Shechem and its Oak Tree

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Judith’s City of ‘Bethulia’


Part Two (iv): Shechem and its Oak Tree



 Damien F. Mackey


“Covenantal promises first given to Abram at Shechem, first acknowledged then fully committed to by Jacob at Shechem, guarded by Simeon and Levi at Shechem, possibly symbolized by Joseph’s bones at Shechem, were twice ratified in Joshua’s time, in modified form, by Israel at Shechem, where the emphasis was placed on ‘fullness of faithfulness’. Shechem was also where Joshua placed the massive, covenantal ‘law stones’ as God had commanded”.


In this series I finally got around to accepting Shechem (rather than the far less significant Mithilia, or Mesilieh) as the strategically important city of “Bethulia”, the home of the Simeonite heroine, Judith, whose womanly intervention would lead to the rout of Sennacherib’s 185,000 strong Assyrian army.


In the following article, “The oak tree of Shechem”, the vital covenantal importance of this ancient site is discussed with relation to the famous oak tree there:


SEE, PEOPLE ARE COMING down from the center of the land, and another company is coming from the Diviners’ Terebinth Tree.
Judges 9:37



The couple from Ur


Though two thousand years had passed since Adam and Eve had tended the Garden of Eden, and untold millions had been born and died, barely a handful had ever known the true God. With Abram and Sarah, the time had come for God to set in motion a process that would forever change that situation, relatively speaking, creating a people fit to be called His own. God initiated this momentous new phase with a disarmingly unrevealing act. He gave order to Abram and Sarah to get up and go, promising them great things if they obeyed:


Now the Lord. said to Abram: “Get out of your country, from your family and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you” (Gen. 12:1).


God gave command to this faithful couple to depart from their secure, comfortable, cozy existence to venture into what was possibly the great unknown. ….

Shechem and the oak tree


Abram passed through the land to the place of Shechem, as far as the terebinth [oak] tree of Moreh (Gen. 12:6).


Abram and Sarah set off on the long journey without dithering or dickering. Their route probably took them through Damascus, along the shore of the Sea of Galilee where, two thousand years later, the One to come would teach the crowds, and then on to Shechem, a very important centre in the second millennium BC. There the first stage of their journey came to an end at the great tree of Moreh.

Shechem and its tree were destined to play a vital role in God’s dealings with Abram and his descendants. The story of Shechem, its oak, and of incident after incident played out in their shadow exposes the vital organs of God-man covenant relationships to view, showing clearly the key to covenantal success.

Shechem and its tree were destined to play a vital role in God’s dealings with Abram and his descendants.

Sadly, failure more than success makes the lesson.

Let’s now tell the fascinating tale of Shechem and its oak. Shechem, the first city in the Promised Land to be mentioned in the Bible, is located approximately 45 kilometers directly north of Jerusalem. Scholars agree the tree was almost certainly an oak. As if to send up a flare alerting us to its special significance, there, by the tree, three ‘firsts’ occurred:


  • In the past, God had only spoken to Abram (12:1); here by the oak tree He appeared to him — the first of three recorded appearances in his life. (See also 17:1 and 18:1.) Describing this event, Hamilton (1990, p. 377) says, “Here the mode of revelation shifts to a theophany, Yahweh appeared to Abram. The shift is not incidental.” Such an appearance reinforces the assurance that a divine intervention of great significance has occurred.
  • The first declaration made in the Promised Land of history’s most amazing promises occurred here. In fact, the announcement of these promises was the very purpose of God’s appearance to Abram;
  • The first of seven altars built by the patriarchs was erected here. The urgent way the text reads gives the impression that barely had God disappeared than Abram built an altar to worship Him.


The oak tree, as we will see, is special; definitely not your average, every day agglomeration of trunk, branches and tracery covered with green leafy bits. For the time being let us simply note its importance, as revealed by the meaning of ‘Moreh’ which, translated, means teacher. The most reputable conservative commentary available today on Genesis says that it “suggests a place where divine oracles could be obtained” (Wenham 1987, p. 279). That explanation certainly fits the facts.


Were this episode the only “oak of Shechem” one, we’d quit right now. But let’s continue; as the record unfolds over time, Shechem became the venue for more than its share of happenings had chance alone set the rules. Shechem next pops into the record at the return of Abram’s grandson, Jacob, after many years in Mesopotamia as Laban’s some-time dupe.


Mackey’s comment: Judith would later recall the trials endured by Abraham and by Jacob under Laban’s trickery as if the Bethulians’ present trials under hard Assyrian siege were almost inconsequential by comparison (Judith 6:26-27):


‘Recall how [God] dealt with Abraham, and how he tested Isaac, and all that happened to Jacob in Syrian Mesopotamia while he was tending the flocks of Laban, his mother’s brother. He has not tested us with fire, as he did them, to try their hearts, nor is he taking vengeance on us. But the Lord chastises those who are close to him in order to admonish them’.


Jacob returns from abroad


Jacob, the original composer of “If I Were a Rich Man”, forever in his parlor counting out his money, had fled from home to escape death by his brother, Esau, after deceiving his own father Isaac and thereby swindling his brother out of a special powerful blessing. That was on top of an earlier episode in which Jacob had taken advantage of Esau’s hunger to snatch his birthright from him. Forty years later, at about the age of ninety, Jacob returned.


His journey home from Mesopotamia was filled with dread over how his brother Esau would receive him. Jacob’s relief when Esau embraced him warmly upon meeting again was palpable. After catching up on old times, they parted company again, and that’s where Shechem comes into the story:


Then Jacob came safely to the city of Shechem, which is in the land of Canaan, when he came from Padan Aram; and he pitched his tent before the city. And he bought the parcel of land, where he had pitched his tent, from the children of Hamor, Shechem’s father, for one hundred pieces of money. Then he erected an altar there and called it El Elohe Israel (Gen. 33:18-20).


Though some argue almost persuasively (e.g. Wenham 1994, p. 300) that Shechem here is the name of the crown prince of the area rather than the name of the city to which Jacob came, we believe the evidence shows otherwise. (Wenham is wrong when he says that “nowhere else in the OT is it [salem] used in this way as an adverb qualifying a verb”. It is indeed used that way in 1 Samuel 16:4. Also, a study of Joshua 24:32 shows that the land Jacob bought was by Shechem.) But even if their contention is correct, the alternative town that is spoken of (Salem, translated in NKJV as ‘safely’) was located only three miles from Shechem anyway, and would have come under the city of Shechem’s regional control.


Mackey’s comment: For the importance of Salem, see Part One (ii) of this series.



Nobody can explain why Jacob chose to settle in Shechem upon his return after a house-building detour in Succoth. Shechem did not lie on the major route from Mesopotamia into the Promised Land, yet it was strategically placed from a trading point of view. Perhaps his reason to settle there was entirely based on mercenary considerations.


What can we deduce from this account with its many salient features? One feature — the purchase of real estate — is most intriguing. Was doing so an act of honoring God by securing the spot where Abram built his altar, or was it an act of disobedience, going contrary to God’s will that they live their lives as disenfranchised strangers in the land of promise, as possibly indicated in Genesis 28:4? But let’s focus on those items closer to certainties.


To begin with, one cannot help but note Jacob’s unhesitating resolve to build an altar in the same place, probably within eyeshot, of grandfather Abram’s altar.


But even more eye-opening is the unheralded, untrumpeted act of naming the place el Elohe Israel. For the first time, Jacob actually calls the God of creation the God of Israel.


For the first time, Jacob actually calls the God of creation the God of Israel.

And guess who Israel was. Himself! He was saying that God was now his God. Don’t let the significance of this fact be lost on you. Note what Wenham says,

In calling the altar “El, the God of Israel,” Jacob acknowledges that the creator God who had changed his name at the Yabbok to Israel was now his God. He had vowed at Bethel that if the Lord brought him back to his father’s house in peace, “the Lord will be my God” (1994, p. 301).

Pillar promises


To getter a better grip on what’s going on, we really need to fill in some detail about the Bethel deal Wenham refers to here. While fleeing Canaan with his brother Esau in hot pursuit, Jacob had a dream at Bethel in which he saw angels ascending and descending upon a ladder whose top reached up into heaven. Then God Himself appeared at the ladder’s apex, and made a number of glowing promises laden with assurances of blessings unrivalled, blessings that would make the biggest prize in lottery’s history blanch visibly (28:13-15). Jacob, showing no hint of remorse over his chicanery, responded with unfeigned self-concern laced with a dash of skeptical reserve:


Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me, and keep me in this way that I am going, and give me bread to eat and clothing to put on, so that I come back to my father’s house in peace, then the Lord shall be my God. And this stone which I have set as a pillar shall be God’s house, and of all that You give me I will surely give a tenth to You (Gen. 28:20-22)”.


Jacob’s vow that God would be his God if He brought him back safely from Mesopotamia needs to be seen in context. First, when God spoke to him from the top rung, He had promised to be with Jacob wherever he went, implying that He, God, would stand ever-watchful over Jacob and his family. On top of that, God had many years earlier made his grandfather Abram the following staggering promise:


Also I give to you and your descendants after you the land in which you are a stranger, all the land of Canaan, as an everlasting possession; and I will be their God (Gen. 17:8).


We are not drawing a long bow here to suggest that Jacob, a ‘descendant’ of Abram, and thus one of those of whom God was declaring He would be his God, was simply not going to meekly, willy-nilly let God be his God. (Oh, how short-sighted!) He was not going to naively believe God’s magnanimous, munificent, magnificent claims. In essence, he was putting God to the test, declaring that if God really wanted to be his deity, then He had better come up with some good reason for it, He had better come up with the goods; Jacob specifically reiterated God’s implied promise of a peaceful (safe) return to Canaan.


At the same time, Jacob obligated himself to certain good deeds in return — to build a ‘house’ out of the pillar he had erected at the same spot, and to commence regular tithing on all his earnings.


Jacob, procrastinator extraordinaire


God fulfilled all his ladder promises, even though only in germ form compared with their long-term outworking, including bringing Jacob and his family safely back to Canaan. Jacob was stuck. Unless he was mad enough to tempt God, he knew he had to fulfill his side of the deal and return to Bethel to build a state-of-the-art altar, implied by his vow to build a ‘house’ there, and to start tithing. ….


But Jacob was Jacob. Instead of going on to Bethel to fulfill his obligations, he dragged his feet at Shechem.

Perhaps, in building a ruder altar there, and accepting God as his own personal God, he thought he had divested himself of any further obligation. Though the inner workings of Jacob’s mind can not be known with any certainty, subsequent events prove that his Shechem dithering and lingering did not impress God at all ….


Calamity at Shechem


The next episode must surely go down in history’s log book of treachery as a classic. Jacob’s daughter, Dinah, went gallivanting around the district with the result that someone ended up with her in the kitchen where things got a little out of hand. His name happened to be Shechem, crown prince of the district. When they heard about it, Dinah’s brothers were so incensed they hatched a diabolical plot. Feigning friendship, they offered Shechem Dinah’s hand in marriage on one condition — that every male in town be circumcised. Shechem agreed. On the third day after the mass operation, when all the patients were in the direst of discomfort, Dinah’s two brothers Simeon and Levi strapped on their keenly-honed swords, entered town, and pierced every grown male through virtually without resistance.


Jacob was flabbergasted, angry, and smitten with terror, expecting reprisals from all quarters. God took advantage of his vulnerability under such duress, ordering him to go to Bethel and fulfill his vows:


Then God said to Jacob, “Arise, go up to Bethel and dwell there; and make an altar there to God, who appeared to you when you fled from the face of Esau your brother” (Gen. 35:1).


He went, and did it. But the Shechem story is nowhere near ended. Let us continue.

If trees could talk



So Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, “Put away the foreign gods that are among you, and purify yourselves, and change your garments; then let us arise and go up to Bethel, that I may make there an altar to the God who answered me in the day of my distress and has been with me wherever I have gone.” So they gave to Jacob all the foreign gods that they had, and the rings that were in their ears; and Jacob hid them under the oak which was near Shechem (Gen. 35:2-4).


One strongly feels that this oak tree was not just any old tree, the use of the definite article suggesting such a conclusion. What other inference does the inspired text want us to draw than that it was the same one under which Abram built his altar, probably where Jacob had also erected his own? So at the very spot where Abram had demonstrated his conviction that God would one day faithfully fulfill His covenant promises, where Jacob himself first called God his God at the dedication of his altar, Jacob buried all remnants of pagan influence among them.


Now there would have been untold thousands, if not millions of oak trees in Canaan where they could have buried their household idols. But no.

Now there would have been untold thousands, if not millions of oak trees in Canaan where they could have buried their household idols.

It had to be the same oak as that under which Abram built his altar. At the same oak tree in Shechem where Jacob first aspired to faithfulness by a mere show of it, now he sincerely repented and turned wholeheartedly to God.

Dem bones, dem bones


In an easily-overlooked verse, Joseph commanded his great-great-grandsons that they ensure his wish to have his bones returned to the Promised Land be permanently perpetuated until the day of Israel’s departure from Egypt, as prophesied, should come:


Then Joseph took an oath from the children of Israel, saying, “God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones from here” (Gen. 50:25).


Only one reason can be seen as lying behind Joseph’s wish — the covenant promises of God that Israel would inherit the Promised Land. Joseph wished to lie in death among his own descendants. He obviously believed in God’s faithfulness to those promises without reservation.


Where were his bones eventually stowed when his descendants finally inherited the Promised Land?


