Rahab’s deceit and betrayal

According to the book of Joshua God made it possible for the Israelites to conquer the city of Jericho by tearing down the city’s high walls:

Then the Lord said to Joshua, “See, I have given into your hand Jericho, with its king and mighty men of valor. You shall march around the city, all the men of war going around the city once. Thus they shall do for six days. And seven priests shall bear seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark; and on the seventh day you shall march around the city seven times, the priests blowing the trumpets. And when they make a long blast with the ram’s horn, as soon as you hear the sound of the trumpet, then all the people shall shout with a great shout; and the wall of the city will fall down flat, and the people shall go up every man straight before him.”

Joshua 6:2 – 5, Revised Standard Version

As the following passages relate, Joshua did exactly as God directed, and indeed the walls did collapse on the seventh day when the whole army gave a shout.

On the seventh day they rose early at the dawn of day, and marched around the city in the same manner seven times: it was only on that day that they marched around the city seven times. And at the seventh time, when the priests had blown the trumpets, Joshua said to the people, “Shout; for the LORD has given you the city. And the city and all that is within it shall be devoted to the LORD for destruction; only Rahab the harlot and all who are with her in her house shall live, because she hid the messengers that we sent.”

Joshua 6:15 – 17 RSV

So the people shouted, and the trumpets were blown. As soon as the people heard the sound of the trumpet, the people raised a great shout, and the wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they took the city. Then they utterly destroyed all in the city, both men and women, young and old, oxen, sheep, and asses, with the edge of the sword.

Joshua 6:20 – 21, RSV

Notice that the story states that the prostitute Rahab and all of those in her company were to be spared. The reason given is that Rahab hid the “messengers” that Joshua sent to Jericho prior to their attack. But just who were these messengers? The Bible tells us in the following passage:

And Joshua the son of Nun sent two men secretly from Shittim as spies, saying, “Go, view the land, especially Jericho.”

Joshua 2:1, RSV

So! The “messengers” were spies! They weren’t sent to convey a message from the Israelites to the people of Jericho; they were sent to gather intelligence on the city!

Once the spies arrived at Jericho they quickly found out that the people of Jericho were afraid of the Israelites.

Before they lay down, she came up to them on the roof, and said to the men, “I know that the LORD has given you the land, and that the fear of you has fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land melt away before you. For we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites that were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon and Og, whom you utterly destroyed.

Joshua 2:8 – 10, RSV

The people of Jericho were terrified of what the God of the Israelites might do to their city. They knew what happened to the Pharaoh’s army, and to the cities of Sihon and Og. So with the entire city of Jericho on the lookout for Israelites, how did the two Israeli spies escape from Jericho without being caught?  The Bible tells us exactly how they managed it in this passage.

Then she let them down by a rope through the window, for her house was built into the city wall, so that she dwelt in the wall.

Joshua 2:15, RSV

So!  Rahab’s house was part of the mighty walls of Jericho– and all that was needed to scale those walls was a simple rope thrown from the window of her house!  The book of Joshua makes it very clear that the walls of Jericho were destroyed by the power of God. As appealing as that narrative might be, a much more likely possibility is that Rahab simply threw a rope from the window of her house– and the Israelites climbed up the rope, perhaps the night before the attack, and brought a strike force into Rahab’s house. Then Rahab and the others of her family were let down the rope to safety. And the next day, when the Israelite priests blew their trumpets, the strike force fought its way to the city’s main gate, threw it open, and caught the city by surprise.

That version of the story explains how the Israelites could have brought down the walls of a great city without the use of siege engines. It accounts for the need of the spies. And it fully explains why the Israelites would have been so willing to grant safety to Rahab and the others of her household. Rahab made the conquest of Jericho easy.

Rahab betrayed her entire people– the residents of Jericho.  The two Israeli spies guaranteed her safety (and that of the members of her family) in exchange for their lives.  And all she had to do to obtain a new life as a member of Israelite society was to throw a rope out her window.

