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The House of David

From the earliest times, Israel was composed of a poorly distinguished and variable number of city-states (more like tribal towns) whose population was a melting pot from all areas of the Mediterranean. The specific location that is identified as Israel proper was a more or less backward, rural buffer zone between the civilized Syrians and the nomads of Arabia. The culture of this region was a mixture of the advanced cultures surrounding: Egyptian, Assyrian and Babylonian. These city states rose and fell, fighting each other incessantly.  A retrospective view seems to suggest that acquiring plunder was seen as more productive than agriculture.  In another sense, these petty wars were seen as the conflict between the gods of one tribe against the gods of another. As we will discover, this concept may not have been too far from the truth.

What about the Kingdom of David and Solomon?

The books of Samuel tell us that the anointing of David, son of Jesse, as king over all the tribes of Israel was the culmination of the promises that had begun with the covenant between Abraham and God. Never mind that the first choice for king had been the heroic and dashing Saul from the tribe of Benjamin, it was David who became the folk hero of early Israelite history.

The endless stories in praise of King David were claimed by the Bible to be so widespread that it passes understanding how they were not known in the external world of Egypt, Greece, Assyria and Babylon – if they were true. But, as we will discover, perhaps they were – under a different name and title. The only question is: which versions are the most accurate? Did the Hebrews co-opt these stories to their own history, or was there something about their history that was borrowed by the later sources? And in either case, what is the actual historical setting of these stories? Were they an overlay of myth on an actual historical series of events? Or was a historical series of events manufactured out of myth?

In any event, just as Perseus slew the Gorgon and cut off her head, David slew the giant, Goliath. They both had wallets and stones were important elements of both stories. David was adopted into the royal court because he was a famous harpist and singer in the manner of Orpheus. Like Hercules and other Greek heroes, David was a rebel and freebooter, and like Paris stole Helen, he stole another man s wife – Bathsheba. He also conquered the great citadel of Jerusalem and a vast empire beyond.

The stories of David s son and heir (from Bathsheba), Solomon, tell us that he was the wisest of all kings. He was also the greatest of all builders. The stories tell how he was so brilliant and how his judgments stand as a model for all time. What is more, his wealth was beyond anything else in the known world, and most particularly, he constructed the great Temple in Jerusalem.

For millennia, readers of the Bible have discussed the days of David and Solomon in Israel as though they actually occurred exactly as described. Even people who are not Christian accept that the Temple of Solomon existed, and the plan of this temple has been developed and discussed endlessly by esotericists for centuries. Endless books and legends and secret doctrines have been based on the stories of the Temple of Solomon. Pilgrims, Crusaders, visionaries and even many modern-day books about human origins and the origins of Christianity, have all spread fabulous stories about the magnificence of David s city and Solomon s Temple and the supposed treasures contained within. Our entire Western culture has a heavy, vested interest in these stories being true. What are we going to do with this vast body of literature, including such things as Masonic and Magical lore if it turns out that there never was a Temple of Solomon ?

But, the fact is, that seems to be the case. At least, there was no Temple of Solomon in the terms described in the Bible.

One of the first quests of archaeologists in Palestine was the search for the remains of Solomon s Temple and the great empire of David. It would be tedious to go through all the descriptions of the many excavations, the results, the assumptions, the wild claims of I ve found something that proves it! which were then followed by sober science demonstrating that it wasn t so. The reader who is interested in deeper knowledge in this area can certainly read both sides of the argument, and then look at the scientific evidence and come to the same conclusion we have: The Kingdom of David and the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem never existed as described by the Bible.

Even though there were remains of some sort of kingdom found at Megiddo, Gezer and Hazor, it was later determined that this empire was actually something altogether different than might initially be supposed as we shall soon see.[1] What is important, however, is the fact that the area that was specifically claimed as the homeland of David and Solomon – Judah – was conspicuously undeveloped during the time of the purported empire of Solomon. The facts are that the culture of this region was extremely simple. Based on the evidence of the spade, the land was rural – with no trace of written documents, inscriptions, or even any signs of the kind of widespread literacy that would be necessary for a functioning monarchy. What is more, the area was not even homogeneous. There is no evidence of any kind of unified culture, nor of any sort of central administration. The area from Jerusalem to the north was densely settled, and the area from Jerusalem to the south, the land in question, was very sparsely settled in the time that David and Solomon were supposed to have lived. In fact, Jerusalem itself was little more than a typical highland village. Archaeologically, nothing can be said about David and Solomon. Yet the legend endured. Why?

