THE EXODUS is the founding myth of Israel , telling how the
Israelites were delivered from slavery by their god
therefore belong to him through the
Mosaic covenant . Spread over
the books of Exodus ,
Leviticus , Numbers , and
Deuteronomy , it tells
of the events that befell the
Israelites following the death of Joseph
, their departure from Egypt , and their wanderings in the wilderness,
including the revelations at
Sinai , up to their arrival at the
The archeological evidence does not support the historical accuracy
of the biblical story, which was not intended as history in the
modern sense, but rather to demonstrate God's acts in history through
Israel's bondage, salvation and covenant . The opinion of the
overwhelming majority of modern scholars is that it was shaped in the
post-Exilic period , but the traditions behind it are older and can
be traced in the writings of the
8th century BCE prophets. It is
unclear how far beyond that the tradition might stretch, and its
substance, accuracy and date are obscured by centuries of
The Exodus is central to
Judaism , and even today it is recounted
Jewish prayers and celebrated in the festival of
In addition, the Exodus has served as an inspiration and model for
many non-Jewish groups, from early Protestant settlers fleeing
persecution in Europe to African-Americans striving for freedom and
* 1 Narrative summary
* 2 Cultural significance
* 3 Composition
* 3.1 The
* 3.2 Possible sources and parallels
* 4 Historicity
* 4.1 Summary
* 4.2 Numbers and logistics
* 4.4 Anachronisms
* 4.5 Chronology
* 4.6 Date
* 4.7 Route
* 5 See also
* 6 Notes
* 7 Citations
* 8 References
The story of the Exodus is told in the books of Exodus ,
Numbers , and
Deuteronomy , the last four of the five books of the
Torah (also called the Pentateuch). It tells of the events that befell
Israelites following the death of Joseph , their departure from
Egypt , and their wanderings in the wilderness, including the
Sinai , up to their arrival at the borders of
The story begins with the
Israelites in slavery in Egypt.
them out of Egypt and through the wilderness to Mount
Sinai , where
Yahweh reveals himself and offers them a Covenant: they are to keep
his torah (i.e. law, instruction), and in return he will be their god
and give them the land of
Canaan . The Book of
Leviticus records the
laws of God. The
Book of Numbers tells how the Israelites, led now by
their god Yahweh, journey on from
Sinai towards Canaan, but when their
spies report that the land is filled with giants they refuse to go on
Yahweh condemns them to remain in the desert until the generation
that left Egypt passes away. After thirty-eight years at the oasis of
Kadesh Barnea the next generation travel on to the borders of Canaan,
Moses addresses them for the final time and gives them further
The Exodus ends with the death of
Mount Nebo and his
burial by God , while the
Israelites prepare for the conquest of the
The Exodus is remembered daily in
Jewish prayers and celebrated each
year at the feast of
Passover . The Hebrew name for this festival,
Pesach, refers to God's instruction to the
Israelites to prepare
unleavened bread as they would be leaving Egypt in haste, and to mark
their doors with the blood of slaughtered sheep so that the "Angel of
Death " or "the destroyer" tasked with killing the first-born of Egypt
would "pass over" them. Despite the Exodus story, a majority of
scholars do not believe that the
Passover festival originated as
described in the biblical story.
Statuette of a Semitic prisoner. Ancient Egypt, 12th dynasty
(18–19th Century BCE).
Scholars broadly agree that the
Torah is a product of the mid-Persian
period, approximately 450-400 BCE, although some place its final form
somewhat later, in the Hellenistic era. Many theories have been
advanced to explain its composition, but two have been especially
influential. The first of these, Persian Imperial authorisation,
advanced by Peter Frei in 1985, holds that the Persian authorities
required the Jews of Jerusalem to present a single body of law as the
price of local autonomy. Frei's theory was deconstructed at an
interdisciplinary symposium held in 2000, but the relationship between
the Persian authorities and Jerusalem remains a crucial question. The
second theory, sometimes called the "Citizen-Temple Community",
proposes that the Exodus story was composed to serve the needs of a
post-exilic Jewish community organised around the Temple, which acted
in effect as a bank for those who belonged to it. The
Exodus story) served as an "identity card" defining who belonged to
this community (i.e., to Israel), thus reinforcing Israel's unity
through its new institutions. Both explanations see the Exodus story
as a "charter myth " for Israel, telling how Israel was delivered from
Yahweh and therefore belongs to him through the covenant.
