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222                          Egypt an& Israel
the most interesting mass of documents surviving from the
early East, have preserved to us this glimpse across the kingdoms
of hither Asia as one might see them on a stage, each king
playing his part before the great throne of the Pharaoh.'1 Never-
theless, in spite of this widespread recognition of Egyptian over-
lordship, the actual hegemony of Egypt over Syria-Palestine was
little more than nominal. This, after the victories of Tuthmosis
III and his immediate successors, mentioned above, sounds
strange; but the fact is that the Tell-el-Amarna letters make it
abundantly clear that a new menace to Egyptian suzerainty
over Syria-Palestine had arisen. Among these letters, most of
which are addressed to Amenhotep IV (1376-1359 B.C.),2 there
are a krge number from the vassal kings to the Pharaoh which
contain reiterated requests for help against the attacks of ene-
mies. And here we come to what, from the point of view of the
present essay, is of particular importance. Among these enemies
were those who are called the Habiru. The question as to who
the Habiru were has occasioned a great deal of controversy; to
discuss it here would take us too far afield;3 but we may without
hesitation adopt the conviction of the majority of experts,
namely that the name is equivalent to the 'Hebrews'; the ideo-
graphic form of the name is SA.GAZ (which occurs more fre-
quently than Habiru), and it is equivalent to the tyrw occurring
on Egyptian inscriptions. This is not to say that the Habiru are
to be identified with the Hebrews, or Israelites, as we know
them; the people of Israel of later times were the descendants
of the union of Habiru—Hebrews with Aramaic tribes; but it
1  A History of Egypt, p. 332 (1912).
2  A blue porcelain ring, with the cartouche of this king, was found at Tell
Zakariya, in the vale of Elah.
3  See, e.g., Winckler, *Die Hebraer in den Tel-Amarna-Briefen', in Semitic
Studies in memory of Alexander Kobut, pp. 605 ff. (1897); Burney, Tbf Book
of Judges, pp. bodiiff. (1918); Peet, Egypt and the Old Testament, pp. 115 ff.
(1922); Jirkuj 'Die Wanderungen der Hebraer im 3. und 2. Jahrtausend v.
Chr.J, in Der alts Orient, xiv. 2 (1924).