Early Israel and the Surrounding Nations
Archibald Sayce

Part 1 out of 5

Produced by Jonathan Ingram, David King, and the Online Distributed
Proofreading Team






One of the first facts which strike the traveller in Palestine is the
smallness of a country which has nevertheless occupied so large a space
in the history of civilised mankind. It is scarcely larger than an
English county, and a considerable portion of it is occupied by rocky
mountains and barren defiles where cultivation is impossible. Its
population could never have been great, and though cities and villages
were crowded together on the plains and in the valleys, and perched at
times on almost inaccessible crags, the difficulty of finding sustenance
for their inhabitants prevented them from rivalling in size the European
or American towns of to-day. Like the country in which they dwelt, the
people of Palestine were necessarily but a small population when
compared with the nations of our modern age.

And yet it was just this scanty population which has left so deep an
impress on the thoughts and religion of mankind, and the narrow strip of
territory they inhabited which formed the battle-ground of the ancient
empires of the world. Israel was few in numbers, and the Canaan it
conquered was limited in extent; but they became as it were the centre
round which the forces of civilisation revolved, and towards which they
all pointed. Palestine, in fact, was for the eastern world what Athens
was for the western world; Athens and Attica were alike insignificant in
area and the Athenians were but a handful of men, but we derive from
them the principles of our art and philosophic speculation just as we
derive from Israel and Canaan the principles of our religion. Palestine
has been the mother-land of the religion of civilised man.

The geographical position of Palestine had much to do with this result.
It was the outpost of western Asia on the side of the Mediterranean, as
England is the outpost of Europe on the side of the Atlantic; and just
as the Atlantic is the highroad of commerce and trade for us of to-day,
so the Mediterranean was the seat of maritime enterprise and the source
of maritime wealth for the generations of the past. Palestine, moreover,
was the meeting-place of Asia and Africa. Not only was the way open for
its merchants by sea to the harbours and products of Europe, but the
desert which formed its southern boundary sloped away to the frontiers
of Egypt, while to the north and east it was in touch with the great
kingdoms of western Asia, with Babylonia and Assyria, Mesopotamia and
the Hittites of the north. In days of which we are just beginning to
have a glimpse it had been a province of the Babylonian empire, and when
Egypt threw off the yoke of its Asiatic conquerors and prepared to win
an empire for itself, Canaan was the earliest of its spoils. In a later
age Assyrians, Babylonians, and Egyptians again contended for the
mastery on the plains of Palestine; the possession of Jerusalem allowed
the Assyrian king to march unopposed into Egypt, and the battle of
Megiddo placed all Asia west of the Euphrates at the feet of the
Egyptian Pharaoh.

Palestine is thus a centre of ancient Oriental history. Its occupation
by Babylonians or Egyptians marks the shifting of the balance of power
between Asia and Africa. The fortunes of the great empires of the
eastern world are to a large extent reflected in its history. The rise
of the one meant the loss of Palestine to the other.

The people, too, were fitted by nature and circumstances for the part
they were destined to play. They were Semites with the inborn religious
spirit which is characteristic of the Semite, and they were also a mixed
race. The highlands of Canaan had been peopled by the Amorites, a tall
fair race, akin probably to the Berbers of northern Africa and the Kelts
of our own islands; the lowlands were in the hands of the Canaanites, a
people of Semitic blood and speech, who devoted themselves to the
pursuit of trade. Here and there were settlements of other tribes or
races, notably the Hittites, who had descended from the mountain-ranges
of the Taurus and spread over northern Syria. Upon all these varied
elements the Israelites flung themselves, at first in hostile invasion,
afterwards in friendly admixture. The Israelitish conquest of Palestine
was a slow process, and it was only in its earlier stages that it was
accompanied by the storming of cities and the massacre of their
inhabitants. As time went on the invaders intermingled with the older
population of the land, and the heads of the captives which surmount the
names of the places captured by the Egyptian Pharaoh Shishak in the
kingdom of Judah all show the Amorite and not the Jewish type of
countenance. The main bulk of the population, in fact, must have
continued unchanged by the Israelitish conquest, and conquerors and
conquered intermarried together. The genealogies given by the Hebrew
writers prove how extensive this intermingling of racial elements must
have been; even David counted a Moabitess among his ancestors, and
surrounded himself with guards of foreign nationality. Solomon's
successor, the first king of Judah, was the son of an Ammonite mother,
and we have only to read a few pages of the Book of Judges to learn how
soon after the invasion of Canaan the Israelites adopted the gods and
religious practices of the older population, and paid homage to the old
Canaanite shrines.

A mixed race is always superior to one of purer descent. It possesses
more enterprise and energy, more originality of thought and purpose. The
virtues and failings of the different elements it embodies are alike
intensified in it. We shall probably not go far wrong if we ascribe to
this mixed character of the Israelitish people the originality which
marks their history and finds its expression in the rise of prophecy.
They were a race, moreover, which was moulded in different directions by
the nature of the country in which it lived. Palestine was partly
mountainous; the great block of limestone known as the mountains of
Ephraim formed its backbone, and was that part of it which was first
occupied by the invading Israelites. But besides mountains there were
fertile plains and valleys, while on the sea-coast there were harbours,
ill adapted, it is true, to the requirements of modern ships, but
sufficient for the needs of ancient navigation. The Israelites were thus
trained on the one hand to the habits of hardy warriors, living a life
of independence and individual freedom in the fastnesses of the hills,
and on the other hand were tempted to become agriculturists and
shepherds wherever their lot was cast in the lowlands. The sea-coast was
left to the older population, and to the Philistines, who had settled
upon it about the time of the Hebrew exodus from Egypt; but the
Philistines eventually became the subject-vassals of the Jewish kings,
and friendly intercourse with the Phoenicians towards the north not only
brought about the rise of a mixed people, partly Canaanite and partly
Israelitish, but also introduced among the Israelites the Phoenician
love of trade.

Alike, therefore, by its geographical position, by the characteristics
of its population, and by the part it played in the history of the
civilised East, Palestine was so closely connected with the countries
and nations which surrounded it that its history cannot be properly
understood apart from theirs. Isolated and alone, its history is in
large measure unintelligible or open to misconception. The keenest
criticism is powerless to discover the principles which underlie it, to
detect the motives of the policy it describes, or to estimate the
credibility of the narratives in which it is contained, unless it is
assisted by testimony from without. It is like a dark jungle where the
discovery of a path is impossible until the sun penetrates through the
foliage and the daylight streams in through the branches of the trees.

Less than a century ago it seemed useless even to hope that such
external testimony would ever be forthcoming. There were a few scraps of
information to be gleaned from the classical authors of Greece and Rome,
which had been so sifted and tortured as to yield almost any sense that
was required; but even these scraps were self-contradictory, and, as we
now know, were for the most part little else than fables. It was
impossible to distinguish between the true and the false; to determine
whether the Chaldaean fragments of Berossos were to be preferred to the
second and third hand accounts of Herodotus, or whether the Egyptian
chronology of Manetho was to be accepted in all its startling magnitude.
And when all was said and done, there was little that threw light on the
Old Testament story, much less that supplemented it.

But the latter part of the nineteenth century has witnessed discoveries
which have revolutionised our conceptions of ancient Oriental history,
and illuminated the pages of the Biblical narrative. While scholars and
critics were disputing over a few doubtful texts, the libraries of the
old civilised world of the East were lying underground, waiting to be
disinterred by the excavator and interpreted by the decipherer. Egypt,
Assyria, and Babylonia have yielded up their dead; Arabia, Syria, and
Asia Minor are preparing to do the same. The tombs and temples of Egypt,
and the papyri which have been preserved in the sandy soil of a land
where frost and rain are hardly known, have made the old world of the
Egyptians live again before our eyes, while the clay books of Babylonia
and Assyria are giving us a knowledge of the people who wrote and read
them fully equal to that which we have of Greece or Rome. And yet we are
but at the beginning of discoveries. What has been found is but an
earnest of the harvest that is yet in store. It is but two years since
that the French excavator, de Sarzec, discovered a library of 30,000
tablets at Tello in southern Chaldaea, which had already been formed when
Gudea ruled over the city in B.C. 2700, and was arranged in shelves one
above the other. At Niffer, in the north of Babylonia, the American
excavators have found an even larger number of tablets, some of which go
back to the age of Sargon of Akkad, or 6000 years ago, while fresh
tablets come pouring into the museums of Europe and America from other
libraries found by the Arabs at Bersippa and Babylon, at Sippara and
Larsa. The Babylonia of the age of Amraphel, the contemporary of
Abraham, has, thanks to the recent finds, become as well known to us as
the Athens of Perikles; the daily life of the people can be traced in
all its outlines, and we even possess the autograph letters written by
Amraphel himself. The culture and civilisation of Babylonia were already
immensely old. The contracts for the lease and sale of houses or other
estate, the documents relating to the property of women, the reports of
the law cases that were tried before the official judges, all set before
us a state of society which changed but little down to the Persian era.
Behind it lie centuries of slow development and progress in the arts of
life. The age of Amraphel, indeed, is in certain respects an age of
decline. The heyday of Babylonian art lay nearly two thousand years
before it, in the epoch of Sargon and his son Naram-Sin. It was then
that the Babylonian empire was established throughout western Asia as
far as the Mediterranean, that a postal service was organised along the
highroads which led from one city of the empire to another, and that
Babylonian art reached its climax. It was then, too, that the Babylonian
system of writing practically took its final form.

The civilisation of western Asia is, as has been said, immensely old.
That is the net result of modern discovery and research. As far back as
excavation can carry us there is still culture and art. We look in vain
for the beginnings of civilised life. Even the pictures out of which the
written systems of the ancient East were developed belong to a past of
which we have but glimpses. Of savagery or barbarism on the banks of the
lower Euphrates there is not a trace. So far as our materials enable us
to judge, civilised man existed from the beginning in "the land of
Shinar." The great temples of Babylonia were already erected, the
overflow of the rivers controlled, and written characters imprinted on
tablets of clay. Civilisation seems to spring up suddenly out of a night
of darkness, like Athena from the head of Zeus.

This is one of the chief lessons that have been taught us by Oriental
archaeology. Culture and civilisation are no new thing, at all events in
the East; long before the days of classical Greece, long before the days
even of Abraham, man was living in ease and comfort, surrounded by
objects of art and industry, acquainted with the art of writing, and
carrying on intercourse with distant lands. We must rid ourselves once
for all of the starveling ideas of chronology which a classical training
once encouraged, and of the belief that history, in the true sense of
the word, hardly goes back beyond the age of Darius or Perikles. The
civilisations of Babylonia and Egypt were already decrepid when the
ancestors of Perikles were still barbarians.

Another lesson is the danger of forming conclusions from imperfect
evidence. Apart from the earlier records of the Old Testament, there was
no literature which claimed a greater antiquity than the Homeric Poems
of ancient Greece; no history of older date than that of Hellas, unless
indeed the annals of China were to be included, which lay altogether
outside the stream of European history. Criticism, accordingly, deemed
itself competent to decide dogmatically on the character and credibility
of the literature and history of which it was in possession; to measure
the statements of the Old Testament writings by the rules of Greek and
Latin literature, and to argue from the history of Europe to that of the
East. Uncontrolled by external testimony, critical scepticism played
havoc with the historical narratives that had descended to it, and
starting from the assumption that the world of antiquity was illiterate,
refused to credit such records of the past as dwarfed the proportions of
Greek history, or could not be harmonised with the canons of the critic
himself. It was quite sufficient for a fact to go back to the second
millennium B.C. for it to be peremptorily ruled out of court.

The discoveries of Oriental archaeology have come with a rude shock to
disturb both the conclusions of this imperfectly-equipped criticism and
the principles on which they rest. Discovery has followed discovery,
each more marvellous than the last, and re-establishing the truth of
some historical narrative in which we had been called upon to
disbelieve. Dr. Schliemann and the excavators who have come after him
have revealed to an incredulous world that Troy of Priam which had been
relegated to cloudland, and have proved that the traditions of Mykenaean
glory, of Agamemnon and Menelaos, and even of voyages to the coast of
Egypt, were not fables but veritable facts. Even more striking have been
the discoveries which have restored credit to the narratives of the Old
Testament, and shown that they rest on contemporaneous evidence. It was
not so long ago that the account of the campaign of Chedor-laomer and
his allies in Canaan was unhesitatingly rejected as a mere reflection
into the past of the campaigns of later Assyrian kings. Even the names
of the Canaanite princes who opposed him were resolved into etymological
puns. But the tablets of Babylonia have come to their rescue. We now
know that long before the days of Abraham not only did Babylonian armies
march to the shores of the Mediterranean, but that Canaan was a
Babylonian province, and that Amraphel, the ally of Chedor-laomer,
actually entitles himself king of it in one of his inscriptions. We now
know also that the political condition of Babylonia described in the
narrative is scrupulously exact. Babylonia was for a time under the
domination of the Elamites, and while Amraphel or Khammurabi was allowed
to rule at Babylon as a vassal-prince, an Elamite of the name of Eri-Aku
or Arioch governed Larsa in the south. Nay more; tablets have recently
been found which show that the name of the Elamite monarch was
Kudur-Laghghamar, and that among his vassal allies was Tudkhula or
Tidal, who seems to have been king of the Manda, or "nations" of
Kurdistan. Khammurabi, whose name is also written Ammurapi, has left us
autograph letters, in one of which he refers to his defeat of
Kudur-Laghghamar in the decisive battle which at last delivered
Babylonia from the Elamite yoke.

