Question:

Israeli archeology teams have combed the Sinai desert for decades and have found no evidence of a mass exodus. Egyptologists say there is no Egyptian records of Hebrew slaves in Egypt. No evidence of plagues described in the Torah, nor a record of them ever having happened. No evidence of a Mt. Sinai anywhere. And pertaining to the miraculous parting of the Red Sea, many scholars suggest there is evidence of a mistranslation of the “sea of reeds” being the Red Sea. The “sea if reeds” shallowed periodically to depths making a crossing possible by man and beast.

Ever more scholars are coming to the conclusion, given the total lack of evidence anywhere, that a small tribe of Hebrews may have escaped Egyptian warrants and crossed at the sea of reeds, but nothing significant enough for Egptian scribes to record, nor for the Sinai desert to have any evidence left behind. Certainly nothing miraculous and, or large scale.

What do you say about this?

Answer:

You base your question on negative “facts that archaeologists have not found any evidence”, I take issue with that because there is a lot of archaeological evidence, as I will explain a little later. However, even if there would not be archaeological evidence, the Jewish nation does not base its belief on archaeological findings, and they don’t make or break our belief.

The Jewish people base their belief on the tradition that has been handed down from father to son, parent to child, based on a claim that cannot be made up by an individual. Is there ANY religion in the world that has a claim that there was a Godly revelation to a crowd of millions of people in the open? Would you be able to orchestrate such an occurrence? Moses told the Jews about all of these events in first person, and no one argued with him. See (Exodus 18-4) “You have seen what I have done in Egypt”, (Exodus 20-19) “You have seen that G-d has spoken to you from the heavens”, (Deuteronomy 29-1) “ You have seen all what G-d has done with your own eyes  in Egypt, to Pharaoh and all is servants and to his whole land. The great miracles that your eyes have seen, and the great wonders. .. And I have guided you for 40 years in the desert, your clothing and your shoes didn’t wear out”. There is no record anywhere, that the Jews, got up en masse, and protested, that these claims are not true, “I was there and it didn’t happen”! Not only that, but each year every father told his child in the privacy of their home, that all of this is true. In fact this is also written in the Bible (Deuteronomy 4 (32-36) “If you will ask from the first days, from the time that G-d created the world, from one side of the earth to the other side, Has there been anything as great as this, or have you heard anything similar to it? Has a (whole) nation heard the voice of G-d speaking from within the fire as you have, and lived? Or has any G-d tried to take a nation out from within a nation with miracles, symbols and  wonders,  wars, and a strong hand,  as you been  done t to Egypt in front of your own eyes?”. These are not claims that a person can make up on his own! No one is going to believe such a fantastic story, especially if you tell them that they themselves experienced it! Yet NO ONE has argued with it, and in fact every father told this to his children in the privacy of their homes, every year. Did everyone all of a sudden go crazy and make up the same story?! Besides for that the nations of the world also agreed to this, and even 1200 years later, when Christianity and Islam started, they didn’t deny the facts that there was an Exodus. Aside from this we have it written and documented in the most reliable of history books- the Bible. This is what the Jews base their beliefs on, and if there will be archeological finding; they will only serve as a nice icing on the cake, but definitely not the cake itself.

Now let’s go to the archeological side of things.  To quote Dr. Clifford Willson Director of the Australian Institute of Archaeology, he said, “I don’t know of any reliable archeological findings that argue with the Tanach. The Tanach is the MOST RELIABLE HISTORICAL BOOK that the world has ever seen”[1].  Or to quote William Foxwell Albright [2] , “ According to our knowledge today of the topography of the eastern delta, it appears that the Exodus from Egypt that is written in Exodus 12-13 is definitely correct”.  Or to quote William Foxwell Albright again[3] , “So numerous are the findings that has been verified from discoveries in recent years, that most of the expert researchers have abandoned the old theory of Bible criticism that say that the Patriarchs were fiction”

Now we can get to some specifics.

In 1887 Sir William Matthew Flinders Petrie an English Egyptologist discovered a rock made of granite that had hieroglyphics carved into it, and  it was deciphered by Heinrich Karl Brugash. It spoke about seven years of hunger during the reign of one of the Pharaohs, however here was a viceroy how was very smart, called Imhotep, who figured out a way to preserve the produce. This is precisely what the torah tells us in Genesis 41 (25-45). One of the pyramids (the step pyramid) was built by Imhotep for Pharoah Djoser.

