Class Warfare Blog

August 19, 2019

Book Report—Who Were the Early Israelites and Where Did They Come From?

Filed under: History,Science — Steve Ruis @ 11:10 am

This book, Who Were the Early Israelites and Where Did They Come From? by William G. Dever addresses the actual archaeological evidence for the existence and behaviors of the early Israelites. I was drawn to this book by a couple of things that have troubled me regarding the “history” of that region. First, is the escape from bondage in Egypt. The story has been dramatized a great many times, even in movies, and so we are all familiar with the story. In the later 1800’s and early 1900’s “biblical archeologists” swarmed all over the Holy Land to discover all of the evidence for these “historical” events. What they actually found were two things: wish fulfillments and <cricket, cricket, . . .>. There is basically little to no evidence to back up the biblical story of the “escape from Egypt” or the “conquest of Canaan.” But then, over and over again, Yahweh states that he was the deliverer of the people from Egypt. So, does Yahweh lie? Actually there is linguistic evidence that indicates that the words used could mean “delivered from Egyptian (or just foreign) rule.”

You can see where this is going: the Israelites were never in Egypt in the numbers claimed, nor did Moses lead them to the Promised Land, nor did they spend 40 years in the desert, etc. But a god claim to have delivered the ancient Israelites from Egyptian rule, could easily be attached any time Egypt weakened their grip on their surrounding provinces. (Religions are well known for taking credit for things they did not do.)

But, then, this means that the Israelites were there all of the time and, in effect, they were Canaanites (people who lived in Canaan). Which creates a whole storm of other questions, beginning with “is there any evidence for this claim?”

The answer provided by Who Were the Early Israelites and Where Did They Come From? isn’t definitive but of all of the possible scenarios hypothesized so far, this is the one most supported by the evidence. So, way back when the Israelites were basically indistinguishable from what are called Canaanites (even in the Bible). The Canaanites worshiped many gods (as did the Israelites), the foremost of whom was El (Sound familiar?) whose consort/wife was Asherah. Some claim that they had 70 god-children, one of whom was named Yahweh. Over a period of time, a subculture of Israelites grew up as Yahweh worshipers. Over a considerable amount of time, these people were pushed into the hill country where the “first Israelites” were evident. The proximate causes for this migration seem to have been wars along the coast that caused the coastal cities to descend into anarchy and a number of other causes. The dwellings built by those early Israelites in the hills used Canaanite designs, as did the pottery, etc., etc.

When monotheism was being promoted, the Yahwists had to get rid of all of the other gods who they and many of their neighbors worshiped. Yahweh replaces El as the god most high. Asherah becomes Yahweh’s consort for a short period, and then even she had to go. There are references in the Hebrew Bible to these processes. The “old worshipping ways” were condemned over and over. The old gods were condemned over and over. This has all been supported (not confirmed per se, but supported by more evidence that the other “scenarios”).

Then the biblical narrative process began. People remember lessons better when they are attached to a story, e.g. Aesop’s fables, Nursery Rhymes, other examples ad nauseum. So, all of the Yahwists’ spiritual conquests (they drove out the other religions from their regions) were transformed into quasi-historical stories. The subjugation by Egypt became being enslaved there. Their freedom from Egyptian rule became the escape and journey to the Promised Land. the triumph of Yahweh worship over the old Canaanite religion became Joshua and the mighty Israelite host which conquered all of those other cities and slaughtered and enslaved their occupants. (See what you get if you don’t worship the right god! They got what they deserved.)

Possibly the first audiences for these “narratives” understood they were fictional, but over time and space that feeling was lost, so now we have millions upon millions of people who believe those stories are true. (I would love to see a Pew Religion Survey question, regarding the flight from Egypt (True or False or MC).)

Now, these archaeological efforts (once the biased Biblical Archaeologists were gotten out of the way) finally provide a coherent picture of what might have happened. But the really scary part is that the priests or scribes, whoever, who crafted these stories with all of their horrific details, who believed that those atrocities were a good way to introduce the True Nature™ of the One True God™ to one and all. (“I know Shechem, let’s have the soldiers kill all of the babies and rape all of the women!” “Good idea, let’s go with that!”)

Now, for those of you who say “Oh, that can’t have happened,” consider that the whole process was replicated in the formation of the New Testament. Prior to the writing of the gospels (at least 40+ to 100+ years after the events claimed to be being described), all of the epistles never mention an earthly or historical Jesus, not . . . one . . . mention. The Jesus of the epistles is a spiritual being who resides in Heaven (and their concept of Heaven wasn’t clouds and harp music, but a world just like this one, but perfected). So, the gospels are fictional “wisdom literature” crafted to teach the lessons needed by the flock. And, once again, non-historical events are front and center of these writings . . .. but millions upon billions of Christians accept them as being historical, if not every word being holy truth.