The bones of Joseph, which the children of Israel had brought up out of Egypt, they buried at Shechem, in the plot of ground which Jacob had bought from the sons of Hamor the father of Shechem (Josh. 24:32).


One could take the stance that the only reason his bones found their final resting place in Shechem was that it lay in the territory Joseph’s descendants occupied. Maybe. However, lots of other cities and towns lay in their territory. Why Shechem? One could, of course, ascribe the location to the normal human tendency to hallow places where important events had occurred, such as Shechem. Indeed, quite possible. But as we will see, the deed also fits into a matrix of deeds-events having a vital common denominator.


Dem stones, dem stones


Hundreds of years later, Joseph’s descendants departed Egypt carrying his bones, in readiness to fulfill the promises God had made to the patriarchs. For forty years they wandered in the Sinai Peninsula. En route, Moses commanded them what they must do when finally they entered the Promised Land. The account is given in chapters 27 and 28 of Deuteronomy. The vital points are contained in 27:2-13:


And it shall be, on the day when you cross over the Jordan to the land which the Lord your God is giving you, that you shall set up for yourselves large stones. You shall write on them all the words of this law. Therefore it shall be, when you have crossed over the Jordan, that on Mount Ebal you shall set up these stones. and you shall whitewash them with lime. And there you shall build an altar to the Lord your God, an altar of stones. Take heed and listen, O Israel: this day you have become the people of the Lord your God. Therefore you shall obey the voice of the Lord your God, and observe His commandments and His statutes which I command you today.” And Moses commanded the people on the same day, saying, “These shall stand on Mount Gerizim to bless the people, when you have crossed over the Jordan. and these shall stand on Mount Ebal to curse.


The law of God lay at the heart of the Sinaitic covenant inasmuch as it outlined in detail the terms of the covenant the people had to observe. As becomes clear in both Deuteronomy and later in the book of Joshua where the fulfillment is spoken of (8:30-35), between Ebal and Gerizim the people ratified the covenant made with God at Sinai. An altar of huge stones with the law of God inscribed on them was erected on Ebal, Shechem’s sentinel mount, as a token of that covenantal commitment.


Now. Guess where Mounts Ebal and Gerizim are located. They are the hills in whose valley Shechem lay! The vibrating, thundering chorus of millions of voices shouting ‘Amen’ in unison to the terms of the covenant, from hill to hill, echoed powerfully in the streets of Shechem below; nothing like it has ever been seen (better, heard) again in all history.


The vibrating, thundering chorus of millions of voices shouting ‘Amen’ in unison to the terms of the covenant, from hill to hill, echoed powerfully in the streets of Shechem below

Covenant ratified — yet again

At the end of his life, Joshua called for Israel to assemble again — at Shechem. The solemnity of the occasion cannot be expressed better than by its simple yet inspired biblical description:

Then Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel to Shechem and called for the elders of Israel, for their heads, for their judges, and for their officers; and they presented themselves before God (Josh. 24:1).


Joshua recounted God’s faithfulness from the time of Abram’s calling until He gave them the Promised Land. He solemnly impressed on them the importance of keeping faithfulness with God and his covenant. The following statement captures the sum and substance of the gathering’s purpose:



Now therefore, fear the Lord, serve Him in sincerity and in truth, and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the River and in Egypt. Serve the Lord! (24:14)


The phrase “sincerity and truth” is translated “sincerity and faithfulness” in the RSV. The real meaning of the phrase is best expressed by NIV’s “with all faithfulness“. Joshua told them that they must, in observing the covenant made with God, honor it with fullness of faithfulness. The people responded, equally solemnly, that they would do so:


We also will serve the Lord, for He is our God (24:18).


God was their God because He had promised to be the God of Abram’s seed. They ratified the covenant with shouted professions of faithfulness. Little did they realize that the charge of faithfulness they accepted would later turn into a charge against them. When all was over, Joshua,


… took a large stone, and set it up there under the oak that was by the sanctuary of the Lord (24:26).


Eight hundred years had elapsed since Abram first built an altar under the Shechem oak tree. Could this possibly be the same tree?

Eight hundred years had elapsed since Abram first built an altar under the Shechem oak tree. Could this possibly be the same tree?

It’s doubtful, though oaks can live for many hundreds of years. But its proximity to the “sanctuary of the Lord”, which was probably the altars built by Abram and Jacob, indicates it was now taken to be the official substitute.


Can we not picture Joshua pointing to the altars and the tree, can we not hear him rehearsing their stories? Can we not imagine him pointing to the ground, declaring “somewhere down there are the pagan gods your father Jacob buried; do the same, bury your false gods, and serve the one true God only.” The stone was to witness to their promise to be true. On that day, under Abram’s tree of promise, Israel ratified her covenant with God, the covenant she had made at Sinai about one hundred years earlier.

The charge against


About three hundred years later, a staggering event occurred in Shechem, one which gave the lie to the people’s profession made at that city in Joshua’s day that they and their descendants would forever be faithful.

God was king


From the very outset, God was king over Israel. The clearest exposition of this truth is found in 1 Samuel 12:12:


And when you saw that Nahash king of the Ammonites came against you, you said to me, “No, but a king shall reign over us,” when the Lord your God was your king.


This truth received little in the way of enunciation in the Law simply because every moment of Israel’s history renders it obvious. He created her as a people. He delivered them from annihilation in Egypt. Israel’s covenant with God amounts to nothing less than a suzerainty treaty that finds its meaning only when made between a great king and subject peoples. His regal reign over Israel is evident in such passages as Exodus 15:18, Numbers 23:21; 24:7, Deuteronomy 17:14 and 33:5. But Israel rejected God in the days of Samuel, the last of the judges:


And the Lord said to Samuel, “Heed the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them” (1 Sam. 8:7).


Such treason would ipso facto amount to rejection of the Sinaitic covenant whose central stipulation entailed loyalty to God. Nevertheless, God in His mercy did not call it quits right then. He endured hundreds of years of more active rejection of His proprietary rights over Israel before He brought into play the covenant sanctions of cursing as rehearsed at Shechem.


Significantly, this official rejection of God’s rule was preceded hundreds of years earlier by an abortive popular uprising against God, and guess where its locus was — yes, Shechem. This earlier act of treason set the scene for the later. The key player was a man by the name of Abimelech, whose father was the well-known judge Gideon, of fleece-and-dew fame.


The book of Judges recounts how the people had approached Gideon, after God had used him to save Israel from Midianite oppression, and pleaded with him to be their king. Note his response, showing faithfulness to Israel’s covenant with God:


Then the men of Israel said to Gideon, “Rule over us, both you and your son, and your grandson also; for you have delivered us from the hand of Midian.” But Gideon said to them, “I will not rule over you, nor shall my son rule over you; the Lord shall rule over you” (Judg. 8:22-23).



A greater contrast between father and son has rarely been witnessed in history as that between Gideon and Abimelech. Shortly after his father died, Abimelech went into treachery mode. Like the consummate politician he was, he lobbied hard in his town of Shechem (yes, that’s right) to gain support. Feeling he had it, he murdered all seventy of his own brothers, barring one who escaped, on one rock in one day! Immediately,


… all the men of Shechem gathered together, all of Beth Millo, and they went and made Abimelech king beside the terebinth tree at the pillar that was in Shechem (Judg. 9:6).


Did you catch that? If you did, it probably caught your breath. At the very spot where, under the very tree where (Hamilton, p. 377), next to the very pillar where, three hundred years earlier, all Israel had sworn faithfulness to God and His covenant, where one thousand years earlier God first made the covenantal promises to Abram, where Jacob later buried the vestiges of his false gods, the populace of Shechem declared that a mere, evil man, was now their king. God, they proclaimed, was no longer even a puppet ruler.


The outcome was utter disaster, perhaps even greater than that which had occurred in the same city hundreds of years earlier when Simeon and Levi slaughtered the entire male population.

The outcome was utter disaster, perhaps even greater than that which had occurred in the same city hundreds of years earlier when Simeon and Levi slaughtered the entire male population.

Read the entire account for yourself in Judges 9:1-20. In short, the honeymoon between Abimelech and the Shechemites was short-lived. God set animosity between them, resulting in Abimelech’s massacre of the entire population. One thousand people perished in one incident when Abimelech set fire to the temple of Baal in which they were cringing in fear. That one thousand people could fit inside testifies to its considerable size.


Why did this disaster occur? Listen carefully to what Jotham, Abimelech’s lone surviving brother, had to say to the citizens of Shechem days before the massacre:


Now therefore, if you acted in good faith and honor when you made Abimelech king, and if you have dealt well with Jerubbaal and his house, and have done to him as his deeds deserved. if you then have acted in good faith and honor with Jerubbaal and with his house this day, then rejoice in Abimelech, and let him also rejoice in you (Judg. 9:16-19).


Twice in one short diatribe Jotham tells the people to judge themselves, whether or not they have acted in ‘good faith and honor’. This phrase begs to be noted, for it is identical to that which Joshua used by the oak at Shechem in charging the people to serve God faithfully, a charge which the people accepted enthusiastically. Here, in exactly the same spot, the people cast aside their ancestors’ voluble promises to serve God loyally and launched on a course of rebellion. These facts must not pass unnoticed. They provide a key to the proper understanding of biblical history, and of the meaning of covenants in particular.


Interpreting the story


What appears to be the three-stranded tip of a golden thread waves beckoningly around right from the beginning of the Shechem account. All three ‘firsts’ — a theophany, a pronouncement and an altar — share one common denominator, God’s promises to Abram. One might wonder how Abram’s building of an altar fits in with those promises. As soon as one starts looking for meanings to actions, the art of interpretation is called for. But Wenham doesn’t blush at all in interpreting Abram’s act:


Abram built an altar to show that he believed the promise of the land. In building it, he symbolically demonstrated his conviction that one day it would belong to his descendants (1987, p. 280).


Let us state right here the conclusion come to after studying the various clues relating to Shechem and its oak tree: Shechem serves as a mechanism for concentrating the theme of covenantal faithfulness to a sharp focal resolution.

Topical connections are so strong that we can be confident God intends us to see an umbilical link between them all.


At Shechem God began to unveil His special covenant with Abram and his descendants, and it was there that Abram responded with believing commitment. … it appears to have brought Jacob to genuine spiritual conversion and faithfulness to God, demonstrated by burying his household idols in the very patch of Promised Land soil where Abram first worshiped God.

One could ascribe the act of Simeon and Levi in destroying Shechem as showing loyalty to the covenant promises. For if the marriage had gone ahead, it would have been the thin edge of the wedge. Israel was to preserve an unmixed blood line. Had intermarriage occurred, the very fulfillment of the promises that Abram’s seed would inherit the land would be jeopardized. Thus, Simeon and Levi could well have done the “right thing”. Wenham says,


… the narrative hints at the multidimensional aspects of conduct, at the mixed motives that make it impossible either to condemn any of the actors absolutely or to exonerate them entirely (p. 317).


Mackey’s comment: Judith will, in her magnificent prayer to God at the time of the evening offering in the Temple – and quite contrary to Jacob’s angry reaction to Simeon’s and Levi’s violent deed at Shechem (Genesis 34:30) – express nothing but admiration for what her ancestor Simeon (and Levi) had done, even using this as an incentive for her own move upon a new pagan Shechem-like offender, the Assyrian commander-in-chief “Holofernes” (Judith 9:1-10):


Judith fell prostrate, put ashes upon her head, and uncovered the sackcloth she was wearing. Just as the evening incense was being offered in the temple of God in Jerusalem, Judith cried loudly to the Lord: ‘Lord, God of my father Simeon, into whose hand you put a sword to take revenge upon the foreigners … who had defiled a virgin by violating her, shaming her by uncovering her thighs, and dishonoring her by polluting her womb. You said, ‘This shall not be done!’ Yet they did it. Therefore you handed over their rulers to slaughter; and you handed over to bloodshed the bed in which they lay deceived, the same bed that had felt the shame of their own deceiving. You struck down the slaves together with their masters, and the masters upon their thrones. … Their wives you handed over to plunder, and their daughters to captivity, and all the spoils you divided among your favored children, who burned with zeal for you and in their abhorrence of the defilement of their blood called on you for help. O God, my God, hear me also, a widow. It is you who were the author of those events and of what preceded and followed them. The present and the future you have also planned. …. Whatever you devise comes into being. The things you decide come forward and say, ‘Here we are!’ All your ways are in readiness, and your judgment is made with foreknowledge. …. Here are the Assyrians, a vast force, priding themselves on horse and chariot, boasting of the power of their infantry, trusting in shield and spear, bow and sling. …. They do not know that you are the Lord who crushes wars …. Lord is your name. Shatter their strength in your might, and crush their force in your wrath. …. For they have resolved to profane your sanctuary, to defile the tent where your glorious name resides, and to break off the horns of your altar with the sword. See their pride, and send forth your fury upon their heads. Give me, a widow, a strong hand to execute my plan. By the deceit of my lips, strike down slave together with ruler, and ruler together with attendant. Crush their arrogance by the hand of a female’.


Covenantal promises first given to Abram at Shechem, first acknowledged then fully committed to by Jacob at Shechem, guarded by Simeon and Levi at Shechem, possibly symbolized by Joseph’s bones at Shechem, were twice ratified in Joshua’s time, in modified form, by Israel at Shechem, where the emphasis was placed on ‘fullness of faithfulness’. Shechem was also where Joshua placed the massive, covenantal ‘law stones’ as God had commanded.


Hundreds of years later, the citizens of Shechem discarded every vestige of loyalty to the covenant and embarked on a course of treachery, rejecting God as king in preference for a wicked blob of Abimelech flesh.