The important thing to remember at this point is the fact that the evidence supports only a gradual emergence of a distinct group in Canaan at the end of the thirteenth century BC, not a sudden arrival of a vast number of Israelite settlers. And, as noted, the ones who were present in the land were not very organized or civilized in the area that was claimed as the great kingdom of David and Solomon.

Ahab and Jezebel: Solomon and Sheba?

Biblical historians and biblical archaeologists have long attempted to take the biblical account of the rise and fall of the united monarchy at face value. They have assumed an original ethnic unity and distinctiveness of the Hebrew people reaching into the primeval past. They took for granted that the united monarchy of David and Solomon, and its tragic collapse, were facts belonging to Israel in terms of the land of Palestine at a particular period in time. Further, it was assumed that, since Judah and Israel, the two kingdoms, had originally been one, when they split, they both inherited fully formed institutions of church and state. At that point, they were believed to have engaged in competition with one another on a more or less equal footing.

However, intensive archaeological work in the hill country of Israel in the 1980s put those ideas to rest. Curiously, what the archaeologists found was that there had been three waves of settlement activity. The first was between 3500-2200 BC. The second was around 2000-1550 BC. The third was 1150-900 BC. We recognize these time windows as being previously related to possible cataclysms.[2]

In any event, during these three periods of settlement activity – periods when new people arrived and left evidence of a distinct cultural norm, the northern and southern kingdoms always seemed to be separate in these terms. The northern settlement system was always dense and possessed evidence of complex hierarchy of large, medium, and small sites. These sites were heavily dependent on settled agriculture.

The southern kingdom, on the other hand, was sparsely settled in small sites, with only evidence of a population of migratory pastoral groups. We have, then, a division between agriculturalists and shepherds right from the beginning.

During the early period of settlement, these northern and southern regions were each dominated by a single center that was probably the focus of regional politics, economics, and most likely, cultic activity. In the north, it was the area that was later occupied by a city that the Bible calls Tirzah. This became the first capital of the northern kingdom. In the south, the main center was Ai, located northeast of Jerusalem.

In the Middle Bronze Age, there was the second wave of settlement, again, the north was dense and agricultural and the south was sparse – with tiny settlements – and a lot of evidence of wandering pastoralists. But, by now, the central site of cult and economy was Jerusalem – a heavily fortified city that gives evidence of being part of the Hyksos Empire. This matches Manetho s account of the Hyksos leaving Egypt and building a city and temple in Jerusalem. The only problem is: it s the wrong date to have been built after the Hyksos left Egypt, so most archaeologists just assume that there was a Hyksos presence in Canaan that was contemporary to the Hyksos in Egypt. Nearby was Hebron; also heavily fortified. In the north, the center of activity had moved to Shechem. Apparently, Shechem possessed significant fortifications and a massive temple.

Regarding this particular period of history, there is also external evidence from Egypt as to who was who and what was what. These consist of what are called the Execration Texts , the Egyptian version of voodoo. The Egyptians would write curses on clay figures of their enemies and then smash them and ceremonially bury them. The idea was, of course, to symbolically smash the object of the curse. What is important about the Execration Texts is that they give us a clue as to who the Egyptians felt to be most threatening. The Execration Texts mention a large number of coastal and lowland cities of Canaan, but only two highland centers: Shechem and Jerusalem. Keeping in mind the probable link between the Hyksos in Egypt and the Canaanites in Palestine, we can conjecture why the Egyptians were feeling so hostile toward Shechem and Jerusalem. The important thing is that the execration texts, which purportedly date back to at least 1630 BC, mention Jerusalem, Shechem, and Hazor, but none of them ever mention Israel.

Another Egyptian inscription, which records the adventures of a general named Khu-Sebek who led an expedition into the Canaanite highlands, purportedly in the 19th century BC, refers to the land of Shechem, and compares Shechem to Retenu which is one of the Egyptian names for all of Canaan. Interestingly, the Egyptians also referred to the Hyksos as princes of Retenu.” This indicates that as early as 1800 BC there was a territorial entity in northern Canaan and that an important center of this territory was Shechem; further, that it did indeed have a close relationship, at some point, to the Hyksos in Avaris, and it wasn’t Israel.

