Is the Biblical Exodus a Myth?
An Egyptian physician, Dr. Ashraf Ezzat, has recently decided to question the historicity of the biblical Exodus (see: In Ancient Egypt, Canaan Revisited Without Israel – Dr. Ashraf Ezzat Salem-News.com). As part of this pursuit, he claims that while the story (‘myth’ to him) is alluded to in the Hebrew Bible hundreds of times, it is only once mentioned in ancient Egyptian annals. I myself am neither a professional nor an amateur Egyptologist. I am a specialist in Hebrew and Aramaic Epigraphy of the biblical period. I research archaeological texts. I should also make it clear that in my published scholarly studies, over several decades, I have never engaged in the business of trying to validate biblical accounts through archaeology.
Now the question of the Hebrews living in ancient Egypt has been the subject of scholarly research by renowned Egyptologists. Egyptology is a field where an amateur would be on slippery grounds. The story of enslavement and liberation in the Hebrew Bible is so pervasive and deep-rooted in the narratives, writings, and poetic compositions of the Pentateuch, Prophets, and the Psalms that it is nigh impossible to dismiss it as a fabrication or a myth. These deep-rooted traditions stretch over centuries. Indeed, the very large number of instances the Exodus has been mentioned or alluded to in the Hebrew Bible gives it credibility and authenticity. The Pharaohs, powerful masters of a great land, consorts of the gods, assured of immortality, are the least people to recognise, acknowledge, and deal with the case of an enslaved people.
Consider, for instance, how the history of Babylonian/Iraqi Jews and of Middle Eastern Jews in general is given scant space in Israeli/Zionist school books, written by Ashkenazi East European Zionists. A few decades ago Golda Mabovitch (= the infamous Golda Meirson) declared publicly that the Palestinian people did not exist! And more recently the Zionist State (never call it the Jewish State) has made it a criminal offence to commemorate the Palestinian catastrophe of 1948 — the Nakba. In brief, Hebrew slaves would be given next to zero space in Pharaohs’ historical annals.
But let us get back to our medical doctor. One can see from his Blog that the books that interest him are those that seek to demolish the history of the ancient Middle Eastern Hebrews/Jews in Palestine. Unfortunately, he is confusing the Jewish faith/Judaism with modern political Zionism. This is a trap that many people, Jews and non-Jews alike, stumble against and fall into. For political Zionism is not Judaism and my own ideas about this issue were already made public in two newspaper articles published in The Johannesburg Rand Daily Mail in 1982. Of course the fact that Near Eastern Jews lived in ancient Palestine does not give validity to the establishment of an unjust political Zionist entity – an entity that has been established through war and atrocities by people foreign to the Middle East. Anyone who is familiar with my own writings (e.g. Essays From Occupied Holy Land) would know that I have denounced political Zionists as foreign colonials who don’t give a fig for the Jewish faith.
Many of us are familiar with holocaust deniers. I think it is barbarous to deny the holocaust which happened in Europe during the Second World War. Millions of Jews and non-Jews alike were killed. At the same time I think it is equally barbarous, indeed medieval, to make criminals out of those who deny it. What our Egyptian physician is trying to do is to deny the biblical Exodus, and along with the Exodus, he wishes also to deny the Ten Plagues that were inflicted on his ancestors, the Egyptians. But here he is of course up against Moses and the Major and Minor Prophets in the Hebrew Bible.
It is curious that our medical doctor has not made it known whether he espouses any religion, such as Islam or Christianity. But perhaps he worships the gods and goddesses of ancient Egypt. Anyway, if he is a follower of Islam, he could enlighten us on the textual development or revelation of the Quran. Or if he is a follower of Christianity, he could delve into its shaky foundations and the false claims that it is based on the Jewish Scriptures.
The profession of medicine is an honourable one and there is still much research needed in this field. Our physician could try to find some solutions to existing diseases that plague our planet. But if he wishes to continue with his interest in ancient Egyptian history, it would be best not to mix it with present-day politics.
Dr. Victor Sasson grew up in Baghdad. He is British-educated and holds degrees from the University of London and an American doctorate. He was Senior Lecturer in Semitic Languages at the University of South Africa, Member of the Society for Old Testament Study (U.K.), and Fellow of the Royal Asiatic Society. A biblical scholar and specialist in Hebrew and Aramaic Epigraphy, he has also published four novels, a play, a memoir, and poetry.