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Book 3. Ezra & The Law

Joshua, Josiah and the Deuteronomic Historian


The Honesty of Biblicists


The whole of the subject of the “Conquest” of Canaan is infected with a mass of rabid speculation described by Jewish and Christian commentators as “scholarship”. The minutest details of the texts of Joshua, Judges and Numbers is examined and leprous theories of absolutely no basis or consequence are discussed in “learned” biblical works that seem to exist merely to show that the bible is so important that people cannot stop writing about it. The trouble is they rarely want to write the truth about it.

The “scholars” often speculate about utterly different periods of “conquest” being unable to agree on an accepted paradigm. That is thought of as a blessing of God because it allows them to write endless masses of unadulterated tripe and unforgiveable mendacity for the benefit of the gullible nod-heads in the churches, and continue to draw large salaries for doing nothing even slightly useful.

Joel Drinkard explains to us why the exodus might have been in 1440 BC. 1 Kings 6:1 says the Solomonic temple was built in the 480th year after the exodus. “Scholars” date the temple of Solomon to c 960 BC, even though there is no historical evidence of either the temple or of Solomon. It is all taken from the bible, and so, the conquest must have been about 1440 BC, on this biblical evidence. Drinkard thinks this fits some history! The rise of Joseph to prominence in Egypt could be explained as related to the Hyksos rule when Asiatics ruled Lower Egypt for 150-200 years until c 1550 BC, although the narrative gives no impression that the pharaoh is anything other than Egyptian. The new king who knew not Joseph (Ex 1:8) must have succeeded at the expulsion of the Hyksos about 1550 BC with the restoration of native Egyptian rule.

John Garstang dated a destruction level at Jericho to c 1400 BC, possibly a sign of Joshua’s conquest, but Kathleen Kenyon, re-excavating Jericho in the 1950s, using meticulous stratigraphic methodology, showed this destruction layer dated to c 1560 BC, too early for the time of Joshua, regardless of the dates proposed for the conquest. In the thirteenth century when the walls were supposed to have been falling down, despite Drinkard, according to the best guesses of the biblicists, the town was uninhabited, apart from a tramp and his family! W F Albright, faith in the inerrant unshaken, declared the evidence had slipped from the top of the tell by erosion. That would leave evidence in the scree. There was none.

Anyway, Albright challenged 1440 as the date of the exodus. He put it about 1290 BC and the conquest at 1250-1200 BC, based on the archaeology of Palestine, which he decided showed widespread destruction around 1250-1200 BC. It seemed to mark the transition from the Late Bronze Age to the Iron Age. Albright, Wright, Bright and others adopted this dating scheme. The transition was evidence of the entry of the Hebrews into the land under Joshua’s leadership, presumably because these slaves understood the use of iron, but no one else did! They thought the Israelites in Canaan had taken with them a distinctive new architectural structure, the four room house, and a distinctive new pottery form, the collared rim jar. The 1290 BC date eclipsed the 1440 BC date for the exodus. William Dever says:

Only one thing is certain, and that is that the scant Egyptian evidence at least points unanimously to a 13th century BC date for an Israelite “exodus”, if any.


Albright offers a brazen example of biblicist trickery when he says:

Since Israel was already menacing the Canaanite towns in force before the following year, according to the famous Israel stela of Marniptah, we may safely date the fall of Canaanite Lachish in 1220 or shortly thereafter.


Merneptah is now conventionally dated to 1212-1202 BC, but apart from that, any student who made such gross assumptions and deductions in history or archaeology would be failed by their examiners. A professor who said any such thing would be sacked, or quietly retired if it were considered a failure of the mind through age. Albright was a famous and highly respected “scholar” of biblical history for half a century. Christians prefer to have their holy scriptures upheld rather than discredited, even if it means accepting deception instead of honesty.

Stele of Merneptah, c1202 BC

The stele of Merneptah does not say that Israel was menacing Canaanite towns. Albright says it because he believes his bible. The Merneptah stele, if the hieroglyphs for Israel are correctly read, says that Israel was so badly defeated that all its menfolk were wiped out!

Israel (Hieroglyphic determinant: people) is laid waste, his seed are not.
Hurru (Hieroglyphic determinant: land) is become a widow because of Egypt.


The fact that the Israelites were wiped out confirms the invasion and conquest of Israel by them, according to biblicist logic! And Albright uses this fantasy to date the conquest! The poetic pairing of Israel, a people, with a land called Hurru, left as a widow because her menfolk are dead (a pun of Hurru as the Egyptian word for widow) implies that the Israel of the stele inhabit the Hurrian kingdom, but by this time the Hurrians and Hittites were intermingled and the name was retained only as an alternative name for Canaan. Israel means “Sons of the God El”, a reference to the high god of the Canaanites.

This is just one example of the way professional Christianity-mongers have duped Christians over thousands of years, and before that how professional Judaism-mongers were duping the Jews. These people should be laughed to derision. They are fakes and liars and do untold harm to the study of near eastern history, yet the universities have whole departments devoted to them. If there are any devoted Jews or Christians out there who value truth as indispensible to the divine will, they will demand that these people are replaced by honest scholars. Needless to say, they will not. Expediency, evidently a synonym for faith, is all that matters to them.

If any of it mattered more widely, these bogus scholars would never have gotten away with it for so long. It does not matter whether the Leah tribes entered from the south or the centre of Palestine, or whether God landed them there by a miracle, because it is all mythology as archaeologists have shown, but evidence will never stop these “scholars” whirling around and around in their dervish dance of insane biblical justifying. Offer them certain proof that the biblical accounts are mythological and they will not cease their head-banging behaviour.

Why do these sad people, unable to study anything useful, think their God wants to make archaeology tell a different story from their so-called history? Why do they think a god interested in saving people wants to make his holy word incompatible with independent investigation? Father de Vaux, excavator of Khirbet Qumran, confessed:

If the historical faith of Israel is not in a certain way founded in history, this faith is erroneous and cannot command my assent.


They are terrified that to accept the plain evidence and reject biblical history as myth will show they lack faith and so God will not admit them to the balmy place. If God is surreptitiously testing their honesty, then they have failed and will end up in a hot place anyway!

The Conquest of Canaan

The Israelites, in the bible, invaded Canaan with their superior religion but were unable to impose it on the native Canaanites for 1000 years until some returned from a fifty year exile in Babylonia. Students of history have many examples of conquests and invasions in which there are two possible outcomes—the culture and religion of the conquerors prevail, or the conquerors, despite themselves, are assimilated to the culture and religion of their subjects. Either process happens quickly. The only significant case, supposed historic, of it not happening quickly, but instead a continuous battle ensuing for centuries is that of the conquest of Canaan as told in the bible. G Garbini notes this as a cause for suspicion although it is no cause in itself for disbelief—it could be a unique instance. But the details of the scriptural account are additional cause for doubt!

Christians believe that Joshua entered Canaan over the Jordan River (Josh 3:1-4:13), set up a camp at Gilgal (Josh 4:19-24), and from there spoiled Jericho with God’s help, then rampaged over the rest of the country in a series of blitzkrieg attacks that delivered up Canaan for the Israelites (Josh 6-11). The war was swiftly concluded. In this campaign, the God of Love had no mercy. The Canaanites were all destroyed, except for the Gibeonites who became perpetual slaves of Israel—drawers of water and hewers of wood. Of the people of Jericho who, until then, had imagined that the city was their own, Joshua “left none remaining but utterly destroyed all that breathed as the Lord God of Israel had commanded (Josh 10:40)”.

They utterly destroyed all that was in the city, both man and woman, young and old, and ox, and sheep, and ass, with the edge of the sword.
Josh 6:21


This is the Christian God at work. The Christian cross is their sword! The biblicist Frank Moore Cross said:

I prefer a complex explanation of the origins of Israel in the land to any of the simple models now being offered.


Yet this—God’s own account in the bible—is a simplistic one! The scriptures themselves testify to the falsehood of the romanticized accounts in Joshua 1-12. Joshua 1-12 presents the invasion of Canaan as a military conquest by all twelve tribes acting together. The full narrative, gleaned from Numbers and Judges as well as Joshua, suggests a more complicated process than the swift campaign Joshua conducted with the help of the divine finger stirring humanity’s affairs. There was no national campaign of conquest by all the tribes of the nation in alliance. Instead, the land was allocated to the tribes and they occupied them as best they could by infiltration or conquest.

