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The Exodus Hardcover – September 12, 2017
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“The Exodus displays, yet again, the unique gifts of Richard Elliott Friedman, whose work always embodies the mastery of an accomplished biblical scholar, the eye of a literary detective teasing out the mysteries from an ancient text, and the skill of a born storyteller. A page-turner.” (Jonathan Kirsch, author of The Harlot by the Side of the Road)
“A treasure! When Richard Elliot Friedman thinks Bible, new light shines. The Exodus is not only an argument for the reality behind the Exodus story, but is itself a revelation. Let Richard Friedman guide you from slavery to freedom, and teach a transformative Biblical lesson along the way.” (Rabbi Dr Bradley Shavit Artson, American Jewish University)
“A fresh and compelling perspective on the exodus [that] demonstrates its link to the foundational concepts of monotheism and the ethical command to love all others. Friedman not only has produced a cogent analysis of the scholarship on these significant issues but also has given us a page-turner.” (Carol Meyers, Duke University)
“Friedman’s Exodus is accessible and up-to-date with a marvelous scholarly summary of the latest theories and data; his own Levite hypothesis may be the most compelling answer to one of the most important ancient puzzles in world history.” (Thomas E. Levy, University of California, San Diego)
“Friedman’s brisk and learned account of the biblical and historical evidence paints a compelling picture of where the Israelites came, their evolving view of God, and how it all fits together.” (Peter Enns, author of The Sin of Certainty)
“An engaging book, masterfully written.” (Thomas Römer, Professor at the Collège de France and the University of Lausanne)
“Richard Elliott Friedman has the rare ability to make biblical scholarship widely accessible and exciting. This gripping read integrates a careful interpretation of the biblical text with the latest archaeological discoveries, yielding a compelling argument in favor of the Exodus.” (Jodi Magness, senior endowed chair in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)
“An engaging discussion of the Exodus traditions in the Bible, their origin, and their importance. Written in the clear and lively style we have come to identify with Richard Elliot Friedman, who has done more than any other scholar to introduce the intricacies of biblical scholarship to a broad audience.” (Marc Brettler, editor of The Jewish Annotated New Testament)
About the Author
RICHARD ELLIOTT FRIEDMAN is one of the premier bible scholars in the country. He earned his doctorate at Harvard and was a visiting fellow at Oxford and Cambridge, a Senior Fellow of the American Schools of Oriental Research in Jerusalem, and a Visiting Professor at the University of Haifa. He is the Ann & Jay Davis Professor of Jewish Studies at the University of Georgia and the Katzin Professor of Jewish Civilization Emeritus of the University of California, San Diego. He is the author of Commentary on the Torah, The Disappearance of God, The Hidden Book in the Bible, The Bible with Sources Revealed, The Bible Now, The Exile and Biblical Narrative, the bestselling Who Wrote the Bible?, and most recently, The Exodus. He was an American Council of Learned Societies Fellow and was elected to membership in The Biblical Colloquium. His books have been translated into Hebrew, German, Italian, Spanish, Russian, Japanese, Polish, Hungarian, Dutch, Portuguese, Czech, Turkish, Korean, and French. He was a consultant for the Dreamworks film The Prince of Egypt, for Alice Hoffman's The Dovekeepers, and for NBC, A&E, PBS, and Nova.
Top customer reviews
First, Richard Elliott Friedman is one of my all-time favorite scholars. Reading his work is much like opening the doors to a detective story. One of his earlier books, <i>Who Wrote the Bible</i> is a must read for anyone interested in how the Hebrew Bible was written. Although not strictly necessary, I highly recommend that you read that book before reading this one. In both, you will feel like you are following the steps of a Sherlock Holmes who is an expert in Ancient Israel (at least that's how I feel).
Secondly, Friedman has the art of picking the most interesting parts of the study of Antiquity or at least present it to you in a very interesting manner. As a result, you enjoy the book a great deal.
Finally, Friedman is one of those scholars who critically challenges accepted Bible scholarship presenting solid arguments for his case. He is a great defender of the existence of a pre-exilic priestly source (P), an idea held previously by Yehezkel Kaufmann, and also by S. Mowinckel. Now he tries to propose a more robust theory about the exodus that actually does account for several oddities, especially regarding the Levitic tribe.
This book comes just in time when there is (in my non-expert opinion) an angry division among scholars of Ancient Israel, especially pertaining to the figures of David and Salomon, and the existence of a unified kingdom under their rule. William Dever has denounced a tendency towards a postmodern hyperskepticism (sometimes with political agendas) that is affecting the field. This has led to some of these exotic scholars to the point of stating that the composition of the earliest writings of the Hebrew Bible took place centuries later than the consensus (more loose now than before) now holds, that there was no united kingdom, and there was no David nor Salomon. Friedman's job in this book is far more problematic, because there is at least an archaological evidence of David's dynasty, but there is next to no archaeological evidence for Moses or an Exodus.
