Bible Chronology Timeline

Chronologies of the Mysteries of God

Genesis 5:1
“This is the book of the generations of
Adam. In the day that God created man,
in the likeness of God made he him”
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The Ancient World From C. 1400 to 586 B.C.

I. Introduction

The historical period discussed in this article began about 1400 B.C., when Israel invaded western Palestine under the leadership of Joshua, and closed with the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 B.C. The beginning of this period coincides with the beginning of the decline of Egyptian power in Asia. The strongest power in the north was that of the Hittite kingdom. This, however, disappeared under the onslaught of the Sea Peoples two centuries later. Afterward the Assyrians came to the forefront and by brute force formed an empire that eventually reached from the highlands of Iran to the southern border of the Egypt. Babylonia, which during all this time existed only as a shadow of its former illustrious self, finally threw off the shackles of the Assyrian yoke and took its place once more as a short-lived but glorious empire.

An understanding of the history of these and other nations is essential to a correct understanding of the ancient history of the people of God, who struggled for their existence among various local nations in Palestine first under tribal leaders, the judges, then under kings, who were able to build a respectable kingdom and hold it together for a little more than a century. This, however, broke up into two rival kingdoms, each of which was too weak to withstand the forces pressing for control over Palestine, the vital land bridge between the two most important regions and civilizations of antiquity, Egypt and Mesopotamia. The northern kingdom of Israel was finally swallowed up by the Assyrians and completely disappeared from history after the destruction of Samaria in 722 B.C. The southern kingdom of Judah held out for almost another century and a half, but finally succumbed to the Babylonians. However, the religious vigor of the Jews preserved their national unity even in exile, with the result that Judah emerged from captivity a strong and united people.

The purpose of this article is to study the historical background of this most important and interesting period; to view the rise, decline, and fall of kingdoms and empires; and to observe how the people of God were influenced by the events, cultures, and civilizations of their time. Also, a brief survey of the history of the people of Israel is presented, first, divided into tribal organizations under the leadership of judges, later as a united body under three successive kings, and finally as two separate and rival kingdoms.

Since the Bible writers who have provided the bulk of available source material for a reconstruction of the history of Israel were its religious leaders and reformers, they viewed the history of Israel in the light of the people’s obedience or disobedience to God, and recorded it as such. This is the reason that for some periods, when the people went through special crises or possessed outstanding leaders, our sources are plentiful, whereas for others they are pitifully meager, and leave great gaps that our present knowledge is as yet unable to bridge. The reader must therefore be aware that a historical sketch of the people of God in the times of the Old Testament is sketchy in some parts and well rounded in others.

The same is also true in regard to the history of the other ancient nations, all periods of which are not equally well covered by reliable source material. In some cases the events of centuries are not yet known. The discovery of more original source material must be awaited before a reconstruction of ancient history in all its aspects becomes possible. The following survey represents the present state of knowledge, based (1) for the greater part on documentary evidence that has become available since the ancient languages written in various hieroglyphic or cuneiform scripts were resurrected, in the early 19th century, and (2) on the wealth of material preserved by the sand and debris of centuries and in recent decades brought to light by the scape of the excavator.

II. Egypt From the Amarna Age to the End of the Twentieth Dynasty (C. 1400-C. 1085 B.C.)

Chronology of the Period.—Although an unassailable chronology of Egypt prior to about 660 B.C. has not yet been established, with the exception of that pertaining to the Twelfth Dynasty, our dates for the empire period—dynasties Eighteen to Twenty—are approximately correct. Slight variations in the dates given by various historians and chronologers are found, but are never greater than a few years. In fact, the chronology of this period has hardly been changed since it was established during the last century—in contrast with the chronology of all previous periods, which has been decreased by centuries for some periods and by millenniums for others.

It is not possible to enter into the intricate problems of ancient chronology here, and it may suffice to state that the dates of the empire period of Egypt are based on astronomical texts dated to the reigns of certain kings, on historical, dated records extant from that time, and on lists of kings from various sources. The dates presented in this section are thus based on all available source material, and cannot be off by more than a few years from the true dates. The margin of error is certainly not greater than 25 years, and is probably smaller than 10 years. The given dates can therefore be considered as relatively correct and are presented as such.

Egypt in the Amarna Age (Eighteenth Dynasty).—Moses witnessed the rise of Egypt to become the strongest political power of his time. During his life the empire established by Thutmose III reached from the border of the Abyssinian highlands in the south to the river Euphrates in the north. The wealth of the Asia and Africa poured into the Nile country, where temples like those of Karnak, Luxor, Deir el-Bahri, and others were erected, so colossal that they have withstood the destructive power of both man and nature for millenniums, and have been the marvel of many generations of visitors.

When Israel was in the desert, from about 1445 to 1045 B.C., the Egyptian Empire was held together by the strong and ruthless hands of Amenhotep II (C. 1450-1425 B.C.) and of his son Thutmose IV (C. 1425-1412 B.C.). With the next king, Amenhotep III (C. 375 B.C.), a man came to the throne who enjoyed the full fruits of the empire his fathers had built, without expending much effort himself to hold it together. He had been a great hunter in early life and had led one military campaign to Nubia, but lived thereafter in magnificent luxury and leisure and spent his last days as a fat weakling with decayed teeth, as the abscesses in his mummy show. He married Tiy, who, as the daughter of commoners, was nevertheless a remarkable woman of whom Amenhotep was proud. Nevertheless, there was also a great influx of foreign blood into the royal family, for there were brought into the king’s harem princesses from several foreign kingdoms, the most important being Gilukhepa, of the Mitanni. That northern Mesopotamian kingdom, ruled by Indo-European Hurrians, had formerly been the greatest rival to the power of the earlier kings of the Eighteenth Dynasty, but was now cultivating friendly relations with Egypt.

Amenhotep III apparently considered the wealth of Asia and Africa, regularly coming to him by way of tribute, as something that had always enriched Egypt, and would continue to do so without any further effort on his part. He did not notice the distant rumblings of the breakup of his Asiatic empire. The Hittites in the north, unruly local princes in Syria and Palestine, and the intruding Habiru in those same countries nibbled away at the edges of the empire, and must have occasioned a noticeable decrease in the revenue of Egypt. But the lazy Pharaoh did nothing to stem the tide of imperial decay.

Ikhnaton.—Near the close of his reign Amenhotep III made his son Amenhotep IV (Ikhnaton) coregent. His sole reign lasted from about 1375 to 1366 B.C. He is one of the most controversial personalities of history. While one scholar characterized him as the “first individual in history,” “a very exceptional man” (Breasted), another described him as “half insane” (Budge). Two recent authors speak of him as “the most fascinating personality who ever sat on the throne of the Pharaohs” (Steindorff and Seele), and another describes him as effeminate, abnormal, and dominated by women (Pendlebury).

