Bible Chronology Timeline

Chronologies of the Mysteries of God

Genesis 5:1
“This is the book of the generations of
Adam. In the day that God created man,
in the likeness of God made he him”
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VI. Israel Under the Judges (C. 1350—C. 1050 B.C.)

The history of Assyria and Babylonia during the second half of the second millennium B.C. will be discussed in connection with their later history, since these nations played no important role in Western Asia during that time. However, after a survey of the history of the nations who surrounded the people of Israel during the time of their conquest of Canaan, and the period when they were either ruled by judges or oppressed by enemy nations, it is in order now to study the history of the people of God with whom the Bible is mainly concerned. Whatever is known of the history of the lesser nations of Canaan during this period will be mentioned at appropriate points rather than in separate sections.

Chronology of the Period.—The time between the occupation of Canaan and the establishment of the Hebrew monarchy is known as the period of the judges. The chronology of this period hinges on the date of the death of Solomon. The working chronology adopted for this commentary puts Solomon’s death in 931/30 B.C., that is, in the Hebrew year running from the fall of 931 to the fall of 930. Hence his beginning to build the Temple, in the spring month Zif of his fourth year (1 Kings 6:1), fell in 967/66, that is, in the spring of 966.

This was in the 480th year after the Exodus (1 Kings 6:1). Then Zif in the first year of the Exodus was 479 years earlier, in the spring of 1445 B.C., with the Exodus in the preceding month (Abib, 1445), and the crossing of the Jordan 40 years later (Joshua 5:6, 10) in 1405 B.C. Of the 480 years of 1 Kings 6:1, 40 are to be deducted for the reign of Saul (Acts 13:21), 40 for the reign of David (1 Kings 2:11), and 4 from the reign of Solomon. These 84 years deducted from the 480 years leave the coronation of Saul in the 396th year from the Exodus, or the 356th from the invasion of Canaan, giving us the years 1405-1051/50 B.C. for the period from Joshua to Samuel.

Another chronological peg is provided by a statement made by the judge Jephthah at the beginning of his term of office, that Israel had then “dwelt in Heshbon and her towns … three hundred years” (Judges 11:26). These 300 years go back to the conquest of this area under the leadership of Moses, during the last year of his life (see Deuteronomy 2:26-37). This statement requires that the conquest under Joshua and the elders, together with the judgeships of Othniel, Ehud, Shamgar, Deborah and Barak, Gideon, Tola, and Jair, as well as the intervening periods of oppression, be included within the 300 years between the conquest and the time of Jephthah.

To fit these periods into the 300 years does not present great difficulties, since it is reasonable to assume that some judges ruled contemporaneously—one perhaps in Transjordan and another in western Palestine, or one in the north and another in the south. It is also possible that some tribes in one part of the country enjoyed rest and security at a time when other tribes were oppressed. This is, for example, indicated in the oppression by the Canaanite king Jabin of Hazor, which was terminated by the victory of Deborah and Barak over Sisera, captain of Jabin’s army (Judges 4). In Deborah’s song of victory several tribes were rebuked for having failed to assist their brethren in the struggle for liberation from the tyranny of the oppressor (Judges 5:16, 17). These tribes probably saw no need for risking life so long as they themselves enjoyed a peaceful existence, as was the case for 80 years after Ehud liberated them from the oppression of the Moabites and Amalekites (Judges 3:30).

From Jephthah to Saul’s coronation was 57 years, according to chronological statements of the Bible. While Jephthah ruled over the eastern tribes, ending an 18-year oppression of the Ammonites, the Philistines began oppressing those in the west. They captured the ark in Eli’s time, after it had been at Shiloh for 300 years. During the time of this Philistine oppression Samson harassed the pagan oppressor and began “to deliver Israel” (Judges 13:5). Samuel was probably also a contemporary of Samson, the latter operating in the south west, the other in the mountains of central Palestine (1 Samuel 7:16, 17). Samuel was the last judge to guide Israel wisely. For a long time he was the sole leader of his people before the first king, Saul, was chosen.

The relatively fixed chronology of Egypt during this period, and several key dates in the Biblical chronology, permit an experimental reconstruction of the period of the judges that leads to the following chronological synchronisms:


Israel Under the Judges

Egyptian Kings

Hittite Kings

Eighteenth Dynasty
Invasion of Canaan 1405 Amenhotep III 1412-1375 Hattushilish II
Israel under Joshua and the elders 1405-1364 Ikhnaton, Smenkhkare Tuthaliya III
1387-1366 Arnuwanda II
Othniel’s liberation from Chushan rishathaim’s 8–year oppression 1356 Tutankhamen, Eye 1366-1353 Shubbiluliuma
Rest of 40 years 1356-1316 Harmhab 1353-1320
Nineteenth Dynasty
Arnuwanda III
Ramses I 1320-1319 Murshilish II
Seti I 1319-1299
Ehud’s liberation from 18 years of Moabite oppression 1298 Seti in Palestine 1319
Ramses II 1299-1232 Mutallu
80 years’ rest of southern and eastern tribes 1298-1218 Battle at Kadesh 1295
Deborah and Barak’s liberation after Jabin’s 20 years of oppression in the north 1258 Urhi–Teshub
Hattushilish III
Rest in the north 1258-1218 Last weak Hittite kings
Gideon’s liberation from 7–year Midianite oppression 1211 Merneptah and other weak kings 1232-1200 End of Hittite kingdom about 1200
Twentieth Dynasty
Gideon’s rule 1211-1171 Ramses III 1198-1167
Abimelech’s kingship over Shechem 1171-1168 War against Peoples of the Sea 1194-1191
Tola, Jair, Jephthah, Ibzan, Elon, Abdon 1168-1074 Ramses IV-XI 1167-1085
Beginning of Philistine oppression 1119
Samson’s exploits 1101-1081 Twenty–first Dynasty
Ark taken, Eli’s death 1099
Battle at Ebenezer, Philistines defeated 1079 (High priests of Amen as kings of Egypt)
Samuel judge 1079-1050 1085-950

The Peoples of Canaan and Their Culture.—The earliest, aboriginal population of Palestine was non-Semitic, as is evident from the names of the oldest settlements, which are non-Semitic. Toward the end of the second millennium B.C. the Amorites invaded Canaan and for centuries formed its ruling class. The early Hittites, of whom only traces are recognizable in the texts coming from the time of their later empire period, also settled in certain parts of Palestine, as did the Hurrians, especially in the south. Of the 11 peoples called Canaanites in Genesis 10:15-19, the Hittites and Amorites have already been mentioned. Six of the others lived in Syria and Phoenicia; namely, the Sidonians and the Zemarites on the coast; the Arkites, with their capital Irqata, of the Amarna Letters, north of Tripoli; the Sinites, whose capital Siannu, mentioned in Assyrian records, is still unidentified; the Arvadites, with their capital Arvad in northern Phoenicia; and the Hamathites in inland Syria. Of the remaining three Canaanite tribes, the Jebusites, Grigasites, and Hivites, nothing is known from extra-Biblical sources.

