Grace Theological Journal 2.2 (Spring, 1961) 5-13.

           Copyright © 1961 by Grace Theological Seminary; cited with permission.



                         AND THE CONQUEST

                                              JOHN REA

                                       Moody Bible Institute


     In the previous issue of GRACE JOURNAL (Winter, 1961), the writer set forth his

conclusions regarding the time of the Oppression and the Exodus of the children of Israel

from Egypt.  Arguments were presented for a date around 1447 B.C. for the Exodus,

during the Eighteenth Dynasty of Egypt (1570-1315 B.C.). This date can be further

substantiated by the subsequent experiences of the Israelites under Moses and Joshua.


                                    New Considerations Concerning the Wilderness Journey

     The opposition of the Edomites.--One of the weightiest arguments in favor of the late

date of the Exodus (13th century B.C.) is advanced by Nelson Glueck concerning the

Edomites who denied passage through their territory to Moses and the Israelites. He has

charged that no Edomite or Moabite kingdoms would have been encountered in

Transjordan by Moses before the thirteenth century B.C. Not until that century did these

peoples build houses and fortifications in Transjordan.  He writes, "Not a site was

discovered nor a sherd found which could be ascribed to Middle Bronze II or to Late

Bronze" (Explorations in Eastern Palestine, II, Annual of the American Schools of

Oriental Research, XV, 138). Elsewhere he contends:

                 Had the Exodus through southern Transjordan taken place before the 13th cen-

            tury B.C., the Israelites would have found neither Edomite nor Moabite kingdoms,

            well organized and well fortified, whose rulers could have given or withheld per-

            mission to go through their territories. Indeed, the Israelites, had they arrived on

            the scene first, might have occupied all of Edom and Moab themselves and left

the land on the west side of the Jordan for late comers. --The Other Side of the

Jordan (New Haven:  American Schools of Oriental Research, 1940), pp. 146f.  

    First of all, we must accept the Biblical statement that it was not so much the superior

strength of the Edomites and the Moabites that prevented the Israelites from crossing

their territories as it was the direct command of Jehovah not to fight with these distant

brethren of theirs (Deut. 2:4, 5, 9). It was God's sovereign plan that His chosen nation not

settle in these areas but in Canaan primarily.

     Second, while the Bible speaks of the king of Edom (Num. 20:14) and of various

cities of  Edomite kings (Gen. 36:32, 35, 39), these terms need not prove that the

Edomites were yet a sedentary people dwelling in fortified towns. At that period the head

of every tribe or city-state was called a king.  The five kings of Midian (Num. 31:8) in

Moses' day and the two kings of Midian.  In Gideon's day (Jud. 8-:5, 12) were surely

nomadic chieftains, as was perhaps also Adoni-bezek who had subdued seventy kings

(Jud. 1 :3-7).  The book of Joshua and the Amarna Letters both testify to the great

number of petty kings of city states in Palestine around 1400 B.C.  Nor does


This article was read at the Fall Wheaton Archaeology Conference, Wheaton, Illinois,

Oct. 24,  1960. Certain additions have been made for this journal.


6                                                          GRACE JOURNAL


the word "city" mean necessarily a well-fortified site with permanent buildings, for

Kadesh-barnea is called "a city in the uttermost of thy (i .e., Edom's) border" (Num. 20:

16).  The Israelites lived in and around Kadesh about thirty-seven years, and yet

probably never erected any stone buildings it nor made and used much pottery.  Their

community was centered around the portable tabernacle; thus their's was a tent city. 

Likewise the Edomites may well have lived in similar tent cities.  Note that when Moses

sent forth the twelve spies into the territory of the Canaanites, he instructed them to detect

"what cities they are that they dwell in, whether in camps or in strongholds" (Num. 13:


     Third, a careful study of the location of Edom and Mount Seir in Genesis through

Joshua seems to reveal that whereas Edom later on was in southern Transjordan, up

through the time of the Conquest Esau and his descendants were living for the most part

in the central Negeb, i.e., in the mountainous country with its valleys and oases between

Kadesh-barnea and the Arabah.  The key to the location of Mount Seir and Edom is the

route which the children of Israel took after the Edomites turned down their request to be

permitted to pass through Edom.  First the Israelites journeyed to Mount Hor, probably a

prominent point in the highlands (up to 3000') ten to fifteen miles east or northeast of

