Few figures in the Old Testament loom larger than Moses, and few events rival the exodus from Egypt in vividness of detail and in significance for the course of Hebrew history. In the flow of time, the man and event fall somewhere within the fifteenth to thirteenth centuries B.C., most evidence now favoring the thirteenth century. This was the period of the Egyptian Empire and of Late Bronze Age culture in Syria-Palestine, a period very richly, though unevenly, documented in the story of the biblical Near East. In these centuries, Egyptians, Semites, Hurrians (Horites), and Hittites mingled on an international stage.

An Egyptian Heritage

Before the Exodus, the life and labors of the Hebrews were set in the eastern delta within the life of ancient Egypt. The cities of Pithom and Raamses (Ex. 1:11) are familiar from Egyptian records, especially those of the thirteenth century, and Raamses held special prominence as the delta residence of Rameses II. The exodus route itself may be traced with considerable confidence. Succoth (“Tjeku”), Baal-Zephon, and (Pi-ha)hiroth are known in papyri, and more than one “Migdol” (fort). The Hebrews went eastward from Raamses (Qantir) past and near Succoth to the western edge of the wilderness of Etham (near El-Gisr ridge), then doubled back west of north (Ex. 14:2). Finally they journeyed east again through the parted waters of the Sea of Reeds (Hebrew, Yam suf), attested in Egyptian records also, then south by the region of Shur and the east side of Etham (Ex. 15:22; Num. 33:8) to Sinai.

The Hebrews’ life in Egypt long before they marched forth lends itself to comment. There is nothing unusual in the fact that a non-Egyptian child like Moses was brought up in a royal harem, of which there were ...

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