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Exodus

Justin Taylor writes in response to our Passover post last night:

I noted with interest today the post today linking to Hinderaker’s earlier (and spot on) response to Dr. Hawass’s statement about the exodus being a myth. I was glad you linked to James Hoffmeier’s Israel in Egypt. His other major book is Ancient Israel in Sinai: The Evidence for the Authenticity of the Wilderness Tradition. Both are published by Oxford University Press and are highly respected works. Hoffmeier is a top-flight Egyptologist (who was, in fact, born and raised in Egypt). He is currently the director of the North Sinai Archaeological Project.

I should mention that I’m the managing editor/project director for the ESV Study Bible, due out this fall. It’s the work of 93 evangelical scholars from all over the world. We’ve employed some of the world’s best archaeologists in the project, including Hoffmeier as a consultant.

Mr. Taylor forwards “this little section we plan to include in the introduction to the book of Exodus which briefly addresses the archaeological/reliability questions regarding the exodus account.” Here it is:

Historical Reliability of the Exodus

Doubts have often been cast on the historical reliability of the exodus account. It is true that no remains of the Israelites have been found in the area of Goshen in the eastern Nile delta or in the wilderness of Sinai. But in neither area would such remains be expected to survive. The mud-built huts of the Israelites have long been destroyed by repeated flooding, and wandering through the wilderness they would not have left buildings or other permanent traces. It thus is unreasonable to expect such archaeological evidence. Furthermore, we should not expect to have extrabiblical texts regarding Israel’s stay and departure from Egypt because the story is negative about Egypt. Egyptian texts are quite propogandistic and such a defeat would not be mentioned by them.

Nevertheless there is plenty of data that seems to corroborate the biblical account: (1) It is most unlikely that a nation should invent a story of its origins as slaves in a neighboring country. (2) The second millennium b.c. was an era when there were many foreigners in Egypt, some of whom were employed making bricks for building projects. (3) The name of the city Ramses is unlikely to have originated or have been remembered later. (4) The organization of the covenant texts in the Pentateuch (e.g., Exodus 20) fits the pattern of second-millennium treaties, not later ones. (5) The tent-tabernacle has many parallels in Egypt and Canaan from the second millennium. Indeed traces of a tent shrine dating from about 1150 b.c. have been found in the wilderness at Timnah, not far from the route of the Israelite wanderings. (6) A stele (an inscribed tombstone-like stone slab) from the Egyptian pharaoh Merenptah, c. 1200 b.c., mentions that he had conquered the people of Israel in an invasion of Canaan. This would fit with an exodus from Egypt some time before this and demonstrates that Israel was already settled as a people in Canaan.

This archaeological evidence makes skepticism about the historicity of the biblical account of the exodus unwarranted. This is not to deny that the story is told to make theological points: much historical writing is motivated by the desire to teach lessons from the past. Nor does the archaeological evidence require us to believe that the book of Exodus gives us a complete and full account of what happened: there are obviously many gaps and events that are passed over. But the evidence does make it unreasonable to challenge the central affirmation of OT faith: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery” (20:2).

Recommend this Power Line article to your Facebook friends.

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