The Historicity of the Exodus

In recent decades, a number of sceptical scholars have cast doubt on the Old Testament story of Israel’s Exodus out of Egypt (the 10 plagues, the parting of the Red Sea, the 10 commandments etc). Some have even questioned the existence of Moses, suggesting that everything detail of the Exodus story is myth.

While the debate on the historicity of the Exodus is fairly complex, the existence of Moses is much more straight forward. It’s well captured by an exam question that’s asked of seminary students in North America: “If Moses didn’t exist, then we would have to invent him. Discuss.” The point is that the writings attributed to Moses have had such a big impact on human history, that if they didn’t come from Moses then we would have to invent a historical figure from whom they came, someone, say, called Moses.

The more complex debate on the historicity of the Exodus, is closely tied to the debate on its date. For a number of years, scholars have assumed a ‘late date’ for the Exodus around the year 1250 B.C. because Rameses II was the Pharaoh of Egypt at this time, and according to the book the Exodus in the Bible, the Israelites “built Pithom and Ramses as store cities for Pharaoh” (Exodus 1:11).

However, as the Torah was passed down from generation to generation, they Israelites updated certain place names for their contemporary audience (Genesis 14:14 cf. Joshua 19:47). In fact, the place that would later be called Rameses is described as “the district of Rameses” (Genesis 47:11) in a narrative that takes place well before the generation of the Exodus (Exodus 1:6-8). The text that we have has updated place names, but that doesn’t mean they were the names recorded in the original text.

Moreover, 1 Kings 6:1 places the Exodus 480 years before Solomon’s temple. This would suggest an ‘early date’ for the Exodus around 1450 B.C. rather than the ‘late date’ of 1250 B.C. Furthermore, the recently discovered Berlin Pedestal, which has been dated to 1360 B.C. (over 100 years before the ‘late date’), refers to the nation of Israel, even though Israel was not a nation until after its Exodus out of Egypt. The evidence both inside and outside of the Bible indicates an early date for the Exodus in the 1400s B.C. rather than a late date in the 1200s B.C.

While a number of scholars argue that the Exodus didn’t happen because of a lack of evidence for a historical Exodus out of Egypt in the 1200s B.C. (the late date), an agnostic Egyptologist, David Rohl, has catalogued a significant amount of archaeological evidence for the Exodus in the 1400s B.C. (the early date) in his recent work Exodus: Myth or History? which has been popularised by the recent documentary Patterns of Evidence.

Rohl catalogues archaeological evidence for the Israelites arrival into Egypt (Genesis 46), their multiplication and slavery (Exodus 1), their Exodus out of Egypt (Exodus 12), and Israel’s subsequent conquest of Canaan (Joshua 1-12). For the Israelite’s arrival, there is archaeological evidence for Joseph’s house, palace and empty tomb (the Israelites took his bones in the Exodus, see Exodus 13:19). Joseph’s statue is even depicted as wearing a multi-coloured coat. And the waterway of Joseph is still in use, which, if built by Joseph, is evidence of his preparation for the seven years of famine (Genesis 41).

For the Israelite’s multiplication and slavery, we have evidence for a rapidly growing Semitic population in Avaris in the form of foreign tombs with non-Egyptian pottery and weapons. The human remains in these graves show a deterioration in health (cf. Exodus 1:11-14), with a historical increase in male infant deaths (cf. Exodus 1:15-22). The Brooklyn Papyrus also provides a list of the names of slaves at the time, many of which are Hebrew names. The 10 plagues are not something that you would expect the Egyptians to record (people tended to record their victories but not their defeats). Nevertheless, the following extract comes from the Egyptians text, The Admonitions of Ipuwer:

“The river is blood. If you drink of it you lose your humanity, and thirst for water… Gone is the barley of abundance. Food supplies are running short. The nobles hunger and suffer. Those who had shelter are in the dark of the storm… Behold, plagues sweep the land. Blood is everywhere, with no shortage of the dead. He who buries his brother in the ground is everywhere. Woe is me for the grief of this time… Wailing is throughout the land, mingled with lamentations… People are stripped of clothes. The slave takes what he finds. Gold, lapis lazuli, silver and turquoise, are strung on the necks of female slaves.”

