Christian Leadership Center



Biblical Archaeology Index


Class Seven


MIDDLE BRONZE I and IIA (2000-1550 B.C.)



“The Beginnings of ‘Israel’ within the International Scene”


Part 1: Canaan in the Patriarchal Period (MBI)


We have begun to discuss the MBI period of 2300-1900 (or 2250-1950) which is the time of the First Intermediate of Egypt, and the time of the coming of the patriarchs to Canaan (if the Bible is taken at face value).  Nomadic groups known generally as Amorites were moving into the land.  In Akkadian texts these are called Amurru, “westerners,” so a non-ethnic geographical group.  The evidence from archaeology refutes the view that they are one ethnic group (the “Amorites” included a smaller ethnic group called “Amorites”).  If we think of the analogy of “Americans”we have the mixed ethnic group, but within that large collection there is a group of native “Americans” (although native does not mean they were always here or the first to come here).

Now we need to focus on the later Patriarchal period.  In biblical chronology, if Abraham was called about 2091 B.C. at the age of 75, then Isaac was born about 2066 B.C.  Isaac was 60 when Jacob and Esau were born, so that would be about 2006 B.C. 

Jacob then must begin his family when he is living with Laban.  This is the tricky part of the chronology.  We know that when Jacob appeared before Pharaoh in Egypt in 1876 B.C. because he was 130 years old.  Now Joseph was 30 years old when he was elevated to power.  There were then seven years of plenty, followed by the famine.  Two years into the famine the family moved to Egypt.  So Joseph was 39 in 1876 B.C., which means he was born in 1915 B.C.  Recall that Joseph was the eleventh son born to Jacob, in Laban's land.  So the children were born to Jacob (Reuben through Joseph) between 1928 and 1915 B.C.  This means that Jacob was fairly old when he started having children, up in his seventies (which for him was the middle of his life, like a man of 40 today).

Joseph died at the age of 110, in the year 1805 B.C.  And that brings to an end the patriarchal period proper.  Then begins the long sojourn in Egypt until Moses is born about 1528 B.C.

This class discussion will look at the ancient world in the patriarchal period; the next will focus on the Egyptian soojourn and the transition to Moses.  The main focus will be on the literary texts.


Literary Evidence from Egypt


To fit this material into the general framework of the Egyptian chronology, keep a list of the kings of Egypt in mind throughout the period (figure 16).


The Story of Sinuhe

Date:  The date for this begins with the death of Amen-em-het I (1971) and continues into the reign of Sen-Usert I (1971-1929 B.C.).

Content:  This is an autobiographical tale of an Egyptian officer named Sinuhe, who fled with the new Pharaoh and found refuge in one of the districts of the Upper Retenu (Upper Palestine and central south Syria in Egyptian literature).  He returned to Egypt in a ripe old age.


Biblical Interest:

1.       The story refers to a line of fortifications on the eastern border of the delta: “The wall of the ruler, made to oppose the Asiatics and to crush the sand-crossers [refers to the Sinai].  I took a crouching position in a bush, for fear lest the watchmen upon the wall were their day’s duty was might see me.”  Sinai was the territory of the Ishmaelites, who were a threat on any border.  The reference here is not likely to a wall all along the border, but to the stationing of guards all along a line of fortifications.

In the Bible we have a reference to “Shur which is opposite Egypt” (Gen. 25:18 and 1 Samuel 15:7).  This “Shur” may be the wall or defensive system that goes across the land where the Suez canal is today.  It is not clear from this one example and not all scholars accept this.  But one example that seems to demonstrate this is Genesis 25:18 where Havilah is located “by Shur” which may be Havilah by the wall.  Whatever the meaning, the point is clear from the Bible and Sinuhe, you could not just walk into Egypt.  In Genesis 12:10-20 we read how Abram came to enter into Egypt, and later escorted to the border, suggesting again the wall of fortifications was in existence.

2.       The story refers to the land of Arur, which is the Yarmuk Valley.  Sinuhe stayed with one Amienshi (a Semitic name) and described the land very similarly to the description that is in the Bible: “He let me choose for myself of his country, of the choicest of that which was with him on his frontier with another country.  It was a good land, named Aruru.  Figs were in it, and grapes.  It had more wine than water.  Plentiful was its honey, abundant its olives.  Every kind of fruit tree was on      its fruit trees.  Barley was there and emmer.  There was no limit to any kind of cattle.”

The Bible describes it as a land flowing with milk and honey (the figures are  metonymies of effect for the cause--it is rich in pasture land).  This evidence then mentions six of the seven basics of Israel’s agricultural economy with the exception of the pomegranate (which the Bible includes).  An Egyptian would not normally be inclined to complement another country’s products like this.

