The Exodus: Truth or Myth?

The Exodus: Truth or Myth?

The Exodus: Truth or Myth?

… “And Moses said unto the people- Do not fear! Stand and see the deliverance of Hashem which he shall do for you this day. For as you have seen Egypt this, day, never will you see it again.” (Exodus 14:13)

The Samaritan Research Group

For most Judaists or Christians, the word Exodus- meaning, let my people go, might have different historical and religious connotations. In contemporary world, it might mean or could be equated to an act of redemption from an oppressive rule, emancipation or liberation from all forms of slavery and subjugations. To the people of New Juaben, in the Eastern Region of Ghana, this could be similar to the Akwantu Kese. The annual Hogbetsotso festival- celebrated by the Anlo Ewes of Ghana, not forgetting that of the Homowo of the Gas, shares these semblance in terms of its religious passion and antecedents.

According to [1], for example, Anlo Ewes are believed to have settled in Notsie in Togo when they first migrated from Southern Sudan and later escaped from the tyrannical ruler of Notsie, Ago-Koli, by walking backwards to Gold Coast. “In order to commemorate the exodus and the bravery of their traditional rulers who led them on the journey, the people created this annual ‘Festival of the Exodus’. There are many ceremonies associated with the festival, including a peace-making period where all outstanding problems are supposed to be resolved. This is a purification ceremony of the traditional stool and a period of general cleaning when the villages are swept and rubbish burnt. This cleaning ceremony begins at the Volta Estuary and goes on for days until it finally reaches the Mono River in the Republic of Benin. An essential aspect of the festival is a durbar of Chiefs and the people. Chiefs dress in very colourful regalia and sit in state to receive homage from their subjects. Dancing, singing and general merry-making go on throughout the festival. The main durbars always take place on the first Saturday of November in Anloga, 15km west of Keta, a two and half hour drive from Accra.”

Writing about the Exodus and the Passover of the Jewsish People, Brad Aaronson [2] (When was the Exodus?), submitted that the Exodus from Egypt was not only the seminal event in the history of the Jews, but was an unprecedented and unequaled catastrophe for Egypt. “In the course of Pharaoh’s stubborn refusal to let us leave and the resultant plagues sent by Hashem, Egypt was devastated. Hail, disease and infestations obliterated Egypt’s produce and livestock, while the plague of the first born stripped the land of its elite, leaving inexperienced second sons to cope with the economic disaster. The drowning of the Egyptian armed forces in the Red Sea left Egypt open and vulnerable to foreign invasions.” As human beings, there could be certainly, the Egypt trials and tribulations in our lives.

Accordingly, there could be millions of us who might be puzzling whether there were such things ever like Exodus and the Passover. In Talking with God, Roger Isaacs [3] raises similar issues that might have been agitating the minds of most readers: “In Egypt: Did the Exodus Really Happen?” He began like this. “This question has puzzled biblical scholars, archeologists and all those interested in solving one of the Old Testament’s most intriguing mysteries. Was the story of the Israelites fleeing Egypt after years of slavery history or myth? Were there really 10 plagues that became so progressively terrible that they forced the Pharaoh to finally release all the Israelite slaves? Was there really a leader named Moses, and did he guide this “mixed multitude” for 40 years in the wilderness of the Sinai desert,” he puzzles.

In established religious and/or historical terms, the Passover, as in our cited examples of the Homowo and the Hogbetsotso festivals, is the Jewish festival that celebrates the flight of the Israelites out of Egypt. And since history, traditions and practices are said to have been handed down from generation to generation, the background to the celebration of the Passover festivities, like the Homowo or the June 4 Uprising of Ghana ought not to be doubted. Yet, like every piece of history, Isaacs (ibid) notes that clues and speculations abound regarding alleged items of evidence discovered for the Exodus, and that nearly all have their champions and detractors. “It seems that every time a theory is proposed and the Exodus mystery appears to be solved, it is quickly shot down for one reason or another. Nevertheless, ongoing archeological and etymological investigations into the Exodus have produced some tantalizing items and scholarship.” Find below unedited Exhibits 1-4 and comments presented by Isaacs for our consideration:

Exhibit 1: The Ipuwer Papyrus

How could plagues described in an Egyptian papyrus be so similar to those found in the Bible?

In the early 1800s, a papyrus was found in Egypt called The Admonitions of an Egyptian. It is now in the Leiden Museum in Holland. An Egyptian named Ipuwer wrote it at the end of the Middle Kingdom, around 1650 B.C.E.; scribes copied it in the 19th Dynasty, in the 1200s B.C.E. Below are some of the amazingly similar plagues described in both the Ipuwer papyrus and the Bible. (The biblical plagues befell the Egyptians at the time of Moses and the Exodus, which has been dated sometime between 1570 to 1290 B.C.E.)

The disparity of the dates between the Ipuwer and Exodus documents is enough to convince many scholars that no relation exists between the two. In addition, prevalent theory now claims the papyrus is simply ahistorical. Be that as it may, the similarities are striking, and why they are remains a mystery. Could it be that the scribes who copied the document at the time of the Exodus were experiencing similar calamities to the earlier ones and were using Ipuwer’s words to warn the present-day Pharaoh?

