- Paperback: 288 pages
- Publisher: Oxford University Press, U.S.A.; New Ed edition (18 Mar. 1999)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 019513088X
- ISBN-13: 978-0195130881
- Product Dimensions: 23.1 x 1 x 15.2 cm
- Average Customer Review: 4 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,299,947 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Israel in Egypt: The Evidence for the Authenticity of the Exodus Tradition Paperback – 18 Mar 1999
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This book is an excellent source to use in conjunction with one's study of Exodus, a "must by" for all evangelical professors of Old Testament studies as well as pastors and Bible teachers interested in information regarding the historical reliability of the Israelites' existence in Egypt. Because of the wealth of information and documentation provided in this book, there is truely no other book of its kind. (mark Rooker, Faith and Mission, Vol.17, No.3, Summer 2000.)
"This is historical research at its best, with constant attention to primary sources...[Hoffmeier] retains a broad perspective and leaves no stone unturned in his quest to have the epigraphic and archeological evidence shed light on the biblical record of Israel's sojourn in and exodus from Egypt."―Gary Rendsburg, Cornell University
Scholars of the Hebrew Bible have in the last decade begun to question the historical accuracy of the Israelite sojourn in Egypt, as described in the book of Exodus. The reason for the rejection of the exodus tradition is said to be the lack of historical and archaeological evidence in Egypt. Those advancing these claims, however, are not specialists in the study of Egyptian history, culture, and archaeology. In this pioneering book, James Hoffmeier examines the most current Egyptological evidence and argues that it supports the biblical record concerning Israel in Egypt.See all Product description
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About 2/3 of the book seems to be about the various archaeologists, Biblical scholars, other ancient historians and historical linguists forming into various 'schools of thought' to attempt to bring in their own way some coherence to a field where the apparent dearth of really hard archaeological evidence and extra-biblical evidence is only matched by the inversely proportionate enormous amount of time and effort seemingly spent in squabbling over the various interpretations of this dearth of evidence.
Scholars and archaeologists from as early as the 19C are presented together with those from the 1980s with 'new' evidence to tell us that... the experts still cannot substantially agree on whether Israel specifically was in Egypt, and whether the events recorded in the Bible actually took place. There is no agreement on anything except, it seems, to disagree.
There is scant evidence from Egyptology. There is much archaeological material that has been dug up over the last half century but its interpretation remains controversial. Only such as Israel Finkelstein 'the Bible Unearthed' seem to come out with any degree of consensus with regard to the evidence they have uncovered.
At the end of the day experts will argue into infinity until more decisive evidence can be discovered. The author has simply brought all the evidence to date and the controversies over such into one book to inform us of both, but without being able to say conclusively, 'this is what happened and how and here is the conclusive evidence'. As I said a worthy effort that succeeds in informing but not in providing answers.
Among other things, he assesses the validity of recent claims that the narrative is most at home in a late (first millennium BCE) context, and shows that these are based on selective rather than careful use of evidence. Many individual pieces of evidence are drawn out showing that the details fit more comfortably in a mid-second millennium time-frame.
The book is quite academically written and needs careful reading, and would benefit from more maps and diagrams scattered through the text, but is a fascinating and compelling read.
