This is part 2 of my Exodus Retrospectus. I would like to go deeper into the book, beyond the cultural depictions, and the questions.
The name of the book comes from two Greek words: ex meaning out, out of, and odos meaning way or road. Put together, “the road out”. In more modern English usage, exodus means mass exit of people.
It is believed that when the Patriarch Jacob and his family arrived, the Pharaohs in charge belonged to the “Hyksos”, a group of invaders who also came from Canaan and conquered Egypt. This is because in Egyptian history, multiple kings and their descendants (a dynasty) have come to power only to be replaced by another dynasty. Some of the dynasties were able to control all of Egypt while others were less powerful and controlled only certain cities. The period of the Hyksos was actually dominated by outsiders. Therefore, the Pharaoh in Genesis 47 could have been from the Hyksos and was probably much more welcoming as a foreigner himself than this new king who belonged to a native Egyptian dynasty (Exodus 1:8) from the south.
Although some experts are skeptical about the events of the Exodus, archaeologists have indeed found a house in a town called Avaris that:
1. belonged to a very high-ranking official (not the king),
2. was of Semitic origin, that is, the paint pigments used for depicting hair color was red, not black for Egyptians,
3. whose face was defaced, which was standard practice for subsequent regimes who wanted to erase (literally) the acts of the previous regime, and
4. whose bones are missing in the family sarcophagus in the house. Robbers always leave the bones behind because they lack value.
Besides Joseph (son of Jacob), no other person has matched the description of the owner of the house.
There is another major problem: Egyptologists and biblical archaeologists cannot agree when the events of the Exodus took place. Some say it happened closer to the 1500s BC and others closer to 1200 BC. The discrepancies come from how one calculates the dates and years found in the Bible, biblical archaeology, and Egyptology. Each expert has to make certain assumptions to prove their calculations. Thus, the only thing we know is that we do not know for sure when these events occurred.
Whether we find more evidence proving the Exodus did occur, or whether we finally pin down the exact dates, in the end, we still have to have faith in God. Sometimes we just have to believe first before we gain knowledge. Even the secular historians and archaeologists have to rely on hope and faith that they make the right inferences and interpretation of the evidence out there.
Thus, the story is all about God, not Moses. Moses is just the primary agent. As the new Pharaoh from the new dynasty began the genocidal policies against the Israelites, two midwives named Shiphrah and Puah resisted. Whether they lied or actively helped Hebrew families, God steps in and honors them by giving them families of their own.
What does this tell me about God?
- God keeps his promises. He has not forgotten about his people even when they are in captivity. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph are long dead but God is alive and working.
- God honors those who do good. He is always watching and he values life.
- “Choose life, that you might live.”
- God does not delight in the death of the wicked but desires all men to come to repentance.
- You cannot be a professing Christian and vote for those who approve of abortion. It’s not about pro-choice. It’s not about women’s rights. It’s not about Democrats versus Republicans. God is not a Democrat, or a Republican, a Libertarian, a Socialist, and certainly not a Communist. It’s about true life.
- God is very much involved in our lives. He sees our suffering as well as our sins. That’s a scary thought – that even when we are at our worst, God still loves us. That’s grace.
A lot of people do not associate “grace” with the Old Testament. People tend to associate grace and love with Jesus and the New Testament but that is missing half the Bible. Time and time again, God shows his grace in the story of Exodus. Grace permeates the book of Exodus as much as the book of Romans.