Exodus: what evidence should we expect, archaeologically? Given the more or less continuous occupation of the area, much has been lost to later human activity or erosion, or it may be under modern structures. Except for the Bible itself, the earliest efforts at objective historical reporting that we have from the region is the Babylonian Chronicle. The Egyptian attitude was typical – the only official functions of foreigners are to get defeated in battle, to trade with, or to give tribute. Nobody admitted to getting defeated, nor was there any effort to record interesting events in other places. (No doubt some sort of official annals made note of such things, but monuments and other lasting or public records did not contain such information.) Thus, we cannot expect to have any record of the Exodus from surrounding countries. A smallish band of wandering Israelites would not leave a huge trace, and anything useful that they dropped would probably be grabbed by a later nomad. So we should not expect to see obvious traces all over the Sinai Peninsula. The total number of Israelites is problematic. Although a quick read of an English translation of the censuses commemorated in the title of Numbers suggests a total of rather over a million, plus animals, the translation of the numbers involved has complications. “Thousand” can also mean “group”. The number of firstborn males suggests a rather lower number of people, as does the fact that Jethro only recommended having judges over groups up to a thousand and the ability of what seems to be the entire group to listen to Moses. Also, a line including a million or two people simply wouldn’t fit well in Sinai. So a lower population total seems to be better exegesis. The geographic and cultural setting of the Exodus is the second half of the second millennium BC. The cities mentioned in Egypt only existed in the 1200’s and were later abandoned and forgotten, with remaining usable building supplies taken away. Distinguishing such traces as remain of the wandering Israelites from any of the other passing nomads would be quite difficult; they were linguistically and culturally quite similar to their neighbors. The technology of building the tabernacle, for example, is standard for the day. The ark of the covenant and the tablet inside it would be more distinctive, but Harrison Ford reported significant difficulties in finding it and examining the contents. What about their arrival in Canaan? A superficial reading of Joshua 11 might lead one to expect total devastation of Canaan, but reading the whole book reveals that only Jericho, Ai, and Hazor were destroyed; the remaining population experienced battlefield defeats and maybe a raid on the city (if they didn’t submit like the Gibeonites) but was largely still around. A few cities burned down was not unique for any particular time period. The one distinctive archaeological occurrence was the sudden appearance of a large population in the hill country that seemed to be unusually adverse to idols and to pork, in the second half of the 1200’s. Shortly before 1200 BC, a pharaoh boasted of having wiped out Israel. Allowing for similar rhetoric as in Joshua 11 or the modern sports pages, this is evidence for a people group identified as “Israel”, some of whom lost a battle. Thus, there is reasonable evidence for the Exodus. As a different line of evidence, “We’re a rabble of escaped slaves who wouldn’t listen to God” is not exactly the sort of origin story that tends to get invented.