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

[Copyright © 1961 Grace Theological Seminary; cited with permission;

digitally prepared for use at Gordon College]





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 century B.C., the Israelites would have found neither Edomite nor

Moabite kingdoms, well organized and well fortified, whose rulers could have

given or withheld permission 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. 13:9).

     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


     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 Balaam’s coming from such a distance (350 miles) 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. 1-26).

                                                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 excellent


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: Marsha", 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-Dor, 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 for 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, 11148, 21t).  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


                                                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


    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 Palestine


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 Esdraelon (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


     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






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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