The Apiru Part One

It is written:

“Moses was the LORD’S servant, and Joshua son of Nun was Moses’ helper. After Moses died, the LORD spoke to Joshua and said, 2  “My servant Moses is dead. Now you and all these people must go across the Jordan River. You must go into the land I am giving to the Israelites. 3  I promised Moses that I would give you this land, so I will give you all the land wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:1-3).

The Book of Joshua tells us about the conquest of the land of Canaan by the Hebrews, led by Joshua (the successor of Moses).

For centuries, skeptics of the Bible have claimed that the Bible writers simply made up the story of the Conquest, and that it never truly happened. The facts, however, tell a far different story.

The Amarna Tablets are a series of records that were kept by the Canaanites,many of them from the time the Bible says that Joshua lived. Found therein is a very interesting word, Apiru. Cooper points out that this is an Akkadian form of the word “Hebrew,” and that the Amarna Tablets tell us a great deal about the Hebrew invasion of Canaan. He writes:

“It is therefore with considerable surprise that we read about Joshua and his people, not just once in some ambiguous, fragmentary inscription of dubious date and interpretation, but plainly and at least 85 times in that 15th-century BC Canaanite archive known as the Tell El Amarna Tablets. The critics don’t like to mention the fact, but Joshua himself is sometimes obliquely referred to in the Tablets. There is one man in particular who is referred to as ‘that Hebrew’; ‘that Hebrew dog’; at least three times as the ‘chief of the Hebrews’; and, it seems, in one inscription he is called ‘Ilimilku,’ which name is the Akkadian cognate of the Hebrew name Elimelech, God is my King. It is a nickname which would have suggested itself to Canaanite observers after it became clear to them that Joshua was not a king, but that he fought under the God of Israel. Though not a name that the Bible specifically gives him, it is one that the Canaanites seem to have known him by, and they accordingly wrote it down in their correspondence -‘Ilimilku!’ 1 The Hebrews themselves are referred to in the Amarna Tablets as slaves –‘runaway dogs’ in some of the Tablets –‘slaves that have become Habiru’ in another -recalling the history of their escape from slavery in Egypt. This again is entirely natural and to be expected….What has been made available is the somewhat inaccurate notion that a couple of the tablets mention some ‘Apiru,’ a name which, we are asked to believe, may be derived from the Assyrian word habbatu, meaning robber, and that these occurrences must therefore refer to some troublesome bandits that were roaming the area at that time. Nothing could be more distorted and inaccurate. It is a forced and false derivation which misleads the reader. The Canaanite kings were certainly strong enough and well enough organized to see off any such bands of robbers, whom they would have hunted to extinction. It is what they did, and they were very good at it. Canaan could never have become a land flowing with milk and honey had it been a land in which lawless bands of cutthroats carried the day. Neither do bands of robbers capture whole swathes of territories along with their walled and fortified cities which were protected by regiments of disciplined and armed soldiers. No. The term Apiru, which appears throughout the archive, is merely the Akkadian cognate of the word Hebrew (Habiru), Akkadian being the diplomatic language in which most of the tablets are written.” (Bill Cooper, The Authenticity Of The Book Of Joshua, 240-249 (Kindle Edition).

How incredible it is that the Canaanites kept such detailed and meticulous records of the Hebrew invasion of their land; and that this unwilling testimony is shown to further confirm the Word of the God whom they so hated.

“There can be no doubt that archaeology has confirmed the substantial historicity of Old Testament tradition.” (1W. F. Albright, “Archaeology and the Religion of Israel,” in An Introduction to Bible Archaeology, ed. Howard F. Vos (Chicago: Moody Press, n.d.), p. 121)

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