Exodus: Literal or figurative? (did it really happen?)


Hi! So I was watching this documentary about the book of Exodus on PBS and it was talking about how there is no evidence that the exodus ever actually happened. I am reading the book of Exodus and Numbers in bible study so I was a little bit concerned that I was being taught about something that may have never happened, So my question is: Should Exodus be read literally or figuratively? Thank you!


Everything in history is not recorded in multiple sources.

There is no reason to think that Jews were never held in slavery in Egypt and then fled to Israel.


Thank you for the reply, but (and I should have clarified in my post) that it specifically said that the mass migration would have been much, much smaller group of canaanites, not isrealites. Also it said that the accounts of joshua’s army, destroying multiple cities did not correlate with the finding of the archaeologists.


It’s quite literal. The idea that it did not occur is a recent invention. The Jewish people have been observing Passover for a long time.



The Exodus is real history so it should be read literally. It is a real historical event whatever you may hear from non-believers. There is no indication among the Israelite people before the time of Jesus, from Jesus himself, the apostles, the first christians, or the entire Tradition of the Catholic Church that the Exodus is non-historical. As another poster mentioned, the Passover is still celebrated among the Jews today as it was when Jesus was on earth. The sacrifice of the passover lamb was a figure of the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross for the redemption of all humanity.


I doubt that the Exodus story is literal history, although there may have been a smaller event that was the basis for the biblical version. The historical accuracy of the Exodus account has no impact on my faith, anymore than the historical accuracy of the Genesis stories. Of course some Christians and Jews think otherwise, but many faithful Christians (and many Jews) view the Exodus story as largely figurative.


Thank you so much Ed, Richca, and TMC! I was a catholic turned atheist and now trying to find my way back to the church. These are just some of the questions that bother me. I’m a bit of a doubter when it comes to many events of the bible now so I am just trying to figure it out. Thanks again :slight_smile:


Go slow with your journey back. Some things are hard to understand so pray about them. Don;t force your brain to understand what is not understandable.

I too have read that there is absolutely zero evidence of the Jews being in Egypt or that they helped build the pyramids.

I could focus on that and get really hung up on it, or focus on what I do know - that when I pray, that when I act in such a way to build a relationship with Christ I can tangibly feel the love.

Does that mean my faith is founded purely on feelings rather than reason - absolutely not, it’s just that as St. Augustine wrote “If you can understand it, it is not God.”

What is more important than understanding how literally true Exodus is? It;s understanding the message of the Exodus, and how it ties both into Christ’s Passion, death and Resurrection, and our own journey from slavery in sin and various forms of death towards freedom in Christ.


I have always understood it to be historical.

What is interesting is when I traveled to Egypt in the late 90’s, the tour guide spent much of the tour trying to relay that the pyramids were in fact built by citizens and not slaves. And that Egypt didn’t have slavery :rolleyes: It was un-nerving listening to the tale told by someone who was trying to muddy up history.

Our tour guide was Muslim so that might be why the story. She was challenged and I will have to say the tour guide knew her stuff and painted a very logical story.

I didn’t buy it though :slight_smile:


It is TRUE! As TRUE as Jesus story!

I saw a documentary on this

Evidence is emerging,
The slaves in egypt left written graffiti in HEBREW during the years history places them as in Egypt in slavery. Lpts of evidence was shown! Farmers found abondoned mines where slaves had.written on the walls and yes, Hebrew graffiti was found.

Part of the red sea has evidence along the sea bed of EGYPTIAN chariot wheels! Still there. They could even match the design of one such wheel to a painting from a specific period in Egyptian history that matched with the time the hebrew slave graffiti was found.

It happened.
The Exodus Revealed - Search for the Red Sea Crossing:

Best historical exodus documentary ever:



It really happened.


Could you cite a source for the ‘many’ part? Passover is about some figurative event?



The world hates Jesus. The world hates God. Therefore, the world is GOING to try and do their best to prove that God doesn’t exist. And when churches jump on this bandwagon in the name of “inclusiveness” and political correctness, you can believe the Holy Spirit is grieved.


I think I read this ages ago, and if I remember rightly…

The argument goes something like - whatever the Israelites were meant to build in Exodus wasn’t built by slaves (as the Israelites were meant to be), but by a tribe of indentured bondsmen, who had possessions, houses, livestock and their own Priests.

Except if you read Exodus, the Israelites seem to have their own possessions, livestock houses and Priests… the main issue is that they appear to not be permitted to leave Egypt, and are forced to serve Pharaoh…

a bit like indentured bondsmen! :rolleyes:


I personally know many Jews, and belief in Exodus being historically accurate runs about 50/50 in the Jews I have asked. If you google the topic you can find statements from Rabbis on both sides of the issue.


What is interesting about our present approach to historical and scientific PROOF is that we feel we must know everything right away. Historical and archaeological evidence has taken many years to appear. Interpreting what it all means takes time, too. Our Bible is a tradition and a facet of collecting history.

Relativism and the study of myths encourages us to believe it is all a myth. Yet, what if some of these stories are true?

Many people laughed about the parting of the Red Sea, then we discovered that there is a ridge under the Red Sea that has appeared when the water or tides went out, then got covered again. Why couldn’t this have been where Moses led his people? Why couldn’t God have led him to the right place at the right time?

We laughed about the Noah’s ark story, then we are told that a large boat is frozen into Mt. Ararat?

My faith does not depend upon the miracles but miracles have led people to their faith. Much is yet to be revealed.


I take the whole Bible literally as it was God-Inspired. Of course, there are the stories that Jesus tells that are not literal but if we begin to doubt one section of the Bible where do we end? We, as men, can not understand the depth of the omnipotence of our Creator but God is so much bigger than our understanding no matter what our scientific and historical discoveries have been.

God bless…



From the Jewish World Review.




It is important to be aware that many documentaries on TV that have negative attitudes towards what the bible is telling us, is coming from minds that are unbelievers.

We need to pray for them.


I like that general summary of the problem with Academia

[quote=]Why, he asked, would scientists, who are supposed to pursue truth and not have an emotional investment in any evidence, be angered by the big-bang theory? The answer, he concluded, is very disturbing: many scientists do not want to acknowledge anything that may even suggest the existence of G-d. The big-bang theory, by positing a beginning to the universe, suggests a creator and therefore annoys many astronomers.

This anti-religious bias is hardly confined to astronomers. It pervades academia, home to nearly all archaeologists.

It’s funny, but I doubt many people know that the big bang theory was theorised by a Priest… otherwise they’d hate it even more :shrug:

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