Postscript For any who feel that “once the biased Biblical Archaeologists were gotten out of the way” was too strong of a statement, it is clear now that the vast majority of these “scientists” went to their research sites knowing that the events in the Bible were true (had to be true) and they were just looking for confirmation. Do you know what a scientist who assumes a thing to be true and then goes looking for confirmation is called? An abomination, that’s what they are called.


  1. Just one question. What was that manna, anyway? And can I get it at Whole Foods?

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by James Cross — August 19, 2019 @ 11:28 am | Reply

    • Well, yes, you can get it at Whole Foods, but you can’t afford it. You could try to get some by wandering in a desert with millions of others, but I wouldn’t recommend that.

      On Mon, Aug 19, 2019 at 11:28 AM Class Warfare Blog wrote:


      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by Steve Ruis — August 19, 2019 @ 11:38 am | Reply

      • If you look at Wikipedia, prime candidates for it are various types of insects, including a kosher form of locust.

        However, Wikipedia also says:

        “In the biblical account, the name manna is said to derive from the question man hu, seemingly meaning “What is it?”.

        That suggests to me that somebody might have put it into the story as a joke to let you know the whole story wasn’t quite the truth.


        Comment by James Cross — August 19, 2019 @ 11:49 am | Reply

        • I can’t imagine insects, especially in a desert where they aren’t exactly going to swarm, would be adequate to feed millions of people. Archaeologists have made it fairly clear that this “event” didn’t happen. Some linguists indicate that being “delivered from Egypt” was code for being delivered from Egyptian rule (which Egypt did in Judea and Israel time and again). Now that makes sense, but the attempt to historicize this fact by people either ignorant or uncaring resulted in a great many people being deceived (which I guess serves them right for being unthinking).

          On Mon, Aug 19, 2019 at 11:49 AM Class Warfare Blog wrote:



          Comment by Steve Ruis — August 19, 2019 @ 12:05 pm | Reply

  2. Isn’t it astonishing that a story set between 1700 BCE and 1300 BCE contains mostly only places that did not exist between 1700 BCE and 1300 BCE, but did exist in the 8th/7th Century BCE which was, REMARKABLY, precisely when the priest, Hilkiah, miraculously found the “ancient” books of the Torah (the scroll of the law, the Sefer Torah) hidden in a wall, telling this fantastic tale how his Kingdom, Judah, was in fact the center of the Jewish world.

    Yhwh is truly grand!

    Liked by 2 people

    Comment by john zande — August 19, 2019 @ 12:49 pm | Reply

    • Yes, they get back from Babylon and there are all of these “Samaritans” and “Canaanites” wandering around. (These were Hebrews that weren’t in Jerusalem when it was crushed and being elites, they assumed that that calamity happened to all Hebrews.) So, they think they need a back story to back up their claim to rule (not wanting the Babylonian say so be their only justification), so they have to whip up something and, well they had all of this “content” they were whipping up in Babylon, drawing upon all kinds of Zoroastrian concepts, Babylonian worldview/cosmology and the like, and yeah, I’d call that inspired scripture. Inspired for the royals and priests wanting to come back and slid right into their old positions at the top.

      On Mon, Aug 19, 2019 at 12:49 PM Class Warfare Blog wrote:



      Comment by Steve Ruis — August 19, 2019 @ 1:45 pm | Reply

      • There was a lot of editorial work done in Babylon.


        Comment by john zande — August 19, 2019 @ 1:48 pm | Reply

        • They had little else to do (them elites, that is).

          On Mon, Aug 19, 2019 at 1:48 PM Class Warfare Blog wrote:


          Liked by 1 person

          Comment by Steve Ruis — August 19, 2019 @ 1:54 pm | Reply

  3. Thanks for this post. I knew the holly buy-bull was a work of fiction, this just re-enforces that idea.


    Comment by Walter Kronkat — August 19, 2019 @ 2:27 pm | Reply

  4. Reblogged this on silverapplequeen and commented:
    Once again, repeat after me, The Bible is a book of MYTH & POETRY. It is most definitely not History.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by silverapplequeen — August 20, 2019 @ 5:48 am | Reply

  5. As a Polytheist, I have a small altar to the Gods of Canaan. Trying to dig deeply into the ancient religious lives of the people of area is difficult. There is too much editorializing. Also, looking at religious lives of pre-Arabic peoples run into similar problems – destruction of holy sites and religious suppression.


    Comment by neptunesdolphins — August 20, 2019 @ 8:38 am | Reply

    • Re “Trying to dig deeply into the ancient religious lives of the people of area is difficult.” Are you implying that trying to dig just deeply enough into the ancient religious lives of the people of area is less difficult? Seems so. Basically, the people digging for the past 100+ years were predisposed to finding certain answers to their questions. Only in the past couple of decades have archaeologists been following where the evidence leads. For example, thousands of clay figurines of female figures have been found (and very, very few male figures of similar construction). They clearly seem associated with some form of goddess worship. These were misidentified for many decades by people not wanting to admit that such worship occurred. Now that they have been correctly identified, we can move onto asking how they were used in worship practices.

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by Steve Ruis — August 20, 2019 @ 9:03 am | Reply

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