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When Was the Exodus?

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Moses Parting the Red Sea in Exodus

Moses Parting the Red Sea in Exodus

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Question: When Was the Exodus?
Exodus is not only the name of a book in the Old Testament but a momentous event for the Hebrew people -- their departure from Egypt. Unfortunately, there is no easy answer as to when it occurred.
Answer:

Was the Exodus Real?

Although there can be a chronology within the framework of a fictional story or myth, dating the events is generally impossible. To have an historical date, normally, an event must be real; therefore the question must be asked as to whether or not the Exodus actually happened. Some believe the Exodus never took place because there is no physical or literary proof beyond the Bible. Others say all the proof that is needed is in the Bible. While there will always be skeptics, most assume there was some basis in historical/archaeological fact.

How Do Archaeologists and Historians Date the Event?

Archaeologists and historians, comparing archaeological, historical and Biblical records, tend to date the Exodus somewhere between the 3d and 2d millennia B.C. Most favor one of three basic time frames:

  1. 16th century B.C.
  2. 15th
  3. 13th

The main problem with dating the Exodus is that archaeological evidence and Biblical references do not line up.

16th, 15th Century Dating Problems

16th and 15th century dates

  • make the period of the Judges too long (300-400 years long),
  • involve extensive interaction with kingdoms which only came into existence later, and
  • make no mention of the heavy local influence the Egyptians had in the area of Syria and Palestine.

16th, 15th Century Support

However, some Biblical evidence supports the 15th century date, and the expulsion of the Hyksos favors the earlier date. The expulsion of the Hyksos evidence is important because it is the only historically recorded collective exodus from Egypt of people from Asia until the first millennium B.C.

Advantages of the 13th Century Date

The 13th century date solves the problems of the earlier ones (the period of the Judges would not be too long, there is archaeological evidence of the kingdoms the Hebrews had extensive contact with, and the Egyptians were no longer a major force in the area) and is the date accepted by more archaeologists and historians than the others. With the 13th century dating of the Exodus, settlement of Canaan by the Israelites occurs in the 12th century B.C.

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