I was privileged this week to preview, before its release to the public, what may well prove to be a masterpiece of the documentary film-making art—a new look at the Biblical story of the Exodus from Egypt in the light of contemporary archeology and politics in the Middle East.
Filmmaker Tim Mahoney’s The Exodus Conspiracy, due to be released within a few months, seeks to demonstrate the historical accuracy of the Biblical narrative of the exodus of the children of Israel from Egypt on the basis of recent archaeological discoveries and geographic explorations. A secondary thesis of the film is that the “Red Sea” crossed by the Israelites was the Gulf of Aquaba (called the Gulf of Eilat by modern-day Israelis), rather than “Sea of Reeds” in Egypt, as most Biblical scholars have always assumed, and that the true “Mount Sinai” or “Mount Horeb” of the Exodus narrative is in northern Saudi Arabia, and is not the Mt. Sinai shown to pilgrims and tourists over the centuries in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula.
At the same time, the film also documents the efforts of Arab governments, especially Egypt and Saudi Arabia, to suppress, or at least to seriously impede, the discovery and publication of archaeological data that would confirm the historicity of the Biblical narrative. Is this a conspiracy to suppress the truth about the ancient history of the Middle East? And if so, who could possibly want to deny the reality of a 3,500 year old event, and why? The film’s answer to these questions is that Arab governments and political circles wish to deny to the Jews the status of indigenous inhabitants of the Middle East; and above all, to deny the 3,000-plus years of continuous Jewish inhabitance of the Land of Israel (called “Palestine” by the Romans, the British, and now the Arabs). The entire Arab justification for 88 years of relentless war against the Jewish people in the Holy Land, and their efforts first to prevent the rebirth of the Jewish nation there, and then to destroy it, rests on the claim that the Jews are alien European “settlers” in the Holy Land, while the Arabs are the “indigenous” native population, who have lived there “since time immemorial.” Archeology that confirms the accuracy of the Biblical narrative, and which documents the ancientness of the Jewish habitation of the land, is thus extremely inconvenient to Israel’s enemies, even though (or rather because) it concerns events in the remote past.
While the archaeological-historical conclusions of The Exodus Conspiracy are controversial, a great deal of support for them can be found in On the Reliability of the Old Testament, a thoroughly documented and brilliantly presented study by Professor Kenneth A. Kitchen, a professor of archeology and Egyptology at Liverpool University in Britain. Also offering strong support for the historicity of the Israelite worship experience at the Biblical “mountain of God” is the work of Italian archaeologist Emmanuel Anati, who has explored a mountain in the Wilderness of Paran along the Israel-Egyptian border. At this site, Dr. Anati has discovered inscriptions, tools and other remains of worship ceremonies left by ancient Semitic nomads that bear a striking similarity both to those described in the Book of Exodus, and to those found by the explorers of a mountain in Arabia who present their findings in The Exodus Conspiracy. I do not pretend to know which mountain was the original of the Mt. Sinai or Mt. Horeb described in the Book of Exodus. Nevertheless, archeology certainly confirms that ancient Semitic nomadic peoples engaged in worship at the base of desert mountains that was very similar to that described in the Biblical narrative of the exodus.
However, Mr. Mahoney’s description of a major propaganda effort to deny the reality of the Jewish people’s three thousand-plus years’ residence in the Middle East is undeniably true. This effort is documented in numerous reports in the daily press, and in nearly every Arab book, pamphlet or website devoted to the Arab-Israel conflict. It is also documented by the writings of numerous “revisionist” historians and archaeologists, many of them Jewish and some Israeli, who support the Arab side in the Arab-Israel conflict. The attempt to deny the reality of the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt has even been joined by a well-known Los Angeles rabbi, David Wolpe. Indeed, Mr. Mahoney could have said much more than he has chosen to say about the non-Arab and non-governmental participants in this war against history.