Ancient Egypt

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David Rohl is a modern-day, British Indiana Jones! He’s been shaking up the stodgy world of Egyptian archeology since the early 1990s, when he published a ground-breaking book arguing for a radical revision to the traditional chronology of Ancient Egypt – Pharaohs and Kings: A Biblical Quest.

A few years ago, Rohl wrote a one-volume reconstruction of the history of the Old Testament. His imaginative account marshals all of the most recent archeological evidence to illuminate and make meaningful the historical narrative of the Bible. That book, From Eden to Exile, has now been published in the United States by Greenleaf Press.

It is most refreshing to read an account of the history of Israel by a noted academic / archeologist which treats the biblical text respectfully! Not only that, but David Rohl cites an extensive collection of archaeological finds and artifacts which confirm the historical accuracy of the biblical account and attest to the historical reality of the Patriarchs. Rohl is the pioneer among a growing number of modern scholars who have challenged many of the traditional assumptions and chronologies of the ancient world. They are challenging the 19th and early 20th century theories and reconstructions of the history of ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia. Those theories were formulated against a background of widespread skepticism (at times downright hostility) towards the biblical accounts. Rohl approaches the biblical texts with a quite different attitude. He begins by affording them the benefit of the doubt and taking them seriously. The result is a startling confirmation of the biblical record and a revision of the chronology of the ancient world.

Orthodox and conservative Christians will disagree with David Rohl’s retelling/reconstruction of the lives of Adam, Enoch, and Noah, but his version does have the admirable quality of treating all of them as historical figures. This stands in stark contrast to the past 150 years of liberal and skeptical scholarship which treats the biblical text as little more than a pious fraud. Because of the antiquity of these figures, and the scarcity of archeological finds and textual references, Rohl’s narrative here is little more than speculative conjecture – imaginative, but not really historical.

Rohl is on firmer ground, and has more to work with, when he describes the dispersion of the Mesopotamian culture and contacts (perhaps even a conquest?) with the Nile Valley. The unification of the Nile under the earliest pharaohs is murky territory, but Rohl’s speculative account ties more of the threads together than any other proposed narrative.

With Joseph, Rohl reaches territory where he is expert – Egypt. From here on the narrative is on surer footing, and the archeological evidence expands many-fold. The chapters on Joseph, Moses, and the Exodus are arguably the best in the book. Rohl paints a detailed picture of Egyptian culture and Pharaoh’s court. His account of the oppression of the Hebrew slaves draws on archeological finds made at the delta settlement of Avaris, first found and excavated in 1966. Rohl follows Josephus in crediting Moses as not just a “prince of Egypt,” but the successful commander of the Egyptian army which defeated and conquered Kush. Although Rohl opts for natural phenomena to account for the plagues of the Exodus, he produces compelling evidence from Egyptian sources that document and confirm the series of disasters which devastated Egypt.

The chapter on Joshua and the Conquest is a tour-de-force for Rohl. It provides him with an opportunity to review the history of archeology at Jericho and spell out in detail just where traditional scholars went wrong. Rohl shows how the New Chronology fits the facts much better and integrates the surviving documentary sources (including the Bible) with the archeological evidence.

In the chapter on Saul, Rohl presents startling evidence that the first king of Israel was a contemporary of the heretic Pharaoh Akhenaton. He quotes from the El Amarna letters to show that the Philistine cities of the coastal plain were sending frantic appeals to Pharaoh Akhenaton for help in putting down a rebellion by the nomadic herdsmen of the highlands under the leadership of their chief, Labaya, who Rohl identifies as Saul of the tribe of Benjamin. Even more intriguing, Rohl identifies a worshipper of the Hebrew God “El” at the court of Pharaoh Akhenaton. In the archives of Armarna, Rohl finds not only letters about Labaya, but also an actual letter from Labaya. The details of Labaya’s life and subsequent death in battle against a Philistine coalition on the slopes of Mt. Gilboa closely match the details of Saul’s life from the book of Samuel. They are a powerful confirmation of Rohl’s New Chronology.

Rohl continues to mine the Amarna letters for confirmation of the details of the reign of David. The letters record the actions of the two “sons of Labaya,” Mutbaal (Ishbaal) and Elhannan (David) as well as their generals Ayab (Joab)and Abner. Rohl cites the weakened Egyptian government and army under Akhenaton and Tutankhamun as the setting for David’s conquest of Jerusalem and expansion of the nation of Israel. David was expanding to fill the vacuum left by Egypt’s weakness during the later rulers of the 18th dynasty.

