Hebrews, Israelites, Modern Jews – We Haven’t Changed

Hebrews, Israelites, Modern Jews

Some things and some people never change. I guess. Seems we Jews have always been the same as we are now. Read the following quote from a book published in 1831. I dare you to tell me it doesn’t sound familiar. I dare you to tell me it couldn’t have been written today, just changing Canaanite native to Arab long-term residents. You can’t tell the difference between the Hebrew of Joshua’s time and the modern Jew. After you read the quote I’ll tell you something about the book and its author. Just keep in mind, he is using the name Palestine because that name stuck from the time of the Roman Empire and at the time of his writing, the land was within the Ottoman Empire.

. . . But no sooner did they convert the sword into a ploughshare, and the spear into a pruning-hook, than they unanimously returned to their more ancient form of society. As soon as there appeared a sufficient quantity of land wrested from the Canaanites to afford to the tribes on the western side of the Jordan a competent inheritance, Joshua “sent the people away, and they departed;” and from this moment the military aspect that their community had assumed gave way to the patriarchal model, to which in fact all their institutions bore an immediate reference, and to the restoration of which their strongest hopes and wishes were constantly directed.

Actuated by such views, it cannot be denied that the Hebrews manifested an undue impatience to enjoy the fruits of their successful invasion. They had fought, it should seem, to obtain an inheritance in a rich and pleasant country, rather than to avenge the cause of pure religion, or to punish the idolatrous practices of the children of Moab and Ammon. As soon, therefore, as the fear of their name and the power of their arms had scattered the inhabitants of the open countries, the Israelites began to sow and to plant; being more willing to make a covenant with the residue of the enemy, than to purchase the blessings of a permanent peace by enduring a little longer the fatigue and privations of war. Their eagerness to get possession of the land flowing with milk and honey seems to have compelled Joshua to adopt a measure, which led at no distant period to much guilt and suffering on the part of his people. He consented that they should occupy the vacant fields before the nations which they had been commissioned to displace were finally subdued; that that they should cast lots for provinces which were still in the hands of the native Gentiles; and that they should distribute, by the line and the measuring-rod, many extensive hills and fair valleys which had not yet submitted to the dominion of their swords.

The effects of this injudicious policy soon rendered themselves apparent; and all the evils which were foreseen by the aged servant of God, when he addressed the congregation at Shechem, were realized in a little time to the fullest extent. The Hebrew did indeed find the remnant of the nations among whom they consented to swell proving scourges in their sides and thorns in their eyes, and still able to dispute with them the possession of the good land which they had been taught to regard as a sacred inheritance conferred upon them in virtue of a divine promise made to their fathers. . . . Hence arose the fact, that the Israelites did not for several hundred years complete their conquest of Palestine. The Canaanites, recovering from the terror which had fallen upon them in the commencement of the Hebrew invasion, attempted, not only to regain possession of their ancient territory, but even to obliterate all traces of their defeat and subjection. What movements were made by the petty sovereigns of the country, in order to effect their object, we are nowhere expressly told; but we find, from a consultation held by the southern tribes of Israel, soon after the death of Joshua, that the necessity of renewing military operations against the natives could no longer be postponed.

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Hebrews, Israelites, Modern Jews
CLICK on the book to see more. You can download it immediately at no charge.

The title of the book is Palestine or the Holy Land From the Earliest Period to the Present Time. Its author was the Scot, Michael Russell (1781–1848), first Bishop of Glasgow and Galloway. Russell was recognized during his time as a scholar and thorough researcher of the many tomes he published on a variety of topics. A subject of particular importance to him was the synthesis between Biblical writings and secular historical and geographical writings.

The fascinating Russell may have fallen into total obscurity if it were not for the 2010 book  by Edwin James Aiken of the School of Geography, Archaeology and Palaeoecology at Queen’s University, Belfast. Aiken writes at length about 3 scholars he deemed important to the development of what may have been a precursor to modern Biblical archaeology. This topic comprises the search for concrete evidence to show the truth of the events related in the Bible, to prove that they are not mere tales told from generation to generation.

Aiken notes that Russell never travelled to Egypt or Israel to do the research upon which to base his writing, but relied upon the first-hand writings of others. He was a discriminate researcher, however, and rejected many volumes that did not seem to him to be valid or legitimate works of historical or geographical import. He did not accept or reject authors on the basis of their reputation at the time, but on the basis of his own examination of their supposed worth.

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Image Above: Modern Israeli soldier added to painting of Joshua crossing the Jordan by Benjamin West (1800). Soldier image credit: By Israel Defense Forces from Israel (Brother’s Keeper Operation in Judea & Samaria) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons; West painting in the public domain on Google Art Project

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 This article originally appeared in Israel Diaries.