All these peoples, living in a country situated between the two great civilizations of antiquity—Egypt in the south and Mesopotamia in the north—were strongly influenced by the cultures of those countries. Although Palestine and Syria had lived under the political 0dominion of Egypt for centuries by the time of the Hebrew invasion, the cultural influences of Mesopotamia were stronger than those of Egypt. The reason for this strange phenomenon may lie in ethnic ties. Since all these peoples spoke Semitic languages closely related to those spoken in Babylonia and Assyria, they may have been more attached to the eastern culture than to that of their political overlords. Hence we find that the Babylonian language and script were used in all correspondence between the different city rulers, and between them and the Egyptian court. The clay tablet served them as writing material, as it did their eastern neighbors. That the art of writing was extensively practiced is evident from the fact that cuneiform texts have been found in various Palestinian excavations, such as Shechem, Taanach, Tell el–Ḥesī, and Gezer, and from the hundreds of Amarna Letters which, although they were discovered in Egypt, originally came from Palestine and Syria.

Also, a new, alphabetic script, probably invented in the mining region of Sinai toward the end of the patriarchal period, was beginning to be used more extensively in the period under discussion. Short inscriptions written in alphabetic script have been found at Lachish, Beth-shemesh, Shechem, and elsewhere. They suggest that the people of that time were eager to write and were using the new script, because of its obvious advantages over the difficult and cumbersome cuneiform or hieroglyphic scripts with their many hundreds of characters.

The excavation of Palestinian cities dating from the period before the Israelites entered the country shows that the population had attained a high level of craftsmanship, especially in the building of city rock tunnels. The Jebusites, for example, dug a vertical shaft inside the city of Jerusalem, to a depth on a level with the spring Gihon, which was some distance outside the city in the Kidron Valley. From the bottom of this shaft they dug a horizontal passage to the spring, through which they were able to secure water from the spring in a time of emergency without leaving the city.

A magnificent water tunnel was also excavated at Gezer, consisting of a gigantic staircase about 219 ft. long cut out of solid rock. This tunnel is 23 ft. high at the entrance and about 13 ft. wide, but diminishes greatly toward the end. The roof is barrel shaped, and follows the slope of the steps. It ends at a large spring 94 1/2 ft. underneath the rock surface, and 130 ft. below the present surface level. The toolmarks show that the work was done with flint tools, and the contents of the debris reveal that the tunnel fell into disuse not long after the Hebrew invasion. How the ancient citizens of Gezer knew that they would strike a powerful spring at the end of their tunnel is still a mystery.

These engineering feats, which demonstrate the high level of material culture of the Canaanites at the time of the Hebrew invasion, are examples of many Canaanite accomplishments recently come to light.

The Religion and Cult Practices of the Canaanites.—Though it is true that the pre-Israelite population of Palestine had already attained a high cultural level by the time of the conquest, their religious concepts and practices were most degrading. The excavation of Canaanite temples and sacred places has brought to light many cult objects of Canaanite origin. At Ras Shamrah, ancient Ugarit, many Canaanite texts of a mythological nature have been found. Written in an alphabetic cuneiform script, they have shed much light on the language, poetry, and religion of the Canaanites of the middle of the second millennium B.C. They constitute our main source of information on the religion of the land Israel invaded and conquered.

Palestine seems to have had a great number of open-air sanctuaries, called bamoth, “high places,” in the Bible. The Israelites were so attracted by these “high places” that they took them over and dedicated them to God, in spite of His explicit command that He be worshiped at one place only, the place where the sanctuary was situated (Deuteronomy 12:5, 11). Various prophets denounced these pagan places of worship (Jeremiah 7:31; 19:13; 32:35; Hosea 4:12, 13, 15; Amos 2:8; 4:4, 5), but it was most difficult to wean the people away from them. Even some of the best kings—Amaziah, Uzziah, and Jotham, for example—did not destroy them (2 Kings 14:3, 4; 15:4, 34, 35).

One of the best-preserved high places excavated in Palestine was found at Gezer, about halfway between Jerusalem and the coast. It was an open place, without any traces of building activity. However, it contained several caves, of which some were filled with ash and bones, probably the remains of sacrifices, since the bones were of men, women, children, infants, cattle, sheep, goats, and deer. Two of the caves were connected by a narrow winding tunnel, so that one of them could be used as a sacred place where the inquiring worshiper might consult an oracle. Every whispered word spoken in the smaller cave can be heard clearly in the larger one. It is not impossible that a cult object, perhaps an idol, once stood in front of the hole in the wall that connected the two caves, and that the worshipers imagined they received answers to their prayers in this place. Similar oracle places are known to have existed in Greece and Mesopotamia. In the middle of the main cave was a large block of stone, on which lay the skeleton of an infant, perhaps the remains of the last child sacrificed in this place.

Aboveground a row of 10 stone pillars was found. The tallest of these pillars is almost 11 ft. high, the shortest, 5 1/2 ft. In Hebrew such a stone pillar is called maṣṣebah, “image” (see Levites 26:1; Deuteronomy 16:22; Micah 5:13), more correctly, “pillar” (RSV). It is not certain whether these pillars were connected with sun worship, or whether they were symbols of fertility representative of the “sacred” phallus erectus. Several altars were also connected with the high place, and on the rock floor were many cup-shaped holes probably used for the reception of libations, or “drink offerings.”

Another well-preserved high place has been found on one of the mountains near Petra, the capital of the Edomites. Although this sacred place is of a much later date (1st century B.C.), it probably differed little from similar places of earlier times. A great altar was cut out of the virgin rock. A stairway of six steps leads up to its fire hearth. In front of the altar is a great rectangular court, with an elevated platform in the middle, where the slaughtering of the sacrifice took place. A nearly square water tank has been hewn out of the rock, for use in connection with ablution rituals. This high place also has characteristic cups for pouring out libation offerings, and nearby there are obelisk-shaped standing pillars without which a high place apparently would have been incomplete.

Canaanite temples have also been excavated in Palestinian cities, such as Megiddo and Beth-shan. These sacred structures usually contain two rooms; the inner with a raised platform on which the cult image originally had stood served as the main sanctuary. However, the Canaanite cult was not limited to temples and high places. Numerous small stone altars found in Palestine show that the people had private shrines where sacrifices were offered. These stone altars were usually hewn out of one block of stone. The hearth was on the upper part, with four horns at the corners. Cult images have been found in great numbers in every Palestinian excavation. Most of these are little figurines representing a nude goddess with the sex features accentuated, showing that they were connected with the fertility cult, around which much of the Canaanite worship centered.

Canaanite Deities.—At the head of the Canaanite pantheon stood El, called “the father of years,” also “the father of men,” who was symbolized by a bull. In spite of his being the highest titular god, he was thought to be old and tired, and hence weak and feeble. According to a later Phoenician scholar, Philo of Byblos, El had three wives, Astarte, Asherah, and Baaltis (probably Anath), who were at the same time his sisters. Also in the Ugaritic texts Asherah is attested as El’s wife.

As patron of the sea Asherah is commonly called “Asherah of the Sea,” but also “creatress of the gods,” and “Holiness,” in both Canaan and Egypt. She was usually represented in pictures and on reliefs as a beautiful nude prostitute standing on a lion and holding a lily in one hand and a serpent in the other. She seems to have been worshiped under the symbol of a tree trunk, “groves” in the KJV (2 Kings 17:10). She found ready acceptance among the Israelites, who seem to have worshiped cult symbols dedicated to Asherah almost continuously during the pre-exilic period, for they were in a deplorable state of apostasy most of the time.

