International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
I. THE ROUTE
1. The Starting-Point
2. Rameses to Succoth
3. Succoth to Etham
4. Passage of the Sea
5. Other Views of the Route
II. THE DATE
1. Old Testament Chronology
2. Date of Conquest of Israel
3. Date of Exodus
4. Other Views
5. Astronomical Calculations
6. Relation between Date of Exodus and Date of Patriarchs
7. Agreement between Monuments and Old Testament Chronology
8. A Text of Minepthah
III. THE THEORY OF LEPSIUS
1. 1st Argument: City Rameses
2. 2nd Argument: Manetho's Statements
3. Relation of Manetho's Stories to the Exodus
4. Greek and Latin Writings
5. Condition of Egypt under Minepthah
6. Explanations of Minepthah's Statements
(1) Pithore was Heroopolis
(2) Rameses II not Named in Judges
(3) Some Hebrews Were never in Egypt
IV. THE NUMBERS
1. Colenso's Criticism of Large Number
2. Increase of Population
3. Number a Corruption of Original Statement
I. The Route.
1. The Starting-Point:
On the 14th Abib (early in April) the Hebrews were gathered at Rameses (Ex 111:37; Nu 33:5) where apparently the hostile Pharaoh was also living (Ex 12:31). From Ps 78:12,43 it appears that the wonders preceding the Exodus occurred in the "field of Zoan," where the starting-point may be placed (see RAAMSES; ZOAN). Dr. Naville has suggested that the court was at Bubastis, not at Zoan, and that the route lay from near Zagazig down Wady Tumeilat--a line well fitted for a people driving flocks and herds. On the other hand, in favor of the starting-point having been at Zoan, we read that the "way of the land of the Philistines" was "near" (Ex 13:17). This route, which was not taken lest the people should be discouraged by defeat at Gaza where the Egyptians always had troops, reached Egypt at Migdol (see MIGDOL, 2), and ran thence to Daphnai--some 15 miles--and to Zoan by a second march of the same length. The route from Bubastis to Daphnai (some 50 miles) is less likely to have been described as "near." Although an Arab will march 30 miles in a day on foot, yet when moving camp with camels, who travel only about 2 miles an hour, with women and children and herds, he only covers about 12 or 15 miles a day. We cannot suppose the Hebrew cattle to have covered more than this distance without water on any single march.
2. Rameses to Succoth:
We are not told how many days were occupied on the way from Rameses to SUCCOTH (which see), though the general impression is that the stages mentioned (Nu 33) represent a day's journey each. Measuring back from the first camp after crossing the Red Sea, we find that Succoth probably lay in the lower part of Wady Tumeilat, where there was plenty of water and herbage. The direct route from Zoan leads to Phakousa (Tell Faqus) by a march of 15 miles through well-watered lands. A second march, across the desert to Heroopolis and down the valley to Succoth, would be of the same length. The Hebrews departed "in haste," and no doubt made as long marches as they could. If the whole of the people were not in Rameses, but scattered over Goshen, it is possible that some came down the valley from near Bubastis, and that the whole force concentrated at Succoth.
3. Succoth to Etham:
The next march (Ex 13:20; Nu 33:6) led Israel to Etham, on the "edge of the wilderness" which lies West of the Bitter Lakes, not far from where the Nile water then entered them, and no doubt made them sweet. The intention of Moses probably was to reach the desert of Shur by rounding the head of this stretch of water; but we are told (Ex 14:2 f) that he was commanded to "turn"--evidently to the South--and to encamp before "the mouth of the lakes" (see PI-HAHIROTH), in order that Pharaoh might conclude that the Hebrews were "entangled in the land," and shut in between the lakes on their left and the desert mountains on their right. This camp would seem to have been West of the lakes, and some 10 miles North of Suez. It was perhaps two days' journey from Etham, since the lakes are 30 miles long; or, if Etham was farther South than the head of the lakes, the distance may have been covered by one forced march of 20 to 25 miles, the beasts being watered from the lakes if they were then filled with fresh water, as they would be when having an outlet to a tideless sea.
