Are Science and Secular History compatible with Faith?

The Ten Plagues of Egypt

The Christian community has been told there is no evidence in Egyptian history that supports "The Ten Plagues" as recorded in the Bible. It has been the contention of this writer the reason for the lack of evidence is because scholars have been looking for the Exodus during the reign of Ramses II. That would be like looking for the American Revolutionary War during the 1960's. As an historian, you would conclude there was no revolutionary war in American history.

Scholars have maintained their postion of Ramses II being the Pharaoh of the Exodus in spite of a multitude of historical evidence to the contrary (see "Synchronizing History").

In reality, three Egyptian documents tell of a dark period in Egyptian history that sound very much like the Biblical exodus narrative. Each of these documents is told from the perspective of the individuals telling the story. In fact, one of the documents even provides the name of the Pharaoh of the Exodus.

It is helpful to understand the Biblical record is told from the perspective of Moses who understood the events as a series of plagues. Egyptian eye witnesses only saw the results those plagues produced in the destruction of the nation. They could only conclude the Pharaoh had lost favor with the gods who controlled Egypt's destiny. It must have been a horribly frightful time for those witnessing the destruction of their nation.


The Ipuwer Papyrus

The 'Ipuwer Papyrus' was titled: "Admonitions of an Egyptian Sage" by A. H. Gardiner, the translator of the papyrus. The following are a series of excerpts from the ancient document.

Forsooth, the land turns as does a potter's wheel

The towns are destroyed, upper Egypt has become dry (wastes)

All is ruin

The residence is overturned in a minute

Years of noise. There is no end of noise

Plague is throughout the land. Blood is everywhere

This is our water! This is our happiness!

Trees are destroyed

No fruit nor herbs are found

Forsooth, gates, columns and walls are consumed by fire

Lower Egypt weeps. The entire palace is without revenues.

Forsooth, that has perished which yesterday was seen. The land is left over to its weariness like the cutting of flax.

All animals, their hearts weep. Cattle moan.

Behold cattle are left to stray, and there is none to gather them together.

Each man fetches for himself those that are branded with his name

The land is not light

Forsooth, the children of princes are cast out in the streets

The prison is ruined

He that places his brother in the ground is everywhere

It is groaning that is throughout the land mingled with lamentations

A foreign tribe from abroad has come to Egypt

What has happened? -though it is to cause the Asiatics to know the condition of the land.

A. H. Gardiner,  Admonitions of an Egyptian Sage, (Hildesheim: George Olms Verlag, 1969)

"With this document properly placed at the time immediately following the Exodus, it is difficult to fail to see its author as a witness to the experience at the time of the ten plagues or to recognize that the plagues were followed by an invasion by a foreign people, against whom Egypt was powerless to protect itself."

(Donovan A. Courville, The Exodus Problem and its Ramificaitons, (Loma Linda: Challenge Books, 1971) p. 131.


The Ermitage Papyrus

"This inscription also tells of a time when Egypt was exposed to some terrific catastrophe. One sees here again a reference to the situation that occurred at the time of the Exodus. The inscription in part reads:

The land is utterly perished and nought remains.

Perished is this land...

The sun is veiled and shines not in the sight of men.

None can live when the sun is veiled by clouds...

The river is dry (even the river) of Egypt.

The earth is fallen into misery...

Bedouins pervade the land.

For foes are in the East [side or sunrising] and the Asiatics shall descend into Egypt.

The beasts of the desert shall drink from the rivers of Egypt...

This land shall be in perturbation...

I show thee the land upside down, happened that which never (yet) had happened...

Men laugh with the laughter of pain.

None there is who weepeth because of death.

None knoweth that midday is there; his [sun's] shadow is not discerned...

(Donovan A. Courville, The Exodus Problem and its Ramificaitons, (Loma Linda: Challenge Books, 1971) p. 131-132.


The el-Arish Shrine

A watering trough used for livestock was discovered near the town of El Arish in the 1860's that was covered in ancient text. El Arish is located in the region of Egypt that is known as Goshen in the Biblical text. That "watering trough" is now housed in a museum in Ismailia, Egypt (near the Suez Canal) and is known as "The El-Arish Shrine". 

Though well worn over the millenea, some 74 lines of text remain. The text was translated to English by F. L. Griffith and published in: The Antiquities of Tell El Yahudiyeh, and Miscellaneous work in Lower Egypt During the Years 1887-1888, London: 1890. The text was subsequently reprinted in: The Mound of the Jew and the city of Onias by: Edouard Naville, Francis Llewellyn Griffith.

The text, from the Ptolemaic period, is a retelling of a dark period in Egyptian history that sounds very much like the plagues described in Scripture with the climatic event of the drowning of pharaoh and his army in the "Place of the Whirlpool". 

This is very reminiscent of the plague of darkness. "And there was a thick darkness in all the land of Egypt three days. They saw not one another, neither rose any from his place for three days." (Exodus 10:22)

"The difference in the number of the days (three and nine) of the darkness is reduced in the rabbinical sources, where the time is given as seven days. The difference between seven and nine days is negligible if one considers the subjectivity of the time estimation under such conditions. Appraisal of the darkness with respect to its impenetrability is also subjective; rabbinical sources say that for part of the time there was a very slight visibility, but for the rest (three days) there was no visibility at all."

(Immanuel Velikovsky, Worlds in Collision, (Garden City: Doubleday, 1950), p. 59ff)

King Tum dies at Pi-Khiroti, "the Place of the Whirlpool"

"That both sources, the Hebrew and the Egyptian, refer to the same event can be established by another means also. Following the prolonged darkness and the hurricane, the pharaoh, according to the hieroglyphic text of the shrine, pursued the "evil-doers" to the place called Pi-Khiroti."

"But the Egyptians pursued after them, all the horses and chariots of Pharaoh ... and overtook them encamping by the sea, beside Pi-ha-khiroth." (Exodus 14:9)

So here we have a secular source confirming the location that is given in Scripture.

"The inscription on the shrine also narrates the death of the pharaoh during this pursuit under exceptional circumstances: "Now when the Majesty fought with the evil-doers in this pool, the place of the whirlpool, the evil-doers prevailed not over his Majesty. His Majesty leapt into the place of the whirlpool. It was said that he was "lifted by a great force". This is the same apotheosis described in Exodus 15:19: "For the horse of Pharaoh went in with his chariots and with his horsemen into the sea, and the Lord brought again the waters of the sea upon them."

The following includes more of the story and toward the end of the text includes the name of the king [pharaoh] of the exodus. 

The text tells it was king Tum (Thoum) who fought with the evil doers and died at Pi-Khiroti "the place of the whirlpool". It was suggested by James D. Long in "Riddle of the Exodus" pp. 133-134 that Pharaoh Thoum might be Neferkare the Younger of the Sixth Dynasty. The end of the sixth dynasty is considered by historians to represent the end of "The Old Kingdom" period.


Once again, ancient historical documents and archaeological discoveries reveal the truthfulness of the Biblical narrative.

© 2012 Gregory Drake