Archaeological Data and the Dating of the Patriarchs

John J. Bimson

A.R. Millard & D.J. Wiseman, eds., Essays on the Patriarchal Narratives. Leicester: IVP, 1980. Hbk. ISBN: 0851117430. pp.59-92.
[Reproduced by permission]
To read the other essays, click here.




If the patriarchs are taken to be historical figures, during which archaeological period can their lives and journeys most aptly be placed? Until recently, scholars assuming the basic historicity of the patriarchal narratives have favoured either Middle Bronze I[1] or Middle Bronze II as the most likely background for the movements of Abraham. A later date, in the Late Bronze Age, has also been defended, but has never had the same support. More recently, a much earlier date, in the Early Bronze Age, has been suggested. This paper will consider all four of these datings, but particular attention will be given to the MB (Middle Bronze) I and MB II periods and their problems. These problems arise from the apparent non-occupation of sites which feature in the patriarchal narratives.

In 1949, Albright was able to write that only 'a few diehards among older scholars' had not accepted the essential historicity of the patriarchal traditions in the light of archaeological data, and that it was no longer fashionable to view those traditions as artificial creations by the scribes of the monarchic period.[2] He was able to repeat this statement fourteen years later.[3] Since then, however, there has been a strong reaction against the use of archaeological evidence in support of the biblical traditions,[4] and Albright's comment could not be repeated with any truth today.

Scholars who prefer to see the patriarchal narratives as unhistorical products of the first millennium BC have justified their view in part by referring to the difficulty of locating the patriarchs in an early archaeological period.[5] In response, N. M. Sarna has rightly


pointed out that an inability to place the patriarchs in a historical framework according to the present state of our knowledge does not necessarily invalidate the historicity of the narratives.[6] Our knowledge of the centuries around 2000 BC is very small, and our ignorance very great. Nevertheless, some specific suggestions can be made towards resolving the difficulties and answering the critics of historicity.

The aim of the present paper is therefore twofold: to examine the appropriateness of various archaeological periods as backgrounds to the patriarchal narratives, and to assess the arguments put forward on archaeological grounds for rejecting the view that the narratives reflect real conditions in an early period.


1.1. The MB I background and its problems

The view relating the patriarchs to the MB I period has been described as 'the classic formulation'.[7] It took shape in the 1930s, chiefly at the hands of W. F. Albright and N. Glueck.

In the l920s Albright argued that the finds on the plain of Bab edh-Dhrâ, to the east of the Dead Sea, were archaeological proof for the existence of a sedentary population in that area between the middle of the third millennium and the nineteenth century BC. He believed that occupation in the region ended abruptly 'not later than 1800 BC at the outside', and linked this with the cataclysm described in Genesis 18 - 19.[8] This link suggested to Albright that 'the date of Abraham cannot be placed earlier than the nineteenth century BC'.[9] This fell within the dates then assigned to MB I (2000 - 1800 BC).[10]

In 1929 Albright discovered a line of Early and Middle Bronze Age mounds 'running down along the eastern edge of Gilead, between the desert and the forests of Gilead'.[11] This confirmed for him the essential historicity of the campaign waged by the eastern kings in Genesis 14, an event which he had previously considered legendary. Albright's explorations in Transjordan were continued in the 1930s by Glueck, who traced a line of MB I settlements reaching most of the length of Transjordan. From 1932 onwards, Glueck's explorations revealed that most of these sites were deserted by the end of MB I, many of them never to be reoccupied. Both Glueck and Albright linked the termination of these sites


with the campaign of the eastern kings.[12]

From 1952 onwards, Glueck conducted an archaeological survey of the Negeb, and again found many MB I settlements. Arguing that the time of Abraham's journeys through the Negeb (Gn. 12:9; 13:1) must have been a period when permanent or temporary settlements and camping places flourished in the region, Glueck confidently identified MB I as the 'Age of Abraham', and coined the term 'the Abrahamitic period' as a synonym for it.[13]

Subsequently, Albright developed the theory that Abraham had been a donkey-caravaneer, trading originally between Ur and Haran, later between Damascus and Egypt. This view was first presented by Albright in 1961,[14] by which time the terminal date MB I had been raised from c. 1800 BC to c. 1900 BC.[15] In presenting his caravaneer hypothesis, Albright had to re-argue a date of c. 1800 BC for the end of MB I, because the documentary evidence which he assembled for early donkey-caravan trading belonged to the nineteenth century BC.[16] Although this date was cited by a few scholars for a time, it was soon universally rejected. Replying to Albright, W. G. Dever and T. L. Thompson have both noted the evidence in favour of MB II beginning earlier than 1800 BC. In 1970, Dever argued that IIA could not begin earlier than c. 1875 - 1850 BC,[17] but he subsequently described this estimate as 'probably too conservative', and raised the date for the transition to c. 1950 - 1900 BC,[18] and later to 2000 - 1950 BC.[19] Thompson has also shown that the low dates for MB I must be rejected, and has dismantled in detail Albright's argument that the first four royal tombs at Byblos (containing MB IIA pottery) postdate the end of the nineteenth century BC.[20] A date for the end of MB I in the twentieth century BC is now the general consensus among archaeologists.[21] The reasons for this dating need not be examined here, and can be found in the sources cited. The point to be noted is the implication of this date for Albright's hypothesis. Thompson has rightly pointed out that the low chronology for MB I is the central key to Albright's thesis. 'Once this is seen as untenable, the rise of the caravan trade under the Twelfth Dynasty pharaohs can no longer be associated with the 22 settlements of MB I either in Palestine or the Negev'.[22]

An attempt to retain Albright's thesis and his consequent dating of Abraham to the nineteenth century BC, while adopting the high chronology now required for MB I, would naturally place Abraham in MB II.[23] But, as will be noted below, there are problems for an MB II date for Abraham. The most reasonable course is actually to abandon the donkey-caravaneer hypothesis altogether. It


has been aptly criticized as going beyond the biblical evidence,[24] and few scholars have taken it seriously.[25]

The link between Abraham and MB I has also been bolstered by the so-called Amorite hypothesis. However, this hypothesis also features in the views of some scholars who place Abraham in MB II, and it will be discussed separately below.

Since an MB I dating of Abraham has been maintained independently of the donkey-caravaneer hypothesis, the justified criticisms of that hypothesis do not themselves refute the placement of Abraham in MB I. However, that dating has also been undermined in other ways, and these must be noted.

The end of occupation at Bab edh-Dhrâ can no longer be linked with the destruction of the 'cities of the plain' in Genesis 18 - 19 if Abraham is placed in MB I. Lapp's excavations in 1963-65 showed that the town site was abandoned at the close of EB III, c. 2400 - 2300 BC; remains from EB IV attest only squatter occupation, and a few scattered tombs are the only finds from MB I.[26]

Glueck's argument for associating the campaign of the eastern kings with the end of MB I occupation in Transjordan has been criticized by Dever. While Glueck wrote of all these sites being 'destroyed at the end of the Middle Bronze I period',[27] Dever notes: 'There is no evidence whatsoever for a "destruction" at the end of MB I, as claimed by Glueck.'[28] Thompson also notes the lack of evidence for destructions, 'let alone the abandonment of all of the sites at any single time'.[29]

But the most serious criticisms concern the non-occupation of certain sites which feature in the patriarchal narratives. Thompson points out that Beersheba did not exist before the Iron Age, that Succoth, if identified with Tell Deir 'Alla as Glueck suggested, was not occupied before the Late Bronze Age, and that Salem, if the same as Jerusalem, has yielded no evidence of MB I settlement; Ai (Et-Tell) was not occupied between c. 2500 BC and the Iron Age, while Shechem was not occupied before MB IIA.[30] J. Van Seters also stresses that Shechem and Beersheba have no MB I settlements,[31] and Dever elaborates concerning the latter: 'Extensive surveys and excavations by Aharoni, Kochavi, and other Israeli archaeologists in Beersheba and vicinity have in fact revealed a conspicuous lack of MB I sites through· out the northern Negeb.'[32] Dever describes Shechem as 'the parade example' of a site which Albright listed as having MB I occupation, but where the evidence had actually been misunderstood;[33] apart from a small settlement in the Chalcolithic period, occupation began in MB IIA.[34]


Dever also criticizes Albright's view[35] that Bethel was 'extensively peopled' in MB I; he has demonstrated that remains attributed to MB I in Kelso's report actually belong to the MB IIA city,[36] and that MB I occupation is 'supported by a mere handful of sherds'.[37] Dever also extends Thompson's list of problematical sites by the addition of Dothan and Hebron.[38] In his view, 'A date in MB I is ruled out for the patriarchs simply because the latest evidence shows that the main centres traditionally associated with their movements, pace Albright, are conspicuously lacking in MB I remains.'[39]

Whether MB I can be rejected as finally as such statements suggest will be discussed below.

1.2. The MB II background and its problems

Several scholars prefer to assign the patriarchs generally to the first half of the second millennium BC.[40] This places the patriarchal period within MB II.

The MB II period as a background to the patriarchal traditions avoids some of the difficulties we have noted concerning MB I. In MB II, Jerusalem, Shechem, Bethel, Hebron and Dothan were urban centres.[41] However, some difficulties remain. Beersheba, Succoth and Ai appear to be equally problematical in MB II. In addition, MB II raises difficulties of its own: 'To date, not a single MB IIA site has been found in all of southern Transjordan or the Negeb - one of the principal arenas of patriarchal activities in Genesis.'[42] On balance, then, MB II appears to be no more satisfactory than MB I.

1.3. The patriarchs and the Amorite hypothesis

The patriarchal period has been linked with both MB I and MB II on the basis of the Amorite hypothesis.

