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El Amarna Letters
El Amarna Letters
Could these tablets contain records of Joshua and the Hebrews conquering the land of Canaan?

Tel el Amarna was in ancient Egypt near the Nile River about halfway between Memphis and Thebes. In 1988 there were about 400 cuneiform tablets discovered at this site which were part of the royal archives of Amenhotep III and Amenhotep IV (Akhenaten) who reigned about 1400 BC.

Among them were letters written in Babylonian cuneiform script to these Pharaohs of Egypt by various kings dwelling in the land of Canaan and Syria, they were written during the time of Moses. They provide the first evidence of the Hebrew tribes entering into the land of Canaan in ancient times. 

Some of the tablets were anxious letters written from Jerusalem (Urusalim), warning the pharaoh an invasion by the 'Habiru [Khabiru]', who were approaching from Trans-Jordan.

It is interesting that Akhenaten's new capital, Akhetaton, which he built with his queen Nefertiti was at the same place as modern Amarna (Tell el Amarna). 

The Amarna Letters discovery is highly important in the study of Biblical Archaeology because they refer to events in the middle east in the 15th and 14th centuries BC. They refer to the Hebrews, they give evidence of the trustworthiness of the book of Judges. They mention a lot about Canaan, the half of Israel to the west of the Jordan. This name "Canaan" has been found in Egyptian inscriptions of the New Kingdom. The king of Babylon used the word Canaan to designate the entire Egyptian province of Canaan when he wrote to Pharaoh: "Canaan is thy land and its kings are thy servants" (El-Amarna 8, 25) 

The Tablets are from 3 inches wide and anywhere from 3 to 9 inches in length, and they are inscribed on both sides. The letters were written in Akkadian, which had been the language of international relations for some time. Today the Tell el Amarna Tablets are mainly in the British, Berlin and Cairo museums. 

The original name of Jerusalem was Babylonian, Uru-Salim, "the city of Salim," shortened into Salem in Gen 14:18 and in the inscriptions of the Egyptian kings Ramses II and Ramses III. In the Tell el-Amarna Letters (1400 BC) Jerusalem is still known as Uru-Salim, and its king bears a Hittite name, implying that it was at the time in the possession of the Hittites. His enemies, however, were closing around him, and one of the tablets shows that the city was eventually captured and its king slain. These enemies would seem to have been the Jebusites, since it is after this period that the name "Jebus" makes its appearance for the first time in the Old Testament (Judges 19:10,11).

"But the man would not tarry that night, but he rose up and departed, and came over against Jebus, which is Jerusalem; and there were with him two asses saddled, his concubine also was with him. And when they were by Jebus, the day was far spent; and the servant said unto his master, Come, I pray thee, and let us turn in into this city of the Jebusites, and lodge in it."  Judges 19:10-11

British Museum Excerpt

Tell el-Amarna (ancient Akhetaten, Egypt)

In the fifth year of his reign, Akhenaten (Amenhotep IV, 1352-1336 BC) moved the royal residence to a previously uninhabited site in Middle Egypt. He called the new capital Akhetaten, 'the horizon of the sun-disc', and marked its limits on both banks of the River Nile with a series of boundary stelae.

The central part of the city was occupied by the main religious and administrative buildings. An archive of diplomatic correspondence between the kings of the Amarna period and rulers of the Levant was found in the records office. The official buildings were linked to the outlying palaces by the Royal Road, a wide processional way. The main royal residence was the fortified North Riverside Palace.

Timeline of Egypt's New Kingdom Beginnings

18th Dynasty
Ahmose (Nebpehtyre) 1539 - 1514
Amenhotep I (Djeserkare) 1514 - 1493 
Thutmose I (Akheperkare) 1493 - 1481
Thutmose II (Akheperenre) 1491 - 1479
Hatshepsut (Maatkare) 1473 - 1458
Thutmose III (Menkheperre) 1504 - 1450
Amenhotep II (Akheperure) 1427 - 1392
Thutmose IV (Menkheperure) 1419 - 1386
Amenhotep III (Nebmaatre) 1382 - 1344 
Amenhotep IV / Akhenaten 1350 - 1334
Smenkhkare (Ankhkheperure) 1336-1334
Tutankhamun (Nebkheperure) 1334 - 1325 
Ay (Kheperkheperure) 1325 - 1321
Horemheb (Djeserkheperure) 1323 - 1295 

19th Dynasty
Ramesses I (Menpehtyre) 1295 - 1294
Seti I (Menmaatre) 1394 - 1279
Ramesses II (Usermaatresetepenre) 1279 - 1213
Merenptah (Baenrehotephirmaat) 1213 - 1203
Amenmesse (Menmire) 1203 - 1200
Seti II (Userkheperuresetepenre) 1200 - 1194
Siptah (Akhenresetepenre) 1194 - 1188
Tausert (Sitremeritamun) 1185-1187


Biblical Timeline

 

  1407 Moses dies; Joshua conquers Canaan
  1400 Conquest of Canaan completed
  1377 Akhenaten becomes pharaoh; inaugurates monotheistic reforms

 


Related Pages:

Tell El-Amarna Tablets in the ISBE Bible Encyclopedia

Amarna Tablets in the Ancient Babylonia Glossary

Joshua and the Conquest of Canaan

Heart Message - The 7 Nations of Canaan

Joshua in the ISBE Bible Encyclopedia

Joshua in Easton's Bible Dictionary

Map of Israel During the Time of Joshua

Solomon

Solomon in Smith's Bible Dictionary

Solomon's Temple in Easton's Bible Dictionary

Solomon's Temple History

Beersheba in the ISBE Bible Encyclopedia

Biblical Definition of Beersheba

Altar - Background Bible Study

Altar in Smith's Bible Dictionary

Altar in the ISBE Bible Encyclopedia

Israel - The Center of the Ancient World

Israel - Archaeology Links and Resources

The Destruction of Israel in the Old Testament

Archaeological Resources - Israel

Map of Old Testament Israel

Map of New Testament Israel

Bible History Online - Fallen Empires (Biblical Archaeology)

Bible History Links - Ancient Near East : Art & Images

Bible History Online - Ancient Art

The Destruction of Israel - Kings of Israel, Judah and Assyria

Timeline 800 - 700 BC

The Assyrians

The Captivity of Israel

Hebrew History

Ancient Jerusalem

First Century Jerusalem

The Impregnable Strength of Jerusalem

Map of Jerusalem

Jerusalem - Heart Message

Ancient Sketches

 

Biblical Archaeology

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