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C O U R S E 
The Bible's Prehistory, Purpose, and Political Future
Dr. Jacob L. Wright, Emory University
C O U R S E   L E C T U R E 
The Amarna Letters and Egypt's Presence in Canaan During the New Kingdom
Notes taken on August 19, 2014 by Edward Tanguay
Egypt's imperial presence in the late 2nd millennium
this is the New Kingdom Period 1550-1077
Thutmose III (1479 - 1425 BC)
has been called the Napoleon of ancient Egypt
greatest military leader in Egyptian history
no record tells of him losing a battle
erected many buildings
several obelisks (e.g. those now in Rome and London)
conducted tours as far north as Syria
made Canaan into one of his imperial possessions, a province in his vast empire
extended kingdom into modern Turkey, into the Hittites region
contemporary superpowers of the day Babylon, the Hittites, Syria send diplomatic gifts to Egypt
the region long known as Canaan was now securely in Egyptian hands
so Thutmose III initiated the Pax Aegyptica
a peace that resulted from Egyptian military conquest
the burden that Egypt placed on Canaan was extremely heavy
Thutmose taxed the land in two ways:
1. produce
inhabitants should provide him with a portion of their harvest
this empoverished their cities
2. lives
demanded bodies for his armies and labor forces
this led to a depopulation of Canaan especially where later Israel and Judah would emerge
second phase of New Kingdom Period
Amarna Period
pharoahs during this time
Amenhotep III (14th century BC)
unprecedented prosperity and artistic splendor
Egypt reached the peak of its artistic and international power
introduced monotheistic reforms in Egypt
King Tut
this period is important in Egyptian history because of the discovery of the Armarna letters
these were letters sent by Canaanite minor rulers to the pharaohs in Egypt
many are quite poorly preserved, but what remained gives us much knowledge about this era
when pharaohs were not looking these mayors would indulge in calling themselves "king"
but from the Egyptian perspective they were simply mayors of cities and areas in Canaan
many of the letters consist of complaining to the pharaoh
begging for various kinds of support
what bothers them most of all were the expansionist tendencies of neighboring states
they "beg to see the pharaohs face"
to establish justice in their area
ask for military support
one letter is from Shechem
complained about Labayu attempting to expand into the Jezreel Valley to Meggido (town)
later Saul in the Bible attempts to do the same thing
this is an example of the same kind of actions being reported from the Armana letters and Biblical record
in other letters, mayors complain about Abdi-Hepa
Abdi-Hepa reigned in URU-salim or Jerusalem
attempted to expand into other territories
King Saul and King David were similar to Abdi-Hepa in their intentions of expansion
why was it allowed for kings of city states to expand into territorial states, as this was insolence vis-a-vis the Egyptian court
the reason is that Labayu and Abdi-Hepa inhabited the hill country, e.g. Judea and Samaria
today where the Palestinian territories are
the pharaohs really didn't care about the hill country which was, in their mind, occupied by "dangerous hillbillies"
Egyptians felt that it was best to leave that element to its own devices
focuses on the coastal territories
richer and more fertile
better for communication with other superpowers to the north
better for transporting troops
however, if disputes in the hill country when unheeded, a power from the north could take advantage of it, move south, and get very close to Egypt
so Egypt was interested in the politics of the highlands, but not as a top priority
therefore some troops were sent from time to time
we see from the Armarna letters that rules continued to expand from highlands into the lowlands
especially into the fertile Jezreel Valley, the bread basket of the southern Levant
what happened when the Egyptian empire collapsed and no longer able to keep these hill kingdoms at bay?
we then witness the development of territorial states:
Aram Damascus
this is the political situation as we move into the first millennium, the time of Biblical record