Prior to David Rohl’s New Chronology, the El Amarna letters were thought to be set earlier in the history of Israeli – Egyptian contact around the time of the Exodus. Now they are believed to record the process of the assault on the hill country of Palestine by the marauding Habiru. The letters begin with Saul’s reign and ending with the assault on Jerusalem in the eighth year of Ramasses II’s reign.
Before this biblical scholars found it hard to explain what the Hebrews were doing in Palestine before the Exodus. Now many see parallels between the Habiru and David’s outlaws. Moshe Greenberg, George Mendenhall, Kyle McCarter all see the Habiru as being David’s followers. They don’t bear a resemblance to David’s band; they are David’s band of mighty men.
The term used in the El Amarna texts “Labayu” is related to a leader of the Habiru. Ps 57:4 in Hebrew uses the term lebaim, “lion” as a reference to Saul. In the Amarna Letters Labayu was a major political leader controlling the hill country of Palestine in the 11th Century. Labayu and Saul were active in the same area. In El Amarna Letter 252 (EA 252) we may have a letter from Labayu to Amenhotep III warning him off. “If an ant is struck, does it not fight back and bite the hand of the man that struck it?”
Albright records Labayu used fluent Canaanite. What does Albright mean by that? It is used to describe a dialect of Hebrew between Hebrew and Ugaritic. Albright and others used the term Canaanite because at that time the El Amarna letters were thought to date from the time of the Exodus. i.e it was thought anachronistic to refer to the language as Hebrew before the conquest of the Promised Land.
- In EA 289 – Labayu is credited as taking Shechem for the Habiru.
- The letters and stories distinguished between the Habiru and the Israelites.
- The Hebrews who entered Egypt at the time of Jacob and Joseph were Israelites.
Ninety percent of the references in the OT to Hebrew are used by non-Israelites. It was a derogatory term. But in the books of Samuel the term Hebrew appears to refer to the mercenary forces used by Saul. 1 Sam 14:21-22, 1 Sam 13:6-7
Note the parallels between the El Amarna Letters and the Bible Account:
EA 252 records:
- Labayu loses his home town in a sudden attack
- Labayu was absent at the time
- Labayu’s residence is connected to a sacred site
- He recovers the town by force
- The original aggressors complain to Pharoah and Labayu has to write a letter.
In 1 Sam 11 Saul is away fighting the Ammonites
- The Philistines capture Michmash and Geba
- Very close to Saul’s home is a high place
- Samuel predicts what will happen to Saul
- It is here the Philistines erect a pillar on the high place
Albright translates EA 252 as ‘How could I hold back this day when two of my towns have been taken?” (Geba and Michmash)
The battle on Mt Gilboa is recorded in 1 Sam 27 and 1 Sam 29:3-4
- In EA 254 the Philistine rulers don’t trust David.
- EA 254 records the fall of Labayu. // the Biblical account.
- EA 289 tells of the end of the involvement of Abner (Abdiheba)
- EA 256 tells the story of Joab (Ayab) the linguistic elements match.
- Mutbaal = Ishbaal
- Benenima –=Baanah
- Dadua = David
- Yishay / Yishuya = Jesse
Conclusion: The El Amarna Letters and the Bible tell the same story. The El Amarna Letter 252 may become the world’s most treasured ancient letter outside of the Bible. When you look at the evidence through the correct lenses everything fits together.
Source: A Test of Time by David Rohl