The mythology/historicity of the Hebrew exodus

I know the general consensus of the historical validity of the exodus is that if it happened at all, it wasn’t anything like the Bible made it out to be. But is there NO evidence that it may have happened? There has to be something out there, and I was hoping someone here could shed some light on this.

Also, what are some of the most important research documents or books pertaining to the subject? There are countless books that claim to approach the Bible from a factual, historical point of view, but I’m wary of bias. Can someone point me to any good, accurate, unbiased authors or archaeologists that have extensively researched the subject?

– Should this be in General Questions?

There doesn’t have to be. What would you expect to find that would be a unique remnant of such an occurrence? Nomadic passings don’t leave much, and they’re all pretty similar. All we have that’s unique are the records, and we have those only from the Hebrew side, and they date from long after the event. AFAIK we have nothing at all corresponding to these events in Egyptian records (we don’t even know exactly when this is supposed to have occurred – although a lot of people have settled on Rameses II for various reasons), let alone anything like the events described.

Not that I’m aware of, and plenty to show that it didn’t.

Does there?

At another forum I frequent, a long and detailed post was made on this subject:

Basically, there is NO evidence that it happened, many reasons to think that it couldn’t have happened, and all the positive evidence that we have says that the Jews were indigenous to the area around Judea, instead of coming in from Egypt and kicking everyone else’s ass.

According to The Bible Unearthed, by Neil Asher Silberman and Israel Finkelstein, there is no extra-Biblical evidence the Exodus ever happened, and there should be, if it did happen. No trace in Egyptian histories, no archaelogical evidence in the Sinai of the passage of a large nation on the move, no evidence of the Israelites suddenly appearing in and conquering Canaan – nothing. No united empire of Israel-Judah, either – so far as can be known, they were always separate kingdoms. Silberman and Finkelstein’s theory is that the Hebrews actually lived in the neighborhood of Jerusalem from prehistoric times, centuries before their purported entry on the scene. The story of the Exodus and conquest probably was invented for propaganda purposes during the reign of King Josiah of Judah, who welcomed refugee priests from the recently destroyed kingdom of Israel. This, you understand, was an age when conquest was believed to confer more legitimate title to territory than ancient occupation.

There is a theory, which seems to have some substance, that Egypt’s Mt. Sinai is not the one in Exodus, but that the Biblical Mt. Sinai is in Saudi Arabia. That would greatly alter the actual route of the trip from Egypt to Canaan. Now, I don’t know how hospitable Saudi Arabia is to archaeologists, anyway, much less Biblical ones,
but it’s possible that great finds remain untouched in the Arabian deserts.

Why would people make up that they were descended from slaves, though? It’s like falsely putting on your resume that you spent the last five years in prison.

They’ve found the remains of the camps of the workers who build the pyramids, which were in an area far more likely to be disturbed than the middle of the Sinai, and just as old. 40 years of campsites for such a large population would have left some major traces, especially in an environment that would help preserve them. Even if they were super careful to pack up their supplies at each stop, there would be 40 years of dried up scat to find - nice Kosher scat. Unless mannah was so efficient a food source that they didn’t have to poop, something I don’t remember hearing about in Hebrew School.


And how would you determine that these were the camps of Hebrews fleeing Egyptian bondage? I don’t know about the Pyramid worker camps, but presumably they were identified as such by unmistakable evidence. But how do you tell one random passage from another? And what makes you think they camped in the same pla ce for forty years? The biblical account has them wandering during that time.

The Israelites supposedly camped at Kadesh Barnea for 38 of their 40 years. That’s 2 million people camping at one oasis for 38 years – a city – yet not one single sign of human occupation of any kind can be found there within centuries of the time in question. Archaeologists are able to identify camp fires left by small groups of wandering nomadics in the Sinai that are hundreds of year old, but not so much as a single potsherd or bone fragment or any sign of human habitation at all where the Bible says 2 million people lived for 38 years.
There are also no signs of Israelite presence (orany other human presence) anywhere else in the Sinai at anywhere near the relevant time.

No sign of Israelite presence has ever been found in Egypt either, despite the fact that they allegedly spent 400 years there.

Many of the place names in Exodus are anachronistic and correspond to the 7th Century BCE rather than anything close to any of the proposed datings of the Exodus. These are not just different names, but places which simply did not exist at all during the time the Exodus supposedly happened.

There is likewise no evidence for the conquest of Canaan, or for any migration into Palestine from the Sinai.

