Abraham Samuel Anspacher.

Archeological research in Bible lands online

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Abr&hara S. Anspacher

Aroheologloal Research
in Bible Lands









Archeological Research
in Bible Lands








By Rabbi Abraham S. Anspacher, Ph.D., New York City,

The history of Archeological Research in Bible Lands reads
like a romance. As a result of the labor of many scholars in this
field of work, empires long dead have been recalled to life, the
long-forgotten names and the records of once powerful races
and peoples have been recovered, civilizations long since decayed
have been emerged, as it were, from out of the ruin-heaps under
which they were buried, and languages in which great literatures
have been written, but which had faded from human memory,
have been deciphered, until to-day we are in possession of many
new chapters of world history. But the desire to increase the
knowledge of the world history was never the primary motive
toward archeological investigation in the Biblical Orient. From
the beginning the chief interest was a religious one, and at the
basis of all research was the inquiry, "How does any new find
affect the history of Palestine," and secondly, "How does the
history of Palestine affect Israel and Judaism?"

For a long time before actual systematic archeological work
was begun, it was realized that the only road to new information
was by the way of the excavation of the numerous Tells which
dot the surface of the land all over the Biblical East. Old docu-
ments, inscribed stones, objects of archeological value could be
obtained only by trenching through the ruins of ancient sites,

^ Prefatory Note. — In assigning the following paper to the writer, the
president of the Conference informed him that the Executive Committee
wished to have a review of "Excavations in Bible Lands," so treated, that
the results of the paper should as much as possible be constructive. He
was to remember that it was to be written principally with the need of the
Sabbath School teachers in mind. The expression of such a wish consti-
tuted, of course, a command, and accounts for the semi-popular character of
the paper.


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where the debris of the ages had so piled up, as to make aoi
artificial hill. And the results where such digging has been
intelligently done have been astonishing. In Palestine, in
Assyria, in Babylonia, in Syria, inscriptions have been obtained,
buildings have been exposed, records have been found which
have shed welcome light on Bible history ; while from Egypt
information is forthcoming which enables us to read Scripture
with fuller insight.

But the results from these different countries have been of
varying magnitude. The net results of all Palestinian excava-
tion thus far reported are very modest as compared with those,
f.i., in Assyria. Yet they fit in so well with what has been
learned from other sources, and they supply certain gaps in so
complete a way, that it is a pity that work in the Holy Land is
not carried on more consistently. Previous to the publication
of the Egyptian, Babylonian and Assyrian yields, the world had
completely lost the memory of great Empires, and the names of
mighty deities had perished together with their votaries. The
recovery was dazzling. This cannot become true of Palestine.
It is little to be expected that Palestinian Excavations will yield
us knowledge of any god, people or language concerning w^hich
the Bible has not preserved at least some notice, however obscure.
More than this, Palestine will not, in all probability, produce as
many and as complete records as we got from the ruins in other
Biblical lands, since the materials used for writing were of a
readily perishable nature. Paper and papyrus and the soft lime-
stone of the Holy Land are not as durable as the clay tablets and
the black basalt rock of Babylonia and Assyria, and the climate
being damp, unlike that of Egypt which acts as a preserver of
ruins, tends rather to disintegrate still existing antiques. There-
fore Palestinian results are meager as compared with those of
other lands, yet absolutely, they are illuminating and furnish
welcome aid in the clearing up of obscure points.


The work of excavation in Palestine has not been extensive,
and has for the most part been planned under the auspices of the
Palestine Exploration Fund, an English organization founded


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in 1865. This society has completed a very accurate ordinance
survey of the Holy Land, and the able directors whom it has sent
into the field have done creditable work. Wilson, Warren, Bliss
and Dickie have accomplished what little the conditions would
allow at Jerusalem : at Tell-El-Hesy, the ancient Lachish, Petrie
and Bliss have uncovered the strata of eight superimposed city
levels. Bliss and McAllister have uncovered Gath, and the latter
has had exceptionally good fortune in the excavation of the site
of Gezer. Prof. Sellin has excavated at Jericho and at Tell
Ta 'annek, the ancient Ta 'anuach, while in Galilee, the German
Orient Society has done some work. In 1908, under the direc-
tion of Schumacher, the work of clearing away the hill of Samaria
was begun. This was continued for three years under the aus-
pices of Harvard University, George Reisner directing operations
in 1910 and 1911.

