Damien F. Mackey
I have often referred to, or quoted from, Dr. John Osgood’s important article, “Times of Abraham” (Ex Nihilo T.J., Vol. 2, 1986, pp. 77-87), in which he archaeologically nails Abram’s four Mesopotamian contemporaries (as named in Genesis 14:1) - in relation to En-geddi - to the Late Chalcolithic/Ghassul IV phase of Palestine. Osgood had concluded that one of the caves in the region, called the “Cave of the Treasure”, was where the local Amorites had stashed their possessions, as itemised by Pessah Bar-Adon who published details of this cave: “… axes and chisels; hammers; ‘mace heads’; hollow stands decorated with knobs, branches, birds, and animals such as deer, ibex, buffalo, wild goats, and eagle; ‘horns’ … smooth and elaborately ornamented 'crowns'; small baskets; a pot; a statuette with a human face; sceptres; flag poles; an ivory box; perforated utensils made … from hippopotamus tusks; and more”. (Bar-Adon, P., 1980. The Cave of the Treasure, Exploration Society, Jerusalem. As cited by Osgood, p. 82.)
Bar-Adon, Osgood said, queried the reasons for the articles in this context as if somebody had left them there and had intended to return, but was not able to:
"What induced the owners of this treasure to hide it hurriedly away in the cave? And what was the event that prevented them from taking the treasure out of its concealment and restoring it to its proper place? And what caused the sudden destruction of the Chalcolithic settlements in the Judean Desert and in other regions of Palestine" ….
(Bar-Adon, P., 1962. Israel Exploration Journal, 12: 218¬-9).
Osgood firstly after that showed how this En-geddi culture linked with Ghassul IV, sill in Palestine (op. cit., ibid.):
The remarkable thing about this culture also was that it was very similar, if not the same culture, to that found at a place in the southern Jordan Valley called Taleilat Ghassul (which is the type site of this culture), and also resembles the culture of Beersheba. The culture can in fact be called 'Ghassul culture' and specifically Ghassul IV.
The Ghassul IV culture disappeared from Trans Jordan, Taleilat Ghassul and Beersheba and the rest of the Negev as well as from Hazezon-tamar or En-gedi apparently at the same time. It is remarkable when looked at on the map that this disappearance of the Ghassul IV culture corresponds exactly to the areas which were attacked by the Mesopotamian confederate of kings. The fact that En-gedi specifically terminates its culture at this point allows a very positive identification of this civilization, Ghassul IV, with the Amorites of Hazezon-tamar.
If that be the case, then we can answer Bar-¬Adon's question very positively. The reason the people did not return to get their goods was that they had been destroyed by the confederate kings of Mesopotamia, in approximately 1,870 B.C. [Osgood’s date, not mine] in the days of Abraham.
Now as far as Palestine is concerned, in an isolated context, this may be possible to accept, but many might ask: What about the Mesopotamian kings themselves? Others may ask: What does this do to Egyptian chronology? And still further questions need to be asked concerning the origin of the Philistines in the days of Abraham, for the Philistines were closely in touch with Abraham during this same period (Genesis 20). So we must search for evidence of Philistine origins or habitation at approximately the end of the Chalcolithic (Ghassul IV) in Palestine. All these questions will be faced.
Then, next, Osgood showed how Ghassul IV in turn connected up archaeologically with Mesopotamia (ibid., pp. 82-84):
THE MESOPOTAMIAN COMPLEX OF
Ghassul IV corresponds in Mesopotamia to the period known as the Jemdat-Nasr/Uruk period, otherwise called Protoliterate (because it was during this period that the archaeologists found the first evidence of early writing). Ghassul IV also corresponds to the last Chalcolithic period of Egypt, the Gerzean or pre-Dynastic period …. Let us look, therefore, at both of these geographically and archaeologically, and see what we find.
Uruk is so called because it refers to a culture associated with the archaeological site called Warka (Uruk of Mesopotamian history or biblical Erech - Genesis 10:10) in the land of Sumer or biblical Shinar … and we note that one of the kings of the Mesopotamian confederacy came from Shinar, namely Amraphel,
Jemdat Nasr is a site in northern Sumer, northeast of Babylon …. It is a site that was found to have a pottery with similarities to the culture of Elam and corresponding in time to the later phases of the Uruk culture.
