Lester L. Grabbe
Exodus from Egypt
is not just "another Hebrew myth."
Ancient Egyptian documents affirm there is historical
proof for this important Biblical event.
Read the true facts in this well-researched article.
"There is no record of any Exodus in the Egyptian records."
So thousands of students are assured by college professors.
And few stop to question this blanket statement from
such erudite scholars.
The Sunday school picture of Moses leading
the Israelites through the Red Sea and receiving the Ten
Commandments on Mt.
Sinai is soon "dispelled" as the bright
young student hits the higher criticism classes of college
The following statement by an eminent historian
summarizes the views of many:
The present century has brought
extensive archaeological investigations in Egypt, the Holy
Land, and adjacent countries which indicate that the Biblical
account of the enslavement of the Children of Israel in
Egypt and their exodus to the promised land of Caanan is
traditional and legendary and without support of documentary
archaeological evidence.no Egyptian records have been found
relating to this early period of Hebrew history (Homer Hockett,
The Critical Method in Historical Research
and Writing, p. 52).
statement. But is
it backed up by "evidence" the Exodus is said to lack?
So well-known and accepted a scholar as Professor
William F. Albright takes the opposite view.
There has been a persistent effort by many scholars
to discredit the Israelite tradition of a prolonged sojourn
in Egypt before the time of Moses (The
Biblical Period, p.
Even though Dr. Albright himself does not accept
word for word the account as found in the Bible, he is confident
there is evidence to confirm the Exodus as a historic event.
Notice what one famous Egyptologist had
to say about the common ancient Egyptian practice of inventing
victories and completely overlooking defeats:
Every Egyptian king was represented as a conqueror
alike in the ancient writings and in reliefs on the temple
walls. The model
often goes back to the earliest times..Such a disregard
of reality was sometimes carried to absurd lengths.
Who is going to believe that the eighteen-year-old
Tut'ankhamun ever drove his chariot straight into an alien
host killing a score of foes with the arrows from his bow,
of again that he slaughtered unaided a whole pride of lions? Yet such are the scenes depicted on the wonderful
painted box from the famous tomb (Sir Alan Gardiner, Egypt
of the Pharaohs, pp.
ancient Egyptians ignored the real impact of the Exodus. But strange as it might seem, Egyptian records are not
silent about this miraculous occurrence!
Forgotten Papyrus Tells
It would be very unusual indeed if we had
a truly Egyptian eyewitness account of Moses and the ten
plagues. At least
such an account has not yet been found.
But we have the next best thing to it-a description of Egypt
after the ten plagues and the leaving of the Israelites.
This account is found in what is called
the "Ipuwer papyrus." This
tattered document in the Leiden Museum of Antiquities is
in a sad state of preservation.
But its message is unmistakable.
It matches the Biblical record in
The most exhaustive translation is that of Sir Alan
Gardiner published in Leipzig
in 1909 under the title Admonitions of an Egyptian Sage. Additional information is given by R.O. Faulkner ("Notes
on 'The Admonitions of an Egyptian Sage.'" Journal of Egyptian Archaeology, 1964, pp. 24-36).
In painful detail the papyrus describes
"civil war and foreign invasion, and of the social upheaval
attendant thereupon." We
have the whole disruption of society which would naturally
have occurred to a country devastated by plagues which culminated
in the loss of her leadership. Anarchy and foreign occupation would be expected
to happen to a country which had all crops, the government,
the entire social structure, and the protective army destroyed.
This is exactly what the Ipuwer papyrus
presents to us. The
phrase "all is ruin" occurs at least twice (3:13; 9:6) and
perhaps several other times if the document were better
preserved (as perhaps in 5:11). "Might is right." "Murder is the order of the day." "Even brother fights brother." "The dead are found everywhere."
Here is the sad picture of Egypt after Israel left. In Upper Egypt, Pharaoh's servants asked him,
"Do you not yet understand that Egypt
is ruined?" (Exodus 10:7, Revised Standard Version used
throughout for quotes.)
Here we have the results of the plagues described, not necessarily all the
plagues themselves. Let's
see how the Egyptian record compares with the Hebrew account.