Not everyone is convinced that the Aruru (Araru) land is the Yarmuk Valley.

3.       Residents of the land of Canaan were still organized into tribes whose livelihood was still essentially pastoral.  All the major trade routes were under Egyptian control:       “I spent many years, and my children grew up to be strong men, each man as the retainer of his (own) tribe.  The messenger who went north or who went south to the Residence City stopped over with me . . . when the Asiatics became so bold as to oppose the rulers of foreign countries, I counselled their movements.  This ruler of (Re)tenu had me spend many years as commander of his army.  Every foreign country against whom I went forth, when I had made my attack against it, was driven away from its pasturage and its wells.  I plundered cattle . . . . I took what was in the tent and stripped his encampment.”

It is clear from this section that the Sheik concept is present in the ruling class.  They are wealthy, with cattle and tents, and they are the powerful fighters with their retainers.  Now this is coming to the time of Isaac and Jacob (notice the emphasis of Sinuhe on tribes, pasturage, and wells).  Everything fits beautifully in this early period with Abraham's time. The patriarchs are semi-nomadic.  They are living in a time of dis-array in Canaan, a revolutionary period, a time of complete breakup of one culture, the old culture.  And there is Abrahama, a wealthy bedouin sheik, with allies, and with household retainers who can fight; but he was looking for something better than a place to settle down--he was looking for God’s covenant blessings, concerning which the writer to the Hebrews says Abraham and his family were looking for a city whose Maker is God.  He is a man of his time.

Abraham and Lot were two wealthy tribal leaders, especially after their visit to Egypt.  Abraham has 318 men born in his house, “retainers” as the word (Egyptian) indicates. Isaac is busy digging wells as Abraham his father had.  And Jacob, when he returns from Laban, hears that Esau is coming to meet him with 400 men.  This is life in Canaan at the time.


Execration Texts of the Late 20th Century

All the evidence of archaeology, the literary evidence and the biblical material, harmonize to place Abraham in MBI, and his descendants in MBI and MBII.  There is nothing contradictory about it.  Now with the execration texts we have locations listed.

Nature of the Texts:  W. F. Albright (Archaeology of Palestine, p. 83), writes:

“These curious documents are vases and statuettes, inscribed in an extremely cursive hieratic with names of actual or potential rebels in Egypt and neighboring lands, who were thus supposed to be at the mercy of the Pharaoh.  If threatened by rebellion the latter had only to break the objects on which were written the names and accompanying formulae, to the accompaniment of magical ceremony, and -presto- the rebels would somehow come to grief.”  The imagery of this custom is used in the writing of Psalm 2--“you shall smash them with a rod of iron, you shall break them as a potter’s vessel” (figure 17).

Contents of the Texts:  There are 20 names of towns or regions in Palestine and Syria, plus the names of more than 30 rulers.  Actually, there are two sets of these texts, and we study them by comparison (20th century and 19th century B.C.).  Since most of the names are unknown (in contrast to the second set with has known cities and one ruler for each place) we must assume that they represent tribes which had settled in particular areas (Abram and Lot).  For each place the name of 3 rulers, though sometimes only 2, and in one instance 4, are probably sheiks over an area (figure 18). 

Five of the cities are well-known: Jerusalem, Ashkelon, Beth Shean, Byblos, and Rehob.

Conclusion: The text depicts a nomadic society caught up in the process of settlement wherein the tribe is still the basic form of social organization.  It complements the nomad account of Sinuhe.  The 15 unknown place names are probably regions and not cities.


The Canaanites (MBIIA)

The Middle Bronze IIA period (1900-1750) sees some major changes in the land.  The old Canaanite empire was no longer a united political force, but it had established a culture that remained unchanged right through the Late Bronze Age.  The Canaanites had a superior type of culture with very advanced cities.  They were sophisticated and artistic.  They moved into areas and imposed their material culture on the other ethnic groups so that a consistent culture was established on the entire Phoenician literal.  They were very syncretistic. 

The Bible likewise presents a number of ethnic groups with one culture, summarizing them as the Canaanites.

Artifactual Evidence in Palestine

Kenyon writes: “As was the case with the beginning of the Intermediate EB-MB period, the beginning of the Middle Bronze Age was ushered in by the appearance of a new group of people.  This was clearly indicated by the appearance of new pottery, new weapons, new burial customs, and a revival of town life.  Unlike their        predecessors, they came from an area possessing a developed civilization, for it is with the Phoenician coastal town that close links were established . . . .  With Canaanite Phoenicia, the ties which were established by 1900 B.C. were permanent, and on the evidence of pottery we can say that the same basic culture grew up in an area stretching from Ras Shamra in the north to the desert fringes of Palestine in the south” (Archaeology and the Holy Land, p. 162).

