The Exodus
Tomorrow's World Magazine
April 1971
Volume: Vol III, No. 04
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The Exodus
Lester L Grabbe  

The Exodus from Egypt is not just "another Hebrew myth." Ancient Egyptian documents affirm there is historical proof for this important Biblical event. Read the true facts in this well-researched article.

"There is no record of any Exodus in the Egyptian records." So thousands of students are assured by college professors. And few stop to question this blanket statement from such erudite scholars.
   The Sunday school picture of Moses leading the Israelites through the Red Sea and receiving the Ten Commandments on Mt. Sinai is soon "dispelled" as the bright young student hits the higher criticism classes of college and university.
   The following statement by an eminent historian summarizes the views of many:

The present century has brought extensive archaeological investigations in Egypt, the Holy Land, and adjacent countries which indicate that the Biblical account of the enslavement of the Children of Israel in Egypt and their exodus to the promised land of Canaan is traditional and legendary and without support of documentary archaeological evidence... no Egyptian records have been found relating to this early period of Hebrew history (Homer Hockett, The Critical Method in Historical Research and Writing, p. 52).
   A bold statement. But is it backed up by "evidence" the Exodus is said to lack? So well-known and accepted a scholar as Professor William F. Albright takes the opposite view.
There has been a persistent effort by many scholars to discredit the Israelite tradition of a prolonged sojourn in Egypt before the time of Moses (The Biblical Period, p. 6).
   Even though Dr. Albright himself does not accept word for word the account as found in the Bible, he is confident there is evidence to confirm the Exodus as a historic event.
   Notice what one famous Egyptologist had to say about the common ancient Egyptian practice of inventing victories and completely overlooking defeats:
Every Egyptian king was represented as a conqueror alike in the ancient writings and in the reliefs on the temple walls. The model often goes back to the earliest times.... Such a disregard of reality was sometimes carried to absurd lengths. Who is going to believe that the eighteen-year-old Tut'ankhamun ever drove his chariot straight into an alien host killing a score of foes with the arrows from his bow, or again that he slaughtered unaided a whole pride of lions? Yet such are the scenes depicted on the wonderful painted box from the famous tomb (Sir Alan Gardiner, Egypt of the Pharaohs, pp. 56-7).
   Yes, the ancient Egyptians ignored the real impact of the Exodus. But strange as it might seem, Egyptian records are not silent about this miraculous occurrence!

Forgotten Papyrus Tells

   It would be very unusual indeed if we had a truly Egyptian eyewitness account of Moses and the ten plagues. At least such an account has not yet been found. But we have the next best thing to it a description of Egypt after the ten plagues and the leaving of the Israelites.
   This account is found in what is called the "Ipuwer papyrus." This tattered document in the Leiden Museum of Antiquities is in a sad state of preservation. But its message is unmistakable. It matches the Biblical record in detail.
   The most exhaustive translation is that of Sir Alan Gardiner published in Leipzig in 1909 under the title Admonitions of an Egyptian Sage. Additional information is given by R. 0. Faulkner ("Notes on 'The Admonitions of an Egyptian Sage,'" Journal of Egyptian Archaeology, 1964, pp. 24-36).
   In painful detail the papyrus describes "civil war and foreign invasion, and of the social upheaval attendant thereupon." We have the whole disruption of society which would naturally have occurred to a country devastated by plagues which culminated in the loss of her leadership. Anarchy and foreign occupation would be expected to happen to a country which had all crops, the government, the entire social structure, and the protective army destroyed.
   This is exactly what the Ipuwer papyrus presents to us. The phrase "all is ruin" occurs at least twice (3:13; 9:6) and perhaps several other times if the document were better preserved (as perhaps in 5:11). "Might is right." "Murder is the order of the day." "Even brother fights brother:" "The dead are found everywhere."
   Here is the sad picture of Egypt after Israel left. In Upper Egypt, Pharaoh's servants asked him, "DO you not yet understand that Egypt is ruined?" (Exodus 10:7, Revised Standard Version used throughout for quotes.)
   Here we have the results of the plagues described, not necessarily all the plagues themselves. Let's see how the Egyptian record compares with the Hebrew account.

