Thursday, May 18, 2017

Facts and Theories About the Philistines

Alice C. Linsley

The Philistines were the 12th century B.C. peoples whose principal cities were Ashkelon, Ashdod, Ekron, and Gath. A famous citizen of Gath was Goliath, who David defeated in the valley of Elah. Gath sat on the border between Judah and Philistia in Gaza. The people of Gath would have been glad to take possession of the fertile Elah Valley. Philistine control of the valley also would have given them access to the interior of Judah.

Archaeologists call this Iron Age I population "the Sea Peoples" and there is little doubt that they, like the Egyptians, were adept at seafaring. The Philistines dominated the agriculturally rich coastal strip from Gaza in the south to Tell Qasile in the north, near modern Tel Aviv.

According to Genesis 10:14, the Philistines were related to the Nilotic Mizraim clans and the descendants of the Casluchim and the Caphtorim. Deuteronomy 2:23 claims that the Avvim lived in villages of Gaza before the Caphtorim came from Caphtor (Crete?) and displaced them or intermarried with them.

Scholars are uncertain about the original location of Caphtor, but R. A. Stewart Macalister’s excavations at Gezer suggest that they may have come from Crete. The artistic work found by Macalister at Gezer reflects the Minoan style. That peoples from Africa had migrated to Crete thousands of years before has been shown by Thomas Strasser. He and his team found hundreds of tools of African origin on Crete dating to between 100,000 and 130,000 years.

The Avvim of Gaza may be the descendants of the Natufians who inhabited this region between 15,000 and 9,000 years ago. Dorothy Garrod coined the term "Natufian" based on her excavations at Shuqba cave in the western Judean Mountains.The Natufians populated parts of Western Egypt (Fayoum Oasis), the area of Mount Carmel, and parts of Syria. They built the original settlement at Jericho. Confirmed Natufian settlements in Gaza are shown on the map below.

A map of the Levant with Natufian regions across present-day Israel, Palestine, and a long arm extending into Lebanon and Syria

The Natufian physiology indicates a Mediterranean type with some features typical of Nubians. (See Marcellin Boule, Henri Vallois, and René Verneau, Les Grottes Palaeolithiques de Beni Séghoual, pp. 212-214.)

British Archaeologist, Graeme Barker, notes "the similarities in the respective archaeological records of the Natufian culture of the Levant and of contemporary foragers in coastal North Africa across the late Pleistocene and early Holocene boundary."

Harvard Professor of Prehistoric Archaeology, Ofer Bar-Yosef, notes that microlithic forms such as arched backed bladelets and La Mouillah points, as well as the parthenocarpic figs found in Natufian territory, originated in the Sudan.

Distinguished Research Professor at UCLA, Christopher Ehret, notes that the intensive use of plants among the Natufians was first found in Africa, as a precursor to the development of farming in the Fertile Crescent.

Portraits of captured Philistines on the walls of the Madinet Habu temple
A Philistine prisoner is shown with his hands bound. 

The Egyptian-Philistine Connection

At the time of King Saul and David, Gezer was under Egyptian political control and cultural influence. The Philistines had a long standing relationship with the rulers of Egypt. This explains Exodus 13:17, which states: “When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter. For God said, “If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.”

The main coastal route northward from Egypt is called "the road/way through the Philistines' land" in Exodus 13.17. The Egyptians had fortified settlements at many locations along the major trade routes. During the Middle Bronze Age (ca. 2200–1500 BC) as much as 70% of the population of Canaan lived in these fortified towns. Examples include Tell el-‘Ajjul and Gezer with its gate, tower, and protected water system. These high places were under the control of Egypt from about 2000 to 1178 BC. They were stops along the major routes from Egypt to Syria and the Orontes. The Egyptians build one of their most remote fortification at Meroe on the Orontes in Modern Turkey.

One route, the Horus Way, was the southern section of the Way of the Sea (derek hayyam) mentioned in Isaiah 9:1. This road joined the Nile Valley to the area that came to be occupied by the Philistines. There were numerous Egyptian fortifications along the Horus Way and it appears that Philistines served in the garrisons of these fortifications. The American archaeologist William F. Albright believed that "The Philistines were evidently settled in the Coastal Plain by permission of the Pharaoh, as becomes clear from his [Ramesses III's] inscriptions [at Medinet Habu]." (William F. Albright, The Excavation of Tell Beir Mirsim in Palestine, vol. 1: The Pottery of the First Three Campaigns, Annual of the American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR) 12 (New Haven, CT: ASOR, 1932), p. 58.)

