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


In Dealing with Iran, the U.S. Can Learn from Ronald Reagan

When Ronald Reagan arrived at the White House in 1981, the consensus was that, with regard to the Soviet Union, two responsible policy choices presented themselves: détente, or a return to the Truman-era policy of containment. Reagan, however, insisted that the USSR’s influence could not just be checked but rolled back, and without massive bloodshed. A decade later, the Soviet empire collapsed entirely. In crafting a policy toward the Islamic Republic today, David Ignatius urges the current president to draw on Reagan’s success:

A serious strategy to roll back Iran would begin with Syria. The U.S. would maintain the strong military position it has established east of the Euphrates and enhance its garrison at Tanf and other points in southern Syria. Trump’s public comments suggest, however, that he wants to pull these troops out, the sooner the better. This would all but assure continued Iranian power in Syria.

Iraq is another key pressure point. The victory of militant Iraqi nationalist Moqtada al-Sadr in [last week’s] elections should worry Tehran as much as Washington. Sadr has quietly developed good relations with Saudi Arabia, and his movement may offer the best chance of maintaining an Arab Iraq as opposed to a Persian-dominated one. But again, that’s assuming that Washington is serious about backing the Saudis in checking Iran’s regional ambitions. . . .

The Arabs, [however], want the U.S. (or Israel) to do the fighting this time. That’s a bad idea for America, for many reasons, but the biggest is that there’s no U.S. political support for a war against Iran. . . .

Rolling back an aggressive rival seems impossible, until someone dares to try it.

Read more at RealClear Politics

More about: Cold War, Iran, Politics & Current Affairs, Ronald Reagan, U.S. Foreign policy