Out of the Desert? Archaeology and the Exodus/Conquest NarrativesWilliam H. Stiebing, Jr. (Buffalo, NY Prometheus Books, 1989) 269 pp., $21.95
This book presents a strong indictment of the Biblical accounts of the Israelite emergence in Canaan. It doesn’t matter whether one adopts a conventional chronology for the Israelite emergence in Canaan, placing the conquest around 1200 B.C.E., or whether one follows recent revisionists in locating the conquest in the late 15th century B.C.E. The problems with the Biblical accounts remain.
Stiebing himself places the Israelite occupation of Canaan at the end of the Late Bronze Age (about 1200 B.C.E.), a time of upheaval across the Mediterranean world. In doing so, Stiebing rejects the accounts in the Biblical books from Genesis through Judges, chiefly on the grounds that they were written late. Indeed, almost the only positive judgment in his review of the Biblical traditions is given to Exodus 15, the Song of the Sea: “by the end of the tenth or early in the ninth century B.C.,” Israelites thought that YHWH had freed them from Egypt, had defeated Pharaoh at a “sea” and had led them through the steppe to give them a land.