The Death of Eglon King of Moab & The Amarna Tablets & the Habiru

I knew they would go bad. 

Are the judges going to get them back on the right track?

Ehud Kills King Eglon
Oppression and Deliverance (Jdg 3:12-30)
The second oppressing nation was Moab.

Moab lay immediately across the Dead Sea from Judah, south of the Transjordan tribes.

– Moab, assisted in some part by Ammonites and Amalekites, crossed the Jordan and occupied Jeri­cho.

– Eglon was their king. Using Jericho as a center, he kept the Israelites in servitude for 18 years.

Israel cried once more to God for relief, and God rose up a second deliverer, Ehud of the tribe Benjamin.

– If the date for Ehud is set not long after the civil war of Benjamin and the other tribes, he may have been one of the 600 Benjamites who escaped to the rock of Rimmon.

– The deliverance Ehud affected was not through warfare, but through an act of deception in which he killed King Eglon.

– Ehud extended a gift from the subju­gated Israelites to King Eglon.

Alone with the king, Ehud killed him with a sword.

– Ehud then assembled Israelites at the Jordan where the Moab­ites, who could now be expected to retreat, would cross.

The Moabites did retreat, and Ehud’s men killed 10,000 Moabites.

This brought 80 years of peace to the land.

Evidence
Following the destruction of Jericho by Joshua the site lay abandoned for decades.

Then, an isolated palace was constructed.

It was found and excavated by British archaeologist John Garstang in the 1930s.

The archaeological finds in the stratum of the palace match the period of the palace at Jericho where Eglon, king of Moab, was assassinated by Ehud (Jdg 3:15-30).

– The building dates to the second half of the 14th century B.C., the time of Eglon’s oppression.

– The plan of the building is similar to other palaces of the period and fits the description given in the Bible.

– The building was an isolated structure, as the Bible implies.

There is no evidence for a town at Jericho at this time.

– The resident was wealthy, seen by a large quantity of imported articles and other decorated pottery.

– The resident was involved in administrative activities, as evidenced by a cuneiform tablet found.

– The building was occupied for only a short period of time and then abandoned.

“Now these are the nations which the LORD left, to prove Israel by them, even as many of Israel as had not known all the wars of Canaan;

Only that the generations of the children of Israel might know, to teach them war, at the least such as before knew nothing thereof;

Namely, five lords of the Philistines, and all the Canaanites, and the Sidonians, and the Hivites that dwelt in mount Lebanon, from mount Baal-hermon unto the entering in of Hamath. 

And they were to prove Israel by them, to know whether they would hearken unto the commandments of the LORD, which he commanded their fathers by the hand of Moses.

And the children of Israel dwelt among the Canaanites, Hittites, and Amorites, and Perizzites, and Hivites, and Jebusites:

And they took their daughters to be their wives, and gave their daughters to their sons, and served their gods. 

And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD, and forgat the LORD their God, and served Baalim and the 4 groves” (Jdg 3:1-7)

Again, God was angry and gave them into the hand of Chushan-rishathaim, king of Mesopotamia, and Israel served them for eight years.  Yet, when they cried God heard them and saved them until they did it again.  This time they served Eglon, the king of Moab, for 18 years.

“But when the children of Israel cried unto the LORD, the LORD raised them up a deliverer, Ehud the son of Gera, a Benjamite, a man left handed: and by him the children of Israel sent a present unto Eglon the king of Moab. 

But Ehud made him a dagger which had two edges, of a cubit length; and he did gird it under his raiment upon his right thigh.

And he brought the present unto Eglon king of Moab: and Eglon was a very fat man. 

And when he had made an end to offer the present, he sent away the people that bare the present. 

But he himself turned again from the quarries that were by Gilgal, and said, I have a secret errand unto thee, O king: who said, Keep silence.  And all that stood by him went out from him.

And Ehud came unto him; and he was sitting in a summer parlor, which he had for himself alone.  And Ehud said, I have a message from God unto thee.  And he arose out of his seat.  And

Ehud put forth his left hand, and took the dagger from his right thigh, and thrust it into his belly:

And the haft also went in after the blade; and the fat closed upon the blade, so that he could not draw the dagger out of his belly; and the dirt came out” (Jud 3:15-22).