The end of EB III saw the disruption of urban life throughout Syria and Palestine. The EB III towns were destroyed, and the culture of the subsequent EB IV/MB I period was largely non-urban. This period is seen in terms of the slow sedentarization of nomadic or semi-nomadic newcomers, to whom the destruction of the EB III towns is generally attributed. A reversion to town life is attested at the beginning of MB IIA, and this has been ascribed to a further influx of newcomers. The newcomers in both periods are assumed to have been Amorites, the 'westerners' attested in Akkadian texts from the last quarter of the third millennium onwards. On the basis of a combination of textual and archaeological evidence, Amorite expansions have been posited in which these people moved from Mesopotamia, through Syria and Palestine and on into Egypt. It should be noted, however, that more than


the two major influxes mentioned above are envisaged, so that a number of migrations into Palestine, extending over several centuries, are in view.[43]

This picture of westward expansions by West Semitic peoples provides an attractive historical context for the migration of Abraham and his family from Ur to Haran and from there to Palestine and on into Egypt. This has been noted by Albright[44] and R. de Vaux,[45] but while Albright assumed an MB I setting for Abraham, de Vaux preferred to place his migration in MB IIA,[46] when urban society was being re-established. It must be stressed, however, that the term 'Amorite hypothesis' refers not to a possible link between Amorite movements and the migration of Abraham, but to the Amorite movements themselves.

This hypothesis, depending as it does on a large amount of interpretation of textual and archaeological evidence, has recently been heavily criticized by Thompson. Thompson shows that although early West Semites do appear in South Mesopotamia, including the region of Ur, there is no historical evidence for a migration from there to the north; the West Semites attested in North Mesopotamia seem to have settled there after a migration from the North Arabian desert.[47] The written materials currently available 'do not witness to a major West Semitic migration in Palestine in the early Second Millennium, and argue against any such migration from North Mesopotamia'.[48] Thompson further argues that the Amu ('3mu), or 'Asiatics' who entered Egypt during the First Intermediate Period and the XIth Dynasty, were not part of any widespread nomadic movement, but people living along Egypt's eastern border.[49] Discussing the Palestinian archaeological evidence for the nature of MB I, Thompson asserts that the Amorite hypothesis has influenced the interpretation of the finds, and argues strongly against the Amorite and nomadic character of the period, and against the view which attributes the disruption of urban civilization the end of EB III to an invasion from the north.[50] Thompson also draws attention to evidence of some continuity between MB I and MB IIA, rejecting any implication of a complete break between the two cultures.[51]

In spite of Thompson's very thorough critique, Dever has continued to hold to a version of the Amorite hypothesis on the basis of archaeological material, insisting that MB I and MB IIA saw new influxes of West Semitic peoples into Palestine from Syria.[52] Dever insists, however, that the problem of locating the biblical patriarchs historically 'is a separate question and one that is likely to prejudice the discussion of MB I'.[54]


Thompson has recently remarked that Dever 'seems unaware of how inseparable the migratory aspect of the old "Amorite hypothesis" is from the biblical story - indeed it is only in Genesis that any indication of a migration from the Euphrates region can be found'.[54] This deserves to be stressed. The framework into which widely scattered evidence has been drawn in the construction of the Amorite hypothesis is provided only by the biblical story of Abraham's movements, and without that framework the hypothesis is fundamentally without support. On the other hand, the migration spoken of in Genesis involves only a single family, and it is nowhere implied that that family's movements were part of a wider shift or expansion of population; therefore the movements attributed to Abraham and his family do not support the Amorite hypothesis in any case - and neither do they require the Amorite hypothesis to support their historicity.

On the basis of evidence currently available, the validity of the Amorite hypothesis remains extremely doubtful. For the reasons just stated, however, it should indeed be treated as a separate issue from discussions of the patriarchal age. As Sarna has remarked: 'If Abraham's migration can no longer be explained as part of a larger Amorite migratory stream from east to west, it should be noted that what has fallen by the wayside is a scholarly hypothesis, not the Biblical text. Genesis itself presents the movement from Haran to Canaan as an individual, unique act undertaken in response to a divine call, an event, not an incident, that inaugurates a new and decisive stage in God's plan of history. The factuality or otherwise of this Biblical evaluation lies beyond the scope of scholarly research.'[55]

1.4. The LBA background

The view propounded by C. H. Gordon places the lives of Abraham and Jacob in the fourteenth century BC (LB II).[56] This placement rests chiefly on the parallels which Gordon sees between patriarchal practices and the social customs reflected in the fifteenth - thirteenth century texts from Nuzi and Ugarit.

This view will not be discussed in detail here. The parallels on which rests have been criticized by a number of scholars.[57] Without these, such a dating has nothing to support it.

Further, it is impossible to reconcile such a late date with the internal biblical chronology. Even placing the Exodus in the thirteenth century BC does not allow a reduction of the patriarchal age to the fourteenth century, unless the entire framework of biblical history from


Abraham to the Exodus is assumed to be artificial - an assumption for which there is no real warrant.[58]

1.5. An EBA date for Abraham

D. N. Freedman has recently argued that the true historical setting of the Abraham narratives is the middle of the third millennium BC,. or EB III (c. 2650 - 2350 BC) in archaeological terms.[59]

His arguments are based on literary and archaeological evidence, the literary material being from the recently discovered Ebla (Tell Mardikh) archives. Stating that one of the tablets from Ebla lists the five 'cities of the plain' in the same order in which they occur in Genesis 14, and that the name of one of the kings mentioned in Genesis 14 (Birsha) is preserved in almost the same form on the tablet, Freedman argues that the incidents of Genesis 14 belong in all probability to the same period as the Ebla tablet (dated in general terms to the period 2600-2300 BC).

Freedman's argument from archaeology concerns EBA remains in the region east of the Dead Sea. Bab edh-Dhrâ and four neighbouring sites provide evidence of settlements during the EBA, but not during the MBA. Freedman proposes identifying these settlements with the 'cities of the plain'. Discussing occupation at Bab edh-Dhrâ, Freedman notes that the last major phase of occupation is EB III, the site being finally abandoned about 2250 BC in EB IV. The role of all five sites as the 'cities of the plain' is confined, however, to EB III: 'All were occupied during the Early Bronze Age for varying periods of time) the only period common to all is EB III, which is also the period of the Ebla tablets.'[60]

While there is much that is superficially attractive about Freedman's hypothesis, both the literary and archaeological arguments face serious difficulties.

Reservations have recently been expressed concerning the readings of the names espoused by Freedman, and it seems that the claim that the names of all five cities occur on one tablet was in any case erroneous.[61]

Freedman himself does not insist that the king named on the tablet should be identified with Birsha, king of Gomorrah, in Genesis 14. Indeed, he admits that, although he was originally under the impression that the king named on the tablet was king of Gomorrah, he later learned that he was king of the city whose name was read as Admah. Freedman therefore suggests only that the two kings 'belong to the same era, quite possibly to the same dynasty or to related families'. The conclusion that they belong 'to the same chronological horizon'[62] is completely


invalidated by these qualifications. Several examples could be found of two kings reigning centuries apart, possessing the same or similar names. As one example, note Jabin, king of Hazor at the time of Joshua, and a similarly named king of Hazor attested in the Mari documents of the eighteenth-seventeenth centuries BC.[63] Even if Joshua is dated as early as 1400 BC, in line with a fifteenth century date for the exodus, we still have a gap of two or three centuries between these two kings; and note, too, that an even later king of Hazor also has the same name (Jdg. 4:2).

The archaeological argument also provides little evidence for Freedman's early date. His argument here largely depends on the fact that no MB I sites have been found which can be identified as the 'cities of the plain', thus restricting the choice to the EBA sites to which he refers. The common assumption that the cities of Genesis 14 now lie beneath the southern waters of the Dead Sea, which appear to have risen considerably in comparatively recent times,[64] is dismissed rather cavalierly: 'The underwater possibility has also been investigated ... but ... nothing determinative or even usable has turned up. If Sodom and Gomorrah are beneath the waters of the Dead Sea, they have not been found; the hypothesis itself seems more dubious all the time'.[65] This is an unfair statement of the situation. As Albright remarked, there is no way of knowing what depth of silt may now hide the ruins from view if they lie beneath the Dead Sea, and the chances of discovering traces are very remote indeed.[66]

Unless the EBA settlements can be identified with certainty as the 'cities of the plain' (which would require four of them being shown to have suffered a simultaneous fall in the EBA; Zoar was not destroyed according to Gn. 19), Freedman's case remains weak.

If the occupation of the central Negeb is held to be important for the historicity of the patriarchal narratives, Freedman's early date faces an additional difficulty; Thompson reports 'an almost total absence of evidence for any EB exploitation of this region' until the EB IV / MB I period.[67]

A final consideration is that the biblical chronology cannot be stretched sufficiently to place Abraham in the EB III period (i.e. before 2300 BC). This will be apparent from the discussion of biblical chronology below. Any attempt to take the old Testament's chronology seriously will therefore find Freedman's placement of Abraham unacceptable,[68] unless a down-dating of the EBA becomes necessary in the light of future discoveries.


1.6. Summary

Each period examined has been found to present difficulties. Two periods (LB II and EB III) are excluded by the internal biblical chronology, and in any case are weakly supported. The remaining two, MB I and MB II, face the difficulty of the non-occupation of important sites or areas. However, before the conclusion is reached that neither period provides an acceptable setting for the movements of the patriarchs, evidence for the location and occupational history of the relevant sites must be assessed in more detail.


2.1. Biblical and archaeological evidence compared

The aim here is to assess the exact extent of the disagreement between biblical and archaeological evidence relating to the history of occupation at relevant sites.

What follows is a list of the Palestinian topographical references contained in the patriarchal narratives. For the convenience of a later part of the discussion, the list is divided chronologically into two parts: (i) corresponding to the life of Abraham after the departure from Haran, and (ii) corresponding to the lives of Isaac and Jacob, from Abraham's death to the entry into Egypt.