Hundreds of years later, the citizens of Shechem discarded every vestige of loyalty to the covenant and embarked on a course of treachery

Jotham’s discourse included a reference to ‘fullness of faithfulness’ that his listeners would almost certainly have taken as alluding to Joshua’s warning. Adding insult to injury but strength to the thesis, Shechem was one of only six cities of refuge and of numerous Levite cities (see Joshua 21:1-3, 21), cities inhabited by that tribe set aside for special service to God. Such a city should have stood a bastion of squeaky-clean holiness to the bitter end; instead, the depth of its traitorousness is indelibly stamped on history’s record in the stark shape of its large temple of Baal. Horror of horrors, the city had become a centre of Canaanite worship.


Further, after the death of King Solomon, the epochal split of the one kingdom of Israel into two separate kingdoms occurred when the people turned, admittedly under provocation, against the legitimate Davidic successor and followed the upstart usurper Jeroboam (see 1 Kings 12:1-19). The event occurred at Shechem, which also became Jeroboam’s first capital.


All these facts underscore as plainly as can be imagined the very essence of covenantal relationships. Though the form of the covenants God made with Israel may have imitated standard ancient practice, the Bible’s repeated Shechem incidents highlight the heart and core of healthy relationships between God and man — mutually-observed faithfulness — as well as its opposite, perfidious unfaithfulness.


The Shechem type teaches what it is that keeps a covenant robust and healthy; the glue that holds two parties together in covenantal bliss consists of the vital attribute of faithfulness. Without faithfulness on the part of both parties, covenants are ultimately doomed.


This marvellous history of Shechem typically lacks a wonderful later chapter, which is the apocalyptical Judith incident.

The tale of Judith, a heroine virtually forgotten to Israel in terms of her historicity, has resonated down through the centuries in ancient pagan tales of vague reminiscence, and has even been projected into pseudo AD ‘history’. See e.g. my article:


Ancient tales inspired by Judith of Bethulia


“Patterns of Evidence” on right track here

Image result for joshuan miracle sun patterns evidence

The Great Solar Miracle. Fatima October 13, 1917


Part Six:

“Patterns of Evidence” on right track here



Damien F. Mackey


“An additional reason to question the designation of the eclipse of 1207 BC as the only candidate to date the conquest, are the 20 factors from archaeology and the Bible that demonstrate that Ramesses II just does not fit with as the pharaoh of the Exodus. Some of these are highlighted in the documentary film and more are found in the book, both with the title Patterns of Evidence: The Exodus”.

 Steve Law



Thankfully all revisionist historians have likewise rejected the conventional theory that the biblical Exodus could have occurred during the reign of pharaoh Ramses II ‘the Great’.


This was one of a number of reasons for my rejecting (in Part Five) the so-called ‘scientific’ conclusion that the Joshuan solar event had occurred in the late 13th BC.


Steve Law, writing for “Patterns of Evidence”

gives his own reasons for why he believes scientists have erred regarding the dating of Joshua and the solar miracle, and why this proposal has no realistic effect whatsoever upon either the conventional or revised histories.


Is This Solar Eclipse Really Joshua’s Miracle?

by Steve Law | Nov 10, 2017 | Evidence |


An annular eclipse.


At that time Joshua spoke to the LORD in the day when the LORD gave the Amorites over to the sons of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel, “Sun, stand still at Gibeon, and moon, in the Valley of Aijalon. And the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, until the nation took vengeance on their enemies. Is this not written in the Book of Jashar? The sun stopped in the midst of heaven and did not hurry to set for about a whole day. – Joshua 10:12-13 (ESV)


Researchers at the University of Cambridge have recently announced a discovery in the Royal Astronomical Society journal Astronomy & Geophysics, which they propose gives an answer to the mysterious Old Testament miracle of Joshua where he commands the sun and moon to stand still during the Israelites’ conquest of Canaan (Joshua chapter 10). In the process they believe they have demonstrated this to be the first solar eclipse ever on record.

According to their research, this event took place in 1207 BC. If confirmed, not only would this discovery date the biblical conquest of Canaan, they believe it could calibrate Egypt’s timeline and “date the reigns of Ramesses the Great and his son Merneptah to within a year.” Additionally, they claim that “if accepted, this would conclusively rule out the New Chronology” of David Rohl and others. But, is this really true? When looking at this issue more closely, it becomes apparent that many of these claims go far beyond the reach of this evidence. So strap on your thinking caps and let’s examine the information.


The Book of Joshua describes an astronomical event of biblical proportions, described at the top of this article. This happened during the first year of the conquest of Canaan by the Israelites under the leadership of Joshua, 40 years after the Exodus from Egypt. The passage includes the idea of the sun and moon standing still and stopping. Professor Sir Colin Humphreys, head of research at the university’s Department of Materials Science and Metallurgy, along with his colleague, astrophysicist Graeme Waddington, believe that the text could be referring to actual events, which they conclude to be a solar eclipse. The pair have a keen interest in linking scientific knowledge to the events of the Bible. “If these words are describing a real observation, then a major astronomical event was taking place – the question for us to figure out is what the text actually means,” said paper co-author Professor Sir Colin Humphreys in a news release issued by his university.


“Modern English translations, which follow the King James translation of 1611, usually interpret this text to mean that the sun and moon stopped moving,” said Humphreys. “But going back to the original Hebrew text, we determined that an alternative meaning could be that the sun and moon just stopped doing what they normally do: they stopped shining. In this context, the Hebrew words could be referring to a solar eclipse, when the moon passes between the earth and the sun, and the sun appears to stop shining. This interpretation is supported by the fact that the Hebrew word translated ‘stand still’ has the same root as a Babylonian word used in ancient astronomical texts to describe eclipses.”


Humphreys and Waddington concluded that Joshua may have in fact recorded the oldest solar eclipse ever recorded. To show that the 1207 BC date is the oldest, they looked at the earliest recorded solar eclipses that have previously been suggested to show that there have been no reliable references to solar eclipses being observed before 1000 BC. The other proposed texts simply do not seem to refer to eclipses at all.


Some earlier historians had also suggested that this Joshua passage refers to a solar eclipse, but they failed to arrive at a specific date because of the laborious calculations that would have been required. Later, others gave up on the idea of associating this event with a solar eclipse because they were only looking at total eclipses, and the computer models for past eclipses showed that there were none in Canaan in the period surrounding the Exodus.

A total solar eclipse is where the moon passes between the Earth and the sun and completely covers the disc of the sun. This was the type of eclipse witnessed across a swath of America in August of 2017. For those on either side of the thin band of totality, only a portion of the sun was obstructed. The experience in these areas would be similar to a partial eclipse, when the moon is not centered over the sun, so only covers a portion of it. For those in the path of totality, once the sun is completely covered, its corona (atmosphere) becomes visible as glowing light radiating from around the rim of the moon.


Unlike previous attempts to date the first solar eclipse, the model of the Oxford scholars analyzes not only total eclipses but annular eclipses as well. An annular eclipse is when the moon is centered over the sun, but the moon does not completely cover the sun. This is because the moon’s orbit around Earth is elliptical, not circular. Therefore, in areas of the orbit where it is closer to Earth, it is able to completely cover the sun. But in those parts of its orbit that are farthest from Earth, it is too distant to completely cover the sun. During annular eclipses, there is a ring of direct sunlight that blazes around the edge of the moon. There is evidence that in the ancient world, the same word was used for total and annular eclipses. By looking at the broad span of time between 1550 and 1050 BC, they found that an annular eclipse had passed right through Canaan in the area of Gibeon at one, and only one, time – in 1207 BC.

Map of ancient Canaan showing the route taken by the Israelites, starting at Gilgal, according to Joshua chapter 10. (From Collin Humphrey’s article courtesy of Colin Bell at Tyndale House, Cambridge.)


To reach their conclusion of a precise date, the researchers came up with a new eclipse code, which is essentially a computer code designed “to calculate the dates of past and future eclipses” by taking into account the variations in our planet’s rotation over time. Their data matched information from NASA for past eclipses. From their calculations, they determined this annular eclipse was visible in Canaan on the afternoon of October 30th, 1207 BC.


Historical Ramifications

Together, Humphreys and Waddington compared the biblical passage of Joshua to the Merneptah Stele, which is a monument erected by Pharaoh Merneptah, son of Ramesses II, who is the favored pharaoh of the Exodus by most mainstream scholars. This allowed them to come up with precise dates for both Ramesses II and his son Merneptah. The lengths of the reigns of these two pharaohs are known from various inscriptions, but the exact dates are a bit flexible, even when using conventional chronology. However, the results of their study are claimed to determine the dates for these pharaohs that are accurate to within one year.

The top half of the Merneptah Stele, followed by the highlighted section mentioning Israel. (copyright Patterns of Evidence, LLC)


The Merneptah Stele says it was inscribed in the 5th year of Merneptah’s reign, and it mentions a defeat of a people called “Israel” in the lands north of Egypt. According to the Bible, the Israelites first entered Canaan during the conquest under Joshua. By surmising that the confrontation mentioned on the stele happened in year 2, 3 or 4 of Merneptah, and with Joshua’s eclipse occurring in 1207 BC, they arrived at dates for Merneptah’s reign as between 1210 BC and 1200 BC ( ±1 year) and the dates for Ramesses II being 1276–1210 BC (±1 year). These dates are 3 years later than the current standard view of Egyptian chronology.


The implications of this idea are more drastic for the possibility of shifting Egypt’s timeline significantly, as proposed by David Rohl, John Bimson and others. “If accepted, this would conclusively rule out the ‘New Chronology’ of Rohl (1995) and others for ancient Egyptian Pharaohs” Humphrey writes.


This is a major claim. Humphreys and Waddington are brilliant scientists, but that does not mean that their conclusions in this instance are sound. The event described in the Bible may actually have been an eclipse, but then again, it may not have been. To use a possible connection between the 1207 BC eclipse and Joshua’s event as the basis to date the Bible and Egyptian history seems tenuous at best.


More importantly, there is a massive part of argument from these researchers that remains unstated. The unstated premise here is that the confrontation between Merneptah and Israel should be associated with the time of the eclipse. However, there is absolutely no reason given for this association. Even if one assumes (for the sake of argument) that the 1207 BC eclipse is the miracle of Joshua, that would still say nothing as to how that might relate to Merneptah or to the time of his reported confrontation with Israel. Yet this unstated premise is the key to their argument.


The Bible has the Israelites in Canaan from the beginning of the Conquest through the destruction of the Temple in about 586 BC, so this gives a span of many centuries for a potential conflict between Egypt and Israel. Why choose the first year of that span as the date when Merneptah’s reference on the stele must have occurred?


The only reason to associate Merneptah’s stele with Israel’s conquest of Canaan appears to be the tradition that the Exodus happened during the reign of Ramesses II. This would mean the conclusions of this research paper act as a grand circular argument, assuming that the conquest happened in the time of Merneptah, and then using a possible Joshua eclipse date of 1207 BC to claim that this proves that Merneptah reigned at the time of the conquest in 1207 BC.


Besides the faulty logic of this reasoning, there are other reasons to question the conclusions of the paper. For one, if it is granted that Joshua may have been describing an eclipse, why would an annular eclipse be the only candidate to fit the description and not a partial eclipse?


Even when tiny parts of the sun are exposed, the sun’s blinding disk is too brilliant to look at with the naked eye. This is even true when 99% of the sun is covered. During the annular eclipse of 1207 BC a maximum of only 86% of the solar disc’s area was covered by the moon. It is only when the sun is covered by haze or a thin cloud – or filtered by the atmosphere near sunrise/sunset that anything but a total eclipse can be directly observed with the human eye. Since the account in Joshua speaks of a hailstorm of huge magnitude during the battle, cloud cover of varying thickness could have been experienced. It would be at these times that an eclipse (whether annular or partial) could have been directly observed if a veil of clouds dimmed the sun. The phenomena could also be seen as the sun sunk low in the atmosphere. The point is that a partial eclipse would have been experienced in much the same way as an annular eclipse. In both cases the moon and sun would be seen as standing still together and not shining as they normally do. They could also both be interpreted as an evil omen by Israel’s enemies.


The article by Humphreys and Waddington prompted rabbinic scholar Eli Gurevich to contact David Rohl with this idea of a partial eclipse fitting the requirements just as much as an annular eclipse. He referenced the NASA eclipse tables, which show partial eclipses typically crossing Canaan several times in every decade. Remarkably, a total eclipse passes just north of Canaan on July 14, 1406 BC (one year needs to be added to the NASA numbers to arrive at the correct BC date). This would line up perfectly with a common early date proposed for the Exodus of 1446 BC, with the Conquest starting in 1406 BC.

The solar eclipse of 1406 BC with the blue band showing the zone of totality (courtesy of the NASA website)


Another interesting possibility has to do with the is the reference of the sun standing still at Gibeon and the moon at Aijalon. Since Canaan experienced the last part of the eclipse, the sun’s disk would be more exposed on the right or east side of the pair, and the dark moon would take up most of the left or east side. This would correspond to Gibeon being to the east, and Aijalon being to the west (see map above).