We have in Mesopotamia, therefore, archaeological evidence that there was a period in which the Uruk culture, and an Elamite culture typified by Jemdat Nasr, were in some sort of combination, and this corresponds to the period in Palestine when the Ghassul culture disappeared. The writing of this period does not allow us to recognise at this point any particular kings from contemporary records for it is undeciphered, but all that is known archaeologically is in agreement with the possibility of a combine of nations of the description of Genesis 14 existing. Considering the war-like attitudes of Sumer and Elam in later years this is all the more remarkable, for no other period of Sumer/Elamite relationship accepts the possibility of such a semi-benevolent relationship.
Archaeology in Iran, in the plain of Susiana, has demonstrated a resurgent Elamite culture contemporary with Jemdat Nasr in Mesopotamia and this fits the biblical suggestion of a dominant Chedorlaomer (Genesis 14). ….
[End of quote]
Having determined all of this, Osgood now turns his attention towards Egypt: (ibid., pp. 84-85):
At this stage there will be many objections to the hypothesis here presented, for it is totally contradictory to the presently held Egyptian chronology of the ancient world. However, I would remind my reader that the Egyptian chronology is not established, despite claims to the contrary. It has many speculative points within it. Let us continue to see if there is any correspondence, for if Abraham was alive in the days of the Ghassul IV culture, then he was alive in the days of the Gerzean culture of pre-Dynastic Egypt, possibly living into the days of the first Dynasty of Egypt.
The correspondence between this period in Palestine and in Egypt is very clear, and has been solidly established, particularly by the excavations at Arad by Ruth Amiram … and at Tel Areini by S. Yeivin. ….
Such a revised chronology as here presented would allow Abraham to be in contact with the earliest kings of Dynasty I and the late pre-Dynastic kings, and this would slice a thousand years off the presently held chronology of Egypt. To many the thought would be too radical to contemplate. The author here insists that it must be contemplated. Only so will the chronology of the ancient world be put into proper perspective. Long as the task may take, and however difficult the road may be, it must be undertaken.
In order to support the present revised chronology here held, the author sites another correspondence archaeologically, and this concerns the Philistines and Egypt.
[This section by Osgood, some of whose argument I shall be modifying and also developing further on, comes from ibid., pp. 85-86]:
THE PHILISTINE QUESTION
Genesis 20 makes it clear that Abraham was in contact with the Philistines, yet the accepted chronological record presently held does not recognise Philistines being in the land of Philistia at any time corresponding with the days of Abraham. Yet the Bible is adamant.
The Scripture is clear that the Philistines were in Canaan by the time of Abraham … or at least around the area of Gerar between Kadesh and Shur (Genesis 20:1), and Beersheba (Genesis 21:32) …. A king called Abimelech was present, and his military chief was Phicol (Genesis 21:22).
The land was called the Land of the Philistines (Genesis 21:32). According to Genesis 10:14, the Philistines were descendants of one Egyptian ancestor, Casluhim, but apparently they dwelt in the region occupied by Caphtor which was apparently the coastlands around the delta region. Now many attempts have been made to associate Caphtor with Crete, but the attempt is strained and unsubstantiated.
[Bill Cooper, in After the Flood (pp. 191 & 193), has suggested instead that Capthor’s descendants pertain to the Kaptara of the Assyrian inscriptions, whilst Anamim, another son of Mizraïm, are the adjacent A-na-mi; both in Phoenicia, not Crete].
Here, now, I shall temporarily interrupt Osgood’s very interesting discussion, to give my own views on Abimelech, on the Philistines, and on some of the sons of Mizraïm.
In a recent article of mine:
Does the Bible Name Abram’s “Pharaoh”?
Yes it does.
I concluded that the toledôt (Toledoth) theory of Genesis enables for us actually to identify the “Pharaoh” encountered by Abram (later Abraham) and Sarai (later Sarah) upon their entry into the Promised Land. For Abraham’s history was written by two of his sons, Ishmael and Isaac, who give their different accounts of the famous encounter between Abram and Sarai, on the one hand, and Pharaoh, on the other. Whilst Ishmael, whose mother was the Egyptian woman, Hagar, tells the story from an Egyptian perspective, hence he calls the king, “Pharaoh”, Isaac, a Hebrew, calls him by the Hebraïsed personal name, “Abimelech”.
I then took this identification a step further, and identified Abimelech with one of Mizraïm’s (or Egypt’s) sons, Lehabim (thought to have been the founder of the Libyans). From Osgood’s argument we would know that it would be most likely for Abram to have been a contemporary of the next generation after Mizraïm. Now, though Lehabim and Abimelech would normally be considered as being two entirely different names, I think that one can see how a Hebrew (such as Isaac) might Hebraïse the (probably originally) Mesopotamian name, Lehabim, to Abim-[e]lech, or Abimelek.