After about 1000 BC, Israel's power and status had increased, overshadowing the power of the Philistines. The new king of Israel was Solomon, David's son. He married the daughter of the king of Egypt. The pharaoh took Gezer and gave it as a wedding dowry to King Solomon (1 Kings 9:16).

Saul had been chosen in hopes that he would strengthen Israel against the Philistines, but that did not happen. When the young man David proved to be the greater warrior, Saul turned against David. David fled for his life and grew strong in his reliance on the LORD.

Israel and Philistia meet for battle

I Samuel 17:19-51 tells the story of the confrontation between the forces of King Saul and the Philistines in the valley of Elah. The Philistine champion in this encounter was Goliath. According to the Biblical account, Goliath cursed the true God and made fun of David and his Hebrew people.

Elah refers to the Valley of the Terebinth (Emek HaElah in Hebrew: עמק האלה‎). Terebinth trees (Pistacia atlantica) and oaks grew in the place where the Israelite army camped.

To enter the territory of Judah, the Philistines had to come through the Elah Valley. It is likely that they had in their sights the fortified city at Khirbet Qeiyafa in the Elah Valley, discovered by Yosef Garfinkel, and excavated under his direction from 2007 to 2013. The city is dated between 1050 and 915 BC and sat on the summit of a hill that borders the Elah Valley on the north. This is on the main road from the coastal plain of Philistia to Jerusalem.

Another city in the area is Adullam. It was on an elevated site and near the well-traveled route which later became a Roman road through the Elah Valley. Judah’s friend, Hirah, was from Adullam. While Judah was visiting Hiram, arrangements were made for Judah to take his second wife. If Judah followed the marriage pattern of his Horim, this bride would have been Judah’s patrilineal cousin. The Hebrew text shows evidence of emendation. This bride is said to be a daughter of Shua, but it is more likely that Shua was one of Hirah's daughters because Shua is a woman's name. An earlier Shua is mentioned in 1 Chronicles 7:32 as the daughter of Eber. She lived seven generations before Judah.

King David sought refuge in the area of Adullam after being expelled from Gath by King Achish. David hid from Saul in a cave near Adullam (1 Sam. 22:1). David’s father, Jesse, came to him there. Jesse was in danger also, so David sought refuge for his family in Moab. “David brought them before the king of Moab; and they dwelt with him all the while that David was in the stronghold.” (1 Sam. 22:4). This appears to be a case of calling on the aid of kin. Jesse was a descendant of Boaz and his Moabite wife, Ruth.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Anthropological Evidence for the Exodus

Beja metal-working chief in Sudan

Alice C. Linsley

The Exodus is one of the most dramatic events in the Hebrew Bible and a central narrative for modern Jews. The dominant narrative comes from the Deuteronomist, about 1000 years after the time of Moses. According to this narrative, the enslaved Horim were forced to endure hard labor in Egypt. Moses was appointed by God to lead the people out of bondage and there was a miraculous escape across the Red Sea. Under the leadership of Moses, the Israelites received the Law and this marked the birth of a new people.

Many scholars question this narrative because there is little archaeological data to support it, and what evidence we have suggests that the slaves were not as oppressed by the Egyptians as the Jews were later by the Babylonians. It appears, for example, that Judah came and went between Egypt and the ancient metal-working site of Timnah. On one of those excursions he had relations with Tamar (Gen. 38).

James K. Hoffmeier questions the enslavement of the Israelites in Egypt. The outstanding Jewish scholar Abraham Malamat (1922–2010) questioned the historicity of the Exodus narrative. He believed the event was more prolonged. The story of Israel in Egypt and the Exodus should be viewed as dispersed over time.

An inscription by the ancient Egyptian ruler Merneptah, discovered in 1896 by Flinders Petrie at Thebes, is an early reference to Israel outside of the Bible. An earlier reference found with the name “Israel" pushes the Israelite presence in Egypt back 200 years earlier to about BC 1400. That is only about 600 years after Abraham the Hebrew had a personal audience with the Egyptian king. The ruler with whom he met was likely Nebhepetre Mentuhotep II who reigned c. BC 2061-2010.  Only persons of high rank were permitted a personal audience with the King of Egypt.

A question asked about the Exodus concerns the metal work done by Aaron and Moses. Moses is credited with making a bronze serpent (Numbers 21:9) and Aaron made a golden bull calf like the one shown below. How is it that these refugees out in the desert had the technology to make bronze and gold castings?

Anthropological studies provide a clear answer to that question. Most fine metal work was done in the wilderness, away from the spying eyes of city dwellers. This is why Moses sought royal permission to go 3-days journey into the wilderness to worship according to the pattern of his Horite Hebrew ancestors.