How many Israelite tribes were there? Twelve? In the Jewish scriptures, there are thirteen tribes, although Levi did not have any land and was not “registered”, but even then there were thirteen territories because Manasseh had two portions, one east of the Jordan and one west. Moreover, Joseph, who ought to have been a tribe, was not—his two sons Ephraim and Manasseh replaced him when Levi was not “registered”. In the first chapter of Judges, there are only ten tribes, even though Joseph and his two sons are all among them. Levi, Reuben, Issachar and Gad are not among them. In the Song of Deborah (Jg 5), there are also only ten tribes, though Manasseh is called Machir, and Gad is called Gilead, and the missing tribes are now Judah, Simeon and Joseph.

Later, in the division of the putative royal monarchy into two, the northern kingdom, Israel, has ten tribes, and the southern one only two, Judah and Benjamin, but the country is called Judah, as if Benjamin did not matter or did not really exist. The story of the prophet Ahijah (1 Kg 12:20) divides Judah alone from the rest, but the rest consists of only ten tribes, so, it seems, that Benjamin did not exist. Nor could Simeon and Reuben have been part of the northern kingdom because they were southern tribes which ought to have been associated geographically with Judah. If the split between the tribes was ideological, as the bible maintains, then Judah would have been surrounded by Israel! In fact, there was no such split until Samaria was finally swallowed up by Assyria, leaving Judah as a “remnant”.

When the bible was being written, it does not disguise that Levi was not a tribe, but a caste of priests. Simeon had also disappeared accounting for their curse by Jacob in the myth of his legacy. Simeon also was not blessed by Moses. These actions did not fate or anticipate an outcome but simply registered a fact. When the stories were written the authors had no extant signs of any such tribes!

Indeed, even if these tribes did exist in ancient times, it is hard to see why the different people would have retained their tribal identities when they had merged into the two small nations of Israel and Judah. The bible itself is clear enough that the people intermixed, so why the tribes meant anything other than a place where someone was born, in the sense that an American can call himself a Texan is unclear.

By the time that Israel, known as Samaria, was taken over by the Assyrians, had its own rulers deported and was re-colonised, it covered only the areas allocated to Ephraim and Manasseh. The bible says (2 Kg 15:29) that Tiglath-pileser III had conquered all the places supposed to have belonged to the other tribes, and their citizens had already been separately deported, thus cutting down Samaria to a rump, if ever those other places had ever really been occupied by Israelites. The inscriptions found in these northern regions are written in Phœnician, not in the Hebrew dialect.

Judges shows that Israel did not capture and occupy all the land (Jg 1:1-3:6), the land was not taken quickly but by individual tribes acting essentially independently, or smaller groups of tribes. Judah went up against the Canaanites in Judah’s territory (Jg 1:3-20), and Judges shows Canaanites still living in the land, even offering a theological understanding of it:

God left the Canaanites in the land. Israel was unable to expel or destroy all the Canaanites because of Israel’s sin.
Jg 2:1-6; 3:1-6


Scattered fragments elsewhere suggest separate expeditions by single tribes or small coalitions. In Joshua 8, Israel settles around Shechem with no opposition. Which is it to be? Christians will answer, “All of them”, but it seems plain that Joshua 1-12 was composed to unite a set of disparate traditions that had previously all been accepted.

What is also remarkable about Joshua 1-12 is that it refers exclusively to the territory of Benjamin with only four exceptions, probably glosses, one of them plainly being a marginal note. Everything centres on Gilgal, a place which appears elsewhere in the scriptures associated with Benjaminites like Saul (1 Sam 11:1ff), and seems to have been a Benjaminite sanctuary of unknown location. Benjamin seems simply to be an alternative name for Yehud. Yehud is the “Son of the South”.

Even Joshua is not consistent, and denies that all the land was conquered—the coastal plain was not taken, nor was the lowland heartland of Canaan around the Jezreel valley—the region of Megiddo, Taanach, Beth-Shean (Josh 13:1-6; 15:63; 16:10; 17:11-18). Joshua captures Hebron (Josh 10:36) but then Caleb has to do it (Josh 14:6-15;15:13-14). Though Joshua’s campaign is presented as a huge success, twenty vitally important Canaanite cities could not be defeated. Even Jerusalem was not taken at that time (Josh 15:63). Since they were all later part of the country, Judges must be the original account and Joshua was written later to rationalize the facts as the inhabitants found them.

Even Jewish scholars like Yigael Yadin and Abraham Malamut do not doubt that both books were written long after the supposed time of the events. Typically biblicist, Yadin and Malamut cannot bring themselves to say the scriptures are wrong, so they say they are right “in broad outline”. Their theory is that the biblical stories will meet the archaeological evidence, if it is smeared out broadly enough. They smear it out as broadly as they can… then declare that the archaeological evidence upholds the scriptures! It really is remarkable the way the inspiration of this God makes otherwise normal human beings into cheats.

Jericho also was abandoned through much of the Late Bronze Age. A few burials suggest a small settlement from c 1400-1300 BC, most likely unwalled. The source of the Jericho story in Joshua is given as the Book of Jashar (Josh 10:12-13), one of the lost sources of the Jewish scriptures. The same book is mentioned in 2 Samuel 1:18, introducing David’s Song of the Bow. If the Book of Jashar contained stories about David, it could not have been written before the time of David. So the story it had of the fall of Jericho was a minimum of 200 years after the event. In fact these were written much later—some of their military perspectives reflecting the time of the Maccabees.

The ‘official’ view of Israel’s history writers who lived hundreds of years after the settlement in Canaan thus became the ‘biblical’ view of a military conquest of Canaan.
Joseph A Calloway


Archaological Evidence of Conquest

Joshua describes the capture and destruction of key sites such as Jericho, Ai, Debir, Lachish and Hazor by the Israelites. Excavations at Lachish and at Tell Beit Mirsim (which Albright identified as biblical Debir) in the 1930s showed a destruction around 1250-1200 BC. Hazor, excavated by Yigael Yadin in the 1950s and re-excavated in an on-going work by Amon Ben Tor, has a massive destruction and subsequent burning at the end of the thirteenth century BC in agreement with the biblical description in Joshua 10. Ben Tor says only the Israelites could have destroyed Hazor because there is no sign of the Philistines, and Egyptian and Canaanite figurines were destroyed, counting them out. Since nothing positively identifies the Israelites either, why should they be preferred to the Philistines, who also might have destroyed Egyptian and Canaanite idols?

Multiple sites were destroyed, though over half a century or more. Joshua’s was a slow blitzkrieg! At et-Tell, biblical Ai, French archaeologist, Judith Marquet-Krause from 1933 to 1936 found that Ai lay abandoned from about 2400 BC until about 1200 BC when it reappeared as a small village, so was not a city able to be attacked as it was in Joshua. Did the Israelites attack a pile of ruins? Dr Joseph A Callaway of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary trained under both G Ernest Wright and Kathleen Kenyon, the leading American and British archaeologists respectively. His first chance at his own excavation in 1964 was at Ai, offered the chance to follow up the excavations by Judith Marquet-Krause which had not been published properly when she died. Callaway said:

I must admit that I entertained notions of bridging the widening gulf between the biblical accounts in Joshua 7-8 and the actual evidence of the ruin itself.


He found with Marquet-Krause that Ai had been uninhabited at the dates proposed for Joshua’s conquest—both the generally accepted date of 1250-1200 BC and the earlier date of 1400 BC:

The village appears from present evidence to have been unfortified, and occupation seems to have been interrupted by periodic abandonment, not violent destruction. Nothing in the present evidence warrants an identification of the village with the city of Ai captured by Joshua as described in Joshua 8:1-29.


For Ai, the most common explanation has been that the wrong site was excavated. As part of his excavation project, Callaway conducted a survey of all the archaeological sites in the vicinity, conducting soundings at several likely ones, but found no other possible site for Ai.

Oddly, Late Bronze Age (LBA) pottery found by Garstang at Ai and left in the care of the Albright institute went missing and has never been found. The “scholars” describe it as “lost”. Other pottery found by Garstang at Ai but not “lost” has been found not to be LBA.

Bethel and Ai are only a few miles apart, just north of Jerusalem. In the conquest, they were associated, even though Ai did not exist. Curiously, they were still associated together 800 years later in the “returns” of Nehemiah and Ezra, even though Ai again did not exist because it had been finally abandoned about 1050 BC. Why should Nehemiah and Ezra even mention men from a ruin? It seems most likely that Ai was a Baal associated with the shrine of Bethel, perhaps as a son of El, just as Yehouah was. If Ai was a Canaanite god, the account in Joshua might be an allegorical account of its suppression.

