Did the Exodus of Moses and His People Happen?

Share
Copy
"That helps us reference Moses' existence as it was the same message that he was calling for, which may have been before Akhehaten had got infected with it," she said.

The Bible says that after Moses accepted his dangerous mission to get the Israelites out of Egypt, he confronted the pharaoh. The pharaoh refused to let his people go until God unleashed a series of unnatural disasters known as the 10 plagues. Jews commemorate this event and the Exodus on Passover.

"The evening before the 10th plague, Moses instructed the Jews to sacrifice a lamb and to paint its blood on their doors so that the angel of death would know who was Jewish and who wasn't. This is where the term 'Passover' comes from," said Jonathan Safran Foer, the author of "New American Haggadah."

The Bible says the angel of death swept through Egypt, including the palace. When the pharaoh's son died, he sent for Moses and told him to take his people and go. But then, the pharaoh realized he was losing a huge work force, so he called up his army and chased the Israelites to the Red Sea. As the story goes, Moses called upon the power of God to part the Red Sea and the Israelites walked into the Sinai Desert to freedom.

Religious historians estimate the Israelite population in Egypt at the time was around two or three million people, but the biblical Exodus route into the Sinai Desert has left no trace other than what the Bible tells us.

"There is virtually no evidence, as the Torah says, that 600,000 Jewish males, with their wives and children and elders, left Egypt in the Exodus," said Rabbi Burt Visotzky, a professor of Talmud and Rabbinics at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York. "Those are big numbers. You'd think someone would notice."

In the Hebrew Bible, the body of water is called Yom Suf, which translates to Sea of Reeds, leading some scholars to suggest that the story is talking about a swamp instead of a huge body of water.

"When it comes to Moses, again, you have a really larger-than-life portrait," said William Dever, a professor of archaeology from Lycoming College. "I doubt that the miracles attributed to him ever took place. I don't think he led three million Israelites out of Egypt in an exodus across the Sinai. I don't think he was the founder of Israelite religion, but I think there was a Moses. I argue, and I think some other archaeologists will, too, there was a small exodus group -- not millions of people, but perhaps a few thousand -- who did escape from slavery in Egypt."

When a Jewish child turns 13 years old and prepares for his or her bar or bat mitzvah, they study the story of the Exodus and sing the ancient song of freedom. In the Jewish tradition, it is the same song that was supposedly sung by Moses' people when they made it out of Egypt, making the story of Exodus timeless and never-ending.

"What we say at the end of Seder is 'next year in Jerusalem,' but it's kind of funny to say that now because we could go to Israel," Foer said. "Jerusalem is more than a place. Jerusalem is an idea. Jerusalem is an ideal place where there are no slaves, where we don't have to continue on this perpetual march towards freedom because everybody has freedom."

ABC News' Lauren Effron contributed to this report

Page
  • 1
  • |
  • 2
Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
You Might Also Like...
See It, Share It
PHOTO: Year In Pictures
Damien Meyer/AFP/Getty Images
PHOTO: James Franco and Seth Rogen in The Interview.
Ed Araquel/Sony/Columbia Pictures/AP Photo
PHOTO: Patrick Crawford is pictured in this photo from his Facebook page.
Meteorologist Patrick Crawford KCEN/Facebook
PHOTO: George Stinney Jr., the youngest person ever executed in South Carolina, in 1944, is seen in this undated file photo.
South Carolina Department of Archives and History/AP Photo