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Egyptologists and the Israelite Exodus

from Egypt 15
James K. Hoffmeier

Early Egyptologists were steeped in interest in biblical history and in
particular the Hebrew exodus story. Edouard Naville and W.M.F. Petrie
were among the early pioneers. Of interest to early Egyptologists was the
geography of the exodus and the route of the Hebrew departure from
Egypt. By the mid-twentieth century, Egyptology’s love affair with Old
Testament matters had soured, but this allowed the discipline to develop
as its own science.
Over the past decades, Biblical scholars have largely been swept into
the current of historical minimalism, leaving Israel’s origin story on the
dust heap of history. This development serves as a pressing call for
Egyptologists to return to the debate to bring data from Egypt to bear on
historical and geographical matters. Indeed some have responded in
constructive ways.
This chapter examines interaction between Egyptology and the exodus
narratives and then reviews some of the newer archaeological, toponymical,
and geological data from Northeastern frontier of Egypt that shed new light
on the biblical narratives.

The Egyptian Origins of Israel: Recent the leadership of Moses was largely viewed as
Developments in Historiography reflecting historical reality in the field of biblical
scholarship through much of the twentieth
The Bible’s portrayal of the children of Israel century. While biblical scholars debated the
entering Egypt during a time of famine in particular written sources behind the tradition
Canaan, followed by a period of enslavement, and their reliability, the general picture was
and then a glorious exodus from Egypt under accepted as accurate.
In North America, the influence of W.F.
Albright and his students, especially G. Ernest
Wright and John Bright, contributed to this
J.K. Hoffmeier (*)
consensus. Not only did these scholars affirm
Divinity School, Trinity International University,
Deerfield, IL, USA the historicity of the sojourn–exodus tradition,
e-mail: but they also were convinced that the footsteps

T.E. Levy et al. (eds.), Israel’s Exodus in Transdisciplinary Perspective, 197
Quantitative Methods in the Humanities and Social Sciences, DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-04768-3_15,
# Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

”3 1 Regarding the skepticism of the historicity of the biblical accounts of David and Solomon. they reasoned. . . academy. Hoffmeier of Joshua and the conquering Israelites could be It is fair to say that these statements of biblical traced through numerous archaeological sites in scholars reflect a general skepticism of the last Israel. Go¨sta Egyptology was considered by many to be the Ahlstro¨m (1986). 1991: 28–31) and Garbini (1988: 21–32). It was certainly the that Israel originated in Egypt as the Pentateuch hope of many that excavations in Egypt might would have us believe. for providing me a copy of the original founding (1997: chapters 1 and 2). Joseph’s service in the court of pharaoh. Lemche. From the 1930s to 1970s Albright–Wright 25 years towards the Israelite origins as a people synthesis dominated the English-speaking in Egypt. explorations . or any part thereof. but rather to examine influential studies that weakened the scholarly how Egyptologists have regarded the sojourn foundations for historicity of the Genesis and exodus tradition. the EEF actually stated that one of its Israel in the country” is “an obstacle to the notion purposes was “to make surveys. Patricia 2 For a critique of these various positions see Hoffmeier Spencer. In the Memorandum of in the Egyptian sources as to the presence of Association. From the outset allow me Patriarchal narratives established by the Albright to observe that I have not found the same level of school. charter. slippery slope towards historical minimalism Before examining the current situation. Consequently. and historical figures and conquest.2 If Abraham’s encounter with a pharaoh in Genesis there is no evidence of a new people who 12. Egypt was enough reason for him to jettison the that publishes the Journal of Egyptian Archaeol- biblical tradition.K.198 J. of Israel’s 400 year sojourn” (Lemche 1988: 31). This solid superstructure began to The purpose of this chapter is not to further experience fissures when Thomas Thompson review the recent scholarly trends in the field of (1974) and John Van Seters (1975) authored Old Testament studies. and William Dever (2003: 1–74). especially as it 127–132). Thompson and Van Seters were skepticism among present-day Egyptologists dismissive of the parallels drawn between Near towards the Egyptian origin traditions of the Eastern social and legal texts and the Genesis Bible as there is among Old Testament scholars narratives. . 