1 March 2017
A.B. The Samaritan News
Headlines on 1 March 2017
Lost and Found?
Ingrid Hjelm of the University of Copenhagen, pages 94-107
Lost and Found? A Non-Jewish Israel from the Mernapteh Stele to the Byzantine Period
In 1992, Philip Davies made notice of a serious issue in dealing with histories of Israel and Judah. In order to reach a clearer and more truthful history, he suggested that a distinction be made between the historical, the biblical and the ancient Israel (Davies 1992: 16-18). Little could he know of the growing need for working with such clear distinctions when archaeology in the 90s revealed that what had hitherto been assumed or “known” about the Palestine of the late Iron, Persian and Hellenistic periods had to be rewritten and that the biblical Israel, which towards the end of the first millenium had been transformed into a Jewish Israel, was far from identical with the historical Israel.
History’s earliest testimony of an entity named “Israel” (Ysr’el) is found on the Merneptah stele depicting the Egyptian Pharaoh Merneptah’s campaign to Hatti land around 1209 BCE. The authenticity of the stele’s celebration of Merneptah’s victory of his surrounding enemies is confirmed by three contemporary Egyptian inscriptions. The closing stance of the inscriptions includes the name “Israel” as a conquered people, whose seed is no more. Scholars have disagreed about what the term signifies and how the hieroglyphs should be read as there are several possibilities. From the more remote Sharon and Yizreel as well as biblical Jeshurun to the closer reading ‘Asher, known as a thirteenth century people Ísrw in Papyrus Anastasia I, and mentioned also in inscriptions from the reign of Seti I and Ramses II. A clan named Asher’el or Asri’el is mentioned in the Samaria Ostraca from the eighth century (Hjelm and Thompson 2002: 13-14).
Building on Davies’ distinction, we must conclude that interpretation of the term Israel in the Merneptah stele differs according to the chosen perspective.
From a historical Israel perspective Israel designates the people of the the land of Hurru located in an area comprising Gezer and the city states: Gaza, Ashkelon and Yeno’am. These names are mentioned in several Egyptian inscriptions from the late Bronze and early Iron age, which deal with campaigns to Hatti land. After Thutmosis III’s conquest of Canaan in 1479 BCE, the cities appear both in reliefs at Karnak, describing his campaigns and listing his conquests, and in the Amarna letters. Gaza was the capital city of Cannan for more than 400 years under Egyptian rule…
Ingrid Hjelm’s article continues in the 1 March 2017 edition of A.B Samaritan News