For the Exodus itself, there is archaeological evidence of grave pits filled with bodies hastily buried in a semitic settlement in Egypt (Avaris) indicating a sudden migration, documentation of slavery and evidence of mass abandonment at another semitic site in Egypt (Kahun), and an Egyptian source outside of the Bible describing an economic collapse in Egypt’s history with the explanation that “God (singular) smote the Egyptians” (Menitha’s History of Egypt).

Finally, for the subsequent conquest of Canaan, the archaeological evidence also fits with the early date for the Exodus, but not the late date – the cities in the promised land were occupied before 1400 B.C. and then destroyed and abandoned after 1400 B.C. The archaeological evidence for Jericho’s fallen fortification walls, evidence of its intentional burning, and its storage jars with charred grain indicating an extremely short seize (one week), all point to a conquest around 1400 B.C. Hazor’s remains also contain a cuneiform tablet that refers to Jabin, the King of Hazor in the biblical account (Joshua 11:1).

And yet, despite the growing body of evidence, not everyone is convinced. After being confronted with these findings in the documentary Patterns of Evidence, atheist Matt Dillahunty responded with a counter video, which doesn’t actually list any counter-evidence, but simply encourages viewers to google it (after a few hours of research, I couldn’t find any that directly counters the evidence presented in the documentary).

Dillahunty assures his viewers that there are plenty of good reasons to opt for the late date for the Exodus, while he simultaneously argues that the Exodus probably didn’t happen because of the lack of evidence found in that time period. However, these two arguments constitute a contradiction. One simply cannot argue that there are good reasons to think that the Exodus happened late, and simultaneously argue that the Exodus didn’t happen at all.

The only way to refute the archaeological evidence for a historical Exodus is to engage with the archaeological evidence itself. Why can’t the Egyptian statue of a foreign official in a multi-coloured coat be a statue of Joseph? Why don’t the foreign graves and list of slaves with Hebrew names point to Israel’s sojourn and slavery in Egypt? How does the archaeological evidence of a sudden migration from Avaris and a mass abandonment of Kahun, point to anything other than a historical Exodus out of Egypt?

Ancient archaeology is fragmentary at best. There’s simply not a lot of evidence for anything that has survived for over three thousand years in the brutal conditions of a North African desert. Archaeologists are frequently trying to reconstruct historical events from rags and tatters, and yet the archaeological evidence for the Exodus is strong and growing. One can deny that the Exodus was a historical event if they choose to, but it’s becoming harder and harder for such people to claim that they are the one’s who are following the evidence.

Why Pray in Jesus’ Name?

July 3, 2019 by Jeremiah Johnson

In the lead-up to the Truth Matters conference in October, we will be focusing our attention on the sufficiency, authority, and clarity of Scripture. Of our previous blog series, none better embodies that emphasis than Frequently Abused Verses. The following entry from that series originally appeared on September 23, 2015. -ed.

What do your prayers sound like to other people? Are you expressing submission to the Lord and His will for your life? Or do you approach His throne with an exhaustive wish list?

If we are honest, we’re all occasionally guilty of treating God like a mystical genie or Santa Claus—as though He exists only to fulfill our requests. Often, such impertinence is the result of immature faith, spiritual short-sightedness, and unbiblical priorities. It must not be the norm.

However there are some who claim to know and love the Lord who routinely approach Him with that kind of presumptuousness, and brazenly defend it with Scripture—specifically, John 14:14, “If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it” (other verses are similarly abused, including Matthew 21:22Mark 11:24, and 1 John 5:15).

That verse is a particular favorite within the Word Faith movement—a subset of the charismatic church that’s home to most of the flamboyant prosperity preachers you’ve seen on TBN, along with all other proponents of charismatic “health and wealth” theology. In his book Charismatic Chaos, John MacArthur defines the movement this way:

As the name “Word Faith” implies, this movement teaches that faith is a matter of what we say more than whom we trust or what truths we embrace and affirm in our hearts. A favorite term in the Word Faith movement is “positive confession.” It refers to the Word Faith teaching that words have creative power. What you say, Word Faith teachers claim, determines everything that happens to you. Your “confessions,” that is, the things you say—especially the favors you demand of God—must all be stated positively and without wavering. Then God is required to answer. [1]

While there are only microscopic differences between that theology and man-centered psycho-babble like the power of positive thinking, the Word Faith movement legitimizes its lies with a lot of biblical-sounding doublespeak, and the occasional proof text wrenched from its context and twisted beyond recognition. Here’s an example noted in Charismatic Chaos:

Positive confession teaches people that their words are determinative. God is no longer the object of faith; Word Faith devotees learn to put their faith in their own words—or as [Kenneth] Hagin bluntly puts it, “faith in [their] own faith.” Try to follow his logic as he attempts to substantiate that concept:

Did you ever stop to think about having faith in your own faith? Evidently God had faith in His faith, because He spoke the words of faith and they came to pass. Evidently Jesus had faith in His faith, because He spoke to the fig tree, and what He said came to pass.

