For most of the past century, scholars have tended to regard the story of the Exodus as a myth — a story meant to inspire awe and devotion but not one grounded in history. However, recent archaeological discoveries have begun to change that.
The doubts scholars have had about the story of the Hebrews’ flight from Egypt may be summed up in the words of Baruch Halpern, a professor at Penn State: “the actual evidence concerning the Exodus,” he says, “…resembles the evidence for the unicorn.”
As justification for their skepticism, scholars point to the lack of references in Egyptian chronicles of the period to either the Hebrews’ sojourn in Egypt or the Exodus.
But as Jeffrey Sheler points out in the book, “Is The Bible True?,” while there may be no specific mention of the Hebrews in ancient Egyptian records, there is plenty of indirect and circumstantial evidence.
One surviving document refers to a people called the “apiru,” who were workers in an unidentified building project. And this document dates from the reign of Rameses II, the pharaoh of the Exodus.
Scholars have noted the similarity between “apiru” and “Hebrew” — there is no “h” in Semitic languages. Many consider the document a reference to not only the Hebrews in Egypt, but also to their forced labor.
Even those who don’t go that far say that this document, along with others, attests to the presence of a large Semitic population in Egypt at the time of the Exodus.
What were they doing there? Forced labor. In fact, as James Hoffmeier, a professor at Wheaton College points out, “the practice of using forced labor for building projects is only documented for the period of 1450 to 1200 [B.C.], the very time most biblical historians place the Israelites in Egypt.”
As for the absence of references to the Exodus, Sheler points out that Egyptian chronicles were much more propaganda than history. And what ancient despot would want to memorialize an embarrassing defeat?
A writer for Biblical Review offered a humorous translation of what this chronicle of defeat would have said: ” … Rameses the Great … before whom all tremble in awe … announced that the man Moses had kicked his royal [seat] for all the world to see, thus proving that God is Yahweh and the 2000-year-old culture of Egypt is a lie …”
As Sheler writes, we haven’t “heard the last word or seen the last piece of evidence” regarding the Exodus. But what we have seen and heard attests to the fact that the biblical account is indeed more than myth — the evidence increasingly supports its historicity.
Remember, unlike other faiths, biblical faith is rooted in history. Christians believe that God has acted in history, just as He acts in our lives today in order to accomplish His purposes.
More and more, modern archeology is confirming what we know: that trusting in God’s word isn’t like believing in unicorns. On the contrary, believing that Scripture is merely the product of men’s imaginations is the real fairy tale — and a dangerous one, at that.
Copyright (c) 2000 Prison Fellowship Ministries. Reprinted with permission. “BreakPoint with Chuck Colson” is a radio ministry of Prison Fellowship Ministries.
Message Be Strong
Scripture: Joshua 1:9
Pastor David Holwick
First Baptist Church
Ledgewood, New Jersey