The Tell el-Amarna letters confirm that there is, at some point late in this period, a southern territory of some significance to Egypt, with the city of Jerusalem as an important center. A number of these letters refer to the rulers of these two city-states – a king named Abdi-Heba who reigned in Jerusalem; and a king named Labayu who reigned in Shechem. Each of them controlled a territory of about a thousand square miles. This was the largest area held by a single local ruler since all the rest of Canaan was divided up into small city-states. It is also curious to note the similarity of these names to Abraham and Laban.

The problem is, as Redford notes, that one has the sinking feeling in approaching this period that a most significant page is missing in the record. And indeed there is.

The bottom line is: archaeological evidence suggests that despite the biblical claims of richness and glory, Jerusalem was little more than a village in the time assigned to David and Solomon. In the interim, during the missing page period, the former fortified city had long since disappeared. In other words, the northern kingdom that was supposed to have broken away from the rule of Jerusalem was well on its way to major state status while Judah had been returned to a condition not unlike a backwater sheep station.

At the same time that the northern highlands were outpacing the southern highlands during all the three periods of settlement, the coastal city-states were leaving both of them in the dust. They were busy, thriving, cosmopolitan, and wealthy. Archaeologists think that what made possible the initial independence of the highlands was the fact that the city-state system of Canaan suffered a series of catastrophically destructive upheavals at the end of the Late Bronze Age. The archaeologists are uncertain as to the cause of this cataclysm, suggesting it to be the invasion of the Sea Peoples or other such propositions. We have an idea already that it was probably more than that.

What seems to have happened is that the coastal city-states recovered from the cataclysms, had been rebuilt and were thriving, when suddenly they were destroyed a second time in a rather short period, this time – supposedly – by military onslaught and fire. Whatever it was, the destruction was so complete that the Canaanite cities of the plain and the coast never recovered. The source of this destruction is thought to have been the military campaign of Shishak, founder of the twenty-second Dynasty. This invasion is mentioned in the Bible where it says that In the fifth year of Rehoboam, Shishak king of Egypt came up against Jerusalem; he took away the treasures of the house of the Lord and the treasures of the king s house; he took away everything. He also took away the shields of gold that Solomon had made.

Shishak/Sheshonq commissioned a triumphal inscription to commemorate the event on the temple walls at Karnak. This inscription lists about one hundred fifty towns and villages he wiped out in his march to the sea, so to speak. The targets of the Egyptians seem to have been the great Canaanite cities of Rehov, Beth-shean, Taanach, and Megiddo. A fragment of a victory stele bearing the name of Shishak was found at Megiddo.[3] Thick layers of ash and the evidence of the collapse of buildings bear mute testimony to the rage of Pharaoh, which led to the sudden death of the Canaanite territory in the late tenth century BC. There is very little evidence of this assault in the hill country, the main campaign being directed at the cities of the Jezreel valley. If there was a Temple that was plundered by Shishak, it wasn t in Jerusalem.

Nevertheless, it is suggested that this raid of Shishak s created an opportunity for the people of the highland to expand into the lowlands at the beginning of the ninth century. Meanwhile, the archaeological records show that, far to the south, Jerusalem continued along as a regime of dispersed villages and pastoral shepherds.

This is the evidence of the spade at the time of the supposed end of the united monarchy around 900 BC.

In the northern kingdom, regional administrative centers were built in the early ninth century. They were heavily fortified and complete with elaborate, luxurious palaces. These cities include Megiddo, Jezreel, and Samaria. Similar constructions appear in the southern territory only in the seventh century. Yet, even when the construction methods moved south, the buildings were smaller and the construction was of a poorer quality.

In short, it can be said that the northern kingdom of Israel, supposed to have been the bad boy breakaway from the great united kingdom of David and Solomon in the south, was actually a fully developed state while Judah was still a country cousin.

Yahweh was present in both kingdoms, however – among many other cult gods. And it is certain that peoples of both kingdoms shared similar stories about their origins, though in different versions, and they most certainly spoke a similar language. By the 8th century BC, they also both wrote in the same script. The chief thing about them, however, is that the two kingdoms had a different experience of the world around them. Their demographics were different. Their economy was different. Their material culture was different. How they related to their neighbors was different. In short, they actually had quite different histories and cultures.

