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Thursday, November 20, 2014

Lesson #60 Fixing a date through Solomon

Smoky Mountain Bible Institute
Lesson #60
Break out your maps and histories as we travel again in our time machine to examine history & geography through a biblical worldview. We now come to the last of the three kings who defined the Israelite monarchy. David makes Solomon his coregent two years before he dies in 969 BC.  Solomon begins his reign in 971 BC and dies in 932 BC, serving as Israel’s king for just over 40 years.

Solomon is a key figure for Biblical chronologists because he serves as a sort of anchor with multiple extra-biblical sources (sources outside the Bible) that affirm his existance and supplement our understanding of his chronology. This is also important because Solomon gets a lot less coverage in scripture than his predecessors do.

Kenneth Kitchen is a well-known and respected Egyptologist and archeologist at the University of Liverpool in England. The majority of the Egyptological community agrees with his chronological conclusions in the area of Egyptology; two of which are listed below. The biblical connections to and conclusions from these sources in the next two paragraphs are from Andrew Steinmann, Professor of Theology and Hebrew at Concordia University, Chicago.

           Pharaoh Sianum’s reign ends around 968 BC.  He is the king who conquered Gezer and gave it to Solomon as a dowry for his daughter (one of Solomon’s many wives). Solomon’s reign then would have had to have begun prior to the end of Sianum’s, and this lines up very nicely. The Tyrian King List preserved for us by Josephus also confirms Solomon’s reign from 971 to 932 BC.

Shoshenq The 1st’s invasion of Israel takes place around 925 BC. The Egyptian Pharaoh Shoshenq the 1st corresponds to the Biblical king called Shishak, mentioned in 1 Kings 14:25 and 2 Chronicles 12:1. According to both Biblical and Egyptian sources, he invades and conquers Israel under King Rehoboam, who was Solomon’s son and successor.

There are numerous archeological discoveries from the time of Solomon as well. However, there is always a cloud of scholastic doubt hovering over these finds and claims because of a mixture of anti-Biblical views held by many in these vocations. They, of course, would never admit this bias. They claim their critiques to be scientific in nature while offering no evidence to support the doubts they assert. Here are a few examples from the respected National Geographic Society: (Note the uses of the word “tale” and question marks in the titles of the articles.) These articles provide no information to support the skeptical nature in which much of the information is presented. 

“King Solomon's Wall Found—Proof of Bible Tale? A 3,000-year-old defensive wall might be unprecedented archaeological support for a Bible passage on King Solomon”, by Mati Milstein in Tel Aviv, Israel, for National Geographic News, February 26, 2010. “King Solomon's Mines Rediscovered?” by Rebecca Carroll for National Geographic News, October 28, 2008. “Solomon's Temple Artifacts Found by Muslim Workers”, by Mati Milstein in Tel Aviv, Israel for National Geographic News, October 23, 2007. All three of these articles deal with real evidence that supports Solomon’s existence in a timeframe that is in keeping with Scripture. Even though no evidence is given against the Biblical connection, doubt and caution against leaning too heavily on Scripture for archaeology is a common thread in the articles. So while they present clear evidence that affirms Scripture, they cannot bring themselves to make that conclusion.

As Solomon is such an important character in fixing many other dates, I felt it important to give a little time to this topic. Next month we will discuss some of the highlights of Solomon’s life and reign

Till then, Shalom
In Christ,

Pastor Portier

Friday, October 17, 2014

Lesson #59 King David

Smoky Mountain Bible Institute
Lesson #59
Break out your maps and histories as we travel again in our time machine to examine history & geography through a Biblical worldview. It’s time for us to walk through the middle days of the Israelite monarchy; David’s reign, which is estimated to have run from 1009 BC to 969 BC.

During that reign, the next king, David’s son Solomon, is born in 994 BC.  At the time, Solomon already had many half brothers and sisters, many of whom were in early adulthood, from his father’s many wives but it is he who would be king. Solomon’s son, Rehoboam, born in 973 BC would follow Solomon as king.

