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Chronological issues

This page investigates the terms Amorite and Aramaean as found both in the Bible and other sources, with a view to seeing whether the conventional view or New Chronology forms a better fit to the data. The two companion pages should be viewed to see more detail on the individual Old Testament and other sources of information.


Amorite chronological markers The diagram to the right shows the major points of correspondence between the OT mentions of Amorites and external references as placed by both the conventional and New Chronologies. The Biblical references show only those which are specific references to contemporary groups of Amorites, so excluding all uses of the word in a moral sense. Mentions of Sihon and Og after the actual conquest period, ie purely historical allusions to victories obtained, are also omitted.

It will be clear that both chronological models provide a broad fit with the OT references. The references from the times of Gideon and Samuel are in conventional terms within the span of Assyrian references (though at the end of or after the Egyptian ones). The brief mention in 1 Samuel (7:14) indicates that they had dwindled over the years into an unimportant side-issue compared with the struggle against the Philistines, and were no longer the feared adversaries faced during the Conquest. The two chronologies would interpret this verse in different ways. Conventionally it would be a matter of formality only to secure Samuel's northern border, since Amurru was in decline at this stage. In New Chronology terms it would be a more positive step as Amurru was entering into a period of expansion at this stage, and Samuel's move would be seen as a precautionary move.

Within the New Chronology one might have expected some references to Amorites in later historical books, and in particular while David and Solomon were expanding their territory by conquest and diplomacy. The Amarna correspondence - contemporary with Saul and David in New Chronology terms - indicates that rulers of Amurru were actively engaged in international matters and were making territorial gains in the surrounding region. The treaty between Suppiluliumas and Aziras shows that Amurru, after vacillating in allegiance somewhat, had thrown in its lot with the Hittites.

By the time of the early divided monarchy Israel was preoccupied with events nearer at hand, and so the activities of an Amorite state beyond Tyre, Sidon and the Aramaean kingdom centred on Damascus would be of little interest. On balance the conventional chronology provides a better fit, though the absence of reference to Amorites after Samuel is not disastrous for the New Chronology. Since the collapse of the Hittite empire and the associated sacking of cities in the region of Amurru occurs conventionally around 1150 BCE, the conventional chronology requires that the state persisted after this, perhaps in a reduced form. The New Chronology does not require this as this collapse was not until into the divided kingdom period.


Aramaean chronological markers The diagram to the right shows the major points of correspondence between the Old Testament mentions of Amorites, and external references as placed by both the conventional and New Chronologies. The numbers above the Aramaean references have the following significance:
  1. Uses of the term "Paddan Aram". These are confined to the Genesis accounts of Isaac and Jacob seeking wives from the region near Haran.
  2. Uses of the term "Aram Naharaim". These are found in two places - at the time of the Conquest and early Judges, and during David's reign. Additionally there is one use in Genesis, somewhat out of place amongst other nearby uses of Paddan Aram.
  3. General references to Aram or Aramaeans. There are large numbers of these from the time of David (2 Samuel) onwards until the fall of the northern kingdom of Israel. There is one additional mention in the time of Nebuchadnezzar, close to the fall of the southern kingdom of Judah, when Aramaean raiders are said to have harassed the land. There is no connection made between these raiders and the previous kingdom based at Damascus.
Most of the references do not provide any real discrimination between conventional and New Chronological markers, as the bulk of them are in the period after about 900 BCE where there is broad agreement between the two models. Additionally, the term is in widespread use in some form or other throughout the whole period in question. Egyptian uses of Aram Naharaim or variations, in the Amarna letters and other texts from this general era, might suggest that the New Chronology provides a better fit for the use in 1 Chronicles 19:6. However, this mirrors Middle Assyrian usage in which this term is used around and after the time of Tiglath-pileser I. So, using conventional dates the Numbers and Deuteronomy references are towards the end of the time when Mitanni flourished, and the 1 Chronicles usage for David (and the subsequent Psalm 60 title) would follow Assyrian usage. In New Chronology terms, these uses span the whole period of Mitanni prominence from start to end, with Tiglath-pileser I being a contemporary of its downfall.

In summary, neither chronological model is strongly supported or contra-indicated by the Old Testament data. However, the Biblical pattern of usage is in general terms consistent with the picture built up from external sources.

Sojourn, Exodus, Conquest