The question we should like to ask is: why does the Bible tell the story of the schism and secession of Israel from Judah when that is clearly not supported by the evidence of either archaeology or history as known to external sources? Why were the two kingdoms systematically portrayed as twin offspring of a single great empire that was headquartered in Jerusalem? There was a reason, as we will soon see.

In actual fact, the first great king of Israel was Omri. The Bible gives a very sketchy and confused history of the first period of the Northern kingdom after its supposed defection from unity. The sordid tale of violence and treachery culminates in the suicide of a usurper, Zimri, in the flames of the royal palace at Tirzah. Omri, the commander of the army is invited by the people to become king, and he naturally obliges. It was a good choice. Not only that, the story bears some resemblance to the selection of David – a military commander – for kingship over the heirs of Saul.

Omri built a new capital for himself at Samaria and laid the foundations of his dynasty. After twelve years, his son Ahab came to the throne. Ahab made a brilliant marriage to the daughter of the Phoenician king Ethbaal, King of Tyre, so we have again a curious reflection of the Bible story of Solomon and his friendship with Hiram, King of Tyre. Was this Ethbaal the real Hiram? In any event, Ahab built magnificent cities and established one of the most powerful armies in the region. He conquered extensive territory to the north and in the Transjordan, and Israel enjoyed wealth and extensive trade connections. The kingdom of Israel was finally something to notice! However, the character of this kingdom was markedly different from the tiny kingdom of Judah.

Ahab was about the most hated individual in all the Biblical texts. What Ahab did that caused him to be so viciously vilified, according to the editor of the Bible, was that he committed the greatest of Biblical sins: he introduced foreign gods into the land of Israel and caused the priests and prophets of Yahweh to be put to death. What s more, he did it because of the influence of that wicked Phoenician princess he had married: Jezebel.

The Bible dwells long and pruriently upon the sins of this famous couple. Nevertheless, we ought to note that these very same sins were attributed to Solomon who was, however, transmogrified into a southern kingdom monarch, and was, therefore, forgiven even if Yahweh was determined to punish his family. One gets the disorienting feeling that the stories of Omri and Ahab and David and Solomon are, essentially, the same. Jezebel was most especially hated because she tossed the prophets and priests of Yahweh out on their ears. Solomon was also recorded to have ejected the priests of Shiloh, so again, we have a cross connection.

In the Bible, the heroes of the story of Omri and Ahab are the prophets Elijah and Elisha – no doubt priests of Shiloh (which will become quite significant rather soon) – since it was recorded asthe home of the prophet Ahijah in 1 Kings, 14:2. A great demonstration of the power of Yahweh is said to have been engineered by Elijah in his confrontation with Ahab, and the result was that the people seized the prophets of the foreign god, Baal, and slaughtered them at the brook Kishon.

Jezebel, naturally, went on a rampage, and Elijah felt it was time to get out of Dodge. He headed for the hills in the wilderness and talked to God on Mount Horeb just like Moses was supposed to have done. Yahweh pronounced a dire prophecy against Ahab, but curiously gave him a few more chances to redeem himself as evidenced by his victories against Ben-Hadad, king of Aram-Damascus. Yahweh, apparently, was willing to relent if Ahab would kill Ben-Hadad. However, Ahab decided to make peace instead, and a treaty was arranged. On and on the account goes, vilifying Ahab and Jezebel. After his death, Elisha anointed another general in the army to be king, Jehu. This guy was more to Yahweh s liking, apparently, and Yahweh saw to it that Jezebel suffered a terrible death, thrown from a window and devoured by dogs. Jehu then sent for all of Ahab s sons, (there were reportedly 70 of them), by any number of wives or concubines, and had them all slaughtered and their heads piled up in a mound at the gate of the city to inspire awe and confidence in the new king, not to mention Yahweh.

The Bible says that Jehu brought down the Omrides, yet there is evidence that this is probably not true.

