One of the reasons often cited by biblical scholars (and atheists) for denying the historicity of the Old Testament (OT) stories is that they do not match any historical event. One example of a popular documentary desperately trying to fit the Exodus square into the historical peg hole is The Exodus Decoded (2006) from filmmaker Simcha Jacobovici and producer/director James Cameron.
In The Covenant, I explore the paradigm of a secular covenant made with a mortal overlord. This has led me to revisit the way we understand biblical chronologies. Indeed, if Abraham lived in the Middle Bronze Age and made a covenant with a Mesopotamian king, wouldn’t be a reasonable to consider the possibility that the numbers reported in the Bible had originally been recorded in the sexagesimal notation?
The sexagesimal system (base 60) was dominant in Babylonia during most of the Bronze Age, but was largely abandoned in favor of the decimal system (base 10) at the turn of the first millennium BCE. It is mostly used today for keeping track of time and angular calculations. This is the reason watches have 60 minutes and 60 seconds.
I eventually came to realize that the chronology of the Bible is far more accurate than previously thought, but that the scribes who collated the Bible during the 6th century BCE failed to properly convert Babylonian sexagesimal notations to decimal.
George Sarton, the founder of the discipline of history of science, was already complaining that the Greeks had mixed up the sexagesimal system with the decimal one. I believe that’s because the later Babylonians got confused.
One only needs to take a look at cuneiform inscription BE 1, Nr. 839, which records that 696 years had passed between the reigns of Gulkišar (ca. 1601-1547 BCE) and Nebuchadnezzar I (ca. 1125–1104 BCE), as well as to a cylinder from King Nabonidus (ca. 556-539 BCE), which refers to an inscription from king Burnaburiash (ca. 1359-1333 BCE) stating that king Hammurabi (ca. 1792-1750 BCE) lived 700 years before him, to understand that the problem wasn’t limited to the Bible. In both cases, the reported timespan is way off. To this day, historians such as Van de Mieroop, simply assume that these numbers are wrong.
Yet, I believe that these numbers were just converted as if they were fractions. For instance, 15 in base 60 would have been converted to 25 in base 10, much the same way one would equate 15/60 to 25/100. And although this seems reasonable, it is wrong because each component should have been multiplied by 60 to the power of the position it occupies in the sexagesimal number.
The good news is that such a mistake can easily be corrected by multiplying the resulting number by 6/10:
Nebuchadnezzar I (ca. 1125 BCE) + (696*6/10) = ca. 1543 BCE
which perfectly matches the end of Gulkišar’s reign dated to ca. 1547 BCE.
Burnaburiash (ca. 1359-1333 BCE) + (700*6/10) = ca. 1779-1753 BCE
which perfectly fits within Hammurabi’s reign of 1792-1750 BCE.
One can therefore show that some chronologies, completely independent of the Bible, can be properly restored using the 6/10 multiplier. These are two examples I was able to find, but I trust there are many more.
By systematically applying the 6/10 multiplier to all postdiluvian dates of the Old Testament, I show in The Covenant how all key biblical events match historical ones.
Let’s take the example of Exodus. The period when the Bible tells us that the children of Israel became “slaves” in Egypt can now be shown to perfectly coincide with the beginning of the period when Canaan fell under Egyptian domination. And the event associated with Exodus can be shown to precisely match the signing of the Peace Treaty of the Battle of Kadesh by Ramses II and Ḫattušili III, which marked the end of this domination and the liberation of the Israelites.
Ramses II has always been suspected of being the Pharaoh of the Exodus because he built the city of Pithom. The reason there are no records of mass movements out of Egypt is therefore simply because the Israelites never had to leave that country. When Egypt ceased to dominate Canaan, the Israelites naturally regained their land and freedom. In fact, the parallels that can be drawn between the narratives of the parting of the Red Sea (Exodus 14) and the poem of Pentaur, the Egyptian account of the Battle of Kadesh that is recorded on the walls of the Karnak Temple, are striking. In both accounts, the same key ideas are reported:
- Pharaoh’s heart hardens. He lifts up a large army and chariots to pursue the opponents.
- Pharaoh positions his troops to the North. The opponents are hiding.
- The enemies fall in the water and drown. Their chariots tumble. They all died.
- They are afraid and beg the Lord to save their lives.
- Halt! Stand still! The Lord will fight alone.
- In the morning, those who had fought with him were consumed by fire.
- The enemies beg for mercy.
The Battle of Kadesh was an epic and memorable battle that began in 1274 BCE. It opposed the Egyptians and the Hittites armies in the northern part of the Levant. The battle lasted over a decade and involved thousands of chariots. As there was no clear winner, a peace treaty was finally ratified in 1259 BCE. A copy of this peace treaty, the oldest recorded in history, is still on display at the headquarters of the United Nations. Ever since the Hyksos had been expelled from Egypt some 250 years prior, and up until this battle, most of the Levant was maintained under Egyptian dominion.
Could the biblical Exodus be the early-Israelites’ way of recording this spectacular and liberating event? It would seem so.
In the The Covenant, I offer a more detailed explanation of the sexagesimal system and the origin of the 6/10 multiplier that has allowed me to revisit the entire chronology of the Old Testament. I then go on to show that the key OT narratives can be linked to the major secular events of the region that affected the lives of the early Israelites, including that of the Abrahamic Covenant.