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  1. For better or worse, the “Joshuan Conquest” is not supported by the archaeology. What is incontrovertibly supported is that there existed, in Judea, as early as the 13th Cent. BCE a people known as Israel [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Merneptah_Stele]. From this root, in that place, in the context of the collapse of the other Canaanite cultures, during the transition from the Late Bronze Age to the Early Iron Age (and most likely a consequence of the extreme income disparity between their ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’) the evolving religious civilization of the Jewish People came into existence; and has continued evolving (into its current polymorphous expression) into the form we manifest it today. All of which are intimately bound up with the land, our language, culture and unique calendar.

    Every other group, extant at our beginning, has vanished into the dust-bin of history; along with a veritable chad gad’yo of imperalists and colonialists (military and theological) who have strutted and fretted their hour upon the stage and are with us no more; or whose imperium is now collapsing around their ears.

    A fair summary of the current understanding of the archaeological and lingisitc record is presented in this two hour PBS/NOVA documentary [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qalTJzk4kO0]

    What remains of the records of these ‘memshalah zadonot’ (dominions of arrogance) all attest to our presence in our indigenous homeland.

    Proceeding chronologically from Merneptah we have:

    A mention of King Hezekaiah (who figures pronientlyin the Bible) in the annals of Sennacherib of Assyria[http://www.metmuseum.org/exhibitions/listings/2014/assyria-to-iberia/blog/posts/sennacherib-and-jerusalem]

    An impression of Hezekaiah’s royal seal was recently found in an archaeological excavation in Jerusalem.

    Then there is the encounter with Alexander III of Macedon (356 BCE – 323 BCE), commonly known as Alexander the Great. As reported by both Josephus in his “Antiquities of the Jews”[http://sacred-texts.com/jud/josephus/ant-11.htm Chapter 8 Paragraph 5] and independently by Livy [http://www.livius.org/aj-al/alexander/alexander_t35.html]

    Livy relies on the 5th Cent. BCE Greek historian Herodotus. Who use of the term Παλαιστίνη (Palaistinē) is abused by the arriviste Arabs to concoct a fraudulent connection with the Philistines; on which to hang a competing claim of indigenous status. Not only do these Arabs have no connection (linguistically or culturally) to the actual Philistines; but the proper etymology of the term probably derives, not from ‘Plishtim’ or ‘Pelshet’ (Φυλιστιιμ Phylistiimin in the Septuagint); but from the Greek term for “Wrestler”. (παλαιστής palaistēs) A translation of our self-denomination (Genesis 32:22–32) as the Children of he who “wrestles with God and man”. The full article from the May/June 2001 issue of the Biblical Archaeological Review is here {behind a pay wall} [http://members.bib-arch.org/publication.asp?PubID=BSBA&Volume=27&Issue=3&ArticleID=3] The argument is summarized here [http://theisraelconnection.blogspot.com/2008/09/origin-of-name-palestine-truth-is.html]

    Then there Josephus’ account of “The Jewish War” against Rome [http://sacred-texts.com/jud/josephus/war-pref.htm] in which he was a participant.

    This Byzantine era gold hoard recently found in Jerusalem [http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/israel/10296511/Byzantine-era-gold-hoard-unearthed-in-Jerusalem.html]

    Moving into the mid 16th Century CE we have this atlas and gazeteer by Adrian Reland (1676-1718)

    A chronology of continuous Jewish settlement in the land from 1517 to the present can be found here [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_Jews_and_Judaism_in_the_Land_of_Israel#Modern_history_.281517.E2.80.93present.29]

    It is the existence and continuity, over the millenia, of our foundational text that is the greatest signifier. More so than the historicity of that text. The closer to the present the events described are the greater their historicity. The further back into the past they are the more they become mythological. No one else’s founding texts are superior in that regard. As with all humans; we are the stories we tell about ourselves. Among our most important ones are Genesis 18:20 -32, Genesis 32:22–32 and the Talmud portion referenced here [http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/352329/jewish/The-Walls-of-the-Study-Hall.htm]

    Forgive me Sheri. I know this is too long and windy. Delete it if you feel you must. I carry these thoughts around in my head; and, from time to time, I must let them out; or I will burst.


    • I don’t know how you got through the Spam filter. Please don’t post do many URLs or I will delete your comments
      How about you write and submit an article?

