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The Bible As History
by Werner Keller


in 4 Parts
Part 1 - to page 186
Part 2 - to page 276
Part 3- to page 399
Part 4- Pictures & Figures
still being populated with illustrations



I -- The coming of the Patriarchs from Abraham to Jacob
27 Chapter 1 -- IN THE "FERTILE CRESCENT" -- 4,000 years ago - Continents asleep - The great cradle of our civilisation - Culture in the Ancient East - Staged Towers and Pyramids had been built long before - Giant plantations on the banks of canals - Arab tribes attack from the desert.
31 Chapter 2 - UR OF THE CHALDEES -- Station on the Bagdad railway - A Staged Tower of bricks - Ruins with Biblical names - Archaeologists in search of scriptural sites - A consul with a pick - The archaeologist on the throne of Babylon - Expedition to Tell al Muqayyar - History books from rubble - Tax receipts on clay - Was Abraham a city dweller?
43 Chapter 3 -- DIGGING UP THE FLOOD -- The graves of the Sumerian kings - A puzzling layer of clay - Traces of the Flood under desert sands - A catastrophic flood about 4000 B.C.
50 Chapter 4 -- A FLOOD-STORY FROM OLD BABYLONIA -- The Epic of Gilgamesh and the Bible - Twelve clay tablets from Nineveh - An ancient epic from the library of Ashurbanipal - Utnapishtim, a Sumerian Noah? - The secret of Mt. Ararat - A gigantic ship in a museum of ice - Expeditions in quest of the Ark.




Chapter 5 -- ABRAHAM LIVED IN THE KINGDOM OF MARI -- A stone corpse - Lieut. Cabane reports a find - A Syrian Tell has important visitors - King Lamgi-Mari introduces himself - Professor
Parrot discovers an unknown empire - A Royal Palace with 260 apartments and courtyards - 23,600 clay tablets have survived for 4,000 years - Desert police report the "Benjamites" - Rebecca's home - A flourishing city - And Nuzi ... ?

Chapter 6 -- THE LONG JOURNEY TO CANAAN -- 600 miles by the caravan route - Nowadays four visas are required - The land of purple - Punitive expeditions against "Sand-dwellers" - Proud seaports with a troublesome hinterland - An Egyptian best-seller aboutCanaan - Sinuhe praises the Good Land - Jerusalem on magic vases - Strongholds - Sellin finds Shechem - Abraham chooses the high road.

82 Chapter 7 -- ABRAHAM AND LOT IN THE LAND OF PURPLE -- Famine in Canaan - A Family Portrait of the patriarchal age - Permit of access to the Nile grazings - The mystery of Sodom and Gomorrah - Mr. Lynch investigates the Dead Sea - The great fissure - Did the Vale of Siddim take a headlong plunge? - Pillars of salt at Jebel Usdum.

I I -- In the Realm of the Pharaohs From Joseph to Moses

97 Chapter 8 -- JOSEPH IN EGYPT -- Had Potiphar a prototype? - The Orbiney Papyrus - Hyksos rulers on the Nile - Joseph, official of an occupying power - Corn silos, an Egyptian patent - Evidence of seven years famine - Assignments to Goshen - "Bahr Yusuf": Joseph's Canal? - "Jacob-Her" on scarabs.
108 Chapter 9 -- FOUR HUNDRED YEARS' SILENCE -- Reawakening on the Nile - Thebes instigates revolt - Rout of the Hyksos - Egypt becomes a world power - Indian civilisation in Mitanni - The "Sons of Heth" on the Halys - Pharaoh's widow in quest of a mate - The first non-aggression pact in the world - Hittite bridal procession through Canaan.
118 Chapter 10 -- FORCED LABOUR IN PITHOM AND RAAMSES -- Joseph had died a long time ago - A story in pictures from a prince's tomb - Pithom labour camp in Egyptian texts - The royal seat is transferred to the delta - Ramesses II - A builder's enthusiasm and vanity lead to a fraud - Montet unearths the bond -city of Raamses - Moses wrote his name "MS" - A Mesopotamian story about a baby in the bulrushes - Moses emigrates to Midian - Plagues are no strangers to Egypt.
III -- Fory Years in the Wilderness From the Nile to the Jordan
125 Chapter 11 -- ON THE ROAD TO SINAI -- Departure from Raamses - Two possible sites for the "Miracle of the Sea" - Traces of fords beside the Suez Canal - Three days without water - Swarms of quails at the migration season - An expedition clears up the mystery of manna - Egyptian mining centre in Sinai - The alphabet at the Temple of Hathor.

Chapter 12 -- AT THE MOUNTAIN OF MOSES -- The "Pearl of Sinai" - Israel was 6,ooo strong - Striking water from rock - Practical experience in desert life - Was the Burning Bush a gas-plant? -The valley of the monks and hermits - The great miracle.

142 Chapter 13 -- UNDER DESERT SKIES -- Sinai -150 miles to Kadesh - Two springs at the chief halting-place - Scouts sent out to Hebron - The bunch of grapes was a vine - Foreign races - Peasant woman finds the Amarna Tablets - Letters from Indo-Aryan Canaanite princes - Scouts' report leads to a new decision - The "wilderness" of the Bible was steppe.




Chapter 14 -- ON THE THRESHOLD OF THE PROMISED LAND -- Rise of a new generation - Change of plan - Transit permit through Edom requested - Pressing on through Transjordan - King Og's "iron bedstead" - Dolmen discovered near Amman - Moab sends its daughters - Baal worship in Canaan - Moses sees the Promised Land - Camping opposite Jericho.

IV -- The Battle for the Promised Land From Joshua to Saul

157 Chapter 15 -- ISRAEL INVADES -- The world about 1200 B.C. - The weakness of Canaan - The first iron merchants - The ford across the Jordan - The stronghold of Jericho, the oldest city in the world - Scholars quarrel over broken walls - A trail of fire - Pharaoh mentions "Israel" by name for the first time - Excavations at Hazor - Graves at the Village ofJoshua.
169 Chapter 16 -- UNDER DEBORAH AND GIDEON -- Israel settles down - Pioneering in the mountains - Peasants' huts
instead of palaces - Deborah incites to revolt - Clash in the plain of
Jezreel - Victory over the "chariots of iron" - Israelite crockery at Megiddo - Marauders from the desert - Traces of Abimelech's destruction of Shechem - Gideon's successful tactics - First battle in history against a camel-corps - A new breed of long-distance carriers.
174 Chapter 17 -- THE WARRIORS FROM CAPHTOR -- Krethi and Plethi - Invasion by the "Sea Peoples" - The great trek from the Aegean - Triumphal progress with ox-waggons and ships - The Hittite empire disappears - Seaports in flames on the coast of Canaan - General mobilisation on the Nile - Pharaoh Ramesses III saves Egypt - The great land and sea engagement - Interrogation in P.O.W. camps - Life size portraits of the Philistines.



Chapter 18 -- UNDER THE YOKE OF THE PHILISTINES -- Philistines on the coast - Swan pattern pottery - Beer mugs with filters - Carefully guarded iron monopoly - Philistines occupy the high-
lands - Traces of the burning of Shiloh - Choosing a king from dire
necessity - Allenby successfully uses Saul's tactics - Surprising the
Turks - Albright finds Saul's castle - Two temples in Beth-Shan - The end of Saul.
V -- When Israel was an Empire-From David to Solomon



Chapter 19 -- DAVID, A GREAT KING -- A man of genius - From armour-bearer to monarch - Unintentional military aid for Assyria - From the Orontes to Ezion-Geber - Revenge at Beth-Shan - New buildings with casemated walls - Finding of the Pool of Gibeon - Jerusalem fell by a stratagem - Warren discovers a shaft leading to the city - The Sopher kept the "Imperial Annals" - Was David called David? - Ink as a novelty - Palestine's climate is unpropitious for keeping records.
197 Chapter 20 -- WAS SOLOMON "A COPPER-KING"? --
Expedition to the Gulf of Aqabah - Iron ore and malachite - Glueck
discovers Ezion-Geber - Desert storms used as bellows - The Pittsburgh
of old Israel - Shipyards on the Red Sea - Hiram brought the timber - Ships' captains from Tyre -The mysterious land of Ophir - An Egyptian portrait of the queen of Punt - U.S. archaeologists buy a Tell - A model dig at Megiddo - The fateful plain of Jezreel - Royal stables with 450 stalls?
214 Chapter 21 -- THE QUEEN OF SHEBA AS A BUSINESS PARTNER -- "Arabia Felix", the mysterious land - Death-march of 10,000
Romans - Number One exporter of spices - First news of Marib - Halevy and Glaser have a dangerous adventure - When the
great dam burst - American expedition to Yemen - The temple of the moon in Sheba - Camels: the new long distance transport - Export talks with Solomon.
220 Chapter 22 -- ISRAEL'S COLOURFUL DAILY LIFE -- Israel's love of ornamentation - Secrets of the boudoirs of Palestine - Sleeping with myrrh and aloes - The Balsam gardens of Jericho - Mastic, a favourite chewing gum - Perfumes of Canaan - Did the Egyptians invent the bed? - An ostracon describes a cloak being taken in pledge - Noisy flour-mills.
VI -- Two Kings - Two Kingdoms From Rehoboam to Jehoiachin
227 Chapter 23 -- THE SHADOW OF A NEW WORLD POWER -- The Empire splits - Frontier posts between Israel and Judah - Napoleon reads Shishak's report on Palestine - Samaria, the northern capital - Traces of Ahab's "ivory palace" - A mysterious "third man" - Arabs blow up victory monument in Moab - Mesha the mutton-king's song of triumph - Assyria steps in - The black obelisk from Nimrud - King Jehu's portrait in Assyria - Consignments of wine for Jeroboam II - Uzziah's palace - The prophet Amos warns in vain - The walls of Samaria are strengthened to 33 feet.
242 Chapter 24 -- THE END OF THE NORTHERN KINGDOM -- Pul the soldier becomes 'I"iglath-Pileser III - King Pekah mentioned at Hazor - Assyrian governors over Israel - Samaria's three-year defiance - Consul Botta looks for Nineveh - The bourgeois king opens the first Assyrian mseum - Searching for evidence by moonlight - The library of Ashurbanipal - Deportation of a people.
252 Chapter 25 -- JUDAH UNDER THE YOKE OF ASSYRIA -- Hopes aroused by Sargon's dtath - A fig poultice cures king
Hezekiah - A well-tried Ancient Eastern remedy - Merodach-Baladan: gardner and rebel - Secret armaments in Judah - Aqueduct through the rocks of Jerusalem - Inscription describes Hezekiah's tunnel - The fate of Lachish in stone relief - Traces of Assyrian battering-rams in the ruins - A puzzling retreat - Herodotus' story of the king with the
mouse - Starkey finds a plague-grave - Sennacherib describes the siege of Jerusalem.
263 Chapter 26 -- THE SEDUCTIVE RELIGIONS OF CANAAN -- The "abominations of the heathen" - Harsh words from the prophets - Philo of Byblos: a witness - Eusebius, the Christian Father, finds no one to believe him - Ploughman stumbles upon Ugarit - A powerful seaport disappears - Schaeffer digs at the "Head of Fennel" - The library in the priest's house - Three scholars decipher an unknown alphabet.




Chapter 27 -- THE END OF NINEVEH AS A WORLD POWER -- Ashurbanipal plunders Thebes - An empire stretching from the Nile to the Persian Gulf - The "great and noble Asnapper" - Big game hunting with bow and arrow- Assyria's strength is exhausted - Crushed between two powers - Medes and Chaldeans arm - Scythian hordes in Palestine - Nineveh sinks in ruins - The "Fertile Crescent" breathes again - A Biblical slip of the pen - Gadd's discovery in London - Nebuchadnezzar, crown prince of Babylon.

Part 3 of 4

277 Chapter 28 -- LAST DAYS OF JUDAH -- First deportation - King Jehoiachin in Babylonian court records - Discovery in the basement of the Berlin Museum - Nebuchadnezzar on the conquest of Jerusalem - Second punitive campaign - Despatches on clay - Starkey's tragic death - Incendiary technique of Babylonian engineers - A clean slate for the archaeologists.
VII -- From the Exile to the Maccabean Kingdom
From Ezekiel to John Hyrcanus
287 Chapter 29 -- EDUCATION THROUGH EXILE -- Good advice from the prophet Jeremiah - The firm of Murashu and Sons, Nippur - Interest 20% - Farmers and shepherds turned traders - Koldewey excavates Babylon - A town plan like New York - The greatest city in the ancient world - Tower of Babel 300 feet high - Chamber of Commerce - on the Euphrates.
294 Chapter 30 -- SUNSET IN THE ANCIENT ORIENT -- The old world about 500 B.C. - Last spasms before the end - Escape into the past - Nabonidus restores ancient buildings - First museum in the world at Ur - Semitic empires make their exit - The birth of the west.
297 Chapter 31 -- CYRUS, KING OF PERSIA -- Two famous dreams - Cyrus unites Media and Persia - The Writing on the Wall - Belshazzar was merely crown prince - Peaceful entry into Babylon - Persian toleration.
301 Chapter 32 -- RETURN TO JERUSALEM --
The edict of Cyrus - The trek of the 42,000 - A caravan of fateful significance - Starting work on the ruins - A lonely grave in Pasargadae - Rebuilding the Temple - The Persian Empire: from the Nile to
India - Duncan finds Nehemiah's work - The secret of the "thick water" - A theocratic state - Judah coins stamped with the Athenian owl - A Persian province for two centuries.
307 Chapter 33 -- UNDER GREEK INFLUENCE -- Alexander the Great in Pales tine - Causeway forces capitulation of Tyre - Siege towers 160 feet high - Alexandria: the new metropolis - Ptolemies occupy Judah - 72 scholars translate the Bible - Pentateuch in Greek - The Septuagint came from Pharos - A stadium below
the Temple - High Priest in "gaming house" - Jewish athletes give offence.
315 Chapter 34 -- THE BATTLE FOR RELIGIOUS LIBERTY -- Tax official plunders Jerusalem - Worship of Zeus in the Temple - The
revolt of the Maccabees - The Battle of the Elephants at Bethlehem - Americans find Beth-Zur - Coins from Antioch among the
rubble - Canteen supplies from Rhodes - Pompey storms Jerusalem - Judah becomes a Roman province.

I -- Jesus of Nazareth

321 Chapter 35 -- PALESTINE ON MARE NOSTRUM --
A Province of the Roman Empire - Greek cities on the Jordan - The New Testament - The governor appears in history - A census every 14 years.
325 Chapter 36 -- THE STAR OF BETHLEHEM -- A suggestion by Origen - Halley's comet over China - Kepler's observations in Prague - Astronomical tablets found at Sippar-Babylonian astronomers' records - Modern astronomical calculations - December frost in Bethlehem.
334 Chapter 37 -- NAZARETH IN GALILEE -- Death of King Herod - "The most cruel tyrant" - Unrest in the land - Checking Jerusalem's finances - Sabinus steals the Temple treasures - Varus crucifies 2,000 Jews - " Nazarene" or "Nazarite"?
338 Chapter 38 -- JOHN THE BAPTIST -- The witness of Josephus -A forbidden marriage - Herod Antipas orders
an arrest - The castle of Machaerus in Moab - The dungeon of death - Princess Salome - Capernaum "on the sea" - Ruins in a eucalyptus grove - The place where Jesus taught.
342 Chapter 39 -- THE LAST JOURNEY, TRIAL AND CRUCIFIXION -- Detour through Transjordan - The tax-collector of Jericho - View from the Mount of Olives - Arrest on the Mount of Olives - The "clubs" of the high priests - The Procurator Pontius Pilate - Vincent discovers the "Pavement" - Scourging in the courtyard of the Antonia - "The most cruel form of execution" - A crown of Syrian Christ-thorn - A drink to stupify - Heart failure as the cause of death - Crurifragium hastens the end - A solitary tomb under the Church of the Holy Sepulchre - Tacitus mentions "Christus" - The evidence of Suetonius.



Chapter 40 -- THE TURIN SHROUD -- Books from Constantinople - Discovery in the photographic negative - Tests by forensic medical experts - A scientific proof of authenticity?
II -- In the days of the apostles
357 Chapter 41 -- IN THE STEPS OF ST. PAUL -- The Tentmaker from Tarsus - Triumphal arch in Antioch - Galatia, a Roman province - Wood digs in Ephesus - The temple of Artemis - The ruins of the gateway of Philippi - In ancient Corinth - A meat-market with a cooling system - "The Hebrew Synagogue" - A prisoner on the way Rome.
364 Chapter 42 -- THE DESTRUCTION OF JERUSALEM -- Rebellion - The Jewish War - Fighting in Galilee - General Titus - -80,000 Romans advance - Order to attack - Parade outside the gates - 500 crucifixions daily - Jerusalem sealed off - The spectre of famine - Castle of Antonia taken - The Temple in flames - The city is raised - Triumph in Rome.
374 THE DEAD SEA SCROLLS -- A lost lamb - The Dead Sea Scrolls - Harding and de Vaux in Wadi Qumran -
Archbishop Samuel goes to Chicago - Nuclear physicists assist
with the dating - Testing linen in the "Atomic Clock" - A book of Isaiah 2,000 years old - A prophetic roll in Jesus' day - A mysterious flood of documents - In the valley of the pirate-diggers - A text that corresponds after 2,000 years.
383 REBUILDING WITH THE HELP OF THE BIBLE -- Economic planning with the help of the Old Testament - The wells of the patriarchs provide for the settlers - " Honey out of the rock" - Stone walls to collect dew - Digging again in Solomon's mines - Pioneering on Bibilical pattern.

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The Bible As History
by Werner Keller


Part 1 of 4

2nd Revised Edition
Translated from the German by William Neil
Revised and with a postscript by Joachim Rehork

New material translated from the German by B. H. Rasmussen



p 15 -- List of Illustrations -- (Following page 96) at Part 4- Pictures & Figures

"I am Lamgi-Mari ... King of Mari." With these words engraved on his right shoulder, the ruler of the kingdom of Mari, on the central reaches of the Euphrates, introduced himself to archaeologists from Paris on January 23, 1934.

The first of the massive walls of the palace, still 16 feet high, have just been discovered on Tell Hariri near Abu Kemal in Syria. "The gangs", wrote Prof. Parrot at the time, "are now forcing their way down into the rooms."

In a corner of Room 78 stood some large damaged clay jars. In 1750 B.C. the ceiling fell on top of them when king Hammurabi's commandos set fire to the palace of Mari.

Only an aerial photograph can do justice to the impressive architectural layout of the mighty palace of Mari, which in the second millennium B.C. covered an area of nearly 10 acres and was the largest royal seat in the Ancient East. It was out of its 260 salons and rooms that among other things the cuneiform documents about the cities of Haran (Gen. 11:31) and Nahor (Gen. 24:10) were recovered.

Prof. Parrot studies the statue of Ishtup-Ilum, who was Governor of Mari in the days of the Patriarchs. The statue was found in the throne-room of the palace.

" ... and possessed their land ... unto Mount Hermon" (Josh. 12:1). The eternal snows of Hermon tower above the Promised Land.

The high percentage of salt in the Dead Sea makes it possible for the human body to recline on it like a floating cork.

The Israeli industrial settlement at Sodom on the south side of the Dead Sea.

Between the bare hills of Palestine and Transjordan the River Jordan winds and twists like a serpent from the Lake of Galilee to the Dead Sea which lies 1,300 feet below the level of the Mediterranean.

The mummy of Ramesses II lies in the Cairo Museum in a perfect state of preservation. He, or his son and successor Merenptah, is considered to be the Pharaoh of the years of bondage and it is in his reign, so we are told, that Moses led the children of Israel out of Egypt.

A happy scene showing Queen Anches-en-Amun with her husband Tutankhamun.

Young Najacocci with manna excretion.

First photograph of manna. The light-coloured glassy formations on the branch of a Tamarisk which is occupied by Najacocci (plant-lice) are drops of manna. Manna is still available commercially as Mannite.

The monastery of St. Catherine at the foot of Mt. Sinai.

The route of the so-called "King's Highway" can still be clearly distinguished from the air among the deep wadis of the Jordan country.

p 16 -- This group of prisoners, the work of Egyptian artists in the Temple of Medinet-Habu, is an accurate portrayal of racial characteristics. A Libyan is followed by a Semite from Palestine/Syria, a Hittite, a Philistine, and another Semite.

Modern nomads water their cattle at the spring of Ain Qedeis, as Moses did when he pitched his camp with the Children of Israel at Kadesh (Num. 33:36)

The Biblical Walls of Jericho at Tell-es-Sultan. Beyond the fortifications, dating back 3,500 years, can be seen modern Jericho at the foot of the Mountains of Judah.

Excavating the ornamental facade of King Herod's Pleasure Garden near Jericho.

(Following page 224) -- The rock bastions in Wadi el Arabah which lies to the south near the gulf of Aqabah are popularly known as "King Solomon's pillars" and "Solomon's copper mines" are pointed out to visitors to nearby Timna. Yet it has now been established that no mining of copper took place in this region in Solomon's day.

Extracting copper after 3,000 years from king Solomon's mines on the Red Sea.

View of the model excavation at Tell el-Mutesellim. A chain of labourers is passing up baskets filled with rubble. They are standing on ruins of Persian, Babylonian, Assyrian and Israelite times. It was in stratum IV that the royal stables, chariot sheds and the palace built for the local Governor, Baana, at Megiddo (I Kings 4:12) were discovered.

Visitors are shown "King Solomon's stables" in Megiddo, but these were actually completed during the reign of King Ahab of Israel and were possibly not stables but a storehouse.

Reconstruction of the stable.

Hittite warriors from a kingdom near Carchemish (late Hittite).

"In the fourth year of Solomon's reign ... he began to build the house of the Lord" (I Kings 6:1). From the outer forecourt an entrance gateway led to the middle forecourt on a higher level. Steps led through a second gate to the great inner forecourt, where the people gathered in front of the Temple and the place of sacrifice. At the entrance to the Temple, on either side, stood the twin brass pillarsJACHIN and BOAZ. (I Kings 7:21). Another flight of steps led into the central court which gave access to the Holy Place, behind which the Holy of Holies lay in darkness. (Reconstruction- 19th century after de Vogue).

Prof. W. F. Albright and W. Phillips in the Sinai Peninsula.

In the land of the queen of Sheba an American expedition in 1951 dug out of sand dunes as high as houses the imposing Temple of the Moon near ancient Marib in Yemen.

A Gezer schoolboy, practising writing in 925 B.C., scratched out on limestone these regulations for peasants. Item 4 of this oldest piece of writing in Palestine obliged Israel to take up the cultivation of flax at Gezer.

Ivory receptacles for cosmetics and ointment, which took the form of ducks floating on water, show the artistic skill of Ugarit jewellers in copying Egyptian models which were in great demand.

In the 8th century B.C. the prophet Isaiah uttered this warning: "In that day the Lord will take away the bravery of their tinkling ornaments about their feet, and their cauls, and their round tires like the moon." 2,680 years later the director of the French excavations at "White Haven", referring to the gold ornaments depicted above, declared: "We are not only finding references to these ornaments

p 17 -- in the Ras-Shamra texts, but the ornaments themselves, which, according to the passage in Isaiah, Yahweh would one day take away from the haughty daughters of Zion."

(Following page 320) -- The "lord on whose hand the king learned" (2 Kings 7:2) was a "straphanger", as can be seen from this picture of him on a relief from Nineveh, as he stands behind Ashurbanipal, king of Assyria - the "Asnapper" of the Old Testament - and his charioteer.

This basal tablet, erected by Mesha, king of Moab, who is mentioned in the Bible, was found by Rev. F. A. Klein, a missionary from Alsace, at Dibon in Transjordan. It dates from about 850 B.C. and describes the campaign against Israel and Judah which is the subject of 2 Kings ch. 3. Nomads with an eye to business split the valuable iscription into fragments, as can be seen from the cracks. The flat surfaces indicate where the inscription has been completed by reference to the squeeze.

At the entrance to the gateway in the walls of Samaria, excavators came upon two stone benches. "And the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat the king of Judah sat each on his throne ... in a void place in the entrance of the gate of Samaria" (I Kings 22:10).

"And put out the eyes of Zedekiah ..." (2 Kings 25"7). Sargon II carries out the cruel punishment for treason in accordance with Assyrian and Babylonian martial law. Prisoners had rings put in their upper lips to break their resistance. "... which took Manasseh with hooks" (2 Chron. 33:11- R. V. margin).

Signal from a Judahite observation post to the Commandant of Lachish in 589 B.C.

Palace of Sargon II of Assyria at Khorsabad. (Reconstruction).

French excivations on the Mediterranean coast at ancient Ugarit revealed shops and stores lining dead-straight streets and dating from the 15th century B.C.

"In one of the stores lay 80 carefully stacked jars with wine and oil," announced Prof. Schaeffer.

Small golden amulet from Ugarit with the symbols of the goddess of fertility.

Ivory releaf of the bare-breasted fertility goddess of Canaan, from a vault in the harbour area at Ugarit.

Figures of wild bulls and griffins adorn the Ishtar Gate in Babylon, excavated by Prof. Koldewey.

"... and Judah ... (was) carried away to Babylon for their transgressions" (I Chron. 9:1). In this magnificent international metropolis on the Euphrates with its broad streets Judah lived in exile. It was here, by the rivers of Babylon, that they sat down and wept (Ps. 137:1). (Reconstruction). Behind the massive city walls on the Euphrates, near the Temple of Marduk (rec.) rose Etemenanki, the Tower of Babel. It was exactly the same height as the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbour (292 feet). (Reconstruction: Prof. E. Unger. Drawn by H. Anger).

Rows of tall columns, the remains of a Forum, have been preserved on the site of Gerasa, on the upper reaches of the river Jabbok in Transjordan. In the lifetime of Christ many cities on both sides of the Jordan had their temples, theatres and circuses on the norrmal Greek pattern.

View from Samaria over the Plain of Jezreel to the hills of Galilee, where Nazareth lies, and to Mt. Tabor. Above the dark defile rises the hill of old Migeddo with the great stables of king Solomon.

p 18 -- (Following page 304) -- On the "Via Dolorosa", the "Way of Sorrows", the Ecce-Homo Arch bridges the narrow alley at the point where Pilate is supposed to have pointed to Jesus and said: "Behold the man!" (John 19:5). Beneath this arch Father L. H. Vincent
actually found the Roman "Pavement" mentioned by St. John (19:13).

The Wailing Wall still preserves the massive foundations of the Temple built by
Herod which Jesus frequented. The nine bottom rows of the old outer wall consist of enormous stone blocks many of which measure 18 X 15 feet. "Master, see what manner of stones and what buildings are here!" (Mark 13:1).

A photograph of the Turin shroud (right) clearly shows on the negative (left) a
man's face on which swellings resulting from blows and traces of blood from
thorn pricks can be discerned.

(Following page 336) -- The Dome of the Rock in the south-east section of the city, which was built by the Arabs in the 7th century after the capture of Jerusalem. It stands on the ancient site where Solomon and later Herod the Great built their Temples.

Fragment of text from one of the Dead Sea scrolls.

Orthodox Easter service in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. The
place of Jesus' passion and burial has been venerated here since early Christian
times. The British archaeologist Kathleen M. Kenyon proved that the land
where the church now stands still lay outside the city wall in the time of Jesus and
consequently is quite possibly the actual place of execution and burial.

Reconstruction of the actual method of crucifixion among the Romans according
to the indications provided by the skeleton of Johanan Ben Ha'galgol found near
Givat Hamivtar on the eastern edge of Jerusalem.

Prof. Willard F. Libby, of the Institute of Nuclear Physics in the University of
Chicago, investigates the age of the linen wrapping of a scroll of the prophet
Isaiah, which a shepherd discovered in a cave by the Dead Sea in 1947. Using the
C-14 Method it was possible to reckon by the "Atomic Clock" that the flax from which the linen was made was growing during the lifetime of Christ.

Prof. G. Lankester Harding seen in Jerusalem sorting out fragments of the Old Testament, dating from the time of Christ, which were discovered in a cave by the Dead Sea in 1949.

p 19 -- INTRODUCTION TO THE NEW REVISED EDITION -- KELLER: My book The Bible as History was first published in 1955. It was translated into 24 languages and used for religious instruction in schools, for Bible Seminars in Universities as well as by Bible Study Groups both Christian and Jewish. More than ten million copies have been printed throughout the world.

Since that time Biblical archaeology has brought to light hitherto undiscovered facts by the use of new techniques and the most up-to-date methods of investigation. It has been possible to confirm and reinforce a number of theories, while other accepted opinions, previously considered to be scientifically established, have had to be called into question and the conclusions even of well-known scholars revised. In order to preserve the scholarly reliability of my book, it has become necessary to include the most recent research results. One cannot and should not shut oneself off from new discoveries even if they are inconvenient.

I would have liked to bring my book into line witobligedh the most recent research myself, but a serious illness of some years' duration has unfortunately prevented me from undertaking this costly and responsible task. I have consequently been , much against my will, to entrust this project to another. I am happy, however, to have obtained the collaboration of Dr. Joachim Rehork. In his appendix he has explained the principles according to which we agreed that the revision should be carried out.

To him I tender my sincere thanks.

Werner Keller - - Ascona, 1978

p 21 -- GOTHE:  INTRODUCTION -- "The greatest happiness of the thinking man is to have fathomed what can be fathomed, and quietly to reverence what is unfathomable." GOETHE

When a non-theologian writes a book about the Bible it is a rare enough occurrence to entitle the reader to ask for some explanation of how the to make himself master of his subject.

As a jopurnalist I have been for many years exclusively concerned of modern science and research. In 1950 in the course of my ordinary routine work I came across the reports of the French archaeologists Professors Parrot and Schaeffer on their excavations at Mari and Ugarit. Cuneiform tablets discovered at Mari on the Euphrates were found to contain Biblical names. As a result, narratives of the patriarchs, which had been for a long time regarded as merely pious tales were unexpectedly transferred into the realm of history. At Ugarit on the Mediterranean, evidence of the Canaanite worship of Baal had for the first time come to light. By a coincidence, a scroll of Isaiah discovered in a cave by the Dead Sea was in the same year dated as pre-Christian. These sensational reports - and indeed in view of the significance of these finds it is not too much to use the word "sensational" - awakened in me the desire to come to closer grips with the most recent and, generally speaking, least known province in the field of investigation into the ancient world. I therefore ransacked German and foreign literature for a comprehensive and intelligible summary of the results of previous research. I found none for there was none to find. So I went to the sources myself in the libraries of many lands - aided in this bit of real detective work by my wife's enthusiasm - and collected all the hitherto scientifically established results of investigations which were to be found in the learned works of Biblical archaeologists. The deeper I went into the matter the more exciting it became.

The door into the historical world of the Old Testament had been already thrown open by a Frenchman, Paul-Emile Botta, in 1843. In the course of excavations at Khorsabad in Mesopotamia he suddenly found himself confronted by reliefs of King Sargon II of Assyria, who ravaged Israel and led its people off into captivity. Accounts of this

p 22 -- conqueror's campaigns deal with the conquest of Samaria, which is also described in the Bible.

For a century now, American, English, French and German scholars have been digging in the Middle East, in Mesopotamia, Palestine and Egypt. All the great nations have founded institutes and schools specifically for this type of research. The Palestine Exploration Fund began in 1869, the German Palestine Association in 1877, the Dominican Ecole Biblique de St. Etienne in 1892. The German Oriental Society followed in 1898: then in 1900 the American Schools of Oriental Research and in 1900 the German Protestant Institute of Archaeology.

In Palestine, places and towns which are frequently mentioned in the Bible are being brought back once more into the light of day. They look exactly as the Bible describes them and lie exactly where the Bible locates them. On ancient inscriptions and monuments scholars encounter more and more characters from the Old and New Testaments. Contemporary reliefs depict people whom we have hitherto only known by name. Their features, their clothes, their armour take shape before our eyes. Colossal figures and sculptures show us the Hittites with their big noses; the slim tall Philistines; the elegant Canaanite chiefs with their "chariots of iron" which struck terror into the hearts of the Israelites; the kings of Mari, contemporary with Abraham, with their gentle smiles. During the thousands of years that divide us from them the Assyrian kings have lost nothing of their fierce and forbidding appearance: Tiglath-Pileser III, well known as the Old Testament "Pul"; Sennacherib who destroyed Lachish and laid siege to Jerusalem; Esarhaddon who put King Manasseh in chains, and Ashurbanipal the "great and noble Asnapper" of the book of Ezra.

As they have done to Nineveh and Nimrud - old-time Calah - or to Ashur and Thebes, which the prophets called No-Amon, the scholars have also awakened from its ancient slumber the notorious Babel of Biblical story with its legendary tower. In the Nile Delta archaeologists have found the cities of Pithom and Raamses, where the resentful Hebrews toiled as slaves. They have laid bare strata which tell of the flames and destruction which accompanied the children of Israel on their conquering march into Canaan. In Gibeah they found Saul's mountain stronghold, whose walls once echoed to the strains of David's harp. At Megiddo they came upon the vast stables of King Solomon, who had " 12,000 horsemen".

From the world of the New Testament reappeared the palatial edifices of King Herod. In the heart of Old Jerusalem The Pavement was discovered, where Jesus stood before Pilate, as is mentioned in St. John's gospel. Assyriologists deciphered on the astronomical tables of the Babylonians the exact dates on which the Star of Bethlehem was observed.

p 23 -- These breathtaking discoveries, whose significance it is impossible to grasp all at once, make it necessary for us to revise our views about the Bible. Many events which previously passed for "pious tales" must nov be judged to be historical. Often the results of investigation correspond in detail with the Biblical narratives. They do not only confirm them, but also illumine the historical situations out of which the Old Testament and the Gospels grew. At the same time the chances and changes of the people of Israel are woven into a lively colourful tapestry of daily life in the age in which they lived, as well as being caught up into the political, cultural and economic disputes of the nations and empires which struggled for power in Mesopotamia and on the Nile, from which !nhabitants of the tiny buffer state of Palestine were never able completely to detach themselves for over 2,000 years.