Briefly, some other things going on in the world during the century between 1000-900 BC are: the beginning of the Iron Age in Greece, (there is evidence of) Pinto Indian hut construction in the Sierra Nevada and California regions, the construction of the Temple of Hera (its ruins can be seen today in Olympia Greece), and rationalism of the Chau dynasty gains prevalence over the mysticism of the Shang (Yin) dynasty in China. There are also many literary developments during this century. For example, the introduction of Greek script based on old Semitic-Phoenician characters with the addition of vowels, and the practice of using capitals only in Greek script (which prevails for the next 200 years). China’s script is fully developed by this time, and the Hebrew alphabet is becoming fully developed, growing out of earlier Semitic alphabets. In Babylonia, Urartu is being written in cuneiform. The biblical books of Judges, Ruth, Samuel, and much of Psalms were written during David’s reign, Kings, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Songs were written during Solomon’s. This means that by Solomon’s death almost half of what we call the Old Testament was written.

David begins his reign in 1009 BC in Hebron. From that point forward, most of Israel quickly acknowledges David as their king. However, in 1005 BC, Abner, seeking to shore up his authority, makes Saul’s son Eshbaal king and until his assassination in early 1002 BC, there is a small area around Jerusalem that acknowledges Eshbaal as king. In mid-1002 BC, David conquers Jerusalem, and while a few others later vie for his throne, for the most part, David is the undisputed king until his death in 969 BC.  David’s 34 years in Jerusalem, however, are quite eventful as recorded in 2 Samuel and 1 Chronicles.  

      After David establishes his capitol in Jerusalem and defeats the Philistines, in 998 BC, he goes to war with the Ammonites. This war ends in 997 BC with the conquering of Rabbah, the capitol city of the Ammonites, about 20 miles east of the Jordan River. This was David’s last battle of conquest and expansion, although he spent most of this two year battle in Jerusalem. This is also the battle in which David has his trusted Hittite warrior Uriah murdered after having committed adultery with Uriah’s wife. Although the rest of David’s reign is relatively peaceful within the borders of his country, his personal life is filled with strife and grief until his final days

In 985 BC, David’s son Amnon rapes his half-sister Tamar which leads to Amnon’s murder by Tamar’s brother and David’s oldest son Absalom. This leads to Absalom spending 3 years in exile, and when David lets him return to the city, it is still another 2 years before he again receives him into his home. From 979 to 976 BC, David gives much of his attention to building his palace. After spending over 25 years in Jerusalem, David makes it the holy center of Israel by moving the Ark of the Covenant there in 975 BC.

In 974 BC Absalom rebels and unsuccessfully tries to take the throne and ends up paying for it with his life. David ordered that Absalom be spared if possible and grieved much at the news of the rebel’s death.  Sheba tried the same thing a year later in 973 BC and was equally unsuccessful.

In 972 BC David orders a census taken and it turns out to be one of his last big mistakes. Israel pays dearly for that mistake with a 3 day plague that kills 70,000. Interestingly enough, the nation that entered Israel 430 years earlier, in 1406 BC, is about the same size (less than 10% total population growth in over 400 years). David wanted to build a temple for God but was told by the Lord through Nathan that he could not. His son Solomon would build God’s temple, so starting in 972 BC, David ordered the collection of building materials for that purpose. A year later David made Solomon his coregent, then died two years later in 969 BC. Next month, on to Solomon’s reign.
Till then, blessings,
Pastor Portier

Thursday, September 11, 2014


Smoky Mountain Bible Institute
Lesson #58
            Break out your maps and histories as we travel again in our time machine to examine history & geography through a Biblical worldview. Time for us to walk through the early days of the Israelite monarchy,
which is estimated to have begun with the anointing of Saul as king in approximately 1049 BC. Saul became the first king of Isreal after the people pestered God, through Samuel, to give them a king. This is a prime example of ‘be careful what you ask for’.  Prior to Saul’s reign, the nation of Isreal had been a theocracy. God was their king, but they wanted an earthly king and that is what they got.

We will look at the first forty years of what is called the united kingdom when all the nation of Israel was under one king. The united kingdom actually had three kings; Saul, David, and Solomon from 1049 BC to 933 BC. There were failed attempts by others to take the monarchy as it passed from one king to another, however only three were anointed as king. Saul’s reign started when Samuel tracked him down in the tribe of Benjamin.

David was born in 1039 BC so he was probably around 12 or 13 when Saul battled the Philistines (as recorded in 1 Sam: 13-14) around 1021 BC, and the Amalekites (chapter 15 of 1 Sam) around 1020 BC. I will be referring to most of the dates during Saul’s reign as estimates because there are very few dates actually mentioned in the biblical text and other writings that mention Saul.