Kadesh-barnea and on the border of Edom.  This location of Mount Hor is likely because

after Aaron died there and the congregation of Israel was still mourning for him, the king

of Arad who dwelt farther north in the Negeb attacked them (Num. 20:22-21:3). The next

part of their journey took them to the Gulf of Aqabah:  "And they journeyed from Mount

Hor by the way to the Red Sea, to compass the land of Edom: and the soul of the people

was much discouraged because of the way" (Num. 21:4; cf. Deut. 2:1-8).  The Israelites

had to go all the way to Ezion-geber (Deut. 2:8), for the Edomites were holding the west

side of the Arabah, making stops at Punon and Oboth (Num. 33:42, 43; 21:5-10).  Punon

is probably to be identified with Feinan, the site of ancient copper mines, and is a logical

place for the spot where Moses lifted up the copper serpent in the wilderness.

     If the Edomites were living in the Negeb instead of in Transjordan at the time of the

Exodus, is there any evidence of their existence in the more western area?  According to

Egyptian records from the 15th century B.C. there were peoples dwelling in the Negeb

important enough to warrant an attack by the pharaoh’s army.  Thutmose III mentions the

Negeb in the campaign list of his military operations (James Pritchard, Ancient Near

Eastern Texts, p. 243). Amen-em-heb, one of Thutmose’s soldiers, had the following

statement painted on the wall of his tomb at Thebes: "I made captives in the country of

the Negeb" (ANET, p. 241).  A century later Amarna Letter #256 mentions Udumu as a

city or people seemingly in South Canaan in the area of Hebron-Beersheba (Samuel A.B.

Mercer, The Tell el-Amarna Tablets Toronto: Macmillan Co., 1939 , II, 666; BASOR, #89,

p. 14).  Various scholars have identified Udumu with Edom.

     The condition of the Moabites.--Two things relevant to the Moabites at the time of the

wilderness journey lead one to believe that they were neither settled nor so strong as they

were in the thirteenth and following centuries.  First, Moab was much weaker than Israel

and feared the latter greatly:  "And Moab was sore afraid of the people, because they

were many; and Moab was distressed because of the children of Israel" (Num. 22:2). 

Second, Moab was closely associated with the Midianites, so much so that the elders of

both peoples acted as one group when they went to the town of Pethor to bring back

Balaam (Num. 22:4-7).  The Bible depicts the Midianites as largely a nomadic people. 

The point is this: for the Moabites to have been on such friendly terms with the

Midianites, the former also were probably still largely nomadic, since from time imme-



morial there has been strife between the inhabitants of the desert and the residents of the

towns in agricultural areas.  Therefore the time of Moses must have been before the

thirteenth century B.C. when the Moabites began to build permanent towns.

     New discoveries near Amman.--Several recent finds in the vicinity of Amman, the

capital city of the Kingdom of Jordan, tend to modify Glueck's sweeping statements that

there was no settled occupation anywhere in Transjordan south of the Jabbok River

between the eighteenth and thirteenth centuries B.C. Four tombs in Amman and one near

Madeba discovered in the past decade or so contained hundreds of pottery vessels and

scarabs and other objects from the periods known as Middle Bronze II and late Bronze I,

i.e., from about 1800 to 1400 B.C. Also, in 1955, a building which appears to have been a

Late Bronze Age temple with over 100 pieces of imported pottery of Cypriote and

Mycenaean origin, was unearthed when bulldozers were clearing away a small mound by

the airport of Amman. (G. Lankester Harding, The Antiquities of Jordan London:

Lutterworth Press, 1959 ,p. 33).  Thus it seems that there was some sedentary occupation

in central Transjordan at the end of the fifteenth century B. C. On the other hand the

apparent relative scarcity of population in southern Gilead around 1400 B.C. made

Moses’ task of conquering that district considerably less difficult than it would have been

in the thirteenth century B.C. when so many more cities existed.  His campaigns against

Sihon and Og lasted only a matter of months compared with the several years necessary

for Joshua to subdue Canaan.

     The time of Balaam.--In order to invite Balaam the prophet to come to curse Israel,

Balak king of Moab sent messengers "to Pethor, which is by the River, to the land of the

children of his people" (Num. 22:5).  Pethor is the Hittite city of Pitru, captured by

Thutmose III and much later on by Shalmaneser III; it lay on the western bank of the

Euphrates River a little ways south of Carchemish.  The Hebrew word for "his people" is

ammo.  W. F. Albright interprets this term as the name of the land called 'Amau in the

inscription on the statue of Idri-mi found by Sir Leonard Woolley at Alalakh (Wm. F.

