The Exodus

The Exodus

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The Exodus is the story of the departure of the Israelites from ancient Egypt
Ancient Egypt
Ancient Egypt was an ancient civilization of Northeastern Africa, concentrated along the lower reaches of the Nile River in what is now the modern country of Egypt. Egyptian civilization coalesced around 3150 BC with the political unification of Upper and Lower Egypt under the first pharaoh...

 described in the Hebrew Bible
Hebrew Bible
The Hebrew Bible is a term used by biblical scholars outside of Judaism to refer to the Tanakh , a canonical collection of Jewish texts, and the common textual antecedent of the several canonical editions of the Christian Old Testament...

.
Narrowly defined, the term refers only to the departure from Egypt described in the Book of Exodus; more widely, it takes in the subsequent law-givings and wanderings in the wilderness between Egypt and Canaan described in the books of Leviticus
Leviticus
The Book of Leviticus is the third book of the Hebrew Bible, and the third of five books of the Torah ....

, Numbers
Book of Numbers
The Book of Numbers is the fourth book of the Hebrew Bible, and the fourth of five books of the Jewish Torah/Pentateuch....

 and Deuteronomy
Deuteronomy
The Book of Deuteronomy is the fifth book of the Hebrew Bible, and of the Jewish Torah/Pentateuch...

.

The extant narrative is a product of the late exilic
Babylonian captivity
The Babylonian captivity was the period in Jewish history during which the Jews of the ancient Kingdom of Judah were captives in Babylon—conventionally 587–538 BCE....

 or the post-exilic period (6th to 5th centuries BC), but the core of the narrative is older, being reflected in the 8th to 7th century BC Deuteronomist
Deuteronomist
The Deuteronomist, or simply D, is one of the sources underlying the Hebrew bible . It is found in the book of Deuteronomy, in the books of Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings and also in the book of Jeremiah...

 documents.
A minority of scholars assumes that the Iron Age narrative has yet older sources that can be traced to a genuine tradition of the Bronze Age collapse
Bronze Age collapse
The Bronze Age collapse is a transition in southwestern Asia and the Eastern Mediterranean from the Late Bronze Age to the Early Iron Age that some historians believe was violent, sudden and culturally disruptive...

 of the 13th century BC.

Summary


The Book of Exodus tells how Moses
Moses
Moses was, according to the Hebrew Bible and Qur'an, a religious leader, lawgiver and prophet, to whom the authorship of the Torah is traditionally attributed...

 leads the Israelite
Israelite
According to the Bible the Israelites were a Hebrew-speaking people of the Ancient Near East who inhabited the Land of Canaan during the monarchic period .The word "Israelite" derives from the Biblical Hebrew ישראל...

s out of Egypt and through the wilderness to Mount Sinai
Biblical Mount Sinai
The Biblical Mount Sinai is the mountain at which the Book of Exodus states that the Ten Commandments were given to Moses by God...

, where God reveals himself and offers them a Covenant: they are to keep his torah (i.e. law, instruction), and in return he will be their God and give them the land of Canaan
Land of Canaan
Land of Canaan is a Mystery-thriller film and is directed by Reginald LaFrance, it stars Christina Applegate, Robert Englund, Juliet Landau and Neve Campbell.-Plot:...

. The Book of Leviticus records the laws of God. The Book of Numbers
Book of Numbers
The Book of Numbers is the fourth book of the Hebrew Bible, and the fourth of five books of the Jewish Torah/Pentateuch....

 tells how the Israelites, led now by their God, journey onwards from Sinai towards Canaan, but when their spies report that the land is filled with giants they refuse to go on. God then condemns them to remain in the desert
Desert
A desert is a landscape or region that receives an extremely low amount of precipitation, less than enough to support growth of most plants. Most deserts have an average annual precipitation of less than...

 until the generation that left Egypt passes away. After thirty-eight years at the oasis of Kadesh Barnea the next generation travel on to the borders of Canaan. The Book of Deuteronomy tells how, within sight of the Promised Land, Moses recalls their journeys and gives them new laws. His death (the last reported event of the Torah) concludes the 40 years of the exodus from Egypt.

Origins of the Exodus story


While the story in the books of Exodus, Numbers and Deuteronomy is the best-known account of the Exodus, there are over a hundred and fifty references scattered through the Bible, and the only significant body of work that does not mention it is the Wisdom literature
Wisdom literature
Wisdom literature is the genre of literature common in the Ancient Near East. This genre is characterized by sayings of wisdom intended to teach about divinity and about virtue...