The opinion has been, and still is widely held that the Bible is nothing but the story of man's salvation, a guarantee of the validity of their faith for Christians everywhere. It is however at the same time a book about things that actually happened. Admittedly in this sense it has limitations, in that the Jewish people wrote their history in the light'of their relationship to Yahweh, which meant writing it from the point of view of their own guilt and expiation. Nevertheless the events themselves are historical facts and have been recorded with an accuracy that is nothing less than startling.

Thanks to the findings of the archaeologists many of the Biblical narratives can be better understood now than ever before. There are, of course, theological insights which can only be dealt with in terms of the Word of God. But as Professor Andre Parrot, the world-famous French archaeologist, has said: "How can we understand the Word, unless we see it in its proper chronological, historical and geographical setting?"

Until now, knowledge of these extraordinary discoveries was confined to a small circle of experts. Only fifty years ago Professor Friedrich Delitzsch of Berlin was asking "Why all this effort in these distant barren and dangerous lands? Why all this costly rummaging among the rubble of past ages when we know there is neither gold nor silver to be found there? Why this mad competition among different countries to get control of these dreary looking mounds for the sole purpose of digging them up?" The German scholar Gustav Dalman gave him the right answer from Jerusalem itself when he expressed the hope that one day all that the archaeologists had "experienced and seen in their scientific labours would be turned to good account and would help to solve the practical problems of school and church". This latter hope has so far however remained unfulfilled.

No book in the whole history of mankind has had such a revolutionary influence, has so decisively affected the development of the western world, or had such a world-wide effect as the "Book of Books", the Bible. Today it is translated into 1,120 languages and dialects

p 24 -- (1,660 in 1979), and after 2,000 years gives no sign of having exhausted its triumphal progress.

In gathering together and working over the material for this book. which I in no way claim to be complete, it seemed to me that the time had come to share with those who read their Bibles and those who do not, with churchmen and agnostics alike, the exciting discoveries which have resulted from a careful examination of the combined results of scientific investigation along many different lines. In view of the overwhelming mass of authentic and well-attested evidence now available. as I thought of the sceptical criticism which from the eighteenth century onwards would fain have demolished the Bible altogether, there kept hammering on my brain this one sentence: "The Bible is right after all!"

WERNER KELLER    Hamburg, September 1955 TOP


SECTION I -- The coming of the Patriarchs from Abraham to Jacob

Chapter 1 -- IN THE "FERTILE CRESCENT" -- 4,000 years ago - Continents asleep - The great cradle of our civilisation - Culture in the Ancient East - Staged Towers and Pyramids had been built long before - Giant plantations on the banks of canals - Arab tribes attack from the desert.

If we draw a line from Egypt through the Mediterranean lands of Palestine and Syria, then following the Tigris and Euphrates, through Mesopotamia to the Persian Gulf, the result is an unmistakable crescent.

Four thousand years ago this mighty semi-circle around the Arabian Desert, which is called the "Fertile Crescent", embraced a multiplicity of civilisations lying side by side like a lustrous string of pearls. Rays of light streamed out from them into the surrounding darkness of mankind. Here lay the centre of civilisation from the Stone Age right up to the Golden Age of Graeco-Roman culture.

About 2000 B.C., the further we look beyond the "Fertile Crescent", the deeper grows the darkness and signs of civilisation and culture decrease. It is as if the people of the other continents were like children awaiting their awakening. Over the Eastern Mediterranean already a light is shining - it is the heyday of the Minoan kings of Crete, founders of the first sea-power known to history. For 1,000 years the fortress of Mycenae had protected its citizens, and a second Troy had long been standing upon the ruins of the first. In the nearby Balkans, however, the Early Bronze Age had just begun. In Sardinia and Western France the dead were being buried in vast stone tombs. These megalithic graves are the last great manifestation of the Stone Age.

In Britain they were building the most famous sanctuary of the Megalithic Age - the Temple of the Sun at Stonehenge - that giant circle of stones near Salisbury which is still one of the sights of England about which many tales are told. In Germany they were tilling the soil with wooden ploughs.

At the foot of the Himalayas the flickering lamp of an isolated outpost of civilisation in the Indus valley was fast going out. Over China, over the vast steppes of Russia, over Africa, darkness reigned supreme. And beyond the waters of the Atlantic lay the Americas in twilight gloom.

p 28 -- But in the "Fertile Crescent" and in Egypt, on the other hand, cultured and highly developed civilisations jostled each other in colourful and bewildering array. For 1,000 years the Pharaohs had sat upon the throne. About 2000 B.C. it was occupied by the founder of the XII Dynasty, Amenemhet I. His sphere of influence ranged from Nubia, south of the second cataract of the Nile, beyond the Sinai peninsula to Canaan and Syria, a stretch of territory as big as Norway. Along the Mediterranean coast lay the wealthy seaports of the Phoenicians. In Asia Minor, in the heart of present day Turkey, the powerful kingdom of the ancient Hittites stood on the threshold of its history. In Mesopotamia, between Tigris and Euphrates, reigned the kings of Sumer and Akkad, who held in tribute all the smaller kingdoms from the Persian Gulf to the sources of the Euphrates.

Egypt's mighty pyramids and Mesopotamia's massive temples had for centuries watched the busy life around them. For 2,000 years farms and plantations, as big as any large modern concern, had been exporting corn, vegetables and choice fruits from the artificially irrigated valleys of the Nile, the Euphrates and the Tigris. Everywhere throughout the "Fertile Crescent" and in the empire of the Pharaohs the art of cuneiform and hieroglyphic writing was commonly known. Poets, court officials and civil servants practised it. For commerce it had long been a necessity.

The endless traffic in commodities of all sorts which the great import and export firms of Mesopotamia and Egypt despatched by caravan routes or by sea from the Persian Gulf to Syria and Asia Minor, from the Nile to Cyprus and Crete and as far as the Black Sea, is reflected in their business correspondence, which they conducted on clay tablets or papyrus. Out of all the rich variety of costly wares the most keenly sought after were copper from the Egyptian mines in the mountains of Sinai, silver from the Taurus mines in Asia Minor, gold and ivory from Somaliland in East Africa and from Nubia on the Nile, purple dyes from the Phoenician cities on the coast of Canaan, incense and rare spices from South Arabia, the magnificent linens which came from the Egyptian looms and the wonderful vases from the island of Crete.

Literature and learning were flourishing. In Egypt the first novels and secular poetry were making their appearance. Mesopotamia was experiencing a Renaissance. Philologists in Akkad, the great kingdom on the lower Euphrates, were compiling the first grammar and the first bilingual dictionary. The story of Gilgamesh, and the old Sumerian legends of Creation and Flood were being woven into epics of dramatic power in the Akkadian tongue which was the language of the world. Egyptian doctors were producing their medicines in accordance with text-book methods from herbal compounds which had proved their worth. Their surgeons were no strangers to anatomical science. The mathematicians of the Nile by empirical means reached the conclusion

p 29 -- TOP

FiG.1.- The "Fertile Crescent" and Egypt-the great centres of civilisation about 2000 B.C.

about the sides of a triangle which 1,500 years later Pythagoras in Greece embodied in the theorem which bears his name. Mesopotamian engineers were solving the problem of square measurement by trial and error. Astronomers, admittedly with an eye solely on astrological prediction, were making their calculations based on accurate observations of the course of the planets.

Peace and prosperity must have reigned in this world of Nile, Euphrates and Tigris, for we have never yet discovered an inscription dating from this period which records any large-scale warlike activities.

Then suddenly from the heart of this great "Fertile Crescent", from the sandy sterile wastes of the Arabian desert whose shores are lashed by the waters of the Indian Ocean, there burst in violent assaults on the north, on the north-west, on Mesopotamia, Syria and Palestine a horde of nomadic tribes of Semitic stock. In endless waves these Amorites, "Westerners" as their name implies, surged against the kingdoms of the "Fertile Crescent".

The empire of the kings of Sumer and Akkad collapsed in 1960 B.C. under their irresistible attack. The Amorites founded a number of

p 30 -- states and dynasties. One of them was eventually to become supreme: the first dynasty of Babylon, which was the great centre of power from 1830 to 1530 B.C. Its sixth king was the famous Hammurabi.

Meantime one of these tribes of Semitic nomads was destined to be of fateful significance for millions upon millions throughout the world up to the present day. It was a little group, perhaps only a family, as unknown and unimportant as a tiny grain of sand in a desert storm: the family of Abraham, forefather of the patriarchs. TOP

p 31 -- Chapter 2 -- UR OF THE CHALDEES -- Station on the Bagdad railway - A Staged Tower of bricks - Ruins with Biblical names - Archaeologists in search of scriptural sites - A consul with a pick - The archaeologist on the throne of Babylon - Expedition to Tell al Muqayyar - History books from rubble - Tax receipts on clay - Was Abraham a city dweller?

"And Terah took Abram his son, and Lot the son of Haran, his son's son, and Sarai, his daughter in law, his son Abram's wife; and they went forth with them from Ur of the Chaldees" (Gen. 11 31).

... and they went forth with them from Ur of the Chaldees - Christians have been hearing these words for almost 2,000 years. Ur, a name as mysterious and legendary as the bewildering variety of names of kings and conquerors, powerful empires, temples and golden palaces, with which. the Bible regales us. Nobody knew where, Ur lay. Chaldea certainly pointed to Mesopotamia. Sixty years ago no one could have guessed that the quest for the Ur which is mentioned in the Bible would lead to the discovery of a civilisation which would take us farther into the twilight of prehistoric times than even the oldest traces of man which had been found in Egypt.

Today Ur is a railway station about 120 miles north of Basra, near the Persian Gulf, and one of the many stops on the famous Bagdad railway. Punctually the train makes a halt there in the grey light of early morning. When the noise of the wheels on their northward journey has died away, the traveller who has alighted here is surrounded by the silence of the desert.

His glance roams over the monotonous yellowish-brown of the endless stretch of sand. He seems to be standing in the middle of an enormous flat dish which is only intersected by the railway line. Only at one point is the shimmering expanse of desolation broken. As the rays of the rising sun grow stronger they pick out a massive dull red stump. It looks as if some Titan had hewn great notches in it.

To the Bedouins this solitary mound is an old friend. High up in its crevices the owls make their nests. From time immemorial the Arabs have known it and have given it the name Tell al Muqayyar, "Mound of Pitch". Their forefathers pitched their tents at its base. Still as from time immemorial it offers welcome protection from the danger of

p 32 -- sandstorms. Still today they feed their flocks at its base when the rains suddenly charm blades of grass out of the ground.

Once upon a time - 4,000 years ago - broad fields of corn and barley swayed here. Market gardens, groves of date-palms and fig trees stretched as far as the eye could see. These spacious estates could cheerfully bear comparison with Canadian wheat farms or the market gardens and fruit farms of California. The lush green fields and beds were interlaced by a system of dead straight canals and ditches, a masterpiece of irrigation. Away back in the Stone Age experts among the natives had utilised the water of the great rivers. Skilfully and methodically they diverted the precious moisture at the river banks and thereby converted desert wastes into rich and fruitful farmland.

Almost hidden by forests of shady palms the Euphrates flowed in those days past this spot. This great life-giving river carried a heavy traffic between Ur and the sea. At that time the Persian Gulf cut much deeper into the estuary of the Euphrates and the Tigris. Even before the first pyramid was built on the Nile Tell al Muqayyar was towering into the blue skies. Four mighty cubes, built one upon the other in diminishing size, rose up into a 75 feet tower of gaily coloured brick. Above the black of the square foundation block, its sides I 20 feet long, shone the red and blue of the upper stages, each studded with trees. The uppermost stage provided a small plateau, on which was enthroned a Holy Place shaded by a golden roof.

Silence reigned over this sanctuary, where priests performed their offices at the shrine of Nannar, the moon-god. The stir and noise of wealthy metropolitan Ur, one of the oldest cities of the world, hardly penetrated into it.

In the year 1854 a caravan of camels and donkeys, laden with an unusual cargo of spades, picks and surveyor's instruments, approached the lonely red mound, under the leadership of the British consul in Basra. Mr. J. E. Taylor was inspired neither by a lust for adventure nor indeed by any motive of his own. He had undertaken the journey at the instigation of the Foreign Office, which in its turn was complying with the request from the British Museum that a search should be made for ancient monuments in Southern Mesopotamia, where the Euphrates and the Tigris came closest together just before entering the Persian Gulf. Taylor had often heard in Basra about the strange great heap of stones that his expedition was now approaching. It seemed to him a suitable site to investigate.

About the middle of the 19th century all over Egypt, Mesopotamia and Palestine investigations and excavations had started in response to a suddenly awakened desire to get a scientifically reliable picture of man's history in this part of the world. The goal of a long succession of expeditions was the Middle East.

p 33 -- Up till then the Bible had been the only historical source for our knowledge of that part of Asia before about 550 B.C. Only the Bible had anything to say about a period of history which stretched back into the dim twilight of the past. Peoples and names cropped up in the Bible about which even the Greeks and the Romans no longer knew anything.

FIG. 2-The great staged tower at Ur (Reconst.). TOP

Scholars swarmed impetuously into these lands of the Ancient East about the middle of last century. Nobody then knew names that were soon to be in everyone's mouth. With astonishment the age of progress and enlightenment heard of their finds and discoveries. What these men with infinite pains extracted from the desert sand by the great rivers of Mesopotamia and Egypt deserved indeed the attention of mankind. Here for the first time science had forced open the door into the mysterious world of the Bible.

The French vice-consul in Mosul, Paul-Emile Botta, was an enthusiastic archaeologist. In 1843 he began to dig at Khorsabad on the Tigris and from the ruins of a 4,000 year old capital proudly brought to light the first witness to the Bible: Sargon, the fabulous ruler of Assyria. "In the year that Tartan came unto Ashdod, when Sargon the king of Assyria sent him..." says Isaiah 20:1.

Two years later a young English diplomat and excavator, A. H. Layard, uncovered Nimrud (Kalchu), the city which the Bible calls Calah (Gen. 10:11) and which now bears the name of the Nimrod of the Bible, "a mighty hunter before the Lord. And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel and Erech, and Accad and Calneh in the land of Shinar. Out of that land he went forth into Assyria and builded Nineveh and Rehoboth-Ir and Calah...." (Gen. 10:10-11).

Shortly after that, excavations. under the direction of an English major, Henry Creswicke Rawlinson, one of the foremost Assyriologists, unearthed Nineveh, the Assyrian capital with the famous library of king Ashurbanipal. This is the Nineveh whose wickedness the Biblical prophets constantly denounced (Jonah 1:2).

In Palestine the American scholar Edward Robinson devoted himself in 1838 and 1852 to the reconstruction of the topography of the ancient world.

From Germany, Richard Lepsius, later director of the Egyptian Museum in Berlin, recorded the monuments of the Nile area during an expedition which lasted from 1842-46.

p 34 -- Just as the Frenchman Champollion had the good fortune to decipher Egyptian hieroglyphics, so Rawlinson, the discoverer of Nineveh, was, among others, successful in solving the riddle of cuneiform writing. The ancient documents were beginning to talk!

Let us return to the caravan which is approaching Tell al Muqayyar.

Taylor pitches his tents at the foot of the red mound. He had neither scientific ambitions nor previous knowledge. Where is he to begin? Where is the best spot to deploy his native diggers? The great brick mound, architectural masterpiece of a shadowy past though it might be, conveys nothing to him. Perhaps in the heart of it lies something which might eventually be exhibited in the museum and might interest the London experts. He thinks vaguely of old statues, armour, ornaments or even perhaps buried treasure. He takes a closer look at the curious mound. Step by step he taps its surface. No indication of a hollow cavity within. The great edifice appears to be completely solid. Thirty feet above him the wall of the lowest block rises straight and sheer out of the sand. Two broad stone ramps lead to the next and smaller cone above, then above them rise the third and fourth stages.

Taylor clambers up and down, crawls along the ledges on hands and knees in the broiling sun, finding only broken tiles. One day, bathed in sweat, he reaches the topmost platform and a few owls fly startled from the dilapidated walls. Nothing more. However he is not discouraged. In his efforts to get to the heart of the secrets of the mound he makes a decision which today we can only deeply regret. He takes his labour gangs away from the base of the mound and sets them to work at the top. TOP

What had survived for centuries, what had withstood sandstorm and blazing sun alike, became now the victim of tireless pickaxes. Taylor gives orders to pull down the top story. The work of destruction begins at the four corners simultaneously. Day after day masses of bricks crash dully down the sides to the ground. After many weeks the chattering voices on the top of the mound are suddenly hushed, the clanging and banging of the pickaxes stop abruptly. Falling over each other in their haste a few men rush down the side of the mound and up to Taylor's tent. In their hands they hold little bars, cylinders made of baked clay. Taylor is disappointed. He had expected more. As he carefully cleans his finds he recognises that the clay rolls are covered over and over with inscriptions - cuneiform writing! He understands none of it but he is highly delighted. The cylinders, carefully packed, are despatched to London. The scholars on Thames-side are however not impressed - and small wonder. These were the years when the experts were looking to North Mesopotamia, where, under their fascinated gaze, the emergence from the hills of Nineveh and Khorsabad on the upper Tigris of the palaces and colossal reliefs of the Assyrians, as well as thousands of clay tablets and statues, was enough to put

p 35 -- everything else in the shade. What significance compared with them had the little clay cylinders from Tell al Muqayyar? For two years more Taylor hopefully continued his search. But there were no further results from Tell al Muqayyar and the expedition was abandoned.

It was seventy-five years later before the world learned what priceless treasures were still lying under that ancient mound.

As far as the experts were concerned Tell al Muqayyar was once more forgotten. But it was by no means neglected. No sooner had Taylor left than hordes of other visitors arrived. The broken walls and above all the top tier of the mound, which Taylor's gangs had shattered, provided a welcome and inexhaustible supply of inexpensive building material for the Arabs who over the years came from far and near and departed with as many bricks as their pack-mules could carry. These bricks, fashioned by men's hands thousands of years before, still bore plainly the names of Ur-Nammu, the first great builder, and of Nabonidus, the Babylonian conqueror who restored the staged tower which they called the Ziggurat. Sandstorms, rain, wind and the heat of the sun have all added their quota to the process of destruction.

During the First World War when British troops on the march to Bagdad in 1915 camped near this ancient structure they found that its former appearance had been completely altered. It had become so flat due to dilapidation and theft in the intervening years since 1854 that one of the soldiers was able to indulge in a piece of daredevilry. The step-formation of the tower which had previously been so clearly marked had disappeared so completely that he was able to ride his mule right to the summit of the mound.

By a lucky chance there was an expert among the officers of the party, R. Campbell Thompson, of the Intelligence Staff of the army in Mesopotamia. In peace time he had been an assistant in the British Museum. Thompson rummaged with an expert eye through the huge heap of bricks and was shocked at the deterioration of the material. Examination of the terrain led him to suppose that there were further areas worth investigating in the neighbourhood of the Tell, ruins of settlements which lay buried under the sand. Thompson recorded all this with great care and sent an urgent message to London. This prompted them to blow the dust off the insignificant looking little clay cylinders which had almost been forgotten and to look at them again with greater attention. The inscriptions on them were then found to contain some extremely important information as well as a curious story.

Almost 2,500 years before Taylor someone else had been searching and rummaging on the same spot with the same concern - Nabonidus, king of Babylon in the 6th century B.C., venerator of the past, man of renown, ruler of a mighty kingdom and archaeologist rolled into one. In his day he established that "the Ziggurat was now old". But his tactics

p 36 -- were different from Taylor's. "I restored this Ziggurat to its former state with mortar and baked bricks." When the weakened structure of the staged tower had been restored he had caused the name of the first builder, which he had discovered, to be cut out on these little clay cylinders. His name, as the Babylonian had been able to decipher from a damaged inscription, had been King Ur-Nammu. Ur-Nammu? Was the builder of the great staged tower king of the Ur that the Bible mentions? Was he the ruler of Ur of the Chaldees?

It seemed highly probable. The same Biblical name had cropped up several times since then. Ancient records which had been recovered from other sites in Mesopotamia also mentioned Ur. It appeared from these cuneiform writings that it was the capital city of the great Sumerian people. At once the battered remnants of Tell al Muqayyar aroused eager interest. Scholars from the Museum of Pennsylvania University joined the archaeologists from the British Museum in fresh investigations. The staged tower on the lower Euphrates might hold the secret of this unknown Sumerian people - and of the Ur of the Bible. But it was not until 1923 that a joint American and British team of archaeologists could set out. They were spared the tiresome journey on the backs of swaying camels. They went by the Bagdad railway. Their equipment likewise went by train: trucks, rails, picks, spades, baskets.

The archaeologists had enough funds at their disposal to turn up the whole countryside. They begin their carefully planned excavation on a large scale. Since considerable finds might be expected, they reckon on taking several years. In charge of the expedition is Sir Charles Leonard Woolley. The forty-three year old Englishman had already won his spurs on expeditions and digs in Egypt, Nubia and Carchemish on the upper Euphrates. Now this talented and successful man makes Tell al Muqayyar his life's work. Unlike the zealous but unsuspecting Taylor several decades before, his chief aim is not directed to the staged tower at all. He is possessed with a desire above all to investigate these flat mounds which rise all around him out of the vast sandy plain.

Woolley's trained eye had not failed to note their striking configuration. They look like little Table Mountains. Flat on top, they slope downwards in an almost uniform pattern. Similar mounds exist in great numbers, large and small, in the Middle East, on the banks of the great rivers, in the midst of fertile plains, by the wayside on the routes followed by caravans from time immemorial. No one has yet been able to count them. We find them from the delta of the Euphrates and Tigris on the Persian Gulf to the highlands of Asia Minor where the river Halys tumbles into the Black Sea, on the eastern shores of the Mediterranean, in the valleys of the Lebanon, on the Orontes in Syria and in Palestine by the Jordan. TOP

These little eminences are the great quarries for archaeological finds, eagerly sought and often inexhaustible. They are not formed by the

p 37 -- hand of Nature, but are artificially created, piled high with the legacy ot countless generations before us; vast masses of rubble and rubbish from a bygone age which have accumulated from the remains of huts and houses, town walls, temples or palaces. Each one of these hills took shape gradually in the same way through a period of centuries or even
millennia. At some point after men had first settled there the place was destroyed by war or was burned down or was deserted by its inhabitants. Then came the conquerors or new settlers and built upon the selfsame spot. Generation after generation built their settlements and cities, one on top of the other, on the identical site. In the course of time the ruins and rubble of countless dwellings grew, layer by layer, foot by foot, into a sizeable hill. The Arabs of today call such an artificial mound a Tell. The same word was used even in ancient Babylon. Tell means "mound". We come across the word in the Bible in Josh. 11:13. During the conquest of Canaan, where cities "that stood on their mounds" are spoken of, it is these Tulul, which is the plural of Tell, which are meant. The Arabs make a clear distinction between a Tell and a natural eminence, which they call a Jebel.

Every Tell is at the same time a silent history book. Its strata are for the archaeologist like the leaves of a calendar. Page by page he can make the past come to life again. Every layer, if we read it aright, tells of its own times, its life and customs, the craftsmanship and manners of its people. This skill on the part of excavators in deciphering the message of the strata has reached astonishing heights of achievement.

Stones, hewn or rough, bricks or traces of clay betray the nature of the building. Even decayed and weathered stones or the remains of brick dust can indicate exactly the ground plan of a building. Dark shadows show where once a fireplace radiated its warming glow.

Broken pottery, armour, household utensils and tools which are to be found everywhere among the ruins, afford further help in this detective work on the past. How grateful are the scholars of today that the ancient world knew nothing of municipal cleansing departments! Anything that had become unusable or superfluous was simply thrown out and left to the tender mercies of time and the weather.

Today the different shapes, colours and patterns of pots and vases can be so clearly distinguished that pottery has become archaeology's Number One measurement of time. Single potsherds, sometimes only fragments, make it possible to give a precise dating. As far back as the second millennium B.C. the greatest margin of error in establishing a date in this way is at the outside about fifty years.

Priceless information was lost in the course of the first great excavations of last century because no one paid any attention to these apparently worthless bits of broken pottery. They were thrown aside. The only important things seemed to be great monuments, reliefs, statues or jewels. Much that was of value was thus lost for ever. The activities of

p 38 -- Heinrich Schliemann, the antiquary, are an example of this sort of thing. Fired with ambition he had only one end in view: to find Homer's Troy. He set his gangs of labourers on to digging straight down. Strata, which might have been of great value in establishing dates, were thrown aside as useless rubbish. At length Schliemann unearthed a valuable treasure amid general acclamation. But it was not, as he thought, the treasure of Priam. His find belonged to a period several .centuries earlier. Schliemann had missed the reward of his labours, that would have meant so much to him, by digging past it and going far too deep. Being a business man Schliemann was an amateur, a layman. But the professionals were, to begin with, no better. It is only during this century that the archaeologists have been working in accordance with approved methods. Beginning at the top and working down through the Tell they examine every square inch of the ground. Every tiny object, every piece of pottery is scrutinised. First they dig a trench deep into the mound. The different coloured strata lie open like a cut cake and the trained eye of the expert is able at a rough glance to place in their historical perspective whatever ancient human habitations lie embedded there. It was in accordance with this tried method that the Anglo-American expedition started work at Tell al Muqayyar in 1923. TOP

In early December there arose a cloud of dust over the rubble heap which lay east of the Ziggurat and only a few steps from the broad ramp up which ancient priests in solemn procession had approached the shrine of Nannar the moon-god. Fanned by a light wind it spread across the site until it seemed as if the whole area around the old staged tower was shrouded in fine mist. Powdery sand whirling up from hundreds of spades indicated that the great dig had started.

From the moment when the first spade struck the ground an atmosphere of excitement hovered over every shovelful. Each spadeful was like a journey into an unknown land where no-one knew beforehand what surprises lay ahead. Excitement gripped even Woolley and his companions. Would some important find richly reward them for their toil and sweat upon the hill? Would Ur give up its secrets to them? None of these men could guess that for six long winter seasons, till the spring of 1929, they would be kept in suspense. This large-scale excavation deep in Southern Mesopotamia was to reveal bit by bit those far off days when a new land arose out of the delta of the two great rivers and the first human settlers made their home there. Out of their painstaking research, carrying them back to a time 7,000 years before, events and names recorded in the Bible were more than once to take solid shape.

The first thing they brought to light was a sacred precinct with the remains of five temples, which had once surrounded king Ur-Nammu's Ziggurat in a semi-circle., They were like fortresses, so thick were their walls. The biggest one, which was 100 x 60 yards square, was dedicated to the moon-god. Another temple was in honour of Nin-Gal,

p 39 -- goddess of the moon and wife of Nannar. Every temple had an inner court surrounded by a series of rooms. The old fountains were still standing, with long water troughs coated with bitumen. Deep grooves made with knives on the great brick tables showed where the sacrificial animals had been dissected. They were cooked as a common sacrificial meal on the hearths of the temple kitchens. Even the ovens for baking bread were there. "After 3,800 years," noted Woolley in his diary, "we were able to light the fire again and put into commission once more the oldest kitchen in the world."

Nowadays churches, law courts, tax offices and factories are quite separate establishments. It was otherwise in Ur. The sacred area, the Temple precinct, was not reserved exclusively for the worship of the gods. The priests had many other things to do besides their holy office. As well as receiving the sacrifices they collected the tithes and the taxes. That did not take place however without written confirmation. Every payment was noted on a little clay tablet - probably the first tax receipts ever issued. The amounts received were entered by scribes in weekly, monthly and yearly totals.

Minted currency was as yet unknown. Taxes were paid in kind: every inhabitant of Ur paid in his own coin. oil, cereals, fruit, wool and cattle made their way into vast warehouses, perishable articles went to the temple shops. Many goods were manufactured in factories owned by the temple, for example in the spinning-mills which the priests managed. One workshop produced twelve different kinds of fashionable clothing. Tablets found in this place gave the names of the mill-girls and their quota of rations. Even the weight of the wool given to each worker and the number of garments made from it were meticulously recorded. In one of the legal buildings they found copies of the sentences carefully stacked exactly as they are in the administrative offices of modern law courts.

For three winter seasons the Anglo-American expedition worked on at the site of ancient Ur, and still this extraordinary museum of man's early history had not yielded up all its secrets. Outside the temple area the excavators had a further unprecedented surprise.

South of the staged tower, as they were clearing away a series of mounds, there suddenly emerged from the rubble solid structures: row upon row of walls and facades one after the other. As the sand was cleared away it revealed a complete checkerboard of dwellinghouses whose ruins were in places still 10 feet high. Between them ran little alleyways. Here and there open squares broke the line of the streets.

Several weeks of hard work were necessary and endless loads of rubble had to be removed before the diggers were faced with an unforgettable sight. TOP

Under the red slopes of Tell al-Muqayyar lay a whole city, bathed in

p 40 -- the bright sunshine, awakened from its long sleep after many thousand years by the patient burrowing of the archaeologists. Woolley and his companions were beside themselves with joy. For before them lay Ur, the "Ur of the Chaldees" to which the Bible refers. And how well its citizens lived, and in what spacious homes! No other Mesopotamian city has revealed such handsome and comfortable houses.

Compared with them the dwelling-houses which have been preserved in Babylon are modest, in fact miserable. Professor Koldewey, during German excavations there at the beginning of this century, found nothing but simple mud brick erections, one story high with three or four rooms surrounding an open courtyard. That was how people lived about 600 B.C. in the much admired and extolled metropolis of Nebuchadnezzar the Great of Babylon. But 1,500 years before that the citizens of Ur were living in large two-storied villas with thirteen or fourteen rooms. The lower floor was solidly built of burnt brick, the upper floor of mud brick. The walls were neatly coated with plaster and whitewashed.

A visitor would pass through the door into a small entrance hall where there was a basin to wash the dust off hands and feet. He then continued into the inner court, which was laid out in attractive paving. Round it were grouped the reception room, the kitchen, living rooms and private rooms and the domestic chapel. Up a stone staircase, which concealed a lavatory, he would reach a gallery from which branched off the rooms belonging to members of the family and the guest rooms. From beneath the debris of brick and plaster there emerged into the light of day all the things that these patrician houses had contained in the way of domestic appliances for ordinary use. Countless sherds of pots, jugs, vases and small clay tablets covered with writing combined to form a mosaic from which piece by piece a picture of everyday life in Ur could be reconstructed. Ur of the Chaldees was a powerful, prosperous, colourful and busy capital city at the beginning of the second millennium B.C.

One idea was very much in Woolley's mind. Abraham is said to have come from Ur of the Chaldees - he must therefore have been born in one of these two-storied patrician houses and must have grown up there. Woolley wandered through these alleyways, past the walls of the great temple, and as he looked up he glimpsed this huge staged tower with its black, red and blue blocks and its fringe of trees. "We must radically alter", he writes enthusiastically, "our view of the Hebrew patriarch when we see that his earlier years were passed in such sophisticated surroundings. He was the citizen of a great city and inherited the traditions of an old and highly organised civilisation. The houses themselves reveal comfort and even luxury. We found copies of the hymns which were used in the services of the temples and together

p 41 -- with them mathematical tables. On these tables were anything from plain addition sums to formulae for the extraction of square and cube roots. In other texts the writers had copied out the old building inscriptions to be found in the city and had compiled in this way a short history of the temples."

Abraham - no simple nomad, this Abraham, but son of a great city of the second millennium B.C.

That was a sensational discovery and one difficult to grasp. Newspapers and magazines carried photographs of the crumbling old staged tower and the ruins of the metropolis. They caused a tremendous sensation. People looked with astonishment at a drawing which bore the title: "A House of the time of Abraham". Woolley had had this done by an artist. It is a genuine reconstruction in accordance with the finds. It shows the inner court of a villa-type house; two tall jars stand on a tiled pavement; a wooden balustrade running round the upper story shuts off the rooms from the courtyard. Was the old familiar picture of the patriarch Abraham, as it had been held for generations, which saw him surrounded by his family and his cattle, suddenly to be called in question?

Woolley's idea did not remain unchallenged. Very soon theologians and even archaeologists registered their dissent.

In favour of Woolley's idea were the words of Gen. 11:31: "And Terah took Abram his son and Lot... and they went forth... from Ur of the Chaldees." But there are other references in the Bible which point to somewhere else. When Abraham sends his old servant from Canaan to the city of Nahor, to fetch a wife for his son Isaac, he calls this place Nahor his "country" (Gen. 24:4), his "father's house" and "the land of my kindred" (Gen. 24:7). Nahor lay in the north of Mesopotamia. After the conquest of the Promised Land Joshua addressed the people in these words: "Your fathers dwelt on the other side of the flood in old time, even Terah the father of Abraham and the father of Nahor" (Josh. 24:2) In this case the "flood" means as in other places in the Bible, the Euphrates. The city of Ur was excavated on the right bank of the Euphrates: looked at from Canaan it lay on this side, not on the other side of the "flood". Had Woolley been too hasty in his conclusions? What reliable evidence had the expedition produced? What proof was there that Terah and his son Abraham lived actually in the city of Ur?

