The “New Chronology”
The chapters, Abraham and Moses, are based on the theory of the New Chronology and the books by David M.Rohl, “From Eden to Exile” and “A Test of Time”, as well as archaeology and biblical history. Thus, some of the biblical references or stories included here have actual archaeological evidence to support them. Over the last couple of centuries scholars have inadvertently reconstructed the ancient timeline of the pre-Christian era in such a way that it has become artificially over-extended by some two hundred to three hundred and fifty years. What this means is that the civilizations of the ancient Near East have been misaligned with biblical history, so that many events in the Old Testament cannot be found in the archaeological record. Many researchers have found that this stretched timeline detached the historical accounts of the Bible from its true archaeological setting; archaeologists have been searching for evidence of the Old Testament stories in the right place but in entirely the wrong time. For example: If you were to look for the fallen walls of Jericho in the levels of the Late Bronze age at Tel es-Sultan (Arabic name of the ruins of Jericho) when it was supposed to have happened, you will not find them. But if you dig several metres deeper, the fallen walls of Joshua’s Jericho are there to be unearthed. Indeed they had been, but were unrecognized for what they were.
Scholarship says the bible is almost entirely mythological fiction, books of lessons taught through parables. The hypothesis of the New Chronology proposes that the Old Testament is essentially correct in most of its major events and characters but certainly not in every detail. The New Chronology has readjusted the timeline, removing the extra years introduced by modern scholarship. Most of the books were also written centuries after the fact and there has proven to be far too many translation errors of the original texts to deem what is written to be actual fact in all cases, but the New Chronology now makes it perfectly feasible to fit the biblical story into a more true and workable framework.
This theory of the New Chronology is put forth by noted British, historian, author, pre-eminent Egyptologist and archaeologist, David M Rohl, as well as many other scholars and specialists from many different scientific and historical disciplines, including Peter James, et al in their 1991 work, Centuries of Darkness.
The Institute for the Study of Interdisciplinary Sciences (ISIS) has published nine volumes of the Journal of the Ancient Chronological Forum (JACF) and is now established as a recognized forum for the debate on the New Chronology thesis, as well as other chronological and historical issues raised by Old World archaeology.
Abram, who lived from approx. 1900 to 1825 BC, is known as the patriarch of the Hebrew people. He was the son of Terah and eldest brother of Hahor and Haran, from the Sumerian Town of Ur (Ur of the Chaldees people) in Upper Mesopotamia (present day Kurdistan in Northern Iraq), where his family, an ancestral tribe of herders, had settled. Traditional oral genealogy of Abram’s tribe claimed descent from the great ancestor Shem, son of Noah, who himself was a descendant of Adam.
By 1900 BC the Sumerian Early-Dynastic period had ended along with the Egyptian Old Kingdom. Many of their pyramids and ziggurats, already more than eight hundred years old were still standing, though decades of drought, famine and a series of earthquakes destroyed many of the old Sumer cities and lands of the Mesopotamia plain. The people had migrated into the countryside, becoming nomadic tribes wandering about with their small flocks, forever seeking water and pasture, simply just trying to stay alive. They had numerous gods.
Eventually Abram’s father Terah, brought the family to Haran (ancient city of Mari), a trading center on the Euphrates River, in present day Iraq, where Abram would marry Sarai (Sarah) and become a wealthy landowner. In approximately 1855 BC, Abram’s father passed away leaving Abram responsible for their people. Before long Abram started hearing a voice in his head, who he determined to be the tribal god of the moon, El. The voice commanded him to leave Haran for a new promised land and to become the founder and leader of El’s people. Abram would wander off from time to time and have discussions with El, who asked for Abram’s people’s devotion and that they were to only worship him alone as the one God.
Through visions El spoke to Abram, instructing him that the members of his family were to never marry outside of their clan and that they would develop a new race. They were also instructed to worship and honour their one god through animal sacrifice. Abram soon gathered together his and his nephew Lot’s families and with their flocks of sheep and goats, started moving towards their promised new home in Palestine. Giving up his pagan beliefs, numerous gods and ties to his people.
They passed through Syria and made their way to Shechem, known today as Nablus, in Jordan. There he built an alter to El near the sacred oak tree of Moreh, and prayed to El, who appeared and promised once more, that Abram would indeed be given, as promised, the land known then as Canaan. The voice of God in Abram’s head would be with him all his days, and even though he sometimes lacked faith, and often demonstrated a lack of patience, Abram was a man always concerned about his fellow man, often praying to his god for guidance for sinners including himself. He believed in accountability. This trait no doubt was integral to him becoming such a respected leader amongst his people.
