The Exodus

David Roberts Israelites Leaving Egypt 1828
David Roberts Israelites Leaving Egypt 1828

The Exodus (from Greek ἔξοδος exodos, “going out”) is the founding myth of Israel; its message is that the Israelites were delivered from slavery by Yahweh and therefore belong to him through the Mosaic covenant. It tells of the enslavement of the Israelites in Egypt following the death of Joseph, their departure under the leadership of Moses, the revelations at Sinai, and their wanderings in the wilderness up to the borders of Canaan.

The archeological evidence does not support the Book of Exodus and most archaeologists have abandoned the investigation of Moses and the Exodus as “a fruitless pursuit”. While significant portions of the story told in the books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy were never intended to be historiographic, the overall intent was historical according to the understanding of the ancient writers: to demonstrate God’s actions in history, to recall Israel’s bondage and salvation, and to demonstrate the fulfillment of Israel’s covenant.

The opinion of the overwhelming majority of modern biblical scholars is that the Pentateuch as we know it was shaped into its final form in the post-Exilic period, although the traditions behind the narrative are older and can be traced in the writings of the 8th century prophets. How far beyond that the tradition might stretch cannot be told: “Presumably an original Exodus story lies hidden somewhere inside all the later revisions and alterations, but centuries of transmission have long obscured its presence, and its substance, accuracy and date are now difficult to determine.” Recent excavations in the Timna Valley by Lidar Sapir-Hen and Erez Ben-Yosef discovered what may be the earliest domestic camel bones found in Israel or even outside the Arabian peninsula, dating to around 930 BCE. This garnered considerable media coverage as it was described as evidence that the stories of Abraham, Joseph, Jacob and Esau were written after this time.

The Exodus has been central to Judaism: it served to orient Jews towards the celebration of God’s actions in history, in contrast to polytheistic celebrations of the gods’ actions in nature, and even today it is recounted daily in Jewish prayers and celebrated in the festival of Pesach. In secular history the exodus has served as inspiration and model for many groups, from early Protestant settlers fleeing persecution in Europe to 19th and 20th century African-Americans striving for freedom and civil rights.

Source and more information: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Exodus

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