Exodus and the Philistines

Walter Mattfeld mattfeld at mail.pjsnet.com
Mon Jan 31 16:48:05 EST 2000

The Pentateuchal accounts of the Exodus possess a number of "historical
markers" within the body of the texts suggesting that whoever wrote the book
of Exodus, it certainly wasn't Moses or even a "near contemporary."

Humanist scholars posit an Exodus occuring ca. 1250 BCE in the 13th century,
preferring the reign of Ramses II (1292-1225 BCE), and certainly before
Merneptah, who's victory stela mentions that "Israel's seed is not"
(1225-1215 BCE).

The anonymous author of the Pentatechal narratives, Genesis through Exodus
and the invasion of Canaan, "betrays his hand" via anomalies within the text
that modern scholarship has noticed and pointed out.

The Philistines are believed to be one of the so-called Sea Peoples tribes
called "Pelest" by Ramses III (1198-1167 BCE), who records their attempted
invasion of Egypt (1177 BCE), their defeat and eventual settlement in
coastal Canaan which came to be called Philista. He mentions their sudden
appearance in Anatolia, their overwhelming Syria and coastal Canaan shortly
before the inavsion of Egypt.

Contra Hoffmeier's belief that Exodus was composed toward the end of the
Late Bronze Age, that is before 1200 BCE ( cf. p.226, James K. Hoffmeier,
Israel in Egypt, The Evidence for the Authenticity of the Exodus Tradition,
1996), the author of Exodus obviously was not writing the Exodus account in
1250 BCE or 1200 BCE, because he would have known that the Philistines were
not yet settled in Canaan and thus they would not be poised to fall upon any
invaders using the so-called "way of the Philistines" from Egypt to Canaan.

So, the narrator, oblivious to all this, declares Israel did not use "the
way of the Philistines" which was nearby, to get to Canaan for fear of war
with the Philistines (Ex.13:17). Thus, Israel heads south to the Red Sea and
on to Mt. Sinai, with the avowed intentions of penetrating the Promised land
via the Hebron hill country from Kadesh Barnea.

How long a period of time must pass after the arrival of the Philistines
(1177 BCE) in Ramses III reign (1198-1167 BCE) before we can posit a guess
as to when the Exodus' narrator was alive and concocting this "impossible
scenario" as an explanation for why Israel marched south to the Red Sea and
on to Mt. Sinai ? 25, 50, 75, 100, 150, 200, or 260 years for this "false
notion to arise" about Philistine enemies barring entry into Canaan from
Egypt ? Some have suggested a Jahwist writing in Solomon's court composed
parts of Genesis, this would give us a period of  260 years (from a 1250 BCE
Exodus), perhaps time enough to get ones'  historical facts all garbled up ?

Of course, as everyone knows the anonymous Pentateuchal author was probably
not envisioning an Exodus circa 1250 BCE, for later on in 1 Kings 6:1, we
are told the Exodus was 480 yrs. before Solomon's 4th yr (966 BCE) giving an
Exodus date of 1446 BCE, almost  300 yrs before the arrival of the

A common error in Pentateuchal studies is to overlook the fact that the
Exodus narratives are a part of a greater literary composition, a National
History, extending from Genesis to 2 Kings. The end dates the beginning in
historical compositions, and the end is 560 BCE (2 Kings 25:27). In order to
date the composition of the book called Exodus we must look at all the
historical markers in the text from Genesis to 2 Kings, not just focus on
one book in isolation from the others.

Other "Historical Markers" within the texts are the mention of cities and
nations in Genesis betraying the text was not written in 1250 BCE and the
putative days of the Exodus and Moses. Calah was an insignificant village
until made the capital of Assyria in the 9th century BCE by Tiglath-Pileser
III. Nineveh's fame as a capital was from 705-612 BCE. Before Calah, Asshur
was the capital, how strange that a putative Jahwist writing the Genesis
account in Solomon's court is oblivious to this fact, never mentioning that
great city which surely was renowned in Solomon's days. Of course, it is
impossible for a 10th century Jahwist to be writing of Calah, who's fame
arises in the 9th century.

Lydia is first learned of by the Assyrians in the 7th century BCE. Scholars
have gotten around some of this by positing on-going redactions and
updatings of the text (P writing parts of Genesis in the 5th century BCE).
But this is only an assumption, not a proven fact. As Whybray (1987) has
argued, the text, Genesis to 2 Kings, could have just as well been written
"at one go" in the 6th century BCE (cf. 2 Kings 25:27). I am inclined to
agree with Whybray's notion of a single author (but I prefer a 5th century
BCE date for the text) and I reject the DH paradigm and its "make-believe"
JEDP authors.

Genesis to 2 Kings is a "Prose-format" history. It's concluding date is
560/550 BCE, about the middle of the 6th century BCE, which also happens to
be, co-incidentally, the same period of time when the first "Prose-format"
histories appear for the early Greek historians called Logographers. For me,
the fact that Genesis-2 Kings is a prose-format composition, along with the
560/550 BCE ending date, means only one thing, this work was composed no
earlier than the 6th or 5th century BCE, it is not an on-going compilation
of layer after layer of works by JEDP authors over a period of 500 years (I
don't deny that there exist pre-exilic stories, traditions, myths and annals
that were brought together).

The fact that Genesis-2 Kings is a 6th/5th century BCE creation accounts in
part for the fabricated history of Hebrew slaves wandering to Mt. Sinai out
of fear of Philistines to the north along the "way of the Philistines."
Perhaps the fact that 18th dynasty Pharaohs brought back thousands of
"apiru" (whence abiru, Hebrew ?) captives to slave in the quarries and mud
pits building Egypt's monuments lies behind the Pentateuchal notions their
people were enslaved ? In other words what we have in the Pentateuchal
narratives is a garbled history, with some kernels of historicity, but torn
out of their original historical periods and creatively rearranged to tell a
story of a merciful God who brought his people deliverance.

All the best,

Walter Reinhold Warttig Mattfeld
Walldorf by Heidelberg

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