Queries & Comments

More Queries & Comments Fall 2023

Don’t Diminish the Bible

IN QUERIES AND COMMENTS of your Spring 2023 issue, I noticed what appears to be a growing concern for the intent of your writers—Are they seeking to counter the Bible? I offer kudos for your courage in printing the protests but am also saddened that the question needs to come up. Your magazine is Biblical Archaeology Review. I personally would hope that the very name signifies to whom and to what homage should be directed.

Yes, the Bible serves as an unprecedented historical record. Yes, archaeological evidence is important to validate or question history. But until humanity humbly recognizes there is first and foremost a specific spiritual purpose of that text, we will forever be marginalizing its significance and the truth of the text presented to us.

Mark A. Cornelius
Mitchell, South Dakota

Jeremiah’s Journey

JAMES K. HOFFMEIER (“Jeremiah’s Journey to Egypt”) needs to re-read Jeremiah 43. He says, “[Jeremiah] made the surprising decision to leave Judah for Egypt,” when the text plainly says “the commanders of the forces took the entire remnant of Judah” to Egypt. The Bible neither says nor implies that he and his scribe “decided to join the caravan” to Egypt. He obviously went there against his will and against God’s.

Kenneth L. Lawler
Saint Paris, Ohio

JAMES K. HOFFMEIER RESPONDS: Thanks for the suggestion that I re-read Jeremiah 43. The reader suggests I have missed the nuance of Jeremiah’s being taken to Egypt by the military commander, Johanan (Jeremiah 43:5), implying that he was “taken” there by force. I have now completed that assignment and believe my description in the article that Jeremiah “decided” to join the Judean migrant flight to Egypt still stands as a possible reading.

The verb “take” (lāqaḥ) has a broad semantic range according to the Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (eds. Koehler & Baumgartner). A man can “take” a wife. In Abraham’s case, it seems doubtful that he “took by force” his wife Keturah (Genesis 25:1). The Lord “took” Adam and Eve, whom he created, and “placed” them in the Garden. Nothing forceful about this, especially when it is realized that the verb for “placed” is the hifil (causative) form of nwḥ (“rest”), literally meaning “cause to rest.” Perhaps the best parallel to Johanan’s actions in Jeremiah 43 is that of Abram leaving Haran and heading for Canaan at God’s directive: “Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother’s son, and all their possessions that they had gathered, and the people that they had acquired in Haran, and they set out to go to the land of Canaan” (Genesis 12:5). Clearly, Abram’s family and servants were bound by familial and societal obligations to go with him, but they were hardly forced.

My suggestion is that Jeremiah voluntarily went to Egypt because he realized he could communicate his prophetic messages to the Judeans already scattered throughout Egypt. In his commentary on Jeremiah, John A. Thompson wrestles with the question of the nature of Jeremiah’s flight to Egypt, observing, “It is not clear whether Jeremiah and Baruch went voluntarily with the refugees or were forced. … If he did go willingly it was out of undying faithfulness to the people and to the message of Yahweh that he felt compelled to bring them” (The Book of Jeremiah [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1980], p. 669). Interestingly, I came across this quotation a year after writing the BAR article.

Who Lived at Hazor

I READ WITH INTEREST the article on Hazor (Shlomit Bechar, “Who Lived at Hazor?”). It was in 1975 that I had my introduction to biblical archaeology when I bought the book Hazor by Yigael Yadin. I went to get it off my bookshelf and admire it again as I write this. I also still have his book Masada, and what a thrill to visit there! It spurred within me an everlasting desire to visit ancient sites and learn about the people who lived there. It took a while, but I have lived out many of those dreams. I am headed back to Israel next month.

George A. Brooks
Houston, Texas

Measuring Time

I ENJOY THE ARTICLES in BAR and from time to time see references to AD or BC or BCE. It made me wonder what time it was before the AD event in history. I am pretty sure civilizations prior to the AD did not say, “It’s the year 100 BC.” They had no idea of AD or BC or BCE.

Alan Gerstle
Covington, Pennsylvania

We hope these two articles published by BAS will provide some answers: Leo Depuydt, “How to Date a Pharaoh,” Archaeology Odyssey, July/August 2005; David A. Warburton, “Biblical Archaeology 101: Dating in the Archaeological World,” BAR, September/October 2018.—Ed.


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