Table 1






12:8; 13:3


12:8; 13:3


13:10; 14; 18 - 19


13:10-13; 14; 18 - 19


13:10; 14; 18:20; 19:24, 28














13:18; 23:2, 10, 18

Oaks of Mamre

13:18; 18:1


14:7; 16:14; 20:1


16:7; 20:1; 25:18


16:14; 24:62





21:14,31-33; 22:19

The Negeb

12:9; 13:1; 20:1; 24:62

The land of the

21:32, 34







26:23, 33; 28:10


28:11-22; 35:1, 6-8,14-16








33:18-20; 34:1-31; 35:4; 37:12-14


35:16, 19 (+ 48:7 retro-



Tower of Eder






Not all the places listed here can be discussed profitably. The five 'cities of the plain' have not been located, as noted above. The exact locations of Ham, Shaveh-Kiriathaim, Galeed/Mizpah, Peniel/Penuel, Beer-lahai-roi, the Tower of Eder and Timnah are unknown, except that the first four evidently lay in Transjordan. In the cases of the Tower of Eder, Galeed/Mizpah and Penuel/Peniel, the text does not in any case require an inhabited site. The Oaks of Mamre were a cultic spot, not a settlement; the Hebron region, in which they evidently stood, will be discussed under the heading 'Hebron'. Shur was a region, not a specific locality, and the references do not indicate occupation or otherwise.

The 'land of the Philistines' and the whole question of allegedly anachronistic uses of the name 'Philistine' is discussed by A. R. Millard elsewhere in this volume.

The remaining sites will be discussed in the order in which they appear for the first time in the narrative.

2.1.1. Shechem When the single reference to Shechem in the Abraham narratives is compared with the several in the Jacob narratives, a distinction is apparent. In the Jacob narratives, Shechem is clearly a city, and Jacob and his sons have dealings with its inhabitants. This is the case in the very first mention of Shechem in these later narra-


tives, where a city is specifically mentioned,[69] and Jacob sets up an altar on land bought from Hamor, its ruler (33:18-20; cf. 34:2). In contrast to this, Genesis 12:6 makes no mention of a town or settlement, and no mention of Abraham coming into contact with any inhabitants of Shechem. The reference here is in fact to the Oak of Moreh, which is described as 'the place at Shechem'.

In view of this, the possibility should be considered that no town existed at Shechem in Abraham's day, and that the use of the name is simply the narrator's way of locating the Oak of Moreh for his readers; i.e. he may be informing his contemporaries that the Oak of Moreh stood near the town of Shechem of their own day.

Turning to the archaeological evidence for occupation at Shechem, we have already noted Dever's rejection of Albright's conclusion that the site was occupied in MB I. There was, however, a city at Shechem in MB IIA.[70] If the evidence so far discovered reflects the history of occupation accurately, the time of Jacob cannot be placed earlier than MB IIA. If it is held that a city flourished at Shechem in Abraham's day, Abraham must also be placed in that archaeological period. If, however, it is agreed that the narrative does not require occupation in Abraham's day, an earlier setting for Abraham is naturally possible.

Something must be said here in reply to Wright's interpretation of the archaeological remains and biblical references to Shechem. Wright suggests that the platform or temenos in the western part of the MB II city should be identified with the altars built by Abraham and Jacob. But Wright's assumption that the platform was an altar may well be incorrect. His assertion that it lay outside the city, as did the sacred spot mentioned in Genesis 33,[71] has been questioned by Van Seters, who points out that as the wall of this phase of the city was not found, we cannot assume that the platform lay outside it. Van Seters also points out: 'There were other structures in the area - a few wall fragments, a tannur (oven) and a drain - that suggest some permanent occupation and not a completely isolated 'altar'.[72] It is therefore a reasonable assumption that the raised platform lay within the city. The whole notion that the platform was an altar has in fact been questioned by J. F. Ross, who finds it difficult to view it as such, and suggests it was 'merely a terrace'.[73]

Wright also assumes that in the incident in Genesis 34, Hebrew tribes took permanent possession of Shechem.[74] It should be stressed that the text refers only to the city being attacked and its buildings plundered after the


slaughter of the male inhabitants; to read more into the account is unjustified. Wright uses Genesis 48:22 to support his view that Shechem became a centre for Hebrew tribes at this early period. This is a dubious argument, since it is by no means certain that Shechem is in view in this verse. The Hebrew s[e]em may simply mean 'mountain-slope' here (and is so rendered in RSV; cf. NEB 'ridge of land'). Further, whereas in Genesis 34 the attack on Shechem was accomplished by Jacob's sons, the deed referred to in 48:22 was apparently accomplished by Jacob himself.[75] Also, while the deed of Genesis 34 caused distress to Jacob (verse 3), the deed of 48:22 is evidently one in which he glories; and while Amorites feature as Jacob's opponents in 48:22, the 'prince of the land' is a Hivite in 34:2. When these various differences are taken into account, it seems unlikely that a permanent capture of the city of Shechem is referred to in 48:22, and chapter 34 alone certainly does not imply such an event.

2.1.2. Bethel (Beitin) The over-interpretation of archaeological evidence from Bethel, resulting in Albright's claim that it was 'extensively peopled' in MB I, has already been noted. However, Dever does not dispense altogether with an MB I occupation of the site. A 'handful of sherds' from MB I do attest some occupation, and Dever's remark that 'Bethel can hardly have been more than a campsite in MB I'[76] does not pose any problem with respect to the biblical references, since they require no more than this.[77] Hence it is not necessary to limit the application of the references to the MB IIA period when there was indeed a city at Bethel.[78]

D. Livingston's argument that Beitin may not be the correct site for Bethel,[79] should also be borne in mind. If this argument is correct, all archaeological finds at Beitin are naturally superfluous to the history of Bethel.

2.1.3. Ai (Et-Tell) Ai is mentioned only in the Abraham narratives, where the two references most naturally imply an occupied site of some kind (though they do not absolutely demand one). The problem raised by the gap in occupation between c. 2500/2400 BC and the Iron Age at Et-Tell must therefore be faced.

S. Yeivin has made the interesting assertion that there were omissions in the publication of pottery from the 1933-35 Marquet-Krause excavations at Et-Tell, in which he took part. Yeivin mentions several items typical of the 'Transitional Period' (= MB I), and says that


this group of finds was 'carefully selected and put apart by the author because of its chronological implications', but was for some reason never included in the final publication. Yeivin says that these finds came from the corridor surrounding the citadel (also termed the 'palace' or 'temple') on the acropolis, and suggests associating them with the last phase of that building's existence, when the inhabited area of the site may have shrunk considerably. On the basis of these finds, Yeivin would extend the life of this final phase at least into the twenty-first century, and perhaps even into the twentieth/nineteenth centuries BC.[80]

If correct, this would be a very important adjustment to the occupational history of Et-Tell. It should be noted, however, that the excavations of the joint American expedition directed by J. A. Callaway (1964-72) have not produced any evidence to support Yeivin's view,[81] though this does not automatically disprove it; the relevant evidence may all have been removed during the earlier excavations, as was most of the evidence for Iron Age re-occupation of the citadel structures.[82]

In this connection, the possibility should be emphasized that at any site discussed here which appears to lack remains from the appropriate period, there may have been scanty or sporadic occupation at the time of the patriarchs, traces of which have either been removed by erosion or simply missed by the excavators.

Finally, it should be noted that the relocation of Bethel advocated by Livingston would automatically demand a new site for Ai as well, in which case Et-Tell has no bearing on the history of Ai. Other attempts to relocate Ai have found no archaeological support from Callaway's survey of sites in the vicinity of Et-Tell.[83] Livingston's theory, on the other hand, has yet to be tested by excavation of the two sites which he proposes for identification with Bethel and Ai.

2.1.4. Ashtaroth-karnaim While this name may refer to only one site, Albright considered it to be a pairing of the names of two sites, Tell Ashtarah and Sheikh Sa'ad. He identified Tell Ashtarah with Ashtaroth and Sheikh Sa'ad with Karnaim.[84] Scholars who assume that the biblical name refers to a single site differ over which of these two tells is the probable location.[85] However, Albright reports finding evidence of EB - MB I occupation at both sites,[86] and Glueck includes these tells among those which were abandoned at the end of MB I.[87]

2.1.5. Salem If this place is to be identified with


Jerusalem, as is perhaps indicated by Psalm 76:2, the reference in Genesis 14 would have to be related, on present evidence, to MB II, Kenyon's excavations on the eastern spur produced no remains of MB I date.[88]

It should be remembered, however, that Kenyon's excavations of the early city were very limited indeed, and the recently renewed excavations may change the picture.[89] A Cypriote bowl of MB I date was discovered in earlier excavations on the Ophel,[90] and this may indicate occupation in that period; it is also possible, however, that the bowl remained in use into the MB II period.

The possibility should also be considered that the Salem of Genesis 14 is not to be identified with Jerusalem. This identification may read too much into the fact that the name occurs in parallel with Zion in Psalm 76:2. The name is not used there as an alternative toponym for, or abbreviation of Jerusalem, but as 'a poetic and religious appellation'.[91] It may be significant that Salem is not mentioned in connection with Abraham's visit to Moriah in Genesis 22, while Moriah is identified with, or placed in close proximity to, Jerusalem in 2 Chronicles 31:1 (where 'Mount Moriah' is identified with the temple hill north of pre-Solomonic Jerusalem). It has been suggested that the identification of Salem with Jerusalem would suit the route taken by Abraham on his return from Damascus to Hebron after rescuing Lot and his family.[92] However, although Abraham is certainly in the region of Hebron again by Genesis 18, the time of this chapter is evidently many years after the time of chapter 14 (cf. 16:3, which takes us to Abraham's eighty-fifth year, and 17:1, where he is said to be ninety-nine) hence there is no reason to assume that Abraham was returning directly to Hebron from Damascus when he encountered Meichizedek at Salem. If he was not travelling towards Hebron, but simply southwards down the Jordan Valley, Salem could have been a more easterly location than later Jerusalem, and may indeed have been located in the Valley, as certain early Christian writers suggested.[93]

2.1.6, Hebron wright attempts to dispense with references to Hebron in the patriarchal narratives, commenting: 'We are informed only by two explanatory notes that Mamre is Hebron, indicating that although Abraham settled there, the city itself was not yet in existence.'[94] Unfortunately, this approach will not do in the case of Genesis 23:10, where we have mention not only of a city of Hebron but also of a city gate, indicating a walled urban settlement. It was in the gate of the city that the transaction bet-


ween Abraham and Ephron over the Cave of Machpelah was carried out.

