Saturday, November 29, 2014

The Exodus from Egypt - Part II

The Exodus from Egypt: Part II – A Historic Appraisal

“Thus do We relate to thee some stories of what happened before: for We have sent thee a Message from Our own Presence.”

-         The Holy Quran, Surah Taha, 20:99

This article is a continuation of our “The Exodus from Egypt” series.  In Part I, we compared the Biblical and Quranic versions of the Israelite escape from the oppression of the Pharaoh and identified several problems with the former.  In our continuation of the series, we will now attempt to determine whether the story of the Exodus has any historical basis.  What follows will be an analysis of the evidence, which it is hoped will show that the Exodus story is not only historically plausible but also has strong historical support.

The Exodus: History or Myth?

            Did the Israelites escape enslavement in Egypt, led by a man named Moses?  Or is it just a pious myth?  These questions have invited much debate and controversy in modern times, with proponents on both sides of the argument passionately defending their views. 

To be sure, there is no evidence from Egyptian records to verify the Exodus, and this is used by some people as “evidence” that the Exodus never happened.  However, the absence of evidence in the Egyptian records is not really that surprising, as it would be unreasonable to expect the proud Egyptians to painstakingly record the humiliation and defeat they allegedly suffered during that tumultuous time.[1]  Hence, the Egyptian records will not really help us, though as we will see, they do provide indirect evidence that will support the theory that the Exodus really could have happened. 

In order to determine whether the Exodus really happened, we would have to establish whether the key components which make up the story really could have occurred (i.e. they are historically plausible).  These key components are:

1.       Originally immigrants from Canaan, the Israelites had settled in Egypt at some point and were subsequently enslaved by the Egyptians,

2.      They eventually escaped slavery and migrated back to Canaan, and

      They took control of the Holy Land.[2]
In this article, we will attempt to historically verify these events.  With the presentation of the evidence, it will be shown that the Exodus is historical fact, insha’Allah.

1.   The Israelites migrated to and were subsequently enslaved in Egypt – 

            Is it historically plausible that Israelites migrated from Canaan and settled in Egypt?  The answer to this is complex.  To be frank, there is no direct “archaeological” evidence of a group of people known as the “Israelites” who migrated to Egypt under the leadership of the patriarch Jacob (Yaqub in Arabic).  However, there is evidence that migrations from Canaan into Egypt were a common occurrence in antiquity, and this evidence provides indirect confirmation of the Israelite migration under Jacob (peace be upon him).  As Professor James K. Hoffmeier of Trinity International University has noted:

“…Egypt was frequented by the peoples of the Levant, especially as a result of climatic problems that resulted in drought (as ‘Merikare’ reports) from the end of the Old Kingdom (ca. 2190 B.C.) through the Second Intermediate Period (ca. 1786 – 1550 B.C.).  Even during the Empire Period, there are records of hunger and thirst driving people from Canaan and Sinai to Egypt for relief.”[3]

So, the migration of Jacob and his family at a time of severe drought in Canaan, as told in the Bible and the Quran, is historically verifiable even though there is no direct evidence that a man named Jacob (peace be upon him) and his family were among the migrants.[4] 

            Further proof that the Israelites were in Egypt at one time can be deduced from the presence of Egyptian names in Israel, which indicates contact between the two groups.  As John Bright observed:

“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, Phinehas, Merari, and possibly Aaron and others.”[5]

But it was not as if only Canaanites were influenced by Egyptian culture and not vice-versa.  As a matter of fact, Egypt was also influenced by Canaanite culture, as attested by the historical evidence.  According to Bright:

“…hundreds of Semitic words entered the Egyptian language, while Canaanite gods were Egyptianized and worshiped in identification with their Egyptian counterparts.”[6]

Clearly, there is ample evidence to establish that Israelites were in Egypt early in their history.  To deny this would be completely unjustified. 

