Anti-Christian Meme-Busting: The Exodus
Memes are stupid. Memes are dangerous. As fun and often humorous as these passed-around images on the internet can sometimes be, memes are one of the multitude of things that are causing society to become more divisive and decay faster into an unrecognizable mass of dung.
Why? Well, for starters, hardly anybody fact-checks memes, pics or screenshots of comments or tweets that are shared around social media quicker than the flu at an elementary school assembly (they truly are “viral”). Sources are rarely given for the “arguments” they offer. Memes appeal to both dumbed-down and extremist emotional jabs without offering anything real, substantial or thorough, nor do they hardly ever put anything in the proper context of their debates. The minimalist thinking is, “who cares if there is any validity to this? It makes the other side look bad, and hopefully I’ll influence a few people to move over to my side.”
What’s worse is that lamentably everyone uses memes. Liberals use them against Conservatives, Conservatives against Liberals, Atheists against Creationists, Creationists against Atheists, or for any sociological, political, religious, philosophical or medical argument or cause that exists. Participants throw them back at their opponents without even realizing that even though there may exist well-founded, rational arguments that supports their side, they still chose to use these extemporaneous – and often wrong – meme pictures instead, and not even realize that their employment may hurt their cause more than it helps.
I dislike it whenever I see anything excessively proliferating that is flat-out wrong. Therefore, I’m going to start a series of posts debunking some of the most inane and egregious anti-Christian memes I find on the internet. The first one I’ll tackle is one about Moses and the Exodus from Egypt.
Here’s What Happened
Some wise guy thought they could easily shame both Jewish and Christian believers by questioning the story of Moses and the Hebrew Exodus; this person opened the Google Maps app and punched in the estimated walking time between Cairo, Egypt and Jerusalem, Israel. It turns out that according to the app, the journey “only” takes six days to travel by foot. They made a cutesy meme pic and threw it up on the internet. Yep! That must disprove the whole story in the Bible as being an ancient fairy tale where its creators idiotically conceived some preposterous drivel about it requiring 40 years to trek to the Promised Land!
Hey, not so fast, bucko. Here are some rapid-fire responses to shoot holes in that knee-jerk “gotcha” time of 6 days:
1. The estimation for a six-day journey is based on the notion that one is walking at the average maximum walking speed of 3 mph and have the stamina to walk for 24 hours a day the entire time during your journey.
2. There are no rest times, meal or bathroom breaks, time to sleep, etc. accounted for.
3. It assumes that you are traversing on modern, paved roads between Egypt and Israel.
4. You have adequate food, water, first aid and all necessary supplies for your entire journey across the rough terrain and desert, not to mention GPS or other navigational aids.
Anybody can see that this meme is blatantly wrong and misleading at this point. But you may be thinking something along the lines of, “okay, Scott. I get that it won’t take six 24-hour days. Let’s factor in the above points and multiply the amount of time fivefold or even tenfold. Even giving them 30-60 days to walk the distance, that’s still far less an amount of time than forty years is!”
Don’t fret, for I will address that, dear reader…
Here Are the Big Myth-Busting Points
Objection #1: There Was a Rather Enormous Group of People to Lead Around
Again, it’s not like Moses and company were a streamlined, athletic, nimble band who could rapidly transverse the desert in record time, needed few breaks, and had an endless supply of water and food. On the contrary. Think of the Hebrew population as an ocean of people who could literally fill dozens of football stadiums:
“And the children of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand on foot that were men, beside children. And a mixed multitude went up also with them; and flock, and herds, even very much cattle.” (Exodus 12:37-38).
There are a few points to draw from this Scripture:
1. It states that there were 600,000 Hebrew men numbered in the Exodus. Once you add women and children, the total number of Hebrew people could easily reach past 1 million in upwards of 2-2.5 million or even 3 million. That’s a pretty hefty mass of evacuees to navigate as one, cohesive group.
