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The Nile, the bloodstream of Osiris and the lifeblood of Egypt, was turned to blood and became foul and poisonous; frogs, sacred to Osiris, appeared in numbers so great that they were transformed into a pestilence; the sun-disk was blotted out by darkness. Ra and Aten both made helpless. These are not the kinds of events that appear in the celebratory inscriptions of any pharaoh A simpler explanation, however, is that the events described in the Book of Exodus did not take place - or, at least, not as described - and so no inscriptions were made relating to them. The Egyptians are famous for their record-keeping and yet no records have been found which make the slightest reference to the departure of a segment of the population of the land which, according to the Book of Exodus, numbered "six hundred thousand men on foot besides women and children" or, as given in Exodus , "everyone who had crossed over to those counted, twenty years old or more, a total of , men" again not counting women or children.

Even if the Egyptians decided the embarrassment of their gods and king was too great a shame to set down, some record would exist of such a huge movement of so vast a population even if that record were simply a dramatic change in the physical evidence of the region. There are seasonal camps from the Paleolithic Age in Scotland and other areas dating to c. Arguments by Egyptologists such as David Rohl, that evidence of the Exodus does exist, are not widely accepted by scholars, historians, or other Egyptologists.

Rohl's claim is that one can find no physical or literary evidence of the Exodus only because one is looking in the wrong era. If one examines the evidence from that time, Rohl claims, the biblical narrative matches up with Egyptian history. The Ipuwer Papyrus, which Rohl claims is an Egyptian account of the Ten Plagues, is dated to the Middle Kingdom, long before Dudimose I's reign and, further, is quite clearly Egyptian literature of a known genre, not history.

The Semites Rohl asserts lived in great numbers at Avaris cannot be identified with the Israelites. In every instance where Rohl makes his claims linking the Book of Exodus with Egyptian history he either ignores details which prove him wrong or twists evidence to fit with his theory. In spite of Rohl's claims, and those of others who have seized on them, there is no archaeological or literary evidence of Moses leading the Israelites from slavery in Egypt.

The only source for the story is the biblical narrative. Still, there is an Egyptian record of an event which, some claim, inspired the Exodus story in Manetho's account of the Egyptian priest Osarsiph and his leadership of the community of lepers. He therefore banished the lepers to the city of Avaris where they were united under the leadership of a monotheistic priest named Osarsiph.

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Osarsiph rebelled against the rule of Amenophis, instituted monotheism, and invited the Hyksos back into Egypt. The exiles remain in the desert "in a stupour of grief" until one of them, Moses, rallies and leads them to another land. Tacitus goes on to say how Moses then taught the people a new belief in one supreme god and "gave them a novel form of worship, opposed to all that is practiced by other men" 1. As with the Exodus story, there are no records which corroborate this version of events and the reign of Amenhotep III was not marked by any rebellions by lepers or anyone else.

Tacitus' account of Moses coming to power during the reign of Bakenranef is equally unsupported. Further, Manetho's account explicitly states that Osarsiph "invited the Hyksos back into Egypt" where they ruled for thirteen years but the Hyksos were expelled from Egypt in c. Historian Marc van de Mieroop comments on this, writing, "Scholars have different opinions about exactly what historical events Josephus's account recalls, but many see a lingering memory of Akhenaten and his unpopular rule in the tale" Akhenaten famously introduced monotheism to Egypt through the worship of the one god Aten and proscribed the worship of all other gods.

According to the theory most famously expounded by Freud, the Osarsiph story is actually an account of Akhenaten's reign and one of his priests, Moses, who carried on his reform. Freud is openly bewildered by the fact that no one seems to have noticed that this allegedly Hebrew leader of the Exodus from Egypt had an Egyptian name, writing, "It might have been expected that one of the many authors who recognized Moses to be an Egyptian name would have drawn the conclusion, or at least considered the possibility, that the bearer of an Egyptian name was himself an Egyptian" Freud further states:.