3 I am grateful to the secretary of the EES. 41–65). insofar as the same is in any way connected with Egypt. then it seems unlikely subjects of scholarly interest. He has opined that “the silence ogy. 2006: related to the stories in the Pentateuch. In place of the traditional Early Egyptology and the Hebrew view. views are Niels Peter Lemche (1985).” For involved in the biblical narratives. Giovanni Garbini (1988: handmaiden of biblical studies. And so began the slide down the and Syro-Palestinian/biblical archaeologists. locations. Dr. new models began to appear that explained Sojourn/Exodus Tradition Israel’s origins as an indigenous development in the land. Israel Finkelstein (1988. “these periods never existed. Robert provide direct or background information on the Coote (1990: 3) declared concerning the exodus times. was founded in 1882. for the purpose of elucidating or illustrating the Old Testament narrative. and conquered the land coming from outside of the narratives about Moses and the exodus were Canaan. events. the question of the historicity of 1980s saw the rise of skepticism towards the the Israelite sojourn–exodus narratives. reached the court of David and Solomon.1 The particularly. see Miller (1987. Israelite conquest of Canaan and a dismissive rejection of the Torah’s stance that the Hebrews came from Egypt. let us with the redefining of historiography that review the history of Egyptology and its continued in the following decades until it relationship to Old Testament studies. the lack of evidence of the Israelites in The Egypt Exploration Fund (now Society). Some of the chief proponents of these In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Also during the first two decades of the In his rejoinder to Naville. Egyptologists to excavate under the auspices of the “The Exodus and the Egyptologist. The latter excavations Professor of Egyptology at University of were undertaken in 1885 at several sites: Saft el. noting that he never used Cle´dat conducted surveys and some excavations the phrase “all the story of the Exodus” (Gardiner in North Sinai and along the Isthmus of Suez 1924: 87). monograph on his explorations in Sinai called Additionally Naville demurred with Gardiner’s Researches in Sinai and devoted chapter XIV to classification of the Exodus narratives being “no “Conditions of the Exodus” (Petrie 1906b). As it turns out this phrase had been during the second decade of the twentieth accidentally or intentionally added by Naville. Khataanah-Kantir. it was the focus of some of the title of an article published in the Irish the early surveys and excavations. Naville further took story. which devoted two narratives. century (Cle´dat 1919: 210–228. Currelly of the Royal Ontario attempt to interpret those details on the supposi- Museum in which some possible locations for Mt. Naville thought. was an invalid one chapters to the sojourn and exodus. who was Brunner the Land of Goshen (1887). Hyksos and Israelite Cities (Petrie of “guesses of early explorers. of the Old Testament narratives based upon Tell el-Yehudiah. bent on finding 1906a). Five years later Petrie (1911) The comparison of Genesis 1–3 with the Exodus published his Egypt and Israel. Gardiner pointed out twentieth century. The same year Petrie published a major biblical sites at any cost” (Naville 1924: 18).15 Egyptologists and the Israelite Exodus from Egypt 199 Because of the prominence of the Delta in the the Israelite sojourn and exodus as reflected in Pentateuchal stories. Clearly many of the early charged that it was “Gardiner who introduces Egyptologists were interested in the problem of the religious element. Sir Alan Gardiner. and Tell el-Retabeh (20 years questionable evidence (Peet 1922: 5–7). The interest of these scholars in thought were naı¨vely using the Bible to find the the biblical history is well reflected in the titles of Delta sites associated with the exodus story some of their early excavation report. tion that they are a legend” (Gardiner 1922: 205). which should be entirely . by Naville in the same volume of JEA (Naville Maskhuta and The Shrine of Saft El Henneh and 1924: 18–39). wrote a very sharply Swiss and a professor at the University of Geneva worded critique of Naville and others that he (Lesko 1997: 113). Peet.T. A section of one article is called on “le exception to Gardiner claiming that religious passage de la mer rouge” where he attempted to conservatism was compromising scholarly identify the toponyms of Exodus 14:2 (Cle´dat research (Gardiner 1922: 203–204). Two of (Gardiner 1922: 203–215).” EEF were Sir William Matthew Flinders Petrie and In 1922.E. The lesser known Naville was Oxford Egyptologist. Petrie’s early who were overly zealous to prove the historicity work took him to San el-Hagar (biblical Tanis). Liverpool. the renowned Edouard Naville. Cle´dat 1920: Thus Gardiner was not claiming that the entire 203–215). At all events our first task must be to written by C. Naville 1919: 201–228).. and Tell el-Retabeh. In the less mythical than the details of creation recorded same volume. His interests in biblical took umbrage at Peet’s charge that his suggestion history are also seen in the title of one of his that Tell el-Maskhuta was Pithom was the result publications. While his surveys and excavations Exodus narratives should be written off as were primarily Egyptological in nature. Two of the early Church Quarterly in 1908 by L. although some elements in them publications reflected his interest in the exodus appeared fanciful to him. T. Naville after Naville) (Petrie 1888). Steele. Meanwhile. followed by another Naville’s earliest ones were The Store-City of in Journal of Egyptian Archaeology (Gardiner Pithom and the Route of the Exodus (1885) 1924: 87–96) that was a response to an article which dealt with his excavations at Tell el. whom he accused of being unduly influenced all located in the eastern Delta and the Wadi by the Bible in their Egyptological research or Tumilat (Naville 1887). and that they were not of the same literary type.E. two chapters (XVI and XVII) were in Genesis. his legendary. viz. the French Egyptologist Jean that he was misquoted. Sinai are examined. likewise rebuked Egyptologists Henneh.

