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The Exodus

4.05  ·  Rating details ·  285 ratings  ·  57 reviews
The Exodus has become a core tradition of Western civilization. Millions read it, retell it, and celebrate it. But did it happen?

Biblical scholars, Egyptologists, archaeologists, historians, literary scholars, anthropologists, and filmmakers are drawn to it. Unable to find physical evidence until now, many archaeologists and scholars claim this mass migration is just a
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published September 12th 2017 by HarperOne (first published 2017)
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Clif Hostetler
Thirty years ago I read Who Wrote the Bible? by Richard Elliott Friedman in which he mentioned that the Exodus story may have originated from the experiences of a small group who later became the Levite Tribe. At that time he wrote that this idea was “in the realm of hypothesis, and we must be very cautious about it.”

I recall that it was mentioned in that book that the name Moses was of Egyptian origin as were many names within the Levite Tribe. I found that fact convincing, and during the
Jan Rice
The historical Moses

I read Richard Elliott Friedman's previous book, The Bible Now, eight or nine years ago and found it helpful but on the dry side. This book, in contrast, is written the way he speaks, funny and irreverent, matter-of-fact, or take-no-prisoners, as the case may be. It's not necessarily an easy read all the way through but it's a good read.

Richard Elliott Friedman (henceforth, REF) pierces the belief, common today, that the exodus can be proved never to have happened since
Mike Day
Sep 26, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Warning: spoilers!

This was really good. I struggled with his conclusion that Levi was pretty much the only tribe that came out of Egypt... I am totally fine with a limited number of Israelites, as 2 million is ridiculous, just based on the logic and the math. His point that it happened is correct. There is just too much evidence textually, the Egyptian names, the details of the story, etc. that there were Hebrews that left (maybe multiple leavings/exoduses?) Egypt during this time period.

I wish
Pedro Rosario-Barbosa
I read half of this book in an e-reader, and I heard the other half as an audiobook (narrated by Friedman himself). There is a lot to be said about it.

First, Richard Elliott Friedman is one of my all-time favorite scholars. Reading his work is much like opening the doors to a detective story. One of his earlier books, Who Wrote the Bible is a must read for anyone interested in how the Hebrew Bible was written. Although not strictly necessary, I highly recommend that you read that book before
Keith Parrish
Nov 22, 2017 rated it it was ok
Richard Elliott Friedman knows a whole lot about Old Testament history. He knows much, much more than I do. For that reason, my issues with this book probably lie far more with me than with him or this book. Friedman examines the events of the book of Exodus to discover whether we can determine if the exodus from Egypt actually occurred as it says it did in the Bible and what the implications are if it did or didn't. The problem comes in when Friedman starts discussing original intent of the ...more
Andy Oram
Mar 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: religion
Friedman, one of the leading authors in popular Bible commentary, takes on a very audacious thesis: that the Levites left Egypt for the land of Canaan more than three thousand years ago, ultimately created the Exodus myth and other fundamentals of monotheism. Of course, Friedman can't prove this thesis. One major challenge I have is to an assertion central to his book: that the Levites arrived as outsiders to the Israelites but were accepted by them as the priests and teachers. Why would an ...more
I appreciate when biblical scholars attempt to give academia a popular-level treatment. The scholar may recount basic arguments from the world of academia (which is refreshing to me), lengthy arguments are boiled down to their essential points, and the author lets his/her personality shine through. Therefore, I was delighted when I saw this book by Richard Elliott Friedman at Barnes & Noble. Since I am teaching a Sunday school class on Exodus, I decided to pick up a copy.

The book is entitled
I grokked this book at a library when it first came out. I soon enough saw enough of the thesis to know that I wasn't convinced. Still not convinced, not from the book, Friedman's blog or others.

First, the fact that Levites have Egyptian names means nothing. So did Moses, as Friedman claims, and Moses never existed. And, I think Friedman also rejects claims of Moses' historicity, based on rejecting a "traditional" Exodus claim. If he believes Moses is not historical, then why believe these
Bebe (Sarah) Brechner
Feb 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
Friedman has a breezy, almost irreverant style of writing that belies the seriousness of his scholarship and his suprising assertions. His main thesis is that only the Levites exited Egypt, not the entire nation of Israelites who were already established in Canaanite land. In their exodus, the Levites received the Law and moved into Canaan to meld the worship of Yahweh with El (the Canaanite god), thus establishing monotheism.
Other themes strongly supported by Friedman are those of justice to
Michael Norwitz
Jan 13, 2018 rated it liked it
Friedman's attempted historical argument and explanation for the story of the Jewish exodus from Egypt. His primary claim is that the actual participants of the exodus were the Levites, who united with their cousins in the existing area of Israel and became their priestly caste. Some intriguing ideas (I particularly the enjoyed the section on the origins of monotheism) although I found some of the arguments fuzzy and scantly supported.
Omri Flicker
This book is bible criticism lite, for educated laypersons and those familiar with the underlying texts. For the record, "bible criticism" shouldn't have a negative connotation. It means, critical analysis of aspects of the bible, including language, structure, literary themes, etc.