Copyright (c) 2020, David S. Moore

All rights reserved

Biblical Chronology, part 2

As described in Part 1 of this blog the events of the bible can be given chronological dates relative to the time of the creation of Adam. To associate that biblical chronology with historical chronology it is necessary to find one or more narrations in the bible that clearly correlate with known historical events. The most obvious of such common events would be the Babylonian conquest of Jerusalem, which is known to have happened in 587 BCE. The problem with using this date as an anchor for the biblical chronology is that the biblical narrative loses chronological consistency well before Nebuchadnezzar began his siege of the city. I will write another article to explain how and why this part of the chronology went awry. The following passages describe the attack of the city of Jerusalem by the Pharaoh Shishak:

In the fifth year of King Rehobo’am, 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.

I Kings 14:25, Revised Standard Version

In the fifth year of King Rehobo’am, because they had been unfaithful to the LORD, Shishak king of Egypt came up against Jerusalem with twelve hundred chariots and sixty thousand horsemen. And the people were without number who came with him from Egypt– Libyans, Suk’kim, and Ethiopians.

2 Chronicles 12:2 – 3, RSV

The date of this event is known from historical sources to be 925 BCE, as seen in the following quotation:

After more than a century of passivity on the part of Egyptian rulers, Sheshonq I intervened aggressively in the politics of the Levant to reassert pharonic prestige there. His Karnak inscriptions record a major military expedition c.925 BC against Israel and Judah and the principal towns of southern Palestine, including Gaza and Megiddo. The Old Testament records the same event, stating (I Kgs. 14:25-6) that, in the fifth year of Rehoboam, ‘Shishak, king of Egypt’ seized the treasures of Jerusalem, and adding (2 Chr. 12:2-9) that he came with 1,200 chariots and an army that included Libyans and Nubians. These sources indicate that the campaign was launched in support of Jeroboam, an exile in Egypt who claimed the throne of Judah.

The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt, Oxford University Press, pg. 337

Fortunately there is just enough chronological detail in the bible to provide a complete timeline from the fifth year of Rehobo’am’s reign to the creation of Adam. The following listing traces the evidence from the bible, starting from the sacking of Jerusalem by Sheshonq I and working backwards to the creation of Adam.

  • 925 BCE – Egyptian Pharaoh Sheshonq I invades the Levant and sacks the city of Jerusalem in the fifth year of King Rehoboam’s reign. (1 Kings 14:25 – 26; 2 Chronicles 12:2 – 9)
  • 930 BCE – Rehoboam succeeds King Solomon as King after Solomon had reigned for 40 years. (1 Kings 11:42 – 43)
  • 968 BCE – King Solomon breaks ground for the temple in the second year of his reign and 480 years after the Israelites leave Egypt. (1 Kings 6:1)
  • 1448 BCE – The Israelites leave Egypt 430 years after entering it. (Exodus 12:40; Galatians 3:17)
  • 1878 BCE – The Israelites settle in Egypt at the invitation of Joseph. (Genesis 47:7 – 9)
  • 2008 BCE – Isaac fathered Jacob, who was later renamed Israel by God, when he was 60 years old. (Genesis 25:26)
  • 2068 BCE – Abraham fathered Isaac when he was 100 years old. (Genesis 21:5)
  • 2069 BCE – Abram is renamed Abraham by God when he was 99 years old. (Genesis 17:1 – 5)
  • 2093 BCE – Abram leaves Haran when he is 75 years old and settles in Canaan. (Genesis 12:4 – 5)
  • 2168 BCE – Terah fathered Abram, Nahor, and Haran when he was 70 years old. (Genesis 11:26)
  • 2238 BCE – Nahor fathered Terah when he was 29 years old. (Genesis 11:24)
  • 2267 BCE – Serug fathered Nahor when he was 30 years old. (Genesis 11:22)
  • 2297 BCE – Reu fathered Serug when he was 32 years old. (Genesis 11:20)
  • 2329 BCE – Peleg fathered Reu when he was 30 years old. (Genesis 11:18)
  • 2359 BCE – Eber fathered Peleg when he was 34 years old. (Genesis 11:16)
  • 2393 BCE – Shelah fathered Eber when he was 30 years old. (Genesis 11:14)
  • 2423 BCE – Arphaxad fathered Shelah when he was 35 years old. (Genesis 11:12)
  • 2458 BCE – Shem fathered Arphaxad 2 years after the Flood. (Genesis 11:10; note that this passage says that Shem was 100 years old when he should have been 103 years old.)
  • 2460 BCE – End of the flood one year after it started. (Genesis 8:13)
  • 2461 BCE – Beginning of the flood in the 600th year of Noah’s life. (Genesis 6:9, Genesis 7:6)
  • 2561 BCE – Noah fathered Shem, Ham, and Japheth when he was 500 years old. (Genesis 5:32)
  • 3061 BCE – Lamech fathered Noah when he was 182 years old. (Genesis 5:28)
  • 3243 BCE – Methuselah fathered Lamech when he was 187 years old. (Genesis 5:25)
  • 3430 BCE – Enoch fathered Methuselah when he was 65 years old. (Genesis 5:21)
  • 3495 BCE – Jared fathered Enoch when he was 162 years old. (Genesis 5:18)
  • 3657 BCE – Mahalalel fathered Jared when he was 65 years old. (Genesis 5:15)
  • 3722 BCE – Kenan fathered Mahalalel when he was 70 years old. (Genesis 5:12)
  • 3792 BCE – Enosh fathered Kenan when he was 90 years old. (Genesis 5:9)
  • 3882 BCE – Seth fathered Enosh when he was 105 years old. (Genesis 5:6)
  • 3987 BCE – Adam fathered Seth when he was 130 years old. (Genesis 5:3)
  • 4117 BCE – Adam was created by God on the sixth day of the creation week. (Genesis 1:26 – 27)

