*Tel Aviv University. Prof. Ze’ev Herzog, in a 1999 article in Ha’aretz, said:
“The Israelites were never in Egypt, did not wander in the desert, did not conquer the land in a military campaign and did not pass it on to the 12 tribes of Israel.”*
*“The ancient Egyptians kept meticulous records of every event, and there is a great deal of documentation about the kingdom’s political and military life … . Yet there is not a single mention of any ‘Children of Israel’ who lived in Egypt, or rebelled against it, or emigrated from it at any time.”
Source: Shlomo Sand, The Invention of the Jewish People (2008); Arthur Koestler, The Thirteenth Tribe: The Khazar Empire and Its Heritage (1976)*.
Is this true? Is this all just some lie made by white scholars and white religious leaders?
Or does our faith and the Bible have the historical accuracy it claims?
Archaeologists have trouble finding anything concerning Jewish history on existing ancient Egyptian structures or elsewhere of the Ramses II/Seti era. Some believe this was because they were an embarrassment and something that should be forgotten. I recall a documentary that one hieroglyph contained a vague benign one line reference to them, and nothing that implied they were a threat or troublemakers.
While I know there is doubt about the story of the Jewish captivity, I have a hard time trusting a writer who starts his article with: “Jews lie. Jews have always lied. And most assuredly, Jews are still lying today about everything that has to do with themselves and their sordid history.”
One has to keep in mind that the concept of the Hebrews “coming out” of Egypt isn’t meant to be a literal, historical-as-we know-it-today event. When the holy books were compiled and edited during the Babylonian exile, much thought was given as to what exactly it meant to be Jewish without the Temple and sacrifices that were supposed to atone for sin. The Old Testament stories are meant to be a cultural history of Judaism, not an encyclopedic one. Divine revelation took centuries to unfold; we cannot hope that the complex relationship between God and man can be explained in such a brief and simplistic manner.
Ancient Egyptians were not “black men.” Ancient Egyptians looked very similar to the Ancient Jews. So the idea that Exodus was a “White Lie” to keep down the “Black Man” is ridiculous.
History is written by the winners. The idea that Egypt didn’t have a single Jewish slave is laughable. Sure, it’s quite possible that Egypt never launched a military campaign against the Jewish people. But it is conceivable that slave traders from Egypt migrated north to Israel (instead of going south through the desert or west) and kidnapped and enslaved rural Israelis. T
Egypt also most likely received Jewish slaves from wars against Babylon.
Let’s put yourself in Pharaoh’s shoes for a moment. If your adopted brother betrayed you and ordered you to let some slaves go. And then the God of those slaves humiliated you, the Pharaoh who was supposed to be a living god… would you want your scribes to record that history??? NO
Is it possible that the Jewish people embellished the number of Jewish slaves Moses freed from Egypt? Yes.
Did wander around the desert for 40 years. Yes. But were they literally “lost” and moving camp every day? Maybe not. Most likely, they were roaming the desert in a similar way to how hunters and gatherers migrated their villages as they looked for food. They most likely stayed in one spot for a while (a season, maybe even a year or two) and then migrated to the next place. It’s very doubtful that they were migrating every day for 40 years.
Remember, history is often recorded by the winners, esp in ancient times.
I beg to differ. To Jews as well as Christians, it is most assuredly meant to be a literal history. If it is not so and the Jews did not wander through the desert, this means they also did not receive the Law at Mount Sinai–the Ten Commandments and the Torah–and so G-d did not inspire Moses. For Christians, it means that Jesus did not fulfill the Law nor its prophecies and the foundation of both Christianity and Judaism, as well as Islam, is one huge fabrication.
Oh boy. There’s a lot to unpack here. I’ll try to explain all the flaws in this and to do so calmly.
To start with, be wary of anyone claiming that history was lied about “to keep [insert group here] down!”. I’m not saying it doesn’t happen - there are cases of people from marginalized groups making great contributions and being ignored (Rosalind Franklin being one big example) - but if somebody makes an extraordinary claim and seems to have racial motivations then be wary.
In any case it would be impossible for the story of the Exodus to have originated with “white people” as the story originated with the Israelites (a Middle Eastern Semitic Group) long before Christianity or Judaism became practiced by Europeans.
Likewise the Ancient Egyptians were not “black” in the sense that we think of it. They were indigenous to Africa, but their skin color was likely closer to that of Middle Easterners than to that of Sub-Saharan Africans.