Solomon’s marriage to an Egyptian princess, in Rohl’s reconstruction, thus cements an alliance with General Haremheb who had succeeded Tut and his uncle, Ay, as Pharaoh. Even more startling is Rohl’s assertion that in the 33rd year of Solomon’s reign, it was troops from Israel who turned the tide at the battle of Kadesh, where the nineteen-year-old Ramesses II defeated Muwatali in 939 BC.

The division of Israel after Solomon’s death is aided by the intervention of the Pharaoh Shishak who marched on Jerusalem in the fifth year of the reign of Rehoboam.

The rest of Rohl’s narrative is straight-forward, as we enter the period of history when the biblical kings of Israel and Judah are mentioned in the text of neighboring nations and we have firm synchronicities established with Assyria and Nebuchadnezzar.

Rohl’s epilogue to this ambitious project is perhaps his best prose. In a brief, nine-page essay he states the problem posed by the dating of Solomon’s kingdom to the Iron Age and the inflation of the chronologies of the Egyptian Pharaohs caused by the assumptions of 19th century historians. Current traditional archeological research can find no confirmation of the Jews’ sojourn in Egypt, or the Exodus, or the Conquest, or even of the flourishing of the nation of Israel under David and Solomon. And so the archeologists dismiss the Bible as historically untrustworthy. Rohl, with a thorough re-examination of the dating sequences of the ancient world revises the chronologies. He goes back and looks at the same places, but at different times and finds countless confirmations of the details of the biblical account. His history of both Egypt and Israel is “satisfyingly supported by the stratigraphic record and colourfully enhanced by the contemporary texts of Israel’s powerful neighbours. It provides a solid and ultimately believable historical foundation for the religious messages of the biblical text.”

The book is beautifully laid out and illustrated with maps derived from satellite photography as well as stunning photographs of ancient artifacts – kudos to David Rohl for the photography and Ditas Rohl for the design & layout. It is also brilliantly written. Rohl has a knack for taking the details of archeology and explaining sophisticated concepts and analyses in ways that a layman can easily understand. This is no small accomplishment.

Christians will not agree with Rohl’s speculations about the details behind the book of Genesis. Indeed, it seems to me that Rohl has weakened his case by inventing a narrative for the earliest time period where he has the least amount of evidence. But when he reaches Joseph and Egypt, all those who respect and appreciate the biblical text must acknowledge that Rohl has done great service in re-evaluating the evidence and synthesizing it in a new and more accurate structure that better explains the ancient world – and in the process confirms the historical accuracy of the Old Testament.

Thus, while there are many things in From Eden to Exile that I would take issue with, there is also much that I appreciate. And because I appreciate what I can only judge to be an honest, forthright, original work of scholarship, I am proud to make From Eden to Exile
available to the reading public (and the academic world) once again so that David Rohl’s contribution to the New Chronology will continue to find its audience. It will surely provoke, agitate, and force those who read it to re-think their ideas about the ancient world. It is my hope that it will also play a part in raising up a new generation of ancient historians who will continue to investigate the evidence, continue to search for archeological clues, and continue the ongoing discussion of the historical events recorded in the Old Testament.

From Eden to Exile is a paperback, 528 pages and is available directly from Greenleaf Press for $24.95. It is also available through

Bookstores and other retailers may order copies directly from Greenleaf Press or through Ingram Book Group.

Rob Shearer, Publisher
Greenleaf Press

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With of the contraction in the book publishing world, it’s refreshing to “find” a persevering publisher with a number of very nice titles.

Kids Can Press is a Canadian publishing firm, founded in 1973 and headquartered in Toronto.

They have two series of children’s historical books that I find delightful.

Over the past six or seven years, they have produced six titles in a series titled the “Good Times Travel Agency.” I’m going to limit my review to the five that cover documented historical periods. They have a title, Adventures in the Ice Age that, chronologically speaking would come first – but it’s entirely a work of speculative imagination since there are no written records from anyone who lived during the Ice Age (or the Stone Age for that matter). My advice: if you’re teaching kids history, stick to history. Pre-history is, by definition, NOT history. It may be imaginative, but it’s not history.

So here are the five titles in the series:

Each of these is an 8.5″ x 11″ 48 page four-color romp through a particular time-period as we follow the adventures of the three Binkertons, Josh, Emma, and Libby. They KEEP returning to the Good Times Travel Agency, where one guide book after another magically transports them to a historical time and place. The guide book must be read to the end (every word) before the children can return – which is a clever way to get young readers to read the text that goes along with the adventures depicted in the humorous illustrations. In Egypt, Josh gets drafted into the corvee of workers who are helping to build Pharaohs pyramid. In the Middle Ages, he is first mistaken for a fool, taken to the castle, assigned to the kitchen (when he doesn’t prove very funny) and finally transferred to the stables. Each of the five books manages to provide an interesting story, the illustrations have lots of detail that conveys interesting tidbits, and the historical information presented is factual, reliable and non-politically correct.