Saul had a falling out with Samuel when he failed to follow the Lord’s command to destroy Amalek shortly before the time when David was anointed king to suceed him. The events of 1 Samuel 16 and 17 can be confusing. The sequence is realy unimportant, David anointed, playing the lyre for Saul, and killing Goliath, probably all happened close together around 1019 BC. Whether busy king Saul knew David or not when he offered to fight Goliath is of no real consequence to the historic narrative.

As Saul’s spirit was tormented, his disposition toward David soured. Saul tried to get rid of David on the battlefield but ended up awarding him his daughter, Michal, as his wife around 1016 BC. David flees from Saul’s persecution in around 1015 BC and spends the remaining years of Saul’s reign a hunted man. In the last 16 months of Saul’s reign David acted as a mercenary for the Philistine king Achish.

            Most of Saul’s sons die with him on the battlefield in around 1009 BC. Though his surviving son Eshbaal (or Ishbosheth), who was born in 1045 BC, was made king by Abner in 1005 BC he was never recognized as the King of all Israel and was never anointed. When Ishbosheth was assassinated in 1003 BC, Abner acknowledged David as king over all Isreal.

            So that wraps up Saul’s 40 years. Next month we will look at David’s reign from 1009 BC to 969 BC.

Till then

Pastor Portier

Saturday, July 26, 2014

# 57

Smoky Mountain Bible Institute
Lesson #57
            Break out your maps and histories as we travel again in our time machine to examine history & geography through a Biblical worldview. Let's visit the new nation of Israel under the leadership of Joshua in 1406 BC.
            After crossing the Jordan on dry ground, the young nation of Israel sets up camp on the plain just outside Jericho. In accordance with God's instructions, they conquer Jericho and the rest of the Promised Land. They are not as thorough as they are told to be (which causes much idolatry and pain in future generations), but in less than six years they have conquered, taken control of, and divided up the Promised Land. A good map that covers the conquest and division of the land can be found on pages 357 and 365 of your Lutheran Study Bible. Or, just google images of "Joshua's conquest of Canaan" and many good images will come up, just be sure to check the source of the image for its trustworthiness.
            Joshua dies at the ripe old age of 110, by this time they are settled in, and we move into the period of the Judges. This was a time when people did what they thought was right in their own minds, and was supposed to be functioning as a theocracy with God as king, but with people judging for themselves what was right and wrong, the people were in essence making themselves god. The period of time covered by the Book of Judges is approximately 1380 to 1049 BC. This book contains a painful repetitive cycle: sin and rebellion against God, punishment and persecution, repentance, and redemption. If one were to add up the years of the 12 judges, one would come up with 410 years, but many of the judges’ times are not identified clearly, and they were all regional; few of the judges ruled over the whole land of Israel as Moses and Joshua did. So we need to realize that these were localized events, and some overlapped in time or were even concurrent, and there were times in this window between Joshua and Saul where Israel may have had no earthly leader or judge. Below is my summary of the tables found on pages 92, 93, 106, & 107 of Dr. Steinmann's book, From Abraham to Paul. The judges are presented in 6 cycles following the cycle of oppression, repentance, deliverance, and rebellion. The dates following the names are well researched estimates found in Dr. Steinmann's book.

Cycle                           Oppressor                                          Judge / Translation or meaning of name
1. Judges 3:7-11          Cushan-Rishathaim, 1378-1371 BC   Othneil / The lion of God, 1371-1332 BC     
2. Judges 3:12-31        Eglon, 1332-1315 BC                         Ehud / Selfless love, 1315-1236 BC 
                                                                                              Shamgar / The sword, 1315-1236 BC           
3. Judges 4:1-5:31       Jaabin, 1236-1217 BC                        Deborah / The busy bee, 1217-1178 BC        
4. Judges 6:1-10:6       Midianites, 1178-1172 BC           Gideon / The feller, bruiser, breaker or destroyer
                                                                                                1172-1133 BC           
                                                                                                Tola / The worm, 1131-1109 BC       
                                                                                                Jair / The enlightener, 1109-1088 BC
5. Judges 10:7-12:15   Amorites, 1088-1071 BC                  Jephthah / He will open, 1088-1083 BC        
                                    Philistines, 1088-1049 BC                  Ibzan /             Illustrious 1083-1077 BC      
                                                                                               Elon / Oak, 1077-1068 BC    
                                                                                   Abdon / Ruin or Destruction, 1068-1061 BC           
6. Judges 13:1-16:31   Philistines, 1088-1049 BC                  Sampson / Son, 1371-1332 BC          

