The Egyptian Origins of Israel's Golden Calf Worship in the Sinai

Walter Reinhold Warttig Mattfeld y de la Torre, M.A. Ed.

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in the Exodus as being at Ras el Ballah (my Baal-zephon)

12 September 2003

Revisions through 09 October 2021

Warning: I have an earlier article posted on the Non-Egyptian Origins of the Golden Calf, I am leaving that article intact so that the reader can see the "changes" in my understanding based on "new information" and "new insights" in the below article. I understand that Israel's Golden Calf worship reflects a fusion of two traditions, Non-Egyptian Mesopotamian and North Syrian as well as Egyptian and south Sinai.

Let it be made clear at the outset that this is NOT an attempt to "prove the Exodus to be true," this is an attempt to identify, using archaeological findings, the "historical kernels"" underlying the Exodus traditions, elements and motifs. I personnaly do NOT believe the Exodus as presented in the Bible is true. It is my understanding that it is a fictionalized story based on  _real events in the Late Bronze and Early Iron I eras_  which came to be transformed into the biblical story. This article seeks to identify the archaeologically attested "historical kernels" behind the story.

It will be argued that Israel's worship of the Golden Calf reflects a telescoping, fusion, and re-interpretation or transformation of various concepts and motifs regarding bull calves found in the religious beliefs of Egypt, Canaan, and Mesopotamia. The myths of each region are investigated in order to identify the "historical kernels," attested by archaeology, which came to be transformed into the Bible's "Golden Calf incident at Mount Sinai" as well as accounting for why the Israelite king, Jeroboam, set up of Golden Calves for his people to worship at Dan and Bethel. It will also be argued that Yahweh was worshipped by the northern kingdom of Israel in the form of a Golden Calf, and that this is an Aramean concept from northern Syria and Mesopotamia. 

It will be argued that the notion that Israel worshipped a Golden Calf in the Sinai is from a Late Bronze Age Canaanite Origins tradition. I understand that  two differing origins traditions were fused together in the Late Iron II period (ca. 1000-562 BCE) by the Israelite/Judaean descendants of the _intermarriages_ between native Late Bronze Age Canaanites and invading Aramean Israelites of Iron I ( ca. 1200-1000 BCE, cf. Judges 3:5-7), these Iron II descendants, desiring to preserve the origins traditions of "both" their forefathers, Canaanite and Aramean, fused the two traditions into one. 

Many scholars understand that repeated, intense, archaeological sweeps of the Sinai by the Israelis in the 1960's and 70's failed to find _any evidence_ of Moses' Israelites! The Exodus is understood to have occurred in the late Bronze Age (ca. 1580-1200 BCE) or no later than Iron I (ca. 1200-1000 BCE), and the claim has been made nothing exists of these eras to "link" the Exodus traditions to. 

It is my understanding that these scholars have erred, the evidence is indeed in the Sinai and Arabah, but it has been "overlooked"! 

How did this evidence come to be "overlooked"? It is my understanding that the Exodus traditions, in part, are recalling Late Bronze Age and Iron I events in the Sinai and Arabah. The archaeological evidence "ought to be" of Egyptian pottery of these eras along with Amalekite as well as Midianite wares. Just such wares DO EXIST! Why were they then "overlooked"? Because these wares are found ONLY in association with Egyptian run mining camps!

A number of scholars possess a "mindset" that as Israel had recently fled from Egypt as slaves that she would avoid these Egyptian installations like the plague! The thought, consequently, never crossed their minds that these mining camps might be nucleus to the Exodus traditions.

It is my understanding that it is in these  mining camps that some of the pre-biblical origins or "historical kernels" behind the Exodus traditions are to be found and identified. Two shrines associated with these mining camps have been identified as dedicated to Hathor the cow goddess, one in the southern Sinai at Serabit Khadim, the other in the Arabah at Har Timna. I understand that events at these two locations are what is behind some of the Exodus traditions.

I am not the first to associate the Golden Calf with the cult of Hathor at Serabit el Khadem in the southern Sinai. Over 100 years ago, back in 1907, Gerald Massey had made such an association:

"The golden calf in Israel...was also a type of the golden Hathor, the habitation of Horus, her calf...the festival of Hathor...was the worship of the golden calf... (p. 673. Vol. 2. Gerald Massey. Ancient Egypt the Light of the World, A Work of Reclamation and Restitution in Twelve Books. London. T. Fisher Unwin. 1907)

"This is literally the worship of the golden calf, which was a dual image of both Hathor, the Egyptian Venus, and Horus as her calf...Sarabit el Khadem...was the seat of Hathor...Mount Sinai was Egyptian...a sacred site...the deities who were worshipped on it were likewise Egyptian. It was the seat of Hathor, Atum-Ra, and Horus the calf..." (p. 677. vol. 2. Gerald Massey. 1907)

My Note: Massey errs, Horus is not the Golden Calf, it is a deceased Pharaoh who is the calf, Horus accompanies this Golden Calf as a seated man with a hawk's head, on a solar boat that floats on an invisible heavenly Nile River according to other texts (see below).

I understand that the story of the worship of the Golden Calf is drawing from aspects of  the "cult of Hathor" at Serabit el Khadim and Timna. This article explores the cult of Hathor and its relation to the Exodus' Golden Calf incident.

Egyptian Bull-Calf Myths

In my attempt to identify the archaeologically attested historical kernels for the Golden Calf, I posed a question. Do any Egyptian myths ever identify a god as a "Golden Calf"? If so, perhaps this is the "Golden Calf" preserved in the biblical narrative? The problem is, did Israel use Egyptian "terminology" or did she simply call "any" calf with a gold body "the Golden Calf"? We, of course, will never know.

I have established that the ONLY god specifically called a "GOLDEN CALF" by the ancient Egyptians in their writings is Pharaoh in the Old Kingdom Pyramid Texts (these texts exist into later New Kingdom times in reworked formats). In these texts Pharaoh calls himself a "Golden Calf," born of  heaven, who wishes to be allowed to board the sacred solar bark or boat which carries the Sun god each day across the heavens. 

Pharaoh was called "Son of the Sun" and in New Kingdom times "the Sun," in letters from Canaanite princes addressed to Pharaoh Akhenaten (reigned ca. 1350-1334 BCE). 

Moran :

"Balu-Mer says to the Great Kingmy lord: I fall at the feet of the Great King, the Sun in the sky, 7 times and 7 times..." (p. 311. "A Plea for Royal Concern" EA 260. William L. Moran. The Amarna Letters. Baltimore & London. Johns Hopkins University Press. 1987, 1992)

The Egyptian myths have the rising sun of dawn portrayed in many different ways. One myth has the rising sun as a Calf born of the heavenly sky cow goddess, Hathor (in other myths the sun is born of Nut another Cow goddess who personifies the heavens). The sun calf becomes a mighty bull at noon, and at sunset the sun-bull impregnates his mother, the heavens (the sky goddess cow), in order to be born of her the next morning.

A number of gods were closely associated as aspects of the sun god, Horus, Ra-Horahty, Khepri, Re, Amun-Re, Atum, Min, Hathor, Isis, and even the Sphinx. The many manifestations that these gods and goddesses could assume is staggering, the sun god, Re or Ra having 75 forms.


"Among the finest of Egyptian religious expressions, the 'Litany of Ra' provides perhaps the most explicit demonstration of the unity of creation in its creator. According to this belief, creation unfurled out of the sun a series of 75 acclamations of Ra   'in'  each of 74 forms in his creation...The images illustrating the words of acclamation achieve a unity out of the multitude by giving most of the 74 manifestations of the sun god a mummiform figure...Several names refer directly to other gods and goddesses. For example one form of Ra is the god Horus, another the goddess Isis." 

(p.30. "The Litany of Ra." Stephen Quirke. The Cult of Ra, Sun-Worship in Ancient Egypt. London. Thames & Hudson. 2001)

The Old Kingdom Pyramid Texts of Dynasties 5 and 6 (Pharaohs Unas, Teti, Pepy I, Merenre Antyemsaf, and Pepy II, ca. 2375-2184 BCE) mention the deceased Pharaoh as a Golden Calf born of the heavens (in Egyptian myth, recalling that the heavens were seen as a cow goddess, either Hathor or Nut, giving birth to the sun at dawn):

Dr. Pinch (Emphasis mine):

"The idea of the king as the nursling of the divine cow is at least as old as the Old Kingdom, since he is described as 'The Calf of Gold' and is told 'Your mother is the great wild cow who lives in el Kab. She will nurse you." 

(Pyramid Text 729a. cf. p.175. "The Cow and marsh motif." Geraldine Pinch. Votive Offerings to Hathor. Griffith Institute Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. 1993)

"Pepi comes to thee, O Ra, a calf of gold, born of heaven. I have come to
you Ra, a calf of gold born in the sky, a fatted calf of gold...O Horus, do
not leave me boatless." 

(Pyramid text Utterance 485a)

Pinch noted that one of Hathor's many epithets was "Lady of Heaven," she being the Heaven as a sky-cow-goddess.

Pinch speaking of a votive cow image of Hathor bearing this epithet:

"The only inscribed example I have traced has "Hathor, Lady of Heaven" written on one flank."

(p.162. Pinch)

"Cow-goddess who gave birth to the king in the form of a golden calf. In general she is a milk goddess quenching the thirst of mankind with divine liquid described as the 'beer of Hesat'." (

Veronica Ions on the Golden Calf being the sun at sunrise, born of a sky-cow-mother (Hat-Hor):

"The sun...was said to be born every morning as a golden calf from the heavenly cow or to be swallowed every night by the celestial woman and reborn daily from her..."

(p. 24. "The Creation of the World." Veronica Ions. Egyptian Mythology. Paul Hamlyn, Ltd. Feltham, Middlesex. 1965, 1968))

Vischak on the sun god, Re, being born of Hathor in the morning and residing in her body overnight:

"It was believed that Hathor, as the night sky, received Re each night on the western horizon and protected him within her body so that he could be safely reborn each morning. Based on this divine paradigm, Hathor was seen as a source for rebirth and regeneration of all the deceased."

(p. 82. Vol. 2. "Hathor." Deborah Vischak. Donald B. Redford. Editor. The Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt. 2001. 3 vols.)

Carolyn Graves Brown on Hathor being the divine mother of all Pharaohs:

"Hathor: A goddess who was regarded as the divine mother of each reigning king. She was often shown in the form of a cow." (p. 174. "Glossary." Carolyn Graves-Brown. Dancing for HATHOR Women in Ancient Egypt. Continuum UK. London. 2010)

Brown also noted Hathor was referred to a Heavenly Cow:

"The Return of the Distant early version of this myth is extent in The Book of the Heavenly Cow which first appears...on the four gilded shrines of Tutankhamun." (p. 169. Carolyn Graves-Brown)

Brown on Hat-Hor's festival of drunkeness, and Hat-Hor being called "The Mistress of Dance" by her devotees:

"The festival of Drunkeness associated with Hathor, is known in the Middle Kingdom...The twentieth day of the first month was marked by the Festival of Drunkeness. Menon-jugs were filled with wine and offered to Hathor, Lady of Drunkeness in the Place of Drunkeness.' At the temple of Hathor at Philae, scenes on columns show Bes dancing at the return of the 'Lady of favours, mistress of the dance, great of attraction...Lady of Drunkeness with many festivals...It seems that in the Hall of Drunkeness, worshippers got drunk...Some scenes linked drunkeness with 'traveling through the marshes,' a possible euphemism for sexual activity." (pp. 168-169. "Drunkeness." Carolyn Graves-Brown)

Pinch noted that the divine cow (Hathor, Nut, Mehet-weret, cf. p. 175) is portrayed as suckling Pharaoh, frequently in a papyrus marsh, alluding to a myth where she protects the newborn Horus from his uncle Seth who seeks his life.

