Did the Israelites really make an Exodus from Egypt?
Is the Bible account of the Exodus just a story? Were descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob actually slaves in Egypt? Was their freedom gained after ten “plagues”—including the incredible Passover night? Did it all really happen as written in the book of Exodus? Scholars and archeologists are divided on the answers to these questions. In principle, we believe that the Bible should stand on its own merit. Nevertheless, realistic answers are accessible to meet the challenges of skeptics.
1 Peter 3:14-16 “Do not fear their intimidation, and do not be troubled, but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence . . .” NAS
First of all, the Bible in Genesis (47:19-25), reveals that actually all the Egyptians were slaves to the Pharaoh. So to identify the Israelites—an immigrant population in Egypt—as particular targets of abuse under an absolute monarch, would not be unrealistic.
Over the last several centuries the track record of the critics of Biblical statements has actually faltered. Beginning with the five books of Moses—people, places and events have consistently been affirmed archeologically as valid history of what happened thousands of years ago. (For examples: The existence of the Hittites peoples, a King named David and his palace in Jerusalem have all emerged as visible facts.)
But, could there really have been a series of plagues so timed in rapid sequence so as to force the release of the Israelite slaves from the Egyptian despotism? These questions are not just matters of idle curiosity. First of all, from the Jewish standpoint, the birth of the Nation of Israel was the result of the passage from bondage through the birth canal of the Red Sea—marking the death of Pharaoh and his pursuing Army.
Additionally—most importantly for Christians—the sparing of the firstborn was a picture of the Christian “church of the firstborn.” Thus, in fact, the Passover lamb was a picture forecasting Christ. John the Baptist announced that Jesus was “the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29, 36) Apostle Paul referred to Jesus as “Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us.” (1 Corinthians 5:7) Further on, Paul wrote of the “fathers” of Israel’s Exodus passing through the Red Sea. (1 Cor. 10:1) Thus understood, the validity of the Exodus account becomes a foundation event for both Jewish and Christian faith. In fact, Jesus himself also repeatedly referred to Moses and Mosaic Law—and his own celebration of Passover validated the event and its importance.
Sorting out the Challenges to the Exodus. Though faulty, skepticism of the past three centuries, nevertheless, wreaked havoc among Christians and Jews—even influencing their clergy. evidence to reveal the past. Yet, in the last century their prominence came when their finding portrayed discrepancies with Exodus. Unable to answer the challenges, many Jews and Christians began to adopt the views of the skeptics and atheists.
One seeming conflict has been between Egyptian chronology and Bible chronology because of the Bible’s reference to “Rameses.” Although the Bible does not need archaeological confirmation— specific seeming contradictions should be addressed. One of those who attempted to sort out the views is filmmaker Tim Mahoney, who (over a 12-year period) produced a presentation opening the debate to include the different sides of the question. In his movie, Patterns of Evidence: Exodus, that was shown in select movie theaters shown across the US on January 19 and 29, evidence was clearly shown that refutes assertions that there was no Exodus. The conclusions one can draw from his evenly balanced presentation was that the assumptions of the naysayers failed to take into consideration true Bible chronology.
When the Egyptian time line is correctly aligned with (1) the dating they ascribe to the fall of the ancient Canaanite cities, such as, Lachish, Hazor and Jericho, and (2) especially with the true Bible chronology, then the proper date of the Exodus is found to be hundreds of years earlier than assumed by most scholars. (Egyptian chronology has its own inconsistencies ascribing to one dynasty events of as actually occurring before a preceding dynasty.)
The Plagues: Miracles or Miracles of Timing? How did the plagues announced by Moses to Pharaoh come about finally bringing about an Exodus from Egypt? Although the various plagues—the Nile turned to blood; frogs, flies, boils, hail, locusts, darkness that “could be felt,” etc.—were all phenomena of nature, the timing itself was miraculously announced in a period from autumn till spring.
Some have suggested that the water becoming “blood” was probably a “red tide” of algae that would have been harmful to life called “dinoflagellates.” They further suggest that frogs becoming desperate for food searched for it on land. Thus, subsequently “bedchambers,” “kneading troughs,” etc., would be invaded (Exodus 8:1-13). Even “the darkness which may be felt” caused by thick sand or dust storms blackening all sight was probably the ninth plague. (The Miracles of Exodus, Colin J. Humphreys) However, from our point of view, the miracles were actual miracles but were (using natural phenomena) carefully timed to occur when Moses announced them.