Amenhotep IV, or Ikhnaton, as the king called himself after his religious revolution, broke with the traditional Amen religion of Egypt, and elevated Aten, the sun disk, to be the supreme and only god of the realm. Himself a physical weakling, he was possessed of a strong will power, and made a vigorous attempt to stamp out the religion and cult of Amen. Since Thebes was too strongly connected with Amen, Amenhotep moved the capital to another site several hundred miles down the river, where he built a city called Akhetaton, and vowed never to leave that place. Here he was surrounded by his followers, courtiers, poets, architects, and artists. With his encouragement, these men developed the new, realistic form of art that had only recently been introduced in Egypt. Artists painted and modeled their objects, not according to the traditional idealistic style, as had been the custom, but as they appeared to the eye—beautiful or ugly. Up to this time, for example, every king, whether old or young, handsome or ugly, had been depicted as a youthful and vigorous man—the ideal god-ruler. This was all changed now. The king was sculptured and painted in all his ugliness with a protruding abdomen, an elongated skull, and a long chin. His aging father was depicted as having a fat, sacklike figure.

Emphasis was also placed on ma‘at, which has been translated “truth,” but which means also “order,” “justice,” and “right.” Accordingly, things were to be seen as they are, not as they ought to be—really rather than ideally. In this principle the young king was far ahead of his time and could not be understood, and for this reason his revolution failed. However, his artists produced some of the masterpieces of all time, as, for example, the bust of Nefertiti, now in the Berlin Museum, and mural paintings of birds and plant life that have not been surpassed in beauty by painters of other periods, ancient or modern.

The king’s new religion has been called monotheism—a belief in one universal god. It is, however, highly questionable whether this term can rightly be applied to the brand of religion Ikhnaton introduced. It is true that he never worshiped any other god than Aton after the revolution, but his subjects did not worship Aton. They continued to worship the king as their god, as they had before, and he not only tolerated but apparently required this continued worship of his person.

Either the king or some poet of his time composed a hymn to Aton, praising the sun disk as the creator-god. Since this hymn is in certain respects parallel in wording and composition to the 104th psalm, some scholars have thought the latter to be a Hebrew edition of the Aton hymn. There is, however, no valid evidence to support this assumption, since any poet, glorifying a certain god as the supreme god of creation, who produces and preserves life and well-being, will use terms and expressions that are somewhat similar to those found in the Aton hymn or the 104th psalm.

The king was married to beautiful Nefertiti, whose world-famous bust, found in a sculptor’s studio at Amarna, is one of the masterpieces of ancient art. The royal couple had six daughters, but no sons. However, the family life seems to have been very happy and natural, as contemporary pictures reveal. Never before did an Egyptian king have himself and his family depicted as did this monarch, kissing one of his daughters, or caressing his wife.

While Ikhnaton built palaces and sun temples in his new capital, and sponsored a naturalistic art far advanced for his time, his henchmen went through the country trying to eradicate the old religion by chiseling from all monuments the names of all other gods but Aton. The temples were closed, and the priests lost their customary allowances. That this policy created a deep-seated enmity in conservative circles can easily be understood. This feeling of hatred against Ikhnaton was increased by the gradual decrease in foreign revenue, which resulted in greater tax burdens for the Egyptian citizens, and simultaneously impoverished the population. This situation resulted from the gradual breakup of the empire. The first signs of the weakening power of Egypt in Asia had been evident under Amenhotep III, but they became more manifest under the weak rule of Ikhnaton, who lived his new religion, chanted hymns to Aton, refused to leave his new capital, and apparently did not care that the foreign possessions built up by means of the numerous military expeditions of his illustrious ancestors were being lost, one after another.

The Amarna Letters.—The rich archive of cuneiform tablets found in the ruins of Ikhnaton’s short-lived and ill-fated capital, Akhetaton, now called Tell el-‘Amarna, contains much information concerning the contemporary political situation in Palestine and Syria. These hundreds of clay tablets, found in 1887, come from the official files of correspondence between the Palestinian and Syrian vassal princes and Pharaoh, as well as from the friendly kings of Mitanni, Assyria, and Babylonia. Few discoveries have shed more light on a limited period of the ancient world than have the Amarna Letters on the time of the kings Amenhotep III and Amenhotep IV (Ikhnaton).

These letters reveal clearly the waning influence of Egypt in Asia, as the powerful Hittites pressed against the Egyptian Empire and occupied a number of regions in northern Syria. Local Asiatic dynasties quarreled one with another, the more powerful overthrowing the weaker and thereby enlarging their own power and territory. The most notorious among these princes, who pretended to be vassals of Egypt but fought against Egyptian interests wherever they could, were Abd-Ashirta and later his son Aziru of Amurru. They extended their domain over a number of neighboring wealthy areas, such as Byblos, Beirut, and other Phoenician coastal cities.

In Palestine the situation was similar. A number of local rulers took advantage of Egypt’s weakness to extend their own possessions. There were also the Habiru, who invaded the country during this time from the direction of Transjordan. One city after another fell into their hands, and those among the princes who tried to remain faithful to Egypt, like the king of Jerusalem, wrote one frantic letter after another to Pharaoh begging for military help against the invading Habiru. However, all the efforts of loyal princes and commissioners to stem the tide of rebellion and invasion were in vain. Official Egypt turned a deaf ear to all pleas and seemed to be indifferent to what happened in Syria or Palestine. This situation is vividly depicted in the Amarna Letters, which will be referred to again in the section dealing with the invasion of Canaan by the Hebrews. It is generally believed that the Habiru of the Amarna Letters were related to the Hebrews (see Genesis 10:21; 14:13).

Toward the end of his reign, Ikhnaton made Smenkhkare, his son-in-law, coregent. Ancient records give him four regnal years, but they probably fall entirely within the reign of his father-in-law. After Ikhnaton’s death, another son-in-law came to the throne, the young Tutankhaton, meaning “the living form of Aton” (1366-1357 B.C.). He was not strong enough to withstand the pressure of the conservatives, and was forced to return to Thebes to restore the Amen cult and religion. He changed his name to Tutankhamen, abandoned the capital Akhetaton (Amarna), and tried to make amends for the “heresy” of his predecessors by repairing various temples, reinstating the Amen priests, and restoring the Amen cult to its former glory. When he died, after a reign of less than ten years, he received a magnificent burial in the Valley of the Kings in western Thebes, where all the pre-Amarna kings of the Eighteenth Dynasty had been buried. Since his is the only royal tomb to remain unmolested until its discovery in 1922, with its marvelous treasures, the name of Tutankhamen has become a modern household word. He is better known than any other Egyptian king, although he was only one of the insignificant and ephemeral rulers of Egypt’s long history.