The story of Chedor-laomer's campaign preserved in Genesis has thus
found complete verification. The political situation presupposed in
it--however unlikely it seemed to the historian but a few years ago--has
turned out to be in strict harmony with fact; the names of the chief
actors in it have come down to us with scarcely any alteration, and a
fragment of old-world history, which could not be fitted into the scheme
of the modern historian, has proved to be part of a larger story which
the clay books of Babylonia are gradually unfolding before our eyes. It
is no longer safe to reject a narrative as "unhistorical" simply on the
ground of the imperfection of our own knowledge.

Or let us take another instance from the later days of Assyrian history,
the period which immediately precedes the first intercourse between
Greece and the East. We are told in the Books of the Chronicles that
Manasseh of Judah rebelled against his Assyrian master and was in
consequence carried in chains to Babylon, where he was pardoned and
restored to his ancestral throne. The story seemed at first sight of
doubtful authenticity. It is not even alluded to in the Books of the
Kings; Nineveh and not Babylon was the capital of the Assyrian empire,
and the Assyrian monarchs were not in the habit of forgiving their
revolted vassals, much less of sending them back to their own kingdoms.
And yet the cuneiform inscriptions have smoothed away all these
objections. Esar-haddon mentions Manasseh among the subject princes of
the West, and it was just Esar-haddon who rebuilt Babylon after its
destruction by his father, and made it his residence during a part of
the year. Moreover, other instances are known in which a revolted prince
was reinstated in his former power. Thus Assur-bani-pal forgave the
Egyptian prince of Sais when, like Manasseh, he had been sent in chains
to Assyria after an unsuccessful rebellion, and restored him to his old
principality. What was done by Assur-bani-pal might well have been done
by the more merciful Esar-haddon, who showed himself throughout his
reign anxious to conciliate the conquered populations. It is even
possible that Assur-bani-pal himself was the sovereign against whom
Manasseh rebelled and before whom he was brought. In this case
Manasseh's revolt would have been part of that general revolt of the
Assyrian provinces under the leadership of Babylon, which shook the
empire to its foundations, and in which the Assyrian king expressly
tells us Palestine joined. The Jewish king would thus have been carried
to Babylon after the capture of that city by the Assyrian forces of

But the recent history of Oriental archaeology is strewn with instances
of the danger of historical scepticism where the evidence is defective,
and a single discovery may at any moment throw new and unexpected light
on the materials we possess. Who, for instance, could have supposed that
the name of the Israelites would ever be found on an Egyptian monument?
They were but a small and despised body of public slaves, settled in
Goshen, on the extreme skirts of the Egyptian territory. And yet in 1886
a granite stela was found by Professor Flinders Petrie containing a hymn
of victory in honour of Meneptah the son of Ramses II., and declaring
how, among other triumphs, "the Israelites" had been left "without
seed." The names of all the other vanquished or subject peoples
mentioned in the hymn have attached to them the determinative of place;
the Israelites alone are without it; they alone have no fixed
habitation, no definite locality of their own, so far at least as the
writer knew. It would seem that they had already escaped into the
desert, and been lost to sight in its recesses. Who could ever have
imagined that in such a case an Egyptian poet would have judged it worth
his while even to allude to the vanished serfs?

Still more recently the tomb of Menes, the founder of the united
Egyptian monarchy, and the leader of the first historical dynasty, has
been discovered by M. de Morgan at Negada, north of Thebes. It was only
a few months previously that the voice of historical criticism had
authoritatively declared him to be "fabulous" and "mythical." The
"fabulous" Menes, nevertheless, has now proved to be a very historical
personage indeed; some of his bones are in the museum of Cairo, and the
objects disinterred in his tomb show that he belonged to an age of
culture and intercourse with distant lands. The hieroglyphic system of
writing was already complete, and fragments of obsidian vases turned on
the lathe indicate commercial relations with the AEgean Sea.

If we turn to Babylonia the story is the same. Hardly had the critic
pronounced Sargon of Akkad to be a creature of myth, when at Niffer and
Telloh monuments both of himself and of his son were brought to light,
which, as in the case of Menes, proved that this "creature of myth"
lived in an age of advanced culture and in the full blaze of history. At
Niffer he and his son Naram-Sin built a platform of huge bricks, each
stamped with their names, and at Telloh clay _bullae_ have been
discovered, bearing the seals and addresses of the letters which were
conveyed during their reigns by a highly organised postal service along
the highroads of the kingdom. Numberless contract-tablets exist, dated
in the year when Sargon "conquered the land of the Amorites," as Syria
and Canaan were called, or accomplished some other achievement; and a
cadastral survey of the district in which Telloh was situated, made for
the purpose of taxation, incidentally refers to "the governor" who was
appointed over "the Amorites."

Perhaps, however, the discovery which above all others has
revolutionised our conceptions of early Oriental history, and reversed
the critical judgments which had prevailed in regard to it, was that of
the cuneiform tablets of Tel el-Amarna. The discovery was made in 1887
at Tel el-Amarna on the eastern bank of the Nile, midway between the
modern towns of Minia and Siut. Here is the site of the city built by
Khu-n-Aten, the "Heretic" Pharaoh, when the dissensions between himself
and the Theban priesthood became too acute to allow him to remain any
longer in the capital of his fathers. He migrated northward,
accordingly, with his court and the adherents of the new creed which he
sought to impose upon his subjects, carrying with him the archives of
the kingdom and the foreign correspondence of the empire. It was this
foreign correspondence which was embodied in the cuneiform tablets. They
make it clear that even under Egyptian rule the Babylonian language and
the Babylonian system of writing continued to be the official language
and script of western Asia, and that the Egyptian government itself was
forced to keep Babylonian secretaries who understood them. The fact
proves the long and permanent influence of Babylonian culture from the
banks of the Euphrates to the shores of the Mediterranean, and is
intelligible only in the light of the further fact that the empire of
Sargon of Akkad had been founded more than two thousand years before.
Nothing but a prodigiously long lapse of time could explain the firm
hold thus obtained by a foreign language, and a system of writing the
most complex and difficult to learn that has ever been invented.

The tablets further prove the existence throughout the Oriental world of
schools and libraries where the Babylonian language and characters could
be taught and learned and its voluminous literature stored and studied.
The age of Khu-n-Aten, which is also the age of Moses, was essentially a
literary age; a knowledge of reading and writing was widely spread, and
an active correspondence was being constantly carried on from one part
of the civilised world to the other. Even the Bedawin shekhs, who acted
as free-lances in Palestine, sent letters to the Pharaoh and read his
replies. The archive-chambers of the cities of Canaan contained
numberless documents contemporaneous with the events they recorded, and
the libraries were filled with the treasures of Babylonian literature,
with legends and stories of the gods, and the earlier history of the
East. Doubtless, as in Babylonia, so too in Palestine there were also in
them contracts and inventories of property, dated in the Babylonian
fashion by the events which characterised the years of a king's reign.
The scribes and upper classes could read and write, and therefore had
access to all these stores of literature and historical materials.

There is no longer any reason, therefore, for doubting that Moses and
his contemporaries could have read and written books, or that the Hebrew
legislator was learned in "all the wisdom of the Egyptians." If we are
to reject the historical trustworthiness of the Pentateuch, it must be
on other grounds than the assumption of the illiterateness of the age or
the impossibility of compiling at the time an accurate register of
facts. The Tel el-Amarna tablets have made it impossible to return to
the old critical point of view; the probabilities henceforward are in
favour of the early date and historical truth of the Old Testament
narratives, and not against them. Accurately-dated history and a reading
public existed in Babylonia long before the days of Abraham; in the age
of Moses the whole Eastern world from the Nile to the Euphrates was knit
together in the bonds of literary intercourse, and all who were in
contact with the great nations of the East--with Egypt, with Babylonia,
or with Assyria--came of necessity under its influence and held the book
and its author in the highest reverence.

But besides thus revolutionising our ideas of the age that preceded the
Hebrew Exodus, the Tel el-Amarna letters have thrown a welcome light on
the political causes of the Exodus itself. They have made it clear that
the reaction against the reforms and government of "the Heretic King"
Khu-n-Aten was as much national as religious. It was directed quite as
much against the foreigner who had usurped the chief offices of state,
as against the religion which the foreigner was believed to have brought
with him. The rise of the Nineteenth dynasty marks the triumph of the
national uprising and the overthrow of Asiatic influence. The movement
of which it was the result resembled the revolt of Arabi in our own
days. But there was no England at hand to prevent the banishment of the
stranger and his religion; the Semites who had practically governed
Egypt under Khu-n-Aten were expelled or slain, and hard measure was
dealt out to such of their kinsfolk as still remained in the land. The
free-born sons of Israel in the district of Goshen were turned into
public serfs, and compelled to work at the buildings with which Ramses
II. was covering the soil of Egypt, and their "seed" was still further
diminished by the destruction of their male offspring, lest they should
join the enemies of Egypt in any future invasion of the country, or
assist another attempt from within to subvert the old faith of the
people and the political supremacy of the Theban priests. That the fear
was not without justification is shown by the words of Meneptah, the son
of Ramses, at the time when the very existence of the Egyptian monarchy
was threatened by the Libyan invasion from the west and the sea-robbers
who attacked it from the Greek seas. The Asiatic settlers, he tells us,
had pitched "their tents before Pi-Bailos" (or Belbeis) at the western
extremity of the land of Goshen, and the Egyptian "kings found
themselves cut off in the midst of their cities, and surrounded by
earthworks, for they had no mercenaries to oppose to" the foe. It would
seem that the Israelites effected their escape under cover of the Libyan
invasion in the fifth year of Meneptah's reign, and on this account it
is that their name is introduced into the paean wherein the destruction
of the Libyan host is celebrated and the Pharaoh is declared to have
restored peace to the whole world.

If the history of Israel thus receives light and explanation on the one
side from the revelations of Oriental archaeology, on the other side it
sometimes clears up difficulties in the history of the great nations of
Oriental antiquity. The Egyptologist, for instance, is confronted by a
fact towards the explanation of which the monuments furnish no help.
This is the curious change that passed over the tenure of land in Egypt
during the period of Hyksos rule. When the Fourteenth dynasty fell, a
large part of the soil of Egypt was in the hands of private holders,
many of whom were great feudal landowners whose acknowledgment of the
royal supremacy was at times little more than nominal. When, however,
the Hyksos were at last driven back to Asia, and Ahmes succeeded in
founding the Eighteenth dynasty, these landowners had disappeared. All
the landed estate of the country had passed into the possession of the
Pharaoh and the priests, and the old feudal aristocracy had been
replaced by a bureaucracy, the members of which owed their power and
position to the king. The history of Joseph accounts for this, and it is
the only explanation of the fact which is at present forthcoming. Famine
compelled the people to sell their lands to the king and his minister,
and a Hyksos Pharaoh and his Hebrew vizier thus succeeded in destroying
the older aristocracy and despoiling the natives of their estates. It
was probably at this period also that the public granaries, of which we
hear so much in the age of the Eighteenth dynasty, were first
established in Egypt, in imitation of those of Babylonia, where they had
long been an institution, and a superintendent was appointed over them
who, as in Babylonia, virtually held the power of life and death in his

One of the main results, then, of recent discovery in the East has been
to teach us the solidarity of ancient Oriental history, and the
impossibility of forming a correct judgment in regard to any one part of
it without reference to the rest. Hebrew history is unintelligible as
long as it stands alone, and the attempt to interpret it apart and by
itself has led to little else than false and one-sided conclusions; it
is only when read in the light of the history of the great empires which
flourished beside it that it can be properly understood. Israel and the
nations around it formed a whole, so far as the historian is concerned,
which, like the elements of a picture, cannot be torn asunder. If we
would know the history of the one, we must know the history of the other
also. And each year is adding to our knowledge; new monuments are being
excavated, new inscriptions being read, and the revelations of to-day
are surpassed by those of to-morrow. We have already learnt much, but it
is only a commencement; Egypt is only now beginning to be scientifically
explored, a few only of the multitudinous libraries of Babylonia have
been brought to light, and the soil of Assyria has been little more than
touched. Elsewhere, in Elam, in Mesopotamia, in Asia Minor, in Palestine
itself, everything still remains to be done. The harvest truly is
plentiful, but the labourers are few.

