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Thread: What happened to the Ark of the Covenant?

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    What happened to the Ark of the Covenant?

    Let us first keep in mind that the Cushitic-speaking Qement people of Ethiopia once practiced a religion with parallels to the Jewish religion too strong to be coincidental. While the Israelite people were Semitic speakers from Canaan, there is a good possibility that the Israelite religion derives to some extent from ideas at the fulcrum of Canaan-Ethiopia: Egypt!

    The story should begin with our earliest knowledge of the Jewish people, but when is that? Canaan towns in the Early Iron Age did not eat pork; this is a diagnostic to distinguish Israelite towns from Philistine towns — the Philistines were Sea People who brought their own swine from the Aegean region. (The Philistine language is unknown; most likely they were Indo-European speakers who switched to Semitic in their new home.) But the Levant had advanced cultures and complicated history before the Iron Age. The Iron Age is a few centuries after the story of Moses, or any factual basis it might have. Pharaohs of the 18th dynasty in the Late Bronze Age include Akhenaton the famous monotheist, and Tutankhamen (Akhenaton's son or half-brother). What do we know about the Jewish people during the 18th Dynasty of Egypt (1st dynasty of the "New Kingdom")?

    Not much. Nobody dares link the many archaeological sites of Bronze Age in the Levant with the Israelites. To guess a glimpse at earliest Israel we must turn to Egypt. The story of Exodus is probably HUGELY distorted but there's likely some basis and we should try to guess it.

    Egypt was a powerful Empire; it competed with the Hittite Empire (and to a lesser extent with easterly rivals like the Assyrians) to subjugate Caanan into vassal micro-states. The sons of chiefs were often brought as hostages to the Egyptian capital. Not only did this make their fathers more loyal to Pharaoh, but these future Chiefs were tutored in Egyptian language, law and crafts. A less distorted "Moses" might well fit this model.

    Another important clue is the story of Cain and Abel. This story was obviously written by a shepherd! The geography of Semitic-speaking country is relevant: To the southeast of the Levant lies Edom with its magnificent buildings at Petra. There are good candidates for biblical mountains like "Sinai" very close to Petra. Esau of the Edomites was brother of Jacob of the Israelites, according to Genesis, and it seems fair to assume these tribes were close kin. If shepherds/raiders invaded the fertile Jordan valley from the desert-like Edom region, the biblical narrative would fit closely.

    A people known as Habiru or 'Apiru were known in the Levant, Sumeria and Egypt from the Middle Bronze Age, or Egypt's Middle Kingdom. I think it is almost certain that this word is cognate to "Hebrew" but it does not necessarily follow — though it does seem rather plausible — that the people referred to as "Hebrew" in Genesis or Exodus are the same people as the Apiru of the Middle Bronze Age. (Note that the writers of Moses' books refer to themselves as Israelites; "Hebrew" is the designation used by Egyptians.)

    Complicating the matter is that the term Apiru is sometimes used as an ethnic group, and sometimes, disparagingly, as an occupation: mercenary, raider or outlaw. Egyptian records show that the Apiru were a threat, and Pharaoh drove them out of Egypt on occasion. (If you were the Apiru turning such a tale into religious scripture, would you depict yourself as criminals being banished? Or as a noble people fleeing of your own accord?)

    I am afraid the above may seem disparaging to Jews, but that is not my intent. (The story outlined is centuries before any historic Jews.) I've not even mentioned the Ark yet, but I think I'll stop the story here for now, and see if there is TFT interest.

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    I forgot to express a key conclusion:

    Since Islam and Christianity borrow their monotheism from the Jews, we see only two major shifts to a new monotheism in all of history: The sun worship of Akhenaton and the Yahweh monotheism of the Jews. And the chronology certainly connects any Exodus to the 18th Dynasty, perhaps even to the reign of Akhenaton himself. With the Qement religion teaching us to look south from Canaan for Hebraic religion origin, Occam's Razor makes the connection to Akhenaton irresistible.

    Note that the Hymn to Aten, allegedly written by Pharaoh Akhenaton himself, and Psalm 104, allegedly written by King David himself, are extremely close: much of Hymn 104 is almost a word-by-word translation of the Hymn to Aten.