Interestingly, a reader of the above-mentioned article, Ken Griffith, whilst initially rejecting my identification of Abimelech with Lehabim on the grounds of these two Genesis names having different meanings, later concluded that it might be correct after all, because, as he found, a chiastic structure of this part of the Book of Genesis amazingly brings “Pharaoh” and “Abimelech” into a parallel convergence. As if the Holy Spirit had locked in the answer to the query: What was the name of Abram’s “Pharaoh”?
That makes me very confident that my conclusion on this has been a sound one.
It is most unlikely then, if Abimelech were Lehabim, that Abimelech were an actual Philistine. For it was not from Lehabim (my Abimelech), the presumed third son of Mizraïm, that the Philistines arose, but from Casluhim, Mizraïm’s sixth son (Genesis 10:13-14). They were brother peoples of course. And, for the most part, Abimelech is not called a Philistine. We first encounter him as “Pharaoh” of Egypt (12:15), I believe; then, under the name of Abimelech, as “King Abimelech of Gerar” (20:2); then simply as “Abimelech” (21:22), though now residing in “the land of the Philistines” (v. 32). Finally, we meet him as “King Abimelech of the Philistines” (26:1, 8). Not an actual Philistine, I suggest, but a king ruling over “the land of the Philistines”.
When, why, and how did “Pharaoh” Abimelech make the move from Egypt to southern Palestine? That, I believe, is tied up with Abram’s defeat of the Mesopotamian coalition led by Chedorlaomer. And I am now going to attempt to identify similarly, from the Book of Genesis (as in the case of Abimelech/Lehabim), the two leading Mesopotamian kings of Genesis 14:1: namely, Amraphel and Chedorlaomer.
It needs to be noted here that three of the coalitional kings, Khedorla’omer, Ariokh, and Tidhal (i.e., Chedorlaomer; Arioch and Tidal), have in fact been historically identified in the Spartoli Collection; whilst king Hammurabi of Babylon (once thought to have been the other coalitional member, Amraphel himself - and some still do claim this) also refers to the main protagonist, Chedorlaomer. I quoted this in my above-mentioned article, in this section:
Biblical Amraphel Was Not Abraham But Lived Much Earlier
Taken from "The Wars of Gods and Men":
"....The second discovery was announced by Vincent Scheil, who reported that he had found among the tablets in the Imperial Ottoman Museum in Constantinople a letter from the well-known Babylonian King Hammurabi, which mentions the very same Kudur-laghamar!
When I wrote this I was thinking - in line with some ancient views - that the elusive Amraphel may have been Nimrod himself (some say his father, Cush), who, I had estimated, had grown old and had therefore allowed his subordinate, Chedorlaomer, to take the lead. I have accepted the identification of Nimrod with the historical Enmerkar of the Uruk I dynasty (and I was wondering if Chedorlaomer might perhaps have been e.g. Enmerkar’s presumed son, Lugalbanda – the two are actually coupled together in an epic). But now I am looking at an entirely different scenario: one that again involves Abimelech (Lehabim).
Here is what I think Genesis 14 may be about.
Genesis 14:1: In the days of King Amraphel of Shinar ….
Here the author, who may perhaps be drawing upon an historical record, prefaces, with a general date, the account of the invasion of Palestine by the Mesopotamian kings. It happened, we are told, at the time of King Amraphel. But Amraphel himself plays no apparent part in what follows. Instead it is “King Chedorlaomer of Elam” who emerges most prominently. “Twelve years [the kings of Pentapolis] had served Chedorlaomer, but in the thirteenth year they rebelled” (v. 4). So, it was Chedorlaomer, and not Amraphel, who was the current master of Palestine. This all leads me to suggest that Amraphel, a ‘brother’ to the coalition, was our friend “Pharaoh” Abimelech in Egypt, whose origin however was, as the text says, “of Shinar”, and that the coalitional leader, Chedorlaomer, was one of his brothers. When Mizraïm left the land of Shinar to settle in Egypt (as his other name “Egypt” would suggest - and indeed the name “Mizraïm” has become synonymous with Egypt), his son Lehabim and others must have accompanied him there. We are now in the next generation, and this Lehabim (Abimelech) has become the ruler of Egypt. But at least one of the Mizraïmites must have gone eastwards to Elam, rather than westwards. He, I believe, appears in this Genesis text by the name of “Chedorlaomer”; but I suspect that he must be the “Casluhim” from whom arose the Philistine nation. This may be a reason why Bill Cooper can find no positive trace of Casluhim (op. cit., p. 192). We have read that he, as Kudur-laghamar was a real historical personage. As we can see, this Elamite name has two elements. I suggest that the Genesis writer simply truncated both elements of this disagreeable name, Chedor-laomer/Kudur-laghamar, to yield the more manageable Kud-lagham, or Kuslaham, hence Kasluhim (or Casluim).
