The Contest with Egypt

The Contest with Egypt

IN THE Northamptonshire village where we live there are some very unusual walls. Some are garden walls, surrounding flower beds and lawns. Others form the sides of houses. All of them are centuries old. When you look at them closely, you see they are made of mud and chopped straw. In fact, our village walls have a strange connection with the life of the Israelites in Egypt in the time of Moses. They are made of just the same ingredients as the bricks the Israelites were forced to make for Pharaoh. There are examples of Egyptian bricks in the British Museum in London, complete with the official stamp of the Rameses brickworks—bricks which date back to the time of the Exodus and could easily be the very ones handled by Moses’ brothers as they bowed under the lash of the overseers. The composition is clearly visible. You may be puzzled

The Lachish Letters

The Lachish Letters

IN THE RUINS of a building which is thought to have been a guardroom, close to the remains of the ancient gates of the city of Lachish in Israel, excavations unearthed a number of fragments of clay jars. These were not ordinary broken jars, they’re called ‘ostraka’. They were pieces of broken pottery that were used as cheap writing material. There are a couple of dozen ostraca in the collection. It’s possible that they all came from the same jar, and were a series of letters written by the same person. They were found in a layer of burnt remains which archaeologists date to the destruction of the city by the Babylonians in 588 bc. The Babylonian invasion is described in the Bible, for example by the prophet Jeremiah: The word which came to Jeremiah from the Lord, when Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon and all his army, all the kingdoms