Is the Passover story the original false victimhood narrative?

It’s still Passover and I hope that readers of the Jewish persuasion are enjoying their matzot! Nothing like a week of Matzah to make you appreciate Wonder Bread.

It’s also April Fools’ Day, in which we celebrate the credulous.

What if we combine these celebrations? Wikipedia:

The consensus of modern scholars is that the Bible does not give an accurate account of the origins of the Israelites. There is no indication that the Israelites ever lived in Ancient Egypt, and the Sinai Peninsula shows almost no sign of any occupation for the entire 2nd millennium BCE (even Kadesh-Barnea, where the Israelites are said to have spent 38 years, was uninhabited prior to the establishment of the Israelite monarchy). In contrast to the absence of evidence for the Egyptian captivity and wilderness wanderings, there are ample signs of Israel’s evolution within Canaan from native Canaanite roots. …

The biblical narrative contains some details which are authentically Egyptian, but such details are scant, and the story frequently does not reflect Egypt of the Late Bronze Age or even Egypt at all (it is unlikely, for example, that a mother would place a baby in the reeds of the Nile, where it would be in danger from crocodiles). Such elements of the narrative as can be fitted into the 2nd millennium could equally belong to the 1st, consistent with a 1st millennium BCE writer trying to set an old story in Egypt. (The name of Moses, for example, belongs to 1st millennium Egyptian, and would have been Mase in the 2nd).

A century of research by archaeologists and Egyptologists has found no evidence which can be directly related to the Exodus captivity and the escape and travels through the wilderness.

We Jews say that we were enslaved and forced to labor for the Egyptians, whose pay records of voluntary laborers (farmers in the off season) are well-preserved and for whom “slavery” meant subjecting non-Egyptians to a 20 percent income tax. We Jews say that we weren’t permitted to leave Egypt, but there is no record of Ancient Egypt having any controls or restrictions on emigration (as the richest and most advanced civilization in the region, why would substantial numbers of people have wanted to leave it?).

When proffering a tale of victimhood, details add credibility. Example from a Haggadah:

This Pharaoh made the Israelites slaves. He forced them to do hard labor, building cities with bricks made from clay and straw. The people knew neither peace nor rest, only misery and pain. The cruelest decree of all was Pharaoh’s order that every baby boy born to an Israelite woman be drowned in the River Nile.

In contemporary western nations, where the most valuable coin is victimhood, should Jews be credited with having developed the first false victimhood narrative?

And what about a contemporary victimhood narrative that is fit for April Fools’ Day? On a collective basis, maybe immigrants to the U.S. could get the prize. From “Immigrants May Be Fed False Stories to Bolster Asylum Pleas” (New York Times, 2011):

Mr. Strauss-Kahn’s accuser said in her 2004 asylum bid that she was gang-raped, and that soldiers destroyed her home, beating her and her husband, who she said died in jail. She recently admitted to prosecutors that she had been lying. Her lawyer, Kenneth P. Thompson, said she was desperate to leave Guinea, and had been encouraged to exaggerate her claims. She told Manhattan prosecutors that a man had given her a recording of the asylum story to memorize.

Whether here legally or illegally, immigrants can apply for asylum within one year of arriving. To qualify, they must show a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group — which could cover gays or abused women.

Immigration courts across the country granted 51 percent of asylum claims last year, government statistics show. Such courts in New York City, which heard more cases than in any other city, approved 76 percent, among the highest rate in the nation.

How about in the individual category? For fans of the TV show The Good Place, the actor Jameela Jamil should be a candidate. Insects are three of the ten plagues in Exodus: lice, flies, and locusts; from Wikipedia:

In interviews, Jamil has mentioned several bee attacks in her life, including being hit by a car at age 17 when running away from a bee. In 2015, Jameela claimed that while she was interviewing musician Mark Ronson in the Hollywood Hills, the ‘biggest swarm of killer bees’ she had ever seen made them retreat. Ronson contradicted Jamil’s version of events, describing ‘one or two individual bees’ and walking ‘slowly inside’ in response. Jamil related that while filming the first season of The Good Place in 2016, she was chased by a dark swarm of bees and again got hit by a car. In 2019, Jamil states she ran away from bees while crossing the road to the UN headquarters to give a speech.

(see the “bee on my arm” at about 1:15 into the “Solar Panel Guy” recording at

Exodus talks about boils. Jamil:

In 2015, Jamil mentioned that she left the BBC Radio 1 Official Chart Show because of a breast cancer scare in 2014, and had lumpectomies on both breasts, in which she says she lost a ‘large chunk’ of breast tissue. However, in the 3 October 2019 Hardtalk interview, she concurs with the interviewer that she had a breast cancer scare ‘in 2016’, and that this precipitated an immediate move to Los Angeles after ‘a week’ waiting for test results that showed it to be a single ‘benign lump’.[105] Separately in a segment recorded in 2016 for Fashion Targets Breast Cancer, she instead describes having ‘recently’ experienced ‘a lump in her breast that showed signs of precancerous cells’. Also in October 2019 in the same month as the HardTalk interview but not in the interview itself, she stated she suffered from actual cancer twice, having cervical cancer in 2016 and 2019.

In 2020, a social media user accused Jamil of having Munchausen syndrome and falsifying or exaggerating specific public claims of health issues. For instance, Jamil claimed to have had a peanut allergy at birth and had recently posted an image of a peanut snack, ….