            I put the translation of the judges’ names because I found it interesting in most cases how aptly they were named with regard to the turn of events surrounding their lives. As we come to the end of the judges it is worth noting that many count the prophets Eli and Samuel among the Judges. With the help of Josephus and 1st Samuel we can date Eli's priesthood / judgeship from 1109-1069 BC and Samuel’s priesthood / judgeship from 1060 to 1049 BC. This leads us into the beginning of the Jewish monarchy which is estimated to have begun with the anointing of Saul as king in approximately 1049 BC.

Till next month,

Pastor Portier    

Saturday, June 28, 2014

# 56

Smoky Mountain Bible Institute
Lesson #56
            Break out your maps and histories as we travel again in our time machine to examine history & geography through a biblical worldview. Let's go on a little trek through the wilderness shall we?

            We find ourselves at the base of Mount Sinai a couple of months after leaving Egypt in the spring of 1446 BC. Before we continue this chronological walk through the wilderness, let’s fast forward a little bit to 1445 BC. Sometime during that year, Moses sent 12 spies to check out the land flowing with milk and honey (Numbers 13). The spies were sent only to gather information not to provide commentary and opinion, but 10 of them, upon their return, told everyone how big and scary the people who lived in the land were, and the Israelites picked up on that fear. They forgot that God had delivered them from Egypt, sustained them in this wilderness for over a year, and guided them with his presence in the form of a miraculous pillar of cloud and fire. This led to God's pardon in Numbers 14, after Moses pleads on their behalf that God does not wipe them off the face of the earth and start over. God however does judge them for their infidelity to him by putting the nation on parole if you will. They are to live as nomads in the wilderness for 40 years, and as this seems to have taken place from 1446 BC to 1406 BC, God must have given them credit for time already served when he issued the sentence in 1445 BC.

            There are very few datable events during this nomadic 40-year period because very little of the narrative gives dates or mentions datable information. Miracles abound during this period; miraculous bread (manna), miraculous meat (quail), miraculous clothing that does not wear out for 40 years, miraculous leadership in the form of a pillar of cloud and fire in which God dwells among his people, miraculous water pouring out of rocks, miraculous judgment in the form of the earth swallowing up rebels, miraculous judgment in the form of fiery snakes, and miraculous salvation in the form of a bronze serpent raised on a pole. These are some amazing events, but the best we can get from the narrative is that they took place during that 40-year period.   

            Let's go back to the base of Mount Sinai on 1 Sivan (May) of 1446 BC and look at the dates we do have for this period. A few days later on 3 Sivan, God speaks to Israel from Sinai, but they grow impatient during Moses’ stay on the mountain sometime in mid Av (July or August), and they cast and worship a golden calf. The next datable event is the erection of the tabernacle on 1 Nisan (March or April) of 1445 BC. For the next 12 days, offerings were made for the dedication of the altar, then on the 14th of Nisan the second Passover or first anniversary of Passover was celebrated. Then on 1 Ziv (April) of 1445, the census was taken. We then fast-forward some 39 years and they arrive at Kadesh in Nisan of 1407 BC, and Aaron dies on 1 Av (July or August) of the same year. In the beginning of the following year on 1 Shebat (January) 1446 BC, Moses gives his final address to the people of Israel and shortly after, dies atop Mount Nebo overlooking Jericho early in 1406 BC.

            God let two people of that generation go into the promised land: Joshua and Caleb, because they were the two spies who trusted in God and supported entering and claiming the land God was giving to them. That is where we will pick up next month: the beginning of the 330 year period known as The Era of Joshua and the Judges.

Have a blessed summer,

Pastor Portier

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Lesson # 55

Smoky Mountain Bible Institute
Lesson #55
            Break out your maps and histories as we travel again in our time machine to examine history & geography through a biblical worldview. Last month we covered the ten plagues of the Exodus, so this month let’s begin a journey back to the holy land through a very well-known sequence of events. Our trek begins on the 14th of Nisan (late March or early April), 1446 BC (aligning Jewish and Gregorian calendars is messy business).  So how many people left Egypt? These people descended from the 70 individuals who immigrated to the land of Goshen. They were very prolific; according to Exodus and Numbers, there were 600,000 men over the age of 20 on foot. If we figure all of these men were in households of at least 3 including themselves, then you have a population of over 2 million. While this is a very large number, many logistical studies have been done that verify that the biblical account (while difficult to manage) is entirely possible. While we accept miraculous events on faith, simple logistic calculations can also verify the feasibility of a historic narrative.