"The earlier journey from Ur of the Chaldees to Haran has, apart from the discovery of the city itself, no archaeological foundation," declares Professor W. F. Albright of Johns Hopkins University. This scholar, who has himself conducted successful excavations and is the foremost authority on the archaeology of Palestine and the Middle East, goes further. "The remarkable fact that the Greek translations [of the Bible] nowhere mention Ur but read instead the more. natural

p 42 -- 'Land [of the Chaldees]' might mean that the removal of Abraham's native place to Ur is possibly secondary and was not generally known in the third century B.C."

Ur emerged from the shadowy past as the capital city of the Sumerians, one of the oldest civilisations in Mesopotamia. As we know, the Sumerians were not Semites like the Hebrews. When the great invasion of Semitic nomads streamed out of the Arabian desert about 2000 B.C. its first encounter in the south was with the extensive plantations of Ur, its houses and its canals. It is possible that some recollection of that great journey through the lands of the "Fertile Crescent", in which Ur was involved, has resulted in its being mentioned in the Bible. Painstaking research, particularly excavations in the last two decades, make it almost certain that Abraham cannot ever have been a citizen of the Sumerian metropolis. It would conflict with all the descriptions which the Old Testament gives of the kind of life lived by the patriarch: Abraham is a tent dweller, he moves with his flocks from pasture to pasture and from well to well. He does not live like a citizen of a great city - he lives the life of a typical nomad.

As we shall see, it was much farther to the north of the "Fertile Crescent" that the stories of the Biblical patriarchs emerged out of their mystical obscurity on to the plane of history. TOP

p 43 -- Chapter 3 -- DIGGING UP THE FLOOD -- The graves of the Sumerian kings - A puzzling layer of clay - Traces of the Flood under desert sands - A catastrophic flood about 4000 B.C.

"And the Lord said unto Noah, Come thou and all thy house into the ark. For yet seven days and I will cause it to rain upon the earth, forty days and forty nights: and every living substance that I have made will I destroy from off the face of the earth.

"And it came to pass after seven days that the waters of the flood were upon the earth" Gen- 7:1, 4, 10.

When we hear the word Flood, almost immediately we think of the Bible and the story of Noah's Ark. This wonderful Old Testament story has travelled round the world with Christianity. But although this is the best known tradition of the Flood it is by no means the only one. Among people of all races there is a variety of traditions of a gigantic and catastrophic Flood. The Greeks told the Flood story and connected it with Deucalion: long before Columbus many stories told among the natives of the continent of America kept the memory of a great Flood alive: in Australia, India, Polynesia, Tibet, Kashmir and Lithuania tales of a Flood have been handed down from generation to generation up to the present day. Are they all fairy tales and legends, are they all inventions?

It is highly probable that they all reflect the same world wide catastrophe. This frightful occurrence must, however, have taken place at a time when there were human beings on earth who could experience it, survive it, and then pass on an account of it. Geologists thought that they could solve this ancient mystery by pointing to the warm periods in the earth's history, between the Ice Ages. They suggested that when the huge ice-caps covering the continents, some of them many thousand feet high, gradually began to melt, the level of the sea rose to four times its normal height all over the world. This great additional volume of water altered land contours, flooded low lying coastal areas and plains, and annihilated their population, their animals, and their vegetation. But all these attempts at explanation ended in speculation and theory. Possible hypotheses satisfy the historian least of all. He constantly demands unambiguous factual evidence. But there was none: no scientist, whatever his line, could produce any. Actually it was by a coincidence - during research into something quite different that

p 44 -- unmistakable evidence of the Flood appeared, as it were, of its own accord. And that happened at a place we have already got to know: at the excavations at Ur.

For six years American and British archaeologists had been examining the ground at Tel al-Muqayyar, which by that time looked like one vast building site. When the Bagdad train stopped there for a moment, travellers looked with amazement at the soaring sandhills which had resulted from the diggings. Waggon loads of soil were removed, carefully searched, and put through the riddle. Rubbish thousands of years old was treated like precious cargo. Perseverance, conscientiousness, and painstaking effort had in six years yielded a handsome dividend. The Sumerian temples with their warehouses, workshops and law courts and the villa-type dwelling houses were followed, between 1926 and 1928, by discoveries of such magnificence and splendour that everything else so far paled into insignificance.

"The graves of the kings of Ur"- so Woolley, in the exuberance of his delight at discovering them, had dubbed the tombs of Sumerian nobles whose truly regal splendour had been exposed when the spades of the archaeologists attacked a 50 foot mound south of the temple and found a long row of superimposed graves. The stone vaults were veritable treasure chests, for they were filled with all the costly things that Ur in its heyday possessed. Golden drinking cups and goblets, wonderfully shaped jugs and vases, bronze tableware, mother of pearl mosaics, lapis lazuli and silver surrounded these bodies which had mouldered into dust. Harps and lyres rested against the walls. A young man, "Hero of the land of God" as an inscription described him, wore a golden helmet. A golden comb decorated with blossom in lapis lazuli adorned the hair of the beautiful Sumerian "Lady Puabi". Even the famous tombs of Nofretete and Tutankhamun contained no more beautiful objects. "The graves of the kings of Ur" are moreover 1,000 years older at least.

The graves of the kings had as well as these precious contents another more grisly and depressing experience in store for us, enough to send a slight shiver down the spine. In the vaults were found teams of oxen with the skeletons still in harness and each of the great waggons was laden with artistic household furniture. The whole retinue had clearly accompanied the noblemen in death, as could be gathered from the richly clad and ornamented skeletons with which they were surrounded. The tomb of the beautiful Puabi had twenty such skeletons, other vaults had as many as seventy.

What can have happened here so long ago? There was not the slightest indication that they were victims of a violent death. In solemn procession, it would seem, the attendants with the ox-drawn treasure waggons accompanied the body to the tomb. And while the grave was being sealed outside they composed their dead master for his last rest TOP

p 45 -- within. Then they took some drug, gathered round him for the last time and died of their own free will-in order to be able to serve him in his future existence.

For two centuries the citizens of Ur had buried their eminent men in these tombs. When they came to open the lowest and last tomb the archaeologists of the 20th century A.D. found themselves transported into the world of 2800 B.C.

As the summer of 1929 approached the sixth season of digging at Tell al-Muqayyar was drawing to a close. Woolley had put his native diggers once more on to the hill of "the graves of the kings". It left him no peace. He wanted to be certain whether the ground under the deepest royal grave had fresh discoveries in store for the next season's excavation.

After the foundations of the tomb had been removed, a few hundred thrusts of the spade made it quite plain that further layers of rubble lay below. How far into the past could these silent chronometers take them?

When had the very first human settlement arisen on virgin soil under this mound? Woolley had to know. To make certain he very slowly and carefully sank shafts and stood over them to examine the soil which came up from the underlying strata. "Almost at once," he wrote later in his diary, "discoveries were made which confirmed.our suspicions. Directly under the floor of one of the tombs of the kings we found in a layer of charred wood ash numerous clay tablets, which were covered with characters of a much older type than the inscriptions on the graves. Judging by the nature of the writing the tablets could be assigned to about 3000 B.C. They were therefore two or three centuries earlier than the tombs."

FIG- 3.- Traces of flood-clay about 4000 B.C.(a) River bed (Euphrates). (b) Layer of flood-clay. (c) Hills which projected above the flood.

The shafts went deeper and deeper. New strata with fragments of jars, pots and bowls kept coming up. The experts noticed that the pottery remained surprisingly enough unchanged. It looked exactly like what had been found in the graves of the kings. Therefore it seemed as if for centuries Sumerian civilisation had undergone no radical

p 46 -- change. They must, according to this conclusion, have reached a high level of development astonishingly early.

When after several days some of Woolley's workmen called out to him "We are on ground level" he let himself down on to the floor of the shaft to satisfy himself. Traces of any kind of settlement did in fact abruptly break off in the shaft. The last fragments of household utensils lay on the smooth flat surface of the base of the pit. Here and there were charred remains. Woolley's first thought was: "This is it at last." He carefully prodded the ground on the floor of the shaft and stopped short: it was clay, pure clay of a kind that could only have been deposited by water! Clay in a place like that? Woolley tried to find an explanation: it must be the accumulated silt of the Euphrates in bygone days. This stratum must have come into existence when the great river thrust its delta far out into the Persian Gulf, just as it still does, creating new land out of the sea at the river mouth at the rate of 75 feet a year. When Ur was in its heyday, the Euphrates flowed so close to it that the great staged tower was reflected in its waters and the Gulf was visible from the temple on its summit. The first buildings must therefore have sprung up on the mud flats of the delta.

Measurements of the adjacent area and more careful calculations brought Woolley eventually however to quite a different conclusion.

"I saw that we were much too high up. It was most unlikely that the island on which the first settlement was built stood up so far out of the marsh."

FIG. 4-Pit showing flood-stratum at Ur. 1. Graves of the kings. 2. Sherds and vessels. 3. Band of clay (10 feet). 4. Antediluvian vessels.

The foot of the shaft, where the layer of clay began, was several yards above the river level. It could not therefore be river deposit. What was the meaning then of this remarkable stratum? Where did it come from? None of his associates could give him a satisfactory answer. They

p 47 -- decided to dig on and make the shaft deeper. Woolley gazed intently as once more basket after basket came out of the trench and their contents were examined. Deeper and deeper went the spades into the ground, 3 feet, 6 feet - still pure clay. Suddenly at nearly 10 feet the layer of clay stopped as abruptly as it had started. What would come now? TOP

The next baskets that came to the surface gave an answer that none of the expedition would have dreamt of. They could hardly believe their eyes. They had expected pure virgin soil. But what now emerged into the glaring sunshine was rubble and more rubble, ancient rubbish and countless potsherds. Under this clay deposit almost 10 feet thick they had struck fresh evidence of human habitation. The appearance and quality of the pottery had noticeably altered. Above the clay-stratum were jars and bowls which had obviously been turned on the potter's wheel, here on the contrary they were hand-made. No matter how carefully they sifted the contents of the baskets, amid increasing excitement, metal remains were nowhere to be found, the primitive implement that did emerge was made of hewn flint. It must belong to the Stone Age!

That day a telegram from Mesopotamia flashed what was perhaps the most extraordinary message that had ever stirred men's imaginations "We have found the Flood". The incredible discovery at Ur made headline news in the United States and in Britain.

The Flood - that was the only possible explanation of this great clay deposit beneath the hill at Ur, which quite clearly separated two epochs of settlement. The sea had left its unmistakable traces in the shape of remains of little marine organisms embedded in the clay. Woolley had to confirm his conclusions without delay: a chance coincidence - although the odds were against it - might conceivably have been making fools of them. Three hundred yards from the first shaft he sank a second one.

The spades produced the same results: sherd - clay - fragmen os of hand-made pottery.

Finally to remove all doubt, Woolley made them dig a shaft through the rubble where the old settlement lay on a natural hill, that is to say, on a considerably higher level than the stratum of clay.

Just at about the same level as in the two other shafts the sherds of wheel-turned vessels stopped suddenly. Immediately beneath them came hand-made clay pots. It was exactly as Woolley had supposed and expected. Naturally the intermediate layer of clay was missing. "About sixteen feet below a brick pavement," noted Woolley, "which we could with reasonable certainty date about 2700 B.C. we were among the ruins of that Ur which had existed before the Flood."

How far did the layer of clay extend? What area was affected by the disaster? A proper hunt now started for traces of the Flood in other

p 48 -- parts of Mesopotamia. Other archaeologists discovered a further important check-point near Kish, south-east of Babylon, where the Euphrates and the Tigris flow in a great bend towards each other. There they found a similar band of clay, but only 18 inches thick. Gradually by a variety of tests the limits of the Flood waters could be established. According to Woolley the disaster engulfed an area north-west of the Persian Gulf amounting to 400 miles long and 100 miles wide, looking at the map we should call it today "a local occurrence" - for the inhabitants of the river plains it was however in those days their whole world. TOP


After endless enquiry and attempts at some explanation, without achieving any concrete results, any hope of solving the great riddle of the Flood had long since been given up. It seemed to lie in a dark and distant region of time which we could never hope to penetrate. Now Woolley and his associates had through their tireless and patient efforts made a discovery which shattered even the experts: a vast catastrophic inundation, resembling the Biblical Flood which had regularly been described by sceptics as either a fairy tale or a legend, had not only taken place but was moreover an event within the compass of history.

At the foot of the old staged tower of the Sumerians, at Ur on the lower Euphrates, anyone could climb down a ladder into a narrow shaft and see and touch the remains of a gigantic and catastrophic Flood which had deposited a layer of clay almost 10 feet thick. Reckoning by the age of the strata containing traces of human habitation, and in this respect they are as reliable as a calendar, it could also be ascertained when the great Flood took place. It happened about 4000 B.C.

Clearly people in Woolley's day tended to give dramatic interpretations to the results of excavations more readily than they do nowadays, for shortly after Woolley, another excavator, Stephen Langdon, claimed, "with strong support from the press", that he in turn had found in Kish, that is to say, in Babylon, "material traces of the Flood". It was Langdon's, but also Woolley's bad luck that the datings of these two flood catastrophes did not agree. Which flood was the right one, the genuine, Biblical Flood? Woolley protested vigorously against Langdon's claim to have discovered it and a vehement argument followed which, however, did not in the least disturb a number of writers, among them, for example, Sir Charles Marston, who asserted

p 49 -- that both Woolley and Langdon had discovered "simultaneously the
deposits left by the Flood".

Since then the excitement has somewhat subsided and given place to more sober consideration. The following four main points emerge from the pronouncements of the experts: -

Of Woolley's five shafts only two revealed any deposits at all from an inundation.

The inundation in Ur did not lead to the abandonment oi the settlement. In fact, it did not even lead to an interruption in the occupation.

Traces of inundation were indeed discovered in other places in Mesopotamia, in Kish, as well as in Fara (Shuruppak), Nineveh and Uruk (Erech) but on the other hand, they are not found where they ought to be present if the whole of Mesopotamia was flooded.

The traces left by the inundations at the various excavation sites also vary, in some cases quite appreciably, in their chronological sequence. They belong to quite different periods; centuries separate them.

In other words, Woolley's "Flood" was obviously not of sufficient magnitude for the Biblical "Flood", unless we assume that one of the flood catastrophes shown by archaeology to have occurred in Mesopotamia had nevertheless had such a lasting effect on the inhabitants of those days that - with a considerable amount of exaggeration - the tradition of a catastrophe to humanity could arise from it. Naturally, however, this is mere supposition and the Biblical Flood, at any rate a flood of the unimaginable extent described in the Bible, still remains "archaeologically not demonstrated". The question consequently remains: do all the various "flood" reports, which occur in practically all parts of the world, describe merely mankind's earliest experience of the phenomenon "flood catastrophe" and were all the traditional, relevant accounts of floods simply compressed or exaggerated to form a number of stories of the "great flood of all floods" or are they the vestiges of much older traditions going back hundreds of years before Woolley's flood at Ur, to the time of the melting of the gigantic glaciers of the Ice Age when the ocean rose some two hundred metres and the limits of today's land and sea were formed? That event had world-wide consequences which could explain why the traditions of a flood have persisted among so many peoples. The following pages will discuss one of the flood traditions, parallel to that in the Bible, although it derives to a large extent also from "Biblical lands". TOP

p 50 -- Chapter 4 -- A FLOOD-STORY FROM OLD BABYLONIA -- The Epic of Gilgamesh and the Bible - Twelve clay tablets from Nineveh - An ancient epic from the library of Ashurbanipal - Utnapishtim, a Sumerian Noah? - The secret of Mt. Ararat - A gigantic ship in a museum of ice - Expeditions in quest of the Ark.

"And God said unto Noah... Make thee an ark of gopherwood: rooms shalt thou make in the ark and shalt pitch it within and without with pitch" Gen. 6:13-14.

About the turn of the century, long before Woolley discovered Ur, another find had aroused great interest and given rise to lively discussions about the nature of Holy Scripture.

From the dim recesses of the Ancient East an old mysterious story came to light: a heroic epic, of 300 quatrains, inscribed on twelve large clay tablets, which told of the wonderful experiences of the legendary king Gilgamesh.

The text was astonishing: Gilgamesh told a tale exactly like the Bible -of a man who was said to have lived before and after a mighty and disastrous Flood.

Where did this splendid and remarkable epic come from?

During excavations in the fifties of last century British archaeologists had found these twelve clay tablets, together with about 20,000 others, all in a good state of preservation, among the ruins of the library at Nineveh, which was reckoned to be the most famous in the ancient world. King Ashurbanipal had it built in the 7th century B.C. high above the banks of the Tigris in old Nineveh. Today on the other side of the river the oil-derricks of Mosul tower into the sky.

A priceless treasure in packing cases started out on its long journey from Nineveh to the British Museum.

But it was not for several decades that the true value of these texts was revealed when they could finally be deciphered. At the time there was no one in the world who could read them. Despite every effort the tablets held their peace. Shortly before 1900 in the modest laboratories of the British Museum the old texts began, after an interval of twenty-five centuries, to unfold anew one of the finest narratives of the Ancient East. Assyriologists heard for the first time the Epic of Gilgamesh. It is written in Akkadian, the language of the court and of diplomacy in the time of king Ashurbanipal. Its form, however, dates not from the time

p 51 -- when it was placed in the library at Nineveh but from 1,000 years earlier. It goes back as far as Hammurabi, the great king of Babylon, for soon a second copy was discovered in his capital on the Euphrates. Further finds confirmed the view that the Gilgamesh Epic belonged to the rich heritage of all the great nations of the Ancient East. Hittites and Egyptians translated it into their own tongues, and cuneiform tablets discovered by the Nile still show clearly the marks in red ink opposite those parts which the Egyptian scribes found difficulty in translating.

At last a little clay fragment gave the clue to the origin of the Epic of Gilgamesh. The world owes its original composition to the Sumerians, the people whose capital stood on the site of Ur.

Gilgamesh, as the cuneiform writing on the eleventh tablet from the library at Nineveh tells us, decided to ensure his immortality and set out on a long adventurous journey to find his ancestor Utnapishtim, from whom he hoped to learn the secret of everlasting life which the gods had bestowed upon him. When he reached the island on which Utnapishtim lived, Gilgamesh asked of him the "Secret,of Life". Utnapishtim related that he had once lived in Shuruppak and had been a true worshipper of the god Ea. When the gods decided to destroy mankind by a Flood Ea warned his devotee Utnapishtim and issued this command: "0 man of Shuruppak, son of Ubar-Tutu, tear down thy house, build a ship; abandon wealth, seek after life; scorn possessions, save thy life. Bring up the seed of all kinds of living things into the ship: the ship which thou shalt build. Let its dimensions be well measured."

We all know the wonderful story which follows. For what the Sumerian Utnapishtim is said to have experienced, the Bible tells us about Noah.      "And God said unto Noah Make thee an ark of gopher wood. And of every living thing of all flesh, two of every sort shalt thou bring into the ark, to keep them alive with thee; they shall be male and female" Gen. 6:13ff.

To make the comparison easier let us set side by side what Utnapishtim says of his great experience and what the Bible tells us of Noah and the Flood. TOP

In accordance with the command of the god Ea, Utnapishtim builds the ship and says:

On the fifth day I decided upon its

The floor was 200 ft. square.

The length of the ark shall be 300cubits the breadth Of it 50 cubits and the height of it thirty cubits - Gen.6:15.

p 52 -- The walls were 200 ft. high
.I gave it six stories and divided thebreadth seven times.

With lower, second, and third
stories shalt thou make it - Gen. 6:16.

Its interior I divided into nine. ...Rooms shalt thou make in the ark - Gen. 6:14.
6 sar of bitumen I poured into thekiln. ... and shalt pitch it within and
without with pitch - Gen. 6:14.

When Utnapishtim had finished building his ship he arranged a sumptuous banquet. He provided venison and mutton for those who had helped with the work of building and dispensed "cider, beer, oil and wine to the people as if it were running water". Then he continues:

I brought into the ship my whole
family and kinsfolk.

All that I had I loaded, of the seed of all living things.

The cattle of the field, the beasts of
the field, all craftsmen-I made
them go up into it.

And Noah went in, and his sons, and his wife, and his sons' wives, into the ark because of the waters of the flood.

Of clean beasts, and of beasts that are not clean, and of fowls, and of everything that creepeth upon the earth.

There went in two and two unto Noah into the ark, the male and the female, as God had commanded Noah (Gen. 7 7-1).

I went into the ship and closed my

And the Lord shut him in (Gen. 7 16).

As soon as a gleam of dawn shone in the sky, came a black cloud from the foundation of heaven. Inside it Adad thundered.

And it came to pass, after seven days, that the waters of the flood were upon the earth.

... the same day were all the fountains of the great deep broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened - Gen. 7:10-11.

p 53 -- Adad's rage reached to the heavens: turning all light to darkness.  

The gods of Mesopotamia are terrified by the Flood and flee to the upper reaches of heaven where the god Anu has his abode. Before they enter "they crouch and cower like dogs". They are grieved and shattered by what is happening and tearfully and in utter dejection lodge their complaint.

A description worthy of Homer!

But the Flood rages on unceasing, as Gilgamesh learns:

Six days and nights

Raged the wind, the flood, the cyclone devastated the land.

And the flood was forty days upon the earth and the waters increased. And the waters prevailed exceedingly upon the earth, and all the high hills, that were under the whole heaven, were covered - Gen- 7:17-19.
When the seventh day came, the cyclone, the flood, the battle was over, And God remembered Noah... and God made a wind to pass over the earth and the waters assuaged - Gen. 8:1.
Which had battled like an army. The sea became calm, the cyclone died away, the flood ceased. The fountains of the deep and the windows of heaven were stopped; and the rain from heaven was restrained. And the waters returned from off the earth continually, and after the end of the hundred and fifty days the waters were abated - Gen. 8:2, 3.
And all mankind had turned to clay. The ground was flat like a roof. And all flesh died that moved upon the earth... and every man - Gen. 7:21.

"And all mankind had turned to clay." Utnapishtim, the Sumerian Noah, is recording what he himself claimed to have lived through. Babylonians, Assyrians, Hittites and Egyptians who translated or read aloud or narrated these words had no more notion that they were describing something that actually happened, than did the modern

p 54 -- Assyriologists who painfully deciphered them from the cuneiform tablets. Today we know that line 134 on the eleventh tablet of the Epic of Gilgamesh must depend on an eye-witness account. Only someone who had himself seen the desolation caused by the catastrophe, could have described it with such striking force. TOP

The great layer of mud, which covered every living thing like a shroud and levelled the ground until it was as "flat as a roof ", must have been seen with his own eyes by someone who had had a marvellous escape. The exact description of the great storm argues for this assumption. Utnapishtim expressly mentions a southern gale, which corresponds closely with the geographical situation. The Persian Gulf, whose waters were flung over the flat country by the gale, lies south of the estuary of the Tigris and Euphrates. To the last detail the weather conditions which he describes are characteristic of an unusual atmospheric disturbance. The appearance of black clouds and a roaring noise - sudden darkness in broad daylight - the howling of the southern gale as it drives the water in front of it. Any meteorologist recognises at once that this is a description of a cyclone. Modern weather experts recognise that, in tropical regions, coastal areas, islands, but above all alluvial river flats are subject to a spiral type of tidal wave which leaves devastation and destruction in its wake, and which is often caused by cyclones, accompanied by earthquakes and torrential rain.

All along the coast of Florida, in the Gulf of Mexico, and on the Pacific there is today an up-to-date alarm system with all the latest equipment. But for southern Mesopotamia in 4000 B.C. even a modern alarm system would not have been of much use. Sometimes cyclones
produce an effect which takes the shape of the Flood. There is an example in recent times.

In 1876 a cyclone of this nature, accompanied by tremendous thunderstorms, swept across the Bay of Ben al and headed for the coast at the mouth of the Ganges. Up to 200 miles from its centre ships at sea had their masts splintered. It was ebb-tide along the coast. The receding water was seized by the broad high sweep of the cyclone and a gigantic tidal wave reared itself up. It burst into the Ganges area and sea water 50 feet high swept inland - 141 square miles were buried and 215,100 people died.

Utnapishtim tells a horrified Gilgamesh what happened when the disaster was over:

I opened the window and the light fell on my face. And it came to pass at the end of
forty days, that Noah opened the window of the ark which he had
made - Gen. 8:6.

p 55 -- The ship lay upon Mt. Nisir.

Mount Nisir held the ship and
allowed it not to move.

And the ark rested in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, upon the mountains of Ararat - Gen. 8:4.

Old Babylonian cuneiform texts describe with care where Mt. Nisir is to be found. It lies between the Tigris and the lower reaches of the river Zab, where the wild and rugged mountain ranges of Kurdistan rise sharply from the flat country bordering the Tigris. The alleged resting place corresponds perfectly with the last lap of the great catastrophe which burst inland from the south. We are told that Utnapishtim's home was in Shuruppak. It lay near the present day Fara in the middle of the flat fenland where Tigris and Euphrates part company. A tidal wave from the Persian Gulf must have carried a ship from here right to the Kurdistan mountains.


Despite the precise descriptions in the Epic of Gilgamesh, Mt. Nisir has never tempted the curious to search for the remains of this giant ship. Instead, Mt. Ararat, which belongs to the Biblical tradition, has been the goal chosen by a series of expeditions.

Fig. 6.- Mt. Ararat - where three countries meet: Turkey, Iran and U.S.S.R.

Mt. Ararat lies in Eastern Turkey, near the borders of Russia and Iran. Its snow capped summit is over 16,000 feet high. TOP

Last century, many years before any archaeologist turned a spadeful of Mesopotamian soil, the first expeditions were making their way to Mt. Ararat. A shepherd's story had started them off.

At the foot of Ararat lies the little Armenian village of Bayzit, whose inhabitants have for generations recounted the remarkable experience of a mountain shepherd who was said to have seen one day on Ararat a great wooden ship. A report from a Turkish expedition in 1833 seemed to confirm the shepherd's story since it mentioned a wooden prow of a ship which in the summer season stuck out of the south glacier.

The next person to claim to have seen it was Dr. Nouri, Archdeacon of Jerusalem and Babylon. This agile ecclesiastical dignitary undertook a journey in 1892 to discover the sources of the Euphrates. On his return he told of the wreckage of a ship in the eternal ice: "The interior was full of snow: the outer wall was of a dark red colour." In the First World War a Russian flying officer, by name Roskowitzki, announced

p 56 -- that he had spotted from his plane "the remains of wreckage of a fair-sized ship" on the south flank of Ararat. Although it was the middle of the war, Czar Nicholas II despatched a search party without delay. It is supposed not only to have seen the ship but even to have photographed it. All proof of this however perished, presumably in the Revolution.

From the Second World War there are likewise several cases of aerial observation. They come from a Russian pilot and four American fliers.

These latter reports brought into the field the American historian and missionary Dr. Aaron Smith of Greensborough, an expert on the Flood. As a result of years of labour he has collected a complete history of the literature on Noah's Ark. There are 80,000 works in seventy-two languages about the Flood, of which 70,000 mention the legendary wreckage of the Ark.

In 1951 Dr. Smith spent twelve days with forty companions to no purpose on the ice-cap of Ararat. "Although we found no trace of Noah's Ark," he declared later, "my confidence in the Biblical description of the Flood is no whit the less. We shall go back."

Encouraged by Dr. Smith the young French Greenland explorer Jean de Riquer climbed the volcanic peak in 1952. He too came back without accomplishing anything. Despite this, fresh expeditions are always getting ready for a further attempt on Mt. Ararat.

In 1955, in the early morning of July 6th, Fernand Navarra from France, searching for the most famous ship in history, succeeded to his great surprise in salvaging three fragments of a wooden beam embedded in solid ice on top of the mountain. The timber was at least 5,000 years old, although whether this was actually a relic of Noah's Ark it is of course impossible to say.

No tradition of the early days of Mesopotamia is in such close agreement with the Bible as the Flood story in the Epic of Gilgamesh. In some places we find almost verbal correspondence. Yet there is a significant and essential difference. The familiar story in Genesis knows of one God only. The oddly amusing and primitive conception has disappeared of a heaven overcrowded with gods, many of whom bear all too human characteristics.

In all the flood traditions which have been mentioned, problems arise from mankind's unfortunate tendency to believe what it wants to believe. This is shown especially in the search for the ark on the 5,165 metre-high Agri Dagi which lies on the frontier between Turkey and the Soviet Union. According to the account in the Bible (Gen. 8:4), that is where Noah's ark is supposed to have landed. When considered closely, however, the matter is by no means so unambiguous, for the Bible refers only to the "mountains of Ararat". Ararat is simply the name given to the old land of Urartu, which corresponds, roughly speaking, to present day Armenia. The Gilgamesh epic adds the "mountain Nisir"

p 57 -- as the place where the ark came to rest, while Berossus, a Babylonian priest who lived in Hellenic times and who in his work Babylonian Antiquities also relates the Babylonian flood story, introduces a "Kordye mountain range" into the debate. Another claim for the honour of being regarded as the landing place of the ark is made for a mountain in Phrygia in Asia Minor, not far from the town of Kelainai, the centre of many legends in olden days, while the Mahometans prefer to situate the ark's landing place a good distance south of Agri Dagi on the mountain of Judi, which offers a view far across the Mesopotamian plain. One way and another there are in any case too many mountains figuring as landing places for the ark.

What has been done and is still being done on the mountain where according to Christian tradition the ark came to rest is, however, not yet sufficiently documented. Andre Parrot is of the opinion that silence is the only appropriate attitude to be adopted by scientific journals towards the periodically recurring attempts, usually accompanied by lively activity in the daily press, to discover remains of the Biblical ark high up amid the snow and ice. In fact, not a single specialist in archaeology has so far taken part in any of the attempts to recover the ark. The consequence is that we have no reliable account of methods used in the searches or of the circumstances in which finds have been made, not to mention photographic evidence providing proof of claims that have been put forward. This is not because professional archaeologists consider themselves too grand to undertake the strenuous exertions involved in climbing up Mount Ararat (or rather Agri Dagi), but because systematic archaeological investigations, particularly in such difficult terrain, involve enormous expenditure. TOP

The necessary finance is granted, however, only when discoveries of great scientific and general interest are to be expected. Such finds are improbable on Mount Ararat, and so we are provisionally obliged to say that ever since the 5165 metre peak has been in existence and men have inhabited the earth, no scientifically recorded inundation in the world has risen high enough to carry up to such an altitude any kind of floating construction of the nature of the ark. The terrain around Mount Ararat during this period has not undergone such spectacular changes that the ark could have been deposited there at a time when perhaps the summit was lower than it is today. From the outset, the search for the ark on Agri Dagi must be considered a failure and as Andre Parrot has so well expressed it, expeditions with Mount Ararat as their goal have more to do with mountain-climbing than with archaeology.

But does there not exist wood from Ararat "at least five thousand years old"? Certainly wood has been produced for examination which, it is claimed, has come from Ararat, but again there is a difficulty about the dating, which we are told is based on "estimates by a forestry

p 58 -- institute in Madrid", while "a laboratory" in Paris is reported to have arrived at 4,484 years as the age of the wood. On the other hand, a "Research Institute in Pre-History" in Bordeaux is said to have been content with vague general statements about the "great age" of the material. Even if these institutes were shown on closer examination to be reputable, however, and their reports proved to be unassailable, we must take into account that the samples extracted by non-specialists and brought long distances to the above mentioned places must have been exposed to a considerable degree to the effects of dirt. This obscures the measurements obtained, so that there can scarcely be any question of the determination of that wood's age which is not open to objection. A subsequent Ararat expedition did not even locate the original spot where the wood had been found. On the other hand, it claimed to have discovered wood elsewhere on Agri Daki, but its age has been assessed at only something between 1300 and 1700 years. This result coincides very nicely with the conjecture by a number of scholars that as a possible consequence of being traditionally linked with the account of the Flood, Agri Daki was regarded as "holy" and so already in the early Christian era a few huts for pilgrims or hermits' dwellings may have been built there. TOP

p 59 -- Chapter 5 -- ABRAHAM LIVED IN THE KINGDOM OF MARI -- A stone corpse - Lieut. Cabane reports a find - A Syrian Tell has important visitors - King Lamgi-Mari introduces himself - Professor Parrot discovers an unknown empire - A Royal Palace with 260 apartments and courtyards - 23,600 clay tablets have survived for 4,000 years - Desert police report the "Benjamites" - Rebecca's home - A flourishing city - And Nuzi... ?

"Now the Lord had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will show thee" Gen. 12:1.

The country of which the Bible is speaking in this case is Haran. Terah, his son Abram, his daughter-in-law Sarai, and his grandson Lot lived there (Gen. 11:31).

What was actually meant by Haran was until recently quite unknown. We knew nothing of its early history. All the old Babylonian documents are silent about the middle reaches of the Euphrates - Mesopotamia, the land between the rivers - where Haran once stood.

A chance find led to excavations in 1933, which here also gave rise to a great and exciting discovery and added considerably to our knowledge. They brought the Haran of the Bible and the kind of life lived by the patriarchs quite unexpectedly into a historical context.

On the line between Damascus and Mosul, where it cuts the Euphrates, lies the small obscure town of Abu Kemal. Since, as a result of the First World War, Syria was placed under a French mandate, there was a French garrison in the place.

Over the broad Euphrates plain in midsummer 1933 lay a brooding, paralysing heat. Lieut. Cabane, the station-commander, expected, when he was called into the orderly room, that it was merely another of these quarrels among the Arabs that he was supposed to settle. He had had more than enough of that already. But this time the excitement in the office seemed to be about something different. Eventually he managed to extract through the interpreter the following story:  These people had been burying one of their relatives. They were digging the grave on a remote hillside, by name Tell Hariri, when out popped a stone corpse!