Solomon began to build the temple for the Lord in the four hundred eightieth year after the Israelites came out of the land of Egypt, in the fourth year of his reign over Israel, in the second month, in the month of Ziv. – 1 Kings 6:1 (ESV)


An additional reason to question the designation of the eclipse of 1207 BC as the only candidate to date the conquest, are the 20 factors from archaeology and the Bible that demonstrate that Ramesses II just does not fit with as the pharaoh of the Exodus. Some of these are highlighted in the documentary film and more are found in the book, both with the title Patterns of Evidence: The Exodus. Some examples from the Bible include the fact that 1 Kings 6:1 has the Exodus occurring in the 480th year before Solomon began work on the Temple, which would put it in the 1400s BC not the 1200s. Many try to dismiss this verse as merely being symbolic for a shorter period, but a statement by one of Israel’s judges named Jephthah supports a straightforward interpretation of the 1 Kings 6:1 chronology. It has the Israelites already in the land for about 300 years, long before the time that Israelite kings began to reign.


“While Israel lived 300 years in Heshbon and its villages, in Aroer and its villages, and in all the cities that are on the banks of the Arnon, why didn’t you take them back at that time?” – Judges 11:26 (ESV)


In fact there are other indications in the Bible that show the Judges period lasted many centuries (not the 150 years given to it by the Ramesses Exodus Theory), which necessarily pushes the Exodus centuries before a 1200s BC date. For example, the book of 1 Chronicles (6:31-47) gives the family tree of one of the singers in King David’s court after the ark was brought to Jerusalem in his 7th year. It gives 18 generations from that time back to Ebiasaph the son of Korah who went out in the Exodus. Since David’s 8th year was at least as far back as 1002 BC (some systems have him even earlier), that would require an average time between generations of about 13.6 years with a mid 1200s BC Exodus. Not very likely. For a mid 1400s BC Exodus, the average time between these 18 generations becomes a much more normative 24.7 years.


Additionally, The Bible has Moses being born around the time of the building of the city Rameses (Exodus chapter 1), which is the main basis of the Ramesses Exodus Theory. But the conquest happens 120 years later, after Moses’ death. For a 1207 BC Conquest that would mean the city of Ramesses was being built around 1327 BC, 27 years before Ramesses was born in Humphreys’ system. The Bible says in two places says that the pharaoh who sought Moses’ life (40 years after Moses’ birth) died before the Exodus (when Moses was 80). Therefore the builder of the store city of Rameses could not possibly also be the pharaoh of the Exodus.


Now in Midian the Lord told Moses, “Return to Egypt, for all the men who wanted to kill you are dead.” – Exodus 4:19 (ESV)


Then there is the archaeological evidence that shows no sign of massive numbers of Semites in Goshen during his reign, no sign of a collapse of Egypt as would be expected at the time of Exodus, and no pattern matching the Conquest of Canaan after his reign. That is why mainstream scholars have become so skeptical of the Exodus account.


These are just a few of the evidences that show that Ramesses was not the pharaoh of the Exodus and that Merneptah was not the pharaoh at the time of the conquest. When does the conquest account speak of a confrontation with Egypt anyway? For the Humphreys model to be factual, Egypt would have to have defeated Israel at a time when the Bible has the Israelites conquering city after city on their way to controlling most of Canaan. Nothing in this scenario adds up.


It is possible that the Book of Joshua was describing a solar eclipse, but even if one were to favor that view, there is no reason to confine this phenomena to a annular eclipse or to a 1207 BC date. Other eclipses occurring in Canaan in the 1400s BC fit the requirements just as well and match the Bible’s own timeline much better. Furthermore, the evidence of an eclipse in Canaan in 1207 BC (whether or not it is related to the Israelites’ Conquest) gives no reason to connect that event to the reign of Merneptah who in no other way (except by tradition) is connected to the Exodus or Conquest time period.


A close examination of the evidence and the arguments reveals that there is no reason to think that these findings have anything to do with Egypt’s dates or the debate between the New Chronology and the standard view of Egyptian Chronology. Keep Thinking!



‘Scientific’ approach (for Joshuan miracle) may be barking up wrong tree  

Image result for yam suf

The Great Solar Miracle. Fatima October 13, 1917


Part Five:

‘Scientific’ approach may be barking up wrong tree



 Damien F. Mackey


“It is very common to find many areas in which there exists an amazing

confluence of secular knowledge and Torah wisdom.”

 Rabbi Arieh Trugman


That would most certainly be the case whenever “secular knowledge” is correct.

Sadly, though, it often is not.


Early last year (2017) some scientists claimed to have discovered the precise BC date, to the very day, of the Joshuan miracle of the sun. However, according to what we have already discussed in this series as to the nature of divinely wrought solar miracles (especially Fatima, 1917), it is highly unlikely that scientists would be able to achieve this feat.


There is a lot, I find, to dislike, about the following article describing this alleged scientific discovery:

Thus I shall be attaching my own comments wherever I think necessary.


Scientists Discover Exact Date of Joshua’s

Biblical Battle Against Five Kings


By Adam Eliyahu Berkowitz January 19, 2017 , 12:30 pm


“Thou art the God that doest wonders; Thou hast made known Thy strength among the peoples.” Psalms 77:14 (The Israel Bible™)


An eclipse of the sun. (Shutterstock)


Three researchers from Ben Gurion University believe they have discovered the scientific explanation behind the miraculous Biblical account of the sun standing still for Joshua during battle. Though their solution may not be miraculous, their approach is a symbiotic marriage of science and the Bible.


Mackey’s comment: The Fatima phenomenon that we have proposed as a paradigm for God’s use of a solar miracle was purely “miraculous”.


Dr. Hezi Yitzchak, Dr. Daniel Weistaub, and Dr. Uzi Avneer, of Ben Gurion University in Israel’s Negev, released the results of their study last week in Beit Mikra, a Hebrew language journal for the study of the Bible. In the study, they suggest that the miracle of the sun standing still when Joshua fought five armies in order to help the Gibeonites was actually attributable to natural causes – namely, a solar eclipse.


Mackey’s comment: Given the fact that AD time has not yet been anything like properly revised, I must wonder how the Ben Gurion trio could possibly suggest which one of the many solar eclipses down through the ages this could have been.


In chapter ten of the Book of Joshua, the Israelites go to war against five kings in order to help the Gibeonites, with whom they had signed a pact. While Israel was prevailing in the battle, God sent down stones from heaven to smite the enemy. Joshua prayed for the sun to stand still in order to have time to complete the victory. God answered his prayer.

And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed, until the nation had avenged themselves of their enemies. Is not this written in the book of Jashar? And the sun stayed in the midst of heaven, and hasted not to go down about a whole day. Joshua 10:13

Joshua commands the sun to stand still (Wikimedia)


Using data from NASA tracking astronomical events, the team of scientists ascertained that the only solar eclipse which occurred during the period when the Jews are believed to have entered Israel was on October 30, 1207 BCE. Though the Bible mentions other cases of the sun standing still, the story in the Book of Joshua is unique in that it also mentions the role the moon plays in the process. This led the scientists to conclude that the Bible was relating a case of a solar eclipse, in which the moon comes between the earth and the sun.


Mackey’s comment: Well that has to be a big problem because, firstly, 1207 BC is way too late for Joshua as biblically calculated; and, secondly, it corresponds conventionally to the 19th dynasty of Egypt when nothing like a massive biblical Exodus occurred; and, thirdly, according to my revised history, it corresponds with the later period of the Judges.

The Ben Gurion proposal accords neither with the Bible, nor with serious history.


One glaring difficulty for the scientists’ theory is that the Bible describes the sun lingering in the sky for an extended period of time. Their explanation, a solar eclipse, is precisely the opposite: the sun disappearing at a time it normally appears in the sky.


Mackey’s comment: It is indeed a “glaring difficulty”, and it is that because it is an unenlightened (to keep the sun image going) explanation.

But, amazing what one can do with “etymology”.


The scientists resolve this contradiction using Hebrew etymology.

The description of the event in the Book of Joshua uses the word דֹּם (dom), usually understood as ‘stand still’. The word is only used in one other place in the Bible.

Resign (דּוֹם) thyself unto Hashem, and wait patiently for Him… Psalms 37:7

The scientists concluded that the word דֹּם (dom) actually means ‘to become dark’.

Though this explanation may seem unlikely at first glance …


Mackey’s comment: It has completely lost me.


… the report cited several classical Jewish sources which state the event described in the Book of Joshua was actually a solar eclipse.

Most notably, it quotes Rabbi Moses ben Maimon, commonly known as Maimonides, a prominent 12th century Spanish Torah authority. In his book, The Guide to the Perplexed …


Mackey’s comment: It has completely lost me and has now also perplexed me.


… the Rambam understood the case in Joshua to be a visible phenomenon rather than an extension of time, based on the verse stating that it was done in a visible manner.

Then spoke Yehoshua to Hashem in the day when Hashem delivered up the Amorites before Bnei Yisrael; and he said in the sight of IsraelJoshua 10:12

The Rambam reasoned that this was a case of the rays of the sun standing still, or being stopped, as in a solar eclipse.

Rabbi Avraham Arieh Trugman, director of Ohr Chadash:New Horizons in Jewish Experience, accepted the results of the study with equanimity. Rabbi Trugman cited a fable attributed to Rabbi Yisroel ben Eliezer, known as the Baal Shem Tov (Master of the good name), who founded the influential Hassidic movement in the 18th century.

Rabbi Arieh Trugman (Courtesy)

The story tells of a scientist who approached the Baal Shem Tov, saying he could explain the Red Sea splitting when the Jews came out of Egypt by attributing it to an exceptionally high flood tide.


Mackey’s comment: Experts of the Torah must surely be aware that the “Red Sea” is not mentioned with reference to the parting of the waters. It is the “Sea of Reeds” (Yam Suf).


The scientist described all of the astronomic conditions necessary to create such a tide, stating that although it was indeed rare, it was entirely reasonable to expect such an occurrence.

The Baal Shem Tov was said to have responded by exclaiming, “What a miracle! A miracle! At the very moment that Israel needed to cross the Red Sea, there was this unique conjunction of stars.”

Rabbi Trugman explained his understanding of the story to Breaking Israel News.

“Despite the fact that in many different areas people want to pit science against Torah, what is much closer to the truth is that in most cases there is no conflict between science and Torah,” said Rabbi Trugman. “It is very common to find many areas in which there exists an amazing confluence of secular knowledge and Torah wisdom.”

Though some may disagree with the study’s methods and some of their conclusions, the scientists’ conclusion that the Bible can be an accurate sourcebook for history will find favor with the Biblically-minded.

“Not everyone likes the idea of using physics to prove things from the Bible, and I know that it may be interpreted as if you are rationalizing your faith,” Dr. Yitzhak told Haaretz on Sunday. “We do not claim that everything written in the Bible is true or took place… but there is also a grain of historical truth that has archaeological evidence behind it.”

The scientists also located what they believe is the location of the battle and the 18-mile path the Hebrew soldiers trekked overnight in order to launch a surprise attack in the morning. They concluded that it was actually the region between the city of Jericho and Gilgal, a type of gathering site mentioned in the Bible in several places.

The article in Beit Mikra did not address the “great stones” and “hailstones” the Bible describes as being responsible for killing more of the enemy than died in the actual battle.



The Great Solar Miracle. Fatima October 13, 1917

The Great Solar Miracle. Fatima October 13, 1917


Part Four:
Philip Trower expresses similar view of it




 Damien F. Mackey



“What, of course, the clerics in question did not consider was the possibility that

God had worked a miracle with physical appearances rather than physical bodies”.

 Philip Trower




Philip Trower’s argument here is along lines similar to what I wrote in Part Two of this series:

There I wrote:


For those present that day [13th October, 1917 at Fatima] –


“And there has never been a day like it before or since …” (Joshua 10:14)


– the Sun appeared to do what it does not normally do, and, moreover, “the people could look directly at it”.

Since God, who provided us with Nature and the Cosmos, both heralded, and then performed, this terrifying event, might it not offer clues for us when attempting to make sense, too, of the Joshuan miracle of the sun that He also performed?

Did Joshua and his men really observe a miraculous intervention by God that, as in the case of Fatima, did not in any way affect the cosmological order, nor was seen elsewhere in the world?

A miraculous provision of extra light to the advantage of the fighting Israelites by the God who created light (Genesis 1:3).


Recall the Fatima miracle again, with its wonderful abundance of light: “Great shafts of coloured light flared out from its centre in all directions, colouring in a most fantastic manner the clouds, trees, rocks, earth, and even the clothes and faces of the people gathered there …. it resumed a second time its incredible motion, throwing out its light and colour like a huge display of fireworks”.

Whilst the extra light on the Joshuan occasion had enabled the Israelites to complete their victory, the light and “a heat increasingly intense” at Fatima served the more benign purpose of drying the sodden crowd.


If this is the explanation, then biblical enthusiasts may be wasting their time looking for ancient records of a long day in China, or Peru, or wherever. Or from supposed evidence from NASA, or other quasi-scientific theories



Some adopt the position that God stopped the entire solar system. They make Joshua’s day 23 hours and 20 minutes. The other 40 minutes are said to be found in 2 Kings 20:8-11, where the sun went ten degrees backward for a sign to Hezekiah that his life would be extended.  Alternately, it has been suggested that prolonged light resulted from (1) the slowing of the earth’s rotation so that one day is missing in the earth’s astronomical calendar; or (2) the temporary tilting of the earth’s axis.4  Some adopt the position that God blacked out the sun rather than continued its shining by appealing to a particular translation, e.g., The Berkeley Version translates it, “O Sun, wait in Gibeon”, and in the American Standard Version the marginal reading is, “Sun, be silent.”



Or whether or not the Joshuan text is evidence needed to support Geocentrism.


