Is the Exodus and Crossing of the Red Sea Historical?

by BJ Rudge, Ph. D.

Bodies of water turning into blood, plagues of frogs, gnats, flies and locusts, a sea being parted so that millions of people can cross on dry land. To many, this may sound like science fiction, however, all of these events are recorded in the book of Exodus.

The question before us is whether these events are merely the imagination of creative Hebrew writers intended to teach lessons about the Jewish faith, or, in fact, stories accurately recording Divine intervention into human history.

As we examine the events surrounding the Jewish exodus from Egypt to the Promised Land, we find minimal evidence outside the Bible for its historicity. However, this reality does not mean that we are left with a mere blind leap of faith in our belief that the Exodus account actually occurred. Rather, there are some discoveries that add credibility to this biblical story.

First, archeology has helped to shed light on the Exodus account. For instance, an ancient Egyptian text, Merneptah Stele, was discovered. In this text, Merneptah, the king of Egypt, boasts that he has destroyed his enemies in Canaan. He states, "Israel is laid waste, his seed is not."

While the details of this text are still being debated today by archeologists, it does make a connection between Israel and Egypt and coincides with biblical scholars dating of events associated with the Exodus.

Also, a recent archeological discovery has raised discussion over the parting of the Red Sea: "Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the Lord caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night, and made the sea into dry land, and the waters were divided" (Exodus 14:21).

Several archeological endeavors have been carried out at a large beach in the Gulf of Aqaba. At this site, the claim has been made that at the bottom of the sea there are a vast number of chariot wheels and human bones. Thus, the assertion has been made that these artifacts are direct proof for the biblical account of the crossing of the Red Sea.

While a consensus has not been reached by archeologists over the relationship between this location and the artifacts found with the biblical Exodus story, this discovery has raised many interesting questions over one of the most miraculous stories in the Bible.

Second, God has provided His own method in attesting to the historicity of the Exodus account. This method is known as commemorative institutions.

Commemorative institutions are simply lasting monuments that are designed to keep alive the remembrance of the historical facts to which they refer. Through this method, God has left man with a lasting testimony documenting the historical facts to which the commemorative institutions are witnesses. For instance, in the Old Testament God has set aside the Passover and the Feast of Tabernacles (Booths) as memorial institutions that commemorate the historical facts that surround Israel's exodus from Egypt to the Promised Land.

Just as Americans have celebrated the Fourth of July for over 200 years as a commemoration of our independence, so too, the Passover and the Feast of Tabernacles have been observed by the Jewish people for thousands of years as a remembrance of the historical facts which they represent.

While the debate may continue concerning the historicity of the Exodus account, the Christian does not need to be deterred in his confidence in the biblical account. The test of time has always, and will always, prove the accuracy and veracity of Scripture.

Even in the face of limited evidence, until all the facts are known, the believer can hold on to the words of the author of Hebrews, "Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen (11:1)."

For further study on this topic please refer to the book, Israel in Egypt: The Evidence for the Authenticity of the Exodus Tradition, by James K. Hoffmeier, and also visit Dr. TV Oommen's web site, http://www.biblediscoveries.com/.