Miracle Parting of the Red Sea—Was the parting of the Red Sea a miracle—or from perfectly natural causes? Or, in fact again, was it both? After all, our Creator formed natural laws of nature in the first place! Russian and German researchers recently calculated that a wind blowing at the speed of 67 miles per hours—sustained overnight—could have exposed an already existing reef below the water’s surface. (ABC News, 2/10/15). This exposed elevation could have then provided for passage for a brief time. This possibly logical proposal, while interesting, nevertheless raises the question of how a small nation of people would be able to walk in a Category 1 force hurricane wind with children, the elderly, animals and wagons? Let us never discount the presence of the angels of God who can easily influence the laws of nature.
In whatever way the wind caused a dry land passage, it was miraculous because there was time enough to complete Exodus of the Israelites—as well as overwhelm their enemies.
Israel’s Experiences a “Type” Apostle Paul unlocks the truly great significance of Israel’s deliverance from Egypt. He says that when Israel’s “fathers were all under the cloud and all passed through the [Red] sea,” they were “baptized into Moses....Now “Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured.... Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come” (1 Corinthians 10:1-11). It is Interesting—the Greek word translated “ensamples,” tupos, means a “model,” a prophetic type or shadow. The type also serves as a warning by way of example. (See Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance #5178/79.)
One Greater than Moses—So not only has the history of Israel been a “warning” of consequences to any idolatry, etc.—but also a prophetic “model” of God’s Plan. Paul again helps us understand this history connected with Moses. Moses was used to deliver the Israelites from slavery illustrating how the Christ, Jesus’ and his Church, will deliver the whole world from the slavery sin and death.
Hebrew 3:1-6 “Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the Apostle and High Priest of our confession; He was faithful to Him who appointed Him, as Moses also was in all His house. For He has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses, by just so much as the builder of the house has more honor than the house. For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God. Now Moses was faithful in all His house as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken later; but Christ was faithful as a Son over His house—whose house we are, if we hold fast our confidence and the boast of our hope firm until the end.” NAS
Saving of the Firstborn—then the Whole World! What a beautiful prophetic “model” of the greater Prophet than Moses saving the world in his Kingdom. First the “firstborn” of Israel (Exodus 13:15)—would be saved by the “blood of a lamb” sprinkled on the posts and lintel of the houses (Revelation 12:11). Just so, in God’s Plan, the “Church of the Firstborn” are literally saved first (Hebrews 12:23). As true Christians, we “draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience” (Hebrews 10:22). So now Christians (figuratively speaking) have the doorposts and lintels of their hearts “sprinkled”—and cleansed by the washing of the water of the word.
When Christ’s Kingdom comes, the whole world—like Israel that passed through the Red Sea—will have the opportunity of being rescued from Satan’s kingdom of sin and death! Jesus with his Bride—the Church—will be offering “life” to all willing to accept righteousness and pass it on to others (Revelation 22:17).
Israel itself—as part of the “seed of Abraham”— will then have the privilege of blessing all including her enemies! While the heavenly part of the “seed” will be like the “stars of heaven,” the earthly will be the “sand which is upon the sea shore” (Genesis 22:17). “In you [Abraham] and in your descendants shall all the families of the earth be blessed.” (Genesis 28:14-15 NAS) At that time Christ’s followers will be as the “stars” of heaven. “And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:29) So then, what does it mean now to be true followers of Christ Jesus?
Jesus’ Last Week: Preparation as the “Lamb of God”—Christians as followers in Christ’s footsteps will be privileged to help in blessing “all the families of the earth” in the Kingdom for which we pray: “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven....” Then the true Exodus from the slavery of sin and death for all mankind will be possible!
But for now, Christians are asked to “deny” themselves, take up their “cross” and faithfully “follow” Jesus in order they may have heart communion with him and courage to press on (Matthew 16:24; Mark 8:34; Luke 9:23).
As Christians we are ever thankful for Jesus as “Christ our Passover” (1 Corinthians 5:7) who sacrificed his life that we now—and soon the whole world—might have life. Each year as the time of the Memorial of Christ’s death approaches, we have the opportunity to reflect on Jesus’ last days and enter into Heart Communion with Jesus. We invite you to share those meditations with us.
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