According to the biblical account the Transjordanian region was occupied with somewhat organized societies during the time of the Exodus (ca. 15th century B.C.). Unfortunately, archaeological excavations could not confirm this account, and as result, the biblical data have been dismissed as unreliable and historically inaccurate.
The purpose of this study was to provide the most recent archaeological data as well as to reinterpret the old data to see whether or not the biblical account bears any historical value. For this reason, this dissertation provides evidence from three fields: archaeological, anthropological, and biblical.
In spite of Glueck's claim that Transjordan was virtually uninhabited during the Late Bronze Age (time of the Exodus), it is now evident that the region was occupied not only by nomads who lived in tents but by sedentary people who lived in permanent settlements. This fact is supported by numerous archaeological surveys that have been conducted in the region, in addition to several excavations during the past few decades. This new evidence suggests that thepeople who lived there were organized in tribal communities, where some segments of a tribe lived as nomads, or semi-nomads, while others chose to live in permanent settlements as agriculturalists or craft masters (pottery, metallurgy, art, etc.).
It was earlier argued that tribal polity as a society is not capable of providing such resistance as the Bible seems to suggest. Because of its flexibility in nature, the tribal society was not only able to survive in hostile conditions, shifting from nomadism to sedentary and vice versa, but to consolidate into large units to meet various challenges and opportunities and to create a formidable force to protect their families, settlements, and land.
The Bible speaks of kings of Ammon, Moab, and Edom, and their kingdoms with cities. Thus, the biblical text with its terminology (king, kingdom, city) regarding the period in question needs to be reexamined. According to the literary evidence these terms are not restricted to urbanized societies with strong centralized governments, but are applicable to tribal societies as well. Therefore, the biblical account does not require strong monarchs with empires as their kingdoms, supported by strong, fortified cities, but allows the existence of tribal kingdoms with small settlements with a king (chief) at its head. In addition, theEgyptian evidence does not picture the people of Transjordan living in a state-level society, but rather supports the model of tribalism.
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