Also uninhabited at this time were Gibeon, Heshbon, Jarmuth, Hormah and Arad. Only Hazor existed at the time when Joshua was supposed to have destroyed it, and it was indeed destroyed at this time (1250 BC), but Philistines were likely to have been the cause. Moreover, if Hazor was destroyed in 1250 BC, how could Deborah and Barak be destroying it again in the time of the Judges? They could not have, but the victory described there seems so important that it is described twice, in prose and in verse. Since the Israelites were unable to conquer the belt of Canaanite cities stretching across the country, effectively protecting the even bigger and more strongly fortified city of Hazor, they cannot be seen as getting to this mighty fortress let alone, managing to seige it into submission when lesser cities had resisted.

When, as here, archaeology does indicate that a city was destroyed about the right time for a thirteenth century invasion, there is no indication of the reason for the destruction, and there are more likely reasons than conquest. Even when conquest is an option, the conquerors have rarely left obvious signs of who they were, and there were more obvious choices than the Israelites. The Egyptian nineteenth dynasty was failing and ultimately left the region ungoverned so that the Egyptian colonial principalities began to fight among themselves. A destroyed city is often multiply destroyed in a short time, suiting the idea of local wars rather than Israelite invaders. There might have been limited Egyptian punitive expeditions against some of the rebels, especially in the Shephelah. Lachish was destroyed but Egyptians or Philistines are more likely to have been responsible. The favoured site of Debir shows no sign of attack in the thirteenth century, and the alternative site, though destroyed was most likely destroyed by the newly arrived sea people than the Israelites.

Bethel was burnt to a cinder at the correct historical time, but the bible does not claim this city was incinerated. It was captured by the “tribe of Joseph”. Nor is burning necessarily a sign of conquest. Serious fires can be accidental and they can be started deliberately to destroy infestations and disease. The Great Fire of London could be an example of either of these.

The Iron Age settlements that succeeded the Bronze Age ones were culturally poorer than their predecessors. Amon Ben Tor’s excavations at Hazor show the unquestionably Canaanite city that existed before the Israelites could have arrived in the Palestinian hills as a sophisticated and elaborate city of wealth and grandeur. It was by far the finest and strongest city in the land, 200 acres in area and walled. The later city is much inferior, and this is the one that corresponds with the time when the Israelites are supposed to have arrived. The difference in quality of the city in the different times is much more compatible with a decline than with a conquest, though ending with a coup de grace.

For biblicists, the decline is proof that the invaders were ignorant and uncultured slaves from Egypt—the Israelites—that had wandered the deserts of the Sinai for a generation greatly improving their ignorance. Yet the transition to the Iron Age seems to have been generally accompanied by a cultural decline. The cause seems to have been climatic—drought. An incoming alien population would leave archaeological evidence in the shape of changed pots and other artifacts. The technological changes that have been noted seem associated with the drought, and attempts by people to live in arid and unfavourable conditions. Then the drought slowly began to ease.

More Archaeological Evidence

Regarding the so-called settlement period, from about 1980, Adam Zertal conducted a fieldwalking survey of the hills of Samaria which shows a jump in settlements from 39 in 1200—mostly based on springs or streams—to 220 in about 1000 BC. As they were in the hills, these sites were more difficult to farm than those in the valleys. Zertal concludes it is evidence of a new people coming in from outside and being obliged to farm the only land available, that on the arid hillsides. Zertal is reported as having said:

Archaeology without the bible is archaeology without a soul.
Adam Zertal


It puts him firmly in the camp of biblicists, archaeologists who cannot be objective because they already believe the bible before they look at the ground. Biblicists typically find small sites close to each other and date them as being at the Bronze Age transition with the Iron Age. According to the bible, that is when the Israelites entered the Promised Land. So, these excavated sites are called Israelite! They will find other sites then, and announce that they have found sites that show there were waves of invaders. Why they could not be people from the local valleys or city states, forced by population pressure, political disagreements or simply an ameliorating climate, to settle marginal land is not clear. Had the sites been found with no mythology to label them, few archaeologists would disagree that they would have all been described as Canaanite.

Even the bible admits there were large tracts of land to the east of the Jordan that some of the tribes were unwilling to leave on the offchance of finding something better to the west of the river. Moses had to get them to agree to help in the conquest, or peaceful settlement of the west according to which bit of the bible you believe, even though they were happy where they were, with no need to conquer or settle anywhere else. Having found the land to the west of the river to be largely marginal, it is a wonder they did not return to the east. The more likely interpretation is that the settlers were in the west already, but in the valleys.

Zertal admits that the settlers in the west, wherever they came from would have depended for water, if nothing else, on the Canaanites in the valleys or living near springs. They would have stored it in jars such as the collared rim jars often used falsely to characterize the Israelites. Few plastered cisterns had been cut at that stage, probably because only iron tools made them practicable, and as yet were not common.

Israel Finkelstein argued that populations in marginal areas are cyclic. Economic collapse is never far off, and when it happens, the population drops quite suddenly. Finkelstein points to similar cycles in the third and second millennia, before the one at the start of the Iron Age. Marginal land was settled, the population rose and a social administrative class with it. The system proves unsustainable, a collapse occurs and the population meets the crisis by dispersing. Thereafter the land can only support seasonal nomads moving their flocks about with the rains. Then the climate or the fertility of the land recovers enough to encourage incomers to try planting vines and olives, and the cycle begins again.

In 1000 BC, Israel was quite populated, but Judah was relatively sparsely populated. The northern country was better farmland, more fertile and less arid. Judah remained marginal, abutting the desert as it did. The surveys of A Zertal and I Finkelstein revealed some 70 settlements in the north in the LBA, but only eight in Judah at the same time. In the western foothills of the Shephelah, settlement actually declined about 1000 BC, the reasons being unknown, but might be to do with the decline of Egypt.

Zertal says the eastern Samarian slopes were settled first because the incomers were arriving from the east, by crossing the Jordan. It ignores other possibilities—the eastern slopes being less marginal and therefore easier to farm. Culturally, the settlers between 1200 and 1000 seemed to have been Canaanites rather than a new people with different habits and methods. The Jewish feasts of Tabernacles, Unleavened Bread and Weeks, or Succoth, Passover and Shavuoth, were annual agricultural festivals of the Canaanities. Biblical sacrificial words are identifiable with Canaanite ones. The Canaanite High God was El, and the Jews identified him with Yehouah, El becoming the word translated as “God”.

Whatever faint archaeological signs the biblicists hopefully think they have found of cultural differences between the settler and the valley populations seem more likely to have been caused by poverty or adaptation to the poorer conditions. The data overall do not support the hypothesis of migration, so what is the point of trying to establish it from dubious interpretations of the settlement patterns. Even at the best of times, life in thse sparse hills was never anything other than marginal. The range of pots in use is limited and luxuries are absent. These facts are true of each of the three millennial cycles. The people in the hills always struggled to exist.

Zertal found a pile of stones to the northeast of Mount Ebal that he began excavating, and decided, in 1985, was the altar built by Joshua (Josh 8:30ff) at the instigation of Moses (Deut 27:2ff). The archaeologist thought it had been deliberately covered up within a century of it being founded. Fills of the ash of sacrificial animals, jugs, bowls, jewellery, and even the odd scarab of Thutmose and Rameses II, and a seal were found. The dating evidence seems to center on 1200 BC.

The site is above the cultic city of Shechem and remote from it, and the pottery is distinct from that found in the city, poorer and simpler. Even so, the cultic practices seemed not to differ much from those deduced at Shechem. The practice of putting pottery vessels around a ritual structure, and the sacrifice of goats, sheep and cattle, but not pigs, were common to both sites. The scarabs too seem to have been Canaanite copies of popular Egyptian originals. Thus the Thutmose scarab was not form the reign of that king but one that remained popular for long afterwards, presumably as a charm. Shechem can be seen in the valley from Ebal, but not from this cult center, if that is what it was, because it is too far to the north. Nor can Mount Gerizim be seen from the site. It therefore is not convincingly situated to be the site described in the Jewish scriptures, although it was made of unhewn stone all right.

Skeletal remains in Palestine are not common, but there is no evidence from what there is of the arrival of any new people. The types found in the north (Megiddo), typical of the Canaanite population, are brachycephalic (broad headed) whereas in the south (Lachish), they are more of an Egyptian type right back into the Bronze Age.