Perhaps, thought Lieut. Cabane, this might be something that would interest the museum at Aleppo. At any rate it was a pleasant change from the endless monotony of this God-forsaken post.

p 60 -- In the cool of the evening he drove out to Tell Hariri, which lay about 7 miles to the north of Abu Kemal near the Euphrates. The Arabs led him up the slope to the broken statue in a flat earthen trough which had so upset them the day before. Cabane was no expert, but he knew at once that the stone figure must be very old. Next day it was taken by French soldiers to Abu Kemal. The lights were on till long after midnight in the little command-post. Cabane was writing a detailed report on the find to the competent authorities, to Henry Seyrig, Director of Antiquities in Beirut, and to the Museum at Aleppo.

Months went past and nothing happened,. The whole thing seemed to be either unimportant or forgotten. Then at the end of November came a telegram from Paris, from the Louvre. Cabane could hardly believe his eyes and read the message again and again. In a few days important visitors from Paris would be arriving: Professor Parrot, the well known archaeologist, accompanied by scientists, architects, assistants and draughtsmen.

On the 14th of December Tell Hariri was buzzing like a bee-hive. The archaeologists had begun their detective-work. First of all the whole mound was carefully measured and photographed in detail. Soundings were taken for echoes, specimens of soil were removed and submitted to expert opinion. December went by and the first weeks of the New Year. The 23rd of January 1934 was the decisive day.

As they were digging carefully through the outer crust of the Tell there appeared out of the rubble a neat little figure which had some writing pricked out on the right shoulder. Everyone bent over it, fascinated. "I am Lamgi-Mari... king... of Mari... the great... Issakkv... who worships his statue... of Ishtar."

Slowly, word by word, this sentence rings in the ears of the silent circle as Professor Parrot translates it from the cuneiform. This is an unforgettable moment for him and his companions. An almost uncanny scene and probably unique in the history of archaeology with its surprises and adventures!

The monarch had solemnly welcomed the strangers from distant Paris and introduced himself to them. It was as if he wanted politely to show them the road into his kingdom of long ago which lay in a deep sleep beneath him, and of whose pomp and power the Parisian scholars
had as yet no conception.

Carved in stone, a marvellous piece of sculpture, King Lamgi-Mari stood before Parrot: a commanding broad-shouldered figure upon its base. But the face lacks that incredible arrogance which is so typical of the portraits of other conquerors from the ancient East, the Assyrians, who without exception look fierce and bad-tempered. The king of Mari is smiling. He carries no weapons, his hands are folded in an attitude of, worship. His robe, which leaves one shoulder bare, like a toga, is richly decorated with fringes.

p 61 -- Hardly ever has an excavation been so crowned with success from the word "go", and the first groping efforts. Mari, the royal city, must be lying slumbering under this mound.

Scholars had for a long time been familiar with the royal city of Mari which features in many old inscriptions from Babylonia and Assyria. One text maintained that Mari was the tenth city to be founded after the Flood. The great spade-offensive against Tell Hariri began.

With considerable intervals the digging went on from 1933 to 1939. For the greater part of the year the tropical heat made any activity impossible. Only in the cooler months of the rainy season, from the middle of December to the end of March, could anything be done.

The excavations at Tell Hariri brought a wealth of new discoveries to a chapter of the history of the Ancient East which is still unwritten.

No one knew as yet how close a connection the finds at Mari would prove to have with quite familiar passages in the Bible.

Year by year reports of the expedition provided fresh surprises.

In the winter of 1933-34 a temple of Ishtar the goddess of fertility was exposed. Three of Ishtar's royal devotees have immortalised themselves as statues in the shrine which is inlaid with a mosaic of gleaming shells: Lamgi-Mari, Ebin-il, and Idi-Narum.

In the second season of digging the spades came upon the houses of a city. Mari had been found! However great was the satisfaction with their success, far more interest, indeed astonishment was aroused by the walls of a palace which must have been unusually large. Parrot reported: "We have unearthed 69 rooms and courts, and there are still more to come." One thousand six hundred cuneiform tablets, carefully stacked in one of the rooms, contained details of household management.

The record of the third campaign in 1935-36 noted that so far 138 rooms and courtyards had been found but that they had not yet reached the outer walls of the palace. Thirteen thousand clay tablets awaited deciphering. In the fourth winter a temple of the god Dagon was dug up and also a Ziggurat, the typical Mesopotamian staged tower. Two hundred and twenty rooms and courtyards were now visible in the palace and another 8,000 clay tablets had been added to the existing collection.

At last in the fifth season, when a further forty rooms had been cleared of rubble, the palace of the kings of Mari lay in all its vast extent before Parrot and his assistants. This mammoth uilding of the third millennium B.C. covered almost ten acres. Never before during any excavations had such an enormous building with such vast ramifications come to light.

Columns of lorries had to be commissioned to remove the cuneiform tablets from the palace archives alone. There were almost 24,000 documents. The great find of the tablets at Nineveh was put in the

p 62 -- shade, since the famous library of the Assyrian king, Ashurbanipal, amounted to a "mere" 22,000 clay texts.

To get a proper picture of Mari palace aerial photographs were taken. These pictures taken from a low altitude over Tell Hariri gave rise to almost incredulous amazement when they were published in France. This palace at Mari was, around 2000 B.C., one of the greatest sights of the world, the architectural gem of the Ancient East. Travellers came from far and near to see it. "I have seen Mari," wrote an enthusiastic merchant from the Phoenician seaport of Ugarit.

The last king to live there was Zimri-Lim. The armies of the famous Hammurabi of Babylon subjugated the kingdom of Mari on the central reaches of the Euphrates and destroyed its mighty capital about 1700 B.C.

Under the wreckage of roofs and walls were found the fire-pans of the Babylonian warriors, the incendiary squad who set fire to the palace.

But they were not able to destroy it completely. The walls were left standing to a height of 15 feet. "The installations in the palace kitchens and bathrooms," wrote Professor Parrot, "could still be put into commission without the need of any repair, four thousand years after its destruction." In the bathrooms they found the tubs, cake-moulds in the kitchens, even charcoal in the ovens.

The sight of these majestic ruins is an overwhelming experience. A single gate on the north side ensured easier control and better defence. Passing through a medley of courts and passages one reaches the great inner courtyard and broad daylight. This was the centre both of official life and the administration of the kingdom. The monarch received his officials as well as couriers and ambassadors in the neighbouring audience-chamber, large enough to hold hundreds of people. Broad corridors led to the king's private apartments.

One wing of the palace was used exclusively for religious ceremonies. It contained also a throne-room, approached by a marvellous staircase. A long processional way passed through several rooms to the palace chapel in which stood the image of the mother-goddess of fertility. From a vessel in her hands flowed perpetually "the water of everlasting life".

The entire court lived under the king's roof. Ministers, administrators, secretaries and scribes had their own roomy quarters.

There was a Foreign Office and a Board of Trade in the great administrative palace of the kingdom of Mari. More than 100 officials were involved in dealing with the incoming and outgoing mail, which amounted to thousands of tablets alone. TOP

Wonderful great frescoes added a decorative effect to the palace. Even to this day the colours have hardly lost any of their brilliance. They seem to have been laid on only yesterday but in fact they are the oldest paintings in Mesopotamia - 1,000 years older than the

p 63 -- renowned coloured frescoes in the splendid edifices of the Assyrian rulers at Khorsabad, Nineveh and Nimrud.

The size and grandeur of this unique palace corresponded to the land that was governed from it. Through these many thousands of years the palace archives have preserved the record.

Notices, public papers, decrees, accounts, scratched out on clay by the busy styli of well-paid scribes 4,000 years ago, had to be brought to life again with tireless industry. In Paris, Professor George Dossin, of the University of Liege, and a host of Assyriologists wrestled with the problem of deciphering and translating them. It would be years before all the 23,600 documents were translated and published.

Each of them contains a little piece of the mosaic which makes up the true facts about the kingdom of Mari.

Numerous orders for the construction of canals, locks, dams, and embankments make it plain that the prosperity of the country largely depended on the widespread system of irrigation, which was constantly under the supervision of government engineers, who saw to its care and maintenance.

Two tablets contain a list of 2,000 craftsmen, giving their full names and the names of their guilds.

The news service in Mari functioned so quickly and successfully that it would bear comparison with modern telegraphy. Important

.FIG. 7-This picture from Room 106 in the palace of Mari shows the investiture of Zimri-Lim by the goddess Ishtar.

p 64 -- messages were sent by means of fire signals from the frontier of Babylon right up to present day Turkey in a matter of a few hours, a distance of more than 300 miles.

Mari lay at the intersection of the great caravan route from West to East and North to South. It is not surprising therefore that the traffic in goods, which extended from Cyprus and Crete to Asia Minor and Mesopotamia, necessitated a lively correspondence on clay concerning imports and exports. But the tablets do not merely record everyday matters. They also give an impressive account of religious life, of New Year Festivals in honour of Ishtar, auguries with the entrails of animals, and interpretation of dreams. Twenty-five gods made up the Mari pantheon. A list of sacrificial lambs, which Zimri-Lim presented, refers to these occupants of heaven by name.

From countless individual bits of evidence on these tablets we can form a picture of this masterpiece of organisation and administration which the kingdom of Mari constituted in the 18th century B.C. What is astonishing is that neither in their sculptures nor in their paintings is there any indication of warlike activity.

The inhabitants of Mari were Amorites who had been settled there for a long time, and who preferred peace. Their interests lay in religion and ceremonial, in trade and commerce. Conquest, heroism, and the clash of battle meant little to them. As we can still see from statues and pictures, their faces radiate a cheerful serenity.

That did not mean, however, that they were absolved from the necessity of defendin and safeguarding their territory by force of arms. On their frontiers lived tribes of Semitic nomads, who found the lush pastures, market gardens and cornfields of Mari a constant temptation. They were always crossing the border, grazing their cattle over wide stretches of the countryside, and disturbing the population. They had to be watched. Frontier posts were therefore established as a check on this danger, and any incident was immediately reported to Mari.

In Paris the Assyriologists were deciphering a clay tablet from the archives of Mari. They read with astonishment a report from Bannum, an officer of the desert police:

"Say to my lord: This from Bannum, thy servant. Yesterday I left Mari and spent the night at Zuruban. All the Benjamites were sending fire-signals. From Samanum to Ilum-Muluk, from Ilum-Muluk to Mishlan, all the Benjamite villages in the Terqa district replied with fire-signals. I am not yet certain what these signals meant. I am trying to find out. I shall write to my lord whether or not I succeed. The city guards should be strengthened and my lord should not leave the gate." TOP

In this police report from the central reaches of the Euphrates in the 19th century B.C. there appears the name of one of the tribes known to us from the Bible. It literally calls them Benjamites.

p 65 -- There is frequent mention of these Benjamites. They seem to have given the ruler of Mari so many headaches and caused so much trouble that periods of a king's reign were even called after them.

In the Mari dynasties the years of each reign were not numbered but were identified with some notable event, for example the building and consecration of new temples, the erection of great dams to improve irrigation, the strengthening of the banks of the Euphrates or a national census. Three times the chronological tables mention the Benjamites:

"The year in which lahdulim went to Hen and laid hands upon the territory of the Benjamites", is referred to in the reign of King lahdulim of Mari and

"The year that Zimri-Lim killed the davidum of the Benjamites"

"The year after Zimri-Lim killed the dividum of the Benjamites ..." in the reign of the last monarch of Mari, Zimri-Lim.

An elaborate correspondence between governors, district commissioners, and administrators takes place over the single question: Dare we take a census of the Benjamites?

In the kingdom of Mari a census of the people was not uncommon. It provided a basis for taxation and for enlistment for military service. The population was summoned by districts and a nominal roll was made of every man liable for call-up.

The proceedings lasted several days, during which free beer and bread were distributed by government officials. The administration in the palace of Mari would fain have included the Benjamites in this but the district officers had their doubts. They advised against it since they understood only too well the temper of these roaming and rebellious tribes.

"Reference the proposal to take a census of the Benjamites, about which you have written me," begins a letter from Samsi-Addu to Iasmah-Addu in Mari. "The Benjamites are not well-disposed to the idea of a census. If you carry it out, their kinsmen the Ra-ab-ay-yi, who live on the other bank of the river, will hear of it. They will be annoyed with them and will not return to their country. On no account should this census be taken!"

Thus the Benjamites lost their free beer and bread and also escaped paying taxes and military service.

Later the children of Israel were to experience a census of this sort many times, conducted exactly on the Mari-pattern. The first time was on the command of Yahweh after Moses had led them out of Egypt. All men over twenty who were fit to fight were registered according to their families (Num. 1-4). A generation later, after their sojourn in the desert, Moses took a second census with a view to dividing up the land of Canaan (Num. 26). During the monarchy David ordered a national census. What he had in mind on that occasion was the building up of an army and his commander in chief, Joab, was entrusted with the

p 66 -- arrangements (2 Sam. 24). As the Bible depicts the incident, Yahweh had put the idea into the king's mind in order to punish the people. The Israelites loved their freedom above all else. Registration and the prospect of being called up were equally hateful to them. Even in the year A.D. 6 the census carried out by Governor Cyrenius almost led to open revolt. TOP

It is worth noting that it is to peace-loving Mari that the world owes the original pattern of all recruiting campaigns. It was later followed by Babylonians and Assyrians, by Greeks and Romans, in exactly the same way, as indeed in later days by the nations of modern times. Thus Mari has given the lead to the whole world in this matter of taking a census for purposes of taxation and conscription for military service.

In Paris the mention of Benjamites gave rise to conjecture and anticipation along a particular line. Not without reason.

On other clay tablets the Assyriologists dealing with these reports of governors and district commissioners of the Mari empire came across one after another a whole series of familiar sounding names from Biblical history-names like Peleg, and Serug, Nahor and Terah and - Haran.

"These are the generations of Shem," says Gen. 11. "... Peleg lived 30 years and begat Reu: And Reu lived two and thirty years and begat Serug: And Serug lived thirty years and begat Nahor: And Nahor lived nine and twenty years and begat Terah: And Terah lived seventy years and begat Abram, Nahor, and Haran."

Names of Abraham's forefathers emerge from these dark ages as names of cities in north-west Mesopotamia. They lie in Padan-Aram, the plain of Aram. In the centre of it lies Haran, which, according to its description, must have been a flourishing city in the 19th and 18th centuries B.C. Haran, the home of Abraham, father of the patriarchs, the birthplace of the Hebrew people, is here for the first time historically attested, for contemporary texts refer to it. Further up the same Balikh valley lay the city with an equally well-known Biblical name, Nahor, the home of Rebecca, wife of Isaac.

"And Abraham was old and well stricken in age, and the Lord had blessed Abraham in all things. And Abraham said unto his eldest servant of his house, that ruled over all that he had: Put, I pray thee, thy hand under my thigh; And I will make thee swear by the Lord, the God of heaven, and the God of the earth, that thou shalt not take a wife unto my son of the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I dwell; But thou shalt go unto my country, and to my kindred and take a wife unto my son Isaac.... And the servant took... of all the goods of his master ... and he arose and went to Mesopotamia, unto the city of Nahor" Gen. 24 1-4,10.

p 67 -- The Biblical city of Nahor is unexpectedly drawn into a recognisable historical setting. Abraham's servant set out for the land of the kings of Mari. The instructions of his master, according to the Biblical tradition, clearly indicate that Abraham must have known Northern Mesopotamia, including Nahor, extremely well. How else could he have spoken of the city of Nahor?

If we follow the dates given in the Bible we find that Abraham left his native place, Haran, 645 years before the exodus of the people of Israel from Egypt. They wandered through the desert towards the Promised Land under the leadership of Moses in the 13th century B.C. This date is, as we shall see, assured by archaeology. Abraham must therefore have lived about 1900 B.C. The finds at Mari confirm the accuracy of the Biblical account. About 1900 B.C., according to the evidence of the palace archives, Haran and Nahor were both flourishing cities.

The documents from the kingdom of Mari produce startling proof that the stories of the patriarchs in the Bible are not "pious legends" - as is often too readily assumed - but things that are described as happening in a historical period which can be precisely dated.

The fact that the Bible contains genuine early Western Semitic names found surprising confirmation in written sources from the Ancient East. Not only did personal names from the Biblical story of the patriarchs occur as placenames, but they also proved to be the names of individual persons and it is not at all rare or unusual for clay tablets to be found bearing the name of the patriarch Abraham. Yet has Abraham actually been brought nearer to us? The excavation of written sources at "Fennel Cape", Ras Shamra (ancient Ugarit), has revealed that there were even an Egyptian and a Cypriot among those bearing this name. The distinguished Bible archaeologist Father Roland de Vaux considered this "unusual and disturbing". Quite understandably so, for this being the case, Abraham, instead of drawing closer to us, is in danger of disappearing in the crowd of his numerous namesakes who appear during the various epochs of the history of the Near and Middle East.

Unfortunately the "'Benjamites" of Mari have also disappeared. The conviction has established itself that the name in the texts from Mari which was interpreted as "Benjamites" really means simply sons of the right (sc. hand)", that is to say, "sons of the south". It appears to have been a purely geographical designation rather than the name of a tribe, for in the Mari documents banu rabbaja and banu sam'al are contrasted with the "sons of the south". Moreover, the name of the territory Yemen in Southern Arabia has preserved the old Mari word across the millennia, for Yemen merely means south! TOP

But Bible scholars have also learnt other things. A phrase such as "the year in which Zimri-Lim killed the davidum of the Benjamites" is

p 68 -- now translated as "the year in which Zimri-Lim inflicted an annihilating defeat on the 'sons of the south"', for davidum does not mean "commander", as was previously thought, but "defeat".

Of course, the beginnings of Mari around 1800 B.C. agree extremely well with the traditional dating of the Biblical patriarchs, somewhere around or shortly after 2000 B.C. Paradoxically it was the astonishing confirmation of statements in the Bible connecting the time of the patriarchs with a period of the history of the Ancient East some 500 years later which thus raised doubts concerning the customary dating. This confirmation comes from the archives of Nuzi in Yorgan Tepe, fifteen kilometres south west of Kirkuk. The written documents from this Horite city of the kingdom of Mitanni (c. 1500 B.C.) cast a light not only on the ancient laws of the Horites, but also on the legal practices of the Biblical patriarchs which agree to an amazing degree with the Biblical texts. Three examples will suffice as illustrations:

I) Abraham laments the fact that he will die without a son and that a certain Eliezer will inherit from him (Gen. 15:2) . From the Nuzi tablets we know that it was customary for a childless couple to adopt a "son" who looked after his foster-parents and in return inherited from them. This arrangement could be reversed to a certain degree if an heir was subsequently born.

2) If a marriage remained childless, the wife had to provide a "substitute wife". This is what Sarah did when she presented Hagar to Abraham (Gen. 16:2 ) and in the same way Rachel at a later time gave her husband Jacob her maid Bilhah (Gen. 30'). The custom was precisely the same in Nuzi.

3) Jacob's wife Rachel stole the "images" of her father Laban (Gen. 31:3 ff) and Laban moved heaven and earth to get these "images" back. The Nuzi tablets tell us why. The person who was in possession of these domestic images (teraphim) also had the rights to the inheritance.

Taken together there is a striking conformity between the Bible and the Nuzi texts. Yet there is a bitter conclusion to be drawn, for if the patriarchs followed the legal customs of the Horites of the fifteen century before the birth of Christ, how could they have lived in the 18th, 19th or even the 20th century before Christ? In other words, did Abraham really live in the "kingdom of Mari"? Or ought we to look for him centuries later in the kingdom of Mitanni? In fact, we shall see that certain concepts of the "patriarchal period", in the religious sphere this time, are matched by ideas contained in texts from the coastal town of Ugarit (Ras Shamra) whose "classical" period came still later, in the 15th to 14th centuries before Christ. Do we have, in consequence, to put Israel's Biblical ancestors even later? The questions still facing us today are innumerable!

p 69 -- If it seems that science is abandoning us to ourselves with a large number of new problems and if it seems that it is consequently so much more difficult for us to connect the above mentioned names and facts with definite and familiar individuals, this very same science has amazingly confirmed other Biblical statements as will become apparent later. And as our knowledge is continually advancing, it is by no means impossible that Biblical archaeology will one day provide us with further sensational discoveries. TOP

Webmaster note: Further study see:Lourve Museum, France, SEARCH: Near Eastern Antiquities http://www.louvre.fr/llv/commun/home_flash.jsp

p 70 -- Chapter 6 -- THE LONG JOURNEY TO CANAAN -- 600 miles by the caravan route - Nowadays four visas are required - The land of purple - Punitive expeditions against "Sand-dwellers" - Proud seaports with a troublesome hinterland - An Egyptian best-seller about Canaan - Sinuhe praises the Good Land - Jerusalem on magic vases - Strongholds - Sellin finds Shechem - Abraham chooses the high road.

"And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother's son, and all their substance that they had gathered, and the souls that they had gotten in Haran: and they went forth to go into the land of Canaan" Gen. 12:5.

The road from Haran, the home of the patriarchs, to the land of Canaan runs south for more than 600 miles. It follows the river Balikh as far as the Euphrates, thence by a caravan route thousands of years old via the oasis of Palmyra, the Tadmor of the Bible, to Damascus, and from there in a south-westerly direction to the Lake of Galilee. It is one of the great trade routes that have always led from Euphrates to Jordan, from the kingdom of Mesopotamia to the Phoenician seaports on the Mediterranean and the distant Nile lands in Egypt.

Anyone nowadays wanting to follow Abraham's route requires four visas: one for Turkey, in which the site of Haran lies, one for Syria to cover the section from the Euphrates via Damascus to the Jordan, and one each for the states of Jordan and Israel, which occupy what was once Canaan. In the time of the father of the patriarchs all this was much easier. For on his long trek he had only to pass through one large stretch of national territory, the kingdom of Mari, which he was in fact quitting. The smaller city states between the Euphrates and the Nile could be by-passed. The road to Canaan lay open.

The first city of any size that Abraham must have struck on his journey is still standing today: Damascus.

To go by car from Damascus to Palestine is, particularly in springtime, an unforgettable experience.

The ancient city with its narrow streets and dark bazaar-alleys, with its mosques and its Roman remains, lies in the centre of a wide and fertile plain. When the Arabs speak of Paradise they think of Damascus. What other Mediterranean city can compare with this place, which every spring is decked with an incredible mantle of gay blossom? In all the gardens and in the hedgerows beyond the city walls apricots and

p 71 -- almonds are a riot of pink. Flowering trees line the road which climbs gently as it heads for the south-west. Tilled fields alternate with olive groves and large mulberry plantings. High above, to the right of the road, rises the El Barada river, to which the land owes its fertility. Here mighty Hermon thrusts its steep slopes 10,000 feet into the heavens above the flat and verdant plain. From the side of this famous mountain ridge, to the south, gushes the source of the Jordan. Towering over both Syria and Palestine and visible from afar it seems to have been placed there by Nature as a gigantic boundary stone between them. Even in the blazing heat of summer its peak remains covered in snow. The effect becomes even more impressive
as on the left of the road the green fields disappear. Monotonous grey-brown hills, streaked with dried up river beds, pile up towards the distant shimmering horizon where the scorching
Syrian Desert begins - the home of the Bedouins. The road climbs gradually for an hour and a half. Fields and groves become rarer. The green is more and more swallowed up by the sandy grey of the desert. Then suddenly an enormous pipeline crosses the road. The oil that flows through it has already come quite a way. Its journey began in the oil wells of Saudi Arabia, over a thousand miles away, and will end in the port of Saida on the Mediterranean. Saida is
the old Sidon of the Bible.

FIG. 8.- The route taken by the father of the patriarchs from the kingdom of Mari to Canaan.

Behind a ridge suddenly appear the hills of Galilee. A few minutes later comes the frontier. Syria lies behind. The road crosses a small bridge. Under the arch a fast moving narrow current hurries on its way. It is the Jordan: we are in Palestine, in the young state of Israel.

After a few miles between dark basalt rocks the bright blue of the Lake of Galilee sparkles up at us from far beneath. It was on this lake, where time seems to have stood still, that Jesus preached from a boat off Capernaum. Here he told Peter to cast his nets and raise the great draught of fishes. Two thousand years before that the flocks of Abraham grazed on its shores. For the road from Mesopotamia to Canaan went past the Lake of Galilee.

Canaan is the narrow mountainous strip of land between the shores of the Mediterranean and the borders of the desert, from Gaza in the south right up to Hamath on the banks of the Orontes in the north.

p 72 -- Canaan was the "Land of Purple". It owed its name to a product of the country which was highly prized in the olden days. From earliest times the inhabitants had extracted from a shellfish (Murex), which was native to these parts, the most famous dye in the ancient world, purple. It was so uncommon, so difficult to obtain and therefore so expensive, that only the wealthy could afford it. Purple robes were throughout the Ancient East a mark of high rank. The Greeks called the manufacturers of purple and the purple-dyers of the Mediterranean Phoenicians. The country they called Phoenicia, which meant "purple" in their language.

The land of Canaan is also the birthplace of two things which have radically affected the whole world: the word "Bible" and our alphabet. A Phoenician city was godparent to the Greek word for "book": from Byblos, the Canaanite seaport, comes "Biblion" and hence, later, "Bible". In the 9th century B.C. the Greeks took over from Canaan the letters of our alphabet.

The part of the country which was to become the home of the Israelite people was named by the Romans after Israel's worst enemies: Palestine comes from Pelishtim, as the Philistines are called in the Old Testament. They lived in the southernmost part of the coast of Canaan. "All Israel, from Dan even to Beersheba" (I Sam- 3:20) is how the Bible describes the extent of the Promised Land, that is, from the sources of Jordan at the foot of Hermon to the hills west of the Dead Sea, and the Negev in the south.

If we look at a globe of the world, Palestine is only a tiny spot on the earth's surface, a narrow streak. It is possible to drive comfortably in a single day round the borders of the old kingdom of Israel: 150 miles from north to south, 25 miles across at its narrowest point, 9,500 square miles in all, its size was about that of the island of Sicily. Only for a few decades in its turbulent history was it any bigger. Under its renowned kings David and Solomon its territory reached to the arm of the Red Sea at Ezion-Geber in the south, and far beyond Damascus into Syria on the north. The present state of Israel with its 8,000 square miles is smaller by a fifth than the old kingdom.

There never flourished here crafts and industries whose products were sought after by the world at large. Traversed by hills and mountain chains, whose summits rose to over 3,000 feet, surrounded in the south and east by scrub and desert, in the north by the mountains of the Lebanon and Hermon, in the west by a flat coast with no natural harbours, it lay like a poverty stricken island between the great kingdoms on the Nile and the Euphrates, on the frontier between two continents. East of the Nile delta Africa stops. After a desolate stretch of 100 miles of desert Asia begins, and at its threshold lies Palestine.

When in the course of its eventful history it was constantly being dragged into the affairs of the wider world, it had its position to thank

p 73 -- for it. Canaan is the link between Egypt and Asia. The most important trade route of the ancient world passes through this country. Merchants and caravans, migratory tribes and peoples, followed this road which the armies of the great conquerors were later to make use of. Egyptians, Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks and Romans one after another made the land and its people the plaything of their economic, strategic and political concerns.

It was in the interests of trade that the giant on the Nile in the third millennium B.C. was the first great power to stretch out its tentacles towards Canaan.

"We brought 40 ships, laden with cedar trunks. We built ships of cedarwood: One 'Pride of Two Lands' - ship of 150 feet: And of meru-wood, two, ships 150 feet long: We made the doors of the king's palace of cedarwood." That is the substance of the world's oldest advice note from a timber importer about 2700 B.C. The details of this cargo of timber in the reign of Pharaoh Snefru are scratched on a tablet of hard black diorite, which is carefully preserved in the museum at Palermo. Dense woods covered the slopes of Lebanon then. The excellent wood from its cedars and meru, a kind of conifer, were just what the Pharaohs needed for their building schemes. TOP

Five hundred years before Abraham's day there was a flourishing import and export trade on the Canaanite coast. Egypt exchanged gold and spices from Nubia, copper and turquoise from the mines at Sinai, linen and ivory, for silver from the Taurus, leather goods from Byblos, painted vases from Crete. In the great Phoenician dye-works well-to-do Egyptians had their robes dyed purple. For their society women they bought a wonderful lapis-lazuli blue-eyelids dyed blue were all the rage-and stibium, a cosmetic which was highly thought of by the ladies for touching up their eyelashes.

In the sea-ports of Ugarit (now Ras Shamra) and Tyre there were Egyptian consuls; the coastal fortress of Byblos became an Egyptian colony; monuments were erected to the Pharaohs and Phoenician princes adopted Egyptian names.

If the coastal cities presented a picture of cosmopolitan life which was busy, prosperous and even luxurious, a few miles inland lay a world which provided a glaring contrast. The Jordan mountains have always been a trouble-spot. Bedouin attacks on the native population, insurrection and feuds between towns were unending. Since they also endangered the caravan route along the Mediterranean coast, Egyptian punitive expeditions had to bring the unruly elements to heel. The inscription on the tomb of the Egyptian Uni gives us a clear picture of how one of these expeditions was organised about 2350 B.C. Uni, an army commander, received orders from Pharaoh Phiops I to assemble a striking force against Bedouins from Asia who were attacking Canaan. His report on the campaign reads as follows:

p 74 -- "His Majesty made war on the desert peoples and His Majesty gathered an army: in the south beyond Elephantine ... all over the north ... and among the Jertet -, Mazoi -, and Jenam Nubians. I was entrusted with the whole campaign." The morale of this multi-coloured fighting force comes in for high praise, and in the course of it we learn what sort of attractions Canaan offered in those days in the way of loot: "None of them stole the sandals off anyone who came their way.... None of them stole food from any of the cities.... None of them stole any goats." Uni's war-diary proudly announces a great victory and in passing gives us valuable information about the country: "The king's army returned in good order, after laying waste the country of the desert peoples,... after destroying their fortresses... after cutting down their fig-trees and vines ... and carrying off a large number into captivity. His Majesty sent me five times to ravage the land of the desert peoples with these troops every time they revolted."

Semites thus made their first entry into the land of the Pharaohs as P.O.W.s where they were contemptuously described as "Sand-dwellers". Chu-Sebek, adjutant to king Sesostris III of Egypt, wrote in his war-diary 500 years later the following account which had been preserved at Abydos on the Upper Nile, where it was chiselled out on a monument: "His Majesty proceeded northwards to crush the Asiatic Bedouins.... His Majesty went as far as a place called Sekmem.... Sekmem collapsed together with the whole miserable country of Retenu."

The Egyptians called Palestine and Syria together "Retenu". "Sekmem" is the Biblical town of Shechem, the first town which Abraham struck on entering Canaan (Gen. 12:6).

With the campaign of Sesostris III about 1850 B. C. we are right in the middle of the patriarchal period. Meantime Egypt had taken possession of the whole of Canaan: the country now lay under the suzerainty of the Pharaohs. Thanks to the archaeologists we possess a unique document from this epoch, a gem of ancient literature. The author: a certain Sinuhe of Egypt. Scene: Canaan. Time: between 1971 and 1928 B.C. under Pharaoh Sesostris I.

Sinuhe, a nobleman in attendance at court, becomes involved in a political intrigue. He fears for his life and emigrates to Canaan:

"As I headed north I came to the Princes' Wall, which was built to keep out the Bedouins and crush the Sandramblers.  1   I hid in a thicket in case the guard on the wall, who was on patrol at the time, would see me. I did not move out of it till the evening. When daylight came ... and I had reached the Bitter Lake  2  I collapsed. I was parched with thirst, my

1  --  "Sandramblers" and "Wilderness-Wanderers" were the favourite nicknames which the Egyptians gave to their eastern and north-eastern neighbours, the nomads. This also included the tribes in Canaan and Syria which had no fixed location.
2   -- Still known as the "Bitter Lakes" on the Isthmus of Suez.

p 75 -- throat was red hot. I said to myself: This is the taste of death! But as I made another effort and pulled myself on to my feet, I heard the bleating of sheep and some Bedouins came in sight. Their leader, who had been in Egypt, recognised me. He gave me some water and boiled some milk, and I went with him to his tribe. They were very kind to me.

Sinuhe's escape had been successful. He had been able to slip unseen past the great barrier wall on the frontier of the kingdom of the Pharaohs which ran exactly along the line which is followed by the Suez Canal today. This "Princes' Wall" was even then several hundred years old. A priest mentions it as far back as 2650 B.C.: "The Princes' Walls are being built to prevent the Asiatics forcing their way into Egypt. They want water ... to give to their cattle." Later on the children of Israel were to pass this wall many times: there was no other way into Egypt. Abraham must have been the first of them to see it when he emigrated to the land of the Nile during a famine (Gen. 12:10).

Sinuhe continues: "Each territory passed me on to the next. I went to Byblos,  1 and farther on reached Kedme   2   where I spent eighteen months. Ammi-Enschi,  3   the chief of Upper Retenu  4  made me welcome. He said to me: 'You will be well treated and you can speak your own language here.' He said this of course because he knew who I was. Egyptians   who lived there had told him about me."

We are told in great detail of the day to day experiences of this Egyptian fugitive in North Palestine. "Ammi-Enschi said to me: 'Certainly, Egypt is a fine country, but you ought to stay here with me and what I shall do for you will be fine too.'

