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Is there empirical proof that the exodus from Egypt and related happenings (like Har Sinai etc) did in fact occur (i.e: Archeological proof)? I believe in the Torah, but how would you prove to someone that the exodus did indeed happen if the other person does not believe in the Torah (yet)?

24

There is no archaeological evidence of the Exodus. When you get down to it, it's surprising how little archaeological proof there is of many things which we're pretty sure happened - we have difficulty identifying some entire nations which are described by sober ancient historians; and there are many monarchs who are known only by a single reference in a stele or inscription that we happened to dig up. In any event, there's no archaeological evidence for the Exodus.

What's more of a problem is that we don't have evidence for a massive change in the population of what-was-Canaan around the time that the Torah describes the Benei Yisroel moving in. Once again, there's not a huge amount of evidence one way or another; partially because our ancestors failed to create massive archives of clay tablets, partially because they kept living in the same area and building over (or reusing) the remains of older buildings. None the less, the archaeological record doesn't support the Jewish narrative.

For what it's worth, I think that any attempt to "prove" the Torah via archaeology is doomed to failure. Even if a substantial bit of evidence supporting the Exodus were found - say, finding the altars and pillars near Mt Sinai - the entire Biblical narrative is so unlikely from a rationalist perspective that almost any explanation (e.g.., ruins of a previously-unknown civilization, a pious Herodian reconstruction, the foundations of a secret IDF military camp) would be preferred.

  • 1
    Good answer. This question came up at my seder this year, and the answer I gave was, basically, it doesn't matter: either the exodus happened as described, or kivhachol, it's part of our history/tradition and I'm going to live my life as if it did, and that's all the support I need. – Monica Cellio Apr 7 '13 at 15:08
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    You're not quite right. While there is not direct archeological evidence of the exodus story, there is archeological evidence which correlates to certain things described in the story. There is a mud brick city hastily built around the time of the exodus, and there are stella recording cetain curses / plages, such as by an Egyptian frog diety punishing the ruler, which correlate to the plagues described in the exodus story. While these things in no way prove the exodus story, they do prove that it originates in Egypt and is at least somewhat based on historical events at that time. – Robert S. Barnes Nov 5 '14 at 9:21
  • @MonicaCellio jpost.com/Opinion/Op-Ed-Contributors/… – Robert S. Barnes Nov 5 '14 at 9:31
  • @ray could you give some examples of holocaust deniers tampering with archeological evidence? Particularly some that would be relevant to the Egyptian evidence under discussion. – mevaqesh Feb 1 '17 at 7:27
  • @mevaqesh "The intention is to turn the entire 36-acre Temple Mount compound into an exclusively Muslim site by erasing every sign, remnant, and memory of its Jewish past, including the destruction of archeological findings that are proof of this past"... jcpa.org/jl/vp483.htm – ray Feb 1 '17 at 11:46
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See this article by R' Gil Student. He seems to be very familiar with the relevant literature, and he "believe[s] (with perfect faith) that 600,000 men and their families left Egypt," but it's clear to him that if there's any archaeological evidence of the Exodus, it's not great or conclusive. In sum:

Here's the simple truth: The single largest question about the historicity of the Torah is how so many people could leave Egypt and stay in the desert for so long without leaving any trace.

He mentions two books that apparently marshal what evidence there is and also argue against those who claim that the historical record disproves the claims in the Bible (which, of course, is different from providing proof that it did happen):

I haven't read these books, so I don't know how much is in them, but like I said, it's clear to R' Student that they don't provide proof of the Exodus. Someone who's read them (or you, if you're sufficiently interested to do that yourself) could provide a summary.

It seems to me that if you want to convince someone to believe in the truth of the Torah, the historicity of the Exodus is probably not the best place to start.

  • Thanks Isaac Moses, I can agree with you that the Exodus may probably not be the best place to start when you try to convince someone else. But let's assume that someone comes over to me and tells me that he agrees already with everything in the Torah and in Judaism, but not so regarding the Exodus. Did something happen in Egypt? And if so, what happened in Egypt? – lehrer Dec 29 '09 at 15:28
  • I guess the question is why this person who believes in the truth of the Torah would doubt the truth of part of it. If it's because he thinks it's been disproven, the arguments in the books I mentioned could be useful. If he requires proof, I'm not sure there's much you can do. – Isaac Moses Dec 29 '09 at 15:53
12

ב"ה

Hope this helps.

http://members.bib-arch.org/publication.asp?PubID=BSBA&Volume=29&Issue=5&ArticleID=9

The finding:

Reed huts more than 3,000 years old belonging to workers—perhaps slaves—and with the same floor plan as ancient Israelite four-room houses have been identified at Medinet Habu, opposite Luxor in Egypt.1 These reed huts may represent extra-Biblical evidence of Israel in Egypt.

So the same houses or dwelling spots that were ascribed to Israelites in the land of Canaan or Israel were also found in Egypt, thus creating a link between the two groups of people. These dwelling spots were not the norm and not found everywhere. It was a certain type of dwelling that was identified only as that of Israelites in the Land of Israel. And thus not the norm for society as a whole in Egypt or in Canaan.