Exhibit 2: The Israelites’ Travel Itinerary and the Egyptian Maps

Did the cities the Israelites camped in on their way to Canaan really exist?

One of the most contentious problems regarding the Exodus investigation is the fact that there is no archeological evidence for various places mentioned in the biblical travel itinerary of the Israelites as they fled Egypt for the Promised Land, Canaan. In an article in the September/October 1994 issue of Biblical Archaeological Review, Charles R. Krahmalkov, then Professor of Ancient Near Eastern Languages at the University of Michigan, points out that various scholars have used this explanation to “reject the entire story” of Israel’s origins, and therefore the Exodus.

However, Krahmalkov discusses a number of biblical sites that appear to be corroborated by Egyptian sources. Among them are Dibon (Numbers 13:45), a city where the Israelites camped on their way to invade Canaan, and Hebron (Numbers 13:22), another city targeted for invasion.

Krahmalkov concedes the lack of archaeological evidence, but he points out that the Egyptians thoroughly mapped these sites, as well as a number of other regions mentioned in the Bible. The mapping was done in the Late Bronze age, in Dynasties XVIII and XIX (according to his dating, 1560-1200 B.C.E. He dates the Exodus in the range of 1400-1200 B.C.E.). Also included are the cities of Iyyn and Abel (biblical Abel Shittim) both in Numbers 13: 45-50; Yom haMelach (Numbers 34:3); and Athar (Hebrew Atharim) (Numbers 21:1). The maps survive in list form, and they are found on the temple walls of ancient Egyptian kings. Since they are documented in the most important extra-biblical source — Egypt — the evidence is strong that these cities indeed existed at the time of the Exodus.

Exhibit 3: Aper-el’s Tomb

Was there a Hebrew advisor to Egyptian kings at the time of the Exodus?

In 1987, searchers rediscovered a tomb in the Saqqara region of Egypt belonging to a man they call Aper-el. They say his name is an Egyptian version of a Hebrew name. Aper-el was vizier to the famous Amenhotep III (1370-1293 B.C.E., 18th Dynasty) and later to his son, the monotheistic king Akhenaten. They dated the tomb around 1353-1335 B.C.E., but there is something of mystery here.

The tomb was originally discovered by the legendary archeologist Sir Flinders Petrie in the 1880s. He copied an inscription that spells the vizier’s name Aperia. I don’t know if the 1987 team found other inscriptions with the -el ending, but -el would be the equivalent of Elohim, one of the terms for God in the Bible. The ending -ia would indicate Ya, short for YHWH or Yaweh, the other biblical name for God, generally translated “Lord.” (Think the familiar Halleluya, Hebrew for “praise the Lord.”)

It is tantalizing to wonder if Aper-el/Aperia was indeed a Hebrew advisor to the young king Akhenaten. If so, did Aper-el/Aperia influence Akhenaten’s thinking toward monotheism? In any case, it would place a Hebrew advisor to the kings within the range of years claimed for the Exodus just as Joseph was to an Egyptian king hundreds of years earlier. In the book of Genesis, Joseph rose from captive to be second only to the Pharaoh, and he was empowered to save Egypt from starvation during a seven-year drought. It isn’t known how Aperel/Aperia got there!

Exhibit 4: The Shiphra Papyrus

Is the name of the Hebrew midwife in Exodus the same as that of a slave mentioned in an ancient Egyptian papyrus?

The Brooklyn Museum has a papyrus, possibly from Thebes, with a list of slaves from the Egyptian Middle Kingdom, about 1740 B.C.E. It includes a slave named Shiphra and others with Semitic names. In the Bible, a Hebrew woman with the same name, Shiphra, was one of two midwives the Pharaoh commissioned to kill all the male Hebrew children at the time Moses was born (Exod. 1:15). She didn’t. Since by that time all Hebrews had been put into servitude by the Pharaoh, the midwife Shiphra would also have been a slave. The fact that the name Shiphra is found in both the Bible and the papyrus indicates that the name and the woman’s condition of slavery were familiar to both Israelites and Egyptians.



Figurativism had been put on the Exodus. Commenting on the exhibits above, Aaronson [2] writes that since modern men are not supposed to believe in such things, the Ipuwer Papyrus has been interpreted figuratively by most historians. “The destruction of crops and livestock means an economic depression. The river being blood indicates a breakdown of law and order and a proliferation of violent crime. The lack of light stands for the lack of enlightened leadership. Of course, that’s not what it says, but it is more palatable than the alternative, which is that the phenomena described by Ipuwer were literally true.” And that when the Bible tells us that the ancient Egypt would never be the same after the Exodus, it was no exaggeration. “With invasions from all directions, virtually all subsequent kings of Egypt were of Ethiopian, Libyan or Asiatic descent. When Chazal tell us that King Solomon was able to marry Pharaoh’s daughter despite the ban on marrying Egyptian converts until they have been Jewish for three generations because she was not of the original Egyptian nation, there is no reason to be surprised.”

