Ralph Hawkins is Chair of the Department of Religious Studies at Averett University. He has been on staff at Tall Jalul and Khirbet Ataruz, both in Jordan, and is currently co-director of the Jordan Valley Excavation Project. In addition to numerous articles and reviews in Hebrew Bible and Near Eastern archaeology, he is the author of The Iron Age I Structure on Mt. Ebal: Excavation and Interpretation (Eisenbrauns 2012), How Israel Became a People (Abingdon 2013), Discovering Exodus: Content, Interpretation, Reception (Eerdmans 2021), and a forthcoming commentary on Joshua (Lexham Press).
Bible & Archaeology Fest XXVI, November 17 – 19, 2023
The Many Temples of Ancient Israel and the Law of Centralization
The conventional wisdom is that the Hebrew Bible prohibited any sites of worship besides the Jerusalem temple, a prohibition that has come to be known as the “law of centralization.” The Bible itself, however, mentions temples at Dan, Shechem, Shiloh, Bethel, and Beersheba, and archaeological remains of temples have been found at several of these sites. In addition, remains of temples have been found at a number of other Israelite sites, as well. In this presentation, we will survey the ever increasing volume of data for the numerous temples in ancient Israel and consider their relationship to the so-called law of centralization.
Spring Bible & Archaeology Fest 2023
The ‘Hornet’ in Exodus and Joshua
In the wake of the exodus, the Lord reaffirmed the promise that he would lead Israel into the land he had promised their ancestors. In order to prepare it, the land’s native inhabitants would have to be displaced, and the Lord promised that he would send a ‘hornet’ ahead of the Israelites to drive them out (Exod 23:20-26). The identity of the ‘hornet’ has intrigued generations of commentators. In this presentation, we will review the various ways it has been understood, and make a case for its identification that would have made sense in an ancient context.
Bible & Archaeology Fest XXV, October 8 & 9, 2022
The Promise of the Conquest of Canaan in the Book of Exodus
In the Book of Exodus, the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1–21) and the Covenant Code (Exodus 20:22–23:19) are followed by a promise that the Israelites would conquer the land of Canaan (23:20–33). Biblical scholars usually assign this promise to a later source. In this presentation, however, Ralph Hawkins will show that the inheritance of the land was one of the most basic themes derived from Israel’s earliest history and explores its meaning and relationship to the central themes of the Book of Exodus.
Bible & Archaeology Fest XXIV, October 16 – 17, 2021
What was the Religion of the Hebrews during the Bondage in Egypt?
While some critical biblical scholars would argue that, if there were actually any Israelites in Egypt prior to an exodus under a Moses figure, they would not have known or worshiped YHWH. Those with a more literal approach to Scripture, on the other hand, generally accept that the Israelites were enslaved in Egypt for 430 years and that, during that time, they knew and worshiped YHWH. The book of Exodus itself contains scant details about the religion of Israel during the period of enslavement in Egypt. There are some texts that seem to provide evidence that they were indeed Yahwistic. These include: the Hebrew midwives’ fear of God (Exod 1:17); a reference to the faith of Moses’ father (Exod 3:6); the presence of Yahwistic theophoric names (e.g., Exod 6:20); and the (possible) pronouncement that the Hebrews had known the name YHWH since the time of the ancestors (Exod 6:3). There are other texts, however, that seem to provide evidence that they did not know or worship YHWH during this period. These include: the fact that Moses did not circumcise his son Gershom (Exod 4:24-26); the observation that the Israelites had not performed sacrifices in Egypt (Exod 5:3); the (possible) pronouncement that the name YHWH had not been revealed prior to the theophany at the burning bush (Exod 6:3); and later biblical traditions that the Israelites in Egypt were idol worshipers (e.g., Josh 24:14; Ezek 20:7-8; 23:3, 19-20). In this lecture, working under the premise that there were at least some Hebrews enslaved in Egypt, Dr. Hawkins will examine each of the aforementioned passages in an effort to determine whether they knew and worshiped YHWH during the bondage in Egypt.