It is important to remember that the above calculations cannot be regarded as absolute. The majority of these dates are based on the Hebrew calendar which was a lunisolar calendar and was therefore subject to intercalations that did not follow a predictable rule.

A key assumption in these calculations concerns the time at which the Israelites settled in Egypt. Here is what Exodus says about their leaving:

The time that the people of Israel dwelt in Egypt was four hundred and thirty years. And at the end of four hundred and thirty years, on that very day, all the hosts of the LORD went out from the land of Egypt.

Exodus 12:40 – 41, RSV

But exactly when did the Israelites enter Egypt in the first place? Some have argued that when Terah and Abram entered Canaan in (roughly) 2093 BCE they were settling in Egypt because Egypt controlled the Levant. The chronology above instead assumes that the 430 years is to be counted from the time that the Israelites entered Egypt at the invitation of Joseph in 2239 BCE, roughly 146 years later. This is more plausible since God didn’t rename Jacob to Israel until 2008 BCE, after the death of Abraham. So prior to that time the Israelites– the followers of Israel– didn’t really exist.

The above chronology is, I believe, the most generous possible in the respect that it represents the greatest possible antiquity for the time of the creation of Adam. And that we know is false, given that humans of a fully modern physiology have existed for at least 200,000 years.

Written in 2019-09-14.

Copyright (c) 2019 David S. Moore. All rights reserved.

Biblical Chronology, part 1

The bible has sufficient clues to enable one to reconstruct a religious timeline that stretches back to the time of the creation of Adam. There are chiefly three kinds of clues that contribute to this timeline:

  • Genealogical lists
  • Regnal dates
  • Statements of elapsed time

Some of the old testament genealogies include the age of the father when his son was born. Here are some examples:

When Adam had lived a hundred and thirty years, he became the father of a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth. …

When Seth had lived a hundred and five years, he became the father of Enosh. …

When Enosh had lived ninety years, he became the father of Kenan. …

Genesis 5:3 – 9, Revised Standard Version

Such genealogies enable us to reconstruct a continuous series of relative dates; but not all of the genealogies in the bible provide the age of the father at the time of the son’s birth. So this method only works for a portion of the time between the creation of Adam to the birth of Jesus.

An example of both a regnal date and a statement of elapsed time can be found in this passage:

In the four hundred and eightieth year after the people of Israel came out of the land of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon’s reign over Israel, in the month of Ziv, which is the second month, he began to build the house of the LORD.

1 Kings 6:1, Revised Standard Version

A regnal date is a date from the beginning of a king’s reign. “…The fourth year of Solomon’s reign” is such a date. Regnal dates were used widely throughout the ancient world, including in Sumer, Babylonia, and Egypt. The statement that Solomon began building his temple 480 years after the exodus from Egypt is a record of elapsed time.

There are several ambiguities in the biblical text that require one to make assumptions about how some of these three types of dates in the bible are to be interpreted. So any chronology resulting from a study of biblical text alone will necessarily involve some key assumptions. In the text that follows the dates I provided are based on a chronology I have developed from my own study. I have documented the assumptions I have made in developing this chronology in Part 2 of this blog.