Israel Finkelstein, a thorough archaeologist but unable to discard biblical influence, nevertheless sees Joshua as depicting settlement at the end of monarchy rather than in 1200 BC, but he thinks 1 Samuel is a historical work and no one would dispute it! He finds a sacred site at Shiloh with a supposed terraced sanctuary that William Dever, often an apologist, finds is “wishful thinking”. Finkelstein is not seeing what is in the ground but the sanctuary described in 1 Samuel. Regarding the territory of Benjamin, Finkelstein says:

The Hivites settled in the west and the Israelites in the east… we are unable to single out differences in material culture between the two ethnic identities living in the territory of Benjamin at the beginning of Iron I.


So, there is nothing in the archaeological data to show two cultures in the Judaean hills, and Finkelstein shows unusual care in his analysis, yet he still says they are there.

Galilee is not part of Israel or Judah so are the people there Israelites? Galilaean villages are not characterized by collared rim pottery, once used as a marker of the Israelites. Finkelstein calls them Israelites anyway, for the sake of argument, so to speak, because he admits the term was not justified until the time of the monarchy. Before then they should just be called the people of the hill country of Palestine—but these people were Canaanites.

Z Gal surveyed sites in Galilee in the Iron Age and found none. Since the tribe of Issachar, according to the biblical tale, should have been settling there, he was bemused. The Israelites, he concluded, could not have settled the valleys because they must have settled the hills first. But the valleys were settled! Who were they? Their culture was continuous with the Bronze Age, so these were established towns, not new settlements. They were the native people of Palestine, the Canaanites.

The embarrassment was that these people used collared rim pottery! Thus Gal takes the absence of collared rim ware at Affuleh as sure proof that the site was Canaanite. If the tribe of Issachar were not settling here, where were they? The bible cannot be utterly wrong so Gal deduces that it was a bit wrong—they must have settled with the tribe of Manasseh in Samaria. The region was then called Issachar because the tribe of Issachar should have been there—but the were not in reality. Tortuous or not?

The archaeological facts are that there were no settlements in the hills of Galilee and the villages in the valleys had been there since the Bronze Age. They must have been native Canaanites. Some of these people liked collared rim pottery and others did not, but there is no evidence in the ground of invasion or re-settlement by strangers.

At Giloh, an ancient village, now virtually a suburb of Jerusalem and Palestinian, A Mazar detected “the only site in the northern part of Judah that can be related with much certainty to the earliest Israelite settlers”. Among the ways of identifying the village as Israelite is the prevalence of four roomed houses, a plan “common in Israelite sites in Iron Age I”. Yet elsewhere Mazar accepts that this type of house is “widely distributed in all parts of Palestine”, including “non-Israelite parts of the country”. It is hard to believe that Mazar is really so confused, so his peculiar logic must be meant for biblicists who merely want affirmation despite the logic.

Pottery is, once more, continuous into the Bronze Age, and collared rim ware is found on sites acknowledged not to be Israelite, added to which no collared rim ware is found where the Israelites had migrated from in the Negev. Yet Mazar still confidently concludes that Giloh was an Israelite village. Elsewhere he gets even more confident, telling us the four roomed house is typical of the “period of the Judges” and the identification of the people as Israelites is “natural”. Four roomed houses were found in the Transjordan. Collared rim jars were found before the Israelites were supposed to have arrived in the Hill Country in the thirteenth century. They are also found in places that were never Israelite. Biblicists like Mazar are desperate, but look ridiculous.

Describing another Iron Age site in the Palestinian hill country, Mazar declares a twelfth century Canaanite figurine in bronze as Israelite, explaining it as because the Israelites had copied the manufactuing skills of the Canaanites, or had bought the figurine from them. In the second case the figurine remains Canaanite in manufacture, and the first is so unlikely given that experienced Canaanite metal workers were around, it can be rejected. Mazar makes no bones about the ultimate basis of his identifications:

Defining a distinctly material culture is a difficult venture. Our departure point should be sites which according to biblical traditions are Israelite during the period of Judges, such as Shiloh, Mizpah, Dan and Beersheba. Settlements with similar material culture in the same region can be defined as Israelite.


The absence of pig remains is often considered a characteristic of the Israelites, but the animal sacrifices at Megiddo analysed by Paula Wapnish match the general culture of sacrificial practice. Wapnish and B Hesse of Alabama University studied the distribution of the remains of pigs in the ancient near east. Pigs were not eaten or sacrificed in whole swaths of the ancient near East, and not just in the lands associated with the Israelites. The practices of the Israelites at Megiddo were no different. The consumption of pork actually declined from prehistoric times up until the Iron Age. A reason seems to be practical rather than cultish—the need of pigs for water, making them unsuitable for nomads in marginal areas. They needed a settled farming environment with adequate water supplies, but when the conditions applied, pigs seemed to have been the food of poor labourers in urban areas of Mesopotamia, not the well off, whether urban or rural.

Hesse and Wapnish found that pig remains were found in some of the Philistine cities, mainly those established in the first century or so of their arrival, but thereafter the Philistines acculturated to the habits of their neighbours, and acquired the aversion to pig. By the time that Nebuchadrezzer attacked Askalon, in 604 BC, the Philistines no longer ate pig. The Greeks had no such aversion to pork, and devout Jews in Hellenistic times took the consumption of pork to be a key distinction between Jew and Greek, and would not eat it even under threat or torture. Such taboos were written into the bible as ways of keeping the cult separate from the world.

The Apologetics of Joel F Drinkard, Jr

Despite all the evidence of continuity of culture, Joel F Drinkard, Jr and his “scholarly” breed cannot let go of a conquest, even if it is watered down to nothing. It is the homeopathic, or should that be “homeopathetic”, view of biblical history. Water biblical history down enough and it will survive! Nevertheless he has to try to find something more substantial.

Literary studies have indicated that the final compilation of the Deuteronomistic History can be no earlier than the mid-sixth century BC, the latest date mentioned in 2 Kings. People like Drinkard speak of circumstances that pertained in what they call “the period of Judges” as being evidence that the stories were genuinely old. For example, Judges mentions Philistines being in the land alongside the Canaanites and Hebrews, and Drinkard adds:

No scholars have doubts about that—in terms of its facticity for the period of the Judges.


But no scholars have any doubt that Philistines were still called Philistines and lived in the same place in the mid-sixth century. Who is Drinkard hoping to fool? Not the scholars presumably, so it must be the ordinary gullible religious punters!

Archaeology has shown that this very time, when the Israelites were supposed to be conquering was the same time as the Philistines were first entering the land from the north. Yet nothing in the bible suggests they were new to the area. The opposite is implied because right from the time of the exodus itself, the all powerful Israelite God makes sure they take a risky detour through the desert to avoid Philistines who are evidently already settled on the coastal plain. Albright thinks this is about 1290 BC. What is certain is that there were no Philistines around in time for the earlier date of the exodus that some Jews and Christians still prefer, proving again that evidence is immaterial to their beliefs. Drinkard goes on in similar vein but adding nothing to his basic trickery.

Jericho and Ai especially present problems for interpretation. But the same is true of many other ancient historians… Every history has its own bias or perspective or presuppositions.


Indeed it does, but good history tries to allow for it, whereas biblical “history” is blatantly and unashamedly biased. These religious scholars have no intention of bowing to God’s will when it is the revelation of a historical or archaeological truth, to correct the errors of ancient historians. They already know what is true! Drinkard says that:

The biblical tradition of a systematic, all-encompassing military conquest is, no doubt, much overdrawn, and there are some contradictory elements even in the conquest tradition as we have it in the Bible. But I do not believe that Israel moved into the land without any conflict.


Archaeological surveys have shown a dramatic increase in small villages settled in the highlands of the hill country suggesting, says Drinkard, an influx of new population. He thinks “we are certainly justified in seeing the Hebrews among this new population”. Again, he simply ignores the archaeology that shows there was no outside influx because nothing in the culture suggests any new practices such as a new people might have brought in. Drinkard observes upon the characteristic pottery of the Philistines which identifies them, but the supposed characteristic Israelite pottery proves to have been used by Canaanite people too, implying that the Israelites were Canaanites on this criterion.

Drinkard thinks that some evidence of Egyptian influence in the bible proves “the Hebrews surely did come out of an Egyptian setting”. He sees the Egyptian root Moses, “born of”, present in some Pharaonic names like Thutmose and Rameses—born of Thoth, and born of Ra. Moses was obviously “born of” nothing at all. Other Egyptian names appear in Levitical and Aaronite genealogies. Phinehas is Pi-nehase, meaning the Nubian. Yet, Canaan was an Egyptian colony for centuries. That is sufficient an answer, but in addition, the Egyptian kings called Ptolemies supported the temple for almost 100 of its formative years, and translated the scriptures into Greek in the third century BC. Many Egyptian links could have been added at this time to flatter the Egyptian sponsors of the temple. Incidentally, if Phinehas was a Nubian, how could he have been an Israelite?

