associated with construction of first ziggurats
dominated by family dynasties, each headed by a war leader
image of Sumerian war chariots
The central authority of the pharaoh at Memphis collapsed, and a more ancient distribution of power emerged: a northern center of influence based at Herakleopolis was opposed by a southern regime headquartered at Thebes, with families from each region claiming to be the legitimate pharaohs of all Egypt.
Established by the Theban king Mentuhotep I, who conquered the North and declared himself ruler of a united Egypt.
Mitannians almost bring down Hittite empire with cavalry
Painted wall panel from Beni Hasan, Egypt, depicting bearded Semites and their animals arriving in Egypt c. 1900 BCE. This picture is too early to have any direct relevance to biblical history, but it allows us to see what the arrival of the Israelites in Egypt about six centuries later might have looked like.
the so-called "Old Babylonian" tablets
Amorite chieftain who takes control of Babylon, establishes Old Babylonian stretching from Persian Gulf into Assyria
Hyksos driven out by pharaoh Ahmose, who establishes 18th Dynasty. Under this dynasty, Egyptian civilization reaches the height of her magnificence and power. Although many Egyptian traditions were renewed and strengthened, the dynamism of the New Kingdom - particularly its new focus on imperial expansion -changed the very fabric of Egyptian life. Under Thutmose I (r. 1504 BCE - 1492 BCE), the Egyptians subdued the Nubians to the south, seizing control of their gold mines. They also penetrated beyond their northeastern frontier, driving deep into Palestine and Syria. By the time of his death, Thutmose could claim to rule the land from beyond the Nile's Fourth Cataract to the banks of the Euphrates. Nor was this success fleeting. The Egyptians would sustain a strong military presence in the Near East for the next 400 years.
The Bible traces Israel's origins to a family headed by Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob over three successive generations.
-Book of Genesis presents several customs that are paralleled in legal texts from Nuzi in northern Mesopotamia, whose main archive comes from 14th c BCE, once more the century of the patriarchs. E.g. in Gen 15:2-3, childless men adopt younger men to be their sons, and these adopted sons would serve adopted father as long as the latter lived, at which point adopted son would inherit the estate. Gen 16:1-4: marriage contracts from Nuzi include a proviso that in case wife is unable to bear children, she has a responsibility to bring her maidservant to her husband for the purpose of bearing offspring
-Northern Mesopotamia is the very area we are told Abraham came from before entered the Land of Canaan
-Rendsburg would date the patriarchs to 14th c BCE. One of basic themes in these stories is that of the childless hero and heroine: Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecah, Jacob and Rachel all undergo same drama of childlessness, followed by a happy ending w/ the birth of desired son; turns out this was a popular literary motif of the time: we possess Canaanite epics of heroes from Ugarit dated to the same century (14th BCE). One of these is the Epic of Aqhat, a story about a childless hero named Danel who after the intercession of god El is able to have a child named Aqhat.
Famine in the land of Canaan causes the Israelites to migrate to the land of Egypt, where one of their group, Joseph, had risen to the position of viceroy over the land.
letter from reign of Ramesses II, the great builder of Egypt, referring to foreigners building the great pylon in the city of Rameses, which Exodus 1:11 mentions as one of the two cities where the Israelites worked on construction projects
A new pharaoh, identified by most scholars as Rameses II (1291- 1224 B.C.E.), enslaves the Israelites in Egypt.
we also have pictures of these Israelites: on the walls of the Temple of Karnak in Luxor, Egypt, Merneptah’s artists depicted these events: three panels show cities in Canaan under attack, and in one of them the city named Ashkelon can be read clearly; fourth panel shows semi-nomadic people overpowered by the pharaohs horses; if interpretation is correct, this is earliest picture of the Israelites that we possess
Papyrus Anastasi Six, also from the reign of Merneptah, refers to nomads from the territory of Edom arriving in Egypt w/ request to grave their animals. When when recognizes how close Edom and Israel are linked in the Bible, one sees this text a striking parallel to the movements of the Israelites to Egypt w/ their animals
-people of Israel as a collective unit mentioned in the Merneptah Stele, c. 1220 BCE, inscription of Pharaoh Merneptah (c. 1224-1214 B.C.E.)
-main topic of this text is Egypt’s defeat of Libya, but at end of the text he summarizes his other victories; here he mentions that he campaigned successfully in the land of Canaan – mentions four specific cities and the people of Israel; the hieroglyphic writing system includes special signs called “determinatives” that allows us to determine whether an entity named is a place or a people; the first three are indicated by the foreign land determinative, but when Israel is mentioned the people determinative is used. instructs us that in late 13th c BCE, Israel was a people w/ out a land, a national entity that could not be identified w/ a particular location. According to most scholars, this refers to the period of Israel’s wandering through the Sinai desert, and thus Exodus should be dated a bit earlier. According to another opinion (to which Rendsburg subscribes), it refers to the Israelites enslaved in the land of Egypt, and thus Exodus is to be dated a bit later
Anastasi Five, comes from reign of Seti II, at very end of 13th BCE; refers to two slaves who escaped from Egypt and how frontier officials protecting the border with the Sinai desert were responsible for tracking them down. Two places mentioned are Sukkot and Migdol, two places which Exodus tells us the Israelites passed when they left Egypt; this suggests that route used by Israelites was a type of “underground railway” for slaves fleeing Egypt.