Another important consideration is that the Jewish calendar is a lunisolar calendar. An additional month was added to the Jewish calendar every two or three years to bring it into line with the solar calendar. The precise times when intercalary months were added in the ancient past is not known. The “years” in the bible do not therefore necessarily correspond to years in the Gregorian calendar.

According to the bible God created the universe, the earth, all living things, and the first man Adam and the first woman Eve in six days in about 4117 BCE. Noah, the man whose family was chosen by God to survive the flood, was born in 3061 BCE. The flood took place in 2461 BCE. The flood wiped out all human beings and all traces of their civilizations– except for the 8 people on board the ark. The descendants of Noah dispersed all over the planet and repopulated it. The great civilizations of the ancient world– Egypt, Sumer, Akkadia, Babylon, Assyria– were all founded after the flood by the sons and descendants of Noah.

The sons of Noah who went forth from the ark were Shem, Ham, and Japheth. Ham was the father of Canaan. These three were the sons of Noah; and from these the whole earth was peopled.

Genesis 9:18 – 19, RSV

The sons of Ham: Cush, Egypt, Put, and Canaan.

Genesis 10:6, RSV

So Egypt was a grandson of Noah who traveled to the Nile river valley and founded the entire Egyptian civilization.

Sometime between 2168 BCE and 2093 BCE Terah left the city of Ur of the Chaldeans with his son Abram and headed west toward Canaan, but they settled in Haran.

Terah took Abram his son and Lot the son of Haran, his grandson, and Sar’ai his daughter-in-law, his son Abram’s wife, and they went forth together from Ur of the Chalde’ans to go into the land of Canaan; but when they came to Haran, they settled there.

Genesis 11:31, RSV

Ur was a great city of Sumer that was destroyed by the Elamites in roughly 2000 BCE. So Terah and his son Abram were likely refugees of the destruction of Ur.

In 2069 BCE God renamed Abram to Abraham, which means “father of a multitude”.

No longer shall your name be Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come forth from you.

Genesis 17:5 – 6, RSV

The bible traces a line of descent from Abraham to King David over a total of 13 generations. The time from the birth of Abram’s son Isaac to the time that King Solomon broke ground for his temple was 1100 years.

In addition the new testament books of Matthew and Luke provide genealogies that trace the lineage of Jesus. Matthew’s traces his lineage back through Abraham, and Luke traces it back to Adam.

There is almost nothing about this chronology that is actually true. The creation of the universe did not happen about 6,100 years ago; it happened roughly 13.5 billion years ago. That’s more than 2 million times longer ago than the bible says. How do we know this? Oh, many ways– but for starters we can actually see galaxies that are as far away as 10 billion light years. Since a light year is the distance that light travels in one year (in a vacuum) the light we are currently seeing must have been in transit for at least 10 billion years. Biblical apologists respond by claiming that modern physics and astronomy are completely wrong.

Let’s consider the story of the flood. The whole point of the story is that God had concluded that the people of the earth were bad because they had all deserted the worship of God. All, that is, except for Noah and the members of his family. So God decided to wipe all of the bad people– the ones who refused to worship Yahweh– from the face of the earth. So he told Noah to build an ark and to put himself, his wife, his three sons and their wives, and two of every kind of animal (and fourteen of every kind of “clean” animal) on board the ark.

After the waters of the flood receded the descendants of Noah were dispersed across the entire earth to rebuild the population. The bible specifically mentions a grandson of Noah’s by the name of Egypt:

The sons of Ham: Cush, Egypt, Put, and Canaan.

Genesis 10:6, RSV

And it names a great grandson of Noah named Nimrod who ostensibly founded Babel, and the Akkadian and Assyrian empires:

Cush became the father of Nimrod; he was the first on earth to be a mighty man. He was a mighty hunter before the LORD; therefore it is said, “Like Nimrod a mighty hunter before the LORD.” The beginning of his kingdom was Babel, Erech, and Accad, all of them in the land of Shinar. From that land he went into Assyria and built Nin’eveh, Reho’both-Ir, Calah, and Resen between Nin’eveh and Calah; that is the great city.

