The End of the Bronze Age

admin/ June 7, 2013/ Abraham, Egypt, Greeks, Iron Age, Uncategorized/ 0 comments

History never stands still; events occur and people react to them.  In 1159 BCE the volcano Hekla explodes and causes mass migrations from Central Europe south to Greece, Anatolia and other Mediterranean super-states.  God’s people survive in this chaotic world in a savage, violent way.  Why?  (See Joshua 11:20)  In Hebrew it’s called herem  meaning to ‘devote’ or ‘destroy’.  In this lecture, we will examine why the Israelites were called to this.
South Gate, Mycenae

South Gate, Mycenae

The Bronze Age collapse is a transition in the Aegean RegionSouthwestern Asia and the Eastern Mediterranean from the Late Bronze Age to the Early Iron Age that historians, such as M. Liverani, S. Richard, Robert Drews, Frank J. Yurco, Amos Nur, Leonard R. Palmer, and others, believe was violent, sudden and culturally disruptive. The palace economy of the Aegean Region and Anatolia which characterised the Late Bronze Age was replaced, after a hiatus, by the isolated village cultures of the Greek Dark Ages.

Between 1206 and 1150 BCE, the cultural collapse of the Mycenaean kingdoms, theHittite Empire in Anatolia and Syria,[1] and the New Kingdom of Egypt in Syria andCanaan[2] interrupted trade routes and severely reduced literacy. In the first phase of this period, almost every city between Pylos and Gaza was violently destroyed, and often left unoccupied thereafter: examples include HattusaMycenae, and Ugarit.[3]

The gradual end of the Dark Age that ensued saw the eventual rise of settled Syro-Hittite states in Cilicia and Syria, Aramaean kingdoms of the mid-10th century BCE in the Levant, and the eventual rise of the Neo-Assyrian Empire

The world outside of the Israelites was a violent, changing place.  There were continuous wars.  Homer’s war between the Greeks and the Trojans leads to Troy’s complete destruction.  The Hittite lands were invaded by the warlike Dorian Greeks, also called Phrygians.  Mycenaen Greece falls to these aggressive invaders and Greek’s “Dark-Ages” result.

THE SEA PEOPLES.  The “sea peoples” is a catch-all phrase for various seaborne and land invaders, raiders and a loose confederation of clans who troubled the lands of the Near East and Egypt during the final period of the Bronze Age.  It is uncertain exactly who they were or where they were from.  But one thing was clear, their movement was one of the largest and most important migrations in history and changed the face of the ancient world more than any other single event before the time of Alexander the Great.  (“The Greek Age of Bronze, website by Andrea Salimbeti )  The Egyptians wrote extensively about them in the Amarna letters and other sources.

They beset Mitanni, in northern Mesopotamia, Syria and Canaan, putting heavy pressures from 1200 BCE on the cities of Jericho, Ai & Schechem in Canaan where Abram is.  Canaan, at this point in time, is a vassal state of Egypt.  Beginning toward the end of the 12th century BCE, during the rule of the Pharaoh Merneptah (1224-1210 BCE) and climaxing during the reign of Ramsesses III (1194-1163BCE), there are waves of invasions of these “sea-people” which weaken Egypt and mark the decline in power of the New Kingdom.   This power vacuum allows for Israel to rise to nationhood.Invasion_Routes

It’s a time of chaos, people fleeing natural disaster and drastic climate changes to seek new homes and territories.  The invaders, and the defenders, are brutal and savage.  Israel is no different in it’s pursuit of the promised land that the LORD gave to Abram.

Deuteronomy 7:2-3 is clear:  all people in the land of Canaan are to be killed.  All of them.  The book of Joshua says that they did, except for one king they had allied with in contradiction to the LORD’s instructions.  (Joshua 11:12-15)

What did Moses know about them?  Canaan’s cities were either allied to the Egyptian pharaohs or to the Hittite kings.  Canaan, known as Retjenu in Egyptian, was an important trading zone for the pharoahs.  The people were descended from Noah’s son Ham.  Like their cousins elsewhere, they returned to the idolatry and violence that had so angered the LORD and caused the flood.  The LORD condemned them, he used Israel to carry out his judgement against them.  (Genesis 15:12-16).  The LORD does not give the land to Israel because of their self-righteousness, but he is taking away the land from the Canaanites and giving it to them.  As the story of Rehab in Joshua 2 demonstrates, the Canaanites were aware of why they had been invaded and were losing.

But Israel is a small power, a confederation of clans, in the cross-hairs of two major empires fighting for domination of the land they have been given.  As these great powers are weakened, Israel and the other smaller Iron-Age kingdoms are given the chance to grow and become more powerful.


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