Tuesday, November 18, 2014


Evidence for the Exodus

Both Egyptian chronology and the chronology of the Exodus are matters of ongoing scholarly dispute. Most scholars think the Exodus under Ramesses II in the 13th century B.C. (the ‘late date’ view). However, many scholars argue for dating the Exodus to c. 1446 BC (the ‘early date’ view - in which case the pharaoh of the Exodus was Amenhotep II) and a few argue for an even earlier date of c. 1525 BC. Archaeologist James K. Hoffmeir comments: ‘Until some firm archaeological or textual evidence emerges to support one of these theories, or an alternative, scholars will continue to disagree about the dating. An accepted time range for the exodus, then, is 1250-1447 BC, sometime during the New kingdom period.’ - The Archaeology of the Bible (Lion, 2008), p. 50.

Egyptologist Kenneth A. Kitchen points out that it is unreasonable to expect much by way of archaeological confirmation of the Exodus story: ‘The mud hovels of brickfield slaves and humble cultivators have long since gone back to their mud origins, never to be seen again. Even stone structures (such as temples) hardly survive… practically no written records of any extent have been retrieved from Delta sites… A tiny fraction of reports from the East delta occur in papyri recovered from the desert near Memphis. Otherwise, the entirety of Egypt’s administrative records at all periods in the Delta is lost… and monumental texts are also nearly nil. And, as pharaohs never monumentalize defeats on temple walls, no record of the successful exit of a large bunch of slaves (with loss of a full chariot squadron) would never have been memorialized by any king, in temples in the Delta or anywhere else.’  - On the Reliability of the Old Testament (Eerdmans, 2003), p. 245.

Archaeology does demonstrate that, consistent with the Biblical story of Exodus: 1) Semitic people lived in Egypt in the 19th century BC, and that 2) the nation of Israel existed in the land of Canaan by 1208 BC:

Joseph’s Canal:

A canal running into lake Quarun has a traditional name that links it with the pre-Exodus story of Joseph in Egypt: ‘between 1850 and 1650 B.C. a canal was built to keep the branches of the Nile permanently open, enabling water to fill Lake Quaran and keep the land fertile. This canal was so effective that it still successfully functions today. There is no record of who built the canal, but for thousands of years it has only been known by one name. In Arabic it's the Bahr Yusef. This translates into English as The Waterway of Joseph.’ – BBC Religions, www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/judaism/history/joseph.shtml

Tomb of Rekh-mi-re (15th century BC): ‘A wall painting in an Egyptian tomb in the Valley of the Nobles at Thebes shows foreign slaves making mud bricks, recalling the enslaved Israelites’ forced brickmaking (Exodus 1:14:5:7).’ – cf. www.gci.org/bible/digging cf. Kenneth A. Kitchen, On the Reliability of the Old Testament (Eerdmans, 2003), p. 247.

The Soleb Hieroglyph: ‘Among ancient Egyptian designations for types of foreign peoples in the New Kingdom Period (1550–1070 BC), the term Shasu occurs fairly frequently. It is generally accepted that the term Shasu means nomads or Bedouin people, referring primarily to the nomadic peoples of Syria-Palestine. There are two hieroglyphic references in New Kingdom Period texts to an area called “the land of the Shasu of Yahweh.” Except for the Old Testament, these are the oldest references found in any ancient texts to the God Yahweh… The term Shasu is almost exclusively used in New Kingdom texts for semi-nomadic peoples living in parts of Lebanon, Syria, Sinai, Canaan, and Transjordan, and for people groups clearly identified as Semitic herders… The New Kingdom inscriptions which refer to “the Land of the Shasu of Yahweh” are found in two topographical lists. The lists are found inscribed on the walls of temples, one at Soleb and the second at Amarah-West. Soleb, a temple dedicated to the god Amon-Re, was built by the Egyptian Pharaoh Amenhotep III around 1400 BC… Amarah-West, which is also located in Sudan, is a construction of Ramses II in the 13th century. The section of the Amarah-West topographical list which contains the reference to “the land of the Shasu of Yahweh,” is not original with Ramses II, and was almost certainly copied from the earlier list at Soleb. Egyptologists in general do not question the appearance of the name Yahweh in these two ancient lists.  For example, Donald Redford writes of the reference to Yahweh at Soleb: For half a century it has been generally admitted that we have here the tetragrammaton, the name of the Israelite god "Yahweh;" and if this be the case, as it undoubtedly is, the passage constitutes the most precious indication of the whereabouts during the late 15th century BC of an enclave revering this god.’ - cf. www.assistnews.net/Stories/2010/s10010053.htm

Israel Stele (13th century BC): ‘The name Israel is inscribed in hieroglyphs on a stone slab found in 1896 at Thebes. It is the only mention of Israel in all Egyptian records discovered so far, and the oldest evidence outside the Bible for Israel’s existence. Israel is listed as one of the peoples in western Asia during the reign of Ramses II’s son, Merneptah (c.1213-1203 B.C.), offering evidence that the Israelites were already settled in Canaan (the Promised Land) by that time.’ – cf. www.gci.org/bible/digging

External Evidence

Many details of the Exodus account ring true when compared to extra-biblical sources.

