Vice President Pence didn't graduate from the school of social revisionism. But he is a rare exception; at least we may sincerely hope that he will not be the last of his kind.

Debunking the debunkers; recognizing Israel's history

By —— Bio and Archives--January 28, 2018

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Debunking the debunkers; recognizing Israel's history
Vice President Pence did something unthinkable in Jerusalem last week: he referenced the bible in support of Israel’s right to exist.

“The Jewish people held fast to a promise through all the ages, written so long ago, that ‘even if you have been banished to the most distant land under the heavens,’ from there He would gather and bring you back to the land which your fathers possessed.”

Few politicians today, and probably not any in Western Europe, would express themselves in similar terms. Moderns can reverence Marx, Lenin, and Marcuse with impunity, but not Moses.  But as Orwell stated, “The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history.”

“Debunking” the bible is only a slow-acting poison for the cultures of most western nations; but for Israel it is critical.

Modernists, intentionally or not, have been hacking away at the underpinnings of Israel’s history for a long time. Consider the treatment of the Exodus. Academics are fond of saying it never happened (DeMille notwithstanding); or that if it did, it was only a tiny affair, barely 600 “houses”—too minuscule to have made a ripple in ancient history and politics. And if there was a later Conquest of Canaan, it consisted only of yet another band of wandering tribes raiding across the Jordan; who centuries later fabricated a fantastic story about themselves—a fable, in an area where fable-making is a tradition that often takes the place of recording real history.

Thus the entry in Wikipedia for “The Exodus” presents these summations:

“The consensus of modern archaeologists is that the Israelites were indigenous to Canaan and were never in Egypt, and if there is any historical basis to the exodus it can apply only to a small segment of the Israelites.”

“Archaeologists generally agree that the Israelites had Canaanite origins…”

“Scholars broadly agree that the Torah is a product of the mid-Persian period, approximately 450-400 BCE…”

But there is a little problem.

Thirty-five hundred years ago some of the “slaves” so involved with the narrative of the supposed Exodus, scribbled graffiti on the rocks of the mines they were working. For a long time these were undecipherable. No one even knew what language they were in. But recently Douglas Petrovich, in his work “The World’s Oldest Alphabet” (2017), has demonstrated that the underlying language is Hebrew; and with that the ancient scribbles become readable:

“He [Pharaoh] sought occasion to cut away to barrenness our great number, our swelling without measure.” (Sinai 349)

“Our bond servitude had lingered. Moses then provoked astonishment. It is a year of astonishment.” (Sinai 361)

Or less stilted (and paraphrased for the modern ear): “We’re still slaves; but Moses is doing some amazing stuff.”

The Exodus, as reported by contemporary witnesses—even, participants.

An awkward moment, to be sure, for historical nay-sayers.(Interested readers can view these inscriptions with a Google search.)

Dovetailing with these are the Amarna letters, which have been known for a long time but continually denied to be relevant. (Denial is more than a river in Egypt.)  This diplomatic correspondence between Pharaoh and his satraps in Canaan depicts a period roughly 40-50 years after the Exodus.

“The war, however, of the Apiru [Habiru] forces against me is extremely severe, and so may the king, my lord, not neglect Sumur lest everyone be joined to the Apiru [Habiru] forces.” —Amarna Letter EA68

“For years archers would come out to inspect the country, and yet now that the land of the king and Sumur, your garrison-city, have been joined to the Apiru [Habiru], you have done nothing. Send a large force of archers that it may drive out the king’s enemies and all lands be joined to the king.”—Amarna Letter EA76

“But if the king, my lord, does not give heed to the words of his servant, then ... all the lands of the king, as far as Egypt, will be joined to the Apiru [Habiru].” Amarna Letter EA88

There is even a mention of a leader with a recognizable name:

“As the king, my lord, lives, as the king, my lord, lives, I swear Ayyab is not in Pihilu. In fact, he has been in the field for two months. Just ask Ben-Elima. Just ask Tadua. Just ask Yišuya . . . “ —Amarna Letter EA256

Perhaps it is not unexpected that scholars would insist the Amarna letters cannot refer to the Hebrews; surely the Habiru or Apiru (“nomads”,“fugitives”, “raiders”) were just a collection of wild tribes. And the word(s) may have been used in other contexts earlier. But what were the Hebrews doing for the previous 40 years except wandering? They had no fixed home; how would they be described then in foreign documents? And an impartial observer has to question just how many invasions of Canaan there were at the start of the 14th century BC? And against how many of these did a Pharaoh repeatedly refuse to send troops, even though he was losing the whole of the land?