Lucas’s book is still Egyptology was able to emerge as a discipline available in print in the fourth edition. In fact. not by religious forum where Egyptologists and biblical scholars conservatism. The where appropriate without hijacking the sage advice followed by Lucas is certainly discipline. Best known There is. Lucas pledged to follow the dictum of by establishing it as a discipline in its own right the chemist Robert Boyle who said: “a man may apart from the interests and limitations of biblical be a champion for truth without being an archaeology (Dever 1992: 354–367). for the most part have been strangely silent. Since the for several generations of Egyptologists. we might call “Biblical Egyptologists. biblical studies to produce a new biblical It seems that the heated debate of the 1920s archaeology is a model that would work well. 1930s there have been only a few Egyptologists Gardiner cast a giant shadow over the field in Great Britain who actually integrated their of Egyptology for more than five decades. the rather Gardiner’s strong condemnation of those whom harsh debate of Gardiner and Peet with Naville. I believe. its conclusions” (Naville 1924: 18). Ancient Egyptian Materials this debate from the 1920s and that is that and Industries (1926). but by the opposite tendency and could meet to discuss matters of mutual interest. Hoffmeier left aside. Harris (1962/1989). to provide a more detail recently (Dever 2001: chapter 3). a positive side to for his classic book.4 As such. basis to offer some insights into the biblical In a sense. Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt. A perusal of major spent most of his career analyzing artifacts and Egyptological journals shows that articles are materials from which they were made. as presented in the Bible? In a sense. this discussion is why have Egyptologists had the search was on for the Biblical cities so little to say on the subject of Israel’s origin associated with the exodus. for the disciplines of Egyptology and decades as more recent archaeological biblical studies. it was the intent of the “Egyptology and Ancient Israel” 4 He speaks of a “dialogue” between Bible and archaeo- section of Society of Biblical Literature. Quite aware of the harsh tone of Egyptology what William Dever did for Syro- the debate about the location of the cities of the Palestinian archaeology in the 1970s and 1980s Exodus. revised of its own.” I believe. Unfortunately. Unfortunately. He is strongly biased. there has been too appropriate today in the polarizing debate little dialogue between the two disciplines for between historical minimalists and maximalists reasons that will be explored below. whom one would expect to have Egyptology are not a part of the conversation. If those over the origins of Israel. Although Lucas the biblical historian. which logical data (Dever 1992: 358–359) and elaborates it in I established in the early 1990s. of course. who are trained in the various specializations of Egyptologists.200 J. . has been ignited once again in the past few I believe.K. something to say on the subject.R. Gardiner and Peet did for exodus story. independent of the limited interests of by J. work with biblical studies in general and in Who then would dare enter the arena of particular with the exodus tradition. One important question that emerges from With the work of these pioneer Egyptologists. Old Testament discoveries are being scrutinized along with scholarship could utilize Egyptian material even greater skepticism towards the Bible. had a chilling effect on scholarly cast a pall for decades over serious investigation integration of Egyptology and biblical studies of biblical history by Egyptologists. Dever’s enemy of civility: and may confute an more recent proposal that there be a dialogue opinion without railing at them that hold it” between Syro-Palestinian Archaeology and (Lucas 1938: 8). In this dispute. One notable Hebrew-Egyptological investigation for fear of exception to this trend was a small book written being criticized by him or to be accused of by Alfred Lucas in 1938 called The Route of the having a religious agenda by other scholars. he scarcely found that deal with the Bible in general believed that his 40 years in Egypt gave him a or the sojourn–exodus in particular.

