The Exodus from Egypt - Part I

The Exodus from Egypt: Part I - A Comparison of the Biblical and Quranic Versions

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“We sent an inspiration to Moses: "Travel by night with My servants, and strike a dry path for them through the sea, without fear of being overtaken (by Pharaoh) and without (any other) fear.”

-         The Holy Quran, Surah Taha, 20:77

            The story of the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt is without doubt one of the most well-known and celebrated stories in human history.  Unlike some other stories of religious significance, the Exodus is accepted by all three Abrahamic religions, though with some differences.  This article, being the first part of a three-part series, will compare the Biblical and Quranic versions of the Exodus.  In Part II, we will examine whether the Exodus is historically verifiable, while in Part III, we will attempt to determine the identity of the infamous Pharaoh who epitomized every aspect of evil which mankind is capable of.       

The Exodus in the Bible and the Quran

            With both minor and major variations, the Exodus is celebrated by Jews, Christians and Muslims as a triumph of belief over unbelief and of good over evil.  However, as with other stories shared by the three faiths, the Biblical version is much longer and more detailed than the Quranic version.  Moreover, the former contains several inconsistencies and contradictions, as will be shown.  In this section, we will summarize the Biblical and Quranic versions of the Exodus in table form, highlighting the major episodes in the story, most of which are shared by both books, beginning with the arrival of the Israelites in Egypt.  Additional commentary will be provided in the footnotes where necessary. 

Jacob’s family immigrates to Egypt[3]
Genesis 46:6ff
Jacob’s family immigrates to Egypt
Surah Yusuf, 12:99
After the death of Joseph, Israelites multiply in great numbers in Egypt
Exodus 1:7
A new Pharaoh begins oppressing the Israelites
(Exodus 1:8-14)[4]
Egyptians begin oppressing the Israelites, culminating in the oppression of the Pharaoh of the Exodus[5]
Surah Al-Qasas, 28:4
The Pharaoh orders the killing of Israelite male infants
(Exodus 1:15-17)[6]
The Pharaoh orders the killing of Israelite male infants[7]
Surah Al-Baqarah, 2:49; Surah Al-Araf, 7:141; Surah Ibrahim, 14:6; Surah Al-Qasas, 28:4
The birth of Moses
Exodus 2:1
The birth of Moses
Surah Taha, 20:39; Surah Al-Qasas, 28:7
Moses’ mother places him in the Nile
Exodus 2:3
God inspires Moses’ mother to place him in the Nile
Surah Taha, 20:39; Surah Al-Qasas, 28:7
Moses is found  and raised by Pharaoh’s household
(Exodus 2:5-10)[8]
Moses is found and raised by the Pharaoh’s household[9]
Surah Al-Qasas, 28:8-9
Moses kills an Egyptian and flees to Midian
Exodus 2:11-15
Moses kills an Egyptian and flees to Midian
Surah Taha, 20:40; Surah Al-Qasas, 28:15
Moses settles in the house of Reuel (the priest of Midian) and marries his daughter Zipporah
(Exodus 2:16-22)[10]
Moses settles in Midian and raises a family
Surah Al-Qasas, 28:23-29
The Pharaoh of the Oppression dies
Exodus 2:23
Moses is called by God
Exodus 3:1-Exodus 4:17
Moses is called by God
Surah Taha, 20:11-44; Surah An-Naml, 27:8-12; Surah Al-Qasas, 28:30-35
Moses returns to Egypt
(Exodus 4:18-31)[12]
Moses returns to Egypt
Surah Al-Qasas, 28:35
Moses and Aaron appear before the new Pharaoh
Exodus 5:1-5
Moses and Aaron appear before the Pharaoh and perform miracles[13]
Surah Taha, 20:49-76; Surah Al-Qasas, 28:36-39
The Pharaoh refuses to let the Israelites go
Exodus 5:2
The Pharaoh refuses to believe in God and to let the Israelites go
Surah Taha, 20:47-56; Surah As-Shuara, 26:16-49
The oppression of the Israelites increases
Exodus 5:10-19
The oppression of the Israelites increases[14]
Surah Al-Araf, 7:127-129
God sends miracles and plagues to change the Pharaoh’s mind
(Exodus 7:8-12:30)[15]
God sends plagues to change the Pharaoh’s mind[16]
Surah Al-
Araf, 7:133;[17] Surah Al-Isra, 17:101; Surah Taha, 20:56
The Pharaoh allows the Israelites to leave Egypt[18]
Exodus 12:31
God commands the Israelites to escape by night[19]
Surah Taha, 20:77; Surah As-Shuara, 26:52
The Israelites leave Egypt using the longer route
(Exodus 13:17-22)[20]
The Pharaoh pursues the Israelites with his army
(Exodus 14:5-9)[21]
The Pharaoh pursues the Israelites with his army
Surah Taha, 20:78; (Surah As-Shuara, 26:53-60)[22]
Moses splits the sea
Exodus 14:21-22
Moses splits the sea
Surah Yunus, 10:90; Surah As-Shuara, 26:63
The Pharaoh and his army are drowned in the sea
Exodus 14:26-28
The Pharaoh and his army are drowned in the sea
Surah Yunus, 10:90;[23] Surah Taha, 20:78; Surah Al-Shuara, 26:64-66; Surah Al-Qasas, 28:39-40
Moses receives  the Ten Commandments at Mount Sinai[24]
Exodus 20:1-17
Moses receives the “tablets” at Mount Sinai
Surah Al-Araf, 7:145
Moses, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu and 70 elders meet God
(Exodus 24:9-11)[25]
The Israelites worship the golden calf
(Exodus 32:1-6)[26]
The Israelites worship the golden calf
Surah Al-Araf, 7:148; (Surah Taha, 20:85-98)[27]
Moses takes 70 Israelites to meet God[28]
Surah Al-Araf, 7:155
Moses sends 12 men to explore Canaan
Numbers 13:1-31
God commands the Israelites to enter the Holy Land
Surah Al-Maeda, 5:21
The Israelites refuse to fight the Canaanites
Numbers 14:1-9
The Israelites refuse to fight the Canaanites
(Surah Al-Maeda, 5:22-24)[29]
God forbids the Israelites to enter Canaan for 40 years
Numbers 14:32-39
God forbids the Israelites to enter Canaan for 40 years
Surah Al-Maeda, 5:26
The Israelites conquer Canaan under Joshua
(Joshua 11:16-23)[30]
The Israelites eventually “inherit” the Holy Land[31]
Surah Al-Araf, 7:137


