Moses

Scores of people have seen the grand movie epic by Cecil B. DeMille called “The Ten Commandments.”

It shows Israelites enslaved by the Pharaoh Seti building his cities in ancient Egypt.

Charlton Heston plays Moses (who’s beard keeps getting longer and longer and longer) majestically ordering Seti’s successor, King Ramses to “Let my people go.”

After it rains frogs and lit BBQ charcoals from the sky, Ramses lets the Israelites march out of Egypt to freedom.

God then erects a pillar of fire in front of Ramses’ pursuing army, Moses parts a sea, and the Israelites are fed manna (sort of like Mrs. Baird’s bread) which falls from the sky.

Then Moses ascends to the top of a mountain where God etches commandments on stone tablets with a flame thrower.

Meanwhile, waiting for Moses to power lunch with God, the Israelites, who have just seen miracle after miracle, are undecided about God’s existence, so they decide to start worshiping a cow.

When Moses comes down, all hell breaks loose, etc… and the Israelites are forced to wander in the wilderness for 40 years.

This of course made for an academy award winning blockbuster (as well as a record for the longest beard by a main character to appear in a full length motion picture), but did this all really happen?

First, what should raise an eyebrow or two is the figure in the Bible about the number of Israelites in the story. The Bible says that 600,000 men left Egypt. Figuring in women and children this would be at least somewhere around 1.5 million Israelites.

This is more people than currently exist in many major US cities. The idea that the Egyptians kept such a huge population fed and enslaved is very unlikely.

A moot point in any case since the business records in Egypt from the time do not indicate that Israelites existed in significant numbers or were ever enslaved.

It’s well established that the Egyptians built all the cities and monuments themselves during the farming off season, not with slave labor.

There’s also no record of 1.5 million people suddenly leaving one day.

Unlike the Cecil B. Demille movie, the Bible curiously doesn’t even give the name of the Pharoah in the story.

After the Exodus, the Bible says that at least hundreds of thousands of Israelites wandered in a desert region for 40 years.

This is a problem because archaeologists can’t find their camps. Huge groups of people would have left behind large amounts of campfire remains, broken pottery, etc…

The Exodus story was likely fabricated as part of a grand explanation of Israelite origins. The story starts with the Israelites arising from the sophisticated Egyptian culture, escaping slavery, and triumphantly conquering the land of Canaan.

In reality, archaeology shows that the Israelites simply arose out of the lowly Canaanite culture over a long period of time which would have made for an awfully boring movie.