            For fear of infringing on copyrights, I will suggest you go to one of the following places to look at a map of the Sinai Peninsula as you continue to read my description: page 120 of your Lutheran Study Bible, page 106 of your NIV study bible, or one of the following links (good maps with possible exodus tracks on them).  (yes, the Mormons make good maps) or Or you can just google "Exodus Map" and get a lot of options, but always remember to check the source. anyway back to our journey.

            The next datable event is about one month later when they arrive in the Wilderness of Sin, which is believed to be somewhere on the western side of the Sinai Peninsula. Before they got there they must first have crossed the "Yam Suph" (Hebrew for "reed sea"). This event is often downplayed by those who seek to "demythologize" the Bible.  There are some key elements of the account and known geography that can help us to better understand this miraculous event. First let's talk about the reed sea, The geography between the Egyptian Delta and the Sinai Peninsula has changed greatly over the past 3400 years.  It is generally agreed based on archeological, biological, carbon 14, and dendrochronology information that this region was much more temperate in past millennia and has been becoming more and more arid as time progresses. Translation: it used to be greener, wetter, and milder than it is now.  Another major change came 145 years ago in 1869 when the French company that spent 10 years digging the Suez Canal, finished its work and thus drained more water from the delta area between Ancient Pithom and the modern day Bitter Lakes. There are a number of possible sites around Ismailia and the Bitter Lake region that could very well be the site of the miraculous crossing.  However, even if the area they crossed was in a place that was marshy grassland, there are a couple of important insights to draw from the account that are miraculous. First, the waters parted and they walked on dry ground, all two million plus of them. Second, the water separated and came back together at God’s command through Moses. And finally, when the water returned to its normal course, it completely covered Pharaoh’s chariots and horsemen...not one remained. This was not just wheels getting stuck in the mud; this was complete inundation with water and drowning.

            So enough about the "reed sea"; let’s continue our trek. About two months after leaving Egypt they came to Mount Sinai. The traditional location for this mountain is at the southern tip of the peninsula, and is today called "Jebul Musa" Arabic for “Mountain of Moses”. There is a monastery there; St Catherine's, which claims to have inside its walls the burning bush through which God spoke to Moses. There are three other possible sites; Jebel Al-lawz, to the east across the Gulf of Aqaba, and to the north, Jebel Sin Bisher and Jebel Magharah. Each of these locations have legitimate claims that make them plausible sites for the Mount Sinai of the Exodus. Both the reed sea and Mt Sinai locations may be lost to history, but that is what you would expect because these were very transitory events according to their narratives that would have left no real evidence of having taken place. Untended trails will disappear in only months in wilderness areas, such as those where both of these events took place. They also built no permanent buildings, they were there for short periods of time, and these events took place thousands of years ago. Even thier food which was miraculiously provided, and thier trash dumps would have all degraded to basic elements by now.  It would be more amazing if we were to find any tangible evidence of these events happening. However, we have a reliable eyewitness account of them so there is no reason to question if they happened, while we can continue to explore where they happened. Next month...wondering in the wilderness, see you then.

In Christ,

Pastor Portier                

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Lesson # 54

Smoky Mountain Bible Institute
Lesson #54
            Break out your maps and histories as we travel again in our time machine to examine history & geography through a Biblical worldview. We have come to the infamous plagues on the land of Egypt
in 1446 BC. Let’s examine this turn of events.

            When did these plagues take place, and what is their significance? The answer to the first question would be during the first months of 1446 BC from Shebat to Nisan (which for us would start in late January / early February and end in late March / early April). The timing and significance of each of the plagues is interesting so let's look at each of them.

            1. Turning of the Nile to Blood. This would have taken place before the spring swelling of the Nile. According to Ancient Egyptian mythology, the Nile was supposed to be the life-blood of the god Osiris providing life to all other beings, but instead it brought bloody death, even to their god Hatmehyt, represented by a fish.