Other scenes have the divine cow "licking" Pharaoh, this is a play on the observation of cows licking their calves while suckling as a sign of affection (this motif is popular in New Kingdom Canaanite art, in ivories, perhaps under Egyptian influence?)
To the degree that Pharaoh is the "Golden Calf" born of the divine heavenly cow, scenes of him being licked or suckled proably allude to the cow as his mother, the cow sky goddess who has given him birth as the rising morning Sun.

Pinch notes that Hathor is frequently shown in cow form with a beaded menant necklace on the Solar bark which carries the sun-god in the heavens (cf. plate 25.b for Hathor as a cow on a bark. Pinch. 1993). An 11th Dynasty votive cloth from the Hathor shrine at Deir el Bahri in Egypt, shows a calf accompanying a Hathor cow (cf. plate 26.A. of the "ink drawing." Pinch.1993).

Gray has an illustration of bull-calf riding the solar bark or boat of the heavens, before the boat are two trees (Louis Herbert Gray. The Mythology of All Races, Egyptian and Indo-Chinese. Boston. Marshall Jones Company. 1918). The style looks like the New Kingdom artwork found in Pharaoh Thuthmose III's tomb (Gray, unfortunately, does not identify the source of this drawing). Perhaps Pepi as a Golden Calf riding the Sun's solar bark in Pyramid text Utterance 485a is what is being recalled in Thuthmose III's tomb? that is, that Thuthmose, like Pepi, will become a Golden Calf riding the Solar Bark for all eternity? Above the calf's back is a star. According to Allen, the Pyramid Texts reveal that the deceased Pharaoh not only saw himself riding a solar bark for all eternity, but that he would also dwell in the night sky for all eternity as "an imperishable star." Perhaps the star over the calf's back is such an allusion?

cf. the following url for the picture of the solar bark showing Horus seated, with a Calf and Star:


"In their content and arrangement, the Pyramid Texts reflect a vision of the afterlife modeled on the nightly journey of the sun through the Duat (the netherworld) on its way to rebirth at dawn. As the sun received the power of new life by joining with the body of Osiris in the depths of the Duat, the deceased's spirit gained the same power by uniting each night with its Osiris, the deceased's mummy, in its Duat, the sarchophagus chamber. This "solar" concept of daily resurrection constituted the primary vision of the afterlife for most of Egyptian history. The Pyramid Texts, however, also contain evidence of an earlier "stellar" concept, in which the deceased's spirit became one of the "imperishable stars" in the northern sky. Perhaps, for this reason, the corridor leading from the tomb emerges in the pyramid's northern face, rather than on the eastern (the direction of sunrise)." 

(p. 97. Vol. 3. James P. Allen. "Pyramid Texts." Donald B. Redford. Editor. The Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt. New York. Oxford University Press. 2001)

A wall mural  from the tomb of Arinefer shows he and wife adoring a white bull-calf walking between two turquoise colored trees as a sun rises above. In myths at Heliopolis, Egyptian Iunu, biblical ON, where Joseph settled in Genesis and married Asenath, the daughter of Potiphera, priest of On (Ge 41:50), there is a myth about the sun rising each day between two trees of turquoise. Hathor the sky cow goddess who gave birth to the sun, was also associated with trees, being shown as a tree, giving food and drink to the righteous dead, who would be allowed to ride the solar bark with the Sun god. Cf. the following url for the picture:

In another tomb, the dead man is portrayed as riding a calf's back and being transformed into a Horus. This is probably another wish to become a solar calf to ride with Horus (alternately called Re-Horakhty, meaning "Re-Horus of the Horizon") at dawn or sun rise in the solar bark. Cf. the following url for the picture:

Aaron in the biblical account is portrayed as casting a molten calf of gold from jewelry items, earrings being donated for the purpose by Israel (Ex 32:2-3). Israel makes a remarkable statement, declaring that the Golden Calf led them up out of Egypt to the Holy Mount:

" And he received the gold at their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool, and made a molten calf; and THEY SAID, "These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt !"
 (Ex 32:4-5, RSV)

If I am correct in assuming that the rising sun of dawn is the Golden Calf, Israel's statement makes sense, from an Egyptian perspective. The Israelites are portrayed as heading for Canaan via the Sinai. Both locations are east of Egypt. Perhaps the narrator has preserved an archaic memory of Egyptian miners with Asiatic slaves striking their tents each morning to resume their journey to Mount Sinai, taking their bearings from the rising sun?  During the course of the day the sun moves south across the skies leading the miners southeastwards towards Mount Sinai (Serabit el Khadim?). From an Egyptian perspective, then, the rising sun of the morning could be conceived as a Golden Calf leading them east-south-east to their rendezvous with their patron goddess Hathor. Alternately, Pharaoh, being called the "Golden Calf" may recall that ALL mining expeditions were sent by Pharaoh's authority, thus he is ultimately "the leader" of the expedition, and thus he is the Golden Calf responsible for leading miners to the Sinai for Turquoise and Copper.

When Moses descends the Mount he meets Joshua who hears a noise from the camp, thinking it might be a battle, but it turns out to be the nation at play, engaged in song and dancing, honoring the Golden Calf:

"And Moses turned, and went down from the mountain with two tables of the testimony in his hands...When Joshua heard the noise of the people as they shouted, he said to Moses, "There is a noise of war in the camp." But he said, "It is not the sound of shouting for victory, or the sound of the cry of defeat, but the sound of singing that I hear. And as soon as he came near the camp and saw the calf and the dancing Moses' anger burned hot, and he threw the tables out of his hands and broke them at the foot of the mountain." 

(Ex 32:17,18 RSV)

Did the Egyptians ever honor their "Golden Calf," Pharaoh, with song and dance? Yes. A wall relief shows Pharaoh Amenhotep III and his queen Teye (reigned ca. 1386-1349 BCE), seated, watching a procession of young girls dancing before him, they are lead by a prancing, skipping, bull-calf, which Roberts understands to be Pharaoh himself as Hathor's son, Ihy. The inscriptions accompanning the scene, which are songs or hymns, reveal that the dance is to honor two gods, Pharaoh and Hathor, the sky cow goddess (who gives birth to the Golden Calf each day as the rising sun of dawn). The inscriptions ask Hathor to be merciful to Pharaoh, and give him long life. We see that Pharaoh Pepi in the Pyramid Texts also asked for long life by being allowed to sail on the solar bark after death with the sun god.

Roberts :

"...Amun-Re...the divine body of the sun god, which is said to be made of pure gold." 

(p.73. Alison Roberts. Hathor Rising, The Power of the Goddess in Ancient Egypt. Rochester, Vermont. Inner Traditions International. [1995] 1997)

"Like her companion, the sun god Re, Hathor is a fiery solar deity. As goddess of many colors she constantly shifts her shape, becoming now 'Female Hawk,' now 'Cow of Gold,' now 'Lady of the Sycamore Tree,' again, as 'Great Lady of Punt..." 

(p.8. Roberts. 1995)

Roberts observes that a hymn accompanying the relief reveals Pharaoh wishes to be blessed with eternal life, rising like the Sun-god in the east for all eternity, Hathor is called "the Gold," and the one who rises, identifying her with the Sun, and as "the hair" of the Sun:

"Young braided girls, dressed in short skirts with bands crossed over their breasts, are shown performing sacred songs and dances for Hathor, Amenhotep and Queen Teye. They are continuing a long tradition of sacred dance and music in Egypt, for similar dances are known from fragments of Old Kingdom reliefs in the temple of King Sahure at Abusir in the north of Egypt (ca. 2490 BC), and also in Middle Kingdom tombs...The ritual meaning of the dances, however, is very much in the spirit of New Kingdom Egypt, as can be gleaned from the songs inscribed above the young performers, who are accompanied by women musicians, playing flutes or clapping their hands in rhythm. Over the dancers and musicians in the lower register is a powerful invocation to the starry snake goddess of the night, Hathor "Gold," whom they call on to rise and be propitiated though the dances they perform in her honor.

But they dance not only for this beneficent queen of the night, shining in her fiery brilliance, but also for Amenhotep who has great need for her power. In their chant to the goddess they implore her to take him to the east of the sky, to take the place where at dawn 'the doors of the sky open and a god goes forth pure.' And this is what they sing :

Make jubilation for Gold and sweet pleasure for the Lady of the Two Lands, that she may cause Nebmaatre [Amenhotep], given life, to be enduring. Come, rise. Come that I may make jubilation at twigh-light for you and music in the evening. O Hathor you are exalted in the hair of Re, in the hair of Re, for to you has been given the sky, deep night and the stars. Great is her majesty when she is propitiated. Adoration of Gold when she shines forth in the sky. To you belongs everything in the sky whilst Re is in it...O my Lady, come and protect King Nebmaatre, given life. Make him healthy on the east side of the sky, so that he is happy, prosperous and healthy in the horizon. All people propitiate her while there is Gold. If you desire he should live, cause him to live for millions of years without ceasing. O pray that this may be protection."

The Hathorian spirit of excitation is awake in their music, bringing the king into a night-time realm of rhythm and movement...Not sleep and death are longed for here, but the coming of Gold, who infuses him with life and vitality, initiating him to a new shining existence at dawn." 

(pp. 26-27. Roberts.1995)

Roberts cites hymns revealing that Pharaoh himself dances and sings to Hathor's honor, called the making of "Ihy music" (Ihy is the son of Hathor and Horus and he is the patron god of musicians honoring his mother, he is shown as a naked youth with a prince's hair lock holding a sistrum instrument). Roberts understands that the prancing bull calf at the head of the procession of dancers is none other than Pharaoh himself as Ihy the bull-calf of Hathor and Horus.

"But as important, by making music they [the Pharaohs] also become incarnations of Hathor's musical and mercurial child, Ihy, whose presence at the Sed Festival of Amenhotep III is symbolized by the leaping frisky bull-calf at the head of the dancers."

(plate 35, pp.28-29. Roberts. 1995)

Roberts, suggests that the Golden Calf which led Israel through the Red Sea to mount Sinai might be drawing from Egyptian myths of Ihy the Golden Calf of Hathor:

"One wonders, too, how far these Egyptian themes lie behind the celebrated episode of the Calf of Gold, fashioned by the Israelites during their Exodus from Egypt. According to Hebrew tradition, the Israelites saw a vision of a bull before them as they made their perilous crossing over the Red Sea. Once they had arrived safely on the far side, they proceeded to make a golden image of the calf in joyful celebrations. For this was the Calf of Gold who had led them safely out of Egypt, and so must be worshipped, thanked and propitiated. Old habits die hard. and not even the fear of Jahweh's wrath or the displeasure of Moses could prevent such backsliding into familiar customs." 

(p. 32. Roberts. 1995)

The King James Version of the Bible understands that Israel danced "naked" before the Golden Calf. This notion is drawn from Jerome's Latin Vulgate Bible.

"And when Moses saw that the people were naked; (for Aaron had made them naked unto their shame among their enemies:)"

(Exodus 32:25. The Holy Bible, Authorized King James Version. Holman Bible Publishers. Nashville. 1998)

Scholars are bewildered as how later translators understood Israel to be "naked" in honoring the Golden Calf. Jerome's 4th century A.D. Latin Vulgate renders "...Aaron propter ignominiam sordis et inter hostes NUDUM constituerat..." So, evidently the concept of "nakedness" of some form arose by the 4th century A.D.

Hannah Fane (1975) Understood that the Golden Calf incident may have been a recast of religious rites​ associated with Hathor:

"The incident of the golden calf was in actuality a fertility rite after worshipping the calf and sacrificing to it, "they rose up to play" and indulge in lewdness. In fact, according to legend, the golden calf may have represented Hathor..."

