The Exodus from Egypt: A New Explanation

The Flight out of Egypt
by Richard Dadd (1849)
Wikimedia Commons

According to an article published in The New York Times, Dr. Zahi Hawass, Egypt’s chief archaeologist, has declared that the parting of the Red Sea and the Exodus of Israel from Egypt is a myth. According to him, the Exodus did not happen because there is no historical evidence for the presence of Israel in Egypt.

People who follow the archaeological debate about the historicity of the Exodus and even of the facts about early Israel know that many archaeologists and biblical scholars deny the events mentioned in the book of Exodus because there is no evidence for the pharaoh and his army being killed during the exodus.

However, another Egyptian archaeologist has developed a theory that may explain the reason no evidence has been found in archaeological discoveries for the defeat of the pharaoh of Egypt. What follows is an excerpt of the article published in The New York Times:

Recently, diggers found evidence of lava from a volcano in the Mediterranean Sea that erupted in 1500 B.C. and is believed to have killed 35,000 people and wiped out villages in Egypt, Palestine and the Arabian Peninsula, officials here said. The same diggers found evidence of a military fort with four rectangular towers, now considered the oldest fort on the Horus military road.

But nothing was showing up that might help prove the Old Testament story of Moses and the Israelites fleeing Egypt, or wandering in the desert. Dr. Hawass said he was not surprised, given the lack of archaeological evidence to date. But even scientists can find room to hold on to beliefs.

Dr. Mohamed Abdel-Maqsoud, the head of the excavation, seemed to sense that such a conclusion might disappoint some. People always have doubts until something is discovered to confirm it, he noted.

Then he offered another theory, one that he said he drew from modern Egypt.

“A pharaoh drowned and a whole army was killed,” he said recounting the portion of the story that holds that God parted the Red Sea to allow the Israelites to escape, then closed the waters on the pursuing army.

“This is a crisis for Egypt, and Egyptians do not document their crises.”

The Egyptians and most nations of the past did not document their crises. This statement could explain why there is no record of pharaoh and his army drowning in the sea.

Come to think of it, this is an old explanation.

NOTE: For other studies on Moses, read my post Studies on Moses.

Claude Mariottini
Emeritus Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary

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This entry was posted in Book of Exodus, Exodus, Moses, Zahi Hawass and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to The Exodus from Egypt: A New Explanation

  1. Matt says:

    >To a certain extent, arguments from silence in archaeology don’t mean all that much. Honestly, it seems we dig where digging is possible and space is available. But, 1) a lot doesn’t get preserved, and 2) there’s a lot more places to dig.


  2. >Matt,You are right. There is much that needs to be done in digging for information. Since excavating can also mean the destruction of what is in a site, archaeologists are very careful when and where they dig. You can never replace what has been destroyed. For this reason, archaeologists are very selective in digging a site. Archaeologists leave much undone for future generations to dig, at a time when better methods become available.Thank you for visiting my site and for your comment.Claude Mariottini


  3. >What of the possibility of the habiru including the Hebrew people? To put it a different way, we know with some certainty that there were Semitic slaves in Egypt, couldn’t some of those been Hebrews?


  4. >Dear Matthew,I believe that the possibility of “habiru” in Egypt is one of the best explanations for the presence of slaves in Egypt. Although some scholars disagree, I believe there is a relationship between the words “habiru” and “Hebrew.” We have archaeological evidence for Ramses II bringing many “habiru” to work on royal projects in Egypt. So, your suggestion has a lot of merit. But, of course, minimalists will disagree with your views and mine.Thank you for visiting my blog and for your comments.Claude Mariottini


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