    This is not to say that the early Jewish religion was identical to Atenism, but it is likely that the idea of monotheism was borrowed. And it is recorded that some followers of Atenism fled Egypt after Akhenaton's death: this might have been a mini-Exodus that got conflated into the Moses narrative.

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    I'd argue that seeing that Pharaoh in Exodus (and Genesis) has no name, linking it to Akhenaton is silly. It certainly has some allure to it, but heck, even pyramids aren't referenced in the Tanakh! Yeah, you'll likely find someone find a sentence here or there that can stretch into allegedly supporting a far fetched reference to pyramids, but the pyramids would very likely not have been relegated to far flung single sentence asides. After all, the 'Tower of Babel' (reference to Babylonian construction I believe) are wow'd over.

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    Sapere aude Politesse's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jimmy Higgins View Post
    I'd argue that seeing that Pharaoh in Exodus (and Genesis) has no name, linking it to Akhenaton is silly. It certainly has some allure to it, but heck, even pyramids aren't referenced in the Tanakh! Yeah, you'll likely find someone find a sentence here or there that can stretch into allegedly supporting a far fetched reference to pyramids, but the pyramids would very likely not have been relegated to far flung single sentence asides. After all, the 'Tower of Babel' (reference to Babylonian construction I believe) are wow'd over.
    But not, like, pyramids in general. And they knew about pyramids on general principle, ziggurat were once standing all over Mesopotamia. A rabid monotheistic priesthood isn't apt to wax rhapsodic over the tomb/temples of foreign kings. Their own Temple, of course, is described in loving detail.

    Babel, by the way is from Akkadian but is probably not a reference to the Babylonian Empire, as its use predates that polity; both terms derive from a phrase meaning "the gate of God(s)", the same linguistic construction you would use to describe, say, a city gate.
    "Banish me from Eden when you will, but first let me eat of the tree of knowledge."

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    Sapere aude Politesse's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Swammerdami View Post
    I forgot to express a key conclusion:

    Since Islam and Christianity borrow their monotheism from the Jews, we see only two major shifts to a new monotheism in all of history: The sun worship of Akhenaton and the Yahweh monotheism of the Jews.
    You're missing a few monotheistic turns! Including, importantly, the adoration of Ahura Mazda in Classical Persia.

    I note also that it is a matter of some dispute among Egyptologists whether either Aten or the early Hebrews should be conisdered monotheistic, or merely monolatrous henotheism. Ancient peoples tended to think of "religion" as we would define it primarily in connection to what we would call "ritual" or "liturgy" as opposed to quetions of belief or denial thereof. Denying a god worship might be more akin to an act like refusing to bow to a foreign king, than to avowing ontological denialism.
    "Banish me from Eden when you will, but first let me eat of the tree of knowledge."

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    Quote Originally Posted by Politesse View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Jimmy Higgins View Post
    I'd argue that seeing that Pharaoh in Exodus (and Genesis) has no name, linking it to Akhenaton is silly. It certainly has some allure to it, but heck, even pyramids aren't referenced in the Tanakh! Yeah, you'll likely find someone find a sentence here or there that can stretch into allegedly supporting a far fetched reference to pyramids, but the pyramids would very likely not have been relegated to far flung single sentence asides. After all, the 'Tower of Babel' (reference to Babylonian construction I believe) are wow'd over.
    But not, like, pyramids in general. And they knew about pyramids on general principle, ziggurat were once standing all over Mesopotamia. A rabid monotheistic priesthood isn't apt to wax rhapsodic over the tomb/temples of foreign kings.
    The purpose wasn't of cause but that they were constructed at all.

    Babel, by the way is from Akkadian but is probably not a reference to the Babylonian Empire, as its use predates that polity; both terms derive from a phrase meaning "the gate of God(s)", the same linguistic construction you would use to describe, say, a city gate.
    I'm speaking specifically as to the wonderment of how the towers were built, which I believe has Babylonian potential as a source.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Politesse View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Swammerdami View Post
    I forgot to express a key conclusion:

    Since Islam and Christianity borrow their monotheism from the Jews, we see only two major shifts to a new monotheism in all of history: The sun worship of Akhenaton and the Yahweh monotheism of the Jews.
    You're missing a few monotheistic turns! Including, importantly, the adoration of Ahura Mazda in Classical Persia.

