Lipovsky-a 12th century exodus

I recently watched the Ridley Scott film Exodus: Gods and Kings.  It was not nearly as bad as I expected it to be.  I found some things odd.  The main actors mostly look and talk like northern Europeans. Christian Bale as Moses can’t help but sound English-Welsh.  Then there was the geography.  The Egyptian scenes take place in Upper Egypt around Memphis, rather than near Pi-Ramesses in the Nile Delta.  The Red Sea crossing is at the Gulf of Aqaba.  But most movie-goers probably didn’t care.

The reason I mention the movie is because once again Hollywood portrays Ramses II as the pharaoh of the Exodus.  This was also the case in The Ten Commandments (1956). The cinematic reason to do this is that we have all kinds of spectacular stuff from his tomb, so set designers and costume designers have much to work with.  They did a great job in Exodus: Gods and Kings.

It is still true that many scholars agree that Ramses II is the most historically likely candidate for the pharaoh of the Exodus.

The reason for this is the mention of Israel in the Merneptah Stele.  Pharaoh Merneptah boasted of a military campaign into Canaan in which he subdued, among others, Israel.  It is the first clear mention of Israel in any ancient document.  But if Israel had come into Canaan in force by the time of Merneptah, then the Exodus must have taken place during the long reign of his predecessor, Ramses II.  Also the Israelite slaves in Egypt worked on the building projects of Ramses, according to Exodus 1:11.

The identification of Ramses II as the let-my-people-go pharaoh depends on the assumption that the twelve tribes were all in Egypt as slaves at the same time and that none of them had previously left.  Yet we know that a bunch of Western Semites left Egypt at the time of the Hyksos expulsion three hundred years before Ramses II.  The Bible itself occasionally lets slip a reference to Israel outside of Egypt during that period (Judges 11:26).

This is why Igor Lipovsky, in Early Israelites, can make the proposal that the exodus of Moses took place after the time of Merneptah.  The Israel Merneptah speaks of consisted of the house of Joseph and allied tribes who had left Egypt long before the time of Moses. But others (the house of Jacob) remained in Egypt.

During the time of Ramses II Egypt was near the pinnacle of its power both in Egypt and in Canaan.  Merneptah sought to maintain this power.  But after the death of Merneptah, the 19th dynasty went into a swift decline characterized by political chaos.  Lipovsky judges that this set the stage for Moses to bring about his exodus.

He put the exodus right at the change of leadership from Queen Tausret and the new pharaoh, Setnakht, the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th dynasty.  This seems to have happened sometime between 1192 and 1182 BCE.

Lipovsky speculates that Moses returned to Egypt several years before the Exodus and there prepared and bided his time until a civil war (the plagues were natural disasters mixed with the civil disasters described in the Harris Papyrus) gave him leverage to negotiate with the endangered regime.  However, when Setnakht first began to take power and restore order, Moses moved quickly and led the Jacob tribes out of Egypt.

The source that Lipovsky uses for this period is the Harris Papyrus.  He does not seem to be aware of some archeological finds that both help and hurt his case.  I will deal with strengths and weaknesses I see in his detailed scenario in another post.

For now, though, I want to stress the geopolitical reality that makes his date for the exodus appealing.  Egypt was very powerful throughout 13th century.  Seti I, Ramses II, and Merneptah all asserted Egyptian power in Canaan.  They did not occupy most of Canaan, but through vassals they received revenue and kept the trade routes open.  When these things were under threat, they sent the army.   The Israelite conquest of Canaan could not have happened then.

At the same time, Egypt maintained a series of fortresses that controlled both entry and exit from Egypt proper.  While this system was operating, the exodus is problematic. However, even if the Harris Papyrus exaggerates the chaos at the beginning of the 12th century, it seems likely that parts of the system broke down.  Ramses III, the second king of the 20th dynasty, restored it somewhat.  But there was an opportune period of Egyptian confusion and weakness right at the end of the 19th dynasty.

