MOSES and the EXODUS: A FAIRYTALE NO MORE
[Response to The Exodus Fairytale #181-183
(Investigator 184, 2019 January)
Laurie Eddie (Investigator 181-183) provided a refutation of the Book
of Exodus. The Bible refers to Moses and Exodus as factual, not as myth
or entertainment. That's what I'll give evidence in support of, that
the events reported in Exodus truly occurred. We'll consider the
MAGIC OR MIRACLES?
Eddie (#181, pp 22-23) claims Exodus attributes "magic" powers to Moses
and Aaron and their staffs. Eddie compares the staff(s) to a magician's
magic wand, thereby putting Exodus on the same level as fictitious
stories about wizards, fairies and magic.
However, Exodus repeatedly states that behind the remarkable events (or
alleged events) is God — "Now you will see what I will do to
Pharoah..." (6:1) Moses announced not what he (Moses) would do, but
what God would do. Exodus does not attribute supernatural properties to
the staff itself; the staff was a symbol of authority and functioned to
attract the attention of the audience. Consider a traffic policeman who
directs traffic with arm signals or with the aid of a baton. It would
be wrong to claim that the policeman or his arms or the baton magically
make the cars move.
It is from the perspective of God acting behind the scenes that the
purported miracles should be studied and examined for possible natural
inputs. Arden (1976) notes that, "Moses abolished idol worship, banned magic and divination from religious worship..."
Modern historians reject ancient reports of supernatural events but
don't reject such narratives entirely. When Rameses II awaited the
arrival of a Hittite princess as his bride during the winter he prayed
to Seth for her safety:
sky is in your hands, the earth is under your feet, whatever happens is
what you command. So may you not send rain, icy blast or snow..." Seth
heeded all that he said, and so the sky was calm and summer days
occurred in the winter season. (Kitchen 1982)
Modern historians would dismiss the alleged action of Seth but regard
the princess, the prayer, the marriage and the unseasonal mild weather
as probably genuine.
Many miracles described in Exodus can be explained as rare natural
events where the miracle lay in humans being at the right place and
right time for nature to change political history.
Werner Keller (1974) writes:
An expert on the botany
of the Bible, Dr. Harold N. Moldenke, director and curator of the
Botanical Garden in New York, has this to say: “...some think that the
phenomenon of the bush that 'burned with fire' and yet 'was not
consumed' can be explained as a variety of the gas-plant or Fraxinella,
the Dictamnus Albus L. This is a plant with a strong growth about three
feet in height with clusters of purple blossom. The whole bush is
covered with tiny oil-glands. This oil is so volatile that it is
constantly escaping and if approached with a naked light bursts
suddenly into flames...
The most logical explanation seems to be that suggested
by Smith. He puts forward the theory that the 'flames' may have been
the crimson blossoms of mistletoe twigs (Loranthus Accaciae) which grow
on various prickly acacia bushes and acacia trees throughout the Holy
Land and in Sinai. When this mistletoe is in full bloom the bush
becomes a mass of brilliant flaming colour and looks as if it is on
In the 1950s Greta Hort explained the Ten Plagues as a series of
natural events where each event caused the next. Her "ecological domino
theory" was updated in 1996 by two American epidemiologists whose work
was publicized in a TV documentary The Ten Plagues of Egypt and explained by Ehrenkranz and Sampson (2008) and in Investigator #78.
Pillars of fire and cloud
Professor Richard Gabriel (2010) writes:
The pillars of cloud
and fire do not appear to be a divine totem, but a device to improve
Moses' command and control over his troops.
The same device is described in the writings of Quintus
Curtius, a Roman historian... "When he (Alexander) wished to move his
camp ... he set up a pole on top of the general's tent, which could be
clearly seen from all sides, and from this lofty signal, visible to all
alike, was watched for, fire by night, smoke by day." ...
Just such a device is portrayed in the Luxor temple
reliefs depicting Ramses II's military camp at the Battle of Kadesh.
Two human figures stand behind Ramses, each holding a long pole. Atop
one of the poles is a brazier in full flame. The other figure is
holding a second pole atop which sits the bottom half of a brazier
partially covered with some sort of top. A brazier partially covered in
this manner would dampen the flame and produce smoke.
Red Sea Crossing
One hypothesis says that the Israelites fled Egypt along the coast
before heading south. Lake Manzala and Lake Bardawil are like huge
lagoons each separated from the Mediterranean by a long narrow strip of
land. The idea is that after the Israelites crossed the slender strip
of sand a tsunami, caused by the Santorini Volcano eruption, washed
over it and swept Pharoah's pursuing chariots away.
The Lake Manzala scenario, proposed by Egyptologist Hans Goedicke
(Begley 1981), is refuted by the date when Santorini exploded. Goedicke
suggested 1475 BCE but current evidence places it 150 years earlier.
Others argue that the "Red Sea crossing" took place at the northern end
of the Gulf of Suez near what is now the city of Suez, or slightly
further north at the "Bitter Lakes". Meteorologist Allan Brunt
explained the Red Sea crossing as a storm surge in this area, based on
the biblical information that a "strong east wind" blew all night.
(Exodus 14:21) See Investigator #14.
Similar is the account by Doron Nof, professor of oceanography, and Dr.
Nathan Paldor an expert in atmospheric science. They suggested that a
"strong wind ... along the Gulf of Suez" pushed the water "a
considerable distance away from the regular shoreline".
Their Abstract in The Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society says:
The receding distance
of the shoreline and the associated sea level drop are computed by
solving the nonlinear equation that governs the motion resulting from
the wind. It is found that, even for moderate storms with wind speed of
about 20 m s−1, a receding distance of more than 1 km and a sea level
drop of more than 2.5 m are obtained. These relatively high values are
a result of the unique geometry of the gulf (i.e., its rather small
width-to-length and depth-to-length ratios) and the nonlinearity of the
governing equation. Upon an abrupt relaxation of the wind, the water
returns to its prewind position as a fast (nonlinear) gravity wave that
floods the entire receding zone within minutes. It is suggested that
the crossing occurred while the water receded and that the drowning of
the Egyptians was a result of the rapidly returning wave. (1992)
The full article and summaries of it by Wilford (1992) and Kerr (1992) are online.
Arden (1976) writes:
One theory equates this
manna with a white, sweetish exudation caused by scale insects found on
tamarisk trees. Bedouin make a condiment called mann from this substance, said to taste not unlike the Biblical description of manna—"like wafers made with honey."... The ... tamarisk grows abundantly in southern ... Sinai. (p. 21)
Quail blown by the wind apparently covered the ground two cubits (3
feet) deep for "a day's journey" all around the Israelites' camp, and
each Israelite gathered at least "ten homers". (Numbers 11:31-32)
Critics have claimed that this amounts to a ridiculous "trillions" of
Quail are edible migratory birds about 18cm in length. Egypt a century ago exported millions every year. Arden (1976) writes:
...great swarms of
birds migrating from Europe drop in exhaustion on the Mediterranean's
southern shore. Bedouin have traditionally caught the helpless
creatures in nets—a practice now illegal in many places. (p. 21)
What happened is that a swarm of quail flying
three feet above ground fell down around the Israelites' camp. Some
Israelites gathered up the birds spending about 1½ days at it.
A "homer" is a "dry measure" of capacity equaling 6.5 bushels (Strong
2001) and a bushel equals 64 pints. Ten homers amount to over 4100
pints of quail (10 x 6.5 x 64) for each gatherer. Sutherland (2015)
estimates at least 1900 birds per gatherer.
Water from rock
The Israelites feared they would die in the desert from lack of water:
Then Moses lifted up
his hand and struck the rock twice with his staff; water came out
abundantly, and the congregation and their livestock drank. (Numbers
20:1-13; Exodus 17:1-7)
Arden (1976) writes:
I saw many such "rocks
of the striking." Almost anywhere a spring burbles forth from a rock in
the Middle East, the local tradition ascribes the phenomenon to Moses.
Tales have been told of travelers who tap a rock in Sinai and stand
back amazed to see water gushing forth. This, while highly unlikely, is
at least a scientific possibility, since pockets of water do form in
Sinai's porous limestone at times.
