Thursday, March 03, 2016

The Israel Museum's Version of An Untold Story

I was at the Israel Museum's new exhibit last night, "Pharoah in Canaan: The Untold Story".

The exhibition presents more than 680 objects demonstrating the cross-fertilization of ritual practices and aesthetic vocabularies between these two distinct ancient cultures. 

Among the elements of wonderful collection, I spotted this sign:

You'll note the term "Apiru".

If you go here, you'll learn that

Habiru or Apiru...a group of people living as nomadic invaders in areas of the Fertile Crescent...he Habiru are often identified as the early Hebrews

If you go here, you can read this:

The Merneptah Stele—also known as the Israel Stele or Victory Stele of Merneptah—is an inscription by the Ancient Egyptianking Merneptah (reign: 1213 to 1203 BC) account of Merneptah's victory over the Libyans and their allies, but the last 3 of the 28 lines deal with a separate campaign in Canaan, then part of Egypt's imperial possessions. While alternative translations have been put forward, the majority of scholars translate a set of hieroglyphs on Line 27 as "Israel" and connect it "in some way" to the Israel of the Hebrew Bible.  It represents the first documented instance of the name Israel in the historical of only four known ancient inscriptions interpreted to mention the term "Israel", the others being the Mesha Stele, the Tel Dan Stele, and the Kurkh Monolith.

This source suggests a contra opinion. 

This article contains this

Nadav Na’aman has probed this issue in depth in his illuminating essay, “Habiru and Hebrews: The Transfer of a Social Term to the Literary Sphere,” appearing in Volume 2 of his Collected Essays. Like most Biblical scholars, Na’aman doesn’t think that the Hebrews were Habiru, but he has no doubt that the term “Hebrew” was derived from “Habiru.” He points out, on page 270, that in Tanach, the term “Hebrew” is typically used to describe “Israelites in exceptional circumstancs.” In particular it is used to describe “Israelites migrating to a foreign country” or “Israelites in a position of slavery.” He adds that the use of the term “Hebrew” is especially prevalent “in the stories of the book of Exodus, in which it is applied to Israelites who were enslaved and exploited by the Egyptians for hard labor.” And he concludes, on page 271: “It seems clear that all biblical references to the ‘Hebrews’ reflect some traits borrowed from the image of the second millenium Habiru.” 

but I recommend this passage ther:

As you might expect, the Biblical scholars who don’t like the Habiru don’t like David either. One of the most influential Biblical scholars in recent decades is Israel Finkelstein, co-author along with Neil Asher Silberman of The Bible Unearthed, published in 2001, and David and Solomon, published in 2006. On page 44 of David and Solomon the authors expound on the meaning of the term, “Apiru,” as follows:
 This term, sometimes transliterated as Habiru, was once thought to be related to the term “Hebrews” but the Egyptian texts make it clear that it does not refer to a specific ethnic group so much as a problematic socioeconomic class. The Apiru were uprooted peasants and herders who sometimes turned bandits, sometimes sold themselves as mercenaries to the highest bidder, and were in both cases a disruptive element in any attempt by either local rulers or the Egyptian administration to maintain the stability of their rule.
 What is most amazing about this dismissal of the “Apiru” as disruptive troublemakers unrelated to the Hebrews is that nowhere in either book do the authors even attempt to show that the Hebrews did in fact constitute a “specific ethnic group” separate and apart from the Canaanites. Finkelstein in particular has built his reputation in large part on attempting to debunk much of the historical information in Tanach as legendary, yet when it comes to the obvious myth of the “sons of Israel,” he neither accepts nor rejects it, thus enabling him to use it to deny the identity of the Habiru and Hebrews without actually having to pretend that he believes in it.

Finkelstein appears in a movie accompanying the exhibit and, incidentally, was there last night and we exchanged pleasanteries concerning Tel Shiloh.

Is there a connection between Finkelstein and the missing Hebrews?

Actually, the curator, in a radio ointerview, I was informed, did mention the presumed link of identification between Apiru/Habiru and the Hebrews.

Could not the Israel Museum, at the least, note that experts do think that Apiro could refer to the early Israelites, in Canaan?

Why is that version untold?


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