Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Exodus and History 3

continued from here


I might also add that, while I have been referring to God as a "he," we all know that God does not have genitalia. The literal sense of a male or a female has to do with certain physical anatomy. Since God does not have a body, God is not "literally" male or female. Accordingly, we are speaking metaphorically when we refer to God as a "him" or a "he." The Bible also uses female metaphors for God as well, such as when God compares God-self to a woman giving birth (Isa. 42:14).

6. The bulk of Genesis presents the stories of Abraham, his son Isaac, his son Jacob, and his son Joseph. Genesis ends with Jacob and his descendants going down to Egypt, where they will live for over 400 years. This is the point where Exodus begins. The book of Exodus begins with the birth of a man named Moses after the descendants of Jacob (who was also named Israel) have been in Egypt for hundreds of years.

These "Israelites" live as slaves in Egypt. When they went down to Egypt, they had a place of honor because Joseph had helped save Egypt during a time of famine. This situation changed during those centuries there. The Egyptians became hostile and enslaved them.

7. Although there are no artifacts from Israel's sojourn in Egypt, the story fits some features of Egyptian history that we do know. For example, we know that a Semitic people known as the Hyksos were generally in control of Egypt in the 1600s and 1500s BC. In the Genesis story, we think of Semites as descendants of Shem, the oldest son of Noah. Historically, we can identify Semitic peoples by the relatedness of their languages.

The Egyptians were happy to expel the Hyksos in the mid-1500s. We can at least imagine that the Israelites had a more pleasant time in Egypt with distant kin in charge than afterward.  

We can identify other aspects of parallel between Egyptian history and Exodus that are interesting. For example, for a very brief window of time, Egypt had a Pharaoh who only worshiped one god, the sun god Aten. His name was Akenahton, and he ruled Egypt from around 1353-36. Depending on when one dates the Israelites leaving Egypt, he either came about a century after or a century before the "exodus," their departure from Egypt. Once again, the Egyptians hated him and more or less expunged him from their history until he was rediscovered by archaeology in the nineteenth century. 

Most scholars date the exodus to the 1200s BC based on when the Israelites begin to get mentioned in the material of that period. The first mention of Israel discovered thus comes from that time. However, the years mentioned in the Old Testament itself have led others to see the exodus in the 1400s. One way or another, you could see Akenahton as taking the idea of worshiping one God from the Israelites. Or you could see God using Akenahton to reinforce Israel's worshiping of just one God.  

The name Moses is also curious. The king who ruled Egypt throughout most of the 1200s BC was named Ramses (ruled 1279-13). You will notice the letters m-s-s in his name, with Ra (the sun god) on the front. His name meant, "son of Ra." Since the consonants were the core of ancient words, there is an intriguing parallel between the name of Moses and the name of this king.

8. The book of Exodus begins with the birth of Moses. The Pharaoh is killing young Israelite boys when they are born. The Egyptians are afraid they will become too numerous and become a threat. They are keeping them down. But Moses' mother hides him. He then is cleverly introduced to Pharaoh's daughter, who takes him in and raises him in Pharaoh's house.

Still, he knows he is an Israelite. After he defends an Israelite and kills an Egyptian, he flees. Finally, when he has been away for some time, after he has married and had children, Yahweh appears to him...

1 comment:

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks for the Isaiah reference.