They continued on their journey through the hills of Jordan until they reached the Negeb, an arid region that bordered on the Sinai near Egypt. The trip from Haran to this place had taken them two years. Each place they came to brought the hope of settling down, but the severe famine conditions continued to prevail over the area. For years after great earthquakes ravaged the land around the Nile Valley and the heartland of Sumer which lay along the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers and lands became ever the more arid, with the deserts expanding. Famine was everywhere. As many other starving, nomadic bands from the near east were doing, Abram took his growing tribe and flocks across northern Sinai into Egypt.
As a foreign tribal leader of some stature, Abram had to pay his respects to the Egyptian king at his summer palace at Hat-Rowaty-Khety, which later grew into the great Egyptian city of Avaris, in the district of Goshen. Today it is known as Tell el-Dab’a in the north-eastern region of the Nile Delta. When Abram stood before the Pharaoh, Nebkaure Khety IV, he couldn’t help noticing that the pharaoh was openly infatuated with his wife Sarai. The pharaoh simply could not keep his eyes off of her. Abram feared for his life if he spoke out, for the pharaoh was all powerful, so he told the pharaoh that Sarai was his sister, not his wife. Over the next couple of weeks the Pharaoh could think of no other and finally he had Abram appear before him once more, where he asked Abram that perhaps Sarai could be given to him as a diplomatic gift. Abram stayed solemn feeling he could not refuse, and agreed to his wife being taken to the royal harem to become a queen of Egypt.
Over the next year Egypt began to suffer, first from a very hot and prolonged summer, where animals and people died in the thousands, to the oppressive heat. This was followed by a winter which was much the same- hot and arid. Asiatic plagues then swept through Egypt affecting much of the population. Spring arrived but the rains failed to appear in the area of the Nile’s source, the highlands of Ethiopia, and the river dropped to its lowest level in Egyptian memory. Famine and insurrection began to rear their ugly heads. With his realm disintegrating around him the Pharaoh summoned his advisers to counsel him on a remedy and to seek ways to appease the gods. In their discussion one of his courtiers revealed the fact that the Queen Sarai was actually Abram’s wife, not his sister. The Pharaoh now understood why, ever since their marriage Sarai had spurned all his advances to share his bed with her. The Pharaoh decided that perhaps if he were to return Sarai to her rightful husband, the gods would be appeased and his country given relief. He confronted Sarai who could not deny the rumour. He arrested Abram who confessed to the deception, and admitted he did it only out of the fear for his own life. Abram was lucky that Nebkaure Khety IV was a wise and respected leader of his people, and seeing no advantage to killing them, he banished Abram, Sarai, and their people from Egypt.
Abram and his people re-entered Sinai, once more to seek a place of their own. Abram’s nephew, Lot, with his own extended family and followers were themselves the size of a small tribe. With both tribes having large herds of sheep and goats, they decided to part ways to find richer grazing and water for their herds. Abram’s tribe remained on the plateau near the village of Hebron south of the town of Shalem with Mount Hebron towering over the plain, with Jerusalem nineteen miles (30 Km) to the northeast. Lot’s tribe eventually settled down on a fertile stretch of coastline on the west side of the Salt Sea (the Dead Sea) near the city and mining metropolis of Sodom, in present day Jordan.
Years go by and then one day, while sitting beneath an oak tree near Hebron, Abram is confronted by exhausted refugees who brought news of a great battle in the Jordan Valley, where four powerful rulers of Mesopotamia had attacked the Amorite and Amalkite cities around the south shore of the Salt Sea and that his nephew, Lot, and his family had been taken as slaves.
That night Abram gathered three hundred and eighteen of his best fighting men and over the next few days shadowed the Mesopotamia army as it victoriously marched back up the Jordan valley. Finally one night, Abram saw an opening and made his move; they attacked the soldiers guarding the prisoners and released the captives, then filtered back into the night, saving Lot and his family from a life of enslavement.
All their years together Abram and Sarai had not been able to have children, though they prayed to their God endlessly for a healthy child. Their one God eventually answers and tells him that Abram would have as many descendants as the stars in the sky and changes his name from Abram (exalted father) to Abraham (father of the multitude). Sarai is changed to Sarah, and because of their devotion they would bear a child.