Another important Canaanite goddess was Astarte, Heb.‘Ashtoreth, “the great goddess who conceives but does not bear.” She is depicted as a nude woman astride a galloping horse, brandishing shield and lance in her hands. The Phoenicians attributed to her two sons, named according to Philo of Byblos, Pothos, “sexual desire,” and Eros, “sexual love.” Astarte plaques of a crude form are numerous in Palestinian sites excavated, but it is significant that they have not been discovered in any early Israelite level. This is true of the excavations carried on at Bethel, Gibeah, Tell en–Naṣbeh, and Shiloh, showing that the early Israelites shunned the idols of the Canaanites.

Anath, the third major goddess of the Canaanites, was the most immoral and bloodthirsty of all deities. Her rape by her brother Baal formed a standing theme in Canaanite mythology, finding entrance even into the literature of the Egyptians. Nevertheless, she is always called “the virgin,” a curious comment on the debased Canaanite concept of virginity. Her thirst for blood was insatiable, and her warlike exploits are described in a number of texts. It is claimed that she smote the peoples of the east and the west, that she lopped off heads like sheaves, and hands so that they flew around like locusts. She is then described as binding the heads to her back, the hands to her girdle, exulting while plunging knee deep into the blood of knights, and hip deep into the gore of heroes. In doing this she found so much delight that her liver swelled with laughter. Moreover, she enjoyed killing not only human beings but also gods. For example, the death of the god Mot is attributed to her. He was cleft by her with a sword, winnowed with a fan, burned in the fire, ground up in a hand mill, and finally sown in the fields.

Baal, although not the chief god, played a most important role in the Canaanite pantheon. He was considered to be the son of El, the chief god, and a brother of Anath. Being held responsible for lightning, thunder, and rain, he was thought to bring fertility to the land of Canaan, which was entirely dependent on rain for agricultural purposes. At the beginning of the dry season, his devotees supposed, Baal was murdered by the evil god Mot, and the annual feast of his resurrection, probably at the time of the first rain, was an occasion of great rejoicing and festivity. Baal is the chief figure of all the mythological poetry of Ugarit, in fact, of all religious literature. When, in Elijah’s time, Israel had turned to Baal worship, his impotence was clearly demonstrated by the withholding of rain for three years. God designed His people to learn that the introduction of Baal worship would not increase the fertility of their land, but would actually bring famine. At Mt. Carmel, Elijah gave a conclusive demonstration that Baal was helpless as a rain god, indeed, that he was nonexistent.

Besides the gods named, there was a host of other deities with minor functions, but space makes it impossible to give more than a cursory survey of the complex religion of the Canaanites, the various exploits of the Canaanite gods, their lust for blood, their vices and immoral acts. However, it may suffice to say that the Canaanite religion was simply a reflection of the morals of the people. A people cannot stand on a higher moral level than their gods. If the gods commit incest, adultery, and fornication, if they exult in bloodshed and senseless murders, their worshipers will not act differently. It is therefore not astonishing to learn that ritual prostitution of both sexes was practiced in the temples, that in these “sacred” houses homosexuals formed recognized guilds, and that on feast days the most immoral orgies imaginable were held in the temples and high places. We also find that infants were sacrificed on altars or buried alive to appease an angry god, that snake worship was widespread, and that the Canaanites wounded and mutilated themselves in times of grief and mourning, a practice that was prohibited among the Israelites (Levites 19:28; Deuteronomy 14:1).

Effects of Canaanite Religion.—How their religious thinking influenced the Canaanites’ way of life is well illustrated by the story of Naboth’s death at the hand of Jezebel for refusing to give up his vineyard to Ahab (1 Kings 21). When Ahab’s request was rejected by Naboth, the king was deeply offended and grieved, but he saw no reason for doing anything against Naboth. His wife, however, a Phoenician princess and passionate worshiper of Canaanite gods and goddesses like Baal and Asherah, immediately proposed a way to have Naboth killed and his property impounded.

In Ugaritic literature a similar story is found. The goddess Anath desired to possess a beautiful bow belonging to Aqhat. She requested him to give the bow to her in return for gold and silver. When Aqhat refused to part with his bow and advised her to have one made for herself, she tried to change his mind by promising him eternal life. This being to no avail, she plotted his destruction and secured possession of the coveted bow. We do not know whether Jezebel knew this story, and whether she was influenced by it or not, but it is not strange that a woman who was educated in an environment where such stories were told about the gods would have no scruples about applying similar means to achieve her purpose.

Because of the depravity of the Canaanites, Israel was commanded to destroy them. An understanding of the religion and immorality connected with Canaanite worship explains God’s severity toward the people who practiced it.

The Crossing of the Jordan River.—Bible critics declare that the story of Israel’s crossing the Jordan is an incredible myth, that it would be utterly impossible that the river should cease its flow for the space of time required for so vast a multitude to pass over. The fact is, history records at least two instances during the past 700 years when the Jordan suddenly ceased flowing and many miles of the river bed remained dry for a number of hours. As the result of an earthquake, on the night preceding December 8, A.D. 1267, a large section of the west bank opposite Damieh fell into the river, completely damming its flow for 16 hours. This is the very location where, according to the Bible record, “the waters which came down from above stood and rose up upon an heap” (see on Joshua 3:16). Near Tell ed–Dâmiyeh, the Biblical city of Adam, not far from where the Jabbok flows into the Jordan, the river valley narrows into a gorge that makes such an occurrence as the complete blocking of the river a comparatively simple matter.

On July 11, 1927, the river ran dry again. A landslide near the ford at Tell ed–Dâmiyeh, caused by a severe earthquake, carried away part of the west bank of the river, thus blocking its flow for 21 hours and flooding much of the plain around Tell ed–Dâmiyeh. Eventually, these waters forced their way back into the usual channel. For historical data on these two instances see John Garstang and J. B. E. Garstang, The Story of Jericho [1940], p. 136, 137; D. H. Kallner-Amiram, Israel Exploration Journal,Vol. I [1950-1951], pp. 229, 236.

In the light of this evidence critics, reversing themselves, will no doubt now wish to dismiss the Jordan miracle of Joshua’s day as simply a natural phenomenon, the result of an earthquake. Any explanation, no matter how incredible, seems better to some men than admitting that God performs miracles We would ask: How could Joshua know a day ahead that an earthquake would block the river 20 miles upstream? Even more incredible, how could he know the exact moment of the earthquake, in order to direct the priests bearing the ark to march forward so that their feet would reach the riverbank just when the water ceased to flow (see Joshua 3)? Are these Bible critics able to produce earthquakes? Or can they even predict the hour or the day when one will occur and regulate its effects so as to accomplish their objectives? The answer is No And this resounding No wipes out forever their foolish objections to the simple Bible statement that a miracle occurred. Whether or not God caused an earthquake upon this occasion, we know not; we do know that He shakes the earth and makes it tremble (Psalms 60:2; Isaiah 2:19, 21) and that the elements fulfill His will (Psalms 148:8). But the very shaking of the earth, though described by men as an earthquake, is in this case of the Jordan truly a miracle.

