In regard to the Hebrews, you mentioned that there is archaeological evidence that a pagan cult already existing in the Sinai area worshiped calf idols. I’m trying to sort out in my head with whom these preexisting tribes were affiliated. Persians? Assyrians? Independents? Or could it be the case that such people were in flux: being ruled by the flavor of the century, but retaining their geographic identity?
Ray, I’m glad you’re enjoying the course. There were many minor peoples living between the Egyptian and Hittite empires along the eastern coast of the Mediterranean when the Hebrews left Egypt, according to the Biblical record. Sometimes they are referred to collectively as “Canaanites” because they occupied the land of Canaan (a name often used in the Bible to refer to Palestine/Israel). In other places they are subdivided more specifically: Hivites, Jebusites, etc.
Depending on the precise historical moment you’re examining, these people were either operating independently or paying some sort of tribute to a nearby empire such as Egypt. Recall that during the New Kingdom period, the Egyptians exerted an imperial influence over the people living to their north and east. The Hittites were also active in the region during that period. The Sinai specifically had more of an Egyptian influence along the coastal areas, although tribes in the interior may have been left alone.