Friday, April 22, 2016

No Exodus, And Maybe Moses

Passover starts today. According to the Torah[1] the holiday is the annual commemoration of the escape of the Hebrews from Egypt. It’s a great story, but the problem is that it’s almost certainly a story. It doesn’t hold together, and that’s even without getting into the magical elements, but the whole thing is more mythic account than clear reporting. It’s a story.

The first little hint is that we now know that the Egyptians used contract labor to build their pyramids.[2] No slaves. The phrase “for we were contract laborers in Egypt” just lacks something. There’s no indication that the contract laborers were some sort of foreign presence either. But someone could argue that the records of all this were lost.[3] Not gonna wash.

The bigger problem comes at the other end, where all the archeological evidence of Bronze-Age Israel indicates a standard slow rise of populations (with the occasional falls due to the usual, followed by slow rise). No big jumps in population because a major group suddenly came in, or city suddenly being established that didn’t start out as much smaller communities.[4] As you add up the evidence, it seems clear that there was no Exodus.

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