Continued below...

Petrovich presents a strong case that the use of “ibr” (close to the biblical “ibri”, i.e., “Hebrew”) in a very early Sinai inscription, referring to “six ... Hebrews of Bethel”,  indicates the likelihood that the later Amarna letters intend a reference to this narrower class of “Habiru” as well.

It may be plausibly argued, in addition, that the Pharaoh of the time—Akhenaten—was not unaware of what happened when his predecessor tried to pursue the Hebrews. If the Exodus is true, then certainly the Egyptians knew it, also; and it is reasonable to conclude that this would have influenced their subsequent interactions with that people. Otherwise, the Egyptians must have been blind, deaf, and dumb, about their own history. If they didn’t mention it in their monumental propaganda, one may consider how many modern tyrants (North Korea being one example) mention crushing defeats in their own wall-sized exhibits. (The defeat of their gods in the plagues was bad enough; the death of their god-king himself in a battle with the Hebrew deity would have destabilized whatever adhesion Egyptian society had left.)

To beggar the question a bit further, the whole matter of why and how Akhenaten began his allegedly monotheistic revolution might be examined in the light of how the Israelites influenced him, and not vice versa. But opening that question would ram an academic Titanic and leave a lot of scholars grasping for survival rafts. How many scholarly reputations have been built on the notion that Moses and the Israelites did nothing original, and were just copiers? Or that if Moses existed, he was really Akhenaten himself? (Or one may go with Freud and just suggest that Moses worshipped the Aten before he got around to venturing into Sinai.)  It is not too much of an exaggeration—if in fact it is an exaggeration at all—to imagine that university faculties around the country would see a mass exodus of their own, if evidence of the biblical Moses and the biblical Exodus were to turn up.

To test the limits of how far this modern “denialism” can go, consider that it has been seriously asserted that the Exodus was impossible, because a couple of million people, marching ten abreast, would have formed a line 150 miles long. (See the Wikipedia article again, for example. Pity the poor computer-bound high school student who has no access to the Hollywood versions.)  Where is it claimed the Israelites marched ten abreast? If they marched 1000 abreast—and allowing for five feet per person—the line would only be a mile wide; and a million people could fit into a single square mile. Huge popular demonstrations in the USA—500,000 people marching through Washington, DC—show how large numbers can easily pass any particular point within a few hours.

As well, the recent hurricane in Puerto Rico, where the winds pushed back the sea and held it back, uncovering the sea bed, has shown how people can walk on the sea floor as if on dry land; and continue to do so as long as the winds remain constant.

But keeping the goal in mind, we now have Temple Denial—the claim that neither the first nor second temple ever existed, and that the Jewish people have no connection to Jerusalem at all. (It probably won’t be long before some"scholars” can be found to support this idea. In fact, the New York Times—the font of all certitude—could offer in October of 2015 (“Historical Certainty Proves Elusive at Jerusalem’s Holiest Place”): “The question, which many books and scholarly treatises have never definitely answered, is whether the 37-acre site, home to Islam’s sacred Dome of the Rock shrine and al-Aqsa Mosque, was also the precise location of two ancient Jewish temples, one built on the remains of the other, and both long since gone.”

The Times apparently never bothers to inquire, though, how Mohammed, vaulting to heaven on his heavenly horse, could stop en route at a mosque (“al aksa”) on the Temple Mount— when Jerusalem at the time was still under Byzantine rule and there were no mosques to be found in the city at all.

Nikita Khrushchev famously remarked, “Historians are dangerous and capable of turning everything upside down. They have to be watched.”  That was in Stalin’s Russia. But are today’s historians any more reliable?  Facts can be airbrushed, not just photos. Events can disappear from the record. Taking Orwell to heart again—“He who controls the present controls the past. He who controls the past controls the future.”— will those with agendas try to fashion a warped vision of the Middle East?

Vice President Pence didn’t graduate from the school of social revisionism. But he is a rare exception; at least we may sincerely hope that he will not be the last of his kind.


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Randolph Parrish -- Bio and Archives | Comments

“Randolph Parrish is the author of “The Duke Lacrosse Case: A Documentary History and Analysis of the Modern Scottsboro”(2009); “Cancionero”, a teen novel; and editor of a one-volume edition of Graetz’s “History of the Jews”.

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