(p.25. Hannah Fane. The Shifting Balance of Male and Female in Judaism. Indiana University. 1975)

My note: the Hebrew word "play," according to some scholars, suggests sexual fore-play! As Hat-Hor was an Egyptian love goddess, drunken sex acts may have been part of her festivities.

Modern renderings of the above verse understand that the people were "running wild" and "unrestrained":

Exodus 32:25 RSV

"And Moses saw that the people had broken loose (for Aaron had let them break loose, to their shame among their enemies)..."

Exodus 32:25 TANAKH

"Moses saw that the people were out of control- since Aaron had let them get out of control- so that they were a menace to any who might oppose them." (TANAKH, The Holy Scriptures. Philadelphia & New York. The Jewish Publication Society. 1988/5748)

It is a mystery for scholars why Jerome chose to portray Israel as "naked" in her dances before the Golden Calf. Perhaps Jews and Christians living in Egypt in the 4th century A.D. witnessed such dances honoring bulls and bull calves and thus Jerome entered this nudity motif into the Latin Vulgate?

Kessler on the survival of such cultic activities into 4th century A.D. (C.E.) Christian times:

In the fourth century CE, the non-Christian populations of Egypt's cities still had processions of their sacred bull gods..." 

(pp. 209-213. Vol. 1. Dieter Kessler. "Bull Gods." Donald B. Redford. Editor. The Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt. New York. Oxford University Press. 2001)

I have documented  that, on occasion, apparently, nude dancing did take place in honor of Hathor. 

Of interest here, is a portion of a votive leather hanging found at the Hathor shrine at Deir el Bahri in Egypt, bearing a painted scene of an Egyptian lady playing a harp in an arbor of grape vines, before her, a naked man dances, his prominently displayed genitals swinging in rhythm to to the music (cf. plate 54. text p. 133. Geraldine Pinch. Votive Offerings to Hathor. Griffith Institute, Ashmolean Museum. Oxford. 1993). Grapes were dedicated to Hathor as votives. The grapes are probably an allusion to the Hathor festivals where drunkenness (via wine, which can resemble blood) was encouraged.

Why nudity in the dancing? Hathor was a goddess of love, sex, and conception. Votive phalli made of wood and stone as well as vulvas (cowrie shells resembling  the vulva were also votives) have been found in association with her shrines (cf. plates 52 & 53. Pinch. 1993). In one myth she gets the sun god Re to laugh by raising her dress and exposing her genitals to him.

Many today envision Israel's honoring the Golden Calf as involving not only dancing but gross intoxication or drunkenness. Some Hathor festivals did involve intoxication as way of honoring the goddess. According to myths the sun god, Re, angry with a rebellious mankind, sent Hathor to annihilate man. She did it with gusto, Re repented, and to save mankind, it was decided to get her drunk by dying thousands of jugs of beer red to look like blood. When she saw the blood, she drank copiously and desisted in her murderous rage, being intoxicated. This saving of mankind via drunkenness, was then, honored in festivals to propitiate her as a fearsome goddess, by her devotees, becoming drunk themselves. So, dancing, singing, drunkenness, and apparently on occasion even nudity, as well as prancing bull calves, are all attested in Egyptian myth and artifacts found in association with the Hathor cult. To what degree such Egyptian traditions might have been kept alive outside the Bible, in Jewish beliefs, to be recorded at a later date by Jerome, is unknown. Undoubtedly the Hathor cult and its dances was still functioning in Jerome's day, perhaps these rituals came to be associated with the biblical story by Jews and Christians living in Egypt ?

As noted earlier, the sun was manifested in many different forms, not only as a calf but also as a bull. 

The bible associates the death of thousands with the worship of the Golden Calf, Moses ordering the worshippers to be slain. There may be reformatted motifs here from the Hathor cult.  In one myth Hathor as the vengeful "Eye of Re," is sent down from heaven by Re, the sun god, to annihilate mankind  for _rebelling against Re_. Perhaps the notion that Yahweh orders annihilation for a "_rebelling" Israel_, who has spurned Him for the Golden Calf, is a re-working of this Hathor motif? To the degree that the Egyptians associated Hathor with death,  she causing thousands to perish on Re's orders for rebellion to him and despising him, and her devotees engaging in drunkenness, song and dance to propitiate her fearsome side, these motifs may have been (?) reformatted as Yahweh demanding annihilation of a rebellious Israel.

"In the Middle Kingdom we encounter a new image of Re. Several hymns to the sun god tell how he created the world solely for humankind. Human beings are made in his image, and he provides them with everything they need for life. Evil, however, does not come from the god but from mortal's own rebellious hearts, and for this they are judged in the underworld." 

(p. 124. Vol. 3. Maya Muller. "Re and Re-Horakhty." Donald B. Redford. Editor. The Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt. New York. Oxford Univerity Press. 2001)


"Hathor, however, also had her destructive aspects. One myth tells how at the instigation of the sun god, who had grown old and wanted to punish mankind for plotting to do away with him, she began to slay the human race. She enjoyed the slaughter so much that the other gods, alarmed, flooded the fields with an intoxicating brew which she drank made her incapable of perceiving mankind." 

(p. 54. "Hathor." Anthony S. Mercante. Who's Who in Egyptian Mythology. New York. Clarkson N. Potter, Publisher. 1978)

Budge gives the greatest details on Hathor's destruction of mankind, noting that the sun god is furious because mankind is COMPLAINING and finding fault with him, similar motifs are ascribed to a rebellious Isrrael in the wilderness, testing God and constantly complaining. Perhaps these biblical concepts are also reformatted Hathor themes?

Budge's translation of an Egyptian text:

"Then spoke Ra unto Nu saying ..."take heed to what men and women [are doing]; for behold, those who were created by my Eye are uttering WORDS OF COMPLAINT AGAINST ME. Tell me what you would do in the matter...for I WILL SLAY THEM...Behold, they have betaken themselves to flight into the mountain lands, for their hearts are afraid because of the words which they have uttered. Then the gods spoke in the presence of his Majesty, saying " Let thine Eye go forth and let it destroy for thee those who revile thee with words of evil, for there is no eye whatsoever that can go before it and resist thee and it journeyeth in the form of Hathor.Thereupon this goddess went forth and slew the men and the women who were on the mountain (or desert land). And the Majesty of this god said " Come, come in peace, O Hathor, for the work is accomplished." 

(pp.15-19. "The Destruction of Mankind." E.A. Wallis Budge. Legends of the Egyptian Gods, Hieroglyphic Texts and Translations. [note: Budge provides the text in Hieroglyphs facing the English translation]. New York. Dover Publications. [1912], reprint 1994)

Fearing Hathor will destroy ALL of mankind, Re orders 7,000 vessels of beer to be made, adding to them the blood of the previously slain men and women, then these vessels are poured out overnight upon the land. The next day, Hathor ,seeing the blood, drinks and becomes intoxicated, forgetting her vow to destroy a fault-finding, complaining and rebellious mankind, she having the previous day destroyed many at a site in the desert Mountain lands (the Nile valley where Ra's rebellious subjects live, is surrounded by mountainous desert lands) that they had "fled to" in fear of Ra's wrath.

I see a number of motifs here that reappear in the Sinai narratives.  Israel is in a mountainous land, Mount Sinai/Horeb, she has "fled to this area" from the power of  Egyptian Gods. Israel is also portrayed as rebellious, fault-finding, and complaining about their God. Just as Ra in his wrath, seeks his disloyal worshipper's annihilation at the hands of an "intermediary," Hathor, as the vengeful Eye of Ra, so Yahweh seeks the annihilation of his disloyal worshippers via the hands of an "intermediary," Joshua and those still loyal to Yahweh, who are in rebellion of his authority.

The Exodus narratives portray three thousand, men and women, as being slain in the Golden Calf incident (Ex 32:28), so one would expect that "somewhere" in the Sinai thousands of graves would exist of the Late Bronze Age or Early Iron I eras, as most scholars understand that this is when the Exodus would have occured. 

The problem? no such graves of the Late Bronze/Early Iron Ages exist in the "thousands," in the Sinai, Aabah or Negev. A "few" graves do exist, however, of these eras, in association with the mines, and stone stelae near some tumuli reveal that the Asiatic miner's sought the blessing of their god EL.

Albright noted several "burial cairns" in association with Proto-Sinaitic inscriptions, could these cairns be what is behind the notion of the "graves" of Israelites slain in the thousands in the Wilderness by God? The throwing down of the two tablets containing the Ten Commandments being echos of the Sinaitic inscriptions found on stone slabs in association with the graves? 


"In 1948 I had a very easy time proving that the so-called "sleeping shelters" were the remains of burial cairns (bamot), where a number of funerary inscriptions were first discovered...since the miners could not procure sacrifical animals themselves, they had to resort to imploring those who could obtain the animals to show the miners this last kindness. Animals available in the wilds of Sinai were picked for this purpose; wild cows, wild ewes and fatlings (i.e., young male animals which could be fattened). The divinities usually invoked were El and his consort Asherah (apparently identified with a Nubian Serpent-goddess) as well as the 'Lady' Hathor." 

(p.14. William Foxwell Albright. The Proto-Sinaitic Inscriptions and Their Decipherment. Cambidge. Harvard University Press. 1966) Note: The inscriptions do NOT mention Asherah, this is Albright's supposition.

Hathor was also the goddess who received the dead into the underworld. She is portrayed in association with "the mountain of the west," symbolic of where the sun sets and dies, only to be reborn again in the east of her as a Golden Calf. She is frequently shown as either standing in front of the mount, or seated before the mount, or her head emerging from the mount, suggesting the rest of her body is in a cave or opening in the mount, it being the entrance to the underworld. She receives all mankind into her holy mount, might these motifs also lie behind Israel being shown "as dying" for having honored the Golden Calf (recalling that Pharaoh,  "in death," is reborn as the Golden Calf)?


"The 'cow and mountain' motif belongs to the imagery of the daily death and rebirth of the sun god." (p.131)

I note that stelae found at Serabit el Khadim show the dead enjoying a funerary meal which consists of portions of hornless bovine, is this indicative of "veal" or "calf" being consumed by the dead? Did this "consumption" of a calf become transformed into Israel consuming a Golden Calf after Moses destroyed it? Are the shattered visages of bovines at Serabit el Khadim behind the notion of Moses' destruction of the Golden Calf?

Pinch also noted that Hathor shrines at times have a sacred cave housing her image, an allusion to her being the cow which receives all mankind into death and the underworld. She aides the righteous, carrying them on her back (also note a bull-calf carrying the righteous dead in a renewal of life). 

Two sacred caves were found at the Hathor shrine in Serabit el Khadim, one was for Hathor the other for Sopdu, "the Lord of the East", 'the mighty bull who tramples the Menti." At Har Timna her temple was under an overhang of a cliff face, which may have suggested for the Egyptians a type of cave. 

Pinch describing a Hathor cave at Gebel Zeit , New Kingdom era:

"The cave-like sanctuary at the south-east end  of the platform is only 2 meters long and 1.50 wide. Its entrance was partly closed by a dry-stone wall. Possibly the shrine was sealed at the end of each expedition to protect its contents. The preliminary report on this shrine does not mention any decoration or inscription on the walls; nor is it stated whether the 'cave' was natural or man-made. Since there are several mines and processing areas in the immediate vicinity the sanctuary may well have been cut by the miners." (p. 72. Pinch)

What I am trying to say, is that there probably never was a slaughter of thousands of Israelites for worshipping a Golden Calf in the southern Sinai. This is probably a later "reworking" of motifs associated with the Hathor Cult at Serabit el Khadim and Har Timna. Her sacred cave may have become transformed into Yahweh's sacred cave that Elijah fled to (to the degree that Aaron declares the morrow is "a feast day to Yahweh," (Ex 32:5) suggesting his identity with the calf set up by Jeroboam. At Serabit el Khadim was found a fragmented bas-relief showing a portion of the divine heavenly cow suckling Pharaoh. To the degree that Hathor suckles Pharaoh and gives him birth at dawn as the rising Sun, we have the motif in the southern Sinai.  