Albright, "Some Important Discoveries, Alphabetic Origins and the Idrimi Statue,"

BASOR, #118, p. 16).  Idri-mi also found sons of the land of 'Amau and sons of the land

of Halep (Aleppo) in the land of Canaan when he went into exile there for seven years. 

Thus it is not surprising to read of Balaam1s coming from such a distance (350 mi les) to

Moab in the fifteenth century B.C.  As to the date of Idri-mi, Albright dates the statue

about 1450 B.C., but Woolley and Sidney Smith date it about 1375 B.C.  The land of

‘Amau is also mentioned in an inscription from the tomb of an officer who served in the

army of Amenhotep II (Ibid., p. 15).  My argument is this: if Balaam prophesied at the

end of the fifteenth century B.C., according to the early date of the Exodus, then the term

'Amau in Num. 22:5 is found in a proper historical context, along with the occurrences

of this name in the Idri-mi inscription and the Egyptian text.  Only around 1400 B.C. was

the Aleppo-Carchemish region--the land of ‘Amau--independent and not under the rule of

either the Egyptians or the Hittites.  During the reign of Amenhotep III (1410-1372 B.C.)

northern Syria was able to free itself from Egyptian overlordship, while the Hittites under

Suppiluliumas did not conquer this area until about 1370 B.C.  But if the Exodus

happened in the thirteenth century, then the homeland of Balaam was under Hittite

control and would probably have been called "the land of the Hittites" (cf. Josh. 1:4; Jud.


                                                New Excavations in Old Canaan

      Jericho.--The first fortress city in Canaan which faced the Israelites after they crossed

the Jordan River was Jericho.  The date of the destruction of Jericho should provide an


8                                                          GRACE JOURNAL


check on the chronology adopted for the Exodus and the Conquest, whether around 1407

B.C. or about 1250 B.C. But the date as determined by archaeological methods has

become one of the most hotly-contested issued among Palestinian archaeologists.

     Both Sir John Garstang, who dug at Jericho from 1930 to 1936, and Miss Kathleen

Kenyon, who has been directing a new series of excavations there since 1952, agree that

the Middle Bronze Age levels, Garstang's City III, represent Hyksos occupation ending

about 1550 B.C. Both recognize remains from the late Bronze Age, but at that point the

agreement ceases. We must be ready and willing to admit that Miss Kenyon's careful

investigations disproved that the parallel fortification walls, built of mud bricks and fallen

outwards, belonged to the late Bronze Age city, as Garstang claimed so loudly (Garstang,

John and J.B.E., The Story of Jericho, 2nd ed. rev. London: Marshall, Morgan & Scott,

1948 , pp. 133-142).  But this does not mean that there were no walls to the Canaanite

city in Joshua's time. In the light of the fact that the mound of Jericho, Tell es-Sultan, has

suffered severely from erosion caused by the hard winter rains, the absence now of such

walls may in a way be a confirmation of Scripture.  Joshua 6:20 states that the wall fell

down flat, or, in its place. Since the wall was probably made of mud bricks, after it fell

and the city lay unoccupied for the most part until Hiel rebuilt the city in the time of King

Ahab (I Kings 16:43), there was nothing to cover the fallen bricks and to prevent their

turning back to mud and washing down the slope.

    There can be no doubt, however, that there was occupation of the site of Jericho in the

late Bronze Age. Garstang' s expeditions discovered in 26 tombs that contained deposits,

some 320 late Bronze Age objects out of a total of 2818 specimens including two scarab

seals of Amenhotep III (1410-1372 B.C.); also he found late Bronze potsherds in the

fosse (moat) and on the mound especially in debris underlying the isolated "Middle

Building" (which Garstang attributed to Eglon--Jud. 3:12ff).  In 1954 Miss Kenyon

uncovered on the eastern side of the mound the foundations of a single house wall with

about a square meter of intact floor beside it; on the floor was a small bread oven beside

which was a juglet that she says is probably fourteenth century in date.  She believes the

evidence accords with a destruction and subsequent abandonment of the site, and

suggests a date in the second half of the fourteenth century B.C. (Archaeology in the