2. There were no doubt a sizable number of elderly folks in these estimations. Add in those who had physical ailments like leg, hip and back problems that prevented them from walking at a fast pace. Oh, and let’s not forget slow-moving pregnant and nursing women who no doubt needed frequent rests. Lastly, throw in younger children, and you have an enormous sea of humans who can neither travel very fast nor can cover very much ground daily.
3. The Israelites brought with them out of Egypt an unnumbered amount of domesticated animal herds with them, which probably included creatures such as cattle and sheep.
Objection #2: Moses and the Israelites Made Dozens of Stops, and They Actually Reached the Promised Land within a Year
If the meme creators (or anyone who shares or blindly agrees with the memes, for that matter) would have simply cracked open a Bible or did some research on the matter, they would immediately figure out that they have no historical or logical legs on which to stand.
For instance, Chapter 33 of the Book of Numbers in the Bible lists out all of the encampments of Moses and the Israelites. I’ve copied all 56 verses from the NIV translation just to show you the depth of their journey:
“1 These are the stages of the people of Israel, when they went out of the land of Egypt by their companies under the leadership of Moses and Aaron. 2 Moses wrote down their starting places, stage by stage, by command of the Lord, and these are their stages according to their starting places. 3 They set out from Rameses in the first month, on the fifteenth day of the first month. On the day after the Passover, the people of Israel went out triumphantly in the sight of all the Egyptians, 4 while the Egyptians were burying all their firstborn, whom the Lord had struck down among them. On their gods also the Lord executed judgments.
5 So the people of Israel set out from Rameses and camped at Succoth.
6 And they set out from Succoth and camped at Etham, which is on the edge of the wilderness.
7 And they set out from Etham and turned back to Pi-hahiroth, which is east of Baal-zephon, and they camped before Migdol.
8 And they set out from before Hahiroth and passed through the midst of the sea into the wilderness, and they went a three days’ journey in the wilderness of Etham and camped at Marah.
9 And they set out from Marah and came to Elim; at Elim there were twelve springs of water and seventy palm trees, and they camped there.
10 And they set out from Elim and camped by the Red Sea.
11 And they set out from the Red Sea and camped in the wilderness of Sin.
12 And they set out from the wilderness of Sin and camped at Dophkah.
13 And they set out from Dophkah and camped at Alush.
14 And they set out from Alush and camped at Rephidim, where there was no water for the people to drink.
15 And they set out from Rephidim and camped in the wilderness of Sinai.
16 And they set out from the wilderness of Sinai and camped at Kibroth-hattaavah.
17 And they set out from Kibroth-hattaavah and camped at Hazeroth.
18 And they set out from Hazeroth and camped at Rithmah.
19 And they set out from Rithmah and camped at Rimmon-perez.
20 And they set out from Rimmon-perez and camped at Libnah.
21 And they set out from Libnah and camped at Rissah.
22 And they set out from Rissah and camped at Kehelathah.
23 And they set out from Kehelathah and camped at Mount Shepher.
24 And they set out from Mount Shepher and camped at Haradah.
25 And they set out from Haradah and camped at Makheloth.
26 And they set out from Makheloth and camped at Tahath.
27 And they set out from Tahath and camped at Terah.
28 And they set out from Terah and camped at Mithkah.
29 And they set out from Mithkah and camped at Hashmonah.
30 And they set out from Hashmonah and camped at Moseroth.
31 And they set out from Moseroth and camped at Bene-jaakan.
32 And they set out from Bene-jaakan and camped at Hor-haggidgad.
33 And they set out from Hor-haggidgad and camped at Jotbathah.
34 And they set out from Jotbathah and camped at Abronah.
35 And they set out from Abronah and camped at Ezion-geber.
36 And they set out from Ezion-geber and camped in the wilderness of Zin (that is, Kadesh).
37 And they set out from Kadesh and camped at Mount Hor, on the edge of the land of Edom.
38 And Aaron the priest went up Mount Hor at the command of the Lord and died there, in the fortieth year after the people of Israel had come out of the land of Egypt, on the first day of the fifth month. 39 And Aaron was 123 years old when he died on Mount Hor.