[End of quotes]


Philip Trower has written:


Damascus And Fatima


My purpose in writing this article is to show how a knowledge of the Church’s ascetical theology and history can throw light on or help to resolve problems in Holy Scripture. I am giving two examples, one based on an incident in the New Testament, the other taken from the Old. Ascetical theology is defined in the dictionary I mostly use as the “science of the saints based on the study of their lives,” and that includes supernatural phenomena.

The two incidents I am using are the conversion of St. Paul on the road to Damascus and the passage in the Book of Joshua where God extends the length of the day by keeping the sun from setting so that Joshua can win a battle.

There are three accounts of St. Paul’s conversion in the Acts of the Apostles. In the first St. Luke is describing the event, which he must often have heard from St. Paul’s own lips, where it naturally comes in the course of his narrative. Here he tells us that suddenly a light from Heaven flashed about St. Paul and that “he fell to the ground and heard a voice.” Then he says that St. Paul’s companions stood speechless, “hearing the voice but seeing no one” (Acts 9:3-7).

In the second account St. Luke quotes St. Paul directly. St. Paul, who has just completed his third missionary journey, is addressing the rioting Jews outside the Roman barracks in Jerusalem. After being arrested in the Temple, he has been telling them the story of his life and conversion. This time he says that his companions “saw a light but did not hear the voice” (Acts 22:6-9).

In the third account a year to a year and a half later (Acts 26:12-15), St. Paul, still a prisoner, is describing the event to King Agrippa in Caesarea while waiting to be sent to Rome. This time he says nothing about what his companions did or didn’t see.
How then are we to explain the disparity between the first two accounts: one saying the companions did hear a voice, the second saying they didn’t? Is this a case of Scripture contradicting itself, or St. Paul making a mistake and forgetting what had happened in one of them? It would surely be expecting too much to imagine there had never been any Scripture scholar to have drawn such a conclusion.

However, a little reflection reveals that it need not necessarily be so.
St. Paul’s companions were employees of the Jewish authorities in Jerusalem and therefore, when the incident occurred, not sympathetic to Christians. Indeed, together with St Paul they were on their way to arrest some of them. However, in the light of what happened, and they experienced, it is surely not impossible or even unlikely that one or more of them subsequently became Christians themselves, whom St. Luke was able to question. Here is the relevant passage from the account to King Agrippa.
“At midday, O King, I saw on the way a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining round me and those who journeyed with me. And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew language, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?’. . . And I said, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And the Lord said; ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting’.”
This, surely, is an experience St. Paul’s companions were not easily going to forget or would leave little or no impression on them. Suddenly a light brighter than the sun shining all around them, then being thrown off their horses onto the ground and finally hearing, or some of them hearing, a mysterious voice claiming to be the very Jesus whose followers they were about to arrest.

Moreover, unless some of them later became Christians, how could anyone have known what they saw, heard, or felt at the time? St. Paul wasn’t in a condition or state of mind to question them, and since no further reference is made to them, they presumably returned to Jerusalem, leaving St. Paul in the “house of Judas,” where, so we are told, he was initially taken.

Assuming then that some of the companions did later become Christians, it also seems to me more than likely that St. Luke, being the natural historian he was, while relying mainly on St. Paul, would have contacted them so as to question them about their experience too.
Which brings us back to the question of whether or not they heard the voice. Here, it seems to me, we can explain the apparent contradiction by the fact that some did and some didn’t.

It is a well recognized fact in the lives of saints that when supernatural phenomena occur which are witnessed by more than one person, some are often privileged to see or hear more than others. We can cite numerous instances in the life of Padre Pio when he was seen in two places at once (the phenomenon known as bilocation). But not everyone present always saw him in the second of the two places. Similarly at Fatima. The two younger children did not always see or hear as much as Lucia, the eldest.



My second episode also has to do with a supposed error in Holy Scripture, but one greater in size and with more far-reaching implications.

I refer to the passage in the Book of Joshua where God extends the day by keeping the sun from setting so that Joshua has time to finish a battle. Here is the text.
“Then spoke Joshua to the Lord in the day when the Lord gave the Amorites over to the men of Israel; and he said in the sight of Israel, ‘Sun, stand thou still over Gibeon, and thou moon in the valley of Aijalon.’ And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed until the nation took vengeance on their enemies” (Joshua 10:12, 13) ….

Clearly down the ages, our forebears, Jewish and Christian, would have seen this as a miracle. But starting with Copernicus, the new heliocentric astronomy seemed to require a miracle of such fantastic proportions as to make it seem highly unlikely. Not only would the sun have had to be stopped in its tracks, so would all the planets revolving round it, our Earth included. There was no evidence in Scripture or anywhere else that God had ever worked a physical miracle on such a staggeringly vast scale.

As a result, by the time Galileo came along with his more sophisticated heliocentrism, his theories seemed to involve a direct challenge to the Book of Joshua. For some at least of the clerics involved in the Galileo case, this alone would have been enough to make his theories worthy of condemnation.

What, of course, the clerics in question did not consider was the possibility that God had worked a miracle with physical appearances rather than physical bodies.

Is there any evidence that God has ever done such a thing either before or afterward? Yes.

Where? At Fatima in Portugal in October 1917.

Our Lady, you will remember, had promised the three children she had been appearing to since May 1917 that before she finally left them, she would ask God to work a miracle of sufficient proportions to convince everybody that what they had been telling them was true.
The miracle was fixed for October 13 and not only Fatima locals witnessed it. A crowd of seventy thousand gathered to see what happened, mainly from Lisbon, journalists included. They were not all pious believers, and they had been waiting in the rain for several hours. At last at the time foretold, the sky cleared, the sun half emerged, and seeming to detach itself from the sky appeared to plunge toward the Earth.
There were shouts and shrieks and people threw themselves on the ground. Then the miracle was over, and the sun was back in its proper place — or, rather, it ceased to appear being out of its proper place. Meanwhile, in addition to giving the sign our Lady had promised the children, it had confirmed the veracity of the Book of Joshua, demonstrating at the same time that the new heliocentrism was no danger to it. God can and apparently will manipulate appearances without resorting to mass hallucination, though needless to say there were people who, against all the evidence, have resorted to that explanation of the Fatima miracle. ….


Mowinckel made an ass of Balaam story  

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Preferring P. J. Wiseman to un-wise JEDP


Part Four:

Mowinckel made an ass of Balaam story



Damien F. Mackey


 “Much of the loss of simhat torah [“Rejoicing in the Torah”] in Old Testament studies must be attributed to the atomizing process of critics such as Mowinckel”.

Ronald Barclay Allen



Balaam in the New Testament


Balaam can come across as a somewhat curious character inasmuch as he, an apparent pagan soothsayer, will, in the end, utter some true and marvellous prophecies, such as this one, Balaam’s Fourth Prophesy (Numbers 24:17):


‘I see him, but not now;

I behold him, but not near:

a star shall come out of Jacob,

and a scepter shall rise out of Israel;

it shall crush the forehead of Moab

and break down all the sons of Sheth’.


This Balaam will do, however, not of his own accord, but under Divine compulsion. For Balaam was no willing instrument of Yahweh, but was, according to Joshua 13:22, a “diviner”, who would be slain along with Israel’s other foes: “Balaam also the son of Beor, the soothsayer, did the children of Israel slay with the sword among them that were slain by them”.



The New Testament is far more specific about the character and wrongful deeds of the man.


2 Peter 2:15


“Which have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Bosor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness …”.


Jude 1:11


Woe to them! They have taken the way of Cain; they have rushed for profit into Balaam’s error; they have been destroyed in Korah’s rebellion”.


Revelation 2:14


“There are some among you who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin so that they ate food sacrificed to idols and committed sexual immorality”.


The renowned Norwegian professor, theologian and biblical scholar, Sigmund Mowinckel (d. 1965), eagerly embracing the Wellhausian JEDP critical method, will be led by JEDP to a quite different conclusion about Balaam, who will “now become the pious man of God”.


Mowinckel’s E transforms J


Ronald Barclay Allen tells of this ‘amazing’ metamorphosis of Balaam in his dissertation, THE THEOLOGY OF THE BALAAM ORACLES: A PAGAN DIVINER AND THE WORD OF GOD (pp. 85-87):


Section seven2 of Mowinckel’s treatment of the Balaam saga has to do with the E variant which is used to reshape the J materials. The variants of the saga which are narrated by the Elohist build entirely and fully on the Yahwistic materials. But in the E reshaping there is the influence of a later period in terms of the conception of God and also in other ways of thinking.

The E variant retains the two trips of Balak after Balaam and the two blessings that were given instead of cursings. But E varies from J in that E does not let Balaam speak the two blessings of his own initiative.

The most characteristic element in the E variant, according to Mowinckel, however, is the religious. The folk-saga has become legend. Balaam has now become the pious man of God, whereas he had been no more than a professional seer. Now, in all matters, he waits for the command of Elohim.

Another tell-tale sign of E is to be seen in the preference for dream or semi-awake periods of revelation in the night. No longer is there the daylight vision of the angel; in E it is replaced by night visions and dreams.

The disgraceful expedient of the donkey is dismissed.

So, Mowinckel summarizes, in the E variant there are no new elements. Rather we are to see in E a “deforming” [read “demythologizing”] of the J section under the influence of the religious way of thinking of the later period.1


Mowinckel’s is a kill-joy approach


Moving on to pp. 92-95 of Ronald Barclay Allen’s dissertation, we read of the un-wanted effect of the JEDP method of textual fragmentation:


The so-called “Documentary Hypothesis,” which received its formal exposition in the writings of Wellhausen, Driver, et al.,2 is felt to be demonstrated as “beyond all doubt” by Mowinckel in the treatise surveyed above. His second sentence states confidently this operating pre- mise: “Es besteht fur mich daruber gar kein Zweifel, dass die von Wellhausen and Bantsch vorgenommene Scheldung in der Hauptsache das Richtige getroffen hat.”3

This article may be stated to be “Exhibit A” in the defense of literary-critical analysis. In opposition to revisionists such as von Gall and Gressmann, and in ignorance or disregard of critical “heretics” such as Lohr–Mowinckel methodically sloshes through the quagmire of the reasoning of source-analysis. After almost forty pages of closely printed text, he concludes where he began. Wellhausen is indeed correct: “Daraus ergibt sich erstens, dass die von anderen Kriterien heraus vorgenommene Quellen- schceidung Wellhausens und anderer . . . die richtige ist.”1

This is not the place to attempt to present a thoroughgoing refutation of literary-criticism;2 such has been done well by others.3 It is enough simply to display the manner of argumentation by Mowinckel in detail (as done above), in order to exhibit the logical and scientific flaws of the literary-critical hypothesis.

Presuppositions of a negative cast are stated, conclusions are drawn, conflicting data are excised as being “intrusions,” premises are proved–and the author marvels at the result. One example may suffice. Rather than see a progression and development in the several oracles of Numbers 23 and 24, Mowinckel inverts their order, excises “intrusions” that conflict with his presuppositions, and then “proves” that the songs of chapter 24 are earlier than those of chapter 23 on the basis of presuppositions of historical context and evolution of religion. As for the employment of the word “Yahweh” in Numbers 23:2:1–our author says that this proves “nichts gogen ‘E’ als Verfasser.”1 Yet it was precisely on the basis of the employment of the divine names that the sources were first identified.

With these circular reasoning and question-begging techniques, our author may seek any historical situation he wishes for a given passage. The word “history” is employed in a very cavalier fashion. It may well be that the mere presentation of the arguments of Mowinckel serves as a most potent argument against the system.

However, the presentation of this material also serves to confirm an observation made in Chapter I of the present paper. Much of the loss of simhat torah in Old Testament studies must be attributed to the atomizing process of critics such as Mowinckel. What delight after all is there in his manner of approach?1 Further, what his approach does to the authority of the Word of God in the mind of the reader is a question of prime importance.



Deir ‘Alla inscription and the historical Balaam son of Beor

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 “This understanding of the name gains support from its uncanny similarity to the name of the first Edomite king, Belaʿ, son of Beʿôr, as recorded in Genesis 36:32. This resemblance can hardly be coincidental, and may argue for the identification of Balaam as a nearby Ammonite, Moabite, Midianite, or Edomite by origin, rather than as a more distant Aramean”.


Here, Jewish Virtual Library provides us with the likelihood of an historically attested Balaam, the seer, coupled with a vital connection to a king of Edom listed in Genesis:



BALAAM (Heb. בַּלְעָם, בִּלְעָם), son of Beor, a non-Israelite diviner famous for his effectiveness, enlisted by Balak, king of Moab, to pronounce curses over the Israelites. The pronunciation Balaam reflects the Greek rendering of the name in the Septuagint. Balaam’s exploits are related in Numbers 22:2–24:25, known in modern research as “The Balaam Pericope,” and traditionally recognized as a distinct literary unit within the book of Numbers. There we read that the numerous Israelites, encamped in the Steppes of Moab on their way to the land of Canaan, were feeding off the land, causing great apprehension in Moab. Balak despaired of driving them away by force, and he hoped to achieve victory by means of Balaam’s execrations. To Balak’s chagrin, however, Balaam refused to succumb to his offers of reward, and surprisingly, pronounced blessings over Israel instead of curses, predicting Israelite victories. His orations represent some of the most beautiful examples of early Hebrew poetry. Balaam’s firm obedience to God’s will is viewed with great favor. Similar praise is expressed in Micah 6:5, where Balaam’s role in thwarting the design of one of Israel’s enemies is evoked as a sign of God’s providence over his people.