In 1993, an inscription was found that is believed to have been produced by Hazael, king of Aram-Damascus. From the inscription, it seems that Hazael captured the city of Dan around 835 BC and refers to the House of David. Hazael s invasion was clearly the one that weakened the power of the northern kingdom. The text of the Dan inscription links the death of Jehoram, the son of Ahab and Jezebel, to an Aramaean victory. Hazael boasts:

[I killed Jeho]ram son of [Ahab] king of Israel and [I]killed [Ahaz]iahu son of [Jehoram kin]g of the House of David. And I set [their towns into ruins and turned [their land into[desolation].

Thus it is that the likelihood that the violent destruction of the Solomonic palaces that was long ascribed to the Egyptian raid led by Pharaoh Shishak in the late 10th century BC, actually took place around 835, and was due to Hazael and not Jehu.

Thus ended the Omride dynasty.

Let me emphasize that the Omride dynasty is referred to by Hazael as the House of David. Why? Was Omri, in fact, the Beloved of Yahweh? Or was the House of the Beloved originally the Beloved of another god?

Nevertheless, we begin to see how Elijah s terrible prophecy on the fate of Ahab was fulfilled: by twisting the facts after the fact. Of course, as we will see, an awful lot of Yahweh s other prophecies were fulfilled after the fact and only during the writing of the Bible. The invasion of Ben-hadad, who Ahab was supposed to kill and didn’t, and thus angered Yahweh, actually took place much later in the history of the northern kingdom.

So we find, again and again, when the anachronisms and historical inaccuracies are removed from the story, there is really nothing left of the Bible proper except a tedious tale of threats by Yahweh and fulfillment of those threats all designed to establish Yahweh as the Universal God. Never mind that this process includes twisting and distorting the facts all out of recognition. What the record of the spade shows about the Omrides is a great kingdom and a time of general prosperity for all. It provides, in fact, a model of the Davidic and Solomonic kingdom of Israel in all respects except for the worship of Yahweh. That is why it was damned by the writers of the Bible and retold in a new version that promoted Yahweh as the god who had made Israel great, and whose abandonment had brought it to its knees.

The facts are exactly the opposite. Israel never achieved anything under the rule of the priests of Yahweh except constant suffering and exile because of rulers who kept shooting themselves in the foot with their two-faced politics and religio-cultural isolationist policies.

The Omrides were a militarily powerful family of rulers reigning over one of the strongest states of the Near East during that period of time. It was only then that the rest of the world began to sit up and take notice of Israel. A stele from this time says that Omri was king of Israel, and he oppressed Moab. Moab was a vassal state of Israel. The stele continues by telling us how Mesha, the king of Moab responsible for the stele, expanded his territory in rebellion against Israel. We learn from Mesha that the kingdom of Israel reached far to the east and south of its earlier domain in the central hill country.

The Bible stresses the Omride s military embarrassments repeatedly, but it seems that they were sufficiently competent that they could assemble a force that impressed the heck out of the great Assyrian king Shalmaneser III, and sent him home in a hurry. Naturally, Shalmaneser boasted of his victory in what is called the Monolith inscription. But it was found in Nimrud, not Israel, which testifies to who really prevailed! The Bible mentions an Aramaean army besieging Samaria; it is clear that it was the Assyrian army and that Israel held their own.

The many archaeological finds in Palestine that were at first loudly proclaimed to have been evidence of the reigns of David and Solomon, actually turned out to be the building projects of Omri and Ahab. Thus it is that if there was a David and Solomon of Israel, it was Omri and Ahab, the dynasty that established the first fully developed monarchy in Israel.

It is evident that the building projects of Omri employed sophisticated earthmoving operations to turn small hilltop settlements into significant fortresses. Where did the power and wealth come from? What occurred to enable the northern kingdom to grow into the Omride state? With the limited resources of the hill country being only sufficient to maintain relatively small towns and villages, what happened to nurture expansion?

Well, as noted, there was a wave of destruction of the cities of the lowlands at the end of the 10th century BC, prior to the destruction of the “Solomonic palaces,” of the Omrides and it is now thought that this opened the way for a strong man with brains and ambition to grab the reins and create an empire. Apparently Omri was such a man. He wasn t responsible for the destruction of the Philistines, as the Bible claimed about David, but he was certainly the man of the hour who knew when his star was on the ascendant. He expanded from the original hill country into the heart of the former Canaanite territory at Megiddo, Hazor, and Gezer. He enveloped the territories of southern Syria and Transjordan. He established a vast and diverse territorial state that controlled rich agricultural land and held sway over a busy international trade route. What was even more significant: his territory was a multi-ethnic society. This was another reason the authors of the Bible demonized him.

