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Biblical Archaeology Review 3:2, June 1977

What We Don't Know About Moses and the Exodus

By Siegfried H. Horn

Three recent books deal with the life of Moses and that epoch-making journey we call the Exodus. Although each is different from the other two, a reading of all three impresses one with how little, not how much, we really know.

Two of these books are popular treatments of the subject; the third is more scholarly, but intended for the student rather than the specialist.

Moshe Pearlmana, a one-time aide to Ben-Gurion, who has written widely for the layman on Israel’s history, presents the life story of Moses more or less as the Bible provides it: he retells the story without giving much attention to the results of Biblical criticism. Nor does he seriously deal with such problems as the route of the Exodus, the location of Mt. Sinai, the number of Israelites who made the trip, or the nature and sources of the various laws that the Bible attributes to the period of Israel’s desert wanderings. However, the story is dramatically and insightfully told, and easily carries the reader along.

Clearly the most outstanding feature of Pearlman’s book is the superb illustrations, most of them taken by Israeli photographer David Harris. These include not only 40 pictures of various scenes, but an additional 35 pictures of archaeological sites and objects. Pictures of plants and animals, of people at work and at worship, and of famous paintings and sculptures depicting Moses and his life complete this effective effort to illustrate visually the Exodus experience.

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