Drinkard thinks that because the bible mentions two Egyptian cities, Pi-Ramese, or Pr-Ramese, “House of Rameses” and Pi-‘Atum, or Pr-‘Atum, “House of Atum” the exodus is proved. Rameses II was the last of the great Pharaohs, lived a very long life, and left a strong memory behind him. It is not surprising that these towns should be remembered, and used as period detail. They are not proof of the exodus, certainly not one that Drinkard claims happened in the reign of Pharaoh Amenhotep, 200 years before Rameses started to build his cities.

Hazor, Lachish, Debir, Tell Beit Mirsim, and Bethel (Beitin) were all destroyed during this time—allowing a half century or more for the destructions, from about 1230 BC to about 1175 BC. Drinkard argues, “Egypt was trying to reassert some influence over Canaan at this time, and certainly the Philistines were present. But why should we discount the one record which attributes the destruction to a particular group, the Hebrews?” The answer is that the bible is late—a thousand years after these events, so is likely to have mythologized or romanticized, especially as there is no other basis for believing what it says—but we know for certain there were warlike Egyptians, Philistines, Hittites as well as local warlords, any of whom could have cause destruction, and were more likely to have. Rameses II fought the Hittites at Qadesh in 1274 BC. Nearby cities could have been destroyed in the campaigning. Drinkard determines to prove he is no scholar: “I would argue that we should attribute to the Hebrews the destructions specified by the Old Testament if there is no conflicting evidence”. It simply is not scholarly!

The Merneptah (1212-1202 BC) funerary stele reports the people of Israel as being in the land of Canaan c 1200 BC. If the exodus was around 1290 BC and a conquest occurred around 1250-1200 BC then, to get here, the Israelites defied the strongest of all recent Pharaohs, and one who had large armies in the area to fight a much stronger enemy, the Hittites. Drinkard wants the stele to imply that Israel was a significant nation, but several other places mentioned were not. Merneptah, a weaker pharaoh than Rameses, describes on the stele how he made mincemeat of an attack of the Philistines, described as the Sea People, on the Delta, killing 6000 of them. He also staged a campaign into Canaan in the third year of his reign, and says he destroyed all the males of a people called “Israel” who lived in the land of Hurru at this time. If this is to be linked to the bible somehow, why not as the occasion when the pharaoh’s armies were swamped by the Israelite God. Both sides portrayed the battle as a victory, and the Israelites mythologized theirs. All that can be said confidently is that Israel were recognized by the Egyptians whom they say they defeated as a Canaanite people.

Desolation is for Tehennu; Hatti is pacified;
Plundered is the Canaan with every evil;
Carried off is Ashkelon; seized upon is Gezer;
Yanoam is made as that which does not exist;
Israel is laid waste, his seed is not;
Hurru is become a widow for Egypt!
All lands together, they are pacified;
Everyone who was restless, he has been bound
by the king of Upper and Lower Egypt…


Joel F Drinkard Jr tries to hedge his bets in every direction by claiming that the Israelites had multiple origins in the thirteenth century, but “probably” some did come out of an Egyptian setting as Exodus-Joshua states. Others were Canaanites who allied themselves with the Hebrews as indicated in Joshua 2, 9. Some settled peaceably in areas previously unoccupied—thus the great increase in small villages in Iron I through much of the land. Some fought “at times” with the Canaanites. Destructions at Hazor, Bethel and Lachish “may” have been at the hand of the Hebrews. By the time of the Merneptah stele “an entity known as Israel” was in the land. None of it sounds convincing and the list of biblical miracles does not add to our conviction.

Mazar makes the truth plain. Nothing in the archaeology of these sites shows any sign of the arrival of a new people. Quite the opposite—repeatedly the signs are of continuity. Only by an appeal to the bible can any site be declared as Israelite. Israelite has no archaeological meaning. Finkelstein cannot see how an Israelite at Giloh would distinguish himself from a Canaanite, but cautiously concludes they did, an attempt to disarm the critic by seeming to make a difficult but measured judgement. In fact, if there were any Israelites in the twelfth century, and they were indistinguishable from Canaanites, they were Canaanites. The BBC Bible Mysteries documentary (Joshua and the Battle of Jericho, Sunday 15 February, 2004, BBC 2) seems conclusive—DNA tests show Canaanites and Israelites “were not just similar in their cultures, they were genetically identical”.


The traditional editors seen in the Pentateuch and coded as JEDP are not so clearly seen in Joshua. The elements of D seem strongest and are considered earlier, and P can be distinguished as the last of the main editors, but J and E, thought to have been the earliest layers of tradition in Genesis are less certain.

Few disagree that in the first twelve chapters of Joshua that give the traditional conquest by a military leader, there seems to be two strands of tradition, but W Rudolf sees the main hand as J whereas R E Wolff saw no J. Noth can see a southern tradition and one from further north.

The chapters from 13 to 19 are scarcely dramatic unlike the first 12, being allocations of named districts, written by the Priestly editor, the priests being the great hierarchists, organizers and listers, and imply the separation of the Samaritans as a schismatic sect. The same author or one with the same pedantic outlook wrote Judges 1. R H Pfeiffer recognizes these chapters as good descriptions of Palestine under the Persians in the fifth century, and the topographical work of Alt, Elliger, Noth and even Albright confirm Pfeiffer’s conclusion.

The address by Joshua in chapter 23 is by D and is probably the core of the book about which the rest has been written, and chapter 24 until the end few verses seems sure to be. The summarized history of Joshua 24 is an expanded version of Deuteronomy 26:5-9 but also written by the Deuteronomic school about the same time as the original.

Many of the people in the early scriptural books are symbolic of different groups of “returners” of different origins allegiances and purposes. It seems they vied with each other about how the edicts of the Persian kings should be understood, and their disagreements sometimes held up implementation. Kinship descriptions and genealogies should be read as how these groups interrelated in practice, not by blood. Marriages were mergers or alliances (Gen 38; Num 26:19-22), father and sonship are power relationships and brotherhood denotes equality of status (Josh 17:1; Num 26:29).

Joshua was originally called Saviour (Hosea) 700 years before Cyrus the Persian declared himself to be the Saviour of the Jews and made names like this popular. Later, Hosea was called Joshua, meaning “Yehouah is Saviour”, illustrating that at some stage the god, Yehouah, began to take any credit going. None of the events of Joshua really happened 700 years before Cyrus, but not long after Cyrus passed on his mantle of saviour to other Persian kings, when the Jewish scriptures were originally composed.

In fact, the campaign of Joshua is simply the work of a salvation army not an army. Joshua of the conquest is most likely an allegorical depiction of the priest, Joshua, who “returned” with Zerubabel. His conquest of Canaan was the initial work done by the returners to convert the Canaanites from their Baals to the Persian God of Heaven. The victorious battles in Joshua are allegorical victories—the winning over of groups of Canaanites to the imported new religion. Districts or cities that fell or were conquered had really yielded to the new god. Among them we read barely disguised accounts of conversions (Josh 2:1-14;6:22-25;9;24; Judges 1:22-26}. The whole was dressed up to seem like the actual military campaigns of Sennacherib and Nebuchadnezzer, accessible to Persian adminstrators through the archives of the conquered empires of Mesopotamia.

The spies, sent to look over the land, lodge with a harlot in Jericho called Rahab. She was probably not a prostitute because harlot was the standard insult used for the believers in gods other than Yehouah. It will have meant merely that she was a worshipper of a Baal. This Baal might have been the god Rehab or Rechab, the god whose name is perpetuated in the name of a king of Yaudi, Barrekab, Son of Rekab. Rehab means breadth or implies width. He is a Canaanite Sea God, represented as a sea monster, also called Leviathan. The sect of Rechabites will originally have been the worshippers of this sea god, but they seem to have converted easily and early and become or joined the priesthood of Jerusalem, who were then called Levites. In the myth of their origins they are depicted as being the original Nazirites, those especially consecrated to God and bound to refuse the fruit of the grape and not to cut their hair.

Both “Rechab” and “Leviathan” were names also used by the Jews to mean Egypt, presumably because Egypt was seen as a monster. The woman might therefore have been called Rahab for religious or for ethnic reasons. The reason why the Persians undertook to restore Jerusalem as a walled city seems to have been because of Egyptian intransigence and perpetual rebellion. Egyptians were therefore particularly disliked, and this will have been the origin of the idea of an exodus from Egyptian oppression.

