Archeologists contend that the bible is such a complex book that it could not have been written during the primitive times described in Genesis and other early stories. As a consequence, bible scholars are questioning the authenticity of Biblical stories in terms of where and when the stories were written. It is plausible that the Bible as we know it is the literary product of scribes and other writers of a period in history when it was possible to document historical accounts of the patriarchs.
Finkelstein and Silberman argue that much of the archeological evidence available from biblical excavations reveal artifacts that can be linked to a particular stage of societal development (p 32). There is a consensus among archeologists all over the world that the writings of the Pentateuch point to an organized society. This stage of societal development is characterized by sophisticated styles of writing, centralized leadership and the presence of national institutions such as monarchies or even religious cults (p 32). This stage of social development is associated with great social order. There is economic specialization which is supported by a grid of interlocking communities both large cities and small towns, spread out around the area. Another common trait is the presences of monumental buildings constructed from the proceeds of trade and other economic activities (p 32).
2. When did those developments take place in Judah?
Biblical scholars and archeologists postulate that the Torah could have been written during the reign of David and Solomon during the eight century BCE. Finkelstein and Silberman suggest a much later period; about two and a half century’s later (p 33). Archeological evidences have linked Deuteronomistic accounts of history to artifacts dated to the seventh century BCE.
The Pentateuch is filled with the aspirations, dreams, fears and hopes of the people during the Kingdom of Judah. Many of the stories are consistent with the political turmoil and social struggle that occurred during the reign of King Josiah at the close of the seventh century BCE (p 33). Much of the accounts of previous historical occurrences are embellished with influences from the Kingdom of Judah. This makes it possible to conclude that these stories were written by men and women who had the ability to capture ideological position of the people from the past to the present. It is therefore possible to conclude that the Torah bears the ambitions of the people of Judah before and during the period of its existence.
3. Why do the authors call the Pentateuch a "national epic"?
Pentateuch is a collection the bible's first book mainly Numbers, Genesis, Deuteronomy, Exodus and Leviticus. These books majorly narrate the story of Israelite people from the time the world came into the creation, through the flood period, the patriarchs, the entire episode of exodus from Egypt, the experience of Israelites wandering in the desert and the unveiling of the commandments at Mt. Sinai. The conclusion of Pentateuch covers Moses’ farewell to the Israelite people. These events are considered a national epic by various authors because of the historical aspects covered by the books. The story of Israel people is narrated from the beginning and ruin of Jerusalem Temple in 586 BCE (Pg. 10).
Pentateuch is an epic story with a description of the rise of Israel people and their unfolding relationship with God. The saga explains the reasons of the history of Israel people unfolded in accordance to God’s demands and promises. In this entire drama, the Israel people are the Central actors. The flow of history was determined by their actions and adherence to God’s commandments. The world’s fate is left to the Israel people and all those who read the bible (Pg. 11). Pentateuch begins with the story of creation, the Garden of Eden through to the fall of man, the procreation, and the various family stories of the patriarchs and the history of various people and kingdoms (Pg. 11).
4. Why were stories about the Hebrew Patriarchs important to the editors and authors of the Bible in the seventh century BCE?
The Bible authors’ in the Seventh century BCE considered the stories of the Hebrew Patriarchs significant in their writing the scriptures. The stories were nationally epic given the manner in which they wove together without ripping off their individual distinctiveness and their humanity. The main Patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, were considered metaphorical ancestors and spiritual portraits of the Israel people. The 12 sons of Jacob were introduced into the tradition to complete the genealogy as junior members. The children of the three main patriarchs were one family as Abraham was promised to have many descendants. The family was united by the power of the legend in a strong and timeless manner.
The search of the Hebrew Patriarchs by various scholars was motivated by a deeper connection with modern religious belief. The scholars’ faith persuaded them into believing that God’s promise to the patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac and Jacob) – the Jewish people birthright; and this birthright later passed on to Christians as explained in the letter to Galatians by apostle Paul (Pg. 46). Since the stories of the Patriarchs are told in sequences and chronological order, it was significant to the authors of the Bible to trace the story (Pg. 47).
5. What role did the Patriarchs play in the national epic of Judah?
At the beginning, the world had a single family that enjoyed a peculiar relationship with God. This family at that time was fruitful; therefore it multiplied a significantly and the population grew into the Israel people. The first patriarch was Abraham, a recipient of the divine promise of both land and many descendants. This was carried forward to generations by Isaac, his son and Jacob, who was Isaac’s son. Jacob was otherwise known as Israel. Jacob had 12 sons and each of his sons became a patriarch of an Israel’s tribe (Pg. 36-37).