I venture now to draw the following conclusion: if Moses was an Egyptian and if he transmitted to the Jews his own religion , then it was that of Ikhnaton [Akhenaten , the Aten religion According to Freud, Moses was murdered by his people and the memory of this act created a communal guilt which infused the religion of Judaism and characterizes that belief system as well as those monotheistic faiths which came after it.

As interesting as the theory may be, like many of Freud's theories, it is based on an assumption which Freud never proves but continues to build an argument on anyway. Susan Wise Bauer writes:. For at least a century, the theory that Akhenaten trained Moses in monotheism and then set him loose in the desert has floated around; it still pops up occasionally on History Channel specials and PBS fund raisers. This has absolutely no historical basis and in fact is incredibly difficult to square with any of the more respectable dates of the Exodus.

It seems to have originated with Freud who was certainly not an unbiased scholar in his desire to explain the origins of monotheism while denying Judaism as much uniqueness as possible Although his name certainly suggests an Egyptian origin, the first text which introduces the character of Moses clearly indicates he was the son of Hebrew parents. Whether one accepts the Book of Exodus as a reliable account or a cultural myth, one cannot change the text to fit one's personal theories which is basically what Freud does.


At the same time, one cannot claim a "respectable date" for the Exodus when there is no historical record of the event outside of the manuscript of the Book of Exodus. The events of the Exodus are traditionally assigned to the reign of Ramesses II based on the passage from Exodus where it states that the Hebrew slaves worked on the cities of Pithom and Rameses, two cities Ramesses II was known to have commissioned.

Bauer, however, writes that a "respectable date" for the Exodus is BCE based on "a straightforward reading of I Kings which claims that years passed between the Exodus and the building of Solomon 's temple " Further complicating the dating of the event is that Exodus states that Moses was 80 years old when he first met with pharaoh but Moses' birthdate is given by Rabbinical Judaism as BCE making the BCE date impossible and there are plenty of other suggestions for possible birth years as well which also make the BCE date for the Exodus untenable.

The problem with all these speculations stems from the attempt at reading the Bible as straight history instead of what it is: literature and, specifically, scripture.

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Ancient writers were not as concerned with facts as modern audiences are but were certainly interested in truth. This is exemplified by the ancient genre known as Mesopotamian Naru Literature in which a figure, usually someone famous, plays an important role in a story which they did not actually participate in.

In the famous story "The Curse of Akkad", Naram-Sin is portrayed as destroying the temple of the god Enlil when he receives no answer to his prayers. There is no record of Naram-Sin doing any such thing while there is a great deal of evidence that he was a pious king who honored Enlil and the other gods. In this case, Naram-Sin would have been chosen as main character because of his famous name and used to convey a truth about humanity's relationship with the gods and, especially, a king's proper attitude toward the divine.

In the same way, the Book of Exodus and the other narratives concerning Moses tell a story of physical and spiritual liberation using the central character of Moses - a figure previously unknown in literature - who represents man's relationship with God. The writers of the biblical narratives go to great lengths to ground their stories in history, to show God working through actual events, in the same way the authors of Mesopotamian Naru Literature chose historical figures to convey their message.

Literature, scripture, does not need to be historically accurate to express a truth. Insistence on stories such as the Book of Exodus as historical denies a reader a wider experience of the text. To claim that the book must be historically true to be meaningful denies the power of the story to relay its message. Moses is a symbolic figure in the story while at the same time remaining a completely autonomous individual with a distinct personality.

Throughout the narrative Moses mediates between God and the people but is neither completely holy nor secular. He accepts his mandate from God reluctantly, constantly asks God why he was chosen and what he is supposed to be doing, and yet consistently tries to do God's will until he strikes the stone to produce water instead of speaking to it as God had instructed Numbers God had previously told Moses to strike a rock to get water Exodus but this time told him to speak to the rock.


