The Exodus in Its Historical Setting -- By: Clyde T. Francisco

Journal: Bible and Spade (First Run)
Volume: BSP 07:2 (Spring 1978)
Article: The Exodus in Its Historical Setting
Author: Clyde T. Francisco


The Exodus in Its Historical Setting

Clyde T. Francisco

[Clyde T. Francisco is John R. Sampey professor of Old Testament, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.]

As the Greek writers observed, Egypt is indeed “the gift of the Nile.” This well-watered and relatively secure country was the major setting for the life of the Hebrews during the Exodus events. The Sinai peninsula itself was a part of the Egyptian kingdom, although sparsely populated and loosely administered.

Without the Nile there would be no Egypt. The river begins its four thousand mile journey to the Mediterranean in the equatorial lakes of Africa as the White Nile, then joins the Blue Nile at Khartum in the Sudan for its final nineteen hundred miles. Although Egypt’s territory often extended farther south, the classic line was marked by the First Cataract (rapids), near Assuan (ancient Syene; also the location of the island of Elephantine). The other five cataracts are up the river where first the Nubians and then the Cushites lived. The rapids near Assuan are the first set if one is trying to navigate the river upstream, and they acquired their name because all western travel moved in that direction. The distance between Assuan and Cairo (site of ancient Memphis; the center of Lower Egypt; also the region where Avaris and Heliopolis, called On in Genesis, were situated) is about six hundred miles. From Cairo the delta region extends about one hundred miles north and about 155 miles from east to west. This is the most fertile and desirable region in Egypt. Ancient Alexandria thrived on the Mediterranean shores of this area.

The phenomenal city of Thebes, the center of Upper Egypt, was founded about 420 miles south of Cairo, where the

Ruins of the Temple of Amon at Thebes in southern Egypt.

Nile is closest to the Red Sea. This was the seat of government during most of the time of Egyptian world power, and it was there the Pharaohs built their most imposing monuments, especially Karnak and Luxor. Near Thebes also was the ancient royal city of Abydos. Halfway between Thebes (called No-Amon in the Old Testament) and Memphis was the city of Amarna, to which the heretical Amenhotep IV (Akhenaten) moved the capital.

Annual rainfall in Egypt is negligible. Without the Nile the land would not be habitable. For most of its length the cultivated portion of the country does not extend beyond a twelve-mile strip along the river. The economy of Egypt is totally dependent upon an annual inundation due to torrential rains and thawing in the mountains of equatorial Africa. Fortunately this...

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