We have, however, learnt some needful lessons. The historian has been
warned against arguing from the imperfection of his own knowledge, and
rejecting an ancient narrative merely because it seems unsupported by
other testimony. He has been warned, too, against making his own
prepossessions and assumptions the test of historical truth, of laying
down that a reported fact could not have happened because it runs
counter to what he assumes to have been the state of society in some
particular age. Above all, the lesson of modesty has been impressed upon
him, modesty in regard to the extent of his own knowledge and the
fallibility of his own conclusions. It does not follow that what we
imagine ought to have happened has happened in reality; on the contrary,
the course of Oriental history has usually been very different from that
dreamed of by the European scholar in the quietude of his study. If
Oriental archaeology has taught us nothing else, it has at least taught
us how little we know.













Israel traced its origin to Babylonia. It was from "Ur of the Chaldees"
that Abraham "the Hebrew" had come, the rock out of which it was hewn.
Here on the western bank of the Euphrates was the earliest home of the
Hebrews, of whom the Israelites claimed to be a part.

But they were not the only nation of the ancient Oriental world which
derived its ancestry from Abraham. He was the father not only of the
Israelites, but of the inhabitants of northern and central Arabia as
well. The Ishmaelites who were settled in the north of the Arabian
peninsula, the descendants of Keturah who colonised Midian and the
western coast, were also his children. Moab and Ammon, moreover, traced
their pedigree to his nephew, while Edom was the elder brother of
Israel. Israel, in fact, was united by the closest ties of blood to all
the populations which in the historic age dwelt between the borders of
Palestine and the mountain-ranges of south-eastern Arabia. They formed a
single family which claimed descent from a common ancestor.

Israel was the latest of them to appear on the scene of history. Moab
and Ammon had subjugated or absorbed the old Amorite population on the
eastern side of the Jordan, Ishmael and the Keturites had made
themselves a home in Arabia, Edom had possessed itself of the
mountain-fastnesses of the Horite and the Amalekite, long before the
Israelites had escaped from their bondage in Egypt, or formed themselves
into a nation in the desert. They were the youngest member of the Hebrew
family, though but for them the names of their brethren would have
remained forgotten and unknown. Israel needed the discipline of a long
preparation for the part it was destined to play in the future history
of the world.

The Hebrews belonged to the Semitic race. The race is distinguished by
certain common characteristics, but more especially by the possession of
a common type of language, which is markedly different from the other
languages of mankind. Its words are built on what is termed the
principle of triliteralism; the skeleton, as it were, of each of them
consisting of three consonants, while the vowels, which give flesh and
life to the skeleton, vary according to the grammatical signification of
the word. The relations of grammar are thus expressed for the most part
by changes of vocalic sound, just as in English the plural of "man" is
denoted by a change in the vowel. The verb is but imperfectly developed;
it is, in fact, rather a noun than a verb, expressing relation rather
than time. Compound words, moreover, are rare, the compounds of our
European languages being replaced in the Semitic dialects by separate

Perhaps one of the most remarkable characteristics of the Semitic family
of speech is its conservatism and resistance to change. As compared with
the other languages of the world, its grammar and vocabulary have alike
undergone but little alteration in the course of the centuries during
which we can trace its existence. The very words which were used by the
Babylonians four or five thousand years ago, can still be heard, with
the same meaning attached to them, in the streets of Cairo. _Kelb_ is
"dog" in modern Arabic as _kalbu_ was in ancient Babylonian, and the
modern Arabic _tayyib_, "good," is the Babylonian _tabu_. One of the
results of this unchangeableness of Semitic speech is the close
similarity and relationship that exist between the various languages
that represent it. They are dialects rather than distinct languages,
more closely resembling one another than is the case even with the
Romanic languages of modern Europe, which are descended from Latin.

Most of the Semitic languages--or dialects if we like so to call
them--are now dead, swallowed up by the Arabic of Mohammed and the
Qoran. The Assyrian which was spoken in Assyria and Babylonia is
extinct; so, too, are the Ethiopic of Abyssinia, and the Hebrew language
itself. What we term Hebrew was originally "the language of Canaan,"
spoken by the Semitic Canaanites long before the Israelitish conquest of
the country, and found as late as the Roman age on the monuments of
Phoenicia and Carthage. The Minaean and the Sabaean dialects of southern
Arabia still survive in modern forms; Arabic, which has now overflowed
the rest of the Semitic world, was the language of central Arabia alone.
In northern Arabia, as well as in Mesopotamia and Syria, Aramaic
dialects were used, the miserable relics of which are preserved to-day
among a few villagers of the Lebanon and Lake Urumiyeh. These Aramaic
dialects, it is now believed, arose from a mixture of Arabic with "the
language of Canaan."

On the physical side, the Semitic race is not so homogeneous as it is on
the linguistic side. But this is due to intermarriage with other races,
and where it is purest it displays the same general characteristics.
Thick and fleshy lips, arched nose, black hair and eyes, and white
complexion, distinguish the pure-blooded Semite. Intellectually he is
clever and able, quick to learn and remember, with an innate capacity
for trade and finance. Morally he is intense but sensuous, strong in his
hate and in his affections, full of a profound belief in a personal God
as well as in himself.

When Abraham was born in Ur of the Chaldees the power and influence of
Babylonia had been firmly established for centuries throughout the
length and breadth of western Asia. From the mountains of Elam to the
coast of the Mediterranean the Babylonian language was understood, the
Babylonian system of writing was taught and learned, Babylonian
literature was studied, Babylonian trade was carried on, and Babylonian
law was in force. From time to time Syria and Canaan had obeyed the rule
of the Babylonian kings, and been formed into a Babylonian province. In
fact, Babylonian rule did not come to an end in the west till after the
death of Abraham; Khammurabi, the Amraphel of Genesis, entitles himself
king of "the land of the Amorites," as Palestine was called by the
Babylonians, and his fourth successor still gives himself the same
title. The loss of Canaan and the fall of the Babylonian empire seem to
have been due to the conquest of Babylon by a tribe of Elamite

The Babylonians of Abraham's age were Semites, and the language they
spoke was not more dissimilar from Canaanitish or Hebrew than Italian is
from Spanish. But the population of the country had not always been of
the Semitic stock. Its first settlers--those who had founded its cities,
who had invented the cuneiform system of writing and originated its
culture--were of a wholly different race, and spoke an agglutinative
language which had no resemblance to that of the Semites. They had,
however, been conquered and their culture absorbed by the Semitic
Babylonians and Assyrians of later history, and the civilisation and
culture which had spread throughout western Asia was a Semitic
modification and development of the older culture of Chaldaea. Its
elements, indeed, were foreign, but long before it had been communicated
to the nations of the west it had become almost completely Semitic in
character. The Babylonian conquerors of Canaan were Semites, and the art
and trade, the law and literature they brought with them were Semitic

In passing, therefore, from Babylonia to Canaan, Abraham was but passing
from one part of the Babylonian empire to another. He was not migrating
into a strange country, where the government and civilisation were alike
unknown, and the manners and customs those of another world. The road he
traversed had been trodden for centuries by soldiers and traders and
civil officials, by Babylonians making their way to Canaan, and by
Canaanites intending to settle in Babylonia for the sake of trade.
Harran, the first stage on his journey, bore a Babylonian name, and its
great temple of the Moon-god had been founded by Babylonian princes
after the model of the temple of the Moon-god at Ur, the birthplace of
the patriarch. Even in Canaan itself the deities of Babylonia were
worshipped or identified with the native gods. Anu the god of the sky,
Rimmon the god of the air, Nebo the interpreter and prophet of
Bel-Merodach, were all adored in Palestine, and their names were
preserved to later times in the geography of the country. Even
Ashtoreth, in whom all the other goddesses of the popular cult came to
be merged, was of Babylonian origin.

Abraham took with him to the west the traditions and philosophy of
Babylonia, and found there a people already well acquainted with the
literature, the law, and the religion of his fatherland. The fact is an
important one; it is one of the most striking results of modern
discovery, and it has a direct bearing on our estimate of the
credibility of the narratives contained in the Book of Genesis. Written
and contemporaneous history in Babylonia went back to an age long
anterior to that of Abraham--his age, indeed, marks the beginning of the
decline of the Babylonian power and influence; and consequently, there
is no longer any reason to treat as unhistorical the narratives
connected with his name, or the statements that are made in regard to
himself and his posterity. His birth in Ur, his migration to Harran and
Palestine, have been lifted out of the region of doubt into that of
history, and we may therefore accept without further questioning all
that we are told of his relationship to Lot or to the tribes of
north-western Arabia.

In Canaan, however, Abraham was but a sojourner. Though he came there as
a Babylonian prince, as an ally of its Amoritish chieftains, as a leader
of armed troops, even as the conqueror of a Babylonian army, his only
possession in it was the burial-place of Machpelah. Here, in the close
neighbourhood of the later Hebron, he bought a plot of ground in the
sloping cliff, wherein a twofold chamber had been excavated in the rock
for the purposes of burial. The sepulchre of Machpelah was the sole
possession in the land of his adoption which he could bequeath to his

Of these, however, Ishmael and the sons of Keturah moved southward into
the desert, out of the reach of the cultured Canaanites and the
domination of Babylonia. Isaac, too, the son of his Babylonian wife,
seemed bent upon following their example. He established himself on the
skirts of the southern wilderness, not far on the one hand from the
borders of Palestine, nor on the other from the block of mountains
within which was the desert sanctuary of Kadesh-barnea. His sons Esau
and Jacob shared the desert and the cultivated land between them. Esau
planted himself among the barren heights of Mount Seir, subjugating or
assimilating its Horite and Amalekite inhabitants, and securing the road
which carried the trade of Syria to the Red Sea; while Jacob sought his
wives among the settled Aramaeans of Harran, and, like Abraham, pitched
his tent in Canaan. At Shechem, in the heart of Canaan, he purchased a
field, not, as in the case of Abraham, for the sake of burial, but in
order that he might live upon it in tent or house, and secure a spring
of water for his own possession.

In Jacob the Israelites saw their peculiar ancestor. His twelve sons
became the fathers and representatives of the twelve tribes of Israel,
and his own name was changed to that of Israel. The inscribed tablets of
early Babylonia have taught us that both Israel and Ishmael were the
names of individuals in the Patriarchal age, not the names of tribes or
peoples, and consequently the Israelites, like the Ishmaelites, of a
later day must have been the descendants of an individual Israel and
Ishmael as the Old Testament records assert. Already in the reign of the
Babylonian king Ammi-zadok, the fourth successor of Amraphel, the
contemporary of Abraham, a high-priest in the district of northern
Chaldasa assigned to "Amorite" settlers from Canaan, bore the name of
Sar-ilu or Israel.[1]

The fuller and older form of Jacob is Jacob-el. We find it in contracts
drawn up in Babylonia in the time of Abraham; we also find it as the
name of an Egyptian king in the period when Egypt was ruled by Asiatic
conquerors. The latter fact is curious, taken in connection with the
further fact, that the son of the Biblical Jacob--the progenitor of the
Israelites--was the viceroy of an Egyptian Pharaoh, and that his father
died in the Egyptian land of Goshen. Goshen was the district which
extends from Tel el-Maskhuta or Pithom near Ismailiya to Belbeis and
Zagazig, and includes the modern Wadi Tumilat; the traveller on the
railway passes through it on his way from Ismailiya to Cairo. It lay
outside the Delta proper, and, as the Egyptian inscriptions tell us, had
from early times been handed over to the nomad Bedawin and their flocks.
Here they lived, separate from the native agriculturists, herding their
flocks and cattle, and in touch with their kinsmen of the desert. Here,
too, the children of Israel were established, and here they multiplied
and became a people.

The growth of a family into a tribe or people is in accordance with Arab
rule. There are numerous historical instances of a single individual
becoming the forefather of a tribe or a collection of tribes which under
favourable conditions may develop into a nation. The tribe or people is
known as the "sons" of their ancestor; his name is handed down from
generation to generation, and the names of his leading descendants, the
representatives of the tribe, are handed down at the same time. Where we
speak of the population of a country, the Arab speaks of the "children"
of a certain man. Such a mode of expression is in harmony with Semitic
habits of thought. The genealogical method prevails alike in history and
geography; a colony is the "daughter" or "son" of its mother-city, and
the town of Sidon is the "first-born" of Canaan.