Werner Keller (1974) writes:
Major C. S. Jarvis, who
was British Governor of Sinai in the thirties, has seen it happen
himself. He writes: “Moses striking the rock at Rephidim and the water
gushing out sounds like a genuine miracle, but the writer has actually
seen this happen. Several men of the Sinai Camel Corps had halted in a
dry wadi and were in the process of digging about in the rough sand
that had accumulated at the foot of a rock face. They were trying to
get at the water that was trickling slowly out of the limestone rock.
The men were taking their time about it and Bash Shawish, the coloured
sergeant, said: ‘Here, give it to me!’ He took the spade of one of the
men and began digging furiously in the manner of N.C.O.'s the world
over who want to show their men how to do things but have no intention
of keeping it up for more than a couple of minutes. One of his violent
blows hit the rock by mistake. The smooth hard crust which always forms
on weathered limestone split open and fell away. The soft stone
underneath was thereby exposed and out of its apertures shot a powerful
stream of water.
George M. Lamsa (translator of the Lamsa Bible) writes:
Arabia and other arid lands where water is scarce, wells and other
sources of water are hidden in order to discourage roaming tribes from
encamping, grazing the area, and using the scanty water supplies. Then
again, in all parts of the Near East wells are covered to prevent
animals and men from falling into them and to keep the drinking water
clean. Large stones are placed upon the mouths of the wells and water
sources, and are then covered with earth. Therefore, hidden wells are
not easy to locate. God told Moses where to strike, and when he struck
the rock or uncovered the mouth of the well, he found abundant water
for the people to drink and for the herds and flocks also.
Moses raised his hand during a long battle between Israelites and
Amalekites: "Whenever Moses held up his hand Israel prevailed; and when
he lowered his hand Amalek prevailed." (Exodus 17)
The back and forth nature of the battle can be explained
psychologically — the Israelite troops felt inspired and therefore
rallied every time they saw their aged leader renew his effort.
"… the ground under
them split asunder; and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them
up, with their households and all the men that belonged to Korah and
all their goods. So they and all that belonged to them went down
alive into sheol; and the earth closed over them, and they perished
from the midst of the assembly." (Numbers 16:25-35; 26:10; Deuteronomy
11:6-7; Psalm 106:16-18)
A possible explanation is that an earthquake opened a crevasse along a fault line which then closed again.
Another suggestion is: “Any sand can become quicksand … usually by
upwelling water, so that it behaves like a liquid.” (New Scientist,
December 21/28, 1996, 27-29) In 1692 Port Royal (Jamaica) stood at the
tip of a 16-kilometre extension of loosely packed sand, 20 metres deep,
saturated with water. An earthquake vibrated the sand and made it soft
like quicksand and the town sank, buildings and people straight down,
and 2,000 died. In June 1964 part of the Japanese city of Niigata
(population 340,000) similarly sank when an earthquake caused
Jordan Stopped; Jericho's walls collapse
Amos Nur (1991) attributed the stopping of the Jordan River (Joshua 3)
and the falling of the walls of Jericho (Joshua 6) to earthquakes.
In 1927 an earthquake caused a mud-slide which damned the Jordan River.
This also happened in 1906, 1834, 1546, 1534, 1267 and 1160.
Over thirty destructive quakes have hit the region since 117 BCE.
Josephus, for example, mentions the destruction of the town of Qumran
(of Dead Sea scrolls fame) in 31 BCE. Nur suggests an earthquake
leveled the Jericho of Joshua’s time:
There is little doubt that the walls of Jericho have collapsed several times in its 10,000-year history. (p. 42)
Some alleged miracles recorded in the Bible have no known natural
component. For example Numbers 17 says that 12 staffs belonging to 12
leaders of Israel were left overnight in the Tabernacle for God to
indicate which ancestral house should become the priesthood. Aaron's
staff alone, "Put forth buds, produced blossoms, and bore ripe almonds."
Alleged miracles that currently lack a known natural component become plausible by two arguments:
1. Inductive generalization — we see many miracles
already made plausible and therefore can predict that the trend will
2. The Bible declares that "Nothing is impossible for
God" but also predicted the same is true of humans: "Nothing that they
propose to do will now be impossible for them." (Genesis 11:6) Today
stopping rivers and destroying walls are common events. Arguably the
most incredible ability the Bible attributes to God is that he sees the
thoughts of everyone. Today cameras on land and in Space increasingly
monitor public activities; and technology already includes brain-scans
that identify thoughts. It is not farfetched, therefore, to anticipate
a time when human technology will monitor the conduct and thoughts of
everyone. If God's miracles can be duplicated by human technology, and this was predicted, it suggests that the original miracles attributed to God are as plausible as humanity's ability to duplicate them.
FIRST OF FOUR POINTS — HISTORY DESTROYED
Before we compare the Bible with archaeology and history, readers should keep in mind four points.
The first is that Egypt’s pharoahs and priests were not objective
historians but destroyed whatever history they didn’t like.
- Around 1650 the Cushites (from Sudan) attacked
Egypt and reached the Nile Delta. In the 7th century BCE there was a
Cushite empire which included Egypt and which fought five wars with the
superpower of the time, Assyria. These events were erased from Egyptian
records, unknown until rediscovered in the 20th century! (Investigator
- Hatshepsut (1479-1457 BCE), the female pharaoh,
vanished from history until the 19th century CE. Her name was chiseled
off monuments and replaced by later pharaohs with their own names.
- Pharoah Akhenaten (1351–1334 BCE) introduced
sun-worship to Egypt. After his death his name was obliterated from
monuments and his new capital city abandoned and forgotten. Pringle
(2014) writes: "Those who succeeded Akhenaten on the thrown attempted
to erase all memory of his rule, his religion, and his capital." His
wife Nefertiti and son Tutankhamun were also erased. The New
Encyclopedia Britannica says: "the name 'Amon' was also hacked out of
the inscriptions throughout Egypt. Here and there the names of other
gods and goddesses were removed...."
- Wegner (2014) reported the discovery of a
previously unknown "entire dynasty of kings" based in Abydos, north of
Thebes, a third Egyptian kingdom (besides the Hyksos and Thebes) which
flourished 1650-1550 BCE.
- The Hyksos (immigrants from Western Asia) ruled
northern Egypt c.1630–1521 BCE. Wikipedia says: "When they were
eventually driven out of Egypt, all traces of their occupation were
- Aside from deliberate destruction of history much
material was buried to reduce clutter. Thomas (2012), referring to the
great Karnak temple at Luxor, writes: "At some point during or after
the end of the Ptolemaic period (304-30 BC), an enormous group of
statues and other objects, now known as the 'Karnak Cachette', was
buried in a large pit…"
History was also destroyed by climate. Miller (1998) quotes
Egyptologist James Hoffmeier: "I don't know of any surviving papyrus
documents from Egypt's Delta… It's too wet. And papyrus … is where most
of the records were kept. The inscriptions that we see on statues and
temple facades tend to be propagandistic, what-we-want-you-to-know
The non-corroboration of Exodus on Egypt's temple walls and obelisks is
therefore to be expected considering how humiliating many events in
Exodus would have been to Egyptians.
SECOND POINT — 99% UNKNOWN
Infrared images taken by NASA satellites indicate that most of ancient Egypt is undiscovered! Amor (2011) reports:
Egyptologist Dr Sarah
Parcak and a team of archaeologists from the University of Alabama have
used infrared satellite imaging to aid in the discovery of more than
3000 ancient towns and villages, some 1000 tombs, and possibly 17
pyramids lying unknown beneath the sands of Egypt.
Bonin (2011) writes that Dr Parcak: "Estimates that less than one per cent of ancient Egypt is known."
THIRD POINT — FAILED CRITICISMS
In 1670 Dutch-Jewish philosopher Baruch Spinoza (1632-1677) published
his hypothesis that writing was unknown prior to the 8th century BC and
therefore Moses could not have written the Pentateuch (the first five
books of the Old Testament) including Exodus. Those books, according to
Spinoza, were written by Ezra (a leader in Israel) in the 5th century
A century after Spinoza French theologian Jean Astruc (1684-1766)
intensified the attack. Focusing on Genesis he separated passages that
referred to God as "Elohim" from passages that called God "Yahweh" i.e.
