A summary of the historical work of Immanuel Velikovsky
Part 2. Ages in Chaos
As mentioned, Velikovsky began with the premise that the Jewish Exodus from Egypt took place at the time of the collapse of the Middle Kingdom as a result of severe natural disasters, darkness, drought and floods. The Jews were able to flee the country, and immediately after that the country was invaded by what the Egyptians sometimes called the Amu and sometimes the Hyksos (foreign rulers). Thus he shifted a number of events covering hundreds of years, since the collapse of the Middle Kingdom is conventionally and generally placed around 1800 BC and the Exodus around 1200 BC. Such shifting is only acceptable if all subsequent events also can be fitted together in a convincing manner.
To take a big step: In summaries of Egyptian history there is a gap for the period from roughly 1150 to 650 BC. Historians speak of a "period of decline" or "questionable data". Writing about a time when everywhere else the script was developing and more verifiable historical data was available, Egyptian chronologies are usually finished in a few pages, while article and books about the 18th and 19th Dynasty could fill entire libraries. This gap in history is the space that Velikovsky needs to make his theory plausible, but let us follow the events patiently.
The collapse of the Middle Kingdom was followed by the invasion of the Hyksos, who were in power in Egypt for several hundred years. The 13th to 17th Dynasties are those of the Hyksos monarchs. They came from the east, probably from the Arabian peninsula, and established their capital Auaris (Avaris - today's Tell ed-Daba) at the northeastern border of Egypt. From there the Hyksos ruled Egypt and a large part of Palestine and Syria. During the same period, which is described in the Bible (book of Judges), the Jewish people suffered under the domination of the Amalekites who were eventually defeated after several hundred years by the first king of Israel, Saul. Velikovsky stated that the Hyksos and the Amalekites were the same and that their rule lasted about 400 years.
The Queen of Sheba
After the period of the Hyksos/Amalekites, a period of prosperity began for both Israel and Egypt; in Israel under Kings Saul, David and Solomon and in Egypt under the pharaohs of the 18th Dynasty. A strong indication that these reigns might have existed simultaneously, (and not separated by a period of 600 years), is the biblical story of the visit to Solomon by the Queen of Sheba. This queen is described as a rich and powerful ruler, but many have racked their brains about where she could have come from. She could have come from the south-western tip of the Arabian peninsula (in Yemen), from Ethiopia or Abyssinia. It wasnt supposed that she could have come from Egypt because no Egyptian queen was known to have lived during the time when Solomon was king (around 950 BC). A shift of Egyptian history, however, provides a suitable candidate: Pharaoh Hatshepsut, the fifth and only female pharaoh of the 18th Dynasty. She had built a great temple at Deir el-Bahri, Thebes, and we can find a comprehensive report engraved on its walls of her visit to the country of Punt. Velikovsky gives many examples in which details of this description match the description in the Bible of the visit of the Queen of Sheba. He said that the name of the land of Punt might have the same word-stem as the name Phoenicia. Egyptologists have struggled to think where this country, Punt, could have been located. They searched in the nearest area that little was known about and ended up locating it in Yemen, Sudan, or Abyssinia.
The meeting between Solomon and Hatshepsut is more credible when we look at the events that followed her visit. Hatshepsut was received warmly in the land Punt, but after her death her successor, Tuthmosis III, began a military campaign against the land of Canaan where, in the prevailing history, Caananites lived, but not Israelites. He made great conquests and after the surrender of the capital Kadesh he returned to Egypt with rich booty. After the death of Solomon his kingdom was divided into two parts: the southern part, Judah, around the capital Jerusalem, and the northern part, Israel, around the city of Samaria. In the southern kingdom of Judah, Rehoboam was king. In the fifth year of his government the Egyptian king Shishak invaded the country. He conquered a number of cities and finally Rehoboam decided to surrender. The Bible states that Shishak took away the entire contents of the Temple of Solomon. On the wall of the temple at Thebes can be found a detailed list of the booty that Tuthmosis III took with him and this list has many similarities with the description in the Bible of the inventory of the Temple of Solomon. The idea that Jerusalem might have been Kadesh, and that maybe Shishak was the same as Tuthmosis, is therefore not too far-fetched. Historians did not draw this conclusion and only concluded that, apparently, the inhabitants of Canaan were a rich and prosperous nation long before the Israelites arrived. Before the decipherment of Egyptian hieroglyphic texts it was assumed that Canaan was inhabited by fairly primitive pastoral tribes.
In 1928 on the Mediterranean coast of northwestern Syria the remains of an ancient city were found and, in it, a library of clay tablets. In the same layer objects were found of Cypriot and Mycenaean origin and objects of Egypt from the 18th Dynasty. This led to the conclusion that this must have been the city Ugarit, that was already known from the el-Amarna letters found in Egypt (see below). Ugarit was a Phoenician city that had its heyday between 1500 and 1300 BC. This city was apparently destroyed very suddenly.