Jacob had twelve sons, and his descendants were accordingly divided into
twelve tribes. But the division was an artificial one; it never at any
time corresponded exactly with historical reality. Levi was not a tribe
in the same sense as the rest of his brethren; no territory was assigned
to him apart from the so-called Levitical cities; and he represented the
priestly order wherever it might be found and from whatever ancestors it
might be derived. Simeon and Dan hardly existed as separate tribes
except in name; their territories were absorbed into that of Judah, and
it was only in the city of Laish in the far north that the memory of Dan
survived. The tribe of Joseph was split into two halves, Ephraim and
Manasseh, while Judah was a mixture of various elements--of Hebrews who
traced their origin alike to Judah, to Simeon, and to Dan; of Kenites
and Jerahmeelites from the desert of Arabia; and of Kenizzites from
Edom. Benjamin or Ben-Oni was, as a tribe, merely the southern portion
of the house of Joseph, which had settled around the sanctuary of
Beth-On or Beth-el. Benjamin means the "Southerner," and Ben-Oni "the
inhabitant of Beth-On." It is even questionable whether the son of Jacob
from whom the tribe was held to be descended bore the name of Benjamin.
Had the name of Esau not been preserved we should not have known the
true name of the founder of Edom, and it may be that the name of the
tribe of Benjamin has been reflected back upon its ancestor.

In Goshen, at all events, the tribes of Israel would have been
distinguished by the names of their actual forefathers. They would have
been "the sons" of Reuben or Judah, of Simeon or Gad. But they were all
families within a single family. They were all "Israelites" or "sons of
Israel," and in an inscription of the Egyptian king Meneptah they are
accordingly called _Israelu_, "Israelites," without any territorial
adjunct. They lived in Goshen, like the Bedawin of to-day, and their
social organisation was that of Arabia.

The immediate occasion of the settlement of Israel on the outskirts of
Egypt was that which has brought so many Bedawin herdsmen to the valley
of the Nile both before and since. The very district of Goshen in which
they settled was occupied again, shortly after their desertion of it, by
nomads from Edom who had besought the Pharaoh for meadow-land on which
to feed their flocks. The need of pasturage from time immemorial has
urged the pastoral tribes of the desert towards the fertile land of the
Nile. When want of rain has brought drought upon Canaan, parching the
grass and destroying the corn, the nomad has invariably set his face
toward the country which is dependent for its fertility, not upon the
rains of heaven, but upon the annual overflow of its river. It was a
famine in Canaan, produced by the absence of rain, which made Jacob and
his sons "go down into Egypt."

But besides this immediate cause there was yet another. They were
assured of a welcome in the kingdom of the Nile and the gift of a
district in which they might live. One of the sons of Jacob had become
the Vizier of the Egyptian Pharaoh. Joseph, the Hebrew slave who had
been sold into bondage by his brothers, had risen to be the first
minister of the king and the favourite of his sovereign. He had foretold
the coming years of plenty and dearth; but he had done more--he had
pointed out how to anticipate the famine and make it subserve the
interests of despotism. He was not a seer only, he was a skilful
administrator as well. He had taken advantage of the years of scarcity
to effect a revolution in the social and political constitution of
Egypt. The people had been obliged to sell their lands and even
themselves to the king for bread, and become from henceforth a
population of royal slaves. The lands of Egypt were divided between the
king and the priests; the peasantry tilled them for the state and for
the temples, while the upper classes owed their wealth and position to
the offices which they received at court.

It would seem that the Israelites entered Egypt when the country was
governed by the last of those foreign dynasties from Asia which had
conquered the kingdom of the Pharaoh, and are known by the name of the
Hyksos or Shepherd kings. The Egyptian monuments have shown us that
during their dominion its internal constitution underwent precisely the
change which is described in the history of Joseph. Before the Hyksos
conquest there was a great feudal aristocracy, rich in landed estates
and influence, which served as a check upon the monarch, and at times
even refused to obey his authority. When the Hyksos conquerors are
finally expelled, we find that this feudal aristocracy has disappeared,
and its place has been taken by a civil and military bureaucracy. The
king has become a supreme autocrat, by the side of whom the priests
alone retain any power. The land has passed out of the hands of the
people; high and low alike are dependent for what they have on the
favour of the king.

The Hyksos dynasties were allied in race and sympathies with the
settlers from Asia. Joseph must have died before their expulsion, but it
is probable that he saw the outbreak of the war which ended in it, and
which after five generations of conflict restored the Egyptians to
independence. The Eighteenth dynasty was founded by the native princes
of Thebes, and the war against the Asiatic stranger which had begun in
Egypt was carried into Asia itself. Canaan was made an Egyptian
province, and the Egyptian empire was extended to the banks of the

But the conquest of Asia brought with it the introduction of Asiatic
influences into the country of the conqueror. The Pharaohs married
Asiatic wives, and their courts became gradually Asiatised. At length
Amenophis IV., under the tutelage of his mother, attempted to abolish
the national religion of Egypt, and to substitute for it a sort of
pantheistic monotheism, based on the worship of the Asiatic Baal as
represented by the Solar Disk. The Pharaoh transferred his capital from
Thebes to a new site farther north, now known as Tel el-Amarna, changed
his own name to Khu-n-Aten, "the Glory of the Solar Disk," and filled
his court with Asiatic officials and the adherents of the new cult. The
reaction, however, soon came. The native Egyptians rose in revolt; the
foreigner fled from the valley of the Nile, and the capital of
Khu-n-Aten fell into ruin. A new dynasty, the Nineteenth, arose under
Ramses I., whose grandson, Ramses II., reigned for sixty-seven years,
and crowded Egypt with his buildings and monuments.

One of the cities he built has been shown by the excavations of Dr.
Naville to have been Pa-Tum, the Pithom of the Old Testament. Ramses
II., therefore, must have been the Pharaoh of the Oppression. The
picture set before us in the first chapter of Exodus fits in exactly
with the character of his reign. The dynasty to which he belonged
represented the reaction against the domination and influence of the
foreigner from Asia, and the oppression of the Israelites would
naturally have been part of its policy. Such of the Asiatics as still
remained in Egypt were turned into public serfs, and measures were taken
to prevent them from multiplying so as to be dangerous to their masters.
The free spirit of the Bedawin was broken by servitude, and every care
was used that they should be unable to help their brethren from Asia in
case of another "Hyksos" invasion. The incessant building operations of
Ramses needed a constant supply of workmen, and financial as well as
political interests thus suggested that merciless _corvee_ of the
Israelites which rendered them at once politically harmless and
serviceable to the state.

In spite of all repression, however, the oppressed people continued to
multiply, and eventually escaped from their "house of bondage." The
stela of Meneptah, on which the name of "Israelites" occurs, implies
that they had already been lost to sight in the desert. The other
nationalities over whom Meneptah is said to have triumphed all have the
term "country" attached to their names; the "Israelites" alone are
without local habitation. Egyptian legend, as reported by the native
historian Manetho, placed the Exodus in the reign of Meneptah, and as
Meneptah was the son and successor of Ramses II., the correctness of the
statement is antecedently probable. It was in the fifth year of his
reign that the Delta was attacked by a formidable combination of foes.
The Libyans threatened it on the west: on the north, bands of
sea-pirates from the coasts of Asia Minor and the islands of the
Mediterranean attacked it by sea and land. A mutilated inscription of
Meneptah tells us how the tents of the invaders had been pitched on the
outskirts of the land of Goshen, within reach of the Bedawin shepherds
who fed their flocks there, and how the troops of the Pharaoh, pressed
at once by the enemy and by the disaffected population of Goshen, had
been cooped up within the walls of the great cities, afraid to venture
forth. The fate of the invasion was sealed, however, by a decisive
battle in which the Egyptians almost annihilated their foes. But the
land of Goshen was left empty and desolate; the foreign tribes who had
dwelt in it fled into the wilderness under the cover of the Libyan
invasion. The pressure of the invasion had forced the Pharaoh to allow
his serfs a free passage out of Egypt, quite as much as the "signs and
wonders" which were wrought by the hand of Moses. Egypt was protected on
its eastern side by a line of fortifications, and through these
permission was given that the Israelites should pass. But the permission
was hardly given before it was recalled. A small body of cavalry, not
move than six hundred in number, was sent in pursuit of the fugitives,
who were loaded with the plunder they had carried away from the
Egyptians. They were a disorganised and unwarlike multitude, consisting
partly of serfs, partly of women and children, partly of stragglers from
the armies of the Libyan and Mediterranean invaders. Six hundred men
were deemed sufficient either to destroy them or to reduce them once
more to captivity.

But the fugitives escaped as it were by miracle. A violent wind from the
east drove back the shallow waters at the head of the Gulf of Suez, by
the side of which they were encamped, and the Israelites passed dryshod
over the bed of "the sea." Before their pursuers could overtake them,
the wind had veered, and the waters returned on the Egyptian chariots.
The slaves were free at last, once more in the wilderness in which Isaac
had tended his flocks, and in contact with their kinsmen of Edom and

Moses had led them out of Egypt, and Moses now became their lawgiver.
The laws which he gave them formed them into a nation, and laid the
foundations of the national faith. Henceforth they were to be a separate
people, bound together by the worship of one God, who had revealed
Himself to them under the name of Yahveh. First at Sinai, among the
mountains of Seir and Paran, and then at Kadesh-barnea, the modern 'Ain
Qadis, the Mosaic legislation was promulgated. The first code was
compiled under the shadow of Mount Sinai; its provisions were
subsequently enlarged or modified by the waters of En-Mishat, "the
Spring of Judgment."

The Israelites lay hidden, as it were, in the desert for many long
years, preparing themselves for the part they were afterwards to play in
the history of mankind. But from the moment of their departure from
Egypt their goal had been Canaan. They were not mere Bedawin; they
belonged to that portion of the Semitic race which had made settlements
and founded kingdoms in Moab and Ammon and Edom, and their residence in
the cultured land of the Nile had made it impossible for them ever to
degenerate into the lawless robbers of the wilderness. They were settled
Bedawin, not Bedawin proper; not Bedawin by blood and descent, but
Semites who had adopted the wandering and pastoral habits of the Bedawin
tribes. They were like their brethren of Edom, who, though they came to
Egypt seeking pasturage for their cattle, had nevertheless founded at
home an elective monarchy. The true Bedawin of the Old Testament are the
Amalekites, and between the Israelite and the Amalekite there was the
difference that there is between the peasant and the gypsy. The fact is
important, and the forgetfulness of it has led more than one historian

The first attempt to invade Canaan failed. It was made from the south,
from the shelter of the block of mountains within which stood the
sanctuary of Kadesh-barnea. The Israelitish forces were disastrously
defeated at Zephath, the Hormah of later days, and the invasion of the
Promised Land was postponed. The desert life had still to continue for a
while. In the fastness of 'Ain Qadis the forces of Israel grew and
matured, and a long series of legislative enactments organised it into a
homogeneous whole. At length the time came when the Israelites felt
strong enough once more to face an enemy and to win by the sword a
country of their own. It was from the east that they made their second
attack. Aaron the high-priest was dead, but his brother Moses was still
their leader. The Edomites refused them a passage along the high-road of
trade which led northward from the Gulf of Aqaba; skirting Edom
accordingly, they marched through a waterless desert to the green wadis
of Moab, and there pitched their camp. The Amorite kingdoms of Sihon and
Og fell before their assault. The northern part of Moab, which Sihon had
conquered, was occupied by the invaders, and the plateau of Bashan, over
which Og had ruled, fell into Israelitish hands. The invaders now
prepared to cross the Jordan and advance into the highlands of Canaan.
Moses died on the summit of a Moabite mountain and his place was taken
by Joshua.

Joshua was a general and not a legislator. He could win battles and
destroy cities, but he could not restore what he had destroyed, or
organise his followers into a state. Jericho, which commanded the ford
across the Jordan, fell into his hands; the confederate kings of
southern Canaan were overthrown in battle, and the tribe of Ephraim, to
which Joshua belonged, was established in the mountainous region which
afterwards bore its name. Henceforward the mountains of Ephraim formed
the centre and the stronghold of Israelitish power in Palestine, from
whence the invading tribes could issue forth to conquest, or to which
they could retreat for shelter in case of need.

Beyond leading his people into Canaan and establishing them too firmly
in its midst to be ever dislodged, Joshua personally did but little. The
conquest of Canaan was a slow process, which was not completed till the
days of the monarchy. Jerusalem was not captured till the reign of
David, Gezer was the dowry received by Solomon along with his Egyptian
wife. At first the Canaanites were treated with merciless ferocity.
Their cities were burned, the inhabitants of them massacred, and the
spoil divided among the conquerors. But a time soon came when tribute
was accepted in place of extermination, when leagues were made with the
Canaanitish cities, and the Israelites intermarried with the older
population of the country. As in Britain after the Saxon conquest, the
invaders settled in the country rather than in the towns, so that while
the peasantry was Israelite the townsfolk either remained Canaanite or
were a mixture of the two races.