. The earliest mentions are in the prophets Amos
Amos (prophet)
Amos is a minor prophet in the Old Testament, and the author of the Book of Amos. Before becoming a prophet, Amos was a sheep herder and a sycamore fig farmer. Amos' prior professions and his claim "I am not a prophet nor a son of a prophet" indicate that Amos was not from the school of prophets,...

 (possibly) and Hosea
Hosea
Hosea was the son of Beeri and a prophet in Israel in the 8th century BC. He is one of the Twelve Prophets of the Jewish Hebrew Bible, also known as the Minor Prophets of the Christian Old Testament. Hosea is often seen as a "prophet of doom", but underneath his message of destruction is a promise...

 (certainly), both active in 8th century Israel; in contrast Proto-Isaiah and Micah
Micah
Micah is a given name.Micah is the name of several people in the Hebrew Bible , and means "who is like God?". The name is sometimes found with theophoric extensions...

, both active in Judah at much the same time, never do; it thus seems reasonable to conclude that the Exodus tradition was important in the northern kingdom in the 8th century, but not in Judah. In a recent work, Stephen C. Russell traces the 8th century prophetic tradition to three originally separate variants, in the northern kingdom of Israel, in Trans-Jordan, and in the southern kingdom of Judah
Kingdom of Judah
The Kingdom of Judah was a Jewish state established in the Southern Levant during the Iron Age. It is often referred to as the "Southern Kingdom" to distinguish it from the northern Kingdom of Israel....

. Russell proposes different hypothetical historical backgrounds to each tradition: the tradition from Israel, which involves a journey from Egypt to the region of Bethel, he suggests a memory of herders who could move to and from Egypt in times of crisis; for the Trans-Jordanian tradition, which focuses on deliverance from Egypt without a journey, he suggests a memory of the withdrawal of Egyptian control at the end of the Late Bronze Age; and for Judah, where the tradition is preserved in the Song of the Sea
Song of the sea
The Song of the Sea is a poem that appears in the Book of Exodus of the Hebrew Bible, at . It is followed in verses 20 and 21 by a much shorter song sung by Miriam and the other women...

, he suggests the celebration of a military victory over Egypt, although it is impossible to suggest what this victory may have been.

Cultural significance


The exodus from Egypt is the theme of the Jewish
Judaism
Judaism ) is the "religion, philosophy, and way of life" of the Jewish people...

 holiday of Passover
Passover
Passover is a Jewish holiday and festival. It commemorates the story of the Exodus, in which the ancient Israelites were freed from slavery in Egypt...

 ("pesaḥ"); the term continues to be used in the Passover Hagadah. At the beginning of the Exodus narrative the Israelites are instructed to prepare unleavened bread as they will be leaving in haste, and to mark their doors with blood of the slaughtered sheep so that the "Angel" or "the destroyer" will "pass over" them while killing the first-born of Egypt. The Hebrew name for the festival, "Pesaḥ", refers to the "skipping over", "jumping over" or "passing over" by God over the Jewish houses while killing the first born of Egypt. (Despite the biblical story, scholars believe that the passover festival originated in a magic ritual to turn away demons from the household by painting the doorframe with the blood of a slaughtered sheep.)

Jewish tradition has preserved national and personal reminders of this pivotal narrative into daily life. Examples of such reminders include the wearing of 'tefilin' (phylacteries) on the hand and forehead, which some Jews practice daily; the wearing of 'tzitzit' (knotted ritual fringes attached to the four corners of the prayer shawl); the eating of 'matzot' (unleavened bread) during the Pesach (Passover) holiday; the fasting of the firstborn a day before Pesach; the redemption of firstborn children and animals; and even the observance of the Sabbath.

Composition of the Torah exodus narrative


There are currently a number of competing theories on the composition of the Exodus story contained in the four books Exodus-Leviticus-Numbers-Deuteronomy. They are conventionally divided into three "models", meaning that there are three possible ways in which the books could have been composed.

The documentary model proposes that the four books (actually five - the models include Genesis) were originally four separate documents, treating the same subject (i.e. the Exodus) written at various times and combined by a series of "redactors", or editors, the last in about 450 BC. The "supplementary model" holds that that there was a single original document which was then expanded by "supplements", again with the end product emerging around 450 BC. The "fragmentary" model proposes that the four books were combined by a single author from a host of "fragments", meaning small texts as well as oral traditions (sagas and folk-tales), again c.450 BC.