            2. Frogs. Every place the Egyptians went, there were frogs, even in their beds. Here, God embarrassed their goddess of fertility, Heqt (represented by a frog), showing that even she could not keep in check this severe over-production of frogs. After they had been chased out of the bloody Nile, and with not enough to eat or drink, these frogs would soon have been in large rotting piles of carcasses.

            3. Lice. The whole land of Egypt (which was supposed to be clean and holy because of the Egyptian gods) was crawling with insects associated with filth and dirtiness. Pharaoh’s holy men at this point acknowledge that this is the finger of God (a common Egyptian phrase when speaking of acts of their gods).

            4. Flies. The Hebrew word here could better be translated as swarming bugs. Included in such a broad definition could be beetles, which also represented their god Khepera. (Another of Egypt's gods shamed.)

            5. Deceased Livestock. Apis the bull god and Hathor the cow god, added to the list of shamed gods.

            6. Boils. The Egyptians prided themselves on cleanliness, but this plague had Pharaoh’s holy men in so much pain and shame that they could not appear in the throne room to support their king when he next spoke with Moses.

            7 & 8. Hail & Locusts. These two plagues were particularly destructive and shameful to their gods. The gods Reshpu and Ketesh were supposed to be in control of the elements, as was the sky goddess, Nut. The destructive hail would have destroyed all their winter crops, depleting food and linen sources. On top of that, locusts (which represented the god Senehem) would finish off anything left by the hail that was green and able to recover from the hail.

            9. Darkness. In this plague, the god Horus (symbolized by an eye) was blinded, and the sun god, Ra, was darkened. These were two of their most important gods. Interesting to note this darkness was over Egypt only the land of Goshen, where the people of the true God lived was bathed in light This lays the groundwork for the final plague.                        

            10. Death of the First-Born. As I mentioned in lesson #52, this Pharaoh must not have been a first-born son or he too would have died. However, his own first-born son did die, and this would have been the final slap in the face of all the Egyptian gods, as the Pharaohs were seen as gods on Earth.

            Last month we covered 80 years, and this month we covered 3 months! We will see what next month brings as we pick things up on 14 Nisan (March and April did not exist yet) 1446 BC.

Blessed Lent,

Pastor Portier

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Lesson #53

Smoky Mountain Bible Institute
Lesson #53
            Break out your maps and histories as we travel again in our time machine to examine history & geography through a biblical world view. Sorry I got a little busy and missed a month last time we discussed the sojourn in Egypt of the nation or tribe of Israel. Now let's fast forward about 430 years to around 1526 BC with the birth of a man named Moses. This marks the beginning of the end for Israel's time in Egypt.

            As we come to the account of Moses we find that at the age of 40 around 1486 BC he flees to Midian after having killed an Egyptian and fearing for His life. Since this takes us into the period from 1500 to 1000 BC lets first briefly look at some of the other significant events taking place around the world at the time. Around 1100 BC Tiglath-pileser I Founds the Assyrian empire which will later play a significant role in the nation of Israel. A primitive Greek alphabet starts to appear at this time, The first Chinese dictionary containing 40,000 characters was written, and around 1200 BC the Standard Akkadian version of the Gilgamesh epic was written.  The events described in Homers Iliad and Odyssey are to have taken place around the 12th century BC. The Evidence of some Mesoamerican pyramid building starts as early as 1100 BC and the Olmec culture come has it beginnings in around 1500 BC. Some new technologies of this time are sundials, water clocks, and the Iron Age takes hold in Syria and Palestine.

            Let's get back to Moses shall we? After spending his youth being educated and trained to become part of the Egyptian royal household, probably right alongside the next pharaoh, Moses finds himself tending the flocks of his father in law Jethro of Midian at the base of the holy mountain. Sometime in late 1447 BC Moses sees the famous burning bush that is not consumed which leads to His first encounter with God. He is told very clearly (even though he protest that he is not up to the task), that he is to deliver the nation of Israel from bondage in Egypt. By the way if you notice the dates and do the math Moses is 80 years old by the time he begins his encounter with the Pharaoh of Egypt in 1446 BC.

            This a shorter lesson than usual but we did cover 80 years so we will pick up next month with the plagues.             

