This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #419, on the subject of When Escaping in Exodus, Did the Israelites Have Too Much Luggage?.
This is a continuation of a response to the article Ten Reasons Why the Bible’s Story of the Exodus Is Not True, requested by a Facebook contact.
- The introductory article was #415: Can the Exodus Story Be True?
- It was followed by an answer to the first objection, #416: Does Archaeological Silence Disprove the Exodus?
- Turning to the second objection about whether such a departure could be organized, we offered #417: Is the Beginning of the Exodus Account Implausible?
- The third objection was that given the number of escaping Israelites the line this would have created would have been too long to outrun Pharaoh’s chariots, to which we offered #418: Are There Too Many People Escaping in Exodus?
Turning to the fourth objection, we read “A load beyond measure,” followed by an accounting of that which the Israelites were reported to have with them over the months and years which followed. This, we are told, is more than they could have brought with them.
Certainly this is problematic if we take literally the statement that they only took food wrapped in their shoulder sleeves and some treasure they obtained from the Egyptians, but our article doesn’t cite where we are told these and they probably should be taken as metaphoric indications of how much they left behind. We also might see it as peculiar that slaves who lived in houses also owned tents, and there are some odd objects which were effectively scrounged by and from among the people in the days ahead. Yet this objection seems to amount to saying that we don’t know all the circumstances of their departure or how much they actually managed to pack to take with them. Nor do we know the circumstances of their enslavement–but we do know that it was very different from slavery in recent centuries.
First, the Israelites did not come to Egypt as slaves. They came as members of the already wealthy family of one of the most powerful lords of the land. They were given their own territory, and still lived there centuries later. At some point after they were no longer a significant part of the Egyptian government, they were pressed into servitude–but they already owned homes and land and much more. They were propertied people, living in their own homes, not housed in slave quarters.
Second, they came to Egypt as shepherds, bringing large flocks, and they left Egypt with many of them still shepherds with their own flocks. Goshen is a fairly large region, and shepherding is a nomadic trade as sheep are moved from place to place for food and water. At some times of the year they are kept on the fields at night. It is not at all unlikely that shepherds who lived in houses would also own comfortable tents for those times when they were spending their days outdoors.
It appears that they had one day to pack, but that’s not entirely accurate. Moses had been telling them for weeks at least that they would be leaving, and some at least would have begun preparing for the move.
As to the amount of firewood they brought, these people cooked their food and heated their homes with wood. Bringing as much firewood as you can is a no-brainer.
O.K., some of the objects they had seem improbable. So, what’s the probability that someone would have brought a large wooden beam? One in a hundred? In a thousand? In a hundred thousand? What if it’s a tent ridgepole? And how many people left Egypt in the Exodus? Improbable objects will have been brought.
As an aside, the article incidentally and unnecessarily takes a swipe at the belief that God’s home was above a solid floor in the sky which held back the rain and snow.  The Bible doesn’t actually teach this cosmology; it only uses the terminology to express aspects of reality in ways the people of the time would have understood. Obviously something keeps the rain and snow from falling, and I dare say most people in the modern world don’t fully understand what that is any better than that there’s a firmament of some sort.
Two million people will have brought a lot with them, particularly as they knew they were leaving their homes with no plan to return.