Patterns of Evidence: Exodus

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My most popular post on this blog has been, by far, Meshing Egyptian and Biblcal Timelines, which has prompted a lot of discussion in its comments section. The issue of Egptian chronology is one I had absolutely no knowledge of before a homeschool World History course I was teaching brought it to my attention. I did a little reading on it, not much, and learned the currently “accepted” chronology allows no evidence for Joseph, Hebrew slaves, or the Exodus within the centuries that line up with a biblical reckoning. I also learned that plenty of scholars, both secular and biblical, hotly debate the accuracy of the “accepted” chonology; there is simply too much they don’t know to put these dates so solidly in stone. And I learned that there happens to be a wealth of archeological evidence to support Joseph and the Israelite presence, as well as their sudden absence, that would fit perfectly with secular history if the “accepted” chronology shifted slightly.

Not long ago, I found a documentary on Netflix entitled Patterns of Evidence: Exodus. It’s well done, clear, concise, interesting, and shows how well the evidence really does line up with the bibilcal account. It also reveals the rigid resistance within the secular archeological community to take the Bible as a reliable historical document or adjust their dates. I thought this would be an excellent time to feature this documentary, as the Passover season and its celebration of the Exodus approaches.

If you don’t have Netflix, Paterns of Evidence: Exodus is also available to stream on Amazon for 3.99.

 

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Meshing Egyptian and Biblical Timelines

Since I’m always fascinated by anything relating to the Exodus, I was intrigued by an article by Dr. Elizabeth Mitchell titled “Doesn’t Egyptian Chronology Prove That the Bible is Unreliable?” The article was one of many that make up The New Answers Book 2, which is edited by Ken Ham and put out by Answers in Genesis. In it, Dr. Mitchell proves exactly the opposite. To quote from her final paragraph, “Accepting traditional Egyptian chronology (which, I might interject, has been found faulty by many secular historians) necessitates rejection of biblical truth. Accepting biblical chronology allows a reconstruction of ancient chronology on a foundation of truth. Viewing the evidence from a biblical framework makes the histories of Egypt and the Old Testament fit together like two sides of a zipper.”

The article draws on the work of David Down, whose book Unwrapping the Pharaohs is one I want to read. It points out synchronisms, or points of agreement, between the Old Testament and Egyptian sources, which provide key references to align the historical records. In this post, I’ll only summarize the ones related to Moses and the Israelites.

1.  Joseph may well have been Sesostris I’s vizier, Mentuhotep of the 12th dynasty. This vizier is described as a man of great authority and power, one who saw his people through a time of great famine due to prior preservation of food.

2. Sesostris III built the cities of Bubastis, Qantir, and Ramses using bricks made of mud and straw instead of the earlier stone. A large slave population lived in Egypt during this time (second half of 12th dynasty).

3. Cemeteries in parts of Egypt with large slave populations reveal that an incredibly high percentage of the dead were infants (65%). Recall Pharaoh’s slaughter of Israelite baby boys. Also, many two- to three-month-old babies were found buried in boxes under houses.  Slightly newer cemetaries (dated to late 13th dynasty) hold shallow mass graves of people buried without the usual “grave goods,” as though many bodies needed to be buried quickly. Tenth plague, possibly?

4.  The slave populations suddenly, abruptly left Egypt in the 13th dynasty.  The Exodus? Also, Neferhotep I’s mummy has never been found, and his son, Wahneferhotep never reigned. Could Neferhotep have been buried in the Red Sea with his army? Could his son have died of the tenth plague?

5. The invasion of the Hyksos at the end of the 13th dynasty has always baffled Egyptologists. How could such an advanced culture be suddenly taken over by outsiders without even a battle? But if the Egyptian army drowned in the Red Sea, Egypt would have been at the mercy of invaders.

All these coincidences make for some interesting speculation, do they not? There are many more listed in the article, aligning biblical and Egyptian histories all the way from Egypt’s founding through its Late Period and Judah’s captivity. To me, it’s always so exciting to see the accuracy of the Bible confirmed by secular sources. However, if they disagree, I, like Dr. Mitchell, prefer to rely on the biblical record every time.

Egyptian gods and the Ten Plagues

I’ve recently finished reading the second book in the Kane Chronicles, a middle grade fantasy by Rick Riordan. In it he features many of the Egyptians gods. As the ten plagues in the Passover/Exodus story mock many of the Egyptian gods, I thought it would be an interesting time to research this. Here’s what I learned. I stole pictures from and linked to Ancient Egypt Online, the most extensive and concise site I found.

