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Writing the Torah | Exodus 17:14

Some scholars have argued that scribes would have used papyrus and hides, materials which would not typically survive long enough to make it to the archaeological record. This argument does have some merit, given that we do have evidence of their use in the region from as early as the late Old Kingdom period in Egypt (c. 2300 BCE). Yet, Professor Israel Finkelstein from Tel Aviv University in Israel makes the salient point that it is unlikely a literate society with a scribal culture capable of producing material comparable to what we find in the Hebrew Bible would not also leave evidence of writing on seals, ostraca, and inscriptions. That we find nothing of this nature in Israel or Judah before the eighth century would strongly indicate that these were pre-literate societies before this time.

Make Yourself an Ark | Genesis 6:11-17

The ark Noah was instructed to build is a sanctuary; both a place of safety and a place of cultic sacrifice. The ark is a holy place constructed in a written text composed after the destruction of the Jerusalem temple. Knowing this, we are able to reconstruct the meaning of the allegory of the great flood in Genesis. God had ‘determined to make an end of all flesh.’ This we can only read in reference to the fates of the Hebrew kingdoms of Israel and Judah. Israel — a people of Yahweh — was destroyed by the Assyrian Empire in 722 BCE. The population of the northern kingdom was deported to exile beyond the Euphrates and so Israel ceased to exist as a political and cultural entity. The Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem, the capital of the southern Kingdom of Judah, and its temple in 587 BCE threatened the Judeans with the same fate of cultural annihilation.