There is an overwhelmingly large consensus among archaeologists, anthropologists, philosophers and liberal biblical scholars that the idea of a God who talks and eat with Abraham, makes a Covenant with him and promises him lands cannot be based on historical events. Indeed, sheer logic alone is sufficient to refute such ideas.
The fact that archeological digs have turned up no trace of the Patriarchs and have proven times and times again that monotheism is a late concept that evolved in Israel in the aftermath of the Babylonian Exile (c 550 BCE), has brought scholars to conclude that the story of Abraham, and the Covenant he made with God, must have originated from a myth or a legend, which would have evolved out of ancient oral traditions, whose origins got lost in the night of time…
In other words, scholars have no clue and can’t tell us anything on the origin of the Covenant, arguably the most fundamental concept shared by Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
Given the above, it should be not surprising that anyone claiming that the story of Abraham can be traced back to an actual historical event of the Middle Bronze Age will be perceived, at least at first sight, as an oddball whose ideas should be quickly dismissed. Indeed, there are no shortages of lunatics when it comes to claims related to the Bible.
What is less known outside of a small circle of biblical scholars, however, is that the notion of a divine covenant existed long before the Babylonian Exile. In fact, the ruins of the temple of a pagan deity called Baal Berith (which in Hebrew means “Lord of Covenant”) can still be visited near Nablus, in the occupied territories. This temple is evidence that the concept of a divine covenant existed in Israel almost a thousand years before the Babylonian Exile.
The city of Nablus now stands where biblical Shechem, an important city of the Bronze Age, was once erected. Shechem was a stronghold for Abraham and many of his descendants. Curiously, it appears that no one ever cared to seriously investigate the possible links between Yahweh and Baal Berith, despite the fact that the temple of Baal Berith is also referred to as the temple of Yahweh in the Bible.
In The Covenant, I explain how the Abrahamic narrative actually recounts the story of an earthly covenant made with a powerful ruler during the Middle Bronze Age, and how, through the cult of the ancestors, this ruler would have first become known and revered as Baal Berith, and how Baal Berith, through syncretism and the concept of compounded deities, would give rise to the super deity Yahweh, which appeared during the Iron Age period and would eventually become Israel’s exclusive god.
Although this slow evolutionary process took place over nearly a thousand years, the evidence is there, and it is striking. All we need to do is to overcome our religious heritage that prevents us from making the necessary intellectual associations between the cult of the ancestors, paganism and monotheism, connections that even the Bible acknowledges quite clearly:
Wis 14:17 And those whom men could not honour in presence, because they dwelt far off, they brought their resemblance from afar, and made an express image of the king whom they had a mind to honour: that by this their diligence, they might honour as present, him that was absent.
Wis 14:18 And to worshipping of these, the singular diligence also of the artificer helped to set forward the ignorant.
Wis 14:19 For he being willing to please him that employed him, laboured with all his art to make the resemblance in the best manner.
Wis 14:20 And the multitude of men, carried away by the beauty of the work, took him now for a god that a little before was but honoured as a man.
The above passage offers clear evidence of the practice of deification of powerful rulers. When considering that the cult of the ancestors was widespread in ancient Israel and that, throughout the Bible, we are continuously reminded of how the Israelites kept falling back into their traditional pagan worship practices, we can better appreciate how such a covenant, given it was intimately tied to their historical right to the land, would have been one they were intimately fond of, and as such, would have been preserved, modernized and maintained at the heart of Judaism in the aftermath of the Babylonian Exile to consolidate the identity of this people. Common sense finally prevails in the meeting of myth and history.