4. Passage of the Sea:
The sea which Israel crossed is not named in the actual account of the journey, but in the Song of Moses (Ex 15:4) it is called the "Red Sea" in the English Versions of the Bible, following the Septuagint, the Hebrew name being Yam Cuph, or "weedy sea," a term which applied not only to the Gulf of Suez (Nu 33:10), but also to the Gulf of 'Aqabah (Dt 28; 1 Ki 9:26). We are also told that the route chosen was "the way of the wilderness by the Red Sea" (Ex 13:18). It is generally supposed that the head of the Gulf of Suez at the time of the Exodus was farther North than at present; and, as the Bitter Lakes were then probably filled by the Nile waters flowing down Wddy Tumeildt, they would no doubt have carried the Nile mud into this gulf, which mud had gradually filled up this Nile branch before 600 BC. The probable point of passage was the narrow channel (about 2 miles across) by which the lakes discharged into the sea, and was thus about 10 miles North of Suez. We are told that the water was driven back by "a strong east (or "contrary") wind" in the night (Ex 14:21), and the sea (or "lake," as the word yam often means in the Old Testament; see Gesenius, Lexicon, under the word) was thus "divided," a shoal being formed and the waters being heaped up (Ex 15:8), so that when the wind ceased they rushed back; whereas, during the passage, they were a "wall" or "defence" (Ex 14:22) against any flank attacks by the Egyptians (compare 1 Sam 25:16, where David's men are said to have been a "wall" when defending Nabal's shepherds). The effect of the wind on shallow waters can be seen at the mouth of the Kishon, where a shoal exists which is dry with a west wind, but under water and impassable when the wind blows down the river. In 1882, Sir Alexander Tulloch saw the waters of Lake Menzaleh driven back more than a mile by the east wind. Thus, however opportune the occurrence, the drying up of the sea, as described in the Bible, was a perfectly natural phenomenon. The Hebrews crossed in the morning, and a march of 15 miles would bring them to the springs from which Suez is supplied, called 'Ain Naba' and 'Ayyun Musa ("the gushing spring" and "the spring of Moses"), from which point their wanderings in the desert of Shur would begin (see WANDERINGS OF ISRAEL).
5. Other Views of the Route:
This view of the Exodus route is practically the same as advocated by Dr. Robinson, by Dr. E. Naville, by Sir S. Warren, by Sir W. Dawson, and by others who have visited the region in question. The view advocated by Brugsch, according to which the sea crossed was a lagoon near Pelusium, has found no supporters, because it directly conflicts with the statement that Israel did not follow the shore road to Philistia, but went by the wilderness of the Red Sea. Another theory (see SINAI), according to which the "Red Sea" always means the Gulf of 'Aqabah, is equally discarded by most writers of experience, because the distance from Egypt to Elath on this gulf is 200 miles, and the Israelites could not have traversed that distance in four marches, especially as the route has hardly any water along it in springtime. As detailed above, the route offers no difficulties that would discredit the historical character of the narrative.
II. The Date.
1. Old Testament Chronology:
The actual statements of the Books of Kings, giving parallel reigns from the time of Solomon's death down to the fixed date of the fall of Samaria in 722 BC, place the foundation of the Temple within a few years of 1000 BC. It is true that this interval is reduced, by about 30 years, by scholars who accept the very doubtful identification of Ahabu of Sir-lai with Ahab of Israel; but this theory conflicts with the fact that Jehu was contemporary with Shalmaneser II of Assyria; and, since we have no historical account of the chronology of Hebrew kings other than that of the Old Testament, for this period, and no monumental notice of Israel in Egypt, or of the Exodus, we must either adopt Old Testament chronology or regard the dates in question as being unknown.
2. Date of Conquest of Israel:
We have several statements which show that the Hebrew writers believed the conquest of Israel by Joshua to have occurred early in the 15th century BC, and this date fully agrees with the most recent results of monumental study of the history of the XVIIIth (or Theban) Dynasty in Egypt, as about to be shown, and with the fact that Israel is noticed as being already in Israel in the 5th year of Minepthah, the successor of Rameses II. In 1 Ki 6:1 we read that the Temple was founded "in the 480th year after the children of Israel were come out of the land of Egypt," this referring to the Conquest and not to the Exodus, as appears from other notices. The Septuagint reads "440 years," but the details show that the Hebrew text is preferable. In Jdg 11:26 the first victory of Jephthah is said to have occurred 300 years after Joshua's conquest. The details given for this interval, in other passages of the same book, amount to 326 years; but the periods of "rest" may be given in round numbers, and thus account for this minor discrepancy. Samuel ruled apparently for 20 years (1 Sam 7:2), and Saul (the length of whose reign is not stated in our present text of this same book) very probably ruled for 20 years also, as Josephus (Ant., VI, xiv, 9) states. Thus 175 years elapsed between Jephthah's victory and the foundation of the Temple--a total of 475 years, or rather more, from Joshua's conquest.