"He gave me precedence over all his own family and gave me his eldest daughter in marriage. He let me select from among his choicest estates and I selected one which lay along the border of a neighbouring territory. It was a fine place with the name of Jaa. There were figs and vines and more wine than water. There was plenty of honey and oil; every kind of fruit hung on its trees. It had corn and barley and all kinds of sheep and cattle. My popularity with the ruler was extremely profitable. He made me a chief of his tribe in the choicest part of his domains. I had bread and wine as my daily fare, boiled meat and roast goose. There were also desert animals which they caught in traps and brought to me, apart from what my hunting dogs collected.... There was milk in every shape and form. Thus many years went by. My children grew into strong men, each of them able to dominate his tribe. TOP

"Any courier coming from Egypt or heading south to the royal court

1 -- Phoenician seaport north of present-day Beirut.
2  -- Desert country east of Damascus.
3  -- A western Semitic name, an Amorite.
4 -- Name given to the hill country in the north of Palestine.
5 -- Pharaoh's commissioners were at that time stationed all over Palestine and Syria.

p 76 -- lived with me. 1   I gave hospitality to everyone. I gave water to the thirsty, put the wanderer on the right way, and protected the bereaved.

"When the Bedouins sallied forth to attack neighbouring chiefs I drew up the plan of campaign. For the prince of Retenu for many years put me in command of his warriors and whichever country I marched into I made... and.... of its pastures and its wells. I plundered its sheep and cattle, led its people captive and took over their stores. I killed its people with my sword and my bow 2    thanks to my leadership and my clever plans."

Out of his many experiences among the "Asiatics" a life and death duel, which he describes in detail, seems to have made the deepest impression on Sinuhe. A "Strong man of Retenu" had jeered at him one day in his tent and called him out. He was sure he could kill Sinuhe and appropriate his flocks and herds and properties. But Sinuhe, like all Egyptians, was a practised bowman from his earliest days, and killed the "strong man", who was armed with shield, spear and dagger, by putting an arrow through his throat. The spoils that came to him as a result of this combat made him even richer and more powerful.

At length in his old age he began to yearn for his homeland. A letter from his Pharaoh Sesostris I summoned him to return: ... Make ready to return to Egypt, that you may see once more the Court where you grew up, and kiss the ground at the two great gates.... Remember the day when you will have to be buried and men will do you honour. You will be anointed with oil before daybreak and wrapped in linen blessed by the goddess Tait. 3   You will be given an escort on the day of the funeral. The coffin will be of gold adorned with lapis-lazuli, and you will be placed upon a bier. Oxen will pull it and a choir will precede you. They will dance the Dance of the Dwarfs at the mouth of your tomb. The sacrificial prayers will be recited for you and animals will be offered on your altar. The pillars of your tomb will be built of limestone among those of the royal family. You must not lie in a foreign land, with Asiatics to bury you, and wrap you in sheepskin."

Sinuhe's heart leapt for joy. He decided to return at once, made over his property to his children and installed his eldest son as "Chief of his tribe". This was customary with these Semitic nomads, as it was with Abraham and his progeny. It was the tribal law of the patriarchs, which later became the law of Israel. "My tribe and all my goods belonged to him only, my people and all my flocks, my fruit and all my sweet trees.  4   Then I headed for the south."

He was accompanied right to the frontier posts of Egypt by Bedouins, thence by representatives of Pharaoh to the capital south of Memphis. The second stage was by boat.

1 -- This points to a considerable traffic between Egypt and Palestine.
2 -- The bow was the typical Egyptian weapon.
3 -- Embalming.
4 -- Date-palms.

p 77 -- What a contrast! From a tent to a royal palace, from a simple if dangerous life back to the security and luxury of a highly civilised metropolis. "I found his Majesty on the great throne in the Hall of Silver and Gold. The king's family were brought in. His Majesty said to the Queen: 'See, here is Sinuhe, who returns as an Asiatic and has become a Bedouin.' She gave a loud shriek and all the royal children screamed in chorus. They said to his Majesty: 'Surely this is not really he, my lord King.' His Majesty replied: 'It is really he.' TOP

"I was taken to a princely mansion," writes Sinuhe enthusiastically, "in which there were wonderful things and also a bathroom ... there were things from the royal treasure house, clothes of royal linen, myrrh and finest oil; favourite servants of the king were in every room, and every cook did his duty. The years that were past slipped from my body. I was shaved and my hair was combed. I shed my load of foreign soil  and the coarse clothing of the Sandramblers. I was swathed in fine linen and anointed with the finest oil the country could provide. I slept once more in a bed. Thus I lived, honoured by the king, until the time came for me to depart this life.

The Sinuhe story does not exist in one copy only. An astonishing number of them has been found. It must have been a highly popular work and must have gone through several "editions". Not only in the Middle Kingdom but in the New Kingdom of Egypt it was read with pleasure, as the copies found indicate. One might call it a "best-seller", the first in the world, and about Canaan, of all places.

The scholars who came across it again at the turn of the century were as delighted with it as Sinuhe's contemporaries had been 4,000 years before. They regarded it however as a well-told story, exaggerated like all Egyptian writings and completely without foundation. The Tale of Sinuhe became a mine of information for learned Egyptologists, but not for historians. They were so busy disputing about the clarification of the text, the letters, the construction and connection of the sentences that the contents were forgotten.

Meantime Sinuhe came into his own. For we now know that the Egyptian had written a factual account of Canaan at about the time that Abraham migrated there. It is to hieroglyphic texts dealing with Egyptian campaigns that we owe the first evidence we possess about Canaan. They agree with Sinuhe's description. Similarly, the Egyptian nobleman's story shows in some places almost literal correspondence with verses of the Bible which are often quoted. "For the lord thy God bringeth thee into a good land" says Deut. 8:7 - "It was a fine country" says Sinuhe. "A land" continues the Bible "of wheat and barley and vines and fig trees.... " "Barley and wheat, figs and vines were there" Sinuhe tells us. And where the Bible says: "A land of oil, olive and honey, a land wherein thou shalt eat bread without scarceness",

1 -- i.e. the dirt that came off him.

p 78 -- the Egyptian text reads: "There was plenty of honey and oil. I had bread as my daily fare."

The description which Sinuhe gives of his way of life among the Amorites, living in a tent, surrounded by his flocks and herds, and involved in conflict with presumptuous Bedouins whom he has to drive away from his pastures and his wells, corresponds with the Biblical picture of life in patriarchal times. Abraham and his son Isaac have also to fight for their wells (Gen. 21:25, 26:15, 20).

The care and accuracy with which Biblical tradition depicts the actual living conditions of those days is best seen when we examine the results of sober investigation. For the variety of recently discovered documents and monuments makes it possible for us to reconstruct a true picture of the conditions of life in Canaan at the time when the patriarchs entered it.

About 1900 B.C. Canaan was but thinly populated. Properly speaking it was no-man's land. Here and there in the midst of ploughed fields a fortified keep could be seen. Neighbouring slopes would be planted with vines or with fiG trees and date palms. The inhabitants lived in a state of constant readiness. For these widely scattered little townships, like veritable islands, were the object of daring attacks by the desert nomads. Suddenly, and when least expected, these nomads were upon them, with indiscriminate butchery, carrying off their cattle and their crops. Just as suddenly they would disappear again into the vast recess of the desert plains to the south and east. There was endless war between the settled farmers and cattle breeders and these plundering hordes who had no fixed abode, whose home was a goatshair tent somewhere out under the open skies of the desert. It was into this restless country that Abraham made his way with his wife Sarah, his nephew Lot, his kinsfolk and his flocks.

"And into the land of Canaan they came. And Abram passed through the land unto the place of Sichem, unto the plain of Moreh.... And the Lord appeared unto Abram and said: Unto thy seed will I give this land; and there builded he an altar unto the Lord, who appeared unto him. And he removed from thence unto a mountain on the east of Bethel, and pitched his tent having Bethel on the west, and Hai on the east: and there he builded an altar unto the Lord, and called upon the name of the Lord. And Abram journeyed, going on still toward the south" (Gen. 12 5-9).

In the twenties, remarkable sherds were found on the Nile, the chief finds at Thebes and Saqqara. Archaeologists in Berlin obtained some of them, others went to Brussels, and the rest went to the great museum at Cairo. Under the careful hands of experts the fragments were reassem-

p 79 -- bled into vases and statuettes, but the most astonishing thing about them was the inscriptions. TOP

The writing is full of menacing curses and maledictions like: "Death strike you at every wicked word and thought, every plot, angry quarrel and plan". These and other unpleasant wishes were generally addressed to Egyptian court officials and other eminent people, but also to rulers in Canaan and Syria.

In accordance with an old superstition it was believed that at the moment the vase or statuette was smashed the power of the person cursed would be broken. It was common to include within the spell the family, relatives, even the home town of the victim of the curse. The magical texts include names of cities like Jerusalem (Gen. 14:19), Askelon (Jud. 1:18), Tyre (Josh. 19:29'), Hazor (Josh. 11:1), Bethshemesh (Josh. 15:10), Aphek (Josh. 12:18'), Achshaph (Josh. 11:1) and Shechem (Sichem). Here is a convincing proof that these places mentioned in the Bible existed already in the 19th and 18th centuries B.C., since the vases and statuettes date from that time. Two of these towns were visited by Abraham. He calls on Melchizedek "King of Salem" (Gen. 14:18) at Jerusalem. Jerusalem is well enough known, but where was Sichem?

In the heart of Samaria lies a broad flat valley, dominated by the high peaks of Gerizim and Ebal. Well cultivated fields surround Ashkar, a small village in Jordan. Nearby at the foot of Gerizim in Tell el Balata the ruins of Sichem were discovered.

It was due to the German theologian and archaeologist Professor Ernst Sellin that during excavations in 1913-14 strata from very early times came to light.

Sellin came across remains of walls dating back to the 19th century B.C. Bit by bit the picture emerged of a mighty surrounding wall with strong foundations, entirely built of rough boulders, some of them 6 feet in diameter. Archaeologists call this type a "cyclops-wall". The wall was further strengthened by an escarpment. The builders of Sichem fortified the 6 feet thick wall with small turrets and provided an earth wall in addition.

The remains of a palace also emerged out of the ruins. The square cramped courtyard, surrounded by a few rooms with solid walls, hardly deserved the name of palace. All the Canaanite towns whose names are so familiar, and which the Israelites feared so greatly in the early days, looked like Sichem. With few exceptions the notable building projects of that period are now known. Most of them have been excavated within the last sixty years. For thousands of years they have been buried deep in the ground, now they stand clearly before us. Among them are many towns whose walls the patriarchs had seen: Bethel and Mizpah, Gerar and Lachish, Gezer and Gath, Askelon and Jericho. Anyone who wanted to write the history of the building of fortresses and

p 80 -- cities in Canaan, would have no great difficulty in doing so in view of the wealth of material going back to the third millennium B.C. TOP

The Canaanite towns were fortresses, places of refuge in time of danger, whether it was from sudden attack by nomadic tribes or civil war among the Canaanites themselves. Towering perimeter walls built of these great boulders invariably enclose a small area, not much bigger than St. Peter's Square in Rome. Each of these town-forts had a water supply, but they were not towns in which a large population could have made a permanent home. Compared with the palaces and great cities in Mesopotamia or on the Nile they look tiny. Most of the towns in Canaan could have gone into the palace of the kings of Mari comfortably.

In Tell el-Hesi, probably the Eglon of the Bible, the ancient fortifications enclosed an area of just over an acre. In Tell es-Safi - formerly Gath - twelve acres; in Tell el-Mutesellim - formerly Megiddo - about the same amount; in Tell el-Zakariyah - the Biblical Azekah - less than ten acres; Gezer, on the road from Jerusalem to Jaffa, occupied just over twenty acres. Even in the more built-up area of Jericho, the inner fortified wall, the Acropolis proper, enclosed a space of little more than five acres. Yet Jericho was one of the strongest fortresses in the country.

Bitter feuds between the tribal chiefs were the order of the day. There was no supreme authority. Every chieftain was master in his own territory. No one gave him orders and he did what he pleased. The Bible calls the tribal chieftains "kings". As far as power and independence were concerned that is what they were.

Between the tribal chiefs and their subjects the relationship was patriarchal. Inside the wall lived only the chief, the aristocracy, Pharaoh's representatives, and wealthy merchants. Moreover they alone lived in strong, solid, mostly one-story houses with four to six rooms built round an open courtyard. Upper class homes with a second story were comparatively rare. The rest of the inhabitants - vassals, servants and serfs - lived in simple mud or wattle huts outside the walls. They must have had a miserable life.

Since the days of the patriarchs two roads meet in the plain of Shechem. One goes down into the rich valley of the Jordan. The other climbs over the lonely hills southwards to Bethel, on past Jerusalem and down to the Negev, or the Land of the South as the Bible calls it. Anyone following this road would encounter only a few inhabited areas in the central highlands of Samaria and Judah: Shechem, Bethel, Jerusalem and Hebron. Anyone choosing the more comfortable road would find the larger towns and more important fortresses of the Canaanites in the lush valleys of the Plain of Jezreel, on the fertile coast of Judah and amid the luxuriant vegetation of the Jordan valley.

Abraham, as the Bible tells us, chose for his first exploration of

p 81 -- Palestine the lonely and difficult road that points over the hills towards the south. For here the wooded hillsides offered refuge and concealment to a stranger in a foreign land, while the clearings provided pasture in plenty for his flocks and herds. Later on he and his tribe and the other patriarchs as well went back and forth along this same wretched mountain track. However tempting were the fertile valleys of the plain Abraham preferred to establish himself at first up in the hill country. For with his bows and slings he was in no condition to risk a clash with the Canaanites, whose swords and spears were more than a match for him. Abraham was not yet ready to venture out of the highlands. TOP

p 82 -- Chapter 7 -- ABRAHAM AND LOT IN THE LAND OF PURPLE -- Famine in Canaan - A Family Portrait of the patriarchal age - Permit of access to the Nile grazings - The mystery of Sodom and Gomorrah - Mr. Lynch investigates the Dead Sea - The great fissure - Did the Vale of Siddim take a headlong plunge? - Pillars of salt at Jebel Usdum.

And there was a famine in the land: and Abram went down into Egypt to sojourn there; for the famine was grievous in the land - Gen. 1:2.

We have to thank the dryness of the sands of the Egyptian desert for preserving a considerable variety of hieroglyphic texts, among which is to be found a wealth of written evidence of the immigration of Semitic families into the Nile valley. The best and clearest proof is however a picture.

Halfway between the old cities of the Pharaohs, Memphis and Thebes, 200 miles south of Cairo, there lies on the banks of the Nile amid green fields and palm groves the little settlement of Beni-Hasan. Here in 1890 a British expert, Percy A. Newberry, was given an assignment by the Cairo authorities to investigate some old tombs. The expedition was financed by the Egyptian Exploration Fund.

The tombs were located at the outer end of a desert wadi, where the remains of old quarries and a large temple also lay in peaceful seclusion. Week after week nothing but debris, rubble and the remnants of broken stone pillars streamed out of the rock-face behind which the last resting place of the Egyptian nobleman Khnum-hotpe was concealed. Hieroglyphs in a small entrance hall indicated the name of the occupant. He was the ruler of this district of the Nile, which at one time was called Gazelle Province. Khnum-hotpe lived under Pharaoh Sesostris II about 1900 B.C.

After a great deal of time and effort had been expended Newberry eventually reached a huge rock chamber. By the light of numerous torches he was able to see that there were three vaults and that the stumps of two rows of pillars protruded from the ground. The walls were bright with gorgeous coloured paintings on a thin lime-washed plaster. These depicted scenes from the life of the nobleman telling of harvest, hunting, dancing and sport. In one of the pictures on the north

p 83 -- wall, immediately next to an over life-size portrait of the nobleman, Newberry discovered foreign looking figures. They were wearing a different type of clothing from the ordinary Egyptians, they were fairer-skinned and had sharper features. Two Egyptian officials in the foreground were obviously introducing this group of foreigners to the nobleman. What sort of people were they?

Hieroglyphs on a written document in the hand of one of the Egyptians gave the explanation: they were "Sanddwellers", Semites. Their leader was called Abishai. With thirty-six men, women and children of his tribe Abishai had come to Egypt. He had brought gifts for the nobleman, among which special mention was made of some costly stibium  for the nobleman's wife.

Abishai is a genuine Semitic name. After the conquest of Canaan by Joshua the name occurs in the Bible during the reign of the second king of Israel: "Then answered David and said to ... Abishai the son of Zeruiah" (I Sam. 26:6). The Abishai of the Bible was the brother of king David's unpopular commander-in-chief Joab about 1000 B.C., when Israel was a large kingdom.

The artist whom Prince Khnum-hotpe entrusted with the decoration of his tomb has depicted the "Sanddwellers" with such care that the smallest detail is faithfully noted. This lifelike and unusually striking picture looks more like a coloured photograph. It gives the impression that this family of Semites had just stopped for a second, and that suddenly men, women and children would start off again and continue their journey. Abisha'i at the head of the column makes a slight obeisance and salutes the nobleman with his right hand, while his left hand holds a short cord to which a tame horned goat is attached, carrying between its horns a bent stick which is a shepherd's crook.

The shepherd's crook was so characteristic of the nomads that the Egyptians in their picture-writing used it for the name of these foreigners.

The style and colour of their clothing are faithfully reproduced. Square woollen blankets, reaching in the case of the men to the knee, in the case of the women to the calf, are caught up on one shoulder. They consist of highly coloured striped material and serve as cloaks. Does that not remind us of the famous "coat of many colours" which Jacob, much to the annoyance of his other sons, bestowed upon his favourite son Joseph? (Gen. 37:3). The men's hair is trimmed into a pointed beard. The women's hair falls loosely over breast and shoulders. It is fastened by a narrow white ribbon round the forehead. The little curls in front of the ears seem to have been a concession to fashion. The men are wearing sandals, the women have dark brown half-length boots. They carry their water ration in artistically embroidered containers made of animal skins. Bows and arrows, heavy throw-sticks and spears
  -- Colouring for eyelashes. TOP

p 84 -- serve as their weapons. Even their favourite instrument has been brought with them on their long journey. One of the men is playing the eight-stringed lyre. According to the instructions given in the Bible some of the Psalms of David were to be accompanied on this instrument: "To be sung to eight strings" is the heading of Psalms 6 and 12.

Since this picture dates from about I900 B.C., which was the period of the patriarchs, we may imagine that Abraham and his family looked something like this. When he reached the Egyptian frontier a similar scene must have taken place. For the procedure for admitting foreign visitors was exactly the same at all the other frontier posts as in the case of the lord Khnum-hotpe.

It was thus no different long ago from what it is now to travel in a foreign country. Certainly there were no passports but f6rmalities and officialdom made life difficult for foreign visitors even then. Anyone entering Egypt had to state the number in his party, the reason for his journey and the probable length of his stay. All the particulars were carefully noted down on papyrus by a scribe using red ink and then sent by messenger to the frontier officer who decided whether an entrance permit should be granted. This was however not left to his own judgment. Administrative officers at the court of Pharaoh issued from time to time precise directives, even to the point of specifying which grazings were to be put at the disposal of immigrant nomads.

In times of famine Egypt was for Canaanite nomads their place of refuge and often their only salvation. When the ground dried up in their own country, the land of the Pharaohs always afforded sufficient juicy pastures. The Nile with its regular annual flooding took care of that.

On the other hand the proverbial wealth of Egypt was often a temptation to thieving bands of daring nomads who were not interested in finding pasture but were much more concerned with the bursting granaries and sumptuous palaces. Often they could only be got rid of by force of arms. As a protection against these unwelcome invaders and to

p 85 -- keep a closer check on the frontier, the erection of the great "Princes' Wall" was begun in the third millennium B.C. It consisted of a chain of forts, watchtowers and strongpoints. It was only under cover of darkness that the Egyptian Sinuhe with his local knowledge was able to slip through unobserved. Six hundred and fifty years later, at the time of the exodus from Egypt, the frontier was also strongly guarded. Moses knew only too well that escape from the country in defiance of Pharaoh's orders was impossible. The sentries would at once have sounded the alarm and summoned the guards. Any attempt to break through would have been nipped in the bud by sharpshooters and commandos in armoured chariots and would have ended in bloodshed. That was the reason why the prophet knowing the country chose another quite unusual route. Moses led the children of Israel southwards, as far as the Red Sea, where there was no longer any wall.

After their return from Egypt Abraham and Lot separated: "For their substance was great," says the Bible, "so that they could not dwell together. And there was a strife between the herdmen of Abram's cattle, and the herdmen of Lot's cattle.... And Abram said unto Lot, Let there be no strife I pray thee, between me and thee, and between my herdmen and thy herdmen: for we be brethren. Is not the whole land before thee? Separate thyself I pray thee from me: if thou wilt take the left hand, then I will go to the right: or if thou depart to the right hand, then I will go to the left" (Gen. 13:6-9).

Abraham left the choice to Lot. Lot, taking everything for granted, like so many young people, chose the best part, in the neighbourhood of the Jordan. It was "well-watered everywhere ... as thou comest into Zoar" (Gen. 13:10) and blessed with luxuriant tropical vegetation "even as the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt" (Gen. 13:10).

From the wooded mountain chain in the heart of Palestine Lot made his way downhill to the east, wandered with his family and his flocks southwards along the Jordan valley and finally pitched his tent in Sodom. South of the Dead Sea lay an extremely fertile plain, the "Vale

from a wall-painting in the prince's tomb at Beni-Hasan on the Nile.

2 parts to Fig 9

FIG 9 -- A Semitic family at the time of the Patriachs from a wall-painting in the princes' tomb at Beni-Hasan on the Nile. TOP

p 86 -- of Siddim, which is the salt sea"  1   (Gen. 14:3). The Bible lists five towns in this valley, "Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, Zeboiim, and Zoar" (Gen. 14:2). It also knows of a warlike incident in the history of these five towns: "And it came to pass" that four kings "made war with Bera king of Sodom, and with Birsha king of Gomorrah, and with Shinab king of Admah, and Shemeber king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela, which is Zoar" (Gen. 14:2). For twelve years the kings of the Vale of Siddim had paid tribute to king Chedorlaomer. In the thirteenth year they rebelled. Chedorlaomer sought help from three royal allies. A punitive expedition would bring the rebels to their senses. In the battle of the nine kings, the kings of the five towns in the Vale of Siddim were defeated, their lands were ravaged and plundered.

Among the captives of the foreign kings was Lot. He was set free again by his uncle Abraham (Gen. 14:12-16), who with his followers dogged the withdrawal of the army of the victorious four kings like a shadow. He watches it unobserved from safe cover, makes accurate reconnaissance and bides his time. Not until they reach Dan, on the northern frontier of Palestine does the opportunity arise for which he has been waiting. Like lightning, under cover of darkness, Abraham and his men fall on the rearguard and in the confusion that follows Lot is set free. - Only those who do not know the tactics of the Bedouins will consider this an unlikely story.

Among the inhabitants of that stretch of country the memory of that punitive expedition has remained alive to this day. It is reflected in the name of a road which runs eastward of the Dead Sea and parallel with it, traversing what was in ancient times the land of Moab and leading to the north. The nomads of Jordan know it very well. Among the natives it is called, remarkably enough, the "King's Way". We come across it in the Bible, where it is called "the king's high way" or "the high way". It was the road that the children of Israel wished to follow on their journey through Edom to the "Promised Land" (NUM. 20:17, 19). In the Christian era the Romans used the "King's Way" and improved it. Parts of it now belong to the network of roads in the state of Jordan. Clearly visible from the air the ancient track shows up as a dark streak across the country.

"And the Lord said, Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grievous.... Then the Lord rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah, brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven; And he overthrew those cities, and all the plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and that which grew upon the ground. But his [Lot's] wife looked back from behind
-- Dead Sea.

p 87 -- him, and she became a pillar of salt.... And lo the smoke of the country went up as the smoke of a furnace" Gen. 18 :20, 19:24-26, 28.

The calamity which is the subject of this powerful Biblical story of divine punishment for incorrigible sin has probably in all ages made a deep impression on men's minds. Sodom and Gomorrah have become synonymous with vice and godlessness. When men have talked in terms of utter annihilation, again the fate of these cities has always sprung to their minds. Their imaginations have constantly been kindled by this inexplicable and frightful disaster, as can well be seen from the many allusions to it in ancient times. Remarkable and quite incredible things are said to have happened there by the Dead Sea, the "Sea of Salt", where according to the Bible the catastrophe must have happened.

During the siege of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 It is said that the Roman army commander Titus sentenced certain slaves to death. He gave them short shrift, had them bound together by chains and thrown into the sea at the foot of the mountains of Moab. But the condemned men did not drown. No matter how often they were thrown into the sea they always drifted back to the shore like corks. This inexplicable occurrence made such a deep impression upon Titus that he pardoned the unfortunate offenders. Flavius Josephus, the Jewish historian who lived latterly in Rome, repeatedly mentions a "Lake of Asphalt". Greeks lay stress on the presence of poisonous gases, which are reported as rising from all parts of this sea. The Arabs say that in olden times no bird was able to reach the opposite side. The creatures, as they flew across the water, would suddenly drop dead into it.

These and similar traditional stories were well enough known, but until a century ago we had no first hand knowledge of this odd mysterious sea in Palestine. No scientist had investigated it or even seen it. In 1848 the United States took the initiative and equipped an expedition to solve the riddle of the Dead Sea. One autumn day in that year the beach of the little coastal town of Akka, less than 10 miles from present-day Haifa, was black with spectators who were engrossed in an unusual manoeuvre.

W. F. Lynch, a geologist and leader of the expedition, had brought ashore from the ship which was lying at anchor two metal boats which he was now fastening on to large-wheeled carts. Pulled by a long team of horses, the trek began. Three weeks later after indescribable difficulties they had succeeded in getting the waggons over the hills of Southern Galilee. The two boats took to the water again at Tiberias. When Lynch set up his theodolite at the Lake of Galilee, the result produced the first big surprise of the expedition. To begin with he thought he had made an error of calculation, but a cross check confirmed the result. The surface of the lake, which played so notable a part in the. life of Jesus, is 676 feet

p 88 -- below the level of the Mediterranean. What then could be the height of the source of the Jordan, which flows through the Lake?

Some days later W. F. Lynch stood on the slopes of snow-capped Hermon. Among remains of broken columns and gateways lies the little village of Baniya. Local Arabs led him through a thick clump of oleanders to a cave, half choked with rubble, on the steep limestone flank of Hermon. Out of its darkness gushed a stream of pure water. This is one of the sources of the Jordan. The Arabs call the Jordan Sheri'at el Kebire, the "Great River". This was the site of Panium where

FIG. 10 - Diagram of the Jordan-drop. TOP

Herod built a temple of Pan in honour of Augustus. Shell-shaped niches are hewn out of the rock beside the Jordan cave. "Priest of Pan" is still clearly legible in Greek characters. In the time of Jesus the Greek pastoral god was worshipped at the source of the Jordan. There the goat-footed Pan raised his flute to his lips as if he wanted to send the Jordan on its way with a tune. Only 3 miles west of this source lay Dan, which is frequently mentioned in the Bible as the most northerly point in the country. There too is another source of the Jordan where its clear waters spring out of the southern slopes of Hermon. A third stream rushes out of a wadi higher up. The bottom of the wadi just above Dan is 1,500 feet above sea level.

When the Jordan on its way south reaches little Lake Huleh 12 miles away, the river bed is only 6 feet above sea level. Then the river rushes down the next 6 miles to the Lake of Galilee. In the course of its descent from the slopes of Hermon to this point, a distance of only 25 miles, it has dropped 2,275 feet.

From Tiberias the members of the American expedition in their two metal boats followed the endless windings of the Jordan downstream. Gradually the vegetation became sparser and the thick undergrowth

p 89 -- extended no farther than the banks. Under the tropical sun an oasis came into view on their right - Jericho. Soon afterwards they reached their goal. There before them, embedded between almost vertical precipices, lay the vast surface of the Dead Sea.

The first thing to do was to have a swim. But when they jumped in they felt as if they were being thrown out again. It was like wearing life-jackets. The old stories were therefore true. In this sea it is impossible to drown. The scorching sun dried the men's skins almost at once. The thin crust of salt which the water had deposited on their bodies made them look quite white. No shellfish, no fish, no seaweed, no coral - no fishing boat had ever rocked on this sea. Here was neither a harvest from the sea nor from the land. For the banks were equally bare and desolate. Huge deposits of coagulated salt made the beach and the rockface above it sparkle in the sun like diamonds. The air was filled with sharp acrid odours, a mixture of petroleum and sulphur. Oily patches of asphalt - the Bible calls it "slime" (Gen. 14:10) - float on the waves. Even the bright blue sky and the all powerful sun could not breathe any life into this forbidding looking landscape.

Fig 11 --Mediterranean and Jordan-Basin.

For twenty-two days the American boats went back and forth across the Dead Sea. They tested the water and analysed it, they took innumerable soundings. The mouth of the Jordan, at the Dead Sea, lies 1,280 feet below sea level. If there were any connection with the Mediterranean, the Jordan and the Lake of Galilee, 65 miles away, would disappear. A vast inland sea would stretch almost up to the shores of Lake Huleh.

"When a storm sweeps up through this rocky basin," observed Lynch, "the waves strike the sides of the boats like blows from a hammer. But the weight of the water is such that a short time after the wind has died down the sea is calm again."

The world learned for the first time from the report of the expedition two astonishing facts. The Dead Sea is over 1,200 feet in depth. The bottom of the sea is therefore about 2,500 feet below the level of the Mediterranean. The water of the Dead Sea contains approximately 30% of solid ingredients, most sodium chloride, i.e. cooking salt. The normal ocean has only 3.3 to 4% salt. The Jordan and many smaller rivers empty themselves into this basin of approximately 50 x 10 miles which has not a solitary outlet. Evaporation under the broiling sun takes place on the surface of the sea at a rate of over 230 million cubic feet per day. What its tributaries bring to it in the way of chemical substances remains deposited in this great basin's 500 square miles.

p 90 -- It was only after the turn of the century that, keeping pace with excavations in other parts of Palestine, interest was also awakened in Sodom and Gomorrah. Archaeologists began their quest for the vanished cities that were said to have existed in the Vale of Siddim in Biblical times. At the furthermost south-east point of the Dead Sea remains of a large settlement were found. The place is still called Zoar by the Arabs. The scientists were delighted, for Zoar was one of the five wealthy cities in the Vale of Siddim, which had refused to pay tribute to the four foreign kings. But exploratory digging which was immediately undertaken proved a disappointment. It remains uncertain, however, whether Zoar is identical with the place called Zoar in the Bible. TOP

The date of the ruins that came to light showed it to be a town which had flourished there in the Middle Ages. There was no trace of the ancient Zoar of the king of Bela (Gen. 14:2) or of its neighbours. Nevertheless there were plentiful indications in the environs of mediaeval Zoar that there had been a numerous population in the country in very early times.

On the eastern shore of the Dead Sea the peninsula of el-Lisan protrudes like a tongue far into the water. El-Lisan means "the tongue" in Arabic. The Bible expressly mentions it when the country is being divided up after the conquest. The frontiers of the tribe of Judah are being carefully outlined. In the course of this Joshua gives an unusually illuminating description of their southern limits: "And their south border was from the shore of the Salt Sea, from the bay [lit. 'tongue'] that looketh southward" (Josh. 15:2)

Roman history has a story to tell of this tongue of land, which has always been wrongly regarded with considerable scepticism. Two deserters had fled to the peninsula. The legionaries in pursuit combed the ground for a long time in vain. When they eventually caught sight of the men who had given them the slip it was too late. The deserters were clambering up the rocks on the other side of the water - they had waded straight across the sea. Obviously the sea was more shallow at this spot in those days than it is today.

Unseen from the land the ground falls away here under the surface of the water at a prodigious angle, dividing the sea into two parts. To the right of the peninsula the ground slopes sharply down to a depth of 1,200 feet. Left of the peninsula the water remains remarkably shallow. Soundings taken in the last few years established depths of only 5o-6o feet.

Geologists added to these discoveries and observations a fresh explanation which might clarify the occasion and the result of the Biblical story of the annihilation of Sodom and Gomorrah.

The American expedition under Lynch in 1848 produced the first information about the prodigious drop of theJordan on its short course

p 91 -- through Palestine. This plunging of the river bed until it is far below sea level is, as later investigation established, a unique geological phenomenon. "There may be something on the surface of another planet which is similar to the Jordan Valley, but on our planet there certainly is nothing," wrote George Adam Smith, the Scottish Old Testament scholar, in his Historical Geography of the Holy Land. "No other part of the globe, which is not under water, lies deeper than 300 feet below sea level."

The Jordan Valley is only part of a huge fracture in the earth's crust. The path of this crack has meantime been accurately traced. It begins far north, several hundred miles beyond the borders of Palestine, at the foot of the Taurus mountains in Asia Minor. In the south it runs from the south shore of the Dead Sea through the Wadi el-Arabah to the Gulf of Aqabah and only comes to an end beyond the Red Sea in Africa. At many points in this vast depression signs of earlier volcanic activity are obvious. In the Galilean mountains, in the highlands of Transjordan, on the banks of the Jabbok, a tributary of the Jordan, and on the Gulf of Aqabah are black basalt and lava.

FIG. 12.-- THE DEAD SEA (a) in 2000 B.C. before the end of Sodom and Gomorrah; (b) in 1900 B.C. after the disaster.

The subsidence released volcanic forces that had been lying dormant deep down along the whole length of the fracture. In the upper valleys of theJordan near Bashan there are still the towering craters of extinct volcanoes; great stretches of lava and deep layers of basalt have been deposited on the limestone surface. From time immemorial the area around this depression has been subject to earthquakes. There is repeated evidence of them and the Bible itself records them. Did Sodom and Gomorrah sink when perhaps a part of the base of this huge fissure collapsed still further to the accompaniment of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions? And did the Dead Sea then take on a further extension towards the south as shown in Fig. 12?

p 92 -- And Lot's wife - "looked back from behind him and she became a pillar of salt" (Gen. 19:26).