The Invasion of Canaan Under Joshua.—Jericho was the first city that blocked the way of the invading Hebrews. The Jericho of Joshua’s time has since the Middle Ages been identified with the mound Tell es–Sulṭân, which is situated close to modern Jericho and not far from the river Jordan. In excavating the ancient ruins of the city Prof. John Garstang found the remains of city walls that showed signs of destruction he attributed to an earthquake. Various reasons led him to the conclusion that he had found the ruins of Joshua’s Jericho. But further excavations, in the 1950’s, under the direction of Dr. Kathleen M. Kenyon, yielded evidence that would assign those walls to an earlier century and uncovered no remains that could be assigned to Joshua’s time except a portion of a house and some pottery in the tombs outside the city indicating burials there in the 14th century. Unfortunately, the top levels of that mound have been so badly destroyed, particularly by erosion, that the later remains have been virtually obliterated. It is questioned whether the site will ever provide archeological evidence that will shed light on the Bible story of the fall of Jericho (Joshua 6).

From the Bible, however, we know that this city, the first one conquered by the Israelites, fell as the result of a divine act of judgment that the Canaanites had brought upon themselves. The strongly fortified city was suddenly destroyed and its contents and population—with the exception of Rahab and her family—were given to the flames.

The next city taken after the fall of Jericho was the little town of Ai (Joshua 8). Archeologists have identified Ai with the ruins of et–Tell, excavated during three seasons under Mme. Judith Marquet-Krause, from 1933 to 1935. However, this identification cannot be correct, since the city uncovered was one of the largest of ancient Palestine, whereas the Bible speaks of Ai as a place much smaller than Jericho (see Joshua 7:3). Furthermore, excavation has shown that et–Tell was destroyed several centuries before the Israelite conquest, and had been in ruins for hundreds of years when Jericho fell to the Israelites. However, as Vincent has proposed, it is possible that the city ruins served as a habitation for a small population in the time of Joshua, because the name Ai means “ruin.” This view may be correct, or the real location of the town may yet be discovered.

The Conquest of Central Canaan.—With the fall of Jericho and Ai the central part of Canaan lay open before the invaders. When the Israelites proceeded inland they found to their consternation that they had been deceived by the inhabitants of Gibeon and other cities, with whom they had but a short time previously concluded an alliance of mutual assistance, not knowing that their new allies were inhabitants of Canaan. Hence, the Israelites could not take their cities, and were even obliged to assist them when they were attacked by neighboring city kings who resented the Gibeonite alliance with Israel (Joshua 9).

To fulfill a command previously given by Moses, the Israelites went to Shechem, built an altar, and inscribed the law on a plastered stone monument (see Deuteronomy 11:29-32; Deuteronomy 27:1-8; Joshua 8:32-35). Half of the people stood on Mt. Ebal and the other half on Mt. Gerizim, while the blessings and curses prescribed by Moses were read to them. The Bible does not explain how it was possible for the Israelites to take possession of the region of Shechem, in the central part of the country. The impression, however, is gained that no hostilities preceded their taking possession of this section of the land. Although the Bible is silent concerning events that led to the surrender of Shechem, an Amarna Letter (No. 289) written a few years later by the king of Jerusalem to Pharaoh probably contains information as to how the Israelites gained possession of the Shechem region. In this letter the king of Jerusalem complains that the Habiru (Hebrews) had become so strong that there was danger that he and other kings who still withstood them would have to surrender their own cities as Shechem had been surrendered. The significant passage reads, “To us the same thing will happen, after Labaja and the land of Sakmi [Shechem] have given [all] to the Habiru [Hebrew].” There is therefore reason to conclude that the king of Shechem followed the example of the Gibeonites and surrendered without a fight.

In order to punish those cities that had voluntarily surrendered to the Israelites, the Amorite king of Jerusalem made an alliance with four other princes of southern Palestine and threatened to take Gibeon. Responding to an urgent Gibeonite plea for help, Joshua marched against the five kings and defeated their armies in the memorable battle of Azekah and Makkedah, for which the day was lengthened in response to Joshua’s prayer. The five kings fell into Joshua’s hands and were killed, and in the ensuing campaign a number of Canaanite cities in the south were taken. However, no attempt was made either to annihilate the defeated populations or to occupy their cities. On the contrary, the Israelites, after taking Canaanite cities, apparently returned them to their inhabitants, and retreated to their camp at Gilgal on the Jordan (Joshua 10).

Later, a campaign against a hostile alliance under the leadership of the king of Hazor, in the north, was undertaken. In the resulting battle of Merom (Lake Huleh) the Israelites were once more victorious. Although they destroyed Hazor completely and pursued their fleeing enemies, they made no attempt at permanent occupation of this part of the country, but left it to their defeated foes as they had the southland (Joshua 11).

The only other military campaigns carried out during the period of the conquest were those of Caleb against Hebron, of his brother Othniel against Debir (Joshua 14:6-15; Joshua 15:13-19; Judges 1:10-15), and of the tribes of Judah and Simeon against Jerusalem (Judges 1:3-8). However, many of the cities taken during the several campaigns were not occupied, as, for example, Jerusalem (see Judges 1:8); cf. verse 21 and 2 Samuel 5:6-9, Taanach (see Joshua 12:21; cf. Judges 1:27), Megiddo (see Joshua 12:21; cf. Judges 1:27), Gezer (see Joshua 12:12; cf. 1 Kings 9:16), and others. The Biblical records tell also that whole regions, such as Philistia, Phoenicia, and northern and southern Syria (Joshua 13:2-6), remained unoccupied.

The Conquest of Canaan a Gradual Process.—The conclusion derived from these different statements is that during the period of the conquest an attempt was made only to gain a foothold. Various local kings and coalitions were defeated, because they contested the right of the Hebrews to settle in western Canaan. However, no serious attempts seems to have been made by the Israelites to dislocate all the Canaanites from their cities and strongholds, although a few cities were definitely taken into possession at that time. Having spent the last 40 years in the desert as nomads, the Hebrews seem to have been satisfied to settle down as tent dwellers in Canaan. As long as they found pastures for their cattle and were not molested by the native inhabitants, they had no desire to live in fortified cities like the Canaanites. Though Joshua divided the country among the 12 tribes, this division was largely in anticipation of their occupying fully the respective areas. This can clearly be seen from a study of the lists given in Joshua 15 to 21, in which numerous cities are mentioned that were not possessed until centuries later. However, as the Hebrews became stronger, they made the Canaanites tributary (Judges 1:28) and eventually dispossessed them.

This process was gradual and took centuries, not being complete before the time of David and Solomon. It is possible that in Acts 13:19, Paul refers to this long period of conquest, from Joshua to Solomon. According to the earliest New Testament manuscripts, this text reads, “When he had destroyed seven nations in the land of Canaan, he gave them their land as an inheritance, for about four hundred and fifty years” (RSV), meaning that it took them about 450 years before the whole land was actually taken into possession as an inheritance.

This picture of a gradual conquest of Canaan by the Hebrews, from piecing together all the Scriptural evidence, is supported by historical evidence, as can be learned from the Amarna Letters and other extra-Biblical sources of that period and the ensuing centuries. The Amarna Letters, all written during the first half of the 14th century B.C., give us a good picture of what happened during that time. Many of these letters originated in Palestine and testify vividly to the chaotic conditions existing in the country, according to Canaanite views.