            In this article, we have compared the Biblical and Quranic versions of the story of the Exodus.  As a result, we have identified several inconsistencies and contradictions in the former, which are not repeated in the latter.  The Quran, though it does not provide a single, continuous narrative, nevertheless does provide a much more coherent and cogent version of the events surrounding the Israelites’ liberation from the oppression of the Pharaoh.  Jews and Christians must admit that the Biblical version of events is problematic in many regards and that the Quran offers a better alternative. 

And Allah knows best!

[1] All direct quotes from the Bible are taken from the New International Version.

[2] All direct quotes from the Quran are taken from the Yusuf Ali translation.

[3] As we will see in Part II, mass immigration from Canaan into Egypt in ancient times is historically verifiable.

[4] The reason given by the Bible for the Pharaoh’s oppression of the Israelites is their great number.  They had multiplied greatly and had reached a point where “the land was filled with them”.  However, this description is certainly not historically accurate and also contradicts other passages of the Bible (where the Israelite numbers are clearly implied as being quite small), as we will see later.

[5] The 14th- century Muslim exegete Ibn Kathir stated in his book “Stories of the Prophets”:

“The pharaoh who ruled Egypt was a tyrant who oppressed the descendants of Jacob, known as the children of Israel (Bani Israel). He used every means to demean and disgrace them. They were kept in bondage and forced to work for him for small wages or nothing. Under this system the people obeyed and worshipped the pharaoh, and the ruling class carried out his orders, thereby authorizing his tyranny and crazy whims.

The pharaoh wanted the people to obey him only, and to believe in the gods of his invention. Perhaps, during that time, there were many classes of people who did not believe in or practice polytheism; however, they kept this to themselves and outwardly did as they were expected to do, without revolting or revealing themselves to anyone.

