I was in shul on this past tikkun leil shavuot, as they had some interesting shiurim.

They had a rabbi associated with aish there, I don't recall who it was, and he gave a talk about archaeology and the bible.

He said that paintings have been discovered, I don't recall if he said in tombs or pyramids.. but he said these paintings have been discovered, and that they show a people crossing the sea, with the sea split. At the end of his talk he held the book up with the pages open and said here, and everybody crowded around in awe.. I didn't see clearly myself from the distance, but I saw the colours of the book, and I looked up about the book and have identified which book it was.


Israel's Exodus in Transdisciplinary Perspective: Text, Archaeology, Culture, and Geoscience (Quantitative Methods in the Humanities and Social Sciences) 2015th Edition by Thomas E. Levy (Editor), Thomas Schneider (Editor), William H.C. Propp (Editor)

And one of the reviews backs up what the rabbi said and showed re the contents of the book

"These are the foremost experts on the Exodus all gathered in one place, in one volume. All the big names are here. A number of contributors point to hieroglyphic accounts of the Exodus and some Egyptian paintings of the dramatic scenes. This should be the subject of much discussion in the years to come. Debate about the historicity of the Exodus should be reopened as a result of this fine work."

I've heard that one issue archaeologists would have with the exodus is that according to archaeologists, egypt ruled israel at the time, so escaping from egypt to an israel ruled by egypt, wouldn't work. So i'm under no illusions, i'm sure the minimalist archaeologists haven't changed their position overnight into one that the exodus happened. But regarding these paintings,

Are they really egyptian paintings of the exodus? Are there good reasons to think they're not?

I can't much online about it, though it seems like it should've been a big news story.

  • 1
    @RenatoGrun that is a very general question, i'm asking a specific question. If anything somebody could post part of my question as an answer to his question. But i'm asking about specific evidence.
    – barlop
    Jan 30, 2017 at 12:54
  • Possible duplicate of Archeological proof of Exodus? Jan 31, 2017 at 20:56
  • @RenatoGrun why are you repeating yourself all the time and not addressing what I wrote in reply to you?
    – barlop
    Jan 31, 2017 at 22:42
  • Actually I DID adressed this in a answer there: judaism.stackexchange.com/a/79619/4648 Feb 1, 2017 at 2:12
  • The best archeological evidence of the exodus that comes from Egypt is in the Ismalia Museum. It is recorded in the writings of Jim Long from Lightcatcher Productions who worked with Vendyl Jones. Apr 2, 2017 at 1:21

3 Answers 3


Some fair comments on my last answer were added, so I'll try to improve it.

"Are they really egyptian paintings of the exodus?" It's possible, I don't know. It's also possible they are not, I also don't know. Here I can't help.

"Are there good reasons to think they're not?" Yes, there are good reasons to think they are not. This is what we call a possible event of zero probability, like a sudden burst of smallpox somewhere. Ie, the probability they are genuine ancient egyptian paintings is nearly zero, or even zero. As the asker notes "it seems like it should've been a big news story". Well, it hasn't. Why? Were there any good reasons involved?

Why is the probability near zero in this case? Well, ancient Egypt was not a democracy. When the president gets something wrong, everybody writes a book about it. Pharaoh was a god, when the Pharaoh got something wrong, it didn't happen! And let someone dare say it did. Ancient egyptians didn't use to carve many hieroglyphs about their defeats, as any historian can confirm. If ever they did write something about a defeat, they would add much sugar to it.

So, this answers the straight question "Are they really egyptian paintings of the exodus? Are there good reasons to think they're not?"

Yet other issues are raised by the asker: "it should've been a big news story" and he quotes someone saying "debate about the historicity of the Exodus should be reopened as a result"

Why is this such a big thing? Why should such a debate be reopened? Let's suppose for a moment someone just found a Torah scroll in the arabian desert which has been dated by all methods available to Science as from 3200 years ago. This would be big news. Should the debate about the historicity of the Exodus be reopened? First of all, historians would be very amazed by the fact that, besides one or two minor points, it's an exact copy of any other modern Torah scroll, but the chemistry doesn't lie: 3200 years old. And that's it. For historians this 3200 year old Torah scroll is no more a reliable source for confirmation of a historic hypothesis than any modern Torah scroll.

For historians a Torah scroll is a source of hypothesis, but they refuse to rely on it to confirm those hypothesis. Here these jews have this text. Maybe it happened, maybe not. Why should we believe them? Until some irrefutable piece of evidence comes to light, this is just a hypothesis, not a fact.

So these paintings come to light. By what powers are these paintings irrefutable piece of evidence? I saw once a video of president Obama kicking a door open. Maybe some egyptians were just fooling. Maybe that tale about crossing a split sea was a common fairy tale in those days which was written by the hebrews their own way and painted by egyptians their own's. What makes these paintings here more reliable than a Torah scroll?

Does anyone really believes that egyptians monarchs took their time collecting unbiased accounts of events and then ordered painters and carvers to depict the truth as realistic as they could? Or are they egyptian paintings and hieroglyphs just fabulous propaganda?

What's the problem with Torah being a reliable historical source when some ancient obscure propaganda can be such?

For me Torah is a reliable historical source. It's a fact that the jews were in Egypt and left it by crossing a split sea. There's no debate to be reopen. If those paintings are chemically proven to be ancient and egyptian, the better. But they don't prove anything, they're just a good depiction of a known fact. What if those paintings showed people crossing the sea in a baloon? Would it prove that Torah is wrong and jews didn't cross by foot a split sea, or would it rather prove those paintings to be an ancient joke?

