How historically accurate is the Bible?

(George Brooks) #41


The Karatepe bi-lingual equates the Phoenician “EL-the-Creator” to the Cuneiform “Ea”.


While the OT equates “EL-the-Creator” to “Yah”.

Strong’s “Obed-Edom” tells us that Edom was not named for “red” or for “clay”… but for a god’s name:

Obed-edom = “servant of Edom”

[1] a Levite and a Gittite who kept the ark after Uzzah was slain by God for touching the ark while it was being taken to Jerusalem

[2a] a Merarite Levite and a singer and gatekeeper
[2b] the family descended from him

But who would this god be? “Iddim”, in cuneiform, refers to Underground Spring, which matches the Ugaritic texts about “well-watered Udumu” (which either refers to Edom itself, or a second place that is “well-watered”).

Udumu > Iddim > Edom

Is there any Biblical support for this? Well, there is. But to catch the clue, a reader would have to know Sumerian cuneiform:

The King of Israel met with the Kings of Judah and Edom to assault Moab:

2 Kings 3:8-24
"…Which way shall we go up? And he answered, The way through the wilderness of Edom.

So the king of Israel went, and the king of Judah, and the king of Edom:
… and there was no water for the host, and for the cattle that followed them.

And the king of Israel said, Alas! that the LORD hath called these three kings together, [just] to deliver them into the hand of Moab!

But Jehoshaphat said, Is there not here a prophet of the LORD, that we may enquire of the LORD by him? And one of the king of Israel’s servants answered and said, Here is Elisha the son of Shaphat…

So the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat and the king of Edom went down to him.
And he [Elisha] said, Thus saith the LORD, Make this valley full of ditches.
For thus saith the LORD, Ye shall not see wind, neither shall ye see rain; yet that valley shall be filled with water!..

And it came to pass in the morning, when the meat offering was offered, that, behold, there came water by the way of Edom, and the country was filled with water. [2 Kings 3:20]

And when all the Moabites heard that the kings were come up to fight against them, they gathered all that were able to put on armour, and upward, and stood in the border.

And they rose up early in the morning, and the sun shone upon the water, and the Moabites saw the water on the other side as red as blood:

And they said, This is blood: the kings are surely slain, and they have smitten one another: now therefore, Moab, to the spoil[s].

And when they came to the camp of Israel, the Israelites rose up and smote the Moabites…"
[End of 2 Kings 3 relevant verses]

It is with great scribal dexterity that in the very chapter that superficially reinforces the connection between “Edom” and “Red”, we also find the very verses that document the abundance of underground fresh water in the low-lying territory of Edom! [2 Kings 3:20] This is Hebrew word-play at its best!

Edom is the Hebrew spelling of the Cuneiform Iddim “underground water”. But who would know this except a well trained scribe?

So let us return to the original question, which divine entity inspired the Hebrew’s first conceptions of Yah? It appears that Yah is the Semitic rendering for the cuneiform “Ea”, “House of Water”, “God of Water”. In fact, if a Hebrew scribe was listening to a foreigner discussing Ea, he would be hard-pressed to write it down in any other form than the Hebrew Yah, which is in fact the word used in the O.T. 49 times (though King James
translates Yah into “Lord” 48 times!).

Psalm 68:4 -
Sing to God, sing praises to His name;
Extol Him who rides on the clouds,[fn]
By His name YAH,
And rejoice before Him.


In the time of David, the keeper of the returned Ark was Obed-Edom [aka "Servant of Edom/ Iddim/ Underground.Water]. The God that marched out of Seir to Judah, the one and the same. Just as the Karatepe bi-lingual implies.

Reggie, there are some other ideas that go along with this interpretation.


From my understanding, it is much more limited in scope than what the Biblical account makes it out to be and tends to reflect a later Israelite dynasty than what necessarily existed in the time of David/Solomon.