Twelve years before, Hagar, Abraham’s Egyptian concubine and one of his many wives, had given birth to his first son Ishmael, which had infuriated Sarah. But now, at long last and well past childbearing age, Sarah gave birth to Isaac. Sarah was proud of the fact that since she was the tribal leader, Abraham’s, principle wife with Isaac now outranking Ishmael in status and inheritance. Out of Abraham’s many wives, open conflict grew between Sarah and Hagar. In a fit of jealousy Sarah went to Abraham and demanded that Hagar and Ishmael be banished. She refused to allow her son’s status as heir to be undermined in any way. With a heavy heart, Abraham agreed to her wishes. Hagar and Ishmael were banished but not before their God appeared and said Ishmael would be blessed and become a father of twelve princes and would make a great nation. They would be fruitful and multiply. Ishmael and his mother eventually settled in the southern Desert of Paran in Sinai among the Bedouin tribes. Ishmael is recognized in Arabian folklore as the founder of the Arab Nation and with the arrival of the prophet Muhammad, centuries later, Islam would be born.
Abram also had a second concubine named Keturah, who bore him six sons. But Sarah continued her jealous ways and at her insistence, Keturah and her sons, along with supplies and the protection of a loyal band of retainers were sent away. This second exiled group headed east into the lands of present day Jordan, where they became the ancestral tribal leaders of Midian in north-west Saudi Arabia. The formation of traditional lifelong enemies between Arab and Jew begins here.
Life at this time was often brutal, with violent storms, floods, heat-waves, plagues, famine and earthquakes, which continued to ravage the entire area. Abraham and his people lived a nomadic life. Their homes were large goatskin covered tents, floored with carpets and comfortable, though they had to be moved often to find fresh pasture and water for their flocks and herds. The wells they did find, were dug out and lined with stone, and can still be seen today.
The way the people chose to deal with all the hardship became desperate and drastic. In order to appease their one true god through worship and great personal sacrifice, the institution of the sacrifice of the firstborn comes into being during these very difficult times. Whether animal or human, the first born would be sacrificed to God, so families began to sacrifice their firstborn children, most times by fire, hoping to show their gods their loyalty and devotion. This practise continued for many years and in many places.
When Abraham’s son Isaac was in his teens, Abraham had another vision where his God talked to him and told him he was very displeased with his people for burning their sons and daughters and demanded the ultimate sacrifice from Abraham. The next day, grieving terribly and with an unbearable weight pushing onto his heart, he loaded up some wood and headed north to the designated place of sacrifice on Mount Moriah, above the city of Shalem, with his son Isaac. As they stood before the altar there with the wood neatly stacked, Isaac realized he was going to be the burnt offering and in an act of total devotion to his father allowed his hands to be tied and quietly laid down upon the altar. No words would be able to express how either of them felt. Just as Abraham was lifting the bronze dagger over his son, he heard rustling in the bushes and looking over saw that it was a young ram stuck in a thicket. He took this as a sign that his son’s sacrifice was no longer required. Isaac was released and helped his father bring the ram to the altar for sacrifice, where its blood ran red. From this day on, Abraham’s people forbade the taking of human life for sacrifice, though the firstborn of animals could still be chosen. The tradition of parents blessing their children at birth began.
After the death of his beloved Sarah, Abraham would buy the Cave of Machpelah in Hebron from the Hittites, who had traditionally lived there. He also chose a wife for his son Isaac, the granddaughter of one of Abraham’s brothers, Rebekah, as well as selecting another wife for himself, Keturah, with their sons becoming the ancestors of the tribes of Dedan and Midian.
After giving away all his possessions to Isaac in his final days, Abraham finally dies in about 1815 BC, according to the Torah, at the age of 175, but in reality was probably closer to 75. He was well known as an overly righteous man and the father of the Levitical priesthood. Honoured for his consistent obedience to his one god and is quoted as being the Bible’s most outstanding example of faith. He was buried with his first wife, Sarah, in the Cave of Machpelah in Hebron. Abraham’s body was carried into the cave by his two sons Isaac and Ishmael, assisted by the sons of Keturah, who were close enough to attend the funeral. A Muslim mosque marks the spot of the cave today. His son Isaac and grandson Jacob are also buried there. The tribes of his people would become known as the race of the Hebrew.
