Skip to main content

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. 

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The 15 “Best Books” to Read BEFORE Having a Faith Crisis

Elder M. Russell Ballard recently stressed that it is important for Gospel educators to be well-informed on controversial topics, not only by studying the scriptures and Church materials, but also by reading “the best LDS scholarship available.” I personally think it is imperative in today’s world for every Latter-day Saint—not just Gospel educators—to make an effort to be informed on both controversial issues as well as knowing reliable faith-building information as well.
(Given that Elder Ballard’s CES address was published to general Church membership in the Ensign, I think it’s safe to say that Church leadership also feels this way.)
An important step in the process of getting informed is reading the 11 Gospel Topic essays and getting familiar with their contents. But what’s next? How can a person learn more about these and other topics? What are the “best books” (D&C 88:118) or “the best LDS scholarship available”?
Here are 15 suggestions.
1. Michael R. Ash, Shaken Faith S…

Responding to the New Video on Nahom as Archaeological Evidence for the Book of Mormon

Many of my (few) readers have probably already seen the new video by Book of Mormon Central on Nahom as archaeological evidence for the Book of Mormon, starring my good friend (and co-author on a related paper) Stephen Smoot. If you haven’t, check it out:


As usual, comments sections wherever this video is shared have been flooded by Internet ex-Mormons insisting this not evidence for the Book of Mormon. I’ve actually had a few productive conversations with some reasonable people who don’t think Nahom is, by itself, compelling evidence—and I can understand that. But the insistence that Nahom is not evidence at all is just, frankly, absurd. So I’ll just go ahead and preempt about 90% of future responses to this post by responding to the most common arguments against Nahom/NHM now:
1. The Book of Mormon is false, therefore there can be no evidence, therefore this is not evidence. First, this is circular reasoning. It assumes the conclusion (Book of Mormon is false) which the evidence pre…

New Paper on Isaiah in the Book of Mormon

Joseph M. Spencer, an adjunct professor at the BYU religion department, recently published a paper in the non-LDS peer review journal Relegere: Studies in Religion and Reception, titled, “Isaiah 52 in the Book of Mormon: Note’s on Isaiah’s Reception History.” Spencer is a young scholar who is doing exciting stuff on the Book of Mormon from a theological perspective.
The paper is described as follows in the abstract: Despite increasing recognition of the importance of Mormonism to American religion, little attention has been given to the novel uses of Isaiah in foundational Mormon texts. This paper crosses two lines of inquiry: the study of American religion, with an eye to the role played in it by Mormonism, and the study of Isaiah’s reception history. It looks at the use of Isa 52:7–10 in the Book of Mormon, arguing that the volume exhibits four irreducibly distinct approaches to the interpretation of Isaiah, the interrelations among which are explicitly meant to speak to nineteent…