Most instructive are the letters of Abdu-Kheba, the king of Jerusalem, who complained bitterly that the king of Egypt turned a deaf ear to his petitions for assistance, since the Habiru—probably the Hebrews (see on Genesis 10:21; Genesis 14:13)—gaining power in the country, while he and other local rulers of the land were fighting a losing battle against them. In one letter (No. 271) he wrote: “Let the king, may Lord, protect his land from the hand of the Habiru, and if not, then let the king, my Lord, send chariots to fetch us, lest our servants smite us.” Venting his chagrin over the fact that all his pleas had been unsuccessful, and that he had received neither weapons nor forces, he asked in all earnestness: “Why do you like the Habiru, and dislike the [faithful] governors?” (No. 286). He warned the Pharaoh in the same letter: The “Habiru plunder all the lands of the king. If there are archers [sent to assist him in his fight] in this year the lands of the king, my Lord, will remain [intact], but if there are [sent] no archers, the lands of the king, my Lord, will be lost.” He then added a few personal words to the scribe who would read the letter to the Pharaoh, asking him to present the matter in eloquent words to the king, since all the Palestinian lands of the Pharaoh were being lost.

These few quotations from the letters of Abdu-Kheba of Jerusalem, which could be multiplied many times, may suffice to show how the Canaanites themselves viewed the political conditions of their country during the time of the conquest and immediately after the period described in the book of Joshua. These letters reveal that many Canaanite princes, like those of Jerusalem, Gezer, Megiddo, Accho, Lachish, and others, were still in possession of their city states decades after the Hebrews had crossed the Jordan, but that they were in mortal fear that their days were numbered, and that the hated Habiru would take their thrones and possessions.

This picture agrees well with that gained from a study of the Biblical records. However, the names of the kings of the Amarna Letters are not the same as those mentioned in the Bible as rulers of the same cities. The king of Jerusalem is called Adoni-zedec in Joshua 10:1, but Abdu-Kheba in the Amarna Letters. Gezer’s king was Horam, according to Joshua 10:33, but Yapahu, according to the Amarna Letters, etc. This difference is easily accounted for if the time element is taken into consideration. The Canaanite kings mentioned in Joshua were defeated and killed by the Hebrews very soon after the invasion of the country began in 1405 B.C., whereas the kings mentioned in the Amarna Letters lived several years later, when the Hebrews had settled down in the country, and taken possession of several regions.

That some of the cities already mentioned, like Jerusalem, Gezer, Megiddo, and others, remained in the hand of native princes or Egyptian governors for centuries after the invasion of the Hebrews is attested not only in the Bible but also by other records. The important Canaanite fortress of Beth-shan, for example, is mentioned in Judges 1:27 as an unconquered city among those allotted to Manasseh by Joshua. This fact is corroborated by a notice in an Amarna Letter (No. 289) that the ruler of Gath had a garrison in Beth-shan, which means that the Israelites could not have possessed the city at that time. Toward the end of the 14th century Seti I of Egypt occupied the city, during his first Asiatic campaign, and erected victory steles in its temples. The presence of a similar stele of Ramses II and other Egyptian monuments of the 13th century B.C. excavated in recent years in the ruins of Beth-shan, prove, furthermore, that this city remained in Egyptian hands for a long time while the Hebrews occupied great parts of the land. The same is true of Megiddo and some other cities.

The period of the Judges.—This period of approximately 300 years has been well characterized in the closing words of the book of Judges (chapter 21:25) as a time when “every man did that which was right in his own eyes.” It was a period of alternating strength and weakness, politically and religiously. Having gained a foothold in the mountainous parts of Canaan, the people of Israel lived among the nations of the country. They established their sanctuary at Shiloh, where it remained for the greater part of the period. Most of the people lived like nomads in tents, and possessed few of the cities of the country. They were split up into tribal units and lacked national unity, which would have given them strength to withstand the many foes about them on all sides. The song of Deborah shows clearly that even in times of crisis and dire need some tribes remained aloof from their afflicted brethren, if they themselves were not affected by the oppressors.

Living thus among the Canaanites the Hebrews were brought into close contact with the religion of the country and its cult system. This seemed so attractive to many that great sections of the people accepted the Canaanite religion. The repeated periods of apostasy were always followed by periods of moral weakness, a situation that provided their more powerful enemies an opportunity to oppress them. In such periods of distress a strong political leader invariably arose and, driven by the Spirit of God, led His people—in whole or in part—through repentance back to God. Being usually a military leader at the same time, he will rallied one or more tribes around himself and liberated those that were oppressed. Each of these great leaders was called a “judge,” shophet in Hebrew. This title included more power and authority than the English word suggests. They provided spiritual and political leadership, as well as judicial and military functions.

The Early Judges.—The first of these judges was Caleb’s younger brother Othniel, who liberated his nation from an eight-year oppression by the king Chushan-rishathaim of Mesopotamia, probably one of the Mitami princes whose name has not yet been found outside the Bible—which is not at all strange in view of the fact that Mitanni source material is fragmentary. This period probably coincided with the last years of the Eighteenth Dynasty of Egypt—the reigns of Smenkhkare, Tutankhamen, Eye, and Harmhab—when one king followed another in rapid succession.

It was probably about this time that Seti I, the first strong Pharaoh of Egypt in many years, invaded Palestine and crushed a Canaanite rebellion in the eastern part of the Valley of Esdraelon. That Canaanite cities were restored to Egyptian suzerainty did not affect the Israelites, who probably had not taken part in the rebellion, and possessed no cities the Egyptians could claim as their own. However, it is possible that Seti I had an encounter with some Hebrews of the northern tribe of Issachar, because he mentions on a poorly preserved monument found at Beth-shan, that the “Hebrews [‘Apiru] of mount Jarmuth, with the Tayaru, were engaged in attacking the nomads of Ruhma.” Although Tayaru and Ruhma have not yet been identified, Jarmuth was one of the cities that Joshua allocated to the Levites in the territory of Issachar (Joshua 21:29). Seti I may thus have fought against some Hebrews of the tribe of Issachar, perhaps punishing them for attacking his allies, but the consequences for the Hebrews seem not to have been far reaching, or the Biblical records would have so indicated. However, it should never be forgotten that the book of Judges, reporting the history of Israel during almost 300 years, contains only a fragmentary record of all that happened during this long period.

Ehud, the second judge, liberated the southern tribes from an 80-year oppression by Moabites, Ammonites, and Amalekites by killing Moabite king Eglon. The 80 years of rest that the southern tribes enjoyed after Ehud’s heroic act coincided in part with the long reign of Ramses II of Egypt. This Pharaoh marched through Palestine along the coastal road, which was not in Israelite hands, to meet the Hittite king at Kadesh on the Orontes at the famous battle of Kadesh. Here, both Ramses and the Hittites claimed victory. Otherwise, Ramses seems not to have been seriously concerned about his Asiatic possessions. He kept garrisons in the Palestinian cities of Beth-shan and Megiddo, which lay in the Valley of Esdraelon, and probably also in certain strategic coastal cities. So long as the Israelites did not contest his possession of these cities, their settlement in the mountainous parts of Palestine was of no concern to the Pharaoh.

