The Date of the Exodus?

Have you ever wondered how the details of the Exodus as described in the Bible line up with other historical accounts of the Pharaohs and the building of the pyramids?  When did the Exodus actually occur? These kinds of questions are often asked.  There has been much study and scholarship on early Egyptian history that help us to see how biblical accounts do indeed match up with other historical findings.

To give you an example, we provide you an article from BibleMesh’s The Biblical Story Course on “The Date of the Exodus.”

Synopsis
Because scholars disagree over the date of the Exodus and the identity of the pharaoh, some question the reliability of the story. But the leading theories concerning the Exodus are perfectly compatible with the biblical account.

Date of the Exodus
Virtually all study Bibles, biblical commentaries, and Bible encyclopedias discuss the question of when the Exodus occurred and who was Pharaoh at the time of the Exodus. Though some favor an “early date,” namely 1446 B.C., others suggest a later date, 1290 B.C. or 1260 B.C.[i] In the final analysis, none of the arguments on either side is decisive. Either theory could be true.

Those favoring the early date appeal to 1 Kings 6:1 and Judges 11:26, which name spans of time since Exodus-era events. These scholars also point to archaeological findings at Jericho in Palestine and Amarna and Thebes in southern Egypt.

Those who choose the later date think that reference to the Egyptian cities of Pithom and Raamses in Exodus 1:11 is crucial. They also treat a key number symbolically and argue that the earlier date would have put Israelites in conflict with Egyptians in Canaan, but Joshua and Judges make no mention of this.

Identifying Pharaoh
Since Exodus does not specify Pharaoh by any name other than his official title, identifying the ruler of Egypt at this critical juncture relies almost entirely on the dating issue. Those who hold to the earlier date (1446 B.C.) often argue for Amenhotep II. He was known for his military excursions, including campaigns into Canaan, but after 1446 B.C, his military activities in the area abruptly ceased, consistent with the Egyptian army’s Red Sea disaster. Also, his oldest son did not inherit the throne as would have been customary; he would have been a victim of the horrifying tenth plague.

The later date for the Exodus suggests Raamses II (Raamses the Great). He ruled Egypt from 1279-1213 B.C., gaining fame for his military excursions. But he is particularly renowned for his great building projects, which could easily have included the work mentioned in Exodus 1:11. While some argue that Pharaoh must have died in the Red Sea with his army, the Bible does not say this explicitly, so Raamses could have lived many more years, matching the dates attributed to his reign.

Influence on the Biblical Story
Though the Exodus account makes reference to two Egyptian cities, it does not go into much detail concerning this nation and its rulers. Instead, the work of God and His servant Moses is central – and not the work of Pharaoh. The same was true in Genesis, where Joseph was named, but not his Egyptian ruler.

Not surprisingly, no clear Egyptian record of the enslavement and Exodus can be found, for it was a matter of great national humiliation. In a land where the ruler enjoyed divine status, a story showing that he had feet of clay was not likely to endure.

BibleMesh
As Creator and Lord of the universe, God could have made His holy book, the Bible, a million pages long, for He knew every detail about everything. But He was quite selective. What He supplied in Exodus, in the Gospels – indeed, in all 66 books – was no more and no less than what the reader needs to know. Many questions remain open, but they are secondary. Everything in Exodus is essential; and everything in Exodus is true. It is God’s Word, and when He speaks, He does not mislead.

For Further Study
Ian Shaw, ed., The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000); John D. Currid, Ancient Egypt and the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1997); Eugene H. Merrill, Kingdom of Priests: A History of Old Testament Israel, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2008); S. R. K. Glanville, ed., The Legacy of Egypt (Oxford: Clarendon, 1942).



[i] See, for example, The NIV Study Bible (Grand Rapids: Zondervan); ESV Study Bible (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2008), 33-34; The Apologetics Study Bible (Nashville: Holman, 2007), 83-85; R. Alan Cole, Exodus (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1973), 40-43; W. H. Shea, “Date of the Exodus,” The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, vol. 2 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1982), 230-238.