In the ancient world, metal work was a secret art and done only by certain castes. Moses and Aaron belonged to the caste of ruler-priests who were devotees of the Creator and his son Horus. The golden bull calf with the sun resting in its horns was an ancient symbol of Horus as the divinely appointed sacrifice. They were of the Horite Hebrew caste, the same caste to which Abraham belonged.

The Horite Hebrew priests were but one metal working caste. The Beja (Medjayu) are another. These metalworking nomads from the eastern Nubian desert were devotees of Horus and his mother Hathor until the 6th century A.D. They were associated with different Horite temples, especially on the island of Philak, and at Thebes. Today many Beja are Christians and some are Sufi Muslims. 

The Inadan are another caste of metalworkers who forge beautiful figurines and crosses out in the desert. If a Taureg overlord attempts to do metal work, the Inadan launch a fake attack on his house to warn him not to transgress against their caste. The Inadan are a sub-caste of the Taureg of Sudan and Niger. Inadan males are the only persons permitted to work with metals. The Inadan claim to be related to King David. The Inadan chief maintains 2 wives in separate households on a north-south axis. The pattern of two wives characterizes the marriage system of the Horite Hebrew kings. (Read more about the Inadan in National Geographic, Aug. 1979, p. 389.)

The bull's horns appear on images of Hathor, the mother of Horus. Hathor was the patroness of metal workers. A Canaanite temple dedicated to Hathor was discovered at the southwestern edge of Mt. Timnah by Professor Beno Rothenberg of Hebrew University. Timnah is the site of the oldest copper mines in the ancient Near East.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Sun Cities of the Ancient World

Great Hypostyle Hall within the Karnak temple complex

Alice C. Linsley

Shrine cities of the ancient world were built near rivers and lakes and on elevated sites to avoid flooding. At the center of these royal cities were the temple, the palace, housing for priests, and quarters for the royal guard. The temple typically was aligned to the solar arc and was called O'piru, which means "house of the Sun."

The priests who served at the ancient shrine cities were called 'apiru, ha'piru or Ha'biru. The English word Hebrew is a variant of Ha'biru. Abraham is called "Hebrew" (Ha'biru) in Genesis 14:13. The Harris papyrus speaks of 'apriu of Re at Heliopolis, the shrine of the Sun. Plato, who studied under a Horite priest at Memphis for thirteen years, wrote "Tell me of the God of On, which was, is and shall be.

The people who lived at On called it Iunu, which means "place of pillars." There were many pillars bearing inscriptions to the high king, to the Creator Re, and to his son Horus. Some pillars depicted great victories in war and details of treaties. 

It was common for pillars to be inscribed in memory of holy ancestors, as stained glass windows in churches are dedicated to "pillars" of the congregation. The entrance pillars of Solomon's temple were called Boaz and Joktan. Boaz was Solomon's holy ancestor on his father's side and Joktan was a holy ancestor on his mother's side.

John Ogutu notes that in his Nilotic language of Luo, "O'mbiru, obiru refers to a small house built like a shrine or as a symbol among the Luo. A man who died before he could built his house would have the mourners erect one before his burial." The O'piru was a place where loved ones were memorialized.

According to Genesis 41:45, Joseph married into the royal priest family of Heliopolis. Study of the Heliopolitan cosmogony makes it apparent that Heliopolis was conceived as the sacred center of the primeval ocean, called Nun. The many pillars of the temple symbolized the connection between the waters below and the waters above (Gen. 1:7). Being a "he was a son of Nun (Numbers 11:28), Joshua likely belonged to a Ha'biru clan associated with On. 

The Prestige of Biblical On

Biblical On was perhaps the most prestigious shrine city of the ancient world. It was the geodetic center of Egypt. On was known for the purity of life of its priests. Plutarch wrote that the “priests of the Sun at Heliopolis never carry wine into their temples, for they regard it as indecent for those who are devoted to the service of any god to indulge in the drinking of wine whilst they are under the immediate inspection of their Lord and King. The priests of the other deities are not so scrupulous in this respect, for they use it, though sparingly.” 

The Habiru priest purified himself before he entered the temple. His purification involved fasting, abstinence from sexual relations and alcohol, ritual bathing, and an intense period of prayer. Korah, Moses' half-brother, was a priest according to Numbers 16:17,18. His name means "shaved one." Habiru priests shaved their heads and bodies as part of the purification ritual.

Note that Jerusalem is near the center of the triangle of shrine cities.

