[b-hebrew] Jericho, Rameses and iron

kwrandolph kwrandolph at email.com
Tue May 25 19:28:47 EDT 2004

Dear Yigal:

----- Original Message -----
From: "Yigal Levin" <leviny1 at mail.biu.ac.il>

>  ----- Original Message -----
>  From: "kwrandolph" <kwrandolph at email.com>
>  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?

You are asking here for details I never had. All I read was a summary 
that stated that the Hyksos built Avaris upon the site of an earlier 
Egyptian port that had the name Rameses or pi-Rameses. The summary 
did not specify how the port got its name nor how the archeologist 
knew what its original Egyptian name was.

If you want to speculate, it could have been named for the first 
farmer who farmed the district, or the person who founded the port, 
or any number of other candidates, it didn't need to be named after a 

>  >
>  > 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.
You're darn tootin' that that date is problematic. Was that Shoshenq 
I or the pharaoh whose nickname was Sesi, to the Hebrew ear 
unaccustomed to Egyptian sounding like "Sesiq" or (I think very 
unlikely) even "Sheshaq" (an unpointed text could have either 
pronunciation)? The latter pharaoh was Rameses II.
>  > 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.
I'm not prepared to argue dates with you, I haven't studied that 
field, all I know is that there are other scholars who have studied 
dates who claim that your dates are two centuries too old or 
thereabouts. For me, it is enough to know that there is scholarly 
disagreement as to dates, particularly Egyptian dates.
>  >
>  > 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".

Then how do you read the verse, "And he took the people who were in 
it (the capital city of Ammon) and he placed them with ore crushing 
and dividing out of iron and smelting of iron and with the brick kiln 
(Qere, Ketib has MLKN, any clue as to what that means?) and such he 
did to all the cities of the sons of Ammon, and David and all the 
people returned to Jerusalem."

>  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?
Let's turn this on its head, where is there evidence that they didn't?

Lack of archeological evidence is no proof either way.

Textual evidence indicates that they did.

Did not Rameses II have steel weapons for his troops? According to 
your dates, was he not two centuries before David? What is to prevent 
the technology of steel tempering from migrating across the border 
from Egypt to next door in the Levant unless they practiced 
restriction of access to the technology as was the practice of the 
Philistines? Is there evidence that Rameses did that?
>  >
>  > 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.

How about 2 Samuel 8:18, 15:18, 20:7, 23, 1 Kings 1:38, 44, 1 Chronicles 18:17.
>  >
>  > 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.

OK, OK, I'm reading into it the context that the Philistines had 
access to steel tempering which gave them military superiority. The 
farm tools mentioned are those best made of steel.
>  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.
Just because ancient peoples didn't make wide use of a metal does not 
mean that they didn't have access to it. For example, Scandinavian 
flint made excellent wood chopping ax heads. They were so good that 
even well into the iron age, woodsmen were still using flint axes to 
chop down trees (or so say the historians I read). Similarly, up 
until fairly recently, a typical Chinese peasant often had only three 
pieces of steel in his house-a wok, cooking knife and sickle after 
steel had been available for millennia.

But then the "Iron I Period" could actually have been either late 
bronze age or transitional period when some had access to steel and 
many not.

The dating of the texts has absolutely no basis in either history nor 
archeology. The "hundreds of years after the events" is totally a 
philosophical (a 50¢ word for religious) fabrication. I personally 
think that the record preserved in an ancient text, even if it is the 
only text dealing with a particular subject, tends to be more 
accurate than religiously based reconstructions, even those with some 
reference to the archeological record. In that we are here dealing 
with religion takes us outside the realm of a study of the language, 
and I will not deal with it further.
>  Yigal

Karl W. Randolph.

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