Here are some sample spreads:

I’m REALLY hoping that Bailey and Slavin will add an Adventures in Ancient Rome to this series, but these five already are a great resource for families studying topics in world history in grades 4 to 6.

Greece, China, and the Middle Ages are $8.95. Ancient Egypt and the Vikings are $9.95. All can be ordered directly from Greenleaf Press by clicking on any of the links or book covers in this message.

The second series from Kids Can Press is their Kids Can Read series. In level 3 of that series, KCP has released eight short biographies for beginning readers. Many of these names will be familiar to most parents but for several KCP offers the ONLY biography in print for young readers. I think that KCP is the ONLY publisher currently offering children’s biographies of Samuel de Champlain (the French explorer who founded Quebec in 1608) and Lucy Maud Montgomery (the author of Anne of Green Gables). Each of these is 6″ x 9″, 32 pages, and four-color on all pages.

I really like both of the illustrators’ styles on these (John Mantha and Andrej C), and the story telling (by Elizabeth MacLeod) is very well done. These are perfect as first chapter books or practice chapter books for students in second and third grade.

Each of these is $3.95, and can be purchased directly from Greenleaf Press by clicking on the links or book cover images in this message.

– Rob Shearer, Publisher

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The importance of understanding Egyptian history and culture can hardly be over-estimated. Egypt is the country mentioned most often in the Old Testament. Israel’s prophets foretell the future not just for Israel, but for Egypt as well.

Abraham had dealings with Pharaoh, as did Jacob and Joseph. The founding of Israel as a nation is rooted in Moses’ struggle with Pharaoh. The kings of Israel & Judah wrestled with Egypt as a regional power and puzzled over whether to treat her as an ally or an enemy. Jeremiah goes into exile in Egypt rather than Babylon, where he loses his life. Joseph took Mary and Jesus to Egypt to escape the wrath of Herod.

In Roman history, it was Egypt which played a crucial role in the lives and fortunes of Julius Caesar and his nephew Octavian, better known as Caesar Augustus.

For all of these reasons, we have always made the study of Ancient Egypt a key part of our children’s introduction to history. It is a tremendous aid in understanding the Old Testament – and a study of the Ancient World which only touched the classical civilizations of Greece and Rome leaves much of ancient culture incomprehensible.

Among other things, Egypt is the archetypal example of the determining influence of geography on history. Ancient Egypt is really the civilization developed by a string of towns and villages up and down the Nile River – like pearls on a rope. The entire civilization is a narrow corridor, only a few miles wide on either side of the Nile. There is a sharp delineation between the green fertile fields, irrigated by the annual Nile flood and the desolate sands of the uninhabited desert, which begins within sight of the Nile.

So Pharaoh’s Boat (just published by Houghton Mifflin in May, 2009) is not a plaything or a diverting bit of aquatic recreation. The Nile is central to the existence of Egypt. Egyptians worship the Nile as the giver of life. One of Pharaoh’s most sacred duties was to intercede with the gods on behalf of Egypt to insure the annual flood which irrigates the fields on either side of the long valley. Cheops and the Great Pyramid of Giza which formed his tomb belong to the earliest period in Egyptian history. Perhaps as early as 2600 BC, in the Old Kingdom of Egypt 100,000 workers labored for 20 years to build a stone pyramid over 400 feet tall.

The first part of this delightful book tells the ancient story of how and why a boat was built for Cheops and buried in a pit on the river side of the Great Pyramid. The author and illustrator, David Weitzman, uses the flat 2-dimensional style of ancient Egyptian wall paintings to show/explain why boats were so important to the ancient Egyptians and to show the steps which were taken to build and bury two boats for Pharaoh Cheops. The twist is that the boats, after being designed and built by an ancient shipwright, were disassembled and the pieces placed in an orderly layered arrangement in the pits.

To tell the story of their discovery and re-assembly, Weitzman switches to a more modern 3-dimensional representational style. The story of the painstaking research that went into re-assembling the boat is as fascinating as the story of their original construction. It was a 3-dimensional jigsaw puzzle with 1,200+ pieces, and no pictures or instructions. Before the Egyptian archeologist, Ahmed Youssef Moustafa, chief of the Restoration Department of the Egyptian Antiquities Service was satisfied, the boat had been put together and taken apart five times. Each time, the team of archeologists learned something new. To solve several particularly difficult problems, Ahmed went to modern Egyptian boat-makers on the banks of the Nile and served as an apprentice, asking questions about the details of the techniques they used. It turns out that many things have stayed the same for over 4,000 years.