When the northern kingdom of Israel united the Samarian highlands with the northern valleys, it amounted to the integration of several ecosystems including the heterogeneous population. It is very likely that the core territory in the highlands would have identified themselves as Israelites, but the peoples of the lowlands, the valleys, were the indigenous Canaanite population. Farther to the north were those whose ethnicity was Aramaean. Toward the coast, Omri ruled over peoples who were Phoenician in origin. The archaeology shows that the cultural roots of each group were consistent through this period, and thus were apparently not disturbed by Omri. The evidence shows stability in the settlement patterns such that it is evident that Omri did not try to force anything on anybody; not even religious beliefs. He truly united the tribes of Palestine, even if they weren’t, as the Bible suggests, the sons of Jacob united under the divine guidance of Yahweh; they were a diverse and unique mix. And it is very likely this gathering together of different ethnic groups was the real, historical event that was later falsified in the myth of the 12 tribes as actual families of sons descended from Abraham. It seems that this very diversity was the most important factor contributing to the growth and expansion of the Omride dynasty. According to estimates, Israel may have been the most densely populated state in the Levant. Its only rival was Aram-Damascus in southern Syria.

The rise to power of Omri coincided with the general revival of eastern Mediterranean trade. The harbor cities of Greece, Cyprus, and the Phoenician coast were busily involved in trade and commerce, and thanks to Omri, Israel participated. There was a strong Phoenician artistic influence on the Israelite culture, and a great many Cypro-Phoenician style vessels appear in the archaeological strata. This isn t terribly unusual considering the fact that Ahab married a Phoenician princess.

Conceptually and functionally, the Omride citadels resemble the great Canaanite city-states of the Late Bronze Age. A similar cultural continuity is evident in places like Taanach, where a decorated cult-stand from the 9th century BC displays elaborate motifs of the Canaanite traditions of that time. All of this is interesting, however it creates a problem. From the archaeological perspective, there is nothing particularly Israelite about the northern kingdom at all. In fact, it is only from the Bible that we learn – or are told – that it was an Israelite kingdom, broken away from the Solomonic empire. The true character of the Omride dynasty is that of military might, architectural achievement, governmental sophistication, and cosmopolitan tolerance. But all we learn from the Bible was how much Omri and Ahab were hated.

The Biblical author obviously had to tell the real stories about Omri, even if they had already been mythicized, but he twisted and distorted every word. He diminished their military might with ridicule and recitations of failures. He omitted the many victories and successes that must have occurred or the dynasty would not have achieved such expansion. The Biblical author also linked the opulence of the dynasty with idolatry and social injustice; he connected the Phoenician princess to evil practices and whoring after false gods. The Biblical author historicized what had already been mythicized, only he put his own negative spin on it. In short, he wanted to show that the entire history of the northern kingdom had been one of sin and degradation piled to heaven.

Yet, the evidence of the spade says otherwise.

The Biblical author then tells the tales of the House of David as though it were the exclusive possession of the Southern kingdom. And we are beginning to understand why: it was to justify Yahweh as the Only God: the god of Israel.

The Ten Lost Tribes

As it turned out, the kingdom Omri built actually fell because he succeeded too well. As an independent kingdom sitting in the shadow of the great Assyrian empire, northern Israel was a tempting treasure just asking to be plundered.

In the reigns of the several kings that followed Ahab, Yahweh is typically hypocritical in his judgments. Or rather, he is written into the narrative as being behind the successes or failures of the kings. If they succeeded at anything while remaining idolatrous, it was because Yahweh had pity on the people. If the kings were faithful to Yahweh, but were political failures causing the people to suffer, it was because of some sin attributed to their forebears. Divine blessings seemed to be singularly arbitrary. It never seemed to occur to any of the priests of Yahweh that maybe he wasn’t such a hot choice for the national god after all.

In any event, after a string of kingly failures, or failures of Yahweh to come through on his promises, a truly idiotic king came to the throne: Hoshea.