This would mean that the origins of the Philistines, through Casluhim, were in fact Elamite, eastern. Dr. Immanuel Velikovsky in his Peoples of the Sea, had discerned such a similarity in appearance between the Peleset (Philstines) of the time of Ramses III, and the Pereset, thought to be Persians, that he radically transferred Ramses III to the Persian period. In my university thesis, A Revised History of the Era of King Hezekiah of Judah and its Background (2007), I made the following comment on this (pp. 352-353 of Volume One):
Velikovsky had brought some surprising evidence in support of his sensational view that Ramses III had actually belonged as late as the Persian period, with his identification of the Peleset arm of the ‘Sea Peoples’ – generally considered to indicate Philistines – as Persians. This Velikovsky did through comparisons between the Peleset, as shown on Ramses III’s Medinet Habu reliefs, and depictions of Persians for instance at Persepolis, both revealing a distinctive crown-like headgear. And he also compared Ramses III’s references to the Peleset to the naming of Persians as P-r-s-tt (Pereset) in the C3rd BC Decree of Canopus.
My explanation though for this undeniable similarity would be, not that Ramses III had belonged to the classical Persian era, but that the ‘Indo-European’ Persians were related to the waves of immigrants, hence to the Mitannians (who may therefore connect with the Medes), but perhaps to the Philistines in particular. ….
[End of quote]
The name, “Amraphel”, might perhaps derive from Lehabim, Rehabim – Imrab[el]. If Amraphel can be equated with the name “Hammurabi”, as many claim, then I think that my suggestion may not be too far fetched. My only explanation for why either of Abraham’s sons might have used this new designation for the king, as “Amraphel”, would be that this section of Genesis may have been lifted from an historical document.
So, we have the incident of Genesis 14 taking place at the time of Pharaoh Abimelech/Amraphel, who, as Lehabim, was related to the leader of the invasion, Chedorlaomer, as Casluhim, but who himself (Amraphel) played no obvious part in it. He may have supplied some troops as Egypt was wont to do. Then, after his brother was defeated, and the Elamite rule over Palestine had ceased, Abimelech/Amraphel had moved in to fill the vacuum. He then perhaps re-located to Gerar, and came to rule over the Philistines, or Casluhim-ites, who had been stationed there.
He, Pharaoh Abimelech, a Sumerian who had conquered Egypt, would now be the ideal person for identification with the mysterious Pharaoh Narmer (of apparent Mesopotamian connection: The king's stance is similar to Mesopotamian pictures of royalty and points to the influence Mesopotamia seems to have had on Egypt even in these early times. http://www.reshafim.org.il/ad/egypt/narmer/index.html) of this very same archaeological (Gerzean) period, as attested at Arad (see following quote) or perhaps Narmer was Chedorlaomer (same ‘mer’ element in name), if Chedorlaomer had also controlled Egypt.
I resume Osgood’s discussion (op. cit., pp. 85-86):
…. We have placed the end of the Chalcolithic of the Negev, En-gedi, Trans-Jordan and Taleilat Ghassul at approximately 1870 B.C., being approximately at Abraham's 80th year. Early Bronze I Palestine (EB I) would follow this, significantly for our discussions. Stratum V therefore at early Arad (Chalcolithic) ends at 1870 B.C., and the next stratum, Stratum IV (EB I), would begin after this.
Stratum IV begins therefore some time after 1870 B.C. This is a new culture significantly different from Stratum V.
Belonging to Stratum IV, Amiram found a sherd with the name of Narmer (First Dynasty of Egypt) … ¬and she dates Stratum IV to the early part of the Egyptian Dynasty I and the later part of Canaan EB I. Amiram feels forced to conclude a chronological gap between Stratum V (Chalcolithic) at Arad and Stratum IV EB I at Arad. …. However, this is based on the assumption of time periods on the accepted scale of Canaan's history, long time periods which are here rejected.
The chronological conclusion is strong that Abraham's life-time corresponds to the Chalcolithic in Egypt, through at least a portion of Dynasty 1 in Egypt, which equals Ghassul IV through to EB I Palestine. The possibilities for the Egyptian king in the Abrahamic narrative are therefore:¬
1. A late northern Chalcolithic king of Egypt, or
2. Menes or Narmer, be they separate or the same king (Genesis 12:10-20).
Of these, the chronological scheme would favour a late Chalcolithic (Gerzean) king of northern Egypt, just before the unification under Menes.