Joshua, the son of Nun, is the son of the “Redemption of Posterity”. What was Joshua redeeming if he was truly a warlord of the twelfth century? Redeeming is “buying back”. The “returning exiles” were presented as redeeming their old country but the Israelites were being given a new country by God in the Moses and Joshua sagas. Thus the patronym of Joshua is a better title for a fifth century Joshua supposedly “returning” than a twelfth century Joshua “conquering”.

Joshua is shown in Joshua 24 as gathering all the heads of the still separate tribes together at Shechem, the shrine of the House of Joseph, and persuading them to follow one god, Yehouah, the god of Israel. K Mohlenbrink thinks Shechem was substituted for Shiloh from an early date. In Judges, Shiloh seems more important and Shechem is depicted as destroyed. Joshua was inviting the different people to join a tribal league (amphictyony) under the protection of this one god. Moses therefore had not already done it as Exodus pretends, and we might have here a fossil of the truth. Joseph, the “returning” priest drew the elders together and imposed the god Yehouah instead of the god El. The leaders of the tribes were called princes (nesiim).

The centre of the cult was the Ark of the Covenant, a mobile shrine, because it had to be taken to each of the tribal shrines for worship. Before long the myth of Moses and the Exodus justified the peripatetic temple, and gave historical credence to the adoption of Yehouah as the national god. When the temple was built and dedicated a few decades later, the Levites were given the status of the local Magi. When Alexander defeated the Persians, the tribes, which had never really existed except as Persian tithing districts, had no further purpose and disappeared. Only the Levites were preserved as temple functionaries.

The early part at least of Joshua was added or re-written when the Yehouah faction succeeded over the El faction, and Judah became the accepted name of the country. The tribes of Reuben, Simeon and Levi begin as senior groups in the coalition but later disappear, Levi becoming the official priesthood. The others must have been groups of “returners” who made no impression.

Consolidation of Political Power

It is idiotic of clergymen to pretend Joshua pertains to some period around 1200 BC when all the evidence denies this, and few scholars will not place it hundreds of years later. Most take it to be part of the “Deuteronomic History” which relates to the hypothesis that the missing manuscript found in the reign of Joshiah was Deuteronomy, and, in Joshua and the Rhetoric of Violence, Lori L Rowlett takes Joshua also to be written in the Assyrian period. Whoever wrote the part of the history referring to Josiah meant the document to be Deuteronomy, but the story is a myth to persuade the people that the new law of Ezra was simply an old law that had not been properly applied. Rowlett observes that nearly all scholars admit that post-exilic editions have been made, displaying a reluctance on their part to recognize that the work itself is purely post-exilic.

Rowlett says that the authors of Joshua used “the rhetoric of warfare and nationalism as an encouragement and a threat” to intimidate the people into submission to the government. The concern in Joshua for national unity implies a lack of it. An aim of the text was to encourage it. Despite her mistakenly dating Joshua two centuries early, Rowlett correctly sees its purpose as the “consolidation of political power”, as seeking to assert a socio-political order amidst chaos. In fact, the chaos was the colonization of the hill country and the imposition of a new god by the Persians, hated and opposed by the native Canaanites. “The threat inherent in the Joshua text functions as an instrument of coercion, or at least, encouragement to submission” to a central government whose authority was not secure. The aim is to suggest a sense of identity, based on a common opposition to surrounding enemies, that would unite the factions. The Canaanites are the outsiders but they are also, of course, among the subjects of the propaganda. The aim was to persuade them to accept the new religion and principles. The Canaanites who were thus persuaded and joined with the colonists in the new belief were set up in opposition to the Canaanites who preferred their original religion. Those who refused to accept the changes being made were deemed the enemy, the outsiders.

At the same time, those who submitted and became loyal were depicted as united and purposeful under the leadership of Joshua (“Yehouah Saves”) acting as the earthly agent of the god. This was the common concept of the time, and still is, to all intents and purposes, today. The US will not invade another country without at least making a pretence of calling upon God’s help. In those days, it was more immediate, but there is no basis for Rowlett to claim that the relationship of Joshua and Yehouah is evidence of the Assyrian period, and no other. It was true also of the Persian period when the Shahanshahs were certain they had been chosen to rule on earth by God.


Josiah is another version of Joshua as many prominent scholars, like F M Cross and R D Nelson, have noted. Both are the Persian “Salvation of God” retrojected into the past, one to explain historically the divine right to the land and the other to justify historically the divinely given law. In the first, Joshua succeeds Moses (Mazda) and the vassal treaty formulation in which a subjected people pledge allegiance to the suzerain is invoked, as it was in Deuteronomy, the law. In Joshua 8:30-35, Joshua is depicted as the king, but the real king of the temple state was God, so Joshua is simply a title of God, and the story is an allegory of God’s salvific action. In 2 Kings 23:1-3, the same covenant mediation occurs, but Joshua is Josiah, and in 2 Kings 11:17, a similar event is led by the priest, Jehoiada, on behalf of the underage Joash, another Joshua. Jehoiada means exactly the same as Ahuramazda—Wise Lord!

In Joshua 8:34, a reading is made from a divine book! Runaway slaves with a book in 1200 BC! The book meant Ezra’s law—the law of the Medes and the Persians. The divine book was the legal agreement being imposed by the Persians on Yehud—Deuteronomy! It was a covenant, literally a contract with the Persian king who stood for God. Josiah is depicted as a political Joshua. He is shown mainly as uniting the people politically and religiously, not militarily, under “one god, one cult, one law, one ruling house and one subject people”. There was no basis for this in Assyrian times. Though the Assyrians had their national god, Assur, they made no pretence, as the Zoroastrians did, of monotheism. If the mythology of the bible is accepted, Josiah instituted Persian policies 200 years before the Persians. The biblical Josiah is an invention of the Deuteronomistic Historian.

The Deuteronomistic History school of writers aimed to show that God controlled history, so that the disobedience and apostasy of the people would be rightly punished by God pulling the appropriate historical strings. The history was meant to show that He had done it many times before in the past and would do it again, if the people refused to conform to the law written down in the covenant.

God was recognizably at work in this history, continuously meeting moral decline with warnings and punishments, and, finally, when they proved fruitless, with total annihilation.
Martin Noth


Christian evangelists today seem to think this is their own tolerant and loving God. Of course, there had been no total annihilation, but since the colonists “returned” from elsewhere in the Persian empire had no previous history, being an utterly disparate group dependent on the Persians for everything including their previous history, the authors could maintain the myth of total annihilation, of which the “returners”—the colonists—were the uncomprehending “remnant”. They will have realized—or some will have—that they were not a remnant at all, but accepted that they had been put in charge of Yehud as its ruling elite under Persian protection, so it was in their interest to maintain the pretence. They had every reason to promote the myth provided for them, that they were the righteous remnant spared by God, while the incorrigible natives were mainly wicked and perpetually disobeyed God.

Deuteronomic Law

Noth had no understanding of the meaning of the covenant, which he took to have its conventional biblical meaning—the rules handed down by God to govern the relations between Him and His people. Once the covenant is seen as a vassalage treaty, the only question is, “Under which suzerain?” The treaty form was general in the Near East from the second millennium and was used by Hittites, Egyptians, Assyrians and Persians, but the Persians fit best in this instance.

The Deuteronomistic History retrojected the fifth century colonisation of Yehud into the remote past to show that, even before the Jews had settled in Yehud, they had had a commitment to their god, Yehouah, and His law. In Deuteronomy 9:9-11, the covenant is identified as equal to the law, but the authors are concerned above all with the loyalty of the people to God, and the dangers of apostasy. Plainly their theory was that a commitment of the people to the new god was essential to their acceptance of the rest of the law, and emphasis on particular parts of the law was pointless to people who were not loyal to the god who was its ultimate author. A second concern, though, is the centralization of worship in Jerusalem (Josh 8:30ff; Dt 27:4-8). Since earlier colonists and the native people had worshipped at several shrines, it suggests the Deuteronomistic Historian was writing originally late in the fifth century, or in the fourth, after Jerusalem had been rebuilt as the capital of the temple state.

So, for the Deuteronomistic History, the law is the Deuteronomic law. It shows this was the law when the Deuteronomistic History was written, and all the sacerdotal aspects of it were post-Persian additions. So, “the law” in Joshua has few legal implications but mainly the moral requirement to be loyal to one god in one sanctuary. Moses as a “historical” figure who wrote down God’s laws had not yet been invented and existed only as a misunderstanding of the meaning of Ahuramazda.

