The story of Exodus, the escape of Moses and the Israelites from Egypt to the promised land has all the ingredients of a fairy tale. The reason for the disbelief is due to various super natural elements of the story such as the ten plagues which includes the Nile turning blood red and all the first Egyptian male children dying. There is also the parting of the Red Sea and the swallowing of the Pharoah’s army by the same sea. In a new documentary, Exodus Decoded, which premiered on the History Channel about a week back, film maker Simcha Jacobovici and Executive Producer James Cameron (the same guy who made Titanic) prove that there is a scientific explanation for the Exodus.
Ahmose I was a pharaoh of the Eighteenth Dynasty, who reigned from 1550 to 1525 BCE . During his time the Hyksos, a group of Semites who were the rulers of lower Egypt rebelled and were expelled from Egypt. The documentary starts with a look at the Ahmose Stele stored in the Cairo Museum which records a tremendous catastrophe that struck Egypt which involved rain, thunder and storm. Usually all these do not happen in north-west Africa and was unusual. The Bible says that there was storm during the time of Exodus, so does the Stele. The Bible says there was darkness, so does the Stele. It is from this Stele that we get the name of the Pharoah as Ahmose which means brother of Moses in Hebrew. Simcha then goes to the museum and locates the mummy of Ahmose from among many mummies lying in various boxes.
Scholars have dated the Exodus to 1200 BCE, to the time of Ramesses II and the Hyksos were expelled hundreds of years before Moses. Simcha suggests a new date for the Exodus of around 1500 BCE to the time of Ahmose. He suggests that the Hyksos who were expelled were the Israelites and an expert suggests that the story in the Ahmose Stele and the Exodus refer to the same event.
The Hyksos ruled from the capital city called Avaris. Simcha films there, being the first film maker to do so. Then they find a tomb at Beni Hasan which shows evidence for the entry of Western Semitic people into Egypt. The hieroglyphs call them Amo, which means Gods people. It also records that one of the migrants rose to the highest power and his name was Joseph, son of Yakov (Jacob). Joseph wore on his fingers the seal of royal authority and Simcha shows such seals which were found through archeology. They also find a slave inscription in a cave which reads, “El, save me” which was a plea to the God of the Israelites.
About 3500 years ago, the Greek island of Santorini, located about 700 KM from the Egyptian coast had one of the largest volcanic eruptions believed to have led to the collapse of the Minoan civilization on the island of Crete.This same eruption according to the documentary explains the plagues and the parting of the Red Sea.
During the time of the wrath of God, besides the Nile turning blood red, the Egyptian statues were toppled and there was a hail of ice and fire. Locusts swarmed the place and there was darkness among other things. The explanation offered is that Egypt is located in a region filled with fault lines. The rift between the African and Asian plates go under Santorini. The gas released by the earthquake caused the Nile to turn red and the same phenomenon was seen in Lake Nyos in Cameroon in 1984. The ash from the Santorini explosion caused the skies to turn dark.
While most of these plagues can be explained due to natural phenomena, the one most difficult to explain is the death of every first born Egyptian child one night. The documentary offers an explanation for this as well. It was the night of the first passover and all the Israelites were awake and celebrating it. The Egyptians slept at that time. In Egyptian society, the first born male had special privileges and slept in a low bed which was close to the ground, while most adults slept in the roof tops. The Carbon di-Oxide which rose due to the seismic activity fogged the land and affected the people who were sleeping low to the ground, which was the first born male children of Egypt. The same incident happened in Lake Nyos as well.
Then comes the major event of the parting of the Red Sea. It seems the Hebrew word, Yam Suf was mistranslated as Red Sea while it actually means Reed Sea. Instead of looking for the sea scholars should have been looking for a lake. Based on the new evidence, the film makers find the location of the Reed Sea, a lake currently dried up, due to the Suez Canal. Again, the parting of the lake is attributed to the seismic activity.
While most people followed Moses to the promised land, some people in fact boarded ships to Greece. In 1972, in Santorini they found Minoan style wall paintings depicting a journey from Egypt to Greece with a picture of Avaris. In Mycenae in Greece they have found 3500 year old tombs with tombstones depicting sequences which show the parting of the sea and people escaping through it. Actually one expert in the museum where the tomb stones are located says the depictions are too abstract to make such an interpretation.
Tomorrow: Mt. Sinai, Ark of the Covenant, and doubts on the evidence.