    I note also that it is a matter of some dispute among Egyptologists whether either Aten or the early Hebrews should be conisdered monotheistic, or merely monolatrous henotheism. Ancient peoples tended to think of "religion" as we would define it primarily in connection to what we would call "ritual" or "liturgy" as opposed to quetions of belief or denial thereof. Denying a god worship might be more akin to an act like refusing to bow to a foreign king, than to avowing ontological denialism.
    Thanks, I figured I was missing some. When was the origin of Ahura Mazda? Probably several centuries after the time of Aten and Moses.

    I am NOT going to propose any specific scenario for the Exodus, nor assign a specific Pharaoh to the Exodus events. The Exodus story is likely to have combined two or more events into one, with neither real event being much like the Exodus story. It's as likely that Hebrews were being chased out by Pharaoh as that Pharaoh's army was trying to bring them back.

    The god name 'Yahweh' originated near Canaan but other aspects of the Jewish religion might have originated in Egypt.

    I do think it's interesting how the Egyptian records of their strife with the 'Apiru, and their taking important sons of Canaan hostage might mesh with the Exodus story, but details elude.

    Many hypotheses have been proposed but most place the Exodus somewhere in the 18th Dynasty — Akhenaton's dynasty. (Some equate the Hebrew legends with the 15th Dynasty Hyksos, but this seems unlikely to me for several reasons. For one thing the Hyksos used war chariots to conquer Egypt, while King David despised chariots.)

    My plan in the thread is to focus on the Ark of the Covenant and perhaps meld in the interesting conjectures from Graham Hancock's book. For now, I'll just report that an Ark with strong resemblance to the Ark described in Exodus was discovered in the tomb of King Tutankhamen.

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    As further evidence that the founding of Israel and its religion was approximately coincident with the reign of Akhenaton, consider Labaya Chief of Shechem and Abdi-Heba, Chief of Jerusalem in the same time period.

    Evil Labaya has been conjectured to be the evil Abimelech ben Jerubbaal (Gideon) of Judges 9 and has also been conjectured to be King Saul. Both Lab'ayu and Saul had sons (resp. Mutbaal and Ishbaal) who moved their capitals to Transjordan. Mutbaal wrote a letter to Pharaoh metioning Dadua (David?), Ayab (Joab?) and Yishaya (Jesse?). I think it's possible that BOTH identifications may be correct: the Bible's stories may be conflations.

    These Canaanite chiefs variously fought against or allied with the 'Apiru (Hebrews), as seen in these letters, which were sent to either Akhenaton or to his father and predecessor, Amenhotep III the Magnificent.

    Lab'ayu defends himself against a charge of allying with the 'Apiru:
    Quote Originally Posted by Lab'ayu in Armana Letters #254
    To the king, my lord and my Sun: Thus Lab'ayu, your servant and the dirt on which you tread. I fall at the feet of the king, my lord and my Sun, 7 times and 7 times. I have obeyed the orders that the king wrote to me. Who am I that the king should lose his land on account of me? The fact is that I am a loyal servant of the king! I am not a rebel and I am not delinquent in duty. I have not held back my payments of tribute; I have not held back anything requested by my commissioner. He denounces me unjustly, but the king, my Lord, does not examine my (alleged) act of rebellion. Moreover, my act of rebellion is this: when I entered Gazru-(Gezer), I kept on saying, "Everything of mine the king takes, but where is what belongs to Milkilu? " I know the actions of Milkilu against me! Moreover, the king wrote for my son. I did not know that my son was consorting with the 'Apiru. I hereby hand him over to Addaya-(commissioner). Moreover, how, if the king wrote for my wife, how could I hold her back? How, if the king wrote to me, "Put a bronze dagger into your heart and die", how could I not execute the order of the king?
    Abdi-Heba defends himself against a similar charge, blaming Labayu:
    Quote Originally Posted by Abdi-Heba in Armana Letters #287
    Say to the king, my lord: Message of Abdi-Heba, your servant. I fall at the feet of my lord 7 times and 7 times. Consider the entire affair. Milkilu and Tagi brought troops into Qiltu against me... ...May the king know (that) all the lands are at peace (with one another), but I am at war. May the king provide for his land. Consider the lands of Gazru, Asqaluna, and Lakisi. They have given them [my enemies] food, oil and any other requirement. So may the king provide for archers and send the archers against men that commit crimes against the king, my lord. If this year there are archers, then the lands and the hazzanu (client kings) will belong to the king, my lord. But if there are no archers, then the king will have neither lands nor hazzanu. Consider Jerusalem! This neither my father nor my mother gave to me. The strong hand (arm) of the king gave it to me. Consider the deed! This is the deed of Milkilu and the deed of the sons of Lab'ayu, who have given the land of the king to the 'Apiru. Consider, O king, my lord! I am in the right!....
    Abdi-Heba later does ally with the 'Apiru perhaps. Another chief complains, calling Abdi-Heba the "new Labaya":
    Quote Originally Posted by Shuwardata Chief of Kebab in Armana Letters #280
    Say to the king, my lord, my god, my Sun: Message of Shuwardata, your servant, the dirt at your feet. I fall at the feet of the king, my lord, my god, my Sun, 7 times and 7 times. The king, my lord, permitted me to wage war against Qeltu (Keilah). I waged war. It is now at peace with me; my city is restored to me. Why did Abdi-Heba write to the men of Qeltu, "Accept silver and follow me?"... Moreover, Labaya, who used to take our towns, is dead, but now another Labaya is Abdi-Heba, and he seizes our town. So, may the king take cognizance of his servant because of this deed...