The documentary model is associated today with Julius Wellhausen
Julius Wellhausen
Julius Wellhausen , was a German biblical scholar and orientalist, noted particularly for his contribution to scholarly understanding of the origin of the Pentateuch/Torah ....

, a German bible-scholar of the 19th century. His hypothesis (often called simply "the documentary hypothesis
Documentary hypothesis
The documentary hypothesis , holds that the Pentateuch was derived from originally independent, parallel and complete narratives, which were subsequently combined into the current form by a series of redactors...

") holds that the five books are a combination of four originally independent sources, called the Yahwist, the Elohist
Elohist
The Elohist is one of four sources of the Torah described by the Documentary Hypothesis. Its name comes from the term it uses for God: Elohim; it is characterised by, among other things, an abstract view of God, using "Horeb" instead of "Sinai" for the mountain where Moses received the laws of...

, the Priestly source
Priestly source
The Priestly Source is one of the sources of the Torah/Pentateuch in the bible. Primarily a product of the post-Exilic period when Judah was a province of the Persian empire , P was written to show that even when all seemed lost, God remained present with Israel...

, and the Deuteronomist
Deuteronomist
The Deuteronomist, or simply D, is one of the sources underlying the Hebrew bible . It is found in the book of Deuteronomy, in the books of Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings and also in the book of Jeremiah...

. His theory dominated biblical scholarship for much of the 20th century and was only cast into serious doubt by a series of books which appeared in the 1970s. An influential hypothesis within the "supplementary" model was advanced by John Van Seters
John Van Seters
John Van Seters is a scholar of the Hebrew Bible and the Ancient Near East. Currently University Distinguished Professor Emeritus at the University of North Carolina, he was formerly James A. Gray Professor of Biblical Literature at UNC. He took his PhD at Yale University in Near Eastern Studies...

 in the 1970s—Van Seters proposed that an author he calls the Jahwist
Jahwist
The Jahwist, also referred to as the Jehovist, Yahwist, or simply as J, is one of the sources of the Torah. It gets its name from the fact that it characteristically uses the term Yahweh for God in the book of Genesis...

 wrote the base-story in the 6th century, and that this was later expanded by others, notably the Priestly
Priestly
Priestly may refer to:* Alexander Priestly Camphor , American Methodist bishop* JB Priestley, author of An Inspector Calls* Joseph Priestley, discoverer of oxygen* Miranda Priestly, a character in the novel The Devil Wears Prada...

 school of writers—but what Van Seters means by "Jahwist" is very different to what the classical documentary hypothesis means. His work was influential, but scholars today tend to adopt a "fragmentary model" approach.

The most recent ideas on the origin of the five books place Deuteronomy in the late 7th century with a revised version in the 6th, and the other four books in the Persian period of the 5th century. It is generally agreed that the Exodus tradition behind the five books predates the narrative as told in Exodus, Numbers and Deuteronomy (since it also appears in the 8th century prophets), but there is no consensus on just what might lie behind the tradition.

Historicity debate


According to biblical scholar Carol A. Redmount, the Bible's exodus story is best seen as theology told in the form of history, illustrating how the God of Israel acted to save and strengthen his chosen people, the Israelite
Israelite
According to the Bible the Israelites were a Hebrew-speaking people of the Ancient Near East who inhabited the Land of Canaan during the monarchic period .The word "Israelite" derives from the Biblical Hebrew ישראל...

s, and it is therefore inappropriate to approach miraculous events such as the burning bush
Burning bush
The burning bush is an object described by the Book of Exodus as being located on Mount Sinai; according to the narrative, the bush was on fire, but was not consumed by the flames, hence the name...

 and the plagues of Egypt
Plagues of Egypt
The Plagues of Egypt , also called the Ten Plagues or the Biblical Plagues, were ten calamities that, according to the biblical Book of Exodus, Israel's God, Yahweh, inflicted upon Egypt to persuade Pharaoh to release the ill-treated Israelites from slavery. Pharaoh capitulated after the tenth...

 as history. Nevertheless, the discussion of a possible historical nucleus of the narrative has a long history, and continues to attract attention.

The following section discusses some of the more popular aspects of the Exodus story.