The main thesis of the book is that the biblical story of the Israelites' exodus from Egypt actually occurred, though in some limited and watered down form. Friedman proposes that a group of people called Levites were
May 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have read other Friedman books. I loved this one just like Who Wrote the Bible.

The premise of this scholarly book is that the Exodus story originated from the experiences of a small group who did leave Egypt and who later became the Levite Tribe. Friedman tells about the many advances in archaeological and biblical studies during the past thirty years. And, he explains that there is now very good (and a lot of it) evidence to explain the origins of monotheism and the Exodus story. Like
Israel Drazin
Sep 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Were the Israelites enslaved by the Egyptians for some four hundred years and was there an exodus from Egypt? Well, yes and no. According to Richard Elliott Friedman's easy to read account, it is not true that over 600,000 Israelite males, aged 20-60, left Egypt, totaling over two million when women, children, and the elderly are included in the count, but a much smaller number, and they were not Israelites at that time but Levites. They traveled to Israel and found two kingdoms there, Israel in ...more
Michael Johnston
Mar 10, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
First Name Name
May 29, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
The author contradicts himself throughout this book. I have two major (and many other) problems with this book. First, the author refers to an outdated JEPD documentary hypothesis for the authorship of the Torah. The author clearly states that there is no consensus among scholars regarding which passages of Scripture belong to J, E, P and D. This should be enough to reject this docuentary hypothesis. But the main problem with the JEPD documentary hypothesis is that it detracts from proper ...more
Aug 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
I received a free copy of "The Exodus" by Richard Elliott Friedman, through the "Good Reads First Reads Giveaway".

This is a convincing and well researched work for the open minded reader, with insights into the inner-workings of a Bible scholar. Richard Friedman's intent seems to convince the reader about the history of the Exodus and other details, and he is talented enough to be successful.

Not being a professional in this field, makes it difficult to judge the conclusions, but they do seem
Lev Rothenberg
Sep 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This a rather scholarly and very readable dive into what is, at least to me, a knew theory of the Exodus. Combining archeology and Bible scholarship, Friedman makes a compelling argument that

1. The Exodus from Egypt involved far fewer than the 2 million mentioned in the book of Exodus.
2. The Exodus from Egypt was made up of the Levites, who went on to merge their people and their God with the Israelite tribes living in Canaan.
3. The Levite contribution was absolutely essential to the development
Tim Soper
Mar 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Just finished listening to the unabridged version read by the author, and what a wonderful listen it was. I read and enjoyed Friedman’s “Who Wrote the Bible?” so I anticipated that I would find “The Exodus” to also be intellectually challenging yet easy to follow for the non-scholar. “The Exodus” proved to be both, and yet there was an added dimension of the author’s passion for his faith that strongly resonated in the Audible version. If you are interested in the historicity of the Exodus, the ...more
May 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Exodus: How it happened and why it matters by Richard Elliott Friedman gives the reader an in-depth exploration of the pivotal moment in creation history as told by the bible. Friedman locates this experience as the one that sets humanity on the course of loving the alien or the other. This unique moment in history now clamors for attention when all over the world the struggle to recognize the humanity of the “other” is in desperate straits. Never before has the human race faced this choice ...more
I have not in the past been convinced by modern biblical scholarship. But this book makes sense to me. I'm very familiar with the book of Exodus and this book literally rings true line by line. I wish it was not important to have a book on this topic (proving that the Exodus did happen). It's hard to not assume that people denying that the Exodus happened have an agenda sufficiently mean-spirited to cause universal concern. The book is cogent and smart. It's not a very interesting read.
Aari Ludvigsen
Apr 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A short, easy read with a convincingly argued hypothesis of the history underlying the Exodus in the Torah. At times this book felt like a page-turner as Friedman laid out his case illuminating familiar text with discoveries in ancient Hebrew & archeology. A few too many declarations of the idiocy of other historians, but this book is in part a rebuttal to recent articles about the lack of historical evidence of Jews in Egypt. I felt like a veil was lifted from the Torah.
Phenex Alarius
Jan 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
I found this book to be very knowledgeable and largely unbiased. this is a welcome change from previous bible-related books I've read recently. This contains a lot of information, in a very objective way, to help explain the Exodus to a modern, educated audience. I, myself, am not a believer of the Bible or religion in general, but this isn't just for the religious. Any student or fan of history should read this.
De Wet
Dec 19, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
In the end there is not much about the exodus itself in here (as in The Event), and Friedman places his basic theory on the table early in the book. After that he's more on about monotheism and what love thy neighbour really means and how all this ties in to the exodus. Some of it is interesting, but Friedman does ramble on a bit and I was hoping that the book was going to focus more broadly on the exodus itself.
Regina Tapoohi
Dec 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Very interesting book. Presents an interesting interpretation of whether or not the Exodus occurred. Believes it did. Traces the impact of the Exodus on the development of Exodus and the Golden Rule. To fully evaluate the strength you need a good background in the Bible and especially a strong acquaintanceship with theories of Bible authorship. Interesting to read his earlier books on this and also other Biblical scholars critiquing this book
Dec 07, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This book started out with an unpersuasive argument for its main point and then spiralled off into building increasingly elaborate castles in the air on top of this shaky foundation with unsound logic and without seriously addressing alternative explanations. This book is intended to give a false sense of certainty and understanding to the casual reader rather than to be intellectually honest about a thesis's merits.
David Doel
Jun 24, 2018 rated it liked it
I'd call this book argumentative history of the Bible. To its credit, it reports other opinions. It does not do a particularly good job of defending the other points of view; it reports them to refute them. If I'd seen the parenthetical expression, "a Biblical number," one more time, I might have burned the book. In the end, this was not what I'd hoped it would be.
Feb 26, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, religion
Good book. I was pleased that so many of the authors he quoted are already on my shelf. Most surprising was a quote form my “History of Israel” text book from the mid 1970’s!!

