Is There Historical Evidence for the Exodus?
Israel Finkelstein and Neil Asher Silberman attempt an
answer in their book, "The Bible Unearthed:
New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of its Sacred Texts",
(The Free Press, 2001)
Chapter 2 (Did the Exodus happen?) is specific
to this discussion. In the edition of the book accessible on google books (it
starts on P.48). The authors first make an attempt to locate the claimed Exodus in
There is in contemporary studies a fairly clear
chronological picture of the history of ancient Egypt. Additionally, the Exodus
narrative has ‘a wealth of detailed and specific geographical detail.’ Escaping
from Egypt, the Israelite multitude (according to the Exodus document) carefully
recorded their travels and the locations of their described interactions with
This is not to argue that people from the region we call Palestine,
did not have a relationship with Egypt.
In the last 200 years modern scholarship learned of the “invasion” of
Egypt by the Hyksos, usually thought
of as ‘Shepherd Kings’ but the authors
argue that the literal meaning of the original word used (by Egyptian historian Manetho) meant “rulers of foreign lands” and that these people were Canaanites,
and that their “invasion” was a gradual process of immigration and growing
influence, rather than a sudden military attack and invasion. (pp 54,55)
Finkelstein and Silberman discern a parallel between the
Egyptian events (as described by Manetho) and the biblical story.
history, the Hyksos conquest of Egypt was ended by a ‘virtuous’ Egyptian King,
who (describes the scribe, Manetho) the defeated Hyksos
founded Jerusalem and constructed a temple. Is Manetho's account believable? Another Egyptian source (on p.56) provides an account of Pharaoh
Ahmose (18th dynasty) who (in this account) chases the remaining Hyksos
to their main centre, Sharuhen (near Gaza) which he captured after a long siege.
Attempting to reduce these stories (including the biblical
story) to a basic outline, what do they have
in common? This, (say the authors - still on p.56), a story of Semitic
inhabitants of the eastern Mediterranean coast lands and hinterlands, migrating to
Egypt, their growing influence and eventual (violent) expulsion.
To review all the following arguments would take too long to
recount, so I’ll save it for the next post.
Reference: Google Books has some
readable sections of this book on its web-site. https://books.google.com.au/books?