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    Here's a paper that further tightens the strong connections between the early history recorded in the Old Testament and the history revealed in the Armana Letters. The paper points out that the towns first conquered by Joshua are precisely the towns no longer corresponding with Pharaoh.

    Working backwards, this researcher places the Exodus during the reign of Amenhotep III's grandfather, Amenhotep II; but I think the "Exodus" may have been mostly fictional anyway.

    This is all unrelated to, but perhaps more interesting than, the putative topic in thread's title.

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    In summary there are three separate parts of the puzzle of Jewish origin: political, ethnic, religious.

    (1) Political. The 'Apiru (Hebrew) seem to have been a potent military force in Canaan by the (15th-century) time of Amenhotep II (18th dynasty). By about the (13th-dentury BC) time of Ramesses II (19th Dynasty), Egypt refers to this power as "Israel."

    (2) Ethnic. From the eminent author of Egypt, Canaan and Israel in ancient times:
    Quote Originally Posted by Donald Redford
    The only reasonable conclusion is that one major component in the amalgam that constituted Israel, and the one with whom the worship of Yahweh originated, must be looked for among the Shasu of Edom already at the end of the fifteenth century B.C.
    (I find it interesting that many experts have placed sites in Exodus like Mount Sinai, not in the Sinai, nor in the Midian's country in Arabia, but near Petra, Jordan in the land of Edom.)

    (3) Religious. Yahweh began as just another Semitic God, so we must look beyond the Edom source of that name to find the true beginning of Jewish monotheism. I've outlined some hints that this was Egypt. Though most of his story may be mythical, Moses is based on the kin of a Semitic chief who was raised as an Egyptian Prince and had learned crafts that passed for sorcery.
    Quote Originally Posted by Exodus:7 verses 10-12
    And Moses and Aaron went in unto Pharaoh, and they did so as the Lord had commanded: and Aaron cast down his rod before Pharaoh, and before his servants, and it became a serpent. Then Pharaoh also called the wise men and the sorcerers: now the magicians of Egypt, they also did in like manner with their enchantments. For they cast down every man his rod, and they became serpents: but Aaron's rod swallowed up their rods.
    Pharaoh's wise men could perform the same trick as Aaron, but Aaron's craft was stronger.

    Note that Exodus, and the Covenant of Yahweh, being largely mythical, need not have followed the usual chronology. They might have occurred after the early Israelite conquests in Canaan.


    Enough preliminaries. Let's fast-forward to the Jerusalem Temple allegedly built by King Solomon (Shelomoh ben Daud) in the 10th century BC. The Temple was built to house the Ark of the Covenant, a box in which were placed important artifacts like the Tablets of the Ten Commandments and Aaron's Rod. But I'll wait for TFT'ers' comments before continuing.

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