3. Date of Exodus:
The popular belief that many of the judges were contemporary does not agree with these facts, and is indeed in conflict with ten definite statements in Jgs. In Acts 13:19,20 we read that after the Conquest there were judges about the space of 450 years, and this rough estimate (including the rule of Samuel) agrees pretty nearly with the 415, or 420, years of the various passages in the Old Testament. According to the Pentateuch and later accounts (Am 5:25; Acts 7:30), Israel abode in the desert 40 years. We therefore find that Joshua's conquest is placed about 1480 BC, and the Exodus about 1520 BC. According to the revised chronology of the XVIIIth Dynasty of Egypt (see HITTITES), which rests on the notices of contemporary Kassite kings in Babylon, it thus appears that the Pharaoh of the oppression was Thothmes III--a great enemy of the Asiatics--and the Pharaoh of the Exodus would be Amenophis II or Thothmes IV. If Moses was 80 at the time of the Exodus, he must have been born when Thothmes III was an infant, and when his famous sister Hatasu (according to the more probable rendering of her name by French scholars) was regent, and bore the title Ma-ka-Ra. She therefore might be the "daughter of Pharaoh" (Ex 2:5) who adopted Moses--no king being mentioned in this passage, but appearing (Ex 2:15) only when Moses was "grown"; for her regency lasted more than 20 years, till Thothmes III came of age.
4. Other Views:
As regards this date, it should be remarked that theory of Lepsius, which has been adopted by Brugsch and by many writers who accept his authority, is not accepted by every scholar. E. de Bunsen supposed that the Exodus occurred early in the times of the XVIIIth Dynasty; Sir Peter le Page Renouf said that "no materials have yet been discovered for fixing historical dates in periods of Egyptian history as far back as the Hebrew Exodus"--which was true when he wrote. Professor J. Lieblein supposes the Exodus to have occurred late in the time of Amenophis III--also of the XVIIIth Dynasty (see Proc. Biblical Arch. Soc., 1890, 157-60; 1892, 60-62; 1898, 277; 1899, 53; 1907, 214). Dr. Hommel has also recently declared in favor of the view that the Exodus took place under the XVIIIth Dynasty (Expository Times, February, 1899). Lepsius asserted that the Exodus occurred in 1314 BC, being the 15th year of Minepthah; but this is generally regarded as at least half a century too early for the year in question, and Israel was not in Egypt even ten years earlier in his reign.
5. Astronomical Calculations:
The approximate dates given by Brugsch for the XVIIIth and XIXth Dynasties are very close to those which can be deduced from notices of contemporary kings of Babylon (History of Egypt, II, 314). The later dates which Mahler based on certain astronomical calculations of the French astronomer Blot (Academie des inscriptions, March 30, 1831, 597, 602-4) are not accepted by other Egyptologists. Brugsch says that on this question, "scientific criticism has not yet spoken its last word" (Hist Egypt, I, 36). Renouf (Proc. Biblical Arch. Soc., December, 1892, 62) more definitely states that "unfortunately there is nothing on Egyptian documents which have as yet come down to us which can, by astronomical calculations, be made to result in a date." This judgment appears to be justified by recent discoveries, since Mahler's dates are about a century too late, as shown by the known history of the Kassites of Babylon. Biot's calculations were based on recorded observations of the rising of Sirius just before the sun, in certain years of certain Egyptian kings. But Sirius is not in the plane of the earth's orbit, and its rising is not constant in retardation. The "heliacal" rising is now about 2 1/2 min. later each year, but about the date in question the retardation was about 12 min., so that a cycle of 1,461 years cannot be used by simple addition. Blot also assumed that the Egyptian observations were as accurate as those made by a modern astronomer with a telescope, whereas, when using the naked eye, the Egyptian observer may well have been a day wrong, which would make a difference of 120 years in the date, or even more. The Babylonian chronology thus gives a far safer basis than do these doubtful observations. On the basis of Biot's calculations the Exodus has been placed in 1214 BC, or even (by Dr. Flinders Petrie) in 1192 BC (Proc. Biblical Arch. Soc., December, 1896, 248). He thus cuts off more than three centuries in the period of the Judges, many of whom he regards as contemporary. Lepsius in like manner, in order to establish his date, accepted the chronology of the Talmud, which is notoriously 166 years too late for the known date of the fall of Samaria, and he endeavored (while rejecting the Old Testament statement as to the 480 years) to base himself on the number of generations before the Exodus, whereas it is well known that the Hebrew genealogies often give only the better-known names and skip several links.