In contrast, Balaam is seen in a hostile light in several other biblical sources where he is mentioned. In a certain sense, the derogation of Balaam begins in the Tale of the Ass (Num 22:22–35), which mocks his reputed gifts as a seer (see further). And yet, as the tale unfolds, Balaam falls into line, and ends up obeying God’s instructions. The attitude toward Balaam is decidedly unfavorable, however, in Numbers 31:8, 16, which report that Balaam’s counsel had led to Israelite worship of Baal Peor, and that he was slain by the Israelites together with the kings of Midian in the course of the war against the Midianites. A resonance of the same episode is found in Joshua 13:22, where, in addition, Balaam is referred to as ha-qôsem (“the diviner”), as if to discredit him. In Joshua 24:9–10, within a narration of Israel’s history, we read that God protected Israel, refusing to allow Balaam to curse the people, The underlying assumption is that Balaam had intended to do just that. Finally, according to Deuteronomy 23:5–6, the mere fact that Balaam had been retained by Balak, king of Moab, to curse Israel is adduced as a basis for prohibiting marriage with Ammonites and Midianites (cf. Neh. 13:2). It is difficult to explain this negativity toward Balaam against the background of the Balaam Pericope. Rather than following traditional explanations that Balaam’s allegiances changed, it is more likely that subsequent Israelite misfortunes at the hands of neighboring nations, with whom Balaam was identified, brought him into disrepute.


Recent archaeological discoveries have added significant information about Balaam. In 1967, a Dutch expedition under H. Franken discovered fragments of inscriptions written on plaster at a Transjordanian site named Tell Deir ‘Alla, located about 5 mi. (8 km.) east of the Jordan, not far from the northern bank of the Jabbok (Zerqa) river that flows into the Jordan. In the Hebrew Bible this area is known as cēmeq Sukkôt, “the valley of Sukkoth” (Ps. 60:8, 108:8, cf. Gen. 33:17, Judg. 8, I Kings 7:46). Many of the plaster fragments were restored in the manner of a jigsaw puzzle, and the resulting “combinations” were published by J.A. Hoftijzer and G. van der Kooij in 1976. Composed in a language similar to biblical Hebrew, and dated in the late ninth to early 8th centuries B.C.E., the inscriptions attest the name of a seer, blʿm brbʿr – “Balaam, son of Beor”– for the first time in an extra-biblical source of the biblical period. Previously, Balaam had been known outside the Hebrew Bible solely from post-biblical sources (Baskin 1983).

The Deir ‘Alla inscriptions relate how a certain blʿm brbʿr, referred to as “a divine seer” (‘zh < lhn), was visited at night in a dream by gods who revealed to him that an impending misfortune would devastate the land. The seer, greatly distressed at this news, assembles his people to disclose to them what he has learned. In these inscriptions Balaam is depicted as an heroic figure, who strove to save his people and the land. In content and style, the inscriptions noticeably resemble the Balaam Pericope of Numbers, and other biblical sources as well, so that any discussion of the role of Balaam in biblical literature must henceforth take the Deir ‘Alla inscriptions into account.


The Name Bil’am and the Identity of the Person


There are essentially two ways of parsing the name Blʿm: (a) Bil+ʿam, whereby the component ʿam is a kinship term, and bil would represent the divine name Bel, yielding the sense: “Bel is my kinsman.” As such, the Hebrew/Deir ‘Alla name has been compared with Akkadian Bill-am-ma and Amma-baʾli “Bel is a kinsman,” or: “a kinsman of Bel” (HALAT 130, S.V. Bilʿam I). (b) A name incorporating the verb b-l-ʿ “to swallow up, destroy,” + m, an affix that can be represented as åm (elsewhere also ån and –ôn), and that characterizes the actor of the verb, hence: “the swallower, destroyer.” Reference would be to the potency of Balaam’s spells and execrations. This understanding of the name gains support from its uncanny similarity to the name of the first Edomite king, Belaʿ, son of Beʿôr, as recorded in Genesis 36:32. This resemblance can hardly be coincidental, and may argue for the identification of Balaam as a nearby Ammonite, Moabite, Midianite, or Edomite by origin, rather than as a more distant Aramean.


In fact, there appear to be two traditions concerning Balaam’s homeland. One identifies Balaam as an Aramean, an extraction explicit in the opening verse of his first oration (Num. 23:7): “From Aram did Balak import me/ the king of Moab – from the mountains of Qedem.” At the same time, there are indications that Balaam was perceived as a Transjordanian, or son of an inland nation. It is noteworthy that both the Vulgate and the Samaritan versions read in Num 22:5 ʿereṣ benê ʿAmmô [n] “to the land of the Ammonites.” in place of Hebrew benê > ammô, “the land of his people.” The attribution to a seer named Balaam of the inscriptions found at Deir ʿAlla which were, given their language and exposition, composed in the immediate area, would further endorse his identity as a figure who came from a neighboring, inland country. It is best, therefore, to allow for alternative traditions regarding Balaam’s place of origin (Levine, 2000, 145–48).


The Structure and Contents of the Balaam Pericope


The Balaam Pericope consists of prose narratives that serve as a rubric for the poems of the pericope and poetic compositions.


There are four major orations, followed by a series of three, brief prophecies. Each oration is introduced as a mashal “balanced verse.” Only the third and fourth orations explicitly identify Balaam as the speaker, though the first and second refer to Balak by name, making it virtually certain that Balaam is the speaker. In the first oration (Num. 23:7–10), the speaker relates that he was called from Aram by Balak to pronounce curses over Israel, but was powerless to do so because Israel had been blessed by El/YHWH. Overlooking the Israelite encampment from the heights, Balaam was awed by its vast expanse, impressed that the Israelites needed no allies, and were capable of achieving victory on their own. He would willingly share the fate of such heroes! In the second (Num. 23:18–24), the speaker addresses Balak directly, insisting that El will not renege on his promise to bless Israel, and consequently his own mission could not be countermanded. YHWH would not countenance any misfortune overtaking Israel, a people strong as a lion and protected by a powerful deity who directly informs them of the future, thereby rendering divination unnecessary. In the third oration (Num. 24:3–9), entitled “The speech (Hebrew ne’um) of Balaam. Beor’s son,” the speaker’s professional gifts are enumerated. He is “one who hears El’s utterances,” and “who beholds the vision of Shadday” (the fourth oration adds: “who is privy to Elyon’s knowledge”).


Balaam describes the beauty of the Israelite encampment in words that have become part of Jewish liturgy: “How lovely are your tents, oh Jacob/ your dwellings, oh Israel.” Alluding to Saul, king of Israel, he predicts that Israel will prevail over the Amalekite king, Agag (I Sam. 15). In the fourth oration (Num. 24:15–19), similarly entitled, Balaam alludes to David’s conquests of Moab and Edom.(II Sam. 8:2, 12–14), characterizing that king dramatically as a shooting star, as a meteor. In the three brief orations that follow (Num. 24:20–23) Balaam assumes the role of a “prophet to the nations” and predicts the ultimate downfall of the Amalekites and Kenites, and possibly of Assyrians, west of the Euphrates.


Viewing the Balaam orations in their entirety, it is clear that the agenda changes after the second poem. Having proclaimed Israel’s victorious destiny on the way to the Promised Land, Balaam proceeds in the third and fourth orations to predict Israelite victories over the Canaanite peoples and over hostile neighboring peoples in the interior. This purview is expanded in the brief prophecies to the nations. It is also the case that after the second oration Balaam ceases to justify his refusal to carry out Balak’s wishes, and, invoking his preeminent status as a seer, predicts without apology dramatic Israelite victories, including the subjugation of Moab itself.


The poetic sections employ several designations of divinity, in addition to YHWH and ʾelōhîm, namely, Shadday, Elyon, and most frequently, El. It has been customary to interpret these names as epithets of YHWH. Although originally the names of discrete deities, they had, so the argument goes, been synthesized with YHWH, thereby becoming merely another way of referring to the God of Israel. On this basis, we would translate Numberss 23:7 as follows: “How can I curse whom the deity has not condemned? How can I doom whom YHWH has not doomed?”


Though the El-YHWH synthesis (Eissfeldt, 1956) is indeed evident in biblical literature, it remains to be determined whether it is expressed in the Balaam orations, or in other poems that may hark back to a stage in the development of Israelite religion when the worship of the Syro-Cannanite deity, El, was regarded as acceptable. It is in this spirit, after all, that the worship of El, sometimes registered as El Shadday, is imputed to the Patriarchs (Gen. 28:3, 31:13, 35:11, 46:3), an attribution explained in so many words in Exodus 6:2–3. This is the view most recently adopted by Levine (2000, 217–34), who sees evidence of an El archive in biblical literature, parts of which were redacted so as to conform to the El-YHWH synthesis. In Levine’s view, some of the El poems, most notably the Balaam orations, themselves were retained in their unredacted form, so that their references to El, in particular, should be understood as designations of the Syro-Canaanite deity by that name, not as epithets of the God of Israel. As will be observed, it is likewise El who presides over the gods in the Balaam inscriptions from Deir ʿAlla. Read in this manner, the biblical Balaam orations present a distinctive view of Israelite religion: YHWH is acknowledged as Israel’s national God, their divine King, who is present in their midst to assure them victory. At the same time, it is powerful El who liberated Israel from Egypt, and who has blessed Israel irreversibly, keeping faith with them. This earlier religious outlook would be precisely what Exodus 6:2–3 was aimed at disavowing.


This understanding of the religious predicates of the Balaam orations, and of the posture of Balaam, explains why there is no battle projected between YHWH and the gods of Moab, and why Balaam is powerless to curse Israel. It is not only YHWH who is providential over Israel, but El, Shadday, and Elyon, as well. It is as if to say that Moab’s own gods, members of the traditional West-Semitic pantheon, were arrayed against them. Most scholars, however, view the Balaam orations as expressing the El-YHWH synthesis, in essence proclaiming YHWH’s exclusive providence over Israel, as well as his dominance over pagan seers like Balaam. In this perspective, the poetic orations are understood to express the same religious outlook as do the prose sections of the Balaam Pericope.


Just as the divine appellations in the Balaam orations are unusual, so are the designations of the Israelite collective. With only one exception (Num. 24:18–19), the consistent classification is (a) Jacob, (b) Israel, expressed in parallelism (Num. 23:7, 10, 21, 23, 24:5, 17). This nomenclature recalls the change of Jacob’s name from Yacaqôb to Yisra’el after his combat with the angel, which, appropriately, occurred at Penuel, in the Valley of Sukkoth (Gen. 32), where the Deir ʿAlla inscriptions were found!


There has been considerable progress in the exegesis of the Balaam orations, which because of their relative antiquity and the dialectal features they manifest have resisted interpretation. They employ rare, even unique forms that afford little basis for comparison. W.F. Albright (1944) achieved a breakthrough by reducing the Masoretic text to its consonantal base, and reading the poems as West-Semitic epigraphy. Sh. Morag (1981) sought to shed light on unrecognized meanings through linguistic analysis. More recent attempts are presented in commentaries on the Book of Numbers by Milgrom (1990) and Levine (2000).



The prose sections pursue a sequential narrative, except for the tale of the ass (Num. 22:22–35), which derives from a separate source. It was undoubtedly inserted as a satire, poking fun at Balaam’s reputed clairvoyance as a seer. In a mode familiar to us from Aesop’s fables, and from ancient Near Eastern wisdom literature, as well, it depicts Balaam as being blind to what even the ass he was riding was able to see! Its theme is that the God of Israel initially objected to Balaam’s willingness to accompany Balak’s messengers to Moab, and sent an angel to block his path. The ass made several attempts to avert the angel, and each time Balaam struck her, until God gave speech to the ass, so that she could explain to Balaam what was going on. Ultimately, God opens Balaam’s eyes, as well, and he submits to God’s will, offering to return home. Balaam is then told by the angel that he is permitted to accompany Balak’s emissaries on condition that he speak only what YHWH communicates to him.


The Tale of the Ass is preceded in Numbers 22:2–21 by a narrative of Balak’s invitation to Balaam to pronounce curses over Israel on his behalf. Balaam at first refuses, insisting that he is under the authority of Israel’s God. However, God appears to him at night and authorizes him to accompany the men, but to speak only what he is told. The intervening tale effectively brings us back to this point, in Numbers 22; 35. In the ensuing narrative (Num. 22:36–23:6), we read that Balaam arrives in Moab and is welcomed by Balak, who offers him great rewards. After a feast prepared by Balak, Balaam proceeds to the mountain-top of Bamoth-Baal, where he is afforded a view of part of the Israelite encampment. There he pronounces his first blessings of Israel (Num. 23:7–10). When the prose narrative resumes, we read that Balak is furious, but Balaam repeats that he can speak only what YHWH instructs him to say. In an effort to achieve greater efficacy, Balaam is advised to move to a more propitious site, the peak of Pisgah, where he erects altars and offers sacrifice. YHWH encounters Balaam and places an oracle in his mouth. Balak asks him: “What has YHWH spoken?” which indicates that he now accepts Balaam’s subservience to Israel’s God (Num. 23:11–17). Then follows Balaam’s second oration (Num. 23:18–24). At this point, Balak is all but ready to give up, but again suggests moving to a different site, the summit of Peor, where altars are erected and sacrifices offered, prior to a third attempt by Balaam, who now realizes that it pleases YHWH to bless Israel. Without further ado, he prepares to declaim his third oration (Num 23:25–30, 24:1–2), which predicts Israel’s victory over the Amalekites of Canaan (Num. 24:3–9). When the prose narrative resumes, we read that Balak dismisses Balaam in anger, but that before returning to his own land, Balaam tells him that he will reveal what the Israelites will do to Moab (and Edom) in the future (Num. 24:10–14). This is the theme of Balaam’s fourth oration (Num. 24:15–19). Numbers 24:20–29 present the three brief prophecies against neighboring nations.


