First Israelites

As mentioned in an earlier post, archaeological work in the Near East has shown that the Old Testament stories are not particularly reliable as a true recording of historical events. Certainly very little is ever presented in regard to the day-to-day life styles of the people that are supposedly represented. Where, for example, is there any information on the type of settlements that the “Israelites” favored? Where is it explained how the Israelites, fresh from a forty-year tromp through the wilderness and after many debilitaing battles, managed to support themselves after wresting the land from those who had dwelt there?

As history the Old Testament fails in presenting the how, why, where, and when of the take over of the Canaan region that would give support to the claims that are made. Ignored, for example, is any explanation of how the unkempt, bedraggled immigrants could have so quickly mastered the farming techiques that would be vitally necessary for successful settlement of the uplands and narrow valleys that they allegedly “conquered.” Instead, that which is offered as the “holy” accounting is a blindsided focus on more material things such as the alleged battle campaigns or the details of lands claimed by various tribes (as presented in Joshua). Or (as Judges) there is little but exaggerations of wars with enemies of the “kingdom” of Israel.

The seeming immediate adaptation of the forty-year wanderers to a sedentary way of life is nowhere explained. The reason for this omission is apparent when archaeological evidence is brought to light. The signs of “Israelite” arrival in the region is indisputable, but there has been found no supporting evidence that they marched in as a warring people. If any struggle took place, as the tales relate, it was in occassional scattered conflicts between desert herdsmen and established agriculturists, with the refugees gradually adopting the advantages of the sedentary way of life. Farmers and herders were not that difficult to evolve as components of a single society.

Sites that can be said to have been purely “Israelite” were located in the wooded regions of the central hill country of Canaan which were settled in the main during the Iron Age I (c.12th-11th centuries BCE), and the sites were continuously occupied into the period of the claimed Judaic ¬†monarchies. Canaanite cities were beginning to break up in the Iron Age period and a transformation in lifestyle brought about the sudden establishment of over two hundred hilltop communities, and from a historical point these account for the first Israelites. These villages were not fortified, which is glaringly at odds with the biblical claim that there was almost continual warfare between the Israelites and their neighbors.

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One Response to “First Israelites”

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