By Stephen Andrew Missick
How important is the Exodus? The Bible often traces the origins of Israel and God's choosing of them to be his people- to Egypt and not to Abraham.
1 Samuel 2:27
A man of God came to Eli and said to him, "Thus the Lord has said, 'I revealed myself to the family of your ancestor in Egypt when they were slaves of the house of Pharaoh.'
Thus says the Lord God: On the day when I chose Israel, I swore to the offspring of the house of Jacob—making myself known to them in the land of Egypt—I swore to them, saying, I am the Lord your God.
On that day I swore to them that I would bring them out of the land of Egypt into a land that I had searched out for them, a land flowing with milk and honey, the most glorious of all lands.
We also see Hosea 11:1, "When Israel was a child I loved him, out of Egypt, I called my son." (This passage is applied to the Christ-child in Matthew 2.) Hosea, like most of the prophets, dates the real beginning of Israel from the time of Moses and the Exodus.
There are many other passages like these.
The Israelites major feast days are centered around the Exodus-or were given during the period of the Exodus.
Passover/ Feast of Unleavened Bread: "Independence Day" a sacred (as opposed to civil) New Years. A celebration and remembrance of the Exodus
Pentecost/Shavuot: A celebration of the giving of the Law
Succot/Tabernacles: A remembrance of the Israelites living in booths.
"The Nomadic Ideal"
As Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and Moses lived a nomadic life, many followers of the Lord viewed the desert life will nostalgia and felt that this time period represented a time when the people were closer to God.
In Hosea 2:16, God says of Israel, "So I will allure her; I will lead her into the desert and speak to her heart…She shall respond there as in the days of her youth, when she came up from the land of Egypt. On that day, says the Lord, she shall call me, "My husband."'
Here, Israel's journey in the desert represents for Hosea the time of Israel's fidelity, before it was corrupted by Canaan. See also Jeremiah 2:2-27 and Amos 5:25.
There are 7 major candidates for Mount Sinai.
- Jebel Catherine: The "traditional" Mount Sinai
- Jebel Serbal: Apparently viewed as Mount Sinai before Jebel Catherine was-contains ancient graffiti identifying it as a sacred place
- Jebel Sin Bashir: a "three days journey" from Egypt
- Jebel Helal: located near Kadesh Barnea
- El-Khrob: in southern Midian
- Jebel El-Lawz in Saudi Arabia
- Hashem el-Tarif, AKA Gebel Khashem Tarif. This is advocated by Simcha Jacobovici in "Exodus De-coded."
How far could the Israelites go in a short period of time?
Let us examine how far trail-riders go in their journeys to Houston. A trail ride from Anderson, Texas to Houston, Texas crossed 80 miles in 10 days. One trial ride was going a greater distance. Starting at Reynosa, Mexico and traveling to Houston. They started on February 9 and arrived February 29 and traveled a total of 386 miles to the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo in 2011
Tuthmosis III, went with great haste to crush a Canaanite uprising in Megiddo. He was able to go about 15 miles a day according to the records that he left.
NOTE: There are iteneraries in the Bible that give us a time frame that we have to work with Exodus 12, 13, 14, 15 and Numbers 33)
Who was the Pharaoh of the Exodus?
The Hyksos Theory
1600-1500-The Egyptians expulsed Semites from Egypt when they drove their Hyksos Canaanite overlords from Egypt. In ancient times it was thought that this was the Exodus referred to in the Bible. However, it seems to early and doesn't conform with the Biblical timeline.
The Amenhotep II Theory
(This theory is based on a literal reading of a time-span given in the Bible)
Thutmose I is believed to be the Pharaoh during whose reign Moses was born. Some argue that Queen Hatshepsut is the daughter of Pharaoh who saved baby Moses from the Nile. After Thutmose I died, there the male heir was not of age and Queen Hatshepsut seized the throne.
Thutmose III (1479-1425) Queen Hatshepsut ruled until this young king came of age. When he did she continued to rule and they had a co-regency. (After she died Thutmose III had her name on monuments and her images defaced.) Certain Bible students believe this Pharaoh is the "Pharaoh of the Oppression" from whom Moses fled to Midian after murdering the Egyptian taskmaster.
Amenhotep II (1427-1401) According to this theory Thuthmose III was the Pharaoh of the oppression. Hatshepsut was the daughter of Thutmose I and probably the "daughter of Pharaoh" who reared Moses. After Hatshepset died Moses was expelled by Tuthmose II probably around 1485 B.C. Tuthmoses III's son, Amenhotep II ruled from 1453-1419 and was the Pharaoh of the Exodus (1450-1424 BC?). (Davis suggests that the "Dream Stela" of Thutmose IV, the son and successor of Amenhotep II, provides support for the argument of Amenhotep being the Pharaoh of the Exodus. Thutmoses IV was not the first born son. To legitimize his claim to the throne, Thutmose claimed that as he slept by the Sphinx it spoke to him in a dream as the god Har-em-akht. The Sphinx promised him if he unburied him then he would come to rule over Egypt.
