Establishing Biblical Chronology

For the past few years, I have spent a lot of my time trying to establish an accurate Biblical chronology, something I don’t think we’ll ever know for sure. Genesis has been my focus, as its the most controversial. I have also done a fair amount of research on the date of the Exodus and Jacob’s entrance into Egypt.
In establishing this chronology I start with Adam and Eve, who I have dated to c.15,000 BC. I base this mainly on the agricultural context they are put in, as well as data from the GAE. I believe attempts to put them at 60,000 BC, or even earlier are futile, as they don’t fit with the agricultural, and technological setting.
When figuring a date for Noah’s Flood I look to cultural gaps in Ancient Near Eastern Archaeology. One gap in particular that I think fits the bill is the one between the Halaf and Ubaid Periods. Mohammed El Bastawesy wrote a paper in 2013 that theorizes about a large flood in the Near East. He points to wadi canyons around the Persian Gulf as evidence and dates this flood to a time period that fits within the Halaf-Ubaid cultural gap, c.6500 BC. I realize that this date isn’t certain, but I believe it fits, especially because it lines up with the Proto-Sumerian peoples.
As for the Tower of Babel, I find Douglas Petrovich’s argumentation, which would place Babel around 3100 BC, compelling. He points out the rapid expansion at the end of the Uruk period, an expansion that reached far enough to constitute phrases such as “the whole earth”. I do believe Nimrod, who can be identified as Enmerkar, was the orchestrator behind the Tower, as much of Jewish tradition holds to this. Past this, however, I don’t think we can identify the structure that was the Tower.
Dating the birth of Abraham, Jacob’s entrance into Egypt and the Exodus are things I’m a lot less sure of. I can’t seem to make up my mind about the long sojourn or an early or late Exodus, although I lean towards an early Exodus and long sojourn.
I haven’t really had anyone look at my chronology, and didn’t know if there were lines of evidence that I was missing. I’m not looking for someone to tell me that none of it happened in the first place, but rather individuals who are willing to entertain the possibility.

Since the Bible wasn’t written to establish an accurate chronology I don’t think you will have much luck.

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10 posts were split to a new topic: Mitochondrial Eve was 6,000 years ago (the math is simple)

When I look at Genesis 1 and 2, I see two separate creation stories and those stories differ in order and method of creation.

The first creation story, from Genesis 1.1-2.4a, is creation by decree and has the order plants, animals, men and women.

The second creation story, starting at Genesis 2.4b, is creation by God’s hands and has the order man, plants, animal, and woman.

These two methods and orders are mutually exclusive as literal history, so I think trying to extract the history from the Biblical text is impossible.

Finally, when I look at 2 Samuel 22 and Psalm 18 and compare those stories of the rescue of David from Saul, I see that the Hebrew Scriptures allow considerable alteration and embellishment of the actual history.

I am full aware that Genesis isn’t meant for chronological reconstruction. I do, however, think that we can use clues from the text and archaeology to guess at the general time period for an event. This thread was mainly for people who want to work with me in establishing chronology, not tell me that the Bible is useless for chronology.

@Jack_Naylor

Your approach to building a Biblical chronology is certainly creative!

There are a few other time frames you can formulate with less creative “literary bending”.

For example, in Genesis we read that Abraham was fraternizing with the Philistines. But since we know the Philistines didn’t settle into the southern coast of the Levant until around 1130 BCE, then this part of Genesis is 800 years too early!

And in Exodus we read this:

Exodus 13:17
“And it came to pass, when Pharaoh had let the people go, that God led them not through the way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near; for God said, Lest peradventure the people repent when they see war, and they return to Egypt…”

Again, the fixed date of 1130 BCE tells us that Exodus had to involve a Pharaoh Rameses after Rameses II !!!

The word “Philistine” is a generic term for the sea people. Genesis and Exodus don’t claim the Philistines were a great nation, and the only Philistine settlement ever mentioned is a small village named Gerar. Furthermore, the Philistine king is portrayed as being afraid of Abraham, surely if they were very large at all they could fight off a band of shepherds. Larry Richards states:
“While there is general agreement that massive settlement of the coast of Canaan by sea peoples from Crete took place around 1200 B.C., there is no reason to suppose Philistine settlements did not exist long before this time. In Abram’s time as in the time of Moses, a variety of peoples had settled in Canaan, including Hittites from the far north. Certainly, the seagoing peoples who traded the Mediterranean had established colonies along the shores of the entire basin for centuries prior to Abraham’s time. There is no reason to suppose that Philistines, whose forefathers came from Crete, were not among them (1993, p. 40).”
I am really not looking for people like you to try to disprove the accuracy of the Bible on this thread. I am trying to create a dialogue about Biblical chronology, not about the reliability of the Scripture.

