9.14.2014

Egypt and The Exodus: The Other Side's Story

Yes it sounds like a story from The Onion - WATCH: Egyptian academic demands Jews give back gold stolen during the Exodus Jerusalem Post - and obviously the claim is as ridiculous as if the Jews made one for building the pyramids as slaves, or for the 'return' of the Colosseum since it was funded by the Temple Treasure, but ...


I had planned to blog about this around Passover, but since I seem to blog about crucifixion not at Easter, here goes ...

The Passover Letter from Elephantine tells us of a decree from Darius that allowed the Jews to celebrate Passover at the Temple at Elephantine in Egypt without being disturbed by the local Egyptians. The Egyptians had in the destroyed the Temple there in anti-Passover riots.

Was it anti-Semitism? No.

Whilst in Judaism and the Biblical tradition the Jews were slaves in Egypt, and Moses led then to freedom and eventual settlement in the Promised Land ... in Egyptian tradition the Jews were foreign rulers who had invaded, mistreated the local population - and the ancient Egyptians had had to rise up against them and free themselves from the Jews, whom they expelled.

This tradition is preserved in the early Hellenistic work of Hecataeus of Abdera, preserved only in quoted fragments, and that of Manetho.

For those interested in this and other versions of history we tend to forget, I highly recommend Anti-Judaism by David Nirenberg. Parts of it were infuriating (his stated methodology and decision to ignore evidence he could not read in the original language), but it was one of the most fascinating books I've read this year.

Available at libraries, Amazon UK, Amazon US and all the usual place.

(With thanks to Bruce Bartlett for sending me the original story ... although I bet he's surprised there is some logic to it!)

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