Moses Versus Ipuwer
Because Gardiner's translation is generally more
complete, it is the one quoted unless otherwise designated.
(Five periods-"full stops" for British readers-are
used to indicate wherever the translator put a long line
of dots to represent an indecipherable section of the text.
Otherwise, a normal ellipsis is used where we have
omitted material that was in the translation.)
Exodus 7:20-21: "The Nile turned to blood.and
the Nile became foul, so that the Egyptians could not drink
water from the Nile; and there was blood throughout all
the land of Egypt."
Papyrus 2:10: "Why really, the River is
blood. If one drinks
of it, one rejects (it) as human and thirsts for water"
(Wilson). 2:5: "Plague is throughout the land. Blood is everywhere."
Three plagues combined to destroy the foodstuffs
of Egypt. The plague on the cattle killed the majority
of the animals. Most
of the remnant was destroyed by the hail, which also devastated
crops. The crops spared by the hail were eaten by the
locusts. The result
was an extreme famine where men killed each other for enough
food to stay alive.
Read the accounts of what happened to the
cattle and other animals in Exodus 9 and compare it with
Papyrus 8:12: "Behold, butchers transgress (?) with geese.
They have given [to] the gods instead of oxen."
Note that so few cattle were left, geese were sacrificed
in their place. 9:2-3: "Behold, cattle are left to stray and
there is none to gather them together.
Each man fetches for himself those that are branded
with his name." The plague of hail had caused the few surviving
cattle to so scatter in trying to find shelter that they
were difficult to round up.
Now read in Exodus 10 about the locust
plague and put it together with the hail in chapter 9. You have a picture of almost complete destruction
of the food supply.
Papyrus 3:3: ".The mistresses of houses say: Would that we had something to eat." 3:10-13: "Lacking
are grain (?), charcoal.All is ruin!" 4:4-5:3: "Forsooth, trees are destroyed (?)"-compare
this with Exodus 9:25-"cakes are lacking [Faulkner] for
most (?) children. There
is no food..Forsooth, all animals, their hearts weep.
Cattle moan because of the state of the land."
Papyrus 6:1-5: "Forsooth, [men eat] herbs,
and wash (them) down with water.
No fruit (?) nor herbs are found [for] the birds...is
taken away from the mouth of swine...hunger.
Forsooth, grain has perished on every side.
(People) are stripped of clothes, spices (?) and
oil. Everybody says: there is none. The storehouse is empty and its keeper is stretched
on the ground; a happy state of affairs!" (Faulkner.)
Papyrus 6:9: "The corn (?) of Egypt is common
"Destroyed (?) are.their food [is taken away?] from them."
10:3-5: "Lower Egypt
weeps. The storehouse of the king is common property
of everyone, and the entire palace is without its revenues. To it belong (by right) wheat and barley, geese
A horrible picture of murder for a little food.
Not only does revenue for the king no longer come
in, but the very royal storehouses are also robbed by desperate
citizens. Even the animals have nothing to eat.
Another aspect of the hail was the fire
(lightning?) mixed with it.
Note one peculiar passage of the papyrus-2:10-11:
"Forsooth, gates, columns and walls (?) are consumed by
fire: (while) the ...of the kings' palace stands firm and
wooden structures (but not the more substantially built
structures) were destroyed by the fire accompanying the
Death of the Firstborn
In addition we view a scene of death corresponding
to the slaying of all the firstborn in the sacred account.
Only such a terrible disaster as the death angel
passing through could have produced the pitiful condition
Papyrus 2:4: "Forsooth, women are lacking
and no (children) are conceived.
Khnum fashions (mankind) no longer because of the
condition of the land."
Khnum was the potter god who supposedly shaped babies
on a wheel. 2:5-6:
"Death is not lacking (?).
The mummycloth (?) speaks, before every one comes
near it (?)." Gardiner makes this comment about the preceding
statement, "The sense seems to be: corpses are everywhere,
and the very bandages cry out, so that they can be heard
without drawing near to them."
Papyrus 2:6-7: "Forsooth, many dead men
are buried in the river.