The archaeological evidence from Jebel er-Rumeideh would confine the time of Abraham to MB II, since excavations there have revealed a fortified town of MB II date, but no such remains from MB I.[95] Dever's investigations of the Hebron area discovered 'several isolated MB I cemeteries and even some seasonal settlements in the Hebron hills, but no trace of occupation anywhere in the immediate vicinity of Hebron'.[96] So far, therefore, there are no MB I finds from the Hebron region which would correspond to the indications of Genesis 23.

However, the MB I traces found by Dever in the general area of Hebron may indicate that evidence of something more than seasonal settlements still awaits discovery somewhere in the area. Albright suggested in 1932 that biblical Hebron lay under the modern town in the valley, and not on the hill er-Rumeideh.[97] In 1961 he repeated the view that Hebron 'almost certainly lies under the remains of later times, buried deep under modern el-Khalil'.[98] Only excavation can prove the validity or otherwise of this suggestion, and present-day occupation probably rules out adequate excavation for the foreseeable future. But for the present, the clear indication of a walled town in Genesis 23 is unsupported by archaeological evidence if Abraham is placed earlier than MB II.

2.1.7. Kadesh Of the two possible sites for biblical Kadesh (-barnea), the springs of Am Qudeis and Am el Qudeirat (roughly 8 km apart), the latter is considered the more likely, having much more abundant water and vegetation.[99] Alternatively, it has been suggested that Kadesh-barnea was 'the name of a fairly extensive region embracing among others the spring of Ain el Qudeirat'.[100]

During a survey of the Sinai Peninsula undertaken in the winter of 1956-57, Israeli archaeologists discovered many temporary and permanent settlements around the oasis of Ain el Qudeirat and in the neighbouring region, dating from the Palaeolithic, MB I, Israelite, Persian and Roman-Byzantine periods. MB I finds were numerous and included an agricultural settlement on the hill overlooking the spring.[101] No MB II finds were made in the region. Unless such finds still await discovery, the archaeological evidence suggests an MB I setting for the references in Genesis 14, 16 and 20.

2.1.8. Gerar Y. Aharoni suggested locating Gerar at Tell Abu Hureira, and this location was adopted by Albright and


Glueck.[102] The site is unexcavated, but pottery of both MB I and MB II has been found on the tell.[103]

Dever notes that the identification of this site with Gerar is unproven and disputed, and hence casts doubt on the relevance of these finds.[104] However, even though the exact location of Gerar remains uncertain, a location somewhere in the region of the Wadi Gaza is definitely indicated,[105] and surface finds attest MB I and MB II occupation at several sites along the Wadi Gaza. While Dever describes the MB I settlements in this region as 'apparently small unwalled villages similar to those of the central Negeb',[106] Thompson describes the settlements as 'very large and stable, showing occupation during all periods of the Bronze Age',[107] a contradiction which well illustrates the uncertainty and subjectivity involved in the interpretation of archaeological evidence.

Since Gerar must be located in this general area, there is no reason to doubt the authenticity of the reference to a king and people of Gerar in Genesis 20 and 26, regardless of whether the incidents of these chapters are placed in the MB I or MB II period. The problem of the Philistines referred to in chapter 26 (cf. the phrase 'land of the Philistines' in chapter 20) is discussed by A.R. Millard elsewhere in this volume. The fact that the narrative speaks of a 'king' of Gerar does not necessarily imply a large fortified settlement, since semi-nomadic peoples were also ruled by kings.

2.1.9. Beersheba Tel Beersheba (Tell es-Seba') completely lacks pre-Iron Age remains. It does not therefore bear on the question of whether the patriarchal narratives relate better to MB I or MB II. But it raises a more serious problem, casting doubt, as some see it, on the authenticity of the patriarchal traditions.[108]

Two possibilities deserve consideration. The first is that the references to Beersheba in the patriarchal narratives do not actually require a settlement on the site at the time in question. Sarna has argued thus in reply to Van Seters: 'The biblical passages refer only to a well and a cultic site.... No king or ruler is mentioned, and no patriarch ever has dealings with the inhabitants of Beersheba. The only description of Beersheba as a "city" in the patriarchal narratives is a late editorial note (Gn. 26:33) which clearly has nothing to do with the narrative context, and which views the material through the eyes of a later age.'[109] In 1967, Aharoni held the view that the absence of early archaeological evidence does not contradict the patriarchal narratives, which, he then suggested, have only the area of Beersheba


in mind, not a town.[110]

However, Aharoni later expressed a more negative view, arising from the discovery that the well on the heights of the mound at Tel Beersheba post-dated the period of the Israelite settlement (thirteenth-twelth centuries BC in his view). The patriarchal narratives specifically refer to Abraham digging a well at Beersheba (21:30): 'Since the digging of this well did not ante-date the settlement period, it therefore seems certain that neither can the patriarchal narratives associated with Beersheba refer to an earlier period.'[111] Aharoni concludes that the patriarchal narratives are compilations of many traditions originating in different periods.

This argument overlooks the possibility that the well dug by Abraham may not be the well on the mound at Tel Beersheba. In the vicinity of modern Beersheba (Bir es-Saba'), about two miles west of Tel Beersheba, there are a number of wells. Excavations at Bir es-Saba' in 1953, 1962, 1966 and 1968 uncovered Chalcolithic and Iron Age II remains beneath those of the Roman-Byzantine period. R. Gophna, who carried out the 1962 excavations, comments: 'As a result of the excavations ... it now seems certain that a large settlement flourished there at least during Iron Age II. This settlement existed at the old traditional site, near the wells. The fortified town uncovered by the excavations of Tel Beersheba was built in the time of the Monarchy as an administrative center.'[112] It is therefore possible that if there was a settlement at Beersheba in Abraham's day, it was located at the site of Bir es-Saba', and that remains from the patriarchal period still await discovery beneath unexcavated parts of the modern town.

There is certainly no reason to identify the well dug by Abraham with the one at Tel Beersheba. Hence the late date of this well, and the absence of MBA traces from the tell, are irrelevant to the historicity of the patriarchal narratives.

2.1.10. The Negeb We have already noted that no MB II remains have come to light from the Negeb, while in the preceding MB I period the region was occupied with numerous unwalled settlements.

Thompson speaks of 'several hundred new settlements, with a number of very large villages' appearing during the EB IV/MB I period in the central Negeb. These occur in two main zones, environmentally distinct. The largest number of settlements and dwellings, and all of the large villages, lie on the north-western slopes of the central


hills; they were supported by agriculture based on wadi terracing, which kept arable fields productive with the aid of run-off water. Remains of groups of round stone huts have been found in the areas of Ramat Mared, Har Romm, Naal in and the upper Naal Nisáná. Long-term winter grazing is possible in these regions, and Thompson believes these settlements were oriented to animal husbandry.[113] Therefore it seems that at this time the settlement of the central Negeb was based on a mixed economy of agriculture and grazing.

As Glueck noted in the 1950s, these MB I settlements provide an excellent background to Abraham's movements through the Negeb with flocks and herds (12:9-10; 13:1). It is also notable that the patriarchs practised cultivation, either occasional patch cultivation or the more intensive form attested by the wadi terracing; Genesis 26:12 refers to Isaac sowing and reaping in the region of Gerar (where, incidentally, agriculture is aided by plentiful and stable ground water).[114]

It has been argued by Y. Aharoni and A. F. Rainey that the Negeb's MB I settlements are actually irrelevant to the setting of the patriarchs. These scholars have argued that in the Old Testament the term 'Negeb' has a much more restricted application than in modern usage, and that the biblical Negeb was a narrow E-W band extending only about 20 km north and south of Beersheba. They point out that the MB I sites of the modern central Negeb lie outside this area, and that no MB I sites have been found within the limits of the biblical Negeb.[115]

Whatever the limits of the Negeb as envisaged in the patriarchal narratives, the argument of Aharoni and Rainey overlooks some important biblical data. Abraham is said to have dwelt for a time 'between Kadesh and Shur' (Gn. 20:1), and Isaac is found at one point journeying from Beer-lahai-roi, and later dwelling there, after Abraham's death (24:62; 25:11; cf. 16:14 on location). These references leave no doubt that Abraham and Isaac journeyed through, and occasionally settled in, the region in which many MB I sites have been found. In 1955 Glueck described the region in which MB I sites had been discovered as extending from a site 28 km SE-SSE of Beersheba to a site 22 km SE of Am el- Qudeirat (Kadesh-barnea),[116] and MB I sites have since been discovered further west, along what was perhaps the biblical 'Way of Shur'.[117]

Therefore, even if Abraham's movements through the Negeb on his way to and from Egypt are disregarded, his and Isaac's sojournings there do fit ideally into the MB 1 period, when agricultural settlements in the Negeb are well attested.


