A Guide to those Perplexed About Biblical Archaeology

Damien F. Mackey

Bible believers who might lack a proper perspective with regard to how biblical characters and events sit in relation to archaeological levels and geographical locations can sometimes latch on to the report of a new archaeological discovery believed to confirm the Bible, when in fact it doesn’t have any bearing whatsoever on what it purports to uphold. That is exactly the case with a recent situation regarding SODOM as pointed out to me by a reader, who had suggested that the reported finding of the destroyed city of Sodom, Tell-el-Hammam, 14 km NE of the Dead Sea (http://www.thesacredpage.com/2011/12/sodom-and-gomorrah-excavated.html), might be worth our playing close attention to.

IT IS NOT! And that is precisely what I told the reader.

It was sufficient - for me to feel compelled to reject the site’s validity for Sodom - merely to read that this site showing destruction (and ‘a heat event’ has even been proposed as the cause of this destruction, thereby seeming to add more weight to the Sodom factor) was a Late Bronze Age site. The Late Bronze Era was way too late for Abram (as he was called at the time of the destruction of Sodom), who became Abraham; and this, despite the report’s claim that: “The sites fit the geographical and temporal context into which Sodom and Gomorrah are placed in the biblical texts”. They fit neither.

I now intend to provide readers with a simple biblical-archaeological correlation (as asked for by another reader), which will clearly show where Abram sits in relation to the Late Bronze Age. We are going to learn that he was nowhere near it.

For me, the fundamental starting point for any Old Testament-related archaeology is the identification of the nomadic Middle Bronze I people (before the Late Bronze Age, note) with the Israelites of the Exodus and the Joshuan Conquest. I was once asked by what was formerly Answers in Genesis [AIG] to assess an archaeologically-based biblical reconstruction article that had been submitted to AIG for publication. I was highly critical of it on this very basis, that it had missed out on the all-important correlation of the Middle Bronze I people with the Israelites. Apparently the article was not published by AIG – and I then felt sorry for the author who had put so much research and effort into writing it.

Plenty has now been written on this correlation of the Middle Bronze I with the nomadic Israelites, but the most authoritative piece, by far, is the famous article by Dr. Rudolph Cohen - known as “the King of the South” for his archaeological expertise in the southern desert regions of Israel: The Mysterious MBI People, Rudolph Cohen, BAR 9:04, Jul/Aug 1983.

Dr. Cohen had tentatively proposed in this article that the Middle Bronze I people were the Israelites of the Exodus. He had to be tentative, because his conclusion was right out of line with conventional archaeology, according to which the Middle Bronze Era approximated rather to the time of Abram (i.e., for those who believe in Abram), about half a millennium before Moses and Joshua. In fact many have proposed, based on the conventional system, that the migration of Abram might have been part of the movement of the nomadic Middle Bronze people.

Dr. Cohen was far less tentative, though, when speaking personally to the Australian antiquities enthusiast Dr. David Down of “Archaeological Diggings”, who reported that he had been told by Dr. Cohen straight out: “The Middle Bronze I people were the Israelites”. And I believe that Dr. Down has also written that other Israeli archaeologists in the south concur with this view. Whilst those in the north do not.

Anyway Dr. John Osgood, writing for the old Ex Nihilo journal (which became the AIG Technical Journal, and now is the Journal of Creation), has shown beyond any reasonable doubt, using maps, that the Middle Bronze I people - who carried with them Egyptian artefacts, incidentally - settled in the exact same regions (Kadesh-barnea; Paran desert; Transjordania; into Palestine) as those recorded in the Pentateuch, and the Books of Joshua and Judges, for the wandering Israelites. It is recommended that one consult the article itself, for the important maps: http://creation.com/the-times-of-the-judges-the-archaeology-exodus-to-conquest

I guess we could say as a very rough approximation that the Middle Bronze I period sits about halfway in the archaeological series, overlapping the Stone Ages. Abram comes well before it, and the Late Bronze Age comes after it. This shows up the ridiculousness of any attempt to locate the destroyed city of Sodom, at the time of Abram, at any Late Bronze Age site.

The accepted sequence - which is basically always linear with the textbook scholars, but not in reality - goes like this:

- Geological Ages (of no interest here)

- Stone Ages (Palaeolothic; Mesolithic; Neolithic; Chalcolithic)

- Archaeological Ages (Early Bronze Age; Middle Bronze Age; Late Bronze Age; Iron Age)

In actuality, the Stone Ages are not entirely linear, but can be shown to overlap amongst themselves. Also, Egypt’s sequence: Old Kingdom (Early Bronze); First Intermediate Period; Middle Kingdom (Middle Bronze); Second Intermediate Period; needs to be reduced to just the one kingdom followed by the one intermediate period (Dr. Donovan Courville showed this in The Exodus Problem and its Ramifications, Loma Linda, CA 1971), meaning that the Early and Middle Bronze phases must overlap. (And Hammurabi of Babylon does not work at all as a Middle Bronze Age ruler, where convention has placed him, but only as a Late Bronze Age ruler). This conventional arrangement has thrown completely out of whack the biblico-historical alignment.

{The Archaeological Ages and the dynastic kingdoms will ultimately need to be re-defined and re-named}.

Now here is the biblically-related sequence, the revised version, which I have discussed in detail in other articles:

Abram (c. 2000 BC). Late Chalcolithic to (early) Early Bronze Age I (= beginning of major cities, such as Jerusalem, Jericho);

Moses (c. 1500 BC). Early Bronze Age III to Middle Bronze I.

Israelites (c. 1500 BC). Middle Bronze I.

King David (c. 1000 BC). Late Bronze I.

King Solomon (c. 950 BC). Late Bronze I to II.

Shishak King of Egypt. Late Bronze II.

Divided Monarchy (c. 900 BC). Iron Age I.


Dr. John Osgood, once again, has managed to anchor Abram and the time of the four invading Mesopotamian kings of Genesis 14 to the Late Chalcolithic period, in relation to En-geddi; this period corresponding approximately to Dynasty 0 (late pre-dynastic) in Egyptian history.

First published: Journal of Creation 2:77–87 April 1986 The Times of Abraham

By Dr A.J.M. Osgood. http://creation.com/the-times-of-Abraham

One can see from the above simple outline that (a) Late Chalcolithic Abram was a very long way from the Late Bronze Age; and that (b) to locate Abram in the Late Bronze Age, as according to the Sodom article, would leave very little archaeology (mainly just the Iron Ages) for the long remaining biblical history of Israel after Abram.

12th December 2011


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