In other words, having faith in your wordsis having faith in your faith.

That’s what you’ve got to learn to do to get things from God: Have faith in your faith. . . .

Word Faith believers view their positive confessions as an incantation by which they can conjure up anything they desire. “Believe it in your heart; say it with your mouth. That is the principle of faith. You can have what you say,” Kenneth Hagin claims. Quoting John 14:14 (“If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it”), ignoring the plain implications of the phrase “in My name,” they take that verse to be an unqualified promise they can use in extorting from God whatever kind of cargo they fancy. [2]

Worse still, Word Faith teachers reject the biblical mandate to submit their requests to the will of God, claiming that such submission is unbiblical. In his book, John MacArthur cites two examples of prosperity preachers (Fred Price and Robert Tilton) who guided their followers to pray for blessings and sow monetary seeds that exceeded their financial means. He then explains:

Note that both Price and Tilton recoil from praying, “If it be Thy will.” That is a common characteristic of Word Faith teachers. As we noted, they love to quote John 14:14, “If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.” But 1 John 5:14 is noticeably missing from their database: “This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us” (emphasis added). Hagin goes so far as to claim that no such truth is taught in the New Testament:

Because we didn’t understand what Jesus said, and because we’ve been religiously brainwashed instead of New Testament-taught, we watered down the promises of God and tacked on something that Jesus didn’t say, and added on something else to it: “Well, He will all right if it’s His will, but it might not be His will,” people have said. And yet, you don’t find that kind of talk in the New Testament.

Hagin has also written, “It is unscriptural to pray, ‘If it is the will of God.’ When you put an ‘if’ in your prayer, you are praying in doubt.” [3]

Such blatant disregard for God’s will ought to trigger spiritual alarms and offend the consciences of everyone who truly knows and loves the Lord.

Certainly that wasn’t the attitude Christ commended to His disciples when He first spoke the words in John 14:14. In fact, as John MacArthur explains, the presumption of positive confession is a direct contradiction of Christ’s instruction in the upper room.

Jesus’ disciples had left everything and were completely without resources. Without their Master, they would be all alone in a hostile world. Yet, He assured them, they did not need to worry about any of their needs. The gap between Him and them would be closed instantly whenever they prayed. Even though He would be absent, they would have access to all His supplies.

That is not carte blanche for every whim of the flesh. There’s a qualifying statement repeated twice. He doesn’t say, “I’ll give you absolutely anything you ask for,” but rather, “I’ll do what you ask in My name.” That does not mean we can simply tack the words, “in-Jesus’-name-amen” on the end of our prayers and expect the answers we want every time. Neither is it a special formula or abracadabra that will magically guarantee the granting of our every wish.

The name of Jesus stands for all that He is. Throughout Scripture, God’s names are the same as His attributes. When Isaiah prophesied that Messiah would be called “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6), he was not listing actual names, but rather giving an overview of Messiah’s character. “I am who I am,” the name revealed to Moses in Exodus 3:14, is as much an affirmation of God’s eternal nature as it is a name by which He is to be called.

Therefore, praying in the name of Jesus is more than merely mentioning His name at the end of our prayers. If we are truly praying in Jesus’ name, we will pray only for that which is consistent with His perfect character, and for that which will bring glory to Him. It implies an acknowledgement of all that He has done and a submission to His will. [4]

God does not intend for His people to use His Son’s name as an incantation for material blessings—that’s nothing more than blasphemy. The whole point of praying in the name of Jesus is that we are submitting ourselves—and our requests—to Him and His will.

If anything, following Christ’s instructions in John 14:14 should break us of the kind of materialism that leads to such blasphemous abuse of His promise. As John MacArthur explains:

What praying in Jesus’ name really means is that we should pray as if our Lord Himself were doing the asking. We approach the throne of the Father in full identification with the Son, seeking only what He would seek. When we pray with that perspective, we begin to pray for the things that really matter, and we eliminate selfish requests. [5]