The excavations made at Gezer and Lachish reveal a history
stretching back to about 3000 B.C.E., and in the case of the
former, at least, cai-ry us back to the Horites who are mentioned
in Gen. xiv. 6; xxxvi. 20; Deut. ii. 12 and 22, and who from
the supposed meaning of their name have been called Cave
Dwellers. The Biblical notices concerning them are so indefinite
as to justify the conclusion that the writer knew them only from
a vague tradition. They are noAV known to have been non-
Semitic, from the significant facts that they used swine in their
sacrificial cult and that they cremated their dead. With the
levels aliove the lowest at Gezer we meet the strata of debris
which bring us to the pre-Tsraelite, Canaanite civilization of the
Holy Land ; and at this point excavation in Palestine attains its
real and startling interest for us. At about 2500 B.C.E., the
Amorites were at the zenith of their power. In the early Baby-
lonian inscriptions Palestine is called, ''Mat Amurnt," and the
Babylonian dynasty, dominant in Abraham's day, hailed, in all
probability, from Palestine. At Lachish, the Amorite level takes
us to about the year 1700, and we know that when Joshua (chap.
X. 3-5), entered the land, the Amorites were still very powerful.
Tlieir history, gathered from all the available sources, pictures
a people whose sway extended from the Mediterranean Sea to
Babylonia, although toward the end of their career they were

Central Coxference op American Rabbis.

probably restricted to the neighborhood of tlie lower Orontes.
We hear of them in Numbers (chap, xxxiv.), where their king
Og is said to have ruled over thirty strong cities, and Sihon,
also an Amorite, had conquered Moab. At one time they pos-
sessed tlie land west of Jordan and certainly had a hand in the
establishment of Jerusalem.^ In the Tell El Amarna letters, the
king of the Amorites is Abdi-ashratu, and he and his son after
him were able to wrest Phrenicia from the Pharaoh. The Amorites
were still vigorous when Joshua defeated a coalition of five of
their kings, and how he left the city of Lachish is still to be seen.
In excavating Tell-El-Hes}^ a bed of ashes M'fts found between
the Amorite and the first Israelitish levels. As now, so in early
days, the wandering Bedawi burned plants to obtain alkali, and
this was only done on uninhabited ground. After Joshua came
the period of anarchy under the Judges and before Lachish
could be rebuilt during the more peaceful times of the monarchy,
wandering desert tribes had often burned plants on its Amorite

Tlie successor to the Amorite power in Palestine was the
Hittite, as is already proven by the fact that just as the early
Babylonian inscriptions called the country "n^fli Amurru,'^ so
later Assyrian records know it only as ''ntdt Ilafti."' The Hit-
tites, however, must have been in Palestine from very ancient
times, and were already a factor of influence in Abraham's day."
Already in the Amorite levels of Lachish and Gezer a kind of
pottery was found which is characteristic of Hittite culture, and
which is found from southern Palestine clear into nortliern
Cappadocia.- We thus get an idea of the extensive reach of
Hittite influence in Asia. Our knowledge of this people is ob-
tained from four Extra-Biblical sources, viz., the Tell-El-Armana
Letters, the Egyptian monuments, the Babylonian and Assyrian
inscriptions, and the extensive notices recovered from Boghaz-
Koi by Winckler in 1906-7. Besides this we possess many Hittite
inscriptions, but as yet no one has been able to decipher them.
The glimpse we get from the decipherable sources is ininniiiat-

* Ezekiel, xvi 3.45, repeats no vain tradition wlion he says of Jerusalem,
"Your mother was Hittite and your father Amorite."
= V. .Trnl. Anthropohigical Inst., 1903. p. 367 flf., Myers.


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ing. Already from the Tell-El-Armana Correspondence we
realized that the Hittites were a great people, and what the
Egyptian, Babylonian and Assyrian sources added to this
knowledge was fully confirmatory. The Boghaz-Koi inscrip-
tions completed the picture and showed us an astonishing cul-
tural unity of all Asia Minor and Egypt. Now for the first
time it is possible to conceive to how noble a stage of civiliza-
tion the Biblical Orient had attained. All previous notions as
to the low condition of peoples with whom Israel came into
contact after the Exodus have been antiquated, and now we
have to realize that if Israel under Moses and Joshua had
a mission to perform, its task was not rendered easy in that
it had to be worked out in a simple, ignorant environment,
among peoples without ideas and ideals. The Hittites were the
most powerful of these peoples and we are to remember that
the name denotes, in the first place, a racial group ; for there
were four distinct Hittite kingdoms. The name Hittite was
used only for that kingdom south and east of the Taurus; be-
sides this, however, there were the Hittite kingdoms of the
Kassians, with its capitol at Boghaz-Koi, the Mitanni in IMesopo-
tamia, with their capitol at Karkamesh, and the Naharaim on
upper Orontes. These four united to form one great power,
with its seat of government at Qadesh. They became, in time,
overlords of all Palestine and Syria and held sway to the eon-
fines of Assyria. Against this latter country they had to con-
tend, and although finally subdued in the conflict, they suc-
cumbed only after having been compelled to wage long war
with Egypt. ^