The Security of Stained Glass—Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968)

From a Birmingham jail in 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr. penned his now famous response to the liberal clergymen who opposed his methods for fighting racial discrimination.1 Among his many disappointments, one stood out above all others. In the face of manifest ungodliness, the Church had been silent. King was painfully aware that when the Church is silent about sin, evil will follow. As a minister of the gospel, he was equally convinced that the Church could speak prophetically to the culture and transform it. But unless her voice was faithful and clear, she would become irrelevant. He was right.

Let me take note of my other major disappointment. I have been so greatly disappointed with the white church and its leadership . . . I do not say this as one of those negative critics who can always find something wrong with the church. I say this as a minister of the gospel, who loves the church; who was nurtured in its bosom; who has been sustained by its spiritual blessings and who will remain true to it as long as the cord of life shall lengthen.

When I was suddenly catapulted into the leadership of the bus protest in Montgomery, Alabama, a few years ago, I felt we would be supported by the white church, felt that the white ministers, priests and rabbis of the South would be among our strongest allies. Instead, some have been outright opponents, refusing to understand the freedom movement and misrepresenting its leaders; and too many others have been more cautious than courageous and have remained silent behind the anesthetizing security of stained-glass windows . . .

In the midst of blatant injustices inflicted upon the Negro, I have watched white churchmen stand on the sideline and mouth pious irrelevancies and sanctimonious trivialities. In the midst of a mighty struggle to rid our nation of racial and economic injustice, I have heard many ministers say: “Those are social issues, with which the gospel has no real concern.” And I have watched many churches commit themselves to a completely other-worldly religion which makes a strange, un-Biblical distinction between body and soul, between the sacred and the secular . . .

Yes, these questions are still in my mind. In deep disappointment I have wept over the laxity of the church. But be assured that my tears have been tears of love. There can be no deep disappointment where there is not deep love. Yes, I love the church. How could I do otherwise? I am in the rather unique position of being the son, the grandson and the great-grandson of preachers. Yes, I see the church as the body of Christ. But, oh! How we have blemished and scarred that body through social neglect and through fear of being nonconformists.

There was a time when the church was very powerful—in the time when the early Christians rejoiced at being deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society. Whenever the early Christians entered a town, the people in power became disturbed and immediately sought to convict the Christians for being “disturbers of the peace” and “outside agitators.” But the Christians pressed on in the conviction that they were “a colony of heaven,” called to obey God rather than man . . .

Things are different now. So often the contemporary church is a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. So often it is an arch-defender of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church’s silent—and often even vocal—sanction of things as they are.

But the judgment of God is upon the church as never before. If today’s church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century.2

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1 “Statement by Alabama Clergymen, April 12, 1963,” The Martin Luther King, Jr. Paper Project at Stanford University Website, http://www.stanford.edu/group/King/frequentdocs/clergy.pdf.
2 Martin Luther King, Jr. “Letter from a Birmingham Jail, April 16, 1963,” The Martin Luther King, Jr. Paper Project at Stanford University Website, http://www.stanford.edu/group/King/frequentdocs/birmingham.pdf.

Confessing Courage – Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945)

The name, Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945), has become a byword for conviction and courage. In 1935, ten years before the Nazis hanged him in Flossenburg, Bonhoeffer presided over a seminary consisting of twenty-five young pastors. They were all part of the Confessing Church, believers who refused to drape Hitler’s policies with the Christian flag. Therefore, the seminary was illegal; they literally risked their lives to pray together, study together, and live together. In 1937 the Nazis shut down this clandestine seminary, and a year later Bonhoeffer wrote Life Together, reflections on a Christian community. In the pages of this book, he taught that courage is not only standing up against the unbelieving world; it includes standing up against one’s own sin in the context of the local church.

The Church had many enemies in Bonhoeffer’s day. Even before Hitler used religious language to promote his goals, modernism replaced the cross with “progress.” Commenting upon his time at Union Theological Seminary in New York City, Bonhoeffer wrote, “I never heard of the Gospel of Jesus Christ . . . of the cross, of sin and forgiveness, of death and life (while) in New York . . . only an ethical and social idealism which pins its faith to progress.”1 In Germany, the success of social idealism and Nazi nationalism meant the Church risked forgetting what God calls her to be: a community of faith subject to the Word of God. In order to fulfill this mission, Bonhoeffer encouraged believers to regularly confess their sins to one another (James 5:16).

