In this book, Immanuel Velikovsky takes you on a fascinating journey through ancient history – beginning with the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt to pharaoh Akhnaton. You will meet an Egyptian eyewitness of the biblical plagues and the mysterious Queen of Sheba. You will find out to where her legendary visit led her. You will, moreover, learn surprising details about the temple of Solomon and learn who was behind its sacking.
Above all, Velikovsky establishes the astonishing fact that conventional history books describe a 600-year-period which, in reality, never took place. After reading this work, you will never again look upon a book of written history with the same eyes.
Whilst partaking of a perusal of the inviting spines in the second-hand bookshop, I came across Ages in Chaos and it immediately brought back nostalgic thoughts of a summer long ago when I first read David Rohl’s alternative chronology of Egyptian and Biblical history and was suitably intrigued about all things historical and covered in sand.
There is something about books like this, that challenge preconceived ideas and providing they aren’t compete nonsense they occasionally come up with some interesting points. Sadly the easily dismissable ideas usually gains the headlines but for me, it’s all about the small details.
Biblical archaeology has always been an interesting subject, with it usually throwing up more questions than satisfactorily answering them so despite this book being published in 1953 there is a still a need – and an appeal – of books like this to question if we are going wrong and where the conventional chronology needs to be revised (if at all). Although the text is now dated, containing such gems as ‘the history of the Hittite empire is entirely invented’, it does have some interesting ideas and of course debating them however erroneous they may seem should always be tackled and disproved wherever possible.
I love the etymology of words and place names, the corruption of both in other languages and the piecing together of such, it does make the reader feel like a literary Indiana Jones probably including the fear of snakes. There is plenty of that here as well as ancient writings aplenty all compared and contrasted as well as an abundance of speculation on such things as the ten plagues of Egypt and their causes, were the Jews guided out of Egypt by a volcano and so on and so forth. Theories that may stand up or not, either way it is fun to indulge in a flight of fancy now and again.
Herein lies the problem, not being an expert or sufficiently widely read about ancient near eastern history, it is hard for the lay reader to sift the fact from the supposition, or to understand the context of quotes taken in isolation from a body of work. There is a certain element of trust the reader needs to give to the writer and as the book flies in the face of conventional ideas then there will be those who fancy undertaking their own research which will interrupt the flow of the book and is probably as detrimental to the book as it is required to the curious mind.
The main problems I have with this book is that everything fits together too well, Unlike Rohl who will throw in a conundrum and answer it with the logic of his own theory, there is none of that here. It must be selective of texts to achieve such preciseness and that is the problem, archaeology is hardly used at all. Assuming the Bible is accurate (as Velikovsky does being Jewish and therefore not as neutral as one would wish for) then all other histories can be taken from its base. Yet the archaeology we have in Egypt and other places is what conventional views are based on so surely those should be given primacy?
We come back to the first point I made about Biblical supporting archaeology being a murky area. The author’s arguments would have been stronger if based in Archaeology and supported by texts. A strong standpoint would be to apply the dating theory, fix it in Levantine archaeology and then work back to the Egyptian slavery of the Jewish people, then write it forward supported by archaeology and text and make the case strongly. Chance meetings with the Hyksos on their way to conquer Egypt, days after the Exodus seems a little too neat to me.
That there are anomalies in accepted chronologies is not disputed and speculation is always fun so if you fancy reading an alternative then you may find this book entertaining. As a lover of jigsaws I did enjoy the detective work in various parts, however to take the whole as a solid theory is a mistake. My advice would be to pick up something more modern like David Rohl’s A Test of Time and then indulge in a bit of online archaeology yourself.