Thus, successive dynasties came to Egypt and assumed that they were gods or their representatives or spokesmen.
Years passed, and a despotic king, who was adored by the Egyptians, ruled Egypt. This king saw the children of Israel multiplying and prospering” (

This suggests that the oppression of the Israelites went on for some time and under successive regimes, until the birth of Moses and the Exodus from Egypt.  In fact, Islamic scholar Suzanne Haneef explains that the oppression of the Israelites may have begun around the same time the Hyksos dynasty was expelled from Egypt.  She states:

“…in about 1550 B.C., when the Egyptians revolted against the Hyksos kings and overthrew them, the Israelites’ situation changed dramatically.  At that time, a pharaoh came to power who had nothing but contempt for the foreign descendants of the Hebrew patriarch Jacob, regarding them as a despised race, fit to be subjugated and harassed.  Consequently, the Israelites were enslaved, persecuted and abused by their Egyptian masters until such time as God Most High raised among the descendants of Abraham two great brother prophets whose importance in the history of religion has hardly been equaled” (A History of the Prophets of Islam: Derived from the Quran, Ahadith and Commentaries, Volume 2 (Chicago: Kazi Publications, Inc., 2003), p. 8).

The Pharaoh who ultimately drove the Hyksos out of Egypt was Ahmose I, who reigned as the founder of the 18th Dynasty from 1550 BCE to 1525 BCE (  

It would seem that the persecution of the Israelites then continued for several centuries until the arrival of the prophets Moses and Aaron, and the subsequent Exodus of the Israelites.

[6] The Biblical episode is self-contradictory and logically flawed.  According to the account, the Pharaoh ordered the Hebrew midwives to kill the male infants, yet Exodus 1:15 mentions that two midwives, Shiphrah and Puah, were given this task, despite the fact that the Israelites were so numerous that the “land was filled with them”!  How could two midwives be expected to commit thousands of infant murders?  In addition, why would the Pharaoh have entrusted Hebrew midwives to kill Hebrew children, when he had his powerful army at his disposal?  Clearly, the Pharaoh could not have been so short-sighted and incompetent, especially since he was so concerned with Egypt’s security!   Ironically, when the midwives failed to carry out Pharaoh’s orders, he eventually ordered his own people to do the job.

[7] Describing this particular Pharaoh, the famous Islamic exegete and historian Al-Tabari stated that there was:

“…no pharaoh more ruthless, harder-hearted, or of more evil character toward the Israelites than he…” (As cited in Haneef, op. cit., p. 12).

It is for this reason that the Quran states regarding this Pharaoh:

“Truly Pharaoh elated himself in the land and broke up its people into sections, depressing a small group among them: their sons he slew, but he kept alive their females: for he was indeed a maker of mischief” (Surah Al-Qasas, 28:4).

[8] According to the Bible, it was the Pharaoh’s daughter who named the baby “Moses”, because she thought it meant “I drew him out of the water” in Hebrew.  Yet this cannot be accurate, as Fatoohi and Al-Dargazelli explain (emphasis in the original):

First, it suggests that the Egyptian princess knew Hebrew…Second, the explanation given for the name depends upon similarity in sound rather than correct etymology.  The name ‘Moses’ (Hebrew: Mōšeh) could be an active participle of the Hebrew verb ‘māšāh,’ which means ‘draw out,’ whereas the Biblical explanation of the name requires a passive participle.  One would expect the baby to have been called ‘he who is being drawn out’ rather than ‘he who arise out of’…The Biblical etymology of the name reflects a misunderstanding of the meaning of the Egyptian root from which the name Moses is derived…” (The Mystery of Israel in Ancient Egypt: The Exodus in the Qur’an, the Old Testament, Archaeological Finds, and Historical Sources (Birmingham: Luna Plena Publishing, 2008), p. 65).

And as the late Biblical scholar John Bright explained:

“Egyptian names prevalent in early Israel, especially in the tribe of Levi, certainly argue for a connection with Egypt.  Among these are those of Moses himself, Hophni, Phineas, Merari, and possibly Aaron and others” (A History of Israel, Third Edition (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1981), p. 121).

Bright also explained in a footnote that:

“‘Moses’ (from the verb meaning ‘be born’ is an element in such names as Thutmosis, Ramesses, etc., with the name of the deity omitted” (Ibid., fn. 30, p. 121).