The archaeological evidence all points to that distinct cultural group known as Israel arising from indigenous Canaanite groups (possibly from a loose confederation of semi-nomadic “Hapiru” tribes) around 1200 BCE.

The Exodus story in the Bible is likely inspired or influenced by the Hyksos expulsion, and the character of Moses may be loosely based on the Pharaoh Ah-Mose, but all the archaeological evidence suggests story that was constructed around the 7th Century BCE to retroject a mythic orgin and conquest history onto the Israelites.

For one thing, the times don’t line up. The pyramids were built a thousand years before the Israelites were supposedly in bondage. For another thing, he didn’t say the camp sites were foun in the Sinai, he said they were found in areas more likely to be disturbed than the Sinai.

This is a common misconception, but the Bible says they stayed at Kadesh Barnea for 38 years.

You misunderstand – I wasn’t saying that the camps at the pyramids might be those of the Hebrews – I was comparing the two cases.

This I do not recall, and I read Exodus many times. I will have to check it again.

How certain are they that they know where Kadesh Barnea is? I know of more than one named site that there is considerable skepticism about.

What two cases? There is nothing to comapare the camps of the pyramid workers to. There are no camps of any kind whatsoever in the Sinai at any time anywhere close to the alleged time of the Exodus.

It’s in Deuteronomy.

The identification of Kadesh Barnea is reasonably solid, and well accepted. There are some who doubt it, but ironically, a lot of the doubters base their reluctance to accept the identification on the very fact that it lacks evidence of human occupation during the late bronze or early iron ages.

It’s kind of an academic point anyway, since there is no sign of human presence anywhere else in the Sinai at that time either, so it’s not like there are any more likely candidates.

At best, this whole line is an argument from absence anyway. The factual statement that there is no archaeological evidence is not rebutted by hypothesizing that the evidence just hasn’t been found.


The Midrash says this is in fact the case. Because a food which is a miraculous heavenly gift would never be so gross as to produce excrement.

Go back and read what I wrote – I wasn’t at all saying that the Pyram,id builders were the Israelites. I was saying that, in that case there were presumably things which identified the pyramid–builder camps as being that – I’m not familiar with them. But I asked what could possibly identify any excavated nomadic camps as being associated with a possible Hebrew exodus, rather than being random nomadic camps. I didn’t know that they were stated to be holed up for 38 years at one site (which pretty much makes it a “settlement” in my mind, rather than a “camp”)

Thanks. I will look it up. And I meant “Exodus:” in terms of the event, not the book of the Bible.

That’s nice, but it’s not the argument I’m, making – I’m not arguing that there hasn’t been any evidence found, and therefore this might actually have happened. I’m simply saying that I find it hard to imagine what evidence could exist that would be capable of proving it. If you’ve read my responses over the years – and I know you have – you know I’m a skeptic.

Well, this would be a fair question if any camp sites were being excluded as possibly being Hebrew, but there aren’t any camp sites at all in the appropriate times and places, so cultural identification is moot point.

Any evidence at all of a mass migration out of Egypt, across the Sinai Peninsula and into Palestine would lend some credence to a historical core. Any evidence of an Israelite presense in Egypt would work too. It’s not that anyone is saying we should expect every word of the story to be provable as literal, historical truth, but there isn’t even evidence of a historical kernel.

Believe me, it’s not as capricious as saying. “well, you can’t prove that camp site is Israelite.” It’s that there is no evidence of any human presence at all anywhere in the Sinai at anywhere near the alleged time of the Exodus.

That’s what I get for going to a Conservative temple. :slight_smile: I’m sure I would have remembered hearing this, because we would have been smirking about it for weeks.

First, you’d be able to tell the size of the campsite, and distinguish it from that of small bands of travelers/nomads. Second, I mentioned campsites, not a single campsite, but I’m sure they weren’t on the move every day. I suspect that if any such large campsite were found, the artifacts could be dated to see if they were a plausible remnant of the Exodus.

But, with tens of thousands of Jewish mothers around, maybe the Hebrews would have picked up every last possession at all times.

Here’s the Dope on the Pyramid village. When I was there in April our guide was very emphatic about the pyramids not being built by slaves.

I brought it up as an example of a site from that far back or further which was identified under much worse conditions than a possible site in the Sinai. The village is 1,000 yards from the Sphinx - it is a wonder they didn’t put a KFC on it long before now.