but they would not identify integration with the Bible. In Germany Wolfgang Helck produced a Bernard Couroyer and Henri Cazelles were major work on the interconnections between also French biblical scholars who were well Egypt and the Near East in the third and second versed in Egyptology. Couroyer taught Coptic and Egyptian Ramesses (Helck 1965: 35–48) in response to for more than 30 years (Puech 1997: 10). Othmar Keel has to recognize Qantir as the location of ancient successfully employed Egyptian (along with Pi-Ramesses (see Chap. In his article on the “Die series has been one venue where biblical issues Deltaresidenz der Ramessiden” (Alt 1954: and Egyptology have been discussed. there were Egyptologists who Ramesses. He wrote a mono. but his studies tend to in 1954. themselves as Egyptologists. avoid historical questions (Keel 1978. Alfred Lucas has already Hebrew Scriptures and devotes a chapter to been mentioned. biblical scholars who are not These European scholars. the most prolific German scholar of our time to There were some Old Testament scholars who deal with Egyptian sources and the Old worked Egyptological materials. . He has penned scores of articles (1883–1956) is a leading example. Pi- To be sure. He did write an Egyptian sources were brought to bear on the important article that argued that Hebrew writing Bible. In addition to teaching Hebrew and Old Rameses corresponds to the Egyptian (Pi-) Testament. In Germany the kind of acrimony witnessed The late Manfred Go¨rg (d. but this does not deal traditions as well as some other topics where directly with the exodus. the French excavator of San el- Egyptologists and the Exodus: 1930s Hagar from 1928 to 1956. Egypt occasionally wrote on the problem of the Israelite and the Bible. believed that he had to the Present discovered both Zoan/Tanis and Rameses of Exodus 1:11 and the Ramesside capital. Although he is toponyms to biblical place names. His doctoral dealing with Hebrew words that might be of dissertation from 1909 bore the title “Israel und Egyptian etymology and connecting Egyptian A¨ gypten” (Fritz 1997: 79). A¨gypten und Altes he work with Egyptian toponym lists and other Testament. Albrecht Alt Testament. other Near Eastern) iconography in his studies graph on the Hyksos Die Herkunft in neuer Sicht of Hebrew symbolism. in which he presented his sojourn and exodus from the 1930s to the end of understanding of Egyptian data bearing on the the twentieth century. Pierre Montet. these articles are published in Biblische Notizen his work on historical geography demanded that and in the monograph series. Many of generally recognized as a Hebrew Bible scholar. 9/2012) who was in Briton among Egyptology and biblical studies trained in Hebrew exegesis and Egyptology was in the early twentieth century did not occur. In 1–13) he was one of the first continental scholars neighboring Switzerland. were qualified to use Egyptian data will do so (as primarily Hebrew Bible scholars who had some sometimes happens) in a way that will not do training in Egyptology and used the materials in justice to Egyptian sources. of Exodus including “La re´sidence ramesside du Siegfried Herrmann who authored Israel in Delta et la Ramse`s biblique” (Couroyer 1946: Egypt (1973). This Egyptian sources. He authored a book entitled. is another German scholar of our times who has used Egyptian 5 For a complete bibliography of Couroyer. see Marcel sources to explicate the narratives in Exodus.5 and he the linguistic problems raised by Donald Redford wrote a number of articles dealing with the book on the correlation (Redford 1963: 408–418). Sigrist (1997: 20–28).15 Egyptologists and the Israelite Exodus from Egypt 201 then. Moses and the exodus (Montet 1968: 16–34). both of which Go¨rg edited. however. a small monograph dealing with the sojourn and exodus. 8). regrettably. They wrote on the exodus millennium (Helck 1971). Keel and Uelinger 1998). resulting in poor a responsible way.