Tutankhamen left no children, and his widow turned to the Hittite king Shubbiluliuma, asking him in a letter for one of his sons to marry her and become king of Egypt. The Hittite king was at first baffled at this unusual request, and made an investigation as to the sincerity of the queen. Satisfied at last with regard thereto, he sent one of the Hittite princes to Egypt, who, however, was waylaid and murdered en route. This was probably arranged by Eye, one of the most influential courtiers of the previous Pharaohs. He forced Tutankhamen’s widow to marry him and accordingly ruled Egypt for a few years (1357-1353 B.C.). He usurped not only the throne but also the mortuary temple and statutes of his predecessor.

When Eye in turn died, after a reign of about four years, the reins of government were taken over by the former army commander, Harmhab, who ruled for 34 years (1353-1320 B.C.). He is usually counted as the first king of the Nineteenth Dynasty. Harmhab seems to have been less tinged with the Amarna revolution than his two predecessors, and was therefore more acceptable to the priesthood and to the conservatives of the country. He began to count his regnal years from the death of Amenhotep III, as if he had been the legitimate ruler over Egypt during the time of Ikhnaton, Smenkhkare, Tutankhamen, and Eye. These four rulers were henceforth regarded as having been usurpers, “heretics,” and are therefore not mentioned in later king lists. Thus, Amenhotep III was officially followed immediately by Harmhab.

The first task Harmhab set for himself was that of restoring internal order and security in Egypt, which seems to have been badly disrupted during the previous decades of weak rule. His edict, still extant, was issued “to establish order and truth, and expel deceit and lying.” Priests were given special privileges in the judicial system, and severe and cruel punishments were threatened for abuses of power by officers of the realm. Since all his energy seems to have been needed for a restoration of order in the country, he had neither time nor power to regain the Asiatic possessions which by this time had completely been lost. Since the death of Thutmose IV in 1412 B.C. no Egyptian king had been seen in Syria or Palestine, with the result that the Pharaoh was no longer known or feared there. This situation was advantageous to the Hebrews, who probably began their invasion of Palestine in 1405, and were able in succeeding decades to establish themselves there without interference on the part of the kings of Egypt.

The Nineteenth Dynasty.—Dying childless, Harmhab was followed by his appointed successor, the general of the army, Ramses I. An old man, Ramses I died after a short reign (1320-1319 B.C.), and left the throne to his son, Seti I (1319-1299 B.C.). With him a new era began, and once more the power of Egypt was felt. He made determined and partly successful attempts to regain the Asiatic possessions. Records carved on Egyptian temple walls and on a great stone monument found in the excavation of Beth-shan, at the eastern end of the Valley of Esdraelon, in Palestine, disclose that the king invaded Palestine during his first year. His chief aim was to regain some of the important cities which, in times past, had been occupied by Egyptian garrisons, and to control once more the trade routes to the fertile and rich Hauran in northern Transjordan. With three divisions, he claims to have attacked and conquered the cities of Yano‛am, Beth-shan, and Hamath (south of Beth-shan) simultaneously. His victory stele found in Beth-shan shows that he reoccupied the city and stationed an Egyptian garrison there. He then crossed the Jordan and occupied certain rich areas in the Hauran, according to another victory monument found at Tell esh–Shihāb, about 22 miles east of the Sea of Galilee.

After Seti I had reoccupied certain important cities in western Palestine and Transjordan, he turned to Syria and reconquered Kadesh on the Orontes, according to his official records carved on the temple walls at Karnak and from the fragment of a victory stele found at Kadesh itself. On a later campaign Seti I advanced even farther north, to punish the renegade kingdom of Amurru and to force the Hittites to recognize certain rights of Egypt over northern Syria. Once more, loot from Syria and cedarwood from the Lebanon came to Egypt, although not in the quantities of a century earlier. However, Egypt once more enjoyed the satisfaction of being the proud ruler of foreign regions and peoples in Asia, although the new empire was but a shadow of the former one.

During the reign of Seti I a freer interchange of culture began to take place between Egypt and Asia than even before. Canaanite deities, such as Baal, Resheph, Anath, Astarte, and others, were accepted into the Egyptian cult system. The Egyptian religion lost its isolation and some of its national peculiarities. From now on more emphasis was placed on magic, ritual, and oracles, with the gods Fortune and Fate taking a more important role in the religious life of the Egyptians.

Ramses II and the Hittites.—The policy of reconquering the Asiatic empire was continued by the next king, Ramses II (1299-1232 B.C.), whose reign was exceptionally long. The fact that he usurped many Egyptian monuments by exchanging his name for those of his royal predecessors, making it appear that these monuments had been erected by him, together with great building activity of his own, made Ramses II more famous than he deserved. The name of no other Pharaoh is found so often on ancient monuments as that of Ramses II. As a result, earlier Egyptologists attributed fame to him out of all proportion to his accomplishments.

When Ramses II came to the throne the Hittite king Mutallu advised a Syrian prince to hasten to Egypt and pay homage to the new king, perhaps as a precaution, since no one could know what the young Pharaoh might do. As time passed and there were no marked signs of determination on the part of Ramses to hold on to his Asiatic possessions, the Hittite king organized a confederacy of Anatolian and Syrian states, which not only proclaimed its own complete independence, but also annexed other Egyptian possessions in Syria. Its combined army of some 30,000 men was determined to keep northern Syria out of the Egyptian Empire.

Ramses logically felt that he must meet the challenge of the hour. With four divisions, bearing the names of the gods Amen, Ra, Ptah, and Set, probably equal in strength to the forces of the Hittite confederacy, he marched north. The Hittite army awaited the Egyptians at Kadesh on the Orontes, where the famous battle between Ramses and Mutallu took place. This struggle was described in word and picture on numerous monuments throughout Egypt.

The Hittites sprang a trap on Ramses. The latter had picked up a pretended Hittite deserter who reported that Mutallu had retreated and left Kadesh for better defensive positions in the north, while actually he was poised behind the city of Kadesh ready to attack. Suspecting no malice, Ramses therefore marched northward. Crossing the brook El-Mukadiyeh with the division of Amen, he pitched camp on the northern bank. When the next division, that of Ra, forded the same brook, Mutallu, with part of his army, slipped over the Orontes behind the Ra division and began to attack the surprised Egyptians simultaneously from both the south and the north. Ramses’ two other divisions were still on the march seven or more miles to the south while the men of the Amen and Ra divisions were fighting for their lives.

