Sunday, January 1, 2012

Follow Up from Sunday School

Today in Sunday School we studied Numbers 22. For those unfamiliar, the cliff's notes is: the Israelites are on the border of the promised land. The Moabite king was afraid of them, and summoned a diviner, Balaam, to put a curse on them. Balaam was on his way to do just that when his donkey saw an Angel of the Lord, and refused to go forward, as the angel had a sword drawn.

Balaam beat his donkey when it refused to obey him. The third time, the Lord gave the donkey the gift of speech, and the donkey asked why Balaam was beating her. Then the Lord opened Balaam's eyes, and he saw the angel. A short conversation later, Balaam was convinced not to put a curse on Israel, but instead would go and give four oracles to the king of Moab.

At one point, I was asked to recount a fact for the class, which I did. Problem was, my fact was messed up by my own memory. It had been several years since I'd studied this, and so I'd like to set the record straight here:

I stated that the rulers of the tribes and lands in Canaan were frightened of the Israelites, and the ruler of Jericho had written a letter to the Pharaoh of Egypt for military help. While this did happen, in the form of the Armarna Letters, my timing was not necessarily correct - and it was not necessarily the ruler of Jericho. It is generally thought that the letters of Armarna were written some time after this - perhaps during the time of the book of Judges in the Bible.

Of note in these letters, Canaan leaders requested military help to ward off large bands of roaming "Hapiru's" (Hebrews). This word, since it is translated from Akkadian, might also be spelled "Apiru," Habiru," or "Hapru." There are several other, less common spellings, but the gist is the same.

Also of note, is the fact that these found documents mention Yahweh - God. These are the earliest documents, other than the Bible, to mention Yahweh by that name. In so doing, it is interesting to see that these documents place the time just right with when we know Jericho was destroyed, as well as the reign of Egyptian Pharaohs.

Some might argue the timing, but they cannot account for assumptions made in carbon-14 dating. These assumptions are critical, because if they are slightly wrong, then the whole process is errant. In either event, carbon 14, and the Amarna Letters, date to within 80 years of each other. Practically on the dot given that it was 3500 years ago.

It is also interesting that the Akkadian word "Hapiru" became the standard for roaming nomads that went around fighting. There is evidence that David's band of warriors was referred to as "Hapiru" as were other bands up to the time of Solomon.

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