Why is this so important? Because, according to Bonhoeffer, a congregation without mutual confession of sin is a church afraid to be sinners: “The pious fellowship permits no one to be a sinner. So everybody must conceal his sin from himself and from the fellowship.”2 Bonhoeffer lamented this state of being. What an awful paradox: saved by the work of Christ alone and yet unwilling to let one’s sin be known. Why the silence? “Confession in the presence of a brother is the profoundest kind of humiliation. It hurts, it cuts a man down, it is a dreadful blow to pride. To stand there before a brother as a sinner is an ignominy that is almost unbearable.”3 And yet the shame must be born in order to follow Christ: “The Cross of Jesus Christ destroys all pride. We cannot find the Cross of Jesus if we shrink from going to the place where it is to be found, namely, the public death of the sinner. And we refuse to bear the Cross when we are ashamed to take upon ourselves the shameful death of the sinner in confession.”4

Is godward confession insufficient? Must a third party be brought into the mix? Bonhoeffer warned his readers that those ready to be honest with God while refusing to be vocal with their brother may be living in hypocrisy:

[W]e must ask ourselves whether we have not often been deceiving ourselves with confession of sin to God, whether we have not rather been confessing our sins to ourselves and also granting ourselves absolution. And is not the reason perhaps for our countless relapses and the feebleness of our Christian obedience to be found precisely in the fact that we are living on self-forgiveness and not real forgiveness.5

Yes, there is room for prudence in public confession. Done wrong, it can pointlessly titillate or humiliate others, including friends and loved ones. Sometimes it amounts to confessing the sins of others: “I repent of harboring ill feelings toward this brother who has wronged me.” But the dangers should only lead believers to exercise care in such confession—not to shun it.

In light of Bonhoeffer’s willingness to die for the faith, the call to mutual confession may seem minor, even trite. Not to him. He knew that dictators rise and fall. Persecution comes and goes. But the Church endures, and, until Christ returns, she is full of sinners. The courageous sinner, redeemed by the blood of Christ, will fight his sin by being honest about it, confessing it both to God and a brother or sister. Such courage may not make the history books, but it will mark those written in the Lamb’s Book of Life (Rev. 21:27).

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1 Quoted by James and Marti Hefley, By Their Blood: Christian Martyrs of the Twentieth Century (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1996), 203.
2 Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together (New York: Harper & Row Publishers, 1954), 110.
3 Ibid., 114.
4 Ibid.
5 Ibid., 115-116.


Christmas 1914—Christian against Christian?

As they looked out across no man’s land, British soldiers were alarmed at flickering lights in the German trenches. Some of the British opened fire, while others readied their ammunition and weapons for fresh combat. A German cried, “Don’t shoot!” but there seemed no reason to trust him. Then from across the way came the strains of “Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht” (Silent Night, Holy Night), and the English realized that those lights were makeshift, Christmas tree candles. They laid down their arms and joined in the carol.1

Christmas 1914 was bitterly cold for those at the Anglo-German front in northern France and Belgium, but that was cause for rejoicing. The mud had frozen, and the troops were able to dry out. Still, it was a miserable time, for they were locked in a war of attrition, one which would take the lives of almost ten million soldiers.

In the midst of this carnage, Christmas Eve proved to be an island of peace. While there were some skirmishes here and there, they were lighter than usual, and the overwhelming majority of troops enjoyed an unofficial truce. The music ranged from “Silent Night” on a French harmonica to Handel’s Largo on a German violin. A German regimental band even played the national anthems of both Germany and Britain.

The battle for Europe had given way to the “battle of the carols”:

They finished their carol and we thought that we ought to retaliate in some way, so we sang “The First Nowell,” and when we finished that they all began clapping; and then they struck up another favourite of theirs, “O Tannenbaum.” And so it went on. First the Germans would sing one of their carols and then we would sing one of ours, until when we started up “O Come All Ye Faithful” the Germans immediately joined in singing the same hymn to the Latin words “Adeste Fideles.” And I thought, well, this was really a most extraordinary thing—two nations both singing the same carol in the middle of a war.2

Christmas dawn ushered in more of this extraordinary goodwill. As camaraderie and trust grew, opponents met in the open and exchanged such gifts as wine for cake. A German barber cut Scottish hair. One British private sent his wife a postcard with six German signatures.

