Dating the Pentateuch, Pithom/Succoth
mattfeld at mail.pjsnet.com
Sun Mar 19 06:32:23 EST 2000
As noted in earlier posts to this list, I am attempting to establish dates
for the composition of the Pentateuch via its mention of cities, towns and
sites, whose archaeological foundation dates have been established.
According to the Pentateuchal narratives the Israelites built the
store-cities of Ramesses and Pithom (Ex.1:11). In the course of the
departure from Egypt, an encampment is made at Succoth, then at Etham on the
edge of the wilderness (Ex. 13:20); Numbers 33:5 suggests the Exodus began
at Ramesses, then proceeded to Succoth, thence to Etham.
Today Humanist/Liberal scholars are of a general consensus that Ramesses is
Pir-Ramesses (in the vicinity of modern Qanatir) established in the 13th
century by Ramesses II (ca. 1304-1237 BCE). They accordingly understand that
the 1446 BCE Exodus date preserved in 1 Kings 6:1 is an anachronism, and
that the Exodus must have occurred after the founding of Pir-Ramesses and
before Merneptah's (ca. 1224-1216 BCE) conquest of Israelites in Canaan,
mentioned on his victory stela, ca. 1220 BCE.
Naville, excavating at Tell el-Maskhutah (1880's), found inscriptions
suggesting the site was known by two names, Pi-Tum, "the house of Tum"
referring to a temple erected for Tum/Atum, a god of Egypt, and Tukw/Tukwt,
the region's name, which he argued has been transliterated into the Hebrew
form, Succoth. He also found what he regarded to be large mud-brick
storehouses which he attributed to the Israelites, and he argued that the
site was known by two interchangeable names, religiously as Pithom, and
civically as Succoth.
Holladay has concluded from the excavations conducted at Tell el Maskhutah
in the 1980's that this site was occupied from ca. 1750-1625 BCE (Middle
Bronze II-III) by Asiatics, then abandoned apparently until circa 610 BCE,
when Necho II established a fortress there to protect the canal he was
creating from the Nile to the Red Sea.
Tell el Maskhutah was originally thought to have been a creation of Ramesses
II because statues bearing his cartouche had been excavated there by Naville
(1880's). But the excavations of the 1980's turned up no pottery debris of
the Ramesside era, the 20th or 19th Dynasties. The only pottery debris was
MB II-III, and Saite (Necho II, and later eras, Persian and Ptolemaic). The
excavators came to realize that the Ramesside statues had been brought to
the site most likely by Necho II, who probably used his canal to transport
them. The storehouses Naville had earlier unearthed and attributed to the
Israelites, upon closer inspection, were determined not to Ramesside, but of
the Ptolemaic era, the 3rd-2d centuries BCE.
Holladay has realized the implications of these findings for the dating of
the Pentateuchal narratives and is of the impression that the mention of
Pithom (which he believes to be Tell el Maskhutah), dates the Pentateuchal
narrative, in its present form, to some time after 582 BCE:
"Maskhutah, Tell el-, established by Necho II, ca. 610 BC as Per-Atum Tukw,
'the Estate of Atum in Tkw' which came into the biblical Hebrew as Pithom
(pitom in Hebrew)." (ABD 4.588)
"Significance for Biblical Studies: Exodus Traditions- The citation of
Pithom and Raameses as store cities built by the children of Israel has long
been held to be an important piece of evidence both for dating the Exodus
and for validating the antiquity of Israel's traditions about the Exodus
(Ex. 1:11). These conclusions now seem viable only if the presently secure
site identification is taken to be erroneous. With the determination of the
actual settlement patterns at Tell el-Maskhuta, the burden of the evidence
now shifts drastically to favor the late dating of this passage, as long
argued by Redford (Redford 1963: 415-18)." (cf. John H. Holloday,
"Maskhutah, Tell el-," The Anchor Bible Dictionary, 4.591)
Holladay then posits that knowledge of Pithom/Succoth (Tell el-Maskhutah)
was the result of Judaean refugees fleeing to the Eastern delta after
Gedaliah's assassination in 582 BCE, and while in this area they became
aware of the Asiatic (MBII-III) presence, via their tombs and memories
preserved by the Egyptians, and accordingly made the connection that their
fathers must have sojourned there, thus Pithom/Succoth entered the
Pentateuchal narratives after 582 BCE.
If Holladay is correct that Pithom/Succoth entered the Pentateuch not
earlier than ca. 582 BCE, then my arguments, that the Pentateuch and the
Primary History (Genesis-2 Kings) is either an Exilic or Post-Exilic
composition written not earlier than circa 560/550 BCE (2 Ki. 25:27) or
between 538-458 BCE (the Medus myth), are confirmed (my findings followed a
different line of enquiry, proposing that Madai's being a descendant of
Japheth is due to a recasting of the Athenian Medus myth by the Persians,
who are called Medes by Jews and Greeks alike; while Noah's blessing of
Japheth is an allusion to Cyrus' Medo-Persian rule over Canaan).
There is of course, a fly in the ointment, not all are convinced that Tell
el-Maskhuta is Pithom, some argue it is Succoth, and that Pithom is Tell
er-Rataba (to the west of Maskhuta, in Wadi Tumilat) or perhaps Heliopolis
(cf. T.F. Wei, "Pithom,"ABD 5.377).
All the best, Walter
Walter Reinhold Warttig Mattfeld
Walldorf by Heidelberg
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