This culture lasted until 1200 B.C.


Literary Evidence from Egypt:

The Execration Texts of the Late 19th Century

A minority of invaders imposed their higher culture on the more backward population:

Nature of the Texts:   Now there are no vases or statuettes as in the earlier texts; here there are small figurines in the form of prisoners (figure 19).

Contents of the Texts:  Now there are 64 place names, mostly well-known towns with generally only one ruler, but sometime two.  All of the identifiable places in the first group are present in these texts as well, but the unknowns disappear.  It seems that there is a tremendous change in the 100 year period.  We have moved from nomadic life to sedentary life which is urban centralization.

Conclusions:  There was transition from a nomadic way of life to a sedentary way of life, and a shift from patriarchal rule by 3 or 4 tribal leaders, to an urban autocracy usually under only one ruler.


Egyptian Graphic Evidence:

The "Beni-Hasan" Wall Painting (figure 20)

In the early 19th century there is a painting that is to be related to the Joseph story.  The painting shows a group of Semites going down into Egypt as slaves.  We know they are Semites because of their material culture, their weapons, their clothing, their chariots.  This is the same time as Jacob, and fits the entrance into Egypt.


Egyptian Stele and Statues

There have been found statues of Egyptian rulers in Gezer, Megiddo, and Tell el Ajjul, as in other places outside of Palestine.  This seems to indicate a form of Egyptian rule over the area at this time (12 Dynasty of Egypt).  So in MB IIA we have the shift from nomad to urban life.


Tell Mardikh and Ras Shamra

In conjunction with our study of the Canaanites, there are two famous archaeological discoveries that must be introduced with Canaanite civilization, and here is a good place to do that.  The first one is earlier than the period we are discussing, but gives us background.  The other is a little later, about 1400 B.C., but it reflects the Canaanite culture for the centuries that preceded it, and followed it all the way to the time of Ahab and Jezebel.


Tell Mardikh--Ebla

Discovery.  In 1969 Paolo Matthiae was in his 6th year excavating Tell Mardikh, a place near Aleppo in Syria, when he discovered a headless statue with several lines of text in its base.  With the assistance of Giovanni Pettinato, they deciphered the text and confirmed that it mentioned an ancient city called EBLA.  The language looked like Old Akkadian, but it later proved to be a new language, later simply called Eblaite (figure 21).

Then in 1974, the work unearthed some 40 tablets.  And then in 1975 the archives were found with about 1,000 texts and fragments.  After that, over 20,000 tablets, chips, and fragments were found.

Identification.  The city of Ebla was known only to a few specialists in ancient Near Eastern history--and they were not sure where it was.  It was simply mentioned in texts from Mesopotamia.  But now the name Ebla was to become well-known.  For this was no small town, but the center of a vast Canaanite civilization from the period 2400 down to 2200.  So the three empires of the world at that time were Sumer, Ebla, and Egypt.  Ebla (Syria) can no longer be thought of as a nomadic region as opposed to the great urban centers of Sumer and Egypt.  Now a much more complex picture of the ancient world has emerged.  Here was an empire that dominated the Syria-Palestine region; it extended as far south as Sinai, west to Cyprus, east to the highlands of Mesopotamia, and north to the eastern parts of Asia Minor.  Its king stood up to the great Sargon of Akkad, but eventually the empire fell to Sargon's successor, Naram Sin. 

The site of Tel Mardikh is about 30 miles south of modern Aleppo.  The tel covers 140 acres and is about 50 feet high.  Its archives open up tremendous possibilities--if the work can go forward without the characteristic disputes.  The majority of the texts are untranslated, and most of the site remains unexcavated.

Archives.  The archives are written in a language that Pettinato calls Paleo-Canaanite.  They show similarities with Ugaritic, but even more with Phoenician and Hebrew.  Many texts are written in Akkadian, and many in Sumerian; but about 20 per cent of them are in this new Eblaite.  They represent a state administrative center worthy of an empire, which must represent a still older process of development in the region.  The texts cover a period of about 70 years or so--five kings.  Some of the more significant discoveries include:

Government.  The empire was ruled by an oligarchy.  The “king” was elected every seven years along with a head administrative officer and a senate.  It seems that great care was taken to balance the power of the great families that owned land.