Heliopolis means "city of the Sun" and there were other such cities dedicated to the Creator whose emblem was the sun. The shrine city of Baalbek in Lebanon, with its massive stones, aligned to On (see map above). The pyramids at Giza, Abusir and Saqqara were aligned to the obelisk at On. 

King Tut established another Heliopolis at Thebes. The temple of Thebes was called "Heliopolis of the South." Thebes was the spiritual center of  Upper Egypt, and rivaled the importance of Heliopolis in the North.

Tutankhamun's cartouche bears the words heqa-iunu-shema, which is usually rendered "Ruler of On of the South." Heqa refers to the sceptre or shepherd's crook of the Egyptian rulers. Shema or ta-shema refers to Upper Egypt, the narrow valley extending south of Memphis to Abu on the First Cataract in Nubia. King Tut's sacred center was Thebes, between Memphis and Abu.

Herodutus reported that it took nine days to sail from Heliopolis to Thebes, Tutankhamun's shrine city. By relocating his court to Thebes, Tutankhamun was attempting to regain the glory of his forefathers at a time of Egypt's decline.

Related reading: Ancient Sun Temple Discovered in Cairo Suburb; The Unveiling of Joseph; The Shrine City of Nekhen; The High Places; Solar Symbolism of the Proto-Gospel

Monday, April 10, 2017

The Script of Abraham's Territory

Alice C. Linsley

Readers have asked about the language Abraham spoke. Before we can answer that, we must identify Abraham as Hebrew (Habiru) and a Horite ruler. Some Horite rulers are listed in Genesis 36. They ruled over ancient Edom, called "Idumea" by the Greeks.

Abraham's territory was in this region. His territory extended between the settlements of this two wives, Sarah and Keturah. Sarah resided in Hebron and Keturah in the region of Beersheba to the south. The settlements mark the northern and southern boundaries of Abraham's territory.

The Horites were a caste of royal priests in the service of the ancient kingdom builders (the "mighty men of old"). Horite Hebrew (Habiru) were in Africa, Arabia, India, southern Europe, and other parts of the Levant. Some Horite clans were skilled in medicine and some were known for astronomy. Others made a name for themselves as stone masons or metal workers. Some served as purification priests and some offered sacrifices. Some served as scribes who kept royal accounts of tribute owed and payed. Horite priests served at temples along the water ways. They boarded ships to measure cargo and collect taxes. These royal scribes were well versed in the different scripts of the ruler's realm.

One such script was Akkadian, though this was a relatively archaic script by 2000 BC. Here is a timeline that we need to consider. Note that Akkadian was probably not spoken by Abraham though he or his wise men may have read ancient Akkadian texts. Some languages continue to be read long after they are no longer spoken. Biblical Hebrew and Latin are examples.

B.C. 3800-3000 - Nekhen flourished on the Nile, the oldest known site of Horite worship
B.C. 2490-2415 - Noah, lived in the region of Lake Chad when the Sahara experienced a wet period.
B.C. 2438-2363 - Ham, son of Noah
B.C. 2417-2342 - Kush, son of Ham; father of Nimrod and Ramah
B.C. 2290-2215 - Nimrod, ruler in the Tigris-Euphrates Valley
B.C. 2238-2163 - Arpacshad, son by Asshur's daughter
B.C. 2217-2042 - Salah, likely Arpacshad's son by his sister-wife.
B.C. 2196-2121 - Eber, likely Salah's son by his sister-wife.
B.C. 2175-2100 - Peleg, Eber's son. Peleg's brother was Joktan
B.C. 2154-2079 - Reu
B.C. 2133-2058 - Serug, Reu's son.
B.C. 2112-2037 - Nahor, Serug's son
B.C. 2091-2016 - Terah, Nahor's son
B.C. 2039-1964 - Abraham, Terah's son
B.C. 1987-1912 - Joktan, Abraham's firstborn son by his cousin bride, Keturah.

In Abraham's time (c. 2050) and territory between Hebron and Beersheba, the script used resembled Egyptian hieroglyphics. Many Hebrew letters - dating to about 500 years later - closely resemble the Middle Egyptian signs.

This aligns with Sir Alan H. Gardiner's findings. He concluded in 1916 that the Sinaitic signs were derived from Egyptian Hieroglyphic signs based upon their acrophonic valueGardiner’s research established a relationship between the Sinaitic signs and the North Semitic alphabet. So it appears that the Egyptian signs were the basis of a variety of related scripts used from the Nile to the Tigris-Euphrates valley.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Another Way to Read Scripture

Alice C Linsley

Reading Scripture through the lens of cultural anthropology is rigorous because no assumption can stand untested, and no assertion can be made without data. This approach is distinctly different from the traditional approaches to the Bible termed "exegesis" and "eisegesis."

