Moses and the Critics

"And they (the Israelites) built for Pharaoh treasure cities, Pithom and Ramses … and they made their lives bitter with hard bondage, in mortar, and in brick, and in all manner of service in the field" (Exodus 1:11-14).

But this was one of the glaring "mistakes of Moses," according to the critics, for the Egyptians, so they assured us, never used mortar. Then, of course, Moses is not a trustworthy witness, and that wonderful Exodus in which our souls had revelled, because in it we thought we saw the blessedness of redemption portrayed, is discredited by the error of its opening chapter.

So exeunt Moses, Exodus, the Passover Lamb, and last of all the Lamb of God, for Moses wrote of Him in that same Exodus. And we may be sure that it was at Him, who alone could redeem men from his power, that the devil aimed when he set the critics on this scent and when they discovered that mortar was not used in Egypt.

But the prying spade of the excavator has reopened the case, and reopened it in such a way that Moses has been completely vindicated, and the critics made to appear worse than foolish.

In 1884 excavations were made not far from the famous Tel-el-Kebir by Neville. He found there the ruins of the treasure-cities of Exodus 1. And massive places they must have been. The walls were about 650 feet square, 22 feet thick, and with partitions from 8 to 10 feet thick. He also discovered that while the religious name was Pithom the secular name was Succoth. So that when it is said that "they took their journey from Succoth," we learn that Israel departed from the very place where they had been working, and not from Goshen, which had been given them for a reserve. And this teaches us, incidentally, that when God redeems a man He brings him straight out of the house of bondage. He does not ask the slave to first loosen his own fetters or cast off part of his own burden, but He strikes off the chains of slavery at once, and by His own power, for He is God.

Neville found that these ruins were built with mortar — the only ruins so found in Egypt, and that the bricks were sun-baked; some had been made with straw, some stubble, and towards the top without any straw at all, thus proving the accuracy of the Bible record, not only in regard to the mortar, but also with regard to the material of which the bricks were made. "The people gathered stubble instead of straw," and Pharaoh declared that no straw would be given them (Ex. 5).