What was The Exodus from Egypt?
The Exodus is the story of how the Israelites escaped from bondage under Egyptian rule, which fulfilled Israel's covenant with God. Following the death of Joseph, the Israelite population living in Egypt multiplied greatly, and a new pharaoh came to power. The new pharaoh enslaved the Israelites and forced them to carry out hard labor. During this time, Moses was born and fled to Midian after killing an Egyptian slave driver. In Midian, God spoke to Moses and told Moses that he would return to Egypt to bring the Israelites out of captivity. Moses obeyed God's instructions and returned to Egypt to ask the pharaoh to free his people. After the pharaoh refused to free the Israelites for the first time, Moses and Aaron turned the streams and rivers in Egypt into blood. However, the pharaoh refused to free the Israelites, and God sent nine more plagues throughout the country. The last plague killed the pharaoh's firstborn son, and he allowed the Israelites to leave the land. An angel then led the Israelites through the desert as the Egyptians began pursuing them. When the Israelites reached the Red Sea, Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the waters divided. The Israelites then walked across the Red Sea on dry land to the other side before God let the waters crash down on the pursuing Egyptians. Following their successful departure from Egypt, the Israelites wandered aimlessly in the desert for forty years because God would not allow them to reach the Promised Land.
The Israelites became enslaved in Egypt and were led away by Moses. This event is called the Exodus. Jewish and Christian traditions share the telling of these events in the books of the Law. The books of Genesis and Exodus, located in the Torah and the Christian Bible, contain information about the Exodus.
According to the Biblical telling, Israelites who had settled in Egypt became enslaved. A man named Moses, who had been raised with the Pharaoh's family, led them out of Egypt. This only occurred after Moses asked the Pharaoh to let the enslaved Israelites go. When the Pharaoh refused, God sent a series of plagues. The Egyptians suffered from the plagues, which ranged from an infestation of frogs to the death of all the firstborn children. The Pharaoh eventually allowed the Israelite slaves to leave, though he sent soldiers to follow them. The Israelites managed to escape from the soldiers when God parted the waters of the Red Sea so that they could cross.
Modern scholars of history generally believe that there is evidence for some sort of Exodus, though most do not believe in the literal telling from the Bible. For example, many scholars believe that the "Red Sea" was really the Sea of Reeds, which were shallow lakes in the region.
The Exodus from Egypt was the escape by the Israelites (Jews) from slavery in Egypt. This event was recorded in the Hebrew Bible (the Old Testament of the Christian Bible) and has been corroborated by historical evidence. Jewish scriptures known as the Law, or Torah, recount this story, as do Genesis and Exodus, books (parts) of the Christian Bible. Ancestors of the Israelites settled in the Nile delta of Egypt around 1600 B.C., but when Egyptian rulers changed, the Israelites became the focus of hostility and were enslaved. According to the Bible, a Jewish prophet named Moses (Moshe) was told by God to lead the Israelites from Egypt to the Promised Land (present-day Palestine; also called the Holy Land). When the pharaoh (king) Ramses refused to allow the Israelites to leave Egypt, a series of divine signs, including ten plagues (widespread punishments from God), struck the Egyptians. As a result of the plagues, Ramses eventually allowed the Israelites to leave Egypt. Every year Jews commemorate the Exodus by celebrating Passover.
Further Information: "The Bible." Catholic Encyclopedia. [Online] Available http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/02543a.htm, October 20, 2000; Goldman, Elizabeth. Believers: Spiritual Leaders of the World. New York: Oxford University Press, 1995; Van Biema, David. "In Search of Moses." Time. December 14, 1998, p. 80.