The Israelite Exodus

The Eyewitness of History

Picture of the SphinxThe Sphinx is a couchant sentinel on the borders of the Egyptian desert. The Stele of Thothmes IV is found between the paws. There has been much speculation concerning the timing of the Exodus of the Hebrews from Egypt into the wilderness. When this great liberating event took place it was preceded by a number of smaller but no less significant episodes.

When was the Exodus? We will attempt to answer this question from the evidence available. On the surface, there is nothing within the Biblical account to specifically fix the date, nor are there any Egyptian documents which can claim to settle the matter either.

We'll begin by setting the stage.

Nearly 300 years had elapsed since the death of Joseph, and Jacob's people had been in Egypt some 370 years. Their previously privileged status had gone. They had become a slave nation under a new pharaoh, belonging to a dynasty which had long forgotten Egypt's debt to Joseph. The Israelite community had become too large and established, constitut­ing an imposing security risk.

It was within this hostile climate that Moses confronted pharaoh with the demand, "Let my people go..." (EXODUS 5:1).

He was met with the predicted resistance which in turn was followed by a succession of plagues. After each one pharaoh promised to relent, but changed his mind when the affliction passed.

 First, the water of the Nile was turned to blood and became foul, so that it was undrinkable and all the fish in it died. Then frogs swarmed out of the river and spread everywhere, even into beds and cooking utensils. There followed plagues of lice, flies, cattle disease, boils, locusts, hail and three days of darkness.

 The first six plagues can be explained as naturally related catastrophes as a consequence of God's timing. They appear to have afflicted Egypt from August to December with one ostensibly the cause of the other.

The seventh plague (the hailstorm), however, has no apparent associa­tion with those that preceded it and yet the eighth, the plague of locusts, could very well be associated by virtue of the death of thousands of its natural predators earlier in the season (frogs).

The nature of these plagues had an adverse affect on the religious wor­ship of the Egyptians, whereas, it must be said that the Israelites where not affected by these plagues, "And I will sever in that day the land of Goshen, in which my people dwell... and I will put a division between my people and thy people..." (EXODUS 8:22-23).

The Plague of Darkness

The plague of darkness ("that could be felt") lasted 3 days and is maybe more difficult to explain, although just recently scientists from the Smithsonian Institute in Washington may have shed some light on this darkness.

Mount Santorini exploded in the Southern Aegean Sea some 35 centuries ago: it was probably the biggest volcanic out­burst seen by people since the dawn of civilisation.

When Santorini (also referred to as Thera) exploded, it did so with a force at least four times greater than the famous explosion of Krakatoa in 1883 A.D. The volcano ejected a total of between 13 and 18 cubic kilometres of material and the airborne ash was carried largely east and south by the prevailing winds. As it is only 800 kilometres from the site of the eruption to the Nile delta, geologists and archaeologists have speculated that the cloud could have reached Egypt.

Confirmation was established from the examination of 5 core samples drilled from the sediments of the north-eastern Nile delta. The cores contain fragments of volcanic material at a depth corresponding to a date of between 1600 B.C. and 1400 B.C.

This, says the Smithsonian team, "lends further support favouring an important natural phenomenon as recorded in diverse early documents."

Then the Lord said to Moses, "Stretch out thine hand toward heaven, that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, even darkness which may be felt" (EXODUS 10:21).

In the account of the plagues, there is an enormous difference between the first nine and the last one - the death of the first born male.

The former can be explained as natural phenomena, occurring as a result of the wrath and promise of God combined with an abnormally high Nile inundation between August and the following March, but the tenth belongs entirely to the realm of the supernatural.

It seems apparent that it was a retaliatory response to pharaoh killing the first born males of the Hebrew community - Moses being the exception here.

The tenth plague having no natural explanation and readily held in contempt by the sceptic requires another source to substantiate its authenticity.

The evidence may be found from an unlikely alliance - the Sphinx of Gizeh.

The Dream of Thothmes IV

Dating from the 4th Dynasty, this Sphinx was carved from a mass of rock adjoining the Pyramid of Chephren; its paws were cleared of sand drift in 1926 and the dream tablet of Thothmes IV was discovered between them. It contains the record of a prophetic dream which he had while sleeping in the shade of the Sphinx. He was told he would be King of Egypt, although he was not the rightful heir, nor was he the eldest son of Amenhotep II (1447 -1420 B.C.) the most fancied pharaoh of the Exodus. Therefore, there is every reason to assume Amenhotep's successor and firstborn son was the "first born of Pharaoh" slain at the time of the 10th plague.

Thothmes IV became Pharaoh over Egypt and ruled from 1420 B.C. to 1411 B.C.

This tablet, written in stone, gives credence not only to the authenticity of the tenth plague, but offers further sup­port to the date of the Exodus.

The length of the Hebrew sojourn in Egypt was around 400 years as outlined in a promise to Abraham, "...Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years; And also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge: and afterward shall they come out with great substance" (GENESIS 15:13-14).

The Exodus became the great step toward the fulfilment of this promise. With the crossing of the Jordan and the fall of the previously impenetrable Jericho, the Israelite tribes were finally able to wrestle control of Palestine from the original inhabitants.

An Answer from Solomon's Temple

As the history of Israel in Palestine progressed, the Bible gives us a clue to the Exodus date, " the four hundred and eightieth year after the children of Israel were come out of the land of Egypt... he (Solomon) began to build the house of the LORD" (1 KINGS 6:1).

The date of the building of Solomon's temple comes into the range of known authenticated history generally accepted by scholars as one of two dates, 973 B.C. or 959 B.C. These dates put the Exodus at either 1453 B.C. or 1439 B.C.

The evidence (historical, archaeological and biblical) is conclusive: The children of Israel must have moved out of bondage as promised by God and into the Promised Land with the glory of God going before them during the Reign of Amenhotep II (1447 B.C. - 1420 B.C.).

Source: 'Voice of Revival'