Book Review

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Book Review: The Exodus, by Richard Elliott Friedman, PhD

The book was on my Christmas list and I unwrapped it and have already read it. Though I seldom delve into religion on this blog because every single reader has a different take on these things, it’s a book review and you can make of the book what you will.
I have an interest in the Late Bronze Age, and recommend 1177 BC: The Year Civilization Collapsed, by Eric Cline, PhD (the book and his YouTube presentation) to those of you who have an inclination toward this field of scholarship. One of the mysteries if I can use that word safely, of the Late Bronze Age is the exodus. I have lots of questions about the exodus because there is scant historical or archeological evidence to support it beyond the account in the Bible. The town of Jericho, that Joshua allegedly sacked ‘when the walls came tumbling down’, wasn’t ever sacked and the walls never tumbled down. There is overwhelming evidence of this. I reference the work of Yigael Yadin on the subject. General Yadin has huge credibility to me. He’s a man of impressive intellect, Israeli Army Chief of Staff turned archeologist. Additionally, there’s ample historical evidence that the 12 tribes of Israel (or most of the 12 tribes) never left Caanan/Israel. 
So given the lack of proof, and given my faith, I have strained to know more. Facts tend to fit the way pieces of a puzzle snap into place. I hate it when people strain to make the pieces fit, and Dr. Friedman didn’t do that.
Back to the book. Dr. Friedman makes a compelling argument that “the” exodus occurred, that it was small, consisting almost exclusively of Levites, and that it had intimate links to Egyptian culture and religion. He explores Moses the historical figure and the connection to Midian, etc. along with many other issues that you may have an interest in. I take small issue with some of Dr. Friedman’s propositions later in the book, but, overall, I think that it’s worth buying and reading if you have an interest in such things.

14 thoughts on “Book Review

  1. I read part of a book by James K. Hoffmeier,"Ancient Isreal in Sinai: The Evidence for the Authenticity of the Widerness Tradition". It lays out a strong case for the Exodus. Unfortunarely they did not put any of the illustrations in the ebook and it became hard to follow and set it aside.

  2. The video runs over an hour, but I'll have to give it a look later tonight. If that gets my curiosity up, I may spring for the book as well.

  3. I think that there WAS an exodus and the author explains it. The numbers that the Bible puts out are about two million people in the exodus. The logistics of that means that they'd consume on the order of 310 million tons of food per year – in the desert. They'd also leave about 250 million tons of waste behind (not including the provender the livestock would need and the waste they'd leave. Ponder the logistics of moving an ancient people (they'd need to wander constantly because of they'd drink any water supply dry) and they'd pollute their environment.

    I know that God can do anything. (Can God make a rock so big he can't move it?) I know they were fed with manna that fell every night. But work the numbers for a 40 year walk about. Additionally, 2 million starting number would be much larger after two generations of growth.

    The author doesn't cite a number for a Levitical exodus, but I'm guessing that he's talking 10,000 to 20,000. Still large numbers but not two million (the Biblical number).

  4. Yes, it's a long video, but I expect that it will capture your imagination. It also occurs roughly at the time of the exodus.

  5. I will watch the video, but everyone knows that inflation has crept in over the years.
    "Millions" weren't as many back then as they are today.


  6. Amazon shows that Friedman has some other books of interest.
    There goes my book budget for this month.

  7. The video has nothing to do with the exodus, really. It discusses what happened or may have happened to wipe out commerce in the Greater Mediterranean Area. I think that part of the point of the video is that it shows that people are people and while we think that things have changed considerably – the human quotient isn't that different now than it was then.

  8. Of his other books, I've only read "Who Wrote the Bible". And I recommend it as well. People can take issue with his findings and conclusions, but for the most part there is EXTENSIVE peer review from archeologists, historians, and theologians.

    Friedman suggests that the Book of Genesis was based in part on an even older work that he refers to as the Book of the Generations of Adam. We don't have that work and neither does Friedman, but most of his reasoning seems to be sound.

  9. Most Bibles agree they are… A mix of other books/manuscripts.
    And with some of them, personal opinion shaped them – for good or bad. I have always wondered who decided what would go into our *modern* bible. It seems that a lot was arbitrarily left out.
    Numbers and tallys would have been interesting to me.

    They might have been made sterile during the trip. Manna might have been so pure there was no need to leave human waste? I suppose the animal waste could have been burned for warmth; but that would still be a lot of cow/lamb/goat pies. But that also would have not left much evidence, as it all naturally composted.

    However, all the other associated stuff should have left some sort of evidence.

    I am often left with such questions after reading my Bible.

  10. There are a lot of 'might haves and could haves' and I can't comment on what might have been as it applies to the exodus. Jericho wasn't ever destroyed unless God miraculously rebuilt the walls so that no indication of the destruction remained. But the Bible is silent on that. We are also left with the disturbing archeology that Israelites lived in Caanan continuously during that period, unless somebody is faking it (a conspiracy).

    In the book, Friedman defends his position and the reader is free to take issue with it. He doesn't say that Moses didn't exist or that there wasn't an exodus. He simply suggests that the exodus was by the Tribe of Levi (priestly tribe that held no land) and when they arrived in Caanan, they integrated into existing territory. Therefore, smaller numbers, and smaller scope.

  11. Ginger ale over ice with the bubbles stirred out is good for queasy stomachs as well. It helps calm down the stomach, plus gives you the glucose your body is looking for.
    Feel better!! I hate the flu, last had it 9 years ago, was sick as a dog for a week. My hair hurt the body aches were so bad.

  12. That is one of my default cures…but I do like the bubbles. Getting older means that it hurts more for some unfair reason.

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