The nearer one gets to the south end of the Dead Sea the more wild and desolate it becomes. Landscape and mountain grow eerier and more forbidding. The hills stand there silent and everlasting. Their scarred slopes fall sheer and steep down to the sea, their lower reaches
are crystal white. The unparalleled disaster which once took place here has left an imperishable and oppressive mark. Only occasionally is a band of nomads to be seen heading inland along one of the steep and rugged wadis.

Where the heavy oily water comes to an end in the south the harsh rock-face on either side breaks off abruptly and gives place to a salt-sodden swamp. The reddish soil is pierced by innumerable channels and can easily become dangerous for the unwary traveller. Sweeping
southwards the bogland merges into the desert Wadi el-Arabah, which continues down to the Red Sea.

To the west of the southern shore and in the direction of the Biblical "Land of the South", the Negev, stretches a ridge of hills about 150 feet high and 10 miles from north to south. Their slopes sparkle and glitter in the sunshine like diamonds. It is an odd phenomenon of nature. For the most part this little range of hills consists of pure rock salt. The Arabs call it Jebel Usdum, an ancient name, which preserves in it the word Sodom. Many blocks of salt have been worn away by the rain and have crashed downhill. They have odd shapes and some of them stand on end, looking like statues. It is easy to imagine them suddenly seeming to come to life.

These strange statues in salt remind us vividly of the Biblical description of Lot's wife who was turned into a pillar of salt. And everything in the neighbourhood of the Salt Sea is even to this day quickly covered with a crust of salt. TOP

The question of Abraham's journeyings has not allowed scholars any peace of mind even in recent times. Abraham's sojourn in Egypt, it has been pointed out, cannot be confirmed from non-Biblical sources and even in the Bible it is merely indicated incidentally in connection with a trick to which Abraham resorted because he feared he might be killed on account of his beautiful wife.

The story in question is one of those repetitions to which we refer in the appendix to the present revised edition. It also occurs in two places in the Bible (I Gen. 12, 9ff and I Gen. 20, 1ff ), except that in the second case there is no mention at all of Egypt, but of "south country" and of Gerar which lies between Gaza and Beersheba.

In whatever way we are to interpret all this, we can scarcely be encouraged to regard the story as historical. Furthermore, the wall paintings in the grave of Khnum-hotpe at Beni-Hasan, in the light of our most recent knowledge, do not fit into the framework of the Biblical

p 93 -- account of the patriarchs. And what is the explanation of this? As one would expect of caravan people around 1900 B.C., the caravan people depicted in the Khnum-hotpe grave had donkeys, whereas the Bible says that Abraham and his people, who according to the traditional interpretation are supposed to have lived at the same period, already possessed camels. There is a vast difference between the two animals, whether used for riding or as beasts of burden, in the distance they can travel, their cost, their mobility and consequently also in the safety of caravans equipped with one or the other of these species.

The introduction of the camel as a mount and a bearer of burdens was equal to a revolution in the organisation of transport in the Ancient East. We shall have occasion to refer to the question again.

But when did this "revolution" take place? Zoologists and Orientalists specialising in the study of domestic animals have continued to puzzle over the question, but the famous camels of the patriarchs as well as the camels belonging to those merchants who took Joseph to Egypt (we shall return to this point at the end of the next chapter) quite definitely remain problematical.

Almost more problematical than Abraham's camels, however, is the tradition concerning Sodom and Gomorrah. In particular, we must remember there can be no question that the Jordan fissure was formed before about 4000 B.C. Indeed, according to the most recent presentation of the facts, the origin of the fissure dates back to the Oligocene, the third oldest stage of the Tertiary Period. We thus have to think in terms not of thousands, but of millions of years. Violent volcanic activity connected with the Jordan fissure has been shown to have occurred since then, but even so we do not get any further than the Pleistocene which came to an end approximately ten thousand years ago. Certainly we do not come anywhere near to the third, still less the second millennium before Christ, the period that is to say, in which the patriarchs are traditionally placed.

In addition, it is precisely to the south of the Lisan peninsula, where Sodom and Gomorrah are reported to have been annihilated, that the traces of former volcanic activity cease. In short, the proof in this area of a quite recent catastrophe which wiped out towns and was accompanied by violent volcanic activity is not provided by the findings of the geologists.

But what are we to think of the incursions of the Dead Sea into the more flat area of the southern basin? During the course of its chequered history the Dead Sea or its predecessors in the Pleistocene frequently extended far across today's southern basin into Wadi el Arabah. At times its surface lay as much as 623 feet higher than it does today. The vast sea which had collected there in those days completely filled the whole Jordan rift from Wadi el Arabah as far as the Lake of Galilee. Then the lake diminished in size, no less than 28 ancient

p 94 -- shore terraces bearing witness to the process. It is even possible that it dried up completely. Only at a later date did the formation of the Dead Sea of today occur, accompanied probably by violent earth tremors. This, too, took place in the Late Pleistocene when man already existed, but when there could be no question of towns. There is nevertheless the very vague possibility that the experiences of Stone Age man in this region, transmitted from generation to generation, finally took shape as the traditions of "towns" which had disappeared or even gave rise to such a tradition. This tradition appears to be very old, much older than has so far been assumed. We shall refer to it again. TOP

Certainly earthquakes occurred in the Dead Sea area at a later date. Flavius Josephus describes the destruction caused by one which took place in 31 B.C. and there was another in Khirbet-Qumran, where the famous Dead Sea scrolls were found, which left impressive traces behind it, although there are no indications of any catastrophe which might have destroyed towns during the early part of the second millennium before Christ.

Today's placenames such as Bahr-el-hut (sea of lead, which is the Arabic name for the Dead Sea), Jebel Usdum (Mount Sodom) and Zoar do not necessarily derive from genuine, independent, direct, primary traditions parallel to the Bible. It is quite possible that they were applied to these localities subsequently and so linked to the Bible story. If so, they would merely represent a secondary tradition. We have a similar state of affairs with "Joseph's Canal" (Arabic Bahr Yusuf) in Faiyum in Egypt to which reference will be made in the next chapter. The "Egyptian Joseph" of the Bible also makes his appearance in Islamic tradition and the name of the waterway in question could, and in all probability does, merely refer to that tradition.

It is only very recently that a great stir was caused by the excavation of Tell-el-Mardikh south of Aleppo. It was here that the Italian scholars Paolo Matthiae and Giovanni Pettinato discovered Ebla, a town dating from the third millennium before Christ. The first sensational discovery was that in almost prehistoric times a high degree of culture had existed there with what was for those days an enormously differentiated social structure. The second sensation was that Ebla possessed rich archives of clay tablets. As always with archives of this nature, we are justified in having high hopes, but must be prepared to accept that opinions hitherto considered unassailable may be shown to have been built on insecure foundations. "When the texts have been studied, we shall perhaps have to forget the results of a whole century of research in the Ancient East," is how a German colleague of the Italian scholars expressed it. The third sensation and the most important in connection with the question of names is that the texts from Ebla dating from the third millennium before Christ contain names which are familiar to us from the Bible. The name of Abraham was encountered

p 95 -- as well as those of the sinful towns of Sodom and Gomorrah, Admah and Zeboiim on the Dead Sea which were all destroyed by fire. At this point a number of fellow specialists expressed their scepticism. Had Pettinato read the texts correctly, they asked. of course, they agreed that patriarchs' names have been found in other sources, as has already been mentioned, but did the names of Sodom and Gomorrah really occur in archives of the third millennium before Christ in Syria? Had these towns really existed as the archives said? Or do traditions concerning them go back to such early times, even earlier than the customary date accepted for the beginning of the period of the patriarchs?

A considerable period of time will elapse before all these questions are answered. In the normal way, scholars are not interested in sensations and a vast amount of work has to be done before it can be established beyond a doubt how sensational the finds at Tell-el-Mardikh really are.

p.95 -- Pictures by Andre Parrot of Mari: TOP

p 96 --

p 97 -- SECTION II -- In the Realm of the Pharaohs From Joseph to Moses

Chapter 8 -- JOSEPH IN EGYPT -- -- Had Potiphar a prototype? - The Orbiney Papyrus - Hyksos rulers on the Nile - Joseph, official of an occupying power - Corn silos, an Egyptian patent - Evidence of seven years famine - Assignments to Goshen - "Bahr Yusuf": Joseph's Canal? - "Jacob-Her" on scarabs.

And Joseph was brought down to Egypt: and Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, captain of the guard, an Egyptian, bought him of the hands of the Ishmaelites, which had brought him down thither (Gen. 39:1)

The tale of Joseph, who was sold by his brothers to Egypt and later as grand vizier became reconciled to them, is undoubtedly one of the finest stories in the world's literature.

"And it came to pass after these things, that his master's [Potiphar's] wife cast her eyes upon Joseph; and she said, Lie with me. But he refused, and..." (Gen. 39:7-8). When her husband came home, she said: "The Hebrew servant, which thou hast brought unto us, came in unto me to mock me" (Gen. 39:17).

Nothing new under the sun - smirked the Egyptologists when ever they started work on the translation of the "Orbiney Papyrus". What they were deciphering from hieroglyphics was a popular story about the time of the XIX Dynasty which bore the discreet title: "The Tale of the Two Brothers". "Once upon a time there were two brothers.... The name of the elder one was Anubis, the younger was called Bata. Anubis owned a house and a wife and his younger brother lived with him as if he were his own son. He drove the cattle out to the fields and brought them home at night and slept with them in the cowshed. When ploughing time came round the two brothers were ploughing the land together. They had been a few days in the field when they ran out of corn. The elder brother therefore sent the younger one off. 'Hurry and bring us corn from the city.' The younger brother found his elder brother's wife having a hair-do. 'Up', he said, 'and give me some corn, for I have to hurry back to the field. My brother said: "Quick, don't waste any time."' He loaded up with corn and wheat and went out with his burden.... Then said sheto him: 'You have so much energy! Every day I see how strong you are.... Come! Let us lie down for an hour! - It

p 98 -- might give you pleasure, and I shall also make you fine clothes.'Then the young man was as angry as a southern panther at this wicked suggestion that had been made to him. He said to her: 'What a disgraceful proposal you have just made.... Never do it again and I shall say nothing to anyone.' So saying he slung his load on his back and went out to the fields. The wife began to be frightened about what she had said. She got hold of some grease paint and made herself up to look like someone who had been violently assaulted. Her husband ... found his wife lying prostrate as a result of the outrage. Her husband said to her: 'Who has been with you?' She replied: 'No one ... apart from your young brother. When he came to fetch the corn he found me sitting alone and said to me: "Come, let us lie down for an hour! Do up your hair." But I paid no attention to him. "Am I not your mother! and is your elder brother not like a father to you!" I said to him. But he was afraid and struck me to stop me telling you about it. If you leave him alive now I shall die.' Then his brother grew as wild as a southern panther. He sharpened his knife ... to kill his younger brother...."

We can almost see Pharaoh's courtiers whispering over it. They liked this story. Sex problems and the psychology of women interested people even then, thousands of years before Kinsey.

The story of an adulteress, in the heart of an Egyptian tale, as the prototype of the Biblical story of Joseph? Scholars argued the pros and cons based on the text of the "Orbiney Papyrus" long after the turn of the century. On the debit side, there was not the slightest trace of Israel's sojourn in Egypt apart from the Bible itself. Historians and professors of theolozy alike spoke of the "Legend of Joseph". Egypt was just the kind of country from which one might hope for and even expect contemporary documentation about the events recorded in the Bible. At any rate this ought to be true as far as Joseph was concerned, for he was Pharaoh's grand vizier and therefore a most powerful man in Egyptian eyes.

No country in the Ancient East has handed down its history so faithfully as Egypt. Right back to about 3000 B.C. we can trace the names of the Pharaohs practically without a break. We know the succession of dynasties in the Old, Middle and New Kingdoms. No other people have recorded so meticulously their important events, the activities of their rulers, their campaigns, their erection of temples and palaces, as well as their literature and poetry.

But this time Egypt gave the scholars no answer. As if it were not enough that they found nothing about Joseph, they discovered neither documents nor monuments out of this whole period. The records which showed hardly a break for centuries suddenly stopped about 1730 B.C. From then on for a long time impenetrable darkness lay over Egypt. Not before 1580 B.C. did contemporary evidence appear once again. How could this absence of any information whatever over so long a

p 99 -- period be explained, especially from such a highly developed people and civilisation?

Something incredible and frightful befell the Nile country about 1730 B.C. Suddenly, like a bolt from the blue, warriors in chariots drove into the country like arrows shot from a bow, endless columns of them in clouds of dust. Day and night horses' hooves thundered past the frontier posts, rang through city streets, temple squares and the majestic courts of Pharaoh's palaces. Even before the Egyptians realised it, it had happened: their country was taken by surprise, overrun and vanquished. The giant of the Nile who never before in his history had seen foreign conquerors, lay bound and prostrate.

FIG 13 - mAP - Kingdom of the Hyksos. TOP

The rule of the victors began with a bloodbath. The Hyksos, Semitic tribes from Canaan and Syria, knew no pity. With the fateful year 1730 B.C. the thirteen hundred year rule of the dynasties came to an abrupt end. The Middle Kingdom of the Pharaohs was shattered under the onslaught of these Asian peoples, the "rulers of foreign lands". That is the meaning of the name Hyksos. The memory of this political disaster remained alive among the Nile people, as a striking description by the Egyptian historian Manetho testified: "We had a king called Tutimaeus. In his reign, it happened. I do not know why God was displeased with us. Unexpectedly from the regions of the East, came men of unknown race. Confident of victory they marched against our land. By force they took it, easily, without a single battle. Having overpowered our rulers they burned our cities without compassion, and destroyed the temples of the gods. All the natives were treated with great cruelty for they slew some and carried off the wives and children of others into slavery. Finally they appointed one of themselves as king. His name was Salitis and he lived in Memphis and made Upper and Lower Egypt pay tribute to him, and set up garrisons in places which would be most useful to him... and when he found a city in the province of Sais which suited his purpose (it lay east of the Bubastite branch of the Nile and was called Avaris) he rebuilt it and

p 100 -- made it very strong by erecting walls and installing a force of 240,000 men to hold it. Salitis went there every summer partly to collect his corn and pay his men their wages, and partly to train his armed troops and terrify foreigners."

Avaris is the town which under another name plays an important role in Biblical history. Avaris, later called Per-Ramesses, is one of the bond cities of Israel in Egypt (Ex. 1:11I).

The Biblical story of Joseph and the sojourn of the children of Israel in Egypt probably come into this period of turbulent conditions on the Nile under the rule of the foreign Hyksos. It is therefore not surprising that no contemporary Egyptian information has come down to us. Nevertheless there is indirect proof of the authenticity of the Joseph story. The Biblical description of the historical background is authentic. Equally genuine is the colourful Egyptian detail. Egyptology confirms this from countless finds.

FIG. 14-Installation of an Egyptian Vizier.

Spices and aromatic products are brought to Egypt by the Ishmaelites, the Arabian merchants who sell Joseph there (Gen- 37:25). There was a heavy demand for these things in the Nile country. They were used in religious services, where the wonderfully fragrant herbs were burned as incense in the temples. The doctors found them indispensable for healing the sick, and priests required them for embalming the bodies of the nobility.

Potiphar was the name of the Egyptian to whom Joseph was sold (Gen- 37:36) It is a thoroughly characteristic native name. In Egyptian it is "Pa-di-pa-re", "the gift of the god Re".

101 -- Joseph's elevation to be viceroy of Egypt is reproduced in the Bible exactly according to protocol. He is invested with the insignia of his high office, he receives the ring, Pharaoh's seal, a costly linen vestment, and a golden chain (Gen. 41:42). This is exactly how Egyptian artists depict this solemn ceremony on murals and reliefs.

As viceroy Joseph rides in Pharaoh's "second chariot" (Gen. 41:43). That could indicate the "period of Hyksos" at the earliest, for it is only during the period of the "rulers of foreign lands", or even presumably only before their expulsion and before the commencement of the "New Kingdom", that the fast war chariot reached Egypt in consequence of its being adopted by one people after another according to our most recent knowledge. The luxury model, of it is the ostentatious chariot which was later used by the rulers of the "New Kingdom". Before their day this had not been the practice on the Nile. The ceremonial chariot harnessed to thoroughbred horses was in those days the Rolls Royce of the governors. The first chariot belonged to the ruler, the "second chariot" was occupied by his chief minister.

FIG. 15.- Ceremonial chariot from Thebes.

Joseph in accordance with his rank married Asenath (Gen. 41:45') and thereby became the son-in-law of an influential man Potipherah, the priest of Heliopolis. Heliopolis is the On of the Bible and it lay on the right bank of the Nile a little to the north of present-day Cairo.

Joseph was thirty years of age when he "went out over all the land of Egypt" (Gen. 41:45). The Bible says no more about this but there is a spot by the Nile which still bears his name.

p 102 -- The town of Medinet-el-Faiyum, lying 80 miles south of Cairo in the middle of the fertile Faiyum, is extolled as the "Venice of Egypt". In the lush gardens of this huge flourishing oasis grow oranges, mandarines, peaches, olives, pomegranates and grapes. Faiyum owes these delicious fruits to the artificial canal, over 200 miles long, which conveys the water of the Nile and turns this district, which would otherwise be desert, into a paradise. The ancient waterway is not only to this day called "Bahr Yusuf", "Joseph's Canal", by the fellahin, but is known by this name throughout Egypt. People say that it was the Joseph of the Bible, Pharaoh's "Grand Vizier" as Arab legends would describe him, who planned it.

The Bible depicts Joseph as an able administrator who as grand vizier guides the Egyptian people through difficult times by his counsel and actions, making provision in years of plenty for years of want. Thus he gathers in corn and lays it up in granaries against times of need. TOP

And the seven years of plenteousness that was in the land of Egypt were ended. And the seven years of dearth began to come... and the dearth was in all lands" Gen. 41:53, 54.

Years of drought, bad harvests and famine are well attested in the lands of the Nile. In very early times, for example at the beginning of the third millennium, there is said to have been a seven year famine according to a rock inscription of the Ptolemies. King Zoser sent the following message to the governor of the great cataracts of the Nile at Elephantine: "I am very concerned about the people in the palace. My heart is heavy over the calamitous failure of the Nile floods for the past seven years. There is little fruit; vegetables are in short supply; there is a shortage of food generally. Everybody robs his neighbour.... Children weep, young folk slouch around. The aged are depressed, they have no power in their legs, they sit on the ground. The court is at its wits' end. The storehouses have been opened but everything that was in them has been consumed." Traces have been found of the granaries which existed even in the Old Kingdom. In many tombs there were little clay models of them. Apparently they were making provision for possible years of famine among the dead.

Now when Jacob saw that there was corn in Egypt, Jacob said unto his sons, Why do ye look upon one another? And he said, Behold I have heard that there is corn in Egypt: get you down thither and buy for us from thence: that we may live and not die. And Joseph's ten brethren went down to buy corn in Egypt - Gen. 42:1-3.

This is the reason for the great journey which led to the reunion with the brother who had been sold as a slave and to the migration of the

p 103 -- Israelites into Egypt. The viceroy brought his father, brothers and other relatives into the country: "... all the souls of the house of Jacob, which came into Egypt, were there three score and ten ... and they came into the land of Goshen" (Gen. 46:27-28). The viceroy had obtained permission from the highest authority for his family to cross the frontier, and what the Bible records corresponds perfectly with the administrative procedure of the government.

And Pharaoh spake unto Joseph, saying, Thy father and thy brethren are come unto thee: The land of Egypt is before thee, in the best of the land make thy father and brethren to dwell: in the land of Goshen let them dwell - Gen. 47:5-6.

A frontier official writes to his superior on papyrus: "I have another matter to bring to the attention of my lord and it is this: We have permitted the transit of the Bedouin tribes from Edom via the Menephta fort in Zeku, to the fen-lands of the city of Per-Atum ... so that they may preserve their own lives and the lives of their flocks on the estate of the king, the good Sun of every land ......

FiG. 16.-Selling corn to Semites from Canaan.

Per-Atum, that crops up here in a hieroglyphic text, is the Biblical Pithom in the land of Goshen, later one of the bond-cities of Israel in Egypt (Ex. 1:11).

In cases of this sort the Egyptian frontier police, like the higher officials, were carefully graded in a chain of command right up to the court. The procedure to be followed was of a standard pattern: petitioners for pasture land, refugees from famine stricken countries, were accepted and almost always directed into the same area. It lay on the delta, on the right bank of the Nile in the Biblical "Land of Goshen". The seat of government of the Hyksos rulers was also in the delta.

The children of Israel must have appreciated life in the Land of Goshen. It was - exactly as the Bible describes it (Gen. 45:18; 46:32; 47:3) - extremely fertile and quite ideal for cattle breeding. When Jacob died at a ripe old age something happened to him which was quite as unknown and uncommon in Canaan and Mesopotamia as among his own family, who considered it a very remarkable proceeding. His body was embalmed.

p 104 -- And Joseph commanded his servants, the physicians, to embalm his father, and the physicians embalmed Israel. And forty days were fulfilled for him: for so are fulfilled the days of those which are embalmed - Gen. 50:2-3.

We can read in Herodotus, the globetrotter of the ancient world and travel-diarist Number One, how closely this description corresponds with Egyptian practice. Later on Joseph was buried in the same way. TOP

Under the Egyptian Pharaohs a "Sanddweller" could never have become viceroy. Nomads bred asses, sheep and goats and the Egyptians despised none so much as breeders of small cattle. "For every shepherd is an abomination unto the Egyptians" (Gen. 46:34). Only under the foreign overlords, the Hyksos, would an "Asiatic" have the chance to rise to the highest office in the state. Under the Hyksos we repeatedly find officials with Semitic names. On scarabs dating from the Hyksos period the name "Jacob-Her" has been clearly deciphered. "And it is not impossible," concludes the great American Egyptologist James Henry Breasted, "that a leader of the Israelite tribe of Jacob gained control for a time in the Nile valley in this obscure period. Such an occurrence would fit in surprisingly well with the migration to Egypt of Israelite tribes which in any case must have taken place about this time."

Like so much of what the Bible relates, the story of Joseph in Egypt has received astonishing confirmation, but this confirmation, as on so many occasions, runs into difficulties.

The confirmation
It is a fact that there were important officials in Egypt who came from Asia Minor. One of their number indeed ruled so independently that an ancient Egyptian source, referring presumably to this individual, even speaks of the "foreign rule of a Syrian".

Egypt's Pharaoh sees in a dream "well favoured kine and fatfleshed" (Gen. 41:2ff and 18ff). Joseph interprets these kine as years (Gen. 41:26f). Egyptian inscriptions using the hieroglyphic symbol of the cow as a cryptogram, a kind of secret sign, with the meaning "years", have actually been encountered.

Joseph's "agrarian reform" did not affect the land owned by the Egyptian priests (Gen. 47:22) . At least during one phase of the history of Ancient Egypt there were indeed tax reliefs for Egyptian priests. Herodotus of Halikarnassos, the Greek historian from Asia Minor, the "father of history", (c. 480 - post 430 B.C.) is one of those who report this. Parallels to the official installation of Joseph (Gen. 41:42) have also been found. Paintings from the time of the New Kingdom at first led people

1 -- Jacob received from Yahweh the name Israel (Gen. 32:28). The nation was later called the "Children of Israel" after him.

p 105 -- to see correspondences, but these would not quite take us back to the time of the Hyksos, although fairly close to their period.

The difficuly
All four confirmations of the Joseph story have nothing to do with the time of the Hyksos (c. 1650 - 1544/41 according to von Beckerath), the time to which the Joseph episode was generally ascribed, but all, without exception, concern later phases of ancient Egyptian history.

The influential Asiatics at the Egyptian court first appear in the time of the Ramessid dynasty (13 - 12th century B.C.). The case of the Syrian "foreign ruler", to whom reference is made in an ancient Egyptian source, is probably that of Biya or Bai, the powerful chancellor of Queen Tewosre (c. 1200 B.C.) This source is the great Harris papyrus, which presumably, if not quite certainly, makes reference to Bai. The Harris papyrus, the statement of accounts of the reign of Ramesses III, dates from the time of Ramesses IV (I2th century B.C.).

The symbol of the cow in the meaning of "year" is found only at the time of the Ptolemies (305-30 B.C.) and not earlier. It is consequently a millennium and a few centuries younger than the period of the Hyksos.

The property and tax privileges of the Egyptian priests refer only to the time of the period of the Saites (664-525 B.C.).

The description in the Bible of the quite special form of Joseph's installation in office with seal ring, official robe and chain has no precise correspondence, when we examine it closely, to the ancient Egyptian representations from the New Kingdom of the "investiture" and the "conferring of the gold of honour", as was first thought. The closest parallels are found at the time of Sargon II of Ashur (722-705 B.C.). This special formof investiture presumably first came to Egypt through Ashurbanipal (669/8 to about 630 B.C.) who conquered Egypt in 667-666 and in 665 B.C. made Necho, prince of Sais, Viceroy of Egypt with appropriate ceremony. Here, too, we find express mention of the threefold investiture with ring or rings, official robe and chain.

Two questions have to be asked.
)  If the Bible story of Joseph contains elements dating from such a late period, can it then be as ancient as has been thought until now or must it not have originated much later than has hitherto been assumed?

2)  If the period is not right, however, what about the authenticity of the story? And what about the genuineness of its Egyptian atmosphere?

Scholars in all parts of the world had, in fact, been more or less convinced until now of the genuine nature of the "Ancient Egyptian background" of this Biblical story. The impressive list of the reputable scholars who were not averse to regardingJoseph as a Grand Vizier during the Hyksos period almost looks like a "Who's Who" of Egyptology according to a statement made about ten years ago by Donald

p 106 -- B. Redford who published a comprehensive study of the Joseph story in 1970. TOP

Redford and others have scrutinised the Joseph story very closely since that time, however, with the result that considerable doubts have arisen regarding the connection it had hitherto been thought to have with the Hyksos period.

The merchants who bore Joseph away to Egypt had camels to carry their wares (Gen. 37:25). These camels are just as much a problem as the camels of the patriarchs" which were discussed in an earlier chapter in connection with Abraham. For many a Biblical scholar they represent a stumbling-block. In short, they are the source of argument and indicate a later period rather than that of the Hyksos.

Let us proceed with the discussion of the various means of transport. Many have considered the mention of the "chariot" in the Biblical Joseph story as typical of the Hyksos period (Gen. 41:43). In this story what is in accordance with fact is that the single-axled, two-wheeled chariot really reached Egypt only during the Hyksos period. On the other hand, the chariot was not abolished at a later date, and indeed the Ancient Egyptian pictures of chariots began only in the time of the New Kingdom. In the famous grave of Tutankhamun, for example, Howard Carter even found war chariots and ceremonial chariots which had been placed in the grave with the dead king. The mention of the chariot can consequently indicate any later period of history.

The Biblical story of Joseph obviously presupposes the knowledge and use of coins (Gen 42:25 and elsewhere). Principally, however, the word for "bundle of money" (Authorised Version), "moneybag" (Gen. 42:35) occurs at a time when coinage already existed. In Egypt and Palestine, this will scarcely have been the case until the sixth century B.C.

Potiphar's title, which is usually translated as "chamberlain" or "court official" and which in the Authorised Version appears as "an officer of Pharaoh, captain of the guard" (Gen. 39:1), 1   really means "eunuch". There was no such title as Potiphar's in Egypt until the time of the Persians (525-332 B.C.).

And so it goes on. Redford enumerates no less than 23 points which all testify against a date assigning the Joseph episode to the Hyksos period, but indicate rather that it belongs to the later period of Ancient Egypt. Even a Biblical scholar like George Ernest Wright, who was so convinced of the genuineness of the Ancient Egyptian atmosphere of the Joseph story, was obliged to admit in 1957 that the Egyptian names occurring in the story, and not least the name Potiphar (Pa-di-pa-Re), had come into general use only in the time of David. The oldest

1 -- Translator's note: The Authorised Version of the Bible gives "an officer of Pharaoh, captain of the guard". Luther's German translation says "Pharaoh's chamberlain and captain". I have added the precise words of the Authorised Version.

p 107 -- Egyptian mention of the name Pa-di-pa-Re (Potiphar) could date only from the 21st Dynasty at the earliest in the opinion of another scholar much inclined towards the "Egyptian Joseph", the Frenchman Pierre Montet. The 21st Dynasty is situated by Jurgen von Beckerath in the period 1080-946 B.C., which would, after all, be the era of David and Solomon. Yet we are still about five hundred years removed from the Hyksos period!

Whatever the question under discussion, the indications always point to phases of Ancient Egyptian history later than the Hyksos period to which scholars have hitherto thought it proper to assign them. Even the pretence made by Joseph of accusing his brothers of being spies (Gen. 42:9 and 15) has meaning only when levelled against men from Canaan, after Ashur's threat to the eastern frontier of Egypt.

And so the question remains more open today than ever whether the "Egyptian Joseph" of the Bible could be conceived as a historical personality. As things are at present, we can not accept him as the vizier of a Hyksos Pharaoh. We now have to proceed from the concept that the story about him, which reflects conditions in a later period of Ancient Egypt, comes into being very much later than many scholars have thought hitherto, unless we wish to have recourse to the idea that what is shown by direct evidence to have existed in the late period might naturally have existed also at an earlier time (and have been recorded exclusively in the Bible). TOP

p 108 -- Chapter 9 -- FOUR HUNDRED YEARS' SILENCE -- Reawakening on the Nile - Thebes instigates revolt - Rout of the Hyksos - Egypt becomes a world power - Indian civilisation in Mitanni - The "Sons of Heth" on the Halys - Pharaoh's widow in quest of a mate - The first non-aggression pact in the world - Hittite bridal procession through Canaan.

And Israel dwelt in the land of Egypt in the country of Goshen: and they had possessions therein, and grew and multiplied exceedingly - Gen. 47:27.

For a space of 400 years, during which, politically, the face of the "Fertile Crescent" was completely altered, the Bible is silent. In these four centuries there took place a vast rearrangement of the disposition of national groups. They interrupted the history of the Semitic kingdoms that for 1,000 years had maintained their sway on the Euphrates and the Tigris. The great island of civilisation in the Middle East was rudely dragged from its self-sufficient existence. Foreign peoples with foreign ways surged in from distant and hitherto unknown lands. For the first time it felt the clash with the outside world.

For 150 years there is also silence in Egypt. The prelude to the reawakening of the giant of the Nile opens with a remarkable motif: the roaring of hippopotami.

A papyrus fragment tells how the ambassador of the Hyksos king Apophis went from Avaris to the prince of the City of the South. The City of the South was Thebes and its prince was the Egyptian Sekenenre, who paid tribute to the foreign overlords on the upper delta. The prince in astonishment asked the emissary of the Asiatic occupying power: "Why have you been sent to the City of the South? Why have you made this journey?" The messenger replied: "King Apophis - may he have long life, health and prosperity! - bids me say to you: Get rid of the hippopotamus pool in the east end of your city. I cannot sleep for them. Night and day the noise of them rings in my ears." The prince of the City of the South was thunderstruck because he did not know what answer to give to the ambassador of king Apophis - may he have long life, health and prosperity! At last he said: "Very well, your master - may he have long life, health and prosperity! - will hear about this pool in the east end of the City of the South." The ambassa-
1 -- Papyrus Sallier I (British Museum)

p 109 -- dor however was not to be so easily put off. He spoke more plainly: "This matter about which I have been sent must be dealt with." The prince of the City of the South then tried in his own way to get round the determined ambassador. He was well aware of the ancient equivalent of the present day slap-up lunch as a means of creating a friendly atmosphere and goodwill. Accordingly he saw to it that the Hyksos commissioner was "supplied with good things, with meat and cakes". But his luck was out. For when the ambassador departed he had a promise from the prince in his saddle-bag, written on papyrus: "All that you have told me to do I shall do. Tell him that." Then the prince of the City of the South summoned his highest officials and his leading officers and repeated to them the message that king Apophis - may he have long life, health and prosperity! - had sent him. "Then one and all remained silent for quite a while...." At this point the papyrus text breaks off. The end of the story is unfortunately missing, but we can reconstruct the sequel from other contemporary evidence.

In the Cairo Museum lies the mummy of Sekenenre. When it was discovered at Deir-el-Bahri near Thebes, it attracted special attention from medical men, for there were five deep sword cuts in the head. Sekenenre had lost his life in battle.

It sounds like a fairy tale, yet it is an attractive possibility that the roaring of hippopotami at Thebes should have unseated the Hyksos rulers up in the delta. The roaring of a hippopotamus is probably the most extraordinary casus belli in world history. 1

Beginning at Thebes the rebellion against the hated oppressors spread like wildfire throughout the country. Egyptian battalions marched once more down the Nile. They were accompanied by a well-equipped fleet of galleys which headed north down the sacred river. In 1580 B.C., after years of furious attacks, Avaris, the chief fortress of the Hyksos in the delta, fell amid bloody and savage fighting. Ahmose I, son of Sekenenre, was the glorious liberator of Egypt. A namesake of his, Ahmose, an officer in the new Royal Egyptian Navy, has left us a record of this decisive battle on the walls of his tomb at El-Kab. After a detailed description of his education he adds laconically: "Avaris was taken: I captured one man and three women, four people in all. His Majesty gave them to me as slaves."

This naval officer had also something to say about the military side of things: "Sharuhen was besieged for three years before his Majesty captured it." This was also a profitable occasion for Ahmose: "I collected two women and one labourer as my booty. I was given gold for my bravery, as well as the prisoners for my slaves."