@Jack_Naylor

  1. You are dismissing my analysis using the Biblical references only.

  2. But my chronological conclusions are based on archaeology of the Sea People.

Exodus 13:17 doesn’t make any sense if there were no Sea People on the southern coast of the Levant… and there weren’t any Sea People there until 1100 BCE. Archaeology shows that by 1130 BCE, the Sea People and Canaanites had joined to keep Egyptian hegemony SOUTH of the Sinai.

This confirms the rest of the Chronology of Israel and Judah … in that unlike what we read in the Amarna period, Egyptian couriers, tax men, troops and emissaries are completely empty from the Biblical chronology - - until a Pharaoh allegedly gives Gezer to his daughter, a wife of Solomon.

@Jack_Naylor

The impression I got from your initial post above was that you were willing to
treat the Bible chronology quite loosely, in order to fit with known historical, even known geological events.

Do I misunderstand you?

I treat the Bible with great respect, in that I think it is divinely inspired. However, I do not believe the Bible is meant to tell us the exact date for Noah’s flood, or Babel etc., so I think using archaeology should be our main aid in determining these dates. I do, however, believe that the text speaks a lot more to the date for Abraham, Jacob’s entrance into Egypt, and the Exodus. I’m not a conformist, so whether or not archaeology directly supports the existence of the Exodus, the Judges, or the Patriarchs, I still believe they all were real people and events.

@Jack_Naylor

I assumed you felt so.

And archaeology, and even the Biblical narrative, is very concise about one thing:

From Exodus to the Books of Samuel, there are no Egyptians in Canaan… of any kind.

And yet the one thing we know about Egypt from the expulsion of the Hyksos to the arrival of the Sea People is that Egypt was the MASTER of the hinterland we call Canaan. It had to be, because the northern border of the Egyptian empire went all the way to Northern Syria!

This only ended when enough Sea People arrived in the Levant that there was no way for Egypt to hold onto Syria or Canaan.

This is archaeology. And the denial of Egyptian control of Canaan begins around 1130 BCE, when a coastal garrison is destroyed, and when the administrative capital at Beth Shean was destroyed… all around 1130 BCE.

So the story of Exodus, when the Hebrew flee into Sinai in order to ESCAPE Egyptian power has to be AFTER 1130 BCE.

These are the facts… just as much as floods in the Persian Gulf area.

I think this archaeology is definitely useful in establishing a time period for the date of the Exodus. However, it is true that Egypt had a weak hold on Canaan past the time of Rameses II, and any control in the land might not even be notable for the authors of the Bible. At this point I am leaning more towards an Exodus date that is shortly post Rameses II, due to archaeology. The only objection I am still dealing with is that Jephthah says the Israelites had been in Canaan 300 years, which would place the conquest around 1400 BC. Does any one have any ideas on how this would fit with a later Exodus date?

@Jack_Naylor

You are investing an awful lot of credibility on one text … while at the same time IGNORING one sentence that makes perfect sense.

If we look at Egyptian history, circa 1400 BCE, we get rather strong consensus on who was the ruler and what he was doing:

“Thutmose IV was born to Amenhotep II and Tiaa … Thutmose’s most celebrated accomplishment was the restoration of the Sphinx at Giza and subsequent commission of the Dream Stele .”

“According to Thutmose’s account on the Dream Stele , while the young prince was out on a hunting trip, he stopped to rest under the head of the Sphinx, which was buried up to the neck in sand. He soon fell asleep and had a dream in which the Sphinx told him that if he cleared away the sand and restored it he would become the next Pharaoh. After completing the restoration of the Sphinx, he placed a carved stone tablet, now known as the Dream Stele , between the two paws of the Sphinx. The restoration of the Sphinx, and the text of the Dream Stele would then be a piece of propaganda on Thutmose’s part, meant to bestow legitimacy upon his unexpected kingship.[2]

“He suppressed a minor uprising in Nubia in his 8th year (attested in his Konosso stela) around 1393 BC and was referred to in a stela as the Conqueror of Syria ,[[3]]”

