This brief review of Ages In Chaos includes very few of the sources Velikovsky cites. Considerably more documentation for each point is available in the out of print book Ages In Chaos. Immanuel Velikovsky is a secular humanist materialist who says in the first chapter of his book, “The biblical story of the last plague has a distinctly supernatural quality in that all the firstborn and only the firstborn were killed on the night of the plagues. An earthquake that destroys only the firstborn is inconceivable, because events can never attain that degree of coincidence. No credit should be given to such a record. Either the story of the last plague, in its canonized form, is a fiction, or it conceals a corruption of the text.” p 32. Everything he writes about contains this bias. His final subject, discussing the el-amarna letters, compares two passages of Scripture, II Kings 1:17 and 3:1 where he says, “The beginning of the reign of Jehoram in Israel is recorded in two contradictory statements.” (p. 256) He is a liberal Jew well-versed in Jewish language and traditions. As long as the reader understands Immanuel Velikovsky’s overriding antisupernatural bias, his scholarship in ancient languages and his thorough understanding of ancient texts is very helpful.
For more than 150 years liberal Biblical academians, posing as scholars, have expanded the history of Egypt while compressing the history of the Jews. Egypt has at least three separate kings lists: the Turin Papyrus, the Sothis King list and the fragments of Manetho’s Aegyptiaca found in Josephus, Africanus, Syncellus and Eusebius. There is considerable disagreement among them. Because of the abundance of Egyptian material and the strong bias against the history of the Jews contained in the Bible, academia uses Egypt as a base timeline to compare all other archeological finds and all other ancient cultures against. Immanuel Velikovsky points out the impossibility of this position and uses the Jewish history contained in the Bible as the timeline and standard to measure all other ancient cultures.
From the introduction to the conclusion, the enormous difficulties of the task are emphasized. First are the language barriers. There are many, perhaps even dozens, of versions of the Egyptian language and each version changed throughout time. Then each of the nations listed in the Bible had their own language and each of the these languages changed throughout time. Some of the major languages mentioned in the Bible are Hebrew, Amalakite, Moabite, Edomite, Syrian (Aramean), Assyrian, Phoenician and Hittite.
Also, there were many alphabets such as the familiar cuneiform, hieroglyphics, and Phoenician alphabets along with the less familiar Egyptian scribal script and a Hebrew alphabet similar to Phoenician. There are so many combinations of languages and alphabets that comparisons would be impossible without the linguistic helps found at Ras Sharma (Ugarit). Even with an understandable language written in an understandable alphabet, small, almost indistinguishable differences in letters can make tremendous differences in meaning.
Second is the problem of names. Kings and rulers had multiple names and multiple spellings of the same name, even in the same language and alphabet. Cities sometimes had more than one name, especially important cities such as capitals. Providentially, God permitted our records of the smaller cities and lesser officials to usually come to us using only one name. Events, smaller cities and lower ranking officials are critically important to modern translators to match ancient documents and artifacts from more than one perspective. Finally, many of the original documents, tablets, steles, temples, obelisks, statues, pottery, excavated towns and other ancient records are damaged. To be able to understand these damaged records, someone had to make assumptions. If the assumptions are correct then our understanding of the past is correct.
Immanuel Velikovsky’s thesis is that many assumptions of the past are incorrect. The past, however, is not just an incomprehensible mass of data. Using Hebrew history as the guideline, pieces of the past fit together like a jigsaw puzzle. The evidence is not meager but abundant. It is only misplaced. My thesis is that Immanuel Velikovsky’s basic chronology is correct, however, his antisupernatural biases lead him to make some major errors.