Holy Land London:  Ernest Benn, 1960, pp. 210f).  At any rate, G. E. Wright's statement

seems totally unwarranted:  “All that remains which can be assigned with any confidence

to the period between 1400 and 1200 B.C. are a few pieces of pottery from three tombs

and from the area above the spring, and perhaps the 'Middle Building'" (Biblical

Archaeology Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1957 , p. 79). Garstang did competent,

accurate work on the whole. Miss Kenyon speaks very; highly of the fullness of his

records (Kathleen M. Kenyon, "Some Notes on the History of Jericho in the 2nd

Millennium B.C.," Palestine Exploration Quarterly, LXXXIII 1951, 122f).  The Israeli

archaeologist, Immanuel Ben-Oor, who was on Garstang's staff at Jericho, told me

personally that much late Bronze pottery was found in the tombs and a good bit of it on

the tell itself.

       All the evidence so far available seems to suggest that the Hyksos city of Jericho was

destroyed by fire about 1550 B.C., presumably by the pursuing Egyptians. Then the

mound lay vacant forfit about 150 years.  Since most of the typically fifteenth century

forms of pottery are lacking, reoccupation could hardly have taken place much before

1410.  Probably the Canaanites re-used the Hyksos rampart or glacis; this is the

conclusion of Miss Kenyon and of Yigael Yadin, the director of the current excavations

at Hazor.  On the rampart they mayor may not have built their own mud brick wall.  The

reason not more late Bronze pottery has been found may be that the city



was re-occupied such a short time before its divine demolition--this, together with the

completeness of the destruction (Josh. 6:21, 24) and the exposure of most of this stratum

to erosion.

      Shechem.--As soon as the army of Israel had burned Ai, Joshua led the nation

northward more than twenty miles to establish God’s covenant with Israel as the law of

the land in a ceremony between the two mountains Ebal and Gerizim (Josh. 8:30-35).  In

order to arrive at the natural amphitheater between the hills the Israelites had to go past

the stronghold of Shechem, less than a mile to the east.  Years later, Joshua covened all

the leaders of the nation at Shechem to renew their covenant commitment to Jehovah

(chap. 24).  Excavations at Tell Balatah in the last few years clearly confirm that

Shechem was inhabited during the Late Bronze Age. (G. Ernest Wright, "The Second

Campaign at Tell Balatah Shechem," BASOR, #148, 21f).  In 1926 two cuneiform

tablets were unearthed by German archaeologists at Shechem; they were both written

about 1400 B.C. (Wm. F. Albright, "A Teacher to a Man of Shechem about 1400 B.C.,"

BASOR, #86, 28-31).  Nor does there seem to have been any widespread destruction of

the city and its temple between its capture by the Egyptians about 1500 B.C. and its

burning by Abimelech around 1150B.C.  (Jud. 9:49, cf. Edw. F. Campbell, Jr.,

"Excavation at Shechem, 1960"; Robert J. Bull, "A Re-examination of the Shechem

Temple," The Biblical Archaeologist, XXIII 1960,101-119).  Since Joshua did not attack

Shechem, the city must have been in friendly hands.  Several of the Amarna letters

declare that around 1380 B.C.  Lab'ayu the prince of Shechem was in league with the

invading Habiru.  Certainly we cannot equate the Israelite Hebrews with the Habiru

bands wherever they are mentioned in clay tablets throughout the Near East in the second

millennium B.C., and probably not every mention of the Habiru in the Amarna Tablets

refer to Israelites.  But in this case of Lablayu the Israelite Hebrews may be his

confederates, stigmatized as Habiru by pro-Egyptian neighboring kings.  In fact, some of

the Shechemites could possibly even have been descendants of Jacob, whose ancestors

had left Egypt in small numbers subsequent to Jacob’s death. That some Israelites

actually did go back to Canaan is indicated in I Chron. 7:24. I do not mean to imply,

however, that one or more entire tribes of Israel left Egypt in some other exodus before

the time of Moses.

     Gibeon.--Before 1960 James B. Pritchard, director of the highly successful

excavations at Gibeon, had discovered no conclusive evidence of Late Bronze occupation

of the site of el-Jib.  But in July 1960 an Arab woman revealed in her vineyard the

presence of twelve shaft tombs cut in the rock.  According to the pottery imported from

Cyprus and Syria, the tombs range in date from the beginning of the Middle Bronze Age

to the end of the late Bronze period (James B. Pritchard, "Seeking the Pre-Biblical

History of Gibeon," The Illustrated London News, Sept. 24, 1960, pp. 518f).  Since

Gibeon did not fall to the Israelites, however, no help in settling the controversy

concerning the date of the Conquest can be expected from that site in the future.