The world’s oldest monotheistic religion, Judaism, holds its founder to be Abraham, and the story of the ancestors and descendants of Abraham would be passed down through oral histories and traditions, until finally being written down over one thousand years later. The stories became formalised as a religion, after the Jews were taken into exile in Babylon in 586 BC. Abraham is regarded as the father of not only Judaism, but of Christianity and Islam as well.
Moses, (Hebrew Mosheh, Egyptian Mose or Ramose) was inspired by his God to set the culture of his chosen people, the Hebrew, in motion towards their perceived territorial and divine inheritance of Palestine. Living from approx. 1525 BC to 1407 BC, Abram was the son of Jochebed and Amram of the Hebrew tribe of Levi and born in Egypt. The pharaoh at the time, Khaneferre Sobekhotep IV, had decreed to cull all the male infants of the expanding Asiatic population, especially the Hebrew, because of their warrior background and tribal structure. Throughout the land newborn baby boys were killed. Moses’ parents and sister, Miriam, inspired by the earlier stories of Sargon the Great, who lived from 2117 to 2062 BC and was the founder of the Agade dynasty, which would eventually become the Babylonian empire of Mesopotamia, was put into a basket as a baby and placed on a river, where the daughter of a chieftain found him and adopted him. Moses, originally named Hapimose, was also placed into a basket and floated away, to be found by Meryt, one of the pharaoh’s daughters, who would likewise adopt the infant.
Moses was raised and educated as a member of the Egyptian Royal household, and taught to read and write- hieroglyphic signs as well as the cuneiform of Akkadian. His education included Egyptian and Mesopotamia epics and stories, including the great Hammurabi Law Code of Sumer and the Epic Adventures of Gilgamesh, which included a story about a great flood. Over the next forty years he rose to become the pharaoh’s chief advisor. As an Egyptian Prince he fought for the pharaoh in a war in Kush and became ever more embroiled in dynastic rivalries and intrigue. While out riding his chariot one day he witnessed the beating of a Hebrew slave at the hands of an Egyptian, he became incensed at such cruelty and killed the Egyptian. Fearing a trial for murder and possible execution, he fled into the Midian desert. There he married a nomadic Midianite priest’s daughter and for the next forty years lived a simple life as a shepherd, raising a family.
It was during these years that Moses came to learn that the Hebrew people were descendants of Abraham, the patriarch with whom their one god had formed a covenant. With his skills of reading and writing with various texts and languages, he studied Sumerian and Babylonian tablets, which told epic stories and laws and rules for the earlier Sumerian people. Linking oral traditions of Moses’ ancestors and these readings, he began to discover his own roots and the origins of his own people.
The Hebrew people had been in Egypt for over 200 years, ever since Abraham’s great grandson, Joseph who had been sold to the Egyptians as a slave by his brothers and would later rise in stature to become an advisor to the Pharaoh’s court. His whole extended family, seeking refuge from famine in Canaan, soon followed him to Egypt. They became traders, prospered and grew in numbers. Before much time had passed they were perceived as a threat to the pharaoh and the court’s power and were enslaved, along with other Asiatic and African people and forced to work the fields and in construction. Although enslaved they believed in the new deity, Aten, familiar to the original, supreme Egyptian god Amun-Re (The Sun). Atenism was a very rare Monotheistic faith at that time. The sun god, Aten, was pictured as benevolent and humane, spreading the warmth of his rays and essential goodness equally to all men. It included the belief that the sun, by its daily movement, represented resurrection; life of the day, death at night and rebirth in the morning dawn.
While Moses was still a shepherd, it is said that one day a burning bush, representing his God, told Moses, to return to Egypt and free the Hebrew slaves. Moses’ god also revealed his holy and personal name, Yahweh (the Lord). Another day while out tending his flock, his staff transformed into a snake and then returned to the staff he knew. Once, he watched as his hand became leprous and was then restored. It is also said that his brother Aaron, a high priest among the nomads of Sinai, had a rod that could turn into a snake as well as sprout buds, blossoms and almonds overnight. Though Moses knew he should go back to Egypt and speak for himself and his people, it was a difficult decision to make. Eventually, in spite of his lack of confidence, he decided to bring his older brother, Aaron, to aid him and with his wife, Zipporah and his children he returned to Egypt.