Moses Versus Ipuwer

   Because Gardiner's translation is generally the more complete, it is the one quoted unless otherwise designated. (Five periods "full stops" for British readers are used to indicate wherever the translator put a long line of dots to represent an indecipherable section of the text. Otherwise, a normal ellipsis is used where we have omitted material that was in the translation.)
   Exodus 7:20-21: "The Nile turned to blood... and the Nile became foul, SO that the Egyptians could not drink water from the Nile; and there was blood throughout all the land of Egypt."
   Papyrus 2:10: "Why really, the River is blood. If one drinks of it, one rejects (it) as human and thirsts for water" (Wilson). 2:5: "Plague is throughout the land. Blood is everywhere."
   Three plagues combined to destroy the foodstuffs of Egypt. The plague on the cattle killed the majority of the animals. Most of the remnant was destroyed by the hail, which also devastated crops. The crops spared by the hail were eaten by the locusts. The result was an extreme famine where men killed each other for enough food to stay alive.
   Read the accounts of what happened to the cattle and other animals in Exodus 9 and then compare it with the following.
   Papyrus 8:12: "Behold, butchers transgress (?) with geese. They have given [to] the gods instead of oxen." Note that so few cattle were left, geese were sacrificed in their place. 9:2-3: "Behold, Cattle are left to stray and there is none to gather them together. Each man fetches for himself those that are branded with his name." The plague of hail had caused the few surviving cattle to so scatter in trying to find shelter that they were difficult to round up.
   Now read in Exodus 10 about the locust plague and put it together with the hail in chapter 9. You have a picture of almost complete destruction of the food supply.
   Papyrus 3:3: "... The mistresses of houses say: would that we had something to eat." 3:10-13: "Lacking are grain (?), charcoal... All is ruin!" 4:14-5:3: "Forsooth, trees are destroyed (?)" compare this with Exodus 9:25 "... cakes are lacking [Faulkner] for most (?) children. There is no food.... Forsooth, all animals, their hearts weep. Cattle moan because of the state of the land."
   Papyrus 6:1-5: "Forsooth, (men eat} herbs, and wash (them) down with water. No fruit(?) nor herbs are found [for] the birds..... is taken away from the mouth of the swine..... hunger. Forsooth, grain has perished on every side. (People) are stripped of clothes, spices (?) and oil. Everybody says: there is none. The storehouse is empty and its keeper is stretched on the ground; a happy state of affairs!" (Faulkner.)
   Papyrus 6:9: "The corn (?) of Egypt is common property." 9:11: "Destroyed (?) are... their food [is taken away?) from them." 10:3-5: "Lower Egypt weeps. The storehouse of the king is common property of everyone, and the entire palace is without its revenues. To it belong (by right) wheat and barley, geese and fish."
   A horrible picture of murder for a little food. Not only does revenue for the king no longer come in, but the very royal storehouses are also robbed by desperate citizens. Even the animals have nothing to eat.
   Another aspect of the hail was the fire (lightning?) mixed with it. Note one peculiar passage of the papyrus 2:10-11: "Forsooth, gates, columns and walls (?) are consumed by fire; (while) the..... of the kings' palace stands firm and endures." Apparently wooden structures (but not the more substantially built structures) were destroyed by the fire accompanying the hail!

Death of the Firstborn

   In addition we view a scene of death corresponding to the slaying of all the firstborn in the sacred account. Only such a terrible disaster as the death angel passing through could have produced the pitiful condition described.
   Papyrus 2:4: "Forsooth, women are lacking and no (children) are conceived. Khnum fashions (mankind) no longer because of the condition of the land." Khnum was the potter god who supposedly shaped babies on a wheel. 2:5-6: "Death is not lacking (?). The mummycloth (?) speaks, before every one comes near it (?)." Gardiner makes this comment about the preceding statement, "The sense seems to be: corpses are everywhere, and the very bandages cry out, so that they can be heard without drawing near to them."
   Papyrus 2:6-7: "Forsooth, many dead men are buried in the river. The stream is a sepulchre, and the place of embalmment has become stream." 4:3-4: "Forsooth, the children of princes are dashed against the walls. The offspring of desire are laid out on the high ground. Khnum groans because of weariness."
   Yet Israel did not leave a picture of death and destruction without taking their reward for years of slavery. Notice Exodus 12:35-36: "The people of Israel... had asked of the Egyptians jewelry of silver and of gold, and clothing... they let them have what they asked. Thus they despoiled the Egyptians."
   Papyrus 3:6-10: "Gold is lacking, the..... of all handicrafts is at an end (?). The..... of the king's palace is despoiled (?)." 9:6: "Behold, no craftsmen work. The enemies of the land have spoilt (?) its crafts (?) [impoverished its craftsmen Faulkner)." 6:3-5: "(People) are stripped of clothes, spices (?) and oil. Everybody says: there is none."
   The Egyptians literally lost everything because of sin.