2.1.11. Succoth Tell Deir 'Alla, with which Succoth was identified by Glueck, has no stratified remains from before the LBA. This becomes irrelevant, however if Franken is correct in abandoning Glueck's view.[118]

Thompson remarks that Franken's reasons for rejecting this identification are primarily that Tell Deir 'Alla did not exist before the LBA, thus implying a circular argument.[119] This overlooks Franken's other reasons for rejecting the identification, the most striking being evidence that the River Jabbok once ran to the north of the tell, putting it on the wrong side of the river to be Succoth in Gad.[120]

But even if the identification with Succoth is maintained, it should be noted that, although Franken's excavations have revealed no trace of MB remains, Glueck reported finding a small quantity of pottery 'which can definitely be assigned to MB IIA' during his surface explorations (pottery characteristic of Tell Beit Mirsim G-F).[121]

Hence either Tell Deir 'Alla is not Succoth, in which case its occupational history is not relevant to the reference in Genesis 33; or the identification is correct, in which case there is slight but sufficient indication of temporary settlement in MB IIA. Glueck found no pottery there from MB I.

2.1.12. Bethlehem M. Avi-Yonah has argued that since Bethlehem has no springs, and a regular water supply is dependent on cisterns, this restricts the establishment of the town proper to the period when cisterns were being used in the mountainous areas of the country, i.e. in the LBA.[122]

It is possible, however, that a settled site is not in view in the references to Bethlehem (Ephrath) in Genesis 35. A cultic spot may be intended, though there is admittedly no other biblical evidence that Bethlehem was of cultic significance at that time. It is also possible that the name 'Ephrath' is being used retrospectively by the writer in order to indicate to his contemporaries the location of Rachel's death and burial.

The possibility of sporadic settlement before the LBA should not be ruled out, and excavation of the mound which lies east of the Church of the Nativity, with Bronze and Iron Age surface pottery, may reveal evidence of such.

In view of these possibilities, the present lack of evidence for MBA occupation does not prove that the references in Genesis 35 are anachronistic; nor can it stand against the authenticity of the incident which provides their context.


2.1.13. Dothan Excavations at Tel Dothan have uncovered no evidence from MB I. but have revealed an urban centre of the MB II period.[123]

2.2. Summary, and a possible solution

The main difficulty which emerges from the above is that some sites mentioned in the patriarchal narratives show occupation in MB I but not in MB II, while others have produced remains from MB II but not MB I. However, this need not be an insurmountable obstacle to locating the patriarchal age against these archaeological periods, and it certainly cannot be used to disprove the historicity of the narratives. The following three points must be borne in mind.

First, non-occupation of a site cannot be proved conclusively by a lack of finds. Traces of scanty or short-lived occupation may have been removed in subsequent periods, either by erosion or by building activities; or they may simply have been missed by the excavators, since only a small proportion of any site can be explored in detail. While it would be less reasonable to appeal to this possibility in the case of the complete lack of MB II finds throughout the Negeb, it should always be borne in mind in cases of individual sites.[124]

Secondly, the chronological distinction made between MB I and MB II styles of pottery should not be taken to mean that the two archaeological ages never overlapped. The MB I - MB IIA transition did not occur suddenly, or simultaneously at all sites. As Thompson remarks: 'There never was a time when the EB IV/MB I culture no longer existed and MB IIA had not yet begun. Nor is every EB IV/MB I corpus of pottery earlier than every MB IIA corpus.'[125] It is therefore possible that MB IIA finds from one site overlap chronologically with MB I finds elsewhere, and vice versa.

Finally, there is the possibility that the time covered by the patriarchal narratives actually spanned the transition between MB I and MB II. It is this third possibility which offers the most satisfactory solution to the difficulties noted above.

It may be significant that in Table I Ai, Kadesh, the Negeb and north Transjordian sites occur only in the first half of the list, corresponding to the lifetime of Abraham. Kadesh and the Negeb we have seen were occupied in MB I but not in MB II. If Et-Tell is assumed to be the site of Ai, the sherds noted by Yeivin may indicate occupation there in MB I but no later. The evidence discovered by Albright and Glueck for MB I occupation in north Transjordan may justly be noted in connection with


Genesis 14, without reviving Glueck's claim that the eastern kings 'gutted every city and village ... from Ashtaroth-Karnaim in southern Syria through all of Transjordan and the Negev.'[126] We have seen that the archaeological evidence does not attest sudden destructions, or even the simultaneous abandonment of all the MB I sites; but neither does Genesis 14 imply that this MB I civilization was (in Glueck's phrase) 'savagely liquidated';[127] the narrative speaks only of the subjection of the people of Transjordan and the Negeb to the rule of the eastern kings (14:5-7).[128]

In short, it seems that the sites and areas mentioned only in the Abraham narratives (or Abraham-Isaac narratives in the case of the Negeb) were exclusively MB I sites, though Ai cannot be included with certainty.

The only references to Succoth and Dothan occur in narratives concerning Jacob; similarly, those references to Shechem which clearly speak of a city belong in the Jacob narratives, the reference in Genesis 12:6 being open to another interpretation. We have seen that these places were occupied in MB II but not in MB I (i.e. if Succoth = Tell Deir 'Alla, otherwise we can say nothing of its history at all); indeed, in MB II Shechem was a large urban centre, just as we find implied by the Jacob narratives.

The possibility suggested by these correspondences is that while the time of Abraham belongs in MB I, the time of Jacob belongs in MB II.

A site which does not lend itself to this scheme is Hebron, a walled town in Abraham's time, but not attested archaeologically as such until MB II. With the exception of this one site, the above suggestion harmonizes the biblical and archaeological evidence more satisfactorily than does a purely MB I or MB II setting for the patriarchal period. The anomaly of Hebron may be resolved by further excavations, either by the discovery of a walled town of MB I date in the valley, or by indications of MB I beginnings for the remains on Jebel er-Rumeideh currently attributed to MB IIA.

Generally speaking, a shift is certainly observable in the focus of patriarchal movements; in the Abraham and Isaac narratives, the Negeb as far south as the region between Kadesh and Shur is included in the patriarchs' wanderings, whereas the family of Jacob, after their return from Paddan-Aram, do not frequent this area at all, but instead are found in central Palestine, often in the vicinity of Shechem. This shift corresponds to the depopulation of the Negeb at the end of MB I, and the rise in central Palestine of urban centres such as Shechem in MB IL



It has already been stated that the end of MB I is now dated between 2000 and 1900 BC. Several scholars prefer a date nearer to 2000 than to 1900 BC.[129] A correlation of the lives of Abraham and Isaac with MB I therefore requires the life of Abraham to be dated largely, if not entirely, before 2000 BC.

This is an earlier dating than is currently popular, but it does have the support of the chronological framework of the Old Testament. Linking the patriarchal age with later history are two periods whose lengths are given in summary. The period spent in Egypt is given as 430 years in Exodus 12:40 (400 years in Gn. 15:13), and the period from the Exodus, to the building of the first temple is given as 480 years in 1 Kings 6:1. Both these periods of time have been shortened by critical treatments, the sojourn in Egypt to as little as 130 years,[130] the period between the Exodus and Solomon to about 300 years or less, placing the Exodus in the thirteenth century BC. A short sojourn, or a thirteenth-century date for the Exodus, would place Abraham in MB II, while a combination of both would place him in the LBA. However, other biblical material does not allow these periods to be shortened so drastically. If both periods are taken at face value, and if the patriarchal period itself is allowed the time required by the biblical chronology, Abraham's life does indeed fall almost entirely before 2000 BC.

3.1. The sojourn in Egypt

The figure of 430 years found in Exodus 12:40 has been adequately defended by K. A. Kitchen and T. C. Mitchell.[131] Attempts to reduce the figure on the basis of the genealogy of Moses in Exodus 6:14-20 overlook other genealogical material which points to the genealogy in Exodus 6 being incomplete, indicating only family, clan and tribe. The prediction of an Exodus 'in the fourth generation' in Genesis 15:16 cannot be cited in support of a short sojourn, because of the possibility that dôr here does not indicate a generation but a longer period of time, as do related terms in early Assyrian sources and in Syriac.[132]

The LXX reduces the sojourn from 430 years by inserting the phrase 'and in the land of Canaan' in Exodus 12:40. Thus it reads: 'And the sojourning of the children of Israel, which they sojourned in the land of Egypt and in the land of Canaan, was four hundred and thirty years.' It is commonly assumed that this refers to 430 years


elapsing between Abraham's arrival in Canaan and the Exodus. This understanding leaves only 215 years for the sojourn, a figure which a number of scholars have adopted.[133] Quite apart from the possibility that the LXX does not preserve the original reading, it seems rather unlikely that this is how it should be understood. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob would hardly be described as 'children of Israel', as this view assumes they are. Before the birth of Jacob's sons, there were no 'children of Israel' to dwell in Canaan. It is worth noting that the biblical material makes Joseph thirty-nine years old when Jacob and his other sons entered Egypt (Gn. 41:46, 53; 45:6), and Joseph was born sometime before Jacob left the household of Laban. The biblical chronology therefore allows approximately thirty years between the arrival of Jacob and his sons in Canaan and their descent into Egypt. If the sojourn in Egypt is taken as 400 years, as in Genesis 15:13, the sojourn of 'the children of Israel' in both Egypt and Canaan would be about 430 years in all. It seems far more likely that this is the meaning of the LXX reading than that Abraham and Isaac are supposed to be involved. This argument is not intended to suggest that the LXX is original and correct; the additional phrase may have been inserted by the LXX translators in order to remove the 30-year difference between Exodus 12:40 and the 400 years of Genesis 15:13. (The difference is not in fact problematical; as Kitchen has noted, the 400 years of Gn. 15:13 are simply a round figure in prospect, the 430 being more precise in retrospect.)[134]

In short, neither the LXX nor other biblical material relating to the time of the sojourn contradicts the figure of 430 years found in Exodus 12:40.

3.2. The 480 years of 1 Kings 6:1

I have discussed elsewhere the extra-biblical evidence on which a thirteenth-century date for the Exodus has been based, suggesting that it does not support that date so strongly as has been commonly supposed, and proposing instead a date in the fifteenth century BC.[135] The arguments normally advanced for a thirteenth-century date for the Exodus will not be reviewed here, but some points will be noted against the reduction of the figure in 1 Kings 6:1.