I did not agree with everything he writes, but most of it made a lot of sense. One more example that the story of the exodus as it appears in the bible cannot be taken at face value.
Bruce Katz
By way of preparation for a “mini-seminar” I’ll be leading this fall, I did a quick reading of this book. I wanted to get an idea of the major points the author was making and how they fit together. I will be reading it more carefully before the seminar. I don’t feel comfortable assigning a star value based on such a quick reading.
Feb 17, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An interesting, engaging, and surprisingly inspiring synthesis of documentary/literary analysis of the Bible, and biblical archaeology. Dr. Friedman makes a great argument for the historicity of a biblical Exodus and why it matters using these tools of biblical scholarship.
Dean Hack
Apr 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
Very good book. Interesting analysis of history and why it is still relevant 3000 years later. Definitely preferred the first half of the book. Although did enjoy the last chapter and the way the book concludes.
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RICHARD ELLIOTT FRIEDMAN is one of the premier bible scholars in the country. He earned his doctorate at Harvard and was a visiting fellow at Oxford and Cambridge, a Senior Fellow of the American Schools of Oriental Research in Jerusalem, and a Visiting Professor at the University of Haifa. He is the Ann & Jay Davis Professor of Jewish Studies at the University of Georgia and the Katzin ...more
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“... P doth protest to much. It would be one thing if P were merely silent about Midian. But P is hostile to Midian. Its author tells a story of a complete massacre of the Midianites. He wants no Midianites around. And he especially wants no Midianite women around. This author buried the Moses-Midian connection. We can know why he did this. Practically all critical scholars ascribe this Priestly work to the established priesthood at Jerusalem. For most of the biblical period, that priesthood traced its ancestry to Aaron, the first high priest. It was a priesthood of Levites, but not the same Levites who gave us the E text. Some, including me, ascribe the E text to Levites who traced their ancestry to Moses. These two Levite priestly houses, the Aaronids and the Mushites, were engaged in struggles for leadership and in polemic against each other. The E (Mushite) source took pains, as we have seen to connect Moses' Midianite family back to Abraham. That is understandable. E was justifying the Mushite Levites' line in Israel's history. And it is equally understandable why their opponents, the Aaronids, cast aspersions on any Midianite background. That put a cloud over any Levites, or any text, that claimed a Midianite genealogy. We all could easily think of parallel examples in politics and religion in history and today.” 1 likes
“We all know that there are harsh passages toward others in the Bible as well: dispossess the Canaanites, destroy Jericho, etc. But, as I said earlier, the evidence on the ground indicates that most of that (the Conquest) never happened. Likewise in the case of the destruction of the Midianites, as I described in Chapter 4, this was a story in the Priestly (P) source written as a polemic against any connection between Moses and Midian. It is a polemical story in literature, not a history of anything that actually happened. At the time that the Priestly author wrote the instruction to kill the Midianites, there were not any Midianites in the region. The Midianite league had disappeared at least four hundred years earlier. As we saw in Chapter 2, it was an attested practice in that ancient world to claim to have wiped out one's enemies when no such massacre had actually occurred. King Merneptah of Egypt did it. King Mesha of Moab did it. And, so there is no misunderstanding, the purpose of bringing up those parallels is not to say that it was all right to do so. It is rather to recognize that, even in what are possibly the worst passages about warfare in the Bible, those stories do not correspond to any facts of history. They are the words of an author writing about imagined events of a period centuries before his own time. And, even then, they are laws of war only against specific peoples: Canaanites, Amalekites, and Midianites, none of whom exist anymore. So they do not apply to anyone on earth. The biblical laws concerning war in general, against all other nations, for all the usual political and economic reasons that nations go to war, such as wars of defense or territory, do not include the elements that we find shocking about those specific cases. ...

Now one can respond that even if these are just fictional stories they are still in the Bible, after all, and can therefore be regarded as approving of such devastating warfare. That is a fair point to raise. I would just add this caution: when people cherry-pick the most offensive passages in the Bible in order to show that it is bad, they have every right to point to those passages, but they should acknowledge that they are cherry-picking, and they should pay due recognition to the larger--vastly larger--ongoing attitude to aliens and foreigners. In far more laws and cases, the principle of treatment of aliens is positive.”
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