            But what about the claim of enslavement in Egypt?  Is there evidence to show that the Israelites could have been enslaved by the Pharaohs?  We have already established that Israelites were present in Egypt, so the claim of enslavement would be a secondary issue, not requiring direct evidence to verify it.[7]  Even so, we do have indirect evidence from Egyptian sources to support the contention that Canaanites, which would of course include the Israelites, were used as slaves by the Egyptians.  There is no doubt that the Egyptians used slaves.  Prominent among these was a group of people known as “Apiru”.  Noting the similarity between the words Apiru and Hebrews, some Biblical scholars had surmised that they were one and the same.  However, this view has largely been abandoned by modern scholars.[8]  However, many scholars are of the view that among the Apiru would have been the Israelites.  According to Bright:

“…numerous texts from the fifteenth century onward give evidence of the presence of Apiru in Egypt.  Apiru had been brought there as captives as early as Amenophis II (ca. 1438-1412), if not before, while in documents of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Dynasties they appear repeatedly as state slaves.  We can scarcely doubt that among them were components of the later Israel.”[9]

            In addition, scholars like Abraham Malamat point to Egyptian documents, such as Papyrus Leiden 348, as providing “probable evidence of the Israelite servitude in Egypt”.[10]  The text of the papyrus mentions the “…Apiru who are dragging stone to the great pylon of Ramesse-miamum…”[11] 

            Based on the above evidence, we can see that it is quite plausible that the Israelites were not only present in Egypt, but also endured slavery for a considerable amount of time, as maintained by Biblical and Quranic tradition.  That would be the only reasonable conclusion.  Indeed, even skeptics have acknowledged as much.  As Hoffmeier observes:

“This scenario has long been considered to have a ring of truth even for more skeptical scholars.”[12]

2.  The Israelites escaped slavery and migrated back to Canaan – 

            That the Israelites were in Egypt and endured slavery is clearly plausible.  As a result, that would imply that since they eventually settled in Canaan (as the Bible and the Quran state), then they must have left Egypt at some point in order to escape the oppression of the Pharaohs.  This would have inevitably led them through the region of the Sinai Peninsula. 

Taking the route through Sinai would have been the logical choice for runaway slaves seeking freedom from their Egyptian masters, and indeed, Egyptian records provide tantalizing evidence to confirm this.  In the Papyrus Anastasi V, an Egyptian official described how he was dispatched to recapture two slaves who had fled from Pi-Ramesses.[13]  As Fatoohi and Al-Dargazelli note (summarizing the position of Professor Abraham Malamat), the account given in the papyrus has some parallels with the Exodus account, since it describes:

“…(i) the escape of slaves from Pi-Ramesses in search of freedom; (ii) the pursuit of Egyptian military officials of the escapees to return them to Egypt; (iii) the route into Sinai taken by the escaping slaves is roughly identical to that followed by the Israelites; and (iv) the occurrence of the escape under the cover of darkness.”[14]

Nevertheless, some scholars have questioned whether a journey through the Sinai Peninsula really happened.[15]  The argument from the skeptics is that a large group of people moving through the peninsula would undoubtedly have left some sign of their presence.[16] Yet, as the skeptics do rightfully point out, no such evidence has been found.  As Finkelstein and Silberman state:

“Repeated archaeological surveys in all regions of the peninsula, including the mountainous area around the traditional site of Mount Sinai, near Saint Catherine’s Monastery…, have yielded only negative evidence: not even a single sherd, no structure, not a single house, no trace of an ancient encampment.”[17]

Moreover, as even Hoffmeier notes, there is ample evidence of people living in the Sinai Peninsula as far back as the 6th millennium BCE, but none for the Israelite presence.[18]  On the surface, these revelations would seem to pose a serious challenge to the historicity of the Exodus.  After all, if the Israelites did indeed escape slavery by taking the route through the Sinai Peninsula, and wandered in the wilderness for 40 years, they must have left some sign of their presence!

