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am 3. Februar 2000
This relatively slim but heavily footnoted volume by Professor Hoffmeier constitutes one of the most recent additions to the ongoing debate on ancient Israel's origins. The author begins with the proposition that while no direct archæological evidence for the Exodus has been discovered to date, indirect indications show the events transcribed to be plausible and therefore potentially historical--not to be dismissed merely because of the theme in which such stories are recorded emphasizes a religion which has many adherents even today.
The book begins with a critique of currently fashionable scholarship which minimizes the historical relevance of any portions in the Hebrew Bible relating to periods prior to the return from Babylonian exile. The first chapter explains the attractive fallacies in modern historical analysis such as the double standards applied regarding credibility of descriptive scriptural texts in contrast to the reception afforded to the supernatural bombast on official records of egotistical rulers.
Hoffmeier notes that scholarship tends to match the political tenor of the times--and that the current skepticism with authority leads to condescention regarding biblical texts. His brief overview of Joshua's conquest demonstrates that the paucity of late Bronze age dwellings with unambiguous burning does not contradict the accounts in Joshua 6-11.
Hoffmeier devotes the remainder of the book to address the particular intersections of Egypt and the period covered in Pentatuch. The text on the Merneptah stela identifies Israel for the first time as a people rather than a nation--indicating the early settlement period of a nomadic group and not indigenous cultural transformation among Canaanites. His explanation of the reference to Israel in the stela illuminates a distinction between the unpronounced hieroglyphic determinative of pre-monarchial Israel as a people and not as a settled land, hence negating the contention of biblical history being merely an ethnic fantasy concocted by post-exilic priests. The story of the patriarchs being among the many Semites who went to Egypt to procure food has many parallel references in Egyptian literature. Even Joseph's tale of a Semite rising to high rank does not lack precedence: the vizier "'pr-el" was only recently discovered from the late New Kingdom which was better documented than the late Middle Kingdom of the patriarchal period.
Most scholars agree that Semitic peoples lived in Egypt during the New Kingdom, and that forced labor by war prisoners in state corvées was extensive, supporting the Penta-tuch claim that Hebrews were oppressed while they sojourned in Egypt subsequent to their arrival. Identification of the "'barê mishkenôt" or "store cities" (Exod 1:11) had been an obstacle to acceptance of this story. But the discovery of Pi-Ri'amses at Qantir in the Nile Delta verifies extensive brick-construction during the 13th century BC. Central to the Exodus strides the figure of Moses. Hoffmeier explores the origin of the "exposed child" narrative and expounds on Egyptian policy of introducing foreign princes at court in the New Kingdom. Moses could have been a "hrd n k3p" or "Child of the Nursery" and thereby received an education reserved for the elite. The plagues provide a backdrop for skepticism of the J and E source-criticial theory, since the devastation inflicted on Egypt forms a more coherent depiction of events than a composite from separate sources would indicate. Except for the death of the firstborn at the finalé, the plagues register a logical sequence of natural events, albeit more intense than commonplace for the Nile valley. Thus, despite the Israelite interpretation for divine intervention, the tenor of the events described does not stretch credulity to the extent that its historical value should be à priori discarded.
The final chapters concern the canal at the eastern frontier in the New Kingdom and the probable route out of Egypt. The northern coastal road is rejected by contrary citation (Exod 13:17) and because of Egyptian military fortifications which the Israelites would have bypassed to forestall pursuit. Rather, Hoffmeier evaluates the etymology of place-names along the derek hammidbbar or "Way of the Wilderness", and enters the debate that has long surrounded the probable location of the Re(e)d Sea crossing at yam sûp. He suggests that the Gulf of Aqaba extended farther north in ancient times and had been connected to the Bitter Lakes, which were joined to Lake Timsah. Future excavation at the eastern frontier may shed additional light on this matter. That no Egyptian records of the escaped slaves have been found is not surprisingany such reports would have been written on papyrus and not likely to be preserved given the dependence on success for the pharaohs to maintain legitimacy. Hoffmeier summarizes his evidence in a concluding chapter, asserting that to deny the Israelite references while accepting the traditions of other peoples denotes an inconsistency that scholars should eschew. Spiritual overtones were prevalent in many ancient documents, but while Near Eastern pagan deities are no longer worshipped (except among New Age narcissists), the continued adherence to monotheistic theology by many has led to a denigration in modern academia of any ancient records that would lend credence to such faith. Hoffmeier's contribution to the understanding of the Genesis and Exodus sojourn accounts regarding the Israelite tribes' early origins provides a coherent and brief apology for greater acceptance on the historical accuracy of the general outlines in Old Testament narratives. Israel in Egypt is a valuable library addition to anyone interested in early biblical period.
