There are those that speculate that the events that happened in the Torah (the ten plagues, the splitting of the sea, the conquest of Canaan by Yehoshua bin Nun, etc.) were overexaggerated, there are some non-Jewish sources from those time periods backing these events up.
The Ten Plagues
With the ten plagues, a contemporary Egyptian text from that time period, the Ipuwer, found in the 19th century dating from the end of the Middle kingdom, then taken to the Leiden Museum in Holland and interpreted by A.H. Gardiner in 1909, was found to state the same miracles.
Quoting Yeshiva Ohr Somayach’s depiction of the Ipuwer text, “the papyrus describes violent upheavals in Egypt, starvation, drought, escape of slaves (with the wealth of the Egyptians), and death throughout the land. The papyrus was written by an Egyptian named Ipuwer and appears to be an eyewitness account of the effects of the Exodus plagues from the perspective of an average Egyptian. Below are excerpts from the papyrus together with their parallels in the Book of Exodus.”
|IPUWER PAPYRUS – LEIDEN 344||TORAH – EXODUS|
|2:5-6 Plague is throughout the land. Blood is everywhere.2:10 The river is blood.|
2:10 Men shrink from tasting – human beings, and thirst after water
3:10-13 That is our water! That is our happiness! What shall we do in respect thereof?
All is ruin.
|7:20 …all the waters of the river were turned to blood.7:21 …there was|
blood thoughout all the land of Egypt …and the river stank.
7:24 And all the Egyptians dug around the river for water to drink; for they could not
drink of the water of the river.
|2:10 Forsooth, gates, columns and walls are consumed by fire.10:3-6 Lower Egypt|
weeps… The entire palace is without its revenues. To it belong [by right] wheat and
barley, geese and fish
6:3 Forsooth, grain has perished on every side.
5:12 Forsooth, that has perished which was yesterday seen. The land is left over to its
weariness like the cutting of flax.
|9:23-24 …and the fire ran along the ground… there was hail, and fire mingled with|
the hail, very grievous.9:25 …and the hail smote every herb of the field, and broke
every tree of the field.
9:31-32 …and the flax and the barley was smitten; for the barley was in season, and
flax was ripe.
But the wheat and the rye were not smitten; for they were not grown up.
10:15 …there remained no green things in the trees, or in the herbs of the fields,
through all the land of Egypt.
|5:5 All animals, their hearts weep. Cattle moan…9:2-3 Behold, cattle are left to|
stray, and there is none to gather them together.
|9:3 …the hand of the Lord is upon thy cattle which is in the field… and there|
shall be a very grievous sickness.9:19 …gather thy cattle, and all that thou hast in
9:21 And he that did not fear the word of the Lord left his servants and cattle in the
|9:11 The land is without light||10:22 And there was a thick darkness in all the land of Egypt.|
|4:3 (5:6) Forsooth, the children of princes are dashed against the walls.6:12|
Forsooth, the children of princes are cast out in the streets.
6:3 The prison is ruined.
2:13 He who places his brother in the ground is everywhere.
3:14 It is groaning throughout the land, mingled with lamentations
|12:29 And it came to pass, that at midnight the Lord smote all the firstborn in the|
land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh that sat on his throne to the firstborn of
the captive that was in the prison.12:30 …there was not a house where there was not
12:30 …there was a great cry in Egypt.
|7:1 Behold, the fire has mounted up on high. Its burning goes forth against the|
enemies of the land.
|13:21 … by day in a pillar of cloud, to lead them the way; and by night in a pillar|
of fire, to give them light; to go by day and night.
|3:2 Gold and lapis lazuli, silver and malachite, carnelian and bronze… are fastened|
on the neck of female slaves.
|12:35-36 …and they requested from the Egyptians, silver and gold articles and|
clothing. And God made the Egyptians favour them and they granted their request. [The
Israelites] thus drained Egypt of its wealth.
Suffice to say, this is heavy stuff.
Yehoshua and the Sun Standing Still
Now, with Yehoshua and the sun standing still, It would make sense that if the sun was standing still in one part of the world for a lengthy period of time, on another part of the world there would be lengthy darkness.
The Ancient Mayan text, the Popul-Vuh, describes a long evening of darkness, red sticky-stuff from the sky, and murder, and that the events in that text mirror the same time period of Yehoshua.
Immanuel Velikovsky, in his book Worlds in Collision, has a theory that perhaps a comet was the cause of the ten plagues in Egypt, since it could have grazed the earth and caused an imbalance. Later on it affected the Mayan population and caused a temporary interference with the Earth’s cyclical orbit, explaining the sun standing still/night in Central America. Afterwards, says Velikovsky, that comet became the planet Venus, and Venus is a popular candidate as a comet due to its gases, nitric acid, and whatnot.
Moshe and the Splitting of the Sea
With regards to Moshe splitting the Sea of Reeds (Yam Suf), there’s a tradition that says that the beach where Moshe split the sea was in fact modern-day Nuweiba Beach. At that beach, there’s an elevated surface at around sea level, which would easily form a land bridge when the “strong east wind” formed. Nachshon ben Aminadav, when he jumped, as a result probably didn’t have to fall too far down before the strong ease wind formed a low tide, exposing the land bridge. The intense wind would then cause the water to hit the sides of the land bridge HARD, causing consistent splashes which would form walls. In fact, recent archeological evidence has shown remnants of gold-plated chariot wheels over 3000 years old at the foot of the land bridge. The reason they’re not retrieved was simply due to the wood inside being deteriorated over the years, and so they’re safe for taking pictures but not much else.
According to Velikovsky, the same comet somehow caused a strong east wind to form, cause a low tide, and expose a land bridge, the hard splashing of the water against the land bridge, forming walls, and whatnot.
My Personal Thoughts
Personally, I wasn’t there so I don’t know what really happened. If a comet really passed by and caused all this havoc, then great, as we don’t lose the free will to “know” that Hashem orchestrates everything. This would show that in creating the miracles of the plagues, the sea splitting, and the sun standing still, Hashem didn’t take away His greatest gift to us – free will.
The way I see it, one that looks at the stated events can therefore look at these open miracles in one of three ways. One, the miracles were open and defied the laws of nature such that the Jews were dependent on Hashem like nobody’s business. Two, everything stated is hocus pocus. Third, the miracles were done in accordance to the laws of nature, using the same elements that were created during th Six days of creation, and we have the free will to choose what is and what isn’t.
By my process of elimination, number one couldn’t have happened since right after the Jews crossed and sang Az Yashir, they complained about not having water, meat, this, and that. By the Jews complaining, we see that their willingness to leave wasn’t due to Moshe being a charismatic leader (what with his speaking deficiency) or to lack of free will. As well, Jews took idols with them when they crossed the Yam Suf, rather than dropping everything when they crossed, so scratch that.
Second, no way could the events have been hocus-pocus. If the events were hocus pocus, then 2-3 million Jews would have said so and not accepted the Torah. They only accepted what was since they themselves lived through those events. No other religion can claim that.
So that leaves number 3. Any comments?