[9] In contrast to the Biblical version, which states that it was the Pharaoh’s daughter who found Moses, the Quranic version states that it was the wife of the Pharaoh (known in Islamic sources as Asiya), who found the infant and persuaded her husband to raise the child as their own.

[10] Here we come across another contradiction in the Biblical account.  In Exodus 2, the “priest of Midian” whose daughter (Zipporah) Moses marries is identified as “Reuel”.  However, in the very next chapter, he is identified as “Jethro” (Exodus 3:1).  In addition, he is identified as “Hobab” in Judges 4:11, and as “Hobab son of Reuel” in Numbers 10:29.  Biblical apologists, such as Kenneth A. Kitchen, have surmised that multiple names were a common occurrence in Egypt, but as Fatoohi and Al-Dargazelli correctly point out:

“…Moses’ father-in-law definitely cannot be ‘Reuel’ and ‘Hobab son of Reuel’ at the same time!” (Fatoohi and Al-Dargazelli, op. cit., p. 66).

Other apologists have claimed that “Reuel” could actually have been the “chief patriarch” and the “grandfather” or “great-grandfather” of Zipporah, whereas Jethro/Hobab was her actual father, and hence Moses’ father-in-law.  See the following Christian website for this explanation:

Yet this argument clearly fails for a simple reason.  When Exodus 2 identifies the “priest of Midian” as “Reuel”, he is clearly identified as having seven daughters (Exodus 2:11) and is also referred to as their “father” (Exodus 2:18).  There is no indication that he was actually the “chief patriarch” or Zipporah’s “grandfather”.  This is just an excuse invented by apologists who do not want to admit the plain contradiction. 

Another problem is that while “Reuel” and “Jethro” are clearly old men, “Hobab” is seemingly described as a young man.  As the “Jewish Virtual Library” states (emphasis in the original):

“The roles of Jethro and Hobab are so different as to preclude identity. The former is an old man who already had seven grown daughters when Moses arrived in Midian and who gave Moses in the wilderness the kind of advice that could only be the product of mature wisdom. Hobab is a young, vigorous man who could withstand the rigors of acting as a guide in the wilderness wanderings. He is, therefore, not the father-in-law, but the son-in-law of Moses, and oten in Numbers 10:29 and Judges 4:11 should be read atan(

Whatever the actual reason is for the multiple and confusing identities of Moses’ father-in-law, it must be admitted that there is an inconsistency, which would hardly be characteristic of a supposedly “inerrant” and “inspired” book.

[11] Unlike the Bible, the Quran does not contain any reference to the death of one Pharaoh and the ascension of another.  Hence, it is likely that the “Pharaoh of the Oppression” is the same as the “Pharaoh of the Exodus”.  We will revisit this issue in Part III when we attempt to identify the Pharaoh of the Exodus, inshaAllah.

[12] During the trip back to Egypt, Moses had another interesting encounter with the divine.  According to Exodus 4:24, while Moses was staying at a “lodging place”, God came to him to kill him!  However, due to a quick-thinking Zipporah, Moses was spared.  Zipporah quickly circumcised Moses’ son and touched Moses’ feet with the foreskin, thereby saving her husband from God’s wrath.  Biblical scholars have explained that the reason for this strange episode was that Moses had been slow to circumcise his son, because he was more concerned with going back to Egypt as God had commanded him.  The Jewish commentator Rashi also added that it was due to the fact that Moses was more concerned with “his lodging” than circumcising his son, which is why he was threatened with death (
Needless to say, this story is not found in the Quranic version.

[13] The Quran, like the Bible, states that when Moses transformed his staff into a snake, the Pharaoh called his best magicians to counter the miracle.  However, in contrast to the Bible, the Quran states that as a result of the competition between Moses and the Egyptian magicians, the latter became believers after recognizing that Moses was no magician, but an actual prophet of God.  Due to their faith, the Pharaoh threatened them with torture and execution, but they remained steadfast in their faith.  Islamic commentators like Ibn Kathir and Al-Tabari related that the Pharaoh did carry out his threats and the converted magicians were eventually martyred (Haneef, op. cit., p. 65).

