Deconstructing the walls of Jericho: Who are the Jews
By Ze'ev Herzog
A society of sheep must in time beget a government of wolves.- Bertrand de Juvenal
(from Ha'aretz Magazine, Friday, October 29, 1999)
Following 70 years of intensive excavations in the Land of Israel,
archaeologists have found out: The patriarchs' acts are legendary, the
Israelites did not sojourn in Egypt or make an exodus, they did not conquer
the land. Neither is there any mention of the empire of David and Solomon,
nor of the source of belief in the God of Israel. These facts have been known
for years, but Israel is a stubborn people and nobody wants to hear about it
This is what archaeologists have learned from their excavations in the Land of Israel:
the Israelites were never in Egypt, did not wander in the desert, did not conquer the
land in a military campaign and did not pass it on to the 12 tribes of Israel. Perhaps
even harder to swallow is the fact that the united monarchy of David and Solomon,
which is described by the Bible as a regional power, was at most a small tribal
kingdom. And it will come as an unpleasant shock to many that the God of Israel,
Jehovah, had a female consort and that the early Israelite religion adopted monotheism
only in the waning period of the monarchy and not at Mount Sinai.Most of those who
are engaged in scientific work in the interlocking spheres of the Bible, archaeology and
the history of the Jewish people - and who once went into the field looking for proof to
corroborate the Bible story - now agree that the historic events relating to the stages of
the Jewish people's emergence are radically different from what that story tells.
In a September 22nd, 2002 speech to visiting Christian Zionists, Israeli
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon asserted, "This land is ours... God gave us the
title deeds..." However, recent scholarly research, including discoveries by
an archaeological team from the University of Tel Aviv, not only deconstruct
the Biblical Old Testament and Torah stories upon which this claim rests, but
grant previously unthinkable credence to an ancient historian's claim that the
Israelites of Exodus were actually the Hyksos, and therefore of Asiatic origin.
To trace the foundations of this ongoing Biblical bonfire, we must go back to
All hell broke loose in Israel in November of that year when Prof. Ze'ev
Herzog of Tel Aviv University announced: "the Israelites were never in Egypt,
did not wander the desert, did not conquer the land, and did not pass it on to
the twelve tribes". Moreover, the Jewish God YHWH had a female consort -
the goddess Asherah!
His conclusion that the kingdom of David and Solomon was at best a small
tribal monarchy, at worst total myth, has made enemies for him in the camps
of traditional Jewish and Christian belief systems. He asserts: all evidence
demonstrates that the Jews did not adopt monotheism until the 7th Century
BCE - a heresy according to the Biblical tradition dating it to Moses at
Tel Aviv University's archaeological investigation at Megiddo and
examination of the six-sided gate there dates it to the 9th Century BCE, not
the 10th Century BCE claimed by the 1960's investigator Yigael Yadin who
attributed it to Solomon. Herzog, moreover, states that Solomon and David
are "entirely absent in the archaeological record".
In addition, Herzog's colleague, Israel Finkelstein, claims the Jews were
nothing more than nomadic Canaanites who bartered with the city dwellers.
The team's studies concluded that Jerusalem did not have any central status
until 722 BCE with the destruction of its northern rival Samaria.
However, the real bombshell is Herzog's discovery of numerous references
to Yahweh having a consort in the form of Asherah. Inscriptions, written in
Hebrew by official Jewish scribes in the 8th century BCE, were found in
numerous sites all over the land. For Yahweh, supposedly the "One God", to
have had a female consort and, of all people, the goddess Asherah, is
dynamite of wide ranging significance.
But what does all this do to the validity of the "Title Deeds" from God that
Ariel Sharon refers to? Quite apart from the obvious conclusion that the god
assumed to have given the "promised land" to his chosen people was just
one god from a pantheon and not the alleged monotheistic only God of the
cosmos, Herzog's findings corroborate theories that have been "out there"
for some time.
Like Herzog, the historian Josephus (c. 37CE - c. 100CE) denied the
account of the Hebrews being held in captivity in Egypt, but he went a drastic
step further about the racial origins of the Jews, whom he identified with the
Hyksos. He further claimed they did not flee from Egypt but were evicted due
to them being leprous.
It must be said that Josephus has been vilified over the ages as a Roman
collaborator by both Jewish and Christian scholars who have argued that the
dating of the exodus of the "Hebrews" from Egypt in the Bible positively rules
out their identification as Hyksos.
However, Jan Assmann, a prominent Egyptologist at Heidelberg University,
is quite positive in his writings that the Exodus story is an inversion of the
Hyksos expulsion and furthermore that Moses was an Egyptian.
Likewise, Donald P. Redford, of Toronto University, presents striking
evidence that the Expulsion of the Hyksos from Egypt was inverted to
construct the exodus of the Hebrew slaves story in the Torah and Old
Testament. His book, which argued this theory, "Egypt, Canaan, and Israel
in Ancient Times" was Winner of the 1993 Best Scholarly Book in
Archaeology Award of the Biblical Archaeological Society.
There is irrefutable evidence that the Hyksos, a mixed Semitic-Asiatic group
who infiltrated the Nile valley, seized power in Lower Egypt in the 17th
Century BCE. They ruled there from c. 1674 BCE until expelled when their
capital, Avaris, fell to Ahmose around 1567 BCE.