But is it really that clear-cut?  For scholars like Finkelstein and Silberman, it is expected that some archaeological evidence of the Israelite presence should have been discovered by now.  However, other scholars question this line of reasoning.  For example, Hoffmeier observes that the Israelites would not have lived in “stone structures”, which obviously would have left a “permanent archaeological record of their habitats”, echoing the view of the archaeologist Itzhaq Beit-Arieh, who observed that:

“…presumably the Israelite dwellings and artifacts consisted only of perishable materials.”[19]

Hoffmeier elaborates on this point by pointing out that, according to the Biblical account, the Israelites lived in tents during this time.[20]

            It also needs to be remembered that the Israelites were nomads during their wandering in the desert.  Hence, one would expect a lack of evidence of such people occupying a particular region.  In fact, Hoffmeier is quick to observe that scholars who readily point to the lack of evidence for the Israelite presence in Sinai (such as Finkelstein) also admit that it is often difficult to identify the presence of nomadic dwellings, even with regard to relatively recent human occupation, like 19th-century Bedouin nomads![21]  Indeed, in a 1990 article in the journal “Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research”, Israel Finkelstein and Avi Perevolotsky stated with regard to human occupation of the Negev and Sinai:

“The archaeological finds from the Negev and Sinai are not continuous: for some periods there are substantial remains but there are also long periods with no material evidence.  Nonetheless the natural resources of the regions under discussion are such that there is no possibility of periods of human ‘void’.  Nomadic groups penetrated some other arid zones in the Middle East only after the domestication of the camel; the Negev and Sinai, in contrast, are convenient for small cattle herding and were inhabited by sheep/goat pastoral nomads.  But since desert groups only rarely built permanent structures that survived to the present, human activity of most periods escapes the attention of archaeological research.”[22]

Clearly, the absence of evidence for the Israelite presence in the Sinai Peninsula cannot be so easily construed as evidence of their absence.  

3.  The Israelites took control of the Holy Land - 

            Having shown that the migration of the Israelites back to Canaan is a near certainty, and that a lack of archaeological evidence does not necessarily negate this possibility, we can move on to the issue of Israel’s eventual settlement and control of the Holy Land.  It has been previously stated that the Biblical account of the “conquest” is contradictory,[23] whereas the Islamic account is almost non-existent.  All the latter says is that the Israelites “inherited” the Holy Land:

“And We made a people, considered weak (and of no account), inheritors of lands in both east and west, - lands whereon We sent down Our blessings. The fair promise of thy Lord was fulfilled for the Children of Israel, because they had patience and constancy, and We levelled to the ground the great works and fine buildings which Pharaoh and his people erected (with such pride).”[24]

            But what does archaeology tell us?  Findings from intensive studies show that a rapid and bloody conquest is certainly out of the question.  Even defenders of the Biblical narrative acknowledge this.  The exact nature of the Israelites’ appropriation of the Holy Land is an open issue (at least from the perspective of the Islamic sources and, to a certain extent, that of the Bible), but the evidence suggests that if there was at least some military activity, it was certainly not at the level of intensity that the book of Joshua suggests.  Rather, for scholars like Hoffmeier:

“…the idea of a group of tribes coming to Canaan, using some military force, partially taking a number of cities and areas over a period of some years, destroying (burning) just three cities, and coexisting alongside the Canaanites and other ethnic groups for a period of time before the beginnings of the monarchy, does not require blind faith.”[25]

So, we can conclude that if the Israelites migrated to Canaan, they eventually took control of some parts of it, but exactly how it happened is somewhat of a mystery.  It was probably a combination of intermittent military activity and periods of peace.  What is clear, however, is that they were there.[26]  We know this from the fact that during the Iron Age, there is a curious absence in some parts of Canaan of the remains of one particular animal: the pig.  Archaeological studies have shown that pig bones can be found in some areas, but not in others.  According to Hoffmeier:

“Given the presence of pig bones in Bronze Age Canaan and especially in the Philistine territory in the twelfth century, their absence in areas thought to be occupied by Israelites is significant.”[27]

For scholars who have questioned the historicity of the Exodus account, including the eventual settlement of the runaway slaves in Canaan, and who instead maintain that the Israelites were actually always in Canaan,[28] the absence of pig bones is quite difficult to explain.  For example, Finkelstein and Silberman offer a rather weak explanation for why the Israelites chose not to eat pork when all of their supposed Canaanite brothers did.  They allege that:

“Perhaps the proto-Israelites stopped eating pork merely because the surrounding peoples – their adversaries – did eat it, and they had begun to see themselves as different.”[29]