Yep, that’s basically the consensus. Though some recent results have challenged this. In 2005, Eilat Mazar excavated the Stepped Stone Structure and Large Stone Structure. Though Finkelstein originally challenged it, I think it’s now clear that they are one structure dating to the 10th century BC. Excavations at Khirbet Qeiyafa from 2007-2014 have proven enormously important – a full scale fortified city with two gates requiring 200,000 tons of stone to construct dating to the 10th century BC. Whether or not this is site is Judahite or North Israelite is still debated, but has enormous implications either way such as dating the transition of Israel from the Iron I to the Iron II period in accordance with the high chronology (c. 1000 BC). In 2016, excavations in Gezer under Steve Ortiz and Sam Wolff found a large palatial building likely dating to the 10th century BC, and just last year in 2017, excavations in the Timna Valley under Erez Ben-Yosef have discovered an industrial level of copper production likely under Israelite control in the 10th century BC as well. Perhaps a part of all this I really liked was when Ben-Yosef concluded that “The historical accuracy of the Old Testament accounts is debated, but archeology can no longer be used to contradict them.” So the archaeological picture has been seriously being challenged in recent years. We can only wait to see what’s going to emerge out of all this.

(George Brooks) #43


How true! For example:

“The Egyptian artifacts date to the 13th century B.C.E., during the 19th Egyptian Dynasty that included the reign of Ramesses II. Peter van der Veen writes, “Egypt was not new to Canaan in the 19th dynasty … Canaan was in effect an Egyptian province during the 14th century B.C.E.” In the famous Amarna letters, Abdi-Heba, the puppet-king of Jerusalem, proclaims that “the king has placed his name in Jerusalem forever.” While Bronze Age Jerusalem was not situated on Canaanite trade routes, Peter van der Veen notes that it controlled north-south traffic between Hebron and Shechem, as well as east-west traffic from the Via Maris to the King’s Highway. The Egyptians established a garrison at Manahat, just two miles southwest of Bronze Age Jerusalem.”

Then there’s the recent archaeological work at Jaffa - - showing that Egypt was driven out of Canaan by the Philistines (and Canaanites presumably inspired by the Philistines):

[Be sure to click on the image to enlarge font size to the maximum!]

Below is an Egyptian stele (along with a statue of Pharaoh Ramesses III) erected at Beth Shean,
which was the major Egyptian administrative center in Canaan … right up until the garrison at Jaffa
was compromised… around 1125 BCE !

(Robin) #44

Thanks Matthew…I think what I was responding to were a couple earlier remarks to the effect that ,well OK so they have an exodus story —but that is not the initial story as it did not begin right away. Thus you cannot say it was an ignominious founding tale for the people-group who became Israel.

The initial story would be a family going to Egypt during a severe famine – something that happened and does not stand out as unusual in cultural context. This part is more family genealogy than the advent of a national history.

“Going up to Egypt” and doing well there, then later entering a rather harsh state of existence and being delivered not by their own power but by their god — this is the event that is often argued as not being the usual glorious story that many people groups or nations like to spout off. Think of all the beknighted tales of your own national story, whichever one it is…

So I was addressing your remarks that this slavery-in-Egypt was not the start of the national story, but it seems more likely that it was, since the family-escaping-famine remained in Egypt and grew into a larger ethnic group within that culture…We have gone from Dysfunctional Family with Major Issues (not a new story, after all!!) to something larger.

Since this Exodus event is something that became “the national genesis story,” then — as others would say — it is an oddity.,But there are other details that people use to highlight the potential reality of the Egyptian saga…knowledge of geography, Egyptian names, other local customs, the existence of other groups making similar treks on a smaller scale, and so on…

As for the “cast of millions” —I leave this issue alone. I know there is some “discussion” about the likelihood or the numbers implied by Exodus 12:37 — i.e., does " about six hundred thousand" (NRSV) or “some six hundred thousand able-bodied men” (WBC) lead up to how many people? and so on…The ancient historian Manetho had “an exodus of 240,000 entire households with their possessions back into the deserts toward Syria,” according to the authors of another book called The Exodus: Myth, Legend, and History — and referring to a similar event, not the biblical one.