Names.  The names on the tablets use divine elements in them, including ya and el.   This is being disputed, to no one's surprise.  For centuries critical liberal scholars have said the name “Yahweh” was a name of Israel’s tribal god, only from the later period of time, and no one else knew the name, not even Israel in the patriarchal period.  But it looks very much like the theophoric element -ia (=ya) is found in Ebla.  What they knew of the name, what it meant to them, we have no idea.  But if indeed it existed, that would indicate there was awareness of that designation of God, or a god, very early.

The texts also refer to places like Hazor, Lachish, Megiddo, Gaza, Joppa, and Urusalima--the oldest reference to Jerusalem we have so far.  The texts also refer to the southern regions of the land with the names Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, Zeboiim, Bela.  This cliche list of five names is also used in the Table of Nations of Genesis 10 for the southern limit of the promised land.  It is beginning to look like the ancient powerful empire of Canaan is what is being promised to Abraham.

The archives also have names like Saul, David, Adam, and Ebrium--which some scholars equate with Eber, the ancestor of Abraham (great-great-great-grandfather) in Genesis 10:21.  Parallel names show those kinds of names existed, but the text are not referring to those people.

Social Order.  Society was divided between the “sons of Ebla” and the “foreigners,” a motley group of slaves, prisoners of war, and mercenaries.  Women enjoyed a prominent role, not only in the royal family, but in the trades where they worked mills and exported products.

Population.  This imperial city had a population of about 250,000 people living in the city and its immediate suburbs.

Economy.   The people traded in foodstuffs in the immediate area.  Over longer distances they traded metals wooden objects, and textiles.  Not surprisingly, Ebla had precise systems and standards of weights and measures.  Silver was the main currency of exchange.

Not only did Ebla control much of the trade of this northern region, but it also was a powerful military force.  Ebla brought Mari back under its control, causing a series of internal and foreign reactions.  But Ebla also would fall to the kingdom of Aleppo, but would continue into the later Syrian periods.

Education.  Of special note are the academies or schools in Ebla.  The place must have been a center for scribal training, especially for administrative and religious purposes.  Lists of cuneiform signs, vocabularies and encyclopedias were found.

Religion.  The religion is of course polytheistic.  Some 200 deities may have been worshiped there.  But in Ebla a whole quarter of the city and one of the city gates is devoted to Dagan (“Dagan of Canaan”).  He is referred to as “lord of gods,” indicating he is head of the pantheon.  Dagan has an epithet, “dew of the ground,” indicating that his name has something to do with “rain, cloud.”

Note that about 800-1,000 years later in Ugarit that Baal will be called “the son of Dagan,” showing his ascendancy in Canaanite religion.  In the Bible Dagan shows up most interestingly in Judges 16:23, as well as in 1 Samuel 5, where the ark was put into the Philistine temple of Dagan--which fell over. 

There are many other deities there.  Utu (Sumerian) is the sun god, and Hada is the storm god (later in Damascus, Hadad).  Kakkab is the star god (the word means “star”).  Other deities mentioned are Rasap, the Resheph of later tradition, Kamish, the main god of later Moab later (Chemosh), Ashtar, the male god of love and war, Lim, the great Amorite god famous in the Mari tablets, Baal, the god of later Canaan, Milk, the god king, and then two river deities for the Euphrates and the Balih.

The religious rituals seem highly developed.  Manifold sacrifices were offered at various festivals in the year.  The sacrifices were both animal offerings as well as foods and especially beer for the gods.  There are hymns and ritual incantations for the sacrifices as well.


Ras Shamra--Ugarit

Discovery.  Another city in Syria, near the Mediterranean coast, was discovered by accident in 1928.   A farm worker was plowing the field and turned up a large man-made flagstone.  When he turned it over, he saw a short passageway leading into a tomb.  In the tomb he found some ancient objects, which he promptly sold to an antiquities dealer.

Inevitably the news leaked out.  It was in the area of Syria under the French Mandate after WWI.  And so the director of antiquities for the region, Charles Virolleaud, was notified.  What kept the investigation open were local legends of an ancient city of gold there, and a nearby “white harbor” that suggested a seaport.  So in 1928,29, Claude F. A. Schaeffer was chosen to lead the work (figure 22).

The Location.  Ugarit was in an ideal place to be the crossroads of trade and travel in the ancient world.  It was on the coast of Syria, about 25 miles south of the mouth of the Orontes River.  The tell is about a mile from the shore; it rises about 65 feet. The city had a harbor, from which on a clear day the people could see Cyprus, the source of their copper. The copper-hungry south and east were eager to send products to Ugarit for trade.