In addition to these converts, other Egyptians also believed in Moses, though only a few.  The Quran identifies the wife of the Pharaoh, Asiya, and another unnamed Egyptian, as believers.  It is also said that the man who had warned Moses to leave Egypt after he had killed the Egyptian also became a believer.  The fate of this person is unknown, but Ibn Kathir related that Hazrat Asiya, the wife of the Pharaoh, was tortured to death, while the other unnamed Egyptian (who was a member of the Pharaoh’s family) was apparently saved by God from the Pharaoh’s plots:

“Then Allah saved him from (every) ill that they plotted (against him), but the brunt of the Penalty encompassed on all sides the People of Pharaoh” (Surah Ghafir, 40:45).

For more information on these brave Egyptian believers, see Haneef, op. cit., pp. 63-65, 68-74.

[14] The Quran states that the Pharaoh and his chiefs threatened to kill the sons of the Israelites as punishment for their belief in Moses, as the Pharaoh had done at the time of the blessed prophet’s birth.  The only difference was that the Pharaoh was now attempting to dissuade the Israelites from accepting the message of the prophet Moses.

As a result of the Pharaoh’s latest act of oppression, some of the Israelites grumbled that Moses had brought more trouble upon them, yet the prophet urged them to be patient and reassured them that:

“It may be that your Lord will destroy your enemy and make you inheritors in the earth; that so He may try you by your deeds” (Surah Al-Araf, 7:129).

Indeed, the Quran mentions that only a few people believed in Moses due to their fear of the Pharaoh’s wrath:
“But none believed in Moses except some children of his people, because of the fear of Pharaoh and his chiefs, lest they should persecute them; and certainly Pharaoh was mighty on the earth and one who transgressed all bounds” (Surah Yunus, 10:83).

[15] The miracles performed were the staff changing into a snake, and the plagues of blood, frogs, gnats, flies, dead livestock, boils, hail, locusts, darkness, and the death of the first-born sons (which afflicted both humans and animals).  Interestingly, the Bible states that each miracle/plague was copied by the Pharaoh’s magicians (thereby convincing the Pharaoh to resist Moses’ demands), up until the plague of gnats, which they could not replicate.  However, after the plague of frogs, the Pharaoh pleaded with Moses to pray to his God and remove the frogs.  In return, the Pharaoh would allow the Israelites to make sacrifices to God, as Moses had originally demanded.  Of course, once the plague was removed, the Pharaoh reneged on his promise.   After the plague of gnats, the magicians warned the Pharaoh that “this is the finger of God”, but the Pharaoh still refused to let the Israelites go.  The Pharaoh behaved the same way after every subsequent plague, until the final plague when Egypt’s first-born sons were killed.  It was at this time that the Pharaoh finally allowed the Israelites to leave Egypt.

Curiously, the Bible does not indicate that Moses performed the miracle of his hand “as white as snow” (Exodus 5:6), despite the fact that God clearly gave Moses this “sign” to persuade the Pharaoh to believe that Moses was indeed sent by God.  In Exodus 5, God gives Moses clear instructions to utilize both signs, for if the Egyptians did not believe the first miracle, they may believe the second:

Then the Lord said, “If they do not believe you or pay attention to the first sign, they may believe the second.  But if they do not believe these two signs or listen to you, take some water from the Nile and pour it on the dry ground. The water you take from the river will become blood on the ground”(Exodus 5:8-9).

Notice that God told Moses to perform the two miracles first and if the Egyptians did not believe them, it was then that Moses was to unleash the first plague, which was the turning of the Nile into blood.  Yet in Exodus 7, Aaron performs the miracle of the staff, but the miracle of the “white hand” is not performed.  Instead, Moses and Aaron went to the Pharaoh the next morning and transformed the Nile River into blood!  Did they forget to perform the second miracle as God had told them?  And why did God not remind them?  This is yet another inconsistency in the Biblical version for which no reasonable explanation exists.  

