Is the book of Exodus historically accurate?

By Adam Davis

The claim that the stories in Exodus are inconsistent with accounts from the time is fairly common. It's important to look at what specific evidence is given in support of the claim and to narrow down the focus so you can provide a good response. For instance, some claim there is no evidence of Hebrews in Egypt at all. Some claim the number of Hebrews there does not corroborate with Scripture. Some claim the Biblical dating is incorrect. No matter what the counterclaim to Scripture is, we must identify it so it can be addressed in context. A favorite tactic of Biblical skeptics is to morph or combine counterclaims which leave us chasing rabbit trails.

Further, we should always evaluate the presuppositions of the person making these claims. Are they objectively looking at evidences? Or, do they have an axe to grind? Is there an anti-Biblical bias? All too often the Bible is written off as a credible record of history because it claims to be a Holy Book. But this anti-Biblical bias doesn't hold up to close scrutiny. Simply because the Bible claims to be divine revelation does not mean it should not be considered in equal weight with all other historical records. This view presupposes nothing of historical value can be gleaned from the text, which is a bad approach to historiography.

Although you will find a goldmine of Biblical answers at, consider one way of using the answers here as a springboard for your own deep dive into Scripture. With this in mind, consider the following archaeological finds which represent a sample of those that corroborate Biblical evidence:
The Nuzi Tablets — found near the Tigris River and date to circa 1500 BC demonstrate congruency with the cultures and customers found in Genesis

The Merneptah Stele — stone hieroglyphic slab — details the Egyptian pharaoh's conquest of Libyans and people in Israel (including Israelites)

The Moabite Stone — Mesha Stele has writing that confirms revolt of Moab against Israel (approximately 850 BC) as per 2 Kings Ch. 3

Biblical cities attested to archaeologically include: Haran, Hazor, Dan, Shechem, Gibeah, Beersheba and many more. The fact these cities are mentioned specifically and (often repeatedly) in the Old Testament demonstrates the narratives there were intended to be taken as historical fact.
We should also understand several important aspects about Egyptian history:
Egyptian chronology is very challenging and has been revised often as new details emerge

Egypt had a "co-regency" governance structure where the rule of one pharaoh would overlap with that of his successor, sometimes for many years

At different times in Egyptian history, there were different dynasties in the north and south

The lists and chronology of Egyptian pharaohs are not extremely reliable, due to factors such as: the burning of the library at Alexandria and other renditions (Turin list) which are inconclusive and grouped into dynasties

Egypt has a long history of different cultures controlling the land — from the Greeks to the Romans to the Muslims. It's possible (probable in some instances) that some artifacts, images and other historical Hebrew items or references could have been confiscated, destroyed, re-purposed, etc.
Next, we might consider some archaeological evidence which lends support to the Biblical record of Hebrews in Egypt (non-conclusive list):
Grain silos in Djoser complex — possibly corroborates record of Joseph's job to prepare Egypt for the famine

Petrie's discovery of a workers village in Kahun and tools used to make mud bricks in this village

Mud bricks — the quantity of which the 12th dynasty pyramids required would have required an enormous labor force. The bricks have evidence of straw components.

The parallels between Joseph and Imhotep are amazing. Although there are dating issues and much historical debate, the similarities are too striking to ignore. It is important to note Imhotep was not deified until after his death.

The Bible says (among much more) that Joseph was a person of great stature in Egypt and was embalmed and put in a coffin in Egypt. Imhotep's tomb was located in Saqqara, but his sarcophagus was empty and remains never located.

The Famine stele — a highly detailed engraved stone which mentions the 7 year famine as well as Imhotep and Pharaoh Djoser
Further, let us examine some of the Biblical textual evidences:
Egyptian influence in portions of the Pentateuch — much of the material in Genesis and Exodus has an Egyptian background

The geography of Egypt and Sinai are familiar to the author of the Pentateuch, which means the author had intimate knowledge of these areas

The author of the Pentateuch uses a greater percentage of Egyptian words than elsewhere in the Old Testament and uses numerous distinctively Egyptian names (such as Asenath, Pithom, Potiphar and others)
Biblical archaeology is a rich and diverse field. Historians such as William F. Albright, Donald Wiseman, Millar Burrows, G. Ernest Wright and many others have provided a substantive background of corroborative evidences that leave us with no good reasons to cast the historical reliability of the Biblical record in doubt. Even if the archaeologists' shovel does not turn up a mountain of items from the Hebrew time in Egypt, the implications are not dire. There is plenty of evidence of Israel's exile in Egypt if you know where to look.

Image Credit: Peter Roan; "Stela of Merneptah"; Creative Commons

TagsBiblical-Truth  | Christian-Life  | History-Apologetics

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Published 9-14-2015