6. Relation between Date of Exodus and Date of Patriarchs:
As regards the relation between the earlier date for the Exodus (about 1520 BC) and the chronology of the Hebrew patriarchs, the Hebrew text gives an interval of 645 years, and the Greek text of 430 years between the Exodus and the call of Abraham; and the call would thus be dated about 2165 BC or 1950 BC. Abraham is very generally held to have been contemporary with Hammurabi of Babylon (Amraphel), whose accession dates (according to Dr. F. Peiser) in 2139 BC. Dr. Hommel and Mr. King prefer a later date, about 1950 BC, though Nabunahid (the last king of Babylon) places Hammurabi about 2140 BC. The longer reckoning is reconcilable with the Hebrew text, and the shorter with the Greek text, of Gen, without disturbing the approximate date for the Exodus which has been advocated above.
7. Agreement between Monuments and Old Testament Chronology:
There is in fact no discrepancy between the actual results of monumental study and the chronology of the Old Testament. If the Exodus occurred under Thothmes IV, it would have been useless for Israel to attempt the entrance into Israel by the "way of the land of the Philistines," because at Gaza, Ashkelon and in other cities, the road was still held by forces of Egyptian chariots, which had been established by Thothmes III. But about 40 years later the rebellion of the Amorites against Egypt began, in the time of the Egyptian general Yankhamu, and general chaos resulted in Southern Israel The Egyptian garrison at Jerusalem (Amarna Tablets, Berlin, No. 102) was withdrawn in his time--about 1480 BC--and it is then (numbers 102-3-4-6, 199) that a fierce people coming from Seir, and called the 'Abiri or Chabiri, are noticed by the Amorite king of Jerusalem as "destroying all the rulers" of the country. They are not named in any of the other Amarna letters (the term gum-gaz, or "man of war," though once applying probably to them, being used of other warriors as well); and the name is geographical for they are called (no. 199) "people of the land of the 'Abiri." The first sign has the guttural sounds 'A and Chronicles, and has not the sound K, which has been wrongly attributed to it, making the word to mean Kabiri, "or great ones." Nor can it be rendered "allies," for it is the name of a people, and quite another word is used for "allies" in this correspondence. The date agrees with that mentioned in the Old Testament for the Hebrew conquest of Israel,and the only objection to the identification of the 'Abiri (who attacked Ajalon, Lachish, Ashkelon and other cities) with the Hebrews is, that it upsets theory of Lepsius and the popular views as to the date of the Exodus which he maintained.
8. A Text of Minepthah:
Nor is this the only evidence which destroys his theory; for Dr. Flinders Petrie (Contemporary Review, May, 1896) has published an equally important text of the 5th year of Minepthah, from Thebes. A slab of black syenite, bearing this text, was reused from a temple of Amenophis III. In it Minepthah boasts of his conquest of the invaders who--as elsewhere stated--attacked the Delta, and penetrated to Belbeis and Heliopolis. He says that "Sutekh (the Hittite god) has turned his back on their chief"; "the Hittites are quieted, Pa-Kan'ana is ravaged with all violence"--this town being otherwise known to have been near Tyre--"the people of Israel is spoiled, it has no seed"; "Ruten has become as the widows of the land of Egypt." Thus, so far from the Exodus having occurred in the 15th year of Minepthah, Israel is noticed 10 years earlier in connection with a place near Tyre with Hittites yet farther North. Even if the Hebrews had only just arrived, they must have left Egypt 40 years before--in the reign of Rameses II--if we attach any value to Old Testament statements; and all the dates variously given by followers of Lepsius are quite upset; whereas the notice of the 'Abiri, two centuries before Minepthah's accession, is quite in accord with this allusion to Israel, as well as with Old Testament chronology.