The tel is ancient.  There were five levels of civilization, going back to neolithic times (6th millennium B.C.).  It was rich in the Chalcolithic period.  At the second half of the third millennium with the arrival of Semitic settlers the place developed and prospered.  It was under Egyptian control during the Middle Kingdom.  But during the 15th and 14th centuries it was at its zenith.  An earthquake and fire about 1365 destroyed it, but it came back, only to face greater destruction by the Sea Peoples in the 12th century.  Probably, however, with the coming of iron the city with its trade in copper lost out.

The Discoveries.  Almost immediately they began to find things in the necropolis (cemetery) of the ancient city:

Statues.  The first major find was a 3000 year old complete ceramic table service, but then a statue of the Canaanite god Resheph, partly covered with gold and silver, and a nude figure in gold of the goddess Astarte holding flowers in her hands.

Tablets.  When Rene Dussaud came, he moved the work from the cemetery by the port to the huge tell--Ras Shamra.  Almost immediately they hit with success, finding rooms with ancient objects from Egypt and Canaanite statues of Baal.  Soon thereafter they found the first tablet with the new cuneiform writing on it.  As more and more tablets were found, the startling observation was made that this cuneiform was not like the Mesopotamian writing--it was simpler.  It was, as they would find out later, a linear alphabet written in cuneiform, from 1400-1200 B.C. (figure 23).

The deciphering of a new language is not an easy process. They worked in stages at recognizing letters, and then words they though they recognized, and gradually they added letter to help decipher more of the texts.  But within the first year the scholars involved had worked out most of the language and could read the texts.

In the next year of excavation Schaeffer found the library, and below it evidence of civilization going back to 3000 B.C.  What was amazing about the tablets was the number and the array.  The city was obviously multi-lingual, for the texts were in Akkadian. Sumerian, Hurrian, Hittite, Egyptian, Cypro-Minoan, and of course, now Ugaritic.

Buildings.  In the next ten years, only about an eighth of the surface had been dug.  When the work was interrupted for the war, several major finds could be reported: a temple of Baal, a temple of Dagan, a palace, a library, numerous private houses, and streets.

The Culture.  There is not enough time to record here all that has been found at Ugarit.  The literature on the subject is extensive.  But from its golden age (the reign of Ammistamru III (ca. 1390-1360 B.C.) much of the material has come.  The kings were friendly with Egypt and Hittites, although forced to be vassals to the Hittites for a while.  But they were able to gain considerable wealth, along with the power that wealth could buy.  We shall not at this time go into all of this, for it will be discussed over the next several lectures.  But there are several things about Ugarit that are worth keeping in mind at this point:

Size.  The main area of Ugarit covered about fifty acres.  It is not large by comparisons, but inside the walls the houses were all built closely together.  The city had the two temples, the priest's house between them, and the royal buildings.  There were wealthy houses of regular citizens--one man Rapanou had a house of 34 rooms with a library of many texts.

Population.  A large portion of the population lived outside the city in small villages, some 200 of them.  They were engaged in agriculture, forestry, and cattle raising.  The population was diverse.  A large number of foreign traders and ambassadors lived here (the large number of foreigners is attested by the many languages found here).  Hurrian seems to have been used commonly along with Ugaritic.  Merchants and manufacturers thrived here with the agriculture, pottery, textiles, and metallurgy.

Government.  The city had a hereditary monarchy.  Two of the earlier kings are Niqmadu I and his son Yaqarum.  During the height of power, though, the two greatest kings were Ammistamru III  (1380) and Niqmadu III (1360).  It was Niqmadu III who through no fault of his own became a vassal of the Hittites.  The king had refused to join a rebellion against Suppiluliumas, and when the palace was burned the Hittite suppressed the rebellion and made the king of Ugarit a vassal.  It worked in Ugarit's favor, however, because the emperor transferred control of the rebel states to Ugarit.

Influence.  During its golden age, Ugarit controlled a territory or about 1300 square miles.

Military Power.  Ugarit had two divisions of the army--the infantry and the chariotry.  The chariots were the special weapon of the maryannu, the chariot nobility that were part of the ruling class.  Ugarit also had a navy, mostly for trade, but certainly for war as well.   One text refers to the preparation of 150 ships to re-enforce the fleet--which may have been twice that size.

Religion.  The temples of Baal and Dagan dominated the city.  The priests had their primary duty in the temples, but they also had military functions as well.  They were an intelligence corps, purporting to give divine counsel with respect to strategy and military operations.  They were not just chaplains.

