The Genesis of Israel and Egypt: An Enquiry into the Origins of Egyptian and Hebrew History

by E.J. Sweeney
Janus Publishing Company, London, 1997, 94 pp., paperback, $12.95.

Reviewed by Douglas Chapman

Immanuel Velikovsky may not have been the most careful theorist around, but his catastrophism ideas seem not as incredible as once assumed, now that people are aware of what comets have done in Earth’s past, and are—sooner or later—apt to do again. Nevertheless, skeptics have pointed out areas where lack of detailed knowledge about past civilizations has invalidated the links he has drawn between events. Some events recur in many myth/histories, and can be used out of context to draw invalid inferences.

E. J. Sweeney here, using Velikovskyan ideas for starters, compares histories recorded by many major civilizations of the past, and attempts to bring Hebrew chronicles in line with them by assuming that the dates in the Torah are sacred rather than accurate dates. He also writes of how Egyptian accounts distorted their timeline as well. These, of course, allow more—and perhaps too much—wiggle room as he brings ideas together about events he does not think happened as long ago as thought. He supplies evidences from mineralogist John Dayton’s studies of pottery and metallurgy in the ancient Near East. Sweeney writes, “He demonstrated quite clearly that pottery from First and Second Dynasty tombs at Abydos and Sakkara could only be of Middle Bronze date, and closely resembled pottery of known Hyksos provenance.” Dayton dated the tombs to approximately the fifteenth or sixteenth century B.C.

Sweeney thinks literate civilization did not arrive before 1000 B.C., and concludes that “It is evident that all the great world religions were formulated between the eighth and sixth centuries BC....” (Some interesting religions are thus omitted.)

Was all this shaped by special events? Were the flood catastrophes mentioned by the Hebrews, Sumerians, Chinese, Incas, etc., localized or universal?

In the past, many have assumed that the events in the early books of the Bible must have been minor if other civilizations did not report them.

According to the alignments here, they were indeed chronicled, and some interesting personages are linked together.

Menes (Egypt’s first pharaoh), Abraham, and the God Thoth could be one and the same, because of the speculated relationships and such motifs as their initiations of civilizations and culture to their peoples, their introductions of religious practices, etc.

Other connections could be that: Imhotep and Joseph are the same person. Hercules and Samson are highly linked.The plagues of Egypt in Exodus relate to a bad period of time chronicled in the Papyrus Ipuwer.

Various clues hint at more accurate datings of the various events. He notes that the usage of iron in the Judges period—part of the early monarchial period—is likely rather close to the period described in the Iliad by Homer. Through clues like that, peoples are perhaps identified by better known names: such as the Biblical Amalekites being actually the Assyrians.

Sweeney is not afraid to criticize Velikovsky, when he feels the latter made mistakes. That sets him apart from those who consider Velikovsky to be “gospel,” and strengthens the arguments.

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