Kitchen states that because the Old Testament is ancient near-eastern literature, 'Ancient Oriental principles must be applied' in understanding the figure of 480 years.[136] He suggests that the figure results from the totalling of a number of partly concurrent periods, producing a figure which is too long in absolute years.


As 'a parallel problem' Kitchen cites the list of kings which the Turin Canon preserves for Egypt's XIIIth - XVIIIth Dynasties. The Turin Canon places some 170 kings in this period; their reigns total 'at least 520 years', but the astronomically fixed dates for the XIIth and XVIIIth Dynasties allow them 'a maximum period of only 240 years at most'. The problem has been resolved by the conclusion that the dynasties involved were all partly contemporary. But one may question whether this really illustrates the situation behind the 480 years of 1 Kings 6:1. The Turin Canon does not provide an overall total for the reigns which it lists, while 1 Kings 6:1 gives no hint whatever of being an aggregate of several lesser figures. The parallel is therefore somewhat artificial.

Secondly, Kitchen's own defence of the 430 years of Exodus 12:40 shows that he does not consider the application of ancient near eastern principles to be truly obligatory; they are applied in the case of 1 Kings 6:1 simply in order to reconcile the figure of 480 years with a thirteenth-century date for the Exodus arrived at on other grounds - the same grounds which I have elsewhere shown to be questionable.

Other writers have argued for a reduction of the 480 years on the assumption that the figure is a round number representing twelve generations.[137] However, a critical examination of this assumption shows it to be unfounded.[138]

Against a reduction of the 480 years we may note that Judges 11:26 gives the time between the Israelite occupation of Transjordan and the days of Jephthah as 300 years. To argue that this figure too results from the totalling of concurrent periods is surely a case of special pleading. Also, a period in the order of 480 years between the Exodus and the time of Solomon is indicated by one of the genealogies for this period (1 Ch. 6:33-37),[139] though admittedly some scholars do not accept this material listing descent in a straightforward historical manner.[140]

3.3. The date of the patriarchal age

The 480 years of 1 Kings 6:1 has its lower end fixed at the fourth year of the reign of Solomon, for which a date of 967 BC seems probable.[141] This figure, and the 430 years of Exodus 12:40, together place the descent into Egypt at about 1877 BC. This date should not be considered exact, since some small leeway must be allowed for the dating of Solomon's reign, and the figures of 430 and 480 may themselves be round estimates. However, adopting the date of 1877 BC as an approximate baseline,


the lives of the patriarchs are dated as follows by the chronological material in Genesis:

Table 2

Date BC





Abraham's migration
from Haran

Abraham 75



Isaac born

Abraham 100



Sarah dies, aged 127

Abraham 136



Jacob born

Abraham 160
Isaac 60



Abraham dies

Abraham 175
Isaac 75



Isaac dies

Isaac 180
Jacob 120



Jacob and family
move to Egypt

Jacob 130


This dating scheme places Abraham's life almost entirely before 2000 BC, and therefore in MB I; part of Isaac's life, before his move from Beer-lahai-roi to Gerar (cf. 25:11 and 26:1), is also allowed to fall within MB I, before the depopulation of the Negeb. It is tempting to speculate that the famine which drove Isaac from the southern Negeb to Gerar was part of the change in conditions which led to the depopulation of the Negeb as a whole at the end of MB I.[142] Jacob's life after his return from the household of Laban falls satisfactorily within MB II.

This scheme of dating relies on the ages attributed to the individual patriarchs by Genesis, and many scholars would reject this information as unreliable and the ages as impossible. Thompson remarks: 'That Abraham lived 175 years has to be taken seriously, but it is nonsense from an historical critical perspective.'[143] He also says of the data discussed above: 'It does not appear that we can use any of the extant chronological systems to arrive at an absolute date for the patriarchal period. They were not constructed from the point of view of the historical critical method, and it is methodologically unsound to treat them as if they were.'[144] The above results show, however, that it is precisely the dating of the patriarchal age by the internal biblical chronology which provides the best solution to the problem of archaeological background. But the above survey of the chronological


material has not been undertaken with the aim of supporting the biblical chronology; the aim was rather to show that the biblical chronology is simply compatible with the placement of the patriarchal period suggested by the bulk of the archaeological evidence.


Discussions of the dating of the patriarchal age in relation to archaeological periods have tended to disregard the length of the patriarchal age itself. The result is that an 'either/or' choice has been presented by discussions of the appropriateness of MB I and MB II. This is particularly true of Dever's treatment,[145] which, by stressing that neither period is an appropriate background to the patriarchal age as a whole, reinforces the negative conclusions of Thompson and Van Seters concerning the historicity of the patriarchal narratives.

This paper has tried to contribute to the debate by emphasizing the length of the patriarchal age as envisaged in Genesis, thus showing that it was quite long enough to span the major changes in patterns of settlement which occurred during the transition from MB I to MB II. Such a setting is in accord with the biblical dating of the patriarchs.

Without pretending that this removes every trace of disharmony between the patriarchal narratives and archaeological evidence, it can be said that it offers by far the most complete solution to the problems raised in this area by recent scholarship. Remaining traces of disharmony, e.g. concerning Hebron, and possibly Ai, can be explained in a variety of ways, the most likely cause being our ignorance of the correct location of the early settlements. Such problems should certainly not be treated as proof of the unhistorical nature of the narratives, in view of the limitations of archaeological evidence and the uncertainties surrounding its interpretation. From the point of view of the Palestinian archaeological evidence, there is certainly no reason to reject an early setting for the events of the patriarchal narratives, and ideally those events should be placed within the twenty-first to nineteenth centuries BC.


[1] In this paper the 'American' terminology will be followed in preference to Kenyon's; in the latter, the period here labelled MB I is known as the Intermediate EB-MB period. For other terms proposed for this period, see Dever, BASOR 210, 1973, pp.38ff.

[2] W. F. Albright, The Biblical Period (Pittsburgh, 1950, reprinted from The Jews: Their History, Culture and Religion, ed. I. Finkelstein, Harper & Bros., NY, 1949), p.3.

[3] W. F. Albright, The Biblical Period from Abraham to Ezra (Harper & Row, NY, 1963), pp.1-2.

[4] The works by Thompson and Van Seters in n.5 are characteristic of this trend. An essentially negative assessment of archaeological evidence is also found in J. H. Hayes and J. Maxwell Miller (eds.), Israelite and Judaean History (SCM, London, 1977). See also J. Maxwell Miller, 'Archaeology and the Israelite Conquest of Canaan, Some Methodological Observations', PEQ 109, 1977, pp.87-93; E. F. Campbell and J. Maxwell Miller, 'W. F. Albright and Historical Reconstruction', BA 42/1, 1979, pp.37-47.

[5] T. L. Thompson, The Historicity of the Patriarchal Narratives (de Gruyter, Berlin/NY, 1974), pp.187-193; J. Van Seters, Abraham in History and Tradition (New Haven/London, Yale UP), 1975, pp.104-112; cf. W. G. Dever in Hayes and Miller, pp.99-102.

[6] N. M. Sarna, Biblical Archaeology Review 4/1, l978, p.52.

[7] Dever in Hayes and Miller, p.93.

[8] Albright, The Archaeology of Palestine and the Bible (Revell, London/NY, 1932, text of lectures delivered in 1931), p.137; cf. earlier idem, BASOR 14, 1924, pp.5ff.

[9] W. F. Albright, The Archaeology of Palestine and the Bible, p.137.

[10] Ibid., table p.10.

[11] Ibid p.142.

[12] E.g. Albright, The Archaeology of Palestine and the Bible, [3]1935, p.142; N. Glueck, AASOR XIV, 1934, p.82, AASOR XV, 1935, p.104; idem, The Other Side of the Jordan, ASOR, New Haven, 1940, pp.15-16; idem, BA 18/1, 1955, pp.6-9.

[13] Glueck, BA18/1, 1955; Rivers in the Desert (Norton, NY, 1959), pp.61-84.

[14] Albright, BASOR 163, 1961, pp.36-54; repeated in The Biblical Period from Abraham to Ezra (1963), pp. 5-7, Archaeology, Historical Analogy and Early Biblical Tradition (Louisiana State UP, 1966), pp.22-41, Yahweh and the Gods of Canaan (Athlone Press, London, 1968), pp.56-66.

[15] E.g. Glueck, BA 18/1, 1955, p.9.

[16] Albright, BASOR 163, 1961, pp.40-42.

[17] Dever in J. A. Sanders (ed.), Near Eastern Archaeology in the Twentieth Century, Glueck Festschrift (Doubleday, NY, 1970), pp.142-144.

[18] Dever, HTR 64, 1971, p.224, n.63.

[19] Dever, BASOR 210, 1973, p.38, fig.1; cf. idem, in Cross et al. (eds.), Magnalia Dei: The Mighty Acts of God., Essays in Memory of G. E. Wright (Doubleday, NY, 1976), pp.6, 12.

[20] Thompson, Historicity, pp.175-180; cf. Albright, BASOR 163, 1961, p.39, n.10. See also Dever in Cross, Magnalia Dei, pp.11-12 for a further criticism of Albright's arguments based on the Byblos tombs.

[21] See Dever, BASOR 210, 1973, p.38, and Thompson, Historicity, p.175, n.22 for references.

[22] Thompson, Historicity, pp.180-181.

[23] Cf. J. E. Heusan, CBQ 37, 1975, p.11.

[24] K. A. Kitchen, Ancient Orient and Old Testament (Tyndale Press, London, 1966), p.49, n.71; R. de Vaux, The Early History of Israel (Darton, Longman & Todd, London), 1978, vol. I, pp.225-229.

[25] Cf. the comments by K. J. Cathcart, CBQ 37, 1975, p.295; also Dever in Bayes and Miller, p.102.

[26] Thompson, Historicity, p.195; Dever in Hayes and Miller, p.101.