Thus the Egyptian Dynastic period would start approximately 1860 B.C. Clearly, if this were the case, by this scheme the Philistines were in Canaan already, and must therefore have at least begun their migration in the late Chalcolithic of Egypt and Palestine.
Therefore, we need to look in southwest Canaan for evidence of Egyptian (cum Philistine) migration, beginning in the late Chalcolithic and possibly reaching into EB I (depending on the cause and rapidity of migration), in order to define the earliest Philistine settlement of Canaan from Egyptian stock. Is there such evidence? The answer is a clear and categorical YES.
Amiram, Beit-Ariah and Glass … discussed the same period in relationship between Canaan and Egypt. So did Oren. ….
Of the period Oren says:
"Canaanite Early Bronze I-II and Egyptian late pre-Dynastic and early Dynastic periods". …. He says of the findings in Canaan:
"The majority of Egyptian vessels belong to the First Dynasty repertoire while a few sherds can be assigned with certainty to the late pre-Dynastic period." (emphasis mine) …. He continues:
"The occurrence of Egyptian material which is not later than the First Dynasty alongside EB A I-II pottery types has been noted in surface collections and especially in controlled excavations in southern Canaan. This indicates that the appearance and distinction of the material of First Dynasty in northern Sinai and southern Canaan should be viewed as one related historical phenomenon." (emphasis mine) ….
The area surveyed was between Suez and Wadi El-Arish. EB I-II had intensive settlement in this area.
He continues further:
"Furthermore, the wide distribution of Egyptian material and the somewhat permanent nature of the sites in Sinai and southern Canaan can no longer be viewed as the results of trade relations only. In all likelihood Egypt used northern Sinai as a springboard for forcing her way into Canaan with the result that all of southern Canaan became an Egyptian domain and its resources were exploited on a large scale." (emphasis mine) ….
"The contacts which began in pre-Dynastic, times, were most intensive during the First Dynasty Period ….
Ram Gopha … is bolder about this event or phenomenon, insisting on it being a migration:
"Today we seem to be justified in assuming some kind of immigration of people from Egypt to southern Canaan. . ." ….
"...the Egyptian migration during the First Dynasty period may be seen as an intensification of previously existing relationships between the two countries. These relations had already begun in the Ghassulian Chalcolithic period but reached sizable proportions only in the Late Pre-Dynastic period" (first phases of Palestinian EB 1). (emphasis mine) ….
[My comment] What this could mean in my context is that, after the defeat of the Mesopotamian collation, which had controlled Palestine, the Casluhim-ites, th brother Lehabim-ites (Abimelech) moved into the vacuum. Or, as Oren says: “In all likelihood Egypt used northern Sinai as a springboard for forcing her way into Canaan with the result that all of southern Canaan became an Egyptian domain and its resources were exploited on a large scale."
The testimony is clear. Excavation at Tel Areini identifies such an Egyptian migration and settlement starting in the Chalcolithic period. …. There was definitely a migration of Egyptian people of some sort from northern Egypt into southern Palestine, and particularly the region that was later known as Philistia." ….
The testimony of Scripture is clear that there were Philistines who came from Egypt into Palestine in the days of Abraham. This revised chronology identifies such a migration in the days of the Ghassulians, who I insist, perished during the early days of Abraham's sojourn in Canaan. This period must then be grossly redated in accordance with biblical expectations, instead of evolutionary assumptions.
Osgood concludes this wonderful paper with the following (p. 87):
In summary, Abraham entered the land of Canaan at approximately 1875 B.C.. In his days there was a settlement of Amorites in En-gedi, identified here with the Ghassul IV people. This civilization was ended by the attack of four Mesopotamian monarchs in a combined confederation of nations, here placed in the Uruk-Jemdat Nasr period in Mesopotamia. They were a significant force in ending the Chalcolithic of Palestine as we understand it archaeologically, and Abraham and his army were a significant force in ending the Jemdat Nasr domination of Mesopotamia, and thus the Chalcolithic of Mesopotamia, by their attack on these four Mesopotamian monarchs as they were returning home. Egypt was just about to enter its great dynastic period, and was beginning to consolidate into a united kingdom, when from northern Egypt a surge of Egyptian stock, including the Philistines, moved north into southern Palestine to settle, as well as to trade, identified in a number sites in that region (most notably in the strata of Tel Areini, Level VI then V) as the Philistines with who Abraham was able to talk face to face. The biblical narrative demands a redating of the whole of ancient history, as currently recognised, by something like a one thousand year shortening - a formidable claim and a formidable investigation, but one that must undertaken.