This documentary tackles the sensitive issue of biblical archeology. It highlights that the story told in the Old Testament, the Hebrew Bible, that of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David and Solomon, was never confirmed by the numerous excavations since the early twentieth century Palestine .
The Bible revealed Israel Finkelstein
By pointing the many anachronisms, historical inconsistencies, Israel Finkelstein and Neil Asher Silberman historian demonstrate visionary character of biblical stories.
Israel Finkelstein and Neil Asher Silberman have focused on the first 5 books of the Bible: the Pentateuch or Torah :
BOOK I: Genesis
Israel Finkelstein and Neil Asher Silberman opened the book of Genesis the 12th chapter (the first 11 chapters recounting the creation of the world), which tells the story of the Patriarchs , in particular, the first of them: Abraham .
Around 1800 BC, if one believes the Bible, Abraham received from God’s invitation to go to the Promised Land ( Canaan or the current Israel ). Accompanied by his nephew Lot and his wife Sarah, he organized a first exodus, leaving Ur in Mesopotamia (now Iraq), to walk towards the west and finally settle the Hebron side.
He had two son:
- the first Ishmael, with his servant (his barren wife Sarah indeed proposing this solution to ensure descendants);
- the second Isaac , with his wife Sarah, then aged 90, after visiting three angels (under the oaks of Mambrée near Hebron).
Abraham is a common patriarch to the three monotheistic religions:
- Judaism , by his parentage (Jacob, his little son, will bear the name of Israel (who wrestled with God));
- Christianity (Jesus was himself of Jewish origin);
- Islam (Ishmael, son of Abraham (Ibrahim in the Koran) with her servant, is the ancestor of the Arab tribes).
The failure of biblical archeology
Israel Finkelstein and Neil Asher Silberman have sought to speak the stones to see if the hypothesis of a massive migration from east to west, around 1800 BC, is credible.
Numerous excavations have shown that the only migration which took place in the region at that time was that of the Amorites, a people of Arab origin who had settled in Syria before emigrating to Mesopotamia . migration has taken place at the time prescribed by the Bible but in the other direction, that is to say from west to east.
« The hypothesis of mass migration to the Promised Land is not confirmed by archeology. »
Faced with this failure, Israel Finkelstein and Neil Asher Silberman have sought to find evidence in the thousands of tablets unearthed in Mesopotamia, the home region of Abraham. We found indeed in these tablets, stories, cuneiform (wedge-shaped), close to those of the Bible, particularly the story of the servant made available by a wife, to give a child the bridegroom. But we found for all periods, particularly in the first millennium. There are also references to Abraham, but it seems that the surname is extremely common.
« Again archeology is powerless to confirm the ‘ story of Abraham. »
Israel Finkelstein has therefore turned to another reading of the Bible by looking for clues for dating the saga of Abraham.
In particular there are numerous references to the Philistines , a people that gave a hard time to the Hebrews when they settled in Palestine. The specialist Philistine archeology is then interrogated and it is formal: the « people of the sea » has settled on the shores of Canaan from 1200 BC. Before this, we find no trace. This finding is inconsistent with the story of a Bible that Abraham is around 1800 BC.
Also found in the account of the journey of Abraham , many references to camels. Now, we find traces of the domestication of the animal that from 1000 BC.
The description of Abraham’s convoy is also thinking of the trade caravans coming from the Arabian Peninsula. Such caravans are mentioned in ancient texts, but only from 700 BC.
Israel Finkelstein concludes that the story of the Bible describes a landscape of Palestine that existed around 700 BC, that is to say when the separation of the country into two kingdoms:
- the kingdom of Judah in the south;
- the kingdom of Israel in the north.
The first exodus, if it occurred, is therefore not situated around 1800 BC, as advance the Bible, but around 700 BC.
Abraham had a second son, Isaac, this time with his wife Sarah . Isaac is best known as the son sacrificed by his father at the request of God, who wanted and felt his faith. The son was in his turn, with his wife Rebecca, a son, Jacob.
The Bible sets the three characters in very different parts:
- Abraham in Hebron;
- Isaac in Beer Sheva in the south;
- Jacob Sichel in the north.
Historians then advance a surprising hypothesis: the three places of establishment would be an opportunity to tell three different stories, in fact the story of three mini-kingdoms. Filiation was installed much later by the editors of Genesis in order to unify these three entities, associating the blood to a common ancestor, Abraham.
These editors are the seventh or eighth century BC They have described their landscape, the one they knew then, with the Philistines, and camels. They were inspired by existing mythologies, including Sumerian stories: thus in the Sumerian tablets (2600 BC) the full account of the flood:
« And the god to give this advice to Utanapishtim: » Tear down your house to make you a boat! Renounce your wealth for your life! Turn away thy goods to keep you safe and sound! But embarks with you specimens of all animals (…). Six days and seven nights, gales, heavy rain, flood and hurricane continued its ccager the earth. » «
It was like reading the story of Noah! Like him, Utanapishtim loose a dove to identify a land mass and eventually land on a mountain …
BOOK II : Exodus
The second book of the Bible tells the story of the oppression of the Israelites held in slavery by the Pharaoh Ramses II (1279-1213 BC). One of the-reared as an Egyptian at the court of Pharaoh, Yahweh receives the order to the Israelites out of Egypt. The man chosen by God, Moses. At first reluctant, Pharaoh finally let the Hebrews, helped in his decision by the famous 10 plagues of Egypt.
