[b-hebrew] A model of Hebrew settlement
David N. da Silva
huyxh8s02 at sneakemail.com
Fri Oct 22 13:33:40 EDT 2004
There are three main models:
1) An invasion as described in Joshua and Judges.
2) Peaceful infiltration
3) That the Hebrews were in Canaan all along.
The principle evidence comes from the archaeological surveys of the last 30 years. These show that at the start of the iron age, starting a bit before 1200, there were hundreds of new villages founded in the central highlands of Israel. Adding the area of the villages and towns for an estimate of the settled population (excluding nomads), the settled population is ten times higher after this wave of settlement than in the late bronze age. So the question is, why did this wave of village-dwelling occur at just this time? I think the answer is obvious:
(4) Before 1200, the place was an Egyptian province, and the Egyptians and their Canaanite client-kings actively suppressed settlement.
We have a good picture of Egyptian Canaan from the Amarna letters, and there is no reason to suppose things changed much up to a bit before 1200. The kings in Sechem and Jerusalem, kept on their thrones by Egypt, and helped by Egyptian garrisons, were struggling with nomads called 'Apiru. It can't have been easy controling rootless nomads, but the kings could prevent the nomads from building settlements. If any 'Apiru had tried to settle down and plant a crop without permission, the kings could have just burned their crops and torn down their houses.
Around 1200, there were battles between the Egyptians and the Sea Peoples, which resulted in the Philistines and Tjekker settling along the south coast. Most likely, the Sea Peoples came through Syria and Palestine by land, with their fleets following them offshore. So they would have passed through Canaan some time before the battles with Egypt - just at the time the settlement wave started. We don't know what happened to the Canaanites when the Sea Peoples passed through, but the effect would have been massive - the Sea Peoples wiped out empires. Whatever power Sechem and Jerusalem had to control the nomads, would have surely been destroyed, and help from Egypt would have ended.
Israel Finkelstein supports option (3) - that the founders of the circa 1200 villages had been in the land of Canaan all along. He offers a model of the settlement that works like this: in the bronze age, nomadic herdsmen of the highlands traded with the cities of the coastal plain, animal products for grain. When these arrangements were disrupted by the Philistine and Tjekker settlements, the herdsmen, who needed grain, were forced to plant crops on less fertile land in the highlands. These new farmers built the villages. Only some of the herdsmen settled - the newly settled farmers traded with those who continued as herdsmen. (See his and Neil Asher Silberman's The Bible Unearthed)
But to me it seems unlikely that the grain-for-meat trade would have been stopped completely, since some Canaanite cities remained, and trade with the Philistines could have been arranged. And any partial ending of trade would have been temporary (for a somewhat later period, we know that trade was taking place) but there is no sign of settlements being abandoned. The sheer size of the settlement wave, and the permanence of the settlements once established, both seem to argue that settling was not a contrivance to deal with a temporary difficulty in buying grain.
David Nunes da Silva
(first of two posts on the subject)
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