From tlie Nile monuments we gather the outline of this
struggle.* In 1470, Tothmes III., then in his thirty-third regnal
year, made an expedition into Mesopotamia and on his home-
ward march exacted tribute from the Hittites, i.e., from Na-
haraim. In 1380, Tarkhundara, king of Boghaz-Koi, sends trib-
ute to Amenhotep III; but already in this Pharaoh's time the
troiible with the Hittites of the north, began, and by 1375 they

MVinckler: Smithsonian Report for 1908, p. 682 ff.

*J. H. Breasted: Ancient Records of Egypt, Vols. I-V passim.

Central Conference op American Rabbis.

had come south as far as Laodieea. Under Seti I (1326-1300)
the conflict culminates in the battle of Qadesh, near Beirut, re-
sulting in a treaty, as between equals in power and influence.
The text of this document is preserved for us both in the Egyp-
tian and the Boghaz-Koi texts,^ and evidences the might of the
Hittites. Yet this battle marks the zenith of their power, for
Ave have a notice from Merenptah (1234-1214) to the effect,
"the Cheta is quiet," i.e., the Hittites are subdued. Indeed,
the Hittites had to be "quiet," for in their rear the Assyrian
had by this time become very aggressive.

The information thus gathered is, however, secondary to
that gleaned from a philological examination of the Boghaz-Koi
texts, and the Tell-El-Amarna Tablets. Two letters of the latter
collection are in a different language from the rest. One has
become known as the Mitanni, that is, the language of the
kingdom whose capitol was at Karkames and the other as the
Arzawa, the language of the Boghaz-Koi texts. The people of
both these countries were in Palestine at the time of the Amarna
correspondence, i.e., just before the Exodus, and could their
racial origins be determined, a great advance in our knowledge
of the pre-Israelite population of Palestine w^ould result. It has,
I believe, been proven ^ that the Mitanni language was a branch
of the Caucasian family, and the Arzawa is claimed for the
Indo-European group. ^ This would mean that the population
of pre-Israelite Palestine contained an appreciable Indo-Euro-
pean element, a statement which appears to be substantiated by
the fact that in the Boghaz-Koi inscriptions we meet with an
Aryan people called the TJarru. If these can be identified with
the onn® of the Pentateuch w^e could understand how a swine-
offering and cremation-practicing people came to reside at Gezer.

AVe have, then, a fairly complete picture of the pre-Tsraelite
occupants of Palestine. Excavations in the Holy Land have
revealed iiiur-]i concerning their mode of living. A detailed
description of the finds uncovered at tlio various sites Avould

'Wm. Miller: MVAG., 1002, 5.

"Bork: Die Mitanni-Sprache, in IMVAG, 1901, 12.

' Ivinulzton: Die Zwei Arsawa Biiofon.

" Ham is the Egyptian name for Palestine.


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have to deal with the Asheras, the cemeteries, the methods of
burial, the pottery, the flora and fauna, and an examination
of skeletons. Indeed, all this has been thoroughly done, and
always the' search for written documents has been diligently
pursued. Only a very few inscriptions, however, have been
found, a significant exception being a cuneiform tablet at
Lachish, containing a name mentioned in the Tell-El-Armarna
Letters. The result of the work in Palestine has been to en-
large our knowledge of the Canaanite inhabitants, but we do
not glean much for the period subsequent to Joshua's entry.
At Megiddo, it is true, a seal was found bearing the name of
King Jereboam, and at Samaria the palace of Ahab was uncov-
ered and a number of ostraca with (tax) records were found,
written in a durable ink. In the main what we gain from ex-
cavation in Palestine is rather a total impression of pre-Israelite
culture than a collection of detailed facts. The summary may
be thus stated :

1. From 2500-1700 native Palestinian culture was Amorite
and Hittite, and differed from the culture of Babylonia and

2. About 1200 traces of Israelite culture begin to appear,
although there are still traces of Egyptian, though not of
Babylonian occupation.