The “Stone of El Arish” was discovered in the 19th century and it describes the plague of darkness and that no one could see anything or leave the palace. Then the king chased those who ran away and they were all killed by drowning in the sea near “Pi Chiruti”, ( Pi Hachirot as we know it). This stone is on display in the Museum of Ismailia.

Another finding, Papyrus Petersburg, was  written by an ancient Egyptian named Nefer Rachu (which apparently was written during the period of the plagues) and deciphered by Vladimir Gulnistzav, which is in the museum of St. Petersburg (#1116b), the author writes on line 24-26 “I am depicting what is in front of me, I am not saying a prophecy”. It talks about the total destruction that foreigners caused to Egypt, (line 21-23). About the sun becoming dark, and sons killing their fathers and brothers (line 40-45), and about tremendous amounts of their property that was taken from them, and about the masters being in pain when the servants were resting (line 45-49). This is exactly as it says in the torah regarding the plague of darkness and the wars that broke out between the firstborn who didn’t want to die and the servants of pharaoh,

Another finding- in the book “Bible as History” (page 108), he talks about a rock tomb of one of the rulers in Pharaonic Egypt, west of the royal city of Thebes, are drawings in which slaves make bricks under the supervision of taskmasters. He comments,“The most notable feature being the light-skinned workmen, who are clad only in linen aprons. A comparison with the dark-skinned overseers shows that the fair-skinned men are probably Semites, but certainly not Egyptians.”

Perhaps the most famous archeological papyrus is the Ipuwer papyrus, The papyrus was written by an Egyptian of that period called Ipuwer, and was purchased by the Leiden Museum in Holland. Its catalogue number is 344. In that papyrus Ipuwer gives a clear picture about ten catastrophes! In the papyrus he says that “the Nile was blood”… “there was blood everywhere”… people were scared, and thirsty for water”. (This depicts the plague of blood)

“All the animals hearts were crying, the cattle were moaning because of the condition in the land”

“The gates, pillars and walls … eaten from the fire”  (The plague of hailstones)… In truth the trees fell, the branches broken”… the cattle were left to roam because there was no one to take care of them…”(This depicts the plague of pestilence)

Whatever we saw yesterday was destroyed and the earth remained tired like after the cutting of the flax crop” …  there was no fruits of vegetables to be found… in truth the barley was destroyed everywhere, everyone was saying that there is nothing left. The storehouses are totally empty, and the watchman is lying on the ground… I had to to scream to prevent my pain” . (This depicts the plague of grasshoppers),

“The earth has no light”. (This depicts the plague of darkness)

“The children that we prayed for are now lying on the ground”… “The children of the prince’s are lying in the streets”… the groaning is heard in the whole country, mixed with eulogizing”… The death is all over, those who have buried their brothers are found everywhere” This depicts the plague of the firstborn, as it was told to us by our parents and written in the Bible, and as we have known for over 3000 years, now it has been discovered that an Egyptian, wrote the same thing at that time..  .

Regarding the Jews wandering in the desert,  See “The mysterious MBI people” Biblical Archeological Review July 1983, written by Rudolf Cohen, where he discusses how there were many places that they wound huts made of stone, that showed that the people that built them were knowledgeable in construction. The short stone huts did not have roofs, but were covered with branches (exactly as the torah says it that the Jews lived in huts (called Nuwamis) and covered them with branches!). The settlements showed no sign of being destroyed by an enemy, and they could not understand why people would live in a place so far from any water source.  Regarding their food source, they discovered many grinding stones, but almost no sickles for cutting wheat, and no traces of grains!

For the archeologists, it might have appeared very strange, however those who know the story of the Jews in the desert, the answer to all of the question is simple. The torah says that they ate manna, and they didn’t have to plant it, so there was no need for a sickle, but they did grind it, as the torah says. They had a miraculous water source, therefore they didn’t have to be near a water source.

If you would like to investigate this more, I would suggest you read the book, (in Hebrew) “Archologia Tanachi” By Rabbi Zamir Cohen.

