According to Exodus the Egyptian pharaoh decided that all the newborn Hebrew sons should be tossed in the Nile. When Moses was born his mother beat pharaoh to it and placed the toddler in a basket of papyrus made tight with dirt and pitch and tossed the basket in the Nile herself. He was then found and adopted by the pharaoh’s daughter (Ex 1-10).
An identical story
On a clay tablet a thousand years older, dated ca 2300 BC, there is an identical story telling how the high priestess in the city of Azupia by the Euphrates gave birth to a son in secret since she as high priestess was supposed to live in chastity. She put her newborn son in a basket made tight with dirt and pitch, and placed it into the river (Euphrates). The child was found by Aqqi, the water bearer, and grew up to be a great king. The name of this child was Sargon (the true king) and he was one of the most important and influential Sumerian rulers and conquerors. His reign lasted for 56 years (2382-2327 BC) and the myth of his birth and childhood was read in the schools of Mesopotamia and was widely known, - obviously also for the authors of the Bible.
Such origin myths were central to ensure the position and legitimacy of important persons, both real and fictional. The legend of the founders of Rome, the twins Romulus and Remus, has a similar theme. The twins were born in secrecy by a fallen princess, put in a wicker basket and send bobbing down the river Tiber. They were found and raised by a wolf and finally found by a shepherd (Faustulus). The Egyptian god Osiris was also send floating down the river Nile in a basket as a child. This kind of mythical origin is a central factor which indicate that here we have a hero or possibly a godly person. Sargon was a real king, and we have historical evidence for this. If there once was a real person behind the many myths of Moses, there is not a shred of real evidence to support this. Anyway, the myth of his origin the Hebrews borrowed from the Sumerians.
There are no other written sources or existing evidence than the Bible to support a historic Moses, and we know the Moses stories in the Bible were first written in the last centuries BC. Moses is a formidable figure in the Bible, he is the leader of the Hebrews and led his people out of Egypt against the will of the mighty Pharaoh. He is a man of quite some authority, an authority he strangely enough still possessed after have been dragging the entire Jewish people around in the frigging desert for 40! years (Ex 16,35), until he finally entered the Promised Land. The distance from Egypt through the Sinai desert is approximately 400 km, and shouldn’t be more than a twelve to fifteen weeks on foot if we suppose an average distance of a modest 5 km pr day.
And another curious thing: Moses personally received the 10 commandments on Mount Sinai by the Lord Almighty himself. This was stone tablets with Gods own handiwork, where God himself had chiselled away with his divine sausage fingers the Ten Commandments. It is very surprising that Moses then, in a sudden fit of fury over the people’s dancing around the golden calf, actually could smash these unique stone tablets! Moses had obviously not much respect for Gods handiwork.
There is absolutely no historical evidence for this greatest Jewish leader of all times. No inscriptions on whether stone, bone, bronze, clay tablets, papyri or any mentions in place names or in traditional legends in the area, other than in the Bible. Even though Moses is far younger than well documented Egyptian, Assyrian and Sumerian rulers who have left us monuments, statues, pictures/hieroglyphs and an abundance of inscriptions.
Most real scientists
agree that the exodus, the plagues of Egypt and the Moses stories are all
mythical. There is simply not any shred of evidence that this ever
happened. One should think that plagues like the ones the Bible describes
happened, that this would at least be mentioned in the rich and advanced literate
Egyptian culture, at least if huge part of pharaoh’s army drowned too.
The Egyptians otherwise had a habit of recording almost everything of political,
economical, military or religious nature.
The terrible plagues the Jewish God send over the Egyptians and the Pharaoh, should not be blamed solely on Pharaoh unwillingness to let the Hebrews go. According to the Bible it was the Lord who hardened the Pharaoh’s will, and thus got him to deny the Jews to leave, against his will. This way the Lord could unleash even more plagues on the Egyptians (Ex 4,21; 7,3-4; 9,12; 10,1. 20. 27; 11, 9-10). I suppose God wanted to show his whole repertoire of dirty tricks when it was clear that the Pharaoh’s wizards knew some nifty tricks too (Ex 7, 11. 22; 8, 7).
The Exodus happened between
1491 and 1451 BC according to biblical chronology. Today we know that this
exodus never actually happened, it’s a myth. There is however evidence
of Semitic influence in the Nile delta from the fourth millennium BC, but
according to the Bible this is approximately 2500 years earlier than the Hebrews
came to Egypt. It is also evidence of Semitic presence in Egypt long after
the Biblical exodus.
Furthermore, there is no evidence of any new Semitic immigration to the Holy Land around 1400 BC. And there are finally no written sources or archaeological evidence that a total population of 600.000 (according to the Bible) Hebrews were held as slaves in Egypt.
There is also no linguistic evidence for the presence of the Jews as slaves in Egypt. Words and phrases are quickly assimilated between cultures, when races live and work together for even a short length of time. If the Jews had been in Egypt for more than a few weeks, there would definitely be Egyptian words in the Hebrew language, and Hebrew words in the Egyptian language. As it happens, there is not one common word between those two languages!
Also, despite considerable efforts (mainly by Christian archaeologists!) there has been not one scrap of evidence found anywhere in the desert for the presence of the Hebrew race, as they supposedly meandered around for 40 years.
(C) R.L. Børsheim 2005
Thanks to Geoff Mather for the last two paragraphs.
Sources: Karlheinz Deschner, Israel Finkelstein, Der Spiegel, Cappelen World history a.o.