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Lipovsky-Hyksos, Habiru, Israel

The people who compiled the Hebrew Bible deliberately omitted any history of the northern tribes before they united with the southern tribes.  So says Igor Lipovsky in his Early Israelites.  If they had told this story they would have contradicted the version where the tribes all left Egypt at the same time under Moses.  That was the official history.

So, since there is a hidden history of the northern tribes, Lipovsky tries to recover it.  He bases his history of the northern tribes on his understanding of ethnicity and migration in the 16th through the 12th centuries BCE. His exposition of this period radiates out from the mid 14th century, because the Amarna letters (about 20 years worth of diplomatic correspondence between the pharaohs and the rulers of small kingdoms in Canaan and Syria) give us our best data.  So his discussion does not move forward from century to century in a timeline.

But I will attempt to summarize his conclusions in a more linear fashion.

This period begins with the defeat and expulsion of (some) Hyksos from Egypt. Among them were the tribes that became northern Israel.  Archeologists have uncovered several city destruction layers in the cities of Canaan that date to the 16th century.  Once it was common to say the Egyptians devastated Canaan as they followed up on their victory.  The studies of  Egyptologist Donald Redford have undermined that idea.

Lipovsky shows that in the Amarna letters many of the small-time kings in Canaan have Hurrian names.  In the Merneptah stele and other documents, the Egyptians call Canaan Haru, which is what the Mitanni Hurrians called their own territories.  In the 16th century Mitanni was strong and Egypt was weak.  So Lipovsky thinks that the real reason for the Hyksos defeat was that they were squeezed between an opportunistic attack from the Thebian Egyptians  and a major invasion from the north by the Mitanni army that destroyed cities and left a Hurrian ruling class throughout Canaan.

This left the Hyksos survivors displaced.  They became the Habiru of the Amarna letters.

I have questioned this.  Habiru and Hebrew, although they sound something alike, are not the same word as Liposky acknowleges.  My suggestion for a free translation of Habiru is our word “gang”.  However, Lipovsky argues that a powerful people like the Hyksos, who ruled the Nile Delta for over a hundred years, cannot have disappeared from history. So it is unreasonable to think that they do not appear at all in the Amarna letters.

I have read the Amarna letters and know a little about this era.  The letters do talk about Habiru or Apiru.  Labaya, petty king at Shechem, denied in his letters to pharaoh that he had allied himself with the Habiru to attack Megido.  He was almost certainly lying through his teeth.  The king of Jerusalem, Abdi-heba,  was under attack by Habiru, whom he repeatedly called the enemy of pharaoh.  He also was under attack by “Kashites” whoever they were (Kassites? Kushites?)

There were also Habiru far to the north in Syrian areas.

Were these Habiru mercenaries, surrogates for the Hittite Empire, or independent tribes? Lipovsky does not claim that all Habiru were ancestors of the Israelites.  But he says that when the Amarna letters mention Habiru in central or southern Canaan these must be the house of Joseph.

Lipovsky catches something in one of the Amarna letters that is new to me.  He points to a letter by an Ammorite king who says his rival is like a Habiru, “a runaway dog”.  Lipovsky says that a runaway dog is different from a stray dog (a more common image of the Habiru as nomadic wanderers).  Lipovsky takes this as speaking to the circumstances by which the Habiru arrived in Canaan as people who fled from Egypt. Or. . .it could just be a generic insult,

He rejects the idea that the Sutu, also mentioned in the Amarna letters, were the ancestors of the Hebrews.  These were tribes east of the Jordan who did not encroach to the west, probably the Ammonites, Moabites, Edomites and Midianites.  They never were the subject of complaints by the writers of the Amarna letters.  It was only the Habiru who appear as enemies of Egypt and a threat in Canaan.  The Sutu may have raided Egyptian caravans.  But that was more of a nuisance than a real threat to Egypt.