Pinch noted that although nothing was found in the Hathor shrine at Gebel Zeit, a portion of a cow's head with sun disk and horns was found near a mine entrance in the vicinity (p.72. Pinch). Could the breaking and scattering of a bovine image of Hathor at Gebel Zeit, in her role of protecting Pharaoh as a Golden Calf, be what is being alluded to in Moses breaking and scattering of the Golden Calf? A cave-like sanctuary was found at Deir el Bahri, with a huge three-dimensional Hathor cow with Pharaoh standing under her chin. Is this the divine cow with her "Golden Calf" she protects? Perhaps similar images existed at Serabit el Khadim and Har Timna, the images being later destroyed and scattered as at Gebel Zeit ? (Gebel Zeit is a mountainous area near the Red Sea, south of Ras Gharib, and bisected by Wadi Kabrit, excavated in the 1980's).

Mercante on some of Egypt's sacred bulls:

"Apis. Greek name for the Egyptian Hapi (Hape or Hap), the sacred bull of Memphis. It was said that Apis was born of a virgin cow that had been impregnated by the god Ptah. The CALF was recognized by certain signs, such as a peculiar white mark on its neck and rump that resembled a hawk's wings and a scarab-like hump under its tongue. The BABY BULL was brought to Memphis where it each day it was let loose to roam in the courtyard of the temple for devotees to observe; his movements were believed to foretell the future...Originally Apis may have been a fertility god concerned with flocks and herds. At Memphis he became associated with Ptah, the god who fashioned the world, and with Osiris, the god who blessed kingdom the dead hoped to enter...In Egyptian art Apis was portrayed as a powerful animal with massive limbs and body. A triangular piece of silver was fixed on his forehead, and a disk and the uraeus were placed between his horns. Above his legs figures of vultures with outstretched wings were outlined, and on his back, also outlined, was a rectangular cloth with an ornamental diamond pattern. Other sacred bulls were Mnevis and Buchis." 

(pp.12-13. "Apis." Anthony S. Mercatante. Who's Who in Egyptian Mythology. New York. Clarkson N. Potter Inc., 1978)

"Buchis. A sacred bull worshipped at Hermonthis who was believed to be an incarnation of the warrior god Menthu. He was also called the "living soul of Ra," as well as the "bull of the mountains of sunrise and sunset."Buchis was black...and he was seen as the image of the sun shining in Tuat, the underworld. In Egyptian art Buchis wore a disk between his horns from which rose plumes and the uraeus. On his hindquarters was the sacred symbol of the vulture with outspread wings." 

(p.25. "Buchis." Mercatante) 

"Mnevis (Bull). Greek name for the Egyptian sacred bull Wer-mer worshipped at Heliopolis. He was believed to be the incarnation of the sun and was often portrayed as a bull with a disk and the uraeus between his horns." 

(p.96. "Mnevis." Mercatante)

Kessler on the symbolism of bulls and their assimilation to Pharaoh:

"The ancient Egyptian pantheon included bull, cow and calf divinities. Alongside the forms of higher gods- human figures with bovine heads- representations of naturalistic forms show a corresponding variety, from cult figures shaped like bulls, cows and calves to small sculptures and amulets. Bovine shapes and cullt figures of bulls with changing attributes have been found on processional and district standards, on finials of staffs, in reliefs and paintings on temple walls, on stelae, coffins and other surfaces. The figures reflect the theological role of the bull-shaped god as a form of the sun god and the events of creation at the beginning of time...The heavenly bull was associated with a star group that had rows of bull heads. Their horns encompassed a star. One of the signs of the Egyptian zodiac was the front part of a bull.

Most bull gods of dynastic Egypt were initially connected with the king or queen...if the high god wished to manifest himself in a living bull he could do so. Thus the living Memphite Apis bull became a form of the the son and representative of the god Ptah; the living Mnevis bull became the son and representative of Re. In fact, all the bull gods could have ba forms of the various primeval and high gods...Depending on the text, Apis was Ptah, Ptah-Sokar-Osiris, Geb-Shu, Osiris, Re, Atum and or Horus - or, as later texts say "all in one."

The very ancient fusion of Egypt's king with the bull- with both the aggressive wild bull and the bull of fertility- allowed the bull's characteristics, his strength and sexual potency, to become part of the essence of royalty. The bull's primeval strength became an essential element of kingship. During the sed-festival the king became a bull as part of his own physical and bodily renewal. The king's Horus name is "strong bull," from the time of the 18th dynasty, and the king is also "bull of his mother"...Eventually, the royal characteristics from the primeval bull and their related phase identities were transferred to the gods. Since every Egyptian high god functioned as a king, theoretically the bull form could be attributed to all of them : Amun, Atum, Re, Ptah, Thoth, Shu, Osiris, Min, Seth and others. There were corresponding cow forms as well for the corresponding female deities...The essential characteristics of the primeval bulls were then needed for subsequent transfer to the god of heaven; the entire group of bulls were again found with this high god- the heavenly sun god Re, Amun-Re, the high god Ptah-south-of-his-wall, and others. The earthly bull image, as youthful divinity, was in turn visible every morning, as the son of this high god, who then dwelled in the form of a bull...In the fourth century CE, the non-Christian populations of Egypt's cities still had processions of their sacred bull gods..." 

(pp.209-213. Vol. 1. Dieter Kessler. "Bull Gods." Donald B. Redford. Editor. The Oxford Encylopedia of Ancient Egypt. New York. Oxford University Press. 2001)

Pharaoh was called "Bull of his mother," a title borrowed from the ithyphallic god Min, who was "Lord of the eastern deserts" where mines were exploited. Min came to be fused or assimilated to the sun god. I have earlier pointed out that the sun as a bull at evening, impregnates his mother, the heavens, as a cow goddess, in order to be reborn of her as the Golden Calf at dawn.


"Min, the Greek form of the god whom the Egyptians called Menu. One of the oldest of the Egyptian deities, he was associated with fertility, and specifically, male sexual potency. He was also the god of the desert, especially the wastelands to the east of Coptos and Akhmim. his chief centers of worship. His protection was sought by those who traveled through inhospitable regions in search of gold, perfumes, and incense in the lands toward Arabia, and he was specially revered by laborers who worked the Eastern Desert mines...Min appears as a human figure, standing upright and wrapped as a mummy, holding his erect penis in his left hand...The other iconographic characteristics of Min are the flail that he holds in his upraised right hand, and the distinctive crown that he wears; the crown is tall and double-plumed, with a long ribbon in the back. Later, Min's crown was taken over by Amun...Depictions of Min's sanctuary resemble tents that desert-dwellers used, and New Kingdom reliefs on temple walls illustrate the ceremony of raising the tentpoles for Min. As lord of the Eastern Desert, Min was sometimes depicted in the company of gods of foreign origin, such as Reshep, Qedeshet, and Anat. Some scholars have identified him with the being described by the Pyramid Texts as "the one who raises his arm in the East." As an embodiment of male sexuality, Min was complemented by the goddess Hathor, who was associated with the libidinous aspects of the feminine...By New Kingdom times, however, Min was equated with Amun, especially with the primordial creative aspect of the latter deity. Min-Amun-Re was given the appelation Kamutef, which literally means "bull of his mother" - that is, one who impregnates his own mother so that she gives birth to himself...Popular worship of Min was of a riotous nature.

(pp. 218-220. Eugene Romanosky. "Min." Donald B. Redford. Editor. The Ancient Gods Speak, A Guide to Egyptian Religion. New York. Oxford University Press. 2002)

Some scholars have noted that the "Golden Calf" may be a "Young Bull" rather than a calf, Metzger and May make the following observation: 

"The CALF, OR YOUNG BULL, was a symbol of fertility in the nature-religions of the ancient Near East." 

(p.109. Note to Exodus 32:2-3. Herbert G. May & Bruce M. Metzger. The New Oxford Annotated Bible With the Apocrypha. Revised Standard Version. New York. Oxford University Press. 1977)

We have seen that the Egyptians themselves identified the Golden Calf as Pharaoh, being reborn at dawn as the rising sun. It remains to be explained how these motifs, associated with the cult of Hathor, she being the heavens that give birth the the solar calf, came to enter the Hebrew traditions of an Exodus into the southern Sinai and Arabah.

Excavations at the Hathor shrines of Serabit el Khadim and Har Timna reveal that not only Egyptians were present mining turquoise and copper but Asiatics as well. Scholars are divided as to whether these Asiatics were slaves, corvee laborers, or free men drawn to the mines by an opportunity to earn wages from the Egyptian overseers. Albright argued they were Hyksos slaves of the New Kingdom Pharaohs. Beit-Arieh thinks they were free men, drawn from Canaan, where mining traditions from Early Bronze Age times were kept alive. Beit-Arieh noted that South Canaanite miners from the Negev of Arad had penetrated the Sinai in the Early Bronze Age and were exploiting copper deposits at Wadi Riqeita, to the east of Gebel Musa, their camps being near Nabi Salah (a number of which he personnally excavated).

Perhaps the Asiatics were a mix of all of the above, slaves, corvee laborers and free men? One thing is quite definite, the mining camps always have evidence of an Egyptian presence, suggesting that Egypt zealously guarded the mineral reserves of the Sinai and Arabah for her royal treasury, the Asiatics were not allowed to exploit these reserves for themselves (no "purely Asiatic" mining encampments ever being found in the Late Bronze-Early Iron eras).

The two Hathor shrines revealed that some of the Asiatics had no problem assimilating their gods to Egypian gods and votives with Asiatic inscriptions on them appear dedicated to Hathor at Serabit el Khadim. At Har Timna, Asiatic votives, locally produced copper earings, bracelets, rings were dedicated to Hathor according to the excavator, Beno Rothenberg.

Midianite pottery, called  al-Qurayya ware, and Amalekite pottery called Negev ware, exist ONLY at the Timna shrine. These forms have not been encountered in the Sinai or at Serabit el Khadim.

This suggests for me that Mount Horeb, "near Midian," is Har Timna. 

But Mount Sinai "in the southern Sinai" is alluding to Serabit el Khadim and the stone tablets written by the finger of God and presented to Moses, recalling the archaic Proto-Sinaitic inscriptions of the 15th century BCE found in association with the Egyptian run mining camps, such tablets do NOT exist in the Arabah or at Timna. 

Thus, I understand two different locations, Serabit el Khadim and Har Timna have been fused together in the Exodus narratives about Mount Sinai/Horeb. Both locations have the pottery from Egypt of the Late Bronze and Iron I eras as required by scholars seeking an archaeologically attested link for the Exodus traditions.

I understand that the Exodus traditions are telescoping and fusing together events, attested by archaeology, from Early Bronze to Exilic times, ca. 562 BCE. The Exodus from Egypt recalls the Hyksos expulsion of ca. 1540/1530 BCE, but this has been fused with events at Har Timna of the Rameside era (1290-1130 BCE), and the Aramean invasion from northern Syria and Trans-Euphrates in Iron I (1200-1000 BCE) by Israel.