The year was about 1450 BC and upon returning, Aaron and Moses began to petition the present pharaoh, Djedneferre Dudimose, who spent much of his time at his palace at Avaris (biblical Ramesses), for the freedom of the Hebrew people.
The pharaoh refused them each time because the backbone of the present economy was the slaves, not just Hebrew, but of many races. From cleaning the homes, to clerical work, to labour, the enslaved peoples of Egypt were productive elements in each level of society. At this time, Egypt’s population was about three million, with a bonded servant population of perhaps six hundred thousand. Those employed in full-time state building projects represented well over fifty per cent of the country’s entire labour force.
Moses warned the pharaoh that there would be trouble if he did not let the Hebrews go, but still he refused to consider the matter. But the word of Yahweh was spreading among the enslaved and attitudes were changing. Even the Egyptians themselves were beginning to change, with their empire now on the decline. The pyramids had been standing for well over 1000 years, but the pharaoh had lost much power since the earlier rulers for life was becoming more Asiatic than Egyptian, especially in the eastern areas of the Nile delta (biblical Goshen) where most of the population lived. The land seemed to be in constant upheaval, from earthquakes, to one of the most explosive volcanic eruptions ever seen, which happened more than 700 kilometres to the north; the island of Santorini, in the Aegean Sea. The eruption created climate change that affected the whole Middle east for decades. Famine, drought, floods and plague forced the abandonment of most Sumerian cities, with many city states and monarchies disintegrating.
The initial eruption spewed massive amounts of ash into the air; days were dark and the sky became a cloud of acid particles and ash. It spread over 128,000 square kilometres as it blew southward over Egypt and Palestine. The tidal wave was beyond anything ever experienced and for months, as the volcano collapsed into itself, it continued to cause tidal waves and surges that created havoc on the southern coastline of the Eastern Mediterranean.
Along with the tidal surges and waves from the continuing effects of the Santorini eruption, the annual summer flood of the Nile, this particular year, as Moses pleaded his case for his people’s freedom from the pharaoh, seemed to be transformed into blood. A microscopic organism called red tide broke out upon the Nile, killing all the fish which were left rotting on the shores. Six to seven days later the amphibians (mainly frogs) moved toward the land, unable to survive among the rotting fish and lifeless water.Mosquitoes and fleas feasted on the dead fish during the day and bit into both humans and animals during the night. At first the people allowed the livestock to continue drinking from the river, until they too started to die by the thousands. The animal corpses attracted swarms of flies carrying the Anthrax virus began to feast on the living. The virus ran rampant. Upon their bodies boils and lesions appeared, followed by death. After the devastation of the red tide a vicious hailstorm swept across the land, hurling golf ball size lumps of ice upon the fields, wrecking the crops, destroying the homes and killing more livestock.
Another few months go by and a swarm of locusts moved through the Nile Valley from the south, a phenomenon which continues today and consumed everything before it. This was soon followed by a great dust cloud from across the Sahara hitting the Nile Valley at dusk. Still raging the next morning, there was no dawn light. The storm raged for three to four days and was devastating. The pharaoh and his people were in shock, with the economy in shambles, and the population starving. Death seemed to be everywhere. To try to stop the terrible natural events happening to them, the people, Egyptian and Asiatic alike, began to kill their first born to appease the gods to make it stop and to make the madness go away, even Dudimose killed his eldest son, an Egyptian Prince.
Amidst all this chaos, Moses kept warning the pharaoh to let the Hebrews go. At the same time, the classes of Egyptian society were being upended and began to collapse. Poor men became wealthy because the Hebrews began to plunder the city of all its valuables. Slaves “were no longer”. Greed and violence became everyday life and they knew no bounds, with the ego and personal desire ran amok. Palaces were sacked and rebellion was everywhere. Thousands had been killed by the forces of nature and the smell of death was everywhere. Rotting corpses, garbage, vomit, blood and waste filled the streets, with broken pottery carpeting the steps of the temples.
