Exodus as Historical Fiction

Posted by Javan Poblador | Posted on September 12, 2020

Exodus as Historical Fiction

by Junelie Anthony Velonta
Dumaguete City

 

Upon first inspection, it would seem that the Exodus story and the Trojan War have little to no similarities to each other. The Exodus deals with the plagues set upon Egypt by the Hebrew god and the exit of the enslaved Hebrews from Egypt, while both of Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey deal with war. Thematically, they are as opposite as it can get. However, did YHWH not intervene to set the Hebrew people free? Did the Olympians and the minor deities of nature not play a role in the entirety of the Trojan War?

Not many realize this, but the estimated date for the Siege of Troy and the date set by biblical scholars when the Exodus happened are very close to each other. Modern estimates place the Siege of Troy from mid to late 12th century BC. Exodus on the other hand is said to have “occurred” in the 13th or 12th century. At most, there is a difference of 100 years between these two events. At the least, they occurred very close to each other. While these two events may have occurred on the opposite ends of the known world then, such that Moses may have not heard of Menelaus and the other way around, one thing is certain: both stories are products of the Late Bronze Age. 

What’s with the mention of the date and the apparently divine? People of the modern age typically regard the Trojan War and its chronicles as both myth and legend. However, the Exodus for some is regarded as a historical fact, especially among Jews and Christians. Here comes the problem. It is ridiculous to think that 200,000 men fought before and within the walls of Troy, especially comparing it to the total populations of the Greeks and Hittites long before. Human civilization back then was not so widespread. To compare, the Battle of Waterloo involved roughly 191,000 men, and that was nearly 3,000 years after the Siege of Troy—when birthrates were higher and the cities were larger. Now, compare this with the 600,000 Hebrew men (emphasis on men, women were not included in the tally) that marched the desert for 40 years. 

Both the stories of the Exodus and the Trojan War exhibit two symptoms: the intervention of deities, and the over-inflation of numbers. However, there was a city of Troy. Its ruins could be found in Hisarlik and are continued to be excavated today. At one point in time, the city was put to siege. While heroes like Hector, Achilles, and Odysseus may not measure up to their legends, or they may not have existed at all, it could be clearly seen that the Siege of Troy did happen, but perhaps not sparked by the powers of Persephone.

The historicity of the Exodus is still debated today. After all, how could 600,000 Hebrew men wander the desert for 40 years and leave no archeological trace? Still, the Exodus story and the chronicles of the Trojan War do something similar. In the Odyssey, the aftermath of the Trojan War saw infighting within the Greek coalition until their cities lay in ruins and the Greek civilization as a whole suffered. This is a possible reference to the Late Bronze Age Collapse, which destroyed the Mycenean (the ancestors of the classical Greeks) civilization to the point where reading and writing stopped entirely. It is possible that the plagues set by YHWH upon the Egyptians were symptoms of the Collapse. Plagues and famine were some of the factors that many Bronze age empires collapsed. The plague that killed all the firstborn sons of the Egyptians could be attributed to war—a predominantly male affair—as Egypt found itself raided by the Sea Peoples and at war on multiple fronts in the years during and after the Exodus supposedly happened. 

It could well be past the time when we can check the veracity of the Exodus story. Too much time has passed. Legend, hearsay, and belief insert themselves in parts where the chronicles are not so clear: making something reminiscent of history, but wholly fiction. The Hebrew people may not have been slaves, or if they were, they might have escaped Egypt in small numbers, but the Exodus story is now set in stone, with those that believe them fully as unmovable as the legend itself. But if there is something to be learned from this, it is this: when truth and fiction mix, it becomes hard to separate one from the other.

Other good reads...

How to Donate to HAPI

For those who have  paypal account please click the DONATE button on the right side or email funds to hapidonate@gmail.com For those without paypal account, We have  established a HAPI BANK for you: Account number: 006083-3810-41 BPI  Family Savings Bank- Vito Cruz/ Taft Avenue Account Name: Humanist Alliance Philippines International, Inc. For Local Bank Transactions […]

Not an Armchair General

  5th Annual International Day of Protest Against Hereditary Religion – January 23, 2016   Our very own HAPI Chairperson based in NYC, USA joined this event. ” In our own little way, we are creating a dent in the religious landscape in the Philippines, the next generations to come will prefer computers to bibles.”  […]

Empathy in Humanism

What is sympathy, empathy, altruism in humanism? The English dictionary contains many words that either have the same meaning, almost have the same meanings, opposite in meanings, pronounced the same way but of different meanings, and so forth. Thus we have what we call homonyms, antonyms, heteronyms and synonyms. Today I would like to talk […]

The Women Who Inspire Me

together, hands, prayer-5928481.jpg

The Women Who Inspire Me By Kryshia Gayle Solon HAPI Scholar Throughout the years, women have remained phenomenal and inspiring despite the obstacles they’ve encountered. All across history, they proved their strength, wisdom, and potential in ways that inspire us to persevere and be the best versions of ourselves. When we think about inspirational women, […]

How Humanism Gave Birth To Me

Vitruvian Man X Humanism

Humanism begins with a question I was 8 when I first pondered over the question, “Do cavemen go to hell?” This triggered me to question humans’ knowledge of the beyond, of what lies after we die. My thirst for knowledge led me to go on a philosophical adventure in search for “the truth”. Religion was […]

In Photos: The First HAPI General Assembly in Cebu, Philippines Feb. 21, 2016 – A history made

The HAPI Core Awarded the Humanist of the Year Award to Mr. Alvin Dizon of Cebu City Council: The Service Component The HAPI Executive Director, Jennifer Gutierrez with Mr. Alvin Dizon Students from a Cebu Provincial High School were invited to SHARE our mission and vision in HAPI A HAPI session and Strategic Planning Panel […]

HAPI on Martial Law 46

HAPI on Martial Law 46

September 21, 1976, the day when democracy died. The Humanist Alliance Philippines, International as one of the humanists’ organizations in the Philippines chose to commemorate the proclamation of Martial Law with indignation. HAPI officers Alvin John Ballares, Executive Director and Rayd Espeja, Public Relations Officer together with Richard Alila of PRRM (Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement) […]

About The Author

Junelie Anthony Velonta

Junelie Anthony Velonta was born in Dumaguete City. He graduated from Philippine Science High School—Central Visayas Campus in 2015 and is now pursuing a Physics degree at Silliman University. To this day, he aims to unite his passion for language and the sciences while wondering if sharing Rizal’s date of birth is a sign of what he can be. A member of HAPI Scholars.

Scroll to Top