Genesis 10:8 – 12, RSV

But curiously none of the inhabitants of those empires ever erected a single temple or monument or even a stele to Yahweh. In Egypt the descendants of Noah erected temples to Ra, to Amun, to Ptah, to Hathor, to any of a number of of Egyptian gods and godesses. But not one temple to Yahweh. The whole reason that Yahweh wiped all of the bad people from the face of the earth was to ensure that only the worshipers of Yahweh would be left. But the descendants of Noah strayed from the worship of Yahweh within just two generations. The Sumerian city of Ur had a ziggurat that was a temple to the moon god Nanna, but throughout ancient Sumer there was not one temple to Yahweh. The Zhou dynasty of China and the Olmecs in Central America and the Incas of South America– not one of them worshiped Yahweh. So when Yahweh decided that he was going to wipe all those who had failed to worship him from the face of the earth and replace them all with devoted followers, he obviously blew it.

Surely an omniscient God who knows absolutely everything about the behavior of his greatest creation– human beings– would have known how to prevent the descendants of Noah from worshiping any god other than him.

Modern archaeology asserts that the unification of Upper (i.e. Southern) and Lower (i.e. Northern) Egypt took place sometime between 3100 BCE and 3000 BCE. That’s at least 550 years before the flood would have taken place, according to the biblical chronology. Biblical apologists respond by claiming that all of modern archaeology is completely wrong.

The man named Nimrod was a great-grandson of Noah. As shown in the citation from Genesis 10 above Nimrod was described as the world’s first “mighty man”. But that couldn’t possibly be true. The bible actually lists all of the men who would have been alive at the time that Nimrod was founding his empires in Genesis 10. The main lines of descent are as follows:

  • Ham’s son Cush would have migrated south toward what is now Ethiopia
  • Ham’s son Egypt would have migrated to the Nile river valley
  • Ham’s son Put would have migrated toward what is now Libya
  • Ham’s son Canaan would have migrated to the eastern shores of the Mediterranean Sea
  • Genesis 10:5 says that the sons of Japheth became the “coastland” people, presumably living on the coast of either the Mediterranean Sea or of the Red Sea
  • Genesis 10:30 says that the sons of Shem migrated toward the Jordan river valley

The only person who is specifically named in Genesis 10 as a descendant of Noah who migrated to Mesopotamia was Nimrod. So this “mighty man” Nimrod would have ruled over a population of just one family– his own.

The books of Matthew and Luke have genealogies of Jesus. These genealogies are at odds with each other. They have 16 names in common, but Luke lists 38 names that are nowhere to be found in Matthew’s list. And the lists are different in length for the period of time between King Solomon and Jesus. They differ by a total of 15 generations. That’s around 300 years.

Matthew says that there were 14 generations between Abraham and King David, 14 more between King David and the Babylonian exile, and 14 more between the exile and Jesus. But his own list actually has only 13 generations between Abraham and King David.

The genealogy that appears in the book of Luke extends back to the birth of Adam. But Luke’s list includes someone that is mentioned nowhere in the Old Testament. Luke says that Aphraxad was the father of Cainan who was the father of Sala. But Genesis 11 says that Aphraxad was the father of Salah. And of the 40 names that Luke lists between King David and Joseph the “father” of Jesus only two are mentioned anywhere else in the bible.

Both the genealogies in Matthew and Luke trace the lineage of Jesus through Joseph. But if Mary was a virgin at the time she gave birth to Jesus then Joseph would have had no blood relationship to Jesus. Why was the lineage of Jesus not traced through Mary rather than Joseph?

These are some of the more obvious internal problems of the chronologies in the bible. There are many more external problems, including the following:

  • The oldest rocks of earth have been dated (by radioisotope dating) to about 4.2 billion years. That’s about 700,000 times older than the bible says the earth is old.
  • The oldest fossils found on earth have been dated to about 3.5 billion years old.
  • The Big Bang theory is a far better explanation for the observed current state of the universe than is any other hypothesis. It predicts the distribution of elements that should have been created– and the actual distribution fits the predicted value almost perfectly. It explains the existence of the Cosmic Background Radiation and the corresponding average temperature of the universe. And it accounts for the observation that the universe is expanding. The bible makes no such predictions.
  • There is evidence of the existence of human activity and settlements throughout the world going back long before 6,000 BCE. There is evidence of human activity in the Nile river valley going back more than 100,000 years.

Of course biblical apologists claim that all of the above evidences are false.

Written in 2019-06-30.

Copyright (c) 2019 David Seldon Moore. All rights reserved.