Ehud shut and locked the doors as he left and escaped to Seiorath where he blew a trumpet.  The Israelites then came running and destroyed the Moabites, about 10,000 of them.  The land was pleasant for another 80 years.

After that,1 Shamgar, the son of 2 Anath, killed 600 3 Philistine men with an ox goad.

1 A judge sometime between Ehud and Deborah.

2 Third judge after Joshua.

3 The Philistines people were heathens. 

The origin of them is unknown, but it’s believed that they came from Caphtor, which is believed to be a name for Crete, or perhaps for the island world of the Aegean area. 

It’s clear that they had migrated to Canaan within historical times. 

They were more wealthy and advanced then the Hebrews.  You will hear more of the Philistines, the giant Goliath was a Philistine.

4 Idols

El-Amarna Tablets
A Letter from Tushratta of Mitanni
Where is Amarna?
(El)_Amarna is a city in Middle Egypt between Cairo and Luxor.

The archaeological site near the modern city, called Tell El-Amarna (The hill at El-Amarna) is the remains of the ancient Egyptian capital Akhetaten which thrived for a brief period in the 1300s B.C.

It was the new capital of the famous religious reformer (or “heretic king,” depending on your stance), Pharaoh Akhenaten and his father Amenophis/Amenhotep/Amenhotpe III (1386-49 B.C.).

Akhenaten’s wife was the beautiful Nefertiti. Akhetaten was the Washington or Berlin of its era, involved in international diplomacy far beyond the borders of Ancient Egypt, especially with weaker kingdoms in the Levant that were vassals of powerful Egypt.

The city came to an end within a dozen years after the death of Akhenaten in 1334 or so, although his successors Smenkhkare and Tutankhamun (“King Tut”) lived there for a short time before returning the capital to Luxor.

The building where the tablets were housed lay behind the Pharaoh’s palace and was called “the place of the letters of the Pharaoh.”

In addition to this relatively small library of “foreign” documents, the archive housed a larger number of Egyptian texts.

What are the Amarna Tablets?
The clay tablets are mainly diplomatic letters (with a few myths and epics) written in cuneiform script (wedge prints made in wet clay then baked), often covering both sides of a tablet for efficiency.

From the side view they often resemble fat hamburger patties! They were originally part of a court archival office.

When were the tablets written?

A very brief period historically: the second half of the fourteenth century B.C. (1400-1300 B.C.), the “New Kingdom” period in Ancient Egypt and late Bronze Age in Palestine.

The actual duration of the correspondence is likely not much more than 25 years total.

The tablets take us intimately into one of the most popularly recognized periods in ancient Egypt with connections to Nefertiti and her husband Akhenaten, sometimes credited with being one of the first monotheists.

When were the tablets discovered?
They first came to light In 1887, when local Egyptian peasants found a few tablets buried in the ruins of the Akhetaten palace complex and sold them to antiquities dealers.

Later excavations recovered the rest, beginning with the work of English Egyptologist William Matthew Flinders Petrie in 1891-92

How many tablets are there?
382 tablets (350 of which were letters), now scattered among various museums but mainly found in:

– the British Museum in London

– the Egyptian

– Museum in Cairo

the Vorderasiatishes Museum in Berlin

The Amarna Tablets & the Habiru

A few decades after the conquest in the 14th century B.C., a reformer and visionary named Amenhotep IV came to the throne in Egypt.

He instituted sweeping changes in the areas of dally religion. Amenhotop IV rejected the traditional pantheon of Egyptian deities and worshiped only “Aten,” the sun disk.

Amenhotop changed his name to Akhenaten, “One who is effective on behalf of the Aten,” and built a new capital which he called Akhetaten, “the horizon of Aten,” in Amarna about 250 miles north of the original capital of Thebes.

Life in the capital centered upon the worship of Aten. Following Akhenaten’s 17-year reign, the conservative Egyptians soon reverted to their old ways, moving the capital back to Thebes and reestablishing their traditional gods.

In 1887 a Bedouin woman discovered a number of clay tablets with writing on them among the ruins of Akhetaten.

When it was learned that the tablets were valuable, the local natives dug up several hundred of them and sold them to various museums and individuals.