The religion was completely given over to the annual fertility cult.  The temple was stocked with “holy ones,” males and females set apart to the temple service and from marriage; they were essentially cult prostitutes (qadishu).  The people believed that the fertility of the land and of the people depended on the fertility of the gods; the sexual acts in those contacts were designed to secure fertility for the land (figure 24).  These “holy ones” were prohibited from working on the side (as common prostitutes).

The complex had many different guilds and skills, including professional musicians.  There were many priests who functioned in the local shrines in the villages.   

Tablets.  The 1400 tablets provide us with a vast amount of information about the culture and the religion of the Canaanites at the time of the conquest under Joshua (representing earlier and later beliefs). There are some major contributions from these tablets:

Language.    The language is like an “aunt” to Hebrew, but very close in many ways.  People who know Hebrew quickly feel at home in these texts, because the structure and vocabulary is essentially the same as Hebrew.  It is a case where the learning of Ugaritic involves noting the differences between it and Hebrew.

The texts that are myths or incantations are written in the same type of parallelism that one finds in the Hebrew Psalms.  The poetic images, the Semitic expressions, and the rare vocabulary words in the Bible have been helped a great deal with this discovery.

Ritual.  Both Ugarit and Israel made “peace offerings” and “whole burnt offerings” and used similar animals in the process. This does not mean that they interpreted these sacrifices the same way, or that one culture borrowed from the other.  But it does argue against critical liberal thinking that the sacrifices of Israel had to be late.

Fertility.   But most important are the epics, of Baal and Anat, or Kirta, of Aghat, and of Dn'il.  The religious motifs of the storm god Baal that these texts provide us with are useful in many areas of biblical studies.  They show us a culture that was steeped in the fertility ritual.  The Bible had always described the Canaanites as morally evil; but the discovery of these tablets showed how depraved the nation actually had become.  With these texts we are better able to understand the harsh words the Bible had for the Canaanites.  We shall return to this later.

Literary and Religious Motifs.   There have been scores of passages in the Bible that are now more readily understood because of these discoveries.  It may be a simple verse, as in Proverbs where we now know “silver dross” was wrong, but “glaze” is correct (Prov. 26:23).  It could be the allusions to Canaanite myths in the Psalms, like Psalm 29 which describes the storm in Lebanon and Canaan not as Baal, but the voice of Yahweh, or like Psalm 24 which alludes to a war against Canaan by using literary motifs from Canaanite literature.  It could be elements in the stories clarified by parallels, like Absalom's sleeping with David's concubines on the roof as a sign he was taking over the kingdom.

But some of the most helpful links come in the later Iron Age period, Israel's kingdom period, especially with the coming of Jezebel and her 850 prophets into the capital of Samaria.  The following outline will provide some of the information to illustrate how the Ugaritic texts have been helpful.



Part 2: “From Joseph to Moses” (MB II B, C)

MBI was the time of the Amorite invasion and the age of Abraham.  Amorite groups were sweeping across the region and pressing down to Egypt.  Normally they would not push into Egypt; but they gained control of Palestine because Egypt at that time was in decline.  These groups were pushing in,. though, until all upper Mesopotamia was under their control.  Ur III was strong until 1950, and then it fell (about 100 years after Abraham left).

In the MBII period we have the Canaanites.  New peoples again were moving in and there were destruction levels everywhere.  There were no literary texts from this period, but we know the Canaanite civilization was there from 2400 to 1200 B.C.  It was the culture of the land.  It was dominant enough to survive wars and destructions.  These places in the land all have the same gods, the same pottery, the same arts.  The Amorites move to the hills now, and the Canaanites have the valleys.  In the Bible when the Israelites come in their wars are with the Canaanites, and the Amorites are left in the hills.

So MBI was 2250-1950 (= 12th Dynasty of Egypt).  MBIIA is 1950-1750.  But MBII B is 1750-1650, and MBII C is 1650-1550.  B and C are into the second intermediate period of Egypt.  With this final sphere we enter the period of silence, roughly 1750 to 1550.


Reasons for Distinguishing MBIIB and MBIIC

 Egyptian Political Background of MBII


From our view, Israel is no longer in the land of Canaan but in the land of Egypt.  The land is being prepared for the conquest because the iniquity of the Amorite is not yet full. 

            1.                  One reason to divide B and C is historical--there is disintegration of the central Egyptian authority under the 13th Dynasty in the early eighteenth century which brought an end to Egyptian control over Palestine.

The powerful 12th Dynasty ended in 1750, and with the arrival of the 13th there is a breakdown and complete chaos.  The 14th follows the same.  In 1680 the Hyksos unite the land again in the 15th Dynasty.

