This in-depth program will explore the Biblical stories in Exodus, Joshua and Kings, fundamental to three major western religions — Judaism, Christianity and Islam — from both a literary and archaeological perspective. The series is made possible by two generous gifts from Jeannette and Jonathan P. Rosen, CMAA Lifetime Charter Members, and from John Matrisciano, CMAA Board of Directors Member. In addition, the series is co-sponsored by the Wilshire Boulevard Temple. The lectures were held at Piness Auditorium inside the Wilshire Boulevard Temple, 3663 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles on Mondays, October 15 — November 5, 2012 at 7:30-9:00 PM.
This fall a Who's Who of distinguished experts in Biblical studies, Egyptology and Biblical Archaeology are coming to Los Angeles to present four illustrated lectures on two of the most seminal events of the Hebrew Bible — the Exodus from Egypt and the settlement of the Land of Israel — both central to the foundation of Israel's identity as a nation and its religion.
The end of the Bronze Age (circa 1200 BCE) brought many radical changes to Canaan — old political powers failed and new peoples arrived on the scene. The Philistines, one of the Sea Peoples, first appear on the southern coast while the Proto-Israelites take up residence in the previously uninhabited hill country. But what of the Exodus? Was there a single Exodus or more than one? Can we identify a historical period when this event occurred or was it simply a folktale? The Exodus is not only central to Rabbinic Judaism, but is a cornerstone of Christianity since the Last Supper was a Passover Seder and the foundation for the Catholic Mass. Also, the Exodus from slavery and entry into the Promised Land inspired Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement.
When Israel first appeared as a people and then a state in the hill country of the southern Levant, the great political and social dynamic of the time was change — from Egyptian control to local rule. After about 1200 BCE, the Philistines arrived on the coastal plain of southern Canaan, while in the highlands, the tribes of Israel underwent a process that would lead to unification and statehood before 1000 BCE.
The Israelites passed down stories that explained how they became a people and a state, many preserved in the Hebrew Bible. Yet one story stands out from the rest, not only for its dramatic impact, but for the way it symbolizes the historical situation — the story of the Exodus. Israelite transformation from Egyptian servitude to freedom and divine protection encapsulates the central dynamic of the historical period in which Israel appeared — the demise of Egyptian sovereignty in the Levant and the emergence of independent states.
A poem in the Book of Exodus, "The Song of the Sea," about the divine rescue of Israel from the pursuing Egyptian army is one of the earliest examples of Hebrew literature. It pre-dates all principal biblical sources. The basic prose structure of Exodus, however, comes from the Yahwistic or "J-source," a writer who lived during the Israelite monarchy. In its final form Exodus intersperses narrative from the "J-source" with ritual material from the Priestly or "P-source," believed to have been written after the fall of the monarchy.
Only twice in the Hebrew Bible does Egypt form a backdrop for an extended narrative: the Joseph story (in Genesis) and the Exodus story (Exodus 1-15). The former is a superb narrative with a well-honed plot, believable characterization and brilliant use of irony. The Exodus story, on the other hand, is poorly written and disjointed. Yet as a fundamental building block of three great monotheisms, it has attracted unto itself a hallowed quality which brooks no criticism or emendation.
When searching for an archaeological component to the Exodus, the researcher is in serious trouble — there isn't one. The Exodus narrative mentions hardly any toponyms that can be identified and its Egyptian geography is peculiar if not seriously flawed. Too often interpreters, both ecclesiastical and scientific, have approached the Exodus narrative in midstream, bouncing off the text as it presents itself. Our task is to go back to the beginning and ask the following questions. Who wrote this material? When and for whom was it written? What did they know about the subject? Did anyone else write about an Exodus?
Among the treasures of Cairo's Egyptian Museum is a tall granite stela with a victory hymn to Pharaoh Merenptah (circa 1207 BCE) recounting his military triumphs. Towards the end of the composition several verses touch on the pharaoh's universal dominion:
"All the rulers are prostrate saying "peace!" . . . Ashkelon is brought away. Gezer is seized. Yeno'am is made non-existent. Israel is laid waste, its seed is not."
Buried in this text is a brief reference to Ancient Israel — the earliest extra-biblical reference. What can this brief passage tell us about the early Israelites around 1200 BCE? Dr. Brand's illustrated lecture will explore the controversies surrounding this text and place it in an Egyptian context of the Late Bronze Age.
Egyptologist Frank Yu rco proposed that a set of battered war scenes carved on the limestone walls of Karnak Temple were related to the Israel Stela and that they belonged to Merenptah, not his father Ramses II. This modest revision caused a firestorm because the cities named were Ashkelon and Gezer, both mentioned in the Israel Stela. Yet another people were also pictured combating Merenptah. Sadly, decay had destroyed their name, but Yurco identified them as the Israelites.
The Book of Joshua, in the Hebrew Bible, describes the military conquest of the Land of Canaan followed by the partition of the territories among the twelve tribes of Israel. For generations, this narrative was accepted without question. Beginning in the 1970s, scientific investigation of the western highlands by archaeologists started to undermine this scenario. As a result, a host of new theories have arisen to reconcile new evidence with the Biblical narrative. At one extreme, the maximalists argue that the conquest model still stands. At the opposite extreme, the minimalists suggest that the conquest was part of a foundation myth to invent a history for a people who had no history. Yet there are mediating views that better explain both the archaeological and textual data.
In this illustrated lecture, Dr. Mullins will survey the mysterious identity of the highland settlers at the beginning of the Iron Age (circa 1200 BCE). Who were they? Where did they come from? What was the origin of the Hebrew language? Is there evidence for worship of Israel's national god at this time? One thing is certain — the emergence of Israel in the Canaanite highlands is far more complex and diverse than previously thought.
VIDEO and AUDIO RECORDINGS: DVDs and CDs are available for this series. DVDs are $28 per lecture, $90 for the full series (4 programs); CDs are $21 per lecture, $70 for the series. Price includes shipping and tax. Order from California Museum of Ancient Art, P. O. Box 10515, Beverly Hills, CA 90213.