[27] Glueck, BA 18/1, 1955, p.7.

[28] Dever, HTR 64, 1971, p.225, n.64; cf. idem in Cross, Magnalia Dei, p.36, n.114.

[29]Thompson, Historicity, p.192.

[30] Ibid., pp.182-l83.

[31] Van Seters, Abraham, p.107; cf. pp.111-112 on Beersheba.

[32] Dever, HTR 64, 1971, p.226, n.66; also in Hayes and Miller, p.100.

[33] Albright, BASOR 163, 1961, p.47.

[34] Dever in Sanders, NEATC, p.159, n.64.

[35] Albright, BASOR 163, 1961, p.47.

[36] Dever, Orientalia 40, 1971, pp.459-471.

[37] Dever in Hayes and Miller, p.99.

[38] Ibid pp.99-100; on Hebron see also Dever in Sanders, NEATC, pp.146-150.

[39] Dever in Hayes and Miller, p.99.

[40] G. E. Wright, Biblical Archaeology (revised edn., Westminster Press/Duckworth, Philadelphia/London, 1962), p.47; idem, Shechem: The Biography of a Biblical City (Duckworth, London, (965), pp.128-138; E. A. Speiser, Genesis (Doubleday, NY, 1964), pp.xliii-lii; S. Yeivin in B. Mazar (ed.), The World History of the Jewish People, 2 (Massada, Tel Aviv, 1970), pp.201-218; 3. Bright, A History of Israel (revised edn. SCM, London, 1972), pp.81-85; de Vaux, Early History, 1, pp.263-266.

[41] Wright, Biblical Archaeology, p.47; Dever in Hayes and Miller, pp.99-100.

[42] Dever in Hayes and Muter, p.102.

[43] De Vaux, Early History, 1, p.63.

[44] Albright, The Biblical Period, pp.4-5.

[45] De Vaux, Early History, 1, pp.263-266.

[46] Ibid, p.265; de Vaux's 'MB I' = MB IIA in the terminology followed here.

[47] Thompson, Historicity, pp.67-88.

[48] Ibid., p.96, summarizing the agreements of pp.89-96; cf. pp.98-117 discussing the Execration Texts.

[49] Ibid., pp.118-143.

[50] Ibid., pp.144-171.

[51] Ibid., pp.163-165.

[52] Dever in Hayes and Miller, pp.83-84, 94, 118; for Dever's earlier treatments of the Amorite hypothesis, see NEATC, p.140, HTR 64, 1971, pp.217-226, and Magnalia Dei, pp. 5, 10, 15.

[53] Dever, HTR 64, 1971, p.226, n.66; also in Hayes and Miller, p.94.

[54] Thompson, JSOT 9, 1978, p.7.

[55] N. M. Sarna, Biblical Archaeology Review 4/1, 1978, p.52.

[56] C. H. Gordon, Introduction to Old Testament Times (Ventnor, NJ, 1953), ch. 8; JNES 13, 1954, pp.56-59; Biblical and Other Studies, ed. A. Altmann (Cambridge, Mass., 1963), pp.5-6.

[57]M. E. J. Selman, 'The Social Environment of the Patriarchs', Tyndale Bulletin 27, 1976, pp.114-136, and idem in the present work; Thompson, Historicity, pp.196-297; de Vaux, Early History, 1, pp.262, 265-266.

[58] Cf. the criticisms of Albright, BASOR 163, 1961, pp.50-51, and de Vaux, as previous note.

[59] D. N. Freedman, 'The Real Story of the Ebla Tablets: Ebla and the Cities of the Plain', BA 41/4, 1978, pp.143-164.

[60] Ibid., p.152.

[61] Cf. ibid., p.143 insert, letter from Dahood to Freedman. See also G. G. Garner, Buried History 15/2, 1979, p.4, and the anonymous report in Biblical Archaeology Review 5/6, 1979, pp.52-53.

[62] Freedman, op.cit., p.155.

[63] Y. Yadin, Hazor: The Head of all those Kingdoms (OUP, London, 1972), p.5 and references there.

[64] See Albright, BASOR 14, 1924, pp.7-8; J. P. Harland, BA 5/2, 1942, pp.28-31.

[65] Freedman, op.cit., p.152.

[66] Albright, BASOR 163, 1961, p.51, n.73.

[67] Thompson, JSOT 9, 1978, p.25.

[68] As noted by G. G. Garner, Buried History 15/2, 1979, p.6.

[69] A possible reading of Gn.33:18 is '... arrived at Shalem, a city of Shechem' (as NIV mg.), but a direct reference to Shechem seems more probable in view of the context.

[70] Wright, Shechem, pp.l10ff.; idem, Enc. of Archaeological Excavations, 4, ed. H. Avi-Yonah and E. Stern, (OUP, London, 1978), pp.1086-1087; cf. Dever in NEATC, pp. 142-144; Wright's dates for MB II now need to be raised considerably; see ns. 17, 18, 9 and 21 above.

[71] Wright, Shechem, p.132.

[72] Van Seters, Abraham, p.110.

[73] J. F. Ross, BASOR 180, 1965, p.27.

[74] Wright, Shechem, p.20; of. pp.131-132.

[75] Cf. the comment by G. Von Rad, Genesis (SCM, London, 1961), p.414: 'And how could he promise to one of his sons what his sons had conquered?'

[76] Dever in Hayes and Miller, p.99.

[77] According to Gn. 28:19 the name Bethel was not bestowed on the site until Jacob's day, but the existence of some sort of settlemest before that time is indicated by the remark that the place was called Luz before Jacob renamed it. The Hebrew îr usually translated 'city' in this verse, need not indicate a permanent urban centre; cf. its use in Nu. 13:19, where it is seemingly as apt for a temporary encampment as for a fortified city.

[78] J.L. Kelso, The Excavation of Bethel (1934-60) = AASOR 39, 1968, pp.22-23; idem, Enc. of Archaeological Excavations, 1, ed. H. Avi-Yonah (OUP, London, 1975), p. 192, of. Dever as ns. 36 and 37 above, on the attribution of Kelso's 'MS I' remains to MB II.

[79] D. Livingston, 'The Location of Biblical Bethel and Ai Reconsidered', WTJ 33, 1970, pp.20-44. The reply by A. F. Rainey, 'Bethel is still Beitin', WTJ 33, 1971, pp. 175-188, is totally unconvincing, end is well answered by Livingston, 'Traditional Site of Bethel Questioned', WTJ 34, 1971, pp.39-50. See also my comments on Rainey's reply, J. J. Bimson, Redating the Exodus and Conquest, JSOT Supp. 5 (Sheffield, 1978), pp.220-225.

[80] S. Yeivin, The Israelite Conquest of Canaan (Nederlands Historisch-Archaeologisch Institute, Istanbul, 1971), pp.51-52; cf. p.75: 'In any case, some evidence was found there of an occupation following the end of the so-called EC period' (EC = 'early Canaanite' = EBA).

[81] See conveniently J. A. Callaway, Enc. of Archaeological Excavations, 1, pp.36-52 and references on p.52.

[82] See Callaway, BASOR 178, 1965, p.38.

[83] See ibid., p.16, n. 4; idem, JBL 87, 1968, p.315, and BASOR 196, 1969, p.5.

[84] Albright, BASOR 19, 1925, pp.14-15.

[85] Cf. S. Cohen, IDB, Abingdon, NY, 1962, 1, p.255.

[86] Albright, BASOR 19, 1925, pp.15-15; idem, The Archaeology of Palestine and the Bible, 1932, p.142.

[87] Glueck, Rivers in the Desert, [2]1968, pp.73-75.

[88] E.g. K. M. Kenyon, Digging up Jerusalem (Benn, London, 1976), p.78.

[89] See H. Shanks, Biblical Archaeology Review 3/4, 1977, p.25, and Y. Shiloh, 'City of David, Excavation 1978', BA 42, 1979, pp.165-171.

[90] R. Amiran, IEJ 10, 1960, p.225; B. Mazar in Jerusalem Revealed (Israel Exploration Soc., Jerusalem, 1975), p.3; cf. Kenyon, Digging up Jerusalem, pp.80-81.

[91] G A. Barrois, IDB, 4, p.166.

[92] D. J. Wiseman in NBD (Tyndale Press, London, 1962) , p.1124.

[93] Cf. Barrois, lDB, 4, p.166; for other views on the location of Salem, see ibid and Wiseman as previous note. Albright, BASOR 163, 1961, p.52, would amend Gn. 14:18 to read: '...Melchizedek, a king allied to him...', assuming a haplography.

[94] Wright, Biblical Archaeology, p.47.

[95] P. C. Hammond, RB 73, 1966, pp. 566-569; RB 75, 1968, pp.253-258. Excavations at Ramat el-Khalil, the traditional site of Mamre, 3km north of Hebron, produced some early MB II pottery, but none from MB I. For the ancient sources which identify Ramat el-Khalil as the site of Mamre, end a report of the excavations, see A. E. Mader, Mambre, 2 vols. (Freiburg in Breisgau, 1957); for a brief summary, see conveniently S. Applebaum, Enc. of Archaeological Excavations, 3, pp.776-778.

[96] Dever in Hayes and Miller, p.100; see Dever in NEATC, pp.146-150 for details of the finds.

[97] Albright, The Archaeology of Palestine and the Bible, 1932, p.208, n.16.

[98] Idem, BASOR 163, 1961, p.48; of. A. Negev (ed.), Archaeological Encyclopedia of the Holy Land (Jerusalem, 1972), p.142.

[99] Y. Aharoni, Antiquity and Survival II, 2/3, 1957, pp.289-290; idem in B. Rothenberg, God's Wilderness: Explorations in Sinai (Thames & Hudson, London, 1961), p.122; see Kitchen in NBD, p.687, for further sources and discussion.

