Moses, Egypt, and the Promised Land

The ancient town of Beersheba is significant for one more reason in the Bible. Jacob after learning that his son Joseph was still alive passed through Beersheba on his way to Egypt. Jacob and all the families of his son stopped at Beersheba to make sacrifices to God. It was the closing of a chapter. God’s people would spend the next 400 years in Egypt.

Beersheba

The Hebrews would grow into a great nation in Egypt. They would await their return to a land that God had sworn to them. The relied on God’s faithfulness to stay faithful to the covenant He made. By the time, that God had chosen Moses to be the leader who would lead the Israelites out of Egypt, God’s people had grown to a vast number. No one knows for sure how many Israelites there were. Some Biblical scholars say as many as two and a half million.

The Hebrews were indeed a nation. They had endured many generations of harsh slavery, God had not forgotten them and had heard their cries for deliverance. God’s answer was Moses. Moses was God’s chosen Deliverer to lead His people through the Red Sea.

Moses was an orphan, a murderer, a shepherd and a reluctant orator. He was also a religious leader, a lawgiver, a prophet and a historian. The authorship of the Torah is traditionally attributed to Moses.  Moses is the most important prophet and historical figure in Judaism.

The Exodus and the crossing of the Red Sea are dated to around 1250 B.C. The Exodus is the most dramatic and pivotal event in the Old Testament. It marks the liberation of God’s people but not their entry into the Promised Land. That would come 40 years after the Exodus from Egypt.

Moses

Literally, on the doorstep of the Promised Land in Kadesh- Barnea the newly freed Israelites refused to go on. Despite the reports that the Promised Land flowed with milk and honey, Hebrew spies also reported the land was filled with giants.

For their faithlessness, God condemned the Hebrews to stay in the desert until that generation had passed away. Moses also died and did not go into the Promised Land. His death is the final event recorded in the Pentateuch or the first five books of the Bible. Moses’ death concluded the 40-year prohibition on entry into the Promised Land.

Joshua, Moses’ brother, was raised up to lead the Israelites into the Promised Land. He was commissioned to conquer the Land of Canaan. Afterwards, the land was allocated to Israel’s twelve tribes. In Joshua Chapter 10, we read about a group of Canaanite armies that had joined together against Joshua, the Israelites and their allies the Gibeonites. One by one the Israelites destroyed these city-states for rallying against them.

The tel of Lachish is one of the largest and most significant mounds of the Biblical period in Israel. Lachish is the site for some fantastic and very reliable archeological discoveries. Lachish was assigned to the tribe of Judah.

As the centuries went by, God’s people became established in the land they had been promised. By the 10th century B.C., Jerusalem, or the City of David, was the capital city of Israel. Over time Jerusalem became the target of the Assyrians and Babylonians owed a debt of gratitude to the fortress of a town in the south called Lachish.

Lachish was one of the several fortified cities guarding the canyons or wadis leading up to Jerusalem in the north. To lay siege to Jerusalem or the surrounding region of Judah, an invading army would first have to take Lachish. Lachish guarded the final mountain pass to Jerusalem.

The easiest way for an attacking army to lay siege to Jerusalem was to conquer Lachish. Taking Lachish would make sure that your army was safe from a counterattack on your flank. This reason is what made Lachish built for war. Since the reign of King Solomon in the 10th century B.C., Lachish became a mighty walled fortress. There was a six-chambered gate similar to the ones built at strategic locations like Megiddo.

Under Israelite King Rehoboam (c. 930–915 B.C.), grandson of David, the kingdom of Israel became divided due to high taxes. The ten northern tribes broke away to form the Kingdom of Israel in the North. They made their capital Samaria. King Rehoboam and the remaining tribes of Benjamin and Judah became the Kingdom of Judah. Their capital remained in Jerusalem. Rehoboam reinforced Lachish even more. In time, besides Jerusalem, Lachish became the most city in the Kingdom of Judah.

Back east, in modern day Iraq, in the Kingdom of Nineveh, a king named Sennacherib rose to power. Sennacherib and his Assyrian army first attacked the Kingdom of Israel in the north. They were able to conquer Israel with Samaria being taken in 721 B.C.Next on his list was the Kingdom of Judah. In the revolt of 701 B.C. of King Hezekiah against Assyria, Sennacherib attacked the Kingdom of Judah. He laid siege to Lachish.

We know this for a fact because the event is uniquely recorded. First, you can read about it in the Bible. Second cuneiform prism chronicle the same events. The third source is the significant archeological evidence found at Tel Lachish. Fourth are incredibly detailed reliefs that were uncovered in Sennacherib’s palace in Nineveh.

They are now displayed at the Israel Museum. The victorious Assyrians cover their win in the Lachish Reliefs. King Sennacherib would bask in the glory of his victory over the Israelites. At Tel Lachish, archeologists have discovered the Assyrian battle layer, which included hundreds of Assyrian arrowheads. There were approximately 1500 skulls in nearby caves.

Excavation also unveiled a stone and dirt siege ramp that the Assyrians built up to the city wall. Assyrian infantry used the ramp to charge the wall into the city. You can see the siege ramp in the Assyrian Lachish Relief. Sennacherib and the Assyrians continued to Jerusalem after sacking Lachish. Jerusalem was never taken. Over time the Assyrian empire began to disintegrate. That didn’t mean that Jerusalem and the Kingdom of Judah were in the clear.

In the 7th century, B.C. King Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians became the dominant power in the ancient Near East. It was Nebuchadnezzar’s turn to thump on the rebellious Judeans. The Babylonians took Jerusalem in 586 B.C., but before they did, they had to defeat Lachish once again. This battle is confirmed in the Bible as written by the Prophet Jeremiah.

Jeremiah 36:6-7-

6 Then Jeremiah the prophet spoke all these words to Zedekiah king of Judah in Jerusalem

7 when the army of the king of Babylon was fighting against Jerusalem and against all the remaining cities of Judah, that is, Lachish and Azekah, for they alone remained as fortified cities among the cities of Judah that remained.

The mound and broken artifacts of the ancient city of Lachish reinforce the story of the Bible. Lachish also closes another chapter in Israel’s story. The nation of Israel had begun as a family.  The Patriarchs dealt directly with and were faithful to God.

Then came the Exodus where they transferred into leadership by prophets and military leaders. Then once the Hebrews were settled into the Promised Land, they were led by a King after they begged God for one.

As Israel’s leadership change so did their loyalty. They tended toward rebellion and idolatry. It wasn’t long until Israel was split in half and endured famine and constant warfare almost destroyed the nation. Later the Israelites were carried off into exile.

A nation in exile was probably was not the picture that Abraham had in mind when God promised him that his descendants would be a great nation. God never abandons His people. The Lord’s promises were pointing towards something greater. Something amazing that no one could have ever imagined- Jesus Christ.