Throughout the prose sections, YHWH and ʾelohim alternate exclusively as designations of the God of Israel, who is perceived as totally controlling the activities of Balaam from the outset. In fact, in Numbers 22:18 Balaam already refers to YHWH as elohai “my God,” and in a manner not dissimilar from that of Pharaoh in the Moses sagas, Balak also becomes increasingly aware of YHWH’s power, and of Balaam’s subservience to it. In contrast to the Egyptian sagas, however, which repeatedly refer to the gods of Egypt, the prose sections of the Balaam Pericope nowhere refer to any other divine power, or use what would be regarded, in context, as epithets of YHWH or ʾelohim.


The Balaam Texts from Deir ʿAlla


Notwithstanding their poor state of preservation, the plaster texts from Deir ʿAlla add to our understanding of the Balaam Pericope, and in a reciprocal manner, the biblical sources enlighten us as to the meaning of the Deir ʿAlla texts. Like most new discoveries, the Deir ʿAlla texts raise problems of a literary and historical nature. The inscriptions were restored from plaster fragments that had fallen to the ground from the walls of a regional distribution center, where some cultic activity took place. (For transcriptions, translations, archaeological background and commentary see Levine, 2000, 241–75; idem, COS II, 140–45.)



Combination I relates that Balaam was visited at night by gods sent to convey to him a message from the high god, El. The message consisted of a celestial omen of disaster. A council (mwʿd = Hebrew moʿed)) of deities who opposed El had ordered the goddess Shagar-we-Ishtar, a Venus figure of light and fertility, to sew up the heavens, thereby producing darkness and dread. Upon hearing this, Balaam became greatly distressed, and took to weeping and fasting. He assembled his people and described the content of this revelation to them. Vultures will fly about shrieking, and wild beasts will occupy grazing lands. Although at this point the text becomes less clearly comprehensible, it is reasonable to read it as a recounting of Balaam’s heroic attempt to free the goddess from the decree of the evil council, thereby saving the land from misfortune. Balaam admonishes the adversaries of Shagar-we-Ishtar, and takes the goddess to various diviners, oracles, priestesses, and magical practitioners to safeguard her from the punishment decreed upon her. His efforts were successful, and order was re-established in the land, which accounts for the commemorative installation of the inscriptions on the walls of the building at Deir ‘Alla.



Combination II, which is even more fragmentary, vividly describes a necropolis (byt ʿlmn) erected by El, a “house” where no traveler enters, nor any bridegroom. The portrayal recalls the Sheol oracle of Isaiah 14, and speaks of an unnamed, wise counselor, who will no longer be consulted, and who will be punished by being deprived of his ability to pronounce oracles and execrations. Although the name of Balaam does not occur in Combination II, it is suggestive to relate this text to Balaam. The opening title of Combination I, “The misfortunes of the Book of Balaam, the son of Beor,” undoubtedly included Combination II, as well as additional compositions which may have been lost, or whose fragments have not as yet been restored in coherent form.


Both Combinations exhibit shared vocabulary and diction with the biblical Balaam orations, and with other biblical poems of the El archive. Indeed, the Deir ʿAlla inscriptions resonate with biblical imagery.

The Phenomenology of Balaam’s Performance

Now that we possess information from the Deir ‘Alla inscriptions, we can draw up a more complete profile of Balaam. Albright (1971), and others have compared him with the Mesopotamian barû (“diviner”). The parallel West Semitic functionary would be the qosem, a title given to Balaam only in Joshua 13:22, although Numbers 22:18 does in fact report that the elders of Moab (and Midian) brought to Balaam payment for qesamim (“divination”), indicating that he practiced that art. We are also told in Numbers 24:1 that for a time, Balaam also engaged in nehashimā (“augury”), but eventually gave that up (Num. 24:1).

For the most part, the biblical poems inform us that Balaam beholds visions, both while awake and asleep; he hears divine utterances, and possesses secret knowledge. He sees into the future and predicts events, and has a reputation for pronouncing effective curses. We may conclude that Balaam was expert at pronouncing effective blessings, which is what he actually did. The narratives provide additional information on Balaam’s techniques: He offers burnt sacrifices as a means of attracting YHWH to particular sites, while also perambulating, walking around in search of an encounter with YHWH, and possibly in search of omens, as well. In this connection, one notes that visual access is a factor in Balaam’s praxis. In the preparations for what Balak hoped would be effective curses, sites were sought out that afforded a partial, or complete, view of the Israelite encampment, which was the target of the curses.


There are two additional points to be made about Balaam’s performance. First, as is true of ritual experts, polytheistic and monotheistic, Balaam acted under divine authority. Balaam could only do what he was authorized to do by the divine power, or powers, that controlled him. It was only after the gods signaled their approval that diviners and exorcists and other ritual experts could undertake the prescribed operations. Secondly, both the poems and the prose narratives portray Balaam in personal terms. In the poems, he is said to be awed by the strength and heroism of the Israelites, and by a realization, based on his own observation, that this people had been blessed and protected, and was not marked for misfortune. In the prose narratives and in the Tale of the Ass, Balaam is depicted as one given to anger and frustration, who is not tempted by wealth, and, above all, who is honest in accepting the limitations of his own powers. Balaam is also reactive; his acceptance of subservience to the God of Israel increases as his encounters with YHWH progress, until he becomes more than willing to bless Israel. Thus, the fourth, and final oration was not requested by Balak, but offered to him voluntarily, as were the three, brief prophecies.


The Deir ʿAlla texts shed further light on the performance of Balaam. We read more about his divinatory crafts, most notably his ability to interpret celestial omens, and of his admonitions directed at malevolent divine powers Although the atmosphere of the Deir ʿAlla inscriptions is polytheistic, and affords more attention to specific ritual practices, the difference between the Deir ʿAlla inscriptions and the biblical pericope is more a matter of degree than of kind, especially if we accept the interpretation that in the biblical Balaam orations, El, Elyon, and Shadday are proper names of West Semitic gods and not merely epithets of YHWH and ʾelohim.


The Sitz-im-Leben of the Balaam Pericope


According to the internal, Biblical chronology, the encounters related in the Balaam Pericope would have occurred during the late 13th century B.C.E., or thereabouts, but we must be careful not to confuse temporal setting with time of composition. There are problems in attempting to assign both the poetic and narrative sections of the Balaam Pericope to the usual documentary sources, J and E, as pointed out most clearly by A. Rofe (1981). It would be preferable to seek clues in the poems themselves as to their time and place of composition. As for the Balaam narratives, it is safe to say that they postdate the poems.


The Deir ʿAlla inscriptions help us to fix the context of the Balaam poems in more than one respect. For one thing, they raise the possibility that the biblical Balaam poems were also composed in Gilead, in central Transjordan, where an active Israelite community lived for several centuries until driven out after the Assyrian invasions of the late eighth century B.C.E. The Valley of Sukkoth, where Deir ʿAlla is located, figures notably in certain biblical traditions, such as the narratives of Genesis 32–33 and Judges 8. There is also a basis for seeing the Deir ʿAlla inscriptions themselves as Israelite compositions, notwithstanding the absence of any mention of the God of Israel, and despite their polytheistic character (Weippert 1991). In this connection, the highlighting of El in the Balaam poems fits in well with the veiled references to El worship in Hosea 6:8, 12:12 by the Israelites of Gilead. Perhaps these very Transjordanian Israelites, regarded as sinful by Hosea, were the ones, or similar to the ones, who installed the Balaam plaster inscriptions on the walls of the building at Deir ‘Alla.


Historically, the Balaam orations reflect a situation of conflict between Israel and Moab, wherein Israel is declared victorious. This context would suit conditions in the early to-mid-ninth century B.C.E., under the Omride dynasty, when northern Israel exercised hegemony over northern Moab. This would have been prior to Mesha’s successful reconquest of that territory in the mid-ninth century, as recounted in the famous stele of that Moabite king. This is also the period during which the Heshbon Ballad of Numbers 21, which depicts the Israelite conquest of North Moab, would have been composed. As such, the biblical Balaam poems might have antedated the Deir ʿAlla inscriptions by about 50 years.

Thanks to the Deir ʿAlla discoveries we can now speak of Balaam as a biblical personage also known from external, Transjordanian sources. We know him better than we did before, whether we regard him only as a figure of legend or as an historical personage of legendary proportions.


[Baruch Levine (2nd ed.)]


Historical Moses may be Weni and Mentuhotep

Image result for mentuhotep chief of police


 Damien F. Mackey



“Mentuhotep, prince in the seats of … Splendor … at whose voice they (are permitted to) speak in the king’s-house, in charge of the silencing of the courtiers, unique one of the king, without his like, who sends up the truth …”.

 Inscriptions of Mentuhotep


If any revisionist historian had placed himself in a good position, chronologically, to identify in the Egyptian records the patriarch Joseph, then it was Dr. Donovan Courville, who had, in The Exodus Problem and its Ramifications, I and II (1971), proposed that Egypt’s Old and Middle Kingdoms were contemporaneous. That radical move on his part might have enabled Courville to bring the likeliest candidate for Joseph, the Vizier Imhotep of the Third Dynasty, into close proximity with the Twelfth Dynasty – the dynasty that revisionists most favour for the era of Moses.



Courville, however, who did not consider Imhotep for Joseph, selected instead for his identification of this great biblical Patriarch another significant official, Mentuhotep, vizier to pharaoh Sesostris I, the second king of Egypt’s Twelfth Dynasty.


And very good revisionists have followed Courville in his choice of Mentuhotep for Joseph.


With my own system, though, favouring (i) Imhotep for Joseph; (ii) Amenemes [Amenemhet] I for the “new king” of Exodus 1:8; and (iii) Amenemes I’s successor, Sesostris I, for the pharaoh from whom Moses fled (as recalled in the semi-legendary “The Story of Sinuhe”), then Mentuhotep of this era must now loom large as a candidate for the Egyptianised Moses.




In 1981 I began a search for Moses in the Egyptian records.

The first lesson that I had to learn (and Courville’s two-volume set served as my guide in this) was that the history books and the Bible just did not align.

Now, after decades of effort on this work of revision, I have been blessed to have encountered – and sometimes to have made – exciting discoveries, including the appropriate era for Moses and the Exodus, and the true archaeology for the Israelite (Joshuan) Conquest of Palestine.

But Moses himself, the person, has proved to be most elusive.



I now think that – and it has taken me only about 34 years to realise it –

this Mentuhotep may be Moses staring revisionists right in the face.



In my most recent excursions into this era of biblico-history. I have returned to the view – in line with the thinking of professor Immanuel Anati, in his classic, The Mountain of God – that the famous Egyptian “Sinuhe” tale carried a reminiscence of the historical Moses: “I accept that this famous Egyptian tale is based upon a real biblical event. The semi-legendary Sinuhe may at least provide us with the time of the flight of Moses from Egypt to Midian, during the early reign of Sesostris I”.

And I as well, in line with my revised Old to Middle Kingdom parallelism, tentatively making contemporaneous:


4th Dynasty                  6th Dynasty                 12th Dynasty               13th Dynasty


also suggested in this article a possible connection of Sinuhe with the Sixth Dynasty’s Weni. Thus:


There is a famous Sixth dynasty official, Weni (or Uni), who may be the parallel of the Twelfth Dynasty’s Sinuhe as a candidate for the elusive Moses.


I have previously written on this:


Now, given our alignment of the so-called Egyptian Middle Kingdom’s Twelfth Dynasty with the Egyptian Old Kingdom’s Sixth Dynasty (following Dr. Donovan Courville), then the semi-legendary Sinuhe may find his more solidly historical identification in the important Sixth Dynasty official, Weni, or Uni. Like Weni, Sinuhe was highly honoured by pharaoh with the gift of a sarcophagus.

We read about it, for instance, in C. Dotson’s extremely useful article (“…. The Cycle of Order and Chaos in The Tale of Sinuhe”)



“…. The king gives Sinuhe a sarcophagus of gold and lapis lazuli as a housewarming gift. The gift of a coffin by the king was considered a great honor and a sign of respect.


In the Autobiography of Weni from the Old Kingdom, Weni records that the king had given him a white sarcophagus and “never before had the like been done in this Upper Egypt.” ….

[End of quote]


Naturally, Dr. Courville’s radical proposal that the Egyptian Sixth and Twelfth dynasties were contemporaneous – whereas, according to conventional history some four centuries separate the end of the Sixth (c. 2200 BC) from that of the Twelfth (c. 1800 BC) – has not been well received by non-revisionist historians, such as e.g. professor W. Stiebing who has written (;pg=PA131&amp;lpg=PA131&amp;dq=co): “There is simply no textual support for making the Sixth and Twelfth Dynasties contemporaneous, as Courville does”.

However, as I have previously noted in my:


…. [Dr.] J. Osgood proposes a possible close relationship between the 6th and 12th dynasty mortuary temples ….:


Edwards certainly opens the possibility unconsciously when referring to the pyramid of Sesostris the First ….: “… and the extent to which its Mortuary Temple was copied from the Mortuary Temples of the VIth dynasty, as illustrated by that of Pepi II … is clearly evident.”


The return of a culture to what it was before … after some three hundred years must be an uncommon event. The theoretical possibility that the two cultures, the Twelfth and the Sixth Dynasties were in fact contemporary and followed a common pattern of Mortuary Temple must be borne in mind as real.