"Jehovah". Publishing in 1753 Astruc suggested that the compiler of
Genesis had used two sets of documents or "sources" which he called
"Jehovistic" and "Elohistic". Today's scholars call them J and E.
German historian Johann Eichhorn (1752-1827) authored Introduction to
the Old Testament (1780-1783), endorsed Spinoza's
view, and coined the term "Higher Criticism".
These three men sowed the seed. Subsequent theologians who built on
their ideas became known as "Higher Critics" and produced ever more
varied explanations of how Moses' books originated. There followed
Dutch theologian Abraham Kuenen (1828-1891) and German theologians
Edouard Reuss (1804-1891), K.H. Graf (1815-1869) and Julius Wellhausen
Graf and Wellhausen produced the dominant version of the Documentary
Hypothesis. This stated that the Pentateuch had four original authors —
Jahwist, Elohist, Priestly, Deuteronomist — and that Moses' Law did not
originate at Mount Sinai but 1000 years later from Jews in Babylon.
The Documentary Hypothesis was built on textual speculation not on
archaeology and required repeated revision. One debate was that Exodus
34 gets the Decalogue (the Ten Commandments) wrong. Dr Bob Potter wrote:
…most ‘believers’ are
unaware there are several incarnations of these commandments. Those of
Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5 are much the same, but the one in Exodus 34
(which purports to be the most recent listing!) spoken to Moses by
Jahweh to replace the earlier broken tablets, differs in several ways
from the earlier version commonly incorporated into today’s Christian
services. (Investigator 145)
Childs (1974) says:
Ch.34 is one of the
most difficult chapters in Exodus to analyze… The starting-point for
the modern critical debate began with Wellhausen’s analysis [in 1879],
which isolated ch.34 as a parallel account to ch.20 of the Sinai
covenant … this classic literary solution suffered a gradual erosion…
First of all, it became increasingly difficult to defend the view of an
actual Decalogue in ch.34...
My response (in Investigator 150) to Dr Potter was: "Exodus 34:12-26
does not recapitulate the Ten Commandments but provides commandments to
Documentary-Hypothesis advocates had failed to distinguish the Ten
Commandments from additional commands directed against idolatry. Such
slipups, when defended for a century, undermines the credibility of
building grand theories on textual speculation uncorroborated by
In the 1970s Wellhausen's theory began to crack when the biblical text
was examined by a new generation of scholars. (See Investigator 153)
Spinoza's late-origin-of-writing hypothesis conflicted with Exodus
17:14 and 24:7. Initially the Moabite Stone and Siloam inscriptions,
both 8th-century BCE, seemed to support Spinoza because they were the
oldest writings known. Other arguments were:
1. The Law code of Moses is too advanced for the 15th century BC.
2. The rituals in Leviticus are too sophisticated for that era.
3. Many events in Canaan and Egypt described in the Pentateuch are unhistorical.
In 1887 the Tell-el-Amarna tablets — official correspondence between
Egypt and Canaan in cuneiform script on clay tablets — were discovered
and dated to c.1400 BCE! In 1907 archaeologist Winckler discovered
records of the Hittite Empire in Turkey. Deciphered in 1919 they dated
to 1800 BCE:
The idea that Moses' Law Code is too advanced for the 15th century BCE
was disproved by the discovery in 1902 of the Laws of Hammurabi dated
1800 BCE, and in 1932 by the discovery of the Ras Shamra tablets which
record religious rituals loosely similar to Leviticus (but honoring
Nations and cities too are being confirmed. The Hittites were in the
early 19th century regarded as mythical but archaeological discoveries
later changed this "myth" to fact. In 1970 I concluded Sodom and
Gomorrah were obliterated by an asteroid and mentioned this in Investigator #43 and #62. Support that Sodom and Gomorrah existed and were smashed to "smithereens" came recently — e.g. Hignett (2018).
The third point therefore to keep in mind when judging Exodus, is that
the Bible is progressively getting confirmed and criticisms of it
FOURTH POINT — DATE OF THE EXODUS
One reason critics call Exodus unhistorical is uncertainty over the dates for events it describes.
Exodus does not name any pharaoh. But ancient Egyptians also often
spoke of "Pharoah" without specifying his name. The Bible usually
leaves nameless the pharaohs whom the Egyptians deleted from history.
In Investigator #157 I
calculated "rough biblical dates" back to Abraham. My calculation is
close to that of Irish Archbishop James Ussher (1581-1656), whose
date-list became part of the King James Bible, but disagreed by 46
years with dates supplied in the NRSV Reference Bible (1993). I did not
settle this 46-year difference but noted it as follows:
||1922 BCE or 46 years later
- Jacob & family move to
- Ten Plagues and the exodus:
- Solomon's temple construction:
Below is a page from AIDS TO THE STUDENT OF THE HOLY BIBLE
(c.1880) which relies on Ussher's chronology to date the exodus to 1491
BCE. Remember this date, 1491 BCE (or 46 years later), for the ten
plagues and the exodus.
Biblical chronology as calculated by James Ussher. Observe 1491BCE for the exodus:
1 Kings 6:1 places it
[the exodus] 480 years before the construction of Solomon's Temple,
implying an Exodus at c. 1450 BCE, but the number is rhetorical rather
than historical, representing a symbolic twelve generations of forty
Actually 480 years are literal because they terminate at a literal and
specific date — the fourth year and second month of Solomon's reign. (I
Kings 6:1) If, however, we add the time-periods mentioned in the book
of Judges and add to them the 40 years in the wilderness and the reigns
of King Saul and King David, it comes to over 600 years, not 480. The
reason is that some periods in Judges are not consecutive but
concurrent or overlapping — but that's a separate study.
If 480 years is literal it's necessary to argue for what's called the
"early date" or 15th century BCE for the exodus, i.e. 480 years before
Solomon's reign, in contrast to a "late date" in the 13th century BCE.
Keep the above four points in mind as we continue.
A respected list of dates for the reigns of Egypt's pharoahs is in the book Egypt The World of the Pharoahs, edited by Schultz & Seidel (1998):
New Kingdom — Eighteenth Dynasty
Comparing these dates with Ussher's chronology suggests Thutmosis I, II
or III or Hatshepsut as the pharaoh of the Ten Plagues. But it's not
David Down, the Adventist editor of Archaeological Diggings, believes
that Egypt's 12th dynasty which is dated 1976-1793 BCE experienced turmoil
and disruption such as the Ten Plagues might have provoked and he
therefore brings the 12th dynasty forward several centuries. James
(1991) reduces Egyptian chronology by 250 years; David Rohl (1995), a
former pop musician turned Bible-advocate, argues for a 350-year
reduction; Furlong (2007) says "the conventional chronology is
fundamentally wrong... New Kingdom dates ... should be lowered by 200
years". D.B. Redford in contrast calculates the reign of Ramesses II to
be 111 years earlier than currently accepted!
Historians don't accept these revisions to Egyptian dates. However, the adding of 100 years to Egypt's history prior to 1500 BCE might be supported as follows:
The volcanic eruption of Santorini near Crete used to be dated to about 1500 BC by pottery and other objects in the ash.
Large volcanic explosions eject sulphur which makes rainfall acidic and
shows up in the snow layers of the Greenland icecap. Danish scientists,
in 1987, published their analysis of an ice core from Greenland and
found an acid spike dated 1645 BC but none around 1500 BC. In 2006 the
carbon dating of an olive branch found in the Santorini pumice and ash
supported the new date. (Science Illustrated, 2008)
Smaller disagreements occur also. Wikipedia discusses a possible co-regency of 8 years of Amenophis III and his son Akhenaten, which differs to Schultz & Seidel. Wikipedia
also gives the reign of Hatshepsut as 1505-1482 BCE, 23 years earlier
than Schultz & Seidel. Every uncertainty makes the identification
of the Pharoah of Exodus more problematic.
Statue of Hatshepsut —
Metropolitan Museum, New York (Wikipedia)
Pharoah Hatshepsut was a woman. She established trade networks,
commissioned construction of temples and obelisks and: "so much
statuary ... that almost every major museum with Ancient Egyptian
artifacts in the world has Hatshepsut statuary..."