May not 'seem' like much BUT...

This find is actually a real game changer in proving the existence of the Israelites in Egypt. This sort of throws a wrench in the modern archaeological consensus on the identity of the Biblical Israelite (they believed they were people having always lived in Canaan. Then broke away and became Israelites, but always stayed in Canaan not ever having been in Egypt.) This find helps prove that Israelites were a people foreign to the land of Canaan and had lived in Egypt as evidenced by the identical housing structures found in both Egypt and in Israel.

  • Is there anyway for you to give a summary of this finding? Or even explain what it is? Some of us do not have full access to websites, Thus just providing links is not accommodating those people. – Shoel U'Meishiv Jun 4 '15 at 7:25
  • I edited it. If you have any questions let me know. I included just the finding, my explanation after explains its significance. – armoose Jun 5 '15 at 8:47
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In the early 19th Century a papyrus, dating from the end of the Middle Kingdom, was found in Egypt. It was taken to the Leiden Museum in Holland and interpreted by A.H. Gardiner in 1909. The complete papyrus can be found in the book Admonitions of an Egyptian from a heiratic papyrus in Leiden. The papyrus describes violent upheavals in Egypt, starvation, drought, escape of slaves (with the wealth of the Egyptians), and death throughout the land. The papyrus was written by an Egyptian named Ipuwer and appears to be an eyewitness account of the effects of the Exodus plagues from the perspective of an average Egyptian. Below are excerpts from the papyrus together with their parallels in the Book of Exodus.

http://ohr.edu/838

see also this https://judaism.stackexchange.com/a/16858/1857

  • 1
    Actually it appears to describe events from several centuries before the Exodus. If you read an actual translation, a lot of things don't match up, and the things that are highlighted by those using it as evidence of the Exodus are vague. This doesn't rule out an Exodus, but you'd probably want to present something that is more clearly from the Exouds. – A L Jul 19 '16 at 21:55
4

Please read THE RIDDLE OF THE EXODUS by James Long, a gentile who has faith in the oral tradition. He has fascinating archaeologic corroboration for many events and their geographic location.

  • Welcome to Judaism.SE, and thanks very much for bringing this on-point book to the community's attention! Please consider registering your account, to help the site keep track of your contributions. – Isaac Moses Jun 23 '11 at 14:42
  • Rabbi Benjamin Blech recommended this book to us. I haven't seen it yet, but I want to take a look at it when I get the chance. – Adam Mosheh May 30 '12 at 20:29
0

Scholars has very little evidence to offer on biblical exodus which could help to corroborate the biblical sources, whether archaeological or textual.

Nevertheless, some progress has been made to list some parallels between the biblical account and Egyptian literature. For example, archaeological researcher Brad C. Sparks gathered more 34 parallels with the exodus narrative to the 56 previously identified by Egyptologists on disperse scholarship research from 1844 to date of his publication, totaling 90 parallels.

In his paper titled "Egyptian Texts relating to the Exodus" (in Israel's Exodus in Transdisciplinary Perspective: Springer; 2015) he brings parallels from Egyptian texts such as the "Tale of Two Brothers", the "Destruction of Mankind", "Sehel 7-Year Famine Stela", the "Rosetta Stone" and many others.

Commenting on the Tale of Two Brothers, (c. 1215BCE) he quotes scholars that mention similarities betwen this text and elements from passover tradition, (and perhaps, also, would reflect the history of Moses fleeing to Midian, or even Joseph):

(...) in the papyrus narrative, a number of additional episodes are mentioned that are interesting and Exodus-like (Purdy 1977: 122 notices that “two stories are involved,” only one like that of Joseph): The Egyptian-named figure Anubis is apparently the “acting king” (Schneider 2008: 321b), is armed, and chases the possibly Semitic figure Bata (or Semitic Bet representing a household servant: Schneider 2008: 321b–322a), intending to kill him. Divine intervention causes a “great body of water” to separate the two (Pap. d’Orb. 6:7–9; Lichtheim 1976/2006: 2:206). The body of water has “sides,” using the same Egyptian word ru-’i for “sides” used elsewhere in the papyrus to refer to the palace doorway or gate wall (cp. d’Orb. 6:7, 9; 16:10; cf. Hollis 2008: 50). The Semitic figure then departs to the east to dwell in the Semitic Levant (d’Orb. 7:1–8:1; cf. ‘sˇ-trees of Retenu or Syria-Palestine: Hollis 2008: 128–129) after phallic self-mutilation (extreme “circumcision” ?:Hollis 2008: 126; d’Orb. 7:10). The pharaoh puts drops of sacrificial blood “beside the two door posts” of the great palace gate (though blood is not directly on the gate), which grow into strong, protective persea trees (d’Orb. 16:10, emphasis added). (p. 265)

Commenting on the "Destruction of mankind" Papyrus (also called The Book of the Cow of Heaven), inscribed on the tomb walls of Seti I, Ramesses II, and Ramesses III, he says:

Within the primary text of the Destruction of Mankind, Egyptologists eventually identified a singular event they term the “primeval revolt” or the “rebellion of mankind” in the Heliopolis/Eastern Nile Delta area of Lower Egypt (see Sauneron 1962: 5:298, 322–327, 339; Yoyotte 1972, 2013: 346–352, transl.), which is a theme then identified in a dozen or more Egyptian texts by in-depth analysis. It is an early religious or mythological event in ancient Egyptian literature, which resembles the Exodus. This singular event has Exodus-like parallels that are functionally integral to the narrative, rather than a text merely aggregating disparate Exodus-like motifs. The central theme of the revolt is the challenge to sun god Ra as Pharaoh of Egypt posed by evidently non-Egyptian people in northern Egypt, with their escape and ensuing armed pursuit. The rebels become “refugees” (Yoyotte 1972: 164, 2013: 348, transl.) who merely wish to leave Egypt, not overthrow the pharaoh or the government. (p. 267).

Also worth to quote:

Other Egyptologists have pointed out what appear to be clear Exodus parallels (blood plague and Egyptian armed pursuit of unarmed foreign population fleeing Egypt) in this main Egyptian “revolt” narrative, the Destruction of Mankind, but without explicitly calling attention to a Biblical connection (Grimal 1994: 44; Mojsov 2005: 84; Spalinger 2000: 266; Naville 1875:13, 18; Yoyotte 1972: 164). (p. 267-268).

The fact that these Egyptian texts had so well-known elements to exodus tradition may suggest that the Exodus tradition itself shares a literary or even historical connection to Egyptian events.

PS 1: I do not intend to quote each and every parallel cited in this paper. Rather I recommend you a nice summary in a short video here with Brad C. Sparks (skip the first 10mins) or the book itself which, in its entirely, cover a wide range of specialists in many areas.

PS 2: I would also recommend "Ancient Israel in Sinai: The Evidence for the Authenticity of the Wilderness Tradition" by James Hoffmeier, which analyses the case for the exodus in a Egyptian background.

And also, a quite interesting (jewish) approach by Rav Amnon Yitzchak citing parallels between Admonitions of Ipuwer and Yetzias Mitzrayim (part 1 here and part 2 here).

-1

There is a lot of archeaological evidence for all the events in the tanach(bible). I hope you can read Hebrew. Please see this link. http://www.daat.ac.il/daat/vl/tohen.asp?id=676 which is an entire book dedicated to the wealth of evidence. Just a few examples: 1. Joseph in ancient egyptian sources 2. Exodus in ancient egyptian sources 3. Extensive archeaological evidence for Israelite presence in desert 4. Extensive archaeological evidence for conquest of Israel by Israelites etc. etc. etc. Just read the book!

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    For ALL the events in Tanach?? – Double AA Jul 31 '12 at 18:16
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    Yehudah, welcome to Mi Yodeya, and thanks very much for sharing this source! You could make your answer more valuable by editing in the title and author of the book, as well as some more information about the nature of some of the most interesting and relevant pieces of evidence. Also, please consider registering your account, which will give you access to more of the site's features. – Isaac Moses Jul 31 '12 at 22:09
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    Please reference exact place in the source you've mentioned. – JNF Oct 14 '12 at 6:30
  • Why would a skeptic trust the interpretation of a biased source like that? How is it useful here? You should specify a few finds, not just descriptions of the finds, so they can be analyzed. For example, I've seen Rabbi Keleman provide evidence for Joseph, but he identifies Joseph with an Egyptian person from several centuries after the Exodus would have happened. That can analyzed, and in this case it turns out to be a useless example. Bottom line, detail some finds that are actually useful. – A L Jul 19 '16 at 21:46
-1

Shevet dan picked up all lost items and returned them to their owners. This is a yerushalmi brought in rashi in parshas bihaalosicha ch 10 vs 25. Now, if any nonbelievers try to answer why would the yerushalmi 'invent' a good excuse as to why there would be no archeological evidence over a millennium before archeology was invented, that might in itself be good proof of the Higher Providence being seeked.

  • 2
    Did they carry out all the trash too? – Double AA Jun 24 '14 at 2:44
  • Where is the Yerushalmi? – Double AA Jun 24 '14 at 2:45
  • Eiruvin 5 1. First the joke then the request for the maareh makom? Its ok, I would do the same. But considering they ate manna and their clothes didn't wear out, the amount of trash would be negligible. As far as pottery shards, the archeologist's best friend, use your imagination. I doubt there is any archeological evidence of any society that lasted only 40 years, bu thats just my guess. – user6591 Jun 24 '14 at 11:51
-5

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n7OUK4RSVHg look at this and make your decision , but this prove Exodus and that the Moses and Torah are real.

  • Edited. I can't watch the video now, but as this is a historical question, the source doesn't bother me as much, provided the information is accurate. – HodofHod Dec 11 '12 at 4:13
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    @HodofHod Let's just say the video is...suspect. -1 for uselessness. – Double AA Dec 11 '12 at 4:16
  • @DoubleAA Why is the video suspect? What expert source says it is suspect? – Yehuda W Jun 5 '15 at 13:16

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