    Hazor.--After Joshua had pursued the Canaanites in three directions from the waters of

Merom he turned back and took Hazor.  He killed Jabin king of Hazor and set fire to the

city (Josh. 11:10f).  Hazor was undoubtedly the largest city in all of Canaan; its site, Tell

el-Qedah and the adjacent lower city, stretches for 1000 yards from north to south and

averages 700 yards in width covering an area of about 183 acres. It could accommodate

30,000-40,000 people in an emergency with all their horses and chariots.

     There is no need to confuse the two accounts concerning two kings of Hazor named

Jabin. Those who try to harmonize the account in Joshua 11 with the one in Judges 4, 5

are those who

10                                                        GRACE JOURNAL


accept a late date for the Exodus and the Conquest. They feel compelled to combine the

two Israelite victories into one campaign and the two Jabins into one man because of the

shortness of the time allotted by them to the period of the Judges. Yet the same scholars

would not claim that Rameses II and Rameses III of Egypt must be one ruler because

they have the same name. Biblical history requires that in interpreting the archaeological

evidence from Hazor one must assign a later Canaanite level to the time of Deborah and

Barak than the level which he assigns to the time of Joshua. Therefore, since the last

Canaanite city in the vast enclosure to the north of the mound of the acropolis had been

destroyed, not to be reoccupied, in the thirteenth century B.C., this last city must be the

one in which Jabin of Judges 4 resided.  This date agrees well with a date around 1240 to

1220 B.C. for Deborah's battle against Sisera.

     In the fourth season of excavations at Hazor, Yadin found what may well be evidence

of Joshua's burning of the city.  In Area K he and his staff excavated the gate of the

Lower City.  The gate in the Late Bronze period was erected on the foundations of the

earlier Middle Bronze Age II gate, and is identical in plan. Yadin writes:

            This gate must have been destroyed in a violent conflagration, though the exterior

            walls still stand to a height of nine feet. Traces of the burnt bricks of its inner

walls and the ashes of the burnt beams still cover the floors in thick heaps. The

evidence suggests that this destruction occurred before the final destruction of

Hazor by the Israelites, but this problem remains to be studied. --Yigael Yadin,

"The Fourth Season of Excavation at Hazor," The Biblical Archaeologist, XXII

(1959), 8f.

     One may wonder why or how the Canaanites regained control of Hazor after the time

of Joshua.  This question can be answered by pointing out that in his southern campaign

Joshua did not attempt to occupy the cities whose inhabitants and kings he killed.  At the

end of that campaign "Joshua returned, and all Israel with him, unto the camp to Gilgal"

(Josh. 10:43), evidently leaving no garrisons in the cities to hold them. Furthermore, in

the cases of Hebron and Debir it is stated that these cities had to be recaptured (Josh. 15:

13-17).  Joshua's method of warfare seems to have been a series of lightning-like raids

against key Canaanite cities, with the purpose of destroying the fighting ability of the

inhabitants, not necessarily of besieging and actually capturing and settling the cities

which he attacked (see Josh. 10:19f and 10:33 with 16:10 re the king of Gezer). It must

be remembered that Joshua burned none of those cities except Jericho, Ai,

and Hazor (11: 13) .

     Upper Galilee and Asher.--In conclusion, let me describe some startling new evidence

which has appeared, not at the tell of some important ancient city, but at numerous small

unnamed sites in Galilee.  In 1953 an Israeli archaeologist, Yohanan Aharoni, conducted

a systematic survey of an area in Upper Galilee lying chiefly in the south-western section

of the territory of Naphtali. Sixty-one ancient sites were examined, and he and his

associates made two trial digs.  He reports that a chain of eight Bronze Age towns,

presumably Canaanite, lay along the present Israeli-Lebanese border in less hilly and

more fertile territory; and that nineteen small Iron Age settlements--sometimes only a

mile apart--were situated in the heavily forested higher mountains in the southern part of

Upper Galilee. At these latter sites his expedition found a "special sort of large jar with

thickened rim and plastic ornament, made of gritty clay."  In a trial dig at Khirbet Tuleil

he discovered in the lowest stratum not a sherd from the Late Bronze Age; rather he

found examples of those large jars in situ, together with other types of pottery somewhat

analogous to vessels from



Megiddo level VII and Tell el-Ful (Gibeah).  Aharoni is of the opinion that this pottery

type, dating from the 13th-12th centuries B.C., was introduced by the invading Northern

