More on Ben-Yosef and Timna

I have been writing about Erez Ben-Yosef and his discoveries at Timna about nomadic mining activity and the possibility that this has something to do with the Bible’s stories about David and Solomon.

After I wrote my last post there came out an article about just this in the December issue of the Smithsonian Magazine, “An Archaeological Dig Reignites the Debate Over the Old Testament’s Historical Accuracy”. The writer is Matti Friedman. The link is here.

This is a very well written article explaining the issues for the non-archaeologist. It is becoming clear that ancient Edomite nomads ran these mines in about the 10th century BCE. In spite of its title, the article does not bring up the key possibility that the biblical report of David’s domination of Edom put these mines under the control of David and Solomon.

For instance, 1 Chronicles 18:12-13 reports, “Abishai son of Zeruiah killed 18,000 Edomites in the Valley of Salt. He placed garrisons in Edom, and all the Edomites became David’s subjects. . .”(NET Bible). As Peter Leithart has pointed out, the geography of David’s conquests here are probably tinged with spiritual and symbolic meaning. However, even though reporting history is not the main point of the Bible, it may have slipped through in this case.

But Friedman tells us that Ben-Yosef has certainly stirred up the debate. He comes down to this observation:

What Ben-Yosef has produced isn’t an argument for or against the historical accuracy of the Bible but a critique of his own profession. Archaeology, he argues, has overstated its authority. Entire kingdoms could exist under our noses, and archaeologists would never find a trace. Timna is an anomaly that throws into relief the limits of what we can know. The treasure of the ancient mines, it turns out, is humility.

I think it is ironic that if you had heard of Ben-Yosef before this, it might have been in connection with the claim that domesticated camels in Israel only existed after the middle of the 10th century. This was based on camel bones he found at Timna. Therefore, the Bible’s reports of camels in the time of Abraham and Jacob—hundreds of years before this—were in doubt.

This got into the popular press and even became a theme on an episode of The Big Bang Theory. Sheldon Cooper wanted to taunt his born-again mother with this as proof that the Bible was BS.

This is typical of fundamentalist atheists who might be surprised that some staunch believers already accept that there are anachronisms in the Bible. However the camel thing might not be one. There is some evidence of domesticated camels much earlier. This got pointed out in, of all places, the Huffington Post in an article by Kevin Belmonte, “A Bone to Pick: Why Did We Hear Only One Side of the Camel Argument?”.

Anyway, Ben-Yosef is certainly not an evangelical (or Orthodox Jewish) apologist.

About theoutwardquest

I have many interests, but will blog mostly about what I read in the fields of Bible and religion.
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