III. The Theory of Lepsius.
The reasons which influenced Lepsius require, however, to be stated, and the objections to a date for the Hebrew Conquest about 1480 BC (or a little later) to be considered, since theory that Rameses II was the Pharaoh of the oppression, and Minepthah the Pharaoh of the Exodus is often said to be a secure result of monumental studies, whereas it is really not so, because the only monumental allusions to Israel and the Hebrews are those just mentioned.
1. 1st Argument: City Rameses:
The arguments adduced in favor of the later date are as follows: In the first place, Lepsius (Letters from Egypt, 1842-44) held that no city called Rameses could have been so named, or built by the Hebrews, before the reign of Rameses II, and he placed the site at Heroopolis. This was a very doubtful assumption (see RAAMSES), and his identification of the city is now abandoned. The theory always was vitiated by an objection which he seems to have overlooked: for the "land of Rameses" is noticed in the time of Jacob (Gen 47:11), and since it is impossible to suppose that Jacob lived in the time of Rameses II, the followers of Lepsius are obliged to regard this notice as an anachronism, which destroys their case, as it might equally be an anachronism in the account of the Exodus, though it is probably correct.
2. 2nd Argument: Manetho's Statements:
The second argument is based on the account by Manetho of the expulsion of leprous and unclean tribes from Egypt. Manetho was an Egyptian priest who wrote about 268 BC, and who evidently hated the Jews. His account only reaches us secondhand through Josephus (Apion, I, 14, 15, 26-31), this Hebrew author rejecting it as fabulous. Manetho apparently said that, after the Hyksos kings had ruled for 511 years, and had fortified Avaris (see ZOAN), they agreed with King Thummosis to leave Egypt, and went through the desert to Jerusalem, being afraid of the Assyrians (who had no power in Israel at this time). He continued to relate that, after Armesses Miamon (Rameses II) had ruled 66 years, he was succeeded by an Amenophis whom Josephus calls a "fictitious king"--and rightly so since the name does not occur in the XIXth Dynasty. Apparently Minepthah was meant--though perhaps confused with Amenophis II--and he is said by Manetho to have sent the leprous people to quarries East of the Nile, but to have allowed them later to live in Avaris where the shepherds had been. They were induced by Osarsiph, a priest of Heliopolls, to renounce the Egyptian gods, and this Osarsiph Manetho identified with Moses. They then induced the shepherds who had been expelled by Thummosis to return from Jerusalem to Avaris, and Amenophis fled to Memphis and Ethiopia. His son Rhampses (apparently Rameses III is meant) was sent later to expel the shepherd and polluted people, whom he met at Pelusium and pursued into Syria. This story Josephus discredits, remarking: "I think therefore that I have made it sufficiently evident that Manetho, while he followed his ancient records, did not much mistake the truth of the history, but that, when he had recourse to fabulous stories without any certain author, he either forged them himself without any probability, or else gave credit to some men who spoke so out of their ill will to us"--a criticism sounder than that of Lepsius, who prefers the libelous account of a prejudiced Egyptian priest of the 3rd century BC, identifying Moses with a renegade priest of Heliopolis named Osarsiph, to the ancient Hebrew records in the Bible.
3. Relation of Manetho's Stories to the Exodus:
A thread of truth underlay Manetho's stories, but it has nothing to do with the Exodus, and the details to be found on Egyptian monuments do not agree with Manetho's tale. The Hyksos rulers were not expelled by any Thothmes, but by Aahmes who took Avaris about 1700 BC, and who reopened the quarries of the Arabian chain. Minepthah, about 1265 BC, was attacked in Egypt by Aryan tribes from the North, who had nothing to do with Hyksos chiefs, being Lycians, Sardians and Cilicians. He repelled them, but they again attacked Rameses III (about 1200 BC), and were again driven to the North. No mention of Israel occurs in connection with any of these events.
