The Execration texts reveal a significant amount of history from the 20th to 18th centuries BC (1), and thus proves to be rather valuable for the historian interested in the Ancient Near East. It is valuable in the way that this piece allows for the biblical historian to learn about ancient locales chronicled in the Old Testament. The Execration texts, according to Israeli archaeologist Yohanan Aharoni, “reflect the changes that took place in Palestine during the twentieth to nineteenth centuries B.C.” (2).
This comes down to us in a collection of inscriptions inscribed on pottery shards that mention over 30 kings from the period, and around 20 locales within Canaan and Phoenicia. Further inscriptions tells us about bound prisoners in Sagarra, an ancient burial ground discovered in Egypt (2). It is also apparent that the smashing of the Execration pottery and figures was a ritual involved in preparation for Egyptian funerals (3). This would explain why we have them in pieces and fragments.
Although these shards reveal much in the way of Egyptian history, such as Egyptian mythology involving magic that was believed to protect Egypt and the Pharaoh, we are really more interested in their bearing on our Old Testament. For example, some of the Execration texts refer to the people living on both sides of the Jordan River as “su-tu.” It is believed that the su-tu is connected with the “sons of Sheth.” According to the Bible the “children of Sheth” (Numbers 24:17) appear to be in the heat of battle, or threatened with war.
The sons of Sheth are the people who lived in Moab as well as on the borders of the Hebrew lands (4). However, this discovery also provides us with corroboration of several cities within the Old Testament. These cities are corroborated by our Biblical, Execration texts, and archaeological finds, as biblical scholar Thompson explains, these cities “are both reflected in the ‘Execration Texts’ and confirmed in excavations” (7).
–Aphek (as mentioned in Joshua 12:18; 1 Samuel 4:1, 29:1; 1 Kings 20:26, 20:30; 2 Kings 13:17).
–Liash (as mentioned in Judges 18:1, 18:7, 18:29).
–Ashkelon (Joshua 13:3, 1:18, 14:19; 1 Samuel 6:17).
–Hazor (After its destruction the city was rebuilt as a minor village within “the territory of Naphtali” (5) as in Joshua 19:36).
The following cities are corroborated within both the biblical and Execration texts but have “little or no archaeological remains” (8):
–Shechem (as mentioned in Genesis 12:6, 33:18, 33:19, 37:13, 37:14; Joshua 17:7, 20:7, 21:21, 24:1).
–Jerusalem (as mentioned in the gospels, and Old Testament).
–Rehov (as referred to as the “land of milk and honey” in the Old Testament).
–Achshaph (as mentioned in Joshua 11:1, 12:20, 19:2).
These finds are significant in that one can have some confidence that the Old Testament authors are referring to locations that aren’t figments of their imaginations, but that actually existed in history, and into today. It is this that probably lead scholar William Albright to argue that “There can be no doubt that archaeology has confirmed the substantial historicity of Old Testament tradition” (9).
1. Albright, W. 1942. Studies in the history of culture: the disciplines of the humanities.
2. Aharoni, Y. 1967. The Land of the Bible: A Historical Geography
3. Fernandez, I., Becker, J. & Gillies, S. Places: 796289136 (Saqqarah). Available.
4. Van Dijk, J. 1993. The New Kingdom Necropolis of Memphis.
5. The Biblical Archaeologist. 1997. Egypt and Moab Udo Worschech. p. 229-236.
6. Negev, A., & Gibson, S. 1972. Archaeological Encyclopedia of the Holy Land.
7. Thompson, T. 2014. Biblical Narrative and Palestine’s History: Changing Perspectives 2.
8. Rommel, A. 2015. The Esoteric Codex: Sorcery I.
9. Albright, W. 1942. Archaeology and the Religions of Israel.