As for Reggie’ comments re the history or origins of the names El and YHWH …best I see is that YHWH (translated the Lord usually) is part, not all, of the name given in Exodus 3. This is an interesting issue though. I have read that El is/was simply a generic name for God in the region. Also, the Oxford Annotated Bible (NRSV) and the Archeaological Study Bible (NIV version at least) plussome writers like Dever note that the use of this goes back to Genesis 4:26 and to another chapter in Genesis…suggesting that Exodus is not only a further revelation of God’s name and character but, in some ways, a recalling of what humanity had known in much earlier times.

I have been reading from a book that correlates the histories of 1 and 2 Chronicles and Kings with what is known historically and archaeologically. The author(s) are not YEC fundamentalists, in case you are suspicious. They are just discussing the readings in those partcular texts. What they highlight looks pretty good. As I think I said elsewhere, I did spend time personally reading whatever I could – pro and con — on the biblical book of Daniel, whose accounts have also been challenged pretty fiercely over time…But I have noted that as some or many of these “challenges” have been resolved over the last couple centuries, they are dropped as arguments and new ones brought to the fore – until they too end up being dropped. No one seems to recall the old disputes or give a second thought to how some or many of them were resolved.

I am thus not inclined to lay bets on the negative with many biblical renditions, esp one with such monumental implications as the Exodus event.

Have a great day.

(George Brooks) #45


Sometimes these “challenges” are dropped because the promoter of the challenge dies, and the successor Evangelicals ignore the challenge.

For example, perhaps as early as the 1890’s? (I’ll have to check) a researcher did a brilliant job showing that the Exodus had to be sometime after the events of 1200 BCE. He summoned quite a bit of detail (I’m looking for it now), and I would have thought it was a conclusive analysis.

It went quite a while without being challenged… and then the researcher was gone. “I guess we showed him!”

The Harris texts from Egypt does a rather good job of describing an Exodus, the reason for the Exodus… just not where the fleeing Exodus group went to. There is a possibility that the Exodus group fled to what we call Petra now…

The cross-hairs for Exodus is around 1100 BCE. There’s really no time before 1100 BCE that the events are credible. And rather than 600,000 men of arms, the original term for 6000 “thousand” could have been 6000 “tents”… which is at least a reasonable number to consider (2 to 5 people per tent, or 12,000 to 30,000). 12,000 seems more realistic.

(Robin) #46

Well, thanks for the thoughts, George…As to the first remarks in your paragraph 1…No, I rather am thinking of “quibbles” or “challenges” that were simply answered by later discoveries…not by “evangelicals ignoring the challenge.”

For one.such quibble, there is the “How could there have been lions’ dens? How would they have been able to breathe?” and then later it was discovered that such dens existed among Babylonians and, I also think, Assyrians. Evidently this was the ANE version of the English fox hunt or pigeon shoot …though maybe much more dangerous.

And then “who was Belshazzar?” While I am not sure the term “evangelical” was so prominent in the 19th century, I do recall reading an argument by the conservative early 19th century scholar/theologian Hengstenberg suggesting that Evil-Merodach (one of Nebuchadnezzar’s sons) was actually Belshazzar.

Yes, I would say that Nebbie (as I call him) was not a model father, by early 21st century standards. There were a lot of suggestions and arguments for decades on this point alone. And I do recall some critic hoo-hoo-hoo-ing about it as late as around 1911 or so (almost a century after Hengstenberg) and saying “what idea will they come up with next?” he said, noting that there had never been such a person as Belshazzar.

But the ink was not even dry on the critic’s article (I think it was Bevan who argued that way) when they found something with the name Belshazzar on it…

And then the issue of “was there ever a Belshazzar?” was dropped in the same way that “how would the lions have been able to breathe if such things as dens existed?” was dropped.

