Why NOVA’s Peasant Revolt ‘Theory’ Is Wrong

I was the first commentator on this video. I also disliked it. The reasons for this are to be found in the comments section of the video. As I have described my explanation for the origin of the Israelites, similar to the ‘peasant revolt’ hypothesis, in the previous post, I would like to take a moment to describe why the peasant revolt explanation described in the NOVA program on the Bible’s origins is wrong.

The relevant part of the program:

A radical new theory based on archaeology suggests what happens next. As that oppressive social system declines [Hazor shown here], families and tribes of serfs, slaves and common Canaanites seize the opportunity.

[smashed idol here]

In search of a better way of life, they abandon the old city-states, and head for the hills. Free from the oppression of their past, they eventually emerge in a new place as a new people, the Israelites.

-Needless to say, no archaeologist is called upon to explain this theory. This is because it is not a ‘new’ theory (it is from the 1970s) and because it is not based on archaeology. Perhaps the most striking part of “The Bible’s Buried Secrets” is that it does not mention the Sea Peoples at all (except for the quotation of a single Bible verse mentioning them). This is inexcusable. The Philistines were the single most important contributor to the collapse of Egyptian rule in Canaan. The ‘oppressive social system’ of Canaan under New Kingdom rule could have theoretically been maintained for eternity, discounting the effects of Egyptian land grants to the Priesthood of Amun. The oppressive social system of Late Bronze II Greece could not have been maintained for eternity due to the fact there was no strong empire in the Aegean that could commit genocide and mass population movement or even patrol the seas. The fact is, the great turn from settlement to nomadism in Canaan was during the Late Bronze IB, when Egyptian rule over Canaan was just beginning. It was, as Israel Finkelstein says, a great settlement of long-existing nomads in Canaan that took place during the transition to Iron Age I. Of course, displaced lowland Canaanites also formed a good portion of the ‘proto-[monarchical] Israelite’ population, but they were driven by the Philistines and the social collapse in the lowlands the Philistines caused. Hazor is an unusual case; most cities in Canaan were long largely depleted of population by the Amarna era. Thus, though the words of the program are technically correct (except for the first ones), they ignore more important facts, and their combination with the scenes in the video leads the viewer to incorrect conclusions.

Author: pithom

An atheist with an interest in the history of the ancient Near East. Author of the Against Jebel al-Lawz Wordpress blog.

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