Chronologically, Ages In Chaos begins with I Kings 6:1. It states that four hundred eighty years before construction began on Solomon’s temple, the Exodus from Egypt took place. That chronology places the Exodus about 1446 BC. The comparison of Biblical chronology with information outside of the Bible begins with an undated manuscript written by an Egyptian eyewitness, which is now called the Papyrus of Ipuwer. The Papyrus of Ipuwer gives a very lengthy account of the plagues. The Papyrus of Ipuwer existing today is a copy of an older document. The following are a very few selected quotes:
“Forsooth, the Desert is throughout the land. The nomes are laid waste. A foreign tribe from abroad has come to Egypt.” – Papyrus of Ipuwer 2:5-6
“…There was blood throughout all the land of Egypt.” – Exodus 7:21
“Plague is throughout the land. Blood is everywhere.” – Papyrus of Ipuwer 2:5-6
“…All the waters that were in the river were turned to blood.” – Exodus 7:20
“The river is blood.” – Papyrus of Ipuwer 2:10
“…The fire ran along upon the ground….There was hail, and fire mingled with the hail, very grievous.” – Exodus 9:23-24
“Forsooth, gates, columns and walls are consumed by fire.” – Papyrus of Ipuwer 2:10
“…The flax and the barely was smitten: for the barley was in the ear, and the flax was bolled.” “…There remained not any green thing in the trees, or in the herbs of the fields, through all the land of Egypt.” – Exodus 9:31, 10:15
“The land is left over to its weariness like the cutting of flax.”
“Forsooth, grain has perished on every side.” – Papyrus of Ipuwer 5:12, 6:3
“…The hand of the Lord will strike with a deadly pestilence your livestock in the field…” – Exodus 9:3
“All animals, their hearts weep. Cattle moan…” – Papyrus of Ipuwer 5:53
“And he that regarded not the word of the Lord left his servants and his cattle in the field.” – Exodus 9:21
“Behold, cattle are left to stray, and there is none to gather them together. Each man fetches for himself those that are branded with his name.” – Papyrus of Ipuwer 9:2-3
“…And there was a thick darkness in all the land of Egypt three days. They saw not one another, neither rose any from his place for three days.” – Exodus 10:22-23
“The land is not light…” – Papyrus of Ipuwer 9:11
The one difference between the Papyrus of Ipuwer and the Bible is the tenth plague, the death of the firstborn.
“Now the LORD had said to Moses, ‘I will bring one more plague on Pharaoh and on Egypt. After that, he will let you go from here, and when he does, he will drive you out completely. Tell the people that men and women alike are to ask their neighbors for articles of silver and gold.’ (The LORD made the Egyptians favorably disposed toward the people, and Moses himself was highly regarded in Egypt by Pharaoh’s officials and by the people.)” Exodus 11:1-3 NIV
“The storehouse of the king is the common property of everyone.” – Papyrus of Ipuwer10:3
The Bible seems to imply that only the firstborn were killed. The Papyrus of Ipuwer, however, clearly documents a major disaster that killed far more than just the firstborn. Property was destroyed and graves were opened. Only a major earthquake could do the damage described by the Papyrus of Ipuwer.
“Forsooth, those who were in the place of embalmment are laid on the high ground.” – Papyrus of Ipuwer 4:4
“A book by Artapanus, no longer extant, which quoted some unknown ancient source and which in its turn was quoted by Eusebius, tells of ‘hail and earthquake by night [of the last plague], so that those who fled from the earthquake were killed by the hail, and those who sought shelter from the hail were destroyed by the earthquake. And at that time all the houses fell in, and most of the temples.” p31
“According to the Haggadic tradition, not only the firstborn but the majority of the population in Egypt was killed during the tenth plague.” – Immanuel Velikovsky, Ages In Chaos p 31
“And it came to pass, that at midnight the Lord smote all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh that sat on his throne unto the firstborn of the captive that was in the dungeon.” – Exodus 12:29
“Forsooth, the children of princes are dashed against the walls.” – Papyrus of Ipuwer 4:3, also 5:6
“…There was not a house where there was not one dead.” – Exodus 12:30
“He who places his brother in the ground is everywhere.”
“Forsooth, those who were in the place of embalmment were laid on the high ground.” – Papyrus of Ipuwer 2:13 and 4:4, also 6:16
“…There was a great cry in Egypt.” – Exodus 12:30
“It is groaning that is throughout the land, mingled with lamentations.” – Papyrus of Ipuwer 3:14
“And the Egyptians were urgent upon the people, that they might send them out of the land in haste; for they said, We be all dead men.” – Exodus 12:33
“Would that there might be an end of men, no conception, no birth! Oh, that the earth would cease from noise, and tumult be no more!” – Papyrus of Ipuwer 5:14f
Immanuel Velikovsky image from Wikimedia Commons