Egypt And Early Israel’s Cultural Setting: A Quest For Evidential Possibilities -- By: Rodger W. Dalman

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 51:3 (Sep 2008)
Article: Egypt And Early Israel’s Cultural Setting: A Quest For Evidential Possibilities
Author: Rodger W. Dalman

Egypt And Early Israel’s Cultural Setting: A Quest For Evidential Possibilities

Rodger Dalman*

* Rodger Dalman is professor of Old Testament at Trinity College of the Bible and Theological Seminary, 4233 Medwel Dr., Newburgh, IN 47630–2528.

One of the most complex problems in biblical studies is the identification of early Israel’s cultural and historical setting. The difficulties revolve around the date of Israel’s exodus from Egypt and the implications of that date for Israel’s patriarchal age, the Mosaic age, the conquest, and the Judges. The debates that swirl around I Kgs 6:1, Exod 12:40, Judg 11:26, and Gal 3:17 are too well known to need repeating here. The difference in perspective can be seen by comparing Eugene Merrill with James Hoffmeier. Merrill argued that patriarchal age dates could be fixed accurately on the basis of biblical data.1 Hoffmeier argued that biblical chronology was fluid and uncertain while Egyptian chronology was absolute.2 The perceived uncertainty of biblical chronology has led many authors to seek a cultural and historical setting in which the biblical text can be understood. Yet the search for this setting has been problematic because each author’s presuppositions have influenced the application of cultural parallels.

I. Egyptian Chronological Uncertainties

Israel’s interaction with Egypt was a key part of Israel’s early cultural and historical setting. Any attempt to place Israel’s history into an Egyptian context must wrestle with the vexing problem of Egyptian chronology. Hoffmeier claimed that Egyptian chronology was absolute because specific dates for ruler’s reigns could be defended. Egyptian chronology has actually been debated as fiercely as biblical chronology, although those debates have revolved around shorter time periods. Even the sequence of rulers during the Hyksos era and the end of the 18th Dynasty has been debated. K. A. Kitchen noted that the earliest date in Egyptian history that everyone agreed was fixed was the beginning of Psammetichus I’s reign in 664 bc.3 Before that time, all Egyptian dates have been controversial to some degree. Kitchen

argued that pre-dynastic Egyptian dates were only accurate within 300 years. Dates from the first two dynasties were only correct within 200 years. Old Kingdom dates ...

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