To start with, the article you cited came from an unreliable website. The website in question obviously has anti-semitic leanings, referring to jewish people as “jewry” and stating in their about page that the author of the website has fringe views on the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
While there ARE some scholars who doubt the Israelite Enslavement in Egypt, there are also many scholars who believe that the enslavement (or at least something similar to it) occurred.
That the Israelites invaded the land of Canaan can not be disputed, nor can it be disputed that they lived in a tribal society before crowning Kings. The Israelite Kingdom couldn’t have sprung up from thin air.
The Ancient Egyptians did keep good records … but almost none of them are left. Since they wrote most of their records on papyrus (instead of on long lasting clay tablets like the sumerians), at least 95% of Ancient Egyptian Literature became maggot feed. Even that which they wrote on stone was lost until the 1800s when the Rosetta Stone was uncovered. Likewise the Egyptians also liked to ignore defeats and to exaggerate victories, so I doubt they’d admit if there was a big slave uprising.
In any case, there was a Semitic Group called the Hyksos who moved into Egypt, left, and were blamed for local plagues. It could be that the Hebrews were the Hyksos, or at least a group within the Hyksos.
It is not true. The Jewish People really were in Egypt, they really left, and they really settled in the Canaan Region.
As a side note, the story of the Jewish Escape from Egypt has historically been used to uplift black people, not to “keep them down”. African Americans in slavery used the story of Moses and the Exodus as a source of inspiration and hope. It’s a story where God inflicts suffering and humiliation upon slave owners, sets an enslaved people free, and promises them a land of milk and honey. For someone in a state of slavery, it was really inspiring. It meant that God sympathised with his plight and was not deaf to his suffering.
It’s why Harriet Tubman was nicknamed “Moses”, it’s why southern plantation owners were called Pharaohs, and it’s where the song “Go Down Moses” came from. This legacy even continued into the civil rights movement, with Martin Luther King Jr. making references to Exodus in his speeches.
The thing about history is that absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. If one were to look for evidence of something in the “wrong” period, the supposedly supporting data will be either be missing or misleading and lead to wrong conclusions.
I believe that most of what is recorded in Exodus, and the Pentateuch as a whole, took place. Although, even if it’s not meant to be a historical account I don’t think this poses any problems for the faith.
There are two conflicting claims made of this time, the first is the Jewish claim, the second is the Egyptian claim. The Jewish claim is made in the Bible. The Egyptian claim is made by Manetho from 300BC a substantially long period after the event in question and who had access to Egyptian records. Mentioned in Josephus Against Apion Book 1 beginning about section 14 through 16. Manetho is honest enough to recognize the Jews, however his story telling is slightly victim to perpetrator, perpetrator to victim.
“Many scholars claim” is my first signal. The second signal is “white scholars”, the third signal is the url itself. How many signals do you need to recognize something for what it is.
It is, however, Historical Narrative from the onlooker to the history who knows the involvement of God, of ‘I AM’. It is a “government narrative of a people’s history”, not a supposedly ‘disinterested’ and antiseptic statement of mechanical observations.
A non-knower of the LORD would look at Abraham about to slay Isaac and say, “This man who had land in Hebron named Abraham was about to offer his son to a god on a mountain and then decided not to when he saw a ram caught in a thicket, and then took the opportunity to keep his son alive. He was very confused in his behavior because of his religious aberrations.”
Either way, Isaac was saved from ‘devotion to destruction’, yet the Scriptural historical narrative is our people’s narrative; we know what really happened, while the ‘secular analyst’ does not.
Moses did not give the people the Law we love - rather, The LORD gave Moses the Law which he gave to us.
Joshua did not strategize to defeat Jericho - rather, Joshua was a faithful servant of the LORD, who defined the service his People would perform in marching for a week around the city, then blow the rams horns and burn the city. The city was returned to the LORD and nothing kept (except by two who did not behave as servants of the LORD).
Any and every telling of who and what we are must include the LORD if it is to be an accurate telling of our being. Any and every telling of all creation’s history, not just of those who serve Him.
I beg to differ. To say that the stories as recounted are “literal history” is to err. Did the Jews wander for literally 40 years in the desert or is the mysterious number 40 that pops up all over the Bible a symbolic way of expressing a long expanse of time? Did Jonah really go to Ninevah, preach to the enemies of Israel and convert them to penance? Your analysis makes Judeo-Christian religious thought a house of cards, where if one thought is not a literal, historical fact, then the whole thing comes down.
Oh, I see. So it is “literal history,” but not one of “mechanical observations;” it is only for those who know the ins and outs of it? Sounds more like a secret society than a plain and literal observation of historical fact. If one has to know how to interpret stated facts and observations, then it isn’t a literal history.