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Why There Is No Evidence for the Exodus

Dr. David Thiessen is an educator, writer, pastor, and speaker. He has authored several books on a variety of topics including Archaeology


Scholars & Others Dismiss the Exodus

It is no secret that any biblical scholars and other academics do not accept the biblical account of the Exodus. They point to archaeology and say that this field has failed to produce any physical evidence to prove that the Exodus actually took place.

While it is true that there is little evidence for the Israelite Exodus from Egypt, I will say that is because the evidence found does not line up with the accepted idea what that evidence should look like.

There are several reasons why scholars, archaeologists and others can’t find any evidence for the Israelite wandering in the Sinai desert. One is that they are looking for the wrong physical remains.

They also forget that the key to the Bible is faith. Not every event, person or society will have physical remains detailing their existence. Faith is important when it comes to the biblical record.

Abraham was not Jewish

This is a key point that many scholars overlook. We know that Abraham came from the Ur of the Chaldees but what lifestyle he lived is hard to pinpoint. We know he loved God and that he lived out a life, though not always successful, in following God.

Yet, he is recorded as following many local cultural practices. For example his purchase of the Hittite property was done in accordance to Canaanite law. What kind of clothing, etc., he, his son and grandsons used , along with other material culture, is not known.

Joseph and Jacob were not conquered people

An atheist friend of mine remarked one day that the ancient Egyptians were not known to hold slaves. This fact led him to dismiss the first chapter of Exodus which has the Israelites as slaves in the land of Egypt.

Genesis 45 tells us that Pharaoh invited Joseph’s family to join him in Egypt. This would explain why their is no Egyptian record mentioning any slave people from Canaan at that time. Abraham’s descendants were given an invitation and they willingly accepted and moved.

No army, no boasting by the Pharaoh, no accomplishments were needed which tells us that official records or monuments would not hold the story of this move.

No Jewish material culture

Since Jacob and his family moved willingly to Egypt, it is highly probable that they adopted many of the Egyptian material cultures. We cannot say for sure if this is so but it makes sense.

Joseph certainly wore Egyptian clothes and dressed like an Egyptian for he was sold as a slave and had none of his material possessions with him when he ended up in Egypt.

Also, his relatives were ranchers, keepers of livestock, etc. And it is entirely possible that they too adopted Egyptian material culture as their own. This point can be debatable as no one can be sure.

But what we do know is that this was originally a family of 70 people with no Jewish culture to hold to. In fact, the Jewish culture came 400 years later when they settled the promised land.

They may have had their own designs of clothing or houses but there is no way to verify which house is which as only 70 people left their culture back in Canaan when they moved. It is impossible to identify which Canaanite artifacts, housing, etc., belonged to Jacob and his family.

They were slaves

Even if they had their own material culture, that identity was soon taken away from them when they were made into slaves. Slaves certainly do not have the freedom to pursue any of the freedoms enjoyed by their Egyptian masters.

If anything, their personal material culture may be minor items and may not be consistent between all families of the people of Israel. That is only if they were able to create such things and had the time to do so.

Then even if they were able to create such things, how would we be able to identify such items? We have no record of them and no manuscript detailing the difference between Egyptian and Hebrew cultural materials. We would not know which item belonged to whom.

They took Egyptian cultural items

When the Pharaoh finally agreed to let the Hebrews go, the Israelites took Egyptian gold, silver, clothing and so on. Exodus 12 describes this very clearly. Thus any modern archaeologist stumbling along a campsite, or burial ground, would find evidence for Egyptians, not Hebrews.

Again, even if the modern archaeologist did find alternative designed items at these sites, the presence of Egyptian material objects would lead the modern archaeologist to conclude they were looking at an Egyptian site not an escaping Hebrew one.

There would be no evidence present at any Sinai excavation site to identify the occupants other than Egyptian. Hat is unless known material artifacts from other civilizations were uncovered at those sites. The Hebrew artifacts would not be known.

Mt Sinai remains

It can be argued that certain biblical details of the Hebrew journey to Mt. Sinai and their sojourn there, could leave evidence. Some people have claimed that they found those remains.

Unfortunately, it is impossible to verify who the original owners of those remains were. It is also impossible to tie each one to the Hebrews. Those remains do continue to be a possibility but that is as far as those items go.