The history of the Exodus story stretches back some two hundred years
before the achievement of its current form, to a point in the late 7th
century BCE when various oral and written traditions were drawn
together into written works which were the fore-runners of the Torah
we know today. Traces of these traditions first appear in the
prophets Amos (possibly) and Hosea (certainly), both active in 8th
century BCE Israel , but their southern contemporaries Isaiah and
Micah show no knowledge of an Exodus, suggesting that the story was of
no importance in 8th century Judah . The exodus story may therefore
have originated a few centuries earlier, perhaps the 9th or 10th, and
there are signs that it took different forms in Israel, in the
Transjordan region , and in the southern
Kingdom of Judah
Kingdom of Judah before being
unified in the Persian era.
POSSIBLE SOURCES AND PARALLELS
Main article: The Exodus: sources and parallels
The consensus of modern archaeologists is that the
Canaan and were never in Egypt, and if there is any
historical basis to the exodus it can apply only to a small segment of
the Israelites. Yet there are indications that some historical basis
underlies the story: the name of
Moses is Egyptian, for example, and
many scholars have found it improbable that a humiliating tradition of
slavery would simply be invented. Some have tried to maintain a
measure of historicity through the concept of "collective memory":
the memory of Egyptian oppression, for example, may be based on the
harsh treatment of Canaanites inside
Canaan during those centuries in
the 2nd millennium when the region was ruled by Egypt: these memories
could later have been transferred to Egypt itself, and a new exodus
story created. A historical
Moses associated with a small group may
have been later generalised into the savior of Israel, while others
have found echoes of the descent into Egypt and the Exodus in the
history of the
Hyksos , who were Canaanite rulers of the Egyptian
Delta in the 16th century BCE.
Yahweh himself, the national god of
Israel, is not a Canaanite deity but comes from
Midian to the south,
and it is possible that he was brought north by escaping slaves.
A proposal by Egyptologist
Jan Assmann suggests that the Exodus
narrative has no single origin, but rather combines numerous
historical experiences into "a coherent story that is fictional as to
its composition but historical as to some of its components." These
traumatic events include the expulsion of the
Hyksos ; the religious
Akhenaten ; a possible episode of captivity for the
Habiru , who were gangs of antisocial people operating between Egypt's
vassal states; and the large-scale migrations of the '
Sea Peoples '.
The consensus of modern scholars is that the Bible does not give an
accurate account of the origins of Israel. There is no indication
Israelites ever lived in
Ancient Egypt , the
shows almost no sign of any occupation for the entire 2nd millennium
BCE, and even Kadesh-Barnea , where the
Israelites are said to have
spent 38 years, was uninhabited prior to the establishment of the
Israelite monarchy. Such elements as could be fitted into the 2nd
millennium could equally belong to the 1st, and are consistent with a
1st millennium BCE writer trying to set an old story in Egypt. So
while a few scholars, notably
Kenneth Kitchen and
James K. Hoffmeier ,
continue to discuss the historicity, or at least plausibility, of the
story, arguing that the Egyptian records have been lost or suppressed
or that the fleeing
Israelites left no archaeological trace or that
the large numbers are mistranslated, the majority have abandoned the
investigation as "a fruitless pursuit".
NUMBERS AND LOGISTICS
According to Exodus 12:37–38, the
Israelites numbered "about six
hundred thousand men on foot, besides women and children", plus many
Israelites and livestock. Numbers 1:46 gives a more precise total
of 603,550 men aged 20 and up. It is difficult to reconcile the idea
of 600,000 Israelite fighting men with the information that the
Israelites were afraid of the
Egyptians . The
600,000, plus wives, children, the elderly, and the "mixed multitude"
Israelites would have numbered some 2 million people. Marching
ten abreast, and without accounting for livestock, they would have
formed a line 150 miles long. The entire Egyptian population in 1250
BCE is estimated to have been around 3 to 3.5 million, and no
evidence has been found that Egypt ever suffered the demographic and
economic catastrophe such a loss of population would represent, nor
Sinai desert ever hosted (or could have hosted) these
millions of people and their herds. Some have rationalised the
numbers into smaller figures, for example reading the Hebrew as "600
families" rather than 600,000 men, but all such solutions have their
own set of problems.
