[b-hebrew] Jericho, Rameses and iron

Yigal Levin leviny1 at mail.biu.ac.il
Tue May 25 06:19:15 EDT 2004

----- Original Message -----
From: "kwrandolph" <kwrandolph at email.com>
> >  > I read a book a while back attributing Beitek (sp?) claim that the
> >  > site of the Hyksos capital, Avaris, was built on the site of an
> >  > Egyptian port that had a pre-Hyksos name of pi-Rameses.
> >
> >  On what evidence? Textual? Archaeological? Why would a city be called
> >  pi-Rameses before the reign of the first king by that name? Or does
> >  theory also know of a king Rameses that nobody else does?
> Who says that the port had to be named after a pharaoh? Especially,
> as I remember it, it was a fairly unimportant port before the Hyksos
> came and made it their capital. The evidence, according to the
> attribution, was archeological.

Assuming that Avaris was indeed built on an earlier settlement, how do you
know that that settlement was called "Pi-Rameses"? Were any pre-Hyksos
inscriptions found there that give the name? The name "Pi-Rameses" means
"House of Rameses". Since there was no god by that name (which in itself
means "born of Re"), who would it be named for, if not a king?

> >  The fly in my understanding is
> >  > that the traditional dates for the Hyksos is earlier than the Exodus,
> >  > but then I learned that other writers more learned than I also
> >  > question the traditional dates, making my understanding a
> >
> >  ONE MINUTE HERE! You write as if the date of the Exodus is fixed and
> >  while that of the Hyksos is only a "tradition" which is still debated.
> >  it is true that Egyptologists do still debate chronology, the dabate is
> >  about decades, not centuries. The Exodus, however, is not even proven
> >  have BEEN a historical event, not to mention its chronology.
> I have never considered any of the dates set in stone. Even if the
> dates in Tanakh were 100% accurate, (I accept the possibility of
> copyist errors) anchoring those dates to modern chronology can be off
> by decades, depending on who one reads. At least I've noticed that
> dates differ, depending on who I read.
> So, taking a guess for the time of the Exodus, we get ca. 1450 ± 50
> years.
 This "traditional" date is based on a combination of 1 Kings 6:1 with the
dates for Rehoboam and Solomon that we get from assuming that Shishak is
Shoshenq I, who invaded in c.925. Just a few days ago, I explained that this
date is problematic.

> Rameses II who lived ca. 1200-900 (he lived almost a century)
You mean c. 1290-1200. He actually died around 1220.

> falls well outside that range. The expulsion of the Hyksos, ca.
> 1600-1400 falls within that range.
Actually around 1570 or 1550. I don't know of any study that thinks that the
Hyksos lasted as late as 1400. So the Exodus (assuming the above date, which
I don't) would still be about a century too late.

> My understanding from history is that after the Hyksos were expelled,
> the native Egyptians tried to destroy all record of the Hyksos
> presence. So if the Exodus occurred during the Hyksos period, it is
> very unlikely that any record of that event from the Hyksos side
> should survive.
> >
> >  >
> >  > If the traditional dates are off by two or more centuries as some
> >  > have claimed, that would put the beginning of the iron age at the
> >  > time of King David. Tanakh mentions that David ran extensive iron
> >  > works.
> >
> >  Where?
> 2 Samuel 12:31 David took the people of Ammon (which I understand to
> be a good sized crowd which I understand to number into the hundreds,
> if not thousands) and put them to work with ore crushers and
> "refining and smelting iron". That would indicate fairly extensive
> iron works.

The Hebrew does mention the word "barzel", which means "iron". But the rest
is so unclear, that the translation is anyone's guess. I've always read it
as meaning that he put the Ammonites through some sort of Iron "rack", maybe
as a form of torture. B-Hebrew people, let's discuss 2 Sam. 12:31!

In any case, that is hardly proof "that David ran extensive iron works".
> >
> >  That would explain how Israel, a small, weak country with a
> >  > history of being a vassal nation to its neighbors, could suddenly
> >  > become a world power under David: he had wrested the secret of
> >  > tempering iron into steel from the Philistines and armed his soldiers
> >  > with steel while his enemies were all still armed with bronze.
> >
> >  What evidence is there that the 11th century Philistines used iron or
> >  And if they did, than David's learning the "secret" would make him only
> >  technologically advanced as they were, not more advanced.
> Years ago, there was an article in Scientific American (my parents
> had those lying around the house while I was growing up) asking the
> question, why iron? There are many disadvantages to it: wrought iron
> is softer than bronze, more brittle, rusts, harder to smelt, and not
> as pretty. It was known, even fairly early in the bronze age, but not
> widely used for those reasons. But if one tempers iron into steel
> with the addition of the proper impurities, it is harder than bronze,
> holds a better edge, yet is more flexible, less likely to break and
> is stronger. So for "iron" to supplant bronze as the weapons of
> choice, we are talking about tempered steel, not wrought iron.

That's fine, but again, I ask, where's the archaeological evidence that the
Philistines or David or anyone else in the Levant in the 11th century used
steel weapons?

> Even though technologically speaking, David was equal to the
> Philistines, apparently he had a larger army than they. Even so, I
> suspect several military terms (e.g. "hoplite") were Philistine
> origin.

Could be. But "hoplite" is Greek, and does not appear in the Hebrew Bible.

> Even as early as Joshua, the people of the plain, later identified as
> Philistines, were mentioned as having weapons of "iron".

Actually, the refference in Josh 17:16-18 is to "iron chariots" - usually
understood as iron plated chariots, and referring to the Canaanites in the
Beth-shean and Jezreel Valleys, not the Philistines on the coast.

During the
> time when Israel was a vassal state to the Philistines, Tanakh
> mentions that Israelites had to go to Philistine smiths to have their
> farm implements worked on.

Although it actually says that they had no "xara$", which could be a worker
of wood, stone or any kind of metal. Iron is not mentioned in this story.

Furthermore, it was repeatedly mentioned
> that Israel had no swords (fewer than 10 to the nation) so the
> picture I get is that the Philistines deliberately restricted
> knowledge of tempering steel as a state secret for its military
> advantage.
Generally speaking, the lack of archaeological evidence of widespread use of
Iron during what is called the "Iron I Period" has led many scholars to the
conclusion (with which I agree) that most mention of Iron in Joshua, Judges
and Samuel is anachronistic, and should not be made to much of.
Let's remember, that the texts we are dealing with were written hundreds of
years after the events, by authors who no real knowledge of archaeology or
critical historical methodology.


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