[b-hebrew] Wellhausen -Edom

Yitzhak Sapir yitzhaksapir at gmail.com
Sat Jan 5 12:09:05 EST 2008

On Dec 31, 2007 11:00 PM, Uri Hurwitz wrote:
>   Karl,
>     You wrote, in part:
>   " As for your claim that Edom was not a political entity, all you have is a
> lack of evidence, which many people, including Uri, claim is not necessarily
> evidence of lack."
>     Anybody who makes the claim about Edom mentioned in your quote is
>   simply ignorant of the work that goes on there in recent years, especially
>   in Khirbet en-Nahas, but not only there, and its possible ramifications for
>   the dating of centralized authority in that region -- considerably earlier
>    than previously assumed.  See, for instance the  following:
>                Publications
>             Reassessing the Chronology of Biblical Edom: New Excavations and 14C
>    Dates from Khirbat en Nahas (Jordan). Antiquity 78: 863-876. ..
>      Since then other work  has been going on in the region.

The Antiquity article may be viewed in PDF form along with further responses
and discussion at:

 The Antiquity article's Abstract (p. 865) states: "An international team
of researchers show how high-precision radiocarbon dating is liberating us
from chronological assumptions based on Biblical research. Surface and
topographic mapping at the large copper-working site of Khirbat en-Nahas was
followed by stratigraphic excavations at an ancient fortress and two metal
processing facilities located on the site surface. The results were
spectacular. Occupation begins here in the eleventh century BC and the
monumental fortress is built in the tenth. If this site can be equated with
the rise of the Biblical kingdom of Edom it can now be seen to: have its
roots in local Iron Age societies; is considerably earlier than previous
scholars assumed; and proves that complex societies existed in Edom long
before the influence of Assyrian imperialism was felt in the region from the
eighth - sixth centuries BC."

The Antiquity article concludes with a Discussion paragraph (pp.
876-77): "The excavations at Khirbat en-Nahas, the largest Iron Age copper
production centre in the southern Levant, have provided the first stratified
radiocarbon dates from the Biblical region of Edom. As can be seen in Figure
7 in conjunction with the late Iron I small finds described above, there are
two main phases of metal production: in the twelfth - eleventh centuries BC
and during the tenth - ninth centuries BC. These new data necessitate a
re-examination of the role of the lowlands in the control of metal
production during the rise of the Edomite kingdom. The new dates and the
range of artefacts recently found at the site, such as architecture,
ceramics, scarabs, and arrowheads indicate that Iron Age secondary state
formation in Edom was much earlier than previously assumed. The key to
understanding the rise of the Biblical kingdom of Edom may lie in the copper
ore-rich lowlands, rather than the highland plateau where most excavations
have been conducted to date. The emergence of the Edomite kingdom was not
contingent on the region having been dominated by the neo-Assyrian empire
during the eighth and seventh BC. State formation more likely began several
centuries earlier, rooted in local processes of social evolution and
interaction amongst the smaller Iron Age 'statelets' of the southern Levant
(Edom, Moab, Ammon, Israel, Judah, Philistia, etc.)."

For a little comparison, here is one paragraph from one of the later responses:
"Further, Levy et al. state that, so far, the dating of Edomite pottery and
consequently the main highland sites is based solely on the find of
the Qos Gabr
seal. The possibility of earlier dates for this pottery must therefore
not be excluded
(Levy et al. p. 3). However, this is being highly economical with the truth. In
assessing the chronology of 'Edomite' pottery, the final publication of the
excavations at Busayra by Piotr Bienkowski (2002) took into account:

"o C14 dates from the Faynan area
"o ceramic parallels from Transjordan and Palestine
"o well dated imported Attic pottery
"o well dated inscriptional material (NOT just the seal impression of Qos Gabr).

"This analysis indicated that pottery assemblages from the Faynan area
to the ninth century BC were quite different from Busayra and other
'Edomite' sites,
indicating a date later than the ninth century BC for the latter
material. ALL the other
evidence pointed to a date no earlier than the late eighth century BC,
with this pottery
tradition continuing to the end of the Persian period at the earliest,
and possibly into
the Early Hellenistic period."

To sum up, Karl stated that Edom was established as a polity hundreds of years
before Moses.  Given Karl's dating of Moses based on personal
criteria, that would
place the establishment of Edom in the Middle Bronze.  However,
surprisingly, this
is exactly when the paper originally referenced by Uri notes that the
Faynan's district
copper-production industry stopped.  The question debated by the authors of the
paper and others is when it began anew, and whether this signifies the
beginning of
a new state.  It is generally agreed that the collapse of the industry
had ramifications
for a political entity in that area as well -- namely, that the
political entity collapsed.
While the discussion is interesting, it shows unanimous agreement that Edom or
whatever polity existed there in the Early Bronze Age did not
constitute a state again
until that period -- in the 12th century BCE at the earliest, and
probably  later.  I
remain curious as to why Uri said the author of the comment (me) is ignorant
of current research, especially when the message to which he responded contained
a direct quote of me.  Uri only quoted Karl's summary statement which
dropped the
"hundreds of years before Moses" part.  For Karl, the above dating
indicates Edom
was not established as a state until "hundreds of years after Moses."  For some
other scholars like Kitchen, it is only a few decades after Moses (the
dating of Moses
being placed in the 13th century, with the entry into Israel in the
later part of that
century).  Archaeologically, Israel is clearly placed in Israel
already in the 13th century
(1209 BCE Merneptah stele, according to Kitchen), so either way, Edom
was established
as a state, according to all archaeologists, after Israel's entry to
Canaan, with some
placing it at a few decades afterwards, others centuries afterwards.
Because of this
issue of contention, and the relatively close periods indicated for
the later datings of
Moses vs earliest datings of Edom, I originally left Edom out of the
evidence that is inconsistent or incompatible with the Exodus account.
 However, it
borders as such, and it still takes some forcing of the archaeological
facts to make it
fit with such claims as in Num 20:14.

Yitzhak Sapir

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