It is difficult to accept this explanation, since if the Israelites had wanted to be “different” from their fellow Canaanites, why did they specifically choose not to eat pigs?  Why not goats or sheep?  Or why not choose to be “different” in another way, such as in religion or culture?  The fact is that there was simply no good reason for the “proto-Israelites” to not eat pork, if they had always been inhabitants of Canaan, as Hoffmeier explains:

“…there was no social or religious rationale to reject pork if they had simply emerged from Canaanite culture.  On the other hand if, as the Bible reports, Israel migrated from Egypt – where pork consumption was considerable despite the pig’s theological unpopularity – and spent several decades in the wilderness of Sinai and Transjordan, this provides  a reasonable background for explaining the absence of pig bones at Israeli sites and the dietary prohibitions of the Torah.”[30]

In light of this, it seems clear that the Israelites had not always been in Canaan.  Indeed, with all the evidence taken together, it seems obvious that they migrated to Egypt, settled in Egypt for quite some time and adopting Egyptians loanwords and names, migrated back to Canaan and then settled in the land on a permanent basis.

Odds and Ends - The Merneptah Stele

            The discovery of the so-called “Merneptah Stele” in 1896 by Flinders Petrie was a monumental event and generated great excitement in archaeological circles.[31]  The reason was that it was the earliest non-Biblical source to mention “Israel”.  The ending of the inscription states:

“Not one raises his head among the Nine Bows. Desolation is for Tehenu; Hatti is pacified; Plundered is the Canaan with every evil; Carried off is Ashkelon; seized upon is Gezer; Yanoam is made as that which does not exist; Israel is laid waste, his seed is not; Hurru is become a widow for Egypt! All lands together, they are pacified; Everyone who was restless, he has been bound.”[32]

So here was the only known Egyptian source to actually mention “Israel”, a major archaeological breakthrough indeed!   

However, the discovery of the stele, rather than providing answers to old questions, has only generated controversy and debate, and indeed, has raised many more questions.  The main issue raised by the stele is the fact that it seems to show that “Israel” was a Canaanite entity, since it is mentioned along with the known Canaanite cities of Ashkelon, Gezer and Yanoam.  Therefore, it is apparent that “Israel” was in Canaan at the time of Merneptah’s campaign.  However, scholars have also noted that while Ashkelon, Gezer and Yanoam are clearly designated as “cities”, Israel is not.  As Fatoohi and Al-Dargazelli explain:

“…the determinative used with Ashkelon, Gezer and Yanoam indicates that they are cities, but the determinative attached to Israel is that for a people not a place.  Researchers have also noted that while the names of foreign countries and cities were considered as syntactically feminine in Egyptian, the writer’s use of a masculine pronoun with Israel indicates his awareness of the fact that Israel was a name of an eponymous ancestor.”[33]

Hence, it would seem that the Israelites were in Canaan by 1207 BCE but were not yet settled in the land. 

            Debate has also raged among scholars as to meaning of the phrase “his seed is not”.  Scholars have interpreted it as either a boast by Merneptah indicating that the Israelite population was completely decimated, or that he literally seized Israel’s “grain”.[34]  However, the phrase is found in another Egyptian text, and the context seems to indicate the former meaning (the annihilation of the enemy).  Finkelstein and Silberman refer to inscriptions at the temple of Medinet Habu which describe Ramesses III’s battles with the “Sea People”, and his ultimate victory against those invaders:

“Those who reached my frontier, their seed is not, their heart and soul are finished forever and ever.”[35]

Since it seems unlikely that Ramesses III was able to seize the “grain” of the invaders, the likely meaning is that he was boasting that he had annihilated the enemy, even though that could have merely been an exaggeration.  Thus, the same could apply to the phrase used in Merneptah’s stele. 

            But the question still remains.  Was “Israel” already present in Canaan?  If so, when did the Exodus actually occur?  The latter question will be addressed in Part III.  For now, let us deal with the former.  It seems pretty obvious that if we identify the “Israel” in Merneptah’s stele with the Israelites who left Egypt under the leadership of Moses (peace be upon him), and indeed there is no reason not to, then the answer to the question is a definitive “yes”.