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Smoky Mountain Bible Institute
Lesson #52
            Break out your maps and histories as we travel again in our time machine to examine history & geography through a biblical worldview. We left Jacob’s little clan of around 70 people last month, and things were going well for them. Life is good in the promised land until around 1878 BC — this is when the years of famine begin.  It only takes a couple of years for things to start getting desperate, and Jacob sends his sons to Egypt to buy some grain. By 1876 BC Jacob and his clan are settling in to the land of Goshen as Pharaoh's honored guest. Jacob lives out his days to the ripe old age of 147 in Goshen and they have a large funeral procession back to the promised land to bury him in the family cemetery in around 1859 BC.

            Joseph served in essence as the Grand Visor of Egypt for some 80 years, dying in around 1806 BC after turning this already healthy nation of Egypt into a very strong and wealthy one. Now which kingdom that is.... is an issue of debate, so without getting too deeply into the details there are three main options: 1. Accept the Egyptian chronology and fit the biblical chronology to it. 2. Accept both chronologies and see where they overlap. 3. Accept the Biblical chronology and fit the Egyptian chronology to it. As we are looking at things through a biblical worldview we will reject option one and I will note in passing that the standard Egyptian chronology has its weaknesses. The two weaknesses of the Egyptian chronology are that it heavily relies on Manetho's King List (a third century BC Egyptian historian) (problematic primarily because it does not account for overlapping co-regencies), and the improper dating caused by the Sothic dating of events. There are many resources available if you wish to further study these two weaknesses. Specifically I would recommend "The Test of Time" by David M. Rohl and "Centuries of Darkness" by Peter James. Using option one also incorrectly gives you Ramses II as the pharaoh of the Exodus. Ramses is only given as a place name in scripture — the pharaoh during the Exodus is only referred to as Pharaoh and his name is not given. 

            Let's move on to option 2. If we accept both chronologies as mentioned in option 2, then Pharaoh Ahmos (1539 BC - 1515 BC) becomes the new king of Egypt who had no knowledge of Joseph, and Thutmose I (1493-1483) becomes the pharaoh of the Exodus. This also has its problems, not the least of which is the complete lack of evidence of Semitic peoples in Egypt during the reigns of those pharaohs from the eighteenth dynasty.                

            In option 3 there are some interesting parallels that pop up when you compare the writings of some ancient Hebrew midrashes and the pharaohs of the late sixth dynasty which is conventionally dated from 2345 BC to 2181 BC. Simply stated, the last kings in this dynasty bear some striking resemblances to the pharaohs mentioned in this and other midrashes. What is a midrash? It is in essence a Jewish sermon or homily that seeks out and proclaims the truth of holy scripture. The best of these are in collections ranging from 200 BC to the present. These collections are used as biblical commentary to explain what is in the text.  So what are the similarities between the Sefer haYashar midrash and the Pharaohs who closed out the 6th dynasty?

            1. Pepi II Neferkare reigned for 94 years — the longest reign found on any king list. The Sefer haYashar mentions a pharaoh by the name of Melol who reigned for 94 years and is referred to as the "Pharaoh of the oppression". The difference in names is easily dealt with when you consider that Melol is a logical Hebrew transliteration of the Egyptian name Meror which is one of the names ascribed to Pepi II. There is no Egyptian hieroglyph for the L sound, and the closest sound to L is R (there is no L sound in Japanese either).

            2.  Merenre Nemtyemsaf II reigned for 4 years and could very well be the pharaoh of the Exodus for a number of reasons. First, he was the second son of Pepe II as his older brother was unable to rule and would have later died in the 10th plague. Second, Adikam the son of Melol in the Sefer haYashar also reigned 4 years.

            3. The First intermediate Period. The time that follows the sixth dynasty which ends with Merenre Nemtyemsaf II is also known as the dark period because there is very little evidence of anything happening for that 100 year period. This is what you would expect to find if a nation had suffered the same 10 plagues Egypt had, not to mention having just lost their entire army and chariot inventory in the Reed Sea. They also gave the bulk of their wealth to the two to three million departing Jews. It would logically follow that if a society has no resources, all of its crops are destroyed, and the bulk of its working and protecting population is gone, it would take at least 100 years to recover from such an economic blow, and there would be no archeological evidence of this slow recovery. If you would like a more in-depth description of this chronological realignment that only requires the sliding of about six to seven hundred years of the Egyptian timeline to fit with the biblical timeline, I suggest you read "Riddle of the Exodus" by James D. Long. This book also has a very good accompanying DVD of the same title.

            We will fast forward about 430 years next month and start off in around 1526 BC with the birth of a man named Moses.
In Christ,
Pastor Portier