many of the layers of Schliemann’s Troy show signs of natural destruction, but one layer in particular, assigned the name Troy 7A, shows clear signs of violent destruction, dated to around 1200 BC
- hence, it has been equated by scholars with the Troy of the Trojan War
Stele of Ramses III referring to a victory over the Sea Peoples: some of these were familiar to the Egyptians, and it seems that many were from the Aegean. Most notable were the Philistines who, after their defeat, withdrew to populate the coast of the region named after them: Palestine
The Israelites leave Egypt during the reign of Rameses III (1182-1150 B.C.E.), while Egypt is under attack by the Sea Peoples, a coalition of nations from across the Mediterranean.
The Israelites wander through the Sinai desert en route from Egypt to Canaan.
The Israelites enter the land of Canaan under the leadership of Joshua, conquering some cities, but mostly settling peacefully in open terrain in the central hill country of Canaan/Israel.
The Israelite tribes settle throughout the land of Canaan, loosely confederated with a common religion, the worship of the one god Yahweh, led by a group of military leaders called judges (actually a misnomer since their main function was not adjudicating legal cases).
Material culture, behavior, and organization exhibit close affinities w/ Mycenaean Greece. Their power based around five strongholds: Gaza, Ashkelon, Ashdod, Ekron, and Gath; these citadels strikingly similar to fortified palaces of Mycenaeans.
Greek trading partners will soon adopt phonetic script from Phoenicians
Faced with the continuing threat of the Philistines, one of the Sea Peoples which had migrated to the coast of Canaan after being repelled by the Egyptians, the Israelites create a more unified system of government, a monarchy, with Saul as the first king.
After the death of Saul on the battlefield at the hands of the Philistines, the Israelites reorganize under a new king, David. This gifted leader takes Israel to the height of its power: he quashes the Philistine threat, conquers Jerusalem and establishes it as Israel's capital, and expands the boundaries of the realm by creating an international empire.
In 2005, Eilat Mazar discovered a monumental public building in Jerusalem, dated to 10th c BCE, most likely to be identified as the palace of King David.
-Rendsburg’s View: Torah is a text of the 10th century B.C.E. David and Solomon had created a new political entity – a united kingdom comprising all 12 tribes – and such an extraordinary development would have required a unifying national epic, and he believes that the Torah fills that role. Numerous passages in the Torah reveal that it was written at the time of David and Solomon, much of it attempting to justify the new political reality of kingship, with the royal family coming from the tribe of Judah. Key passages for example: Gen 17:6, Gen 49:10
Dating is uncertain as there is no scholarship consensus, as on linguistic and socio-cultural evidence, he is dated around 1000 BCE and earlier, but others put him in the 7th and 6th century BCE as a contemporary or near-contemporary of Cyrus the Greatand Darius I. Zoroastrianism was already an old religion when first recorded, and it was the official religion of Ancient Persia and its distant subdivisions from the 6th century BCE to the 7th century CE. He is credited with the authorship of the Yasna Haptanghaiti as well as the Gathas, hymns which are at the liturgical core of Zoroastrian thinking. Most of his life is known from the Zoroastrian texts.
David is succeeded by his son Solomon, who continues to rule over the international empire. Solomon builds the Temple in Jerusalem as the sole center where sacrifices to Yahweh may be offered.
Kingdom of Israel was ruled by a succession of dynasties, with its capital at Samaria and with its temple sites at Dan and Bethel. Destroyed by Assyria in 721 B.C.E.; many Israelians then were deported to Mesopotamia.
Upon the death of Solomon, the United Kingdom of Israel splits into two smaller kingdoms. The nine northern tribes reject the Davidic- Solomonic line, establish their own royal system, and retain the name Israel for their country. The three southern tribes continue to be ruled by the Davidic-Solomonic dynasty, and henceforth are known as the kingdom of Judah, after the largest of the three tribes.
Kingdom of Judah ruled by the descendents of David and Solomon until its end, a succession of 18 generations. Both the capital and the Temple remain in Jerusalem throughout this period. Destroyed by Babylonia in 586 B.C.E.; Jerusalem and the Temple likewise destroyed. This act brings an end to an independent nation of Israel/Judah for centuries to come; many Judeans exiled to Mesopotamia.
-earliest Israelite king mention in the Bible and in a contemporary external source is King Ahab of Israel (873-852 B.C.E.), mentioned in an Assyrian inscription of King Shalmaneser III (959-824 B.C.E.), dated to 853 B.C.E.
-listed as one of a dozen allies who formed a coalition to stop the advance of the mighty Assyrians
-most recent find relevant to the period of the Divided Kingdom: 1993/4, Aramaic inscription from Tel Dan mentioning Jehoram as “the king of Israel” and Ahaziah as “the king of the house of David,” that is, Judah. This was the first time that King David was mentioned in another historical source. The unnamed Aramean king who wrote this inscription appears to be claiming that he is responsible for the death and/or deposing of these two kings. Since Ahaziah ruled only one year (see 2 Kings 8:26), we can date this inscription to the year 842 BCE or very soon thereafter.
portrays King Jehu of Israel bowing before Shalmaneser III; inscription informs us Israel is paying tribute, and year is 841 B.C.E.
