Were the ancient Jews nomads?

Discussion about the Hebrew Bible, Septuagint, pseudepigrapha, Philo, Josephus, Talmud, Dead Sea Scrolls, archaeology, etc.
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Krupin
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Were the ancient Jews nomads?

Post by Krupin » Mon Sep 11, 2017 11:07 pm

Skeptics deny the authenticity of the Torah. But many of them believe that this book describes the mythological conquest of Canaan. Nomads Jews burned cities, polls excised peoples and settled in the "land of promise". Some argue that Abraham, Isaac, Jacob - is the union of nomadic tribes. How plausible is this interpretation.

semiopen
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Re: Were the ancient Jews nomads?

Post by semiopen » Tue Sep 12, 2017 9:53 am

There might have been nomadic elements here and there, but the simplest answer is they weren't really nomadic.

Van Seters’ Historical Arguments Regarding the Patriarchs - https://jamesbradfordpate.wordpress.com ... atriarchs/

Seems like a decent summary of Van Seters' take on this question.

The camel anachronism issue is well known, and the possible tent anachronism is also fascinating.

Personally, I agree with Seters mostly.

Of course, this speculation usually gets into the Exodus.

Coincidentally, Richard Elliot Friedman's new book is out today. The Exodus - https://www.amazon.com/Exodus-Richard-E ... +friedman

Seems like he proved it happened, but I'm not ready to pony up the $15 for the Kindle edition yet. My guess is that it involved a smaller number than mentioned in the Torah, big tip of the hat to the women folk, and some ridiculous dates on various texts. Will have to wait for the reviews to see the role his creepy Levite theory plays.

neilgodfrey
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Re: Were the ancient Jews nomads?

Post by neilgodfrey » Wed Sep 13, 2017 1:57 am

Archaeological evidence confirms that there was no Israelite invasion of Canaan. The story is myth.

Nathan
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Re: Were the ancient Jews nomads?

Post by Nathan » Wed Sep 13, 2017 7:27 am

semiopen wrote:The camel anachronism issue is well known ...
The persistence of this claim is unfortunate. (It was even referenced in recent years on the sitcom The Big Bang Theory.)

The claim was refuted more than seventy years ago by Joseph Free, in his article "Abraham's Camels," in the Journal of Near Eastern Studies. Free cites evidence for the presence of camels in Egypt going back to pre-dynastic times, including camel figurines and camel-hair rope.

Cyrus Gordon also states in The Bible and the Ancient Near East:
The mention of camels ... in the patriarchal narratives often is considered anachronistic. However, the correctness of the Bible is supported by the representation of camel riding on seal cylinders of precisely this period from northern Mesopotamia.
See also the evidence discussed in Richard Bulliet's The Camel and the Wheel.

semiopen
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Re: Were the ancient Jews nomads?

Post by semiopen » Wed Sep 13, 2017 9:49 am

Domesticated camels are very rare in archaeological digs in Palestine from the second millennium BCE.

The evidence from Egypt does not attest to their use as beasts of burden, which is the major focus of the tales in Genesis.

The Camel in Ancient Egypt - http://www.isocard.net/images/proceedin ... 0981b4.pdf

I wonder if the below is the camel hair rope that Nathan mentions -
Caton-Thompson (1934) found a cord of camel hair, about 3 ft. long in the gypsum works of Um-es-Sawan in Fayum. Was it the
girdle of a laborer, or perhaps of an immigrant or slave who had come from Arabia? Or does it indicate that camels were used in the
gypsum mines? A re-examination of the cord has, however, revealed that the fibers came from sheep (Mindant-Reynes and BraunsteinSilvester,
1977).
Regarding beast of burden usage -
By the beginning of the Roman period the dromedary had acquired the place it holds in Egyptian trade today. Many figurines
showing it as a beast of burden were found (Fig. 5).
At least the counter argument made quite a few people more secure in the knowledge that Genesis wasn't historically absurd, even though it is.

Sort of interesting that the bible mentions camels over 20 times in Genesis, but only a couple of times in the rest of the Torah - mostly to say camels aren't kosher.

Several years ago, in a yahoo forum, a very knowledgeable woman made the same mistake of thinking that the camel anachronism was "refuted." But to paraphrase Mark Twain, that was exaggerated.

As I suggested above, the tent anachronism is a more interesting argument.

Nathan
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Re: Were the ancient Jews nomads?

Post by Nathan » Wed Sep 13, 2017 10:38 am

semiopen wrote: The evidence from Egypt does not attest to their use as beasts of burden, which is the major focus of the tales in Genesis.
Free suggests otherwise:
[M]any of the items which have been cited in this paper give testimony not only of camels but domesticated camels [his emphasis].
He refers, for example, to a pre-dynastic "terra cotta tablet on which was represented a camel with a man astride, while another man led the camel with a rope."