Joshua 22:10-34 strongly condemns building sanctuaries that might divide the cult. When the Deuteronomistic Historian invents the mythical kings of ancient Israel, it is their responsibility to ensure observance of the law. The only king the Jews had at the time was the Persian kling, so the mythical history established the king’s right to apply God’s law. Effectively he has “the monopoly on religious power” with the priesthood subordinate. And since the king was appointed by God as His regent, the king had God’s own approval to ruthlessly suppress opposition, competitors and insurrection. This was exactly how the Persians saw themselves as kings. They did not claim divinity, like Roman emperors, but had divine rights conferred on them by God. The very fact that they held the office of king proved it. It was God’s will and they had God’s sanction to do anything to uphold God’s will.

Yet the Deuteronomistic History makes no bones about the monarchy as a local phenomenon not being God’s prime wish, but only a concession to the desires of His people. The Deuteronomic History shows that the kings were fallible, often going astray and leading the people astray. Only a few were upstanding and even they were characterized with blemishes. Among them is Josiah, though Noth realizes that Deuteronomy was not really written then. He makes it a sixth century work—still a century or more early. Josiah is the Persian Salvation retrogressed by 200 years. Apostasy from its high standards led immediately to the Babylonian conquest. It was a direct warning that if they did not remain loyal to the actual Persian Salvation, they would suffer similarly.

The myth of the good king Josiah was to show how the law could be obeyed when it was approached seriously. It was a mythical historical precedent for Persian rule. Josiah was ideal with respect to religious exclusivity, the aspect of the law that best served the Persian consolidation of power. Otherwise the History showed that local monarchs mainly led to trouble, and essentially the history proposes that the people were better off being obedient to God and His Saviour king, the Persian Shahanshah, who would allow the people to be ruled directly by God providing they served the temple loyally. The purpose of the temple was to collect taxes.

Is a law given by God through a prophet, God’s law or the prophet’s law? The law God gave through Moses is called the law of Moses. The obvious explanation is that Moses was once considered as God. God’s law began by being called the law of Moses when Moses was the name of God. Later, when people thought God had another name, and was no longer Moses, they decided that Moses was the prophet whom God had used to send his law. He was a prophet who was intimate with God, but he was not God. The new name for God was Yehouah. In the story of the Conquest written in Joshua, although Yehouah is prominent, Joshua is following the orders of Moses. Joshua is literally God’s Saviour who follows the instructions of his God, Moses, just as the Shoshyant is the Persian Saviour who follows his God Ahuramazda. Yehouah ordering both Moses and Joshua looks like an additional layer of authority added later.

The Deuteronomistic Historian draws parallels between Joshua and Moses. Moses is how the word Mazda sounded to the uncomprehending audience of Ezra. So Moses is God (Ahuramazda) mortalized as His messenger on earth. Joshua is the same. He is God’s Saviour (or Saoshyant in Persian religion) , and so also a mortal regent of God on earth. Since Moses and Joshua finish up with the same role as Yehouah’s agent, they have marked parallels that do not pass the Deuteronomistic Historian by. Unsurprisingly, F M Cross and R D Nelson see Joshua as Josiah, and R E Friedmann sees Moses as Josiah. A multiplicity of scholars note many parallels between Jesus and both Moses and Joshua. All are the same mythical figure, the Persian Saoshyant, transformed into Judaism.

The scholar to bring the post-exilic authorship of the Deuteronomistic History to attention was J H van Seters. Van Seters was criticized for not explaining the pre-exilic themes in the Deuteronomic History. One wonders how anyone can know what a pre-exilic theme is except through the Deuteronomic History. These critics cannot seem to understand that what they know of pre-exilic Israel comes from the bible itself. The pre-exilic themes are what the Deuteronomistic History tells us they are, and they are Persian propaganda. Many, perhaps most, of these biblical scholars cannot step out of their preconceptions, and those who can cannot find academic employment. Though the whole of the history in the Jewish bible was written in and after the Persian period as propaganda, they can fool themselves that they can nevertheless discern a history besides this.

Manasseh is blamed for God’s punishment of defeat and exile by Nebuchadrezzar, yet Josiah had appeared between Manasseh and the defeat, apparently righting Manasseh’s wrongs. Scholars are puzzled by this and suggest that blaming Manasseh was added on, but its was probably the insertion of Josiah that upset the original plan. The Deuteronomic authors decided that the new law would be more acceptable if it were seen as an old law, newly discovered shortly before the Babylonian conquest. They therefore slotted in Josiah and his Deuteronomic reforms. Josiah’s reign becomes the culmination of Israelite history, as is becoming for any Saoshyant, but the Saviour was the Persian king not Josiah.

A whole school of critics following F M Cross and R D Nelson, on the basis of style and references to the promise to David, consider the Deuteronomic history to have been edited twice, the original that of Josiah’s time and then during the exile. The perception of two redactions can be understood, but it is hard to understand how they know when they were done, other than wishful thinking. If the Persians devised the first edition, it was most probably the Maccabees who made a major alteration in the second century BC to justify their new independent state of Judaea, and give it a glorious but spurious ancient history.

S McKenzie cannot understand why a book written to magnify Josiah should begin with Deuteronomy, Joshua and Judges. Why, indeed? But that the books were written by and after the time of Ezra under the Persians, who needed to impose a new law on an unwilling people, and persuade them to accept it, accounts for the whole arrangement. The conditions throughout the whole of the Deuteronomic history remain the same—they are the conditions that the Persian colonists met when the temple state was being set up. The people were worshipping the Baals, the righteous were trying to reform them, the native people’s religious rituals and traditions were being forcibly abandoned, local sanctuaries were being closed and their administrators and provincial priests were unemployed.

The opponents of Josiah’s reforms were the traditional enemies of the Persians in the region, the Egyptians. The purpose of the history was to counter this opposition by showing that the law, the centralization of worship in Jerusalem, and loyalty to the god, Yehouah, had a long history behind it, and history expressed God’s will. It is incredible that a well established and ancient law had been forgotten until it was rediscovered as Deuteronomy. Much more credible is that Deuteronomy was the law! What was the incentive and purpose of inventing such a law in the time of Josiah? There is none. The only credible hypothesis to explain the mysterious appearance of such a law was as a vassalage treaty by the Persians.

Sin in the Deuteronomic History is apostasy and disobedience to God. It has nothing to do with crime or disobedience to law in general. The promise to David is an empty promise aimed at getting enthusiastic support for the reforms. The reluctance of God to concede a monarch is the reluctance of the Persians. The promise is conditional on loyalty and the obedience of the people to God, and is plainly meant to impress upon people that the only way they will get political independence is through obedience. The Persians can have had no intention of ever allowing independence to Yehud, and the promise to David is purely propaganda. When the independent state was achieved by the Maccabees, they showed themselves as the realisation of the promise.

The sins of kings like Jeroboam and Manasseh were serious affairs because they were God’s regents, allowed reluctantly by God in response to the popular demand, and their crimes of leading astray the people had to be viewed seriously. The aim was essentially to predispose the paople against local monarchs. The fact that a king like Josiah was shown in a good light was meant to emphasize the overall pessimism about monarchy. No occasional good kings could make up for the generality of sinful ones, and so Josiah could not, in the end, save the people from God’s anger. The way to avoid it was to reject native kings all together and accept God’s will. The Jewish king could only be the king of kings—the Persian king!

The amusing thing about biblicists is that they accept everything in the biblical mythology and try to explain it from the evidence in the myth itself. Why should a minor king of a tiny kingdom about as big as Devon be concerned about centralisation. Why should such drastic measures suddenly be necessary, disrupting the kingdom, tiny as it is? Utterly divorced from history, the biblicists can pretend that Israel is large like the USA, or even like the UK. They can speak of “outlying areas” “far from Jerusalem”, when almost nothing was more than a day or two’s walk from the capital. They will not seek historical explanations but only rationalizations within the mythology itself.

The real point is to figure out when the new religion was imposed, why, by whom, and why and how it was written back into history. The Persian explanation, with subsequent development under Greeks and Maccabees, is a complete explanation, unlike the hodge-podge of explaining-away biblicists indulge in. Naturally much has been lost and not all the details can be known, but the explanation puts the bible properly into history. What biblicists hate is that it shows that most of the wonderful Old Testament sagas were propaganda.

A Mouse that Roared?