Finally the pharaoh succumbed and pleaded with Moses and the Hebrews to get as far away as possible from Egypt. Moses and his fellow leaders wasted no time and moved their people quickly. After digging up his ancestor Joseph’s coffin and taking all that was in the chamber, Moses gathered up his surviving family members, including his sister Miriam, who was also a leader amongst their people, and prepared to leave. The Hebrews had stripped the palaces of their gold, lapis lazuli, silver, turquoise, carmelion, and amethyst. Moses and 35,000 of his people headed north-east with thousands of ox carts, obese with what they carried, and as many sheep and goats. They met up with other groups of fleeing peoples along the way and by the second night, on the shores of Lake Timsah, (biblical, Etham), in the Nile Delta, their numbers swelled to nearly 40,000. And there they were confronted by a man-made channel that flowed northward. This crocodile infested waterway linked swampy, reed-lined lakes and extended from the Gulf of Suez in the south to the Mediterranean Sea in the north. This whole complex of pools, lakes and water channels acted as, part natural, part man-made, eastern border of the Egyptian empire. The canal known as Ta-Denit (the Dividing Waters) prevented Asiatic refugee and military incursions from crossing Egypt’s eastern border. Unable to cross, the Hebrews headed north and soon reached the “mouth of the canal” (biblical Pi-Hahiroth) where an Egyptian-made sand causeway was located. The highway to Canaan, known as the Way of Horus, began here. The causeway was very narrow and capable of taking only a few people abreast at a time. It was protected by the fortress outposts of Zile and Migdol, each garrisoned by a platoon of border guards. And as Moses’ followers now numbered 40,000, it would take too long to get everyone and their carts and baggage across. The causeway was flanked by the waters of Horus (Egyptian Shi-Hor) to the north and the shallow swamp, known as The Reeds (Egyptian Pa-Zufy, biblical Yam Suph or Sea of Reeds) to the south. Running out of room and time, Moses had led his followers into a trap. On their third night of their trek they camped beside the Sea of Reeds.
Back in Avaris, pharaoh Dudimose surveyed the destruction around him. Mobs roamed the streets seeking ways to vent their anger. Palaces and temples were plundered by the once enslaved. The Pharaoh regretting having sent the Hebrew slaves away and also very much angered by them, assembled an army of six hundred chariots to chase after and capture the Hebrew horde. When Moses and his followers awoke the next morning they could see in the west signs of the Egyptian army closing in on them; a great grey cloud laying just over the horizon. But as dawn broke, a violent wind blew up from the northeast, creating an impenetrable sandstorm. It was followed by another tidal surge caused by another piece, of what once was the island of Santorini, breaking off and crashing into the sea, hundreds of miles to the northeast. The shallow waters of the Reed Sea began to be pushed back by the increasing wind, exposing the sandy floor to the south of the causeway. A passage across to Sinai, about 100 metres wide, opened up and though burdened with their plundered loot, possessions, and driving their flocks of goats and sheep before them, Moses and his followers crossed the two kilometre long land bridge to safety. By midday the wind began to ease and the sandstorm abated yet the path to the Sinai remained open. The Pharaoh could see the Hebrews had made their way across and ordered his chariots to pursue them.
The chariots swooped down into the exposed bed of Pa-Zufy and as they closed in on the stragglers of Moses’ horde, the wheels of the chariots began to bog down in the soft, wet delta mud. With the wind lessening, the water of the marshes returned, and a tidal surge roared back into the path. Horses became panicked and the ground held the Egyptians in check like quicksand. The more the soldiers and horses floundered and tried to escape the more they sank into the mud. They soon found themselves up to their chests in a deadly mix of sand and water, and as the tide swept back in, man and horse alike, heavily dressed in trappings of warfare, were swept beneath the surface. In minutes Egypt’s military pride was decimated by the Sea of Reeds. The Hebrews now safely on the far shore, watched the carnage of both man and animal and cheered and rejoiced at the death and destruction they had just witnessed. Moses’ sister Miriam, led them in joyful singing and dancing in triumphant worship to their God.
Moses quickly moved his followers into Sinai, leading the mass of repressed, illiterate and ignorant people into a somewhat better life. They would wander the Sinai desert for 40 years and would become known as the twelve tribes. Their camps on this painfully slow journey through the Sinai wilderness were many, with food and water always in short supply because of their numbers. Though with their large flocks and herds of sheep and goats, there was plenty of meat and milk, along with flour and oils. A dietary treat was the resin that seeped out of the Tamarisk tree of the southern Sinai desert. Composed mostly of sugar, it was like a wax which melted in the sun. Sweet and aromatic, dirty-yellow in color, it was a respite from a basic diet. Unfortunately it would spoil in one day, and the Hebrew began to call it manna. During these years in exile they also began to worship their one god, now called Yahweh, together as a group, which was unusual for that time for worship had always been a solitary affair.