The Exodus from Egypt is an exodus, as the Bible refers 600,000 armed men, are about 2 million people fleeing Egypt through the Red Sea, to wander forty years in the Sinai before reaching Canaan under the leadership of Moses and Joshua.
The Bible gives a clue to locate in time the Exodus: it took place 500 years before the construction of the Temple of SOLOMON, or about 1500 BC. We see a first anachronism since Ramses II appears in Egyptian history in 1279 BC. Suppose, however, that the writer of the Bible was wrong 200 years.
What does archeology?
To cross the Sinai, the Israelites had a choice between two roads:
- north, the Horus path riddled, Egyptian garrisons;
- south, a mountainous desert.
The Hebrews chose the second option, the first bringing them back for sure in captivity (remember that meanwhile the Pharaoh changed his mind).
Despite intensive excavations undertaken since the early twentieth century, despite modern techniques capable of detecting the passage of simple shepherds, researchers have never found anything: not a weapon, not a vase, not a burial. Two million people wandering for 40 years and absolutely no trace …
Furthermore, it should be recalled that at the time, Egypt had about 3 million inhabitants. No doubt the massive departure of the workforce consists of 2 million Israelites should have cause serious disorders, including on the economy. Now in the Egyptian archives of the time, yet particularly rich, we find no mention of this major event!
The replay of the Exodus (XIII century BC according to the Bible)
Book II refers to many villages, some of which still exist. Most of these places, however, did not exist in the thirteenth century BC. They were built from the seventh century BC, bringing the story of Moses away from Ramses II, between 600 and 700 BC. Like Genesis, archeology and history tirelessly bring us back to that time, that of the two kingdoms:
- the first north (Israel);
- and the second in the south (Judah).
First, despite the efforts of King Hezekiah , did not resist the military power of its big northern neighbor : the ASSYRIA which reduced the small kingdom to naught. We then witnessed a large influx of refugees Israelite south: towards kingdom of Judah. But Assyria knew to turn the throes of decay and had to re-mobilize his troops to face a new enemy, Babylon (present BAGHDAD).
The king of Judah, Josiah , lives in the weakening of Assyria, an opportunity to rebuild the great Israelite kingdom reclaiming the lost northern lands. However, he had two problems to solve:
- rebuild national unity undermined by the influx of refugees;
- Egyptian threat in the south.
The hypothesis of Israel Finkelstein and Neil Asher Silberman
What better way to restore a sense of national unity a common history; a story linking the peoples:
- common ancestor, a patriarch chosen by God;
- a common religion, Judaism, more powerful than all the Egyptian pantheon (see powerlessness priests of Ramses against the ten plagues wanted by YAHWEH );
- and a common enemy, Egypt?
Josiah , apparently, understood this well. He began, at first, to make Jerusalem the unique place of pilgrimage for Jews. But he went further: he wrote the Exodus narrative by showing that even a small oppressed people can defeat a powerful enemy, namely Egypt, provided that it is united, it is the faith in a religion, and it is led by a providential man. This man in Exodus is of course Moses. In 600 BC, before the new Egyptian threat is Josiah who is to play this role.
EXODUS not therefore relate historical facts; This is a unifying text, written to unite people behind their King, to make it strong against an external threat which puts him at risk of extinction.
Book III: the Kings
The Kings begin after the death of Moses, with the conquest of Canaan by Joshua, a military leader to whom God entrusted the mission to conquer the promised land. We follow, step by step, the steps in this Blitzkrieg. Every time the Hebrews shave everything and massacred the inhabitants without a priori reason.
Jericho (XIII century BC according to the Bible)
The story of the conquest of Jericho is well known. The Hebrews are seven times around the city with trumpets, dropping the imposing walls, as God had foretold.
Israel Finkelstein recalls that archeology is not shown: at the time of the conquest (XIV century BC), Jericho was a city without importance and especially without walls! The walls have been discovered on the site but they are much older.
At the supposed time of Joshua, t ny the region was an Egyptian province, moreover, full of strongholds that would have been able to block an invasion. Egyptian records are also once again silent on this event. Moreover, the cities mentioned by the Bible did not exist in the thirteenth century BC.
The conclusion of Israel Finkelstein is clear: the book of Joshua is not a history book, but a series of myths, studded with bravery and victories to strengthen the national sentiment.
King David (tenth century BC according to the Bible)
David became the first King of Israel. Its historicity is not contested. He reigned over Jerusalem.
What does the archeology of the city of David?
A city already existed in Jerusalem or rather a village (3-4 hectares). He had a small population and had no walls. When David was king, there was at most a mountain village.