But as a traditional or modern African mind, you may have, justifiably, some doubts on this. But for our unquestionable reliance on the internet, Facebook and mobile phone, we might hold the belief that every verse in the Holy Biblical is of Western colonial mechanizations and exploitations. But does anything exist without it being created? What do you make out of the Biblical story of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba? The Queen Of Sheba is being described by BBC history reporter Michael Wood [4] as an exotic and mysterious woman of power – immortalised in the world’s great religious works, among them the Hebrew Bible and the Muslim Koran. “She also appears in Turkish and Persian painting, in Kabbalistic treatises, and in medieval Christian mystical works, where she is viewed as the embodiment of Divine Wisdom and a foreteller of the cult of the Holy Cross. In Africa and Arabia her tale is still told to this day and, indeed, her tale has been told and retold in many lands for nearly 3,000 years,” says Wood.

From here, we could see the variations and the contestations usually associated with historical accounts- the Turkish and Persian painting, not forgetting the Africa and Arabia perspectives in tracing the true origins of the Queen of Sheba- widely known in Africa as an African. Whatever might be the clues to this, suffice to mention that Ethiopia [Abyssinia] had had an undiluted links with the ancient Israel? As [5] [Ethiopian Woman and Baby The Jews of Quara] points out, in 1975, the Israeli Interministerial Commission officially recognized the Beta Israel as Jews under Israel’s Law of Return, a law designed to aid in Jewish immigration to Israel, on the basis of a 1973 decision by Rabbi Yossef. The history of Ethiopian Jews cannot be told without reference to ‘Operations Moses and Solomon’. In secret operations beginning in 1980, Israeli operatives were said to have been able to smuggle hundreds of Ethiopian Jews through Kenya to Israel and that by the end of 1982 there were some 2,500 Ethiopian Jews living in Israel and that throughout 1983, 1,800 left Sudan over land [5].

The report has it that utilizing a variety of routes, a total of 8,000 Jews had reached Israel by late 1984. However, it was clear that the large numbers of Jews crossing into Sudan exacerbated the already horrific conditions in the camps. “On November 21, Operation Moses began. Refugees were bused out of the refugee camps to a military airport near Khartoum where they were flown directly to Israel under a blanket of complete secrecy. When news leaks ended the operation in January 1985, 8,000 Jews had been brought to Israel, leaving behind about 1,000 Jews in Sudan and thousands more in Ethiopia. Initiated by Vice President Bush, a CIA sponsored follow-up mission called Operation Joshua brought an additional 800 Jews from Sudan to Israel. Operation Moses separated many from their loved ones and more than 1,600 “orphans of circumstances” separated from their families began new lives in Jewish Agency Youth Aliyah villages, learning Hebrew and becoming acculturated not knowing the fate of their parents, brothers, sisters and loved ones… By the end of 1990, the economic and political situation in Ethiopia had deteriorated with struggles between rebels and government intensifying daily…”

It is said that the Aliyah and aid workers were concerned with the dangers of the transition period if the rebels gained ground. So Representatives of the Jewish Agency, JDC, ministries of the government of Israel and the IDF began secret preparations for an emergency airlift and absorption of more than 14,000 Jews. The BBC [6] writes that in recent years, some Christians have put forward the idea of an ‘intelligent designer’ (also called neo-Creationism) as an alternative to the science of evolution. Whereas the Evolution theory [7] believes in a gradual process in which something changes into a different and usually more complex or better form, creationists argue that the current state of life on Earth has come about through the actions of an intelligent Designer. Charles Darwin [7] supports the Evolution Theory, stating that animals differentiated into species when the survivors of a changing environment were able to pass their genetic traits to their offspring which can be tested by observations and application of the scientific method based on fossil evidence that has accumulated over geologic history of the Earth?


In the case of Kitzmiller v. Dover (USA 2005) the key issue was whether intelligent design was or was not science, because if it wasn’t science then it would be a religious theory like creationism, and so could not be taught in US publically funded schools under the constitutional provision of the separation of religion and state. Judge John E Jones III ruled that ID was not science. It is found that the conflicts between Evolution and Creationism occur when evolutionists argue that creationism is not a scientific theory because it cannot be tested by the scientific method. Creationists argue that evolutionists do not take God into account and that evolution is just a theory rather than a fact. Now, let us consider the Akwantu Kese or the Hogbetsotso festivals of Ghana as against the Jews’ faith which holds that the “world was created by God in seven days. This is complex to be understood but with some centuries of struggles and tribulations over who indeed wields the Macht over a divided Jerusalem the history might be comprehensible.



[1] Festivals and Events: “Hogbetsotso Festival”,
[2] Aaronson, Brad, “Promised Land, Passover, Christianity”,
[3] Isaacs, Roger, Passover In Egypt: Did the Exodus Really Happen?”
[4] Wood, Michael, BBC, “The Queen Of Sheba”,
[5] The History of Ethiopian Jews,
[6] BBC, “Creationism and intelligent design”,
[7] Zamora, Antonio, “Creation vs. Evolution Controversy”,

Written by

Gina is the Director of Health and Publisher, JusticeGhana Group.

No Comments Yet.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.