Israelite tribes who took over areas not very suitable for settlement in the harsh

mountains where there was no Canaanite population (Y. Aharoni, "Problems of the

Israelite Conquest in the light of Archaeological Discoveries," Antiquity and Survival, II

1957, 146-149.  Since Megiddo VII is usually dated about 1350-1150 B.C., we may date

the beginning of these Iron Age I settlements in Upper Galilee as early as 1300 B.C.  This

date, then, would agree with the reference to the territory of a people called ‘Asaru or

Asher in an inscription of Seti I, dating about 1310 B.C. According to a book review by B.

S. J. Isserlin (Journal of  Semitic Studies, IV 1959, 279f.) of Aharoni's book, The

Settlement of the Israelite Tribes in Upper Galilee, published in Hebrew in 1957, Aharoni

readily admits that Israelite infiltration began at least as early as the period of Seti I in the 14 century B.C.

     It must be remembered that Joshua returned to Gilgal after defeating Jabin and

burning Hazor, without occupying any towns or territory in Galilee.  Thus, when Naphtali

and Asher received their tribal allotments and migrated northward, they found that the

Canaanites had reoccupied their cities and resumed control of most of Upper Galilee. 

The Israelite tribesmen therefore lived in tents for a century or more until they began to

clear fields in the forests and build towns in the mountainous part of Galilee.  The fact.

that Israelite remains as early as 1300 B.C. have been discovered in Upper Galilee is one

more argument against a thirteenth century date for the Exodus and the Conquest. let us

remember that the Bible over and over again indicates that all the tribes entered Canaan

together; thus, if Asher was in Palestine by the fourteenth century, then all the tribes must

have been there also.


                                                The Silence concerning Egypt

     The objection.--Those who favor the late date of the Exodus and of the Conquest make

much of the fact that contact with Egypt throughout the time of Joshua and the Judges is

seldom if ever mentioned in the sacred text.  They claim that Palestine was effectively

controlled by the Egyptians as one of their provinces from Thutmose III at least through

the reign of Rameses II (1301-1234 B.C.).  Therefore they say it was impossible or at

least very improbable that the Israelites could have taken possession of Canaan until the

reign of Merneptah (1234-1222 B.C.),l who mentioned crushing Israel along with certain

cities in Palestine in his hymn of victory.  This was inscribed on a stela found in the ruins

of his mortuary temple at Thebes by Flinders Petrie in 1896.  In reply it may be pointed

out that in the book of Judges there are two references to the Egyptians  (6:8, 9; 10:11). 

While these mentions probably refer to that people at the time of the Exodus,  they may

also include later attempts by Egypt to subjugate parts of Israel.

     The probable solution.--J. W. Jack has discussed this whole problem thoroughly and

sanely in his book The Date of the Exodus.  He demonstrates from the evidence in the

Amarna letters that beginning around 1400 B.C. in the reign of Amenhotep III (1410-

1372 B.C.), Egypt's hold on her Asiatic possessions weakened and that Palestine and

Syria soon were lost to the pharaoh. The weakness and lack of concern on the part of the

Egyptians continued for over three quarters of a century, thus giving ample time to the

Israelite invaders to get a foothold in the land of Canaan.2

    Beginning again with the Nineteenth Dynasty pharaohs (whose records can be read on

the walls of their great temples at Thebes), Egyptian armies once marched northward into


12                                                        GRACE JOURNAL


and Syria. Seti I (1313-1301 B.C.) led his forces up the coast of Palestine and captured

the towns of the Plain of Esdrraelon (Armageddon).  Taking the bastion-city of Beth-shan,

he made it a garrison town for Egyptian troops; he erected at least two stelae of his in that

city.  From there he crossed the Jordan River and turned northward again to the Lebanon

Mountains and the cities of the Orontes Valley.  His son, the great Rameses II, re-

established Egyptian authority in many a Palestinian town, but these were all in the

Maritime Plain and the Shephelah (the Judean foothills), which were not actual Israelite

territory at the time, or at least not continuously held by the Jews till long afterward. 