But this is off the subject. I just mean this as an example of how debates can go on and on and then, in some of these cases (at least) they are resolved one way or another — and then the complaints seem to turn to some other source.

But in the examples I am citing, it was not a matter of “evangelicals” — did that term exist in 19th century? — ignoring a challenge…From what I have seen in our era, that is hardly the case ever…

As for the dating of the Exodus, I believe the mid to late 13th century is an accepted time frame nowadays — and there is evidence of a significant population increase in the regions we call Canaan and these increases cannot be well explained simply by the four-room house leading to proximity and greater birth rates among natives. See Dever…and others…That is one thing. I have not seen an argument that says “there’s really no time before 1100 BCE”…and the Merneptah Stele puts Israel in place, at least as a people group about 1209 BCE. So I am not sure about the crosshairs here.

And as I said, there is a lot of thought put into the numbers for the Exodus grouping…but the citing of Manetho by that one author reminds me of the trouble we are now having with discerning what was sometimes meant by numbers when used in ANE for any number of events…I have heard the groupings you describe, although the HEbrew word translated “thousands” is sometimes said to mean “clan” or “tribe.” I have not heard “tents” anywhere…and then the next argument is that these alternate translations do not fit with what is in Numbers.

As I said, I am leaving this issue alone. It is an argument that could well go on ad infinitum — or turn up to have a better explanation somewhere along the way.

(George Brooks) #47


I understand the details you are offering. I’m not too sure these observations serve BioLogos very well. You seem to be keen on showing how correct the Bible can be, rather than showing all the places where problems are not likely to ever be resolved.

For example, the fact Exodus explicitly tells us that Moses and company wanted to avoid the Philistines on the Levantine coast. They weren’t there yet in the time frame you mention.

Mid to late 13th century, when translated, is 1250 BCE to 1200 BCE . You are going to put Exodus in the middle of the Sea People raids?

(Robin) #48

I was doing neither…but rather making a comment (initially — a few posts back) re the problem of being overly skeptical when not warranted.

As for what serves Biologos well, I leave that for the moderator to decide.

(Phil) #49

Enjoying your comments, as well as George’s. I might comment that as moderators, we do not monitor content to “serve” the goals of Biologos, but I feel that the gracious exchange of ideas will ultimately best serve us all.

(Robin) #50

Thanks, Phil…I have that sense of Biologos as a whole.

I do hope that George understood, from my earlier post, that the mid-13th century BCE dating for the Exodus is endorsed by the preponderance of academics/archaeologists these days – though others hold to the 15th century BCE date due to other interpretations. I mentioned a couple of reasons — the Merneptah Stele date and the population explosion in the Canaanite regions. If this is questionable to him, then I would suggest to him that he consult those who hold to the 13th century BCE dating for their own analysis of the Sea Peoples and their adventures.

(George Brooks) #51


I think you will find that as the ramifications of a post-Philistine cut-off date filters into the mindsets of the Bible-critical archaeologists, an Exodus scenario no earlier than 1100 BCE (30 years after the 1130 BCE cut-off) will become increasingly prevalent.

The 1400s puts Exodus smack in the middle of the Amarna period; which is not a great fit.

And I am quite skeptical that mid-13th century (which is 1250 BCE) is a consensus date for anyone… this is 50 years before the Sea People chaos… and the Philistines are not yet in place on the Levantine coast at that time. I have never read a single credible treatment that used that time frame.

(Robin) #52

George…what is your source for this? If I just google the thing (without looking at any book I have), I get people arguing 13th century and 15th century BCE…the former tend to be secular, but not all are secular; the latter group tend to adhere to a certain biblical interpretation…

As I said, you will have to quibble with Dever and the majority of today’s scholars on this, but I am interested in your particular source (s).


(George Brooks) #53


Funny, I was going to ask you what your sources are for the 1200’s. You think Dever takes that position?

