Dating the Pentateuch- the fields of Zoan

Walter Mattfeld mattfeld at
Sat Mar 18 04:04:21 EST 2000

Dating the Pentateuch- "the fields of Zoan"

Some conservative scholars believe that Moses, in the course of the 15th
century BCE, was responsible for wiriting the first five books of the Hebrew
Bible, known as the Pentateuch. Other scholars have argued it is a creation
of a much later period, perhaps Exilic or Post-Exilic.

My current on-going research endeavors are directed toward establishing the
dates that the Pentateuchal stories were formed by, utilizing the findings
of archaeology, which has established when certain cities and villages
mentioned in the biblical narratives came into being.

According to Numbers 13:22 Hebron was built seven years before Zoan in
Egypt. This is stated in the context of events taking place in the course of
the Exodus, while sending up spies from Kadesh-barnea. We are informed by 1
Kings 6:1 that the Exodus occured approximately 1446 BCE, providing a
"historical marker" that the narrator understands that Zoan and Hebron
predate the Exodus of the 15th century BCE. The Genesis narratives give
further information about Hebron being in existence in the 3rd millenium
when Abraham dwelt in its vicinity (Ge. 13:18). Evidently the Pentateuch's
narrator understands that Zoan and Hebron were in existence in the 3rd
millenium and certainly no later than the 2nd millenium when the Exodus is
stated to have occurred.

Psalms 78:12 & 43 suggest to some commentators that God's miracles wrought
on Egypt via Moses, who apparently personally confronted Pharaoh, occured in
"the fields of Zoan" :

"In the sight of their fathers he wrought marvels in the land of Egypt, in
the fields of Zoan...They did not keep in mind his power, or the day he
redeemed them from the foe; when he wrought his signs in Egypt, and his
miracles in the fields of Zoan. He turned their rivers to blood..."

Scholars have determined that the earliest mention of Zoan in Egyptian
records is of the 13th century BCE, and that it appears again as a minor
provincial town in the 12th century. But with the establishment of the 20th
Dynasty under Smendes, the town is transformed into Egypt's capital, and its
"renown" is established in succeeding centuries as the country's capital,
from ca. 1183 to 725 BCE, when Sais replaces it. The Canadian Egyptologist,
Donald B. Redford, makes the following observations:

"Although the district 'field of the storm' (D`, whence D`nt) is known from
the middle of the 13th centruy BC, Zo`an the town is first mentioned in the
23rd year of Ramesses XI of the 20th dynasty (Ca. 1183 BC). It is the
residence of Smendes, the officer assigned to the administration of Lower
Egypt. When Ramesses died (childless ?) and Smendes succeeded him as founder
of the 21st dynasty (ca. 1176-931 BC), Zo`an became the official residence,
replacing the old Ramesside capital, Pi-Ramesses, 30 km. to the south...The
first great builder to turn the small provincial town into a monumental city
was Psusennes I , son and successor of Smendes. He laid out the enclosure
and built the temple of Amun, which was enlarged by Siamun (984-965
BC)...The Hebrews became familiar with Zo`an during the period of the
monarchy, when it was the Egyptian capital (Isa. 19:11,13; 30:4; Ezek.
30:14); one tradition localized the confrontation between Moses and Pharaoh
in the 'field of Zoan' (Ps. 78:12,43)."  (p.1106, Vol. 6, Donald B. Redford,
"Zoan," The Anchor Bible Dictionary, N.Y., Doubleday, 1992)

Hoffmeier (another Egyptologist) made similar observations about Zo`an:

"Psalm 78:12 an 13 locates the events of the exodus 'in the fields of Zoan
(Tanis),' which reflects the time when Tanis was the dominant city of the
northeastern Delta (ca. 1180 BC onwards), after Pi-Ramesses was abandoned."
(p.210, James K. Hoffmeier, Israel in Egypt, the Evidence for the
Authenticity of the Exodus Tradition. New York, Oxford University Press,
1996, ISBN 0-19-513088-X)

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