The story of how Ramses saved his army by personal heroism is legendary and needs no repetition here. His claim to have turned the imminent defeat into a brilliant victory, proclaimed on many monuments, must also be taken with a grain of salt, because the Hittites claimed likewise to have won a complete victory over the Egyptians. It is probably true that Ramses was able to save the greater part of his army and so avoid a disaster, but he can hardly have been victorious, since the contested region of Syria was retained by the Hittites and permanently lost to Egypt. Hittite texts indicate, furthermore, that the Hittites penetrated the Lebanon and extended their power over Damascus, in southern Syria, which they would hardly have been able to do if they had been defeated as Ramses claims.

During the reigns of the two following Hittite rulers, Urkhi-Teshub and Hattushilish III, relations with Egypt gradually became more peaceful, and a treaty of friendship between the two kingdoms was finally concluded in the 21st year of Ramses II. Since an Egyptian copy of the text of the treaty may be seen today on the temple walls at Karnak, and a Hittite copy has come to light from the royal archives of the Hittite capital city Khattushash (Boghazköy), we are exceptionally well informed concerning it. The two documents contain a preamble explaining why the treaty was concluded and noting that diplomatic negotiations had preceded ratification of the pact. It contains, furthermore, a declaration of mutual nonaggression but, strangely, without defining the borders of their respective geographical spheres of influence. Their alliance included mutual assistance against external enemies and internal rebels, and an agreement on the part of each to surrender political refugees to the other. The two documents close with various divine sanctions against any king who might break the provisions of the treaty.

This treaty of friendship remained in force for the remainder of the existence of the Hittite kingdom. Thirteen years after its conclusion Ramses married a Hittite princess, and a rich correspondence between the two royal houses testifies to the friendly relations that existed between them. When a famine ravaged Anatolia during the reign of Merneptah, son of Ramses II, the latter sent grain to the Hittites to alleviate their plight. After this event nothing more is heard of the Hittites. The excavations at Boghazköy have shown that the city was destroyed about 1200 B.C. by the People of the Sea, who at that time brought to an end the Hittite empire.

Ramses II and the ‛Apiru.—Many scholars have considered Ramses II to have been the Pharaoh of the oppression. This conclusion has been reached in the first place because Exodus 1:11 states that the store cities of “Raamses” and “Pithom” were built by the Hebrews. It is pointed out that Ramses II replaced the name Tanis with his own name when he embellished that city and made it his capital. He did not, however, completely abandon the city of Thebes, where he was later buried. In addition, his long reign, marked by great building activity throughout Egypt carried on by enormous numbers of slaves, among whom the ‘Apiru (identified with the Habiru and Hebrews) are repeatedly mentioned, seems to many scholars to be weighty evidence for assigning the Egyptian slavery of the Israelites to the reign of Ramses II. To this is added some archeological evidence from Palestine, where the excavations of Tell Beit Mirsim, Bethel, and other places seem to indicate that these cities were destroyed in the 13th century B.C. and not in the 14th.

Against this theory there exist some weighty objections. Definite chronological statements made in the Bible, such as those of 1 Kings 6:1 and Judges 11:26, cannot be harmonized with an Exodus that took place in the late 13th century, but require a date for the Exodus that lies at least two centuries earlier. The period of the judges, from Joshua to Samuel, cannot be compressed into a period of some 150 years without doing violence to the Biblical narrative of that part of the history of Israel.

Furthermore, an inscription of King Merneptah, who is considered by the defenders of the 13th-century Exodus to be the Pharaoh of the Exodus, also testifies against this theory, for this inscription claims that the king encountered and defeated Israelites in Palestine. Merneptah reigned only a few years, and if the Exodus had taken place under his reign, the Israelites, who wandered in the wilderness for about 40 years, would have still been at Sinai when he died. Thus it would not have been possible for him to defeat them in Palestine. To accept Merneptah as Pharaoh of the Exodus requires, therefore, further corrections of the sacred records. Hence, it is assumed by the advocates of a 13th-century Exodus that not all the tribes of Israel had been in Egypt but that Merneptah met Israelites who had remained in Canaan.

Furthermore, evidence apparently favorable to an Exodus under Ramses II can be understood in such a way that it does not preclude the earlier Exodus recommended in this commentary. The names Rameses and Raamses in Genesis and Exodus, often pointed to as evidence of a 13th-century Exodus, probably represent a modernization of older names by later scribes (see on Genesis 47:11; Exodus 1:11). The ‘Apiru mentioned in texts of Ramses II as slave laborers can be Habiru or Hebrews without assuming that they refer to the Israelites who were oppressed in Egypt before the Exodus, because Ramses II may have employed Hebrew slaves in his building activity while the Israelites were in Palestine. These slaves may have come into his hands through military activities in Palestine during the period of the judges. That the ruins of some Palestinian cities reveal no signs of destruction in the levels representing the 14th century B.C., but show them 150 years later, can also be satisfactorily accounted for. The destruction of some of the conquered cities in Joshua’s time was not thorough, and the Israelites made no attempt to occupy them, but left them in the hands of the Canaanites (see on Judges 1:21, 27-33). It must also be remembered that not all identifications of ancient sites are certain. Tell Beit Mirsim, for example, has been identified with the city of Debir conquered by Othniel (Joshua 15:15-17), but no definite evidence came to light during the excavations that proved the correctness of an otherwise very plausible identification.

A Biblical chronology based on Solomon’s beginning to build the Temple in the 480th year from the Exodus requires a 15th-century Exodus. Hence the 13th-century Exodus must be rejected, as well as the view held by many Biblical scholars, that Ramses II was the Pharaoh of the oppression and his son Merneptah the Pharaoh of the Exodus.

Merneptah.—When Merneptah, thirteenth son of Ramses, came to the throne in 1232 B.C. he was already an old man, and had to cope with a serious invasion attempted by the Libyans. He claims to have successfully resisted this attempt and to have made 9,000 prisoners, among whom were also more than a thousand Greeks. On his victory stele he also speaks of a campaign against several cities and peoples in Palestine, among whom are mentioned the Israelites. This important passage reads thus:

“Desolated is Tehenu [a Libyan tribe];

Hatti [the land of the Hittites] is pacified,

Conquered is the Canaan with every evil.

