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Kadesh, the Exodus, and the Drowning Enemy

Ramesses II drives the Hittites into the Orontes River during the battle of Kadesh
Joshua Barman, a biblical professor at Bar-Ilan University in Israel, has a very lengthy article on the historicity of the Exodus. It is an interesting read. The bulk of it summarizes arguments that are well known. For what it is worth, though I am not the most widely read person on this topic, most of the well respected archaeologists I've read (W.G. Dever, B. Halpern, J.K. Hoffmeier, A.J. Frendo, C.A. Redmount, A. Mazar, etc.)  accept that there is a real historical event that lies behind the Exodus accounts, although there is some varying opinions on just how historically accurate the details of the account are. I therefore find it amusing that so many confidently assert that there is no archaeological evidence for the Exodus as if that made it case closed. Clearly, these archaeologists (who cannot all be written off as religious apologists) clearly know or understand something that those making such arguments do not. I'm getting somewhat off topic, though.

Where Barman makes an original contribution is in his analysis of the inscriptions describing the battle of Kadesh (ca. 1274 BC) and the narrative of Exodus 14-15. In Barman's analysis, Pharaoh is replaced by Yahweh, who (per the subheading) "out-Pharaoh's Pharaoh" by doing everything the Pharaoh does at Kadesh, but of course, Pharaoh's on the wrong end of Yahweh's great acts. Barman makes this observation about the parallel between drowning the enemy: 
An element common to both compositions is the submergence of the enemy in water. The Kadesh poem does not assign the same degree of centrality to this event as does Exodus—it does not tell of wind-swept seas overpowering the Hittites—but Ramesses does indeed vauntingly proclaim that in their haste to escape his onslaught, the Hittites sought refuge by “plunging” into the river, whereupon he slaughtered them in the water. The reliefs depict the drowning of the Hittites in vivid fashion. 
It is the visual depiction that particularly struck me (you can see it at the beginning of this post). It shows the Hittites backed-up against the Orontes River, with no place to go but to plunge into the water. Barman seems to miss just how brilliantly the Exodus turns this scene on Pharaoh. In the Exodus, Pharaoh once again has it enemy--in this case, the Israelites--back-up against a body of water, with nowhere to go. He is once again poised to drive them into the water to drowned, and then Yahweh flips the script! A strong wind parts the waters, the Israelites flee to safety, and it is Pharaoh's men, instead, who are swept away by the sea.

If the Exodus account really was written to mirror the account of the Kadesh battle, then few things could have more vividly portrayed how Yahweh "Out-Pharaohed Pharaoh"  than this brilliant reversal of expected out comes. 


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