Nevertheless the Egyptians erased Hatshepsut from history, her name forgotten until the 19th century.
BC) ... came to the throne of Egypt in 1478 BC. Officially, she ruled
jointly with Thutmose III, who had ascended to the throne the previous
year as a child of about two years old. Hatshepsut was the chief wife
of Thutmose II, Thutmose III’s father...
described as having a reign of about 21 years… Hatshepsut could have
assumed power as early as 1512 BC, or, as late as 1479 BC...
No contemporary mention of the cause of her death has survived...
While it is clear that much of this rewriting of
Hatshepsut's history occurred only during the close of Thutmose III's
reign, it is not clear why it happened...
Comparison with Ussher's dates makes Hatshepsut a candidate for Pharoah
of the exodus. The Ten Plagues and catastrophe at the Red Sea could
account for her removal from Egyptian history. Although Exodus refers
to Pharoah as "he" not "she" this could reflect Hatshepsut's
presentation of herself as a male (on official occasions she often wore
a false beard), or is an artifact of grammar where "pharoah" is a
masculine noun and required a masculine pronoun.
ANTIQUITY OF ISRAEL
For over a century the oldest known non-biblical reference to Israel
was on the Merneptah Stele dated 1210 BCE, located in Cairo's Egyptian
Now, another non-biblical mention of Israel may be 200 years older.
Egyptologist Manfred Görg found it on a grey granite slab 18 x
15.5 inches in the Egyptian Museum in Berlin. A piece of the slab is
missing, also half of the word that might spell Israel. The slab also
has the hieroglyph for "sh" rather than "s".
Van der Ween et al (2010) argue that the damaged word is an archaic
form for “Israel". The names on the left side of the slab refer to
Ashkelon and Canaan; the geographical proximity of these to Israel
makes the identification of the damaged word as "Israel" probable:
For what other name in the same general region would be so strikingly
reminiscent of that of biblical Israel? As a matter of fact, no
linguistically feasible name is attested in any of the extant texts, so
“Israel” remains the most logical candidate. (p. 19)
Therefore, archaeological evidence for the Israelites' existence may
now extend back to 1400 BCE. That date also is not necessarily final
since further discoveries may be made.
An objection is that the Bible teaches "monotheism" i.e. worship of one
God referred to as "Yahweh" whereas the first monotheism is often
attributed to Pharoah Akhenaton (ruled 1351-1334) who imposed
Sun-worship on Egypt.
It is sometimes supposed that Moses got the idea for monotheism from
Akhenaton (or even that Moses was Akhenaton)! Arden (1976) writes:
"Moses may already have gleaned such an idea from tales he heard about
his ancestor Abraham, as well as from stories about Akhenaton, who less
than a century earlier had established a brief-lived religion based on
a single god ... the Aten, or sun disk..." Van Biema (1998)
writes: "In Moses and Monotheism, Sigmund Freud speculated that Moses
was actually an Egyptian who passed single-deity worship derived from
Akhenaton to the Jews... Other scholars, like German academic Jan
Assmann, author of Moses the Egyptian, believe Moses and Hebrew
monotheism are a memory of Akhenaton."
Deriving Moses' monotheism from Akhenaton postulates a "late date",
13th century BCE, exodus. If the "early" date, 15th century BCE, is
accepted then Akhenaton ruled a century after Moses. In that case
Akhenaton's so-called monotheism could be a "memory of" Moses.
Wikipedia implies that Yahweh worship preceded Akhenaten: "The earliest
putative reference to Yahweh in the historical record occurs in a list
of Bedouin tribes of the Transjordan made by Amenhotep III (c.
1391-1353 BC) in the temple of Amon at Soleb." And: "The 'Kenite
hypothesis' supposes that the Hebrews adopted the cult of Yahweh from
the Midianites via the Kenites." (Wikipedia)
It seems archaeology is starting to support biblical monotheism as the oldest monotheism!
The Hyksos were Middle Easterners of mixed origin who began to migrate
into northern Egypt after 1800 BCE. They seized power around 1630 BCE
and Hyksos kings ruled Egypt as the 15th dynasty.
The Hyksos spoke a Semitic language but were neither Hebrews (early
Israelites) nor slaves. They established their capital city, Avaris,
and adopted Egyptian customs and worship.
The editors of the Encyclopedia Britannica write:
Hyksos, dynasty of Palestinian origin that ruled northern Egypt as the 15th dynasty (c. 1630–1523 BCE…
The rise of the Hyksos kings in Egypt was made possible by an influx of
immigrants from Palestine into Egypt beginning about the 18th century
BCE. The immigrants brought with them new technologies, including the
horse and chariot, the compound bow and improved metal weapons. Most of
them settled in the eastern portion of the Nile Delta, where they
achieved a dominant role in trade with western Asia... The
most-prominent settlement was Avaris [modern Tell el-Dab'a]...
Some scholars have suggested that a famine in the Delta region ...
opened the way for the emergence of the Hyksos dynasty. From Avaris the
Hyksos 15th dynasty ruled most of Lower Egypt...
Genesis 40 to 50:21 covers about 30 years of Joseph's life in Goshen
(the eastern part of the Nile Delta) including 17 years of his father
Jacob. (47:9, 28) Apparently the same pharoah ruled throughout that
period. Wikipedia's "List of Pharoahs" names only three between 1800
and 1500 BCE, who ruled 30 years or longer. All three were Hyksos:
• Sheshi 1745-1705
• Khyan n.d. 30-40 years
• Apepi n.d. 40 years or more
If the Hebrews settled in Goshen during the Hyksos period there's a
question. Genesis 37-50 portrays a time of peace. People apparently
travelled safely and freely between Canaan and Goshen; no wars are
mentioned; and Pharoah increases his power not by war but by purchase
of land. (Genesis 41:53-57; 47:5-6, 20; 50:7-14) Yet Manetho, a third
century B.C.E Egyptian historian, quoted by Josephus in the
first-century C.E, portrayed the Hyksos as ruthless, destructive
… there came … men of ignoble birth out of the eastern parts, and had
boldness enough to make an expedition into our country, and with ease
subdued it by force … they afterwards burnt down our cities, and
demolished the temples of the gods, and used all the inhabitants after
a most barbarous manner…
Modern historians generally followed Manetho and presented the Hyksos
as pillaging invaders. This viewpoint is now challenged by Austrian
archaeologist Manfred Bietak who excavated the Hyksos capital Avaris
(el-Dab’a) for almost 50 years. Curry (2018) writes:
What Bietak has found has convinced him that … the ancient accounts and
generations of Egyptologists alike had it wrong. Rather than a tale of
foreign imperialism, Bietak thinks the Hyksos rule was a more homegrown
phenomenon, a tale of movement for economic and political reasons...
Drought also hit the desert regions to Egypt’s north and west, causing
famines that may have spurred migrants from the Levant and the Libyan
Wikipedia says: "In recent years the idea of a simple Hyksos migration, with little or no war, has gained support."
The impression of peace in Genesis 40-50 therefore has current support.
Ussher's chronology compared with Genesis, Exodus and archeology suggests the following sequence:
a) Egypt permitted the Hyksos to settle in northern
Egypt in the 18th century BCE. Additional groups of immigrants
including, near 1700 BCE, Jacob and his relatives, moved to Egypt to
escape famine. (Genesis 41:53-57; 46:27-28)
b) Although a Hyksos pharoah received the Hebrews
favorably, a subsequent Hyksos pharoah initiated Israel's oppression.
c) When native Egyptians re-conquered northern Egypt
and Pharoah Ahmose captured Avaris in 1521 BCE, ending 108 years of
Hyksos rule, the oppression of Israel was continued.
Critics call references to "Philistines" in Genesis and Exodus
"anachronistic" because the Philistines supposedly arrived in the 11th
century BCE, several centuries after the exodus.