If it helps, Moshe was sometime an egyptian monarch, so if some scratches on a wall seemingly ordered by an egyptian monarch are the historical truth, then let's just admit a Torah scroll is also the historical truth.

This here http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/3007/jewish/How-Do-We-Know-that-We-Heard-G-d-at-Sinai.htm also answers much.

  • it's not that safe if somebody's belief can change with the shifting sands of archaeology and science, so some may compartmentalise the archaeology or science, and some, as you do, may disregard it.
    – barlop
    Jan 31, 2017 at 22:45

Likely he was referring to the Book of Gates, an Egyptian text that was drawn on walls of Egyptian tombs and sarcophagi and features what some interpret to be the story of the splitting of the sea from the Egyptian perspective (the full text can be read here). I'll summarize the explanation given by then-beginner archeologist1 Ori Yehudah in the site Rational Belief:

"The Egyptian story is divided into the 12 hours of the night and matches the time of the Biblical crossing of Yam Suf which occurred also at night. According to Egyptian mythology, Pharaoh arrives at the sea of flames in the fourth hour of the night, and the fire prevents him from reaching the sea. It's possible to parallelize this motif with the Pillar of Fire that came behind the encampment of the Children of Israel and didn't allow Pharaoh's army to come close to them.

In the fifth hour it tells of the splitting of the sea in two, with there being a convoluted snake in the middle which describes the enemies of Egypt. This parallelizes the splitting of Yam Suf and the passing of the Israelites through it.

In the tenth hour, in the early morning, the sea returns and drowns the brave soldiers of Pharaoh in it. Also in the Biblical story the soldiers of Pharaoh drown near the end of the night and in the morning the Israelites find their bodies tossed onto the beach. "and at daybreak the sea returned to its normal state"."

Here's the picture of the splitting of the sea and the snake:

enter image description here

As to your other question, one reason to interpret it as not being a reference to the Exodus is because the common interpretation is, as described in the site that brings the content of the book (the first link):

"This text, like other netherworld compositions, is concerned with the nocturnal journey of the sun. Compared to the Amduat, the hours are somewhat displaced. For example, in the Book of Gates, the drowned appear in the ninth rather than the tenth hour. Also, because of the grouping of deities and deceased persons, they are more clearly distinguished from each other then in the Amduat, and the dead appear bound to their respective regions in the hours of the night. Here also, the dead king's special status is more clearly defined, as he accompanies the sun god to his rebirth in the morning. In fact, most versions contain additions to the texts and representations that refer directly to the king."

In other words, the common understanding is that this is entirely an Egyptian mythical/mystical text that isn't describing any real, historic events.

Another reason is that an incomplete version of the book was found in the tomb of Horemhab, who, according to most researchers, was pharaoh prior to the time of what is believed to have been when the Exodus occurred, which would make this supposed Exodus story in his tomb an anachronism. Another version was imprinted on the sarcophagus of Seti I, father of Ramesses II, the latter being who many say was the pharaoh of the Exodus. So, another anachronism.2

Mostly, it seems this didn't make the news because it was first discovered many years ago and it seems that from the beginning, or almost from the beginning, it was interpreted as merely an ancient mystical, non-historic text.

1 This was written four years ago.

2 Of course, there are explanations for this also, but that's not the subject here...


You ask "Are they really egyptian paintings of the exodus? Are there good reasons to think they're not?" Yes, there are good reasons to think they are not. All that happened to Egypt on account of the jews and the sheer shame of the greatest power of the time being utterly defeated by its slaves, not by deads of war but by deads of G-d, means they erased any proof, documentation, hieroplyphs, paintings, sculptures of the presence of those slaves and of the consequent shame. That was common and Egypt otherwise everywhere. Whenever someone or something falls in disgrace, it is promptly erased. That happened in revolutionary France when all fleur-de-lis where erased from everywhere. One survived in a inconspicuous place of the Paris catacombs. That's why historians maintain there is no proof that jews ever were in Egypt. Yes, there is not, it was destroyed. The only proof of it is the text of the Torah, but somehow that's not enough proof for historians. If ever in Egypt half of an old broken hieroglyph comes up from the sand which talks of the jewish slaves, historians will hail that Science found a proof. They could as well just enter any synagogue and ask to take a look to the Torah scroll, but that for them isn't proof of anything.

  • 1
    Yes, ancient historians were not always good at telling the truth and giving every piece of information, as with the Greeks.
    – ezra
    Jan 30, 2017 at 18:12
  • -1 this answer, besides being critical that secular scientists don't accept the torah (which is a bit absurd), it just totally doesn't address the fact that there are paintings of a people crossing a sea that is split in half. You just say no there won't be evidence and you don't address the evidence spoken of that is pictured in that book.
    – barlop
    Jan 30, 2017 at 22:20
  • The idea that if ancient peoples are unlikely to record their defeats, is an argument that an absence of evidence for an event, isn't good reason to think that the event didn't take place. But it's not a good reason to then when evidence does appear, to then disregard it because you wouldn't have expected it! That is just ridiculously narrow minded. to disregard evidence like that based on some expectation that you wouldn't find it!
    – barlop
    Jan 30, 2017 at 22:44

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