Pharaoh Not Buried in Pyramid

   One point very much disputed is the death of Pharaoh in the Red Sea. But the papyrus also describes this, though in somewhat veiled language.
   Papyrus 7:1: "Behold, the fire has mounted up on high. Its burning goes forth against the enemies of the land." There is little doubt from the context that this is a reference to the pillar of fire and smoke which led the Israelites. The deceived Egyptians may at first have conceived it to be something which plagued the escaping Israelites instead of guiding them.
   Papyrus 7:1-6: "Behold, things are done, that have never happened for long time past (?): the king has been taken away (?) by poor men. Behold, he who was buried as a hawk is..... What the pyramid concealed is become empty. Behold, a few lawless men, have ventured to despoil the land of the kingship. Behold, the secret of the land, whose limits were unknown, is divulged. The Residence is overturned in a minute. Behold, Egypt has come to pour out water. He who poured water on the ground, he has captured the strong man in misery (??). Behold the Serpent is taken from its hold. The secrets of the kings of Upper and Lower Egypt are divulged."
   The "enemies" the Israelites - leave and in the process "take away" cause the death of the king of Egypt. Egypt itself is left with countless firstborn dead and the entire country ruined. The natural sequence would be the entrance of a foreign power. And an invader does come in the form of Asiatics.

Asiatic Invaders

   In several places the "Asiatics" are mentioned (though not to be confused with the "enemies," which was apparently only applied to the Israelites). The Asiatics were obviously in control of the land.
   Papyrus 1:9: "The tribes of the desert (?) have become Egyptians (?) everywhere." 3:1: "Forsooth, the Desert is throughout the land. The nomes are laid waste. A foreign tribe from abroad has come to Egypt." 4:1: "Those who were Egyptians (?) have become foreigners (?)." 4:5-8: "Lower Egypt can boast of trodden roads..... Behold, it is in the hands of (?) those who knew it not like those who knew it. The Asiatics are skilled in the crafts of the Marshlands." 15:1-3: (What has happened (?)..... through it (??) is (?) to cause the Asiatics to know the condition of the land."
   But who were these Asiatics? None other than the famous Hyksos who conquered Egypt!
   As Gardiner himself stated, "The view that our Leiden papyrus contains allusions to the Hyksos has the better support from the historical standpoint" (Admonitions, p. 18).
   They were called Aamu or Amu by the Egyptians, the same designation used to refer to the Hyksos (see Egypt of the Pharaohs, page 144). But who were the Amu?
   The Arabic historians tell us they were AmaleRites! Dshauhari, an Arab writer of the tenth century, wrote this of the name Amu (or Omaya), "It is handed down that this name was a designation for an Amalekite man."
   And the Bible gives indication of this Amalekite invasion!
   Notice in Exodus 17 that the Amalekites attacked the Israelites about a month after they had left the coast of the Red Sea. This tribe was already on its way into the desolated and helpless Egypt. With Egypt destroyed this people became "the first of the nations" (Numbers 24:20).
   Some will ask, Did not the Hyksos live several centuries before the Exodus? According to the present view of historians, based on the theory of evolution, the Hyksos lived before the time of the Exodus. But the facts of history when put together with the Bible tell a different story.
   The Egyptians do record the Exodus even if in a roundabout fashion! One tattered papyrus has survived. What story did the missing sections tell? What other documents have been destroyed during the long centuries intervening between our time and that of Moses? These are questions which may not be answered until the world tomorrow.
   As our long-time readers of TOMORROW'S WORLD know, the veracity of the Bible is not dependent upon any secular historical records. However, surviving accounts such as that of the Ipuwer papyrus do show that ancient peoples have preserved their own records of Biblical occurrences.

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Tomorrow's World MagazineApril 1971Vol III, No. 04