As regards the archaeological evidence for the remains of a Golden Calf in the Sinai or Arabah, I suspect that the biblical traditions have transformed the real events. At Timna the Hathor pillars bearing her human face with cow ears, were ALL effaced, the images being pounded to dust, leaving only a faint outline of the face. The Hathor pillars at Serabit el Khadim do NOT exhibit this effacing, they are intact. This suggests for me that the "effacing of the Hathor pillars" at Timna in Ramesside times by the Midianites (according to Professor Beno Rothenberg), is what lies behind the Exodus motif of Moses pounding to dust the Golden Calf. 

But Hathor is NOT the Golden Calf, she is the "mother" of the Calf. How did the Mother come to be confused with the Calf's destruction? Hathor was called Nub or Nubt in Egyptian which means "Gold" or "the Golden One," an epitheth much debated over by Egyptologists as to its meaning. I suspect that when Asiatic miners returned to Canaan in Ramesside times, they brought back with them stories of cultic rites, singing, dancing, drunkeness, perhaps even nudity, in celebrating the mother of the the Golden Calf, the sun of dawn. As Hathor was called "Golden," she came to be transformed into the Golden Calf. In other words, the returning Asiatics told stories "the golden one" being pounded to dust, and ther descendants garbled this into a "Golden Calf."

Scholars have noted a strange statement by the prophet Hosea about the Golden Calves set up by Jeroboam for Israel to worship at Bethel and Dan, Hosea spoke of the calves using a feminine form. Could perhaps this feminine form be an "archaic relic" recalling Hathor being transformed into the Golden Calf? 

"The term 'eghel, is the ordinary Hebrew name for a male calf and is as flexible as the English name, applying to any animal from one a year old (Micah 6:6) or perhaps younger (Leviticus 9:3; Leviticus 12:6) to one three years old (Genesis 15:9; compare Jeremiah 34:18-19). It has been thought that the habitual use of this diminutive term for the golden bulls which Aaron and Jeroboam set up--especially as it is twice made feminine (Hosea 10:5; Hosea 13:2)--was intended to indicate their small size and thus to express contempt for them. This however, though plausible, is by no means certain. It was not their size which made these bulls contemptible in the eyes of the prophets, and besides there were no life-size bulls of molten gold in any surrounding countries so far as known. The reference to female calves that were kissed (Hosea 13:2), presumably at Bethel, may refer not to the worship of the bulls, but to their female counterparts, since in all other countries such female deities invariably accompanied the bull gods."

(Camden M. Cobern. "Calf, Golden." James Orr. Editor. The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. 1915)

The Golden Calf as Yahweh? (The Pre-biblical Origins of)

Israel's response to Aaron's fashioning of the Golden Calf, "These are your gods" (Ex 32:5)
is a _clue_ from the narrator/author that "foreshadows" the TWO Golden Calves set up at Dan and Bethel by King Jeroboam (1 Ki 12:28). The narrator is informing his audience that the worship of Golden Calves is wrong because they are Egyptian gods.

Exodus 32: 4 RSV

"And he received the gold at their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool, and they made a molten calf; and they said, "These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!"

The problem? A potsherd was found in Iron Age Samaria inscribed egeliah, "bull-calf Yah." Which suggests for some scholars that Jeroboam did NOT worship the Golden Calf as an Egyptian god, he understood the Calf to be "Yahweh" or "Yah" himself! This is confirmed in an utterance from Aaron's mouth after making the Golden Calf. He declares that the morrow will be feast day to YAHWEH (translated in English Bibles as "the LORD" Ex 32:5,cf. Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, "Hebrew and Chaldee Dictionary." # 3068). So, Aaron is apparently identifying the Golden Calf with YAHWEH!  But Why?

Exodus 32:5 RSV

When Aaron saw this he built an altar before it; and Aaron made proclamation and said "Tomorrow shall be a feast to the Lord [Yahweh]."

Yahweh is also called EL in the bible, usually translated into English as "God." Of interest is that God in the Sinai is likened in metaphorical language to a "long-horned wild ox," _protecting_ his people (Nu 23:22), please note that in this verse the Hebrew says "EL" is a long-horned wild ox, NOT "Yahweh" is an ox. 

Nu 23:22 RSV,

"God [EL] brings them out of Egypt; and they have as it were the horns of the wild ox..."

The Jewish translation into English of the Holy Scriptures also likens God to an ox :

Nu 23:22 (TANAKH)

"God [EL] who freed them from Egypt is for them like the horns of a wild ox." (TANAKH, The Holy Scriptures. The Jewish Publication Society. Philadelphia. 5748 [1988])

Archaeologists have determined that the Egyptian miners of the southern Sinai also had Asiatic workcrews. These Asiatics left inscriptions asking "EL" to _protect_ them. EL is written in an archaic Proto-Sinaitic script as eleph + lamd, as two picture-symbols, the head of a long-horned wild ox and an ox-goad shaped like a shepherd's crook (cf. Mine L, Sinai Nos. 377 and 378. [a Doctoral dissertation at Tel Aviv, Israel] Benjamin Sass. The Genesis of the Alphabet and Its Development in the Second Millennium BC. Agypten und Altes Testament. Band 13. In Kommission bei Otto Harrassowitz. Wiesbaden, Germany. 1988). 

So, here in the southern Sinai, in the 17th-15th century BCE, we have EL, being portrayed in his "very name," as a long-horned wild ox, _protecting_ Asiatic miners. Proto-Sinaitic inscriptions found on a Sphinx dedicated to the Egyptian cow goddess Hathor, reveal that these Asiatics had no problem assimilating or associating their gods with Egyptian gods. The Sphinx in hieroglyphs is dedicated to Hathor, whilst the Proto-Sinaitic inscription dedicates it to Baalat, meaning "Lady," a title given Hathor at Byblos, which was a trade partner with Egypt since Old Kingdom times, and which had a temple to Hathor.

I thus conclude on the basis of the archeological evidence, that Aaron's declaring the "Feast day of the Golden Calf" to be a day honoring Yahweh, is recalling the Asiatic's associating their gods with Egyptian gods. And as God is EL, and is portrayed in the bible as a long-horned wild ox protecting his people (recalling Asiatic prayers, invocations to EL to "protect them from harm"), it is events at the Hathor shrine at Serabit el Khadim being recalled, the bible dating the Exodus to ca. 1446 BCE, and the Proto-Sinaitic inscriptions being dated to this very same era (17th-15th century BCE)!

No inscriptions have been found "in" the Sinai or Arabah of the Late Bronze Age or Early Iron I mentioning Yahweh. But in the Bible, on occasion, Yahweh is called EL, so perhaps the Asiatic miners' Proto-Sinaitic invocations to EL at Serabit el Khadim lie behind the Exodus traditions?

Thus, El, who led Israel out of Egypt as "a long-horned wild ox" is archaeologically attested in the Late Bronze Age Proto-Sinaitic inscriptions of the 17th-15th century BCE (the Bible dating the Exodus to the 15th century, ca. 1446 BCE, cf. 1 Kings 6:1). To the degree that the Sun was the supreme god of the Egyptians, and could assume bovine forms of a Golden Calf as well as the mighty Golden Horus bull, it is not to be wondered that the Asiatics would identify their supreme bovine god, EL, with the Egyptian bovine Sun god, "the Golden Calf"! 

So, it would appear that Aaron's statement, associating the feast day of the Golden Calf with a feast day to Yahewh is "not amiss," it is probably recalling genuine Late Bronze Age associations in the minds of the Asiatic miners.

The Golden Calf was associated with the rising sun at dawn in Egyptian myths, was Yahweh-Elohim or El, ever so portrayed in the Exodus narratives? Yes. We are told that Yahweh "dawned and shone forth" from Mount Sinai, and Paran as well as Seir, locations associated with the southern Sinai and Arabah where lie the Hathor shrines of Serabit el Khadim and Har Timna. I would argue that the Asiatic miners would have assimilated to their god, EL, the same Egyptian solar imagery, from the Golden Calf as the dawning sun of the east. That is, I understand that the words, DAWNED and SHOWN FORTH, are solar imagery connotations, appropriate for a God likened to the rising sun at dawn:

Deuteronomy 33:1-2 RSV

"This is the blessing with which Moses the man of God blessed the children of Israel before his death. He said, "The Lord came from Sinai, he DAWNED from Seir upon us; he SHONE FORTH from Mount Paran, He came from the ten thousands of holy ones, with flaming fire at his right hand."

Judges 5:3-5  RSV

"Hear, O kings; give ear, O princes; to the Lord I will sing, I will make melody to the Lord, the God of Israel: "Lord when thou didst go forth from the region of EDOM, the earth trembled, and the heavens dropped, yea, the clouds dropped water. The mountains quaked before the Lord, yon SINAI before the Lord, the God of Israel."

Still later, Yahweh is metaphorically described by the prophet Malachi as a "Sun of righteousness with healing in its wings." For the Egyptians, the Sun was rendered on occasion with hawk wings as "Horus of Bedhety," who destroys his and Egypt's enemies. Horus as the sun, also decides who qualifies (only the righteous dead may accompany him) to ride the solar bark across the heavens each day, as recalled in Pharaoh Pepy's hymn in the Pyramid Texts. 

Malachi 4:2 RSV

"But for you who fear my name the SUN OF RIGHTEOUSNESS shall RISE, with healing in its wings. You shall go forth LIKE LEAPING CALVES from the stall. And you shall tread down the wicked, for they shall be ASHES under the soles of your feet, on the day when I act, says the Lord of hosts."

In Egyptian myth the winged sun, Horus of Bedhety, crushes all his foes; Pharaoh, who likens himself to Horus, is addressed by his Canaanite vassal princes as "MY GOD, MY SUN," these princes likening themselves to being the DUST under under Pharoah's feet. Such imagery appears to be applied to Yahweh by Malachi, the rising sun (the Golden Calf, Horus of Bedhety), defeats God's enemies and they are ashes or dust under Yahweh's feet. 


"Horus the falcon was predominately a sky god and a sun god...syncretized with the deity Re, most often as Re-Harakhty...Horus of Behdet/the Behdeitie was normally shown as a winged disk with pendant uraei (snakes) and, as such, often appeared on the upper border or lunette of stelae. Horus the falcon/disk had the epithets..."Great God, Lord of Heaven, Dappled of Plumage." 

(pp. 166-167. Edmund S. Meltzer. "Horus." Donald B. Redford. Editor. The Ancient Gods Speak, A Guide to Egyptian Religion. New York. Oxford University Press. 2002.)


"Horus-Behdety. A form of the god Horus, meaning "He of Behdet," a district of ancient Edfu...After having aided the king Ra-Harakhte (a form of the god Ra and Horus combined) Horus-Behdety flew up to heaven in the form of a winged disk, being called, "Great God, Lord of Heaven." From heaven he was able to see the enemies of his father. He chased them in the form of a winged disk and slaughtered them." 

(p. 66. "Horus-Behdety." Anthony S. Mercante. Who's Who in Egyptian Mythology. New York. Clarkson N. Potter, Publisher. 1978)

In Egyptian myths the sun in its many mainfestations is the champion of the righteous and oppressor of the evil and unrighteous. Malachi's rigteous being likened to leaping calves, recalls the leaping calf, Ihy, son of Hathor, symbolic of a righteous Pharaoh Amenhotep III, who desires immortality as the rising sun of the east.

It is my understanding, then, that Egyptian solar beliefs and rituals from Late Bronze and Early Iron I times have been preserved in the Exodus narratives. Yahweh as the Golden Calf, recalls the Asiatic miners assimilating/associating their gods with Egyptian gods. Yahweh, DAWNING and SHINING FORTH from Mounts Sinai, and Paran and Seir, recalls Egyptian notions of the all-powerful and conquering sun, vanquishing his enemies in the form of Pharaoh and the Golden Calf and Horus of Bedhety.