First Plague:  Water turned to blood

Hapi was a twin deity, the spirit of the upper and lower Nile.

Aaron’s staff turned the Nile River to blood, but the Egyptian magicians were able to replicate the miracle to some extent, so Pharaoh was not overly impressed by the Hebrew God. Nevertheless, there was no drinking water for seven days, and all the fish died. Imagine the stench.

Second Plague:  Frogs

Heqet was the frog-headed goddess of fertility.

Aaron’s staff again brought about this plague. There were frogs everywhere: in houses, in beds, in food, getting squashed underfoot. Gross! Again the Egyptian magicians were able to produce frogs, but unlike the God of Moses, they could not make them go away.

Third Plague:  Lice/gnats

Geb was the god of the earth. The lice were made of the dust that rose when Aaron struck his staff against the earth, so this would have fallen in Geb’s jurisdiction.

This is last time Aaron’s staff is used and the first time the magicians could not match the plague. “This is the finger of God,” they said. Yet Pharaoh remained unmoved.

Fourth Plague:  Flies

This one’s not so black-and-white. The best answer I’ve seen is that it was a mockery of Khepri, a beetle-headed god who moved the sun.

The fourth plague marks the first that affects Egypt but not the Hebrew slaves. It also is the first that brings destruction. Pharaoh begins to plead and bargain with Moses, he even relents and grants the slaves permission to leave, but when the plague is lifted, he reneges on his word.

Fifth Plague:  Cattle

There were lots of gods associated in some way with cows or bulls: Hathor, Amon, Bat, Apis, Buchis, Mneuis, Ptah, and Ra.

This plague came with a grace period. Moses warned Pharaoh a day before the plague occurred, offering a chance to avoid this economic disaster, but Pharaoh’s heart remained hard.

Sixth Plague:  Boils

Isis, the goddess of medicine and peace, would have been called upon to relieve this plague.

This unannounced plague becomes even more personal, effecting the very bodies of the Egyptians. It takes out the Egyptian magicians, who are now “unclean” and unable to stand before Pharaoh or their gods for the remainder of the plagues. But it is not enough to move Pharaoh.

Seventh Plague:  Hail

Nut was the goddess of the sky and should have been able to contain what fell to earth.

This plague is unique in that it allows the Egyptian people to make their own choice. They are warned in advance what would befall, and some chose to believe Moses and take shelter. Others, like Pharaoh, remained loyal to the gods. Interestingly, the hail destroys flax, which the Egyptians used in the making of clothing, and barley, used primarily in fermented drinks. It did not destroy their food crop of wheat.

Eighth Plague:  Locust

Osiris, god of the underworld, was credited with the growth of vegetation and crops. Also, Senehem was a minor god with a locust head and was supposed to protect from pests.

Having still not heeded Moses’s call to repent, Pharaoh now dooms the Egyptian’s wheat crop. There is now no meat, nor is there bread.

Ninth Plague:  Darkness

Ra was the most powerful god of all, the sun god; Horus was another major god whose right eye was the sun and his left was the moon.

Here God demonstrates his power over the most worshipped object in the Egyptian religion–the sun–proving even the strongest of Egyptian gods futile, weak, and false. By now, God has completely devastated the Egyptian economy and their religion. These three days of darkness must have been terrifying on both a psychological and spiritual level.

Tenth Plague:  Death of the firstborn

Anubis was the god of the dead. Osiris was considered the giver of life; Pharoah, the ultimate power in Egypt, was worshiped as a god, yet he could not save his own son.

Pharaoh again bargains with Moses, offering them freedom if they would leave their animals behind (because Egypt has none). When Moses refuses, Pharaoh, in a great irony, threatens Moses with death. But it is the Egyptian firstborn who would die for Pharaoh’s pride. Only at this point, after Pharaoh has brought complete devastation on his country, does he relent.

The action now shifts to the Hebrews, who have been passive observers since plague three. They now are called upon to act in faith, and the first Passover is observed in direct obedience to God’s orders.

In this study, I’ve been fascinated by the direct way God reached out to the Egyptian people. He showed them his power in ways they understood and could not ignore, He demonstrated the futility and falseness of their religion, and He offered them every opportunity to turn to Him.  I believe many of them probably did. His plagues were just as much a plea with the Egyptian people as they were a judgement. It makes me appreciate this, my very favorite Bible story, even more and reminds me that God “is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” He still reaches out to individuals and offers this same choice. What a powerful, personal, compassionate God we serve.