Friday, March 4, 2016

Fact-Checking the Torah -- Dateline Egypt

Your assignment for this week was to read Exodus 7:14 through 9:35.
So what do we know about the end of the Hyksos in Egypt?
First, while “credit” for chasing them out goes to Ahmose, founder of the 18th dynasty, the project was discussed in his father’s time.
In fact we have notes from a council meeting which had the subject on its schedule.  At one point, a council member spoke up saying that it wasn’t necessarily a good idea to attack the Delta.  That would disrupt the supply of wheat, and the “native” Egyptians in southern Egypt used that wheat to feed pigs.
There is an urban legend that the ancient Egyptians hated pigs, but this reference argues with that.  Actually, the Coffin Text says that Set turned into his beast form to cure an inflammation of Horus’ eye and the urban legend was that this beast form was a pig and therefore the gods hate such beasts.  But that’s false: the beast form, called sha, is dog-like and has nothing in common with a pig.
The council meeting brings up an interesting possibility.  As long as the Delta was a good trading partner, the south held back.  As soon as Thera’s eruption caused agricultural problems – like no more wheat – the southerners decided that the north must be in disarray and even with a marching distance of over 700 kilometers (and the long supply line since there was no food where they were going), an attack might be successful.
Now look at the chapters in Exodus I pointed out, particularly chapter 9.  Anybody caught in the Mount St. Helens eruption, or fond of reading about historic eruptions like Vesuvius in Italy and Mt. Pelee in Martinique, will recognize the burning ash that raised boils, the burning hail mixed with rain, and the thick darkness as stages of a severe volcanic blast.  Radiometric data at Thera from a dead olive tree, and those ringless trees in Ireland, set the timing at 1628 BCE, and this agrees with the radiometric data from the last time Avaris was inhabited under that name. 
What’s more, modern radiometric dating for the New Kingdom which Ahmose founded, and recent work on the Ahmose “Tempest” stele, both put Ahmose’s reign within 50 years of the Thera eruption and record his eyewitness account of rainstorms which reasonably could result from the explosion indirectly (remember, this was over 700 kilometers south of Avaris).  The sort of deadly thunderstorms recorded on the stele are not normal in Egypt, or Ahmose wouldn’t have taken the trouble to record them. 
The other data in Exodus 9 shows that the eruption ruined the spring crops, coordinating with Passover as a springtime festival.
Next time I’ll discuss one of the last urban legends about the Exodus, which is, what is the exact translation of Exodus 13:18, 15:4 and 22?
© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights Reserved

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