2.         In 1720 Egypt is conquered by a people from the north who established what is known as Hyksos rule. Hyksos is a term that is derived from the Hellenistic sources and meant the Egyptian “rulers of foreign lands.”  Strictly speaking, Manetho limits the Hyksos to a later period (15th dynasty), but usually they are all called Hyksos.

3.         In 1680 the Hyksos ruled over both halves of Egypt.  According to Manetho only the 15th dynasty were Hyksos. But they manage to unite the nation again.  So 1680-1570 is the heyday of their rule.

4.         The Hyksos ruled over Palestine from Tanis (=Biblical Zoan) which was their capital.

5.         The earliest Hyksos rulers had Semitic names--‘Anath-Har and Jacob-Har.  But the later period saw the names changing to Hurrian names (linguistically this is  Indo-European and not Semitic).  But from 1720-1680 the names are Semitic, and from 1680 to 1570 they are Hurrian.

6.         The Egyptians called the land of Palestine/Canaan “the Land of the Hurru” (biblical Horites), since they came from the north.

So the first reason for making a break between B and C is the political unification of Egypt in 1680.  This fits Kenyon's Phase III.


Artifactual Evidence in Palestine

Regarding the Political Situation


When you wish to look to Palestine for its culture, you have to look to Mesopotamia.  When you wish to study Palestine politically, you have to look to Egypt.

The second reason for making the division deals with the artifacts from Palestine.  The Hyksos had exerted powerful control over Palestine as a hegemony.  So MBII C has again this strong influence (the 16th Dynasty then, as well as the earlier 12th and later 18th had such control).

1.         During MBII numerous changes and destruction levels are found in Palestine.  One destruction was at Hazor in 1680.  The destruction level harmonizes with the division time.

2.         The material culture evinces a high civilization in the same areas mentioned previously in the Execration Texts.  It reaches its apex--the high point of technology and technique.

3.         There is a significant change in the material culture around 1680.  We find the beaten ramparts around the cities known as glacis (beaten ramparts that are plastered smooth--slippery slopes up to the base of the walls).  There is a new type of warfare with battering rams.


The Tell el-Amarna Correspondence

Evidence of the names of the rulers from these 14th century documents reveals this linguistic map of Palestine and Syria (this point is inconclusive).

1.         Correspondence from Byblos reveals that the Phoenician coasts from Byblos to Tyre had Semitic names (“Byblos” is “Jebel”).

2.         The Beqa‘ Valley (near Lebanon and the ante-Lebanon range), Damascus, Jezreel (to the north), and the Plain of Acco (north of Acre) all have Hurrian names predominantly.

3.         In regions further south there is a considerable mixture.

The indication is that in MBII C the Hurrians are migrating from the north, perhaps from Anatolia, in great force.

The Hurrians are among the peoples of the ANE already in MBI, but they now move swiftly from the north and over a period of time they come in.  Nuzi is also a Hurrian culture, although its texts are written in Akkadian.  History talks of the Canaanites in MBI, but they come back to prominence later.  MBI also includes the Philistines, but they too come back in greater strength in 1187.

So we divide MBII into B and C for these reasons: (1) change in history in Egypt, (2) culture reaches a new high in Palestine, (3) Hurrian movements, and (4) there is a new defense system all over Palestine.  We have mentioned the glacis, but there is more:


Military Situation in Palestine

For a thorough treatment of this, see Yigael Yadin, The Art of Warfare in Biblical Lands, Vol. I (1963), pp. 67ff.

1.         The horse-drawn chariot: This was expensive, and the sole prerogative of the Maryanna (Indo-European), a special class of noble-chariot warriors.  Since these were needed by local kings it occasioned feudal forms of government.

Actually, the maryanna were the high class of people of the land.  To be your own armed man was a high social status.  Land grants and fiefdoms were given by the king in exchange for their services.  So a high aristocracy developed.  The order was as follows: The King of Tanis ruled over the land; under him were local kings of each city-state; then the chariot nobles; and finally the other classes down to the peasants.

2.         The glacis fortifications were built because the battering rams were being used.  These would make it difficult to move the rams up to the wall, and leave the ones pushing it vulnerable.


The Culture of Canaan: Hazor

Hazor, according to Joshua 11:10, was the “head of all these kingdoms.”  It then becomes the prominent city to study during this period for the culture in Palestine.

Artifactual Evidence

Hazor is the chief city over all the area in the MB period, but it is not as powerful in the LB period.  It is the dominant MB tel (figure 25).