So from the 16th through the 14th centuries the house of Joseph, former Hyksos rulers in Egypt, were a people in the countryside of Canaan.  Much of the time they were oppressed by Egypt and Egypt’s vassals in Canaan. In the 15th century they may have been targets in the campaigns of Thutmose III.

According to Lipovsky, the Amarna letters show the growing power of the Habiru in the 14th century. Then at the end of the 13th century they appear as Israel, a people rather than a city state, attacked by pharaoh Merneptah.

His best argument is that the Hyksos could not have vanished.  So if they were not the Amarna era Habiru, where did they go?

Maybe they intermarried and disappeared.  They were Canaanites or Ammorites  by race. So once they lost power and gave up their Egyptian culture, were they not identical to the people of Canaan?  Or maybe they went across the Jordan and up to Bashan.

The Hyksos were not necessarily the Habiru.  But even if they were not, there is a case you can make that some Hyksos eventually became Israel.  In the 13th century somebody who hated Egypt burned the powerful city of Hazor and then perhaps allied themselves with Yanoam to fight the troops of Merneptah.  All this, of course, is mostly guess-work.

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Ephraim and Manasseh in older traditions

Igor Lipovsky has extrapolated from Genesis a scenario for the house of Joseph as part of the Hyksos rule of Egypt that ended in about 1550 BCE.  He does not hold to the Bible as a precise, literal record.  However, he does see Genesis as showing us real relationships and data on the origins of Israel and its tribes.  The house of Joseph developed in Egypt and moved back to Canaan with the Hyksos expulsion.

The two Joseph tribes are Ephraim and Manasseh.  Genesis says that they derive from the principal sons of Joseph by a daughter of an Egyptian priestly family from On or Heliopolis (Genesis 46:20).  Their birth order was Manasseh then Ephraim.  But when aged and nearly blind Jacob-Israel blessed them, he blessed Ephraim first (Genesis 48:14). This explained why Ephraim became the greater tribe.

According to Lipovsky, Genesis was a basic narrative for the united nation of Judah and Israel that existed under David and Solomon.

But do we have any sources about Ephraim and Manasseh from before David and Solomon?  It appears to me that we do.

We have the Song of Deborah in Judges 5, which many scholars say is probably the oldest composition in the Bible.  There are many translation and even pointing problems (telling where words end and begin) with this passage.  It seems to be written in a dialect of which we have no other examples, perhaps a Kenite dialect.  So we should not be too confident about our translations.  What seems clear is that it speaks of ten Israelite tribes. But these do not entirely agree with the later 12 tribes ideal.

For instance, there is no Manasseh tribe.  Instead there is a tribe of Machir (Judges 5:14). Machir was supposed to be a son of Manasseh (Genesis 50:23).  According to Numbers 32:39 and Joshua 17:1, Machir’s descendents established themselves across the Jordan in Gilead.  However, the Song of Deborah seems to have another tribe of Gilead (Judges 5:17) and it has no tribe of Manasseh.  Gilead may have been a related clan (1 Chronicles 7:17)

Anyway, this calls into doubt the notion that from the earliest times there was a well-known house of Joseph consisting of Ephraim and Manasseh.  Also, possibly from a pre-monarchic tradition is the story of Gideon in Judges 6.  Gideon is technically from the tribe and territory of Manasseh.  But this is never mentioned.  He was apparently not a hero of Manasseh the way Joshua was a hero of Ephraim.

As I said, you should not build much on translations of Judges 5, but for what its worth, one of the ways to translate Judges 5:14 is to say that Ephraim’s “root is in Amelek”.  That may mean something if 1 Chronicles 7:21-24 also draws from a source that comes before the monarchy.  First Chronicles is very late, but it used sources and we don’t know how early some of them may have been.

