This interesting article hypothesizes that the tribe of Levi actually did emigrate to and from Egypt, but that the rest of the tribes did not. The tribe of Levi returned to Israel, took over a few cities and imposed Torah and a 10% tithe on the other tribes.http://www.reformjudaism.org/exodus-not-fictionThe Exodus Is Not Fictioninterview with Richard Elliott FriedmanREFORM JUDAISM MAGAZINE SPRING 2014Semitic peoples, or Western Asiatics, were in fact living in Egypt and were traveling to and from there for centuries. And the evidence indicates that the smaller group among them, who were connected with the Exodus, were Levites. The Levites were members of the group associated with Moses, the Exodus, and the Sinai events depicted in the Bible. In the Torah, Moses is identified as a Levite. Also, out of all of Israel only Levites had Egyptian names: Moses, Phinehas, Hophni, and Hur are all Egyptian names. We in the United States and Canada, lands of immigrants, are especially aware of how much names reveal about people’s backgrounds. The names Friedman, Martinez, and Shaughnessy each reveal something different about where they came from. Levites have names that come from Egypt. Other Israelites don’t.Present scholarship on the question of who wrote the Bible bolsters this picture that the Levites were the group who departed Egypt. The Five Books of Moses were not written by Moses but by authors of four main texts, known as J, E, P, and D. [These texts were redacted -- spliced together -- during the Babylonian period into the Torah we know. That's why the Torah is redundant and many details don't match exactly. Modern scholars can tell the J, E, P and D texts apart by internal consistencies in word usage. -- W] Three of the four texts—E, P, and D—are traced to authors who were Levite priests, and these three are the only ones telling the story of Moses, Pharaoh, and the plagues. The fourth main source, called J, the one that shows no signs of having been written by a Levite priest, makes no mention of the plagues. It just jumps from Moses’ saying “Let my people go” to the story of the event at the sea....The Levite authors also devote more ink in Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers to the Tabernacle—the Tent of Meeting which held the ark in the Exodus account—than they do to any other subject. The non-Levite text, J, doesn’t mention it. This is also significant because the architecture of the Tabernacle and its surrounding courtyard matches that of the battle tent of Pharaoh Rameses II, for which we have archaeological evidence... ...One of the earliest writings in the Bible, the Song of Deborah, was composed in Israel in the 12th or 11th century B.C.E. After the Canaanites suffer a major defeat, Deborah summons the victorious tribes of Israel. In uniting the tribes, which constitutes the founding event of Israel’s history as a nation in its land, 10 of the tribes are summoned—but noticeably absent is Levi. Their absence is perfectly consistent with all of the other facts we have observed. The Levites weren’t there in Israel yet; they were in Egypt. Think of this: The two oldest texts in the Bible are the Song of Deborah and the Song of Miriam. The Song of Deborah, in Israel, doesn’t mention Levi. The Song of Miriam, in Egypt, doesn’t mention Israel!... [end quote]I find this very interesting. It really does make sense. A small, highly motivated tribe, Levi, leaves Egypt and brings a revelation to local Israeli tribes, which adopt it. I never could believe in an Exodus of a million people (especially since they spend many years at one small oasis). I actually can believe in the historic truth of the exodus and travel of a small tribe. Wendy
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