40 And the Canaanite, the king of Arad, who lived in the Negeb in the land of Canaan, heard of the coming of the people of Israel.
41 And they set out from Mount Hor and camped at Zalmonah.
42 And they set out from Zalmonah and camped at Punon.
43 And they set out from Punon and camped at Oboth.
44 And they set out from Oboth and camped at Iye-abarim, in the territory of Moab.
45 And they set out from Iyim and camped at Dibon-gad.
46 And they set out from Dibon-gad and camped at Almon-diblathaim.
47 And they set out from Almon-diblathaim and camped in the mountains of Abarim, before Nebo.
48 They left the mountains of Abarim and camped on the plains of Moab by the Jordan across from Jericho.
49 There on the plains of Moab they camped along the Jordan from Beth Jeshimoth to Abel Shittim.
50 And the Lord spoke to Moses in the plains of Moab by the Jordan at Jericho, saying, 51 ‘Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When you pass over the Jordan into the land of Canaan, 52 then you shall drive out all the inhabitants of the land from before you and destroy all their figured stones and destroy all their metal images and demolish all their high places. 53 And you shall take possession of the land and settle in it, for I have given the land to you to possess it. 54 You shall inherit the land by lot according to your clans. To a large tribe you shall give a large inheritance, and to a small tribe you shall give a small inheritance. Wherever the lot falls for anyone, that shall be his. According to the tribes of your fathers you shall inherit. 55 But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you, then those of them whom you let remain shall be as barbs in your eyes and thorns in your sides, and they shall trouble you in the land where you dwell. 56 And I will do to you as I thought to do to them.'”
So that was a lot of sojourning, stopping to rest and camp, and then continuing on. As you can imagine, for a mass of 1.5 to 3 million humans, it took quite a long time!
How long did it take, you might be asking? I will answer that for you…
The Exodus Timeline
Well, many scholars have been able to calculate the traveling times and have developed chronologies to a fairly accurate degree. The ridiculously comprehensive archeology section of the Bible.ca site [http://www.bible.ca/archeology/bible-archeology-exodus-route.htm] has one exhaustively-researched page after another that documents places and times for the Exodus that I could barely scratch the surface of here in any adequate summarization. Just bookmark it read it for yourself.
Instead of that, I’ll give you the gist of how long the journey took from Egypt to just shy of Canaan, AKA the Promised Land, which would eventually become Israel. In earlier chapters of Numbers and the Book of Exodus we get some pretty solid timeframes listed.
According to Exodus 12:2 and 6, his whole Exodus started in the city of Rameses on the 14th day of the first month. Moses and the Hebrews then proceeded to Succoth in Egypt (Exodus 12:37), and that night they began their trek out of the country of Egypt, according to Exodus 12:40-42 and Deuteronomy 16:6. The first stage of the journey comprised of leaving Succoth, travelling through the Wilderness of Red Sea, and then on to Etham (Exodus 13:18-20).
The Israelites made an encampment at Pi Hahiroth, “between Migdol and the sea” (Exodus 14:2). After crossing the Red Sea (Exodus 14:21-22), Moses and company took a three-day journey to Marah (Exodus 15:22-23). The next rest was Elim (Exodus 15:27). They then reached the Wilderness of Sin. According to Exodus 16:1, the total elapsed Exodus time was around 30-31 days (“the fifteenth day of the second month”). From there, the next destinations were Rephidim and then Sinai. Another thirty or more days had transpired at this point (Exodus 19:1-2).
There at Mt. Sinai, God gave Moses and the Israelites His Law, instruction and covenant. From this point, we cover the rest of the Book of Exodus, Leviticus, and the first several chapters of Numbers with God’s Law, and the building of the Tabernacle and the Ark of the Covenant. They spent about one year here at Sinai (Numbers 10:11).
