Asked in JudaismOld Testament
Is there evidence of Israelite slavery in Egypt?
October 04, 2015 8:41AM
Yes. The evidence is the unbroken 3300 year tradition of the Israelite people and their Jewish descendants, as recorded in the Torah, the Talmud, and various other sources ancient and recent. This tradition is held by Christians and Muslims as well. For the Plagues:
The Ipuwer papyri (Professor John van Seters, Journal of
Egyptian Archaeology no. 50). The plagues were also described by ancient
historians, including Herodotus and Diodorus. The Exodus is
mentioned by Strabo, Berosus, Artapanus, Numenius, Justin, and
Moses is mentioned by ancient non-Jewish writers going back over 2,300 years, including Hecataeus, Strabo, Alexander Polyhistor, Manetho, Apion, Chaeremon, Tacitus, and Porphyry. Non-religious ancient Jewish sources mention him too, such as Artapanus, Eupolemus, Josephus and Philo.See also:
October 03, 2015 11:20PM
Since the Israelites were slaves in Egypt one would hardly expect a great mass of information about them. The period in which they were in Egypt is noted for a great deal of building and the Egyptian empire declined after their departure. In addition, it seems historically unlikely that the firstborn son of the relevant Pharoah actually ascended the throne as was normally the case but his place was taken by another.
Thutmose III was the great builder under which they toiled just prior to the ascension to the throne of his successor Amenhotep II. Thutmose III employed semitic slaves in his building program. His CEO, or building overseer, named Rekhmire left a tomb on which brick-making scenes are depicted, reminiscent of Exodus 5:6-19.
The problem often relates to the words 'relevant period.' People don't find evidence because they are looking in the wrong time period, for whatever reason. There is good evidence to suggest that the Egyptian chronology needs revision since a number of 'Kings' may have ruled concurrently and not consecutively.
You can find some great information here (with sources)
M. Bietak, Avaris and Piramesse: Archaeological Exploration in the Eastern Nile Delta, (London: The British Academy, 1986); "Der Friedhof in einem Palastgarten aus der Zeit des spten Mittleren Riches und andere Forschungsergebnisse aus dem stlichen Nildelta (Tell el-Daba 1984-1987)," Agypten und Levante 2 (1991a), pp. 47-109; "Egypt and Canaan During the Middle Bronze Age," Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research, 281 (1991b), pp. 27-72; Avaris: The Capital of the Hyksos, (London: British Museum Press, 1996).
October 03, 2015 11:18PM
There is no evidence at all. There are no inscriptions from the
relevant period that ever mentioned the Israelites. Although the
ancient Egyptians kept extraordinarily detailed records of their
daily lives, including all kinds of contracts and transactions,
they never mentioned a race of slaves in their midst even over a
period of 430 years. This omission is all the more surprising if we
literally accept the number of Hebrew slaves claimed by the Book of
Exodus - 600,000 fighting men, equivalent to 2.5 million men, women
and children, or two thirds of the Egyptian population at the time.
At a time when average life expectancy was around 50 years, the
Israelites were said to live for 120 to 137 years. The Egyptians
could be expected to want to know the secret of almost eternal
youth, yet nothing was ever written about slaves who lived to such
great ages. No Egyptian wrote of the great plagues of Moses and the
loss of the slaves was never mentioned even though, if true, this
would have had a devastating impact on the Egyptian economy, no
doubt making many contracts unenforceable. Conversely, there is no
reference in the Bible to the Egyption dominion over Canaan, an
omission that by itself strongly suggests that the biblical record
is not historic.
There is no archaeological evidence of large-scale Hebrew presence in Egypt, nor of the 40 year sojourn in the desert, nor of the conquest of Canaan. Even if the band of fleeing Hebrews had been much smaller than claimed, they would still have left some evidence behind. Archaeologists say they have found occasional camp-site evidence from previous centuries as well as from later periods, but nothing from the Exodus.
Some believe that Egyptian power declined inexplicably in the late fifteenth century BCE, saying that this must be evidence of a loss such as the loss of so many slaves, but Egypt remained at the height of its power. The remarkable Amarna letters attest that this was still true in the mid-1300s BCE and that even then Egypt was the undisputed power throughout Palestine and Syria, supported by a network of petty Canaanite rulers.
Others see obscure evidence in the succession of Amenhotep II after the long reign of Thutmose III, but Amenhotephad already been co-regent, so naturally succeeded his father.