In Exodus 6:5–6, God said to Moses:
I have heard the groaning of the Israelites whom the Egyptians are holding as slaves, and I have remembered my covenant. Say therefore to the Israelites, “I am the Lord, and I will free you from the burdens of the Egyptians and deliver you from slavery to them. I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment.”
Ten plagues later, the ancient Israelites were on their way from slavery in Egypt to freedom as a self-governing nation.
Israel in Egypt, by Edward Poynter, 1867
The exodus from Egypt is a seminal story in the formation of the Jewish religion and nation. It is the basis of Passover, one of the most important religious festivals in Judaism.
Yet there is little or no archeological or documentary evidence (outside of the Bible itself) that such mass migration of two or three million people from Egypt to Palestine ever took place. Current scholarship suggests that the Israelites most likely had continuously inhabited the land of Palestine. If there is any grain of historical truth to the story, it appears that it must have been a much smaller and less spectacular event, perhaps involving a few hundred people instead of a few million.
Does this mean we must throw the story of the Exodus out the window as a myth and a fallacy?
Not at all.
The truth of the Bible, and of divine revelation in general, does not depend upon its historical or scientific accuracy. The Bible, as the Word of God, is concerned not with material-world truth, but with spiritual truth.
The Exodus story has become a powerful metaphor for Jews and Christians alike. It tells a deeper story of the human longing for freedom from bondage of all kinds: political, social, financial, emotional, intellectual, and especially spiritual bondage.
In this post, we’ll apply the story to a specific issue: freeing our minds from the oppressive bondage of literalism in our reading of Scripture.
Yes, I am suggesting that reading Scripture in a doggedly literal way is a form of slavery from which we must be freed if we are to fully inherit the spiritual kingdom of God.
For more on freedom from bondage to literalism, please click here to read on.