The Britannica says:
Philistine, one of a people of Aegean origin who settled on the
southern coast of Palestine in the 12th century BCE... The first
records of the Philistines are inscriptions and reliefs in the mortuary
temple of Ramses III at Mdinat Habu, where they appear under the name
prst, as one of the Sea Peoples that invaded Egypt about 1190 BCE after
ravaging Anatolia, Cyprus, and Syria. After being repulsed by the
Egyptians, they settled—possibly with Egypt’s permission—on the coastal
plain of Palestine from Joppa (modern Tell Aviv–Yafo) southward to
Gaza. The area contained the five cities (the Pentapolis) of the
Philistine confederacy (Gaza, Ashkelon [Ascalon], Ashdod, Gath, and
Ekron) and was known as Philistia...
Genesis reports amiable relations of Abraham and Isaac with Philistines
who were neither warlike nor powerful. (Genesis 21:32-34; 26:1, 16) The
Bible's initial listings of Canaanite nations which Israel would one
day displace do not include Philistines — Genesis 15:18-21; Exodus 3:8;
23:28; Deuteronomy 7:1; 20:17.
This changed by the time of Exodus 13:17 and war with Philistines was
something to be avoided. Joshua 13:1-7 and Judges 3:1-6 mention the
Philistines including their five cities as still unconquered.
Since … 1846, biblical scholars have connected the biblical Philistines
with the Egyptian "Peleset" inscriptions; and since 1873, both have
been connected with the Aegean "Pelasgians". The evidence for these
connections is etymological and has been disputed...
I suggest that some of the "Sea Peoples" settled in Canaan after their
defeat by Rameses III. They conquered and intermarried with the
biblical Philistines who had lived there for centuries. They occupied
already-existing Philistine cities and adopted some Philistine customs.
The Bible writers therefore called the mixed population by the name
already in use i.e. "Philistines".
The word "Philistines" in the Old Testament is therefore not an
"anachronism" but the name of the local population before the Sea
People arrived and mixed with them.
At least six different mountains in the Sinai Peninsula and two in NW Arabia have been proposed as Mount Sinai. (Van Biema 1998)
The traditional Mount Sinai is in southern Sinai Peninsula near St. Catherine Monastery:
The highest mountain peak is Mount Catherine, rising 2,610 metres
(8,550 feet) above the sea and its sister peak, Jebel Musa (2,285 m
[7,497 ft]). (Wikipedia)
NW Arabia has several volcanoes and advocates for them refer to the
Bible's mention of smoke and fire on Mount Sinai. (Exodus 19:18;
Deuteronomy 5:22-26) But "fire" could be a metaphor for lightning and
"smoke" for dense clouds. Debates to definitely identify Mount Sinai
No archaeological evidence for Israel's encampments in Sinai Peninsula
has been confirmed — no rubbish, no skeletons: "… the Sinai
Peninsula shows almost no sign of any occupation for the entire 2nd
millennium BCE..." (Wikipedia)
Consider, however, that the Sinai Peninsula was crossed by Bedouin
tribes, military forces, miners, and other groups of expellees from
Egypt. In Western Asia, Assyrians and Babylonians moved whole
populations to new locations. There were also voluntary migrations — in
the 530s BCE 50,000 Jews returned to Judah from Babylon. Many other
great migrations have occurred such as the Goths and Huns who between
them destroyed the Roman Empire. In the 14th century hordes of Mongols
conquered Asia. And in 1935 occurred the "Long March" of the Communists
(numbering 100,000) led by Mao.
Archaeological evidence for all such movements and encampments is
sparse. Perhaps this will change — Hoffmaier et al (2016) reports on
"New Archaeological Evidence For Ancient Bedouin on Egypt's Eastern
Frontier". Furthermore, if the "wilderness of Sinai" was in Arabia, as
some people claim, and not Sinai Peninsula then almost all searching
for Israelite camps was done in the wrong place.
Here I answer some objections.
The story of baby Moses set afloat on the Nile River has been compared
to a similar story about Sargon who ruled Mesopotamia in the 24th
century BCE, and on that basis declared fictitious.
It's unlikely, however, that any writer of Exodus knew about
900-year-old events in distant nations. Even today with widespread
literacy and libraries everywhere, who of us know the birth-details of
foreign kings who lived 900 years ago? Both Babylon and Egypt were
river civilizations. Setting an unwanted baby afloat was probably a
regular event similar in recent centuries to leaving it outside a
church, orphanage, or hospital.
Moses' sister monitored the floating basket and observed Pharoah's
daughter find it. Therefore the incident must have happened close to
where the Israelites lived in Goshen. The basket wouldn't have floated
upriver, against the current, with the girl following it, hundreds of
kilometers to Abydos or Thebes. A date in the Hyksos era, with their
capital Avaris within walking distance of the Israelites, is implied.
Eddie comments on God's obsessive need of self-glorification: "I will
gain glory for myself over Pharoah and all his army, and the Egyptians
shall know that I am the LORD." (14:4)
The Israelites regarded themselves as part of Pharoah's "own people".
(5:16) Therefore they required God to prove himself, show himself
"glorious", greater than Egypt's gods, before they would uproot their
lives and leave Egypt. God's self-glorification is nothing obsessive.
It's not God being psychologically defective and needy, but an
objective necessity for the people. (15:11)
By misunderstanding God's self glorification Eddie failed to notice an incredible prediction:
God also said to Moses, "Thus you shall say to the Israelites, 'The
LORD [YHWH], the God of your ancestors ... has sent me to you':
This is my name forever,
This is my name for all generations. (3:15)
Almost everyone today has heard or read that name. Some Bible
translations such The Jerusalem Bible have "Yahweh" or "Jehovah"
(instead of "LORD") thousands of times.
"Pharaoh's fear that the Israelites might ally themselves with foreign
invaders seems unlikely in the context of the late 2nd millennium, when
Canaan was part of an Egyptian empire and Egypt faced no enemies in
that direction, but does make sense in a 1st millennium context…"
Actually, it does "seem likely" in the 2nd millennium BCE context. For
a few years the Hyksos controlled most of Egypt including Thebes. When
their retreat began they were the minority compared to native
Egyptians, and the proliferating Israelites among them seemed
increasingly a threat. (1:8-10)
Eddie writes: "the earliest evidence of camels existing outside the
Arabian Peninsula is circa 930 BCE." And Unger’s Bible
However, references to domesticated camels in Abraham’s time (c. 2000
B.C.) have been set aside by such writers as T. E. Peet, Egypt and the
Old Testament (1924) p. 60 and R. Pheiffer, Intr. to the Old Testament
(1941) p. 154, and others. (1983)
This is an ongoing debate — why don't Egyptian records mention
domesticated camels in the 2nd millennium BCE whereas the Bible does?
Gabrielle (2010) says that the Israelites, after leaving Egypt,
defeated the Amalekites because: "the Amalekites were camel cavalry
armed with bows. This made them incapable of infantry attack…"
Absence of Disasters
The absence of evidence for disasters such as the Ten Plagues and
sudden decline in Egyptian power does not prove no disasters happened.
Deliberate suppression of records may have occurred. Nations also
sometimes recover quickly. Rome lost 50,000 troops at Cannae in 216 BCE
but went on to defeat Carthage. The Soviet Union suffered 27 million
war deaths in WW II, 15% of its population, yet emerged powerful and
rivaled America. Egypt could have recovered from the Ten Plagues
quickly if the next pharaoh was competent and made economic and
political recovery his priority. Therefore, identifying weak pharaohs
or powerful ones can neither pinpoint the era of the Plagues nor refute
that they happened.
Eddie thinks it's "most unlikely" that Israel gained:
... favor in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they let them
have what they asked. And so they plundered the Egyptians. (Exodus
The plundering of defeated enemies is common throughout history. In
1945 Germany was so intimidated by defeat that the Soviets could
confiscate everything they wanted and transport it east! The Egyptians
after the traumatic Ten Plagues would have felt similarly accommodating.
The Israelites washed their clothes at Mount Sinai (Exodus 19:10) which
Eddie, because of the desert environment, considers "bizarre ... at
odds with reality".
Uluru [Eyre's Rock] in central Australia has pools of water at its base
and waterfalls after rainfall. Mount Sinai is bigger and accompanied by
other mountains and similarly disgorges water — see Deuteronomy 9:21.
