[b-hebrew] 1450 BCE Exodus ? 'Apiru = Hebrews ?

Yigal Levin leviny1 at mail.biu.ac.il
Sat Jul 24 18:13:16 EDT 2004

From: "Brian Roberts" <formoria at carolina.rr.com>
> So, Yigal, what do you think of an Exodus event in the reign of
> Amenhotep III?
Well Brian,

Since there is NO direct Egyptian evidence of the Exodus (or even of the
Israelites' sojourn in Egypt!) and NO biblical clues that would help us "tie
in" to known Egyptian history (such as the actual name of a Pharaoh - and
the city of Rameses could well be an anachronism), and since I suspect that
numbers like that in ! kings 6:1 are typological, I have no way of dating
the Exodus. As a historian, all I can hope for is to date the Israelites'
appearance (by whatever means) in Canaan. All of the evidence for that seems
to point at about 1200: the Merneptah inscription, the destruction of many
Canaanite cities (though admittedly not all of those mentioned in Josh.
1-12), the arrival of the Philistines and other "sea peoples", the many
small settlements that dot the hill country etc. Moreover, the stories of
the Judges seem to fit Iron I Israel, NOT late Bronze Canaan. Even if we do
accept some connection between Apiru and "Hebrew", it is semantic and
etymological, NOT genetic or ethnic. During the 14th and 13th centuries,
Canaan was ruled by Egypt - the Israelite "conquest" simply has no place.
And since I do not think that the Israelites wandered the desert for 240
years, Amenhotep III would not work. Assuming that they did enter the Land
during the very last decades of the 13th century, a mid-13 century Exodus
seems to fit the bill. That's Rameses II. However, as I said, there is NO
evidence outside the Bible that the Exodus ever really happened.

Thus far as a historian. As someone who gets up every morning and blesses
God for having taken ME out of Egypt, just before reciting the Song of the
Sea, I must say that this does not disturb me in the least. I believe that
there is a reason that the Torah does not give us any more specific
information, such as naming the said Pharaohs, is because, more than any
other event, the Exodus and subsequent Sinai episode are events that stand
outside the framework of human historical experience. They are unique. They
are "outside" of ANE chronology. And they certainly don't need me to "prove"
or "disprove" them.


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