People like R D Nelson can talk of “the literary and intellectual life” of Judah in about 620 BC. It is hard to see that such a tiny and poor country had any literary and intellectual life, but if it had any, it must have been too small to matter. He talks about Judah expanding under Josiah to fill the vacuum left by the decay of Assyrian power. This is purely fantasy—an acceptance of the myth of David and Solomon, doubly fantastic in that it could happen again, let alone at all. The minute country of Judah could not have replaced Assyria in a million years. Assyria was replaced by its powerful southern neighbour, Babylonia, then by the Medes and the Persians—mighty nations with populations of millions of people. Judah cannot have had even a significant fraction of 100,000. No one who gives it a minute’s thought can hold such views, but doubtless Nelson, like most of his breed, think such falsehoods are holy indemnities, or perhaps they are happy to milk their earthly sinecures.

So, we are invited to imagine Assyria retreating before the might of Judah, that Josiah presided over a growth of nationalism, reunification, centralisation and dynastic pride, all of it deduced from within the myth itself. It is astonishing! And they call it scholarship. They would be no less useful expounding on God’s promise to Bilbo Baggins. Anyone can conjecture whatever they like within a fictitious situation, when the author is no longer alive to tell you what they meant, if anything, but these clever men must know it is utterly futile. Those who are not utterly cynical believe that it is God’s work—it is God’s work to invent lie upon lie to keep the sacred mythology in touch with history! Lori Rowlett, rather dryly for a biblical scholar, notes that there is no reason to believe that the Deuteronomic History version of the past was “either accurate or objective”. It almost restores your confidence in religious scholarship!

Robert and Mary Coote think Josiah was up against local bandits like the ones in Judges. These irregulars were supposed to have lived 500 years earlier than Josiah according to the biblical scheme of things, and one imagines should have little basis after half a millennium of the Israelite god and His law. “Apostasy!” they declare was what Josiah legislated against, but the story of continual apostasy over 500 years is itself incredible. Deuteronomy was not directed at apostasy but at the people who continued to worship their traditional and familiar Baals. The Cootes, nonetheless, are right but the reforms were 200 years later, and the period of Judges is really the period when the Canaanites resisted the imposition of Medean rule, and the imposition of the Persian God. The Cootes, and Cross and Nelson all take Joshua to be Josiah mythologized. Not bad! But both were mythologized Saviours, and Saviours were imposed by conquerors. Josiah was an internal Saviour in the myth, but was really an invention of the Persians. He stood for the Persians as Saviours, and did just what the Persians wanted to do—but 200 years early.

It is, or ought to be, plain enough that the Deuteronomic History was not initially for public consumption. Few could read, and those who could were priests. The history was to train and indoctrinate the priestly class of Yehud. Deuteronomy, the law, was read out in public as the bible says, and as we know from other vassalage treaties. The priests read it out, and the Deuteronomic History would have given them material to use in their exhortations to the people that accompanied the reading of the law. These were the origins of the sermons of the Christian churches, and soon the sentiments were being set to song for the Levitical cantors to chant, and spur the people themselves to sing in their daily lives.

Divine Intervention in History

The Jewish and Christian idea that the Hebrew god was unique in revealing himself in history is yet another big lie. T C Vriezen declares that “Israel did not derive its knowledge of God first and foremost from nature, as the ancient oriental people did, but from the acts of God in the history of the people”. If clergymen believe this they rarely show any curiosity about why it should be. For them, it is enough that God reveals Himself thus, but the historian would want to find a reason why the Israelites should differ from their neighbours. The plain answer is that they did not. The Israelites had gods exactly equal to their neighbours, fertility gods and seasonal gods like Baal, Mot and Anath.

The religion that the clergymen speak of was not the native Israelite religion but an ethical religion brought in by colonists from Persia. Not only that, but it is not true either that the older gods did not have historical intentions. B Albrekson, in a book with the long but descriptive title, History and the Gods: an Essay on the Idea of Historical Events as Divine Manifestations in the Ancient Near East and Israel, refutes the belief that the Jewish god was unique in showing itself in the events of history as opposed to the cyclical return of the seasons. Albrektson has shown that the Jewish god was in a line of gods, a whole tradition of gods, that revealed themselves in history from the third millennium BC onwards. Sumerians, Hittites, Assyrians, Babylonians and even the Moabites all had such gods. In view of the “exile” in Babylonia, it cannot be unimportant that Marduk was one of these gods.

Albrektson says that a god who acted in history was “part of the common theology of the Ancient Near East”. He found the nature gods of the fertility religions were just as willing to intervene in history. There is absolutely no point in calling upon a god, if it is unwilling to intervene on your part in answer to your prayers. These gods were believed to intervene, and also to side with their worshippers in battles. It was so obviously commonplace that it is monstrous that Jews and Christians should say the opposite in the interests of their own exclusiveness. It is a transparent lie that no one even stops to consider.

As long ago as 1901, Friedrich Schwally, from a detailed examination of all near eastern ancient literature on warfare, observed that all cultures in the region asked for divine assistance in battles. Ashurbanipal, quoted by M Weippert, writes:

Not by my own strength, nor by the might of my bow,
By the might of my gods, by the might of my Goddess,
I subjected the lands…
To the yoke of Assur.


The Canaanite legends of Ugarit speak of cosmic battles, and it is possible that the tradition remaining in the bible of Yehouah as a warrior leader is a relic of the Canaanite god, Yehouah. Besides the tradition of a warrior leader, Yehouah fights against chaos, a Canaanite tradition that would have facilitated the transition to the Persian ethical god. In the Ugaritic myths Baal also fights chaotic forces, paralleling Psalms 68, 74 and 89.

Texts similar to the Ugaritic ones are found from second century BC Mari, and they too suggest that divine assistance will overcome odds against. The supposed distinction is that the Israelites did not have to fight at all because God would defeat their enemies for them, but king Zimri-lim is told to stay at home while his god took full responsibility for the outcome of the battle. It seems this could only have been true in mythology, but it was true in biblical history because, half the time, God was on the side of the enemy to punish the sinful people. God is on your side when you win but on the enemy’s side when you lose. How does this differ from there being no god at all?

All battles in the ancient near east were dominated by gods but the result had to be rationalized with hindsight knowledge of the outcome. Notwithstanding, ancient myths of gods expected to fight chaos or their followers’ enemies, the biblical traditions all have the impress of divine assistance having been deduced or assumed after a profane battle had yielded its outcome. War in the ancient near east was always a divine responsibility, and the outcome showed the mood of the god. Persian kings attributed their success to Ahuramazda.

Whereas the consensus of older scholarship was that the scriptures were unique, as they had to be to be uniquely revealed, more and more modern scholars are accepting, what should have been obvious to an uncluttered mind, that the scriptures have much in common with ancient near east texts. The more objective modern scholars have laid to rest the clerical lie that the scriptures are unique in their representation of the finger of God in history.


The Persians were intent on setting up a theocracy but there had been a period of monarchy in Israel and the administrator-priests had to explain it within their theocratic historical framework. If God’s people wanted a king then they should have a king to teach them a lesson. Saul’s history was written as a warning that a theocracy should not want kings. The institution of the monarchy in 1 Samuel chapters 7-13 was shown as a blasphemy against God leading to innumerable punishments, the overthrow of the monarchy and “exile” (if there ever was one). Only the saviour of the Jews, Cyrus, allowed righteous Jews to “return” to their homeland!

P Weimar has shown that the holy war in the Jewish scriptures was directed at the royal court in Jerusalem, and its ideology. The holy war tradition reflected the dichotomy between prophecy and kings, and was a criticism of monarchy. It was therefore part of the propaganda against those who resisted Persian rule, in favour of home rule.

Plainly there were two sides to the battle, and both seem to have been partly represented mutatis mutandis by the Deuteronomic Historian. The prophets were originally Persian propagandists, and since there were no actual kings at the time of the struggle in the fifth century, kings stood for Baals, the divine kings of their followers, just as Yehouah was for His. When the Deuteronomic Historian wrote his propagandist history bringing the Baals down to earth, he represented them as mythical kings, whose proper allegiance was to Yehouah. David and Solomon might have been popular gods in Yehud before the Persian reforms. Solomon was surely a Canaanite sun god, and David a southern Canaanite Thoth or Hadad. Both were depicted as near perfect followers of Yehouah rewarded by success, but yet subject to the usual faults.

The first king, Saul, is depicted as a bad king, incompetent and disobedient to God. He reigned only two years according to 1 Samuel 13:1, and then God replaced him with his own choice. God designates David as king and the Merlin of the time, Samuel, anointed him.

Many of the later monarchs were shown as being disloyal not only to God but also to the people, making sinful alliances with foreign powers. Vassalage treaties prevented the subject states from making other alliances, so kings were shown as making illegal alliances to show that they defied God’s wishes—all part of the aim of discouraging native kings. God was their king—the Persian king His agent.



Book 4. Sacred History or Phony History?





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