As the tribes ceaselessly wandered the barren deserts and mountains of the Sinai Peninsula, there was much hardship with limited food and constant drought. With increasing unrest, rebellion and fighting became common amongst the many tribes who as a whole became a grumbling and complaining lot. Impatience, idolatry, and immorality lay thick in their dust filled air.
Because of the people’s unruly attitude and self defeating ways, a few years after their exodus had begun; Moses announced to the chosen tribes, that because of their behaviour, they had proved themselves unworthy. So they would continue to wander in the desert for forty years, until such time as this present, unworthy generation would be dead. And only then, would the tribes be allowed to enter their “promised by their god,” the land of Canaan.
At one time, as his people camped nearby, Moses climbed Mount Sinai, where he disappeared for some weeks. When he reappeared he was carrying stone tablets upon which were carved the words of the covenant his people were making with their one god, Yahweh. These were the Ten Commandments. The first four are directed to man’s relationship with Yahweh and the last six to man’s relationship with man. The tablets themselves were written in the world’s most ancient alphabet, Egyptian hieroglyphs, but using Semitic letters, which later evolved into Greek. While he was away on the mount the people fell to selfish desires and digressed on many levels. There was idol worship of a gold calf they had sculpted and there was much debauchery. Upon seeing this, Moses became enraged at their ignorance of their one and only god. He smashed the tablets upon a rock and sent forth warriors. Many of his people were slain in punishment.
Moses then returned to the mountain and after some days returned with a new set of tablets, once again detailing the Ten Commandments. An Ark of the Covenant was built to house these tablets and the people carried them where ever they went. The Ten Commandments that Moses carved into the tablets were: Thou shall have no other gods; Thou shall not create, worship or serve any false idols; Thou shall not take the name of your Lord thy God in vain; Remember that six days you will work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath, and must be kept holy; Thou shall honour your father and your mother; Shall not commit murder, nor adultery, nor steal; One shall not bear false witness against your neighbour; And one shall not covet thy neighbour’s house, his wife or anything that belongs to him.
Both five hundred years later, when Israel was united and the Torah finally recorded by dozens of scribes, or over the many generations after Moses’ death and orally passed down, or even while he was still alive, the one God gave the people specific instructions and collections of rules. It is written that God passed on all this information himself, speaking from a great, dark cloud, that had hovered over the people after Moses had climbed down from the mountaintop.
The information contained all the rules the Hebrew would need to live their lives, including proper worship ritual, and moral, civil, and religious laws. They were the directions for their new nation, in how to live in relationship with their God, and to each other. Most all of humanity’s values, still to this present day, towards marriage and interaction between relatives and blood relations is based on these laws, with many of the laws dealing with practical, everyday difficulties of community life. These values included how to offer sacrifices, how to carry out ceremonial law, the duties of the priests, festivals to be celebrated each year, and worship rituals. There were financial arbitration laws. Money could be lent to the poor and needy, but interest could not be charged. There were even rules for the priests in what they were to wear (blue and gold), and how to adorn themselves, as well as hundreds of laws such as: If you buy a slave, he shall serve for six years and be set free in the seventh, without pay, and many other laws governing the treatment of slaves. The rules stated that he who strikes his mother or father shall be put to death; One will not wrong a stranger or oppress him; You shall not carry a false rumour, nor gossip, and will not join hands with a wicked man to be a malicious witness; You will not follow a multitude in doing evil; You shall cultivate on your land for six years and gather in its yield, but on the seventh year you shall let it rest and lie fallow. And there were many laws dealing with such matters as theft and loss of property, crime and monetary fines and penalties. As to theft, if you were caught red-handed, you pay double the value or cost. It also covered such things as food and health laws, pledges and promises, offerings, and community purification and rules to guide judges, kings, priests, spiritual leaders, offenders, warriors, families, worshippers, divorces and the caring for the poor. One was to always judge fairly, hate was forbidden and though one was allowed to reprove, no vengeance or holding of grudges was tolerated. All together the Laws of Moses contained 613 specific commandments, of which 365 were stated negatively and 248 positively. The first two of the Ten Commandments came from Yahweh, and 611 commandments are said to have been given through Moses.