King Solomon (son of David and builder of the Temple)
Solomon, according to the Bible, a wise King, an internationally renowned, receiving the Queen of Sabah in his palace. He is also the man of the judgment of Solomon.
Are there traces of the Temple of Solomon ? Archaeology, unfortunately, still shows that the city of Solomon was an insignificant town, away from magnitudes described by the Bible. The existence of an imposing temple is hypothetical so well …
What about the rest of the Empire? Archaeology is here more prolific: this time, it shows further north (Kingdom of Israel), the existence of important cities: Hazor, Megiddo and Gezer . These cities have, moreover, great similarities, including doors triple pincers.
Solomon had he conquered this great empire described by the Bible?
Recent dating, particularly carbon-14, however, tempered the initial enthusiasm of archaeologists from the middle of the twentieth century: the three cities were built it a century or more after the alleged kingdom of Solomon .
Judah and Israel
It should again return to the presumed time of the writing of the Bible, that is to say, in the seventh century BC. At that time, the kingdom was divided into two states:
- Israel, to the north, rich and prosperous, with its three major cities already mentioned: Hazor, Megiddo and Gezer
- Judah in the south, with Jerusalem as its capital.
Despite its power, it is Israel that is scanned (722 BC) by the Assyrians. leaving only Judah to write the history of the Jewish people.
Josiah (seventh century BC)
And it is the king of Judah, Josiah, with whom we already know, that will do it. In his writing Josiah will look to showcase his little residual kingdom of Judah by giving it the power, the cities and the past successes of the northern kingdom, Israel .
Because the draft Josiah is to reconquer the lost land to replenish one kingdom, under the authority of a king of the descendants of David : him! It must in this text, show that for a united people, driven by an unfailing faith, guided by a providential man chosen by God and a single law, nothing is impossible, especially the conquest of Canaan: Joshua the a-it`s not shown?
« The conquest of Joshua described in Book III is the military draft dreamed of Josiah, he slept on the paper to cause people behind it. »
Josiah unfortunately killed by Pharaoh before putting his plan into execution.
The origins of the people of Israel
If the Bible is not a history book, the question of the origin of the Jewish people remains unanswered
Megiddo and the Sea Peoples
Prosperous city in northern Canaan , Megiddo was destroyed in 1130 BC by a violent fire. A similar fate is in store, over a century, the large surrounding towns. What happened ? Archaeology shows that « people of the sea », the Philistines have invaded the land of Canaan . Egyptian reliefs confirm this hypothesis.
Under pressure from these invaders, West Bank (current name) becomes a haven for locals.
Highlands (West Bank) about 1130 BC
Archaeology shows that the Highlands have been populated in 1130 BC. Many oval implantations have been identified. This very particular arrangement is reminiscent of the encampments of Bedouins, nomadic populations living from livestock.
It seems, for Israel Finkelstein , that pushed inward, these nomads are settled to form the embryo of the kingdom of Judah , on marginal lands which limited themselves its development potential. In the north, the abundance of water, however, allowed the emergence of much larger cities, the embryo kingdom of Israel .
Two kingdoms and one God
Both kingdoms had a common point: the worship of YAHWEH . The Bible tells how Moses received on Mount Sinai the Tablets of the Law. Meanwhile, the impatient people built a golden calf. YAHWEH triumphed and the golden calf back to his barn.
It is known that the bull was a deity worshiped by the people of Canaan . This passage of the Bible and shows the superiority of the God of the Hebrews. This is confirmed in Deuteronomy (Book V) , which sets up the monotheism . It is believed that Deuteronomy was discovered by Josiah.
The centralizing will of Josiah
Archaeology also highlights the will of centralization of Josiah : even in the eighth century, there are many temples scattered throughout Judah. In the seventh century, there’s only one in Jerusalem.
In addition, from the seventh century, objects of writing cover, which show that administration is set up.
The seventh century BC
All indices converge towards the seventh century. It was at this time that the Bible was written. It describes a very recullée time up to the second millennium BC, but using a landscape seventh sièckle which explains the numerous anachronisms.
The Bible is both the story of a people and its Law. This fusion of history and law is new in human history that will emulated the side of Islam.
After the death of Josiah , the Fulani into exile in Babylonia. The Hebrews then lose what made their unity, their king, their country, their identity. The exiles will rebuild this identity.
The Torah replaces the country, the synagogue replaces the Temple, Judaism takes its final shape.
The Bible should not be read as a history book, but rather as a unifying text, written by a visionary king, around the seventh century BC, in order to create a national feeling around a common history , that of the Hebrew people, and common law.
King Josiah , since it is from him that it had in mind the reconquest of the Kingdom of Israel then occupied by Assyria, and for that, he needed a welded people behind him.
The Hebrews were never enslaved by Pharaoh Ramses II. The episode of the exodus is imaginary. It was set up by Josiah with the objective to demonstrate that people even low, could triumph of great powers.
The Hebrew Bible is the source of the other two monotheistic religions: Christianity and Islam.