Can Archaeology Provide Evidence of the Reality of the Exodus?

Sept. 12 2017

Shortly before Passover 2013, the magazine Reform Judaism headlined an article with the title “We Were Not Slaves in Egypt.” The Bible scholar Richard Elliott Friedman writes that, upon seeing it, he “was troubled that this was informing an audience of about a million Reform Jews that the exodus was not real.” Furthermore, writes Friedman, although by now a wide range of archaeologists had agreed that little evidence existed to support the exodus story, or even that it was highly unlikely to have happened, there were also prominent dissenters; more importantly, there were problems with the arguments of those who claimed the event was unhistorical:

Some archaeologists had said, “We’ve combed the Sinai and didn’t find [any evidence of the Israelites’ wanderings].” But [they had conducted] a survey, not an excavation of the whole Sinai Peninsula. Moreover, even if they had excavated the whole Sinai, what could they find that people traveling from Egypt to Israel around 3,300 years ago would have left that they would dig up now? A piece of petrified wood with “Moses loves Zipporah” carved in it? An Israeli archaeologist told me that a vehicle that was lost in Sinai in the 1973 war was found recently under sixteen meters of sand. Sixteen meters down in 40 years! Finding objects 3,300 years down presents a rather harder challenge.

And, above all, our archaeological work did not turn up evidence to show that an exodus did not happen. What it turned up was nothing, an absence of evidence. And some archaeologists then interpreted this nothing to be proof that the event did not happen. On the other side, people who challenged such interpretations were fond of quoting the old principle: “Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.”

In his forthcoming book, excerpted here, Friedman attempts to explain what historical, archaeological, and textual scholarship can say about the exodus.

Read more at Bible and Interpretation

More about: Archaeology, Exodus, Hebrew Bible, History & Ideas


Israel’s Economy Thrives While the Middle East Disintegrates

Jan. 19 2018

Now that the data have come in from 2017, it is clear that the Israeli economy had another successful year, expanding at a rate higher than that of any other advanced country. Israel’s per-capita GDP also grew, placing it above those of France and Japan. Daniel Kryger notes some of the implications regarding the Jewish state’s place in the Middle East:

The contrast between first-world Israel and the surrounding third-world Arab states is larger today than ever before. Israel’s GDP per capita is almost twenty times the GDP per capita of impoverished Egypt and five times larger than semi-developed Lebanon.

Like any human project, Israel is a never-ending work in progress and much work remains to integrate ḥaredi Jews and Israeli Arabs into Israel’s knowledge economy. Properly addressing Israel’s high costs of living requires more economic and legislative reforms and breaking up inefficient oligopolies that keep the prices artificially high. However, by any standard, the reborn Jewish state is a remarkable success story. . . .

Much has changed since OPEC launched its oil embargo against the West after the failed Arab aggression against Israel in October 1973. Before the collapse of the pro-Arab Soviet empire, China and India had no official ties with Israel and many Western and Japanese companies avoided doing business with Israel. Collapsing oil prices have dramatically eroded the power of oil-producing countries. It has become obvious that the future belongs to those who innovate, not those who happen to sit on oil. Israel has today strong commercial ties with China and a thriving partnership with India. Business delegations from Jamaica to Japan are eager to do business with Israel and benefit from Israel’s expertise. . . .

[For its part], the boycott, divest, and sanction (BDS) movement may bully Jewish and pro-Israel students on Western campuses. However, in real life, BDS stands no chance of succeeding against Israel. The reason is simple: reborn Israel has . . . become too valuable a player in the global economy.

Read more at Mida

More about: BDS, Israel & Zionism, Israeli economy, Middle East, OPEC