Numbers and logistics


According to Exodus 12:37-38 NIV
New International Version
The New International Version is an English translation of the Christian Bible. Published by Zondervan in the United States and by Hodder & Stoughton in the UK, it has become one of the most popular modern translations in history.-History:...

, the Israelites numbered "about six hundred thousand men on foot, besides women and children," plus many non-Israelites and livestock. Numbers
Book of Numbers
The Book of Numbers is the fourth book of the Hebrew Bible, and the fourth of five books of the Jewish Torah/Pentateuch....

 1:46 gives a more precise total of 603,550. The 600,000, plus wives, children, the elderly, and the "mixed multitude" of non-Israelites would have numbered some 2 million people, compared with an entire estimated Egyptian population of around 3 million. Marching ten abreast, and without accounting for livestock, they would have formed a line 150 miles long. No evidence has been found that indicates Egypt ever suffered such a demographic and economic catastrophe or that the Sinai desert ever hosted (or could have hosted) these millions of people and their herds, nor of a massive population increase in Canaan
Canaan
Canaan is a historical region roughly corresponding to modern-day Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, and the western parts of Jordan...

, which is estimated to have had a population of only 50,000 to 100,000 at the time. Some scholars have interpreted these numbers as a mistranslation—reading the Hebrew
Hebrew language
Hebrew is a Semitic language of the Afroasiatic language family. Culturally, is it considered by Jews and other religious groups as the language of the Jewish people, though other Jewish languages had originated among diaspora Jews, and the Hebrew language is also used by non-Jewish groups, such...

 word eleph as "600 families" rather than 600,000 men, reduces the Hebrew population involved to roughly 20,000 individuals,—but the view of mainstream modern biblical scholarship is that the Exodus story was written not as history, but to demonstrate God's purpose and deeds with his Chosen People
Chosen people
Throughout history and even today various groups of people have considered themselves as chosen by a deity for some purpose such as to act as the deity's agent on earth. In monotheistic faiths, like Abrahamic religions, references to God are used in constructs such as "God's Chosen People"...

, Israel; the essentially theological motivation of the story explains the improbability of the scenario described above. It has also been suggested that the 603,550 people delivered from Egypt (according to Numbers 1:46) is not simply a number, but contains a secret message, a gematria
Gematria
Gematria or gimatria is a system of assigning numerical value to a word or phrase, in the belief that words or phrases with identical numerical values bear some relation to each other, or bear some relation to the number itself as it may apply to a person's age, the calendar year, or the like...

 for bene yisra'el kol ros, "the children of Israel, every individual;" while the number 600,000 symbolises the total destruction of the generation of Israel which left Egypt, none of whom lived to see the Promised Land.

Archaeology


The archaeological evidence of the largely indigenous origins of Israel is "overwhelming," and leaves "no room for an Exodus from Egypt or a 40-year pilgrimage through the Sinai wilderness." For this reason, most archaeologists have abandoned the archaeological investigation of Moses and the Exodus as "a fruitless pursuit."
A century of research by archaeologists and Egyptologists has found no evidence which can be directly related to the Exodus narrative of an Egyptian captivity and the escape and travels through the wilderness, and it has become increasingly clear that Iron Age Israel - the kingdoms of Judah and Israel - has its origins in Canaan, not Egypt: the culture of the earliest Israelite settlements is Canaanite, their cult-objects are those of the Canaanite god El, the pottery remains in the local Canaanite tradition, and the alphabet used is early Canaanite. Almost the sole marker distinguishing the "Israelite" villages from Canaanite sites is an absence of pig bones, although whether this can be taken as an ethnic marker or is due to other factors remains a matter of dispute.

Anachronisms


Several details also point to a 1st millenium date for the Book of Exodus: Ezion-Geber
Ezion-Geber
Ezion-Geber or Asiongaber was a city of Idumea, a biblical seaport on the northern extremity of the Gulf of Aqaba, in the area of modern Aqaba and Eilat.-Biblical references :...

, (one of the Stations of the Exodus), for example, dates to a period between the 8th and 6th centuries BC with possible further occupation into the 4th century BC, while the place-names on the Exodus route which have been identified - Goshen
Land of Goshen
The Land of Goshen is named in the bible as the place in Egypt given to the Hebrews by the pharaoh of Joseph, and the land from which they later left Egypt at the time of the Exodus...