6. What was the kingdom of Israel as distinguished from the kingdom of Judah?
The people of Israel are grouped into two kingdoms. These are the kingdom of Israel and the Kingdom of Judah. The distinction comes from the geographical settlement of the 12 sons of Jacob. Loosely speaking the sons who settled in the north formed the kingdom of Israel while those who settled in the south created the Kingdom of Judah. These two kingdoms represent two different societies that existed in Israel. Both rose from contradicting physical, geographical, ideological and religious positions. In the end, the Bible merges both stories to create a common history for the Israelites (p35).
The kingdom of Israel was located in the fertile valleys and rolling hills north of Israel (35). The area and it inhabitants were economically prosperous. At the height of the kingdom, the area was the richest and the most cosmopolitan in the region. The region was home to some of the richest men in the region. As time went by, the kingdom lost its power and potency. So much so that it gets little mention in Biblical stories. The kingdom is portrayed as the villain in the book of Kings (p35). On the other hand, the Kingdom of Judah was located in a rocky and largely inhospitable region to the south of Israel. Despite the odds, the kingdom survived longer that its privileged counterpart in the north. This is because the southerners fiercely defended their religion, the temple and the monarchy.
7. When was the kingdom of Israel destroyed? By whom?
The Assyrians in 720 BCE destroyed the kingdom of Israel. Refugees fled to Judah. During the reign the Assyrians, the population of Israel was almost ten times that of Judah. Due to the high population of refugees from Israel to Judah, most of the Judean villages were converted to cities. Based on the archeological evidence as per Bible Unearthed, the population of Jerusalem rose to about 15-fold, turning it from a small town to a densely populated city. The religious and social struggles that normally occur in a populated city are not mentioned in the Bible Unearthed.
According to the Bible Unearthed, the priests of Jerusalem began to promote the Yahweh-based monolatry in order to align itself with anti-Assyrian views that were attached with king Hezekiah’s, this was because they saw the Assyrian destruction of Israel as unjust, and because they intended to benefit economically and politically from the new rich countryside. King Hezekiah initiated the banning of worship deities rather than Yahweh; the king led the destruction of shrines. These actions of the king according to Bible Unearthed were a preparation to rebel against the Assyrians. By 701 BCE, the Assyrians had dominated a large part of Judah, Jerusalem had been fully besieged. The Bible Unearthed gives varied explanation to the siege of Jerusalem, according to one explanation from this bible, two hundred thousand men in the army that had surrounded Jerusalem ready to attack were slaughtered by angels forcing the king of Assyria to relent and retreat back home.
8. Why was the figure of Abraham in Genesis "the unifier of northern and southern traditions"?
The figure of Abraham functions as a unifier of the northern and southern traditions, Abraham bridges the northern and the southern kingdom. Although most of the archeological explanation of the Bible Unearthed revolves around Judah, the bible did not fail to honor the traditions of north Israelites. Abraham is therefore a unifying figure to northern and southern traditions in that he was the builder of alters of YHWH at Bethel and Shechem, these are the two most significant and important cult centers of the northern kingdom. Abraham built the altar at Hebron; this was a very important place of worship after Jerusalem at the time. The fact that Abraham is recognized for building the altars in Bethel and Shechem, it is evident that even though the places of worship were polluted with idolatry, these places were in the king times legitimately sacred places connected with southern patriarch.
Another factor that makes Abraham a unifying factor to the ancient traditions of both the northern and the southern empire in Israel is the fact that there were similar tombs of patriarchs in both the kingdoms attached with Abraham’s way of worship. These are sacred places where Jacob (northern hero), Abraham, and Isaac (northern heroes) were buried at Hebron, a city that is the second important city in Judah. Notably, the story of the tombs purchase is generally ascribed as a priestly source according to Bible Unearthed, which seems to have more than a single composite layer to it.
9. what is an "eponymous ancestor"?"
Eponymous ancestor is a mythical historic figure that stands for a city or people; there is a connection between the figure and the city or the people. Eponymous ancestor was a name given to Jacob, according to the book of genesis. Jacob was referred to as the eponymous ancestor of the Hebrews. Hebrew was the God chosen nation. Jacob went through lots of struggles with being who he was, in the end of the story, he is even revealed as God. Jacob was alienated from the people (Isaac, Esau and Lebam), this makes a vital stage in the emotional development of Jacob. The ten tribes of Israel were named from the ten sons of Jacob. These tribes constituted the northern and the southern kingdoms of Israel.
The Bible Unearthed (Pg. 1-47)