The Hebrews wandered for 40 years

Contrary to the conclusions made by Dr. William Dever, The Hebrews did not stay at Kardesh-Barnea for 38 years. They did end up at that area, but there was no long term stay. With 40 years of wandering, it would be impossible for the Hebrews to develop and produce their own material culture.

That means that the weapons they had, the pottery, and the clothing, were still Egyptian. No Hebrew material culture could be produced until they were settled in their new home.

None could be found in the desert till possibly a century after the Exodus.

Some Final Words

This is just a brief look at why there is no physical evidence available to prove that the Exodus was real. Dr.James Hoffmeier in his book, Israel in Sinai, quoted Dr. Finkelstein when he said that nomads remain archaeologically invisible.

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The Hebrew people were nomads for 40 years. They would remain archaeologically invisible with even their campsites impossible to detect. Some people have claimed that different nomadic campsites have been found but it is, again, impossible to determine who used them.

That is without known artifacts to help with the identification. We have no known Hebrew artifacts from Egypt or the Sinai to help archaeologists identify which campsite belonged to the Hebrew people.

The Exodus remains invisible until we look at the event with new eyes and understand that the Hebrews were invisible. They did not have their own identifiable material culture during their 40 year travel

© 2018 David Thiessen


David Thiessen (author) from Philippines on May 15, 2019:

he would be one of the few people who place it in that century. Why would they record the presence of the Hebrews when God did so much damage to them on behalf of them?

The settlement names have been argued over by scholars and there is no problem with them

I have dealt with the Babylonian influence in other articles. Suffice it to say that would not work as too many people would know the stories to be false and would not accept them as Hebrew scriptures

John Welford from Barlestone, Leicestershire on May 15, 2019:

My source is "The Bible for Grown-ups" by Simon Loveday. He points out that the chronology of the OT places the Exodus at around the 13th century BC, when Palestine was most certainly part of Egypt. He also makes clear that this was a period that was meticulously recorded by Egyptian scribes who made mention of nomadic people in Egypt but omited any reference to Hebrew people, who were apparently there (according to the OT) for 400 years!

There are other problems with the story, such as the fact that settlements mentioned in the narrative did not exist until several centuries later.

Everything points to this story (and others) being part of the invented history of the Hebrews that was concocted by the exiles in Babylon with a view to forging a new religion, namely Judaism.

David Thiessen (author) from Philippines on May 15, 2019:

Egyptians were well known to scrub their history. KA Harrison in his book Old Testament Times and other scholars have written about this fact. And no they were not escaping into Egypt, you would have to supply some credible records to prove that

John Welford from Barlestone, Leicestershire on May 15, 2019:

One problem with the Exodus story is that the Egyptian Empire at the time it was supposed to have happened extended into the land of Canaan. That suggests that the Israelites escaped from Egypt - to Egypt!

Another difficultly is that Egyptian scribes were meticulous in recording every aspect of their lives and history, but there is no mention at all of any Hebrew slaves being in their country. Given that this population was supposed to run to many thousands, that does sound like a remarkable oversight.

David Thiessen (author) from Philippines on December 26, 2018:

Yes, sorry, you are right. At least you know I am not perfect

Leland Johnson from Midland MI on December 26, 2018:

I thought the half tribes were Ephraim and Manasseh? Benjamin was just the youngest, and considered "least" of the tribes of Israel, right?

David Thiessen (author) from Philippines on December 25, 2018:

Thank you for the comments. I was going to do an article on the ancient Egyptian record keeping system but have others in front of that one.

Judah kept the half tribe of Benjamin when the ten other tribes split. Faith is always part of the equation

Leland Johnson from Midland MI on December 25, 2018:

You made a lot of good points. I like your formatting- almost bulleted to keep the readers interest. I would also offer this point- You're right in saying Abraham was not a Jew, the term wasn't even used until the kingdom of Israel split between Reheboam and Jeroboam. Jeroboam took 10 northern tribes, Reheboam retained only Judah and some Levitical priests that lived there to teach in the temple. Hence the word "Jew" is an abbreviated version of "Judean" or "Judah." I agree that though the sands of time may have obscured it comes down to whether or not we have the faith to believe the account. Jesus believed it and quoted from the book of Exodus and referred frequently to Moses. Also, the Egyptians were not known for recording their defeats, a practice familiar even in our modern era. Good job, solid article.

Liz Westwood from UK on December 24, 2018:

You make some interesting points. I remember well studying our way through the Exodus in RE lessons at school.

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