, Pithom
Pithom
Pithom also called Per-Atum or Heroöpolis or Heroonopolis Pithom also called Per-Atum or Heroöpolis or Heroonopolis Pithom also called Per-Atum or Heroöpolis or Heroonopolis (Greek: or , Strabo xvi. 759, 768, xvii. 803, 804; Arrian, Exp. Alex. iii. 5, vii. 20; Joseph. Ant. Jud. ii. 7. § 5;...

, Succoth
Sukkot
Sukkot is a Biblical holiday celebrated on the 15th day of the month of Tishrei . It is one of the three biblically mandated festivals Shalosh regalim on which Hebrews were commanded to make a pilgrimage to the Temple in Jerusalem.The holiday lasts seven days...

, Ramesses
Pi-Ramesses
Pi-Ramesses was the new capital built by the Nineteenth Dynasty of Egypt Pharaoh Ramesses II at Qantir near the old site of Avaris. The city had previously served as a summer palace under Seti I and may have been originally founded by Ramesses I Pi-Ramesses (Pi-Ramesses Aa-nakhtu, meaning...

 and Kadesh Barnea - point to the geography of the 1st millennium rather than the 2nd. Similarly, Pharaoh's fear that the Israelites might ally themselves with foreign invaders seems unlikely in the context of the late 2nd millenium, 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, when Egypt was considerably weaker and faced invasion first from the Persians and later from Seleucid Syria.

Chronology


The chronology of the Exodus story likewise underlines its essentially religious rather than historical nature. The number seven, for example, was sacred to God in Judaism, and so the Israelites arrive at Sinai, where they will meet God, at the beginning of the seventh week after their departure from Egypt, while the erection of the Tabernacle
Tabernacle
The Tabernacle , according to the Hebrew Torah/Old Testament, was the portable dwelling place for the divine presence from the time of the Exodus from Egypt through the conquering of the land of Canaan. Built to specifications revealed by God to Moses at Mount Sinai, it accompanied the Israelites...

, God's dwelling-place among his people, occurs in the year 2666 after God creates the world, two-thirds of the way through a four thousand year era which culminates in or around 164 BC, the year of the rededication of the Second Temple
Second Temple
The Jewish Second Temple was an important shrine which stood on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem between 516 BCE and 70 CE. It replaced the First Temple which was destroyed in 586 BCE, when the Jewish nation was exiled to Babylon...

.

Route


The Torah
Torah
Torah- A scroll containing the first five books of the BibleThe Torah , is name given by Jews to the first five books of the bible—Genesis , Exodus , Leviticus , Numbers and Deuteronomy Torah- A scroll containing the first five books of the BibleThe Torah , is name given by Jews to the first five...

 lists the places where the Israelites rested. A few of the names at the start of the itinerary, including Ra'amses
Avaris
Avaris , capital of Egypt under the Hyksos , was located near modern Tell el-Dab'a in the northeastern region of the Nile Delta, at the juncture of the 8th, 14th, 19th and 20th Nomes...

, Pithom
Pithom
Pithom also called Per-Atum or Heroöpolis or Heroonopolis Pithom also called Per-Atum or Heroöpolis or Heroonopolis Pithom also called Per-Atum or Heroöpolis or Heroonopolis (Greek: or , Strabo xvi. 759, 768, xvii. 803, 804; Arrian, Exp. Alex. iii. 5, vii. 20; Joseph. Ant. Jud. ii. 7. § 5;...

 and Succoth
Sukkot (place)
The name Sukkot appears in a number of places in the Hebrew Bible as a location:* An Egyptian Sukkot is the second of the stations of the Exodus. Pharaoh orders the Israelites to leave Egypt, and they journey from their starting point at Rameses to Succoth...

, are reasonably well identified with archaeological sites on the eastern edge of the Nile delta, as is Kadesh-Barnea
Kadesh (South of Israel)
Kadesh or Qadhesh in Classical , also known as Qadesh-Barneʿa , was a place in the south of Ancient Israel. The name "Kodesh" means holy. The name "Barnea" may mean desert of wandering...

, where the Israelites spend 38 years after turning back from Canaan, but other than that very little is certain. The crossing of the Red Sea has been variously placed at the Pelusic branch of the Nile, anywhere along the network of Bitter Lakes and smaller canals that formed a barrier toward eastward escape, the Gulf of Suez (SSE of Succoth) and the Gulf of Aqaba (S of Ezion-Geber), or even on a lagoon on the Mediterranean coast. The biblical Mt. Sinai is identified in Christian tradition with Jebel Musa in the south of the Sinai Peninsula, but this association dates only from the 3rd century AD and no evidence of the Exodus has been found there.