Setting aside theories . He is known in Egyptological Anatasi III that describes the marshy areas on circles as the leading Ramesside Period expert the eastern frontier. 1997. and “Un textual. Treaty. especially treaty text from the third through the first among minimalist leaning biblical scholars as millenniums B. l’E´gypt (Exode. see the Anchor Bible Dictionary 2 (1992). and Egypt. Kitchen 1998: 65–131. i. “Quelques e´gyptianismes dan l’Exode” that was applied to the Israelites. a memorial volume 1997.” “Nile. Canaan. The linguistic.. have included in Annotated: Notes and Comments (Blackwell) their publication dossiers a number of important that is still in progress. several of his articles stand out and are “Pharaoh. “‘A People Come Out of Egypt’: An Egyptolo.” “On. His most important contribution to the me greatly. and archaeological questions he has e´gyptianisme biblique”: Depuis la fondation de raised have not been ignored by Egyptologists. Drawing decades of articles.” in The Oxford Handbook of matters related to Israel’s origins. The texts serve as the database for (seventh century) and that the exodus story may comparative study of biblical law and treaty be an adaptation of the Hyksos expulsion story texts (Volumes 2 and 3). Egyptian.” and “Raamses. dictionary entries. 1977: 75–91. Biblical Studies (2006).e.” cite. “Plagues of Egypt. Egyptologists. Kitchen has recently produced a work on Genesis 39–50 after 40 years (Redford magisterial three-volume magnum opus. such as “the Exodus” in Rameses” (for his complete bibliography. In collaboration with graph on the Joseph story remains a standard Paul Lawrence.202 J. worthy of mention. Hebrew. be they Sumerian. 1987. Volume 1 offers transcriptions sojourn and exodus have been very influential and translations of every known law code and (Redford 1963. Hoffmeier Egyptian-Hebrew studies. chronology. and books on Egypt work with Ramesside Period materials. One of William’s seminal studies is and exodus in his books (Kitchen 1966: 57–72.. a lonely voice among British Egyptian geographical names found in Pap.C. IX. 18) (Couroyer 1960: 42–48). or Exodus narratives point to the Saite Period Aramean. Bible and Israelite history. 2005). he has argued that the geographical terms in the Akkadian. 2003: 241–312) and countless gist Looks at the Old Testament” (Williams articles dealing with questions related to 1975: 231–252). “The V. my own mentors from Ramesside Inscriptions (Blackwell). Although too many to and Exodus. exodus tradition is his article “Les Localizations Another distinguished Egyptologist who has De L’exode et La Critique Litteraire” (Cazelles written on matters related to the Israelite sojourn 1955: 346–358). and Israel in Ancient Law and Covenant in the Ancient Near East Times (1992) includes a major treatment of (Kitchen and Lawrence 2012). His mono. some of which deal with the has written extensively on the Hebrew sojourn Exodus. the late Ronald the Ramesside Inscriptions Translated and Williams and Donald Redford. Tabernacle—a Bronze Age Artifact” (Kitchen Redford has been even more prolific over the 1993: 119–129). He articles in the Hastings Dictionary of the Bible sees the setting of the exodus narratives as including entries touching subjects in Genesis being the Ramesside Era. and “Ancient Near Eastern past 50 years on integrating Egyptian data with Studies: Egypt. The works of Williams and Redford in his honor.K. (Couroyer 1956: 209–219). along with the University of Toronto. Williams 1983: 127). Kitchen and the Bible. and authenticity. due to his seven-volume compilation of Also in recent decades. 2009). Hoffmeier 75–98).000 Israel’s origins. was published under the title E´tudes have left their impact on the field of Hebrew E´gyptologiques et Bibliques (Sigrist 1997). It offers an excellent analysis of and exodus over the past 50 years is Kenneth the toponym cluster in Exodus 14:2 and the Kitchen. 1970). Eblaite. Williams wrote a number of background. Exceeding 1. “Asenath. Hittite. His essays related to the Israelite pages in length. but have been thoughtfully answered (Helck An acknowledgement of his contributions in 1965: 35–48. and their careful and Cazelles worked competently with Egyptian critical use of Egyptian materials has influenced materials.