The mixture introduced among the Israelites the religion and the
beliefs, the manners and the immoralities, of the Canaanitish people.
The Mosaic legislation was forgotten; the institutions prescribed in the
wilderness were ignored. Alone at Shiloh, in the heart of Ephraim, was a
memory of the past observed; here the descendants of Aaron served in the
tabernacle, and kept alive a recollection of the Mosaic code. Here alone
no image stood in the sanctuary of the temple; the ark of the covenant
was the symbol of the national God.

But the influence of Shiloh did not extend far. The age that succeeded
the entrance into Canaan, was one of anarchy and constant war. Hardly
had the last effort of the Canaanites against their invaders been
overthrown on the banks of the Kishon, when a new enemy appeared in the
south. The Philistines, who had planted themselves on the sea-coast
shortly before the Israelites had invaded the inland, now turned their
arms against the new-comers, and contended with them for the possession
of the country. The descendants of Jacob were already exhausted by
struggle after struggle with the populations which surrounded them.
Moabites and Midianites, Ammonites and Bedawin, even the king of distant
Mesopotamia, had sacked their villages, had overrun their fields, and
exacted tribute from the Israelitish tribes. The tribes themselves had
lost coherence; they had ranged themselves under different "judges" or
"deliverers," had forgotten their common origin and common faith, and
had even plunged into interfraternal war. Joshua was scarcely dead
before the tribe of Benjamin was almost exterminated by its brethren;
and a few generations later, the warriors of Ephraim, the stalwart
champion of Israel, were massacred by the Israelites east of the Jordan.
In the south, a new tribe, Judah, had arisen out of various
elements--Hebrew, Kenite, and Edomite; and it was not long before there
was added to the cleavage between the tribes on the two banks of the
Jordan, the further and more lasting cleavage between Judah and the
tribes of the north. Israel was a house divided against itself, and
planted in the midst of foes.

It needed a head, a leader who should bring its discordant elements into
peace and order, and lead its united forces against the common enemy.
Monarchy alone could save it from destruction. The theocracy had failed,
the authority of the high-priests and of the Law they administered was
hardly felt beyond Shiloh; an age of war and anarchy required military
rather than religious control. The Israelites were passing through the
same experience as other kindred members of the Semitic race. In Assyria
the high-priests of Assur had been succeeded by kings; in southern
Arabia the high-priest had similarly been superseded by the king, and
the kings of Edom had but recently taken the place of _aluphim_ or

The first attempt to found a monarchy was made by the northern tribes.
Jerubbaal, the conqueror of the Midianites, established his power among
the mixed Hebrew and Canaanite inhabitants of Ophrah and Shechem, and
his son Abimelech by a Canaanitish wife received the title of king. But
the attempt was premature. The kingdom of Manasseh passed away with
Abimelech; the other tribes were not yet ready to acknowledge the
supremacy of a chieftain who was not sprung from themselves, and
Abimelech, moreover, was half-Canaanitish by descent.

The pressure of Philistine conquest at last forced the Israelites with a
common voice to "demand a king." Reinforced by bodies of their kinsfolk
from Krete and the islands of the Greek seas, the Philistines poured
over the frontier of Judah, plundering and destroying as they went. At
first they were contented with raids; but the raids gradually passed
into a continuous warfare and a settled purpose to conquer Canaan, and
reduce it to tribute from one end to the other. The Israelitish forces
were annihilated in a decisive battle, the ark of the covenant was taken
by the heathen, and the two sons of the high-priest perished on the
field of battle. The Philistine army marched northward into the heart of
the mountains of Ephraim, the sanctuary of Shiloh was destroyed and its
priesthood dispersed. It was not long before the Philistine domination
was acknowledged throughout the Israelitish territory on the western
side of the Jordan, and Canaan became Palestine, "the land of the

In the more inaccessible parts of Benjamin, indeed, a few Israelites
still maintained a fitful independence, and Samuel, the representative
of the traditions of Shiloh, was allowed to judge his own people, and
preside over a Naioth or "monastery" of dervish-like prophets under the
eye of a Philistine garrison. Israel seemed about to disappear from
among the nations of the world.

But it had not yet wholly forgotten that it was a single people, the
descendants of a common forefather, sharers in a common history, and
above all, worshippers of the same God. In their extremity the
Israelites called for a king. Saul, the Benjamite of Gibeah, was
elected, and events soon proved the wisdom of the choice. Jabesh-gilead
was rescued from the Ammonite king, the Philistine garrisons were driven
out of the centre of the country, and, for a time at least, a large part
of the Israelitish territory was cleared of its enemies. Saul was able
to turn his arms against the Amalekite marauders of the desert, as well
as the princes of Zobah to the north-east of Ammon.

But the Philistine war still continued. Saul had incorporated in his
body-guard a young shepherd of Beth-lehem in Judah of the name of David.
David showed himself a brave and skilful soldier, and quickly rose to
high command in the Hebrew army, and to be the son-in-law of Saul. His
victories over the Philistines were celebrated in popular songs, and the
king began to suspect him of aiming at the throne. He was forced to fly
for his life, and to hide among the mountain fastnesses of Judah, where
his boyhood had been spent. Here he became a brigand-chief, outlaws and
adventurers gathering around him, and exacting food from the richer
landowners. Saul pursued him in vain; David slipped out of his hands
time after time, thanks to the nature of the country in which he had
taken refuge; and the only result of the pursuit was to open the road
once more to Philistine invasion. Meanwhile David and his followers had
left the Israelitish territory, and offered their services to Achish of
Gath; the Philistine prince enrolled them in his body-guard and settled
them in the town of Ziklag.

Saul and the priests were now at open war. Samuel, perhaps naturally,
had quarrelled with the king who had superseded his authority, and had
espoused the cause of David. We are told, indeed, that he had anointed
David as king in the place of Saul. When, therefore, David escaped from
the court, Saul accused the Shilonite priests who were established at
Nob of intentionally aiding the rebel. The high-priest vainly protested
their innocence, but the furious king refused to listen, and the priests
were massacred in cold blood. Abiathar, the son of the murdered
high-priest, alone escaped to David to tell the tale. He carried with
him the sacred ephod through which the will of Yahveh was made known,
and from henceforth the influence of the priesthood was thrown against
the king.

Saul had lost his best general, who had gone over to the enemy; he had
employed his troops in hunting a possible rival through the Judaean wilds
when they ought to have been guarding the frontier against the national
foe, and the whole force of Israelitish religion had been turned against
him. There was little cause for wonder, therefore, that the Philistine
armies again marched into the Israelitish kingdom, and made their way
northward along the coast into the plain of Jezreel. A battle on the
slopes of Jezreel decided the fate of Israel. The Hebrew army was cut to
pieces, and Saul and his sons were slain. One only survived, Esh-baal,
too young or too feeble to take part in the fight. Esh-baal was carried
across the Jordan by Abner and the relics of the Israelitish forces, and
there proclaimed king at Mahanaim. The Philistines became undisputed
masters of Israel west of the Jordan, while their tributary vassal,
David, was proclaimed King of Judah at Hebron. His nephew Joab was made

War soon broke out between David and Esh-baal. Esh-baal grew continually
weaker, and his general Abner intrigued with David to betray him into
the hands of the Jewish king. Abner, however, was slain by Joab while in
the act of carrying out his treason, but Esh-baal was murdered shortly
afterwards by two of his servants. David declared himself his successor,
and claimed rule over all Israel.

This brought him into conflict with his Philistine overlords. It was
equivalent to revolt, and the Philistine army swept the lowlands of
Judah. David fled from Hebron and took refuge in his old retreat. Here
he organised his forces; the Philistines were defeated in battle after
battle, and David not only succeeded in driving them out of Judah and
Israel, but in carrying the war into their own country. The Philistine
cities were conquered, and soldiers from Gath, where David had himself
once served as a mercenary, were drafted into the body-guard of the
Hebrew sovereign.

Before the Philistine war was over, Jerusalem had fallen into David's
hands. The stronghold of the Jebusites was one of the last of the
Canaanitish cities to surrender to the Israelites. Its older inhabitants
were allowed to live in it side by side with colonists from Judah and
Benjamin. The city itself was made the capital of the kingdom. Its
central position, its natural strength, and its independence of the
history of any special tribe, all combined to justify the choice. Here
David built his palace, and planned the erection of a temple to Yahveh.

Meanwhile the kingdom of Israel was passing into an empire. Joab and his
veterans gained victory after victory, and the Hebrew army became what
the Assyrian army was in later days, the most highly disciplined and
irresistible force in western Asia. Moab and Ammon were subdued; the
Aramaic kinglets to the north-east were made tributaries, and the
kingdom of Zobah, which had risen on the ruins of the Hittite power, was
overthrown. The limits of David's rule were extended to the banks of the
Euphrates, and the Syrians on either side of the river were utterly
crushed. Even Edom, which had successfully defied the Pharaohs in the
days of Egyptian greatness, was compelled to submit to the Jewish
conqueror; its male population was mercilessly massacred, and its ports
on the Gulf of Suez fell into Israelitish hands. In the north Hamath
made alliance with the new power that had arisen in the Oriental world,
while Hiram of Tyre was glad to call himself the friend of the
Israelitish king, and to furnish him with skilled workmen and articles
of luxury.

The latter years of David were troubled by revolts which had their
origin partly in the polygamy in which he had indulged, partly in the
discontent of a people still imperfectly welded together, and restless
under military conscription. His son Solomon secured his throne by
putting to death all possible rivals or opponents, including the
grey-haired Joab. Solomon was cultured and well-educated, but his
culture was selfish, and his extravagance knew no bounds. Palaces were
built at Jerusalem in imitation of those of Phoenicia or Egypt, and
Phoenician architects and artisans erected there a sumptuous temple in
honour of the national God. Trade was encouraged and developed: the
possession of the Edomite seaports gave Solomon the command of the
Arabian trade, while his alliance with Hiram opened to him the harbours
of the Mediterranean coast. But the wealth which David had accumulated,
the tribute of the conquered provinces, and the trading monopolies of
the king himself did not suffice for the extravagance of his
expenditure, and heavy fiscal burdens had to be laid on the Israelitish
tribes. Disaffection grew up everywhere except in Judah, where the king
resided, and where the wealth raised elsewhere was spent.

Revolts broke out in Edom and the north. Garrisons, indeed, were planted
in Zobah, which secured the caravan road through Tadmor or Palmyra to
the Euphrates; but Damascus was lost, and became in a few years a
formidable adversary of Israel. The death of Solomon was the signal for
a revolt in Palestine itself. The northern tribes under Jeroboam
separated from Judah and established a kingdom of their own, while Judah
and Benjamin remained faithful to the house of David and to the capital,
which lay on the frontier of both. The Levites also naturally attached
themselves to the kingdom which contained the great national sanctuary,
and to the royal family whose chapel it was. The disruption of the
monarchy necessarily brought with it the fall of the empire; Moab,
however, continued to be tributary to the northern kingdom and Edom to
that of Judah.

Five years after the accession of Rehoboam, the son of Solomon, the
kingdom of Judah seemed in danger of perishing altogether. Shishak, the
Egyptian Pharaoh, invaded the country and sacked Jerusalem itself. But
Jeroboam lost the opportunity thus afforded him of extending his rule
over the south; his own territories had been partially overrun by the
Egyptians, and he was probably not in a position to commence a war.
Judah had time to recover; the walls of Jerusalem were rebuilt, and the
Arabian trade soon supplied it with fresh resources.

The long and prosperous reign of Asa, the grandson of Rehoboam, placed
the line of David on a solid foundation. The Jewish kingdom was compact;
its capital was central, and was not only a strongly-fortified fortress,
but also an ancient and venerable sanctuary. As time went on feelings of
respect and affection gathered round the royal house; the people of
Judah identified it with themselves, and looked back with pride and
regret to the glorious days of David and Solomon. Religion, moreover,
lent its sanction to the Davidic dynasty. The Levitical priesthood had
its centre in the temple which had been built by Solomon, and was, as it
were, the private chapel of his descendants; here were preserved the
rites and traditions of the Mosaic Law, and the ark of the covenant
between Israel and its God. The northern kingdom, on the contrary, had
none of these elements of stability. The first king was a rebel, who had
no glorious past behind him, no established priesthood to support his
throne, no capital even, around which all his subjects could rally. The
sword had given him his crown, and the sword was henceforth the arbiter
of his kingdom. The conservative forces which were strong in Judah were
absent in the north; there the army became more and more powerful, and
its generals dethroned princes and established short-lived dynasties.
Northern Israel, moreover, was not homogeneous; the tribes on the two
sides of the Jordan were never welded together like the inhabitants of
Judah, and the divergence of interests that had once existed between
them was never wholly forgotten.

