The Book of Exodus describes a movement of the Hebrews from Egypt, through the desert, and into the Palestine/Israel region.

It also describes a number miracles, such as the ten plagues and the parting of the Red Sea, but they are not the subject of this question.

There is a lot of debate as to whether the mass migration happened.

Was there ever a migration of people from Egypt that settled around Palestine and became what would become the kingdom of Israel?

  • 1
    possible duplicate of Did Moses live?
    – ChrisW
    Commented Jan 19, 2015 at 22:21
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    The answers to 'Did Moses live?' focus on there being no evidence for Exodus. See also Archeological proof of Exodus?
    – ChrisW
    Commented Jan 19, 2015 at 22:24
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    I think you need to clarify your question. Do you mean Exodus more-or-less as described in the Bible, or just folks who happened to wander out of Egypt?
    – jamesqf
    Commented Jan 19, 2015 at 22:24
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    history.stackexchange.com/questions/19012/… has 3-4 sources that claim that the exodus did in fact happen.
    – Himarm
    Commented Jan 19, 2015 at 22:25
  • 5
    @Himarm I think you should replicate the sources (and perhaps quote from them) in your question, as it would make your question easier to read and answer.
    – March Ho
    Commented Jan 19, 2015 at 23:05

3 Answers 3


In his essay, Was There an Exodus?, Joshua Berman states that the book of Exodus was written by someone intimately familiar with the structure of early Egyptian dynastic life; and that the Biblical account is supported by recent archaeological discoveries that could not have been known at the time when the Old Testament was compiled:

  • There is rich evidence that West-Semitic populations lived in the eastern Nile delta—what the Bible calls Goshen—for most of the second millennium. Some were slaves, some were raised in Pharaoh’s court, and some, like Moses, bore Egyptian names.
  • We know today that the great pharaoh Ramesses II, who reigned from 1279 to 1213 BCE, built a huge administrative center out of mudbrick in an area where large Semitic populations had lived for centuries. It was called Pi-Ramesses. Exodus (1:11) specifies that the Hebrew slaves built the cities of Pithom and Ramesses, a possible reference to Pi-Ramesses. The site was abandoned by the pharaohs two centuries later.
  • In the exodus account, pharaohs are simply called “Pharaoh,” whereas in later biblical passages, Egyptian monarchs are referred to by their proper name, as in “Pharaoh Necho” (2 Kings 23:29). This, too, echoes usage in Egypt itself, where, from the middle of the second millennium until the tenth century BCE, the title “Pharaoh” was used alone.
  • The names of various national entities mentioned in the Song at the Sea (Exodus 15:1-18)—Philistines, Moabites, Edomites, et al.—are all found in Egyptian sources shortly before 1200 BCE; about this, the book of Exodus is again correct for the period.
  • The stories of the exodus and the Israelites’ subsequent wanderings in the wilderness reflect sound acquaintance with the geography and natural conditions of the eastern Nile delta, the Sinai peninsula, the Negev, and Transjordan.
  • The book of Exodus (13:17) notes that the Israelites chose not to traverse the Sinai peninsula along the northern, coastal route toward modern-day Gaza because that would have entailed military engagement. The discovery of extensive Egyptian fortifications all along that route from the period in question confirms the accuracy of this observation.

For the relevant sources and a much more in-depth look at the specific issue of a possible Egyptian origin for elements of the Exodus story, see the linked article.

Obviously, this evidence is not meant to support any kind of supernatural occurrence, nor the exodus of 2 million which is hard to imagine under any non-supernatural circumstances. But the idea that a group of people left Egypt and settled in Israel around 1200 BCE is a reasonable one and the Bible shows evidence of conveying an oral account of a real occurrence.

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    I don't think you can just take it for granted that a large number of slaves were suddenly freed. Seems to me that would require a great deal of societal upheaval. As far as I know, there is no Egyptian record mentioning such a thing. Of course this is to say that the idea the Hebrews migrated from Egypt does not necessitate that they were freed/escaped slaves.
    – user11643
    Commented Mar 1, 2021 at 1:05
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    @fredsbend for this answer it might be easiest to replaces "slaves could..." with "a group could have left Egypt and settled..." - this would sidestep that issue entirely.
    – Rob Watts
    Commented Mar 1, 2021 at 20:59
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    Has this been published in the peer reviewed history literature? Berman is a rabbi and Bible (believing) scholar. Commented Mar 2, 2021 at 0:51
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    What are "semitic populations"? Also, in my experience as an Israel, there is quite a lot of effort to try to put round pegs in square historical holes so as to support various aspects of Jewish-Israeli political claims and to attract secular Israelis to religious Judaism. So, color me skeptical. Also, most of the points cited in this answer are either questionable or trivial. For example: Egyptian military fortifications causes tens or hundreds of thousands of people to run into the desert, hundreds of Km south of said fortifications.
    – einpoklum
    Commented Mar 2, 2021 at 22:48
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    Another example: The stories of the wandering in the wilderness absolutely do not reflect "sound acquaintance" with the geography and natural condition - years of travel in circles in the desert to get to the wrong side of the country? Yeah, sure... And it's trivial in the sense that if you lived in that country and traveled some, or talked to travelers, even centuries later, you would have just about all the information you need to write the story of the exodus.
    – einpoklum
    Commented Mar 2, 2021 at 22:56