It is an odd passage and not well-known.  It is either part of or has been inserted into a genealogy of Joshua.  Here it is from the NET Bible, which puts it in parenthesis:

(Ezer and Elead were killed by the men of Gath, who were natives of the land, when they went down to steal their cattle. Their father Ephraim mourned for them many days and his brothers came to console him. He had sexual relations with his wife; she became pregnant and gave birth to a son. Ephraim named him Beriah because tragedy had come to his family. His daughter was Sheerah, who built Lower and Upper Beth Horon, as well as Uzzen Sheerah).

In this passage Ephraim does not seem to ever have been in Egypt.  He has brothers (plural).

Especially note that the men of Gath are not called Philistines.  So this passage seems to show knowledge of people who came before the Philistines.  “Philistines” in Gaza is one of the reasons Lipovsky dates Genesis later

Ephraim’s sons, Ezer and Elead, got themselves hanged (or something) as cattle rustlers by the “natives of the land.”  This implies conflict between foreign nomads and native settlers. It is hard to see this Ephraim as the son of an upper class priestly family from Egypt.

And, if this passage is part of the family tree of Joshua, the mention of Gath, Lower and Upper Beth Horon and Uzzen Sheerah, seems to imply that Joshua’s family came to the territory of Ephraim by a migration from the southwest rather than around from Egypt and across the Jordan.  This would fit with Lipovsky.

Yet for Lipovsky’s scenario to work, you would have to think that Ephraim,  a warrior in the Hyksos army according to him, was reduced to head of a wandering clan in Gaza after the Hyksos defeat at Sharuhen.  This is possible.   But it is quite a stretch.

So was the house of Joseph with the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh as first tribes something that really existed from an early time?  Perhaps it was Ephraim alone with Manasseh somehow tacked on later.  I do not see much evidence for Manasseh as a thing before Solomon made it a district.  Manasseh does not appear in the list of northern polities in 2 Samuel 2:9.

I would entertain the possibility that Ephraim had once existed as a nomadic clan in the hill country bordering Gaza.  Perhaps its root was in Amelek whether that is a correct translation of Judges 5:14 or not.

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Lipovsky-the house of Joseph

The least persuasive part of Igor Lipovsky’s book, Early Israelites, so far has been his suggestion that the northern tribes had a hidden, separate history from that of the Jacob tribes in the south.  There is a reason for this.  The compilers of Genesis had to suppress most of the story of the Israel tribes in order to mesh their history with the Jacob tribes.

According to Lipovsky this meant that the history of the northern tribes as part of the Hyksos who ruled Egypt in the 16th and 17th centuries BCE had to drop out of the Bible story.

He has a long discussion of the Hyksos.  He is on board with the growing consensus of Egyptologists that they came from Canaan.  Lipovsky says they were Amorites and that the northern Israelites were Amorites too.

The name, Hyksos, comes from Manetho and means “foreign Asiatic rulers”.  This name only refers to the elite–the rulers–among these people.  The Egyptians refered to this population as a’amu.  The a’amu included the common people as well as the rulers.  A’amu is an Egyptian form of Amurru or Amorites.

Manetho was trying to describe events that occurred 1500 years before his own time.  His view is skewed and confused.  But some of it must have been based on chronicles from earlier times.  He was mistaken about the Hyksos having rather suddenly invaded Egypt.

Egyptologists today envision a process of Asiatic infiltration and settlement that went on for centuries before some seized power and ruled Lower Egypt from Avaris.  By this time they had assimilated Egyptian culture and saw themselves as Egyptian.  The Hyksos pharaohs ruled as Egyptian kings.

The “Egyptians” encountered by the patriarchs such as Abraham’s wife, Hagar, were probably actually of Amorite descent.

Lipovsky points out that one of the effects of Hyksos rule in Egypt would have been relative peace in Canaan.  He envisions political alliances, good trade relations and the use of Egypt as a refuge from the intermittent dry spells that occurred in Canaan.  Thus, this period provides the background for the Joseph stories.