The one thing we can agree on is there are plenty of “old school” writers who cite the 1400s or 1500s as the time of Exodus. But I don’t know any “minimalist” scholars who take that seriously.

I think I have a PDF or two that I can insert or link for the 1130 BCE cut-off date in regards to Philistine archaeological field work. And while I am optimistic that this will eventually inform the next generation of Biblicists, I confess that I just haven’t found anyone willing to go out on the limb and state emphatically (other than me) that Exodus had to have happened after 1130 BCE.

[ I’m back - - with three relevant links on the Philistine Settlement date ]

“Radiocarbon dates confirm a destruction in the first half of the eleventh century BCE, highlighting the staggered process of the collapse of the Late Bronze culture at Megiddo: while a first “disturbance” came about with the end of the Egyptian empire in Canaan at ca. 1130 BCE (Area K)…”

From this link



Israel in Transition: The Texts, edited by Lester L. Grabbe

Google Books link to “Israel in Transition: The Texts edited by Lester L. Grabbe”


Google Books Link for "Philistines and Other ‘Sea Peoples’

(Robin) #54

Thanks…will read more later…but if you "haven’t found anyone willing to go out on the limb and state emphatically…that Exodus had to have happened after 1130 BCE — I would also like to consider THEIR reasoning…which would include the 1209 BCE dating of the Merneptah Stele that puts a people/nation group named Israel in the region — plus the population explosion in the region in 13th century BCE ---- plus things like the fact that Ramses III is the pharoah known for building cities with names like Pi- Rameses…

I would have to look up some of the people you have mentioned. Finkelstein I know and have read (a little). He is a minimalist who has been accused of having difficulty backtracking on some of that position — natural and human enough.

Another known Egyptologist has said that it is almost “trivial” these days to debate dates for the Exodus since the real debate is between those who say it did not happen at all and those who do say it happened…

Fair enough point. But a source with a date that other scholars are pouring cold water on — the cold water may well be for a reason…But look anywhere and “late date” and “early date” positions for Exodus are always cited as 13th century BCE and 15th century BCE…You do not have to look hard to find that much.

Thanks for the info.,…and I will look later.

(George Brooks) #55


There are usually two reasons they won’t join me on the limb:

  1. They are YECs… and they can’t part with an incorrect timeframe.

  2. They are not YECs, but they receive at least partial support for field work from religious institutions - - some of them quite mainstream… who don’t want to trigger a flap in the Christian community over dating Exodus.

(George Brooks) #56


15th century… I read it lots of times.

13th century… as in 1250 to 1200 BCE? I’ve never encountered that view.

(Robin) #57

Thanks for the references George. I looked at the pdfs you have and went online elsewhere to read more about Lester L Grebbe’s book. Very scholarly book with no Amazon reviews — and a heavy price tag, so no wonder! I did use their system to peruse the table of contents and a couple sample pages. Yup, dry scholarly sample, seen that sort before.

I then found a review online of Grebbe’s Israel in Transition. Reviewer was a Jewish publication and you can at times learn a lot from a good review. Learned that “Iron I Beth-Shemesh shows a continuation of Late Bronze Canaanite culture at least to 1100 BCE, but with a complete absence of pig bones, a practice that …may identify Beth-Shemesh as an Israelite town.” That is — no pig bones because Israel did not eat pigs.

So add this to the unexplainable population explosion in 13th century “Canaan” and the Pi-Ramses building projects and the Merneptah Stele which puts 1209 BCE as a date when Israel as a nation or people group are first mentioned in The Promised Land, as it were…

There were notes about other views and chapters by various writers and they got summed up in this interesting review – " Killebrew concludes that …The Philistine settlement was complex, multiepisodal and extends beyond defeat of the Sea Peoples by Rameses III with multople armies [arrivals? cannot read my scribbling ] from 1200 to 1150 BCE. "

And there were others who said other things.,

This is as far as I am going…I am taking a course in The World of the Hebrew Bible and have literally about 200 pages to read before tomorrow night.