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He wrote in the Preface to this 1996 book, “The biblical stories about Israel’s origins in Egypt are so well known to people of Europe and the English-speaking world that one hardly has to rehearse the details… By and large, historians over the centuries have considered these individuals and the events in which they participated to be historical. The advent of archaeology and the deciphering of cuneiform inscriptions… [made] the fathers and mothers of Israel come alive… But subsequent investigations of these sites reversed earlier interpretations, and the evidence that originally appeared to confirm the stories concerning Israel’s origin was met instead by embarrassing silence; for some this implied the repudiation of the Hebrew tradition… direct evidence for the events and figures of Genesis and Exodus remains elusive… in the middle of the nineteenth century … many western scholars considered these tales to be sagas, legends, and etiologies, but not historical records. In response to this critical climate, the biblical archaeologist William Foxwell Albright and his followers set a positive tone… However, a new generation of skeptics, or historical minimalists, have come to the fore over the past twenty years… In this book, I will challenge the premise that the absence of archaeological evidence can prove what did or did not happen in Bible history.” (Pg. vii-viii)
He notes, “The Albright-[G. Ernest] Wright synthesis has been rightly challenged by virtually every recent scholarly investigation concerned with the origins of Israel debate… its critics have widely assumed that the ‘conquest’ theory of Albright-Wright and their followers is one and the same as the ‘biblical’ description. Therefore the repudiation of the former has resulted in the abrogation of the latter… Wright… often overstated or went beyond what the biblical text actually claimed...” (Pg. 33) He adds, “A careful reading of the text of Joshua suggests a far more modest military outcome than those advanced by twentieth-century biblical scholars either supporting or critiquing the conquest model. So it appears that the real contradiction was between the model and the archaeological record, not the record and the narrative of Joshua and Judges. The conquest model has become something of a straw man that ostensibly represented the biblical record, the latter being guilty by association with the former.” (Pg. 36)
He states, “When Joshua is viewed as a piece of Near Eastern Military writing, and its literary character is properly understood, the idea of a group of tribes coming to Canaan, using some military force, partially taking a number of cities and areas over a period of some years, destroying (burning) just three cities, and coexisting alongside the Canaanites and other ethnic groups for a period of time before the beginnings of monarchy, does not require blind faith. Finally, the idea that the Israelites would have destroyed and leveled cities indiscriminately, makes little sense for they intended to live in this land. A scorched-earth policy is only logical for a conqueror who has no thought of occupying the devastated land.” (Pg. 43-44)
He observes about Israel in Egypt, “scholars are faced with a dilemma not unlike that encountered in Canaan with the absence of evidence for an invasion by Israel and have arrived at a similar conclusion: the lack of evidence means the events described in Genesis and Exodus are retrojections of a later period and do not reflect historical reality. Indeed, no one has been able to identify any unimpeachable evidence in Egypt, either historical or archaeological, to support the biblical accounts of the sojourn and exodus events…The biblical evidence… consistently supports the testimony of the book of Exodus, and yet proof from Egypt is lacking. How do we deal with this dilemma?” (Pg. 53)
He ultimately concludes, “Is the picture portrayed in Genesis 39 through Exodus 15 compatible with what is known from Egyptian history? I think we have answered that in the affirmative… Could a Semite like Joseph have advanced to such a high post in the Egyptian court. The evidence is clear. If … a Semitic official such as Aper-el could occupy the office of the Vizer of Lower Egypt… then surely the same could have occurred to a Hebrew named Joseph anytime from the Thirteenth Dynasty through the Hyksos Period… In a similar vein.. during this period many foreign princes were reared and schooled in the Egyptian court… It is my belief that Moses was a product of this institution… His birth story… attests to the presence of terms with Egyptian etymologies, suggesting that this unit had an unquestionable Egyptian connection… Finally, important geographical questions were answered that demonstrate that a coherent and singular route is described in Exodus and Numbers 33 for the departure from Egypt to Sinai, despite not being able to plot it on a map with absolute certainty… Because of the close connection between figures like Joseph and Moses and the Egyptian court, it seems that there is reason to believe the biblical tradition that ascribes to Moses the ability to record events, compile itineraries, and other scribal activities. This is not to say that he is the sole author of the Pentateuch, but he cannot be ruled out as having had the role in its formation that the Bible reports… The body of evidence reviewed in this book provides indirect evidence which shows that the main points of the Israel in Egypt and Exodus narratives are indeed plausible.” (Pg. 223-226)
Some readers will find this book far too “traditional” in its approach; but those studying biblical archaeology and the early history of Israel will nevertheless likely find it most interesting.
Additionally, Prof. Hoffmeier provides good arguments in favor of the Semitic entrance and exit from Egypt around the New Kingdom. Although I consider some of his arguments as biased in some way, I think it results impossible to deny the veracity of, at least, the historical value of the book of Exodus, and the realistic main outlines portraited in the biblical narrative of the sojourn of Ancient Israel in Egypt.
And he does not simply lay out his position unchallenged, but presents alternative arguments in a fairly objective manner (while still discussing factors which would lead the reader to dismiss many of them).
Worth the read for Biblical adherents and skeptics alike.