4. Greek and Latin Writers:
The story of the leprous Jews was, however, repeated by other Greek writers. Cheremon (see Josephus, Apion I, 32) says that Rameses, the son of Amenophis, defeated and expelled a diseased people led against him, at Pelusium, by Tisithen and Petesiph, whom he identified with Moses and Joseph. Lysimachus said that a scabby people were led by Moses through the desert by Judea and Jerusalem in the time of Bocchoris (735 BC). Diodorus Siculus (Fr. of Bk, 34) repeats the tale, about 8 BC, saying that lepers were driven out of Egypt, and were led by Moses who founded Jerusalem, and "established by law all their wicked customs and practices," and again (Fr. of Bk, 40) that strangers in Egypt caused a plague by their impurity, and being driven out were led by Moses. Tacitus, about 100 AD (Hist, v.ii), believed the Jews to have fled from Crete to Libya and, being expelled from Egypt, to have been led by their "Captains Jerusalem and Judah." Again he says (v. iii) that under Bocchoris (735 BC) there was sickness in Egypt, and that the infected being driven out were led by Moses, and reached the site of their temple on the 7th day.
5. Condition of Egypt under Minepthah:
No true critic of the present time is likely to prefer these distorted accounts of the Exodus, or any of the Greek and Roman calumnies leveled against the hated Jews, to the simple narration of the Exodus in the Bible. The historic conditions in the 5th year of Minepthah were very different from those at the time of Moses. The invaders of Egypt reached Belbeis and Heliopolis (see Brugsch, History of Egypt, II, 117), and Minepthah states, in his text on the wall of the temple of Amon at Thebes, that he had to defend Hellopolls and Memphis against his foes from the East. The region was then "not cultivated but was left as pasture for cattle, on account of the foreigners. It lay waste from the time of our forefathers." The kings of upper Egypt remained in their entrenchments, and the kings of lower Egypt were besieged in their cities by warriors, and had no mercenaries to oppose them. But Israel, as Minepthah himself has told us now, was in Israel, not in Egypt, in this year of his reign; and, far from desiring to expel Asiatic pastoral peoples, the same Pharaoh encouraged their immigration into the region of Goshen (see PITHOM) laid waste by the Aryan raid.
6. Explanations of Minepthah's Statements:
Objections to the view that the Exodus occurred two centuries and a half before the reign of Minepthah began, and attempts to explain away the statements on his monuments require some notice.
(1) Pithom was Heroopolis.
The first of these objections is due to the belief that Pithom was Heroopolis, and was a city founded by Rameses II; but this (see PITHOM) is too hazardous a conclusion to suffice for the entire neglect of Old Testament chronology which it involves, since the site of this city is still very doubtful.
(2) Rameses II Not Named in Judges.
A second objection is made, that the Old Testament shows complete ignorance of Egyptian history if it makes Rameses II contemporary with Jdg because he is not named in that book. But Old Testament references to foreign history are always very slight, while on the other hand it is quite probable that there are allusions, in this book, to the events which took place in the reigns of Rameses II, and of Minepthah. The Hebrews were then confined to the mountains (Jdg 1:19) and the Egyptians to the plains. No Pharaoh is mentioned by name in the Old Testament till the time of Rehoboam. In his 8th year Rameses II took various towns in Galilee including Salem (North of Taanach), Merom, Beth-Anath, Anem and Dapur (Daberath at the foot of Tabor). The revolt of Barak probably occurred about the 25th year of Rameses II, and began at Tabor. In the Song of Deborah (Jdg 5:2), the first words (bi-pheroa` pera`oth), rendered by the Septuagint (Alex MS) "when the rulers ruled," may be more definitely translated "when the Pharaohs were powerful," especially as Sisera--who commanded the Canaanite forces--bears a name probably Egyptian (ses-Ra, or "servant of Ra"), and may have been an Egyptian resident at the court of Jabin. So again when, about 1265 BC, Minepthah says that "Israel is ruined, it has no seed," the date suggests the time of Gideon when wild tribes swarmed over the plains, "and destroyed the increase of the earth, till thou come unto Gaza, and left no sustenance in Israel" (Jdg 6:4). The Midianites and Amalekites may have then joined the tribes from Asia Minor who, in the 5th year of Minepthah, ruined the Hittites and invaded the Delta.
(3) Some Hebrews Were Never in Egypt.
