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Old 09-14-2019, 04:49 PM
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The Ancient Origin and Myths of Israel and Judaism


Mysteries of ancient human prehistory intrigue me. Of the "great religions" only Hinduism predates Judaism's King Josiah, and, while the details are hugely mysterious and very controversial and surely fascinating, the Hindu religion's origin can be safely pinned back to the 4th century BC pastoralists of the East European steppes. The ancient Irish religion, BTW, also traces back to the same place and time — and there are huge affinities between the religions of the Druids and of the Brahmin.

PLEASE NOTE that the origins of the Israelites more than 2000 years ago have nothing whatsoever to do with today's Jewish people; the whole topic is merely one of pure curiosity.

Begin the story of Judaism with 3 or 4 Empires — Assyria, Babylonia, Egypt and the Hittites. In the midst of these empires, stretching from the Eastern Delta of the Nile to the valley of the Euphrates River, were smaller towns and tribes, often vassal to one of the empires: sedentary people near the Sea and nomadic shepherds inland. Egypt was the last of the empires to get war chariots — they were introduced by the conquering Hyksos. The Israelites were much later still, first using chariots, it's written, in the time of King David. (And even he "houghed all the [enemy's] chariot horses, but reserved of them for an hundred chariots.")

I got interested in this ancient history when I realized that the words Yahweh, Hebrew/'Apiru and Israel all appear in Egyptian inscriptions, centuries before the time of the alleged King David.

It's widely assumed that the worship of Yahweh began as a monolatry. There were some other monolatrous religions in that region. Some claim that the other religions tended to worship a sun god, while Yahweh worship began as moon god worship. I'll let the Board's experts straighten this out.

So. What time-frame do we speak of when we write "Ancient Origin of Jewish Religion" (which I will extrapolate to reference the Tribe of Israel more generally) ?

Wiki's article with a similar title shows only:
Quote:
The origins of Judaism lie in the Bronze Age amidst polytheistic ancient Semitic religions, specifically Canaanite religion, co-existing with a syncretization with elements of Babylonian religion and of the worship of Yahweh reflected in the early prophetic books of the Hebrew Bible. During the Iron Age I, the Israelite religion became distinct from other Canaanite religions due to the unique monolatristic (proto-monotheistic) worship of Yahweh.
There isn't much detail here; the rest of the article reviews only Iron Age II and later. Similarly, patheos.com begins its "History" or "Origin" of Judaism in 1st or 2nd century AD! Josiah isn't mentioned in these accounts, let alone David or Solomon. But I'll ask, for the purpose of this thread, that "Ancient" predates the alleged reigns of David and Solomon.

Arguments for such an early origin of proto-Judaism include the Beta Israel and especially Qemant people of Ethiopia. The former apparently separated from Judaea before the Captivity in Babylon, and the Qemant perhaps much earlier still. Note that King Tut's tomb contained an Ark rather similar to the Ark specified in the Bible.

The historical problem can be phrased most simply with "Who was Pharaoh at Moses' birth, and which Pharaoh later chased the fleeing Israelites eastward?" (Speculations for the date have a range of 300+ years IIUC.) I'll offer my own comments, if any, later but for now, let's note:
(1) The story of Moses as written in the Pentateuch is heavily distorted, if based on any true story at all.
(2) In particular, Pharaoh was following the Hebrew (Habiru/'Apiru) folk to ensure they fled far away, not to bring them back for enslavement.
(3) There is evidence that many of the locations described in Exodus/Numbers were near Petra in the Land of Edom, supposedly the tribe of Jacob/Israel's brother Esau.

As for (2), consider how you would write an origin myth for your new religion. Assuming you describe an exodus from Egypt, would you want your heroes to be raiders being driven away? Or to flee enslavement for a Promised Land? IIRC there are ancient Egyptian inscription(s) describing the driving away of Shasu or Habiru people, who may have been mercenary soldiers turned rogue. The Habiru might have been a subset of the Shasu who in turn were nomadic shepherds. When did the Shasu conquer the Edomites, if at all? Some such questions are answered in the book Egypt, Canaan, and Israel in ancient times. This is available on the Internet as a free library book. I hope interested Dopers will check out the book and peruse it to help with the mysteries. I'm browsing it a little now — If mine is the only copy, just PM me and I'll return the book forthwith.

That the ancient Israelites were shepherds rather than farmers is suggested by Genesis Chapter 4:
Quote:
And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the Lord. And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the Lord had respect unto Abel and to his offering: But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell.... and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him.
Was this myth more likely written by a farmer or by a shepherd?
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Old 09-14-2019, 05:58 PM
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Your initial post is kind of all over the place, so it’s kind of hard to follow it up, but my understanding is that Moses is no longer considered a historical figure by the majority of ancient historians who specialize in the levant or near east and the Exodus, if it happened at all in any form, was nothing like the mass migration of people (for whatever reason) of even as brief as span as decades as portrayed in the Bible.

To the extent certain passages seem to favor a certain way of life over another, that could also point to different motives in the sources. Keep in mind, there were two separate kingdoms, Israel in the north and Judea (including modern Jerusalem) in the south, with certain passages in Genesis and Exodus seeming to favor one kingdom over the other (like which son get the inheritance vs which son gets the curse, or who sells who into slavery and who feels just awful about the whole darn thing). Whether there ever was a single, unified Kingdom of Israel encompassing both north and south under a single monarch (like David) is, I believe, a subject of debate.

But of course I am not a biblical scholar, archeologist, historian, or anything like that.
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