Burial parties were arranged. The 6th Gordon Highlanders and the 15th Infantry Regiment, a Westphalian unit, joined in a moving ceremony for the dead. As Scotsmen, Englishmen, Saxons, and Westphalians lined up on both sides of a communal mass grave, the Reverend J. Esslemont Adams, minister of the West United Free Church, Aberdeen, and chaplain of the 6th Gordons, read the Twenty-third Psalm in English. A theology student then read it in German . . . The Lord’s Prayer followed, sentence by sentence, in both languages: “Our Father Who art in Heaven. Unser Vater in dem Himmel . . .”3

In many sectors, peace continued through New Year’s Day, in others through mid-January. Not surprisingly, the soldiers were reluctant to resume hostilities.4

Pacifists and other romanticists will cite this occurrence as evidence of the folly and dispensability of war. Certainly they are right that many wars are foolish and unnecessary, but they must ignore both man’s depravity and the demands of justice to denounce all war. There will always be Hitlers, and they must always be stopped.

This incident does, however, illustrate the scandal of supposedly Christian nations’ taking up arms against each other. Brass buttons on the leather German equipment belts read, “Gott mit uns” (“God with us”),5 and the British no doubt felt the same way about their cause. But God is not divided. Even without exploring the roots of the First World War and the rightness or wrongness of the sides’ perspectives, it is fair to say that at least one party missed the Lord’s directions, and so their involvement was deplorable. They needed to repent, not attack.

It has been said that democracies never go to war against democracies, a phenomenon borne out in history. Unfortunately the same cannot be said about nations and factions who claim Jesus as Lord. Whether at Belfast, Gettysburg, or Ypres, Christians have taken up arms against Christians and made a spectacle of themselves before a watching world—a sorry testimony, unlike the splendid testimony of carols sung across no man’s land on Christmas Eve 1914.

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1 The bulk of this account is found under “Peace on Earth” in Morris Eksteins, Rites of Spring: The Great War and the Birth of the Modern Age (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1989), 109-114.
2 Malcolm Brown and Shirley Seaton, Christmas Truce: The Western Front December 1914 (London: Pan Macmillan, 2001), 58-59.
3 Eksteins, 111.
4 Brown and Seaton, 149. “The difficulty began on the 26th, when the order to fire was given, for the men struck. Herr Lange says that in the accumulated years he had never heard such language as the officers indulged in, while they stormed up and down, and got, as the only result, the answer, ‘We can’t—they are good fellows, and we can’t.’ Finally, the officers turned on the men with, ‘Fire, or we do—and not at the enemy!’ Not a shot had come from the other side, but at last they fired, and an answering fire came back, but not a man fell. We spent that day and the next,’ said Herr Lange, ‘wasting ammunition in trying to shoot the stars down from the sky.’”
5 Ibid., 96.

Minister to Lepers: Father Damien de Veuster (1840 – 1889)

Late one evening, a woman knocked at Father Damien de Veuster’s door. Nervously, she whispered a warning into his ear then fled into the darkness. What she told him was sobering: that night, pagan incantation rites against his life were being conducted in a burial cave. Yet undaunted by the threat, he walked for an hour to reach the cave. When he arrived, 30 men were gathered around a priest holding a voodoo doll of him. So Damien rushed in, tore the doll to shreds, and stomped on its remains before denouncing the men for their sin. Then he walked out of the cave untouched as they stood in stunned silence.

Born Jozef de Veuster, Father Damien left his native Belgium in 1863 at age 23 to sail for Hawaii. During his first pastorate there, he acquired a reputation for hard work, building two church buildings with his own hands. Then, despite his youth, he volunteered to move to a much larger parish when its pastor became ill. Over three decades in Hawaii, personal courage became a hallmark of his ministry.

Once, he was riding a horse along the shore when he spotted a ship’s lifeboat carrying what appeared to be an unmoving body. So, ignoring sharks, he swam to the boat and saved eight sailors who had been adrift for more than a week after a fire at sea. On another occasion, he expended such effort to make a pastoral visit that he collapsed from exhaustion and dehydration upon arriving. The journey involved riding a horse, walking, swimming, and climbing mountains on his hands and knees, sometimes waist deep in mud.

