As Passover draws near, there’s a dramatic scholarly breakthrough linking archeology to the Biblical Exodus.
There’s now a new translation of an ancient Egyptian monument known as a “Stela” that has just been published in the Journal of Near Eastern Studies by Professors Robert Ritner and Nadine Moeller, of the Oriental Institue of the University of Chicago. The translation basically links Pharaoh Ahmose (18th Dynasty/New Kingdom) with the eruption of the Thera/Santorini volcano. In the past, scholars argued that Ahmose and Thera were divided by more than a century. The new translation proves that they were contemporaneous i.e., Ahmose witnessed the effects of one of the deadliest volcanic eruptions in human history. This goes a long way towards linking Thera, Ahmose and the Biblical Exodus.
In my 2006 feature documentary, “The Exodus Decoded”, I argued that the key to finding archeological evidence for the Biblical Exodus was the so-called “Tempest Stela” of Pharaoh Ahmose. The “Tempest Stela”, also known as the “Storm Stela”, was found in pieces between 1947 and 1951 at the 3rd pylon/tower at the temple of Karnak in ancient Thebes, Upper Egypt. It consists of a single text in horizontal lines, copied on both sides of a calcite block that is estimated to have stood 1.80 meters tall. When I last checked, the fragments of the Ahmose Stela were in a box lost in the bowels of the Cairo Museum. But the hieroglyphics have been available for a while, and they were just re-translated by Ritner and Moeller. What do they describe?
The text speaks of a tremendous storm that involved both upper and lower Egypt. It states that this storm displayed the “wrath” of a “great God”. Notice it speaks of “God” in the singular. It also states that this God was “greater” than the “gods” of Egypt. According to the Storm Stela, the tempest plunged Egypt into total “darkness” for a period of several days. The darkness was unusual because it made it impossible to even light torches: “no torch could be lit in the two lands.” The aftermath of the inundation was such that the temples of the gods were flooded, the roofs had “collapsed” and the holy places “had been made/rendered nonexistent”. The Nile was literally full of human bodies, “floating” like papyrus “skiffs” in the water. According to the Stela, “every house” was affected and the whole “wonder”-provoking event was accompanied by “voices” louder than anything that had been heard earlier in Egypt.
Compare all this to the description in the Biblical book of Exodus, of the plagues of hail and darkness that preceded Moses leading the Israelites out of slavery. According to the Bible, the 9th plague was “Darkness” (Exodus, 10:21). But this was no regular darkness. It lasted for 3 days and it was “palpable”. No torch could be lit. In fact, people sitting next to each other “could not see each other”. The Biblical text also states that the 7th plague of “hail” was accompanied by “voices” (Exodus 9:29) and that “terror gripped” the inhabitants of the Aegean (Exodus 15:14) i.e., the area of Thera/Santorini. Basically, the Ahmose Storm Stela and the Torah/Bible are describing the same event.
Until now, scholars tried to minimize the importance of the Storm Stela, comparing it to regular flooding of the Nile or minimizing the momentous events described on it as “metaphors”. But the new study by Ritner and Moeller puts all that to rest. The authors are unequivocal that the Stela describes a real experience and that it is “a contemporary record of the cataclysmic Thera event”.
What they leave out is that Pharaoh Ahmose ruled Egypt at the time of the so-called “Hyksos” expulsion. This was a mass exodus of an “Asiatic” or “Semitic” people that the Egyptian historian, Manetho, who lived in the 3rd century BCE/BC, and the Jewish historian, Josephus, who lived in the 1st century CE/AD, identify with the Biblical Exodus. In other words, Ramses the 2nd (the favorite Pharaoh of scholars and Hollywood) was not the Pharaoh of the Exodus. Ahmose was. More than this, what historians call “the Hyksos expulsion”, volcanologists call “the eruption of Thera” and the Torah calls “the Exodus”, are one and the same event. Until now, naysayers argued that these events were not contemporaneous, but the latest studies show that science has been able to synchronize Ahmose and Thera to within 25 years.
It’s time to admit it: there’s a wealth of archeological evidence for the Biblical Exodus. You just have to know where to look.
For further reading, see this article by Phys.org.