Israel perished while Judah survived. Dynasty after dynasty had arisen
in it; its capital had been shifted from time to time; it did not even
possess a religious centre. Before a line of kings had time to win the
loyalty of the people they were swept away by revolution, and the army
became the dominating power in the state. There was no body of priests
to preserve the memory of the Mosaic Law and insist upon its observance,
and the prophets who took their place protested in vain against the
national apostasy. Alliance with the neighbouring kingdom of Phoenicia
brought with it the worship of the Phoenician Baal, and Yahveh was
forsaken for a foreign god. In B.C. 722 Samaria, the later capital of
the country, was taken by the Assyrian king Sargon, and northern Israel
ceased to be a nation.

Judah, on the other hand, successfully defied the Assyrian power. The
invasion of Sennacherib was rolled back from the walls of Jerusalem, and
though the Jewish kings paid tribute to Nineveh, they were left in
possession of their territories. Edom, indeed, had long since been lost,
and with it the trade with the Arabian seas, but the Philistines
continued to acknowledge the supremacy of Judah, and commercial
relations were kept up with Egypt. It was not until the Babylonian
empire of Nebuchadrezzar had arisen on the ruins of that of Assyria that
Jerusalem and its temple were destroyed, and the Davidic dynasty passed
away. But they had accomplished their work; a nation had been created
which through exile and disaster still maintained its religion and its
characteristics, and was prepared, when happier days should come, to
return again to its old home, to rebuild the temple, and carry out all
the ordinances of its faith. From henceforth Judah realised its mission
as a peculiar people, separated from the rest of the world, whose
instructor in religion it was to be. More and more it ceased to be a
nation and became a race--a race, moreover, which had its roots in a
common religious history, a common faith, and a common hope. Israel
according to the flesh became Israel according to the spirit.

[Footnote 1: See Pinches in the _Journal_ of the Royal Asiatic Society,
July 1897. In a tablet belonging to a period long before that of
Abraham, Isma-ilu or Ishmael is given as the name of an "Amorite" slave
from Palestine (Thureau-Dangin, _Tablettes chaldeennes inedites_, p.



Canaan was the inheritance which the Israelites won for themselves by
the sword. Their ancestors had already settled in it in patriarchal
days. Abraham "the Hebrew" from Babylonia had bought in it a
burying-place near Hebron; Jacob had purchased a field near Shechem,
where he could water his flocks from his own spring. It was the
"Promised Land" to which the serfs of the Pharaoh in Goshen looked
forward when they should again become free men and find a new home for

Canaan had ever been the refuge of the Asiatic population of Egypt, the
goal at which they aimed when driven out of the land of the Nile. The
Hyksos conquerors from Asia had retreated to Jerusalem when the native
Egyptians recovered their independence and had expelled them from their
seats in the Delta. Though Moses had assured the Pharaoh that all the
Israelites needed was to go a short journey of three days into the
wilderness, and there sacrifice to their God, it was well understood
that the desert was not to be the end of their pilgrimage. Canaan, and
Canaan only, was the destined country they had in view.

In the early inscriptions of Babylonia, Canaan is included in the rest
of Syria under the general title of "the land of the Amorites." The
Amorites were at the time the dominant population on the Mediterranean
coast of western Asia, and after them accordingly the whole country
received its name. The "land of the Amorites" had been overrun by the
armies of Babylonia at a very remote period, and had thus come under the
influence of Babylonian culture. As far back as the reigns of Sargon of
Akkad and his son Naram-Sin (B.C. 3800), three campaigns had laid it at
the feet of the Chaldaean monarch, and Palestine and Syria became a
province of the Babylonian empire. Sargon erected an image of himself by
the shore of the sea, and seems even to have received tribute from
Cyprus. Colonies of "Amorite" or Canaanitish merchants settled in
Babylonia for the purposes of trade, and there obtained various rights
and privileges; and a cadastral survey of southern Babylonia made at the
time mentions "the governor of the land of the Amorites."

The Amorites, however, though they were the dominant people of Syria,
were not its original inhabitants; nor, it is probable, did they even
form the largest part of its population. They were essentially the
inhabitants of the mountains, as we are told in the Book of Numbers
(xiii. 29), and appear to have come from the west. We have learnt a good
deal about them from the Egyptian monuments, where the "Amurru" or
Amorites are depicted with that fidelity to nature which characterised
the art of ancient Egypt. They belonged to the white race, and, like
other members of the white race, were tall in stature and impatient of
the damp heat of the plains. Their beard and eye-brows are painted red,
their hair a light red-brown, while their eyes are blue. The skin is a
sunburnt white, the nose straight and regular, the forehead high, and
the lips thin. They wore whiskers and a pointed beard, and dressed in
long robes furnished with a sort of cape. Their physical characteristics
are those of the Libyan neighbours of the Egyptians on the west, the
forefathers of the fair-skinned and blue-eyed Kabyles or Berbers who
inhabit the mountains of northern Africa to-day. Anthropologists connect
these Libyans with the Kelts of our own islands. At one time, it would
seem, a Kelto-Libyan race existed, which spread along the northern coast
of Africa to western Europe and the British Isles. The Amorites would
appear to have been an eastern offshoot of the same race.

Wherever they went, the members of the race buried their dead in rude
stone cairns or cromlechs, the dolmens of the French antiquarians. We
find them in Britain and France, in the Spanish peninsula, and the north
of Africa. They are also found in Palestine, more especially in that
portion of it which was the home of the Amorites. The skulls found in
the cairns are for the most part of the dolichocephalic or long-headed
type; this too is the shape of skull characteristic of the modern
Kabyle, and it has been portrayed for us by the Egyptian artists in the
pictures of their Amorite foes.

In the days of the Egyptian artists--the age of the Eighteenth and two
following dynasties (B.C. 1600-1200)--the special seat of the Amorites
was the mountainous district immediately to the north of Palestine. But
Amorite kingdoms were established elsewhere on both sides of the Jordan.
Not long before the Israelitish invasion, the Amorite king Sihon had
robbed Moab of its territory and founded his power on the ruins of that
of the Egyptian empire. Farther north, in the plateau of Bashan, another
Amorite king, Og, had his capital, while Amorite tribes were settled on
the western side of the Jordan, in the mountains of southern Canaan,
where the tribe of Judah subsequently established itself. We even hear
of Amorites in the mountain-block of Kadesh-barnea, in the desert south
of Canaan; and the Amorite type of face, as it has been depicted for us
on the monuments of Egypt, may still be often observed among the Arab
tribes of the district between Egypt and Palestine.

Jerusalem, Ezekiel tells us, had an Amorite as well as a Hittite
parentage, and Jacob declares that he had taken his heritage at Shechem
out of the hand of the Amorite with his sword and bow. It must be
remembered, however, that the term "Amorite" is sometimes used in the
Old Testament in its Babylonian sense, as denoting an inhabitant of
Canaan, whatever might be the race to which he belonged; we cannot
always infer from it the nationality or race of those to whom it is
applied. Moreover, individual branches of the Amorite stock had names of
their own. In the north they were known as Hivites, at Hebron they were
called Anakim, at Jerusalem they were Jebusites. The Amorite kings of
Bashan are described as Rephaim, a word which the Authorised Version
translates "giants." It was only on the northern frontier of Palestine
and in the kingdom of Sihon that the name of "Amorite" alone was used.

The Babylonian conquests introduced into Canaan the government and law,
the writing and literature, of Babylonian civilisation. The Babylonian
language even made its way to the west, and was taught, along with the
script, in the schools which were established in imitation of those of
Chaldaea. Babylonian generals and officials lived in Palestine and
administered its affairs, and an active trade was carried on between the
Euphrates and the Mediterranean coast. The trade-road ran through
Mesopotamia past the city of Harran, and formed a link between the
Mediterranean and the Persian Gulf.

From an early date libraries had existed in Babylonia stored with the
literature of the country. Similarly, libraries now grew up in "the land
of the Amorites," and the clay tablets with which they were filled made
known to the west the legends and records of Chaldaea. Amorite culture
was modelled on that of Babylonia.

Babylonian influence lasted for centuries in western Asia. In the age of
Abraham the Amorites still obeyed the suzerainty of the Babylonian
kings. Khammurabi, the Amraphel of the Book of Genesis, calls himself
king of the country of the Amorites as well as of Babylon, and his
great-grandson does the same. At a later date Babylonia itself was
conquered by a foreign line of kings, and Canaan recovered its
independence. But this was of no long duration. Thothmes III., of the
Eighteenth Egyptian dynasty (B.C. 1503-1449), made it a province of
Egypt, and the Amorites were governed by Egyptian prefects and
commissioners. The cuneiform tablets found at Tel el-Amarna in Upper
Egypt give us a vivid picture of its condition at the close of the
Eighteenth dynasty. The Egyptian power was falling to pieces, and
Palestine was threatened by Hittite invaders from the north. The native
governors were fighting with one another or intriguing with the enemies
of Egypt, while all the time protesting their loyalty to the Pharaoh.
Ebed-Asherah and his son Aziru governed the Amorites in the north, and
the prefect of Phoenicia sends bitter complaints to the Egyptian court
of their hostility to himself and their royal master. Aziru, however,
was an able ruler. He succeeded in clearing himself from the charge of
complicity with the Hittites against whom he had been sent, as well as
in getting the better of his Phoenician rival. The latter disappears
from history, while the Amorites are allowed to settle undisturbed in
Zemar and other cities of inland Phoenicia.

Under Ramses II. of the Nineteenth dynasty, Canaan still yielded a
reluctant obedience to Egypt. In the troubles which had followed the
fall of the Eighteenth dynasty, it had shaken itself free from foreign
authority, but had been reconquered by Seti I., the father of Ramses.
Egyptian authority was re-established even on the eastern side of the
Jordan; but it did not continue for long. Ramses was hardly dead before
Egypt was invaded by Libyans from the west and robber hordes from the
Greek seas, and though the invasion was ultimately beaten back, its
strength had been exhausted in the struggle. The Egyptian empire in
Canaan passed away for ever, and the Canaanites were left free to govern

The kingdom of Sihon was one of the results of this ending of Egyptian
rule. The Amorites became a power once more. A few years later Egypt was
again attacked by armed invaders from the north. The assailants poured
into it both by sea and land. Fleets of ships filled with Philistines
and Achaeans and other northern tribes entered the mouths of the Nile,
while a vast army simultaneously attacked it by land. The army, we are
told, had encamped in "the land of the Amorites," and they carried with
them on their farther march recruits from the countries through which
they passed. The Amorite "chief" himself was among those who followed
the barbarians to Egypt, eager for the spoils of the wealthiest country
in the ancient world.

Ramses III. of the Twentieth dynasty was now on the throne. He succeeded
in rolling back the wave of invasion, in gaining a decisive victory over
the combined military and naval forces of the enemy, and in pursuing
them to the frontiers of Asia itself. Gaza, the key to the military road
which ran along the sea-board of Palestine, fell once more into Egyptian
hands; and the Egyptian troops overran the future Judah, occupying the
districts of Jerusalem and Hebron, and even crossing the Jordan. But no
permanent conquest was effected; Ramses retired again to Egypt, and for
more than two centuries no more Egyptian armies found their way into
Canaan. Gaza and the neighbouring cities became the strongholds of the
Philistine pirates, and effectually barred the road to Asia.

The campaign of Ramses III. in southern Palestine must have taken place
when the Israelites were still in the desert. Between the two invasions
of Egypt by the barbarians of the north, there was no great interval of
time. The Exodus, which had been due in part to the pressure of the
first of them in the reign of Meneptah, was separated by only a few
years from the capture of Hebron by Caleb, which must have occurred
after its evacuation by the Egyptian troops. The great movement which
brought the populations of Asia Minor and the Greek islands upon Canaan
and the Nile, and which began in the age of the Exodus, was over before
the children of Israel had emerged from the wilds of the desert.

In the Old Testament the Amorites are constantly associated with another
people, the Hittites. When Ezekiel ascribes an Amorite parentage to
Jerusalem, he ascribes to it at the same time a Hittite parentage as
well. The same interlocking of Amorite and Hittite that meets us in the
Bible, meets us also on the monuments of Egypt. Here, too, we are told
that Kadesh on the Orontes, the Hittite capital, was "in the land of the
Amorites." It was, in fact, on the shores of the Lake of Homs, in the
midst of the district over which the Amorites claimed rule.