This book is a masterpiece. Although the publisher says that the target audience is children ages 9-12, my estimate is that students up through middle school will find the book quite interesting.

The book carries an endorsement by David Macaulay (and makes a great companion to his book, Pyramid):

Pharaoh’s Boat is an immensely gratifying book as skillfully crafted and assembled as its subject. In this beautifully written and illustrated account, David Weitzman weaves past and present into a truly satisfying story of technology and discovery, scholarship and craft. While much of the art is done in the familiarly flat Egyptian style, the journey on which it take us is absolutely four dimensional.”

Pharaoh’s Boat is a hardback, 32 pages. It is available directly from Greenleaf Press for $18.00 by clicking on any of the links in this review.

– Rob Shearer, Publisher

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Just published this week – three new reference works for children on Egypt, Greece, & Rome.

Each is built around a clever premise, very well executed. These three full-color glossy paperbacks are great introductions for kids in elementary and middle school to three of great ancient civilizations. The stories are factual (they’re not imitating the grocery store tabloids), but they are spiced up with punchy headlines. This is not just a gimmick. It helps communicate to students that the history book facts were news when they happened – and often unexpected or surprising or sometimes downright shocking!

The Egyptian News
by Scott Steedman

Sample headlines:

Exclusive: Boy King Murdered?
Sudden Death of Tutankhamen Stuns Nation

Crazy King Causes Chaos
Egypt’s priests rejoiced at the death of Amenhotep IV in 1336 B.C. During his 16 years as pharaoh, he had made their lives miserable – and had turned our religion upside down!

There are also feature stories on such topics as “The Longest Boat in Our Country,” an exclusive interview with the royal mummy maker and (Egyptian) advice on marriage, pets, and house-hunting.

32 pages, paperback, $7.99 from Greenleaf Press

The Greek News
by Anton Powell & Philip Steele

Sample headlines:

Greece in Peril!
Xerxes leads Persian Invasion

Sparta Attacks!
Civil War Rages On. . .

Alexander Wins!

The news stories are following by feature pages on trade, sports, theater, housing, health, food, fashion, etc.

32 pages, paperback, $7.99 from Greenleaf Press

The Roman News
by Andrew Langley & Philip De Souza

Sample headlines:

Hannibal Invades!

Caesar Stabbed!
Rome in Turmoil after Brutal Murder!

City Destroyed! (on the destruction on Pompeii)

Colosseum Opens

There’s a very interesting 2-page spread exploring the topic of “Empire or Republic?” The Advertisements, fashion pages, food pages, and women’s pages give a wealth of interesting details.

32 pages, paperback, $7.99 from Greenleaf Press

In addition to being light-hearted and entertaining, there are refreshing details common to all three books. They all use BC/AD dating and explain that BC = before the birth of Christ and AD is after the birth of Christ. They’re also modest about the Egyptian dates with a note that states “As the events in this book took place so long ago, historians cannot be sure of the exact dates. You may find that the dates we have given vary a little from those found in other sources.”

Each of these can be ordered directly from Greenleaf Press by clicking on the book cover or on the underlined links.

– Rob Shearer, Publisher

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I am a sucker for pop-up books. I confess. My wife, children, and everyone who’s worked for Greenleaf Press over the years can confirm this.

I find them fascinating. They are intricate solutions to design challenges – little machines made out of paper that magically transform from 2-dimensional to 3-dimensional as you turn the pages.

I have finally found what I think is the ultimate high-brow pop-up book. After all, it invokes The British Museum on the cover! The Ancient Egypt Pop-Up Book in association with The British Museum.

And it really is wonderful.

There is a marvelous pop-up Egyptian boat.

Complete with a shaduff on-shore, showing how the Egyptians raised water from the Nile for irrigation.

There is the warrior-Pharaoh Rameses II in his fighting chariot at the battle of Kadesh.

There is a wonderful 3-D depiction of Hatshepsut’s temple at Deir el-Bahri

Also included is a 3-D representation of Tut’s gold death-mask, and underneath, cleverly folded, is his mummified head.

The Ancient Egypt pop-up book is $29.95, available directly from Greenleaf Press.

Incidentally, in the background is a wonderful fold-out depiction of life in Ancient Rome, including views of the Senate, the colosseum, and daily life in a Roman villa.

The entire connected scene folds out to four feet long.

Rome: A Fold-Out History of the Ancient Civilization is $17.95, directly from Greenleaf Press.