"Thutmose IV’s rule is significant because he established peaceful relations with Mitanni and married a Mitannian princess to seal this new alliance. Thutmose IV’s role in initiating contact with Egypt’s former rival, Mitanni, is documented by Amarna letter EA 29 composed decades later by Tushratta, a Mittanian king who ruled during the reign of Akhenaten, Thutmose IV’s grandson. Tushratta states to Akhenaten that:

When [Menkheperure], the father of Nimmureya (i.e., Amenhotep III) wrote to Artatama, my grandfather, he asked for the daughter of my grandfather, the sister of my father. He wrote 5, 6 times, but he did not give her. When he wrote my grandfather 7 times, then only under such pressure, did he give her.” (EA 29)[5]

If Exodus had occurred during or shortly after Thutmose IV, the Hebrew would have been caught in between Egypt’s forces in Northern Syria and the Nile Delta … and sometime during the 40 years at Kadesh Barnea (on the edge of the Sinai desert), the Hebrew would have been wiped out and their treasures returned to Egypt.

@gbrooks9 you treated my statement as if it is a declaration of my belief in an early Exodus date. I merely said that it was something that needed to be wrestled with. Your points are fairly valid as a criticism of an Early Exodus date, however, I think you err slightly. Forces in the North of Canaan were busy dealing with watching a border and establishing peace with another nation and were less concerned with Hebrews in the wilderness. It is also notable that the Egyptians had minimal interest in anything but the south of Canaan and the coasts. Moses and the Hebrews were much further west in territory the Egyptians had a much weaker handle on. After Thutmose IV Egyptian involvement of Canaan significantly decreased, allowing for theoretical an entrance of the Israelites into Canaan. In describing Amenhotep III’s reign, Wikipedia states: " The pharaoh’s reign was relatively peaceful and uneventful. The only recorded military activity by the king is commemorated by three rock-carved stelae from his fifth year found near [Aswan] in Nubia. The official account of Amenhotep III’s military victory emphasizes his martial prowess with the typical hyperbole used by all pharaohs."
I think you would have much better luck disputing the early Exodus date if you evidence the vigorous campaigns of Rameses II in Canaan instead.

@Jack_Naylor

I am inclined to take issue with some of your assertions. In the quoted text above, the first sentence is certainly sensible enough. But the Egyptians were quite focused on a proper pacification of a region that is best understood as “the Rear Area” of the Egyptian imperial border with the Mittani and the Hittites.

Egypt had garrisons scattered around Canaan with an important Administration center at Beth Shean. All trace of Egyptian occupation ended around 1130 BCE.

Prior to 1130 BCE, if a large party of slaves fled to Kadesh Barnea and dwelled there for 40 years, the Egyptians would have inevitably sent a “pincer” of two armed bodies to crush the slave rebellion… because the presence of this large slave population would endanger the entire Egyptian hegemony in Canaan … and thus endanger the Egyptian border in northern Syria!.

All the Pharaohs either maintained or pacificed rebellion from the time of the expulsion of the Hyksos to the arrival and SETTLING of the Sea People, circa 1200 to 1130 BCE.

There was no time during that entire length of time that entities like Israel or Judah would have been able to function without paying taxes to Egypt, or receiving messengers from Egypt, or dealing with the military operations of the Egyptian armies.

The fact there is not even an indication of a MEMORY of Egyptian operations in Canaan suggests that the narrative of Old Testament, from Genesis, Deuteronomy, Exodus, Numbers, Joshua, Judges, first sections of Samuel (aka Kings) was not begun until the Canaanites had forgotten about those days of Egyptian hegemony.

Prior to 1130 BCE, if a large party of slaves fled to Kadesh Barnea and dwelled there for 40 years, the Egyptians would have inevitably sent a “pincer” of two armed bodies to crush the slave rebellion…

In the decades leading up to 1130 BC, Egypt’s authority over Canaan was tenuous at best. Rameses III suffered major economic crises during his reign and his army became weakened by the battles with the Sea Peoples, proving that Egypt had lost its former might. You present a very black and white situation, which entirely misrepresents the political climate of Egypt in the 12th century BC. It is certainly possible that the Israelites entered Israel c. 1200 BC as Egypt no longer ruled their territories with the iron fist of days past.
In the Merenptah Stele, it is clearly shown that Egypt recognized Israel as a nation, something that contradicts your notions. Borders in the ancient world did not operate like those of today, as they were quite fluid. Egypt would have still technically controlled Canaan, but not in the way the U.S. controls Alaska, or China does Tibet.