The most obvious routes for travelers through the region were the royal roads, the "king's highways" that had been in use for centuries and would continue in use for centuries to come. The Bible specifically denies that the Israelites went by the Way of the Philistines a northerly yet coastal route along the Mediterranean (the purple line on the map to the right indicates the Way of Shur which goes inland towards Shur, Asshur or Syria). The Arabian Trade Route (green) and the Way of Seir (black) are improbable routes, the former having the advantage of heading initially toward Kadesh-Barnea but swinging east towards Petra north of Aqaba/Eilat.

Date


The Seder Olam Rabbah
Seder Olam Rabbah
Seder Olam Rabbah is a 2nd century CE Hebrew language chronology detailing the dates of biblical events from the Creation to Alexander the Great's conquest of Persia...

 (ca. 2nd century AD) determines the commencement of the Exodus to 2448 AM (1313 BC). This date has become traditional in Rabbinic Judaism
Moses in rabbinic literature
Allusions in rabbinic literature to the Biblical character Moses, who led the people of Israel out of Egypt and through their wanderings in the wilderness, contain various expansions, elaborations and inferences beyond what is presented in the text of the Bible itself.- Overview :Of all Biblical...

.

In the first half of the 20th century the Exodus was dated on the basis of , which states that the Exodus occurred 480 years before the construction of Solomon's Temple
Solomon's Temple
Solomon's Temple, also known as the First Temple, was the main temple in ancient Jerusalem, on the Temple Mount , before its destruction by Nebuchadnezzar II after the Siege of Jerusalem of 587 BCE....

, the fourth year of Solomon
Solomon
Solomon , according to the Book of Kings and the Book of Chronicles, a King of Israel and according to the Talmud one of the 48 prophets, is identified as the son of David, also called Jedidiah in 2 Samuel 12:25, and is described as the third king of the United Monarchy, and the final king before...

's reign. Equating the biblical chronology with dates in history is notoriously difficult, but Edwin Thiele's widely accepted reconciliation of the reigns of the Israelite and Judahite kings would imply an Exodus around 1450 BC, during the reign of Pharaoh Thutmose III
Thutmose III
Thutmose III was the sixth Pharaoh of the Eighteenth Dynasty. During the first twenty-two years of Thutmose's reign he was co-regent with his stepmother, Hatshepsut, who was named the pharaoh...

 (1479-1425 BC). By the mid-20th century it had become apparent that the archaeological record made this date impossible. The mummy of Thutmoses III had already been discovered in 1881, and Egyptian records of that period do not mention the expulsion of any group that could be identified with over two million Hebrew slaves, nor any events which could be identified with the Biblical plagues. In addition, digs in the 1930s had failed to find traces of the simultaneous destruction of Canaanite cities c.1400 BC—in fact many of them, including Jericho
Jericho
Jericho ; is a city located near the Jordan River in the West Bank of the Palestinian territories. It is the capital of the Jericho Governorate and has a population of more than 20,000. Situated well below sea level on an east-west route north of the Dead Sea, Jericho is the lowest permanently...

, the first Canaanite city to fall to the Israelites according to the Book of Joshua
Book of Joshua
The Book of Joshua is the sixth book in the Hebrew Bible and of the Old Testament. Its 24 chapters tell of the entry of the Israelites into Canaan, their conquest and division of the land under the leadership of Joshua, and of serving God in the land....

, were uninhabited at the time.

The lack of evidence led William F. Albright
William F. Albright
William Foxwell Albright was an American archaeologist, biblical scholar, philologist and expert on ceramics. From the early twentieth century until his death, he was the dean of biblical archaeologists and the universally acknowledged founder of the Biblical archaeology movement...

, the leading biblical archaeologist of the period, to propose an alternative, "late" Exodus around 1200-1250 BC. His argument was based on the many strands of evidence, including the destruction at Beitel (Bethel
Bethel
Bethel was a border city described in the Hebrew Bible as being located between Benjamin and Ephraim...

) and some other cities at around that period, and the occurrence from the same period of distinctive house-types and a distinctive round-collared jar which, in his opinion, was to be identified with in-coming Israelites.