“The ‘house of Joseph’ was possibly one of those Amorite rulers who were invited to take power by the pharaohs at the time when the pharaohs were still of Egyptian origin.  The other northern tribes who came slightly later reinforced the position of the ‘house of Joseph’ and helped it secure a privileged position in the Hyksos hierarchy.  Thus we may say that the northern (Israelite) tribes were a constituent part of the Hyksos, while their tribal elite were probably part of the entourage of the Hyksos pharaohs.”

Further, he says the Ephraim and Manasseh must have been tribal warriors who fought against the pharaohs from Thebes when those pharaohs ousted the Hyksos from Lower Egypt. The house of Joseph, being an influential Hyksos family, were in a position to be benefactors of other tribes.

So the southern Jacob tribes probably did at some point seek relief from famine by going to Egypt and did come into some relationship with the Israel tribes.  However, while in Egypt the southern tribes had no wealth or position like the Joseph tribes.  Their social position was entirely different.

The end of Hyksos power came after pharaoh of Upper Egypt, Ahmose, laid siege to the Hyksos capitol at Avaris.  He could not capture the city.  So he blockaded it and eventually, according to Manetho, negotiated a treaty that allowed the Hyksos inhabitants to leave safely.  Archeological evidence that shows no sign of a battle in the city backs this up.  The people from Avaris went to southern Canaan and eventually fought another battle with Ahmose, who advanced upon their city of Sharuhen in Gaza.  He defeated them there and brought an end to all Hyksos power.

But many a’amu remained in Egypt.  Their position was no longer so favored.  Some of them probably escaped in several little exoduses.  Some of them settled in Egypt in the “land of Goshen.”  However, after the Hyksos interlude the Egyptians were afraid of the a’amu and their policy became increasingly negative toward them.  This is behind the statement in Exodus 1:8-10 about the new king who did not know Joseph.

Lipovsky knows his stuff and is not adopting weird theories about Egypt or its chronology, as many who attempt to reconcile the Bible and Egyptian history do.  But the best you can say of his scenario about the house of Joseph is that it could have happened that way.  Oh–and you can say that his theory is very stimulating to the imagination.  I like that.

I particularly question his take on the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh.  So before I do another post summarizing Lipovsky, I will do one where I present some of my questions and speculations about that topic.

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Lipovsky-old legends woven together

Igor Lipovsky in his book, Early Israelites, speaks of the “compilers” of the stories in Genesis.  He does not have a documentary theory in mind.  As best I can tell, he thinks that the southern and northern tribes had oral stories (he usually calls them legends) passed down for several centuries.  The compilers worked directly with those oral traditions.

His thesis about two peoples having one history requires that at some point the oral histories about Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were combined and written down.  There are a few traces left of the separate histories of Israel and Judah (e.g. Psalm 77:15), but mostly the compilers have succeeded in obliterating the separate histories.

When did this happen?  He says it has to be after the turn of the twelfth century BCE.  This is because you can see how the compilers have read early Iron Age realities back into the middle Bronze Age.  For instance, Abraham travels from “Ur of the Chaldeans” (Genesis 11:31), but Chaldeans did not get to the area of Ur until around the 12th century.

A similar example is calling the people of Gaza Philistines (Genesis 21:32 and Genesis 26:14 ff.).  The Philistines only settled the Gaza area after the 12th century.

A more complicated case is the mention of Hittites in Genesis (e.g. 23:10).  If they are the Hittites from the area we call Turkey who fought Ramses II in the battle of Kedesh, then they wouldn’t have been in southern Palestine in the time of Abraham.  However, after the Sea Peoples caused their downfall at the end of the Bronze Age and the decline of Egyptian power in Canaan, some of them seem to have migrated south.

Also Genesis shows the Patriarchs traveling by camel.  This is probably something else that the compilers read back into past as it was much more common in the early Iron Age.

So Lipovsky sees the texts with the eye of someone schooled in peoples and migrations more than as a textual scholar.

The time for the compilation of these stories would have been the United Monarchy.  The motive would have been to give the people ruled over by David and Solomon a single genealogy and a common history.

