The Exodus and Cultural Memory

Ronald S. Hendel

Ancient Israel’s Exodus from Egypt, rather than being a single, momentous event that can be confirmed through archaeology, should be viewed as a deep-seated cultural memory that allowed disparate groups of highland villagers and escaped Canaanite slaves to coalesce into a single people. How this story arose and why the early Israelites adopted this memory are key questions, which find coherent answers in the relationship between Canaan and the Egyptian empire of the Late Bronze Age. By fusing historical and fictional memories, the story created the necessary social context for the birth of Israel as a people.

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