Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Exodus Master Narrative 2

Getting to the bottom of the narrative:

"The Exodus is arguably the most famous of all of the Biblical tales, yet there is no real evidence that it ever actually happened. At least, not the way that the Bible says it did. This is not to say that archaeologists have not looked. Many have tried to find some evidence, any evidence to grab onto. Nothing tangible has ever been found. At the very least, one would expect that a large group of people wandering around the desert for 40 years would have left some kind of material evidence. If they did, we haven't found it.

"In contrast, archaeologists have discovered ephemeral hunter-gatherer sites in the Sinai from the Neolithic period. One could expect that signs of the wandering Israelites would be found as well, if there were any. So if the Exodus that Jews tell every year on Passover didn't happen, at least as told, where did this story come from? One possibility is that it's a fable made up by ancient scribes and priests to give hope to a conquered and exiled people, scattered and thrown to the winds by the Assyrian and Babylonian empires. Another is that there really are kernels of truth hidden deep in the tale.

"Some suggest that there are clues to actual historical narratives in these texts. Regarding the birth of Moses, for instance, one possibility is that the Israelite storytellers adopted the traditional tale of King Sargon the Great of Mesopotamia, whose reign dates back to the 22nd and 23rd centuries BCE. It is said that he was laid in a basket and set in the river as a baby...

"The most logical possibility is that the Exodus tale is actually an ancient memory of the Egyptians overthrowing and expelling the ancient Semitic rulers of the Nile Delta - known as the Hyksos. This theory was initially proposed by Egyptologist Prof. Donald Redford in a 1987 paper entitled 'An Egyptian Perspective on the Exodus narrative.' This theory makes sense to anyone following the more than 40-year old excavations at Tel El Dab'a by Prof. Manfred Bietak. The wealth of knowledge obtained from that site has been incredible. Most importantly it uncovered an enormous amount of physical evidence of a Semitic people called the Hyksos, or 'Rulers of Foreign Lands', by the Egyptians. Though their origin remains mysterious, it is known that the Hyksos arrived in Egypt from Canaan and lived among the Egyptians for some time, at least from the 12th Dynasty, before their ultimate rise to power. They reigned over Lower Egypt from the 15th to the 17th Dynasty (1630-1523 BCE). The Hyksos' connection to Canaan or the Levant is proven by a wealth of archaeological, textual and artistic remains found throughout Egypt, most notably in the ancient city of Avaris, known to archaeologists as Tel El Dab'a. These people left a strong mark on the Egyptians, most readily seen in the adoption of a Levantine goddess who was absorbed into the goddess Hathor. The Hyksos were defeated and expelled from Egypt by the 18th Dynasty pharaoh Ahmose... It is unlikely that all the Hyksos were physically kicked out of Egypt. It makes more sense that some remained and were subjugated, possibly becoming a lower class and that a memory of that event would have been passed down in oral tradition." (From The Exodus: Jewish history, or ancient Semitic memory? Julia Fridman, Haaretz, 10/4/14)

Not that the above will mean anything to the punters flocking to Hollywood's latest Old Testament promotion. They'll most likely come away with Lipski's Israel-affirming 'Exodus master story', already lodged deep in their grey matter, reinforced.

As one Israeli commentator has speculated: maybe Director Ridley Scott had Moses say, "on the other side of the Red Sea... headed toward Canaan 'we will be perceived as invaders when we get to Canaan'" because he didn't want to be seen "as if I'm a hundred percent pro-Israeli in my film." (Ridley Scott trades out God for nature's fury in scientific 'Exodus', Jordan Hoffman, timesofisrael.com, 9/12/14)

Now that's what I call letting the cat out of the bag.


Anonymous said...

so now you are an archaeologist as well.

So many talents,master of none

MERC said...

You seem upset. Would a cup of tea help?