The overwhelming consensus of scholars, based on sound evidence, is that the Exodus from Egypt never happened as described in the Bible.

Wikipedia describes the Exodus as the founding myth of Israel, but says most histories of ancient Israel no longer consider information about it recoverable or even relevant to the story of Israel's emergence. A century of research by archaeologists and Egyptologists has found no evidence which can be directly related to the Exodus captivity and the escape and travels through the wilderness, and most archaeologists have abandoned the archaeological investigation of Moses and the Exodus as "a fruitless pursuit".

Rationalwiki says Exodus is now accepted by scholars as having been compiled in the eighth–seventh centuries BCE from stories dating possibly as far back as the thirteenth century BCE, with further polishing in the sixth to fifthth centuries BCE, as a theological and political manifesto to unite the Israelites in the then‐current battle for territory against Egypt. Archaeologists from the nineteenth century onwards were surprised not to find any evidence whatsoever for the events of Exodus, and by the 1970s, archaeologists had largely given up regarding the Bible as any use at all as a field guide. The archaeological evidence of local Canaanite, rather than Egyptian, origins of the kingdoms of Judah and Israel is "overwhelming," and leaves "no room for an Exodus from Egypt or a 40‐year pilgrimage through the Sinai wilderness.

Ariel Lewin says, in The Archaeology of Ancient Judea and Palestine, page 8, that researchers have concluded that there could not have been a mass exodus from Egypt followed by a dramatic conquest of Canaan in the fifteenth and fourteenth centuries BCE, the period the Bible attributes to the Exodus. Lester L. Grabbe says, in Ancient Israel, pages 86-88, a careful look at the text shows that it does not reflect the fifteenth or thirteenth centuries BCE but the seventh or eighth, and goes on to say that despite the efforts of some fundamentalist arguments, there is no way to salvage the biblical text as a description of a historical event. Carol A. Redmount says in 'Bitter lives', published in The Oxford History of the Biblical World, page 63, recent research indicates that even more of the extant Exodus account than previously thought comes from periods during or after the Israelite monarchy or even the Exile. She believes that the biblical Exodus account was never intended to function or to be understood as history in the present-day sense of the word.

There is simply no evidence for the biblical Exodus. Grabbe says (page 85) there is nothing in Egyptian texts that could be related to the story in the Book of Exodus. If the Exodus is historical, then the biblical conquest of Canaan must also be historical, and therefore there must be archaeological evidence of widespread destruction occurring within a short period of time. Lawrence E. Stager says in 'Forging an Identity: The Emergence of Ancient Israel', published in The Oxford History of the Biblical World, page 97, that of the thirty one cities said to be taken by Joshua and the Israelites, twenty have been plausibly identified with excavation sites. Of these, only Bethel and Hazor exhibit synchronous discontinuities such as destruction layers, and it is even debated whether the destruction of Hazor XIII was as late as that of Late Bronze Age Bethel. Instead, most historians now believe that the Israelite settlers were themselves Canaanites who, in the thirteenth century, settled in the hitherto sparsely populated hinterland.

The Merneptah Stele is the first Egyptian record of Israelites as a distinct people, and is dated to the reign of the Egyptian king Merneptah (1213 to 1203). The stele claims the Israelite settlements were wiped out ("Israel is laid waste and his seed is not"), but this crucial event gets no mention in the Bible. Perhaps by the time the story of the Exodus was being written, this disaster had long been forgotten.