L.J. Sutton writes: "Gebel Um Shomar and Jebel Katherina … are often
snow capped in winter." Also the Seventh Plague was Egypt's
greatest-ever hail storm and "rain ... poured down". (Exodus 9:23, 33)
This may have wetted the Sinai Peninsula, raised water tables, filled
wells, and fed flocks through increased vegetation growth. And aside
from a one-off Seventh Plague there's recurring:
... severe weather ... in arid and semiarid regions especially if
it is steep and mountainous ... such as Sinai Peninsula... Short
duration of heavy rainfall over a relatively small drainage area can
lead to devastating flash flood… (Afandi et al 2013)
Sinai Peninsula … is exposed yearly ... to heavy rainfall that may lead
to flash flood… Statistically it is found that, the average number of
typical heavy rainfall during the last 15 years is about 2.6 times...
(Morsey et al 2017)
When the Israelites reached Mount Sinai it was enveloped in "dense
cloud" and "thunder and lightning" (19:9, 16), and: "the heavens poured
down rain at the presence of God, the God of Sinai..." (Psalm 68)
Eddie labels as "anachronisms" the location of "Dan" in Genesis 14:14
because Dan received its name centuries later (Judges 18:29), and the
sentence "These were the kings who reigned in Edom before any Israelite
king reigned" (Genesis 36:31) because Israel's monarchy likewise came
However, the Danites took possession of their tribal area shortly after
Moses died (Joshua 19:40-48), probably before Moses' five books were
finalized, and out-of-date place-names got replaced with the name that
was current. Alternatively, "Dan" in Genesis 14:14 was a different Dan
than in Joshua/Judges being situated further north near Damascus.
(Genesis 14:15) Also not anachronistic is "Before any Israelite king
reigned", this being a reminder of the prophecy (Genesis 17:6, 16) that
Abraham's descendants would include many kings.
Eddie complains of God's "petty" requirements like not touching Mount
Sinai and ignoring the Sabbath, with death for infringements. However,
human rulers have ordered executions of people, sometimes of millions,
for far less. God's seeming severity was to teach the Israelites
respect, coax them away from idolatry, and enforce standards that would
later lead to national prosperity. Execution for cohabiting with
Moabite women and worshipping their god "Baal" may have stopped the
spread of a sexually transmitted disease since we read "the plague was
stopped". (Numbers 25:1-9)
Children suffer for parents' sins
Eddie dislikes the "punishing [of] children for the sin of the parents
to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me." (Deuteronomy
The third-and-fourth-generation threat is merely a scientific
fact. Bad economics and bad politics obviously affect subsequent
generations. And bad health and indiscriminate sex can do so via
Mendelian genetics, "epigenetics", and disease transmission.
New Scientist magazine reported: "The sins of the fathers are, indeed,
visited on subsequent generations. Nutrition and smoking in early life
may influence the health of men's sons and grandsons, a new study has
revealed." (Hooper 2006) London geneticist Marcus Pembrey who made this
discovery stated: "The Bible says the sins of the fathers are visited
upon his children unto the third and fourth generations."
For Israel to have 600,000 troops implies that 2½ million Israelites left Egypt plus vast numbers of domestic animals.
Jacob migrated to Goshen with 70 people (Genesis 46:27); the exodus
occurred 215 years later. An increase of 70 to 2½ million in 215
years equates to 5% increase per year. The populations of some nations
today are increasing at 3% yearly and in the 20th century several
increased at 5% yearly. Israel's apparent population explosion
therefore was humanly possible.
But there are other problems. 2½ million people would have
needed 3000 tons of food per day; even more tons of water and firewood.
If the column of people and animals was, for example, 400 meters wide
it could be about 100 kilometers long — much too long to cross the Red
Sea between the "morning watch" and "dawn" i.e. 3.a.m. to 6 a.m.
(Exodus 14:19-27) Numbers 33 lists over 30 campsite locations including
several in Goshen. But Goshen was too small (about 60 km wide) for
multiple campsite stops stretching scores of kilometers. Eddie lists
additional problems and some websites go into great detail.
Many events imply low numbers and short distances such as:
Now Moses used to take the tent and pitch it outside the camp far off
from the camp; he called it the tent of meeting. And everyone who
sought the LORD would go out to the tent of meeting... Whenever Moses
went out to the tent, all the people would rise and stand, each of
them, at the entrance of their own tents and watch Moses until he had
gone into the tent. (Exodus 33:7-8)
About 130 years into the Israelites' 215-year stay in Goshen they had
two midwives for all Israel. (Exodus 1:14-22) Today fulltime midwives
supervise on average three births per week. Assuming double this for
the Hebrew midwives (who were not restricted by modern work-place
legislation) comes to 12 births per week or about 600 per year. This
suggests an Israelite population, roughly 85 years before the exodus,
of 12,000. That's enough to justify Pharoah's fear that, "They will
increase and, in the event of war, join our enemies and fight against
us..." (Exodus 1:10)
Before the Israelites invaded Canaan they captured 60 fortified "towns"
east of the Jordan River (Deuteronomy 3:4-6) which would have required
a sizeable military. If not 600,000 how many? Arden (1976) writes:
... some authorities postulate, that the Hebrew word eleph, which
translates as "thousand," may instead have been meant to mean "family."
If this is so, the Israelite host numbered only 600 families plus their
retainers—fewer than 15,000 people... (p. 21)
Gabriel (2010) suggests a population of 25,000 of whom 5,500 were
soldiers. And Wenham (1973) calculates 72,000 people including 18,000
soldiers. He explains:
The absence of vowels made it possible to confuse two words which are
crucial to this problem: 'eleph and 'alluph. Without vowel points these
words look identical: 'lp. 'eleph is the ordinary word for thousand,
but it can also be used in a variety of other senses: e.g. 'family'
(Judges 6:15, Revised version) or 'clan' (Zechariah 9:7; 12:5, 6,
Revised Standard Version) or perhaps a military unit. 'alluph' is used
for the 'chieftains' of Edom (Genesis 36:15-43); probably for a
commander of a military 'thousand'; and almost certainly for the
professional, fully-armed soldier.
Two almost identical words each with several meanings could when writing styles changed lead copyists into error.
CITIES and LOCATIONS
Details point to a 1st millennium date for the composition of the
narrative: Ezion-Geber (one of the Stations of the Exodus), for
example, dates to a period between the 8th and 6th centuries BCE … and
those place-names on the Exodus route which have been identified –
Goshen, Pithom, Succoth, Ramesses and Kadesh Barnea – point to the
geography of the 1st millennium rather than the 2nd.
The interpretations in archaeology are not always conclusive. Error may occur when:
• Various levels have eroded away;
• A site is mistaken for another nearby site;
• Objects from one location were transported and reused at another location;
• Destroyed towns were ploughed up and reverted to farmland upon which another town was later founded;
• A town was destroyed and re-inhabited multiple times;
• A town was captured without suffering destruction, hence leaving no archaeological evidence of its capture;
• Only part of a site was excavated and premature inferences made.
The Israelites, according to the Bible, captured Dibon east of the Dead
Sea and Hebron south of Jerusalem. But archaeology found no trace of
these towns in the Late Bronze Age remains — the towns apparently did
not exist at the time.
Numbers 33:45-50 lists consecutive places reached by the invading
Israelites east of the Jordan: Iyyim – Dibon – Almon-Diblathaim – Nebo
– Abel-shittim – the Jordan River.
Krahmalkov (1994) shows that Dibon, which according to archaeology didn't exist, was mapped by the Egyptians:
Egypt mapped the region thoroughly. Included in these maps were all the
main roads of Palestine, among them an important route through
Transjordan... The earliest of three maps comes from the reign of
Thutmosis III (c. 1504-1450 B.C.E.), inscribed in the temple of Amon at
Karnak... The route of the Arabah to the Plains of Moab names, in order
from south to north, four stations: Iyyin – Dibon – Abel – Jordan...
In short, the Biblical story of the invasion of Transjordan ... is told against a background that is historically accurate.