A century of research by archaeologists and Egyptologists has found
no evidence which can be directly related to the Exodus captivity and
the escape and travels through the wilderness, and archaeologists
generally agree that the
Israelites had Canaanite origins. The
culture of the earliest Israelite settlements is Canaanite, their cult
objects are those of the Canaanite god El , the pottery remains are in
the Canaanite tradition, and the alphabet used is early Canaanite.
Almost the sole marker distinguishing the "Israelite" villages from
Canaanite sites is an absence of pig bones, although whether even this
is an ethnic marker or is due to other factors remains a matter of
Despite the Bible's internal dating of the Exodus to the 2nd
millennium BCE, details point to a 1st millennium date for the
composition of the
Book of Exodus :
Ezion-Geber (one of the Stations
of the Exodus ), for example, dates to a period between the 8th and
6th centuries BCE with possible further occupation into the 4th
century BCE, and those place-names on the Exodus route which have
been identified – Goshen ,
Pithom , Succoth , Ramesses and Kadesh
Barnea – point to the geography of the 1st millennium rather than
Pharaoh 's fear that the
Israelites might ally
themselves with foreign invaders seems unlikely in the context of the
late 2nd millennium, when
Canaan was part of an Egyptian empire and
Egypt faced no enemies in that direction, but does make sense in a 1st
millennium context, when Egypt was considerably weaker and faced
invasion first from the
Achaemenid Empire and later from the Seleucid
The mention of the dromedary in Exodus 9:3 also suggests a later date
of composition – the widespread domestication of the camel as a herd
animal is thought not to have taken place before the late 2nd
millennium, after the
Israelites had already emerged in Canaan, and
they did not become widespread in Egypt until c. 200–100 BCE.
The chronology of the Exodus story likewise underlines its
essentially religious rather than historical nature. The number seven
was sacred to
Judaism , and so the
Israelites arrive at the
Sinai Peninsula , where they will meet Yahweh, at the beginning of the
seventh week after their departure from Egypt, while the erection of
Tabernacle , Yahweh's dwelling-place among his people, occurs in
the year 2666 after
Yahweh creates the world , two-thirds of the way
through a four thousand year era which culminates in or around the
re-dedication of the
Second Temple in 164 BCE.
Attempts to date the Exodus to a specific century have been
inconclusive. 1 Kings 6:1 places the event 480 years before the
construction of Solomon\'s Temple , implying an Exodus at c. 1450 BCE,
but the number is rhetorical rather than historical, representing a
symbolic twelve generations of forty years each. There are major
archaeological obstacles to an earlier date.
Canaan , also known as
Djahy , was part of the Egyptian empire , so that the
in effect be escaping from Egypt to Egypt, and its cities were
unwalled and do not show destruction layers consistent with the
Bible's account of the occupation of the land (
Jericho was "small and
poor, almost insignificant, and unfortified (and) here was also no
sign of a destruction" (Finkelstein and Silberman, 2002). William F.
Albright , the leading biblical archaeologist of the mid-20th century,
proposed a date of around 1250–1200 BCE, but his so-called
"Israelite" evidence (house-type , the collar-rimmed jars , etc.) are
continuations of Canaanite culture. The lack of evidence has led
scholars to conclude that the Exodus story does not represent a
specific historical moment.
Stations of the Exodus
Torah lists the places where the
Israelites rested. A few of the
names at the start of the itinerary, including Ra\'amses ,
Succoth , are reasonably well identified with archaeological sites on
the eastern edge of the
Nile Delta , as is Kadesh-Barnea , where the
Israelites spend 38 years after turning back from
Canaan ; other than
these, very little is certain. The crossing of the Red Sea has been
variously placed at the Pelusic branch of the
Nile , anywhere along
the network of Bitter Lakes and smaller canals that formed a barrier
toward eastward escape, the
Gulf of Suez
Gulf of Suez (south-southeast of Succoth),
Gulf of Aqaba
Gulf of Aqaba (south of Ezion-Geber), or even on a lagoon on
the Mediterranean coast . The Biblical Mount
Sinai is identified in
Christian tradition with Jebel Musa in the south of the Sinai
Peninsula , but this association dates only from the 3rd century CE
and no evidence of the Exodus has been found there.