[16] According to the Quran, there were a total of 9 “signs” for Pharaoh and the Egyptians.  The first two were the miracles of the staff and the “white hand”, while the other seven were five plagues (flood, locusts, lice, frogs, and blood), and two other “signs” for which there appears to be some disagreement among the scholars of Islam, since they are not clearly identified.  According to Ibn Kathir, the nine signs given to Moses were:

“…his staff, his hand, the years of famine, the [splitting of the] sea, the flood, the locusts, the lice, the frogs and the blood” (

What is clear, however, is that the death of the firstborn son was definitely not one of the signs, whereas the Bible states that this was the last and most devastating plague to strike Egypt.  There is no indication in the Quran or authentic ahadith that Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He) struck the Egyptians with such a catastrophe.  For more on the “nine signs of Moses”, see Haneef, op. cit., pp. 80-84 and Fatoohi and Al-Dargazelli, op. cit., pp. 73-74.

[17] Yusuf Ali referred to “wholesale death” as one of the plagues, yet this is probably an incorrect translation.  The Arabic word الطُّوفَانَ is used in only one other place besides 7:133, which is in Surah Al-Ankabut, 29:14.  There, it refers to the flood that afflicted the people of the prophet Nuh (peace be upon him).  Hence, most other translations have elected to refer to the plague as the “flood”, not “wholesale death”.  Yusuf Ali may have been influenced by a tradition related in the tafsir of Ibn Kathir that “Tuwfan” could also refer to “mass death” (

Nevertheless, it seems more reasonable to assume that “flood” is the more correct translation.  Of course, a flood would have certainly caused “wholesale death”, so it could be an appropriate description after all.  Indeed, in his commentary on the verse, Ali wrote:

Tufan = a widespread calamity, causing wholesale death and destruction.  It may be a flood, or a typhoon, or an epidemic, among men or cattle” (

 Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He) knows best.

[18] According to Exodus 12:37, there were 600,000 Israelite men who left Egypt, a figure which implies that the total Israelite population was at least 2-3 million.  This figure is more specifically stated as 603,550 in Exodus 38:26 and Numbers 1:46 and 601,730 in Numbers 26:51 (the latter was after God sent a plague upon the Israelites for committing sexual immoralities with Moabite women and worshiping their gods).  However, historians have demonstrated that this figure cannot be accurate, and in fact, contradicts earlier and later verses in the Book of Exodus.  As John Bright observed:

“All the ancestors of the later Israel could hardly have participated in the exodus, for the number cannot have been large.  To be sure, it is stated (e.g., Num. 1:46, 26:51) that Israel on the march could muster some six hundred thousand men of military age - which would mean some two or three million in all, counting women and children.  This figure, which is high even for the population of Israel under the monarchy, is out of the question for the day of the exodus.  Not only could seventy men have scarcely multiplied so in the time involved, but such a host even if marching in close order (as it did not) would more than have extended from Egypt to Sinai and back!  It would have had no need to fear the Egyptian army!  […] But the numbers are not to be taken literally.  We see in the Bible itself a smaller group, whose needs are cared for by two midwives (Ex. 1:15-22), who cross the Reed Sea in a single night, and who cringe before a foe more numerous than they.  The number that participated in the exodus was hardly more than a very few thousand; all of later Israel was scarcely physically descended from them” (Bright, op. cit., pp. 133-134).

[19] In contrast to the Bible, the Quran indicates that the Pharaoh had remained stubborn despite the suffering of his people and had refused to free the Israelites from slavery, which is why Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He) commanded Moses to leave Egypt under cover of night, but told him to expect to be pursued.  This is consistent with the Pharaoh’s decision to actually pursue Moses and the Israelites, since they would have fled when he least suspected it and obviously without his permission.  On the other hand, the Bible, as we shall see shortly, claims that the Pharaoh agreed to let the Israelites go, and then when informed that they had “fled”, flew into a rage and marshaled his military strength to chase after the runaway slaves!

We should also point out that if the Israelites were able to flee under cover of darkness, the implication is that they were a very small group, instead of the 2-3 million-strong group the Bible implies.  As we will see shortly, the Quran indeed very clearly states that the Israelites were a “small band” of people.  This would be historically accurate and also make logical sense.

[20] Exodus 13:17-18 states that God did not make the Israelites leave through “the road through the Philistine country”, which was shorter, but “around by the desert road toward the Red Sea/Sea of Reeds”.  Yet, this passage contains a clear anachronism since the “Philistines” did not yet exist in Canaan.  As author Jonathan Kirsch observes (emphasis in the original):

“The reference to the Philistines in Exodus 13:7 is an anachronism that was inserted in the text of the Bible by a late author or editor, since these invaders from the Aegean did not establish themselves in Canaan until after the events depicted in the Book of Exodus, at least according to the strict chronology of the Bible” (Moses: A Life (New York: The Random House Ballantine Publishing Group, 1998), p. 183).