The Bible presents Hebron as a significant town conquered twice by the
Israelites (Numbers 13:22; Joshua 10:36-37) but archaeology finds this
area of central Judah virtually deserted prior to the 10th century BCE.
Joshua 15:52-54, however, lists an area of nine towns which include
Hebron, Janum and Aphegah, and these same names were carved during the
reign of Ramesses II (c. 1279-1212) on a wall at the Temple of Amon.
Apparently the Egyptians found central Judah worth noting.
Numbers 21:21-35, Deuteronomy 3, and Joshua 12 record that the
Israelites under Moses conquered kingdoms and towns east of the Jordan
River. Nelson Glueck (1900-1971), an American archaeologist and
discoverer of 1500 ancient sites, did archaeological work there in the
1930s. In his book The Other Side of the Jordan (1940) Glueck claimed
that the kingdoms Moses conquered didn't exist because the area from
1900 to 1250 BCE was inhabited only by nomads:
There was at about ±1900 B.C. such a thoroughgoing destruction
visited upon all the great fortresses and settlements of the land ...
that the particular civilizations they represented never again
recovered... Permanent villages and fortresses were no longer to rise
... in this region till the beginning of the Iron Age. (p. 114)
In the 1970s new work proved that towns, fortresses and kingdoms across
the Jordan existed with inhabitants in the very centuries denied by
Glueck. ( Mattingly 1983; Sauer 1986) Mattingly writes:
There are four major arguments used to support the late date for the
exodus-conquest: (1) the identification of Pithom and Raamses, (2) the
13th-century destruction of Palestinian towns mentioned in the conquest
narratives, (3) the archaeological evidence from Middle Bronze and Late
Bronze Age Transjordan, and (4) the military campaigns of Seti I and
Regarding the Transjordan discoveries Mattingly concludes: "This means
that one of the four main arguments used to support the late date of
the exodus-conquest is no longer valid." (p. 262) The discoveries of
course also wreck a major anti-exodus argument of skeptics!
Rameses, Avaris, Pithom
Exodus 1:11 says the Israelites built storage cities, Rameses and Pithom, before the exodus.
Archaeologists for the past century concluded that these cities were
built in the 12th century BCE, which would be 300 years after the
exodus, by Pharoah Ramesses II. Some commentators suggest that the
names were added to Exodus by later scribes because earlier names had
gone out of use. Another suggestion is the following:
In Genesis 47:11 "Rameses" is the name of the best part of Goshen, and
was apparently where the Hyksos capital city, Avaris, was built. I
suggest that "Rameses" therefore was the Israelite name for
Avaris had "enormous storage facilities". Wikipedia says:
Avaris ... was the capital of Egypt under the Hyksos. It was located at
modern Tell el-Dab'a in the northeastern region of the Nile Delta... It
was occupied from about 1783 to 1550 BC ... until its destruction by
Ahmose I, the first Pharaoh of the Eighteenth dynasty...
The Eighteenth Dynasty based themselves in Thebes and Avaris was
largely abandoned, its former citadel becoming the site first of
enormous storage facilities, including numerous silos and then a
military camp, until finally a new palatial compound of the 18th
Dynasty was constructed on top of the camps and soldier graves. Avaris
was absorbed into the new city of Pi-Ramesses constructed by Ramesses
II (1279–1213 BC) of the Nineteenth dynasty when he moved the capital
back to the Delta.
"Rameses" in Exodus 1 therefore has no connection with Pharoah Ramesses
or his city of Pi-Ramesses beyond similarity in spelling.
To illustrate the potential for misinterpretation consider that
Pi-Ramesses flourished until 1120 BCE after which another city "Tanis"
replaced it as the dominant local city. In the early 20th century Tanis
was wrongly identified as Pi-Ramesses:
...due to the amount of statuary and other material from Pi-Ramesses
found there, but it is now recognized that the Ramesside remains at
Tanis were brought there from elsewhere, and the real Pi-Ramesses lies
about 30 km south, near modern Qantir. (Wikipedia)
Pithom in Exodus 1 is identified with Tell El Retabeh or Tell El Maskhuta.
Tell El Retabeh, 12km west of Tell El Maskhuta, is the older site. The
latest finds suggest that: "the Hyksos occupants played an important
role in its history". (http://aigyptos.sk/en/tel-el-retabi.htm)
Tell El Maskhuta had a Hyksos settlement in the 18th-17th centuries
BCE. Wikipedia suggests: "the name 'Pithom' was used originally for the
earlier site, Tell El Retaba, before it was abandoned. And when the
newer city of Tel El Maskhuta was built, the same name was applied to
it as well..." 1000 years after the Hyksos period Tell El
Maskhuta was reinhabited and monuments from Ramses II were transported
Bible chronology puts Joshua's destruction of Jericho when "the walls came tumbling down" near 1400 BCE.
John Garstang, British archaeologist, excavated at Jericho in the 1930s
and apparently confirmed the Bible, concluding in 1937: "... the walls
fell, shaken apparently by an earthquake, and the city was destroyed by
fire, about 1400 B.C."
Kathleen Kenyon worked there 1952-1958 and concluded Jericho was
destroyed about 1550 BCE in the Middle Bronze Age — over a century too
early to fit with Exodus.
Bryant G. Wood (b.1936) found that Garstang could be right. Lemonick (1990) reported in Time magazine:
But archaeologist Bryant Wood, writing in the March/April issue of
Biblical Archaeology Review ... claims that Kenyon was wrong. Based on
re-evaluation of her research, Wood says that the city's walls could
have come tumbling down at just the right time to match the biblical
Kenyon's dating of Jericho's destruction was based largely on the fact
that she failed to find a type of decorative pottery, imported from
Cyprus, that was popular in the region around 1400 B.C. Its absence,
she reasoned, meant that the city had long since become uninhabited.
But Wood, an ancient-pottery expert ... argues that Kenyon's
excavations were made in a poorer part of the city, where the expensive
imported pottery would have been absent in any case. And he says that
other pottery, dug up in Jericho in the 1930s was common in 1400 B.C.
The debate about Jericho and other towns Moses or Joshua reportedly conquered is ongoing. Consider Heshbon:
Heshbon, another town that existed in the time of Moses according to
Numbers 21:21-31, etc. Excavations at Tell Hesban have produced no
remains from before about 1200 B.C.; it is possible, however, that the
Heshbon of earlier periods should be sought at Tell Jalul, a large
unexcavated mound farther to the south, with Middle and Late Bronze Age
surface sherds. (Bimson & Livingston (1987)
DATE OF COMPOSITION
The archaeological support of Exodus and Genesis from the Hyksos
period, discussed above, and only recently discovered, suggests a 15th
century BCE date for the original composition.
The traditions behind the exodus story can be traced in the writings of
the 8th century BCE prophets, beyond which their history is obscured by
centuries of transmission.... While the exodus story is no older than
the Babylonian exile, there are indications that some historical
memories underlie it...
However, the Hebrew text of Exodus lacks the Persian, Greek and Aramaic
words of the Book of Daniel and other post-exilic Old Testament books.
This alone indicates that Exodus was composed earlier.