Exegesis draws meaning out of the text and eisegesis involves reading a personal meaning into the text. This explanation is simplistic, but it expresses the difference between reading the Bible in a scholarly way and reading for personal devotions. Both have a place in the Christian life and there are problems with both approaches. 

Sloppy exegesis leads to misrepresentation of the Biblical material and misguided sermons. Private interpretations should not be proposed as true for the Church, especially if they run counter to Church Tradition and the Scriptures themselves.

We should employ the tools of cultural anthropology to test assumptions and to discover the data that clarifies context. If we seek to understand the Bible rather than use the Bible to support an agenda, we will find the approach of Biblical Anthropology helpful. 

I invite you to learn more by visiting The Bible and Anthropology Forum where we practice the reading of Scripture through the lens of cultural anthropology. Learn to read the Bible through the lens of cultural anthropology and you will never read it the same way again!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Archaic and Ancient Symbols of Authority

Alice C. Linsley

Royal priests in the archaic world dispersed widely in service of kingdom builders. Images of these priests have been found at the oldest known temples. The images show the priests wearing leopards skins as a sign of their priestly authority. Here are two such images.

Iunmutef priest, Egypt
Priest image found at 
Gobekli Tepe

Iron beads were a symbol of royal and priestly authority and these were worn by priests and warriors. Naqada settlements have yielded decorated pottery, clay figurines and objects made of ivory and iron, as well as alien materials like lapis lazuli, indicating external trade. The civilization advanced due to irrigation, trade, political alliances along kinship lines, and the earliest writing. Here Egyptologist Wainwright discovered meteoritic iron beads, the earliest known artifacts of iron.

The Naqada culture (c. 6000-4000 BC) included the sites of el Badari, Nekhen (Hierakonopolis), Qau, and Gerzeh, where Egyptologist Wainwright discovered meteoritic iron beads, the earliest known artifacts of iron. Stone tools dating to 12,000 years have also been found in the area, revealing a long established human population. The Horite Hebrew shrine city of Nekhen was thriving 5000 years ago. Some paintings found here show figures wearing what appear to be iron beads around their necks.

The ancient Egyptian word for meteroric iron - bja (metal from heaven), and they were metalworkers. Beja corresponds to the Sanskrit word bija, meaning semen or seed. Meteoritic iron was used in the fabrication of iron beads in Nubia about 6000 years ago. These beads may have been perceived as seeds from heaven which brought divine power to the wearer. Meteoritic iron was used in the fabrication of crooks and flails, the symbols of the Egyptian and Kushite pharaohs. These symbols were believed to give the ruler powers from heaven.

The ancient Egyptian rulers accessorized with meteorites. The material was associated with divine power. King Tut's dagger had a tip made of meteoritic iron. The dagger, found in 192, also had a gold sheath.

king-tuts-daggerPhoto: Courtesy Daniela Comelli et al.
Commonly, iron artifacts are found in the graves of rulers. Diane Johnson says, "Iron was very strongly associated with royalty and power." The ancient Egyptians had a hieroglyphic sign for “iron from the sky" by the 13th century BC.

The crook was another symbol of authority. The prehistoric painting below was found in Sudan. It shows warriors carrying crooks and flails.

These are the symbols of Egyptian rulers. Here is an image of King Tut's crook and flail.

Related reading: Iron Seeds From Heaven; Gerzeh: A Prehistoric Egyptian Meteorite; Nilo-Saharan and Saharo-Nubian Populations; The Shrine City of Nekhen

Saturday, February 25, 2017

New FB Group Explores the Bible and Anthropology

Learn to read the Bible through the lens of cultural anthropology and you will never read it the same way again.

Biblical anthropology is being discussed at a new Facebook group, The Bible and Anthropology. This international forum shares ideas, insights, discoveries, images, and documents that help the members gain a deeper understanding of the Bible through application of cultural anthropology. Anthropology degrees are not a prerequisite for participation!

Consider joining the group. Share what you experience where you live and how the experience relates to Scripture. Help advance the scientific field of Biblical Anthropology. The objective is to share and learn from each other.

Related reading: Support Biblical Anthropology ResearchWhy Biblical Anthropology?Haplogroups of Interest to Biblical AnthropologistsBiblical Anthropology, the Science...not speculative theologyUsing the Bible to Test HypothesesContextual Incongruities in Genesis