When it was time to pick up and begin travelling again, The Israelites undertook a three-day jaunt to Taberah/Kibroth Hattaavah (Numbers 10:33, 11:3). The following encampment was at Hazeroth (Numbers 11:35), and stayed there at least seven days (Numbers 12:15). From there they came to Kadesh Barnea in the Wilderness of Paran (Numbers 12:16).
This stop at Kadesh Barnea was an important one, for it bordered the Promised Land of Canaan, which would eventually become the country of Israel. Yep, the Hebrews were in striking distance to where God was ultimately leading them. They were close enough that they sent out Twelve Spies to survey the land and its people (Numbers 13:18-25).
So from Rameses in Egypt to Mt. Sinai was approximately two months. The time spent at Mt. Sinai was about one year. And the remaining leg of the Exodus before the dispatching of the Twelve Spies was at least ten days, and possibly two weeks, all for a grand total of roughly 1 year and 2 1/2 months.
The rough, rocky and arid terrain of the Sinai Peninsula. This is a shot of the Colored Canyons near Nuweiba, South Sinai, Egypt.
Objection #3: Meme Doesn’t Account for 40 Years of Punishment By Desert Wandering
Here’s a well-known fact that the paper-thin atheist debaters have ignored when propagating these memes: that God had punished the Israelites by making them walk back out into the desert for 40 years, often referred to as the Wandering in the Wilderness. It certainly wasn’t poor navigation like the meme implies.
In Numbers 13, the Lord commanded Moses out twelve spies to survey the land and its people (verses 18-15). After forty days of exploration, the twelve returned with their reports. Ten of them had highly negative statements about Canaan. They exclaimed, “we can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are…All the people we saw were of great size…We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes” (Numbers 13:31-33). Two of the spies, Joshua and Caleb, had good reports of the Promised Land (Numbers 14:6-7). The Hebrew people chose to listen to the ten doubters instead the word of the Joshua and Caleb and the promises of God, and rebelled. They grumbled and complained and “raised their voices and wept aloud,” against Moses and Aaron, lamenting, “If only we had died in Egypt! Or in this desert! Why is the Lord bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword?” (Numbers 14:1-2).
This doubting and rebellion angered the Lord God. He was about ready to destroy them with a plague (Numbers 14:11) until Moses intervened and asked the Lord for forgiveness (Numbers 14:13-20). God honored Moses’ request and forgave the Israelite people, but still thought punishment on a smaller scale was necessary. He decided that “not one of them will ever see the land I promised on oath to their forefathers. No one who has treated me with contempt will ever see it” (Numbers 14:23). Rather, they would suffer by wandering in the wilderness for forty years, one year for each of the forty days they explored the land (Numbers 14:34). Furthermore, God would give them what they asked for: “I will do the very things I heard you say: In this desert your bodies will fall, every one of you twenty years old or more” (Numbers 14:28-29). Out of the Twelve Spies, only Joshua and Caleb survived, being faithful and believing in God’s promise to give the land over to them.
After hearing of God’s punishment, some of the rebellious Israelites went towards where the spies came from in the hill country, but were attacked by the native Amalekites and Canaanites and beat them back (Numbers 14:39-45).
The rest of the Pentateuch (the remaining chapters of Numbers and Deuteronomy) document further exploits and instructional education of Moses and the Israelites until forty years had transpired and they were able to enter the Holy Land.
Here’s the “TL;DR” version: Moses and the Hebrews made dozens of stops, spent a year at Sinai, arrived near the Promised Land in a little over a year, and were punished by God and were forced to wander back out in the desert wilderness for 40 years.
For all of you sharing and liking these unresearched memes…just stop. Seriously. You’re not doing your side any favors. Take some time to see if there is any validity to what you’re arguing against.
What Do YOU Think?
Do you have any additional thoughts on this matter? Are there any other memes or myths that you would like be tested and busted? Contact me or leave your comment below!