    • Elisha – that is all very fascinating and I hope you put it together into an article. What I fail to understand is how that relates to the point of my article. (Sorry)

      • Dear Sheri
        Your citation posits the Joshuan Conquest as established fact. It may have been considered so in the 19th Century; but it is not so considered today. Given the vulnerability of that line of argument I prefer to ground the assertion of Israel’s unalienable right to exist in the irrefutable proof of indigenous status. A claim resting in non-Jewish sources going back to the 13th Cent BCE; and spooling out continuously through today. A claim grounded in the Cobo Definition; [http://indigenouspeoples.nl/indigenous-peoples/definition-indigenous] whose criteria only we Jews meet.

        I am trying to work up this material; and other related items I have collected over my years on the interweb comments barricades, into something coherent and comprehensive. I’m about 1/3 through and it is already (of itself) longer than an article. If one adds in the dozen odd pages of links and the two hour video it’s becoming more of a four session seminar syllabus. But I would like to get it all down into a single package.

        I believe these are the tools necessary to to debunk Palestinianist propaganda claims of “Their Land” etc. The claims of “Ethnic Cleansing/Genocide” and other atrocities is a separate article of equal length. There is already extensive material on the legal ground on which the modern state of Israel was founded (Dershowitz, Kontorovich, Stone, Levy). And, material to deal with the bogus claims that invoke the Fourth Geneva Convention. The rest of Palestinianist discourse is blatant propaganda and logical fallacies. Ad homina, Ad Populum (Bandwagon), Cherry Picking, Glittering Generalities, Pejorative Labeling, Testimonial, Transfer and Ad Nauseam (Big Lie Technique). Not to mention fraudulent quotations and Straw Man argumentation.

        Beyond that is my thesis that antisemitism, historically, and the exceptionally virulent Palestinianist strain are a form of addiction pathology (that I have mentioned to you in our correspondence elsewhere)

        It may take a few days yet to have something to submit to JDU as my actual life keeps making demands on my time

        Elisha ben-Abuya

        • Don’t use too many URLs people don’t click them

          • What I write is intended more as a scholarly resource for us. Items to cite individually as a particular situation may warrant. Something to stiffen our resolve; as we sally forth.

            I understand that all of this dry recitation of facts is no match for the manipulative pathos laden appeals to emotion deployed against us; especially in the face of confirmation bias.

            Yet, so far as I know, the only antidote for cherry pickied distortions is to provide the evidence which demonstrates their fraudulent nature. Relying on what JS Mill called: “. . .the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error.”

            The only antidote for the rest of the logical fallacies and propagandist’s tricks on which Palestinianism rests is to call out every occurrence; and say: “If your only argument is ad hominum, or bandwagon, or outright lies and misrepresentation (etc) – you have no argument; only flimsy rationalizations for your hatred.”

  2. OK. I fully understand your point, Elisha. The point I was making here was about how we Jews have not changed in that when we think we have subdued our enemy sufficiently we stop fighting and try to “make nice”. Didn’t work in ancient times and doesn’t work now. Could this be a genetic thing that we should try to overcome?

  3. Larry Langman

    As a bit of a fan of the history of Judea 167 BCE to 167 CE, can’t help but agree with the central point of this article and the point you reinforce above, many attempts to force convert or eradicate non-Jewish folks and each time stopped far short of the desired objective……the interesting point is that the Jewish people keep on ignoring what the good Lord had commanded them eg “However, of these peoples’ cities, which the Lord, your God, gives you as an inheritance, you shall not allow any soul to live” (Devarim 20:16) and then “Rather, you shall utterly destroy them: The Hittites, and the Amorites, the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, the Hivvites, and the Jebusites, as the Lord, your God, has commanded you.” (Devarim 20:17).

    Now Sheri having agreed with the point you make ” didn’t work in ancient times doesn’t work now” what might the Jewish people do comply with Devarim 20:16-17?

    • Larry Langman, I tend to temper pronouncements such as Devarim 20:16-17 with the behavior modeled by Abraham in Genesis 18:20-32. Mindful of 1Samuel 15, however, it is apparent that, as the famous antisemite HL Menken said: “For every complicated problem there is an answer that is simple, obvious and wrong.” We are also abjured in Devarim 18:9: “When thou art come into the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not learn to do after the abominations of those nations.” Is not genocide one such abomination “of those nations”? Moreover, where are the “Hittites, and the Amorites, the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, the Hivvites, and the Jebusites”? These Arabs are most certainly not them (even if they make a false claim to be their descendants.)
      In my view, in order to continue to merit our return to our indigenous homeland we must thread this twisted needle. As we say: “Schver tzu zein a Yid” Being a Jew is complicated.