This is a difficult time for most of us, maintaining social distancing, with less access to many of the entertainments and obligations that occupy normal life. To help, we’re introducing a new feature called “Library Explorer,” enabling you to dig deeper into a select topic of Bible history and archaeology each week. This allows us to draw on the wealth of material we have produced since 1974, utilizing some of the 9,000+ articles that are available to Digital and All Access subscribers in the BAS Library.
Our next collection is, “Exodus/Egypt.” It will be available, free to all, until Monday, April 20th. Stay tuned for future topics, introduced each Friday.
And if you haven’t read our collection “Where Jesus Walked, now is the time. It goes back into our members only vault Monday April 13th, 2020.
It’s the most dramatic event in the Hebrew Bible—the flight of the Israelites from Egypt and their miraculous escape across the Red Sea. The articles we’ve selected here address several key issues: How much history is contained in the Biblical account? What was life like in ancient Egypt? What is the story of the Ten Plagues trying to convey? And much more.
The articles below were hand-selected by Biblical Archaeology Society editors especially for members of the BAS Library.
Regular Biblical Archaeology Review contributor Mary Joan Winn Leith provides a fresh perspective on the language and imagery of the Book of Exodus by exploring ancient Egyptian iconography of power and authority. Through their acute awareness of Egyptian propaganda and art, the biblical writers and storytellers successfully inverted the very same imagery to illustrate Pharaoh’s ineptitude when confronted by Moses and the Israelite God Yahweh.
BAR, Sep/Oct 2003
by Manfred Bietak
The history behind the biblical tradition of Israel in Egypt has always excited scholars and laymen alike. The subject may seem somewhat worn out, however, especially in view of the current “minimalist” tendencies in scholarship. I do not claim to be a Bible scholar myself—I am an Egyptologist. But sometimes an outsider can shed new light on an important subject. I hope that will be the case here.
BAR, Jul/Aug 2000
by Alan R. Millard
Recent attacks on the historicity of the Exodus raise the question of whether or not a text prepared long after the event is likely to be historically accurate. For it is undoubtedly true that the text of Exodus was prepared centuries after the events it describes. The Exodus would have occurred, in archaeological terms, in the Late Bronze Age (13th century B.C.). According to the Biblical chronology, the Exodus occurred before the establishment of the Israelite monarchy in about 1000 B.C. The existing Exodus text, however, was hardly prepared before that time.
BAR, Jan/Feb 1999
by Barbara Lesko and Leonard Lesko
Whatever doubts scholars may entertain about the historicity of the Exodus, memories of an Israelite sojourn in Egypt seem too sharply etched to dismiss out of hand. The Biblical account simply contains too many accurate details and bears too many correspondences with Egyptian records to ignore. And although in our current state of knowledge we cannot say whether or how ancient Israelites labored for the pharaohs, we do know the conditions under which Egypt’s own laborers worked. Indeed, archaeologists at Deir el-Medina, Egypt, have uncovered the well-preserved village—including the homes, tombs, statuary, personal letters and legal documents—of the Egyptian craftsmen who built the royal tombs in the Valley of the Kings. Readers can decide for themselves whether the Israelites worked in similar circumstances before the onset of a great oppression.
BAR, Jan/Feb 1998
by Abraham Malamat
Nothing in the archaeological record of Egypt directly substantiates the Biblical story of the Exodus. Yet a considerable body of Egyptian material provides such close analogies to the Biblical account that it may, in part, serve as indirect proof for the Israelite episode.
BAR, Sep/Oct 1994
by Charles R. Krahmalkov
The Exodus from Egypt, followed by the invasion and conquest of Palestine, lies at the heart of the Biblical account of Israel’s origins. A number of modern scholars, however, reject the entire story. It is, in their view, little more than a pious fabrication written hundreds of years after the events described.
BR, Jun 1990
by Ziony Zevit
When the enslaved Israelites sought to leave Egypt, Pharaoh said no. The Lord then visited ten plagues upon the Egyptians until finally Pharaoh permanently relented—the last of the plagues being the slaying of the first-born males of Egypt. Some of the plagues are the type of disasters that recur often in human history—hailstorms and locusts—and therefore appear possible and realistic. Others, less realistic, border on the comic—frogs and lice. Still others are almost surrealistic—blood and darkness—and appear highly improbable.
BAR, Jul/Aug 1984
by Bernard F. Batto
If there is anything that sophisticated students of the Bible know, it is that yam sûp, although traditionally translated Red Sea, really means Reed Sea, and that it was in fact the Reed Sea that the Israelites crossed on their way out of Egypt.
Well, it doesn’t and it wasn’t and they’re wrong!
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