Living Christianity Blog

Did the Biblical Exodus From Egypt Really Happen?

Written by Tim Groves

Many historians and scholars debate whether the events of Israel’s departure from Egypt really happened. Yet one credible piece of evidence cannot be dismissed.

The incredible story of Israel’s Exodus from Egypt is well-known by many. Many know about it by watching Cecil B. DeMille’s Ten Commandments movie or being taught about it in church or by Bible storybooks. 

But is the 3,500-year-old story of that Exodus real? Did it really happen? 

It seems more and more historians believe that the Exodus never happened, that it is merely a made-up story with a “feel good” ending.

Many dismiss the reality of the Exodus on the grounds of no actual proof. But one must ask, What is considered proof?

Many people consider physical evidence or a written account from a reputable source to be the only acceptable proof. Many reject the biblical narrative and doubt nonreligious materials that refer to the Exodus. 

And so the debate continues.

Yet an indisputable piece of evidence points to Israel’s Exodus from Egypt being real.

That is the Passover.

The birth of the nation of Israel

But before we look at the Passover as proof, it’s essential to first understand the history of the nation of Israel in light of this Exodus story.

About 4,000 years ago, God made a promise to Abram, whose name was later changed to Abraham. God foretold that his descendants would become a great nation. But before that, they would be strangers in a foreign land and eventually enslaved. It would be 430 years after this promise that Abram’s descendants would leave that slavery in Egypt.

Abraham told his son Isaac about that promise. Isaac, in turn, told his son Jacob, and Jacob told his sons.

According to the Bible record, Jacob’s son Joseph was sold as a slave in Egypt and became a great leader in Egypt through a series of miraculous events. He made it possible for the descendants of Abraham to safely take refuge from famine in Egypt. While there, his descendants grew in numbers.

Then, sometime after Joseph’s death, a different group came to power in Egypt (a historical event historians still debate about). A new pharaoh without any memory of Joseph saw Abraham’s descendants as a threat.

So, just as God foretold, Abraham’s descendants became slaves in Egypt.

Decades passed before Moses was born. Most are aware of the story. After the 10 plagues, the descendants of Abraham departed Egypt with their freedom.

From about 70 people, they multiplied into 2 million to 4 million people! As God foretold, upon their leaving Egypt, Abraham’s descendants became the nation of Israel.

The children of Israel

The descendants of Jacob’s 12 sons became the 12 tribes of Israel. One of the sons who played a crucial role in Bible history was Judah.

Many historians agree with the Bible record that after the death of King Solomon, the 12 tribes split, with 10 of those tribes keeping the name kingdom of Israel, while the other two tribes became known as the kingdom of Judah.

The kingdom of Israel was conquered by the Assyrians and seemingly became lost in history. The Babylonians later conquered the kingdom of Judah, who later returned to their homeland and maintained their identity. The nation in the Middle East called Israel today consists primarily of the descendants of Judah. 

However, it is essential to know that even though Judah is known as Israel today, it is only one of the tribes of ancient Israel. To learn more about the identity of the other tribes, read our booklet The United States, Britain and the Commonwealth in Prophecy

The Passover and the Exodus

Passover is critical to the Jews because it commemorates their ancestors’ delivery from Egypt. The Passover and the story of the Exodus are inseparable because Passover was instituted just before Abraham’s descendants left Egypt!

According to the biblical account, God brought nine plagues on Egypt, yet Pharaoh refused to free the Israelites. God had one more plague. So He told Moses to tell the Israelites to carry out a significant ceremony on the evening before.

At sunset, each household was to kill a lamb, take some of the blood and put it on the doorposts and lintels of their dwellings, and then roast the lamb and eat it that night. They were to stay indoors and not go outside (Exodus 12:1-8).

This was to be “the LORD’s Passover” (verse 11). God commanded that the Passover ceremony serve as a memorial throughout Israel’s generations as an “everlasting ordinance” (verse 14).

As students of the Bible know, these symbols pointed to the sacrifice of Jesus Christ as the Lamb of God.

Beginning at midnight, the firstborn of all those who did not have the lamb’s blood on their doorposts died.  

The Passover ceremony was vital to the freedom of the Israelites. Without Passover, there would be no Exodus!

Connecting the dots as proof of the Exodus

Passover is important to the Jews because it commemorates the Exodus event. The question must be asked: If the Jewish people have remembered Passover for some 3,500 years, doesn’t that lend proof that the Exodus did occur? Why would they continue to commemorate an event if it never happened?

Consider this: What proof do we have that the United States gained its freedom from Great Britain nearly 250 years ago? None of us were there. Yet we believe that because we have the written record, right?

Not exactly.

We also have the oral history of that event. Some people today know beyond a doubt that this nation came from Britain because some of their ancestors were a part of that formation. They were told by their parents, who were told by their parents, who were told . . . you get the point. Some even have some artifacts from that time.

So to the descendants of those involved in forming the United States, some oral history still exists.

But there would be no oral history after 3,500 years, would there? And wouldn’t any written record become questionable to those alive thousands of years later? Even artifacts would likely disappear over that time, similar to how artifacts from the Exodus are long gone now.

Why would the Jews still hold the Passover in such high esteem if it were not first handed down through oral history? God told those who experienced the Exodus to tell it to their descendants so they would not forget what God did for them (Deuteronomy 29:2-3; 4:9).

But over the course of hundreds of years, even the descendants of those directly involved in the Exodus could not have any personal connection to the events because they were so far removed. On top of that, whatever physical evidence was preserved would have long decayed and disappeared into the sands of time. 

Yet, despite that, the importance of the Passover ceremony was not lost to the Jewish people. If the Exodus and first Passover ceremony never really happened, why would the story continue to be handed down hundreds of generations later?

The burden of proof lies in disproving the exodus!

Modern historians demand a written record from a reliable source to prove an event. And that written record exists, but many refuse to accept its credibility. 

Moses not only wrote an eyewitness account of the event but also played a vital role in that event. We call that eyewitness account the book of Exodus. 

For centuries, no one doubted that record. But as humanity has strayed further from God, many want us to question the validity and credibility of that written record.

For those who believe the Bible is the inspired Word of God and that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, this should be the ultimate proof of the Exodus. Jesus Christ said everything in the Bible is the truth (John 10:35; 17:17). So, we can confidently believe the Exodus account is accurate.

Learning from the Exodus

Not only did the Exodus account happen, but there is also much symbolism that God wants you and me to learn from it. 

Egypt was symbolic of sin. Just as the Israelites were in bondage in Egypt and needed God’s deliverance, humankind is in bondage to sin and needs God to be delivered from it. Just as Israel’s firstborn were saved through the blood of a lamb, we are saved by the shed blood of the Lamb.  

Believe and learn from the Exodus!