In several inscriptions Ramses II does mention that Hebrew (‘Apiru) slaves were engaged in his various building activities in Egypt; hence we conclude that Hebrews occasionally fell into the hands of his army commanders in Palestine. It is also possible that these Israelites were made slaves by the Canaanite king Jabin of Hazor, when for 20 years during the reign of Ramses II he oppressed the Hebrews. The heroic leadership of Deborah and Barak put an end to this unhappy situation.

Gideon’s Judgeship.—The 80 years of rest that had followed Ehud’s liberation of Israel from Moabite oppression in the south was broken by a Midianite oppression lasting 7 years. It was probably during this period also that Merneptah, son of Ramses II, made the raid into Palestine of which he boasts in the famous Israel Stele. Here he claims to have destroyed Israel, so that it had no “seed” left. His record obviously reflects the usual Egyptian tendency to exaggerate, and his claim to have utterly destroyed Israel is therefore not to be taken seriously. Nevertheless, it seems certain from his remarks that he encountered Israelites somewhere in Palestine upon this occasion.

Gideon, one of the outstanding judges, liberated his people from Midianite oppression, smiting a great foreign army with a small band of faithful, alert, and daring Israelite warriors. The story of his exploits and judgeship reveals also that intertribal strife flared up from time to time, and that the people had a strong desire for a unified leadership, expressed in their offer of kingship to Gideon—an honor he wisely declined.

Momentous events took place during the 40 years of Gideon’s peaceful judgeship. While Israel lived in the mountainous part of Palestine, the Peoples of the Sea moved along the coastal regions, during the reign of Ramses III, in their unsuccessful attempt to invade Egypt. Bloody battles on land and sea were fought during this time. The Egyptian victories over these invaders eventually turned the tide of this great migration of peoples and saved Egypt from one of the gravest perils that ever threatened its national existence, prior to the Assyrian invasion. Some of the defeated tribes again turned northward toward Asia Minor, whence they had come. Others, however, settled in fertile coastal regions of Palestine. Among these were the Tjekker, in the vicinity of Dor, to the south of Mt. Carmel in the lovely Plain of Sharon, and the Philistines, who strengthened related tribes that had occupied some coastal cities of southern Palestine for a long time. The Israelites, who may have followed with great anxiety the momentous events that took place so close to their habitations, did not vet realize that these Philistines would soon become their most bitter foes.

When Gideon died after a judgeship of 40 years, his son Abimelech, with the help of the people of Shechem, usurped the rulership by killing all his brothers and proclaiming himself king. His rule, however, lasted only three years, and ended, as it had begun, in bloodshed. It is questionable whether his so-called kingdom extended its power beyond the vicinity of Shechem.

The Later Judges.—After him came the judges, Tola of Issachar (23 years) and Jair of Gilead (22 years). No important events are recorded of their time, a fact that seems to indicate that the 45 years of their rulership were rather uneventful.

After Jair’s death two oppressions began at approximately the same time, one in the east by the Ammonites, which lasted for 18 years and was ended by the freebooter general, Jephthah, and one in the west of 40 years’ duration by the Philistines. This Philistine oppression had more disastrous effects on the Hebrews than any of the previous times of distress.

As already noted, Jephthah made an important chronological statement (Judges 11:26) at the time he began his war of liberation against the Ammonites. He claims that by that time Israel had lived for 300 years in Heshbon and nearby cities which had been taken from the Amorite king Sihon under the leadership of Moses, and that the Ammonites had no right to contest Israel’s possession of these cities. Jephthah’s six years of judgeship must therefore have begun approximately 300 years after the end of the 40 years of desert sojourning, and hence about 1106 B.C.

While the eastern tribes were afflicted by the Ammonites those in the west endured the fury of the Philistines. Having consolidated their position in the coastal region of southern Palestine, where they were not molested by the extremely weak successors of Ramses III of Egypt, the Philistines turned their attention toward the hinterland and subjugated the neighboring Israelite tribes, especially Dan, Judah, and Simeon. This oppression began at the time when Eli was high priest, in whose household Samuel grew up as a boy. Soon after the beginning of this oppression Samson was born, and upon reaching manhood he harassed the oppressors of his nation for 20 years, until they took him captive. Endowed with supernatural strength, Samson caused the Philistines much harm. If his character had been disciplined, he might have become the liberator of Israel instead of dying an ignominious death. It may have been during those years that the Philistines won the battle at Aphek and captured the ark, killing also the two sons of the high priest Eli. This battle marked the lowest point in the history of Israel during the period of the judges, some 300 years after the tabernacle had been moved by Joshua to Shiloh. Hence, the date for this event is about 1100 B.C.

After the disastrous battle of Aphek, Samuel began his work as spiritual leader of Israel. However, he was not immediately ready to wage a successful war against the Philistines, with their superior strength and war techniques. The oppression went on for another 20 years, but ended with the victory of the Israelites under Samuel at the battle of Ebenezer (1 Samuel 7:13). After Ebenezer, Samuel began a peaceful and highly successful judgeship over Israel. This must have continued for about 30 years, until he bowed to the popular demand for a king. Samuel’s sons, whom he had appointed as his successors, proved unfit as leaders and were rejected by the people.

With Saul’s coronation as king of the entire nation the heroic age ended and a new era began. Prior to this time Israel’s form of government was a theocracy, since the rulers were, presumably, appointed by God Himself and led by Him in the performance of their task. The new form of government began as a kingship with the ruler appointed by God, but soon developed into a hereditary monarchy. (The theocracy formally ended at the cross.

NOTE: It is not possible to assign exact dates for the various judgeships and for other events of this period. The dates here given are only suggestive. The dates given for Egyptian kings are approximately correct.

Conditions During the Time of the Judges.—The sorry conditions prevailing in Palestine during most of the time of the judges are also reflected in two literary documents from Egypt. These are so interesting and enlightening that a short description of their contents must be given here. The first is a satirical letter in which the journey of a mahar (an Egyptian envoy) through Syria and Palestine is described. The document comes from the second half of the 13th century B.C., and may have been contemporary with the Midianite oppression to which Gideon put an end.

The document describes the Palestinian roads as overgrown with cypresses, oaks, and cedars that “reached to the heavens,” making travel difficult. It is stated that lions and leopards were numerous, a detail reminiscent of Samson’s and David’s experiences (Judges 14:5); (1 Samuel 17:34). Twice, thieves were encountered by the envoy. One night they stole his horse and clothing; on another occasion, his bow, sheath knife, and quiver. Also, he met Bedouins, of whom he says that “their hearts were not mild.” Shuddering seized him and his hair stood up, while his soul “lay in his hand.” However, not being himself a model of morality, he was caught in an escapade with a native girl at Joppa, and paid for his freedom only by selling his shirt of fine Egyptian linen.

This story, written in the form of a letter, whether true or fictitious, shows a remarkable knowledge of Palestinian topography and geography. Among many other well-known places it mentions Megiddo, Beth-shan, Accho, Shechem, Achshaph, and Sarepta. The story vividly illustrates the state of insecurity found in the country, where bad roads, robbers, and fierce-looking Bedouins were common. The description of the sad conditions met in Palestine reminds one of the experiences of the traveling Levite described in Judges 19, and the statement that “every man did that which was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25).