The fact there is not even an indication of a MEMORY of Egyptian operations in Canaan suggests that the narrative of Old Testament, from Genesis, Deuteronomy, Exodus, Numbers, Joshua, Judges, first sections of Samuel (aka Kings) was not begun until the Canaanites had forgotten about those days of Egyptian hegemony.

The Egyptians did not have control of Canaan at the time of Abraham and Jacob, so its no wonder they aren’t mentioned as being there. The Egyptians had loose control of Canaan for a short period after the Exodus, but their power was hardly mentionable. It may also be said that the Israelites wanted to forget Egypt and may have omitted any mention of them on purpose. In the time of Samuel, the Egyptians were in the Third Intermediate Period, a period of great strife and political unrest, Egypt’s hand hardly stretched outside of the Nile Delta. On top of this, there are no known major campaigns into Canaan, on the part of the Egyptians, from the time of Ramesses III to Shoshenq I.

@Jack_Naylor

Thank you for making my points for me.

Shoshenq’s invasion is recorded in the Old Testament. But Rameses the 3rd’s is not.

Chronological dispute (https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Ramesses_III&action=edit&section=8)

There is uncertainty regarding the exact dates of the reign of Ramesses III. This uncertainty affects the dating of the Late Bronze/Iron Age transition in the Levant. This transition is defined by the appearance of Mycenaean LH IIIC:1b (Philistine) pottery in the coastal plain of Palestine, generally assumed to correspond to the settlement of Sea People there at the 8th year of Ramesses III.[28] Radiocarbon dates and other external evidence permit this transition to be as late as 1100 BC, compared to the conventional dating of c. 1179 BC.[29]

If we go with the conventional dating of c. 1179 BC, then 49 years later, the Sea People had executed their strategy to co-opt Canaan from the Egyptian empire.

I have some discussion to offer during the 50 years PRIOR to the Sea People. The Harris Papyrus describes a group of Asiatics ravaging Egypt-proper … but eventually they are chased out of Egypt… abandoning much of their loot to effect their escape.

This would be very similar to the Exodus story … except Exodus says that the flight of the Hebrew came AFTER the Philistines had entrenched themselves on the southern coast of the Levant.

This would be very similar to the Exodus story … except Exodus says that the flight of the Hebrew came AFTER the Philistines had entrenched themselves on the southern coast of the Levant.

I have a feeling I know what makes you say this, but I would like you to tell me your reasoning for this statement anyways.

@Jack_Naylor

I finally found a set of notes I made a few years ago:

HARRIS PAPYRUS and IRSU (Not Bay, but perhaps OSAR-SEPH!) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Osarseph

This question was asked:

“Given that there’s no direct evidence of a smaller Exodus, is the evidence Friedman presents any less consistent with the Levites being some kind of priestly remnant of the Egyptian occupation of Canaan?”

RESPONSE

Back in 1908, in an issue of THE EXPOSITOR (p. 193), Rev. B.D. Eerdmans, DD, wrote a chapter called THE HEBREWS IN EGYPT.

GOOGLE BOOKS LINK: B.D. Eerdmans, DD, “Hebrews in Egypt”, THE EXPOSITOR (1908), p. 193.

And in it, he describes a small Exodus, at exactly the time I said would be the soonest that such a one could occur! It concerns the notorious personality of IRSU (Chancellor Bay [or Bey] is no longer believed to be the same man, having been put to death years before Irsu’s demise.

Let me provide a relatively recent (1979) translation from the Harris Papyrus, which is many times referenced, but most often discredited in its possible connection to the events that appear to have inspired Exodus:

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1906 Translation by James Henry Breasted

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Modern understanding of the events occurring at the time is heavily dependent on the translation of Papyrus Harris I, a task which has proven difficult. In his 1906 translation of the document James Henry Breasted writes

“Hear ye that I may inform you of my benefactions which I did while I was king of the people. The land of Egypt was overthrown from without, and every man was (thrown out) of his right; they had no chief mouth for many years formerly until other times. The land of Egypt was in the hands of chiefs and of rulers of towns; one slew his neighbor, great and small. Other times having come after it, with empty years, Yarsu, a certain Syrian was with them as chief. He set the whole land tributary before him together; he united his companions and plundered their possessions. They made the gods like men, and no offerings were presented in the temples…”

