Ronald Hendel is the Norma and Sam Dabby Professor of Hebrew Bible at the University of California, Berkeley. He holds a Ph.D. from Harvard University. He is author of numerous articles and books, including Remembering Abraham: Culture, Memory, and History in the Hebrew Bible (Oxford, 2005) and a recent edited volume, Reading Genesis: Ten Methods (Cambridge, 2010). He is also an occasional columnist for Biblical Archaeology Review.
Bible & Archaeology Fest XIV, November 18 – 20, 2011
The Exodus and Cultural Memory
The Exodus is a focus of cultural memory in the Hebrew Bible—it recalls how Israel came into being as a people and nation. This presentation argues that this is the function of the Exodus story from the beginning. As the historical and archaeological evidence indicate, the story does not refer to actual events. Rather it is a cultural memory that effected the coalescence of a group of highland villages into a people and nation. How this story arose and why the early Israelites adopted this memory are key questions, which find coherent answers in the relationship between Canaan and the Egyptian Empire during the Late Bronze Age. By fusing historical and fictional memories, the story, in a sense, created the conditions for the birth of Israel as a people.