When the tribes of Moses made it to the regions of Kadesh and Moserah, and the Wadi Musa (Valley of Moses), they settled and stayed for many years. It was there, some say, that Moses, who had multilingual skills and the education of a prince of Egypt, began to compile the sacred history of the Children of Yahweh into the books of Genesis and Exodus. They were written on leather scrolls. Borrowing from texts he had read and studied earlier, of the Sumerian, Egyptian, and Babylonian cultures, Moses gave old traditions new meanings. The first two books of the bible, Genesis and Exodus are attributed to Moses, as are the next three, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy, but the latter three were likely written by other scribes over many hundreds of years. These first five books of the Bible become known as the Torah and told of the creation and that there is one and only one God with ultimate authority and who possesses final dominion over the universe. Also that his people should share a common destiny and sense of collective purpose and responsibility to one another, as well as following the guidelines and rules their god, Yahweh, has passed down to them through his prophet Moses. Above all else, the god Yahweh tells Moses, that he demands loyal worship and obedient service.
Then came the day when Moses, now a very old man, made his way up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo and to the top of Pisgah, opposite Jericho, one of the earliest of all settlements. Yahweh met him there, appearing beside him and showing Moses all the land that lay before him, from Gilead to Naphatl, the land of Ephraim and Judea, as far as the Mediterranean Sea, the Negev to the south, and the plain in the valley of Jericho, as far as Zoar. And the god Yahweh said to Moses, “This is the land which I swore to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, I will give it now to your descendants. I have let you see it with your eyes, but you yourself will not go over there.” Moses would not be allowed to enter their promised land because earlier the tribes had complained about having not enough water, so their God had told Moses to speak to a rock so that it could produce water. Instead, Moses struck the rock with his staff, his only disobedient act, and for this one act God determined that Moses would not enter the Promised Land. Moses made his way back down the mountain, and died soon after in the land of Moab. Moses, the servant of the Lord God Yahweh, performer of miracles, Hebrew prophet and lawgiver was buried in the valley where he had died, but no man knows his resting place. It is written that when he died, Moses was 120 years old.
The twelve tribes that had left Egypt decades before at last headed out of the wilderness and, prepared with Yahweh’s instructions told to them and written down by Moses and kept in the Ark of the Covenant, they headed down into their “Promised land”. The many tribes of people of Canaan were collectively known as the Philistines and had already inhabited the area for over eight thousand years, living within city-states. Once covered in cedar and pine forests, the area had over the centuries, been nearly stripped clean by the Egyptians. Moses’ followers would find Palestine to be a barren, eroded, hilly country with few and limited resources; a narrow ribbon of land squeezed between desert and sea, as little as 65 kilometres across. Interestingly, this area included the saltiest body of water on the planet with the lowest point on the face of the earth, the Red Sea, as well as being one of the world’s most active earthquake zones.
The Hebrew, Joshua, son of Nun, Moses’ servant, led his people into war and conquest; to take what Yahweh had said was rightfully theirs. The earlier aspects of their faith – extinction of will, passive meditation, mournfulness, mysticism, and the softness of the Sun would not do. To achieve victory they now needed their god Yahweh to become a fierce, jealous god of vengeance with an “eye for eye” brutality. And he did.
The Promised Land was inhabited by powerful kings in strong walled cities, but over the next four hundred years, the chosen people Moses had taken out of Egypt, pillaged and beat much of Palestine into submission and finally a time came when the loose confederation of tribes finally united to become a nation themselves. Samuel, a seer, religious judge, and prophet was appointed as their king of the new united kingdom of Israel. Saul, the son of Kish, the head of a wealthy and influential family of the tribe of Benjamin was proclaimed king and war-leader soon after. The Hebrew’s new nation was called Israel and by 600 BC the now completed Hebrew bible, the Torah, gave birth to their own distinct religion, Judaism.
Although there are many prophets in the Torah, the Talmud, a collection of Jewish commentary written in about 400 AD, after the Hebrew people had once again had to flee, and had left Israel in what would become known as the Diaspora, recognized forty eight male prophets and seven women prophets. The women deemed prophets were, Sarah, Miriam, Devorah, Hannah, Abigail, Huldah, and Esther. Of the male prophets, Moses would become one the most important and respected. The words and acts of these prophets of Judaism would continue to guide the Jews, wherever in the four corners of the earth they scattered and settled. Unfortunately, though the Torah spoke of tolerance, as did many religions, it often fostered racism and the Jewish people would forever be persecuted, wherever they lived. Unlike other religions, Judaism is not for everyone, but only for the Jewish people.