The Ramesses Theory
The description of Egypt in Exodus seems to fit the historical context of the period around the rule of Ramesses the Great. This is the majority opinion. The Bible says that the Hebrew's built Pi-Ramesses. So here we do have a known Pharaoh and a known city mentioned in the Bible. The Movie "Ten Commandments" with Cecil B. DeMille and "Prince of Egypt" with Val Kilmer have Ramesses as the Pharaoh of the Exodus and Seti as the Pharaoh of the Oppression. Ben Kingsley's "Moses" and Burt Lancaster's "Moses the Lawgiver" have Ramesses as the Pharaoh of the oppression and Merenptah as the Pharaoh of the Exodus.
Yahweh Verses the Gods of Egypt
We discussed the historical evidence for the Hebrews living in Egypt. I mentioned that there is an abundance of evidence that Semitic people settled in Egypt. We know that certain Semites rose to high positions the way that Joseph did. So, we have evidence for the Hebrews living in Egypt staring at us-but we don't see it because we have false ideas about the Hebrews in Egypt. They were not worshiping to God of Abraham in Egypt. They were worshiping idols and Egyptian gods.
According to the Bible, while the Hebrews were slaves in Egypt, they worshiped the gods of Egypt (Joshua 24:14, Ezekiel 20:7-8). They had no knowledge of the name of God (Exodus 3:13-14, 6:2-3). God first revealed himself to the Israelites in Egypt through Moses (Exodus 4:30-31). In many places in the Bible it is stated that God (Yahweh or "Jehovah") first revealed himself to Israel when they were slaves in Egypt (1 Samuel 2:27, Ezekiel 20:5, Hosea 11:1, 12:9, 13:4). Archeologists have discovered a significant amount of evidence that proves that there was a large minority of Semitic people who lived in ancient Egypt. I believe the Hebrews were among this population of Semites in Egypt. Since there were so many Semites in Egypt, not only did these Semites worship the gods of Egypt (as the Bible says the Hebrews did) the Egyptians worshiped the gods of the Semites. Egyptians worshiped the Semitic gods Baal, Hauron and Reshep and the goddesses Anat, Astarte, Baalat and Qadesh. (Seth was often identified with the Semitic god Baal.) I believe that knowing about cultures and beliefs of biblical times deepens our understanding of the Scriptures.
The Bible says that Yahweh's mission in the plagues was to "execute judgment against all the gods of Egypt" (Exodus 12:11-13, Numbers 33:4). Also, in order to properly understand the religion of the Israelites during their sojourn in Egypt, it is necessary to understand ancient Egyptian religion since Joshua 24:14 makes it clear that the Israelites worshiped Egyptian gods while they were slaves in Egypt. (Also, Moses asked God what his name was so that he could tell the Israelites what god had sent him (Exodus 3:13). The Israelites had lost knowledge of God.) In retellings of the Exodus, such as Cecil B. DeMille's The Ten Commandments, ancient Egyptian religion isn't properly explained or represented. The only thing that the viewer would learn from this movie about ancient Egyptian religion is that they worshiped idols. Even in some scholarly works by Evangelical Christians, ancient Egyptian religion is superficially treated.
The Bible says that Yahweh's mission in the plagues was to "execute judgment against all the gods of Egypt" (Exodus 12:11-13, Numbers 33:4). To fully understand the Exodus account and what this means it is necessary to be familiar with ancient Egyptian religion. The Lord specifically said in Exodus 12:12, "…against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment. I am Yahweh." How did God execute judgment against the gods of Egypt? John J. Davis in his book "Moses and the Gods of Egypt" argued that God judged Egypt's false gods by directing a plague against each of the main gods of Ancient Egypt. However, he seems to have a rather superficial knowledge of Egyptian religion.
Every plague had its meaning. God had a purpose in each of the plagues.
IMPORTANT NOTE: THERE WAS NO ONE EGYPTIAN RELIGION. There were different religions in ancient Egypt. Egyptian religion was never unified into one coherent system.
First Plague: The Nile Turns into Blood (Exodus12:12
Hapi was the god of the annual inundation (flooding) of the Nile. Khnum , a creator god, was a god of the source of the Nile. Anukis was a goddess of the Nile.
The ancient described Egypt as the "Gift of the Nile." In a sense, Egypt is the Nile and the Nile was personified and worshiped as a god.
The Egyptians prayed for the gods to bless the Nile. (Their survival literally depended upon it.) The Coptic mass includes a blessing for the Nile.
The Second Plague: Frogs
Heket, the goddess of magic, was a frog headed goddess. A group of eight gods who were held to be creator deities were called the Ogdoad. There were four serpent headed gods and four frog headed goddesses.
The Ogdoad of Hermopolis: Gods: Nun, Heh, Kek, Amun Goddesses: Nunet, Hauket, Kauket, Amunet. Their identity: Water, Infinity, Darkness, and Hiddeness or wind.
