The Bible’s Buried Secrets? Part 2

Part 2: Detailed Discussion of the Historicity of the Exodus

Regardless of what the Bible says, several Old Testament scholars and biblical archeologists now doubt the validity of the Exodus or deny it entirely. James K. Hoffmeier opines

“With this overwhelming evidence within the Bible regarding the Egyptian sojourn, exodus, and wilderness episodes, evidence from a variety of types of literature and used in a host of different ways, it is methodologically inadvisable, at best, to treat the Bible as a single witness to history, requiring corroboration before the Egypt-Sinai reports can be taken as authentic. To be sure, external support for the biblical tradition would be welcome, but I maintain that it is not a prerequisite for regarding exodus narratives as authentic memories.”[1]

This does not imply, though, we must overlook the implicit data that offers related information to the biblical histories. Egyptian writing, creative drawings, numerous archeological information, and topographical factors illuminate happenings and features given in the exodus stories. Indeed, this information gets far in the direction of explaining the genuineness of the biblical belief.

Israel in Egypt

Does data exist from Egyptian sources find Egypt was a location where pastoralists arrived for shelter from droughts to support their herds and living? Might it be that the depiction of the Hebrews moving to Egypt is a sign of a wider nature? The information makes it extremely obvious that pastoralists from the southern Levant, Transjordan, and Sinai often got to Egypt in such situations.

Hoffmeier says,

“A late thirteenth-century-BC letter from a scribe to his superior (presumably back in the royal residence at Pi-Ramesses) reports that a group of pastoralists were granted permission to pass his fort in the Wadi Tumilat to water their flocks.”[2]

In the Wisdom for Merikare, from the First Intermediate period, King Meryibre Khety bemoans the existence of problematic “Asiatics” (i.e., ‘amu = Semitic-speaking people from western Asia[3]):

“Now speaking about these foreigners,

As for the miserable Asiatic, wretched is the place where he is;

Lacking in water, … Food causes his feet to roam about.[4]

The king warns his son to develop fortifications in the Bitter Lakes area (i.e., the Isthums of Suez) and to protect the area.”[5]

An early twentieth century-BC text, the Prophecy of Neferti, apparently reveals the period prior to the Middle Kingdom when individuals from western Asia invaded the Nile Delta and were disturbing the current situation:

“All happiness has gone away, the land is cast down in trouble

because of those feeders, Asiatics [sttyw] who are throughout the land.

Enemies have arisen in the east, Asiatics [‘amu] have come down to

Egypt.

A fortress is deprived of another beside it, the guards pay no attention

to it.”[6]

Sinuhe, a court official who fled Egypt for Canaan also mentions the fortress and the Asiatics. As he neared Sinai, he says, “I reached the ‘Walls of the Ruler’ which were made to repulse the Asiatics [Sttyw], to rample the Bedouin [nmiw sw = lit., ‘sand-farers’]. It was in fear that I took to crouching in a bush lest the sentry on the wall on duty see (me).”[7]

The preceding writings show Egypt had continuing trouble with pastoralists to enter it to feed and water sheep, and rather, to remain there. Border fortresses, several of which have been found just in the earlier two decades, were built to watch such actions. The writing is undisputed in its evidence of the trouble of subverting pastoralists. Although is there some explicit archeological information to support the written evidence?

When in Egypt, particularly in the Second Intermediate period, several pastoralists became sedentary, and their Syro-Canaanite social relics are perceptible. In the Wadi Tumilat, the locations of Tell el-Maskhuta and Tel el-Retabeh have produced indications of Middle Bronze Age Syro-Canaanite existence, with burials with pottery and arms from the Levant.[8] In the eastern Nile Delta, Tell el-Yehudiyeh was the initial place to produce the existence of settling Asiatics.[9] Egyptian literal traces and archeological data convincingly explain, particularly in the Second Intermediate Period, a significant external manifestation in the Nile Delta, with the Hyksos leaders. When the Hyksos sovereign and armed choice fled to Canaan after being assaulted by the Theban king Ahmos about 1525 BC, it is usually assumed, the mass of the Semitic-speaking people stayed in Egypt.[10] The Hebrews most likely were contained with these “Asiatics” in the Nile Delta who triggered the suspicious pharaoh in the book of Exodus (1:8-10) to start the suppression of the Israelites.

The Subjugation of the Hebrews

The picture of the Hebrews pushed into tough work for the pharaoh is placed into the thinking of the reader of the early chapters of the Exodus:

“So they appointed taskmasters over them to afflict them with hard labor And they built for Pharaoh storage cities, Pithom and Rameses.[11]…The Egyptians compelled the sons of Israel to labor rigorously; and they made their lives bitter with hard labor in mortar and bricks and at all kinds of labor in the field, all their labors which they rigorously imposed on them.”[12]

Two areas of enforced employment are told: brickmaking and building. Hoffmeier speaks of the image from the tomb of Rekhmire, a vizier of Thutmose III, in which foreign detainees (some being the Israelites) from western Asia and Nubia are displayed creating bricks. Taskmasters with sticks are portrayed as overseeing the laborers. [13] Exodus accounts the Hebrews had to meet construction quotas (Exod. 5:4-14).

It can be decided, then, that space where the Bible says the Hebrews were forced to work (brickmaking), is exactly where the Egyptian documents show that deportees from the Levant were compelled to perform. Therefore, the biblical depiction cannot be considered a great result of creativity. It appears likely the Hebrews, by now in the country, were handled like detainees of conflict being carried into Egypt in the New Kingdom.