Albright's theory enjoyed popularity around the middle of the 20th century, but has now been generally abandoned in scholarship.
The evidence which led to the abandonment of Albright's theory include: the collar-rimmed jars have been recognised as an indigenous form originating in lowland Canaanite cities centuries earlier; while some "Joshua" cities, including Hazor, Lachish
Lachish
Lachish was an ancient Near East town located at the site of modern Tell ed-Duweir in the Shephelah, a region between Mount Hebron and the maritime plain of Philistia . The town was first mentioned in the Amarna letters as Lakisha-Lakiša...

, Megiddo and others, have destruction and transition layers around 1250-1145 BC, others, including Jericho
Jericho
Jericho ; is a city located near the Jordan River in the West Bank of the Palestinian territories. It is the capital of the Jericho Governorate and has a population of more than 20,000. Situated well below sea level on an east-west route north of the Dead Sea, Jericho is the lowest permanently...

, have no destruction layers or were uninhabited during this period; and the Merneptah Stele
Merneptah Stele
The Merneptah Stele — also known as the Israel Stele or Victory Stele of Merneptah — is an inscription by the Ancient Egyptian king Merneptah , which appears on the reverse side of a granite stele erected by the king Amenhotep III...

 indicates that a people called "Israel" were already known in Canaan by the reign of Merneptah
Merneptah
Merneptah was the fourth ruler of the Nineteenth Dynasty of Ancient Egypt. He ruled Egypt for almost ten years between late July or early August 1213 and May 2, 1203 BC, according to contemporary historical records...

 (1213-1203 BC).



Modern theories on the date - all of them popular rather than scholarly - tend to concentrate on an "early" Exodus, prior to c.1440 BC. The major candidates are:
  • The 2006 History Channel documentary The Exodus Decoded revived an idea first put forward by the 1st century AD Jewish historian Josephus
    Josephus
    Titus Flavius Josephus , also called Joseph ben Matityahu , was a 1st-century Romano-Jewish historian and hagiographer of priestly and royal ancestry who recorded Jewish history, with special emphasis on the 1st century AD and the First Jewish–Roman War, which resulted in the Destruction of...

    , identifying the Israelites with the Hyksos
    Hyksos
    The Hyksos were an Asiatic people who took over the eastern Nile Delta during the twelfth dynasty, initiating the Second Intermediate Period of ancient Egypt....

    , the non-Egyptian rulers of Egypt expelled by the resurgent native Eighteenth Dynasty of Egypt
    Eighteenth dynasty of Egypt
    The eighteenth dynasty of ancient Egypt is perhaps the best known of all the dynasties of ancient Egypt...

    , c.1550-1530 BC. However, there are numerous difficulties with the theory, and it is dismissed by scholars.
  • David Rohl
    David Rohl
    New Chronology is the term used to describe an alternative Chronology of the ancient Near East developed by English Egyptologist David Rohl and other researchers beginning with A Test of Time: The Bible - from Myth to History in 1995...

    's 1995 A Test of Time attempted to correct Egyptian history by shortening
    Phantom time hypothesis
    The Phantom time hypothesis is a conspiracy theory developed by Heribert Illig in 1991. It proposes that there has been a systematic effort to make it appear that periods of history, specifically that of Europe during the Early Middle Ages exist, when they do not...

     the Third Intermediate Period of Egypt
    Third Intermediate Period of Egypt
    The Third Intermediate Period refers to the time in Ancient Egypt from the death of Pharaoh Ramesses XI in 1070 BC to the foundation of the Twenty-Sixth Dynasty by Psamtik I in 664 BC, following the expulsion of the Nubian rulers of the Twenty-Fifth Dynasty....

     by almost 300 years. As a by-result the synchronisms with the biblical narrative have changed, making the 13th Dynasty
    Thirteenth dynasty of Egypt
    The thirteenth dynasty of ancient Egypt is often combined with Dynasties XI, XII and XIV under the group title Middle Kingdom. Other writers separate it from these dynasties and join it to Dynasties XIV through XVII as part of the Second Intermediate Period...

     pharaoh Djedneferre Dudimose
    Dudimose
    Djedhetepre Dudimose I was an Egyptian king of the Second Intermediate Period. He is mentioned on stela found at Edfu belonging to a king's son and commander Khonsemwaset. It is not known whether the latter was the son of the king, as king's son was a title not only given to the actual children of...