Sharuhen was, on account of its commanding position in the Negev, an important strategic point south of the brown mountain chains of
1 -- Apart from this literary tradition an unpublished historical text from Karnak describes the beginning of the rebellion. TOP

p 110 -- Judah. The small mound of rubble, Tell Far'a, is all that remains of it. Flinders Petrie, the famous British archaeologist, brought to light a thick wall here in 1928.

The multi-coloured army of mercenaries which the Egyptians controlled, consisting of Negroes, Asiatics, and Nubians, marched on northwards through Canaan. The new Pharaohs had learned a lesson from the bitter experience of the past. Never again would their country be taken by a surprise attack. Egypt lost no time in creating a buffer-state far in advance of its frontier posts. The remainder of the Hyksos empire was crushed and Palestine became an Egyptian province. What had once been consular stations, trading posts, and messengers' quarters in Canaan and on the Phoenician coast became permanent garrisons, fortified strong points and Egyptian fortresses in a subjugated land.

After a history of more than 2,000 years the giant of the Nile stepped out of the shadows of his Pyramids and Sphinxes and claimed the right to take an active part in affairs beyond his own border and to have some say in the outside world. Egypt matured more and more into a world-power. Previously, everyone who lived outside of the Nile valley was contemptuously described as "Asiatics", "Sandramblers", cattlebreeders - people not worthy of the attention of a Pharaoh. Now however the Egyptians became more affable. They began communications with other countries. Hitherto that had been unthinkable. Among the diplomatic correspondence in the archives of the palace of Mari there is not one single item from the Nile. Tempora mutantur - times change.

Their advance brought them eventually to Syria, indeed to the banks of the Euphrates. There, to their astonishment, they came up against people of whose existence they had no idea. The priests searched in vain through the ancient papyrus rolls in the temple archives, and studied without result the records of the campaigns of earlier Pharaohs. Nowhere could they find even a hint about the unknown kingdom of Mitanni. Its foundation is attributed to an extremely active and creative people, the Hurrians, named as Horites in the Bible about the time of Abraham (Gen. 14:6, etc.).

In the neighbourhood of the oil-wells of Kirkuk in Iraq, where now derricks draw immeasurable wealth from the earth, archaeologists from U.S.A. and Iraq came across a large settlement, the old Hurrian city of Nuzi. Stacks of tablets which have been salvaged, and among these principally marriage contracts and wills, contained extremely interesting information: the Biblical Horites were not a Semitic people. Their home was among the mountains round Lake Van. The names on many Hurrian documents indicate that at least the princely caste must be reckoned as Indo-Aryan. It is even certain that as far as their outward appearance was concerned they belonged to the brachycephalous type like present day Armenians.

p 111 -- In the north of Mesopotamia they had built up the powerful kingdom of Mitanni between the upper reaches of the Euphrates and the Tigris. Their kings had collected round them an aristocracy of warlike charioteers and they bore Indo-Aryan names. The aristocracy of the country was called Marya, which is the equivalent of "Young Warriors". Marya is an old Indian word and their temples were dedicated to old Indian gods. Magic incantations from the Rigveda were intoned in front of the images of Mithras, the victorious champion of Light against Darkness, of Indra, who ruled the storms, and of Varuna, who governed the eternal order of the universe. The old gods of the Semites had crashed from their pedestals.

The Mitanni were completely devoted to their horses, they were "horse-daft". They held the first Derbys in the world along the banks of their great rivers. Advice on the breeding and care of stud animals, directions for the training of cavalry horses, instructions on breaking-in young horses, regulations for feeding and training in racing stables fill veritable libraries of clay tablets. These are works on equitation which can bear comparison with any modern textbook on horse-breeding. As far as the Marya, these aristocratic charioteers, were concerned, horses were of more account than human beings.

It was with this state of Mitanni that Egypt had now a common frontier, nevertheless one on which there was to be no peace. Local feuds were unending. Raids on one side or the other constantly involved Egyptian archers in angry passages with the charioteers. In the course of these expeditions sometimes it was Egyptian striking forces, sometimes columns of Mitanni, who struck deep into the enemy's territory. The valleys of the Lebanon, the banks of the Orontes and the Euphrates were the scenes of endless battles and bloody melees. For almost a century the two great kingdoms were at each other's throats.

Shortly before 1400 B.C. the warlike Mitanni proposed a peaceful settlement with the Egyptians. The enemy became a friend.

What was the reason for the unexpected desire for peace on the part of the warlike Mitanni?

The impulse came from outside. Their kingdom was suddenly threatened with war on two fronts. A second powerful opponent began to storm the frontiers with his armies from Asia Minor in the northwest. This was a nation about which scholars until this century knew hardly anything, but which plays a considerable part in the Old Testament - the Hittites. TOP

It was among the "Sons of Heth" that Abraham pitched his tent near Hebron, south of the hills of Judah, and it was from them that he bought the land where he laid his wife Sarah to rest (Gen. 23:33). Esau, much to the distress of his parents Isaac and Rebecca, married two Hittite women (Gen. 26:34), and king David himself took "the wife of Uriah, the Hittite" (2 Sam. ii). We are told by the prophet Ezekiel that Hittites

p 112 -- were partly responsible for founding Jerusalem: "Thy birth and thy nativity is of the land of Canaan: thy father was an Amorite, and thy mother a Hittite" (Ezek. 16:3,45).

fig 17 -- Map: The Three Empires after 1400 B. C., Egypt, Hittites Mitanni.

The rediscovery of the Hittite people who had sunk into complete oblivion took place in the heart of Turkey shortly after the turn of the century.

In the highlands east of Ankara, the capital, the river Halys makes a huge bend on its way to the Black Sea. Almost exactly in the middle lies Boghaz-Keui: "Boghas" in Turkish means a gorgre and "Keui" is a village. Near this "Village in the gorge" the German Assyriologist Professor Hugo Winckler discovered in 1905 a number of cuneiform texts, among which was also a peculiar type of hieroglyphics. They aroused tremendous interest and not only among scholars. The general public learned with amazement just what kind of people these Biblical "sons of Heth" were. The translations of the cuneiform writings brought to the notice of the world at large the hitherto unknown Indo-Germanic Hittites and their vanished empire.

p 113 -- Two years later a fresh expedition set out from Berlin for Boghaz-Keui. This time it was under the direction of the President of the Archaeological Institute of Berlin, Otto Puchstein. The great pile of ruins above the village was carefully examined. This was the site of royal Chattusas, the proud capital of the Hittite empire. What remained of it was a vast ruin of walls, temples, fortified gateways - the remnants of a great city. Its walls enclosed an area of 425 acres. Chattusas was almost as big as mediaeval Nuremberg. At the city gates were life-size reliefs. It is to these effigies, carved out of black basalt as hard as iron, that we are indebted for our knowledge of the appearance of Hittite kings and warriors: their long hair hung over their shoulders like a full-bottomed wig. On top sat a high dented cap. Their short aprons were fastened with a wide belt and their shoes had pointed toes.

When Shuppiluliuma, king of the Hittites, marched south-east with a powerful army about 1370 B.C. the days of the kingdom of Mitanni were already numbered despite all their clever dynastic politics. Shuppiluliuma crushed the kingdom of the warlike charioteers, compelled it to pay tribute, and then pressed on farther to the mountains of the Lebanon in the north of Canaan. Overnight, as it were, Egypt had a new equally powerful neighbour in Syria, thirsting for victory.

A delightful document has come down to us from this period. Prince Mursilis, son of Shuppiluliuma, tells in his autobiography of an episode at the Hittite Court, which must have made such a lasting impression on him that he had it recorded.

Anches-en-Amun, the wife of Pharaoh Tutankhamun, had become a widow. She had very famous parents, Akhnaten and Nofretete. We know her from wonderful Egyptian representations as a slight young thing. But she must have been a woman who knew what she wanted and used all her natural charm to further the aims of her people in the realm of high politics. Using the inviting bed and throne of the Pharaohs as a bait - and what an attractive one - she tried to take the wind out of the sails of her powerful new neighbours by discouraging their warlike intentions. Hittite warriors had just made an attack on Amqa, the fertile country between Lebanon and Anti-Lebanon.

Mursilis dictated: "When the Egyptians heard of the attack on Amqa they were alarmed. To make matters worse, her husband, Tutankhamun, having just died, his widow, the Egyptian queen, sent an ambassador to my father and wrote him the following letter: 'My husband is dead and I have no son. I am told that you have many sons. If you send me one of your sons he could become my husband. I do not wish to take one of my servants and make a husband of him.' When my father heard this he summoned his nobles to a council and said: 'I have never in all my life come across anything like this.' He despatched his chamberlain Hattu-Zitis: 'Go and find out if this is true. Perhaps they are trying to deceive me. There may in fact be a prince. Bring me back

p 114 -- reliable information.' The Egyptian ambassador, the honourable Hanis, came to my father. Since my father had instructed Hattu-Zitis before he left for Egypt: 'Perhaps they have a prince of their own: They may be trying to deceive us. They.may not need one of my sons at all to occupy the throne', the queen of Egypt now replied to my father in a letter: 'Why do you say, they may be trying to deceive me? If I had a son would I write to a foreign country in a manner that is humiliating both for me and my people? You do not trust me, otherwise you would not say such a thing. He who was my husband is dead and I have no sons. Am I to take one of my servants and make him into my husband? I have written to no other country, I have only written to you. They tell me you have so many sons. Give me one of your sons and he shall be my husband and king over the land of Egypt.' Since my father was so fine a king, he complied with the lady's request and sent her the son she asked for." TOP

Fate prevented the successful conclusion of this unusual offer of marriage. The royal throne and the bed of Anches-en-Amun both remained empty, since the candidate for both was murdered on his way to Egypt.

Seventy-five years later another offer of marriage on this same Halys-Nile axis had a happy ending, although the prelude to it, which was the din of battle and the clash of weapons, pointed to a different conclusion. Ramesses II, who was called the "Great", set out with his army for Palestine and Syria. He intended to deal with the hated Hittites once and for all.

In the valley of the Orontes, where today fields of cotton stretch far and wide and the old Crusader castle "Krak des Chevaliers" keeps an eye on the fertile plain of Bukea, there lay in those days the city of Kadesh, a little to the south of the dark green of Lake Homs. Before its walls four Egyptian armies threw themselves on the swift war-chariots and infantry of the Hittites. The battle did not, as it happened, bring Ramesses II the victory he had hoped for - he came in fact within an ace of being captured himself - but it put an end to these endless military incidents. In 1280 B.C. the Hittites and the Egyptians concluded the first non-aggression and mutual defence pact in world history. The good understanding was cemented at top level by the marriage of Ramesses II to a Hittite princess. Many lengthy inscriptions give in full and vivid detail the colourful background of what was in the circumstances an international event of the first order. Whether they are found on the walls of the temples at Karnak, Elephantine or Abu Simbel, or on the numerous monuments, they all tell the same story.

As far as self-advertisement and self-praise were concerned, Ramesses II put all his predecessors in the shade. "Then came a messenger to inform His Majesty. He said: 'Behold, even the great Prince of Hatti!

p 115 -- Prince of the Hittites. His eldest daughter is on her way and she brings untold tribute of all kinds.... They have reached His Majesty's frontiers. Let the army and the dignitaries come to receive her! Then His Majesty was greatly delighted, and the palace was glad,to hear these unusual tidings which were quite unheard of in Egypt. He therefore sent forth the army and the dignitaries to receive her."'

A large delegation was despatched to the north of Palestine to bring back the bride. Yesterday's enemies became brothers: "So the daughter of the great Prince of Hatti came to Egypt. Whilst the infantry, charioteers and dignitaries of His Majesty accompanied them, they mingled with the infantry and charioteers from Hatti. The whole populace from the country of the Hittites was mixed up with the Egyptians. They ate and drank together, they were like bloodbrothers...."

The great bridal train proceeded from Palestine to the city of Per-Ramesses-Meri-Imen in the Nile delta: "Then they brought the daughter of the Great Prince of Hatti ... before His Majesty. And His Majesty saw that she was fair of countenance like a goddess.... And he loved her more than anything else...."

Any of the children of Israel, or their ancestors who were in Egypt at that time, could have been eye-witnesses of the ceremonial arrival of the bridal procession in the city of Per-Ramesses-Meri-Imen, which means "The House of Ramses the Beloved of Amun". As the Biblical description indicates however their presence in this city was by no means of their own accord. It is at this point also that the Bible resumes its narrative. Four hundred years which the Children of Israel had spent as immigrants in the land of the Nile have been passed over in silence. A new and significant chapter of the history of the Biblical people now begins.

To assert that the Bible remains silent concerning a period of four hundred years is correct only if the period of the patriarchs really occurred between 2000 B.C. and approximately 1800 B.C. It is precisely this, however, which recent discoveries have already obliged us to express doubts about. For example, if the legal practices of the Biblical "patriarchs" were to correspond so very exactly to those of the Hurrian town of Nuzi in Mitanni, as we noted in Book 1, Chapter 5, the beginning of the patriarchal period at around 1900 B.C. becomes extraordinarily problematical.

The places, too, where the Bible speaks of Hittites appearto consign Abraham and consequently all the Biblical "patriarchs" as well to a later period. Allegedly Abraham acquired the burial-place in Hebron of his wife Sarah from Hittites (Gen. 23:1ff).

It is a fact that the negotiations for the sale, which are described in detail in the Bible, become clear to us today only by comparison with Hittite documents. Obviously Abraham wanted nothing but the cave

p 116 -- and not the whole plot. Hittite documents tell us why. In accordance with Hittite customs, the plot would otherwise have been free for utilisation by the previous owner! In the end, however, agreement was reached and Abraham took not only the cave but also the field and all the trees. This, too, reminds us of Hittite documents dealing with such transactions which always state with scrupulous exactness the number of trees! This is undoubtedly another example of the surprising confirmation of details found in the Bible. TOP

And yet we must ask what Hittites these were with whom Abraham was negotiating. Where did they come from if Abraham, as is alleged, lived at such an early date that the Hittite Empire, which according to Hittite sources was not founded until about the sixteenth century B.C., was not even in existence? And how did Hittites get to Hebron? In other words, to Southern Palestine, between the Dead Sea and the Mediterranean, and, what is more, how does it come about that the Bible (Gen. 23:7) refers to them as "the people of the land", although the southern border of the Hittite Empire at the time of its greatest extension ran very much farther to the north, somewhat south of the modern town of Aleppo, at any rate "right up on the edge" of the maps of Palestine in current use today? And nothing else is known about any further advance southwards by Hittite settlers.

The Hittite Uriah, whom King David first cuckolded and then sent to his death (2 Sam. ii) perhaps came from one of the small early or late Hittite lands which continued to exist in Northern Syria even after the collapse of the Hittite Empire around 1200 B.C. When the Hittites are mentioned as the founders or co-founders of Jerusalem, however, this is perhaps one of those Biblical statements, according to which the "children of Heth" must have been more probably a Canaanite mountain tribe (cf. Numbers 13:29-30). "The Amalekites dwell in the land of the south; and the Hittites, and the Jebusites (i.e. the original inhabitants of Jerusalem) and the Amorites dwell in the mountains; and the Canaanites dwell by the sea, and by the coast of Jordan." These inhabitants of Canaan cannot have had much to do with the Indo-European Hittites of history.

One thing is certain. The problems raised by the references to the Hittites in the Bible have not been cleared up by the discovery of the Hittite Empire in Asia Minor. On the contrary, we now have two categories of Hittites, those in the Bible and the others whose presence in Asia Minor has been proved by archaeology. The statements about the two kinds do not coincide in all respects. The difficulties have not been removed, they are just beginning! It is only the future, as we now know, that can show whether the Bible is correct in what it has to say about the Hittites.

It is necessary to add a "late news item" regarding the Hittites. Mention has already been made of the young widow of a Pharaoh who

p 117 -- requested the Hittite King Shuppiluliuma to send her one of his sons to be her husband. Until quite recently indeed the conviction was general that this must refer to Anches-en-Amun, the widow of Tutankhamun. It is only recently that a dissenting view has been expressed, which is not yet accepted by all but appears nevertheless to be well founded, to the effect that the petitioner was not Anches-en-Amun but her elder sister Meritaton who after the death, or was it the repudiation, of her mother Nofretete, was made queen and was perhaps the last wife of her own father, Akhnaten. This deduction has been made because of the connection between the request for a bridegroom and the Egyptian-Hittite war, which took place in the time of Akhnaten and not of Tutankhamun. TOP

p 118 -- Chapter 10 -- FORCED LABOUR IN PITHOM AND RAAMSES -- Joseph had died a long time ago - A story in pictures from a prince's tomb - Pithom labour camp in Egyptian texts - The royal seat is transferred to the delta - Ramesses II - A builder's enthusiasm and vanity lead to a fraud - Montet unearths the bond -city of Raamses - Moses wrote his name "MS" - A Mesopotamian story about a baby in the bulrushes - Moses emigrates to Midian - Plagues are no strangers to Egypt.

Now there arose up a new king over Egypt, which knew not Joseph. Therefore they did set over them taskmasters, to afflict them with their burdens. And they built for Pharaoh treasure-cities [R. V. Store-cities], Pithom and Raamses - Ex. I:8-11.

The new king who "knew not Joseph" was most likely Ramesses II or one of his predecessors. His ignorance is understandable if Joseph lived centuries before him in the days of the Hyksos. The names of these Hyksos rulers who were so cordially detested by Egyptians have hardly been recorded, far less the names of their dignitaries and officials. Even if this pharaoh of the new dynasty, whether it was Ramesses II or a predecessor, had known of Joseph, that is as far as he would have wanted it to go. Joseph was bound to be an object of contempt to any nationally conscious Egyptian for two reasons. One, that he was an "Asiatic" and a miserable "Sandrambler", and, two, that he was the highest official of the hated occupying power. From the latter point of view any appeal to Joseph would hardly have been a recommendation for Israel in the eyes of a pharaoh.

What forced labour meant in ancient Egypt, and what the Children of Israel experienced at the great building projects on the Nile, can be gathered from a very old painting that Percy A. Newberry, the discoverer of the portrayal of the people who comprise the caravan at Beni-Hasan, found in a rock tomb west of the royal city of Thebes.

On the walls of a spacious vault there is a series of paintings from the life of a great dignitary, the vizier Rekhmire, showing what he had done for the benefit of his country. One scene shows him in charge of public works. The detail shows the manufacture of Egyptian bricks, the most notable feature being the light-skinned workmen, who are clad only in linen aprons. A comparison with the dark-skinned overseers shows that the fair-skinned men are probably Semites, but

p 119 -- certainly not Egyptians. "He provides us with bread, beer and every good thing." Yet despite these words of praise about the quality of the diet, there is no doubt about the fact that they are not working voluntarily but compulsorily. "The rod is in my hand," one of the Egyptian overseers is saying, according to the hieroglyphic inscription. "Be not idle."

FIG. 18 - Bricklaying with foreign labour in Egypt.

The picture is an impressive illustration of the Biblical words: "And the Egyptians made the children of Israel to serve with rigour, and they made their lives bitter with hard bondage in mortar and in bricks" (Ex. 1:13, 14). Israel was of shepherd stock, unused to work of any other kind, which was therefore twice as hard for them. Building and brick making were forced labour.

The painting in the rock-tomb shows a scene from the building of the Temple of Amun in Thebes. The "classical" bond-cities of the children of Israel were however Pithom and Raamses. Both names appear in slightly different form in Egyptian inventories. "Per-Itum", "House of the god Atum", is the name of a town which does not date back further than the time of Ramesses II. Per-Ramesses-Meri-Imen, which has already been mentioned, is the Biblical Raamses. An inscription of the time of Ramesses II speaks of "'PR", "who hauled the stones for the great fortress of the city of Per-Ramesses-Meri-Imen". "'Pr" is Egyptian hieroglyphics for Semites.

The question of where these bond-cities were situated remained a problem. It was known that the rulers of the New Kingdom had moved their seat from ancient Thebes northward to Avaris, which was the place from which the Hyksos had also ruled the country. The new type of international power-politics made it seem advisable to be nearer the centre of things than was the case with Thebes, which lay much farther south. From the delta they could much more easily keep an eye on turbulent "Asia", their dominions in Canaan and Syria. Pharaoh Ramesses II gave his name to the new capital. Avaris became the city of Per-Ramesses-Meri-Imen.

After a fair amount of guesswork and supposition archaeologists' picks put an end to all differences of opinion about the site of one of the

p 120 -- bond-cities. Anyone who goes to Egypt can include a trip round its ruins in his programme. It is 60 miles by car from Cairo. About half way down the Suez Canal, where it goes through what was the Lake of Crocodiles,  1   a dried up watercourse known as Wadi Tumilat stretches westward till it strikes the easternmost arm of the Nile. There two mounds of rubble lie about 9 miles apart. One is Tell er-Retabe, which was perhaps the Biblical Pithom, the other is Tell el-Maskhuta, which many scholars consider to be Pithom, whereas others consider it to be the Biblical Succoth (Ex. 12:37; 13:20) Apart from remains of granaries, inscriptions have also been found which refer to storehouses.

If there had been patent laws 4,000 years ago, the Egyptians could have claimed exclusive rights over granaries. The silos on Canadian and American wheat farms are still built on the same principle. Admittedly Egyptian silos did not reach the same gigantic proportions, but granaries, circular buildings about 25 feet in diameter with ramps leading up to the feeder, were not uncommon on the Nile. As grand vizier Joseph built granaries (Gen- 41:48'ff) and as slave labourers his descendants built granaries in the land of Goshen.

FIG. 19 - Corn silos in Egypt. TOP

The search for the other bond-city, Raamses,  2   went on for a long time without success. Then nearly thirty years after the discovery of Pithom it was eventually found in 1930.

Ramesses II, the "Great", has given the archaeologists many a hard nut to crack. Apparently his vanity was even greater than his passion for building. He never hesitated to deck himself in borrowed plumes: posterity would marvel at the great builder Ramesses II! And indeed it did. The experts could hardly grasp at first how it came about that on so many temples, public buildings and in other places they came upon the cipher "Ramesses II". But when they examined the buildings a little more closely the explanation was plain. Many of these buildings must have been built centuries before Ramesses II. To pander to his own vanity however Ramesses II decided to have his monogram carved on them all.

In the delta the search for the city of Per-Ramesses-Meri-Imen led from one mound to another. One excavated site after another, throughout the Nile delta, was thought to be the one they were looking for: Pithom, Heliopolis, Pelusium and others. Guesswork came to an end
1 -- Lake Timsah.
2 -- Per-Ramesses-Meri-Imen, probably the earlier Tanis/Avaris or Qantir, eleven miles to the south.

p 121 -- only when the spade of Professor Pierre Montet of Strasbourg struck the ground near the present day fishing village of San in 1929. Thirty miles south-west of Port Said, Montet unearthed between 1929 and 1932 an unusual number of statues, sphinxes, columns, and fragments of buildings, all of them stamped with the crest of Ramesses II. This time there
was scarcely any doubt that it was the remains of Per-Ramesses-Meri-Imen, the Biblical bond-city of Raamses. Just as in Pithom they found here ruins of granaries and storehouses.

The Israelites became the victims, in the truest sense of the word, of Pharaoh's lust for building. The position of their immigration area made it easier for them to be dragooned into forced labour. The Goshen of the Bible with its rich grazings began just a few miles south of the new capital and went as far as Pithom. Nothing could be simpler than to drag these foreigners who lived, so to speak, on the doorstep of these great building projects, away from their flocks and tents and force them into servitude.

The ruins at San no longer give any indication of the splendour of the former metropolis. What the columns of Israelite levies saw on their daily march to the building sites we can only gather from a contemporary papyrus letter. It is written by a schoolboy Pai-Bes to his teacher Amen-em-Opet: "I have come to Per-Ramesses of the Beloved of Amun and find it wonderful. A splendid city without a rival. Re, the same god who founded Thebes, founded this according to the same plan. To live here is to have a glorious life. The countryside provides a wealth of good things. Every day they get fresh provisions and meat. Their pools are full of fish, their lagoons are thick with birds, their meadows are covered with green grass, the fruit from their well tilled fields has the taste of honey. Their storehouses are full of barley and corn and tower up to the sky. There are onions and chives to season the food, also pomegranates, apples, olives and figs from the orchards. Sweet wine from Kenkeme, which tastes nicer than honey. The Shi-Hor branch of the Nile produces salt and saltpetre. Their ships come and go. Everyday here there are fresh victuals and meat. People are glad to be able to live there and nobody cries: God help me! Simple folk live like great folk. Come! Let us celebrate there the festivals of heaven and the beginning of the seasons."

Years later life in the barren wilderness had blotted out the recollection of their forced labour from the minds of the children of Israel. All they remembered was the plentiful food of the delta: "Would to God we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the flesh pots and when we did eat bread to the full" (Ex. 16:3). "Who shall give us flesh to eat? We remember the fish which we did eat in Egypt freely: the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions and the garlic." "Who shall give us flesh to eat for it was well with us in Egypt" (Num. II:4-5, 18).

p 122 -- Discoveries during excavations, and contemporary texts, sometimes providing almost literal correspondence, confirm the Biblical picture. We must not think however that the academic dispute over the historicity of these events in the life of Israel is thereby settled. TOP

Professor William Foxwell Albright of America has some sharp words to say on this subject. Since he is one of the few scholars with almost universal qualifications - as theologian, historian, philosopher, orientalist, archaeologist, and comparative philologist - they may well be cited as conclusive. "According to our present knowledge of the topography of the eastern delta the account of the start of the Exodus, which is given in Ex. 12:37 and Ex. 13:20, is topographically absolutely correct." Further proofs of the essentially historical nature of the Exodus story and of the journey in the area of Sinai, Midian and Kadesh can be supplied without great difficulty thanks to our growing knowledge of topography and archaeology.

We must content ourselves here with the assurance that the hyper-critical attitude which previously obtained in respect of the earlier historical traditions of Israel has no longer any justification. Even the long-disputed date of the Exodus can now be fixed within reasonable limits.... If we put it at about 1290 B.C. we cannot go far wrong, since the first years of the reign of Ramesses II (1301-1234) were to a large extent occupied with building activities in the city to which he has given his name - the Raamses of Israelite tradition. The striking correspondence between this date and the length of their stay given by Ex. 12:40 as 430 years - "Now the sojourning of the children of Israel, who dwelt in Egypt, was 430 years" (Ex. 12:40) - may be purely coincidental but it is very remarkable. According to this the migration must have taken
place about 1720 B.C.

The reign of Ramesses II is the time of the oppression and forced labour of Israel, but also the time at which Moses the great liberator of his people appears.

And it came to pass in those days, when Moses was grown, that he went out unto his brethren, and looked on their burdens: and he spied an Egyptian smiting an Hebrew, one of his brethren. And he looked this way and that way, and, when he saw that there
was no man he slew the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. Now when Pharaoh heard this thing, he sought to slay Moses. But Moses fled from the face of Pharaoh, and dwelt in the land of Midian: and he sat down by a well - Ex. 2 11,12, 15.

Moses is a Hebrew who was born in Egypt, brought up by Egyptians, whose name can be connected with a Semitic root meaning "bring or take out, remove, extract", but can also be interpreted as Egyptian. "Moses" means simply "boy, son". A number of Pharaohs are called
Ahmose, Amasis, Thutmose. And Thutmose was the name of the

p 123 -- famous sculptor, among whose masterpieces the incomparably beautiful head of Nofretete is still the admiration of the world.

These are facts. Egyptologists know that. But the general public picks on the famous Biblical story of Moses in the bulrushes, and it is not difficult for the eternal sceptic to produce it as an apparently valid argument against the credibility of Moses himself. "It is simply the birth-legend of Sargon" - they say. But they add mentally: "Plagiarism".

Cuneiform texts have this to say of King Sargon, the founder of the Semitic dynasty of Akkad in 2360 B.C.: "I am Sargon, the powerful king, the king of Akkad. My mother was an Enitu priestess, I did not know any father.... My mother conceived me and bore me in secret. She put me in a little box made of reeds, sealing its lid with pitch. She put me in the river.... The river carried me away and brought me to Akki the drawer of water. Akki the drawer of water adopted me and brought me up as his son ......"

The similarity with the Biblical story of Moses is in fact astounding: "And when she could no longer hide him, she took for him an ark of bulrushes, and daubed it with slime and with pitch and put the child therein: and she laid it in the flags by the river's brink" (Ex. 2:3ff).

The basket-story is a very old Semitic folk-tale. It was handed down by word of mouth for many centuries. The Sargon legend of the third millennium B.C. is found on Neo-Babylonian cuneiform tablets of the. first millennium B.C. It is nothing more than the frills with which posterity has always loved to adorn the lives of great men. Who would dream of doubting the historicity of the Emperor Barbarossa, simply because he is said to be still sleeping under Kyffhauser?

Officials everywhere and all the time enjoy the protection of the state. So it was in the time of the Pharaohs. So it is today. It was for this reason that Moses had no choice but to flee from certain punishment after he had in righteous indignation killed the guard in charge of the labour gangs.

Moses does what Sinuhe had done before him. He flees eastward to get out of Egyptian territory. Since Canaan is occupied by Egypt, Moses chooses for his exile the mountains of Midian east of the Gulf of Aqabah, with which he had a remote connection. Ketura had been Abraham's second wife, after Sarah's death (Gen. 25:1) One of her sons was called Midian. The tribe of Midian is often called Kenites in the Old Testament (Num. 24:21) . The name means "belonging to the coppersmiths"- Qain in Arabic, Qainaya in Aramaic = a Smith. This designation connects up with the presence of metal in the neighbourhood of the tribal territory. The mountain ranges east of the Gulf of Aqabah are rich in copper, as the investigations of Nelson Glueck of America have indicated. TOP

No country will willingly part with a cheap supply of forced foreign

p 124 -- labour. Israel had to learn that too. Eventually we are told that it was the occurrence of plagues that compelled the Egyptians to give way. Whether they raged exactly at the time of Moses can so far neither be affirmed nor denied since no contemporary evidence on the subject has so far been found. But plagues are neither improbable nor unusual. Indeed they are part of Egypt's local colour. The water of the Nile "was turned to blood". "And the frogs came up and covered the land of Egypt". "Flies" appear, "lice", a "cattle murrain" and "boils" - finally "hail", "locusts" and "darkness" (Ex 7 -10). These things which the Bible describes are still experienced by the Egyptians, as, for example, the "red Nile".

Deposits from the Abyssinian lakes often colour the flood waters a dark reddish-brown, especially in the Upper Nile. That might well be said to look like "blood".- At the time of the floods "frogs" and also "flies" sometimes multiply so rapidly that they become regular plagues on the land. - Under the heading of "lice" would come undoubtedly the dog-fly. These often attack whole areas in swarms, affect eyes, nose and ears, and can be very painful.

Cattle pest is known all over the world. - The "boils" which attack human beings as well as animals may be the so-called "Nile-heat" or "Nile-itch". This is an irritating and stinging rash which often develops into spreading ulcers. This horrible skin disease is also used as a threatened punishment by Moses in the course of the journey through the desert: "The Lord will smite thee with the botch of Egypt, and with the emerods and with the scab and with the itch whereof thou canst not be healed" (Deut. 28: 27).

"Hailstorms" are extremely rare on the Nile, but they are not unknown. The season for them is January or February. - "Swarms of locusts" on the other hand are a typical and disastrous, phenomenon in the countries of the Orient. - The same is true of sudden "darkness". The Khamsin, also called the Simoon, is a blistering hot wind which whirls up vast masses of sand and drives them before it. They obscure the sun, give it a dull yellowish appearance and turn daylight into darkness. - Only the death of the "first-born" is a plague for which there is no parallel (Ex. 12) and the statement in the Bible that the plague of "darkness in all the land of Egypt" affected only the Egyptians, but not the Israelites living in Egypt is, of course, incapable of any scientific explanation.... TOP

p 125 -- SECTION III -- Forty Years in the Wilderness From the Nile to the Jordan he coming of the Patriarchs from Abraham to Jacob

Chapter 11 -- ON THE ROAD TO SINAI -- Departure from Raamses - Two possible sites for the "Miracle of the Sea" - Traces of fords beside the Suez Canal - Three days without water - Swarms of quails at the migration season - An expedition clears up the mystery of manna - Egyptian mining centre in Sinai - The alphabet at the Temple of Hathor.

And the children of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth (Ex. 12:37). But God led the people about through the way of the wilderness of the Red Sea (Ex. 13:18). And they took their journey from Succoth and encamped in Etham, in the edge of the wilderness (Ex. 13:20). But the Egyptians pursued after them, all the horses and chariots of Pharaoh, and his horsemen and his army, and overtook them encamping by the sea, beside Pi-Hahiroth before Baal-Zephon (Ex. 14:9).

The first section of the route followed by the fugitives can easily be followed on the map. It is expressly noted that they did not travel in the direction of the "Way of the Land of Philistines" (Ex. 13:17), which was the Ai route from Egypt to Asia via Palestine. This main highway for caravans and military expeditions ran almost parallel with the Mediterranean coast and was the shortest and best route, but the one which was most closely guarded. An army of soldiers and officials in the frontier posts kept a sharp watch on all traffic in both directions.

The main road was too risky. The Israelites therefore head southwards. From Per-Ramesses on the eastern branch of the delta the first stage is Succoth in Wadi Tumilat. After Etham the next stage is Pi-Hahiroth. According to the Bible this place lay "between Migdol and the sea, over against Baal-Zephon" (Ex. 14:2) "Miktol" appears also in Egyptian texts, it means a "tower". A fort which stood there guarded the caravan route to the Sinai area. All that remains of it has been excavated at Abu Hasan, 15 miles north of Suez.