The Hittites were intruders from the north. The Egyptian monuments have
shown us what they were like. Their skin was yellow, their eyes and hair
were black, their faces were beardless. Square and prominent cheeks, a
protrusive nose, with retreating chin and forehead and lozenge-shaped
eyes, gave them a Mongoloid appearance. They were not handsome to look
upon, but the accuracy of their portraiture by the artists of Egypt is
confirmed by their own monuments. The heads represented on the Egyptian
monuments are repeated, feature by feature, in the Hittite sculptures.
Ugly as they were, they were not the caricatures of an enemy, but the
truthful portraits of a people whose physical characteristics are still
found, according to Sir Charles Wilson, in the modern population of

The Hittites wore their hair in three plaits, which fell over the back
like the pigtail of a Chinaman. They dressed in short tunics over which
a long robe was worn, which in walking left one leg bare. Their feet
were shod with boots with turned-up ends, a sure indication of their
northern origin. Such boots, in fact, are snow-shoes, admirably adapted
to the inhabitants of the mountain-ranges of Asia Minor, but wholly
unsuited for the hot plains of Syria. When, therefore, on the walls of
the Ramesseum we find the Theban artists depicting the defenders of
Kadesh on the Orontes with them, we may conclude that the latter had
come from the colder north just as certainly as we may conclude, from
the use of similar shoes among the Turks, that they also have come from
a northern home. In the Hittite system of hieroglyphic writing, the boot
with upturned end occupies a prominent place.

When the Tel el-Amarna tablets were written (B.C. 1400), the Hittites
were advancing on the Egyptian province of Syria. Tunip, or Tennib, near
Aleppo, had fallen, and both Amorites and Canaanites were intriguing
with the invader. The highlands of Cappadocia and the ranges of the
Taurus seem to have been the cradle of the Hittite race. Here they first
came into contact with Babylonian culture, which they adopted and
modified, and from hence they poured down upon the Aramaean cities of the
south. Carche-mish, now Jerablus, which commanded the chief ford across
the Euphrates, fell into their hands, and for many centuries remained
one of their capitals. But it was not until the stormy period which
signalised the overthrow of the Eighteenth Egyptian dynasty, that the
Hittites succeeded in establishing themselves as far south as Kadesh on
the Orontes. The long war, however, waged with them by Ramses II.
prevented them from advancing farther; when peace was made at last
between them and the Egyptians, both sides had been exhausted by the
struggle, and the southern limit of Hittite power had been fixed.

The kings of Kadesh had, however, been at the head of a veritable
empire; they were able to summon allies and vassals from Asia Minor, and
it is probable that their rule extended to the banks of the Halys in
Cappadocia, where Hittite remains have been found. Military roads
connected the Hittite cities of Cappadocia with the rest of Asia Minor,
and monuments of Hittite conquest or invasion have been met with as far
west as the neighbourhood of Smyrna. These monuments are all alike
distinguished by the same peculiar style of art, and by the same system
of pictorial writing. The writing, unfortunately, has not yet been
deciphered, but as the same groups of characters occur wherever an
inscription in it is found, we may infer that the language concealed
beneath it is everywhere one and the same.

When the Assyrians first became acquainted with the West, the Hittites
were the ruling people in Syria. As, therefore, the Babylonians had
included all the inhabitants of Syria and Palestine, whatever might be
their origin, under the general name of Amorites, the Assyrians included
them under the name of Hittites. Even the Israelites and Ammonites are
called "Hittites" by an Assyrian king. It is possible that traces of
this vague and comprehensive use of the name are to be met with in the
Old Testament; indeed, it has been suggested that the Hittites, or "sons
of Heth," from whom Abraham bought the cave of Machpelah, owed their
name to this cause. In the later books of the Hebrew Scriptures the
Hittites are described as a northern population, in conformity with the
Egyptian and Assyrian accounts.

The Hittites of Hebron, however, may really have been an offshoot of the
Hittite nations of the north. The "king of the Hittites" accompanied the
northern barbarians when they invaded Egypt in the reign of Ramses III.,
and Hittite bands may similarly have followed the Hyksos conquerors of
Egypt several centuries before. One of these bands may easily have
settled on its way at Hebron, which, as we are told, was built seven
years before Zoan, the Hyksos capital. At Karnak, moreover, an Egyptian
artist has represented the people of Ashkelon with faces of a Hittite
type, while Ezekiel bears witness to the presence of a Hittite element
in the founders of Jerusalem. But the fact that Thothmes III. in the
century before Moses calls the Hittite land of the north "the Greater,"
is the best proof we can have that there was a Hittite colony elsewhere,
which was well known to the Egyptian scribes. The "Greater" implies the
Less, and the only Lesser Hittite land with which we are acquainted is
that of which the Book of Genesis speaks.

So far as we can judge from the evidence of proper names, the Hittites
belonged to a race which was spread from the Halys in Asia Minor to the
shores of Lake Urumiyeh. The early inhabitants of Armenia, who have left
us inscriptions in the cuneiform character, also belonged to it. So also
did the people of Comagene, and it seems probable that the ruling class
in northern Mesopotamia did the same. Here there existed a kingdom which
at one time exercised a considerable amount of power, and whose
princesses were married to the Pharaohs of the Eighteenth dynasty. This
was the kingdom of Aram Naharaim, called Naharina in the Egyptian texts,
Mitanni by its own inhabitants. The language of Mitanni was of a very
peculiar type, as we learn from the tablets of Tel el-Amarna, one or two
of which are written in it. Like the Hittites in Syria, the Mitannians
appear to have descended from the north upon the cities of the Semites,
and to have established themselves in them. Mitanni was at the height of
its influence in the sixteenth and fifteenth centuries before our era;
its armies made their way even into Canaan, and the Canaanite princes
intrigued from time to time against their Egyptian masters, not only
with the Babylonians and Hittites, but also with the kings of Mitanni.

Before the time of David the power and almost the name of Mitanni had
passed away. The Hittite empire also had been broken up, and henceforth
we hear only of "the kings of the Hittites" who ruled over a number of
small states. The Semites of Syria had succeeded in rolling back the
wave of Hittite conquest, and in absorbing their Hittite conquerors. The
capture of Carchemish by Sargon of Assyria in B.C. 717 marks the end of
Hittite dominion south of the Taurus.

But the Hittite invasion had produced lasting results. It had severed
the Semites of Assyria and Babylonia from those of the West, and planted
the barrier of a foreign population on the highroad that ran from
Nineveh to the Mediterranean. The tradition of Babylonian culture in
western Asia was broken; new influences began to work there, and the
cuneiform system of writing to be disused. Room was given for the
introduction of a new form of script, and the Phoenician alphabet, in
which the books of the Old Testament were written, made its way into
Canaan. When Joshua crosses the Jordan there is no longer any trace in
Palestine of either Babylonian or Egyptian domination.

Like the Amorites and the Amorite tribe of Jebusites at Jerusalem, the
Hittites were mountaineers.[2] The hot river-valleys and the sea-coast
were inhabited by Canaanites. Canaan is supposed to mean "the lowlands"
of the Mediterranean shore; here the Canaanites had built their cities,
and ventured in trading ships on the sea. But they had also settled in
the inland plains, and more especially in the valley of the Jordan. The
plain of Jezreel formed, as it were, the centre of the Canaanitish

The Canaanites were Semites in speech, if not in blood. The language of
Canaan is what we term Hebrew, and must have been adopted either by the
Israelites or by the patriarchs their forefathers. Between the dialect
of the Phoenician inscriptions and that of the Old Testament the
difference is but slight, and the tablets of Tel el-Amarna carry back
the record of this Canaanitish speech to the century before the Exodus.

In person, as we learn from the Egyptian monuments, the Canaanites
resembled their descendants, the modern inhabitants of Palestine. They
belonged to the white race, but had black hair and eyes. They dressed in
brilliantly-coloured garments, stained with that purple or scarlet dye
in search of which they explored the coasts of the Greek seas, and which
was extracted from the shell of the murex. On their feet they wore
high-laced sandals; their hair was bound with a fillet. Their skill as
sailors was famous throughout the Oriental world; the cities of the
Phoenician coast already possessed fleets of ships in the age of the
Eighteenth Egyptian dynasty, and their merchants carried on a maritime
trade with the islands of the AEgean and the coast of Africa. Before the
time of Solomon their vessels had found their way to Tartessus in Spain,
perhaps even to Cadiz, and the alliance between Hiram and the
Israelitish king enabled the Tyrians to import gold and other precious
things from Africa and Arabia through the ports of southern Edom. The
Tel el-Amarna letters refer to the riches of Tyre, and excavations on
the site of Lachish have brought to light amber beads ef the same age,
which indicate intercourse with the Baltic. It is possible that the tin
which was needed in such large quantities for the bronze tools and
weapons of the ancient East was derived from Cornwall; if so, it would
have been brought, like the amber, across Europe along the road which
ended at the extremity of the Adriatic Gulf.

The wealth of the Canaanitish merchants was great. The spoils carried
away to Egypt by Thothmes III. after his conquest of Palestine are truly
astonishing. Beautiful vases of gold and silver, artistically moulded
bronzes, furniture carved out of ebony and cedar and inlaid with ivory
and precious stones, were among the booty. Iron, which was found in the
hills, was freely used, and made into armour, weapons, and chariots. It
was "the chariots of iron" which prevented the Israelites from capturing
and sacking the cities of the plains. Wealth brought with it a
corresponding amount of luxury, which to the simpler Hebrews of the
desert seemed extravagant and sinful. It was associated with a
licentiousness which Canaanitish religion encouraged rather than

The religion was a nature-worship. The supreme deity was addressed as
Baal or "Lord," and was adored in the form of the Sun. And as the Sun
can be baleful as well as beneficent, parching up the soil and blasting
the seed as well as warming it into life, so too Baal was regarded
sometimes as the friend and helper of man, sometimes as a fierce and
vengeful deity who could be appeased only by blood. In times of national
or individual distress his worshippers were called upon to sacrifice to
him their firstborn; nothing less costly could turn away from them the
anger of their god. By the side of Baal was his colourless wife, a mere
reflection of the male divinity, standing in the same state of
dependence towards him as the woman stood to the man. It was only the
unmarried goddess, Asherah as she was called by the Canaanites, who had
a personality of her own. And since Asherah came in time to be
superseded by Ashtoreth, who was herself of Babylonian origin, it is
probable that the idea of separate individuality connected with Asherah.
was due to the influence of Babylonian culture. Asherah was the goddess
of fertility, and though the fertility of the earth depends upon the
Sun, it was easy to conceive of it as an independent principle.

The name Baal was merely a title. It was applied to the supreme deity of
each city or tribe, by whatever special name he might otherwise be
known. There were as many Baals or Baalim as there were states or cults.
Wherever a high-place was erected, a Baal was worshipped. His power did
not extend beyond the district in which he was adored and to which he
was territorially attached. The Baal of Lebanon was distinct from the
Baal of Tyre or Sidon, though in every case the general conception that
was formed of him was the same. It was the attributes of particular
Baalim which differed; Baal was everywhere the Sun-god, but in one place
he showed himself under one shape, in another place under another. The
goddesses followed the analogy of the gods. Over against the Baalim or
Baals stood the Ashtaroth or Ashtoreths. The Canaanitish goddess
manifested herself in a multitude of forms.

As the firstborn was sacrificed to the god, so chastity was sacrificed
to the goddess. The temples of Ashtoreth were crowded with religious
prostitutes, and the great festivals of Canaan were orgies of licentious
sin. It was a combination of nature-worship with the luxury that was
born of wealth.

The Canaanites of Phoenicia believed that they had originally migrated
from the Persian Gulf. In Canaan, at all events, according to the Book
of Genesis, the "Fishers" city of Sidon was the first that was built.
But Tyre also, a few miles to the north of it, claimed considerable
antiquity. The temple of Melkarth or Melek-Kiryath, "the King of the
City," the name under which the Baal of Tyre was worshipped, had been
built on the island-rock twenty-three centuries before the time of
Herodotus, or B.C. 2700. Gebal or Byblos, still farther to the north,
had been renowned for its sanctity from immemorial times. Here stood the
sanctuary of Baalith, the "lady" of Gebal, of whom we hear in the
tablets of Tel el-Amarna. Still farther north were other cities, of
which the most famous was Arvad, with its harbour and fleet. Southward
were Dor and Joppa, the modern Jaffa, while inland were Zemar and Arqa,
mentioned in the Book of Genesis and the Tel el-Amarna correspondence,
but which ceased to be remembered after the age of the Exodus. Before
the Israelites entered Canaan they had been captured by the Amorites,
and had passed into insignificance.

