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awareness and an interest in
a Levant can be traced back very early in
All the way back to the Stone Age and the
Predynastic period that is before 3100 BC.
Civilization in the ancient Near East
as I already noted, in two epicenters.
One was in western Asia in the land
two rivers, known to the Greeks as
Mesopotamia or Mesopotamia.
And the other was in the northern Africa
region of the Nile delta.
What the Greeks in turn called Eguptus, or
Now the presence, as I noted, of
major rivers, of enduring water sources,
two areas is the main reason for
a civilizational competition in the
ancient Near East.
And this competition between Mesopotamia
And what's most important to remember is
that this duality will, between Egypt and
will continue to determine political
the times of the Israelite and Judahite
The time of the writing of the Bible and
And for that matter, all the way up to the
These two centers of civilization were
joined geographically by the
Levant, by Cainan, by Syria Palestine,
where Israel and Judah were situated.
The strip of real estate forms what we
might call a
land bridge between Mesopotamia in the
east and Egypt in the west.
And the reason that the Levant served as a
land bridge is that the
vast desert between it and Mesopotamia,
Arabian desert, was really very difficult
Very few people could do it and,
when traveling to Egypt from Mesopotamia,
what one usually
did was to head up towards Syria and then
around and down through modern day Lebanon
And one crossed another desert that
separates Egypt from
Israel, but then was right there on
So one had to go up and around and,
therefore, Israel's political
history was very much affected by
these, the competition between Mesopotamia
Israel's history may, in many ways, be
viewed in terms of
the geographical location on this land
bridge and connecting these imperial
And, if Israel were located in a different
area, it may not have produced the Bible.
Anyway, these two centers became homes in
times, by the way, to major Jewish
Diaspora centers, communities.
In Bable, the Babylonian Golah, or the
Diaspora of Babylon and then the Egyptian
So that Mesopotamia and Egypt and its
relation to the land bridge in Israel are
really the three centers of Jewish history
from very early to very late stages.
Now very early in Egypt's history during
the second and third dynasties, that is in
the late fourth millennium we notice an
of foreign laborers from the south of
But also from the Levant, or Canaan.
So from the south of Egypt and Africa, but
also Canaan, from the land of the Bible.
Now, why is this the case?
Why are foreigners coming to Egypt?
From the perspective of the Levant, Egypt
goods for the elites and intensive
hardship and famine.
Food and water.
Thus, in the biblical book of Genesis,
comes from the eastern cultural center of
That's where he's called by God to go this
But as soon as he arrives in this promised
land, there's a severe famine.
And what does Abraham do?
He needs during the famine to find food
And in a region where that depended on
rain, what does one do?
One heads for Egypt, where the Nile
offered a continuing food source.
He, he couldn't have gone back to
It's too far.
To cross the desert is, would be
impossible, and Egypt is right down there.
It's a treacherous trek, but one can make
Much more than back to E, to Mesopotamia.
Now, a respected Egyptologist, Donald
Redford, has remarked with respect
to the constant incursions of foreigners
into the Nile delta.
Egypt, at all periods, acted like a magnet
on its neighbors.
To people like those in the Levant whose
prime concerns centered on
the uncertainty of the harvest and the
ever present prospect of starvation.
The constancy, and the super abundance of
Egypt's grain production, and the
richness of its stock of fish, fowl and
wild game could scarcely be resisted.
Better to live a well-fed factor in Egypt
die a starving free man on the steppes of
Whether emigrating voluntarily, or sold by
village headman, or yet again captured in
it is doubtful whether any of the Asiatics
landing up in Egypt regretted their fate,
In order to obtain materials from and
goods as well as human labor from abroad.
Egyptian rulers could trade, could engage
gift exchange or carry, out as Redford
in his quote, military expeditions, in
they simply took what they wanted by
In this way, they also demonstrated the
for those who might contemplate
withholding tribute, gifts, and manpower.
The official iconography and inscriptions
like to emphasize, often
to a very exaggerated degree, the severity
of royal retribution.
I'll read one quote from here from the
It's a description of an Asiatic campaign,
and it goes as this.
The army returned in peace having hacked
up the land of them
that are across the sand in Canaan, having
pulverized the land of them
that are across the sand, having razed its
fortified towns, having cut down
its fruit trees and its vines, having set
all its dwellings on fire.
And having slain the enemy troops in the
10,000s, the Army returned in peace.
If Canaan had long been on Egypt's sites,
all the way back into
the earliest part of its history, it was
in the new kingdom period.
That is from about 1550 to 1077 B.C.
that it established an enduring imperial
presence in Canaan.
It's the New Kingdom period.
And this New Kingdom period is important
for our understanding of Israel's fate
among the tide of waning and waxing
imperial powers in the ancient Near East.
And now, we're going to turn to the New