The Hyksos in Egypt worshipped Set, who like ISH.KUR they identified as a
Under the "inversion theory", Jewish scholars in the 7th Century BCE
changed the story from "expelled" to "escaped" and as a further insult to
their enemy, Ahmose, changed and miss-spelt his name to Moses,
presenting him as leader of a Hebrew revolt. But there is also a strong
possibility of two separate origins to the "Moses" character being merged
into one, which I will come to later.
Ahmose's success in 1567 BCE led to the establishment of the 18th
Dynasty in Egypt. ThotMoses III overthrew the transvestite Pharaoh
Atchepsut, and under ThotMoses IV Egyptian conquests extended beyond
the Sinai into Palestine, Syria, reaching Babylonia and included Canaan.
By the end of this expansion, Amenophis III (1380BCE) ruled an Egyptian
empire whose provinces and colonies bordered what is now known as
Turkey. This empire would have included the regions in which most of the
expelled Hyksos now lived.
Amenophis IV succeeded the throne in 1353BCE. He established a new
monotheism cult establishing "Aten" as the one supreme god and he
changed his name to Akhenaton. Married to the mysterious Nefertiti,
Akhenaton declared himself a god on earth, intermediary between the
one-god Aten (Ra) and humanity, with his spouse as partner, effectively
displacing Isis and Osiris in the Egyptian Enead.
Declaring all men to be the children of Aten, historians suspect Akhenaton
planned an empire-wide religion. He banned all idolatry, the use of images
to represent god, and banned the idea that there was more than one
It is alongside Akhenaten and his father Amenophis III that we find the
An important figure during this period was confusingly called Amenophis son
of Hapu. He was First Minister (Vizier) to both kings. He is generally
depicted as a scribe, crouching and holding on his knees a roll of papyrus.
He more than anyone was responsible for authoring the religion in which the
old gods were merged into one living god, Aten, who had been responsible
for the creation of the Earth and of humanity.
The symbol of this god, the sun disk, represented Ra, Horus and the other
gods in one. The sun disk, in symbolism, was supported between the horns
of a bull. The Son of Hapu says this about creation: "I have come to you who
reigns over the gods oh Amon, Lord of the Two Lands, for you are Re who
appears in the sky, who illuminates the earth with a brilliantly shining eye,
who came out of the Nou, who appeared above the primitive water, who
created everything, who generated the great Enneade of the gods, who
created his own flesh and gave birth to his own form."
The king's overseer of the land of Nubia was a certain Mermose (spelled
both Mermose and Merymose on his sarcophagus in the British Museum).
According to modern historians, in Amenhotep's third year as king,
Mermose took his army far up the Nile, supposedly to quell a minor rebellion,
but actually to secure gold mining territories which would supply his king with
the greatest wealth of any ruler of Egypt.
Recent scholarship has indicated Mermose took his army to the
neighborhood of the confluence of the Nile and Atbara Rivers and beyond.
But who was this Mermose? According to historian Dawn Breasted, the
Greek translation of this name was Moses. Does Jewish tradition support
According to Jewish history not included in the Bible, Moses led the army of
Pharaoh to the South, into the land of Kush, and reached the vicinity of the
Atbara River. There he attracted the love of the princess of the fortress city
of Saba, later Meroe. She gave up the city in exchange for marriage. Biblical
confirmation of such a marriage is to be found in Numbers 12:1. "And
Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Ethiopian woman
whom he had married: for he had married an Ethiopian woman."
The archaeology of the Land of Israel is completing a process that amounts to a
scientific revolution in its field. It is ready to confront the findings of biblical scholarship
and of ancient history. But at the same time, we are witnessing a fascinating
phenomenon in which all this is simply ignored by the Israeli public. Many of the
findings mentioned here have been known for decades. The professional literature in
the spheres of archaeology, Bible and the history of the Jewish people has addressed
them in dozens of books and hundreds of articles. Even if not all the scholars accept the
individual arguments that inform the examples I cited, the majority have adopted their
Nevertheless, these revolutionary views are not penetrating the public consciousness.
About a year ago, my colleague, the historian Prof. Nadav Ne'eman, published an
article in the Culture and Literature section of Ha'aretz entitled "To Remove the Bible
from the Jewish Bookshelf," but there was no public outcry. Any attempt to question
the reliability of the biblical descriptions is perceived as an attempt to undermine "our
historic right to the land" and as shattering the myth of the nation that is renewing the
ancient Kingdom of Israel. These symbolic elements constitute such a critical
component of the construction of the Israeli identity that any attempt to call their
veracity into question encounters hostility or silence. It is of some interest that such
tendencies within the Israeli secular society go hand-in-hand with the outlook among
educated Christian groups. I have found a similar hostility in reaction to lectures I have
delivered abroad to groups of Christian bible lovers, though what upset them was the
challenge to the foundations of their fundamentalist religious belief.
It turns out that part of Israeli society is ready to recognize the injustice that was done
to the Arab inhabitants of the country and is willing to accept the principle of equal
rights for women - but is not up to adopting the archaeological facts that shatter the
biblical myth. The blow to the mythical foundations of the Israeli identity is apparently
too threatening, and it is more convenient to turn a blind eye. Ha'aretz., October 29, 1999