The second story written in the first half of the 11th century B.C., at the height of the Philistine oppression after the ark was taken in the battle of Aphek, describes the journey of Wenamon, an Egyptian royal agent, to the Phoenician port city of Byblos to purchase cedarwood for the bark of Amen. Wenamon was sent by the priest-king, Heri-Hor of Thebes, and had been given a divine statue of the god Amen to protect him on the way and give him success in his mission. However, he was given only about 1 1/4 lb. of gold and 7 3/4 lb. of silver as money to purchase the desired cedarwood.

Wenamon left Egypt by ship, but when he reached the Palestinian port city of Dor, which was in the hands of the Tjekker, his gold and silver were stolen from him. He lodged a complaint with the local king, who refused to take any responsibility for the theft. After Wenamon had spent 9 days in Dor without finding either his stolen money or the thief, he stole about 7 1/2 lb. of silver himself, and then sailed for Byblos. However, the king of Byblos refused for 29 days to see him, and ordered him out of his city. On the 29th day after his arrival one of the king’s pages had a visionary frenzy in the name of Amen and advised the king to grant Wenamon an interview. During this interview the king was extremely impolite, and asked for official credentials, telling Wenamon that for a previous shipment of cedars 250 lb. of silver had been paid. He made it clear that he was the master of the Lebanon, that he had no obligations toward Egypt, although he admitted that his people owed much to the culture of the Nile country.

The king of Byblos finally agreed to send a shipment of cedar to Egypt, and received a shipload of hides, papyrus scrolls, royal linen, gold, silver, etc., from Egypt in payment. The desired cedars were then cut and loaded, at which time the Phoenician king reminded Wenamon that a previous emissary had waited 17 years at Byblos and finally died there without getting his cedar. This was intended to point out to Wenamon that in Asia the prestige of Egypt had dwindled to nothing, and that its ambassadors no longer deserved the respect they had formerly been accustomed to receive.

When Wenamon was finally ready to leave the harbor of Byblos and set sail for Egypt, he found the Tjekker waiting with their ships to catch him and his load of cedarwood. He managed, however, to flee with his ship to Cyprus, where he barely escaped death by the hands of unfriendly natives. Unfortunately, the papyrus breaks off at this point of the narrative, and the rest of the story is therefore not known. It must, however, have had a happy ending, or the Egyptians would not have written and preserved it.

The story of Wenamon’s mission is also instructive in that it highlights the chaotic political conditions of Palestine during the period of the judges. It shows that Egypt had lost all authority in Syria, and that an Egyptian envoy, whose arrival in former ages would have spread awe, could now be treated with contempt and disdain. We see, furthermore, that traveling was insecure, that people robbed and were robbed, and that no one was ever sure of his life.

VII. Egypt in Decline—Dynasties Twenty-one to Twenty-five (C. 1085—663 B.C.)

The period under discussion shows Egypt at a very low level. Source material is scarce, and great gaps exist in our historical knowledge of this period. Also, Egyptian chronology for this period is uncertain, and depends on brief Bible references and Mesopotamian records. Since but a few of the Egyptian kings of this period are mentioned either in the Bible or in cuneiform sources, all dates preceding 663 B.C. are only approximately correct.

Priest-Kings of the Twenty-first Dynasty (C. 1085—C. 950 B.C.).—The Twentieth Dynasty, the weak Ramessides, ended about 1085 B.C. Tanis, in the eastern Delta, remained the political center. There, Smendes, whose origin is obscure, managed to become king, while Heri-Hor, the high priest of Amen, proclaimed himself king of Thebes, the earlier Upper Egyptian capital. The two rival kings had little political power, and the cultural level of Egypt fell rapidly. Although a grandson of Heri-Hor married a daughter of a king of Tanis, political unity was not achieved. The low ebb of Egypt’s political power during this period is apparent from the treatment Wenamon received on his mission to Byblos, as already noted. One of the last kings of this dynasty was probably Solomon’s Egyptian father-in-law (1 Kings 3:1).

The Libyan Twenty-second and Twenty-third Dynasties (C. 950—C. 750 B.C.).—It is unknown how the change from the Twenty-first to the Twenty-second Dynasty occurred. The first king of the new dynasty, Sheshonk, the Biblical Shishak, was a Libyan army commander, and may have usurped the throne about 950 B.C. During the late Nineteenth and early Twentieth Dynasties Libyans had been brought to Egypt in great numbers as prisoners of war. Many were then used as soldiers in the wars of Ramses III against the Peoples of the Sea. They served a number of kings as mercenaries. Some achieved honor and office, as, for instance, a family in Heracleopolis in the northern part of Upper Egypt, of whom several members served as officers in the army and others became governors of Egyptian cities and districts.

When Sheshonk came to the throne he was able to do away with the priestly dynasty at Thebes. Making one of his own sons high priest of Amen, he once more bound Thebes, the religious center, to the monarchy and achieved political unity in Egypt. The new king was engaged for several years in restoring orderly conditions in the county, and was successful to a certain degree.

As soon as he had a free hand in Egypt, Sheshonk turned his attention to Asia, where he made a determined effort to reconstitute the former empire. In this attempt he was favored by the death of King Solomon and the splitting up of the kingdom of Israel into two rival states. Sheshonk’s Palestinian campaign in Rehoboam’s fifth year is briefly described in 1 Kings 14:25, 26, and 2 Chronicles 12:2-4. The Egyptians invested and spoiled many Judean and Israelite cities, among them the rich city of Jerusalem, whence Solomon’s treasures were removed to Egypt. Sheshonk erected victory steles in Palestine. A fragment of one of these has been found at Megiddo, and a statute of the king was unearthed in the excavations of Byblos. When Sheshonk returned to Egypt he celebrated his triumph and had a list of conquered cities engraved on one of the walls of the great Amen temple at Karnak, where about 100 names of Palestinian cities have escaped the destructive forces of nature and man during the past three millenniums. Among these we discover such well-known names as Taanach, Megiddo, Beth-shan, Mahanaim, Gibeon, Beth-horon, Ajalon, and others. Although the campaign was a temporary success, Sheshonk was not able to hold Asia and permanently force his will upon it. The attempt to reorganize the Asian empire was a failure. Egypt lacked its former strength, and had definitely become a second-rate power.

The location of the tombs of the kings of the Twenty-first to Twenty-third Dynasty was unknown until Prof. P. Montet, the French excavator of the ruins of Tanis, discovered some royal tombs of the Twenty-first and Twenty-second Dynasties in that city. Some of the tombs were unspoiled. However, they did not contain such fabulous treasures as the tomb of Tutankhamen, although some beautiful gold and silver objects came to light in these tombs. A very fine golden bracelet from the tomb of Sheshonk’s grandson bears and inscription stating that it had been given to him by his grandfather. It may actually have been made of gold and came into Sheshonk’s possession from the treasures of King Solomon. The tomb of Sheshonk I has not yet been discovered. It may contain valuable information concerning his Asiatic campaign.

Sheshonk’s successors of the Twenty-second as well as the Twenty-third Dynasty, probably all Libyans, were weak kings. The 15 kings of the 2 dynasties reigned for about 200 years (C. 950-750 B.C.), but Egypt was merely a shadow of its former self. It neither played a role in world politics nor produced any works of architecture or art comparable to the products of earlier ages. Its real condition is fittingly characterized a little later by Rab-shakeh, the Assyrian army commander of Sennacherib who said, literally, to the men of Hezekiah, “You are relying now in Egypt, that broken reed of a staff, which will pierce the hand of any man who leans on it. Such is Pharaoh king of Egypt to all who rely on him” (2 Kings 18:21). Though his remarks actually referred to Egypt of the Twenty-fourth Dynasty, no words could better describe the political weakness of the Libyan dynasties.

