[b-hebrew] 1450 BCE Exodus ? 'Apiru = Hebrews ?

Walter R. Mattfeld mattfeld12 at charter.net
Fri Jul 23 15:48:47 EDT 2004

Some Conservative Christian scholars understand on the basis of 1 Kings 6:1
that the Exodus was ca. 1446 BCE and after wandering in the Wildernes for 40
years, Canaan's Conquest began under Joshua ca. 1406 BCE.

Solomon is assumed to have come to the throne ca. 970 BCE, we are told that
David reigned 40 years (1 Kings 2:11) so 970 + 40 = 1010 BCE for the
beginning of his reign, and, according to the New Testament, Saul reigned 40
years (Acts 13:21), 1010 + 40 = 1050 BCE for the beginnig of his rule ( I
realize that Jewish scholars don't have to buy into this last equation, it
being a NT Christian notion).

1406 BCE minus 1050 BCE = 356 years, more or less, for the period of the

Is there any information about events in Canaan during "the period of the
Judges," 1406-1050 BCE outside of the biblical account ?

Yes. Under Pharaoh Akhenaten who reigned ca. 1350-1334 BCE, we are informed
that the land of Canaan is in a state of rebellion to Egyptian authority
egged-on by forces who are called 'Apiru/Habiru. Loyal Egyptian-appointed
mayors of some Canaanite settlements inform Pharaoh that the intent of the
'Apiru/Habiri to seize all the land of Canaan to the border of Egypt to make
it their own.

Of interest is that the book of Judges tells us that Israel, more
specifically, Judah, shortly after the death of Joshua captures Jerusalem
(Judg 1:8) killing all its inhabitants and setting it on fire. What is
surprising is that we are later told that the Jebusites -the inhabitants of
Jerusalem- were not all slaughtered after all, Judah intermarried with them
(Judg 3:5-6) and when David captured Jerusalem, Jebusites still lived there
(2 Sam 5:6-9), and later he bought a threshing floor for the future temple
from Araunah the Jebusite (2 Sam 24:16).

Is there any archaeological data on Jerusalem under the Judges ? Yes. An
Egyptian-appointed mayor called Abdi-Heba wrote several letters in Akkadian
script on clay tablets to Pharaoh Akhenaten appraising him of the
deteriorating political situation in Canaan. He notes with alarm the growing
power of the 'Apiru, and eventually informs Pharaoh that all the land of
Canaan is lost to the 'Apiru, ONLY his city, Jerusalem is still loyal and
has not gone over to the rebels. He pleads for Pharaoh to send troops to
restore Canaan to Egyptian sovereignty, and concludes his letter, that if
Pharaoh chooses not to send troops, then he requests permission to abandon
the city and come live in Egypt as a loyal servant.

Scholars are divided as to what to make of the "Apiru. Are they the Hebrews
wresting the land of Canaan away from the Canaanites or are they some other
unknown phenomena which the Bible is silent about ?

The date for the 'Apiru activity is ca. 1350-1334 BCE, the reign of
Akhenaten. If Conservative Christian scholars are right about a Conquest
under Joshua ca. 1406 BCE, this means Israel and its Judges have been in
Canaan for approximately 56 years when the 'Apiru rebellion takes place. Did
Jerusalem "fall" to the 'Apiru shortly after Abdi-Heba's letter to Pharaoh ?
If so, how to explain the biblical statement that Jerusaelm was captured by
Judah, all its inhabitants put to the sword, and the city set on fire, after
Joshua's death ?

We are told after conquering the land Joshua assembles the tribes at Shechem
to get them to pledge their loyalty to Yahweh (Josh 24:1-29). Still later,
under the Judges, Israelites at Shechem choose a king for themselves called
Abimelech (Judg 9:1-22), who rules for three years.

Is there any data, archaeologically speaking on Shechem, in the time of the
Judges, 1406-1050 BCE ? Yes. The Egyptian-Appointed mayor of Shechem, caled
Labayu, is busy defending himself in letters to Pharaoh, countering claims
from other mayors that he is an Apiru, "a rebel" to Egyptian authority,
aiding and abetting the 'Apiru seizure of nearby cities loyal to Pharaoh.

If Shechem is an "Israelite" city under Joshua and Abimelech, whose is this
Labayu character ? What's he doing here, in the setting of the Judges, 1406
BCE to 1050 BCE ? Labayu also learns that Pharaoh considers his son to be a
possible Apiru, consorting with those disloyal to Egypt. Still later one of
Labayu's sons appears in the correspondence as being in charge of Pella in
Transjordan and he has to defend himself to Pharaoh. Of interst is that this
son knows an individual called Yishuya, which is similar in sound to Joshua
of Transjordan fame in the Bible. So, how does one reconicle Holy Writ's
scenario of Shechem being in Israelite hands since Joshua's days, yet it has
"Apiru/Habiru rebels residing within it opposing Akhenaten's authority ?

If the "Apiru/Habiru residing in the Hill Country of Canaan and Shechem of
1350-1334 BCE are NOT the Hebrews in the days of the Judges, 1406-1050 BCE,
then WHERE ARE THE HEBREWS ? Why _no mention of them_ in the Tell el-Amarna
correspondence ? Are they just invisible tent-dwelling "phantoms" wandering
the hills with their tents, goats and sheep, waiting to settle down and
build their villages in Iron I ca. 1200-1000 BCE ?

Regards, Walter

Walter Reinhold Warttig Mattfeld y de la Torre, M.A. Ed.

mattfeld12 at charter.net


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