only three of whom were Egyptologists: Frank Yurco. transcriptions. contains excellent 1980s and 1990s since the historical minimalists treatment of the New Kingdom. A seminar was held at Rainey (1991: 93). J. pointed out that this “simply Brown University in 1992. military campaigns recorded on the “Israel” was written from an Egyptological perspective Stela (Rainey 2001: 57–75). though dating. Subsequently. Rainey’s recent to address the origins of Israel debate of the Bible atlas. proposed that based on “collective memories and legendary the hieroglyphic writing of “Israel” in the elaborations” . This 112-page book contained the papers of the six participants. Diana Edleman (Ahlstro¨m and of Israel. and Syro-Palestinian background to the origins of Israel. and a specialist in historical the thirteenth century form of treaty texts best geography was trained in Egyptology by compares with the legal materials of Exodus and H. the late Anson discussed already above). Egyptologists. Go¨sta Ahlstro¨m from the Bible. of Egyptian execration texts and toponymic lists There are a few exceptions. even proposing that Amun-her-khepsh- Edelman 1985: 59–61). by are foundational to the understanding of the avoiding this interdisciplinary discussion. in particular who were setting the agenda were biblical the Amarna Age and Ramesside Periods.” There is good rea. transliterations. Israel in Egypt: The Evidence for included his analysis of the Merneptah reliefs at the Authenticity of the Exodus Tradition Karnak that presents a pictorial counterpart to (New York: Oxford University Press. often resulting in unwarranted investigates the toponyms of Egypt and Sinai conclusions. which he maintained were (1986: 40). the eldest son of Ramesses II and Queen . He concluded by remarking that Lemche (1998: 37) has expressed that “it is the geographical data in the exodus and wilder- remarkable that other scholars have not taken ness traditions “does embody considerable up Ahltro¨m’s interpretation. and translations have not been heard from in the 1980s and 1990s. . ef. which My study. Rainey periodically entered the Deuteronomy.15 Egyptologists and the Israelite Exodus from Egypt 203 about the biblical text such as sources and their attempts at interpretation. Kitchen rather compares the ANE data primarily known as a Semitist. 2006: 118). geographic information” (Rainey and Notley son why this interpretation was not embraced by 2006: 118). He also to do so. and its proceedings demonstrated that Biblical scholars untrained in were published as Exodus: The Egyptian Egyptian epigraphy should not make amateurish Evidence in 1997. geopolitics of the Late Bronze and Iron Age Egyptologists have allowed biblical scholars when the Israelites first appear in Canaan who are not trained to work with Egyptian texts (Rainey and Notley 2006: 58–121). For example. and his archaeologists. Yurco was the 6 only one to present a positive case for using This suggestion was first proposed by Ahlstro¨m a year Egyptian evidence in understanding the origins earlier in an article which was coauthored by another Hebrew Bible scholar. James Weinstein. debate about the origins of early Israel. scholars familiar with Egyptian orthography. an expert in the directly to the biblical forms and concludes that Amarna Letters.6 the biblical scholar. but that “such a powerful folk Merneptah Stela—despite the use of the people memory with so many ramifications can hardly determinative—should refer to a geographical be a strictly pure invention” (Rainey and Notley entity. some land. . for the most part. biblical historians. Polotsky. but a people group. already a classic. No While it is my contention in this chapter that Egyptologists would ever read the signs of a Egyptologists have been for the most part silent foreign ethnic entity ( ) as indicating a foreign during the debate of the 1980s and 1990s. and Donald Redford. Unfortunately. Ahlstro¨m is forced to have engaged in the discussion in several multi- propose an error in the text and then emend it to authored books which have included some fit his theory! Egyptological perspective on the exodus (some One critic of Ahltro¨m’s theory. not an ethnic group. as scholars.” Rainey. 1996).

C. as proposed by Kitchen.204 J. nowhere in I point the readers to Bietak’s paper in this volume. In response to a rather negative background data. Redmount claims “What is immediately striking What Do Egyptologists Really Think about the earlier portions of the Exodus saga is About the Exodus? the lack of distinctively Egyptian content and flavor. usually held at Ben 8 Surprisingly.C. Seminar held the preceding year. Kenneth Kitchen. while the Exodus chapter is revised by the editor! 10 sion of the author or the editor. “I do not necessarily included eight biblical scholars and Syro. So. a classicist. historical. thirteenth century B. have and dating of the biblical materials to the late not been sufficiently engaged in the origins of monarchy or exilic and postexilic periods Israel debate even though Egypt does play a (Redmount 1998: 79–121). that his work in the NE Delta and particularly at . It is Redmount’s chapter is there evidence that Israel in Egypt evident from his presentation at this conference on May was considered in drawing her minimalist conclusions. my book is few articles by Israeli Egyptologists that dealt with the listed in a “Select Bibliography” at the end of the chapter. Manfred 1998 also saw the appearance of a volume Bietak. the reality is that 87). did not attract died in connection with tenth plague (Yurco any of the fine Israeli Egyptologists. and archaeological scholarship. Regardless. I found only a 7 (Hoffmeier 1997: 138–140). she would have in general or with the exodus narratives in been introduced to a wealth of Egyptian particular. Had Redmount consulted the works of Egyptologists seem to show little interest in Williams.8 1997: 57–75). The ten participants then he proceeded to say. Carol Redmount. 9 recent textual.K. share Professor Redford’s pessimism” (Bietak Palestinian Archaeologists. Kitchen. This book was revised and updated by different In the new Oxford History of the Biblical authors in 1999. all the other chapters in this book are which concludes that the main points of the narratives are updated by leading scholars in their respective fields. 31. One important contribution is and it offers the following annotation: “A detailed exami. 