I am also attaching links to two articles on this subject.

https://www.hidabroot.com/article/176142/Archaeology-Salutes-the-Torah

https://www.hidabroot.com/article/193219/Archaeology-Keeps-on-Reinforcing-the-Torah-Narrative

 

Sources:

[1] Quoted in Biblical Archeology- Vol.  1 pg.88, R’ Zamir Cohen.

[2] as quoted by Werner Clar in his book Hatanach Bhistoria, pg. 111, quoted in Biblical Archeology- Vol.  1 pg 202.

[3]Achasaf Second Edition 1968, “ From the Stone age to Christianity:Monotheism and The Historical Process” pg. 143, quoted in Biblical Archeology- Vol.  1 pg 119.

2 Responses to “Exodus and Archaeology”

  1. In addition to the rabbi’s comments, I’d like to point out that Egyptian authorities do not like people digging in those areas for evidence of the Torah narrative, and they try to obstruct such archeologists, so it’s hard to get evidence from that area. Many archeologists themselves are minimalists and aren’t interested in anything that would support the Torah narrative.

    Also, in the book “Women’s Work: The First 20000 Years,” the author inadvertently mentions more evidence of a mass migration of women from Egypt to Israel around the Exodus time period based on the type of bowls found used for wetting flax, and the amount found. The bowls were Israeli-made but in Egyptian style and found in huge amounts. That wasn’t the point of the book, but she mentioned it in passing because the book is about spinning and weaving.

    My point is that there are all sorts of indications woven throughout archeological findings, but you have to hunt for it.

    Finally, the vast majority of writings found from those times are stored away untranslated and unpublished because researchers have more artifacts than they have translators. Just as one example: Archeologist Randall Price estimated that only 20% of cuneiform tablets were translated and published. But what of the other 80%?

  2. I just want to add to this that, scientifically speaking, archeology cannot PROVE very much. As archeologist Randall Price said in his book “The Stones Cry Out”, only 20% of cuneiform tablets that had been discovered at the time of his book had been translated and published. This means that literally tens of thousands of tablets are lying in storage unread. What if books by Avraham Avinu or Yitzchak Avinu are among them? We have no way of knowing. And those are just the items that have been discovered, let alone those that are still hidden underground.

    There could certainly be written accounts of the Exodus that have either not been discovered or not been translated yet. This is a problem across archeology.

    Furthermore, there is evidence of camel domestication, but the minimalist archeologists insist that the piles of bones found near inhabited areas merely indicate that people ate camels, and not that the camels were domesticated. Does it make sense that for centuries, people would keep camels for food without it ever occurring to them to use camels for riding and packing? Furthermore, there is pottery dated to Biblical times which shows people riding on camels.

    (Exact dating is also a problem, BTW.)

    And as said in a previous comment, Egyptian authorities do not like allowing people to look for proof of Tanach because doing so invalidates their own belief system and self-importance. So archeology in Egypt and other significant areas (like Iraq, etc) is severely limited.

    Not all Israeli archeologists claim the evidence is “inconclusive.” It depends on the bias of the archeologist, no offense.

    Genetics is also a more complex science than many realize, so it’s hard to make a firm case via human genome mapping, etc.

    Finally, we don’t see dinosaur bones littered “everywhere.” Many bones are found in rock layers in a specific area or in heaps that seem as if they’ve been washed away in a flood. We don’t even have complete skeletons of the dinosaurs that have been found. For example, the most complete Tyrannosaurus Rex only comprises 80% of its skeleton. The most complete dinosaur skeleton at all is still not complete, but 98%.

    And remember, even these skeletons are guesstimates because the paleontologist finds bones scattered around and s/he puts them together based on his or her best guesses, which obviously leaves a lot of room for mistakes. The scattered bones could certainly belong to another creature, but how can anyone know for sure? To complicate things, it’s rare to find the skull of the skeleton. They decide by drawing conclusions that aren’t based on proof, but again, a lot of guesswork, like noting what species have allegedly been found in that area, reptiles and animals that around today, etc. Again, this obviously involves a lot of conclusion-hopping, and not fact-based science.

    All in all, only 2100 “good” (“good” as defined by the hopeful, funding-desperate scientists) skeletons have been found worldwide — not exactly “massive” amounts. By their own admission, paleontologists need to engage in a lot of guesswork, which is not exactly scientific if you consider science as something “proven” and not just assumption and guessing.

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