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    Rationlwiki has a very explicit anti-religion (all religion) viewpoint and has dedicated several different pages to mocking the bible and Christianity. As such I would not include them as a trustworthy source to cite in this answer. If anything their inclusion weakens the answer IMO. I believe most of the information you provided from the rationalwiki site likely is accurate, but try finding a less biased source to cite to back up those claims.
    – dsollen
    Commented Mar 2, 2021 at 18:35
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    @dsollen, did you consider the possibility they dismiss the Bible as evidence because there is no evidence to support the Biblical account? Commented Mar 3, 2021 at 21:46
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    @KeithMorrison Plenty of historians use the bible as historical evidence! Many don't necessarily believe the miracles and other more fantastical elements are accurate, but it has been believed that many sections of the bible are at least partially historically accurate. For instance many believe Jesus was a real person, though not nearly as many agree he is the son of man. More to the point one should never cite a source known to be biased against a concept as evidence when debunking it on principal. Only neutral sources should be trusted when attempting to determine what is fact.
    – dsollen
    Commented Mar 4, 2021 at 14:09
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    @KeithMorrison Put another way if someone asked a question about illegal immigrants and I cited breitbart to provide evidence against them you would likely question my claim, justifiably, because breitbart is known to have a strong bias against illegal immigrants, and frankly any non-whites. By the same token we should not trust a site like rationalwiki to be completely accurate when it makes claims about a topic it's biased against just because they happen to agree with your biases. I happen to think the facts in this case probably are accurate, but I won't trust rationalwiki to prove it.
    – dsollen
    Commented Mar 4, 2021 at 14:12

The Exodus

The Exodus is considered a myth by most non biblical historians.

Wikipedia defines the Exodus as:

The Exodus (Hebrew: יציאת מצרים, Yeẓi’at Miẓrayim: lit. 'Departure from Egypt') is the founding myth of the Israelites.

Some historical core

Some do take the middle ground and argue that there could be some historical core, which has became exaggerated and fictionalised over a period of time.

Origins and historicity

The majority position is that the biblical Exodus narrative has some historical core, although the details have been clouded and obscured over time, and there is little of historical worth in the current biblical narrative.


Despite the fact that the Exodus is considered myth, there have been claims of expulsions of peoples from Egypt. Such as the claim of the conquest of the Hyksos by Ahmose I.

Ahmose I, wikipedia

During his reign, Ahmose completed the conquest and expulsion of the Hyksos from the Nile Delta, restored Theban rule over the whole of Egypt and successfully reasserted Egyptian power in its formerly subject territories of Nubia and Canaan.

Wahkare Khety

It is also claimed by a William C. Hayes that during the reign of Wahkare Khety around 2150 BC, there was an expulsion of asiatics from Egypt, carried out by Wahkare Khety himself.

10th dynasty hypothesis

From the Instructions, it is known that Wahkare Khety, in alliance with the nomarchs of Lower Egypt, managed to repel the nomad "Asiatics" who for generations roamed in the Nile Delta. Those nomarchs, although recognizing Wahkare's authority, ruled de facto more or less independently. The expulsion of the "Asiatics" allowed the establishment of new settlements and defense structures on the northeastern borders, as well as the reprise of trades with the Levantine coast.

Did the Hebrew Exodus from Egypt ever happen? The claimed expulsions from Egypt completely lack the burning bushes and parting seas of the Exodus, and there is no proof that the claimed expulsions created such a large movement of people, thus the exodus has been categorised as mythology by most. And even in the event the expulsions were the core for the story, that can't ever be proven.

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    Welcome to Skeptics! Please stop rolling back improvements without a strong reason. Note that this relies heavily on Wikipedia to resolve the question in dispute which is generally frowned upon. Wikipedia is useful for giving context to the areas not in dispute, but it is a tertiary source. Try following up some of the links in the references and seeing how they are cited.
    – Oddthinking
    Commented Mar 2, 2021 at 16:03
  • Hello John. Though SE sites put your name on your contributions, the whole effort is close to a wiki project. All posts are encouraged to be improved by any user. This is especially useful in things like formatting and broken links, which were in some of your original post. All edits are also publicly reviewable, so wrongdoing is quickly found out, and edits that diverge from the author's intent are frowned upon. We have skeptics.meta.stackexchange.com Where we discuss site policies and you can ask specific questions about the site.
    – user11643
    Commented Mar 2, 2021 at 16:13
  • Hello again John. A few down votes is bound to happen. We all get them even on our best answers. The flagging mechanism is mostly meant for when there's broken rules. If you would like to discuss this answer or want help understanding the site first try the tour and the help center and then the meta site linked above. There's also a chatroom.
    – user11643
    Commented Mar 2, 2021 at 16:20
  • You can also just add a comment here :)
    – user11643
    Commented Mar 2, 2021 at 16:21
  • @Oddthinking For what reason has the photo of Ahmose I's mummy been removed? The mummy of Ahmose I makes him appear more historical. Without it, readers that know little about the subject may suspect that it is mythological Commented Mar 2, 2021 at 17:15

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