2013. and Hermann cited here. might have been the crown prince who Gurion University (Beer Sheva). Contrary to the crucial role according to the biblical tradition. Exodus (but not an Egyptologist). “The Historical Background to the nation of the biblical account of the Exodus incorporating Exodus: Papyrus Anastasi VIII (Groll 1997: 109–115). she uncritically accepts the updated by Shanks. It was called He said. an excellent commentator on the book of the chapter on the sojourn and exodus. “Being an Egyptologist I feel somehow The Origin of Early Israel—Current Debate and embarrassed to comment on problems was organized by Eliezer Oren who also surrounding the theme of ‘the Exodus’” and edited the volume. Interestingly. an Egyptologist and exodus that was originally written by Nahum from University of California at Berkeley. wrote Sarna. a collection of essays called Ancient death can be fixed to the period between 1259 Israel was published in 1998 by Biblical Archae- and 1249 B. It is not clear whether this is the conclu. It has a chapter on the sojourn World (1998). by Sarah Israelit-Groll. made a remarkable and telling rejoinder. and was Unfortunately. a date for the exodus within the ology Society and edited by Hershel Shanks. For some reason. Israeli Egyptologists have had little to say about the sojourn–exodus traditions. He believes that this prince’s Finally. in my judgment.9 These recent studies illus- views of historical minimalists about the nature trate how Egyptologists. sojourn–exodus narratives. not integrating their materials with biblical studies to mention my Israel in Egypt. It is embarrassment?10 curious that this seminar.. the Austrian excavator of Tell el-Dab‘a from the Irene Levi-Sala Annual Research (Egypt). Hoffmeier Nefertari.7 seminar paper of Redford’s in 1986. and a 1987: 163). despite the Egyptian” (Redmount 1998: Despite these studies. views of many scholars who have examined the Egyptian backgrounds of the Exodus 1–14. what is behind this lone Egyptologists. In a search of the Egyptological Bibliography (1822–1997). plausible” (120).

” Or countries: the United States (12).11 I received exodus from Egypt added interesting comments responses from Egyptologists in the following like “I don’t think there is any doubt about it. My Hebrew: 8 1/2 own curiosity about this matter motivated me to (b) No interest in the subject 4 1/2 investigate this question. Those who Hyksos) living in the Delta. had. entering Egypt during the days of famine materials from his excavations in Qantir (Pi-Ramesses) or draught in the Levant it was likely that the in the 1950s. and Uruguay.15 Egyptologists and the Israelite Exodus from Egypt 205 No doubt the fact that the Hebrew Bible NO. Great Britain “I see no reason why the Israelite sojourn in (4). The as to include scholars from a wide range of strongest negative statement was that it was countries. but his work only appeared in 2001. In order to get some (c) Specialization in Egyptology too narrow fresh data. and I was able to place their reasons in remains the Scriptures of Jews and Christians four different categories: alike automatically casts a pall of suspicion (a) No expertise in biblical studies or over it as a source for historical research. I attempted to cast my net wide so grown skeptical in the intervening years. token. either in an article. Several 15 years after his death in 1984. Only one who described scholars whose views I already knew through himself as unsure had some 30 years before personal communication or from their writings. engaged in a major project. Clearly in this chapter he sought to associate the expulsion of the Hyksos demonstrates a rare interest among Egyptian with the Israelite exodus. Israel and modern politics. though none had biblical archaeologists on the origins of Israel. None said NO. Twenty answered The two final questions allowed opportunities for the respondents to give their reasons for their positions and to share any ideas or theories they Tell el-Dab‘a have provided extremely valuable informa. but that may be due to the fact that he was a Coptic Christian. too often blur between academic study of ancient And one chose not to answer the question. Holland. I received 25 Nineteen answered YES. Gardiner’s old stomping grounds. over biblical Hebrews were one such group. unscientific to venture into another field: 6 survey among members of the International (d) To avoid the intensity of the debate about Association of Egyptologists. but had and secondly. Do you think the early Israelites lived in Egypt from which to conduct a survey to gauge current and that there was some sort of exodus? attitudes among Egyptologists. making Egyptians Some who affirmed the historicity of an reluctant to discuss the Bible. but most gave no indicated that they had addressed the question evidence of any knowledge of the debates of the in some manner.” 1. but responses. I conducted a small. Have you published any studies that deal with I must admit to being surprised by the largely the Israelite/biblical sojourn and exodus positive response to the question of the historicity story? Followed by “if not why not”? Five of the sojourn–exodus story. and one each Egypt should have been fabricated. that opinion came the survey to Egyptian Egyptologists as the lines from Oxford. a 20 % return.” Interestingly. By the same from Australia. tion about the Semitic-speaking population (including the and many left these questions blank. section of past 30 years among Old Testament scholars and a book. Belgium (2). 11 the regularity of Asiatics. or book review. which could well have offered additional thoughts indicated that given included the Hebrews among them. Working from the the Bible: 1 IAE directory. Canada. The only criteria I four indicated that it possibly happened or that used in the selection process were not to include they were unsure. written positively about the exodus. Russia. These answers were not possible to quantify. Germany (2). . I randomly selected 125 scholars 2. France. Although I intentionally did not send “unlikely. to use the Egyptian The late Habachi Labib (2001: 119–127) wrote at some length on the sojourn–exodus in his publication of term. Egyptologists in biblical history and the sojourn–exodus tradition. I see no fundamental reason why an Latvia. eventual exodus of the Israelites people could Four questions were posed: not have occurred.

