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Saturday, January 2, 2010

Exodus - Introduction

What if… science and the Bible are both true?
What if… the ten plagues of Egypt might have been real events?
What if… the Israelites really did cross the Red Sea, and
What if… we learn to value God’s word more than our own interpretation?

What is the aim of this study:

• To keep the emphasis on the Bible. To remember God’s word is more important than my interpretation.
• To be ready to encourage people to read the Bible and hear God’s word, rather than risk them rejecting what God says because of man’s word.
• To know what the Bible says, even if it’s not what I think it ought to say.

a WHAT IF...STUDY based on the books of Exodus, Leviticus, Deuteronomy and Joshua, and on Colin J Humphreys research in his excellent book The Miracles of Exodus.

1: What if… science helps us interpret the Bible?

What if… we study ancient languages?
Studying ancient languages and how they changed helps us find out where things happened.
See Joshua 1:10-11, 2:1 and 3:1-6,14-17.
The River Jordan flows south from the Sea of Galilee to the Dead Sea. Jerusalem and Jericho are on the West side of the river. The Israelites crossed from the East somewhere near Jericho. The mud-slide is said to have occurred at “Adam,” but Hebrew had no vowels. The name is written as ’dm, which may well have been Damiyah, also known as Adamah.

What if… we study geology?
Then we might find natural explanations that make sense of unnatural occurrences.
See Psalm 77:18-20, 114:1-4,7-8 which describe the Israelites crossing Jordan in terms that suggest there might have been an earthquake.

On July 11, 1927 (and also in 1906, 1834, 1546, 1534, 1267, 1160, etc…) earthquakes caused landslides at Adamah which blocked the River Jordan. But earthquakes usually take us by surprise, even now. God had the Israelites prepare three days in advance for their crossing.

What if… we study history?
Then we might be able to resolve apparent contradictions in dates. See Exodus 1:11, 1 Kings 6:1

Egyptologists believe building started on Rameses in 1300BC. But the Bible says Israelites were building it 480 years before Solomon’s temple was built in 960BC (or 440 years before if we use the Septuagint translation, a difference of 40 years, or an “error” of one generation). 40 years, historically, was a number frequently used to describe the length of a “generation.” In modern times, a generation is 30 years but in ancient times it would be more like 25 as people had their children earlier. 12 generations would correspond to 300 years, and 12 generations before Solomon’s Temple would then be 1260 B. C., precisely when Egyptologists say the city of Rameses was being built.

What if… we study genealogy?
Then we might see how apparent contradictions occurred in Biblical lists: See Ezra 7:1-5, 1 Chronicles 6:50-53, and 1 Chronicles 6, 3-13

The generations of the High Priests from Exodus to Solomon’s Temple are listed in various different places. It’s not hard to see how copying errors might have resulted in some names being repeated. Reconciling the lists gives 12 High Priests from Aaron to the days of Solomon, hence 12 generations—480 years if a generation is 40 years, and 300 years if we use the more likely 25-year estimate.

This still doesn’t give a definite date for the events of Exodus, but it does indicate that contradictory dates don’t prove the story false.

What if… we study mathematics?
Then we might reconcile the apparently huge number of people in Exodus with more contemporary estimates of the numbers in a tribe or army.

Numbers 1:19-21, 46 lists 603,550 men, a number so high it is often used as an argument to “prove” the Bible false.
Exodus 13:18 says the Israelites were armed for battle. At over 600,000 strong they would have been a pretty intimidating army, so why were they terrified of the Egyptians (14:10), and why was it so hard to defeat the Amalekites (17:8)?
Exodus 1:15 says there were only two midwives, despite such a huge population.
Deuteronomy 7:7 makes it clear the Israelites were not a large people, and Exodus 23:20 says they were too small to occupy the land.
Numbers 3:43 counts 22,273 1st born males, which suggests the remainder were not first-borns, giving over 20 male children in each family, but the word ‘eleph, translated as thousand in Numbers, can also mean “group” as in Judges 6:15, and 1 Samuel 10:19. The Israelites were probably formed into slave labor groups of about 10 men by the Egyptians. Translating ‘eleph as “group,” then gives 5,550 men in 598 groups. The tribe would then be about 20,000 strong, a very plausible contemporary number.

This doesn’t “prove” the earlier numbers false, but it does reconcile them with more historically plausible interpretations.

What if… we study geography?
Then we might find alternative locations for events instead of describing them as impossible. For example, many argue that even 20,000 people couldn’t survive for several months in the area around Mount Sinai, but what if Mount Sinai were actually located somewhere else?

Deuteronomy 1:2 defines the journey from Kadesh Barnea to Mount Sinai. Kadesh Barnea is probably Ain Qudais, or Ain Qudeirat. Mount Seir is a ridge of mountains 40 miles northeast of the Gulf of Aqaba. A day’s journey on a trade route would be about 28-31 miles (from one campsite to the next), and off-road would be about 25 miles. These measurements, and local archeology, place Mount Sinai within 412 miles of Ain Qudais.
Exodus 18:16-19, Deuteronomy 4:11, Judges 5:5 describe Mount Sinai in somewhat volcanic terms. Colin J Humphreys, in his book The Miracles of Exodus, suggests Mount Bedr in Arabia as a likely location, a volcanic mountain about the right distance from Ain Qudais.
Exodus 17:5-7 suggests that Mount Sinai (or Horeb as it’s sometimes called) stands on some kind of “rock” or “table” which Moses was ordered to strike to produce water. Mount Bedr stands on top of a table mountain.
Exodus 19:10-13 describes how the people are required to wash their clothes at the foot of the mountain. The table-land below Mount Bedr used to have a river flowing through it, providing meadows and fresh water—and food for a long encampment.

None of this “proves” that Mount Sinai is not on the Sinai Peninsula, but it does show that apparent contradictions in describing a location don’t disprove the Biblical account.


Thelema said...

Interesting posts you have, though I think Christianity is dead and will be redeemed and brought to fruition and perfection through Thelema. Check out my blog at if you will. Love is the law, love under will. ;)

Sheila Deeth said...

Interesting, but I tend to feel that newer is not always better (and Thelema is pretty new by European standards). If God is active in the world, and I believe He is, I would look for confirmation in modern science and ancient history, since I believe He created what science investigates, and guided what history records.

Thelema said...

93 Sheila: Definitely! Come onto my blog at and we can talk about it.

"Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.

THE world needs religion.
Religion must represent Truth, and celebrate it.
This truth is of two orders: one, concerning Nature external to Man; two, concerning Nature internal to Man.
Existing religions, especially Christianity, are based on primitive ignorance of the facts, particularly of external Nature.
Celebrations must conform to the custom and nature of the people.
Christianity has destroyed the joyful celebrations, characterized by music, dancing, feasting, and making love; and has kept only the melancholy.
The Law of Thelema offers a religion which fulfils all necessary conditions.
The philosophy and metaphysics of Thelema are sound, and offer a solution of the deepest problems of humanity.
The science of Thelema is orthodox; it has no false theories of Nature, no false fables of the origin of things.
The psychology and ethics of Thelema are perfect. It has destroyed the damnable delusion of Original Sin, making every one unique, independent, supreme, and sufficient.
The Law of Thelema is given in the Book of the Law."

Sheila Deeth said...

A lot depends on your definition of Religion, Thelema. Many would point to religious wars and say the world does NOT need religion. Meanwhile I would say the world, being made by God, does need God.

I believe God makes himself known in the Bible, in history and in science, and I'd have to say the Christianity I grew up with is alive, abundantly joyful, delights in the discoveries of modern science, and neither hides my human failings nor leaves me on my own to deal with them.