     (Dedumesu, Tutimaos, Tutimaios) the pharaoh of the Exodus. Rohl's theory, however, has failed to find support among scholars in his field.
  • From time to time there have been attempts to link the Exodus with the eruption of the Aegean volcano of Thera in c.1600 BC on the grounds that it could provide a natural explanation of the Plagues of Egypt
    Plagues of Egypt
    The Plagues of Egypt , also called the Ten Plagues or the Biblical Plagues, were ten calamities that, according to the biblical Book of Exodus, Israel's God, Yahweh, inflicted upon Egypt to persuade Pharaoh to release the ill-treated Israelites from slavery. Pharaoh capitulated after the tenth...

     and the crossing of the Red Sea. This theory was discussed in the History Channel documentary, and also covered in the 2009 book by geologist Barbara J Sivertsen, The Parting of the Sea: How Volcanoes, Earthquakes, and Plagues Shaped the Story of the Exodus.

Extra-Biblical accounts


The earliest non-Biblical account of the Exodus is by Hecataeus of Abdera
Hecataeus of Abdera
Hecataeus of Abdera was a Greek historian and sceptic philosopher who flourished in the 4th century BC.-Biography:Diogenes Laertius relates that he was a student of Pyrrho, along with Eurylochus, Timon the Phliasian, Nausiphanes of Teos and others, and includes him among the "Pyrrhoneans"...

 (late 4th century BC): the Egyptians blame a plague on foreigners and expel them from the country, whereupon Moses, their leader, takes them to Canaan, where he founds the city of Jerusalem. More than a dozen later stories repeat the same basic theme, most of them with a marked anti-Jewish tendency. The best-known is that by the Egyptian historian Manetho
Manetho
Manetho was an Egyptian historian and priest from Sebennytos who lived during the Ptolemaic era, approximately during the 3rd century BC. Manetho wrote the Aegyptiaca...

 (3rd century BC), known from two quotations by the 1st century AD Jewish historian Josephus
Josephus
Titus Flavius Josephus , also called Joseph ben Matityahu , was a 1st-century Romano-Jewish historian and hagiographer of priestly and royal ancestry who recorded Jewish history, with special emphasis on the 1st century AD and the First Jewish–Roman War, which resulted in the Destruction of...

. In the first, Manetho describes the Hyksos
Hyksos
The Hyksos were an Asiatic people who took over the eastern Nile Delta during the twelfth dynasty, initiating the Second Intermediate Period of ancient Egypt....

, their lowly origins in Asia, their dominion over and expulsion from Egypt, and their subsequent foundation of the city of Jerusalem and its temple. Josephus (not Manetho) identifies the Hyksos with the Jews. In the second story Manetho tells how 80,000 lepers and other "impure people," led by a priest named Osarseph
Osarseph
Osarseph is a legendary figure of Ancient Egypt who has been equated with Moses. His story was recounted by the Ptolemaic Egyptian historian Manetho in his Aigyptiaca ; Manetho's work is lost, but the 1st century AD Jewish historian Josephus quotes extensively from it.The story depicts Osarseph as...

, join forces with the former Hyksos, now living in Jerusalem, to take over Egypt. They wreak havoc until eventually the pharaoh and his son chase them out to the borders of Syria, where Osarseph gives the lepers a law-code and changes his name to Moses. Manetho differs from the other writers in describing his renegades as Egyptians rather than Jews, and in using a name other than Moses for their leader. Many scholars regard the identification of Osarseph with Moses as a later addition to the text, although the question remains open.

See also


  • Ipuwer papyrus
    Ipuwer papyrus
    The Ipuwer Papyrus is a single papyrus holding an ancient Egyptian poem, called The Admonitions of Ipuwer or The Dialogue of Ipuwer and the Lord of All. Its official designation is Papyrus Leiden I 344 recto...

  • Torah portions
    Parsha
    This article is about the divisions of the Torah into weekly readings. For this week's Torah portion, see Torah portionThe weekly Torah portion |Sidra]]) is a section of the Torah read in Jewish services...

     telling the Exodus story: Va'eira
    Va'eira
    Va'eira, Va'era, or Vaera is the fourteenth weekly Torah portion in the annual Jewish cycle of Torah reading and the second in the book of Exodus...

    , Bo
    Bo (parsha)
    Bo is the fifteenth weekly Torah portion in the annual Jewish cycle of Torah reading and the third in the book of Exodus...

    , and Beshalach
    Beshalach
    Beshalach, Beshallach, or Beshalah is the sixteenth weekly Torah portion in the annual Jewish cycle of Torah reading and the fourth in the book of Exodus...