The findings in the library led to questions. There was a king Nikmed with a name that closely resembled the Ionian name Nicomedes, which was rather common in Greece. In orthodox terms that was impossible, because the Ionians did not arrive in Greece until hundreds of years later. The biggest discovery was that one of the languages in the library was written in an apparently alphabetic cuneiform script with only thirty different characters; a script that quickly proved to be related to the, then, known Hebrew writing, which was supposed to be 600 years younger. This presented a big problem: a rather well- developed script dated to about 1400 BC, belonging to the inhabitants of Canaan long before the Israelites had settled in Canaan. The conclusion was formed that the Canaanites were not a primitive culture after all, but were well-developed with a culture akin to that of the Israelites. The texts that were found contained many similiarities with texts of the Old Testament. Velikovsky provided instances of many similarities in words, customs, jewellery, medicine, weights and measures.
In the library of Ras Shamra texts were found in the Sumerian, Akkadian and Canaanite languages, but also in a fourth language called Khar. It was, apparently, the language of the local population, because explanatory remarks were generally in this language. That language had also been found in the el Amarna letters and it is assumed that it was the language of a nation who were called Hurrians (not Indo-Iranian, not Semitic). Hurrians had a well-developed culture and made extensive studies of languages and writing of neighbouring peoples.
If Hurrians are placed around 1400 BC it is a problem who they might have been, but a shift in the history of 600 years would solve the puzzle. They must have been the Carians, a people already known to historians of antiquity. They inhabited the islands and coasts in the eastern Mediterranean. Together with the Phoenicians, they were among the first to build a fleet and a navy and became a major trading power. When they were driven away from the eastern Mediterranean coast (by the Assyrians), they went west and founded, among other places, the city of Carthage.
Amenhotep II was the successor of Tuthmosis III. The death of Tuthmosis III was the signal for Palestine to rally against the Egyptian domination. Amenhotep II tried to restore Egyptian control. According to the memorials he made, he undertook three expeditions to the area of Palestine and Syria. In the first expedition he reached the city of Ugarit; in the second expedition he won a couple of minor cities, although gaining less booty than in the first; and the third campaign led to a battle at y-r-s-t after one day from the Egyptian border. According to his own report, Amenhotep returned victorious with a booty of some bows and an arrow, a horse and a wagon. In the several remaining decades of his reign, however, he did not return to Palestine and Velikovsky assumed that he actually suffered a major defeat.
If the revision of history is correct, Asa must have been king of Judah in the time of Amenhotep II. We read in the Bible that in his time the country first had ten years of rest. Then the Kushite Zerah attacked him. Asa went to fight him at Maresha in the valley Zephata and defeated the invaders. Velikovsky suspected that the Kushite Zerah or Zerah the Ethiopian must have been an Egyptian pharaoh and that Maresha from the Bible must have been y-r-s-t. Asa's was a great and important victory, that freed all of Palestine and the area north of it from Egyptian rule for a long time.
In the library of Ras Shamra there was found a text that may be a report of that same war. In the "Poem of Keret, Keret is king of Sidon (in modern Lebanon), threatened by an invading army of Terah in the Negev. Keret decided to put himself in danger and assist the defenders of the south. In the text the names Asher and Zebulun are mentioned, which are two northern tribes of Israel, "which went to fight together", although it is not unambiguously clear who went together with who. Terah is defeated and forced to flee. There are a number of details that may confirm the assimilation of Terah with Amenhotep. In the Poem of Keret the army of Terah was armed with curved swords (hepes) and daggers. In the tomb of Amenhotep II there is a picture with soldiers that wear bronze "hepes" and daggers. The Poem of Keret mentions the place Edom Serirot, where he meets Sapasites, while Amenhotep's report talks about the place Shamash Edom. Velikovsky says that the words Shamash and Sapas are frequently confused.
Such examples are not proof that Amenhotep was the same person as Zerah in the Bible, or Terah from the Poem of Keret, but it is not that unlikely and certainly there is no evidence that it is quite impossible for them to be the same person. That is already remarkable.
The El-Amarna letters
In 1887 in Egypt Akhet-Aton was uncovered, the capital of Egypt that was newly founded by Amenhotep IV, who later called himself Akhnaton. That city existed only a short while and was abandoned after the death of Akhnaton, yet during the excavation an extensive correspondence emerged of correspondence between Akhnaton and his predecessor Amenhotep III with princes and kings in Palestine, Syria and Cyprus. There were 360 letters that became known as the el-Amarna letters.
If these letters are from 1350 BC, it poses some difficult questions, but if they are from 870 BC, a few things might be easier to explain.
First, let us look at the events in the Bible. After Solomon's death his kingdom was torn in two: northern Israel and southern Judah. King Asa and Baasha "fought in all their days". When Jehoshaphat was king of Judah and Ahab king of Israel, Ben-Hadad, king of Syria, besieged Israel's capital Samaria. With the help of the "young men of the princes of the provinces" the siege was repulsed. One year later Ben-Hadad attacked again. Ahab defeated and imprisoned Ben-Hadad. However he let him go, hoping to come to an agreement with him. After that there was peace for three years, although there was a famine at the same time. Therefore Ahab proposed to Jehoshaphat that they join forces to take Ramoth in Gilead. There followed a battle with the Syrian king, ending in a defeat. In the battle Ahab was slain or injured.