The biblical narratives also have Israelite women honoring Yahweh by making textiles for the Tabernacle, curtains, robes for the priests, etc. Of interest is that textile votives were also dedicated to Hathor as she was the goddess of women and textiles were considered a womanly craft. Professor Beno Rothenberg found textile votives at the Hathor shrine at Har Timna in the southern Arabah. I suspect that Har Timna is Mount Horeb "near" Midian, as Midianite pottery was found at this location. I also suspect that the votive textiles for Hathor have been transformed in the Exodus narratives, into textiles for Yahweh's Tabernacle and priests.

An enraged Moses is portrayed hammering the Golden Calf into powder and scattering it in water, forces Israel "to drink it"! I suspect that this motif is drawing from Egyptian forms of worship regarding the Golden Calf as a sun-god that is "in" the watery body of the heavenly sky-cow-goddess, called variously Hathor, Nut or Meht-urt. Hathor was called "THE PURE WATER," and water rites were performed by Nut at the birth of the sun, her calf. Nut according to E. A. Wallis Budge, is a feminine form of the water god Nu or Nuu, and thus her name, Nut alludes to her being a heavenly water-goddess. In murals she is at times shown as a Golden heavenly cow with the sun's solar barks traveling on her star-studded watery body. Other murals represent her Golden body as a nude woman arched over the earth, with stars on her body and the red disk of the sun-god is shown as traveling WITHIN her watery body, to be born at dawn via her vagina. So, to the degree that some Egyptian myths associate the deceased Pharaoh as the Golden Calf or sun born at dawn of the watery-sky-cow-goddess, Nut, Hathor or Meht-urt (Meht-urt meaning "the great flood" of the heavenly Nile), and the sun is shown traversing "the insides" of her watery body, perhaps the biblical imagery of _a Golden Calf being "in" water_ is recalling in a somewhat garbled manner Egyptian solar beliefs asociated with the Hathor cult?

Yahweh as an Aramean Bull Calf God?

There is a surprise in this research, I have posited that there are two "origins" traditions behind the Exodus narratives, Late Bronze-Early Iron I Canaanite and Iron I Aramean Origins traditions from northern Syria and Trans-Euphrates (Jebel Bishri to Harran).

Elsewhere I have presented my arguments for identifying the Iron I villages of stone which suddenly appear in Trans-Jordan and the Hill Country of Canaan as evidence of Arameans from northern Syria, driven by war and famine from their lands.

In seeking an explanation for why Jeroboam would fashion two Golden Calves for his people to worship, I have sought the origins in Aramaic religious beliefs and myths. But why does the Bible present his Golden Calves as being linked to Egypt and the Sinai if they are from Aram?

The answer, is that we have two different origins traditions here, Canaanite and Aramean. The book of Judges is crucial and illuminating in understanding this proposal, for it reveals that Israel after initially killing a number of Canaanites and destroying some of their settlements in Iron I, eventually comes to "acculturate and assimilate" Canaanite beliefs and traditions. That is, the first generation held themselves somewhat "aloof" from the Canaanites, but by the second generation, INTERMARRIAGES are occuring, and for the narrator of the Bible, this acculturation is bad news!

Judges 2: 6-13 RSV

"When Joshua dismissed the people, the people of Israel went each to his inheritance to take possession of the land. And the people served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua, who had seen all the great work which the Lord had done for Israel...And all that generation also were gathered to their fathers; and there arose another generation after them, who did not know the Lord or the work which he had done for Israel. And the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and served the Baals; and they forsook the Lord, the God of their fathers, who brought them up out of Egypt; they went after other gods...They forsook the Lord, and served the Baals and the Ashtaroth."

Judges 3:5-8  RSV

"So the people of Israel dwelt among the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites; and THEY TOOK THEIR DAUGHTERS TO THEMSELVES FOR WIVES, AND THEIR OWN DAUGHTERS THEY GAVE TO THEIR SONS; AND THEY SERVED THEIR GODS. And the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, forgetting their God, AND SERVING THE BAALS AND THE ASHEROTH."

I understand that the Late Iron II Israelites/Judaeans (ca. 1000-562 BCE), who were the descendants of these intermarriages (ca. 1200-1000 BCE), wanted to preserve the origins traditions of their ancestors, _both Canaanite_ and _Aramean_. They did this by fusing the two traditions into one. 

The Exodus from Egypt is recalling the Hyksos expulsion of ca. 1540/1530 BCE, telescoped, collapsed and fused to events at the mining camps at Serabit el Khadim and Har Timna and the Hathor shrines are recalling events from 1540-1130 BCE, and transformed into a new story. 

The portrayal of an Exodus invasion from the east, from Transjordan into the Hill Country of Canaan, is recalling the Iron I Aramean invasions from northern Syria and Trans-Euphrates.

The biblical narratives are unaware of Egyptians contesting Canaan with invading Iron I Israelites, suggesting events are being recalled from after 1130 BCE when Egypt withdrew from Canaan and the Sinai in the days of Pharaoh Ramesses VI (reigned ca. 1141-1133 BCE).  

The biblical naarator also understands that the Philistines are in place in Canaan to prevent Israel's entry into that land from Egypt, hence he routes Israel to the southern Sinai, and thence to the Negev. The Philistines did not settle in Canaan until ca. 1175 BCE in the days of Pharaoh Ramesses III, again, suggesting that some of the elements within the Exodus narratives are recalling the Iron I period (ca. 1200-1000 BCE).

The return to Canaan of Israelites from Sinai and the Arabah via the Negev perhaps recollects Asiatic miners attempting to enter this area from Har Timna after Egypt withdrew from these areas ca. 1140-1130 BCE in the days of Ramesses V and VI. 

Perhaps the Amalekite miners of the Negev at Har Timna, resisted a return to Canaan by Aramean Israelite mining slaves, who earlier may have been made slaves under Pharaoh Merneptah when he defeated Israel  ca.1208 BCE (the defeat occuring perhaps in Trans-jordan east of the Sea of Galilee? An event the Bible knows nothing about). 

Merneptah perhaps brought some of them to Egypt as slaves at Pr-Rameses and still later they served in the Egyptian mines of the Sinai and Arabah as slaves, to become acquainted with Amalekite miners of the Negev and Midianites at Har Timna and its Hathor Shrine? 

The Midianites returning to Madyan in northwestern Saudi Arabia, after 1140-1130 BCE, upon the withdrawlal of Egypt from this area, may have acted as guides for the former Israelite Aramean slaves, showing them the "way of the wilderness of Moab, allowing them to re-unite with their Aramean brethren who were settling down in Trans-jordan in Iron I Ramesside times? 

Why would Egypt "abandon" its Israelite Aramean slaves ca. 1140/1130 BCE in the Sinai and Arabah? Perhaps it was fear of plague? 

The mummy of Pharaoh Ramesses V revealed small pox lessions on the face (cf. p. 167. "Ramesses V and VI." Peter A. Clayton. Chronicle of the Pharaohs, The Reign-by-Reign Record of the Rulers and Dynasties of Ancient Egypt. London. Thames & Hudson. 1994). 

Perhaps fearing a spread of small pox from the Asiatics, they were abandoned? Some of the Asiatic miners may have been infected with the pox, as the Bible recalls that "lepers" did exist within the camp in the wilderness (leprosy here meaning a "skin disease" and not necessarily true leprosy), and Moses had them banned (Nu 5:2). 

Did a smallpox epidemic breakforth in Canaan amongst the Asiatics, and Egypt, fearing it, withdrew from Canaan, the Arabah and the Sinai ca. 1140-1130 BCE? God is portrayed as afflicting Israel in the wilderness wanderings with various plagues or pestilences (cf. Nu 11:33, 37; 16:46-50; 25:8-9, 18; 26:1; 31:16; Joshua 22:17).

A number of scholars have noted that feats and epitheths associated with the Canaanite gods El and Baal Hadad appear to have been assimilated to Yahweh-Elohim (Professors Frank Moore Cross and Mark S. Smith). I suspect they are correct. Yahweh,  over time, came to assimilate the other gods, their powers becoming his. He is not only a storm god like Baal, he is also a sun god like Re. He is also a Moon god like Sin or Suen of Haran in northern Mesopotamia, the home of Abraham.

All these gods in ancient myths took the forms of bulls, they are likened to bulls. El is called Bull El in the Ugaritic myths of northern Syria, and his children Baal and Anat have the ability to assume bovine forms. Baal becomes a  bull that mounts his sister, Anat, who assumes a heifer's form and she becomes pregnant bearing Baal a bull calf. In Syrian myths stormclouds were called "Adad's calves." When Baal dies after mounting a heifer over 70 times (dying of sexual exhaustion?), his sister searches after him "like a cow after its calf," likening Baal in death to a calf. Seven years the rains fail because of Baal's death, then El sees a vision, the rains return, he exclaims that Baal lives, the rains are the evidence of his ressurection from death. To the degree that rains are associated with storm coulds, called Adad's calves, and the dead Baal re-appears as a storm cloud with rain, suggests that for the Syrians or Arameans, that Stormcloud gods were calves. Thus the manifestation of Yahweh-Elohim at Mount Sinai as a storm cloud and then shortly afterward a Golden Calf is made, may recall Aramean myths being transposed to the Sinai and fused with Egyptian myths of the solar Golden Calf?

An Israelite invasion ca. 1130 BCE from Aram?

The biblical narrator appears to be unaware of any Egyptians contesting with Israel for the control of Canaan. This "clue" has suggested for me that the Conquest under Joshua might have occured AFTER Egypt had withdrawn from Canaan in the days of Rameses VI (he reigned ca. 141-1133 BCE). The biblical narrator also is adamant that the Philistines are settled in the land and are blocking Israel's Exodus from Egypt via the "Way of the Philistines", a track from the eastern delta to Canaan, near the Mediterranean sea, the fastest way, in fact, to get to Canaan from Egypt. The Philistines have been identified with the Pleset, a tribe of Sea Peoples who invaded and settled the Philsta in the days of Ramesses III who mentions his defeat of their attempted invasion of Egypt. Again, the Bible's mention of Philistines blocking Israel's Exodus from Egypt is another valuable clue for some scholars that some of the elements of the Exodus narratives are drawing from events after 1175 BCE.

So, if the Philistines are NOT in Canaan prior to 1175 BCE and Egypt withdraws from Canaan ca. 1133 BCE, where does this "fit" with many scholar's notions that Israel was IN Canaan before 1208 BCE as she is mentioned as being defeated by Pharaoh Merneptah ca. 1208 BCE?

I understand that Merneptah's defeat of Israel, need not necessarily be _IN_ Canaan, he could just of well defeated her in Transjordan or even Syria, near Damascus (as this was Egypt's border in the 13th century BCE). That is, perhaps an early attempted invasion by Aramean tribes from northern Syria (north of Damascus) was met and repulsed by Merneptah? Perhaps Israel withdrew to northern Syria to lick her wounds and wait for more auscpious time to invade Canaan, after Egypt had withdrawn ca. 1133 BCE? The defeat of Israel in Canaan or Transjordan is unknown by the Bible.

Professor Bietak, a prominent  Egyptologist, has suggested a similar explanation. He found a "four-room" house within the precincts of an Egyptian Temple at Medinet Habu which resembles similar houses usually identified as Israelite in the Hill Country of Canaan in Iron I (ca. 1200-1000 BCE). He thus argues that if this is truly an Israelite house, that the Exodus had to have been in the 20th dynasty when he believes this worker's house to have been constructed :

"Reed huts more than 3,000 years old belonging to workers  -perhaps slaves-  and with the same floor plan as ancient Israelite four-room houses have been identified at Medinet Habu, opposite Luxor in Egypt. These reed huts may represent extra-biblical evidence of Israel in Egypt. If true, Israelite  -or proto-Israelite-  workers were in Egypt in the second half of the 12th century BCE, more than a half century later than has been previously thought. This evidence, in turn, would have important implications for the historicity of the biblical narrative." 