– Rob Shearer, Publisher
Greenleaf Press

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This is not your daddy’s research paper! The times, they are a-changin’. Teaching students to write even a short research paper is a much more complicated task now than it used to be. The standard texts still haven’t caught up to the realities of the age of the internet. The luddite solution – rejecting the internet as a research tool – ceased to be an option several years ago. But using the internet is fraught with dangers. It takes a certain level of experience, and detective skills to be able to sort the wheat from the chaff. The detective skills are what we need to be teaching students. They need to know, and practice, how to evaluate an internet source.

Did Fleming Rescue ChurchillAlong comes an excellent book on precisely this topic – by an accomplished writer of children’s biographies and non-fiction, James Cross Giblin. The book is written as a first-person narrative by Jason, a fifth grade boy. In 64 pages Giblin has us follow along as Jason works on an assignment to write a three-page biography of Alexander Fleming, the inventor/discoverer of penicillin. Jason starts with traditional sources, encyclopedia articles and library books. And then he also does some internet searching. On the internet, he finds a great anecdote describing how Fleming’s father saved the young Winston Churchill, and as a reward Lord Randolph Churchill agreed to pay for Fleming’s education. The only problem is that the anecdote may not be true. Most of the book is devoted to Jason’s efforts to evaluate the story and how he goes about deciding whether to include it in his assignment or not.

Cyndy was so impressed with the lessons communicated that she’s considering assigning this book as a first reading assigment for her 9th grade academic writing class. The book does an excellent job of presenting the issue of “urban legends” and internet sources, while offering very practical suggestions about how to track down a story of doubtful provenance (via and among others).

THESE are the skills we need to teach our children. In the olden days (when I was young and dinosaurs roamed the earth), the library bestowed a certain trustworthiness on source books. If the librarians had selected the book for the library shelves, it was probably reliable. That was certainly naive, but it did make life easier. In the wild west frontier towns of the internet, there are no gatekeepers or librarians. And so our children need an introduction to the problems of unreliable sources and they need practice and guidance in developing internet-savvy research skills. Teaching them to use google is not enough. They will have to be more sophisticated than that.

This book is an excellent way to help them learn how to navigate the brave new world. Did Fleming Rescue Churchill? is a 64 page hardback, $16.95 and can be ordered directly from Greenleaf Press. Henry Holt is the publisher, and I’m REALLY hoping they will bring this out in paperback quickly. But don’t wait. It’s worth having in your toolbox now.

– Rob Shearer
Director, Schaeffer Study Center
Publisher, Greenleaf Press

PS: Giblin’s other books are excellent reads as well:

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You wouldn’t think that there would be much left to discover of Ancient Egypt. But, you’d be wrong. New discoveries are added every year. And old theories often have to be revised – or even abandoned.

News from EgyptEgyptian civilization flourished from about 2500BC until about the time of the close of the Old Testament in 500BC. It was overrun by the Assyrians about 600BC, Alexander the Great in about 300BC and finally the Romans in about 40BC.

When the Arabs displaced the Romans in about 600AD, Egyptian culture disappeared from the radar of western civilization.

The language of the Ancient Egyptians was completely lost and many of the cities of the Nile valley were abandoned and then covered by drifting sands.

Today, I noticed the story associated with the picture above. My point in linking to it is to remind everyone that what we know of ancient Egypt is, in many respects still incomplete and based on conjecture. Hieroglyphs were deciphered only about 170 years ago. Many of the archives are still being recovered, transcribed, and translated. There are clearly still lots of sites unexplored.

In particular, the chronology of Ancient Egypt is still very much a speculative exercise. The evidence that establishes firm dates in the history of Israel is much more complete than it is for Egypt.

Those who subscribe to a biblical world-view need not be threatened by new discoveries from Ancient Egypt. Indeed, we should be excited. Its likely, indeed probable, that evidence of the Patriarchs and the sojourn of Israel in Egypt is still there – waiting to be discovered. There have been tantalizing hints over the past 40 years. Who knows what the next 40 might bring?

You might start with this wikipedia article, if you’re interested in Egyptian chronology.

Here’s another interesting article, with the provocative title, Unsolved Problems in Egyptology. Students of history should know that there are lots of opportunities out there for anyone interested in pursuing a career.

For those who really want to delve into this, I highly recommend the research of Egyptologist David Rohl. A pretty good place to start on Rohl and his new chronology, would be this article. Be forewarned, Rohl is a maverick, and controversial.

While one must always be cautious in reading a wikipedia article, they are often a valuable overview of a topic and provide both links to further information and often some assesment of the pros and cons associated with any controversial issue.

-Rob Shearer
  Director, Schaeffer Study Center