Latest breakthroughs in the northeastern Nile Delta, what the Bible calls “the land of Goshen” (Gen. 45:10; 46:28-29; 47:4-5; Exod. 8:22; 9:26) and the “land of Rameses” (Gen. 47:11), imply massive construction plans were regularly commenced in the New Kingdom.[14] It is logical the Bible maintains a recollection of the slavery enforced on the sojourning Hebrews in Egypt. A cautious understanding of Exodus 1-5 suggests the mandatory-work actions enforced on the Hebrews happened over a prolonged time. The culmination of the tough work happened with the building of Rameses when the exodus probably happened.

Exodus and the Geography

Some could easily guess if the geography in the book of Exodus might be revealed to be genuine, histories linked with those areas would show precise recollections from the time of the exodus. James Hoffmeier says, “Here the pioneering investigations of Edouard Naville and Flinders Petrie are exemplars.”[15] In latest years the geography of the book of Exodus has once more been the topic of scholarly debate. For nearly all the previous seventy-five years, the book has been deemed to indicate ancient and geographical truth[16], although in the latest years questions to this knowledge have occurred.

Rameses/Raamses

Because of the significance of Raamses to thirteen-century Egypt and to the book of Exodus, the finding of Pi-Ramesses at Tanis was a main concern of early Egyptologists. With Petrie’s digs at Tell el-Retabeh in the first decade of the twentieth century, attention moved to Tell Farama (Pelusium) on the farthermost northeast area of the Nile Delta as a feasible place for a for Pi-Ramesses.[17] Biblical comment of Rameses as the location linked with the Hebrew construction attempts (Exod. 1:11) and the point of leaving for the exodus (Exod. 12:37; Num. 33:3, 5) is important. Kenneth Kitchen contends the cities stated in the Exodus report all fit the age of Ramesses II, recognizing him as the pharaoh of the Exodus.[18] In the first millennium BC the biblical authors told of the diplomatic and financial significance of Tanis, or “Zoan,” as it is authored in Hebrew (cf. Isa. 19:11, 13: 30:4, Ezek. 30:14).[19] Once the author of Psalm 78 speculates about the exodus, he recognizes the region Zoan/Tanis (Ps. 78:12, 43), not Rameses, as the point where God did his miracles to liberate Israel. The absence of Rameses in this content can be justified as the author applying the name of the major city of the northeast Delta at the time, and not the earlier city that disappeared for periods.[20] The truth that Rameses arises just in the Pentateuchal books suggests these mentions do correctly remember the name of the earlier city.

Conclusion

The topics above illustrate the point of the overall metanarrative of the mainstream approach. It might be useful to draw attention to two important difficulties. First, the allegations of The Bible’s Buried Secrets are described as solid science. This is right to an extent. All disciplines involve a certain amount of explanation, and archaeology involves a great deal. But the analyst’s prejudice and beliefs can be an excessively big part in the evaluation of the data, which involves integrating huge quantities of information and involves lots of areas. Therefore, it is difficult to argue that it shows the Bible to be the inspired Word of God, and yet the watcher is given the sense that science is able to refute the Bible is God’s Word. This is just as difficult.

Second, and the most obvious, none of The Bible’s Buried Secrets theories is unchallenged in scholarly spheres. And several of the represented opinions are distinctly minimalists. There are few, if at all, maximalist scholars represented.

I doubt the intended audience is for strong Christian thinkers, but for either nominal Christians or non-Christians. However, if the strong Christian thinkers are to alter their views around the historicity of the events logged in the Bible, a healthier argument, reinforced by satisfactory evidence, must be what is offered. This documentary did not deliver that.


 [1] James Hoffmeier, “The Exodus and Wilderness Narratives”, in Bill Arnold, Ancient Israel’s History, (Baker, 2014), 50.

[2] Ibid., 50-51

[3] Ibid., 52

[4] Translation in James K. Hoffmeier, Israel in Egypt, (Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press, 1996), 55.

[5] For commentary on this passage, see Hoffmeier, Israel in Egypt, 56-58.

[6] Translation in Hoffmeier, Israel in Egypt, 58.

[7] Translation in Hoffmeier, Israel in Egypt, 60.

[8] James K. Hoffmeier, Israel in Egypt, (Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press, 1996), 65-67.

[9] Ibid., 67.

[10] James Hoffmeier, “The Exodus and Wilderness Narratives”, in Bill Arnold, Ancient Israel’s History, (Baker, 2014), 55.

[11] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), Ex 1:11.

[12] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), Ex 1:13–14.

[13] James Hoffmeier, “The Exodus and Wilderness Narratives”, in Bill Arnold, Ancient Israel’s History, (Baker, 2014), 56.

[14] Ibid., 59.

[15] Ibid., 59.

[16] Ibid., 60.

[17] W.M. Flinders Petrie, Hyksos and Israelite Cities (London: School of Archaeology, University College, 1906), 28-34.

[18] “As conceded almost universally, the Hebrew R-‘-m-s-s corresponds exactly to Egyptian R-‘-m-s-s from which it derives. This is the proper name Ramesses, used by eleven kings of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Dynasties, circa 1290-1070. The first of these, Ramesses I, reigned only sixteen months and built no cities. None of the rest founded major cities either, with but one exception. He was Ramesses II, grandson of I, who was the builder of the vast city Pi-Ramesse A-nakhtu, “Domain of Ramesses II, Great in Victory,”14 suitably abbreviated to the distinctive and essential element “Ra(a)mses” in Hebrew.”, Kenneth Kitchen, On the Reliability of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans, 2003), 255.

[19] James Hoffmeier, “The Exodus and Wilderness Narratives”, in Bill Arnold, Ancient Israel’s History, (Baker, 2014), 62.

[20] Ibid., 62

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