The compilers were concerned to establish the birthright of Jacob over Esau and the birthright of Judah over Reuben, Levi and Simeon.  They did this by relating disqualifying stories about Esau, Reuben, Levi and Simeon.  Esau had sold his birthright and allowed Jacob to get Isaac’s blessing by deception.  Reuben had slept with one of his father’s concubines.  Levi and Simeon had slaughtered the people of Shechem and brought reproach upon Jacob. The Blessing of Jacob in Genesis 49 tries to pull all this together.

Lipovsky judges that these attempts did not work very well.  They are easy to see through. Strangely enough, they prove the reliability of the compilers.  If the compilers were free to just make stuff up, they could have done better.  But they were constrained to use actual stories from the oral histories.  So this was the best they could do.

This gives Lipovsky an unexpected conservatism about the historicity of the texts.  For instance, the attack on Shechem must have been a historical incident.

The compilers were much more successful at pulling the family trees together.

They succeeded so well in intertwining the various pieces of narrative about Jacob and Israel, the forefathers of the southern and northern tribes, that all subsequent generations of the Jewish people considered Jacob and Israel to be a single forefather with a double name, Jacob-Israel.

Lipovsky says that the compromise the compilers found about the wives of Jacob was inspired.  Rachel was actually a matriarch of the northern tribes.  She was not buried with the southern patriarchs near Hebron.  How, he asks, did the less favored wife, Leah, end up lying next to Jacob in the cave at Machpelah?  The answer is that she really was Jacob’s wife.  But she is presented as unloved, while Rachel is the second wife but most loved.

In this way the authors of the Pentateuch managed to preserve the primacy of the southern tribes as legal heirs while giving the northern tribes love and acknowledgement of their own special merits.


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Lipovsky-outside the box but not off the wall

Igor Lipovsky, in Early Israelites, has some interesting suggestions.  He thinks outside the box.  Here are some ideas he presents about the patriarchal stories of Israel.

Abraham:  Perhaps the long life of Abraham means that the name refers to more than one patriarch.  There were  consecutive Czar Alexanders of Russia .  Perhaps, oral tradition a thousand years later would have combined such memories into a story about one long reign.

Sarah:  The stories about Sarah contain wildly improbable claims: that in old age she was still beautiful enough that Abraham was under threat of her being stolen away, or that she gave birth after menopause.  A tribal leader like Abraham had many wives and these stories may have once been about other wives.  But the compilers of the Pentateuch claimed descent from Sarah.  So they made her the center of stories that were originally about other women.

Jacob:  The name Jacob refers to the leader of some southern tribes who returned from Canaan to the vicinity of Haran, only to be mistreated by their kinsmen there.  This story comes down to us as the story of Jacob and Laban.  Lipovsky thinks that the tribes that occupied northern Canaan had gone to Egypt in the meantime to find water and grazing. This is the reason the tribes of Esau welcomed Jacob back–there was room for him now and an alliance strengthened them both.

Israel:  The Bible presents Israel as a new name for Jacob.  But actually it is a name related to a leader or mythical hero of the northern tribes.  The name means “fighter against god”. Originally it meant a fighter against pagan gods.  It corresponds to myths about human heroes who fought against the gods.

Lipovsky believes that the claims about Jacob and Israel being the same person represent a later attempt to give a common ancestor to two different peoples.  The wives, concubines and children of Jacob/Israel also function to foster this artificial common genealogy.

Some of this is highly speculative.  But it is not completely off the wall.  Many scholars believe that the twelve tribe scheme was a construction rather than history.  Lipovsky just details a way that this might have happened.

Essential for his argument going forward is that Jacob-Judah tribes existed in southern Canaan (Judah, Reuben, Simeon and Levi).  These were closely related to Edom and Moab and not at all related to a group of northern tribes that had arrived in Canaan before Abraham, perhaps as early as the 23rd century BCE.  Lipovsky calls the northern tribes Israel-Joseph.