[100] Rothenberg God's Wiiderness, p.39, n.2; of. p.45, where Rothenberg suggests that Kadesh-barnea comprised the region of Ain el Qudeirat, Ain Qadeis, El Qusaima and El Muweilah.

[101] Rothenberg, God's Wilderness, pp.33-46; Albright, BASOR 163, 1961, p.37; M. Dothan, lEJ 15, 1965, p.134; Glueck, Rivers in the Desert, [2]1968, p.74; cf. idem, BR 18/1, 1955, p.6, and BASOR 159, 1960, p.6.

[102] Aharoni, lEJ 6, 1956, pp. 26-32; cf. F. M. Cross and G. E. Wright, JBL 75, 1956, p.213; Albright, BASOR 163, 1961, pp.47-8; Glueck, Rivers in the Desert, [2]1968, p.75.

[103] Albright, BASOR 163, 1961, pp.47-48; Y. Aharoni in D. Winton Thomas (ed.), Archaeology and Old Testament Study (Clarendon, Oxford, 1967), p.389.

[104] Dever in Hayes and Miller, p.100.

[105] Cf. Aharoni, lEJ 6, pp.26-32 for data relevant to the location. The Naal Gerar forms the northern arm of the Wadi Gaza.

[106] Dever in Hayes and Miller, p.100.

[107] Thompson, JSOT 9, 1978, p.25.

[108] Van Seters, Abraham, pp.111-112; Dever in Hayes and Miller, p.100.

[109] Sarna, Biblical Archaeology Review 3/4, 1977, p.9.

[110] Aharoni in Winton Thomas, p.389.

[111] Aharoni, BA 39/2, 1976, p. 71; cf. pp.62-65.

[112] R. Gophna, Enc. of Archaeological Excavations, 1, p.l59.

[113] Thompson, JSOT 9, 1978, pp.25, 18-19.

[114] Ibid., p.25.

[115] Aharoni, BA 39/2, 1976, p.55; Rainey, 'The Negeb in Biblical Studies', The Tyndale Paper 22/3, 1977, p.2 (transcribed from a tape of a public lecture).

[116] Glueck, BA 18/1, 1955, p.6.

[117] Rothenberg, God's Wilderness, pp.58ff; Albright, BASOR 163, 1961, p.37. Cf. also Glueck, BASOR 179, 1965, pp.6ff. on more MB I Negeb sites discovered after 1960. Dever's remark (HTR 64, 1971, p.226, n.66; cf. in Hayes and Miller, p.100) that the MB I culture 'cannot be easily reconciled with the milieu apparently required for the Patriarchal period', because the Negeb's MB I sites are mostly well away from caravan routes, is irrelevant if it is not insisted that Abraham and Isaac were donkey caravaneers; the biblical references imply nothing about proximity to caravan routes, and speak of these two patriarchs dwelling in the region of the modern Negeb as well as travelling through it.

[118] H. J. Franken, Excavations at Tell Deir 'Alla, 1 (Brill, Leiden, 1969), pp.4-8.

[119] Thompson, Historicity, p.181, n.65.

[120] Franken, op. cit., p.5.

[121] Glueck, BASOR 90, 1943, p.15. Glueck reports finds of MB IIA sherds from other sites in the northern half of the east side of the Jordan Valley, ibid., pp.7, 17; he reports MB I sherds from some sites, pp.7, 17, 19, 22, but none from Tell Deir 'Alla, p. 15.

[122] Avi-Yonah, Enc. of Archaeological Escavations, 1, p.200.

[123] J. P. Free, BASOR 152, 1958, pp.l4ff.; Dever in Hayes and Miller, p.100.

[124] See Kitchen's remarks on apparent gaps in occupation, The Bible in its World (Paternoster, Exeter, 1977), pp.11-14.

[125] Thompson, Historicity, p.164, n.104.

[126] Glueck, Rivers in thc Desert, [2]1968, p.11.

[127] Ibid.

[128] No occupation of northern Transjordan is implied for the time of Jacob; Jacob travels through Gilead on his southward journey from Paddan-Aram (Gn. 31), but apparently has no contact with any inhabitants of the region.

[129] See n.21. On the basis of Carbon-l4 dates, J. Mellaart has recently proposed a high chronology for Egypt before the second Intermediate Period, and for parallel eras of Mesopotamian history, requiring mid-3rd millennium dates for MB I (MeIlaart, 'Egyptian and Near Eastern Chronology, a dilemma?', Antiquity 53/207, 1979, pp.6-18). Several lines of data argue against Mellaart's chronology; for example, only seven generations separate the Hittite king Suppiluliumas I, who reigned in the fourteenth century, from Mursilis I, making it unlikely that the latter should be placed in the eighteenth century; Mellaart's twentieth-century date for Shamshi Adad I of Assyria requires a gap of 200 years in the Assyrian king list, for which there is no evidence.

[130] H. H. Rowley, From Joseph to Joshua (OUP, London, 1950), p. 164.

[131] K. A. Kitchen and T. C. Mitchell in NBD, p.214; Kitchen, Ancient Orient and Old Testament, pp.53-56.

[132] Albright, BASOR 163, 1961, pp.50-51; Kitchen, Ancient Orient and Old Testasent, p. 54 with n. 99.

[133] E.g. C. F. Burney, Israel's Settlement in Canaan, 1919, pp.87-89, 95; M. Anstey, The Chronology of the Old Testament, repr. 1973, pp.65-66.

[134] Kitchen, Ancient Orient and Old Testament, p.53.

[135] J. J. Bimson, Redating the Exodus and Conquest (see n.79).

[136] Kitchen, as n.134, p.73.

[137] E.g. Bright, History[2], p.121.

[138] See Bimson, as n.79, pp.81-86.

[139] See ibid., p.96, for a brief discussion of this material.

[140] E.g. E. L. Curtis and A. A. Madsen, The Books of Chronicles, ICC, Edinburgh, 1910, pp.134ff.; K. Möhlenbrink, ZAW 52, 1934, pp.202ff,; R. J. Coggins, Chronicles (C.U.P., 1976), pp.42-45.

[141] E. R. Thiele, The Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings (Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1965), pp.39-52; Kitchen and Mitchell in NBD, pp.217, 219; R. K. Harrison, Introduction to the Old Testament (Tyndale Press, London, 1970), pp.184-5, 189; Kitchen, The Third Intermediate Period in Egypt (Aris & Phillips, Warminster, 1972), pp.74-75, p.493; cf. Hayes and Miller, pp.678-683.

[142] For recent attempts to reconstruct times of climatic change during the third to second millennia BC, see B. Bell, 'The Dark Ages in Ancient History: I. The First Dark Age in Egypt', AJA 75, 1971, pp.1-26; idem, 'Climate and the History of Egypt; The Middle Kingdom', AJA 79, 1975, pp.223-269.

[143] Thompson, Historicity, p.13. It would be guile wrong to insist that the ages reached by Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are intrinsically impossible; see A. leaf and J. Launois, National Geographic 143/1), 1973, pp.91-118, discussing remarkable examples of longevity among peasant communities of the Caucasus Mountains, Hunza (Kashmir) and Vilcabamba (Equador), where ages of between 130 and 150 are not uncommon. (The article actually mentions one alleged 168-year-old!) It is not impossible that environmental conditions in the third to early second millennium BC were such as to allow great ages to be reached frequently in the ancient near east. For a recent ingenious attempt to provide a scientific framework for biblical longevity and its abatement, see D. W. Patten and P. A. Patten, 'A Comprehensive Theory on Aging, Gigantism and Longevity', Catastrophism and Ancient History 2/1, 1979, pp.13-60.) Extra-biblical sources do not generally provide data which allow us to check this Possibility, but some evidence is at least consistent with it. The Egyptians considered a lifespan of 110 years to be the ideal, and it seems reasonable to suggest that this notion arose at a time when men sometimes reached such an age without the ravages of extreme senility. Janssen lists references to this ideal, the earliest example dating back to the Egyptian old Kingdom (third millennium BC): J. M. A. Janssen, 'On the Ideal Lifetime of the Egyptians', Oudheidkundige Mededelingen uit het Rijksmuseum van Oudheden te Leiden 3, 1950, pp.33-44, discussed by J. Vergote, Joseph en Égypte (Louvain, 1959), pp.200-201. An Egyptian pharaoh of the Old Kingdom, Pepi II, is given a reign of over 90 years by both Manetho (99 years) and the Turin Canon (90+x years), which implies a life somewhat in excess of a century (though Africanus admittedly adds: 'Began to reign at the age of six and continued to a hundred'). Such a lifespan could, of course, have been exceptional. No other reigns of that order are recorded, though Manetho's lists for the first six dynasties (see conveniently A. Gardiner, Egypt of the Pharaohs (OUP, 1961), pp.430-436 attribute reigns in excess of forty years to some dozen kings, and reigns of sixty years or more to five of them; on the other hand, neither the Turin Canon nor the monuments support any of these figures, apart from the long reign of Pepi II mentioned above, and the Turin Canon actually contradicts some of them. The latter source does, however, give Inyotef II and Mentotpe I of Dyn. XI reigns of forty-nine and fifty-one years respectively (and perhaps gives forty-four years to Pepi II's predecessor Merenre in Dyn. VI; Gardiner, op.cit., p.436; on Dyn. XI see p.438). The monuments confirm long reigns (30, 44, 35, 33 and 45 years) for five kings of Dyn. XII (ibid., p.439). Although long reigns undeniably occur in later dynasties too) fifty-four years for Tuthmosis III, sixty-seven years for Ramesses II, 54 years for Psammetichus I, 44 years for Amasis), there does seem to be a slightly greater concentration of them in this early period, i.e. at least in Dyns. XI-XII, and perhaps in earlier dynasties too if some of Manetho's figures are reliable. This may point to long lifespans at this period) third - early second millennium); further research is needed to throw more light on the situation.

[144] Thompson, Historicity, pp.15-16.

[145] Dever in Hayes and Miller, pp.53, 102.

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