The Exodus

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The Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt to the ‘Promised Land’ is one of the most famous stories of the Old Testament. It is a story that is played out against the world of the pharaohs, involving escape from servitude and the attainment of freedom. This course investigates what the Old Testament says about the Exodus in the context of the known history of New Kingdom Egypt, using the findings of archaeology to examine the narrative.


  • Arnold, B.T. and Hess, R.T. 2014. Ancient Israel’s History: An Introduction to Issues and Sources. Baker Academic, Grand Rapids, Michigan.
  • Kitchen, K.A., 2003. On the Reliability of the Old Testament, WB Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan.
  • Warker, M. (ed) 2012. Ancient Egypt in Israel and the Exodus. Biblical Archaeology Society.

The Exodus, described in the biblical book of Exodus, is perhaps the best known story from the Old Testament, being the subject of films, paintings and documentaries. It lies at the core of the Jewish faith and is mentioned on many occasions elsewhere in the Old Testament. There is no direct evidence outside the pages of the Old Testament for the event itself, or any of the people involved in the event that are mentioned by name. To make matters worse, the pharaoh from whom the ancient Israelites made their escape, is not named. Like many events in history, the Exodus hence has one source.

This course does not set out to prove or disprove the reality of the story, but rather use the findings of archaeology to illustrate the world of ancient New Kingdom Egypt, and in particular, look to see whether aspects of the story have ‘parallels’ in both extant ancient written sources and excavated artefacts. Students will confronted with ‘facts’ from the archaeological record and encouraged to make their own conclusions.

Topics that will be covered include:

  • Biblical data pertaining to the Exodus
  • First mention of the ancient Israelites in the archaeological record
  • Evidence for the presence of Semitic speaking people in ancient Egypt
  • The Apiru in the ancient Near East
  • Mention of escaping slaves in ancient Egyptian literature
  • The Delta capitals of the pharaohs
  • The Ways of Horus – the patrolled route across the northern Sinai
  • Theories relating to the Exodus

By the end of this course, students should be able to:

  1. Learn how written and non-written sources are used to write history
  2. Discover controversies in using the biblical text to write history
  3. Know more about Ancient Israel in the archaeological record
  4. Understand what our knowledge of ancient Egypt can tell us about the Exodus