The Exodus

The Exodus: How It Happened and Why It Matters by Richard Elliott Friedman 2017

About the Author
RICHARD ELLIOTT FRIEDMAN is one of the premier bible scholars in the country. He earned his doctorate at Harvard and was a visiting fellow at Oxford and Cambridge, a Senior Fellow of the American Schools of Oriental Research in Jerusalem, and a Visiting Professor at the University of Haifa. He is the Ann & Jay Davis Professor of Jewish Studies at the University of Georgia and the Katzin Professor of Jewish Civilization Emeritus of the University of California, San Diego. He is the author of Commentary on the Torah, The Disappearance of God, The Hidden Book in the Bible, The Bible with Sources Revealed, The Bible Now, The Exile and Biblical Narrative, the bestselling Who Wrote the Bible?, and most recently, The Exodus. He was an American Council of Learned Societies Fellow and was elected to membership in The Biblical Colloquium. His books have been translated into Hebrew, German, Italian, Spanish, Russian, Japanese, Polish, Hungarian, Dutch, Portuguese, Czech, Turkish, Korean, and French. He was a consultant for the Dreamworks film The Prince of Egypt, for Alice Hoffman’s The Dovekeepers, and for NBC, A&E, PBS, and Nova.

About the Book
The Exodus has become a core tradition of Western civilization. Millions read it, retell it, and celebrate it. But did it happen?

Biblical scholars, Egyptologists, archaeologists, historians, literary scholars, anthropologists, and filmmakers are drawn to it. Unable to find physical evidence until now, many archaeologists and scholars claim this mass migration is just a story, not history. Others oppose this conclusion, defending the biblical account.

Like a detective on an intricate case no one has yet solved, pioneering Bible scholar and bestselling author of Who Wrote the Bible? Richard Elliott Friedman cuts through the noise — the serious studies and the wild theories — merging new findings with new insight. From a spectrum of disciplines, state-of-the-art archeological breakthroughs, and fresh discoveries within scripture, he brings real evidence of a historical basis for the exodus — the history behind the story. The biblical account of millions fleeing Egypt may be an exaggeration, but the exodus itself is not a myth.

Friedman does not stop there. Known for his ability to make Bible scholarship accessible to readers, Friedman proceeds to reveal how much is at stake when we explore the historicity of the exodus. The implications, he writes, are monumental. We learn that it became the starting-point of the formation of monotheism, the defining concept of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Moreover, we learn that it precipitated the foundational ethic of loving one’s neighbors — including strangers — as oneself. He concludes, the actual exodus was the cradle of global values of compassion and equal rights today.

“A historical detective story. In fluent prose . . . Friedman makes a gripping and persuasive case that it was the Levites who escaped Egypt and carried the story of the Exodus into Canaan, teaching us one of Judaism’s foundational ethics: not to oppress the stranger because we were once oppressed.” — New York Times Book Review

“By investigating verses from the Bible, evaluating inscriptions, incorporating material from archeological excavations, and assessing relevant historical data, Friedman builds his case that a small contingent of Levites were the actual group to leave Egypt. . . . Readers with a strong interest in the Bible will appreciate Friedman’s exploration.” — Publishers Weekly

“Sensational and profound. An eye-opening study of perhaps the single most consequential event in the biblical narrative and one of the touchstones of both Jewish and Zionist aspiration.” — Jewish Journal

“Compelling, revealing and fascinating.” — Faith Matters

“The Exodus displays, yet again, the unique gifts of Richard Elliott Friedman, whose work always embodies the mastery of an accomplished biblical scholar, the eye of a literary detective teasing out the mysteries from an ancient text, and the skill of a born storyteller. A page-turner.” — Jonathan Kirsch, author of The Harlot by the Side of the Road

Summary of Introduction (portion)
Dan Fogelberg: Is the exodus from Egypt a story or history? How did monotheism, the idea of there being only one God, come about? What person or events gave us the idea that we should love others as ourselves? He says there has been a surge of interest in the exodus lately: live movies, animated movies, books, cover stories in magazines, archaeological surveys and excavations, conferences, lectures, sermons, debates, documentaries, online videos.

David is the only figure in the Hebrew Bible who compares to Moses, both in the sheer amount of the texts about him and in the degree of development of his life and character. Some said there was no such person, no such kingdom, no royal house of David. Archaeology and skilled historical detective work have accomplished a great deal toward solving the David problem, but the exodus problem has remained.

Many of my colleagues in Bible studies doubt or even deny that it happened. The event figures centrally in the very earliest texts of prose, poetry, and law in the Bible. And beyond this, a scholar, like a detective, has to rely to some extent on his or her instincts. My intuition was always that there was something historical behind the exodus story. It took forty years of studies to work out sufficiently to formulate it in writing.

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