Carried off is Ascalon, seized is Gezer,

Yanoam is destroyed,

Israel is laid waste, it has no (more) seed.

Hurru [the land of the Horites] has become a widow for Egypt.”

This famous passage, already mentioned, shows that Merneptah had encountered the Israelites in one of his Palestinian campaigns, as their name, in connection with Palestinian cities, shows. Israel’s location between the cities Ascalon, Gezer, Yano‛am, and the land of the Horites or Hurrians is an indication where the king had met them. The first-mentioned cities lay in south western Palestine, whereas the name Hurru may either stand for the inhabitants of the south eastern part of the country (Edom), or be a general term for Palestine, as frequently used in Egyptian inscriptions. It is most interesting that the name Israel received the hieroglyphic determinative for “people,” and the other names have determinatives meaning “foreign country.” This indicates that the Israelites they encountered at that time were not considered a settled people, which agrees with the situation during the period of the judges as described in the Bible. Since Merneptah’s campaign occurred during the period, when the tribes of Israel were still struggling for a foothold in Canaan, they could only be described on an Egyptian monument as an unsettled people—not as a nation with a fixed habitat.

Also from the time of Merneptah come interesting records kept by officials guarding Egypt’s north eastern frontier, officials who may be compared to modern immigration officers. These records contain the name and function of every person crossing the border, mostly couriers in Egypt’s diplomatic service. Mention is also made of an Edomite tribe that was permitted to find temporary pasture for its flocks in the Nile Delta. These documents show that the frontier was well guarded, and that the crossing of the border was no easy matter for unauthorized individuals or groups, during the Nineteenth Dynasty.

The Twentieth Dynasty.—The death of Merneptah marked the beginning of a period of political chaos in Egypt which lasted for several years. A number of kings followed one another on the throne in rapid succession, one even being a Syrian. The land was eventually rescued from this sorry state of affairs by a man of unknown origin named Setnakht, who became the founder of the Twentieth Dynasty. When he left the throne to his son, who became Ramses III (1198-1167 B.C.), Egypt once more had a strong and energetic king who saved his country from grave peril.

During the time of Egyptian weakness preceding the reign of Ramses III the Libyans had infiltrated the fertile region of the Delta and formed an ever-increasing menace to the internal security of the country. Their mere presence was a continual threat, because in case of an invasion, they could be expected to make common cause with their compatriots living beyond the western border of Egypt. In the fifth year of his reign Ramses III went to war against the Libyans, and in a bloody battle defeated them decisively. He claims to have slain 12,535 of them and to have taken many thousands of captives.

The Peoples of the Sea.—After averting the danger from the west, Ramses had to meet another, even greater, danger from the north east. The so-called Peoples of the Sea, from Crete, Greece, the Aegean Islands, and perhaps from Sardinia and Sicily, moved eastward. They overran and destroyed coastal cities of Asia Minor, such as Troy, then the Hittite kingdom, as well as a number of states in northern Syria, such as Ugarit, and marched down the coast of Phoenicia and Palestine in an effort to invade the greatest civilized country of their time, the fertile Nile valley. Among them were the Tjekker and the Philistines, the latter coming in ox-drawn carts with their families. Both tribes settled on the coast of Palestine after the migration of the Peoples of the Sea had ended. Realizing the seriousness of the situation, Ramses III met the enemy forces at the Palestinian border, in his eighth a serious defeat upon the would-be invaders, and destroyed their navy when it attempted a landing in one of the channels of the Nile. Although Ramses was thus able to save Egypt from invasion, he was not strong enough to drive the Tjekker and Philistines out of Palestine. Settling down, they controlled the rich coastal region for many centuries. In this they were probably assisted by certain Philistine tribes that had arrived prior to the movement of the Peoples of the Sea, which brought strong contingents of racially related peoples into the country.

In Medinet Habu, a temple built by Ramses III in western Thebes and today the best preserved of all pre-Hellenistic Egyptian temples, the king depicted his battles in monumental reliefs. These pictures are of great value, for they show the features of the different peoples with whom Ramses fought. The Philistines appear in their typical feather helmets, by which they can always be recognized. There are also other Peoples of the Sea, the Sherden (probably Sardinians), the Siculi (Sicilians), the Dardanians from western Asia Minor, the Achaeans from the Aegean Islands, and other peoples, all with their typical helmets or other characteristic marks. These reliefs, depicting the warfare of that time on land and sea, thus form important illustrative source material for a correct understanding of the racial movements that took place in the lands of the eastern Mediterranean during the period of the judges of Israel, but movements that did not affect the people of Israel themselves.

The Israelites lived in the hinterland of Palestine, and the main thoroughfares along the coast witnessed the decisive battles of the time. However, in the latter times of the judges the Philistines consolidated their hold on the coastal regions of Palestine and threatened the national existence of Israel. They extended their influence over the mountainous part of Palestine and subjugated Israel for decades. The struggle with the Philistines proved to be a long one, and the fight for liberty begun under Samson, continued under Samuel and Saul, and was completed only in the reign of David.

Ramses III not only succeeded in saving Egypt from external dangers but also promoted its internal security. One text remarks with satisfaction that once more “women could walk wherever they wanted without molestation.” From the close of his reign comes the great Papyrus Harris, now in the British Museum, which contains a summary of all the gifts the king had made to the various temples and gods, and of the property the temples had possessed before him. This valuable document is a major source of information on Egypt’s secular and ecclesiastical economy during that time. However, two main problems are posed by this manuscript: (1) Were the gifts of the king added to former holdings, or did they consist of a royal confirmation of old possessions? (2) In what relationship do these gifts and holdings stand to the economy of all Egypt? Hence, this document has been interpreted differently by various scholars. Breasted thinks that about 8 per cent of the population of Egypt stood in the service of the temple, and that about 15 per cent of the land was ecclesiastical property. Schaedel, however, holds that the figures should be 20 per cent and 30 per cent respectively. Whatever figures are right, it is evident that ecclesiastical leaders played an important role in Egypt at that time, and that no king had a chance of survival unless he supported them.

Egypt in Decline.—Ramses III apparently fell victim to a harem conspiracy, in which some of his concubines and at least one of his sons were involved, besides high state officials. Some of the judicial records dealing with the investigation of this case and the sentences imposed are available today. These documents throw interesting light on the judicial system of ancient Egypt, and indirectly on the case of the two courtiers who shared Joseph’s prison during the time their cases were being investigated (see Genesis 40:1-3).

