The Ipuwer Papyrus & the Biblical Exodus Account.

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Because of the dramatic scenes recorded in this text, some of which seem to parallel the biblical account of Moses and the ten plagues, it is not uncommon for Christians to argue that it provides independent, non-biblical evidence for the historicity of the exodus. This is, however, not the view and consensus of Egyptologists, as one commentator puts it: “The broadest modern reception of Ipuwer amongst non-Egyptological readers has probably been as a result of the use of the poem as evidence supporting the Biblical account of the Exodus” (1).

A major reason for this is that it conflicts with the biblical account. For example, instead of reporting a migrating population fleeing Egypt it instead chronicles an Asiatic invasion. Enmarch explains that it seems to “contradict the Biblical account, and imply that they described different occasions. For example, the Egyptian poem actually laments the invasion of Asiatics rather than their largescale emigration” (2).

However, there may be some agreement with the biblical account especially in the description of the river becoming red. According to some scholars this is probably a metaphorical description of what happens when the Nile floods and carries large quantities of red soil. But at most both the “Ipuwer and Exodus may refer to the appearance of the River Nile in years of a disastrously high inundation, when the river is full of red earth washed down by the current.” It does not go all the way to actually support the biblical account.

Beyond this, however, Enmarch argues that “it is more likely that Ipuwer is not a piece of historical reportage” and that “it contains no preserved historical setting, no kings’ names, very few and generalised toponyms and ethnonyms.” If so it wouldn’t prove very valuable for the biblical account at all. For these reasons the “attempts to link the poem to a historical event that might also be recorded in Exodus are unconvincing.”


1. Enmarch, R. The Reception of a Middle Egyptian Poem. Available.

2. Gundlach quoted by Chris Welde in The Esoteric Codex: Ancient Egyptian Texts (2015). p. 108.


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