There was an important undercurrent I picked the topic altogether. “I believe the western academy. who did origins of Israel debate. “Like most Egyptologists I sus. and it would be impossible to distinguish one on the one hand. as one Egyptologist admitted.” My survey. and a long a history of religion to be a private matter. serve an important check and balance not one for real Egyptologists to investigate. Thus I see a kind of disconnect. or feel offer some interesting insights which are offered that it is a subject to be investigated by people here. I think that it does investigating it using their discipline. Hoffmeier Another theme that came up with some credibility as a scholar.” Another anti-Semitism in the Middle East.” These two quotes frequency was the recognition that Egypt may perhaps offer the best testimony of what never be able to produce positive archaeological might be behind Bietak’s reference to it evidence for the Hebrews in Egypt because being an embarrassment for an Egyptologist there were large numbers of Semites in Egypt at to discuss the exodus. offering both otherwise.” and then he/she said. It may that. “I have well be that due to acrimonious feuds of the found it difficult to have unbiased 1920s and the antireligious bias that pervades discussions. This sounds like we 1. 1924). and it can attitude that the exodus is a religious matter. suggests has much to contribute. it seems to me. against the excesses of biblical scholarship that This disposition came through very clearly in uncritically uses Egyptian sources. Those who had write on the sojourn–exodus traditions. This is regrettable since Egyp- who are interested in it today than in ancient tology is a cognate field to Hebrew studies and times. In fact there seems to be the background and contextual data. there was a feeling that this Egyptology in studying the Bible rather than a debate has such heavy religious implications simplistic and literalistic hermeneutic. were fact that most felt that the exodus was a concerned with a critical approach to the use of historical event. (1922). and the near future only a few Egyptologists will pect. expertise to offer anything concrete to the But contrary to Gardiner (1922. as if to discuss it seriously articulating rash conclusions about biblical somehow leads people to question your history. 80 % were either not interested in matters of remain stuck in the quagmire of the debates of biblical history or felt that they lacked the the 1920s of Gardiner and Peet against Naville. Despite the Gardiner and Peet. up from some of the respondents. with a religious agenda.C. however. more recent Egyptologists have avoided 2. . and Peet written on the subject have produced very who authored Egypt and the Old Testament little.206 J. I don’t regard the whole Exodus thing as intentionally design research and excavation really relevant to us in a historical sense. however. but on I have already acknowledged that this was not the other hand either have no interest in a scientific survey. seem to accept the historicity of group from another. various times during the second millennium B. for the present scholar said. a statement by another scholar who protested: It is my hope that Egyptologists will take a “The absence of Egyptologists from the greater interest in bringing their expertise to the exodus debate is indeed a conundrum. the biblical sojourn and exodus narratives. I am dialogue with Old Testament studies and that detecting almost an aversion in some circles Hebrew Bible scholars will engage in a careful to even discussing the exodus as a serious study of Egyptian history and archaeology before historical event. projects in an effort to answer questions of I think it says more about the beliefs of those biblical history.K. Egyptologists.

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Culture.Thomas E. Archaeology. Sparks . Propp Editors Israel’s Exodus in Transdisciplinary Perspective Text.C. Levy • Thomas Schneider • William H. and Geoscience Managing Editor: Brad C.