So we noted in a preceding segment that

the earliest references to Israel,
and to many places that would become part
of Israel, are found in Egypt.
We noted that the execration texts call
the destruction of various places, curses
on them.
And the Merneptah Stele announces the
demise of
Israel at the hand of an Egyptian ruler,
And the line is, Israel is wasted, its
seed is no longer.
And defeat, as we see both in the
execration texts and in the Merneptah
Stele, defeat or subjugation, conquest,
destruction, so
on, stands at the beginning of Israel's
And as we shall see, it marks the
pivotal moments later in Israel's history
the events without
which, the Biblical writings, as we know
them at
least, would never have seen the light of
Now Israel's experience of defeat is
closely tied to the
rise and the fall of empires throughout
the ancient Near East.
So it's necessary that we devote our
attention first to the story of those
Over many millenia, reaching back into
prehistoric times, major urban
centers popped up at various places all
over the map.
In fact, some of the most ancient cities
and settlements
in human history are found within the land
of Israel.
An example, let me mention here, is the
city of Jericho.
This town, located not far from Jerusalem,
is known
to biblical readers for the battle of
Jericho in
which Joshua and all Israel brought the
city down
with blowing the horns and the walls came
tumbling down.
Everybody knows Joshua and the battle of
Jericho, the song.
The place was inhabited though since
10,000 B.C.,
with a settlement appearing there near the
It's called Ein as-Sultan.
And although the population was quite
modest, they built a massive wall
of about 3.6 meters high and 1.8 meters
And impressive settlements, from that
point on, continued there for millenia.
And I might note in passing just here,
that according to the
Biblical account, Israel conquered this
Canaanite city in the late Bronze Age.
But by that time, the city had become
basically a village.
Not the gigantic city with the formidable
a walls as imagined in the book of Joshua.
But the point here is that the urban cit,
that urban centers emerged in
various places, throughout the Levant, and
what came to be the land of Israel.
Yet the population at these places, these
old places, as a rule were very small.
Relatively small compared to other cities.
So Canaan itself cannot be said to
be a center of ancient Near Eastern
This is not where we witness major
advancements, the erection of pyramids and
ziggurats, the
organization of huge armies or the
invention of
writing, to name a few of these things.
To find these things we must look
Namely to places that boasted more
and above all, more reliable water
It's all about water.
Thus as archaeologists in the beginning in
the modern period began to excavate along
the major rivers of the ancient Near
East, they discovered there, densely
settled cities.
For Egypt, of course, the river is the
Thanks to it, an extremely impressive
developed beginning in the late 4th
The same goes for the region of ancient
Iraq, what
we call Mesopotamia, which means literally
the land between the rivers.
It is marked here on the map in red.
And the two rivers that define this region
are the Euphrates and the Tigress.
So two rivers, rivers in ancient
Mesopotamia and one in the Nile.
In Mesopotamia, among the Sumerian people,
whose origins
are still a mystery, systems of writing
embraced already in the second half of the
4th century, so very early in the history.
Famous cities like Kish and Uruk and Ur,
Lagash, Nippur,
Girsu, and on and on, developed highly
stratified and complex societies.
And in Egypt we can witness the, the use
of writing systems
and the complex societies that go along
with them, not long thereafter.
So almost at the same time, two major
centers of civilization are emerging.
One in the East around Mesopotamia and the
other one on the North of Africa and
The complexity of these societies is due,
this is the important point, to their
population size.
Population sizes that were made possible
by the presence of rivers.
And writing was adopted in these societies
for administrative and accounting purposes
at the beginning.
And of course in Egypt and elsewhere you
how writing also takes on more magical and
commemorative functions.
But the earliest texts that we have are
accounting texts
for the purposes of the temple economies,
and so forth.
So now, let's take a closer look at
Egypt's imperial presence in Canaan.
We will focus our attention on the end of
the second
millennium, a few centuries before the
kingdom of Israel and Judah.
In this next segment I'm going to go
through that, but now what we have done
here is to understand that the big
civilization centers are in Mesopotamia,
and in Egypt.
And Canaan itself, although it has very
old cities, was not
part of those great civilizational centers
from which the empires would emerge.

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