And Moses stretched out his hand over the sea: and the Lord caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided. And the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea upon the dry

p 126 -- ground: and the waters were a wall unto them on their right hand and on their left (Ex. 14:21-22).

... a detachment of Egyptian chariots, which was attempting to recapture the Israelites, was swallowed up by the sea, the horses and their riders were drowned.

This "Miracle of the Sea" has perpetually exercised men's minds. The difficulty which faced science and research for a long time was not to shed light on the escape itself, for which there were several real possibilities. The only dispute was about the scene of the event, and on this point it is barely possible even yet to get a clear picture.

The first difficulty is one of translation. The Hebrew words "Yam Suph" are sometimes translated as the "Red Sea", at other times as the "Reed Sea". The "Reed Sea" is frequently mentioned: "For we have heard how the Eternal dried up the water of the Reed Sea before you when you left Egypt" (Josh. 2:10: Moffatt's Translation). In the Old Testament up to Jeremiah it is called the "Reed Sea". The New Testament speaks only of the "Red Sea" (Acts 7:36; Hebrews 11:29 ).  1

0n the shores of the Red Sea there are no reeds. The Reed Sea proper lay farther north. A reliable reconstruction of the situation that existed then is hardly possible, and that is the second difficulty. The building of the Suez Canal last century has altered the appearance of the landscape to an extraordinary degree. According to those calculations which seem to have most probability, the so called "Miracle of the Sea" must have taken place in that area. What was once Lake Balah, for example, which lay south of the "Way of the Land of the Philistines", disappeared when the canal was constructed and became marshland. In the time of Ramesses II the Gulf of Suez, in the south, was connected to the Bitter Lakes. Probably the connection extended up to Lake Timsah, the Lake of Crocodiles. In this area there was at one time a Sea of Reeds. The waterway to the Bitter Lakes could be forded at several points. Fords can actually be traced there. The flight from Egypt by way of the Sea of Reeds is therefore perfectly credible.

In early Christian times pilgrims surmised that the flight of Israel led them through the Red Sea. At that time they thought in terms of the northern end of the Gulf near the town of Es-Suwez, present-day Suez. The crossing could have taken place here too. Occasionally strong north-west winds drive the water at the northern extremity of the Gulf back so far that it is possible to wade across. In Egypt the prevailing wind is from the west. The east wind mentioned in the Bible is on the other hand typical of Palestine.
1 -- Translator's Note: The German Bible uses two expressions: Ried-Meer = Reed Sea and Rotes Meer = Red Sea. The English Bible makes no distinction and uses "Red Sea" throughout. The Hebrew words Yam Suph mean Reed Sea or Papyrus Marsh as modern translations recognise.

p 127 -- So Moses brought Israel from the Red Sea: and they went out into the wilderness of Shur: and they went three days in the wilderness and found no water. And when they came to Marah they could not drink of the waters of Marah, for they were bitter - Ex. 15 22-23.
And they came to Elim where were twelve wells of water and three-score and ten palm trees - Ex. 15:27.
And they took their journey from Elim and all the congregar tion of the children of Israel came unto the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai.... Ex. 16:1.

The laborious journey began - a nomadic existence in a barren scrub land that was to last for forty years.

With donkeys, goats and sheep only short stretches of about 12 miles a day could be covered. The goal each day was invariably the next water-hole.

Forty long years the children of Israel wandered round the edge of the desert from well to well, from water-hole to water-hole. From the stopping places which the Bible mentions the most important stages of the journey can be marked out.

The route is realistically and convincingly described in Numbers ch. 33. As we should expect with a mixed company of human beings and animals, they never moved far from the oases and pastures of the Sinai peninsula and the Negev.TOP

From the Nile to the mountains of the Sinai peninsula stretches an ancient beaten track. It was the road followed by the countless labour gangs and slave gangs who had been digging for copper and turquoise in the Sinai mountains since 3000 B.C. More than once in the course of these millennia the mines had been forsaken and lapsed for centuries into oblivion. Ramesses II remembered the treasure that was lying dormant and started up the mines once more.

It was along this road to the mines that Moses led his people. It begins at Memphis, crosses the top of the Gulf, at what is now Suez, and then bends south along a waterless stretch of 45 miles, without a single oasis or spring. The Bible expressly mentions that at the beginning of their journey they wandered for three days in the desert without water, then came to a well of undrinkable water, after which they soon reached a particularly rich oasis with "twelve wells and seventy palm trees". This very exact Biblical description helped the experts to find the historical route of the Exodus.

A 45-mile trek with herds of cattle and a large contingent of people would take three days. Nomads can cope with the problem of thirst for a period of this length. They have always their "iron rations" for such an emergency, water in goatskin containers, like the patriarchal family in the mural painting at Beni-Hasan. Forty-five miles from the northern

p 128 -- tip of the Red Sea there is still a spring called "Ain Hawarah" by the Bedouins. Nomads are very reluctant to stop here with their cattle. The water is not inviting for a long stay. It is salty and sulphurous, or "bitter" as the Bible calls it. This is Marah of olden times.

Fifteen miles farther on to the south, exactly a day's march, lies Wadi Gharandel. A fine oasis with shady palms and plenty of water-holes. That is the Biblical Elim, the second stopping place. After Elim begins the Wilderness of Sin, on the shore of the Red Sea, now known as the Plain of El Kaa. The children of Israel have come no great distance, but they are untrained and unused to privation after what was despite its rigours a well fed and well ordered life in Egypt. It is no wonder that they gave tongue to their disappointment and complaints. However they were able to augment their scanty diet with two unexpected but most welcome items.

And it came to pass that at even the quails came up and covered the camp:and in the morning ... when the dew that lay was gone up, behold upon the face of the wilderness there lay a small round thing, as small as the hoar frost on the ground. And when the children of Israel saw it, they said one to another, it is manna [i.e. What is this?], for they wist not what it was. And Moses said unto them, This is the bread which the Lord hath given you to eat (Ex. 16:13-15).

Time and again more or les's profound discussions have taken place over this question of the quails and the manna. What a vast amount of disbelief they have occasioned. The Bible is telling us about things that are miraculous and inexplicable! On the contrary quails and manna are perfectly matter of fact occurrences. We need only ask a naturalist or natives of these parts who can see the same thing happening today.

The Exodus of the Israelites began in the spring, the time of the great bird migrations. From Africa, which in summer becomes unbearably hot and dry, the birds have from time immemorial migrated to Europe along two routes. One route goes via the west coast of Africa to Spain, the other via the Eastern Mediterranean to the Balkans. In the early months of the year, quails, together with other birds, fly across the Red Sea, which they must cross on the eastern route. Exhausted by their long flight, they alight on its flat shores to gather fresh strength for the
next stage of their journey over the high mountains to the Mediterranean. Josephus (Antiquities, III, 1, 5) describes an experience of this kind, and even today the Bedouins of this area catch the exhausted quails in spring and autumn by hand.

As far as the famous manna is concerned, we have reliable information from the botanist. To anticipate: anyone who is interested in manna will find it on the list of exports from the Sinai peninsula.

p 129 -- Further, its supplier is registered in every botanical index of the Middle East, it is the Tamarix Mannifera, Ehr.

There is no lack of fully authenticated descriptions of its occurrence. The following eyewitness account is almost five hundred years old.

"In every valley throughout the whole region of Mt. Sinai there can still be found Bread of Heaven, which the monks and the Arabs gather, preserve and sell to pilgrims and strangers who pass that way." These words were written in 1483 by Breitenbach, Dean of Mainz, in an account of his pilgrimage to Sinai. "This same Bread of Heaven", he continues, "falls about daybreak like dew or hoarfrost and hangs in beads on grass, stones, and twigs. It is sweet like honey and sticks to the teeth. We bought a lot of it."


FIG. 20- Catching quails on the Nile. TOP

In 1823 the German botanist G. Ehrenberg published a paper  1   which even his colleagues received with incredulity. His explanation seemed indeed to ask people to believe too much, namely that this notorious manna is nothing more than a secretion exuded by tamarisk trees and bushes when they are pierced by a certain type of plant-louse which is found in Sinai.

A hundred years later an organised manna expedition was:under way. Friedrich Simon Bodenheimer and Oskar Theodor, botanical experts from the Hebrew University at Jerusalem, set out for the Sinai Peninsula, to clear up the disputed question of the existence of manna once and for all. For several months the two scientists investigated the dry water-courses and oases in the whole area of Mt. Sinai. Their report caused a sensation. They not only brought back the first photographs of manna and fully confirmed the findings of Breitenbach and Ehrenberg, but also established the factual truth of the Biblical description of the desert migration of the people of Israel.

Without the plant-louse mentioned first by Ehrenberg there would in fact be no manna at all. These little insects live primarily off tamarisks which are a type of tree indigenous to Sinai. They exude a peculiar resinous secretion, which according to Bodenheimer is about the same shape and size as a coriander seed. When it falls to the ground it is white in colour, but after lying for some time it becomes yellowish- brown. Naturally the two scientists did not fail to taste the manna.
1 -- "Symbolae Physicae".
Webmaster Note: The simple explanation of the existance of manna does not take away from the miracle of God in that He provided that the people should gather double the amount on Friday and none on Sabbath.

p 130 -- Bodenheimer's verdict was: "The taste of these crystallised grains of manna is peculiarly sweet. It is most of all like honey when it has been left for a long time to solidify." "And it was like coriander seed, white: and the taste of it was like wafers made with honey", says the Bible (Ex. 16:31).

The findings of the expedition likewise confirmed the other features of the Biblical description of manna. "And they gathered it every morning, every man according to his eating: and when the sun waxed hot, it melted" (Ex. 16:21). Exactly in the same way today the Bedouins of the Sinai peninsula hasten to gather up their "Mann es-Sama", the "Manna from Heaven", as early as possible in the morning, for the ants are keen competitors. " They begin gathering when the ground temperature reaches 2 1 degrees centigrade," says the report of the expedition, "which is about 8:30 a.m. Until then the insects are inert." As soon as the ants become lively, the manna disappears. That must have been what the Biblical narrator meant when he said that it melted. The Bedouins prudently do not forget to seal the manna they have collected carefully in a pot, otherwise the ants pounce on it. It was just the same in Moses' day during the sojourn in the desert: "But some of them left of it until the morning: and it bred worms.... " (Ex., 16:20).

The incidence of the manna depends on favourable winter rains and is different from year to year. In good years the Bedouins of Sinai can collect 4 pounds per head in a morning, - a considerable quantity which is quite sufficient to satisfy a grown man. Thus Moses was able to order the children of Israel to "gather of it every man according to his eating" (Ex. 16:16).

The Bedouins knead the globules of manna into a puree which they consume as a welcome and nourishing addition to their often monotonous diet. Manna is indeed an exportable commodity, and if it is carefully preserved, forms an ideal "iron ration" since it keeps indefinitely. "And Moses said unto Aaron: Take a pot and put an omer full of manna therein, and lay it up before the Lord, to be kept for your generations" (Ex. 16:33).

"And the children of Israel did cat manna forty years, until they came to a land inhabited: they did eat manna until they came unto the borders of the land of Canaan" (Ex. 16:35) . Tamarisks with manna still grow in Sinai and along the Wadi el Arabah right up to the Dead Sea.

So far we have listened to science. But the question that has to be asked is whether we have not at this point crossed the frontiers of science and entered the territory of the unknown, the sphere of the miraculous? For it is clear beyond all possible doubt that the Bible does not intend us to think of this as something that happened in the normal course of events but as an act of God. The same thing is true of the quails. TOP

p 131 -- And they took their journey out of the wilderness of Sin, and encamped in Dophkah Num. 33:12.

Several hundred metres above the waters of the Red Sea lies the monotonous expanse of the Wilderness of Sin. On this torrid plateau the only things that break the bright yellow flatness of the sand are camel-thorns and sparse brushwood. Not a breath of wind or a breeze fans the traveller's brow. Anyone following the ancient beaten track to the south-east encounters an unforgettable sight: directly ahead on the horizon a jagged mountain range rises abruptly from the plateau - the Sinai massif. At closer quarters geological formations of unusual and rare ranges of colour meet the eye. Precipitous cliffs of pink and mauve granite thrust their way upwards to the blue sky. Between them sparkle slopes and gorges of pale amber and fiery red, streaked with leadcoloured veins of porphyry and dark-green bands of felspar. It is as if all the colour and beauty of a garden had been poured into this wild serrated symphony in stone. At the margin of the Wilderness of Sin the beaten track ends abruptly and is lost in a wadi.

No one knew where to look for Dophkah until the turn of the century. The only clue was contained in the name of the place itself. "Dophkah", so the subtleties of philology inform us, is related in Hebrew to the word for "smelting operations". Smelting operations take place where there are mineral deposits.

In the spring of 1904 Flinders Petrie, who had made a name for himself in England as a pioneer of Biblical archaeology, set out from Suez with a long camel caravan. A veritable mass-formation of scholars, thirty surveyors, Egyptologists and assistants accompanied him. From the banks of the Suez Canal the expedition followed the line of the Egyptian beaten track into the wilds of Sinai. Through the Wilderness of Sin as far as the mountains it followed the same route as Israel.

Slowly the caravan made its way along a wadi and round a sharp bend in the hills - suddenly time seemed to rush back three or four thousand years. The caravan was transported straight back into the world of the Pharaohs. Petrie ordered a halt. From a terrace in the rock face a temple projected into the valley. From the square columns at the gateway stared the face of a goddess with great cow's ears. A jumble of pillars with one very tall one seemed to be growing out of the ground. The yellow sand round a number of little stone altars showed unmistakable evidence of the ashes of burnt offerings. Dark caverns yawned round the cliff-face and high above the wadi towered the solid massif of Sinai.

The cries of the drivers were silenced. The caravan stood motionless as if overpowered by the almost ghostly sight.

In the ruined temple Petrie found the name of the great Ramesses II

p 132 -- carved on the walls. The expedition had reached Serabit el-Khadem, the ancient Egyptian mining and manufacturing centre for copper and turquoise. In all probability this is where we should look for the Dophkah of the Bible. TOP

For two long years a camp in front of the old temple brought new life into the valley. Representations of cultic acts and pictures of sacrifices on the walls of the temple indicate that this had been a centre of worship of the goddess Hathor. An almost endless confusion of half choked galleries in the neighbouring wadis bore witness to the search for copper and turquoise. The marks of the workmen's tools were unmistakable. Tumbledown settlements which housed the workers lie in the immediate neighbourhood.

The pitiless sun beat down on this cauldron of a valley, filling it with unbearable heat and making the work of the expedition doubly difficult. A worker's life in these mines in the desert must have been, above all in summer, pure hell. An inscription from the reign of Amenemhet III about 1800 B.C. told the party what it had been like.

Hor-Ur-Re, bearer of the royal seal and "Minister of Labour" under Pharaoh, is addressing the miners and slaves. He tries to cheer them on and encourage them: "Anyone should think himself lucky to work in this area". But the reply is: "Turquoise will always be, in the mountain. But it is our skins we have to think about at this time of the year. We have already heard that ore has been quarried at this season. But really, our skin is not made for that sort of thing at this time of the year." Hor-Ur-Re assures them: "Whenever I have brought men out to these mines my one consideration has always been the honour of His Majesty.... I never lost heart at the sight of work.... There was no talk of: '0 for a tough skin'. On the contrary, eyes sparkled...."

While the excavations in the old mines, the dwelling houses, and the temple precincts were in full swing, only a few paces from the sanctuary of the goddess fragments of stone tablets were dug out of the sand together with a statue of a crouching figure. On both the tablets and the sculpture there were unusual markings. Neither Flinders Petrie nor the Egyptologists in the party could make anything of them. They were obviously written characters of a type never seen before. Although the inscriptions give a pictographic impression - they are reminiscent of Egyptian hieroglyphics - they can hardly be said to be a picture language. There are too few different signs for that.

When all the circumstances of the find had been carefully gone into Flinders Petrie came to the following daring conclusion: "Workmen from Retenu, who were employed by the Egyptians and are often mentioned, had this system of linear writing. The inference that follows from that is extremely significant, namely that about 1500 B.C. these simple workmen from Canaan were able to write and that the type of writing is independent both of hieroglyphics and cuneiform. Further, it

p 133 -- invalidates once and for all the hypothesis that the Israelites who came through this area from Egypt, were at that stage still illiterate."

This explanation aroused considerable attention among antiquarians, palaeographers, and historians. All existing theories about the origin and first use of writing in Canaan were at once out of date. It seemed incredible that the inhabitants of Canaan could have had their own type of script as far back as the middle of the second millennium B.C. Only from the text of the Sinai tablets could it be proved whether Petrie was actually right. Immediately on his return to England Petrie had the tablets copied.

Palaeographers from all countries pounced upon these awkward-looking scratched-out characters. No one was able to make any sense of them. It was not till ten years later that Sir Alan Gardiner, the brilliant and tireless translator of Egyptian texts, lifted the veil. He it was who first succeeded in deciphering parts of the inscriptions.

The repeated appearance of the notched "shepherd's crook" helped him along. Eventually Gardiner conjectured that a combination of four or five signs which occurred several times represented ancient Hebrew words. The five characters I-B-'-I-t he interpreted as "(dedicated) to (the goddess) Baalath".

In the second millennium B.C. a female deity with the name of Baalath was venerated in the seaport of Byblos. It was to this same goddess that the temple at Serabit el-Khadem had been erected by the Egyptians. Only the Egyptians called her Hathor. Workmen from Canaan had dug for copper and turquoise beside her temple.

The chain of evidence was complete. The significance of the discovery at Sinai did not fully emerge until six years after Flinders Petrie's death, by which time it had had further exhaustive research and study. TOP

Gardiner had only been able to decipher part of the strange characters. Thirty years later, in 1948, a team of archaeologists from the University of Los Angeles found the key which made it possible to give a literal translation of all the characters on the Sinai tablets. Without a doubt the inscriptions had their origin about 1500 B.C. and are written in a Canaanite dialect.

What Flinders Petrie wrested from the burning sands of Sinai in 1905 nowadays meets the eye everywhere in a different form in newspapers, magazines, books - and the keys of a typewriter. For these stones in Serabit el-Khadem provided the ancestor of our alphabet. The two primary modes of expression in the "Fertile Crescent", namely hieroglyphics and cuneiform, were already quite ancient when a third fundamental way of expressing men's thoughts was born in the second millennium B.C. - namely the alphabet. Possibly stimulated by the picture language of their Egyptian comrades, these Semitic workmen in Sinai devised their own peculiar and quite different type of script.

p 134 -- Picture: Development of our alphabet.

The famous Sinai inscriptions are the first stage of the North Semitic alphabet, which is the direct ancestor of our present alphabet. It was used in Palestine, in Canaan, in the Phoenician Republics on the coast. About the end of the 9th century B.C. the Greeks adopted it. From Greece it spread to Rome and from there went round the globe.

"And the Lord said unto Moses, Write this for a memorial in a book...." (Ex. 17:14). The first time that the word "write" 'is mentioned in the Old Testament is when Israel reaches the next stopping place after Dophkah. Previously the word is never used. The deciphering of the Sinai tablets shows up this Biblical passage in a completely new light as a historical statement. Because we now know that three hundred years before Moses led his people out of Egypt to Sinai, men from Canaan had already been "writing" in this area, in a language which was closely related to that of Israel. TOP

p 135 -- Chapter 12 -- AT THE MOUNTAIN OF MOSES -- The "Pearl of Sinai" ~-Israel was 6,000 strong - Striking water from rock - Practical experience in desert life - Was the Burning Bush a gas-plant? - The valley of the monks and hermits - The great miracle.

And all the congregation of the children of Israel journeyed from the wilderness of Sin, after their journeys, according to the commandment of the Lord, and pitched in Rephidim (Ex. 17:1). Then came Amalek and fought with Israel in Rephidirn (Ex. 17:8).

Rephidim is now Feiran, extolled by the Arabs as the "Pearl of Sinai". Protected by the lonely but colourful rock barrier which surrounds it, this miniature paradise has presented the same appearance for thousands of years. A small grove of palm trees provides welcome shade. As they have always done since the days of their remote ancestors, the nomads bring their flocks here to drink and rest on the tiny grass carpet.

From the main camp Flinders Petrie organised parties to investigate the neighbouring territory. By dint of exhausting and difficult journeys he got to know the wadis and mountains right down to the shores of the Red Sea. He established that Feiran is the only oasis in the whole southern part of the massif. For the nomads who lived, and still live here it is essential for existence and is their most precious possession. "The Amalekites must have been trying to defend Wadi Feiran from the foreign invaders," reflected Flinders Petrie. His next thought was: "If the climate has not changed - and the proof of that lies in the fact that the sandstone pillars in Serabit-el-Khadem show no sign of erosion despite the thousands of years of their existence - the population must also be numerically the same. Today at a rough estimate 5,000 to 7,000 nomads live with their flocks on the Sinai peninsula. Israel must therefore have been about 6,000 strong since the battle with the Amalekites appears to have been indecisive." "And it came to pass, when Moses held up his hand, that Israel prevailed: and when he let down his hand Amalek prevailed" (Ex. 17:11).

Bitter fighting continued all day "until the going down of the sun", when at length Joshua won a decisive victory for Israel. Thereafter the way was open to the water supply in the oasis of Rephidim. Before that "there was no water for the people to drink" (Ex. 17:1). In this

p 136 -- emergency Moses is said to have taken his rod and produced water by striking a rock (Ex. 17:6), an action which has been regarded, and not only by sceptics, as quite incomprehensible, although the Bible is merely once more recording a perfectly natural occurrence.

Major C. S. Jarvis, who was British Governor of Sinai in the thirties, has seen it happen himself. "Moses striking the rock at Rephidim and the water gushing out sounds like a genuine miracle, but the writer has actually seen this happen. Several men of the Sinai Camel Corps had halted in a dry wadi and were in process of digging about in the rough sand that had accumulated at the foot of a rock-face. They were trying to get at the water that was trickling slowly out of the limestone rock. The men were taking their time about it and Bash Shawish, the coloured sergeant, said: 'Here, give it to me!' He took the spade of one of the men and began digging furiously in the manner of N.C.O.'s the world over who want to show their men how to do things but have no intention of keeping it up for more than a couple of minutes. One of his violent blows hit the rock by mistake. The smooth hard crust which always forms on weathered limestone split open and fell away. The soft stone underneath was thereby exposed and out of its apertures shot a powerful stream of water. The Sudanese, who are well up in the activities of the prophets but do not treat them with a vast amount of respect overwhelmed their sergeant with cries of: 'Look at him! The prophet Moses!' This is a very illuminating explanation of what happened when Moses struck the rock at Rephidim."

C. S. Jarvis had witnessed a pure coincidence. For the men of the Camel Corps were Sudanese and not in any sense natives of Sinai, who might be expected to be familiar with the technique of producing water in this way. On thejourney from Kadesh to Edom Moses employed this method of striking water once more. "And Moses lifted up his hand and with his rod he smote the rock twice," as we are told in Num. 20:11. "And the water came out abundantly and the congregation drank and their beasts also." He had obviously got to know this highly unusual method of finding water during his exile among the Midianites.

At the beginning of the Christian era many monks and hermits settled in Feiran, where Israel had had to cope with its first hostile attack under Moses. In the gullies and on the cliffs they built their tiny cells. A church was founded in Feiran and 25 miles south of the oasis a little chapel was erected at the foot of Jebel Musa.

The barbaric tribes of nomads however gave the hermits and monks of Sinai no peace. Many of them lost their lives in these repeated attacks. St. Helena, eighty year old mother of Constantine, the first Christian emperor, during a visit to Jerusalem in A.D. 327, learned of the plight of the monks of Sinai and founded a tower of refuge which was erected at the foot of the mountain of Moses. TOP

In A.D. 530 the Byzantine emperor Justinian caused a strong defen-

p 137 -- sive wall to be built round the little chapel at the mountain of Moses. Right up to the Middle Ages this fortified church at Jebel Musa was the goal of devout pilgrims who came to Sinai from every land. A legend tells how this notable spot came to be called "St. Catherine's Monastery", which is the name it bears still.

Napoleon was instrumental in saving the masonry of this isolated early Christian fortress from collapse.

In 1859 the German theologian Constantine von Tischendorf discovered in the monastery at Sinai in a good state of preservation one of the most precious parchment manuscripts of the Bible, the famous "Codex Sinaiticus". It dates from the 4th century A.D. and contains the New Testament and parts of the Old Testament.

The Czar accepted it as a gift, giving the monastery 9,000 roubles for it. Then this priceless possession found its way into the library at St. Petersburg. Finally in 1933 the British Museum bought the "Codex Sinaiticus" from the Soviet Government for £100,000.

The little chapel at the foot of Jebel Musa was built on the site where Moses according to the Bible encountered the Burning Bush: "And he looked and behold the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed" (Ex- 3:2).

Different attempts have been made to find a scientific explanation of this remarkable phenomenon. An expert on the botany of the Bible, Dr. Harold N. Moldenke, director and curator of the Botanical Garden in New York, has this to say: "... Among the commentators who think that a natural explanation can be found, some think that the phenomenon of the bush that 'burned with fire' and yet 'was not consumed' can be explained as a variety of the gas-plant or Fraxinella, the Dietamnus Albus L. This is a plant with a strong growth about three feet in height with clusters of purple blossom. The whole bush is covered with tiny oil-glands. This oil is so volatile that it is constantly escaping and if approached with a naked light bursts suddenly into flames.... The most logical explanation seems to be that suggested by Smith. He puts forward the theory that the 'flames' may have been the crimson blossoms of mistletoe twigs (Loranthus Acaciae) which grow on various prickly acacia bushes and acacia trees throughout the Holy Land and in Sinai. When this mistletoe is in full bloom the bush becomes a mass of brilliant flaming colour and looks as if it is on fire."

For they were departed from Rephidim, and were come to the desert of Sinai, and had pitched in the wilderness: and there Israel camped before the mount. And Moses went up unto God" - Ex. 19:2-3.

So Moses went down unto the people and spake unto them. And God spake all these words saying, I am the Lord thy God.... Thou shalt have no other gods before me - Ex. 19:25; 20:1-3.

p 138 -- At Sinai something happened which is unique in the history of mankind. Here lie both the roots and the greatness of a faith which was strong enough to conquer the globe.

Moses, this child of a world which believed in a host of deities and in gods of all shapes and forms, proclaimed his faith in one God alone. Moses was the herald of monotheism - that is the true greatness of this incomprehensible miracle of Sinai. Moses - this unknown son and grandson of desert nomads, brought up in a foreign land, "went down unto the people and spake unto them". Nomads in their goatshair tents, camping in the desert under the open sky, are the first to hear this astounding message, to accept it and transmit it. First of all for thirty-nine years, in the solitude of the desert, by gurgling springs, beside the still waters of shady oases, and facing the biting wind which sweeps across the sullen landscape, as they feed their sheep, their goats and their donkeys, they speak among themselves of the one great God, YHWH.

So begins the wonderful story of this world embracing faith. Simple shepherds, inured to hardship, carried the great new idea, the new faith, to their homeland, whence the message was one day to go out into the whole world and to all the peoples of the earth. The great nations and mighty empires of these far off days have long since disappeared into the dark recesses of the past. But the descendants of those shepherds who were the first to pledge their faith in one sole omnipotent God, are still alive today.

"I am the Lord thy God. Thou shalt have no other gods before me." That was a word heard for the first time since man inhabited this planet. There was no pattern for this faith, no hint of it from other nations.

We can make this assertion with confidence thanks to archaeological discoveries in Egypt, the land in which Moses grew up and received his education, as well as in other lands of the ancient East. Both the sun-worship of Akhnaten and the appearance in Mesopotamia of a blending of many deities into one sole god, Ninurta, god of war, are but vague preludes to monotheism. In all these conceptions what is lacking is the concentrated power and redemptive moral purpose rooted in the Ten Commandments, which Moses brought down from the lonely heights of Mt. Sinai into the hearts and minds of men.

It is only among the people of Israel out of the whole of the "Fertile Crescent" that there is this awakening of the new idea of God in all its clarity and purity, untainted by magic, free from a variegated and grotesque imagery, and conceived as something other than a materialistic preparation for perpetuating the self beyond the grave. Without precedent and prototype seems likewise the clear imperative of the Ten Commandments. The Israelites are bidden not to sin because they are under the obedience of Yahweh! TOP

p 139 -- It was certainly possible to be quite convinced that the God-given moral law of Israel was without precedent in the Ancient East until parallels became known which show quite clearly that the Bible is certainly not alone, as seemed to be the case, in one of its most essential passages, the Ten Commandments together with Israel's other statutes. On the contrary, the Bible now proves to be completely penetrated by the spirit of the Ancient East. The Ten Commandments are thus a kind of "treaty of alliance", the "fundamental constitutional law" between Israel and its God. It is not to be wondered at, therefore, if they are in complete accordance with the treaties made with vassals in the Ancient East defining the relations between a ruler and the vassal kings he appointed to govern the peoples he had subjugated.

Such treaties began with the enumeration of the names, titles and services of the "great king". "I am the Lord thy God which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage" (Exodus, 20:2). Here, too, we have the name (the word "Lord" according to Biblical usage in place of the real name of God, Yahweh, which it was not permitted to pronounce), the title, "God", and the essential service rendered ("which have brought you out of the land of Egypt") by the "great king", except that in this case it was Israel's heavenly "great king", the God of the Covenant. Vassals were forbidden, moreover, to enter into any relationships with foreign rulers and the commandment "Thou shalt have no other gods but me" (Ex. 20:3)
corresponds to this. The imperious "thou shalt" and "thou shalt not" continually occur in the treaties with vassals. These words are consequently not by any means restricted to the Biblical Ten Commandments as many scholars have thought. One treaty with a vassal, for example, prescribes that "thou shalt not covet any territory of the land of the Hatti". Similarly the Bible prescribes that "thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house ..." (Ex. 20:17).

Other correspondences have also been noted and even include not only the safe-keeping of the tables of the law in the Ark of the Covenant in the same way that treaties with vassals were deposited in holy shrines, but also the sealing of the treaties on the one hand and the pronouncement of blessings and curses on the other. In the words of Moses (Deut. 11:26-28): "Behold, I set before you this day a blessing and a curse; a blessing, if ye obey the commandments of the Lord your God, which I command you this day: and a curse, if you will not obey the commandments of the Lord your God ..."

The well-known Catholic Bible scholar Roland de Vaux, of whom mention has already been made, discovered in a number of Hittite treaties with vassals the injunction that the text of the treaty was to be read out regularly in the presence of the vassal king and his people. And similarly with the Biblical code of laws for we read (Deut. 31:10 ff): "And Moses commanded them saying, At the end of every seven years ...

p 140-- thou shalt read this law before all Israel in their hearing ... that they may hear, and that they may learn,... and observe to do all the words of this law."

All this concerns merely the outer form of the Ten Commandments. What about the spirit? Again there is no lack of parallels. In Assyria, for example, a priest who was driving the "demons" out of a sick person, had to ask: "Has he (i.e. the sick person) offended a god? Or slighted a goddess? ... Has he shown contempt to his father and mother? Or set little store by his elder sister? ... Has he said 'It is' instead of 'It is not' (and vice versa)? ... Has he given wrong weight? Has he broken into his neighbour's house? Has he approached too near to his neighbour's wife? Has he shed his neighbour's blood?"

Finally, two examples from Ancient Egypt where we find in "the Teachings of Amenemope" the injunction:

  • Remove not the boundary stone on the boundaries of the fields and displace not the measuring cord, be not covetous of a yard of ploughland and tear not down the widow's boundary.
  • Be not covetous of the poor man's goods and hunger not for his bread.
  • Set not the balance wrongly, tamper not with the weights, reduce not the portions of the corn measure.
  • Bring nobody into misfortune before the judges and warp not justice.
  • Ridicule not the blind man nor be scornful of any dwarf, render not vain the intentions of the lame.

The perfect example customarily quoted nowadays by specialists of Biblical antiquity is, however, what is known as the "negative confession" in the introduction to chapter 125 of the "Book of the Dead". According to ancient Egyptian belief, deceased persons had to make the following confession before 42 judges of the dead in a "court room".

  • I have not made any man sick
  • I have not made any man weep
  • I have not killed
  • I have not commanded any man to kill
  • I have not done harm to any man
  • I have not diminished the amount of the foodstuffs in the temples
  • I have not damaged the loaves offered to the gods
  • I have not stolen the loaves offered to the dead
  • I have not had any (illicit) sexual relations
  • I have not engaged in any unnatural lewdness

And so on ....

Elsewhere we shall see that according to our most recent knowledge the contrast between sublime monotheism on the one side and a bizarre

p 141 -- crowd of gods on the other no longer appears so striking. At one time a "crowd of gods" certainly existed in Israel, at least in the religion of the people during the early period, but the concept of the sublime nature of royal gods was not by any means foreign to the religions of other peoples living near to the "Holy Land". So we are bound to conclude that restraint was also practised elsewhere. Responsibility, morality, law, order and ethics were all practised beyond the frontiers of Israel while the accepted norms of human behaviour which in both letter and spirit were in accordance with Israel's divine code of laws were also current elsewhere. Once again the Bible is proved right, that is to say insofar as it transmits in its legal texts, the essence of which consists of the Ten Commandments, a striking piece of cultural and moral history from the Ancient East which can be substantiated by parallels. The consequence of this renders it difficult for us today to maintain the earlier claim that the Biblical code of laws was unique. This fact may well shake the confidence of many people. We cannot remove this feeling of uncertainty. On the other hand, in consequence of confirmation from nonBiblical sources of the relevant Bible texts, Israel's relationship to the cultural and historical world around it as well as to the precepts of its neighbours now appears to us in a much clearer light.

To Part 2