According to him, the story of Joseph and his brothers comes from a northern legend and may relate to a historical fact: an early conflict between the Joseph tribes and the other northern tribes.

I have several questions and reservations about all this.  But I will refrain for now. Lipovsky’s next section is about when the patriarchal stories were written.  It should give a better idea of how he deals with the sources.

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Lipovsky-Early Israelites

A pet theory of mine has been that the story of the Exodus conflates a series of events where Semitic people left Egypt, beginning with the Hyksos around 1550 BCE and ending with a small group who left around 1200 BCE. This was the Moses-exodus.  They took part in the explosion of village settlements in the highlands between Jerusalem and Shechem at about that time.

This theory is based on some considerations.  First, I see a parallel with Manetho, the anti-Jewish Egyptian historian quoted by Josephus,  who also seems to conflate more than one exodus event.  Second, the Bible itself has other leaving-Egypt events (e.g. Genesis 13:1 and 50:7-11). Also the hegemony over the Levant that Egypt exercised until shortly after 1200 makes theories of an earlier Moses-exodus difficult.

This has led me to toy with the peculiar theory that the Pharaoh Setnakhte (there are various spellings),who came just before Ramses III, was the pharaoh of the Moses-exodus.

Recently it came to my attention that Igor Lipovsky also sees Setnakhte as the pharaoh of the Exodus.  Lipovsky is a scholar who was educated in the USSR as a specialist in Asian and African studies, got into trouble with the authorities in around 1987, then immigrated to Israel.  He returned to Russia for a while after the Soviet downfall.  He came to the US in 1995 and is now an American citizen.

I read that his book Early Israelites: Two Peoples, One History was like the old Canadian scholar Theophile Meek’s Hebrew Origins (1936).  Meek  has been proved wrong on some things.  But his idea that Judah and Israel developed separately turns up again in some contemporary scholars.

So I have started reading Lipovsky’s Early Israelites.

I found his first chapter stimulating.  He argues that the ancient migrations of Semitic peoples were compelled by pressure from the north by Indo-Europeans.  These people had once lived in an area that is now covered by the Black Sea.

You may know about some recent books that equate the inundation of the Black Sea area by water from the Mediterranean with Noah’s flood.  But Lipovsky points out that this ecological disaster took place slowly, over a century or so.  So no one was suddenly drowned.  It did, however, cause migrations in several directions.

Northern Mesopotamia, home of the Semitic peoples, had been protected on all sides except the south by mountain ranges.  But the Black Sea disaster forced some of the Indo-Europeans south anyway, and so put pressure on the Semites around Haran.

At this point I do not know how much historical credibility Lipovsky gives the stories of the patriarchs. (He gives some credibility to Genesis 14 but never engages with the historical difficulties.) He may be using Abraham to represent the movement of a tribe. He says that “Abraham”, contrary to some biblical statements, probably did not embrace monotheism until after the migration to Canaan.

Lipovsky accepts the identification of Hebrew with Habiru.  I have never been convinced of this myself.  But he thinks that in the Abrahamic period all Western Semitic nomads were designated Habiru.

“The Habiru were warriors; dignitaries among the local rulers; artisans; and hired hands.  Most, however, lived a pastoral life, wandering nomadically with their herds over the entire territory of the Fertile Crescent”

The Sutu or Shasu, as the Egyptians called them, were a transjordanian version of the Habiru.  The separation of Abraham and Lot points to the origin of the Sutu.  This separation may also have been the occasion for the adoption of a new religion by the Canaanite Habiru.   Whatever the Abrahamic religion actually was has likely been lost, says Lipovsky, since the much later editors of the Pentateuch wanted to align the religion of Abraham with that of Moses.

But perhaps in the confession of faith before the King of Sodom in Genesis 14:22 we have an inkling of a “spontaneous monotheism” upon which Moses later built.

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