The Twenty-fourth Dynasty, of Saïs (C. 750—C. 715 B.C.).—It is unknown how the Libyan rule of Tanis ended, or how it was replaced by the short-lived Twenty-fourth Dynasty of native Egyptian princes, but about 750 B.C. Lower Egypt found itself in the hands of Tefnakht of Saïs, in the western Delta. Of this king it is known only that he attempted to conquer Upper Egypt, which, with the important city of Thebes, was held by the Ethiopians.

Of Tefnakht’s son Bocchoris, as the Greeks called him—his Egyptian name was Bakenrenef—we have hardly any contemporary information, but later Greek authors tell many stories about him. He was, according to these sources, a wise king and a great lawgiver. After a short reign of five years (720-715 B.C.) he was deposed by the first king of the Ethiopian Dynasty and burned to death.

It is necessary to point out in this connection that we have only a very fragmentary knowledge concerning conditions in Egypt during this time. It is possible that several kinglets in addition to Tefnakht and Bocchoris ruled over sections of Lower Egypt. In 2 Kings 17:4, “So king of Egypt” is mentioned as having induced Hoshea to revolt against Assyria. Although one Egyptian monument (in the Berlin Museum) contains the hieroglyphic royal name “So,” and the Assyrian sources mention him under the name of Sib’u, we have no further information about this king who probably ruled over a small area of the Delta.

The Ethiopian Kings of the Twenty-fifth Dynasty (C. 715—663 B.C.)—Nubia, today partly in Egypt, partly in Sudan, was generally called Ethiopia by classical authors. Hence, the Ethiopian kings of ancient times were Nubians and did not come from the Abyssinian highland, as the term Ethiopian might indicate.

Nubia belonged to Egypt during most of its historical period up to the Twenty-first Dynasty. Although Egyptian kings occasionally had to subdue rebellions, Nubia usually had been rather quiet and had caused little trouble. However, the time of Egyptian rule ended in the 10th century B.C. during the time of the weak rulers of the Twenty-first Dynasty, when Nubia shook off the Egyptian yoke and founded an independent kingdom with its capital at Napata, near Mt. Barkal and the Fourth Cataract of the Nile. The Egyptian religion, which had been introduced to Nubia during the many centuries of Egyptian rule, was retained, and the Amen cult was practiced in a more conservative style than in Egypt itself.

In his excavation of Napata the American Egyptologist G. A. Reisner uncovered pyramids, temples, and palaces. He was able to reconstruct the history of Nubia from the 10th century to about 300 B.C. and to give us the list of kings who ruled in Napata in unbroken sequence until the capital was moved for some unknown reason to Meroë (about 130 miles [209 km.] north of Khartoum), where the Meroïtic kingdom existed until A.D. 355 and in turn gave way to the Abyssinian power of Axum.

After Nubia gained its independence in the 10th century B.C. and thereafter remained in isolation for about 200 years, it looked with envious eyes toward Egypt, whose political feebleness obvious to everyone. About 750 B.C. the Nubian king Kashta marched north and took all of southern Egypt, including Thebes, the most famous and glorious of all Egyptian cities. The highest ecclesiastical power of the Amen temple at Thebes was Shepenupet II, the daughter of King Osorkon III of the Twenty-third Dynasty, called the “god’s wife.” The office of high priestess had already existed for a long time, and was usually held by a princess of royal blood, by way of securing the loyalty of the priesthood of Amen to the ruling house of Egypt. Kashta forced the officiating “god’s wife” to adopt his own daughter as her successor, and thus bound the priesthood of Amen and the tremendous possessions of that god to his dynasty.

Piankhi, the son and successor of Kashta, felt that his rule over Upper Egypt was threatened by Tefnakht of Saïs, for which reason he marched north and conquered the remaining part of Egypt. His campaign is described on a great stele, containing one of the most detailed and interesting historical texts that has come down to us. Although all Egypt was conquered by Piankhi, he withdrew from the Delta again and left Tefnakht in possession of it. Shabaka, however, the next Ethiopian king, put an end to the Twenty-fourth Dynasty by defeating and killing Bocchoris in 715 B.C., as has already been related.

Piankhi, having conquered all of Egypt, made Thebes his capital. It was the last time that the old and venerated city became the center of Egyptian life and culture. Once more great building activities were carried on, as in the best days of the Eighteenth Dynasty. However, the new glory lasted only a little a little more than 50 years (715-663 B.C.), and came then to an inglorius end, as the Assyrians invaded Egypt and destroyed Thebes.

Egypt in Decline.—Piankhi’s successors were Shabakak, Shabataka, Taharka, and Tanutamon. According to recently published documents Taharka came to the throne about 690 B.C., at the age of 20, as coregent with his brother Shabataka. This co regency continued till the death of the latter six years later. From then on Taharka was sole ruler until 664 B.C., when his nephew Tanutamon ascended the throne. Taharka is known from the Bible under the name of Tirhakah (2 Kings 19:9). We are told there that Sennacherib, when besieging Libnah in Judea, probably after 690 B.C., heard that Taharka was approaching with his army to aid Hezekiah and save Judah from impending annihilation. However, there is no evidence that Taharka really intervened actively in Hezekiah’s favor. The rumor may not have been true. It is actually with reference to the Ethiopian Dynasty that the statement of Rabshakeh (2 Kings 18:21) was made, a statement that was true not only at that time, but also later, in the time of Nebuchadnezzar.

Difficulties in other parts of the Assyrian Empire which required Sennacherib’s full attention elsewhere, and the catastrophe Sennacherib’s army suffered in Palestine, save Egypt temporarily and postponed the end that was evidently soon to come to the proud but feeble kingdom on the Nile.

Esarhaddon, the next Assyrian king, conquered Egypt in 670 B.C. for seven years made it an Assyrian province. We have recovered the famous victory stele of Esarhaddon set up in the north Syrian site of Zenjirli. It depicts the kings of Tyre and Egypt (Taharka) as prisoners of the king of Assyria, the former being depicted as a larger figure than the latter, since the king of Tyre was considered more important than the king of miserable Egypt.

On a stele found in Napata, Tanutamon, the last Ethiopian king who ruled over Upper Egypt, tells that a dream led him to attempt the conquest of Egypt anew. He succeeded in winning most of Upper Egypt and even took Memphis, the Lower Egyptian capital, but could not expel the Assyrian garrisons from the Delta. His success was short-lived, however, and he had to retreat when Assurbanipal marched against him and conquered Thebes. This city, the most beautiful of all ancient Egyptian cities, was completely destroyed. Two of its tall obelisks were transported to Assyria to demonstrate to the Assyrians and the world that a new day had come, and that the Egyptian power had been broken forever. The words of the prophet Nahum reflect the tremendous impression that the destruction of Thebes, the queen of all ancient cities, made on contemporaries (Nahum 3:8).

For the ensuing history of Egypt see Section XIII, “Egypt in the Saïte Period.”

Bible Chronology Timeline - Page 2c