Periodical Reviews -- By: Anonymous

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 150:599 (Jul 1993)
Article: Periodical Reviews
Author: Anonymous

Periodical Reviews

“The Date of the Exodus and the Conquest/Settlement: The Case for the 1100s,” Gary A. Rendsburg, Vetus Testamentum 42 (1992): 510-27.

After reviewing the three major models for Israel’s emergence in Canaan—the military conquest, the peaceful infiltration, and the peasant revolt models—Rendsburg aligns himself essentially with the second as articulated by I. Finkelstein in The Archaeology of the Israelite Settlement (1988). He sees less of the peaceful aspect than does Finkelstein, however, and suggests that a combination theory (what he calls “conquest/settlement”) “may be the most historically accurate” (p. 511).

Rendsburg’s task here is to determine the date of the conquest/settlement and not its manner and so he gives little attention to the various models per se. As for the historicity of the Exodus itself, he is content to say, “yes, there was an exodus, and it can be dated, but the narrative presented by the biblical author is filled with epic qualities” (p. 512). This suggests the degree to which Rendsburg is prepared to allow the Old Testament to provide its own chronological and historical witness.

The author rejects both the traditional (1450 B.C.) and “late” (1250 B.C.) exodus dates, arguing instead for one in the 1100s. The basis for this radical downdating is the alleged lack of archaeological evidence of Israelite settlement earlier than that time. He develops his thesis by examining sites such as Tell ed-Duweir (Lachish), Tell Hesban, Gibeon, Megiddo, and Taanach, all of which he says now show 12th-century settlement and/or destruction.

This leads to various ramifications such as the identification of Rameses III (1195–1164) as the pharaoh of the Exodus and a new interpretation of the Merneptah Stele (placing Israel in Egypt as slaves). Rendsburg is also aware of the impact of his revisionism on the Old Testament itself and therefore looks to it for support and vindication. He finds the references to Philistines (Exod 13:17; Josh 13:2–3) helpful since their arrival in Palestine in the 12th century seems to tally with his late date for the Exodus and conquest. Ironically, he says, “I prefer to begin with the biblical evidence” (p. 521), though, it seems that he does so only when it favors his case. For example he discusses the 480 years (1 Kings 6:1) between the Exodus and the temple as a “stylized” number (p. 513) and he ignores the 300 years of Jephthah’s memorandum (Judg 11:26) altogether.

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