(pp. 41-42. Manfred Bietak. "Israelites Found in Egypt, Four-room House identified in Medinet Habu." Biblical Archaeology Review. Sept/Oct 2003. vol 29. no. 5)

"The famous Merneptah Stele that mentions Israel in Canaan, not as a city or a state or a land, but as a people, can be dated to the late 13th century BCE and is therefore sometimes cited as evidence for an Exodus at some time in the earlier 13th century. But Israel is mentioned along with Ashkelon, Gezer and Yinoam. These names follow a progression from the coast to the interior (Yinoam is southwest of the Sea of Galilee). The stele may indicate that the people Israel were still east of the Jordan at this time...All this, I believe, supports an assumption that the settlement in Canaan took place no earlier than the early 12th century BCE- in the 20th Dynasty. This was followed by the sojourn in Egypt (at least by some of the proto-Israelites). If there was a historical Exodus, it was probably a group of these people who left Egypt in the 20th Dynasty...If Israel's stay in Egypt and the so-called Exodus occured in the 20th Dynasty, say about the middle of the 12th century BCE (and it may have occured a little later- Ramesses IV's reign [ ca. 1151-1145 BCE] is the earliest that the Temple of Ay and Horemheb could have been destroyed), and if the accounts of the Exodus were written down in the mid-tenth century BCE, this puts us just within the limits of historical reliability...Dating the Exodus to the 20th Dynasty (mid-12th century BCE) brings us significantly closer to the composition of the biblical writings that incorporate the Exodus tradition. Moreover, a date so late would be consistent with the description of the "Way of the Philistines" in the book of Exodus (what the Egyptians called the "Way of Horus"). By the 20th Dynasty, the Philistines were already settled in their pentapolis- Ashkelon, Ashdod, Gath, Ekron and Gaza - on the southern Canaanite coast. The term "Way of the Philistines" is no longer an anachronism. It would make sense for the Israelites to avoid this route." 

(pp.41-49, 82-83. Manfred Bietak. "Israelites Found in Egypt, Four-room House identified in Medinet Habu." Biblical Archaeology Review. Sept/Oct 2003. vol 29. no. 5)

In my earlier article arguing that the Iron I villages of stone of Canaan's Hill Country are in fact, Arameans from northern Syria and Trans-Euphrates, something which eluded me was the establishment of Iron IA four-room houses having a pedigree, that is, if they were from Aram, where is the evidence _in_ Aram? I am pleased to report, that Bietak has in his above recently released article, provided for me "the missing piece of the jigsaw puzzle," that is, he noted that the earliest four-room houses, dating back to the 4th millennium BCE appear to come from Syria and Mesopotamia! This is the very area that I have argued, Iron IA Aramean Israel is from! And this is the very area that the biblical traditions have as the homeland of the Patriarchs.

Bietak :

"In scholarly circles today, the four-room house is often called the "Israelite house" because it is ubiquitious in the Israelite period and at Israelite sites, with only a few appearances elsewhere. The late Yigal Shiloh called the four-room house "an original Israelite concept." Two Israeli archaeologists recently concluded in these pages that the four-room house may safely be called the Israelite house. I am not so sure. First, there is a very old prototype from Mesopotamia and Syria, called the "Mittlesaal Haus" (middle-room house), which goes back to the fourth millennium BCE. Second, the four-room house can also be found outside the settlement area of the proto-Israelites." 

(p. 46. Manfred Bietak. "Israelites Found in Egypt, Four-room House identified in Medinet Habu." Biblical Archaeology Review. Sept/Oct 2003. vol 29. no. 5)

A 12th century BCE Exodus?

The late prominent American Bible Scholar, Professor William Foxwell Albright understood that Jacob's descent into Egypt occured in Hyksos times and that the Egyptian oppression of Abraham's descendants began with the rise to power of Pharaoh Ahmose I (Greek: Amosis), founder of the 18th Dynasty and expeller of the Hyksos ca. 1525 BCE.


"...the immediate followers of Moses belonged to Hebrew groups which had settled long in Egypt...Elsewhere I will survey the new data which have become available in recent years for the period between the settlement of Jacob and his followers in early Hyksos times through the bitter years of state slavery which followed the triumph of Amosis over the Hyksos in the third quarter of the sixteenth century BC." 

(pp.153-154. William Foxwell Albright. Yahweh and Gods of Canaan, A Historical Analysis of Two Contrasting Faiths. Winona Lake, Indiana. Eisenbrauns. [1965 lectures, published 1968], reprint 1994)


"On the period of state slavery ca. 1525-1450 BCE cf. The Proto-Sinaitic Inscriptions and Their Decipherment (Harvard Theological Studies XXII. Cambridge. Massachusetts. 1966 10-15 etc.)" 

(p. 155 Footnote 2)

Albright thought the Exodus was in the 13th century under Pharaoh Ramesses II, ca. 1297, and the Conquest of Canaan by Joshua before Pharaoh Merneptah's mention of his defeating Israel in Canaan. Clayton dates this latter event to ca. 1207 BC (cf. p.157. Peter A. Clayton. Chronicle of the Pharaohs, The Reign-by-Reign Record of the Rulers and Dynasties of Ancient Egypt. London. Thames & Hudson. 1994)


"These considerations suggest a date ca. 1297 for the Exodus...My latest date for the Exodus is relatively about the same as my past dates ca. 1290 (when I followed the then standard formula, Ramesses II: 1301-1235 BC) and ca. 1280 (when I followed Rowton's former date 1290-1224). We now have several independent means of dating the critical phase of the Conquest of Western Palestine. The most important of these remains the Israel stele of Merneptah, on which Merneptah celebrates his victory over...Israel in Palestine." 

(p. 159. Albright)

From the above it is obvious that Albright did not feel a need to adhere to the Bible's chronology, and an Israelite oppression of 400 years!

According to the Bible, Israel dwelt 430 years in Egypt, evidently 30 years as free men, then serving in a bondage for 400 years:

Exodus 12:40-41 RSV

"The time that the people of Israel dwelt in Egypt was four hundred and thirty years. And at the end of four hundred and thirty years, on that very day, all the hosts of the Lord went out of the land of Egypt." 

Abraham had been told by God that his descendants would be oppressed 400 years, but that God would judge the nation oppressing them and his descendants would leave with great possessions. In the book of Exodus, the Egyptians are portrayed giving their possessions to the departing Israelites (Exodus 12:35-36).

Genesis 15:13-14 RSV

"Know of a surety that your descendants will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs, and will be slaves there, and they will be oppressed for about four hundred years; but I will bring judgement on the nation which they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions."

Exodus 12:35-36 RSV

"The people of Israel had also done as Moses told them, for they had asked of the Egyptians jewelry of silver and of gold, and clothing; and the Lord had given the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they let them have what they asked. Thus they despoiled the Egyptians."

If we subtract the Bible's 400 year oppression from Albright's 1525 BC beginning of "state slavery" we arrive at an Exodus date of ca. 1125 BC. The Conquest, after 40 years of wandering in the Wilderness, would be ca. 1085 BCE. Manfred Bietak, a prominent Egyptologist, has recently proposed that based on his identifying a "four-room" worker's house at the Medinet Habu temple in Egypt, that Israel could NOT have left Egypt in Ramesses II's days and the 18th Dynasty (as proposed by Albright), she left _no earlier than_ the days of the Ramesses IV, who reigned ca. 1153-1147 BCE, this being the time of this four-room house, which resembles the four-room houses associated with Iron IA Israel in the Hill Country of Canaan (cf. p. 47. Manfred Bietak. "Israelites Found In Egypt, Four-room House Identified in Medinet Habu." Biblical Archaeology Review. Sept/Oct. 2003). 

Bietak  (Emphasis mine):

"If Israel's stay in Egypt and the so-called Exodus occured in the 20th Dynasty, say the middle of the 12th century BCE (AND IT MAY HAVE OCCURED A LITTLE LATER -Ramesses IV's reign is the earliest that the temple of Ay and Horemheb could have been destroyed), and if the accounts of the Exodus were written down in the mid-tenth century BCE, this puts us just within the limits of historical reliability...The term "Way of the Philistines" is no longer an anachronism. It would make sense for the Israelites to avoid this route."

Nakhai noted a 12th century destruction of Megiddo by the Iron I  Israelites, this appears to "align somewhat" with Bietak's 12th century Exodus proposal and the Bible's 12th century BCE Exodus, using Albright's 1525 BCE beginning of Israel's Egyptian Oppression.

Nakhai : 

"Once again, a statue of an Egyptian monarch (in this case, the mid-twelfth century king Rameses VI) stood in the Megiddo sanctuary...When Megiddo's traditional configuration of royal, sacred and secular architecture was destroyed ca. 1130 BCE, ending centuries of Egyptian domination at Megiddo and in Canaan (Ussishkin 1997b: 464) it was soon replaced by the poorly constructed houses of the Israelite Iron Age." 

(p.135. "The Late Bronze Age." Beth Alpert Nakhai. Archaeology and the Religions of Canaan and Israel. Boston. American Schools of Oriental Research. 2001)

Again the issue must be raised, if Albright is right about the Egyptian Oppression of the Hberews beginning with the Hyksos Expulsion of the mid 16th century BCE and if Bietak is right, that the the  Exodus and Conquest is all taking place during the 20th Dynasty, and if I am right that the Conquest is after Egypt has withdrawn ca. 1133 BCE, where then, is the Bible getting its notion of an Exodus in 1446 BCE (cf. 1 Kings 6:1)  or in 1530 BCE (the Hyksos expulsion)?

The answer: this is a telescoping, collapsing and fusion of events from differing time periods! Canaanite Late Bronze Age Origins traditions of their ancestors being expelled from Egypt  as Hyksos are being fused to Ramesside 20th Dynasty events of Asiatic miners in the Sinai and Arabah honoring the bovine goddess Hathor and her Golden Calf (Pharaoh). The notion of a 400 year Egyptian oppression is recalling the New Kingdom's domination of Syria-Palestine and her ensalvement of these peoples, from time to time, bringing them to Egypt as captives to work in temples and build cities like Pr-Rameses. Thus the 400 year oppression is a Canaanite "origins" story.

To compound the problem, Aramean memories of traditions from Trans-Euphrates in the Middle Bronze through Iron I are fused or grafted on to the Canaanite origins stories. Arameans may have been captured by Merneptah and taken to Egypt to serve as slaves building Pr-Rameses, and later transported to the Sinai to serve in the mines. When Egypt withdrew from Canaan and the Sinai, the Aramean slaves were on their own. perhaps being denied entrance into Canaan by fellow Amalekite miners, with Midianite aid, they marched the way of the Wilderness of Moab "to reunite" with their Aramean brethren who were invading Transjordan and Canaan ?

The Sinai does NOT possess the archaeological evidence for a large group of several thousands exiting Egypt for Canaan. The ONLY evidence of people from Egypt, with Asiatic miners, (Israel has miners, Kenites, with her and she engages in metallurgical activities at Mt. Sinai) is the Egyptian run mining camps. If we want to establish an archaeologically attested link to the Exodus narratives, in a Late Bronze Age- Early Iron I setting, _the ONLY link is the Egyptian mining camps_. But these camps reveal that at most only 700 miners were at work at any given time in the Sinai, according to inscriptions preserved at Serabit el Khadim ( up to 17,000 miners were employed at Wady Hammamat in the desert east of Egypt in Middle Kingdom times). 


