Archaeological evidence for

I’ve seen a few history shows now and then that propose that this-or-that historical event proves (or disproves) the events in the book of Exodus.[list=1][li]Just when were the Israelites supposed to have emigrated to Egypt?[/li]
[li]Who was Pharoah back then?[/li]
[li]When did the Israelites’ status change from tenants to slaves?[/li]
[li]Did they really help build the pyramids or is that just convenient symbology?[/li]
[li]Is there any evidence of dramatic, wrath-of-G*D-style plagues occurring at any time in Egyptian history?[/li]
[li]When are the Israelites supposed to have vacated Egypt?[/list=1]Is there any archaeological evidence that supports the Biblical accounts of the above events?[/li]

The Pyramids are not mentioned in the Bible, and are far too early. There is very little (some might say NO) archeolological evidence for the Exodus. However, that sort of thing would not be expected to leave much evidence. Those Archeologists who do accept there was some sort of “exodus” do not think it was anywhere as big or as long as Biblical sources indicate. However, there is some evidence that the numbers, which appear WAY off, are not to be taken literally, but are “Gematria”- ie the numbers have mystical significance (ie the “40 years” is not to be taken as an actual period of time). Of course we do know that at times there were isrealite slaves & mercenaries in Egypt. There are muliple guesses (some more educated than others) as to whom the Pharoah of the exodus was (and thus, when it happened)- i can dig them out if you like.

Certainly there were plagues, we even have a stella complaining of such. Locusts, flies, disease, etc were not uncommon. As to the actual “plagues” inflicted by Moses & Aaron- nope. However, the egyptian histories are well known for their propensity to ignore any losses, or make victories where there were none. Assuming actual non- magic, natural (but sent by “Y”) “plagues”- or a loss of a group of the Pharoahs chariots in the “REED” sea- the egyptians would not have documented anything that humiliating. The thing that makes the Bible better history than some early works, is the the writers also listed the DEFEATS also- as they were used as examples of G-ds punishment for “backsliding”. Pretty much, if one beleives the Egyptian writings- the Egyptians never lost a battle. :smiley:

There is certainly SOME evidence for the “Conquest”- altho the most popular theory now is the “aggresive migration” as opposed to an actual conquest, per se. Oxford accepts at least ONE city conquered by “Joshua”. (Of course we have no evidence whether or not Joshua was a real man. IMHO he was a great general whose exploits, like the “real” King Arthurs, were much mythologized).

There is a bit for the early Kings- David & Solomon- but not much.

Basicly, pre about 900BC, there is very little solid archeological evidence for anything connected to the Isrealites in the Holy land. That does not mean it did not happen, just that it must be taken on faith.

Danielinthewolvesden wrote:

We do? Ya coulda fooled me. The lack of Israelite artifacts in Egypt, and vice-versa, is supposed to be pretty striking. What’s the evidence that the Israelites ever were in Egypt?

Perhaps he refers to the hapiru.

It is certainly tempting to gloss this as “Hebrew”, though I have never seend a linguistic evaluation of the shifts necessary.

“We know”, as Danielinthewolvesden claims, because (I assume) it says so in the Bible. (How does that song go? “lalalala this I know, 'cause the Bible tells me so.”)

Hapiru was a term applied to a tribe or group that did not accept Egyptian authority. They began emigrating into modern Israel/Lebanon/Jordan from the north and northeast approximately around the reign of Amenhotep III. They never went to Egypt and any identification with the ibri (Biblical Hebrews) is an unconfirmed toss-up and long a matter of debate within academia, with decent arguments for both sides.

The only thing that comes to my mind is Moses’ name, -moses being an Egyptian suffix meaning “born of” (“Thutmoses” = “born of Thut”.)

What RTA said.

— G. Raven

IIRC, there is a Egyptian stele on which Merneptah (son and successor of Rameses II) records his having defeated Israel in 1232 BCE[sup]1[/sup]. For this reason, Merneptah is often identified as the Pharaoh of the Exodus, and his father with the Pharaoh of the Oppression, although these identifications are hardly unchallengeable.

Incidentally, Merneptah claims to have exterminated Israel; as P.J. O’Rourke suggests, this shows that the quality of war reporting hasn’t changed much in the last three thousand years.