For example, ‘from the Louvre Roll it is evident that special religious holidays were granted to the workers, and work rosters from the workmen’s village of Deir el-Medineh report men being off work to “offer to their god.” This latter point seems to indicate that Moses’ request for the Israelites to have time off to worship Yahweh was not unprecedented and may have been standard procedure (Exod. 5:1).’ – James K. Hoffmier, Israel in Egypt: The Evidence for the Authenticity of the Exodus Tradition (Oxford University Press, 1996), p. 115.

Again, we know that ‘Egyptians regularly practices snake charming that allowed them to put snakes into a kind of catalepsy, whereby they would remain as stiff as a rod until wakened. This trick is still practised in Egypt today.’ – NIV Archaeological Study Bible (Zondervan, 2005), p. 96.

Internal Evidence

There is also internal evidence to take into consideration. The basic story of the Exodus seems to pass both the historical criteria of multiple testimony and the criteria of embarrassment. As Kenneth A. Kitchen argues: ‘the phenomenon of an exodus-deliverance recurs all over the biblical corpus… If there never was an escape from Egyptian servitude by any of Israel’s ancestors, why on earth invent such a tale about such humiliating origins? Nobody else in Near Eastern antiquity descended to that kind of tale of community beginnings.’ – Kenneth A. Kitchen, On the Reliability of the Old Testament (Eerdmans, 2003), p. 245.

The Miracles of Exodus

In his book The Miracles of Exodus (Continuum, 2003), Professor Colin J. Humphreys argues that ‘we have a natural scientific explanation for all ten plagues, which follow a logical, connected sequence… that is highly consistent with the biblical account.’ – p. 143.

Egyptologist Kenneth A. Kitchen observes that ‘the impact of various plagues can be understood as devaluing or denying Egyptian beliefs.’ – Kenneth A. Kitchen, On the Reliability of the Old Testament (Eerdmans, 2003), p. 253.

For example: ‘A massive unruly and destructive Nile flood, red in hue, bringing death, was the opposite of Hapi (deity of that flood), who was normally bringer of new life by its waters… Frogs were a symbol of abundance (…personified as Heqat), but here again they brought death… the deep darkness eclipsed the supreme sun god, Re or Amen-Re. Pharoah was traditionally entitled “Son of Re,” and his patron was made invisible… Death of so many throughout the land… would probably seem to Egyptians to have negated the power of the gods completely, and the king’s personal and official key role of ensuring their favour.’ – On the Reliability of the Old Testament, p. 253.

How the wind drove back the waters…

‘A new computer modeling study by researchers at the National Center for Atmospheric Research… and the University of Colorado at Boulder (CU) shows how the movement of wind as described in the book of Exodus could have parted the waters… a strong east wind, blowing overnight, could have pushed water back at a bend where an ancient river is believed to have merged with a coastal lagoon along the Mediterranean Sea. With the water pushed back into both waterways, a land bridge would have opened at the bend, enabling people to walk across exposed mud flats to safety. As soon as the wind died down, the waters would have rushed back in… Other researchers have focused on a phenomenon known as "wind setdown," in which a particularly strong and persistent wind can lower water levels in one area while piling up water downwind. Wind setdowns… have been widely documented, including an event in the Nile delta in the 19th century when a powerful wind pushed away about five feet of water and exposed dry land.’ – ScienceDaily.Com, 2010 www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/09/100921143930.htm

Recommended Resources

‘Internal Evidence for the Historicity of Exodus’ http://youtu.be/hiw5t276QxM
‘The Exodus from Egypt, a Lecture with Dr James Hoffmeier’ http://youtu.be/m2vhrK6Wczs
Lecture - Dr James Hoffmeier – Egyptologist’ http://youtu.be/GBWWO8dCeY0
‘Lecture Q&A - Dr James Hoffmeier – Egyptologist’ http://youtu.be/u3HUJbZsf-w
(DVD) True U, Truth Project – 02 – Is The Bible Reliable? Building the historical case (Tyndale/Focus on the Family, 2011)
Gary Byers, ‘The Beni Hasan Asiatics and the Biblical Patriarchs’ www.biblearchaeology.org/post/2009/09/09/The-Beni-Hasan-Asiatics-and-the-Biblical-Patriarchs.aspx
ScienceDaily, ‘Parting the waters: Computer modeling applies physics to Red Sea escape route’ www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/09/100921143930.htm
Rabbi Ken, ‘Archaeology and the Exodus’ www.aish.com/print/?contentID=48938472&section=/ci/sam
Archaeologist Allan Millard, ‘How Reliable Is Exodus?’ http://fontes.lstc.edu/%7Erklein/Documents/how_reliable_is_exodus.htm
Who Was Moses? (2003) http://youtu.be/IwnrjU67Dag
NIV Archaeological Study Bible (Zondervan, 2005)
Alfred J. Hoerth, Archaeology & The Old Testament (Baker Academic, 1998)
James K. Hoffmier, The Archaeology of the Bible (Lion, 2008)
James K. Hoffmier, Ancient Israel in Sinai: The Evidence for the Authenticity of the Wilderness Tradition (Oxford University Press, 2005)
James K. Hoffmier, Israel in Egypt: The Evidence for the Authenticity of the Exodus Tradition (Oxford University Press, 1996)
Colin J. Humphreys, The Miracles of Exodus (Continuum, 2003)
Kenneth A. Kitchen, On the Reliability of the Old Testament (Eerdmans, 2003)

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