The exodus of Israel from Egypt is described in detail in the Book of Exodus. The exodus event became the foundation of the faith of the people known as Israel. What the Lord had done in Egypt was the central theme in the worship of Israel and the focus of the traditions that gave birth to the Old Testament writings.
Over the years, many people have tried to understand what happened in Egypt at the time Israel was liberated from the house of bondage. Many books have been written and many movies produced in order to explain the events associated with the exodus from Egypt.
The most recent attempt at explaining the events that happened in Egypt at the time of Moses has been made by the Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Simcha Jacobovici. He attempts to answer some of the mysteries associated with the exodus in The Exodus Decoded, a documentary which premieres on Sunday, August 20, 8-9:30 p.m. EST on the History Channel.
David DiCerto, in an article written for Catholic News Service, reviewed Jacobovici’s documentary. He wrote:
Did Moses really part the Red Sea like it says in the Old Testament? What about the Nile turning blood red or the plagues that finally compelled Pharaoh to free the Israelites from slavery? Did those things actually happen? These are among the questions Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Simcha Jacobovici attempts to answer in "The Exodus Decoded" which premieres Sunday, Aug. 20, 8-9:30 p.m. EST on cable's History Channel.
Challenging opinions that dismiss those events as myth, the thought-provoking documentary uses investigative journalism aided by modern science to examine archaeological and geological evidence in separating historical fact from fiction.
Jacobovici believes that archaeology does support the Bible, though his arguments are based on a rethinking of the events and some chronological tinkering.
First, he sets the Exodus some 300 years earlier than the traditional timeline – to around 1500 B.C. – and identifies the ancient Israelites with the Hyksos, a Semitic people living in Egypt at that time who, according to the program, suddenly fled the country en masse.
The earlier date of the Exodus proves key to Jacobovici's thesis, as it places it at the time of the cataclysmic eruption of the volcano on the Greek island of Santorini, the linchpin to many of the theories proposed. Citing documented modern parallels such as the 1986 Lake Nyos disaster in Cameroon, he believes that much of what the Book of Exodus describes can be explained by a chain reaction of natural phenomena, triggered by the Santorini eruption and a related earthquake.
He even has a ready answer for the slaughter of the firstborn by the angel of death: It was a lethal cloud of poisonous carbon monoxide gas released by the geological upheaval.
The problem with Jacobovici’s theory is that the massive eruption of the volcano of Santorini, a the Greek volcanic island in the Mediterranean, occurred more than 100 years before the traditional date for the exodus in 1446 B.C.
The view that the eruption at Santorini caused the massive tidal wave or tsunami that triggered the ten plagues and caused the parting of the Red Sea (or Reed Sea) is pure speculation. To accept Jacobovici’s theory as the reason behind the events of the exodus, one would have to abandon a 13th century date for the exodus, a date that fits with the reign of Rameses II. In addition, one would have even to abandon the traditional date in the 15th century in favor of a date in the 16th century B.C.
Jacobovici‘s view about the Pharaoh of the exodus is interesting. He said:
Could it be that Ahmose's father remembered the Israelite prince with whom he grew up, and when giving his son the Egyptian name, “Ahmose,” “the moon is born,” chose the name because of a play on words? In Hebrew, “Ahmose” means the brother of Moses.
This information would be very relevant if the name Ahmose was a play on the Hebrew name, which it is not. To play with the significance of the Egyptian name using a Hebrew meaning does not prove who the Pharaoh of the exodus was.
In his documentary, Jacobovici also speculates on the parting of the Red Sea, the location of Mt. Sinai, and the location of the Ark of the Covenant. I am planning to view the documentary to see how Jacobovici comes to his conclusions. However, I can say that, based on DiCerto’s review of the documentary, I doubt that Jacobovici will change the minds of the majority of viewers, if any. Only the convinced will be convinced.
DiCerto concludes his review by saying:
In trying to find a "plausible scientific explanation" for Biblical events, the film misses a very important point: The Bible is a testament of faith, not a history or science book, written by authors who, inspired by the Holy Spirit, were trying to discern and understand God's hand in the drama of salvation.
You can read DiCerto’s article in its entirety by clicking here.
The History Channel used the following blurb to promote the documentary:
The story of the Exodus invokes an epic tale--Pharaohs and Israelites, plagues and miracles, splitting of the sea and drowning of an army, and Moses. It's at the heart of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. After much research--working with archaeologists, Egyptologists, geologists, and theologians--filmmaker Simcha Jacobovici concluded that the Exodus took place hundreds of years earlier than thought. With a new timetable, Jacobovici reexamined artifacts and discovered that the traditional consensus on the date was reached without reference to Judaic texts that record the oral traditions. When Jacobovici consulted these texts, they revealed names of people and places unknown to researchers until recently when extensive excavations in the Nile Delta took place. Teaming up with special effects designers, he created a unique digital experience of the Exodus. Blending archaeological findings with eye-catching effects, Jacobovici creates a virtual museum to showcase his discoveries.
You can also visit The Exodus Decoded web page and explore the mystery of the biblical Exodus through the virtual museum. You can also take a guided tour in which the museum presents the evidence used to produce The Exodus Decoded. To enter the web page and visit the museum, click here.
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary
Tags: Archaeology, Exodus, Santorini, Jacobovici