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Did the Exodus ever happen, or is it all legend? What is the evidence for it, or is there evidence at all? Let's talk.

Is there proof of Israelite slavery in Egypt?

Postby Kitty Tiger » Mon May 18, 2020 9:20 am

Is there proof (besides religious texts) of Egyptians having Hebrews as slaves?
Kitty Tiger

Re: Is there proof of Israelite slavery in Egypt?

Postby jimwalton » Sat Nov 19, 2022 8:57 am

A four-room house (a distinctively Israelite style) was found by archaeologists within the precinct of the temple of kings Aya and Horemheb. It dates to the 12th century BC, the time of Ramses IV. The team of excavators suggested that the makeshift construction of the 4-room house was for workmen (slaves) who had the task of pulling down the temple of Aya and Horemheb to reuse the material for the new temple project of Ramses IV. The time of construction of these slave quarters fits perfectly with the chronology of the 4-room houses in Canaan as the begin to appear in the Judean hill country in the Iron Age, matching one that was found at Tel Batash by the end of the 13th century BC.

We also know from extra-biblical sources that immigrant Semitic groups regularly entered and settled in Egypt and were conscripted for corvee labor for the Pharaoh, especially during the mid-11th-13th Dynasties (2030-1650 BC), the latter of which could coincide with the original immigration of Israelites to Egypt. These are not specifically identified as Israelite or Hebrew, but it's difficult to know by what label the Israelites were called and known in this era.

There was a large-scale immigration of Asiatics to Egypt we know as the Hyksos who actually ruled Egypt, as least over the northeast Delta, as Dynasties XV and XVI (1650-1550 BC). This could coincide with the narrative of Joseph in Genesis. Since the Bible speaks of the Israelites living in Goshen, this also could possibly corroborate the biblical account.

About 400 years after the Hyksos, Dynasty XIX came to power in Egypt, including Pharaoh Ramesses the Great. The 430-year presence of the Israelites in Egypt could have spanned the era from Hyksos to Ramesses. The Ramesside family originated in the NE Delta (the land of Goshen) and came to the throne through the office of the vizierate (a position Joseph held), the pharaoh’s prime minister and chief justice. The Ramessides certainly had some Asiatic (Semitic) roots, as indicated by the choice of the name Seti.

An Egyptian papyrus reveals an Asiatic slave with a Biblical name identical to the name of a midwife mentioned in Exodus: Shiphrah (Ex. 1.15). It is reasonably certain that the papyrus came from Thebes. The point is not that this is the same woman, but that such names date to that era in that area. It could indicate the presence of Israelites in Egypt, though it's impossible to confirm.

To conclude, there is no irrefutable evidence of the Israelites in Egypt, but there are numerous corroborations, markers, and hints that support the idea. There is nothing farfetched, historically, about the presence of a large group of Semitic immigrants working as corvee labor, especially in lower Egypt. There is evidence of a Semitic group (like Joseph) in power in the Nile Delta and that the Ramesside dynasty might have issued from the delta region. In other words, none of the information we have from non-biblical sources contradicts what the Bible says or proves it to be false. In contrast, the information we have found could easily corroborate the biblical account. But none of it is direct, irrefutable evidence of Israelite presence there.

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