Thus, my main thesis is that there must have been a ‘perfect storm’ of calamitous events at that turning point in order to cause the Late Bronze Age civilizations to collapse shortly after 1200 BCE. There is both direct and circumstantial evidence that there was climate change, drought and famine, earthquakes, invasions and internal rebellions, all at that approximate time. Of these, I would rank them in that specific order of importance: climate change; drought and famine; earthquakes; invaders; and internal rebellions. Although human beings have survived such catastrophes time and again when they come individually, such as rebuilding after an earthquake or living through a drought, what if they all occurred at once, or in quick succession?¹
It would be difficult to survive if all, or most, of the above calamities came at the same time or nearly so, as they seem to have done especially between about 1225 BCE and 1175 BCE. And that, I think, is why the Late Bronze Age civilizations came crashing down — they were not able to weather the ‘perfect storm’ of nearly simultaneous catastrophes, with each amplifying and multiplying the effects of the previous ones, piling on misfortune after misfortune until the entire system broke down. And then what we see is a systems’ collapse, as empires and kingdoms that had flourished for centuries all came to an end, followed by the world’s first Dark Age stretching from the Mediterranean to Mesopotamia.¹
To put this into an End-Times perspective, for our present age, such a perfect storm might reflect the successive, cumulative effect of conquest, war, famine, and pestilence, as symbolised by the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (Revelation 6:1-7).
6 Then I saw the Lamb open one of the seven seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures call out, as with a voice of thunder, “Come!” 2 I looked, and there was a white horse! Its rider had a bow; a crown was given to him, and he came out conquering and to conquer.
3 When he opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature call out, “Come!” 4 And out came another horse, bright red; its rider was permitted to take peace from the earth, so that people would slaughter one another; and he was given a great sword.
5 When he opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature call out, “Come!” I looked, and there was a black horse! Its rider held a pair of scales in his hand, 6 and I heard what seemed to be a voice in the midst of the four living creatures saying, “A quart of wheat for a day’s pay, and three quarts of barley for a day’s pay, but do not damage the olive oil and the wine!”
7 When he opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature call out, “Come!” 8 I looked and there was a pale green horse! Its rider’s name was Death, and Hades followed with him; they were given authority over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword, famine, and pestilence, and by the wild animals of the earth.²
Scripture repeats this cataclysmic concatenation—the Lord’s so-called “four deadly acts” of sword, famine, wild beasts, and pestilence—wherever the Lord threatens to completely wipe out evil communities, as in Ezekiel 14:21, among others.
Was the Bronze Age collapse then (and likewise might an End-days collapse today be) a question of the last man standing?
In the aftermath of the Bronze-Age collapse rose the Philistines of the Bible, a subset of the infamous Sea peoples known to the Egyptians as the Peleset and who settled in Canaan just before the rise of Israel. Beyond the Philistines, the Aramaeans, Phoenicians, and the Israelites benefited most from the Bronze-Age collapse.
As I see it, all of these groups were able to really ‘set up shop,’ as it were, in the regions of Canaan from which the Egyptians and Hittites had both just withdrawn — especially in what is now modern Israel, Lebanon, and Syria. To put it in modern terms, I think that the Israelites, Phoenicians, Aramaeans, and Philistines benefited from the ‘power vacuum’ that was created in this area when the Great Powers were laid low. There was no way that any of them could have established a foothold in this area if the Egyptians, Hittites, and Canaanites had still been as powerful as they were even in the 13th century BCE. The calamitous events at the beginning of the 12th century BCE made all the difference.¹
Is it too much of a stretch, from there, to see Israel emerge from any coming civilisation collapse (consider the parlous state of Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, even Sinai Egypt) as the predominant centre of civilisation and from where will emanate a thousand-year rule of righteousness?
Muhly, James D. Sources of Tin and the Beginnings of Bronze Metallurgy. American Journal of Archaeology Vol. 89, No. 2 (Apr., 1985), pp. 275-291. DOI: 10.2307/504330. https://www.jstor.org/stable/504330.
Ling, Johan et al. Moving metals IV: Swords, metal sources and trade networks in Bronze Age Europe. Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports Volume 26, August 2019, 101837.
Wiener, Noah. Bronze Age Collapse: Pollen Study Highlights Late Bronze Age Drought. Bible History Daily. Available at https://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/news/bronze-age-collapse-pollen-study-highlights-late-bronze-age-drought/. Accessed 24 July 2020.
Cline, Eric H. 1177 BC: The Collapse of Civilizations and the Rise of Ancient Israel and Philistia. The Bible and Interpretation. Available at https://bibleinterp.arizona.edu/articles/2015/01/cli398005. Accessed 24 July 2020.