17 April 2017

Questioning the Passover story

From the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, an op-ed piece questions whether Jews were ever enslaved in Egypt, and whether the Passover story is a myth.
"Even if we take the earliest possible date for Jewish slavery that the Bible suggests, the Jews were enslaved in Egypt a good three hundred years after the 1750 B.C. completion date of the pyramids. That is, of course, if they were ever slaves in Egypt at all...

...one of the biggest events of the Jewish calendar is predicated upon reminding the next generation every year of how the Egyptians were our cruel slave-masters, in a bondage that likely never happened... I'm talking about real proof; archeological evidence, state records and primary sources. Of these, nothing exists.

It is remarkable that Egyptian records make no mention of the sudden migration of what would have been nearly a quarter of their population... Furthermore, there is no evidence in Israel that shows a sudden influx of people from another culture at that time.

...let us enjoy our Seder and read the story by all means, but also remind those at the table who may forget that it is just a metaphor, and that there is no ancient animosity between Israelites and Egyptians. Because, if we want to re-establish that elusive peace with Egypt that so many worked so hard to build, we're all going to have to let go of our prejudices."
Addendum: A tip of the blogging cap to reader Drabkikker for finding this relevant Wikipedia page.


  1. Hmm.. So an Egyptian God/Pharoah is humiliated and looses much of his army after his entire slave population leaves and we can't find an Egyptian record of this embarrassing mark in history. So then we must conclude the Torah/Old Testament must be fake news!

    1. You might also consider the Steles and monuments that the Pharaoh's paid to have erected may have been fake news, or heavily redacted and edited news at best. I know of only one recorded series of defeats that the Egyptians ever recorded, perhaps because the eventual victory was thus even more splendid.

      Consider Akhenaten, that embarrassment to the Egyptian dynasties and religious order, who was inexplicably a sun-worshiping Monotheist who the Egyptians wanted to forget. They destroyed his monuments, removed his name from as many historical records as possible, and even removed his name from the list of Pharaohs of Egypt! Until the city, Akhetaten, which he built was rediscovered, we had no idea that he even existed.

      Now consider that and look at the short examples of the 50 references of the Hebrews from the Amarna letters, which did not originate from the Egyptians themselves, thus were not as easy to cover up or control.

  2. With respect to the author, he's wrong on the lack of evidence. He's also looking far too early (1750bc) and should be looking around 1450bc (under Thutmoses).

    There is silence from Egypt itself regarding a mass Exodus, which isn't surprising as a dynasty that believes their ruler is divine is loathe to say much about its defeats, but you have evidence from elsewhere:

    1) The name Moses itself being a very, very Egyptian name. Small potatoes, but it's there.
    2) Strong evidence from the Amarna letters, especially those who originated from the Canaanite tributaries and kingdoms under sway of the Egyptians. These complained about Apiru/Habiru/Hapiru (and in one place, Aziru) people arriving as nomads and mercenaries, numerous attacks from these people. These were written in a variety of locations consistent with the emerging Israelite conquests (and attempts). Some examples:

    Tablet EA68, from Rib-Hadda of Byblos (portion of the text): "The war, however, [o]f the ˓Apiru forces [aga]inst me is extremely severe, and so may the king, my lord, not ‹ne›glect Ṣumur lest ever[yo]ne be joined to the ˓Apiru forces."

    Tablet EA88 (portion): "For my part,) I will [no]t neglect the word of [my] lord. But i[f the k]ing, my lord, does [not give heed] to the words of [his] ser[vant], then Gubla will be joined to him, and all the lands of the king, as far as Egypt, will be joined to the ˓Apiru. Moreover, should my lord not have wor[d] brought to hi[s] serv‹ant› by tablet,
    with all speed, then … the city to him and I will request a town from him to stay in, and so I will stay al‹iv›e."

    There are about a dozen tablets just from Rib-Hadda, begging for support and decrying the attacks from the Apiru, and yet the Egyptians, perhaps devastated by calamities of their own, do nothing.

    Fragment EA144 (Mayor Zimreddi of Sidon): "May the king, my lord, know that the war against me is very severe. All the cit[i]es that the king put in [m]y ch[ar]ge, have been joined to the ˓Ap[ir]u. May the king put me in the charge of a man that will lead the archers of the king to call to account the cities that have been joined to the ˓Apiru, so you can restore3 them to my charge that I may be able to serve the king, my lord, as our ancestors (did) before."

    EA287 - Abdi-Heba, Vassal mayor of what would be Jerusalem. " If this year there are archers, then the lands and the mayors will belong to the king, my lord. But if there are no archers, then the ki[ng] will have neither lands nor mayors. 25–32 Consider Jerusalem! This neither my father nor m[y] mother gave to me. The [str]ong hand: zu-ru-uḫ (arm) [of the king] gave it to me.) Consider the deed! This is the deed of Milkilu and the deed of the sons of Lab˒ayu, who have given the land of the king ‹to› the ˓Apiru. Consider, O king, my lord! I am in the right!"

    There's like 50 references from dozens of individuals.

  3. We have the most reliable source ever recorded to verify this event . . . the Bible!

  4. This is the only blog where the comments add real value to the (already interesting) posts. Such a breath of fresh air!

    1. Thanks for that comment, anon. I've had other readers say this is the only blog where they routinely read all the comments.

  5. Let me get this straight... the author doesn't 'like' the story of enslaved Jews in Egypt. So since he can't find enough proof that he finds acceptable, he goes ahead and claims it never happened? Simply because of his distaste for the story and distaste for the historical data? Interesting.

  6. First and foremost: the Hebrew people absolutely did not build the pyramids. There is no evidence *at all* for this claim. It just looks good in movies. This includes evidence within the bible (check your concordance the word "pyramid" never appears). Also the pyramids were made of stone and the Hebrews are described as making bricks from mud.

    Now were there some Semitic people enslaved in Egypt that could be a basis for the Exodus myth? Sure that is possible. The newspaper Haaretz even ran an opposing view to this effect.

    1. Nice link and a nice reminder, thank you.

      The Hebrews building the pyramids and the chariot wheels found at the bottom of the red sea are the two most typical myths that some well-meaning but ignorant folks perpetuate.

      For fellow Christians, if anything you're excited about was originally connected to Ron Wyatt, dump it immediately. It's fruit of a poisoned tree. It is myths like these that cause folks to immediately not listen when others begin to dispute some of Kathleen Kenyon's 1950's findings centered around Jericho (through earlier findings, exposing some glaring biases, and contrasting her findings with Dr. Wood's more recent discoveries).


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