This is the second part of my review of the video “Is the Bible Reliable?” from Focus on the Family. In the first installment I reviewed creationist Stephen C. Meyer‘s presentation purporting to demonstrate the validity of the biblical story of the Patriarch. Next up, in episodes 2 and 3, Meyer seeks to validate the biblical story of the Exodus and the Conquest of Canaan by the Israelites.
By this time I have found Meyer’s justifications tiresome, and in response I am not going to produce a point-by-point rebuttal. I will post a few points of his presentation and conclude with what should be obvious.
Meyer discusses the skeptical view of the Exodus. He presents two different views.
The Exodus: The Skeptical Views
- There was no exodus of the nation of Israel from Egypt.
- The Exodus happened, but it happened later than the Bible indicates.
I hold to the first view. The Israelites were never in Egypt, and there was no Exodus. Archaeological evidence is that the Israelites always lived in region west of the Jordan River. From Daniel Lazare’s recount of the archaeological findings:
Finkelstein and Silberman concluded that Judah and Israel had never existed under the same roof. The Israelite culture that had taken shape in the central hill country around 1200 B.C. had evolved into two distinct kingdoms from the start. Whereas Judah remained weak and isolated, Israel did in fact develop into an important regional power beginning around 900 B.C. It was as strong and rich as David and Solomon’s kingdom had supposedly been a century earlier, yet it was not the sort of state of which the Jewish priesthood approved. The reason had to do with the nature of the northern kingdom’s expansion. As Israel grew, various foreign cultures came under its sway, cultures that sacrificed to gods other than Yahweh. Pluralism became the order of the day: the northern kings could manage such a diverse empire only by allowing these cultures to worship their own gods in return for their continued loyalty. The result was a policy of religious syncretism, a theological pastiche in which the cult of Yahweh coexisted alongside those of other Semitic deities.
For Meyer it is necessary first to demonstrate the Israelites were once enslaved in Egypt. Among other things, he puts up a graphic from the period that is supposed to show an Egyptian master holding sway over Semite slaves.
Semitic Slaves in Egypt
Semitic slaves as builders and brickmakers with a quota to fulfill under the command of task masters in 16th to 13th century B.C. texts such as the Tomb of Rekhmire, Louvre Leather Roll and Papyrus Anastasi III.
“But the quota of bricks which they were making previously you shall impose on them”
Meyer does not link to the mass of counter evidence, as he is not required to in this instance, it being a polemic seeking to counter denial of the Exodus. However, the Wikipedia entry for the Exodus has a lengthy rebuttal with links to authoritative sources:
The consensus of modern scholars is that the Bible does not give an accurate account of the origins of Israel. There is no indication that the Israelites ever lived in Ancient Egypt, the Sinai Peninsula shows almost no sign of any occupation for the entire 2nd millennium BCE, and even Kadesh-Barnea, where the Israelites are said to have spent 38 years, was uninhabited prior to the establishment of the Israelite monarchy. Such elements as could be fitted into the 2nd millennium could equally belong to the 1st, and are consistent with a 1st millennium BCE writer trying to set an old story in Egypt. So while a few scholars, notably Kenneth Kitchen and James K. Hoffmeier, continue to discuss the historicity, or at least plausibility, of the story, arguing that the Egyptian records have been lost or suppressed or that the fleeing Israelites left no archaeological trace or that the large numbers are mistranslated, the majority have abandoned the investigation as “a fruitless pursuit”
Meyer pursues the same line as Kitchen and Hoffmeier, arguing the absence of records only enforces the validity of the biblical claim. He presses his case for the existence of Israelites in Egypt by displaying a graphic, depicting the reconstruction of a dwelling in the Nile Delta. This dwelling is in a style known only to the Israelites.
To the rankest of amateurs, that would include me, this is not evidence of in excess of 600,000 Israelite slaves in Egypt. At the most it indicates somebody, possibly from the land of the Israelites, constructed a home here on the plan of an Israelite style.
God, with the help of Moses, freed the Israelite slaves from their Egyptian masters and struck off to the east, where God promised them they could have the land of Canaan. Forty years later they arrived there, without leaving a trace of their 40-year habitation during the interim. Upon arriving at the east bank of the Jordan river, with Moses now dead, Joshua took charge and engaged, with God’s approval and connivance, in a war to obliterate the people already living west of the Jordan. This is the story of The Conquest.
The Israelite Conquest
- Before entering Canaan, God commanded the Israelites to drive the Canaanites out of the land and to settle it (Numbers 33:50-53).
- With Joshua as their leader, the Israelites began the conquest of Canaan by destroying and burning Jericho, on the west side of the Jordan River (Joshua 6:1-21).
- The next city the Israelites destroy by fire is Ai in the central hill country (Joshua 8:3-28).
- The third and final city that the Israelites under Joshua burn and destroy is Hazor in the north (Joshua 11:10-14).
- During the Judges period, the Israelites slowly gain control over more of Canaan.
The Israelite Conquest
And here’s the good part.
“Then Joshua turned back at that time, and captured Hazor and struck its king with the sword; for Hazor formerly as the head of all these kingdoms. They struck every person who was in it with the edge of the sword, utterly destroying them; there was no one left who breathed. And he burned Hazor with fire.”
What I find so amazing is this is the same Stephen C. Meyer who in the previous video cautioned us against moral relativism.
Moral relativism, according to Meyer and also according to most who give thought to the matter, holds there is no fixed and true morality. Moral values are at best set by societies and in the worst cases are set by individuals. Individuals who set their own moral values may become social outcasts and usually do harm to themselves, with harm being a relative term.
How come this reminds me of ISIS? I have no better way to describe moral relativism than stories of God, the giver of moral absolutes, condoning, yeah facilitating, the slaughter of innocents. “If he does it to me, then it’s wrong.” I said that.
Meyer goes on to persuade us the Conquest, described in the Bible, has a factual basis. Readers are invited to scratch the surface of this argument and see what lies beneath.
The order of books in the Old Testament is:
And more. I’m thinking Meyer has now taken us through Judges, but there may be more. I have not previewed the video. In all this Meyer has presented what is surely his strongest case, but in doing so he has passed completely by the most onerous claims against the Bible. This book cites events and circumstances even Meyer would disavow. To cite some:
- In Genesis the creation of the Earth a little over 6000 years ago.
- The story of Noah and the flood that never happened.
- The parting of the Red Sea.
- The story from Joshua of the sun standing still in the sky.
Watching the video you will come to acknowledge that Meyer is a master presenter. He delivers faultlessly and with earnest commitment. If he suspects for a moment that what he is telling his student is a massive fraud, he never lets on. Look into his eyes as he presents, and you will see that if he knows it is not true, he also knows it has to be true.
The next review will start with Episode 4: “Israel’s Rise to Prominence through David and Solomon.” From Amazon:
Discover that if one can discount the historicity of the bible, its theological implications and message can also be dismissed. But if these stories prove to be true, then the message and meaning of the Bible must be taken seriously as well.