            In this article, we have analyzed the historical and archaeological evidence in order to determine the veracity of the Exodus story.  Based on the evidence, the Exodus is not only plausible, but can indeed be considered to be historical fact.  The Israelites had sojourned in Egypt, migrated back to the homeland of their ancestors and eventually settled there on a permanent basis, all by the grace of Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He). 

In the next and final article of this series, we will attempt to determine the identity of the infamous Pharaoh who struggled with the Prophet Moses (peace be upon him), and was eventually destroyed by the power of the one true God. 

And Allah knows best!

[1] As John Bright succinctly put it:

“Not only were Pharaohs not accustomed to celebrate reverses, but an affair involving only a party of runaway slaves would have been to them of altogether minor significance” (A History of Israel, Third Edition, (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1981), p. 122).

[2] As briefly noted in Part I, the Bible offers conflicting narratives on the “conquest” of Canaan, whereas the Quran simply states that the Israelites “inherited” the Holy Land, without providing a detailed summary (see below for more on this).  Indeed, in the Islamic sources, very little is said about the period immediately following the Exodus and the 40 years of wandering in the desert.  For example, in his “Stories of the Prophets”, Ibn Kathir provided a detailed narrative of the prophethood of Moses, including the Exodus, but had nothing to say about the period after it.  In fact, after wrapping up his discussion on Moses’ prophethood, he moved on to describing the prophethood of Ezekiel (peace be upon them both).

But as we also noted in Part I, there are authentic narrations describing the military conquest of a Canaanite city (usually identified as Jerusalem by Islamic scholars) by an unnamed Israelite prophet, whom Islamic scholars usually identify as Joshua (Sahih Bukhari, Book 53, Number 353).  In fact, the narration describes how the sun was made to stand still by the command of Allah (Gloried and Exalted be He), which of course closely resembles the account in the Bible of the sun standing still during the battle at Gibeon (see Joshua 10).  However, this is all that is to be found in the Islamic sources.  The fact is that we cannot ascertain much from the Islamic sources about the post-Exodus events, except that there was at least one battle involving an Israelite prophet, who was most probably Joshua (peace be upon him).  Even the name of the city is not mentioned, so whether it was Jerusalem or some other city cannot be stated with full certainty.  As we will see, this actually leaves the Bible at a disadvantage, rather than the Quran, for modern archaeological studies have raised serious questions about the authenticity of the Biblical narratives of the “conquest” of Canaan.  Therefore, in the absence of any clear account by the Quran and authentic ahadith, the archaeological evidence, whatever it shows about the time period in question, raises no serious objections with regard to the Islamic sources.

[3] James K. Hoffmeier, Israel in Egypt: The Evidence for the Authenticity of the Exodus Tradition (New York: Oxford University Press, Inc., 1996), p. 68.

[4] Incidentally, the name “Jacob” is found in Egyptian documents from the Hyksos Period.  It is also found as a "Palestinian place name in a fifteenth-century list of Thutmosis III" (Bright, op. cit., p. 77).

[5] Ibid., p. 121.

For a more detailed examination of Egyptian names in use among the Israelites, see James K. Hoffmeier, Ancient Israel in Sinai: The Evidence for the Authenticity of the Wilderness Tradition (New York: Oxford University Press, Inc., 2005), pp. 223-228.  

In addition, Hoffmeier also discusses examples of Egyptian influence in the post-Exodus wilderness tradition, such as Hebrew words which were clear Egyptian loanwords (e.g. the Hebrew word used for the acacia tree, which is commonly found in the Sinai Peninsula).  For this and other examples, see pp. 209-222.

[6] Bright, op. cit., p. 121.

[7] Hypothetically speaking, if we were to try to prove that Africans had been enslaved in America for more than 300 years (assuming that there was no direct evidence for it), we could easily point to the fact that documents from the supposed period of enslavement show that Africans had American names (just like the early Israelites had Egyptian names).  Even if we could not establish that Africans were in America as slaves, their mere presence in America would serve as indirect evidence to support the claim that they were slaves. 

[8] As Bright explains:

“The term ‘Apiru/apiru,’ however, whatever its derivation (and that is a moot question), seems to have referred originally not to an ethnic unit but to a stratum in society.  This may be argued not only from their wide geographical distribution, but also from the fact that their names, where these are known, do not belong to any one linguistic unit and vary in this regard from region to region.  Men of various races and languages might be Apiru.  The term apparently denoted a class of people without citizenship, who lived on the fringes of the existing social structure, without roots or fixed place in it” (Bright, op. cit., p. 95).