* Bible portal
Wikivoyage has a travel guide for THE EXODUS OF MOSES .
* Va\'eira , Bo , and
Torah portions telling the Exodus
* ^ The name "Exodus" is from Greek ἔξοδος exodos, "going
out"; Hebrew : יְצִיאַת מִצְרָיִם yetzi'at
* ^ "Charter (i.e., foundation) myths tell the story of a society's
origins, and, in doing so, provide the ideological foundations for the
culture and its institutions."
* ^ A B C Sparkes 2010 , p. 73.
* ^ A B Redmount 2001 , p. 59.
* ^ Meyers 2005 , pp. 5–6.
* ^ A B Redmount 2001 , p. 63.
* ^ Enns 2012 , p. 26.
* ^ A B Lemche 1985 , p. 327.
* ^ A B Tigay 2004 , p. 107.
* ^ A B C D E F Redmount 2001 , p. 59-60.
* ^ Tigay 2004 , pp. 106–07.
* ^ Prosic 2004 , p. 31.
* ^ Liphschitz 1998 , p. 258.
* ^ Romer 2008 , p. 2.
* ^ Eskenazi 2009 , p. 85.
* ^ Ska 2006 , pp. 217.
* ^ Ska 2006 , pp. 218.
* ^ Eskenazi 2009 , p. 86.
* ^ Ska 2006 , pp. 226-227.
* ^ Ska 2006 , p. 225.
* ^ McEntire 2008 , p. 8.
* ^ Russell 2009 , p. 1.
* ^ A B Collins 2004 , p. 182.
* ^ A B Collins 2014 , p. 113.
* ^ Anderson & Gooder 2017 , p. unpaginated.
* ^ Collins 2005 , p. 45-46.
* ^ Assmann 2014 , p. 26.
* ^ Davies 2015 , p. 51.
* ^ Redmount 2001 , p. 77.
* ^ Moore & Kelle 2011 , p. 90.
* ^ Moore & Kelle 2011 , pp. 88–89.
* ^ Dever 2001 , p. 99.
* ^ Miller 2009 , p. 256.
* ^ A B Kantor 2005 , p. 70.
* ^ Cline 2007 , p. 74.
* ^ Butzer 1999 , p. 297.
* ^ Dever 2003 , p. 19.
* ^ Grisanti 2011 , pp. 240–46.
* ^ Meyers 2005 , p. 5.
* ^ Shaw 2002 , p. 313.
* ^ A B Killebrew 2005 , p. 176.
* ^ Pratico & DiVito 1993 , pp. 1-32.
* ^ A B Van Seters 1997 , pp. 255ff.
* ^ Soggin 1998 , pp. 128–29.
* ^ Finkelstein & Silberman 2002 , p. 334.
* ^ Faye 2013 , p. 3.
* ^ Meyers 2005 , p. 143.
* ^ Hayes & Miller 1986 , p. 59.
* ^ Davies 1998 , p. 180.
* ^ Killebrew 2005 , p. 151.
* ^ Moore & Kelle 2011 , p. 81.
* ^ Thompson 1999 , p. 74.
* ^ Barmash, 2015 & p.16 fn.10 .
* ^ Finkelstein -webkit-column-width: 30em; column-width: 30em;">
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Gerald P.; Wickersham, John M. (1996). Berossos and Manetho.
University of Michigan Press. ISBN 0472086871 . Whitelam, Keith W.
(2006). "General problems of studying the text of the bible...". In
Rogerson, John William; Lieu, Judith. The Oxford Handbook of Biblical
Studies. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780199254255 . Verbrugghe,
Gerald P.; Wickersham, John Moore (2001). Berossos and Manetho,
Introduced and Translated: Native Traditions in Ancient Mesopotamia
and Egypt. University of Michigan Press. ISBN 0-472-08687-1 .
Winlock, Herbert (1947). The Rise and Fall of the Middle Kingdom in
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* The Exodus
Ha Lachma Anya
* "Outstretched Arm"
* Ten Plagues
* White House
Echad Mi Yodea
* L\'Shana Haba\'ah
* Birds\' Head
* Maxwell House
Matzo farfel granola
* René Neymann