These eight deities formed the original mound of dry land, from which a lotus flower, or in another version an egg arose, that gave birth to Ra. The Ogdoad of Hermopolis were held by some Egyptians to be creator deities. So, the frog had a powerful religious symbolism to the Egyptians.
The Third Plague: Flies +
The Fourth Plague: Lice, gnats or mosquitos (Exodus 8:8, 8:20)
The Egyptians didn't worship flies or other pestilent insects. (They did have a beetle god called Kheferi. And a scorpion goddess named Serqet.) They did however pray to Harpokrates-Horus the Child and Isis his mother, to heal them from insect bites.
Obviously, these gods were helpless to deliver than from the biting insects.
The Fifth Plague: Cattle Disease (Exodus 9:1-6)
Egyptians worshiped cattle goddesses and sacred cows. These gods and goddesses were probably what was behind Aaron building the golden calf.
HATHOR: the goddess of love appeared with the head or horns of a cow.
THE APIS BULL: was worshiped as an incarnation of Ptah, a creator god.
THE MNEVIS BULL: was an incarnation of Ra.
And so with this plague, important symbols of Egyptian deities died.
The Sixth Plague: Boils
Egyptians worshiped two gods of pestilence. These were Sekhmet, a lion headed goddess and Resheph (a Semitic god, whose name in Hebrew means plague). They would intercede with these gods for them to end plagues. The Egyptian gods had no power to end the plagues.
The Seventh Plague: Hail (Exodus 9:13)
Nut was the goddess of the sky. Seth was the god of storms.
The Eighth Plague: Locusts (Exodus 10:1-6)
The locusts consumed the fruit of the ground. Osiris was the god of fertility and vegetation. Through the plague of locusts, Osiris, one of the most important Egyptian gods was rendered powerless.
The Ninth Plague: Darkness (Exodus 10:21)
Ra was the great god of Egypt. Egyptians were sun worshipers. Probably the most important gods of ancient Egypt was Amen-Ra.
Yahweh shows his superiority over Ra by blotting out his light.
The Tenth Plague: Death of the Firstborn Son
Khnum was the ram god. He was the creator of mankind and the god of the Nile. The lamb was his sacred animal. Killing this animal and painting the door with its blood was a show of defiance and rejection of Egyptian religion, and was from the Egyptian perspective, sacrilege.
The death of Pharaoh's son was a strike at the very foundation of Egyptian royal religion. The first born son of the king was believed to be the reincarnation of Horus, the son of Osiris.
(Hoffmeier has protested saying that we shouldn't imagine Egyptians to be like the Hindus with sacred animals. (but Hindus themselves aren't like hindus-we have false assumptions and stereotypes about the Hindu religion). The Egyptians would sacrifice cows and would sacrifice and mummify animals such as cats to the cat goddess Bast and mummify crocodiles for Sobek the crocodile god and baboons for Thoth the baboon god.
And we need to realize that there were beliefs that the Egyptians had which were similar to concepts found in the Bible:
Ptah: spoke the world into existence
Khnum: formed man from the dust of the earth
Amen: a transcendent god
Atum: eternally existant and uncreated.
Aten: monotheistic god (Amen too)
James K. Hoffmeir Israel in Egypt: The Evidence for the Authenticity of the Exodus Tradition
James K. Hoffmeier Ancient Israel in Sinai: Evidence for the Authenticity of the Wilderness Tradition
Stephen Andrew Missick
Reverend Stephen Andrew Missick is the author of The Assyrian Church in the Mongol Empire, Mar Thoma: The Apostolic Foundation of the Assyrian Church in India, and Socotra: The Mysterious Island of the Church of the East which were published in the Journal of Assyrian Academic Studies (Volume XIII, No. 2, 1999, Volume XIV, No. 2, 2000 and Volume XVI No. 1, 2002). He is the author of The Words of Jesus in the Original Aramaic: Discovering the Semitic Roots of Christianity, Mary of Magdala: Magdalene, the Forgotten Aramaic Prophetess of Christianity, Treasures of the Language of Jesus: The Aramaic Source of Christ's Teaching, Aramaic: The Language of Jesus of Nazareth and Christ the Man. He is an ordained minister of the gospel. He graduated from Sam Houston State University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Rev. Missick has traveled extensively throughout the Middle East and has lived among the Coptic Christians in Egypt and Aramaic Christians in Syria. He also served as a soldier in Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003 and 2004. While serving as a soldier in Iraq he learned Aramaic from native Aramaic-speaking Iraqi Assyrian Christians. Rev. Missick is the writer and illustrator of the comic book "The Assyrians: The Oldest Christian People," the comic strip Chronicles: Facts from the Bible and the comic book series The Hammer of God which are available from www.comixpress.com. The Hammer of God comic book series dramatizes the stories of Judah Maccabee and Charles Martel. He has also served as a chaplain in the Army National Guard in Iraq during his second deployment in 2009 and 2010. He participated in an archeological excavation of Bethsaida in Galilee in 2011 and went on a missionary trip to Uganda in 2012 and India in 2013.
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