[sup]1[/sup][sub]Actually, a year that equates to this. I agree that the authenticity of a stele on which was written, “I, Merneptah, defeated the hosts of Israel in 1232 BCE” would be extremely dubious.[/sub]

Baloo wrote:

[li]Just when were the Israelites supposed to have emigrated to Egypt?[/li][/QUOTE]


“Emigrate” means to move out of a place. “Immigrate” means to move in. One is said to immigrate to or into a place, and to emigrate from a place.

Carry on.


lalalala = Jesus loves me

Some folks… eeeeverybody sing!!!

Well, of course there were Jewish mercenaries in Egypt, but that was much later, in the Persian and Hellenistic periods, and had nothing to do with the Book of Genesis or the Exodus.

Quotes from “the Oxford History of the Biblical World”: “And what of the harsh tasks inflicted on the isrealites during their servitude? Numerous Egytpian texts dating throughout the second millenium BCE tell us that “Asiatics” (”'amw" the most common appellation employed by Eqytpians for people coming from the general region of ancient Syria-Palestine), like all prisoners of war or foreigners in service to the egyptian crown or temples, were forced to perform a variety of tasks, including agricultural labor & heavy construction work". <later> “Similar parallels exist for an Isrealite “sojourn in Egypt”. Diverse second-millennium BCE records attest that 'asiatics”…living in Egypt and funtioning in a wide variety of capacities for the most menial of slaves to the highest of officials." “A Dynasty 13 papyrus lists, individually, 79 slaves belonging to a household in Upper Egypt; od these 48 had foreign names, mostly Semitic. Middle Kingdom stelas in general often mention Semitic domestic slaves who apparently functioned as trusted family retainers”.

Oxford goes on to mention a number of “asiatics” (Semitics) who rose to high position, and who we know the name but not the “tribe” of. These include “Ben-Anath” and “Aper-El”, both Isrealite names- altho they could have been members of nearby tribes, instead of actual Isrealites.

The problem here, is that the Egyptians did not differntiate between the various Semitic folks- they generally called them ALL “'amw”. The first time the Isrealites are mentioned BY NAME is on a stela that comes from around 1200BCE. The stela, as many such glorifies the Pharoahs military “victories” (including the taking of many prisoners as slaves). On this stela, Gezer etc are IDed as “city-states”, but “Isreal” is further IDed by a sign that is used to indicate “nomads”. (I think this is the stela that Aka mentions)

Thus, Oxford simply uses “occams razor” to assume that since many many Semitic folks lived as 'slaves" in Egypt- thus some must have been “Isrealites”, as there is no reason to assume that the Isrealites, alone of all the peoples in the Holy land, would be spared the raids & slave-taking, (or even voluntary moving ) by the Egyptians. The evidence of the names, etc is solid enough that Oxford has no doubt as to the “sojoun”. Note, Oxford does not think that “Apiru” nessesarily refered to the Hebrew.

There are a few little oddities that go with Isrealites in Egypt, things like some of the name surrounding Moses are Egyptian and not used before or since in the Bible.


Here are answers to some of your questions from the Orthodox Jewish perspective, as taken from the Torah Anthology:

1522 BCE

Not sure, likely Thutmose III.

Approximately 1400 BCE

As stated in the first chapter of Exodus, the Egyptians were afraid of the Jews’ increasing numbers, so they decided to enslave them so that they don’t ever come to throw their political or military support behind Pharaoh’s enemies.

Convenient symbology. What the Hebrews were said to have built were “storage cities.” I suppose that pyramids were storage of a sort…for corpses. But unlikely.

No, but Egyptians never recorded their defeats, only their victories. And apparently the Hebrew records of these events don’t hold much water with you.

1312 BCE

Nothing clear-cut.

As an aside, I’d like to note that this may be touchier a subject that many posters here realize. According to Jewish belief, the Exodus from Egypt (and following events) was the single most important event in Jewish history - as important as the Ressurection is to Christians. This is not a historical anecdote; it is one of the cornerstones of a faith.

So tread lightly.

Whoa, CMK! I’m not being hostile, I’m just curious. No scorn or derision is intended by the above questions.


Some believe that the story of the plagues of Egypt were inspired by real-life events caused by the eruption of the volcano Thera. This eruption probably occurred around 1620 BC and is quite possibly the greatest volcanic eruption in human history. Ash from the volcano has been found as far away as Egypt and Israel (burning hail?). Thera is one of the Greek islands.