[End of quote]



That there is in fact some impressive evidence to suggest that:


Egypt’s Old and Middle Kingdoms [Were] Far Closer in Time

than Conventionally Thought


is apparent from a set of examples that I listed there taken from N. Grimal’s A History of Ancient Egypt (Blackwell 1994). After recalling some striking similarities between the Sixth Dynasty founder, Teti, and the Twelfth Dynasty founder, Amenemes I, as follows: “…. {Teti, I have tentatively proposed as being the same pharaoh as Amenemes/Ammenemes I, based on


(a) being a founder of a dynasty;

(b) having same Horus name;

(c) being assassinated. ….}”,


I continued:


Grimal notes the likenesses:


Pp. 80-81

“[Teti‟s] adoption of the Horus name Sehetep-tawy (“He who pacifies the Two Lands”) was an indication of the political programme upon which he embarked. … this Horus name was to reappear in titulatures throughout subsequent Egyptian history, always in connection with such kings as Ammenemes I … [etc.]”.

“Manetho says that Teti was assassinated, and it is this claim that has led to the idea of growing civil disorder, a second similarity with the reign of Ammenemes I”.

  1. 84: “[Pepy I] … an unmistakable return to ancient values: Pepy I changed his coronation name from Neferdjahor to Merire (“The devotee of Ra”)”. ….
  2. 159:

[Ammenemes I]. Like his predecessors in the Fifth Dynasty, the new ruler used literature to publicize the proofs of his legitimacy. He turned to the genre of prophecy: a premonitory recital placed in the mouth of Neferti, a Heliopolitan sage who bears certain similarities to the magician Djedi in Papyrus Westcar. Like Djedi, Neferti is summoned to the court of King Snofru, in whose reign the story is supposed to have taken place”.

  1. 164: “[Sesostris I]. Having revived the Heliopolitan tradition of taking Neferkare as his coronation name …”.
  2. 165: “There is even evidence of a Twelfth Dynasty cult of Snofru in the region of modern Ankara”.
  3. 171: “Ammenemes IV reigned for a little less than ten years and by the time he died the country was once more moving into a decline. The reasons were similar to those that conspired to end the Old Kingdom”.
  4. 173: “… Mentuhotpe II ordered the construction of a funerary complex modelled on the Old Kingdom royal tombs, with its valley temple, causeway and mortuary temple”.
  5. 177:

“… Mentuhotpe II’[s] … successors … returned to the Memphite system for their funerary complexes. They chose sites to the south of Saqqara and the plans of their funerary installations drew on the architectural forms of the end of the Sixth Dynasty.

…. The mortuary temple was built during the Ammenemes I’s “co-regency” with Sesostris I. The ramp and the surrounding complex were an enlarged version of Pepy II’s”.

  1. 178: “The rest of [Sesostris I’s el-Lisht] complex was again modelled on that of Pepy II”.

Pp. 178-179:

“[Ammenemes III’s “black pyramid” and mortuary structure at Dahshur]. The complex

infrastructure contained a granite sarcophagus which was decorated with a replica of the enclosure wall of the Step Pyramid complex of Djoser at Saqqara (Edwards 1985: 211-12)”. “[Ammenemes III’s pyramid and mortuary temple at Harawa]. This was clearly a sed festival installation, comparable to the jubilee complex of Djoser at Saqqara, with which Ammenemes’ structure has several similarities”.

“The tradition of the Old Kingdom continued to influence Middle Kingdom royal statuary …”.

  1. 180:

“The diversity of styles was accompanied by a general return to the royal tradition, which was expressed in the form of a variety of statues representing kings from past times, such as those of Sahure, Neuserre, Inyotef and Djoser created during the reign of Sesostris II”.

  1. 181:

“A comparable set of statures represents Ammenemes III (Cairo, Egyptian Museum CG 385 from Hawara) … showing the king kneeling to present wine vessels, a type previously encountered at the end of the Old Kingdom (Cairo, Egyptian Museum CG 42013 …) …”.


[End of quotes]


See also:


Pharaohs Khufu, Teti, Amenemhet I and II: Four Faces, One Ruler



Moses as Chief Judge and Vizier



“Weni’s famous “Autobiography” has been described as, amongst other superlatives …

“… the best-known biographical text of the Old Kingdom and has been widely discussed,

as it is important for literary and historical reasons; it is also the longest such document”.



Comparing Weni – (and Sinuhe)

– with Vizier Mentuhotep


About Sinuhe, we learn ( “I was a henchman who followed his lord, a servant of the Royal harim attending on the hereditary princess, the highly-praised Royal Consort of Sesostris in the pyramid-town of Khnem-esut, the Royal Daughter of Amenemmes in the Pyramid-town of Ka-nofru, even Nofru, the revered”.


We have already learned something of the greatness of Mentuhotep.


Weni has, for his part, been described – like Imhotep (Joseph) – as a “genius”. This little excerpt on the “Autobiography of Weni” ( already tells us a lot about the man:


Weni rose through the ranks of the military to become commander in chief of the army. He was considered by both his contemporaries and many Egyptologists to have been a brilliant tactician and possibly even a genius. His victories earned him the privilege of being shown leading the troops into battle, a right usually reserved for pharaohs. Weni is the first person, other than a pharaoh, known to have been portrayed in this manner. Many of his battles were in the Levant and the Sinai. He is said to have pursued a group of Bedouins all the way to Mount Carmel. He battled a Bedouin people known as the sand-dwellers at least five times.


Weni’s famous “Autobiography” has been described as, amongst other superlatives (;pg=PA352&amp;lpg=PA352): “… the best-known biographical text of the Old Kingdom and has been widely discussed, as it is important for literary and historical reasons; it is also the longest such document”.

This marvellous piece of ancient literature, conventionally dated to c. 2330 BC – and even allowing for the revised re-dating of it to a bit more than half a millennium later – completely gives the lie to the old JEDP theory, that writing was not invented until about 1000 BC.


Here I take some of the relevant inscriptions of the renowned Vizier, Mentuhotep (, and juxtapose them with comparable parts of the “Autobiography” of Weni (in brown) ( (all emphasis added):




  1. Hereditary prince, vizier and chief judge


The exterior face of the north wall incorporates a large niche, and during excavations here a damaged false door inscribed for Weni the Elder was discovered in situ. Not only does this false door provide a nickname for Weni (“Nefer Nekhet Mery-Ra”–Egyptian nicknames were often longer than birth names!), but it also documents his final career promotion, a fact not recorded in his autobiography: Chief Judge and Vizier.


attached to Nekhen,


judge attached to Nekhen,


prophet of


prophet of


Mat (goddess of Truth), giver of laws, advancer of offices, confirming … the boundary records, separating a land-owner from his neighbor, pilot of the people, satisfying the whole land, a man of truth before the Two Lands … accustomed … to justice like Thoth, his like in satisfying the Two Lands, hereditary prince in judging the Two Lands …. supreme head in judgment, putting matters in order, wearer of the royal seal, chief treasurer, Mentuhotep.

Hereditary prince, count


the count


… chief of all works of the king, making the offerings of the gods to flourish, setting this land … according to the command of the god.


the whole was carried out by my hand, according to the mandate which … my lord had commanded me.


…. sending forth two brothers satisfied


pleasant to his brothers


with the utterances of his mouth, upon whose tongue is the writing of Thoth,


I alone was the one who put (it) in writing ….


more accurate than the weight, likeness of the balances, fellow of the king in counselling … giving attention to hear words, like a god in his hour, excellent in heart, skilled in his fingers, exercising an office like him who holds it, favorite of the king


I was excellent to the heart of his majesty, for I was pleasant to the heart of his majesty


before the Two Lands, his beloved among the companions,


for his majesty loved me.


his majesty appointed me sole companion and superior custodian of the domain of the Pharaoh.


powerful among the officials, having an advanced seat to approach the throne of the king, a man of confidences to whom the heart opens.


his majesty praised me for the watchfulness and vigilance, which I showed in the place of audience, above his every official, above [his every] noble, above his every servant.


  1. Hereditary prince over the … the (royal) castle (wsh’t) … finding the speech of the palace, knowing that which is in every body (heart), putting a man into his real place, finding matters in which there is irregularity, giving the lie to him that speaks it, and the truth to him that brings it, giving attention, without an equal, good at listening, profitable in speaking, an official loosening the (difficult) knot, whom the king (lit., god) exalts above millions, as an excellent man, whose name he knew, true likeness of love, free from doing deceit, whose steps the court heeds,


when preparing court, when preparing the king’s journey (or) when making stations, I did throughout so that his majesty praised me for it above everything.


overthrowing him that rebels against the king, hearing the house of the council of thirty, who puts his terror … among the barbarians (fp^s’tyw), when he has silenced the Sand-dwellers, pacifying the rebels because of their deeds, whose actions prevail in the two regions, lord of the Black Land and the Red Land, giving commands to the South, counting the number of the Northland,


His majesty sent me to despatch [this army] five times, in order to traverse the land of the Sand-dwellers at each of their rebellions, with these troops, I did so that [his] majesty praised me [on account of it].

When it was said there were revolters, because of a matter among these barbarians in the land of Gazelle-nose, I crossed over in troop-ships with these troops, and I voyaged to the back of the height of the ridge on the north of the Sand-dwellers. When the army had been [brought] in the highway, I came and smote them all and every revolter among them was slain.


His majesty sent me at the head of his army while the counts, while the wearers of the royal seal, while the sole companions of the palace, while the nomarchs and commanders of strongholds belonging to the South and Northland ….


in whose brilliance all men move, pilot of the people, giver of food, advancing offices, lord of designs, great in love, associate of the king in the great castle (wsfi’t), hereditary prince, count, chief treasurer, Mentuhotep, he says:

  1. …’I am a companion beloved of his lord, doing that which pleases his god daily, prince, count, sem priest, master of every wardrobe of Horus, prophet of Anubis of … the hry ydb, Mentuhotep, prince in the seats of … Splendor … at whose voice they (are permitted to) speak in the king’s-house, in charge of the silencing of the courtiers, unique one of the king, without his like, who sends up the truth ….

One to whom the great come in obeisance at the double gate of the king’s-house ; attached to Nekhen, prophet of Mat, pillar … ‘before the Red Land, overseer of the western highlands,


First of the Westerners ….


leader of the magnates of South and North … advocate of the people … merinuter priest, prophet of Horus, master of secret things of the house of sacred writings ….


Never before had one like me heard the secret of the royal harem.


[Sinuhe, too, was] servant of the Royal harim attending on the hereditary princess ….


governor of the (royal) castle,


governor of the South


prophet of Harkefti, great lord of the royal wardrobe, who approaches the limbs of the king,




…. overseer of the double granary, overseer of the double silver-house, overseer of the double gold-house, master of the king’s writings of the (royal) presence, wearer of the royal seal, sole companion, master of secret things of the ‘divine words’ (hieroglyphics) ….

  1. Here follows a mortuary prayer, after which the concluding lines (22, 23) refer specifically to his building commissions at Abydos ….

I conducted the work in the temple, built of stone of Ayan I conducted the work on the sacred barque {nlm * /), I fashioned its colors, offering tables


His majesty sent me to Hatnub to bring a huge offering-table ….


of lapis lazuli, of bronze, of electrum, and silver; copper was plentiful without end, bronze without limit, collars of real malachite, ornaments (mn-nfr’t) of every kind of costly stone. of the choicest of everything, which are given to a god at his processions, by virtue of my office of master of secret things.

[End of quotes]


I recall (but do not currently have it with me) that professor A. S. Yahuda had, in his Language of the Pentateuch in Its Relation to Egyptian, Vol. 1 (1933), when discussing the Exodus 5:5 encounter between Pharaoh and Moses and Aaron: “Then Pharaoh said, ‘Look, the people of the land are now numerous, and you are stopping them from working’”, referred to the rank of Moses and Aaron (differentiating them from the common people) as something akin to new men. Anyway, that is precisely how Weni is classified in this next piece (


Everyone who has studied ancient Egyptian history is familiar with the autobiography of Weni the Elder, an enterprising individual who lived during the 6th Dynasty of the Old Kingdom (ca. 2407-2260 BCE). His inscription, excavated in 1860 from his tomb in the low desert at Abydos in southern Egypt, enthusiastically describes his long service under three kings, culminating in his appointment as “True Governor of Upper Egypt.” Scholars have hailed it as “the most important historical document from the Old Kingdom” and have used it to illustrate the rise of a class of “new men” in Egyptian politics and society–persons whose upward mobility rested in their abilities, not in noble birth.

Early in the season, we excavated a number of inscribed relief fragments from this area, including two pieces that, when joined together, furnished the name “Weni the Elder” and a fragment providing the title “True Governor of Upper Egypt,” the highest title recorded in Weni’s autobiography. Further evidence emerged supporting this association. The exterior face of the north wall incorporates a large niche, and during excavations here a damaged false door inscribed for Weni the Elder was discovered in situ. Not only does this false door provide a nickname for Weni (“Nefer Nekhet Mery-Ra”–Egyptian nicknames were often longer than birth names!), but it also documents his final career promotion, a fact not recorded in his autobiography: Chief Judge and Vizier.

[End of quote]



Weni was, just like Mentuhotep, “Chief Judge and Vizier”.

Weni was also, as we read above, “commander in chief of the army”.

And Mentuhotep was also “Chief of Police”.


Was this also the historical Moses, whose Judgeship, whose Rulership, some of the Hebrews chose to reject (Exodus 2:14): ‘Who made you ruler and judge over us?’