One of the issues that he deals with is the many years that archaeologists and Bible literary critics didn't communicate much with each other. Right now, we are seeing a situation where both are sitting down to discuss the evidence accumulated by both fields, and trying to present the most coherent profile they can.
Basically there is a consensus among scholars of two things: 1. That if there was an Exodus, it did not happen in the way that the Torah states; and 2. that though highly fictionalized, the stories regarding Moses and the Exodus must have had some basis in something that happened. This book is not a silver bullet that proves that Moses existed or that there was an Exodus. However, this book builds on the most recent findings from archaeology, genetics, Bible criticism, and other fields that have substantiated the hypothesis that there was indeed an Exodus, but that it was not of all Israelites (whose tribes were all indigenous from Canaan), but only as a small number of people who would later become the Levitic tribe. Using the Documentary hypothesis widely accepted by scholars today, he shows that there are habits that are derived from Egyptian customs, highly suggesting that they lived among the Egyptians for a while. The sources that they wrote (namely the elohist, the priestly, and the deuteronomist sources) are all concerned with the welfare of slaves and foreigners, about circumcision, Egyptian names, the Ark of the Covenant's similarities with Egyptian barques, and so on.
Friedman also shows what some scholars have believed for years, that the Levites in general placed a great importance to Madian, a region where the shasu worshiped the god Yahu (or Yahweh). Apparently, ancient sources seem to indicate that Moses was either of Egyptian origin or a Madianite. In either case, he apparently drove a small number of people out of Egypt, interacted with the shasu in Madian, and later (after Israel imposed itself against the Hazor nobility and destroyed it) these pilgrims established a solidarity with the Israelites, becoming its priestly sector. Later, as Friedman shows in his book, the experience of this small group gradually became the historical memory of an entire nation, each time with more fantastic elements as time went by. The way he argues all of this with great clarity and with a great sense of humor makes this book very fascinating.
Another thing that took me completely by surprise was his discussion about how, from an Israel that believed in many gods, it ended up with one exclusive god, namely Yahweh Elohim. Most scholars think that this move from polytheism to monotheism was gradual. Friedman argues that if one looks for many of the details in the Torah, the story can tell you how, from the point of view of the authors of the Torah, Yahweh ended alone: Yahweh "killed" the other gods alluded to in the text. I'll leave that elaboration to your reading, but I promise you that it is a very interesting view.
From what I could read and listen of the book, there is an apologetic tone in the discussion of these elements. This is not the sort of apology that seeks to validate religious belief (this is not what he tries to do), but one that seeks to show the cultural value of these texts of the Hebrew Bible. He confronts some new atheists and unbelievers such as Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins. At one point, he criticizes the latter's <i>The God Delusion</i> for adopting a distorted interpretation (from a scholarly standpoint) of the commandment "Love thy neighbor as thyself". Friedman doesn't deny at any point the parts of the Bible that are objectionable, but he explains their presence in the book, while simultaneously valuing the positive aspects that we can find in the Hebrew Bible and are now embedded in our Western Judeo-Christian culture.
All in all, I highly recommend this reading. I thank Dr. Friedman for such a delight for the intellect, and opening for the public this beautiful window into the past.
Now, 30 years later, Friedman does not disappoint with The Exodus. He has put even more meat on the bones through his exploration of the historical event and its impact on our lives today. This book will make you ask fundamental questions that are in dire need of being brought up today as we come to terms with the impact of this game changing event. By the end, Friedman provides us with a new view of the Exodus, and how it can help guide us through these troubled times we find ourselves living through today.
The Exodus is a must read for anyone in search of a clearer understanding of the roots that evolved into our modern day Judeo-Christian society, and how our interpretations of the Bible, once placed within the perspective of the time in which it was written, can enable us to continue to use this outstanding work to comprehend the fundamentals upon which our world was built, and what we can do to continue making the world the world we want it to be.
But all of that aside, based solely on the merits of quality storytelling, reading The Exodus feels like having a beer with a great Private Investigator who considers you worthy of sharing his latest, most exciting case yet. Buckle up and take a ride with Detective Friedman. It will become one of the greatest rides of your life.
Friedman makes his case. Just as he has before, he does not claim his evidence and arguments are conclusive. He does argue and he does show that certain things are possible and certain things are more (or less) likely. Using the convergence of textual and archaeological evidence, long advocated by Bill Dever, he makes a compelling argument that "the" exodus occurred, that it was small and that it had intimate links to Egyptian culture and religion.
In thinking about how the story came to us in its current form, I would have liked a discussion of the Hyksos probably contribution to the story's content (I am convinced that the Hyksos provide the militaristic aspects of the story and, possibly, the water crossing). And I would also have liked to hear his thinking on the relationship of the Mosaic group to the Ahkenaten revolutionaries (personally, I am convinced that the man Moses was one of Ahkenaten's minions). Note that Levites-as-Ahkenaten-follower does impact the chronology....
In sum, yet another worthwhile read from Prof. Friedman.