Leaving Egypt -- By: William H. Shea

Journal: Bible and Spade (Second Run)
Volume: BSPADE 03:4 (Autumn 1990)
Article: Leaving Egypt
Author: William H. Shea

Leaving Egypt

William H. Sheaa

The Starting Point

One of the great historical events of Old Testament times was the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt. By the time of their departure, after several centuries of residence in that land, they had become a people enslaved.

Thus the Exodus was not Just a movement of people from one place to another. Rather, it was a deliverance from bondage. We see this in the introduction to the Ten Commandments: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage” (Ex. 20:2 RSV). This remarkable deliverance led up to the incorporation of Israel as a nation under the covenant God made with them at Sinai.

The Exodus was, therefore, a foundational event for ancient Israel. Ever after, as they lived in the land of Canaan, their minds were carried back to the events of the Exodus through the ceremonies of the sanctuary, and later through the prophets. Both these avenues illustrated to them the mighty way God had acted on their behalf, and the way He desired them to live in covenant relationship with Him.

Because of the importance of the Exodus event, then, it is of interest to us to learn as much about it as we can. And the archaeologist’s spade has been helpful here. The time has now come for an overview and update of some of the recent archaeological findings in Egypt that have illustrated the setting of this biblical event.

These new findings give us much more information about the sites

mentioned in the biblical accounts of the Exodus than was previously known. These findings have taught us more about the route the Israelites took, and the experiences encountered along the way.

Identifying the Starting Point

The first point with which one should deal when embarking upon a journey is an acquaintance with the starting point. And this is true also of the Exodus. The archaeologist has clarified this point in very specific ways.

In the past it was thought that the site of Rameses, from which the Israelites departed (Ex. 12:37), was located at Tanis in the delta of Egypt (see Map). This site is known in modern Arabic by the name of San el Hagar, and it has been excavated by French archaeologists. It never really was a good candidate for the biblical Rameses. However, because it Was popularized in books and articles as the site of departure, that idea caught on. Now we have to undo this incorr...

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