I think you have made a couple faux pas here - and they are just meant for you to think about — I am not complaining: One is that you profess to have “never encountered” a particular dating perspective that is known all over the place. By secular not fundamentalist scholars and archaeologists. …Why do you not know this? This makes one wonder …

Second…this is a website with a blog regarding “the accuracy of the Bible” and it has, as often happens, taken any remaining readers in many directions. Just respect those directions and learn from them. Don’t tell them that they do not represent the website well…That is not for you to judge…Assuming that someone else’s view is manipulated by some Christian church or universtiy so that they cannot say what they really think — is a bit too conspiratorial. Diversity of opinion sometimes is unpleasant., But while The Da Vinci Code may have been based upon a premise that was a hoax, that does not mean that every one else with a view unlike yours is also a puppet of some Dark Cathedral somewhere.,

I said earlier that I tend to think people do not give the Bible credit – and sometimes you would be surprised from where that credit does come. But enough for now. Whether late date or early date, I accept that there was an exodus from Egypt – though maybe Cecil B. DeMille would not have recognized it Gotta go read The Law of Hammurapi.

(George Brooks) #58


I notice you haven’t produced any citations stating Exodus happened during (or just before) the arrival of the sea peoples. It makes one wonder.

I am not here to share fantasies. Now that the Philistine Entrenchment has been solidly dated as 1130 BCE… (one writer even specifies 1125 BCE!) There is no logical or historical way to put Exodus prior to 1130.

Prior to 1130 BCE but after the “boxing-in” of the Philistines by Egyptian garrisons (say 1175 BCE), Exodus would have to say the fleeing Hebrew avoided the road by the sea because of the Egyptians… not the Philistines!

(George Brooks) #59


I think these dates are more of a problem for you than me. If Merneptah made the Israel naught in 1206 …who is living in BETH-SHEMESH (as late as 1100 bce) with no pig bones?

The dates you list are part of m6 reasons for seeing Israel as a people not connected to the Exodus tradition… Exodus is written in Exile for the Jews with a Hebrew back story. One hint of that is that Exodus refers to the golden calf with the dual reference we find in Kings (And the northern tribe’s 2 calves)… rather than vice versa (with a copy of the Exodus reference duplicated in Kings!).

(Robin) #60

What I meant by 'makes me wonder" is that you

  1. either have only just begun to read about this subject — and thus you have not yet become too familiar with the viewpoints, or…

.2) you are playing with me–or “pulling my chain,” as some would say…

As for sources — look everywhere. In the event that you fall into category #1 above, I cited in various previous postings a number of reasons — population explosion in 13th century BCE, Merneptah Stele, Pi-Rameses projects — these among others are cited by various writers…You just have to keep reading on the subject, go to biblical archaeology seminars where this issue is brought up, and so on. [P.S., “biblical archaeology seminars” covers a range of beliefs and non-beliefs, and YEC does not usually come up as a mention in them). The information is out there If you are category #1 you will find this soon enough. If #2, then you already know it.
…I do not use Google as a source, but if you do, just google “the date of the exodus” and see what you come up with as “late date” and “early date” selections. . No need to report back to me on it though. Just do it for your own enlightenment.

BTW — YEC people do not accept the 13th century BCE “late date” any more than you do. But either way, I will say that I at least respect their acknowledgement that there was an Exodus. We (YEC and non-YEC people like me) can agree to disagree on details but not the larger message and its implication for people today. I cited the examples of the Book of Daniel a few postings back — then there are the historical data in the gospels and so forth. Why count the Bible out on the matter of the Exodus — especially when it seems to have been knowledgeable about other things ??? The problem for us may be too many Hollywood movie images. God does not talk like Charlton Heston, for example.

If you fall into category #2 —well, what can I say??? Must be a hobby for some.

Best wishes in your continued search into the subject