-actually, Ahab’s father, King Omri of Israel, is also mentioned in extrabiblical sources: most important of these is the Mesha Stela, an inscribed slab of strone, from the reign of king Mesha of Moab (c 840 BCE), mentioning King Omri of Israel (883-871 BCE) in its historical prologue. King Mesha in turn is mentioned in 1 Kings 3.
rebuilt the ancient Assyrian city of Ninevah, fortifying it with a double wall for a circuit of nine miles. Constructed an enormous palace there and ordered the construction of a massive irrigation system, including an aqueduct that carried fresh water to the city from thirty miles away.
669-627 – Reign of Assurbanipal: perhaps the greatest of all Assyrian kings. For a time, he ruled the entire delta region of northern Egypt. He also enacted a series of international reforms, seeking ways to govern his empire more peacefully. Ordered the construction of a magnificent library at Ninevah, where all the cultural monuments of Mesopotamian literature were to be copied and preserved. This library also served as an archive for the correspondence and official acts of the king. Fortunately, this trove of documentation has survived , and our knowledge of history – not to mention all modern editions of the Epic of Gilgamesh, derive from the library at Ninevah
Assyrian royal scribes describe the invasion of Judah
-bible refers to one of the great engineering feats of ancient Israel: Hezekiah’s Tunnel, constructed in anticipation of the Assyrian siege of Jerusalem in 701 BCE, referred to in 2 Kings 20:20, to bring water from spring outside the city walls to within city walls, protecting city under siege; Archaeologists in the 19th c found this tunnel, including an inscription carved on its wall describing how the tunnel was constructed
After conquering Kingdom of Israel, Assyria next sets her eye on Judah and tries to invade; Bible mentions this invasion, ransacks dozens of towns and villages throughout the kingdom. Wall panels in the palace of King Sannacherib of Assyria (704-681 B.C.E) at Ninevah, depicting the siege of Lachish, dated to 701 B.C.E.
The Babylonian priest Berossus, writing in about 290 BC and quoted later by Josephus, attributed the gardens to the Neo-Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar II, who ruled between 605 and 562 BC.
An alliance had been formed between the Indo-European Medes of Iran and the Chaldeans, a Semitic people who controlled the southern half of Babylonia. By 605 BCE, the Chaldeans occupied Babylon itself and had become the predominant imperial power in Mesopotamia.
During this 48-year period, the land of Judah mainly lay in waste; most of the biblical texts from the period stem from Babylonia. King Nebuchadnezzer II’s Annals mention the capture of Jerusalem; arrowheads found in rubble created by the Babylonian destruction.
built by King Nebuchadnezzar II
founder of Achaemenid Persian Empire
(also gains control of Greek cities of Ionia)
In 538 B.C.E., the Persians, led by their king Cyrus the Great (557- 529 B.C.E.), conquered Babylonia and created the largest empire known to that time. Cyrus permitted the Jews to return to Jerusalem and to rebuild the Temple there (known as the Second Temple); the Jews lived relatively peacefully under Persian rule for two centuries, though their dream of regaining independence under a Davidic dynast had ended.
Epaminondas of Thebes defeats the Spartans at Leuctra, ushering in the Theban hegemony
Philip II defeats Thebes and Athens at Chaeronea, giving him mastery over the Greek world.
In 333 B.C.E., the Greeks, led by their king Alexander the Great (336- 323 B.C.E.), conquered the Persians and inherited their extensive empire; upon Alexander's death in 323 B.C.E., his empire was carved up by four of his generals. For several decades the land of Israel was fought over by two of his successors, until finally the Ptolemies headquartered in Alexandria, Egypt, established firm rule over the land (301-198 B.C.E.). Later, the land of Israel came under the control of the Seleucids headquartered in Antioch, Syria (198-164 B.C.E).
When the Seleucid king Antiochus IV (175-163 B.C.E.) imposed anti- Jewish legislation, including the profanation of the Temple in Jerusalem, the Jews revolted. Led by the Maccabees (also called the Hasmoneans), they defeated the ruling Seleucids and established an independent Jewish state for the first time since 586 B.C.E.
The land of Israel became part of the Roman empire in 63 B.C.E.; for a time the Romans permitted the Jews to be ruled by members of the Maccabean dynasty, the most famous of whom was Herod (37-4 B.C.E.). Herod's most famous accomplishment was the great expansion of the Second Temple. Jesus lived during the 1st century C.E. The Jews revolted against Roman rule in 66 C.E., but this war ended in disaster; Jerusalem and the Temple were destroyed in 70 C.E., and the rebels were defeated at their last stand at Masada in 73 C.E. The territory encompassing Israel was taken briefly by the Sassanid Persians in 611 C.E., conquered back by the emperor Heraclius, and then by the Arabs in 637 C.E.