Biblical Archaeology Review 25:1, January/February 1999

Pharaoh’s Workers: How the Israelites Lived in Egypt

By Leonard LeskoBarbara Lesko

Whatever doubts scholars may entertain about the historicity of the Exodus, memories of an Israelite sojourn in Egypt seem too sharply etched to dismiss out of hand. The Biblical account simply contains too many accurate details and bears too many correspondences with Egyptian records to ignore. And although in our current state of knowledge we cannot say whether or how ancient Israelites labored for the pharaohs, we do know the conditions under which Egypt’s own laborers worked. Indeed, archaeologists at Deir el-Medina, Egypt, have uncovered the well-preserved village—including the homes, tombs, statuary, personal letters and legal documents—of the Egyptian craftsmen who built the royal tombs in the Valley of the Kings. Readers can decide for themselves whether the Israelites worked in similar circumstances before the onset of a great oppression.

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