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The Missing Historical Record

Taking the records as they are found, if they are real history, and as Palestine is contiguous to Egypt, it would naturally be expected to find some reference to the Israelites in the Egyptian Annals, but what does appear, in regard to Palestine, is certainly not favorable to the assumption that it was the home of the Israelites as a nation. Modern writers on Jews and Judaism admit that outside of the Old Testament there is little or no history of the Jews down to the time of Alexander, and that there is very little reliable history even in the collection of books known as the Hebrew Scriptures.

Thothmes the Third, who was the most powerful king of that dynasty (the eighteenth) which finally drove the Hyksos invaders out of Egypt and reunited the whole country under one sceptre, extended his conquests as far as Mesopotamia, overrunning Palestine on his way ; he left lists of the conquered nations, but does not mention the Israelites among them.

Rameses the Second, of the nineteenth dynasty, the supposed oppressor, who reigned about two hundred years later, also subdued Palestine and left lists of the conquered peoples, but he, again, does not mention the Israelites among them. Ramses II made several invasions into Syria, passing with his armies through Palestine, and making conquests there. Hebrews are not even mentioned in the Egyptian accounts, perhaps because they only formed the rural population of the country, not as yet much congregated in cities. The route from Lebanon down past Jerusalem was the public highway for all nations from Mesopotamia to Egypt, and perhaps the march even of an enemy that way, in those early times, did not molest the Jews sufficiently to be described in their brief history, so long as they as a people were let alone.

In the annals of Rameses III, who reigned some years after the Israelites ought to have been settled in their own land, many references are made to the country in which they were located (according to biblical accounts). The king goes to what is known to us as Palestine, Phoenicia, and Syria, " to receive the annual tribute from the chiefs," whom he calls Khetas. In the enumeration of his conquests, extending from Egypt, east and north-eastward, he enumerates thirty-eight tribes and peoples; and says : " I have smitten every land, and have taken every land in its extent" In his reminder to the God Ptah, of the benefits he had conferred on the God, the king says : " I gave to thy temple, from the store-houses of Egypt, Tar-neter, and Kharu (i.e., Palestine and Syria) more numerous offerings than the sand of the sea, as well as cattle and slaves" (Syrians). He also built a temple to Amnion in the same country, to which " the nations of the Rutenna came and brought their tribute." Making full allowance for the usual Egyptian flattery, the fact is clear that in the time of this king, the Israelites could not be a settled and distinct people.

The next is Rameses XII, some 200 years after the exodus, who is the hero of the story of the possessed Princess. He was in Mesopotamia at the time when the Chief of the Bakhten brought his daughter, who afterwards became Queen of Egypt. " His Majesty was there registering the annual tributes of all the Princes of the countries; " among whom he enumerates Tar-neter (Palestine), but no mention of Israelites.

What is, perhaps, still more important, is that while the Israelites have left records of invasions by Mesopotamians, Moabites, Canaanites, Midianites, and Philistines, they do not mention any invasion by the Egyptians, and the conclusion may be that the Israelites were not settled on the west side of the Jordan till after the wars raged by Rameses the Second at the commencement of his reign, which began not earlier than 1388 BC, or, as some say, 1265 BC.

Nothing is said about Egyptian affairs through all the Scripture history of over 500 years, from Joshua to Solomon, filling the book of Judges and the two books of Samuel. Besides about nine references to the exodus (Jud. ii: 1, 12, and x: 11, and xix: 30, I Sam. iv: 8, and vi: 6, and x: 18, and xii: 6, and xv: 6), there are only two mentions of an individual as an "Egyptian" in the days of David (I Sam. xxx: 1113; II Sam. xxiii: 21). Not another word about Egypt during the 500 years.

The whole lower region from Migdol of Egypt up to the Dead Sea was conquered by the Egyptians, as well as the regions beyond Lebanon. But Israel seemingly remained unmolested, as under the sheltering wing of Jehovah; until Egypt at length became the frequent helper of Israel against other foreign foes; insomuch that the prophets had to warn them against too much "looking to Egypt" for help.

The time of Herodotus (about 420 BC) is on historical ground. This great historian travelled through Egypt and Palestine, in the reign of one of the kings of the Persian dynasty, about forty or sixty years after the alleged return of the Jews from their captivity in Babylon, and when the Temple had been built and the city fortified. He repeatedly alludes to the Phoenicians and Syrians, whose country extended from the coast of the Levant down to the Egyptian frontier, including the Isthmus and Sinaitic Peninsula. He says that Necho (about 670 BC) " fought with the Syrians, and took a large city, Cadytis; " but he makes no mention of Jews, nor yet of Jerusalem. If they had been there, it is noteworthy that such a careful and gossiping historian should have explored the land without noticing them in some way or other.

Soon after the death of Alexander the Jews first came into notice under Ptolemy I of Egypt, and some of their books were collected at the new-built city of Alexandria. Such was the insignificance of the Jews as a people that the historical monuments preceding the time of Alexander the Great, who died 323 years BC, make not the slightest mention of any Jewish transaction. The writings of Thales, Solon, Pythagoras, Democritus Plato, Herodotus, and Xenophon, all of whom visited remote countries, contain no mention of the Jews whatever. Neither Homer nor Aristotle, the preceptor of Alexander, makes any mention of them. Alexander' did pass through the coast of Palestine, and the only resistance he encountered was at Gaza, which was garrisoned by Persians.

A tablet erected to Alexander II by Ptolemy, at that time viceroy under the Persian king, but who soon after himself became king of Egypt, 305 BC, states that 'Alexander marched with an army of Ionians to the Syrians' land, who were at war with him. He penetrated its interior and took it at one stroke, and led their princes, cavalry, ships, and works of art to Egypt.' Next follows the third Ptolemy, 238 BC, who invaded the two lands of Asia, and brought back to Egypt all the treasures which had been carried away by Cambyses and his successors. He 'imported corn from East Rutenna and Kafatha' i.e. from Syria and Phoenicia. It was the father of this king who is credited with sending to Judea for the seventy-two men who translated the Hebrew Bible into Greek; and yet neither of these Ptolemaic kings makes mention of Judea, Jerusalem, or the Jews! The inference is that they were not there.

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Page last modified: 26-03-2012 18:43:09 ZULU