While Merneptah listed Israel along with the cities of Ashkelon, Gezer, and Yenoam in

the land of Canaan, he gave no names of any distinctly Israelite towns as having been

captured or socked, which seems to show that he, no more than his father Rameses,

penetrated into what was Israelite territory.  In the Twentieth Dynasty Rameses III (1195-

1164 B.C.) pursued the retreating "Sea Peoples," whom he had repulsed in their

attempted invasion of the Nile Delta, along the Mediterranean coast into Syria. He seems

to have made no attempt, however, to recapture the coastal towns.  Gaza alone, so far as

his records show, fell into his hands.  Before the end of his reign Egypt was compelled to

abandon the whole of her Asiatic dependencies.3

     The facts just recited do not furnish reason to say that Palestine was reconquered by

the kings of the Nineteenth Dynasty and made so thoroughly an Egyptian province that

the Conquest could not well have begun until the latter part of the reign of Rameses III –

or even of Rameses II.  Sir Flinders Petrie's remarks were too hasty when he wrote: "The

Egyptians were incessantly raiding Palestine down to 1194 B.C., and yet there is

absolutely no trace of Egyptian action in the whole period of the Judges, which shows

that the entry into Canaan must be after that date."4  Jack presents a number of arguments

to demonstrate that the Israelites could have been in the land of Canaan from 1400 B.C.

onward without there being any necessity of mentioning contact with Egyptians during

the period of Joshua and the Judges.5

    (1) After Joshua's campaigns or raids to exterminate much of the wicked population of

Canaan in obedience to the command of Jehovah, the actual settlement in Palestine by the

Israelites took place only gradually and slowly.  The names of the towns which could not

be conquered and consequently were left for a long period in control of the Canaanites

make a surprising list.  The inspired record in Judges 1 includes Jerusalem (v. 21), Beth-

shan, Taanach, Dor, Ibleam, Megiddo, Gezer, Kitron, Nahalol, Acco, Sidon, Ahlab,

Achzib, Helbah, Aphik, Rehob, Beth-shemesh (in Naphtali's portion), Beth-anath,

Aijalon, and Shaalbim.  The Israelites, then, at least until after the time of Rameses III,

were residing chiefly in the hill country, removed from the coastal plain along which the

pharaohs were wont to march.

     (2) The campaigns of Seti I, Rameses II, and Rameses III were directed mainly against

the Syrians and the Hittites to the north of Palestine. From the names of towns and

districts mentioned in their records of their marches it seems that the Egyptian armies

kept as much as possible to the military route along the Mediterranean coast.  There is no

indication that they invaded the high central ridge of the land of Canaan south of

Megiddo and Beth-shan.

     (3) Even supposing that the Egyptians did make some attacks on Israel or repulse

some Israelite raids on their positions along their line of march--such as the victory which

Merneptah claimed over Israel the fact that the book of Judges made no clear references

to such does not afford any valid argument against the early-date theory.  No one would

claim that the Hebrew records of the time of the Judges are a complete account of every

battle and skirmish in which every tribe of Israel participated.




     (4) Some of the encounters which the tribes of Israel had with the Canaanites and

Amorites (Jud. 1-5) may have been instigated by Egypt, for it is well established that the

pharaohs used native levies and mercenaries to maintain control in their provinces.  As

Jack says, "The struggling Israelites in the heart of the land were beneath the notice of the

main Egyptian armies, and could be safely left to the soldiery of the tributary princes to

deal with."6

      In general throughout the long period of the Judges Israel had little contact with the

Egyptians.  The pharaohs marched along the coast and through the Valley of Esdraelon,

whose cities the Israelites could not capture from the Canaanites at least until the time of

Deborah.  Concerning any times when the Egyptians did meet the Hebrews, it was not in

the purpose of the writer of the book of Judges to mention them in any detail. The

Egyptians were never one of the main adversaries of Israel after the days of Moses.  Thus

no valid objection to the early date of the Exodus and the Conquest can rightfully be

made on the basis of the reputed silence in the book of Judges about Egyptian campaigns

in Palestine during the Nineteenth and Twentieth Dynasties.





1. E.g., Melvin Grove Kyle, "Exodus: Date and Numbers (Alternative View),"  ISBE, II,


2. J. W. Jack, The Date of the Exodus (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1925), pp. 43-57.

3. Ibid, pp. 58-68.

4. W. M. Flinders Petrie, Egypt and Israel (London: Society for Promoting Christian

Knowledge, 1911), pp. 37f.

5. Jack,. op. cit., pp. 69-85.

6. Ibid., p. 84.



This material is cited with gracious permission from:

            Grace Theological Seminary

            200 Seminary Dr.

            Winona Lake,  IN   46590

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