The stream is a sepulchre, and the place of embalmment
has become stream." 4:3-4: "Forsooth, the children of princes are
dashed against the walls.
The offspring of desire are laid out on the high
ground. Khnum groans
Yet Israel did not leave a picture of
death and destruction without taking their reward for years
of slavery. Notice Exodus 12:35-36: "The people of Israel.had asked
of the Egyptians jewelry of silver and of gold, and clothing.they
let them have what they asked.
Thus they despoiled the Egyptians."
Papyrus 3:6-10: "Gold is lacking, the ...of
all handicrafts is at an end (?).
The...of the king's palace is despoiled (?)."
9:6: "Behold, no craftsmen work.
The enemies of the land have spoilt (?) its crafts
(?) [impoverished its craftsmen-Faulkner]."
6:3-5: "(People) are stripped of clothes, spices
(?") and oil. Everybody
says: there is none."
Pharaoh Not Buried in Pyramid
One point very much disputed is the death of Pharaoh
in the Red Sea. But the papyrus also describes this, though
in somewhat veiled language.
Papyrus 7:1: "Behold, the fire has mounted
up on high. Its burning
goes forth against the enemies of the land."
There is little doubt from the context that this
is a reference to the pillar of fire and smoke which led
the Israelites. The deceived Egyptians may at first have conceived
it to be something which plagued the escaping Israelites
instead of guiding them.
Papyrus 7:1-6: "Behold, things are done,
that have never happened for long time past (?): the king
has been taken away (?) by poor men.
Behold, he who was buried as a hawk is...What the
pyramid concealed is become empty. Behold, the secret of the land, whose limits
were unknown, is divulged.
The Residence is overturned in a minute.
Behold, Egypt has come
to pour out water. He
who poured water on the ground, he has captured the strong
man in misery (??). Behold the Serpent is taken from its hold.
The secrets of the kings of Upper and Lower Egypt
In several places the "Asiatics" are mentioned (though
not to be confused with the "enemies," which was apparently
only applied to the Israelites). The Asiatics were obviously in control of the
Papyrus 1:9: "The tribes of the desert
(?) have become Egyptians (?) everywhere."
3:1: "Forsooth, the Desert is throughout the land. The nomes are laid waste. A foreign tribe from abroad has come to Egypt."
4:1: "Those who were Egyptians (?) have become foreigners
(?)." 4:5-8: "Lower
Egypt can boast of trodden roads...Behold, it is in the
hands of (?) those who knew it not like those who knew it.
The Asiatics are skilled in the crafts of the Marshlands." 15:1-3: "What has happened (?) ...through it
(??) is (?) to cause the Asiatics to know the condition
of the land."
But who were these Asiatics? None other than the famous Hyksos who conquered Egypt!
As Gardiner himself stated, "The view that
our Leiden papyrus contains allusions to the Hyksos has
the better support from the historical standpoint" (Admonitions, p. 18).
They were called Amu by the Egyptians, the same designation used to refer
to the Hyksos (see Egypt of the Pharaohs, page 144). But who were they?
The Arabic historians tell us they were
Dshaurhari, an Arab writer of the tenth century,
wrote this of the name Amu (or Omaya), "It
is handed down that this name was a designation for an Amalekite
And the Bible gives indication of this
Notice in Exodus 17 that the Amalekites
attacked the Israelites about a month after they had left
the coast of the Red Sea.
This tribe was already on its way into the desolated
and helpless Egypt. With
Egypt destroyed this people became "the first of the nations"
Some will ask, Did not the Hyksos live
several centuries before the Exodus?
According to the present view of historians, based
on the theory of evolution, the Hyksos lived before the
time of the Exodus. But the facts of history-when
put together with the Bible-tell a different story.
The Egyptians do record the Exodus-even if in a round about fashion! One tattered papyrus has survived. What story did the missing sections tell?
What other documents have been destroyed during the
long centuries intervening between our time and that of
Moses? These are
questions which may not be answered until the world tomorrow,
the millennial kingdom of God with Yeshua ruling in Jerusalem.
Surviving accounts such as that of the
Ipuwer papyrus do show that ancient peoples have preserved
their own records of Biblical occurrence's.
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