[[ Caveat: This translation leaves open the possibility that Irsu acted in Egypt proper and consequently Chancellor Bay was considered a plausible candidate for this Irsu until 2000. However, an IFAO Ostracon, no. 1864, found at Deir el-Medina and dated to Siptah’s fifth regnal year records that “Pharaoh, life health prosperity, has killed the great enemy, Bay”.[2] Because chancellor Bay died years before Irsu, he is no longer considered a plausible candidate for this historical figure. ]]

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IMPROVED 1979 TRANSLATION BY Hans Goedicke

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In 1979 the Egyptologist Hans Goedicke produced a second translation based on a detailed grammatical analysis of the document:

“The land belonging to Egypt was abandoned abroad and every man in his loyalty, he did not have a chief-spokesman [i.e. a pharaoh] for many years first until the times of others when the land belonging to Egypt was among chiefs and city-rulers — one was killed [the pharaoh], his replacement was a dignitary of wretches [a second pharaoh]. Another of the family happened after him in the empty years [a third pharaoh], when Su [aka - - Irsu ], a Kharu [Kharu meant a Canaanite] with them, acted as chief and he made the entire land serviceable to him alone. He joined his dependant[s?] in seizing their property, when the gods were treated just like men, as one did not perform offerings inside the temples.”

Goedicke suggests that Irsu rose to power in Egypt’s territories abroad, in Canaan, following years of neglect on behalf of the last three pharaohs of the Nineteenth Dynasty, Seti II, Siptah and Twosret. According to this translation of the document, the earliest of these pharaohs, Seti II, is responsible for not asserting his power and control over the region; the second was held in low regard; while the last, Twosret, is said to have made an alliance with Irsu who had de facto authority over the territories.

Footnote: Hans Goedicke, “Irsu the Khasu in Papyrus Harris”, Wiener Zeitschrift für die Kunde des Morgenlandes, Vol. 71 (1979), pp. 1-17

o Erichsen, Wolja. 1933. Papyrus Harris I: hieroglyphische Transkription. Bibliotheca aegyptiaca 5. Brussel: Fondation égyptologique reine Élisabeth

o Grandet, Pierre. 1994. Le papyrus Harris I (BM 9999). 2 vols. Bibliothèque d’Étude 109/1–2. Cairo: Imprimerie de l’Institut français d’archéologie orientale du Caire

o Grandet, Pierre. 1999. Le papyrus Harris I: Glossaire. Bibliothèque d’Étude 129. Cairo: Imprimerie de l’Institut français d’archéologie orientale du Caire


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What happened to the Canaanites who ravaged the land?
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Brief Discussion Below on the end of Irsu [[ and the Throne of Atum ]]
What happened to Irsu is made clear on the papyrus, which tells of Setnakht’s rise and the end of the rebellion:

“But when the gods inclined themselves to peace, to set the land in its rights according to its accustomed manner, they established their son, who came forth from their limbs, to be ruler, life health prosperity, of every land, upon their great throne, Userkhaure-setepenre-meryamun, LPH, the son of Re, Setnakht-merire-meryamun, LPH. He was Khepri-Set, when he is enraged; he set in order the entire land which had been rebellious; he slew the rebels who were in the land of Egypt; he cleansed the great throne of Egypt; he was ruler of the Two Lands, on the throne of Atum. He gave ready faces to those who had been turned away. Every man knew his brother who had been walled in. He established the temples in possession of divine offerings, to offer to the gods according to their customary stipulations.”

Twosret’s successor was Setnakhte [ Pharaoh
Reign 1189–1186 BC (Twentieth Dynasty)]

His Elephantine stele records how he expelled these Asiatic rebels who, on their flight from Egypt, abandoned much of the gold, silver and copper which they had stolen from Egypt, and with which they had intended to hire reinforcements among the Asiatics. His pacification of Egypt is also referred to in the Great Harris Papyrus.
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This certainly is a compelling proposition. The only two problems I would have with it are the reference to the nation of Israel on the Merenptah Stele and the fact that I don’t believe the date allows enough time for the conquest and the period of the Judges. I will certainly think more about it, however.

On a side note I was wondering if you have any thoughts on the Deluge of Noah and other ANE deluge stories.

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