Between the Canaanites of the coast and the Canaanites of the interior a
difference grew up in the course of centuries. This was caused by the
sea-trade in which the cities on the coast engaged. The "Phoenicians,"
as they were termed, on the coast became sailors and merchants, while
their brethren farther inland were content to live on the products of
agriculture and import from abroad the luxuries they required. While
Tyre and Sidon were centres of manufacture and maritime trade, Megiddo
and Hazor remained agricultural. After the Hebrew invasion the
difference between them became greater: Phoenicia continued independent;
the Canaanites of the interior were extirpated by the Israelites or paid
tribute to their conquerors. Little by little the latter amalgamated
with the conquered race; towns like Shechem contained a mixed
population, partly Hebrew and partly native; and the Israelites adopted
the manners and religion of the Canaanites, worshipping at the old
high-places of the country, and adoring the Baalim and Ashtaroth. The
Amorite heads depicted at Karnak above the names of the places captured
by Shishak in Judah show how little the population of southern Palestine
had changed up to the time of Solomon's death.

Canaan was ruined by its want of union. The Canaanitish cities were
perpetually fighting with one another; even the strong hand of the
Pharaoh in the days of Egyptian supremacy could not keep them at peace.
Now and again, indeed, they united, generally under a foreign leader,
but the union was brought about by the pressure of foreign attack, and
was never more than temporary. There was no lack of patriotism among
them, it is true; but the patriotism was confined to the particular city
or state to which those who were inspired by it belonged. The political
condition of Canaan resembled its religious condition; as each district
had its separate Baal, so too it had its separate political existence.
If there were many Baals, there were also many kinglets.

The fourteenth century B.C. was a turning-point in the history of
Canaan. It witnessed the fall of the Egyptian supremacy which had
succeeded the supremacy of Babylonia; it also witnessed the severance of
western Asia from the kingdoms on the Euphrates and Tigris, and the
consequent end of the direct influence of Babylonian culture. The
Hittites established themselves in Syria "in the land of the Amorites,"
while at the same time other invaders threatened Canaan itself. The
Israelites made their way across the Jordan; the Philistines seized the
southern portion of the coast.

The Philistine invasion preceded that of the Israelites by a few years.
The Philistines were sea-robbers, probably from the island of Krete.
Zephaniah calls them "the nation of the Cherethites" or Kretans, and
their features, as represented on the Egyptian monuments, are of a Greek
or Aryan type. They have the straight nose, high forehead, and thin lips
of the European. On their heads they wear a curious kind of pleated cap,
fastened round the chin by a strap. They are clad in a pair of drawers
and a cuirass of leather, while their arms consist of a small round
shield with two handles, a spear, and a short but broad sword of bronze.
Greaves of bronze, like those of the Homeric heroes, protected their
legs in battle.

The Philistines formed part of the host which invaded Egypt in the reign
of Ramses III. Along with their kinsfolk, the Zakkal, they had already
made themselves formidable to the coast of the Delta and of southern
Canaan. The sea had long been infested by their ships, bent on plunder
and piracy; the Zakkal had attacked Egypt in the time of Meneptah, and
the road from Egypt to Asia which skirted the sea had long been known as
"the way of the Philistines." When Ramses III. overran southern Canaan,
Gaza still belonged to Egypt, as it had done for the three preceding
centuries; but it is probable that the Philistines were already settled
in its neighbourhood. At all events, it was not long before they made
themselves masters of Gaza, and thus closed for Egypt the way to Asia.
Henceforward Gaza and its four companion cities became the strongholds
of the Philistines (B.C. 1200). The southern coast as far north as Mount
Carmel fell into their hands: the Zakkal established themselves at Dor,
and the port of Joppa was lost to the Phoenicians.

Hardly were the Israelites planted in the Promised Land before they were
confronted by the Philistines. Shamgar, we are told, one of the earliest
of the Judges, slew six hundred of them "with an ox-goad." But it was
not until the close of the period of the Judges that they became really
formidable to Israel. Judah had become a distinct and powerful tribe,
formed out of Hebrew, Kenite, and Edomite elements, and its frontier
adjoined Philistia. At first there was desultory warfare; the
Philistines made raids into Judaean territory, and the Jews retaliated
whenever the opportunity occurred. But the Philistines were a nation of
warriors, and their forces were recruited from time to time by fresh
arrivals from Krete or other parts of the eastern Mediterranean. Year by
year, therefore, the Philistine attack became more formidable; the raids
of the enemy were no longer confined to Judah, but extended into
Benjamin and Mount Ephraim. The Philistines began to dream of conquering
the whole of Canaan, which was henceforth to bear the name of Palestine,
"the land of the Philistines."

The Israelitish army was shattered in a decisive battle, the ark of the
covenant between Israel and its national God was taken by the heathen,
and the priests of Shiloh, the central sanctuary, were slain. The
victors marched unresisted through the country, burning and spoiling,
and securing the passes by means of permanent garrisons. Shiloh and its
temple were destroyed, and its priesthood scattered abroad.

The Philistine supremacy lasted for several years. A few outlaws
maintained a guerilla warfare in the mountains of Benjamin, and the
prophet Samuel, the representative of Shiloh, was allowed to declare the
oracles of Yahveh to his countrymen. But the vanquished population was
deprived of the means for revolt. The Israelites were forbidden the use
of arms, and no itinerant smith was permitted to enter their territory.
The Hebrew who wished to sharpen his ploughshare or axe was forced to go
to a Philistine city.

The condition of Israel became intolerable. There was but one remedy:
the people needed a leader who should organise them into an army and a
nation, and lead them forth against their foes. Saul was elected king,
and the choice was soon justified by the results. The Philistines were
driven out of the country, and Saul set up his court in the very spot
where a Philistine garrison had stood.

But the Philistines were not yet subdued. Civil war broke out in Israel
between Saul and his son-in-law David; the troops which should have been
employed in resisting the common enemy were used in pursuing David, and
David himself took service as a mercenary under Achish, King of Gath.
Saul and his sons fell in battle on Mount Gilboa; the relics of the
Israelitish army fled across the Jordan, and the Philistine again ruled
supreme on the western side of the Jordan. David was allowed to govern
Judah as a tributary vassal of the Philistine "lords."

The murder of the feeble scion of Saul's house who had the name of king
on the eastern side of the Jordan put an end to all this. David threw
off his allegiance to the Philistines, and was crowned King of Israel.
This act of open defiance was speedily followed by the invasion of
Judah. At first the war went against the Israelitish king; he was forced
to fly from his capital, Hebron, and take refuge in an inaccessible
cavern. Here he organised his forces, and at last ventured into the
field. The Philistine forces were defeated in battle after battle; the
war was carried into their own territory, and their cities were
compelled to surrender. Philistia thus became a part of the Israelitish
kingdom, and never again made any serious attempt to recover its
independence. At the division of the Israelitish kingdom it fell to
Judah, and its vassal princes duly paid their tribute to the Jewish
kings. It would seem from the Assyrian inscriptions that they were
played off one against the other, and that signs of disaffection in any
one of them were speedily followed by his imprisonment in Jerusalem. At
all events, the Philistine cities remained in the possession of Judah
down to the time of the overthrow of the monarchy, and the most devoted
of David's body-guard were the Philistines of Gath.

It has been said above that Judah was a mixture of Hebrew, Kenite, and
Edomite elements. Kenite means "smith," and the tribe furnished those
itinerant smiths who provided Canaan with its tools and arms. Reference
is made to one of them in the _Travels of a Mohar_, a sarcastic
description of a tourist's misadventures in Palestine which was written
by an Egyptian author in the reign of Ramses II., and of which a copy on
papyrus has been preserved to us. The horses of the hero of the story,
we are told, ran away and broke his carriage to pieces; he had
accordingly to betake himself to "the iron-workers" and have it
repaired. Similar itinerant ironsmiths wandered through Europe in the
Middle Ages, handing down from father to son the secrets of their craft.

The Kenites came from the desert, and were apparently of Midianitish
descent. Balaam had looked down upon their rocky strongholds from the
heights of Moab; and they had accompanied their Hebrew comrades of Judah
from their first camping-ground near Jericho to the wilderness south of
Arad. Here they lived among the Amalekite Bedawin down to the days of
Saul. To the last they maintained their nomadic habits, and the Kenite
family of Rechab still dwelt in tents and avoided wine in that later age
when the kingdom of Judah was about to fall.[3]

The Edomite element in Judah was stronger than the Kenite. It consisted
of the two clans of Jerahmeel and Kenaz, or the house of Caleb as it was
called in the time of David.[4] Kenaz was a grandson of Esau, and the
fact that the Kenizzites shared with the Israelitish tribes in the
conquest of Canaan throws light on the law of Deuteronomy[5] which gave
the Edomite of "the third generation" all the rights and privileges of a
Jew. Caleb, the conqueror of Hebron, was a Kenizzite; so also was
Othniel, the first of the Judges of Israel. Edomites, rather than
Hebrews, were the founders of the future Judah.

This accounts for the comparatively late appearance of Judah as a
separate tribe in the history of Israel, as well as for the antagonism
which existed between it and the more pure-blooded tribes of the north.
In the Song of Deborah and Barak, Judah is not mentioned; Ephraim and
Benjamin, and not Judah, are still regarded as forming the bulwark of
Israel against the Amalekite marauders of the southern wilderness. It
was the Philistine wars which first created the Judah of later days.
They forced Hebrews, Edomites, and Kenites to unite against the common
enemy, and welded them into a single whole. Though the three peoples
still continued to be spoken of separately, this was but a survival of
ancient modes of speech, and after the accession of David all
distinction between them disappears. From this time forward the kingdom
of Judah is one undivided community.

But the Amalekites were ever on its borders. The Amalekite of the Old
Testament is the Bedawi of to-day. Now, as ever, he is the scourge of
his more settled neighbours, whose fields he harries and whose families
he murders. He lives by robbery and theft; too idle to work himself, he
plunders those who do. A strong government forces him to hide himself in
the depth of the wilderness; when the countries that skirt the desert
fall into decay he emerges from his retreat like a swarm of flies. The
ancient Oriental world saw in Amalek "the firstborn of nations;" he was
for them the representative of the primitive savage who had survived in
the wilds of the desert. Untamed and untamable, his hand was against
every man, and every man's hand against him.

Before Babylonian culture had been brought to the West, Amalek already
existed. He was older than the oldest of the civilised kingdoms of the
earth. But civilisation had raised a barrier against him which he was
ever on the watch to break through. He never lost the opportunity of
raiding the inhabitants of the cultivated lands, and escaping again into
the desert with his booty before he could be overtaken and punished. The
desert between Palestine and Egypt was his chief camping-ground. He had
occupied the wadis of Mount Seir before the Edomites had entered them,
and a part of the later population of the country traced its descent
from a mixture of the Bedawi with the Edomite. The Egyptians had many
names for the Bedawin hordes. Sometimes they were the Herusha or "Lords
of the Sands," sometimes the Shasu or "Plunderers," sometimes again the
Sute or "Archers." The third name was borrowed from the Babylonians; in
return, as we learn from the tablets of Tel el-Amarna, the Babylonians
adopted the second.

Hardly had the Israelites escaped from Egypt when they were called upon
to dispute with the Amalekites the possession of the desert. At Rephidim
the Bedawin robbers fell upon the Israelitish camp. But they were beaten
off with slaughter, and never again ventured to molest the people of
Yahveh during their wanderings in the wilderness. The attack, however,
was never forgotten, and vengeance was exacted for it in the reign of
Saul. Then the Amalekites were pursued into their desert domain and
mercilessly slaughtered. They had their home, it is said, in the desert
which extended from Shur to Havilah. Shur was the line of fortification
which defended the eastern frontier of Egypt, and ran pretty much where
the Suez Canal has been dug to-day; Havilah was the "sandy" desert of
northern Arabia. Here was the "city" of tents of which Agag was shekh,
and which the troops of the Israelitish king burnt and spoiled.

But the remembrance of the expedition did not last long. When civil war
had weakened the power of Saul, and the march of the Philistine army to
the north had left the south of Canaan without defenders, an Amalekite
tribe again poured into Judah and sacked the Philistine town of Ziklag.
The wives and property of David and his followers were carried off into
the wilderness. But the marauders were overtaken by the Israelites they
had robbed, and summary vengeance taken upon them. Men, women, and
children were alike put to the sword; four hundred only escaped through
the fleetness of their camels.

In the Tel el-Amarna tablets we find the Bedawin and their shekhs
playing a part in the politics of Canaan. Their services were hired by
the rival princes of Palestine, and from time to time we hear of their
seizing or plundering its cities on their own account. They have never
ceased indeed to infest the land. Amalekite bands joined with the
Midianites in devastating the villages of central Israel in the days of
Gideon, and the Amalekite who brought to David the news of Saul's death
was one of those who had hovered on the skirts of the contending armies,
eager when the fight was over to murder the wounded and strip the slain.
In a later age the "Arabs" who, according to the inscriptions of
Sennacherib, formed the body-guard of Hezekiah were probably Bedawin,
and Geshem the Arabian in the time of Nehemiah seems to have represented
the Amalekite chieftain of an earlier epoch. The Bedawin still haunt the


Back to Full Books