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Moses' actions here, ignoring God's instruction, prevent him from entering the promised land of Canaan. He is allowed to see the land from Mount Nebo but cannot lead his people once he has compromised his relationship with God. As with the rest of the narrative concerning Moses, this episode with the rock would have conveyed still conveys an important message about a believer's relationship with God: that one must trust in the divine in spite of one's own perceived knowledge or reliance on precedent and experience.

It does not finally matter whether a historical individual named Moses struck or spoke to a rock which then gave water; what matters is the truth of the individual's relationship with God that story conveys and how one can better understand one's own place in a divine plan. This is also seen in the Quran where Moses is known as Musa. Musa is mentioned a number of times throughout the Quran as a righteous man, a prophet, and a sage.

In the story of the Exodus in the Quran, Musa is always seen as a devout servant of Allah trusting in divine wisdom. In Surah , however, a story is related which shows how even a great and righteous man still has much to learn from God.

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One day, after Musa has delivered a particularly brilliant sermon, a member of the audience asks him if there is another on earth as learned in God's ways as he is and Musa answers no. God Allah informs him that there will always be those who know more than one does in anything, especially regarding the divine.

Musa asks Allah where he might find such a man and Allah gives him instructions on how to proceed. Following Allah's guidance, Musa finds Al-Khidr a representative of the divine and asks if he might follow him and learn all the knowledge he has of God. Al-Khidr answers that Musa would not understand anything he said or did and would have no patience; he then dismisses him.

Musa pleads with him and Al-Khidr says, "If you would follow me, ask me not about anything until I mention it myself" and Musa agrees. As they travel together, Al-Khidr comes across a boat by the shore and kicks a hole in the bottom of it. Musa objects, crying out that the owners of the boat will not be able to earn their living now. Al-Khidr reminds him how he told him he could not be patient and dismisses him but Musa asks forgiveness and promises he will not judge or speak on anything else.

Shortly after the boat incident, though, they meet a young man on the road and Al-Khidr kills him. Musa strongly objects asking why such a handsome young man should be killed and Al-Khidr again reminds him of what he said before and tells him to leave now immediately. Musa again apologizes and is forgiven and the two travel on together. They reach a town where they ask for alms but are refused. On their way out of the town they pass a stone wall which is falling down and Al-Khidr stops and repairs it. Musa is again confused and complains to his companion that at least he could have asked for wages in repairing the wall so they could get something to eat.

At this, Al-Khidr tells Musa that he has breached their contract for the last time and now they must part ways. First, though, he explains: he scuttled the boat because there was a king at sea seizing every boat which put out by force and enslaving the crew.

If the good people who owned the boat had gone out, they would have met with a bad end. He killed the young man because he was evil and was going to bring great pain to his parents and community. Allah had already provided for another son to be born to the parents who would bring them and others joy instead of pain. He rebuilt the wall because there was a treasure hidden beneath it which two orphans were supposed to inherit and, if the wall had crumbled any more, it would have been revealed to those who would take it.

Al-Khidr ends by saying, "That is the interpretation of those things over which you showed no patience" and Musa understands the lesson. As with the biblical Moses, the Musa of the Quran is a completely developed character with all the strengths and weaknesses of any person. In the Bible, Moses' humility is emphasized but he still has enough pride to trust in his own judgment in striking the rock rather than in listening to God.

In the Quran his faith in himself and his own perceptions and judgments is questioned through his inability to trust in God's messenger. The story from Surah 18 teaches that God has a purpose which human beings, even one as devout and learned as Musa, cannot understand. Moses is seen as the Law Giver in the Christian writings who exemplifies a man of God. To cite only one example, Moses features prominently in the famous story Jesus tells concerning Lazarus and the Rich Man in Luke In this story a poor, but pious, man named Lazarus and a rich man unnamed live in the same town.

Lazarus suffers daily while the rich man has everything he could desire.

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