[21] Here again we see an example of the Bible’s internal inconsistencies.  According to the text, the Pharaoh was informed that the Israelites had "fled".  Yet according to Exodus 12:31-32, the Pharaoh had agreed to let the Israelites go!  It is also stated that the Israelites even had time to ask the Egyptians for silver, gold and clothing (Exodus 12:35).  Clearly, to say that they had “fled” is absurd.  

Moreover, it is again implied in the text that the Israelites were few in number (instead of having 600,000 men of fighting age), since the Pharaoh’s army comprised 600 of his “best chariots, along with all the other chariots in Egypt” (Exodus 14:7).  At most, this would imply a total force of no more than 1,000 chariots, or if we want to be more liberal, perhaps as many as 1,500-2,000 chariots.  Josephus claimed that the Pharaoh’s army consisted of:

“…six hundred chariots, with fifty thousand horsemen, and two hundred thousand footmen, all armed” (Antiquities of the Jews, 2:15).

This figure is of course also inaccurate, as it is historically verifiable that even Egypt could not muster such a force, and indeed, the Bible does not specify the exact size of the army, but as we just saw, it is implied that it was not large enough to subdue millions of people.  Yet if the Israelites numbered some 2-3 million people, how would the Pharaoh have hoped to subdue them all?  This is clearly more evidence that the Israelites were a small group and that the Pharaoh was confident that he could overwhelm them with his martial prowess. 
Even if we account for the fact that the Pharaoh took his entire army with him, including infantrymen and horsemen (Exodus 14:9), the Egyptians still could not have had a total strength of more than several thousands.  At the famous Battle of Kadesh in c. 1274 B.C., in which Ramesses II fought the Hittites to a stalemate, the Egyptian army mustered an impressive force of 20,000 men (

Could they have numbered more than that at the time of the Exodus?  And even if they were, could they have hoped to capture 2 million runaway slaves?  Logic dictates that the answer to these questions is a definite “no”.

[22] The Quran says that after realizing that the Israelites had fled (emphasis ours):

“Then Pharaoh sent heralds to (all) the Cities,

(Saying): "These (Israelites) are but a small band,

"And they are raging furiously against us;

"But we are a multitude amply fore-warned"” (Surah As-Shuara, 26:53-56).

Overconfident with his numerical and military prowess, the Pharaoh set out to recapture the Israelites, utterly unaware and heedless of the fact that Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He) was protecting this “small band”.  

Here, we see that the Quran clearly states that the Israelites were a small group of people, in contrast to the Biblical claim that there were millions of them.  While no exact numerical figure has been given, it is obvious that there could not have been more than a few thousand people at most.  Ironically, some Quranic commentators still assigned a large number to the Israelite population, having clearly been influenced by the Biblical traditions!  For example, the Tafsir Al-Jalalayn states:

“It is said that they [the Children of Israel] numbered 670,000, while his [Pharaoh’s] vanguard alone numbered 700,000 and so he deemed their number insignificant in comparison to his huge army” (

Fatoohi and Al-Dargazelli state that the commentators Al-Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir and Al-Tabari also assigned similar numbers (Fatoohi and Al-Dargazelli, op. cit., p. 142).  But this is clearly illogical and inaccurate, for even if we assume that the Pharaoh’s army was “700,000” strong (which is impossible), no rational person could say that “670,000” Israelites would constitute a “small band” by comparison!  This confusion among the commentators was of course completely unnecessary, since the Quran’s description of a “small band” cannot by any stretch of the imagination be conflated to mean hundreds of thousands of Israelites!  Whatever the exact number was, we can say that they were not a mass throng of a few million people.  Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He) knows best!

[23] How fitting and ironic it was that the Pharaoh refused to humble himself before the Lord of all the worlds (Rabb Al-Alimin), in spite of witnessing numerous signs at the hand of the prophet Moses, but when confronted with defeat and death, only then did the once mighty king finally realize that he was nothing in comparison to the one true God!

