logo


The Book of History: A History of All Nations, introduction by Viscount Bryce, The Grolier Society, New York, c. 1915, Volume 5.

This volume deals specifically with the Hebrews.  Their history, as presented in the Bible, is augmented with other sources.  One of the concerns of the volume is to present the Egyptian evidence.  Starting with the Exodus, the writer of the chapter [who is not identified in the text] makes clear that: "...the exodus must be regarded as an episode in the general migratory movement towards Canaan, later tradition having magnified its importance by representing the whole body if the later tribal divisions having taken part in it" (p. 1758). Egypt was clearly a central part of the story, yet from the tone of the author Egyptian records would likely not record such an event.

On the reign of Solomon and his dependance on Egypt the author is clear: "He [Solomon] is said to have taken in marriage a daughter of the Pharaoh - this would naturally mean only a daughter of one of the women of the harem - and to have received as a dowry the city of Gezer, which had hitherto been independent" (p. 1766).  The author suggests that "It would follow from this that the whole previous development was actually accomplished under the suzerainty of Egypt, feeble though it was at times. (p. 1766).  Viewing the history of Israel as subordinate to Egypt represents a distinctive change in thinking from the sentiments of previous ages.  

The reason for this shift is not hard to fathom, as the chapter on Egypt, also in Volume 5, outlines the great advances in Egyptology.  Written by H.R. Hall, the introduction points to the large amount of information that had emerged in just a few years.  In describing new discoveries, he stated: "In fact, the years 1897-1902 were epoch-making for Egyptologists.  Perhaps the new discoveries may really be said to have begun somewhat earlier, with Professor Petrie's work at Koptos in 1894" (p. 2012).  Somewhat earlier, the author also states that: "And the brains and money which enabled the work to be done were almost exclusively British and American.  The French alone can share the credit of the achievement with us" (p. 2011).  Of course this strikes a nationalistic note, as France had stimulated British interest in Egypt, and other nations such as Italy and Germany made contributions as well. Despite this note, when Mr. Hall outlines the various Egyptian excavations that had changed modern perceptions of the past, the most common name was Petrie.  

Later in volume 5 there is a more detailed treatment of the question of the Exodus.  The Hyksos are a central part of the story, and according to the narrative given by Josephus, according to Manetho, the Egyptians rebelled against the Shepards and surrounded them in the city called Avaris.(15)  They surrendered and were allowed to leave Egypt.  They settled in Judea and settled in Jerusalem because they feared Assyrian power. The author goes on to state that:

Modern opinion seems to be veering most decidedly in the direction of accepting the statement of Manetho as given by Josephus, and regarding the identification of the Hebrews with the Shepards of Manetho as correct in it main features.  This was the conclusion arrived at by the patristic writers in accordance with the general testimony of tradition.  It seems highly probable that the Pharaohs who were favorable to Joseph and the Israelites were Hyksos, and that after the expulsion of the latter by Aahmes, the "Pharaoh who knew not Joseph," followed the Oppression and finally the Exodus, probably in the reign of Thothmes I or Thummosis" (p. 2064).

It is interesting to note that when Joseph died he is said to have been 110 years old (Gen. 50:22).  This was the ideal life span according to Egyptian aspirations, which has been held to be different from that expressed earlier in the Bible (70 or 80 years as in Ps. 90:10).  "In Egypt the 110-year tradition ran from the Old Kingdom down to the Hellenistic Period, but the attested mentions cluster in the Ramesside period (thirteenth/twelfth centuries).  This feature, as others have noted,  is specifically Egyptian: it could relate to Joseph's general period, and/or it could have been an emphasis made by a later narrator..."(16)


Figure 19.  While most of the illustrations in Volume 5 are woodcut engravings, some more fanciful than others, this one is from a painting that reflects Victorian sentiment. 


(15) Modern excavations of this site do demonstrate that it was part of a larger eastern Mediterranean culture that could be associated with the “Sea Peoples.”  Bietak, M. (1996). Avaris: The Capital of the Hyksos.  British Museum, London.  
(16) Kitchen, K.A. (2003) On the Reliability of the Old Testament.  Eerdmans Michigan. p. 351.

Previous    Next

Title Page