A few more were later found in officially sanctioned excavations.  Altogether, 382 tablets have been recovered, nearly all of which are diplomatic correspondence and thus referred to in total as the Amarna letters.

The Myth of Nergal and Erishkigal
What language were they written in?
Unexpectedly, when the tablets were discovered, they were written not in Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics, but in a foreign language,

Akkadian,the language of Babylonia and the diplomatic lingua franca of the day used between different kingdoms to communicate.

Two tablets are in Hittite (an Indo-European language) and one in Hurrian, spoken in the Mitannikingdom north of Assyria.

Why are Akkadian (East Semitic) tablets interesting to scholars of West Semitic languages like Hebrew, Phoenician and Aramaic?

Because the Akkadian on the tablets sent from Canaan is heavily mixed with Canaanite dialects: scribes writing in “Akkadian as a Second Language”!

One of the main translators of the tablets, William Moran, who made a vital breakthrough in recognizing the mixing in 1950, wondered whether this pidgin Akkadian “should be called Babylonian at all,” since it seems to be Babylonian vocabulary strung together according to West-Semitic grammar rules.

Thus, the language on these tablets give us insight into West Semitic languages of the second millennium B.C.

Who wrote them and to whom were they written?
The tablets found in El-Amarna are mostly “letters received” from abroad, not letters written in Egypt.

Letters from abroad came from other kings of Babylonia, Assyria, Hatti (Hittites in Eastern Asia Minor), Mittani (Hurrian, north of Assyria), and Cyprus (Alashiya), but the majority come from vassal rulers in Syria-Palestine (Canaan, Lebanon, Ugarit, and the eastern Mediterranean coastal lands).

Letters from Egypt were written by scribes of the pharaohs and were sent out of Egypt and presumably lie in the ruins of the cities where they were received.

Some draft letters by the pharaohs, however, stayed in Akhetaten.

We can also assume that most copies of vital correspondence were archived locally in the Egyptian language, rather than in their Akkadian translations.

What topics do they deal with?
Exchanges of gifts between rulers (e.g., fancy furniture, gold, linen, etc.)

Diplomatic marriages (one letter from a Babylonian king asked for proof that his sister, one of Pharaoh’s earlier wives, is still alive before sending the Pharaoh his daughter as a new wife!)

News about events in distant cities: Byblos, Tyre, etc.

Requests for grain and other foodstuffs, lumber, ships, military aid, etc.

Vassals’ concerns about the rising military threat of the Hittites on the northern borders of Egyptian influence and concern from Jerusalem and Gezer, too, about the military threat from the ‘Apiru.

A few contain myths and legends.

The letters are written in Akkadian (Babylonian), the international language of the day, instead of in Egyptian hieroglyphics.

They span a period of about 20 years during the mid-14th century B.C. A stamped brick identified the building where the tablets were found as the “Place of the Pharaoh’s Correspondence.”

A few of the let­ters are in the form of outgoing correspon­dence, but the vast majority are incoming diplomatic messages from throughout the ancient Near East.

Some 106 of them are from Egypt’s vassal kings in Canaan and thus are of great interest to students of the Bible.

The letters from Canaan provide a rare glimpse into conditions a half century or so after the conquest. This was early in the period of the judges, when individual tribes were consolidating their hold upon the land.

The Biblical account is similar to the situation reflected in the Amarna Letters. The city-state rulers reported hostilities throughout Canaan.

In particular, they complained about a group of people called to/m If the pharaoh did not take action, the letters warned, all of Canaan would be taken over by these people.

The king of Jerusalem lamented,

“The war against me is severe …Habiru have plundered all the lands of the king.”

But who were these Habiru?

The Habiru are mentioned in texts from various places in the Near East between about 1750 and 1150 B.C.

These texts indicate that they were nomadic tribesmen or fugi­tives who had penetrated urbanized areas and were proving troublesome to the metro­politan populations.

It is possible that there is a linguistic connection between the term “Habiru” and the Biblical name “Hebrew.”

Some of the Habiru in the highlands of Canaan in the mid-14th century B.C. may in fact have been the Israelites, since the Bible identifies them as having been in this area at that time.

Although it is certain that not all people called Habiru were Israelites, the indigenous peoples of Canaan may well have dubbed the Israelites as such, and the name may have stuck as Hebrews.