the dates 885–874 BC. He was “commander of the army” for Elah when Zimri slew Elah and made himself king. The troops at Gibbethon chose instead to elect Omri as king, and he led them to Tirzah where they trapped Zimri in the royal palace, and where Zimri died (1 Kings 16:15-19).
- Because Omri was not a devout follower of God, the writer of the Book of Kings minimized his accomplishments. While the writer acknowledges Omri built his new capital Samaria on a hill he bought from Shemer (16:24), he omits any mention of the widespread public construction both Omri and his son Ahab commissioned during their reigns. Israel Finkelstein and his student Norma Franklin have identified monumental construction at Samaria, Jezreel, Megiddo and Hazor similar in design and build, including twelve sets of mason marks shared between the archaeological sites.
- Omri’s rule over Israel was secure enough that he could bequeath his kingdom to Ahab, thus beginning a new dynasty (sometimes called the Omrides), and his descendants not only ruled over the kingdom of Israel for the next forty years, but also briefly over Judah. He was significant enough that his name is mentioned on a stele erected by Mesha, king of Moab, who records his victory over a son of Omri — but omits the son’s name.
- In archaeology, Omri appears several times over the next century or so, beginning with the Mesha stele, which recounts one of his acts as king: the annexation of Moab. Later, Israel would become identified in sources as the “House of Omri” (Bit-Humria), with the term “Israel” being used less and less as history progressed (the other defining term for “Israel” is “Samaria”, beginning in the reign of Joash). Archaeologically speaking, it would appear that Omri is the founder of the Israelite Kingdom.
- The Bible displays a negative attitude to King Omri, and it has been followed by later rabbinical tradition. However, Zionism was created mainly by non-religious (sometimes anti-religious) people who re-evaluated many Biblical characters (as well as characters from later Jewish history) according to the criteria of a secular national movement in need of National Heroes. In the present-day Israeli society, “Omri” is quite a common male name, which would have been unthinkable in a traditional Jewish milieu.
History has looked kindly upon Omri…well, not biblical history. “Omri is the founder of the Israelite Kingdom”, i.e. in both non-biblical recorded history and archaeologically. Most biblical history was written well after the facts, even the biblical history of Omri, and is far from being a reliable source. The Books of Kings were not written until around 561-538 BC, roughly 300 years after the death of Omri. Note also his many building accomplishments. With such an early Biblical dislike for Omri, some have suggested that the Biblical Kings – Saul, David, and Solomon were actually fictional characters, created in an attempt to replace Omri with a more favorable “founder of the Israelite Kingdom.” A difficult point to dispute, since there is no Non-Biblical confirmation that Saul, David, and/or Solomon ever existed. Historically – Non-Biblically – Omri represents the first time that the Hebrews had united to form a single state under a single monarch. If you are wondering why the early Hebrews hated Omri so much, then the following brief will explain why.
- Ahab (“Brother of the father”) was king of Israel and the son and successor of Omri (1 Kings 16:29-34). William F. Albright dated his reign to 869 BC-850 BC, while E. R. Thiele offered the dates 874 BC-853 BC.
- He married Jezebel, the daughter of King Ithobaal I of Tyre, and the alliance was doubtless the means of procuring him great riches, which brought pomp and luxury in their train. We read of his building an ivory palace (1 Kings 22:39), and founding new cities, the effect perhaps of a share in the flourishing commerce of Phoenicia, which supplied the ivory for his palace.
- The material prosperity of his reign, which is comparable with that of Solomon a century before, was overshadowed by the religious changes which his interreligious marriage introduced. Although he worshiped YHWH, as the names of his children prove (1 Kings 22:5ff), his wife was firmly attached to the worship of the Melkart (the Tyrian Ba’al), and led by her he gave a great impulse to this cult by building a temple in honour of Baal in Samaria. This roused the indignation of the Jewish prophets and Priests whose aim it was to purify the worship of God.
Under Omri and Ahab, a lot of building was going on, e.g. the “monumental construction at Samaria, Jezreel, Megiddo and Hazor similar in design and build, including twelve sets of mason marks shared between the archaeological sites.” Ahab added an “ivory palace”, founded new cities, and built a temple in honor of Jezebel’s God Baal. I have also read that Ahab was actually the first to build the infamous “Temple in Jerusalem”, i.e. the first “Temple”, and not “King Solomon” who is not even mentioned in Non-Biblical history.