Ramses III was followed by a number of weak kings, every one of whom bore the name Ramses, numbered now as Ramses IV to XI (1167-1085 B.C.). During the period of their reign Egypt experienced a steady decline of royal power and an equivalent increase of priestly influence. The priesthood of Amen, forming the most influential and powerful portion of Egypt’s ecclesiastical citizenry, finally overthrew the dynasty and made its own high priest king.

With the deterioration of political and economic strength Egypt’s internal troubles became acute. Ramses III was the last king who held Beth-shan in the Valley of Esdraelon, which had been an Egyptian city for centuries. Although the base of a statute of Ramses VI was found during the excavation of Megiddo, there is not the slightest evidence that this king had any influence in Palestine. This bronze statuette may have been sent to Palestine as a gift. The last royal name mentioned in the inscriptions at the copper mines at Sinai is that of Ramses IV, showing that after him no more expeditions were sent to Sinai for mining purposes.

The loss of the last foreign holdings caused an increase of poverty and insecurity and caused inflation. A sack of barley rose in price from 2 to 8 deben. Spelt (a cheaper kind of wheat) rose from 1 to 4 deben during the reign of the kings Ramses VII to X, and later leveled off at 2 deben. As the cost of living rose the revenue of the government fell off, with the result that it could not pay its officers and workers. This in turn resulted in strikes of government workers, the first recorded strikes in history. Several serious situations thus arose in places where many men were occupied on public works, for example, in western Thebes, where the upkeep of the tremendous royal necropolis with all its temples required a great force.

Another cause of the difficult situation was widespread official corruption. As an example, the case of an official may be cited, who was responsible for the shipment of grain from Lower Egypt to the temple of Khnum at Elephantine in Upper Egypt. When he was later tried for embezzlement it was found that of 6,300 sacks of grain received in the course of 9 years he had delivered only 576 sacks, or about 9 per cent of the total. The other 91 per cent of the grain had been embezzled by him, in collaboration with certain of the scribes, controllers, and cultivators attached to Khnum’s temple. The records of that time tell also of bands of roving and plundering soldiers who were a scourge on the population, and of continual cases of tomb robberies. Since the population suffered under the economic stress of the times, while everyone knew that untold treasures in gold and silver were hidden in the royal tombs in the valleys of the kings and queens in western Thebes, it is not surprising to read of attempts made to obtain some of those treasures. The available records of investigations of tomb robberies leave the impression that even officials were involved in the thefts. Such robberies occurred so frequently later on that every royal tomb, with the exception of that of Tutankhamen, was eventually looted. Little if anything remained for the archeologist.

By the close of the Twentieth Dynasty (1085 B.C.) Egypt had reached one of the lowest points in its long and checkered history. Nothing of its former wealth and glory was left. Its envoys were despised in foreign lands, as the Wenamon story and a satirical letter reveal—as will be seen in connection with the history of the judges of Israel. Egypt had become a “bruised reed,” as an Assyrian officer mockingly called it several centuries later, in Hezekiah’s time (2 Kings 18:21). This weakness, which began in the time of the judges, proved a blessing to the young nation of Israel, which was thus able to develop without being hindered by a strong neighboring power.

III. The Kingdom of Mitanni (C. 1600—C. 1350 B.C.)

The greatest rival of Egypt during the Eighteenth Dynasty was the kingdom of Mitanni in northern Mesopotamia. Although recent discoveries have thrown some light on the history of this obscure power, little is known of it. The site of its ancient capital, Washshukani, known from Hittite records, has not yet been discovered, although it is generally believed to have been in the upper Chabur region near Tell Halâf.

The ancient native population of the whole region consisted of Aramaeans speaking the Aramaic language, but the rulers were Hurrians, who had taken possession of the country in the 17th century B.C. “Hurrian” is the ethnic name of an Aryan branch of the great Indo-European family of nations, whereas Mitanni is the name of the state over which the Hurrians ruled. The names of their kings and high officials resemble Aryan names, and those of their gods are found in the Indian Veda: Mithras, Varuna, Indra, and Nasatya.

Although the beginning of the kingdom of Mitanni is obscure, it is known that Hurrians occupied this region about the 17th century, for the Hittites, under their king, Murshilish, fought the Hurrians on their return to Anatolia after the conquest and destruction of Babylon. However, it is not until the 15th century B.C. that the names of their kings appear in written source material, particularly in the Egyptian records of Thutmose III and Amenhotep II, with whom these kings had several encounters. However, toward the end of the 15th century friendly relations between the royal houses of Egypt and Mitanni were established, so that for several successive generations Egyptian kings took Mitanni princesses as wives. Artatama I of Mitanni gave his daughter to Thutmose IV; Shutarna II, his daughter Gilukhepa to Amenhotep III; and Tushratta, his daughter Tadu-khepa to Amenhotep IV. This is the time (14th century B.C.) of the Amarna Letters, which reveal, among other things, the friendly relations between Egypt and the Hurrians of Mitanni.

The reason for this change from hostility to friendship may have been the emergence of a new power in the north west, the Hittites. As the Hittites gradually extended their influence over all eastern Asia Minor, and attempted to make their influence felt in Syria and northern Mesopotamia—at that time either Egyptian or Mitanni territory—the two former enemies became friends out of necessity. But their joint endeavors were not strong enough to hold the vigorous Hittites in check for long, and under the weak reign of Pharaoh Ikhnaton it was apparent in Syria that Egypt no longer played a decisive role in Asiatic affairs. Hence, about 1365 B.C. Mattiwaza of Mitanni concluded a treaty of friendship with Shubbiluliuma, the powerful Hittite king of that time, and recognized his sovereign influence in Syria. The north eastern Hurrians had in the meantime founded a separate kingdom under the name of Hurri. The names of two of its kings (a son and grandson of Shutarna of Mitanni) are known, both from the 14th century B.C.

After the middle of the 14th century all ancient sources are silent concerning the Mitanni kingdom, but the Assyrian records from about 1325 to 1250 B.C. speak of a kingdom of Hanigalbat lying in the same region as the former Mitanni. Since the kings of Hanigalbat had Aryan names like those of the former Mitanni kingdom, it seems that Hanigalbat was the successor of Mitanni. It was, however, a country with little power and influence, and small in extent, inasmuch as its western regions had become part of the Hittite empire, and its eastern ones part of Assyria. This kingdom probably came to its end in the 13th century and broke up into several small city states, which were later absorbed by Assyria during its period of expansion.