3. A careful examination of all the evidence allows us to
say that the religion of Palestine was highly materialistic. The
picture presented by the books of Joshua and Judges finds
ample confirmation as result of the excavations.


If, as has been shown, Palestine yields only few inscriptions,
the same is happily not true of Egypt, Babylonia and Assyria.
In the case of Egypt the aid we get is for the period before
the monarchy, rather indirect, and for the subsequent period
not as ample as in the case of the Babylonian and Assyrian in-
scriptions, but what we have is very illuminating. We call it
indirect for the following reasons :

1. Long before Egypt controlled Palestine, Babylon was


Central Conference of American Rabbis.

dominant in the Holy Land and exercised a cultural influence
which endured for centuries."

2. Egyptian control of Palestine was at best intermittent,
never becoming really organic.

3. The Hebrew had traditional and racial elements in com-
mon with the Babylonian and Assyrian, but certainly not with
the Egyptian.^"

The first mention of Egypt, in the Bible, occurs in Genesis
xii. 10, where Abraham journeys thither to find sustenance for
his cattle. The authenticity of this passage has often been
questioned, ^^ and we may begin at this point to mention some
of the indirect confirmations of Scripture from the Egyptian

On the tomb of the Monarch Hnumenhetep at Beni-hassan,
during the reign of Usertersen II (12th dynasty"), we have a
picture of the entrance of a large Semitic family of thirty-
seven persons into Egypt. They were received by the district
master of the hunt, and by him conducted to the monarch, who
in all probability, after registering their names, number, oc-
cupation and the purpose of their journey, a&signed to them a
temporary place of residence. This was assuredly no isolated in-
stance of the fact that Semitic families sought limited residence
in Egypt, and why need Abraham's visit be denied authenticity?
Indeed, the Egyptian inscriptions furnish an analogue even to
the story of Sarah. A papyrus, called "The Two Brothers,"
tells of a Pharaoh wlio did not hesitate to murder the husband
of a beautiful woman whom he coveted. An examination of the
records prove that at this early period intercourse between

•Lupalzaggizi at the end of tlie fourth millennium ruled over an em-
pire extending from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean. It must,
however, be admitted that the Palestinian Excavations prove Egyptian
influence as early as the twelfth dynasty (2000-1800) and there are traces
as late as C. 1.300.

"The attempt to prove ethnological connection between Hebrew and
Egyptian on the hypothesis that the civilization of the west originated in
Babylon has been refuted G. Eliot Smith: "The Ancient Egyptians
and Their Influence Upon the Civilization of Europe."

"Winckler: Altoriciitalische Forsch. Erste Roihe, 1897, p. .3.3.


Central Conference of American Rabbis.

Asia and Egypt was frequeut.^- The more so since the Egyp-
tians, who were only indifferent soldiers, made extensive use
of Asiatic mercenaries. Gimkel (Genesis, 1901, p. 156) is
positive that Abraham's journey into Egypt is mythical, be-
cause neither the name nor the capital of the Pharaoh is re-
corded. The contention is vain. The Bible, in referring to
the Egyptian kings, sometimes does, and again does not specify
the particular Pharaoh.^^* Except in official records no Egyp-
tian text up to the 22d dynasty (c. 950) gives the specific name
of the Pharaoh with which it deals.^*

The authenticity of the Joseph story has also been denied
for the same reason. Fortunately the historical setting of the
account has been so far recovered from the monuments as to
make future denial rather hazardous.

AAHien Joseph arrived in Egypt he did not enter the land as
a total stranger. The Hyksos kings, who ruled from c. 2100
to c. 1585, were Semites whose influence must have been visible
on every hand. According to ]\Ianetho they ruled over Egypt
for 511 years. Of their number, Apophis is named by Jo-
sephus as the Pharaoh who made Joseph his prime minister.
When summarized, the monumental references present the fol-
lowing outline.. After a long rule the Hyksos were finally
forced to combat a formidable rebellion headed by the king
of Thebais. After a bitter struggle they were shut up in Avaris,
and after withstanding a long siege were allowed to depart into
Syria, w^here they established a new kingdom. Some years
later the Egyptian kings hounded them through the length
and breadth of Palestine and Syria, and finally, as w^e learn
from the Tell-el Amarna letters, subjected them to Egyptian
rule. That the records furnish no account of the Joseph story ^^

"Muller: Asien und Europa, p. 4 f.

"I Kings xxiii. 29: Jer. xliv. 30. and xlvi. 2.

