Ebal and The Exodus

The story of the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt where they were enslaved, to freedom in the Promised Land is probably the most well-known story in the Old Testament. The Exodus story has had a lasting effect on civilization as the inspiration for seekers of freedom throughout recorded history regardless of whether the episode happened as told – or at all.

The Ebal site belongs to the period considered the beginning of the Israelite Settlement Period, a few decades after the Exodus, according to the biblical narrative. Can evidence from Ebal shed some light on this episode? The first question is where did the Israelites in Ebal come from?

The evidence of Prof. Zertal’s survey indicates that they arrived from across the Jordan. In fact, various sites have been excavated along the Jordan Valley revealing pottery similar to Ebal’s and from the same time period. This is also in keeping with the biblical description of the path of the Israelites through Trans-Jordan.

And were the Israelites in Egypt before that? Before the excavation at Ebal, there was no extra-biblical evidence to confirm the Egypt episode in the Bible. A number of interesting ideas were put forth, but none has been substantial enough to gain traction as evidence of a connection between the Israelites and ancient Egypt.

At Ebal, a royal scarab was found that has been identified as a personal scarab of Ramses II, considered to be the most likely candidate for the Pharoah of the Exodus. It was deliberately buried there, in keeping with the common practice in the ancient Near East of burying gifts at a holy site. The Author has asked numerous Egyptologists if they can give an alternate explanation for the presence of this scarab at Ebal other than: someone who was actually in the court of the Pharoah in Egypt, took the scarab through the Sinai Desert, and eventually buried it at Mt. Ebal. No alternative explanations were forthcoming.

So, the scarab unearthed at Ebal may one day be recognized as the first extra-biblical evidence of the Exodus, an exciting prospect indeed.

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