[24] Of course, God gave many other commandments and laws to the Israelites, as seen in Exodus 20-24.  It was at Mount Sinai that God also made His Covenant with them.

[25] The Bible claims that at the meeting, the men literally saw the “God of Israel”!  Exodus 24:10 even states that:

Under his feet was something like a pavement made of lapis lazuli, as bright blue as the sky.

Yet, it also states that none of them died after seeing God, in direct contradiction of clear statements throughout the Bible that no man can look upon God and live.  In fact, later in the Book of Exodus, God tells Moses:

“…you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live(Exodus 33:20).

[26] Amazingly, the Biblical account claims that it was Aaron who made the idol of the golden calf, and did not need much persuasion to do it!  According to the text, the Israelites had grown impatient with Moses’ prolonged absence and asked Aaron to make a “god” for them, which he did.  This is in spite of the fact that Aaron had been Moses’ companion from the beginning of the mission to Pharaoh.  There is no indication that he was threatened into making the idol.  In fact, he even admitted later to Moses that the Israelites simply asked him to make an idol, and he obliged (Exodus 32:22-24)!   

Interestingly, Josephus omitted the entire episode of the golden calf, whereas Philo of Alexandria summarized it but made no mention of Aaron (On the Life of Moses, 2:161-162). 

[27] Unlike the Bible, the Quran places the blame for the Israelites’ worship of the idol not on Aaron but on another man, identified as “Al-Samiri” (the Samaritan).  Indeed, the Quran states that Aaron tried to dissuade the people from degenerating into idol worship:

“Aaron had already, before this said to them: "O my people! ye are being tested in this: for verily your Lord is (Allah) Most Gracious; so follow me and obey my command"” (Surah Taha, 20:90).

This is clearly more logical, whereas the Biblical version claims that Aaron, the prophet of God, built the idol without much persuasion or even any resistance the people’s clamoring.  

[28] In the Quranic account, the meeting of the 70 Israelites with God occurs after the episode of the golden calf, whereas in the Bible, it occurs before.  But the main difference between the two accounts which concerns us most is the fact that in the Quranic account, the 70 Israelites actually demand that they be able to see Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He):

“And remember ye said: "O Moses! We shall never believe in thee until we see Allah manifestly," but ye were dazed with thunder and lightning even as ye looked on.  Then We raised you up after your death: Ye had the chance to be grateful” (Surah Al-Baqarah, 2:55-56).

As punishment for their disbelief and arrogance, Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He) struck them dead, and then revived them after Moses prayed for their forgiveness. 

[29] The Quran states that two men among the Israelites remained faithful in Allah’s promise of victory and did not fear the power of the Canaanites.  The Bible identifies these men as Joshua and Caleb.

[30] Here also, the Bible contradicts itself.  The conquest of Canaan is described as rapid, bloody and complete.  Most of the cities were utterly destroyed and its people exterminated.  However, a different account, found in Judges 9, describes the conquest as much more gradual.  As Bright observed:

“According to the main account (Josh., chs. 1 to 12), the conquest represented a concerted effort by all Israel, and was sudden, bloody, and complete.  […] The inhabitants having all been butchered, the land was then apportioned among the tribes (chs. 13 to 21).  But, alongside this, the Bible presents another picture of the occupation of Palestine that makes it clear that it was a long process, accomplished by the efforts of individual clans, and but partially completed. […] What is more, cities already said to have been taken by Joshua and all Israel (e.g., Hebron, Debir: Josh. 10:36-39) are here taken by individual action (Judg. 1:9-15)” (Bright, op. cit., p. 129).

[31] The Quran does not describe how the Israelites “inherited” the Holy Land, though there are authentic traditions which describe military campaigns under Joshua (peace be upon him), without providing specific details.  We can only say with certainty that the “Holy Land” (which was part of the land of Canaan) eventually came under Israelite control by the grace of Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He).  

This would certainly have corresponded with the waning of Egyptian influence in the Canaanite province.  Egypt had maintained a strong presence in Canaan for centuries, even into the early 13th century BCE, as evidenced by the “Merneptah stele”, which describes how the Pharaoh Merneptah (the son and successor of Ramesses II) campaigned in Canaan and subdued many nations, including “Israel” (
We will further discuss the significance of the stele in Part II.