After this defeat Mesha, king of Moab, (not far from Judah, east of the Dead Sea), together with the Ammonites, began a rebellion against the king of Judah. They wanted to attack Jerusalem, but they began to fight among themselves and were forced to retreat. Then Ben-Hadad besieged Samaria, but when he thought he heard the sound of chariots and horses he feared it was the king of the Hittites or of the Egyptians and fled. Ben-Hadad became sick and Hazael killed him, becoming his successor. Later, Hazael conquered a large part of Israel. This all happened in a prolonged period of drought and famine.
Sumer and Samaria
The el-Amarna letters could give a description of the situation outlined above. For a start, there are some names of towns and individuals that can be compared. 'Urusalim', we may assume, was Jerusalem (according to the Bible it had another name before the arrival of the Israelites). Nobody thought that 'Sumer' might have been Samaria, because that city was founded by the father of King Ahab, King Omri, who supposedly lived long after the Amarna letters were written. Velikovsky said that it really was Samaria and that 'Gubla', the city most mentioned after Sumer in the Amarna-letters, must have been the second city of Israel, Jezreel. 'Abdi-Ashirta' was the king of Damascus and must have been Ben-Hadad and so Abdi-Ashirta's son 'Aziru' might have been Hazael. Not all names are similar. 'Abdi-Hiba' was Jehoshaphat and 'Rib-Addi' was Ahab. However, Jehoshaphat had five captains, some of which we can recognize: In Adna from the Bible we recognise 'Addudani', of the Amarna letters. In Johozabad we can recognise ' Iazhibada', and the son of Zichri (Amaziah) might have been the 'son of Zuchru'. The military situation is also similar. The successor of Amenhotep II, Tuthmosis IV, had restored Egyptian supremacy in Palestine and Syria. After him came Amenhotep III, who was king at the time of the Amarna letters. Rib-Addi complained to the Pharaoh of repeated sieges by the king of Syria. At one point a siege was ended by the arrival of Egyptian archers, which might very well have been the "young men of the princes of the provinces". Another siege was repulsed, the king of Syria was imprisoned and later released. The letters reveal a great famine and the king of Sumur asked the Pharaoh for his permission to retrieve grain from 'Iarimuta', perhaps the same as Ramoth, in Gilead.
In the letters the king of Sumer constantly complained about "Sagaz-Mesh" which is generally translated as 'bandits', with 'mesh' presumably being a kind of plural form. Velikovsky however reads the name 'Mesha' and translates the term as the 'bandit Mesha', or: the biblical king of Moab, Mesha.
Then we read that Jerusalem is threatened. Both in the Bible and in the letters, the king of Syria planned an assault against the king of Sumer / Samaria and when, finally, the king of Syria became seriously ill, he is nevertheless assassinated and is succeeded by Aziru. Aziru turns out to be worse than Abdi-Ashirta and conquers nearly all the land of Sumer, just as Hazael conquered almost all of Israel.
The destruction of Ugarit
In 858 BC, Shalmaneser III was king of Assyria. He made several raids on the Phoenician coast and in northern Syria. If the shifting of Egyptian chronology is correct, then the records of the raids of Shalmaneser III must correspond to the Bible and the Amarna letters. In the letters we find a statement that Ugarit was largely destroyed and abandoned, while in the archives of Ugarit (Ras Shamra) we have found indications that the city was abandoned during the rule of the last king 'Nikmed' and that a king had ordered that all foreigners, Iaman (which are believed to be the Ionians), the 'Kharu' and the Cypriots, along with King Nikmed, should leave the city. In the annals of Shalmaneser III, who lived six hundred years later than the orthodox dating assigned to the time of Nikmed, we find a fragment with the statement that in his fourth year he conquered the cities of 'Nikdime' in Nikdiera and that he chased the inhabitants out to sea. Its not impossible that Nikmed and Nikdime are the same. Subsequently, Shalmaneser undertook expeditions to northern Syria almost annually, where he repeatedly ran into opposition led by Biridri. In the Amarna letters we read that 'Biridia', the commander of 'Makida' (Megiddo?) organised resistance against attacks from the king of Hatti. Hatti is generally considered as the country to the north and east of Syria, where at a certain time the Assyrians were in power. The letters state that the king of Hatti finally occupied a large part of northern Syria and the Mediterranean coast and forced the inhabitants to pay him tribute. In his annals, Shalmaneser said that he occupied the land Hatti to its furthest limits and that he brought Syria under his rule, giving Syria the same name that is used for it in the Amarna letters, 'Amuru' (the Bible has Aram).
The king of Egypt, Akhnaton, was never directly at war with the king of Hatti, but gradually lost influence and the rich gifts he sent to the king of Hatti appears to be more like a tribute than a proof of friendship. Evidence of the manner in which the king of Hatti received these gifts is also found in an Amarna letter. All in all, Velikovsky provides a great deal of evidence that the Amarna letters might not have been written between 1410 and 1370, but between 870 and 840 BC.