"Griffith: PSBA. 23, 1906, p. 72 ff.

"Jeremias: Das Alte Testament in Liclite des alien Orient, 1904, p.
245 f., reminds us that Janhanni. of the Amarna letters (v. Conder,
The Tell Amarna Tablets, p. 63, and all through the Phoenician corre-
spondence), has been identified with Joseph. The identification is plausible
because — 1. The name is Semitic. 2. The district, Jarmuta, over which
he rules, was the granary of the surrounding countries. His territory


Central Conference of American Rabbis.

is not to be wondered at, for like liis master he was a hated
foreigner, whose monuments were destroyed. Despite their
long rule the Hyksos remained distinct from their Egyptian
subjects, and when we are told of Joseph's marriage to the
daughter of the priest of On ^^ we have no record of an inter-
marriage, for the Hyksos introduced their own religion into
Egypt. At Bubastis, Memphis and Tanis we find Hyksos relics,
and everywhere proof that they remained a separate people.
The whole Joseph story is true to Egyptian life. Thus shepherds
were an abomination to the Egyptians " and Jacob and his
sons could reveal their true occupation because they were fa-
vored by a Pharaoh who was Semitic, not Egyptian. On the
monuments we find the titles of the royal baker and the royal
cup-bearer, and are told that Pharaoh's birthday was an occa-
sion for general amnesty. ^^ That Joseph had to shave and
change his garments before his audience with the king " is in
accord with Egyptian custom, and the fact that an Egyptian
would not eat with a Hebrew -** is also attested. Furthermore,
the names Joseph-El and Jacob-El, found in the inscriptions of
Thothmes III. (1500), are not necessarily tribal names. AVe
have ample evidence that these were common personal names
in the Biblical East;^^ and it may be remarked in passing that
the same is true of the names Abraham and Sarah.^-

Of course our greatest interest in the Egyptian monuments
centers about any possible reference to the Exodus. For a

had to be traversed en route from Gebal (Byblos) to Chut-Aten, the
capital of Pharaoh Chu-en-Aten, so that it was in the Nile delta, per-
haps identical with Goshen. 3. He was the distributor of corn from
Pharaoh's granaries. 4. His influence with Pharaoh was great. 5. Joseph
was the son-in-law of the priest of On, which city was the center of the
monotheistic cult of the sun god Ra. For forcing this cult upon Egypt,
Chu-en-Aten became known as the heretical Pharaoh.

"Gen. xli. 45.

" Gen. xlvi. 34.

"Ebers: Agypten, u. d. Biicher ]\Ioses, p. 335 f.

"Gen. xli. 14.

'" Gen. xliii. 32.

** Johns: Deeds and Documents, III, p. 40.

" Bezold: Catalogue, I, p. 250.


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long time it was a matter of keen regret that no mention of
the name Israel was found in the inscriptions. It should have
been remembered that to the native Egyptian the Israelite was
a hated foreigner, and that the Children of Israel formed only
a very small part of the Bedouin tribes who found a home
near the Delta. At any rate, in 1896, Petrie found the so-called
Merenptah Stele, and here we read. . . . "Kheta is in peace:
Captive is Cannan and full of misery, Askelon is carried
away. Gezer is taken. Yennumma is non-existent. Israel is
losjt, his seed is not. Syria is like the widow of Egypt. All
lands are at peace, for whoever rebelled was chastised by Phar-
aoh Merenptah."

This Merenptah is commonly supposed to be the Pharaoh of
the Exodus, and his predecessor, Eameses II., the Pharaoh of
the Oppression. Pinches,^^ however, is inclined to accept the
following opinion of Dr. Mahler. . . . According to Josephus,
Apophis was the king who knew not Joseph : he was the founder
of the 19th dynasty and came to the throne two years after
Joseph died. On astronomical grounds Rameses II. is calculated
to have ascended the throne in 1347 and the Exodus to have
taken place in 1335, the thirteenth year of his reign. In that
event Talmudic tradition (Sabbath, 87b), which makes the loth
of Nisan of the Exodus fall on a Thursday, would be correct.
An interesting corollary follows. If 1335 w^as the year of the
Exodus, then Moses was born in 1415, i.e., during the reign of
Amenhotep III. From the Amarna tablets we know that this
prince married an Asiatic princess, and it would occasion small
w^onder that the daughter of a Semite should rescue the child
of a Hebrew woman.

The route taken by the Children of Israel cannot be posi-
tively determined, and we need not linger over the various the-


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