Bible & Archaeology Fest XXIII, October 24 – 25, 2020
Early Israel’s Ammonite Wars and Recent Excavations at Biblical Naʿarah (Josh 16:7)
The biblical historical books report that the Israelites were in conflict with the Ammonites from the time of the judges through at least the time of King Jehoiakim. After the battle accounts of 2 Sam 10-12 and the assertion of Ammonite vassalage to Judah in the tenth century (2 Sam 12:26-31), however, there are few details about their relationship. Recent excavations at Khirbet ʿAuja el-Foqa, in the southern Jordan Valley, may open a window to some of this history. This presentation will introduce the excavations at ʿAuja el-Foqa, summarize two seasons of excavation of what was clearly an Israelite fortified town, and explain why it should be identified as biblical Naʿarah (Joshua 16:7). It will then consider the geo-political aspect of the site, which was located on the west side of the Jordan River, due west of the Ammonite capital of Rabbah and south of a series of Ammonite towers that had been built in the Desert of Manasseh. It will be suggested that Naʿarah was built as a central administrative site in the Jericho region, as well as to defend Israel’s eastern border against Ammonite incursions into the land.
Bible & Archaeology Fest XXII, November 22 – 24, 2019
Joshua’s Altar on Mt. Ebal: Myth or Reality?”
Nearly forty years ago, Israeli archaeologist Adam Zertal discovered an Early Iron Age structure buried beneath a huge mound of stones on the slopes of Mt. Ebal. He began excavating the site in 1982 and, in a 1985 Biblical Archaeology Review article, speculated that he had found Joshua’s altar, mentioned in Joshua 8:30-35. Critics responded that the site was simply a watchtower, a farmstead, or simply a barbecue site. In the decades following the excavation of the site, no scholarly congress or colloquium has ever been held to consider its findings. The building, however, with its Early Iron Age date and its Israelite material culture, begs further study. This presentation will examine this enigmatic structure, explore its possible parallels, and consider the potential relationship of the site to the biblical traditions.
Bible & Archaeology Fest XXI, November 16 – 18, 2018
Khirbet ʿAuja el-Foqa: A “Khirbet Qeiyafa” of the Jordan Valley?
Since 2015, the Jordan Valley Excavation Project (JVEP) has been investigating the ancient history and archaeology of the region of the southern Jordan Valley, with a particular focus on the Iron Age. Recently, the JVEP team explored site of Khirbet ʿAuja el-Foqa, which had already been intensively surveyed by the Manasseh Hills Survey in 2003-2004, but has remained unexcavated. It is a well-preserved fortified city on a high hill isolated by steep slopes, and pottery collected during the survey suggests that its primary period of use was in the Iron Age. The Manasseh-Ephraim boundary description in Josh 16:6-7 names a series of sites between Shechem and Jericho, and it may be that ʿAuja el-Foqa was one of them. JVEP hypothesizes that it may have served as a central administrative site in the Jericho region in the Iron Age II, a “Khirbet Qeiyafa” of the Jordan Valley. As such, ʿAuja el-Foqa may yield important information about the administration of Judah in this region during the Iron Age II. This presentation examines what we currently understand of the site, considers its possible relationship to the Manasseh-Ephraim boundary description, and outlines JVEP’s research aims and plan for excavating at the site in 2019.
Bible & Archaeology Fest XX, November 17 – 19, 2017
The Mystery of el-Mastarah: A “Hidden” Site in the Jordan Valley and the Early Israelite Settlement
According to the book of Joshua, the Israelites entered the land of Canaan from the east, across the Jordan River. This biblical tradition has largely been replaced by various models of indigenous origins, which understand the early Israelites to have emerged from the native population of Canaan. One of the reasons that models of indigenous origins have burgeoned over the last several decades is that there has been no archaeological evidence of an early Israelite presence in the east. However, a recent survey of the Jordan Valley, conducted over a period of fourteen years (1980-1994), has discovered fifty-four previously unknown sites in the region that date to the Early Iron Age (ca. 1200 B.C.E.). One of them is Khirbet el-Mastarah, whose name is derived from a root that means “to hide.” It appears to have been intentionally established in a hidden location, on a knoll in the fork of a wadi, surrounded by hills on three sides. Despite its seemingly illogical location, it was clearly established as a permanent village and persisted into Iron Age II (1000-586 B.C.E.). This presentation will provide an overview of the newly discovered sites in the Jordan Valley, as well as the findings from our initial field season at Khirbet el-Mastarah, including our efforts to identify the inhabitants of the site, understand their relationship to other peoples in the region during the Early Iron Age, and why they established their village in a hidden location.