[9] Ibid., p. 121.

[10] Louay Fatoohi and Shetha Al-Dargazelli, 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. 178.

[11] Ibid., p. 179.

[12] Hoffmeier, Israel in Egypt, op. cit., p. 112.

[13] Fatoohi and Al-Dargazelli, op. cit., p. 90.

[14] Ibid., pp. 90-91.

[15] See for example: Israel Finkelstein and Neil Asher Silberman, The Bible Unearthed: Archaeology’s New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of Its Sacred Texts (New York: The Free Press, 2001), pp. 61-64.

[16] Of course, by “large group”, we don’t mean the 2-3 million Israelites that the Bible says left Egypt.  As shown in Part I, the number of Israelites leaving Egypt would have been much lower.

[17] Finkelstein and Silberman, op. cit., pp. 62-63.

[18] Hoffmeier, Ancient Israel in Sinai, op. cit., p. 149.

[19] Ibid.

[20] Ibid.  He points to such Biblical passages as Exodus 16:16 and Numbers 1:52, among others.

[21] Ibid., p. 150.

It is interesting, then, that in their more recent publication, Finkelstein and Silberman make the following argument against the Israelite presence in Sinai:

“One may argue that a relatively small band of wandering Israelites cannot be expected to leave material remains behind.  But modern archaeological techniques are quite capable of tracing even the very meager remains of hunter-gatherers and pastoral nomads all over the world.  Indeed, the archaeological record from the Sinai peninsula discloses the evidence for pastoral activity in such eras as the third millennium BCE and the Hellenistic and Byzantine periods.  There is simply no such evidence at the supposed time of the Exodus in the thirteenth century BCE” (Finkelstein and Silberman, op. cit., p. 63).

Noting Finkelstein’s seemingly inconsistent approach to the archaeological evidence, Hoffmeier rightfully observes:

“Apparently Finkelstein applies a different set of criteria when the question of nomadism applies to the early Israelites” (Hoffmeier, Ancient Israel in Sinai, op. cit., p. 151).

[23] Some scholars, such as Hoffmeier, are of the view that the differences between the books of Joshua and Judges are due more to hyperbole in the former rather than a direct contradiction with the latter.  Drawing on Egyptian records referring to the capture and subjugation of “every foreign land” by Thutmose III as well as his son and successor Amenhotep II, Hoffmeier states:

“Comparing the statements of Amenhotep with those of his father Thutmose, we must ask that if Thutmose’s campaigns were so thorough, why did his son have to conquer the Levant too?  A similar situation exists between Joshua 6-11 and Judges I” (Hoffmeier, Israel in Egypt, op. cit., p. 41).

In fact, Hoffmeier concludes that it is more likely and logical that the Israelite “conquest” would not have followed a “scorched-earth policy” (as suggested in the book of Joshua), but rather:

“…that the arrival of the Israelites did not significantly affect the cultural continuity of the Late Bronze Age and may explain why there is no evidence of an intrusion into the land from outsiders, for they became heirs of the material culture of the Canaanites” (Ibid., p. 44).

This would fit the outline provided in Judges.  Hence, for scholars like Hoffmeier, it is not really a contradiction between Joshua and Judges, but an exaggeration by the former, much like the hyperbolic boasts of the Pharaohs of Egypt.

[24] Surah Al-Araf, 7:137 (Yusuf Ali Translation).  

It should be noted that the reference to the Pharaoh’s “great works and fine buildings” most certainly shows that the Israelites’ “inheritance” of the Holy Land came about at the expense of Egypt, which as we stated in Part I, maintained a strong presence in Canaan for centuries.  As Fatoohi and Al-Dargazelli explain:

“Parts of the holy land were originally under the control of Egyptian vassals hence the fall of that land into the hands of the Israelites is described as an inheritance by the Israelites of their Egyptian enemies.  The ending of verse 7.137 refers to Pharaoh and his people’s buildings in the holy land not Egypt.  Obviously, Israel’s takeover of the holy land resulted in the destruction of the buildings of Pharaoh and his people there, not in Egypt.  This destruction might refer to militant conquests of parts of the holy land” (Fatoohi and Al-Dargazelli, op. cit., p. 156).