Two “Silver Scrolls” i.e. rolled up sheets of silver discovered
opposite the Temple Mount in 1979 contained the Priestly Benediction of
Numbers 6:24-27 often quoted at the end of church services: "The LORD
bless you and keep you; the LORD [YHWH] make his face shine upon you
and be gracious to you; the LORD turn His face toward you and give you
Lemonick (1990) in Time magazine reported: “The discovery made it clear
that parts of the Old Testament were being copied long before some
skeptics had believed they were even written.” Computer imaging
technology in 1994 revealed letters not previously identified and
enabled scholars to estimate a late 7th century BCE date. (Barkay et
Another discovery reported in Time magazine is a 12.5 cm statue of a
calf reminiscent of the larger golden calf (Exodus 32:19-20) that the
But while scientists have unearthed a few examples of bovine idols,
they have never found a calf that predates the Exodus... Last week,
though, a team of Harvard archaeologists announced they had done just
that... Lawrence Stager, the dig director ... dates the figurine to
about 1550 B.C. (Lemonick 1990)
Wood (2005) accepts a 15th early date for the exodus and observes:
Moreover, oaths, which are an important component of the biblical
covenant (Exod 19:8; 24:3b, 7b; Josh 24:16–18, 21, 24), only are found
in Hittite treaties from 1600–1400 bc, not in the 1400–1200 bc treaties…
Up to 99% of ancient Egypt is undiscovered and surviving inscriptions
are often propaganda. The Egyptians also deleted a lot of history
including kings, dynasties, kingdoms and even empires from their
records. And many events still cannot be precisely dated. Nevertheless
enough of Exodus is already confirmed to conclude it's not a fairytale
A Historic Eruption, Science Illustrated, March/April 2008, 46-53
Afandi, G.E. et al 2013 Heavy Rainfall Simulation over Sinai Peninsula Using the Weather Research and Forecasting Model
Aids To The Student Of The Holy Bible c.1880, Eyre & Spottiswoode, p. 124
Amor, K. Satellite imagery uncovers lost pyramids and settlements in Egypt, Minerva, Volume 22, Number 4, July/August 2011, p. 7
Arden, H. In Search of Moses, National Geographic Volume 149, No. 1, January 1976, 2-36
Ashton, J. & Down, D. 2006 Unwrapping the pharaohs: how Egyptian archaeology confirms the biblical timeline, Master Books
Barkay, G. et al 2000 The Amulets from Ketef Hinnom: A New Edition and
Evaluation. Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 334:
Begley, S. A Watered-Down Exodus, Newsweek May 18, 1981, 51
Bimson, J.J. 1978 Redating the Exodus and Conquest, Journal for the Study of the Old Testament, University of Sheffield
www.davelivingston.com/articles/Redating the Exodus.pdf
Bimson, J.J. and Livingston, D. Redating the Exodus, BAR Sep/Oct 1987
http://www.davelivingston.com/articles/Redating the Exodus
Bonin, L. Hidden Egypt, Science Focus, July 2011, 51-55
Brunt, A. The Red Sea Crossing, A Meteorologist's View, Investigator #14
Childs, B.S. 1974 Exodus A Commentary, SCM, pp 605-607
Curry, A. Rulers of Foreign Lands, Archaeology A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America, September/October 2018
Ehrenkranz, N.J. and Sampson, D.A. Origin of the Old Testament Plagues:
Explications and Implications, Yale J. Biol. Med. 2008 March, 81(1):
Ellens, H.J. 2008 Miracles: God, Science and Psychology in the Paranormal Volume 1, Greenwood
Encyclopedia Britannica —
Encyclopædia Britannica 2009 Deluxe Edition CD, Chicago — Hyksos
Furlong, P.J. 2007 Aspects of Ancient Near Eastern Chronology (c.1600-700 B C)
Garstang, J. 1937 "Jericho and the Biblical Story", in Wonders of the
Past, ed. J.A. Hammerston, p. 1222. Quoted by: Kaisar, W.C. 1998 A
History of Israel From the Bronze Age Through The Jewish Wars, Broadman
& Holman, p. 151
Gabriel, R. Israel's First Great General Moses, Military Chronicles, Volume 1, No. 3, December 2010, 10-22
Glueck, N. 1940 The Other Side of the Jordan, American School of Oriental Research
Hignett, K. 2018 Biblical city of Sodom was blasted to smithereens by a massive asteroid explosion
https://www.newsweek.com/biblical-city-sodom-was-blasted-smithe reens- massive-asteroid-explosion-1227339
Hoffmeier, J.K. 2005 Israel in Egypt: Evidence for the Authenticity of the Exodus Tradition, Oxford University Press
Hoffmeier, J.K. What Is The Biblical Date For The Exodus? A Response To
Bryant Wood, Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, 50/2, June
Hoffmaier, J.K., Thomas, W.D. & Hummel, R. New Archaeological
Evidence For Ancient Bedouin (Shasu) on Egypt's Eastern Frontier At
Tell El-Borg, Egypt and the Levant, Volume 26, 2016, 285-311
Hooper, R. New Scientist, 7 January, 2006, p. 10
#43 Earth and Sky On Fire At Christ's Return—How?
#58 Seven Bible Miracles Explained
#62 Asteroids and Their Impact
#78 The Ten Plagues of Egypt
#124 A Lost Empire Rediscovered
#150 The Ten Commandments
#153 The Documentary Hypothesis
#157 Bible Chronology and Egypt
#165 Response To "22 Miracles Yet To Be Resolved"
#169 More Miracles
James, P. et al 1991/1993 Centuries of Darkness: A Challenge to the
Conventional Chronology of the Old World Archaeology, Rutgers
Keller, W. 1974 The Bible As History, Hodder & Stoughton, 138-139
Kerr, R. Parting of the Red Sea, Science, 24 April 1992
Kitchen, K.A. 1982 Pharoah Triumphant: The Life and Times of Ramesses II, Aris & Phillips
Krahmalkov, C.R. Exodus Itinerary Confirmed by Egyptian Evidence, Biblical Archaeology Review, September/October 1994, 55-62, 79
Lemonick, M.D. Score One for the Bible, Time 1990 March 5, p. 55
Lemonick, M.D. The Return of the Golden Calf, Time 1990, August 6, p. 57
Lamsa, G.M. 1978 Old Testament Light, A.J. Holman
Manyon, J. Genesis in exodus, The Weekend Australian, November 20-21, 1999, p. 24
Mattingly, G.L. The Exodus-Conquest And The Archaeology Of Transjordan:
New Light On An Old Problem, Grace Theological Journal 4.2, 1983,
https://faculty.gordon.edu/hu/bi/ted_hildebrandt/otesources/02-exodus/ text/ articles/mattingly-ex-conquest-gtj
Miller, K.D. Did The Exodus Never Happen? Christianity Today, September 7, 1998, 44-51
Morsy, M. et al
Nof, D. & Paldor, N. Are There Oceanographic Explanations for the
Israelites' Crossing of the Red Sea? Bulletin of the American
Meteorological Society, March 1992, Volume 73, No. 3, 305-314.
NRSV Reference Bible with Apocrypha, 1993, Zondervan, 438-439
Nur, A. And the walls came tumbling down, New Scientist, 6 July, 1991, 39-42
Overstreet, R.L. Exegetical And Contextual Facets Of Israel’s Red Sea
Crossing, The Master's Seminar Journal, 14/1, Spring 2003, 63-86
Pringle, H. Beyond the Palace Walls, Archaeology, May/June 2014, 24-30
Redford, D.B. Redating the 19th Dynasty
Rendsberg, G.A. The Date Of The Exodus And The Conquest/Settlement: The Case For The 1100s, Vetus Testamentum XLII, 4, 1992
Rohl, D. 1995/2001 A Test of Time, BCA
Sauer, J.A. Transjordan in the Bronze and Iron Age... Bulletin of the
American Schools of Oriental Research, No. 263, August 1986, 1-26
Schultz, R. & Seidel, M. (editors) 1998 Egypt The World of the Pharoahs, Koenemann
Strong, J. 2001 The New Strong's Expanded Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, Thomas Nelson
Sutherland, J. 2015
Sutton, L.J. Snow and Hail in Egypt
Unger's Bible Dictionary, Paperback edition 1983, Moody Press, p. 56
Van Biema, D. In Search of Moses, Time, December 14, 1998, 61-68
van der Veen, P., Theiss, C., Görg, M. Israel in Canaan (Long)
Before Pharaoh Merenptah? A Fresh Look at Berlin Statue Pedestal Relief
21687, Journal of Ancient Egyptian Interconnections Vol. 2:4, 2010,
Wegner, J. Kings of Abydos, Current World Archaeology, April/May 2014, 20-27.
Wenham, J. The Large Numbers of the Old Testament. In: The Lion Handbook of the Bible, 1973, Lion Publishing, 191-192
Whiston, W. (Translator) 1960 Josephus Complete Works, Against Apion, Kregel Publications
Wilford, J.N. Oceanographers Say Winds May Have Parted the Waters, New York Times, March 15, 1992
Wood, B. 2005 The Rise and Fall of the 13th Century Exodus-Conquest Theory
Young, R.C. and Bryant, G.W. Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, 51/2, June 2008, 225–243