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Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The View From Nebo by Amy Dockser Marcus

Archaeological finds are changing the stories that we have read inside of the bible. Things are not always what they seem. It is a work that is not entirely true and it is a work that is not entirely false. Some things can be proven while others are not so easily proven. Moses the great prophet of Israel was buried on top of Mount Nebo. He died before he was allowed to enter the promised land. It was his punishment for losing his teemper and hitting a stone which produced water. He was supposed to be able to see from Beer Sheba to the Dan. Of coursee from the Peaks of Nebo such wide area is not visible. Turns out that Nebo was burial place for many people. Many Dolmen were found which would mean that Moses was not the only one to use it. The Byzantine later built a Church and Monastery over it. It is currently in use as a religious sight for a Catholic Order of monks.

The biblical figure of Abraham is not so easily proven. In fact it cannot be proven. Many scholars don't show much interest in this person or period. However, scholars have proven that cultural practices are consistent with timing of the narrative and that there was migration to Canaan during the supposed time of the patriarchs. Originally Abraham was not connected with the City of Hebron. That is believed to be added in during the Time of David in order to boost the cities importance. Hebron is a small Satellite city of Jerusalem were the people are insular and prone to fanaticism. It never really had a strong economy. The cities of Sodom and Gomorrah are a bit easier to prove. Numeira and Bab edh Dhara correspond. One city was completely abandoned along with a cemetery in use since the Bronze age. It showed what village life was like at that time. Numeira showed sing s of catastrophe it was covered in ash which meant volcanic activity. People blocked themselves in and things were preserved like grapes thanks to the ash. An area in Tel Dan has a city that was built using clay molding techniques from Mesopotamia . It fell apart due to extensive amounts of rain. This showed evidence of a migration in Canaan from Mesopotamia.

Proof that Exodus occurred is difficult as well. In Egypt there were workers and there were slaves . Slaves were of all ethnicities. Slaves were the ones who built the cities for Ramses. Workers were in charge of building the Pyramids. Workers were fed by local village folk, they received proper medical care and were given housing. They took spare material and built themselves burial chamber modeled after those of the Pharaoh's there was a classification system for regular worker and the foremen. Those with more status got better treatment. There is no extra biblical reference to any of the events of the Exodus. There is no mention of Moses either save for something written about him by an Egyptian priest called Manetho. It says that he was a renegade priest who has a follower of Lepers. He set off with them for the desert. Rameses himself many Egyptians feel is oft maligned. He was according to Egyptian documents a much loved ruler who was very wise and compassionate. No one is sure which of sons was the first born to die because he had so many of them. He later retreated into religious life and let his sons handle the running off his kingdom. Hence they may have been the Pharoah written about in Exodus. The Sinai desert was not a barrier to Canaan rather it was a bridge. Pottery finds indicate a mixture of Egyptian styles and Canaanite Styles. Often times the two groups met in the region in order to trade. Some scholars believe that there was not one Exodus but possibly several or none.

The origin of the Israelites is shrouded in mystery, many scholar believe that they were originally Canaanites. The Israelite had the same building style, religious holidays and even worshiped some of the same Gods that that the Canaanites worshiped. It is believed that the Israelites started their communities in the Hills and slowly moved down. There is no proof for the lightning victories of Joshua. The Canaanites are also believed to bee the ones who built the water tunnel from the spring into the walled City of Jerusalem. The Canaanites had a high degree of Culture regardless of what the Bible says.
The search for David and Salomon remains elusive. There is no proof that either existed. Excavations have failed to turn up any signs of Salomon's building activity. In fact during the time of David Jerusalem was relatively small. Due to maybe famine the cities population was in a decline. Many building like Hazor which are attributed to Salomon may have been built by Northern Israelites during the divided Monarchy. Whether there was ever a united monarchy is questionable. Hazor many Archaeologist are finding out was built by King Ahab and his son Omri . Ahab was a powerful king one who was to be respected. THE Kingdom of Issrael was shown to begin about 100 years earlier then it's southern neighbor Judea . Judea was too poor to maintain a building program that kept pace with Northern Israel. When the Babylonians came there was proof that they decimated Jerusalem inordr to quell any resistance AND the Elite were sent to Babylon where they live quite well. The rest of the Judeans were allowed to remain and till the land. In fact the Babylonians brought wealth and prosperity to the area.

Many may believe from reading the Bible that Israelites were at odds with the Ammonites. It was believed that the Ammonites were destroyed by the Babylonians. Fact is that they survived several centuries after words thank to underground cave cities, openness to foreigner and strong tribal organization. They helped Judean renegade against Babylon after they assassinated the Gedalia , the governor appointed by the Babylonians. The Edomites were not always enemies either in fact their copper mining and smelting brought them riches especially when the Assyrians were running the show. They did trade inside Judean Negev and set up religious center there as well. This surprised many people.

The Persian period under which the Israelite returned is mostly over looked. Yet many changes were a result of Persian policy. Judea renamed Yehud was fortified to withstand Egyptian rebellion. The bible itself was rewritten several times and Ezra ws not the final editor. There was also a rift between the Judeans who were left behind the strict fanatics returning from Babylon . In the final chapter the book covers the causes for the Jewish revolt against the Roman along with how the Elite cooperated with the Roman.

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One blond hair blue eyed Calfornian who totally digs the Middle East.
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