The Exodus Decoded: Exhibit M

Just after The Exodus Decoded (excluding commercials) hits the one-hour mark, the program takes a bizarre twist. Admittedly, bizarre twists occur in the first hour as well, but this one takes the cake. Jacobovici opened The Exodus Decoded with some snarky asides about scholars who think of the exodus story as a “fairy tale” (though few actually use such terminology). The entire program aims to demonstrate that the exodus really happened the way the Bible tells it, although Jacobovici fails dramatically in this regard because so many of his reconstructions don’t actually match the biblical narratives. Two-thirds of the way through The Exodus Decoded, however, Jacobovici departs completely from the biblical narrative or any credible historical reconstruction by claiming that “some of the people that followed Moses across the parted sea, and later to Mount Sinai, did not follow him to the promised land. They boarded ships, and sailed in an unknown exodus to Greece.”

Minoan wall painting from Santorini

Minoan wall painting from Santorini. Jacobovici suggests—without any supporting evidence—that the painting depicts the Egyptian city of Avaris. (ABR file photo)

To prove this prima facie implausible contention, Jacobovici first presents Exhibit M, a Minoan wall painting that, in Jacobovici’s eyes, presents a “map” of sea travel from Egypt to Santorini. According to Jacobovici, the city depicted in this wall painting is Avaris, and Minoan-style artwork has been excavated from Avaris. Jacobovici believes that this data gives him “intimate contact between Greece and Egypt at the time of the exodus.” Of course, Jacobovici presupposes here his own accuracy in estimating the “time of the exodus”—although his date agrees with no one else’s (except perhaps Charles Pellegrino’s)—but let’s leave that issue aside for the moment since I’ve explored it at some length in earlier installments of this series. Instead, let’s focus on Jacobovici’s next leap: “As a result, it’s perfectly reasonable to assume that some of the followers of Moses came from the area of ancient Greece, and it’s quite possible that some of these people returned to Greece after the exodus.” This isn’t reasonable; it’s ridiculous. See if you can follow the chain of illogic any better than I can: (1) Minoan-style artwork has been excavated from Avaris; (2) therefore, there were Minoans living peaceably in Avaris; (3) therefore, we are entitled to assume that some of them followed Moses out of Egypt. The link between (1) and (2) is weak—the artwork might have been imported, rather than the work of a “Minoan enclave” living in Avaris. I do not know enough about this artwork or the context in which it was found to know, and I don’t have easy access to Bietak’s excavation reports in my local library. The link between (2) and (3), though, obtains only in Jacobovici’s over-eager imagination. Despite the biblical narrator’s comment that a “mixed multitude” accompanied the Israelites out of Egypt (Exodus 12:38)—which Jacobovici, for whom biblical details seem not to matter very much, doesn’t actually mention—we are certainly not entitled to assume that every non-Egyptian ethnic group living in Egypt was represented in that “mixed multitude.” Moreover, it doesn’t make a lick of sense to think that Minoan traders (as Charles Pellegrino characterizes them for Jacobovici) living in Avaris, with enough wealth and leisure time to paint pretty decorations in their houses, would have joined up with a slave revolt, nor that they would have been kicked out along with the despised Hyksos. The presence of any such Minoans among Moses’s followers would be, in a word, inexplicable. I am also perplexed as to where these hypothetical exodus-ing Minoans would have boarded those ships, and why they would have gone to Mycenae, as Jacobovici posits (see below), instead of back home to Crete.

In an effort to prove that some participants in the exodus ended up in Greece, Jacobovici goes to Greece looking for “Israelite swords and Egypt’s golden treasures.” Here again Jacobovici goes in for a nice bit of, well, pure invention. According to Jacobovici, “The Bible says that Moses and his followers left Egypt with great quantities of swords and Egyptian gold.” No, it doesn’t! Anyone familiar with the exodus story knows that Jacobovici is partially correct; the book of Exodus does claim that the Israelites “borrowed from the Egyptians objects of silver and gold, and clothing.” But the exodus story in the Bible says nothing about “great quantities of swords.” The story does indeed refer to some Israelites having “swords” later on, during the attack by Amalek (Exodus 17) and the golden calf incident (Exodus 32), but there is no emphasis on the Israelites leaving “Egypt with great quantities of swords.” Yet Jacobovici apparently needs for the story to emphasize swords, and so he invents a biblical claim that doesn’t exist and pairs it up with one that does.