Egyptologists and experts in the ANE have said the activities of Israel and the Egyptian pharaohs didn’t coincide in time. They say Israel didn’t exist in the same time frame as the pharaohs of Egypt. There is no mention of Israel in any Egyptian annals or records. The Hebrew story must have taken place way later and this story in the Bible just simply tries to give credence, or tell a story that is merely a myth to put Israel into the midst of the Egyptian era. But it really didn’t happen like that. That is the claim of many critics of the Hebrew texts. They say there is absolutely no record of Israel in the period of time that the Bible stories record the account of the history of Jews held captive in Egypt.
I have clipped a slide from my God’s Awesome Book seminar related to the Merneptah Stele which was discovered by Flinders Petrie in 1896 in Thebes, in Luxor, Egypt. A Stele is an obelisk or plaque with an inscription on it. This archaeological find is dated circa 1212 BC. It is also known as the Victory Stele of Merenptah or the Israel Stele. The text mainly contains an account of Merneptah’s victory over the Libyans and their allies but the last three lines of text refer to skirmishes with the Habiru in Canaan. This stele is now housed in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.
- How does this relate to Israel?
- Why is it called the Israel Stele?
Merenptah was an ancient Egyptian Pharaoh, the son of Rameses II. On Merenptah’s Stele we find “Israel is destroyed, its seed is not (or ‘no more’)”. This simple comment isn’t of great intrinsic importance, but it does represent the first and oldest reference that we have to “Israel”. Before Merenptah’s Stele was found, people said, Israel and Egypt were not contemporaneous, there is no evidence for it, it couldn’t have happened, it must be a Jewish myth. Yet recorded in the text in the last three lines of a total of 28 lines of text is a reference to the Habiru. Who were the Habiru? Well think about it. Look at the linguistic similarity between Habiru and Hebrew.
Here on Merenptah’s Stele we have proof that indeed Israel was contemporaneous with the Egyptian pharaohs. This is the oldest piece of evidence for the existence of Israel outside of the Bible.