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am 25. Januar 2010
Ich habe ganz selten eine solche - in jeder Hinsicht kompetente - Informationsdichte und argumentative Schärfe angetroffen. Und zu diesem Thema nie, obwohl ich mich seit Jahrzehnten als Theologe und Klassischer Philologe mit der Literatur zu den hier verhandelten Gegenständen und ihrer Epoche beschäftigt habe. Hoffmeier ist in Ägypten aufgewachsen und einer der international angesehensten Ägyptologen. Er zählt ferner zu den z.Zt. führenden archäologischen Feldforschern zum pharaonischen Ägypten des Deltagebiets und der Sinaihalbinsel.

Der Inhalt des Buches kann nicht besser denn als direkter und noch mehr indirekter Indizienbeweis für die Authentizität der Exodustradition und die Zeitnähe ihrer schriftlichen Fixierung in der Tora bestimmt werden. Der Indizienbeweis analysiert buchstäblich alle Details und die sich Seite um Seite verdichtende Plausibilität ist schließlich so robust, dass der Leser sich nur mit einiger Gewalt ihrem Eindruck entziehen kann.

Man kann nur zustimmen, wenn Fachkollegen in Rezensionen das Buch charakterisieren als ein "excellent example of the integration of archaeology, philology, religion, history and biblical studies by a scholar who has demonstrated over the years his outstanding abilities in all these matters". Auch glaube ich, dass vielleicht nicht kurzfristig, aber mittelfristig die Prognose zutrifft: "There can be no doubt that this volume will become the standard work in these areas for years to come." (K. Lawson Younger, Jr., co-editor of Mesopotamia and the Bible: Comparative Explorations).
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am 20. September 1999
I am not a scholar in Egyptology, biblical studies, the history of Israel, or the Exodus story. However, this book presents logically sound and easily understood arguments supporting the historical plausibility of the Exodus story. The author presents arguments that critics have used to discount the story as "just a story," and - at least in my mind - soundly refutes them.
Here is just one simple example: Some critics have complained that the name of the Pharaoh of the Exodus isn't identified by name, implying that the "story" was put together many years later by writers who didn't have a clue which Pharaoh they should identify as the bad guy. The author of "Israel in Egypt" points out that in the second millennium BC, the supposed time of the Exodus, the literary tradition was _not_ to give the name of a defeated enemy. Instead, an unnamed defeated ruler was referred to only with a bunch of insults. [In fact, the author of this book manages to imply that Pharaoh got off lightly in Exodus by being given his correct title. :-)] There are many similar arguments in this book, involving datings for Egyptian names, the presence of slaves from Canaan and/or Syria in Egypt in the second millennium BC, etc.
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am 15. April 2000
This book presents excellent overviews of the discussions revolving around the historicity of Genesis and Exodus. It is very even handed in its presentation of the different sides and when one or another argument is rejected a balanced and sound reason is given.
The conclusion of the book is that the Exodus story and surrounding events as told in the Hebrew Bible are compatable with the known historical facts of Egypt. The book isn't a propaganda piece for conservativism, but rather a well researched and scholarly volume. I highly recommend it.
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am 28. November 1999
Unlike many other books on this controversial subject, like those by Redford, which tend to present only such material as supports their preconceived opinions, Hoffmeier presents highly documented data on all sides of the question. He avoids snide "put-downs" of intellectually questionable methodologies, allowing the reader to judge for himself how valid are some of the conclusions that are reached. The extensive bibliography makes this a source book of great value.
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am 15. Mai 1998
Hoffmeier has examined a broad range of material covering Egyptology, archaeology, linguistics, biblical and contemporary ancient near eastern literature. This should prove to be one of the most influential books in this field for at least the next decade. No future scholar will be able to ignore Hoffmeier's contribution to this subject.
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