Biblical Archaeology Review 26:4, July/August 2000

How Reliable Is Exodus?

By Alan R. Millard

Recent attacks on the historicity of the Exodus raise the question of whether or not a text prepared long after the event is likely to be historically accurate. For it is undoubtedly true that the text of Exodus was prepared centuries after the events it describes. The Exodus would have occurred, in archaeological terms, in the Late Bronze Age (13th century B.C.). According to the Biblical chronology, the Exodus occurred before the establishment of the Israelite monarchy in about 1000 B.C. The existing Exodus text, however, was hardly prepared before that time.

In considering the accuracy of the Biblical account, we must treat the story in its context, as a product of the ancient Near East. The preservation of records over many generations is a standard feature of those societies. There are many examples of texts that claim to relate to times long past. Here I will explore only one such case.

In 1875 George Smith, the pioneer in the retrieval of Babylonian literature, published a story from two cuneiform tablets in the British Museum that had been found in the library of the Assyrian king Ashurbanipal at Nineveh.1

Ashurbanipal was the last great king of Assyria. He ruled from 668 to 627 B.C.

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