Although the history of the Hurrian kingdom of northern Mesopotamia is still rather obscure, the above sketch is given because the Hurrians played an important role in the movements of races in the second millennium B.C. They extended their influence over much of the ancient world, reaching even to southern Palestine, as we know from Egyptian records. In the Bible the Hurrians are called Horims or Horites (see Genesis 14:6; 36:20, 21; Deuteronomy 2:12, 22). The importance of the Hurrians in Palestine can be seen from the fact that at certain periods the Egyptians called the whole land Kharu. It is possible that King Chushan-rishathaim of Mesopotamia, who oppressed Israel for eight years soon after Joshua’s death and was finally defeated by Caleb’s younger brother Othniel (Judges 3:8-10), was one of the Mitanni kings of the 14th century B.C. Because of the similarity of sound, Tushratta has been identified with Chushan-rishathaim, but it is thought the latter may have been one of the kings of the period after 1365 B.C. for which no records have been found so far.

IV. The Hittite Empire From C. 1400—C. 1200 B.C.

The old Hittite kingdom, which early in its history destroyed Babylon, has been discussed previously. Hittite history before 1400 B.C. is not well known, and even the succession of kings is a matter of discussion among scholars. However, after 1400 B.C. the Hittite kingdom enters into the full light of history.

Its capital, Khattushash, lay inside the great bend of the Halys in Asia Minor, near the village of Boghazköy, which is not far from the present Turkish capital, Ankara. Being an Indo-European people, the Hittites were racially related to the Hurrians, from whom they took much of their religion, as well as products of the Mesopotamian civilization and culture that the Hurrians had accepted from the Babylonians and Assyrians. In this way they took over the Babylonian cuneiform script, certain forms of art, literary products, such as epics and myths, and even gods and religious concepts. However, they by no means lost their own peculiar cultural values, such as their hieroglyphic script, which has only recently been deciphered.

The Hittites were a hardy and semibarbaric nation whose products of art did not reach to the high level the Egyptians had attained, nor did they build temples like some of the other nations, but their laws show that they were much more kind hearted and humane than most of the other ancient nations.

Rise of Hittite Power.—The first great king of the Hittites recognizable in history is Shubbiluliuma, who reigned from C. 1375 to C. 1335 B.C. A great catastrophe of a somewhat obscure nature had struck the nation a little before his accession to the throne. Although the records of this catastrophe are not clear, it seems that some subject nations of eastern Asia Minor had risen against their lords and destroyed the Hittite capital Khattushash. After Shubbiluliuma gained the throne, his first care was to rebuild the capital and to restore order in the kingdom. This was done through a number of campaigns. When the Hittite king once more was master over the different peoples of eastern Asia Minor, he turned against the rival kingdom of Mitanni. His first campaign seems to have been unsuccessful, because the Mitanni king Tushratta says in one of his letters to the Egyptian Pharaoh that he had gained a victory over the Hittites, but Shubbiluliuma must have had some success, as can be learned from another letter in the Amarna collection written by Rib-Addi of Byblos. Shubbiluliuma’s second Syrian campaign was a complete success. He not only conquered the capital of the Mitanni kingdom but penetrated southern Syria to the Lebanon. When domestic troubles broke out in the family of Tushratta, with the result that he was killed, Shubbiluliuma placed Tushratta’s son Mattiwaza, who had taken refuge with him, on the throne, and gave him his daughter as wife—thus binding the two royal houses together.

As already mentioned in the discussion of Egyptian history, it was at this time, when the Hittite king besieged the city of Carchemish on the Euphrates, that a request reached him from Tutankhamen’s widow to send her one of his sons to become her husband and king of Egypt. The prince sent in response to this request was waylaid and murdered before reaching the country of the Nile. Upon receipt of the news of this crime Shubbiluliuma conducted a successful campaign against the Egyptians but was forced to retreat without being able to take advantage of his victory because of an outbreak of the plague, which ravaged the Hittite country for 20 years.

Four of Shubbiluliuma’s sons became kings, two of them during their father’s lifetime—one over Aleppo, another over Carchemish. A third son, Arnuwanda III, succeeded his father on the throne over the Hittite empire; and after his death, a younger brother, Murshilish II, gained the throne. A considerable number of contemporary documents provide ample information covering the reign of the last-mentioned king. He practically had to rebuild his father’s empire because a number of revolts had broken out upon his father’s death, and again when his brother Arnuwanda died. His life story is therefore filled with military campaigns against various peoples of Asia Minor, Syria, and Egyptian garrison forces.

The next king, Mutallu, also experienced a serious rebellion by a subject people, the Gashga, who succeeded in conquering and destroying the Hittite capital city of Khattushash, forcing the Hittite king to establish a temporary capital elsewhere. When, for some reason, the local kingdom of Amurru in northern Syria wanted to break its ties with the Hittites in favor of Egypt, to which it formerly belonged, Mutallu interfered, and with his allies forced Amurru to remain apart from the Egyptian Empire. It was at this moment that he met the Egyptian king Ramses II in the battle of Kadesh on the Orontes. Ramses had come to northern Syria to claim his old rights. The famous battle at Kadesh has already been described in connection with the history of the reign of Ramses II. Although Ramses II claimed to have won a victory, the battle ended in a draw, by which the Hittites gained some advantages. This conclusion is reached from the fact that after the battle of Kadesh the Hittites occupied Syrian territory that had not formerly been under their suzerainty.

Friendship With Egypt.—Urhi-Teshub, the next Hittite king, reigned uneventfully for seven years, when he was deposed and banished by his uncle, who made himself king as Hattushilish III. Relations with Egypt were still tense during the first years of his reign, as we know from a letter the Hittite king sent to the Babylonian king Kadashman-Turgu, in which he finds fault with Babylon for being too friendly toward Egypt. Later, however, he sought the friendship of Egypt and concluded a treaty with Ramses II in the latter’s 21st year. This inaugurated a period of close cooperation between the two countries, strengthened by the marriage of Ramses II to Hattushilish’s daughter 13 years later. The Hittites may have regarded the restlessness among the Aegean peoples as the harbinger of coming evil, and therefore desired friendly relations with their own eastern and southern neighbors—the Kassite rulers in Babylon and the Egyptians. These precautions were fruitless, however, since neither Egypt nor the Kassites of Babylon were strong enough to prevent the Hittites from falling prey to the irresistible advance of the Sea Peoples through Asia Minor, Syria, and Palestine.

The next three Hittite kings, Tuthaliya IV, Arnuwanda IV, and his successor, were comparatively weak rulers. Very few documents have survived to throw light on their reigns. One treaty with the vassal kingdom of Amurru in Syria provides for an embargo on Assyrian goods and prohibits Assyrian merchants from passing through their land. This shows that Assyria was now in the ascendancy and was considered an enemy. Merneptah of Egypt aided the Hittites during a severe famine in the reign of Tuthaliya IV by shipments of grain, but the power of the Hittites was now a thing of the past, and its downfall could not be delayed longer.

