Academic journal article Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society

The Date of the Exodus-Conquest Is Still an Open Question: A Response to Rodger Young and Bryant Wood

Academic journal article Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society

The Date of the Exodus-Conquest Is Still an Open Question: A Response to Rodger Young and Bryant Wood

Article excerpt

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In my 2007 article,1 I sought to simply set forth two lines of evidence-one biblical and the other archaeological-for considering the possibility of a late-date exodus-conquest. Young and Wood appear to believe that my short article was a response to Wood's article of 2006,2 based on their notations of my failure to comprehensively respond to it. My article, however, had been accepted for publication prior to the appearance of Wood's 2006 article, and was therefore not written as a response to it. In any case, Young and Wood's critical response to my article has provided me with an opportunity to elaborate further on these matters. Since I have been invited to respond to Young and Wood's article rather than to write a full-fledged one of my own, I will limit my treatment to the topics outlined in their paper.

At the outset, I would like to clarify my intentions regarding the quest to zero in on a date for the exodus-conquest and reconstruct the Israelite settlement. Young and Wood repeatedly charge me with seeking to "discredit" the Bible, to negate its credibility, of "seeking ways to show that the Bible is not to be trusted in historical matters," and of either supporting or directly advancing "radical revisionism." These accusations about my intentions are untrue. I believe in the inspiration and authority of Scripture, and my efforts to reconstruct the background and history of the Israelite settlement are motivated by a belief that the biblical accounts reflect real events that occurred in real time, which means that historical and archaeological contexts do exist for them. The challenge for contemporary scholars is determining what those historical and archaeological contexts are. Evangelical scholars may not always reach the same conclusions regarding various historical reconstructions, but unless the methodologies or conclusions of those with whom we disagree are in direct contradiction to Scripture, we should use caution in our criticism. I will seek to show here that my methodologies and conclusions remain within the realm of possibility, despite the criticisms of Young and Wood.


1. The 480 years of 1 Kings 6:1 and the chronology of Judges. Young writes that "the 479 years of elapsed time indicated by 1 Kgs 6:1 are entirely consistent with the chronology of the book of Judges . . . whereas a thirteenthcentury exodus cannot be reconciled with its time spans and sequences." Young notes that the length of the period of the judges cannot be reconstructed by simply added up the numbers in Judges,3 but that pericopes must be distinguished based on whether they are sequenced or unprovenanced. Once unprovenanced pericopes have been identified, the interpreter must then "seek the most reasonable time to assign to the unprovenanced passages," after which the sequenced and unprovenanced pericopes can be harmonized. Young concludes that "with the proper literal approach to the text, the pericopes in Judges are compatible with the 480th-year datum of 1 Kgs 6:1."

I do not deny the possibility of a literal interpretation of the number 480 based on a literal harmonization of the numbers in Judges. Indeed, Robert Boling suggested that the "most plausible" solution "is one which simply adds together the first 4 years of Solomon's rule, the 42 regnal years of Saul and David, the 136 years from Tola to Eli, the 200 years of peace under the saviors, the 53 years of oppression, and the 45 years implied in Josh 14:1. The total is 480."4 This tabulation, however, is still a harmonization. The point that I was trying to make,5 however, and that Hoffmeier argued in his response to Wood,6 is that, on a straightforward reading, the lengths of time recorded as having transpired between the exodus and the beginning of construction on the Temple seem to have exceeded 480 years. Whereas Wood insists that there is a "biblical" chronology laid out with regard to the exodus-conquest,7 Hoffmeier argues that "biblical chronology does not provide us with an absolute date for the exodus. …

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