He makes another point worth bearing in mind, incidentally:
Many who have rejected this reference to Abraham's camels seem to have assumed something which the text does not state. It should be carefully noted that the biblical reference does not necessarily indicate that the camel was common in Egypt at that time. ... It merely says that Abraham had camels.

semiopen wrote:I wonder if the below is the camel hair rope that Nathan mentions -
...
A re-examination of the cord has, however, revealed that the fibers came from sheep (Mindant-Reynes and BraunsteinSilvester,
1977).
This is problematic. According to Richard Bulliet, The Camel and the Wheel:
This cord was compared with camel, ox, sheep, goat, horse, ass, human, and other kinds of hair and incontestably identified as being braided from camel hair.

semiopen
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Re: Were the ancient Jews nomads?

Post by semiopen » Wed Sep 13, 2017 2:33 pm

Nathan,

My first post discussed John_Van_Seters
Van Seters' Abraham in History and Tradition (1975) argues that no convincing evidence exists to support the historical existence of Abraham and the other Biblical Patriarchs or the historical reliability of their origins in Mesopotamia and their exploits and travels as depicted in the book of book of Genesis. This book attempts to undermine both the Biblical archaeology school of William F. Albright, who had argued over the previous fifty years that the archaeological record confirmed the essential truth of the history contained in Genesis, and the "tradition history" school of Albrecht Alt and Martin Noth, which argued that Genesis contained a core of valid social pre-history of the Israelites passed down through oral tradition prior to the composition of the written book itself.
It's ridiculous to even think that he wouldn't be aware of the old articles you quote - yet here we are.

I also posted the article by Saber which lists your two articles in the References section at the end.

Did you miss my quote above that the camel hair rope is actually made from sheep? Doesn't that make you wonder about "incontestably identified as being braided from camel hair." Saber references Bulliet

Finally, you quote something about Abraham having camels. This is puzzling because camels used as beasts of burden are prevalent through all of the Patriarchal Narratives.

You're looking at old research that has been called into serious question with the passage of time, you have to find something newer to intelligently discuss the camel anachronism issue - personally, I'm not aware of anything.

Nathan
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Re: Were the ancient Jews nomads?

Post by Nathan » Wed Sep 13, 2017 7:31 pm

semiopen wrote:My first post discussed John_Van_Seters

...

It's ridiculous to even think that he wouldn't be aware of the old articles you quote - yet here we are.
And yet Van Seters apparently restates claims that were already addressed by Free's article.
semiopen wrote:Doesn't that make you wonder about "incontestably identified as being braided from camel hair." Saber references Bulliet.
Yes, of course it makes me wonder. That's why I said it was problematic. Saber and Bulliet both wrote after the re-examination of the cord, yet their respective assessments of the situation are diametrically opposed. So what gives?
semiopen wrote:You're looking at old research that has been called into serious question with the passage of time, you have to find something newer to intelligently discuss the camel anachronism issue - personally, I'm not aware of anything.
I did mention something newer.

Cyrus Gordon again:
The mention of camels ... in the patriarchal narratives often is considered anachronistic. However, the correctness of the Bible is supported by the representation of camel riding on seal cylinders of precisely this period from northern Mesopotamia.
You might also be interested in Edith Porada's "A Cylinder Seal with a Camel in the Walters Art Gallery." She discusses among other things the depiction of Syrian camel riders dated in her opinion to the 18th century BCE.

For my part, I'll have to take a better look at Van Seters' work, and see if I can't get a hold of some more of that material cited in Saber's article as well. Thanks for bringing that to my attention, by the way.

semiopen
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Joined: Sat Mar 08, 2014 6:27 pm

Re: Were the ancient Jews nomads?

Post by semiopen » Thu Sep 14, 2017 6:06 am

The Camel anachronism is hardly the major reason to date the writing of Genesis to the first millenium BCE.
Recent excavations in the Timna Valley by Lidar Sapir-Hen and Erez Ben-Yosef discovered what may be the earliest domestic camel bones found in Israel or even outside the Arabian Peninsula, dating to around 930 BC. This garnered considerable media coverage as it was described as evidence that the stories of Abraham, Jacob, Esau, and Joseph were written after this time.[77][78]
The Introduction of Domestic Camels to the Southern Levant:
Evidence from the Aravah Valley - https://archaeology.tau.ac.il/ben-yosef ... elAviv.pdf

I don't really understand the objections to this line of reasoning. It's not like that if domestic camels were in Canaan a thousand years earlier that we would date Genesis to that period.

Domesticated camels and tents are a few of many problems for traditionalists; the early camel song and dance number isn't in good shape.

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