"Sending expeditions out to remote mining areas in the deserts was based on a King's (or Nomarch's) ability to provide the necessary workforce. The numbers of workers sent on quarrying and mining expeditions were probably comparable with those sent on military campaigns. An inscription in the Wadi Hammamat quarries in the Eastern Desert describes the dispatching of an expedition of 17,000 workers in the 38th year of the reign of the 12th Dynasty ruler Senwosret I. If the figures are taken at face value, the scale of that expedition was comparable with the 20,000 Egyptian troops who are said to have fought at the battle of Qadesh during the reign of Ramesses II...Many of the workers appear to have been press-ganged into quarrying by means of a corvee system that was operable in the various regions of Egypt and Nubia...Smaller numbers of workers were recorded at the Serabit el Khadim turquoise mines, where Middle Kingdom epeditions ranged from 168 to 734 men, usually accompanied by a similar number of donkeys (an average expedition comprising approximately 300 men 400 animals)." 

(p. 103. Vol. 3. Ian Shaw. "Quarries and Mines." Donald B. Redford. Editor. The Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt. New York. Oxford University Press. 2001)

Thus, the only way I know to account for the sudden presence of THOUSANDS of people associated with the hundreds of villages appearing simultaneously in Iron I  Trans-jordan and Hill Country Canaan is to posit that they are Aramean pastoral villagers FROM ARAM, northern Syria, that is, the area north of Damascus, incluing the Trans-Euphrates area from Jebel Bishri to Harran, driven from their marginal steppe lands by famine and war. 

Professor Stager also citicized proposals that the hundreds of Iron I villages could be populated by refugees from the cities of Canaan (Emphasis mine):

"This extraordinary increase in population during Iron I CANNOT be explained ONLY by natural population growth of THE FEW Late Bronze Age city-states in the region: there must have been a major influx of people into the highlands in the 12th and 11th centuries BCE." 

(p. 134. Lawrence E. Stager. "Forging An Identity, The Emergence of Ancient Israel." Micheal D. Coogan, Editor. The Oxford History of the Biblical World. New York. Oxford University Press. 1998)

Finkelstein understood that the 250 Iron I villages found in Canaan suggested a population of not more than 45,000 people. Archaeological surveys of the Sinai, Arabah and Negev, have NO EVIDENCE of such such a huge population wandering these areas at ANY time. Ergo, I conclude this population is coming from northern Syria. For the detailed arguments cf. my article posted on this website on Israel's Iron I Aramean Origins.

Finkelstein  (Emphasis mine):

"These surveys revolutionized the study of early Israel. The discovery of the remains of a dense network of highland villages -all apparently established within the span of a few generations- indicated that a dramatic transformation had taken place in the central hill country of Canaan around 1200 BCE...In formerly sparsely populated highlands from the Judean hills in the south to the hills of Samaria in the north, far from the Canaanite cities that were in the ptocess of collapse and disintegration, about 250 hilltop communities suddenly sprang up. Here were the first Israelites...The entire population of these hill country villages at the peak of the settlement process, around 1000 BCE, could not have been much more than 45,000."

(pp. 107, 109. 'Who Were the Israelites ?" Israel Finkelstein & Neil Asher Silberman. The Bible Unearthed, Archaeology's New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of Its Sacred Texts." New York. The Free Press. 2001)

If the Exodus is recalling, in part, Asiatic miners of the Ramesside era, at Har Timna, the place was abandoned ca. 1140 BCE in the reign of Ramesses V, who had smallpox lesions on his face. Serabit el Khadim was abandoned in the reign of Pharaoh Ramesses VI ca. 1133 BCE.  In 1130 BCE Megiddo falls to Israel according to Beth Alpert Nakhai citing Usshikin's excavations. The Bible's portrayal of an Exodus leaving the Arabah for the "way of the Wilderness of Moab" to the east of Edom and Moab, suggests for me, that possibly, not more than a couple of hundred, at most, Aramean mining slaves from Egypt, set free by the Egyptians in the Sinai and Arabah out of fear of smallpox (perhaps upon learning of the death of their Pharaoh Ramesses V to smallpox?), took this route "to link up" with their Aramean brethren who were, about this time, ca.1140-1130 BCE, invading and settling in Trans-Jordan.

If I am right about the Exodus recalling events happening in association with the Egyptian mines at Serabit el Khadim and Har Timna, then perhaps the biblical notion that Israel had to cross Yam Suph to get to Mount Sinai (Serabit el Khadim?) and Mount Horeb (Har Timna, formerly Gebel Mene`iyeh?) is recollecting the fact that Egypt regularly transported her miners via ships to the Sinai and Arabah. An Egyptian port at Tell Markha (Beno Rothenberg's site #365) has been documented and excavated, and Egyptian hearths and furnaces were found with copper wastings from the mines near Serabit el Khadim. It lies near the shore of the Red Sea (the Gulf of Suez) 5 kilometers south of Ras Abu Zenimeh, dated by its pottery to the 18th and 19th Dynasties (cf. Professor Gregory D. Mumford, and his "El Markha Excavation Reports" on the internet  <>). Rothenberg found al Qurayya pottery at  Har Timna and at Jezirat Fara`un, an island at the head of the Gulf of Aqaba, and it is his understanding that Ramesside era Egyptian ships docked here, bringing work crews to work the Har Timna copper mines, and return with the copper to Egypt (cf. his reports in The Egyptian Mining Temple at Timna. London. 1985, as well as private correspondence). According to the Bible, Israel crossed Yam Suph, "the Red Sea" to get to Sinai (Ex 14 &15), and later she wandered to Ezion Geber and Elath (Nu 33:35-36; De 2:8) and we are informed that the Solomonic seaports of Ezion Geber and Elath near Edom were also on Yam Suph, the Gulf of Aqabah (1 Kings 9:26).

15 September 2003 Update:

The bible suggests an Exodus in 1446 BCE (cf. 1 Kings 6:1) for many Conservative bible scholars. Is there any evidence of an archaeological nature to be found in the Sinai for this period? The answer is NO and YES. 

No, in that a "trail of campsites" extending from Egypt to the southern Sinai and thence to the Negev and Arabah. Yes, in that a "presence" is attested of this period of Egyptian pottery in association with Asiatics (Israel being Asiatic). 

The Egyptian-run mining camps associated with Serabit el Khadim in the southern Sinai have the "evidence," _the ONLY evidence_ of a "presence" in this area ca. 1446 BCE. So, if one wants to posit an Exodus ca. 1446 BCE and link that proposal to hard physical evidence, the archaeological link-up has to be these Egyptian mining camps. There is NOTHING ELSE in this period _anywhere_ in the Sinai, Negev, or Arabah. 

Thus the reason I understand that the fictional biblical narratives regarding the Exodus are recalling the presence of Asiatic SLAVE miners accompanied by Egyptian task masters in the Late Bronze and Early Iron I eras. If my suppositions are correct, then the notion that Israel must cross Yam Suph to get to Mt. Sinai is recalling the Miners being transported across the Gulfs of Suez and Aqabah via Egyptian transport ships, from Red Sea ports on the Egyptian shore, 18th and 19th Dynasty  pottery debris (1500-1140 BCE) being found at an Egyptian port on the Red Sea (Gulf of Suez) at Tell el Markha, 5 kilometers south of Ras Abu Zenimeh, which served the miners of Serabit el Khadim.

Bibliography :

William Foxwell Albright. The Proto-Sinaitic Inscriptions and Their Decipherment. Cambidge. Harvard University Press. 1966.

William Foxwell Albright. Yahweh and Gods of Canaan, A Historical Analysis of Two Contrasting Faiths. Winona Lake, Indiana. Eisenbrauns. [1965 lectures, published 1968], reprint 1994.

James P. Allen. p. 97. Vol. 3.  "Pyramid Texts." Donald B. Redford. Editor. The Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt. New York. Oxford University Press. 2001.

Manfred Bietak. cf. p. 47. "Israelites Found In Egypt, Four-room House Identified in Medinet Habu." Biblical Archaeology Review. Sept/Oct. 2003.

E.A. Wallis Budge. pp.15-19. "The Destruction of Mankind."  Legends of the Egyptian Gods, Hieroglyphic Texts and Translations. [note Budge provides the text in Hieroglyphs facing the English translation]. New York. Dover Publications. [1912], reprint 1994

Peter A. Clayton. Chronicle of the Pharaohs, The Reign-by-Reign Record of the Rulers and Dynasties of Ancient Egypt. London. Thames & Hudson. 1994.

Camden M. Cobern. "Calf, Golden." James Orr. Editor. The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. 1915

Israel Finkelstein & Neil Asher Silberman. The Bible Unearthed, Archaeology's New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of Its Sacred Texts." New York. The Free Press. 2001.

Louis Herbert Gray. The Mythology of All Races, Egyptian and Indo-Chinese. Boston. Marshall Jones Company. 1918.

Dieter Kessler.  pp.209-213. Vol. 1.  "Bull Gods." Donald B. Redford. Editor. The Oxford Encylopedia of Ancient Egypt. New York. Oxford University Press. 2001.

Herbert G. May & Bruce M. Metzger. The New Oxford Annotated Bible With the Apocrypha. Revised Standard Version. New York. Oxford University Press. 1977.

Edmund S. Meltzer. pp. 166-167.  "Horus." Donald B. Redford. Editor. The Ancient Gods Speak, A Guide to Egyptian Religion. New York. Oxford University Press. 2002.

Anthony S. Mercatante. Who's Who in Egyptian Mythology. New York. Clarkson N. Potter Inc., 1978.

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Maya Muller. p. 124. Vol. 3.  "Re and Re-Horakhty." Donald B. Redford. Editor. The Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt. New York. Oxford Univerity Press. 2001.

Gregory D. Mumford. Survey & Excavation Projects in Egypt, South Sinai, El Markha. 2002-2003. <>

Beth Alpert Nakhai. p.135. "The Late Bronze Age."  Archaeology and the Religions of Canaan and Israel. Boston. American Schools of Oriental Research. 2001.

Geraldine Pinch. Votive Offerings to Hathor. Griffith Institute Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. 1993

Alison Roberts. Hathor Rising, The Power of the Goddess in Ancient Egypt.  Rochester, Vermont. Inner Traditions. 1995, 1997.

Eugene Romanosky. pp. 218-220.  "Min." Donald B. Redford. Editor. The Ancient Gods Speak, A Guide to Egyptian Religion. New York. Oxford University Press. 2002.

Beno Rothenberg. The Egyptian Mining Temple at Timna. London. Institute for Archeo-Metallurgical Studies, Institute of Archaeology, University College, London. 1988.

Benjamin Sass. The Genesis of the Alphabet and Its Development in the Second Millennium BC. Agypten und Altes Testament. Band 13. In Kommission bei Otto Harrassowitz. Wiesbaden, Germany. 1988.

Ian Shaw. p. 103. Vol. 3.  "Quarries and Mines." Donald B. Redford. Editor. The Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt. New York. Oxford University Press. 2001.

Mark S. Smith. The Origins of Biblical Monotheism, Israel's Polytheistic Background and the Ugaritic Texts. Oxford University Press. 2001.

Lawrence E. Stager. p. 134. "Forging An Identity, The Emergence of Ancient Israel." Micheal D. Coogan, Editor. The Oxford History of the Biblical World. New York. Oxford University Press. 1998

James Strong. Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible. Wac, Texas. Word Books. 1977.

TANAKH, The Holy Scriptures. Philadelphia & New York. The Jewish Publication Society. 1988. 5748.

Stephen Quirke. The Cult of Ra, Sun-Worship in Ancient Egypt. London. Thames & Hudson. 2001.

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