Fall of the Hittite Empire.—About 1200 B.C. a great catastrophe brought the Hittite empire to a sudden end. This is attested by the sudden cessation of all Hittite documentary material at that time, and by the Egyptian statement that “Hatti was wasted.” No power proved able to resist the Peoples of the Sea, who now poured through the countries of the north like a torrent. Archeological evidence agrees with these observations, showing that the cities of Anatolia were burned at this time after being overrun by enemies.

Hittite culture and political influence completely disappeared from Asia Minor with the extinction of the Hittite empire, though the previously subject city states of northern Syria and Mesopotamia carried on the Hittite culture and tradition for several centuries, until they themselves were absorbed by the Assyrians in the 9th century. Cities like Hamath on the Orontes, Carchemish on the Euphrates, and Karatepe on the Ceyhan River show a well-balanced mixture of native Aramaic, or even Phoenician culture, along with that of the Hittites. These were the Hittite states with which Solomon carried on a flourishing trade (2 Chronicles 1:17), and of whom the Syrians of Elisha’s time were afraid when they lifted the siege of Samaria (2 Kings 7:6, 7). These city states are called Hittite kingdoms not only in the Bible but in the Assyrian records of their time also. In fact, the whole of Syria became known as Hittite country in Assyrian parlance of the empire period. When the cities of northern Syria were conquered and destroyed and their populations deported by the Assyrians in the 9th and 8th centuries B.C., all knowledge of the culture, language and script of the Hittites completely died out, and has been resurrected only recently from its sleep of more than two and a half millenniums.

V. The Rise and Growth of the Sea Peoples (C. 1400—C. 1200 B.C.)

The Peoples of the Sea mentioned in Egyptian sources of the times of Merneptah and Ramses III have been mentioned in connection with the history of those Egyptian kings and in the account of the destruction of the Hittite empire. However, our sources about these peoples are very limited, and consist only of legends preserved by Homer, of Egyptian references to them, some archeological evidence, and a few Bible statements.

In various Egyptian documents recovered by archeologists the name Peoples of the Sea appears as a collective name for the Lycians, Achaeans, Sardinians (Sherden), Sicilians (Siculi), Danaeans, Weshwesh, Teucrians (Tjekker), and Philistines (Peleshet).

Egypt had always had some connections with the peoples of Crete, the islands of the Aegean Sea, and the mainland of Greece, as is evident from the presence of Egyptian objects in those areas and of Aegean pottery in Egypt. Up to the time of Amenhotep III the pottery from Crete is found more frequently in Egypt than that of other Greek areas. Also, most of the Egyptian objects found in Europe up to this time appear on Crete. After Amenhotep III relations with Crete seem to have been interrupted, since Egyptian objects from that time on have been found in only two places in Crete, whereas they have come to light in seven places on the mainland of Greece and on other islands, showing that stronger connections were developing with those areas. The archeological evidence at Crete shows, furthermore, that the rich culture of Crete called by archeologists Minoan II ended with the destruction of the great palace at Cnossus, an event which must have taken place between 1400 and 1350 B.C. This destruction was followed by the more primitive culture of the invading peoples.

Homeric legends about the destruction or disappearance of the formidable sea power of Atlantis may refer to Crete, which fell to these unknown invaders, who destroyed its culture as well as the power by which it had dominated other Greek tribes. This event is also reflected in the legend about a Greek hero, Theseus, who liberated the Greeks from subjection to Minos of Crete, in whose labyrinth lived the Minotaur. We shall probably never know precisely what happened, but it is clear that the subject nations of the Aegean banded together, and with their long ships fought against the galleys of Minos, which had for so long monopolized the lucrative trade with Egypt and other lands. The destruction of the Cretan fleet resulted in the invasion of the rich island and the destruction of its culture. From that time on, the trade of the central Mediterranean lay in the hands of the peoples of the Aegean Sea, particularly those of coastal Asia Minor and mainland Greece.

Migration of the Sea Peoples.—But the migration of peoples did not stop with the destruction and occupation of Crete. By the 13th century the western coasts of Asia Minor were overrun and permanently occupied by Greek-speaking peoples, and in the last years of Ramses II the Peoples of the Sea and the Libyans entered the western Delta and extended their settlements almost to the gates of Memphis and Heliopolis. Merneptah, the son of Ramses II, had to face a mass invasion of these people, but was able to defeat them and save Egypt from this western menace. It was in his time that the great invasion of central Anatolia by the Peoples of the Sea took place. This marked the end of the Hittite empire and the destruction of rich, north Syrian cities like Ugarit (Râs Shamrah). Cyprus was also occupied by these western invaders. How the threat to Egypt was averted by Ramses III, who defeated these peoples in two decisive battles, has already been told.

The Philistines.—After these unsuccessful attempts to take possession of the Nile country, most of the invaders who escaped from the Egyptian massacres and were not captured seem to have returned to the west. The Tjekker and the Philistines, however, stayed in the country. The latter found some related tribes in the southern coastal region of Palestine who had evidently lived there for centuries (see Genesis 21:34; 26:1; Exodus 13:17, 18), and appreciably added to their military strength. As a result the Philistines, who had formerly been so weak that they sought treaties with Abraham and Isaac (Genesis 21:22-32; 26:26-33), and had been so unimportant that their names never appear in the records of Egypt prior to the 12th century, now became the gravest menace of the Israelites, who occupied the mountainous hinterland of Palestine.

That the Philistines apparently belonged to the peoples that invaded and destroyed the ancient culture of Crete, can be gathered from such texts as Jeremiah 47:4, where the Philistines are called “the remnant of the country of Caphtor [Crete],” or Amos 9:7, where God is said to have brought up “the Philistines from Caphtor.” Other texts (1 Samuel 30:14; Ezekiel 25:16; Zephaniah 2:5) bring the Cretes and Philistines together as occupying the same territory. David seems to have had a bodyguard of Cherethites and Pelethites, that is, Cretans and Philistines (2 Samuel 15:18; 1 Kings 1:38, 44), similar to the custom of Ramses III, who made captured Philistines, Sardinians, and other Peoples of the Sea soldiers in his army. These foreign mercenaries, with 600 Philistines from Gath (2 Samuel 15:18), were practically the only soldiers who remained faithful to David at the time of Absalom’s rebellion.

Bible Chronology Timeline - Page 2b