During the Hyksos period about 175 acres were added onto the north side of the tel (which came after the general weakening of Egypt).  The southern tel is 25 acres, covering a rectangular area about half a mile long and having approximately 30,000 citizens.  There is a glacis all the way around the tel.  It is the largest biblical city ever built in Palestine in the biblical period.  Gezer is 27 acres--but 200 acres walled is a huge city.  Jericho, by comparison, was 8 acres.

The gate complex is easy to identify in the tel; it is similar to the gates of other cities for some centuries to come (figure 26).  There would be a series of gates in the entrance way, each with a room or open area between them on either side of the road.  These could be places for the elders to meet (as at Beersheba), or for the horses (as at Lachish), or for dwellings or businesses.  In the time of war troops could be located in each room, so that if the enemies broke through one set of gates they would find opposition.  At times they would simply fill up the rooms with stone, making the entrance almost impregnable.

Literary Evidence

Hazor is the only Palestinian city mentioned in the Mari texts from the 18th century.  It is referred to as the capital of the land of Amurru.  Amurru is clearly used as a geographical-political title for southern Palestine and Syria (“Philistia” = Palestine).  See the texts and references in Abraham Malamat, JBL 79 (1960):12-19.


The Culture of Canaan: Dan

Not far from Hazor is the location of Tell Dan,[1] at the base of Mount Herman.  This archaeological location will be more significant for our studies of the Iron Age--the period of the kings.  But there is one significant feature from the Middle Bronze Age that cannot be overlooked here--the old gate complex.

The archaeologists found an old gate complex made out of mud bricks.  What was surprising was that the gate had a complete arch!  Up til Tel Dan people thought the arch was invented by the Romans (figure 27).  On either side of the gate was a tower extending up above the old wall.  Inside the arch is evidence of a gate complex like that at Hazor, with rooms on either side of the main roadway.  The archaeologists almost lost this find to the rain, until they put up a large covering for it.


            The Literary Evidence from Mesopotamia in the Middle Bronze II Age

For customs and ideas we turn to Mesopotamia for our corroborating evidence for this period, for political matters we turn to Egypt.  So for the structure of Joseph in Egypt, and then the intermediate period, and then the persecution of Israel in bondage, we set the framework with Egypt's dynasties.  But for patriarchal customs and laws, we look to Mesopotamia--Mari, Nuzi, the Cappodocean Texts, Chagar Bazar, and Babylon. 


We have already jumped ahead a bit and looked at both Mari and Nuzi.  Nuzi is actually LB material, but Mari is MB.  So here we will mention Mari briefly.  Even though these texts are later than the corresponding biblical events, that is no reason to pull down the dates of the patriarchs. The customs behind these laws go back 600 or 700 years.  The same is true of the Law Codes: Eshnunna is a 19th century code, Lipit Ishtar is 18th century, and Hammurabi is 17th century.  But these all have something to contribute to Moses’ Law Code which is LB.  They are studied as windows to the culture.

Mari fell to the Amorites in 1950 B.C.  The territory was all Amorite than until 1750.  Then, at the end of the Amorite period, king Zimri Lim reigns from 1730-1700 (low chronology).  It is from this time that the tablets date.  The culture was advanced technologically.  The palace, remember, was 15 acres with more than 230 rooms, with baths, some rooms with two baths, toilets, drainage and sewage.

The value of the tablets:

1.         They provide evidence for the origin of Abraham's forefathers.  The names of the genealogy are good names of locations in the area.

2.         They show that the patriarchal names were good common names of that period.  P.S. David does not mean “chieftain”--scholarly opinion has reversed itself here.

3.         They demonstrate many patriarchal customs.

4.         They show there was free movement all over the fertile crescent.  There were no barriers at this time.  This is the major value of the Cappodocean texts as well.


See the liturature on the Old Babylonian Empire and the Law of Hammurabi.  The point is that in the east there is this powerful empire ruled by Hammurabi.  He is on the throne when Israael is enduring bondage in Egypt.  We shall return to discuss Hammurabi's Law Code when we considered Israel's Torah.


See the literature for the chronology of this period of Egyptian history.  Note that the conservative date of the patriarchs and the sojourn in Egypt fits the material very well--the tomb painting of Beni Hassan, the office of Vizier for Joseph. the land reclamation for Pharaoh, and the period of the Hyksos.




     [1]Remember that this place was not called Dan in the Middle Bronze Age--there is no Dan, he has not even been born yet.  It was an old Canaanite town Laish, but l;ate in the period of the Judges the tribe Dan moved north and settled here.  The use of the name "Dan" in Genesis 14:14 is therefore an editorial clarification in the story.