At the same point in time, the late 8th century BC, Shalmaneser V came to the throne of Assyria. Hoshea gave his word to be a vassal to Shalmaneser, but went behind his back to form an alliance with Egypt. He must have been a lousy judge of which side his bread was buttered on as well as not too ethically inclined since he made one promise and then immediately reneged on it. Remember how much Egypt is supposed to be hated because of the slavery of the Jews there? Well, we will notice repeatedly that this factor never seemed to have entered the minds of the Israelites during this early period. What Hoshea wanted from Egypt was support for a revolution against Assyria. When Shalmaneser heard about it, he took Hoshea captive, invaded what was left of Israel, laid siege to Samaria for three years, and when he captured it, he carried the Israelites away to Assyria. Well, at least those who could not buy their freedom.

After exiling the Israelites, Assyria brought in people from Babylon, Cuthah, Avva, Hamath, and Sepharvaim, and settled them in the cities of Samaria to replace the people of Israel. None of the original inhabitants were ever reported to have returned, and the legend of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel was created from this event.

These lost tribes have been reported at: Great Zimbabwe in Africa; Mexico, North America; Persia; Central Asia; China (the Chiang-Min of Sichuan), and Japan.[4] The Book of Mormon discusses at great length this matter of the lost tribes in America. The problem is, of course, the assumption that there ever was 12 real tribes to begin with as described in the Bible; that is, begun by the sons of a single father, Jacob. I think that, by this time, the reader may be coming to the realization that there could not be ten lost tribes because there were no tribes to begin with at least not in the terms explicated in the Bible.

The story of Joseph in Egypt – Genesis 37 to 50 – is so different in style and excellence that scholars believe it to be a literary composition rather than a record. It shares many features with many other Egyptian and Near Eastern stories of the same genre. The change in style in passing from the short and disjointed sections dealing with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is unusual in other ways. The story of Joseph demonstrates no interest at all in the covenant, promises, and precedents of the rights of Israel or any of the other matters that concern the authors of the earlier tales. There are no meetings with Yahweh/Jehovah, no angels, no cities being blown up; in short, nothing Jewish at all.

According to Genesis 45:11, the journey of Jacob and his family to Egypt was an emergency measure to help them survive a famine. Another version suggests that their clear intent was to settle in Egypt permanently. This suggests the story is a borrowed piece of Middle Eastern Literature, inserted into the Biblical narrative as history, and, most especially, as a genealogical placeholder. The popular and obviously well known story of Joseph was claimed as the origin of the diverse tribes that were later assimilated as one people. The Joseph story brings all the sons of Jacob to Egypt where they live out their lives. This directly and emphatically contradicts the traditions of the individual tribes. For example, in Genesis 38, Judah marries, settles, and raises his family in Canaan; Simeon marries a Canaanite in Genesis 46:21; Ephraim dies in Palestine in I Chronicles 6:20; Manasseh married an Aramaean in I Chronicles 7:14, and his son, Machir, was at home in Gilead in both Numbers 32:40 and I Chronicles 2:21-22.

Another discordant element in the Joseph story is that the Egyptian names it mentions, Saphnathpane ah, Asenath, Potiphar, and Potipherah, are names that belong to the 21st Egyptian dynasty, and were common in the 9th through 7th centuries BC – the Kushite-Saite period. Also, in Genesis 42:34, an Aramaic title – saris from the Akkadian sa resi – is a title found in the Persian administration of Egypt. In short, a strong case for a 7th or 6th century origin of the story can be made, and the parallels to the story of Daniel in exile in Babylon are numerous.

So, again, it seems that the twelve sons of Jacob, as the progenitors of the twelve tribes of Israel, were originally just simply loosely associated tribes with no specific familial connection, and the story of Jacob as their father was developed as a genealogical placeholder/connector.


[1] Finkelstein, Israel, and Silberstein, Neil Asher; The Bible Unearthed, (New York: The Free Press 2001).
[2] Baillie, Mike, Exodus to Arthur (London: B.T. Batsford 1999).
[3] Unfortunately, it had been dumped in the trash at the archaeological site so its precise provenance is unknown.
[4] In Japanese, koru means to freeze, and in Hebrew, kor means cold. This is taken as proof that the lost tribes went to Japan, rather than the obvious solution that there was, at one time, a proto-Nostratic language from which all others descend.