[25] Finkelstein and Silberman, op. cit., p. 43.

[26] For scholars like Finkelstein and Silberman, however, the Israelites were always there.  There was no migration from Egypt and no conquest of Canaan.  Rather, they claim that:

“Most of the people who formed early Israel were local people – the same people whom we see in the highlands throughout the Bronze and Iron Ages.  The early Israelites were – irony of ironies – themselves originally Canaanites!” (Finkelstein and Silberman, op. cit., p. 118).

[27] Hoffmeier, Ancient Israel in Sinai, op. cit., p. 233.

[28] See note 26.

[29] Finkelstein and Silberman, op. cit., pp. 119-120.

[30] Hoffmeier, Ancient Israel in Sinai, op. cit., p. 233.

[31] Merneptah was the son and successor of Ramesses II and reigned from 1213 to 1203 BCE.  The stele which bears his name was inscribed around 1207 BCE (

[33] Fatoohi and Al-Dargazelli, op. cit., p. 163.

[34] Hoffmeier, Israel in Egypt, op. cit., p. 42.

[35] Finkelstein and Silberman, op. cit., p. 88.


  1. This is a very well written article, Faiz. I am going to leave some comments.

    Great job in pointing out more Biblical errors, and in your research which is extensive as usual.

    You seem to be claiming that the Apiru included the Israelites, and they fled from Canaan to Egypt because of famine.

    The source you cite claims:

    “…numerous texts from the fifteenth century onward give evidence of the presence of ῾Apiru in Egypt. ῾Apiru had been brought there as captives as early as Amenophis II (ca. 1438-1412), if not before, while in documents of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Dynasties they appear repeatedly as state slaves. We can scarcely doubt that among them were components of the later Israel.”[9]

    If the Israelites came to Egypt because they fled famine from there and settled in during the reign of the Hyskos, how could they have been among the Apiru slaves who were brought to Egypt by Amenhopis II? Your source states that the Apiru were "brought into" Egypt. The Israelites were allegedly already there.

    - Peter C

  2. You also pointed out that in the areas of Canaan occupied by the Israelites there was an absence of pork bones.

    How is this relevant to Islam? Do you believe that the absence of pork bones is an indicator that these people were following the religion sent down by God?

    Take care,
    Peter C

  3. Also, just to be clear on what you are saying, do you believe that Canaan is the "Holy Land"?

    Thank you for this article and for answering my questions. This is a fascinating topic to explore.

    - Peter C

  4. Another interesting fact to consider is that though there were slaves in Ancient Egypt, they were not foreigners who were living in Egypt, but people from areas outside of Egypt, who were conquered.

    According to at least one contemporary Egyptologist, Thomas Schneider. Professor of Egyptology and New Eastern Studies at the University of British Columbia, it would appear that the ancient Egyptians were more tolerant of and less prejudiced toward immigrants than present day Americans are. In his book Ancient Egypt In 101 Questions and Answers, Cornell University Press, Ithaca NY, 2013 - Original German edition, Munich, 2010), Professor Schneider writes:

    "According to widespread opinion, in ancient Egypt there was no evidence of explicit discrimination or persecution of persons of non-Egyptian ethnic or religious affiliations. Immanuel Geiss, an expert in the history of racism, has gone so far as to call Pharaonic Egypt 'the most ancient and impressive example for refuting racist theories'."

    Professor Schneider continues:

    "When Egyptian sources depict foreigners as representatives of barbarism and chaos, these are always persons outside Egypt, not immigrants into Egypt, who quickly became acculturated...In the New Kingdom, if not earlier, ethnicity was even a positive trait that a person could vaunt, and which did not entail professional or social disadvantage."

    He also writes:

    "Such generalization do not mean that there were never tensions between established residents and immigrants, but we have so far no evidence of discrimination or persecution by the state, the priesthood, or ordinary people prior to the first millennium BCE".

    (All the above quotations are from page 233 of this book.)