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Archeology: What did Passover look like from an Egyptian's Perspective?

Posted by Joshua Claycamp on



In the early 19th Century a papyrus, pictured above, dating from the early period of the New Kingdom or around the mid 13th century BC was discovered in the sands of Egypt. It dates to somewhere in the early 1430’s BC or 1420’s BC. It is currently housed in the Dutch National Museum of Antiquities in Leiden, Netherlands, after being purchased from Giovanni Anastasi, the Swedish consul to Egypt, back in 1828.

Egyptologist Sir Alan Gardiner translated the Ipuwer Papyrus into English in 1909, and he believed that the text contained rather strange historical descriptions of current events in Egypt as well as past events:

"The entire context from 1:1 to 10:6 constitutes a single picture of a particular moment in Egyptian history," he concluded, "as it was seen by the pessimistic eyes of Ipuwer.”

You might be asking yourself why Sir Gardiner considers Ipuwer a ‘pessimist.’ The papyrus, known properly as Leiden I 344, describes several past events in addition to bleak descriptions of current Egyptian living. Among some of these past events that Ipuwer mentions, we find descriptions of violent upheavals in Egypt including starvation, drought, and a massive escape of slaves strangely making off with the wealth of the Egyptians. Sadly, Ipuwer also describes rampant death throughout the land. Remember that this document dates to the 1430's, BC. The date of the Exodus is placed by most Biblical scholars somewhere around the middle of the century or 1450 BC. Read him for yourself, and then check what he says against the Biblical record:



2:5-6 Plague is throughout the land. Blood is everywhere.

2:10 The river is blood.

2:10 Men shrink from tasting human beings, and they thirst after water.

3:10-13 The NILE! That is our water! That is our happiness! What shall we do in respect of this calamity? All is ruin.

Moses and Aaron did as the Lord commanded. In the sight of Pharaoh and in the sight of his servants he lifted up the staff and struck the water in the Nile, and all the water in the Nile turned into blood. And the fish in the Nile died, and the Nile stank, so that the Egyptians could not drink water from the Nile. There was blood throughout all the land of Egypt.” (Exodus 7:20–21, ESV)

And all the Egyptians dug along the Nile for water to drink, for they could not drink the water of the Nile.” (Exodus 7:24, ESV)

2:10 Oh!, the gates, columns and walls are consumed by fire.

10:3-6 Lower Egypt weeps... The entire palace is without its revenues. To it belong [by right] wheat and barley, geese and fish

6:3 Behold!, grain has perished on every side.

5:12 Behold!, that has perished which was yesterday seen. The land is left over to its weariness like the cutting of flax.

Then Moses stretched out his staff toward heaven, and the Lord sent thunder and hail, and fire ran down to the earth. And the Lord rained hail upon the land of Egypt. There was hail and fire flashing continually in the midst of the hail, very heavy hail, such as had never been in all the land of Egypt since it became a nation. The hail struck down everything that was in the field in all the land of Egypt, both man and beast. And the hail struck down every plant of the field and broke every tree of the field.” (Exodus 9:23–25, ESV)

(The flax and the barley were struck down, for the barley was in the ear and the flax was in bud. But the wheat and the emmer were not struck down, for they are late in coming up.)” (Exodus 9:31–32, ESV)

They covered the face of the whole land, so that the land was darkened, and they ate all the plants in the land and all the fruit of the trees that the hail had left. Not a green thing remained, neither tree nor plant of the field, through all the land of Egypt.” (Exodus 10:15, ESV)

5:5 All animals, their hearts weep. Cattle moan...

9:2-3 Behold, cattle are left to stray, and there is none to gather them together.

behold, the hand of the Lord will fall with a very severe plague upon your livestock that are in the field, the horses, the donkeys, the camels, the herds, and the flocks.” (Exodus 9:3, ESV)

Now therefore send, get your livestock and all that you have in the field into safe shelter, for every man and beast that is in the field and is not brought home will die when the hail falls on them.” ’ ”” (Exodus 9:19, ESV)

but whoever did not pay attention to the word of the Lord left his slaves and his livestock in the field.” (Exodus 9:21, ESV)

9:11 The land is without light.

So Moses stretched out his hand toward heaven, and there was pitch darkness in all the land of Egypt three days.” (Exodus 10:22, ESV)

4:3 (5:6) Behold! The children of the princes are dashed against the walls.

6:12 Sorrow and sadness, the children of princes are cast out in the streets.

6:3 The prison is ruined.

2:13 He who places his brother in the ground is everywhere.

3:14 It is nothing but groaning throughout the land, mingled with great lamentations.

At midnight the Lord struck down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the firstborn of the captive who was in the dungeon, and all the firstborn of the livestock. And Pharaoh rose up in the night, he and all his servants and all the Egyptians. And there was a great cry in Egypt, for there was not a house where someone was not dead.” (Exodus 12:29–30, ESV)

3:2 Gold and lapis lazuli, silver and malachite, carnelian and bronze... these are fastened on the neck of female slaves.

The people of Israel had also done as Moses told them, for they had asked the Egyptians for silver and gold jewelry and for clothing. And the Lord had given the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they let them have what they asked. Thus they plundered the Egyptians.” (Exodus 12:35–36, ESV)


Ipuwer was an Egyptian who lived during the end of the 13th Century BC and near the start of the 12th Century BC. His account unsurprisingly corroborates the account of the Bible, and he gives insight into what happened to the world's first super power. The simple answer is this: God overthrew the mightiest of all kingdoms and delivered His people, just as He promised He would.

Dr. Adrian Rogers used to say, "Knowledge comes from looking around. Wisdom comes from looking up." You can always trust God when He makes a promise, but the other lesson to be learned here, the lesson of wisdom, is this: you can't stand against God. You just can't win.

Happy Passover!


Tags: passover, kamloops, exodus, ipuwer, archeology, bible