Could 600,000 men, plus women and children, (an estimated two million people) along with a “multitude of flocks, herds and cattle” have crossed the entire length of the Sinai desert, without leaving a shard pottery behind? (Exodus 12:37-38) I’m going to say, no. If a couple million humans and herds of animals crossed the Sinai, they would have left something behind, yet no archeological evidence has been found.
Were the ancient Israelites slaves in Egypt? Again, no archeological evidence or records exist to prove the Israelites, as a peoplehood, were enslaved in Egypt.
The entire population of Egypt at the time of the exodus was estimated to have been between three to four million. Suddenly losing half or more of the Egyptian population and workforce in a mass exodus, would have been a monumental event. Egypt’s economy and industry would have tanked.
The ancient Egyptians were known to be meticulous record keepers and bookkeepers extraordinaire — yet there’s no record or archeological evidence that such a highly consequential event of massive proportions occurred.
Did a few families of Israelites work as indentured servants, bonded labor and serfs in Egypt? Perhaps. In the bible, everyone — including the Israelites — had slaves and indentured servants.
Did a few families of Israelites leave Egypt seeking a better life? Perhaps. Did they cross over the “Reed Sea” (the reedy marshlands) on bridges that allowed people to cross? Possibly. The bridges were built for light foot traffic, however, not the passage of herds and masses of people. They would collapse under the weight of chariots and horses needed for an army, which I believe inspired the part where the Pharaoh’s army was swallowed up by the “Reed Sea.”
It’s possible the story was peppered with grains of truth, but stories have a way of getting more dramatic and fantastical with every author’s telling of it.
“Red Sea” is yet another botched Hebrew to English translation, attributed to an erroneous KJV rendering. In the Torah, it’s called Yam Suf (ים סוף) in Hebrew, which means Reed Sea or Sea of Reeds. It is not identified as the “Red Sea” anywhere in the Hebrew Scriptures.
Rashi, (1040-1105), a prolific Torah commentator, determined Yum Suf (which he called the “Reed Sea”), to be the marshlands filled with reeds north of the Red Sea in the Eastern Nile Delta region.
The “Reed Sea” appears to be linked to Moses in several places, starting when he was an infant.
When she could no longer hide him, she took [for] him a reed basket, smeared it with clay and pitch, placed the child into it, and put [it] into the marsh at the Nile’s edge.Torah/Shemot/Exodus 2:3
Did a couple million people, (600,000 men, plus women and children) and great herds of animals, abruptly flee ancient Egypt, crossing the Sinai without a trace? I don’t need a Magic 8 Ball to tell me all signs point to no. Israeli archeologists and historians concur.
Does the lack of supportive logic and evidence mean we can’t honor the spirit of Pesach/Passover? Of course not!! I just think it’s time to stop vilifying ancient Egypt based on an origin myth. The story of the Biblical GODFATHER killing all the first born babies (human and animal) of Egypt and destroying their eco-system with plagues doesn’t exactly float my spiritual boat. Dayanu, already. Oy.
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Stayed tuned for Part II! The metaphorical and spiritual meaning of Passover is pluralistic and relatable to everyone! Woot!