Such bravery eventually led to Damien’s greatest sacrifice. In 1873 he volunteered to minister in Kalaupapa, a leper colony on the island of Molokai. Because of the stigma attached to leprosy, doctors refused to treat its victims and ostracized them to die alone. The disease was grotesque. It caused terrible skin sores, nerve damage, and gradual debilitation. In Kalaupapa villagers were dying at a rate of one per day and being buried in shallow graves where wild dogs and pigs mangled their remains. Predictably, the physical conditions led to spiritual hopelessness. At night the lepers got loudly drunk and engaged in sexual immorality. But Damien changed all that.

On his first full day he began digging six-foot graves and building coffins to provide dignified burials. He also located a clean water source and channeled it to villagers with iron pipes. To replace primitive huts, he built 300 houses. Further, he erected schools for children and built a chapel every year for the first ten years of his ministry there. Most remarkably, however, he embraced the people without fear of their disease. He hugged them, shared eating utensils with them, and bandaged their wounds. And every night, he ate dinner with 20 villagers. They described the gatherings with a Hawaiian word meaning “the time of peace between night and day.” Damien’s ministry ended only when he contracted leprosy and died at age 49. For his efforts, he was canonized by Pope Benedict XVI in 2009.

Though most Christians today are not faced with voodoo dolls and leprosy, they do live amid daunting challenges and human needs. Indeed, many address those needs with valor. Yet to serve the Lord most effectively, God’s people must, like Damien, constantly look for the next stronghold to topple in the name of Christ.

Early Evil: The Legalization of Abortion in Russia (1920)

On November 20, 1920, the nascent Soviet government released what it termed a simple “public health announcement.” The statement, a missive intended as law, proclaimed a new, fully-funded program for women: legalized abortions, available free of charge at state-run hospitals. By keeping abortions high and the birth rate low, Soviet leaders and their sycophants hoped to keep more women in the labor force, economically viable and controlled by the state.

The legalization of abortion in the Soviet Union emerged as but one important facet of a systematic extermination program of a theologically-grounded social morality. Only months after the Bolshevik revolution in October 1917, the new regime issued a series of marriage laws which undermined the importance of wedlock and approved an extremely permissive “no-fault” divorce clause. Other leading authorities had earlier endorsed state-sanctioned promiscuity—labeled “free love”—as a viable alternative to marriage. Regarding the state’s disdain for wedlock, “The people’s commissar of justice . . . stated that the main purpose of the legislation was to undermine religion-sanctified marriage,” blessed by the church (see Mervyn Matthews, “Soviet Social Policies,” in The Soviet Union and Eastern Europe). By subverting family life, the Soviets self-consciously attempted to defy what even they seemingly knew: that marriage is a decidedly religious act, performed in the presence of God.

To its dismay, the government witnessed its agenda wildly succeed. Divorce rates skyrocketed. In Moscow, state statisticians reported a rate of three abortions to every one live birth, a shocking population reduction which in 1936 led Stalin to seek desperately for a way to limit the damage. Unaware of the grim realities produced by the legalization of abortion, social liberals in America lauded what they deemed the progressive nature of Soviet thinking on the issue. As journalist Marvin Olasky writes, “even . . . the sedate American Journal of Public Health in 1931,” argued on the basis of Soviet practice that legalized abortion was “the only means for women’s emancipation” in modern times.

Despite modernist fantasies, abortion did not emancipate Soviet women. It placed them in a brutal bondage, a slavery that remains to the present hour. Recently, the Russian Health Ministry revealed an abortion to live birth rate of 1.7:1 in Russia, a number five times higher than in the United States. Epidemic abortions among these young women have produced an unintended consequence: widespread infertility. As a result, researchers estimate a twenty-five percent population decline in Russia during the next half-century, a deterioration which makes one wonder whether such numerical decline will inevitably lead to cultural demise.

Other countries would do well to learn from the tragic legacy of the long Soviet war against the family. The way a nation regards marriage and the protection of its unborn children presages the long-term health of its society. Disregard toward such defining cultural institutions is nothing less than anger directed toward God, who created them. But such defiance is never taken lightly, for although even “the wrath of men praises [God] . . . He is to be feared by the kings of the earth” (Psalm 76:10, 12 ESV).

The BibleMesh Team