But another explanation of the presence of Israel in this year on the line of Minepthah's pursuit of these tribes after their defeat has been suggested, namely, that some of the Hebrews never went to Egypt at all. This of course contradicts the account in the Pentateuch (Ex 1:1-5; 12:41) where we read that all Jacob's family (70 men) went down to Goshen, and that "all the hosts of the Lord" left Egypt at the Exodus; but it is supposed to be supported by a passage (1 Ch 7:21) where we read of one of the sons of Ephraim "whom the men of Gath born in the land slew, because they came down to take away their cattle." Ephraim however was born in Egypt (Gen 41:52), and his sons and "children of the third generation" (Gen 50:23) remained there. The meaning no doubt is that men of Gath raided Goshen; and there were probably many such raids by the inhabitants of Philistia during the times of the Hyksos kings, similar to those which occurred in the time of Minepthah and of Rameses III. The objections made to the Old Testament date for the Exodus early in the reign of Amenophis III, or in that of his predecessor Thothmes IV, thus appear to have little force; and the condition of Egypt before the 5th year of Minepthah was unlike that which would have existed at the time of the Exodus. The theory of Lepsius was a purely literary conjecture, and not based on any monumental records. It has been falsified by the evidence of monuments found during the last 20 years, and these are fully in accord with the history and chronology of the Old Testament.
IV. The Numbers.
1. Colenso's Criticism of Large Number:
The historic difficulty with respect to the Exodus does not lie in the account of plagues natural to Egypt even now, nor in the crossing of the Red Sea, but in a single statement as to the numbers of Israel (Ex 12:37), `about 600,000 footmen--strong men--with many children, and also many wanderers.' The women are not mentioned, and it has been supposed that this represents a host of 2,000,000 emigrants at least. The objection was urged by Voltaire, and the consequences were elaborately calculated by Colenso. Even if 600,000 means the total population, the "heroes," or "strong men on foot" would, it is urged, have been as numerous as the largest Assyrian army (120,000 men) employed in the conquest of Syria. With an army of more than half a million Moses would have held control over Egypt and Israel alike; and the emigrants, even in close column of companies, would have stretched for 20 miles; the births would occur every ten minutes; and the assembly before Sinai would have been impossible.
2. Increase of Population:
It is also difficult to suppose, on ordinary calculations of the increase of population, that in 430 years (Ex 12:40), or in 215 years as given in the Septuagint, a tribe of 70 males (Gen 46:26 f; Ex 1:5; 6:14) could have increased to 600,000, or even 100,000 men. But on the other hand we are specially told (Ex 1:7-20) that the children of Israel "increased abundantly," and the comments of Dr Orr (Problem of the Old Testament, 1906, 363-65) on this question should be studied. A young and vigorous nation might multiply much faster than is now usual in the East. Dr. Flinders Petrie has suggested that for "thousand" we should read "families"; but, though the word ('eleph) sometimes has that meaning (Jdg 6:15; 1 Sam 10:19; 23:23), it is in the singular, and not in the plural, in the passage in question (Ex 12:37).
3. Number a Corruption of Original Statement:
It should not be forgotten that variations in numbers are very commonly found in various texts, VSS, and parallel passages of the Old Testament. Thus for instance (1 Sam 13:5) the Syriac version reads 3,000 for the 30,000 chariots mentioned in the Hebrew and Greek; and the Septuagint (1 Ki 5:11) gives 20,000 for the 20 measures of oil noticed in the Hebrew text. The probable reason for these discrepancies may be found in the fact that the original documents may have used numeral signs--as did the Egyptians, Assyrians, Hittites and Phoenicians--instead of writing the words in full as they appear in the New Testament. These numeral signs--especially in cuneiform--were apt to be misread, and the sign for "unity" could easily be confused with those denoting "sixty" (the Babylonian unit) and "an hundred"--if, in the latter case, a short stroke was added. In the opinion of the present writer the difficulty is due to a corruption of the original statement, which occurred during the course of some fifteen centuries, or more, of continued recopying; but the reader will no doubt form his own conclusions as to this question.
The general questions of the credibility of that history of the Exodus which is given us in the Pentateuch, and of the approximate date of the event, have been treated above in the light of the most recent monumental information. No reference has yet been found in Egyptian records to the presence of Israel in the Delta, though the Hebrews are noticed as present in Israel before the 5th year of Minepthah. The Pharaohs as a rule--like other kings--only recorded their victories, and no doubt reckoned Israel only as a tribe of those "hostile Shasu" (or "nomads") whom the Theban kings of the XVIIIth Dynasty drove back into Asia. It would be natural that a disaster at the Red Sea should not be noticed in their proud records still extant on the temple walls in Egypt.
See also WANDERINGS OF ISRAEL.
C. R. Conder
Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. "Definition for 'exodus, the'". "International Standard Bible Encyclopedia". bible-history.com - ISBE
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