What if you search for “children’s haggadah”? One of the first results is from JewishBoston. The document fails to disclose that the Ancient Egyptians who purportedly oppressed the Jews are not the same people (except for a few Copts who have survived) as the people who live in Egypt today (i.e., even if we believe the story we should not hold a grudge against a modern person who says “I am Egyptian.”). It also fails to disclose that scholars doubt the historicity of the tale and that the Ancient Egyptians may not have been bad people. So the false victimhood narrative lives on!

(Separately, this Haggadah devotes roughly 1/10th of a page to telling us that “Nearly 50 Million Americans suffer the oppression of hunger.” So… our neighbors are starving. By contrast, “feminism and women’s rights … gay and lesbian Jews … spit out the seeds in their orange segment to reject homophobia and hatred” is a full page story:

More about the Good Orange Woman from the Jewish Women’s Archive.)

Whether or not you’ve Jewish… Happy April Fools’ Day!

Related, from the Labor Seder put on by a temple in Falls Church, Virginia (median household income $125,000 per year):

12 thoughts on “Is the Passover story the original false victimhood narrative?

  1. Thanks for citing ludicrous Facebook entry. It talks about Moses in Nile as a practical thing, without even mentioning God which is the main subject of Bible.

    But even there Genesis narrative is smarter. Even though the Wikipedia entry seems to confirm that Messiahs were not regularly sat on float on Nile river and Moses survival and adoption by Pharaoh’s daughter can not be a statistical thing, aka how many-worlds theory is used to explain unlikely set-up of our universe, it still involves hefty ADD part: in the Genesis story the basket was indeed covered with asphalt to protect from elements and detection by predators.

    About artifacts: how many are there modern artifacts of Persian invasion of Greece, which was larger in scope then Exodus? Less then those of Exodus.

    Two cities mentioned as built by Hebrews in the Bible were indeed excavated in 1950th. There are large accumulation of mollusc shells that were used to produce blue color required for tabernacle dies – apparently ancient gatherers did not feel they can salvage it for anything.

    And Sinai is just a modern hypothesis for where Jews spent 40 years – centuries prior it was north-west of what is now Saudi Arabia which has mountain with burned top and split rock from which water flowed far downstream according to now dry stream bed. And cross-over from Sinai that was Egypt to Arabia through cross chained by islands Gulf of Aqaba makes a lot of sense.

    How can Sinai not be part of yet – to be ever defeated Egypt when Canaan was conquered by Egypt as far as Lebanon and Syria prior to Exodus? How modern “experts” can no more about ancient Egypt then 3,300 year old writings whose fragments confirmed 3,000 ago and first scientists from 2,200 years ago actually living in Egypt?

    Phil, you made great wicked son questionnaire! You should resume writing, it is amazing how as an afterthought you produce a body of semi-substantiated writing better then 99% of articles and books out there on this blog in-between your main endeavors.

    • LSI: You raise a good point. There aren’t the contemporary accounts of the Persian invasions of Greece that we might expect, especially as these invasions occurred centuries later than the events that Exodus chronicles. covers Darius the Great’s successes, not his failure with the first invasion of Greece. The second invasion is dated to 480 BC and the main account is from Herodotus, born c. 484 BC (i.e., he would have been a small child at the time of the invasion).

      I’m not an expert in archaeology, but I thought that modern-era academics had found enough to corroborate most of what is in Herodotus, except that the numbers he offers are considered exaggerations.

    • Philip, likewise there is Meneptah Stelle from Ancient Egypt that overly pessimistically declared final and complete demise of Israel.

      Bible accounts of later pre-Persian and Persian times are largely confirmed and complemented by written archeological discoveries from territories of Iraq, Persia and Assyria.

      Based on well agreed ## for population of # of Roman Empire and Judea during Roman times I highly doubt new low-ball estimates for Persian invasion of Greece: there out to be way too many Greeks who had large and well armed warrior class (most of population except slaves) to be threatened by small # of lesser – armed Persians. According to written history Persians used Greek mercenaries, one group of which was able to rebel at Persian capital and exit successfully all the way to Greece, surrounded by enemies on their thousands mile track.

      I visited many archaeological museums and some digs and yet to see a sword or a spear point specifically attributed to a Persian invasion of Greece, much less tents of thousands of them.

      I have seen many more arrow-points of Native Americans in museums then those that were used in whole of antiquity, no doubt because of population density, materials and time distances involved.

      It is even hard to find artifacts attributed to Viking invasions in places where they spread from less then a thousand years ago, in fact all I had seen was a week shadow of a well-rusted sword that did not use menacing at all. In fact, there are more body armor from ancient Mediterranean then real medieval armor of war in the museums: medieval armor displayed is parade armor of kings and high nobility that had never seen any combat.

      Shouldn’t we double all pre-wikipedia history based on scant archaeological evidence? 40 years ago when as a child I searched fields of Eastern Europe I found not a single panzer or T-34 tank indicative of multi-million militaries battling each other less then 40 years ago, just a find or two indicative of small scale home turf gang warfare at most.

  2. I guess from this post we could summarize: “Yeah, sure, the Jews lie, but it’s always for the best reasons.”

    • Way too general summary of “alternative” sources that Phil managed to find for this Passover. Regular traditional Jewish Passover haggadahs are not like this. And it false to confluence Passover with international liar holiday April’s Fool day. The latter is not Jewish but is gentile holiday.

    • @Anonymous: It was meant to be darkly humorous, and I agree that this presentation of Passover and the confliction with April Fool’s day is not Philg’s best moment.

  3. @philg, your $125,000 average household income friends (real income must must be a healthy multiple of this average if your friends not yet retired) clearly view not unionized right – to – work workers as kind of Egyptian oppressors, to follow the analogy to the end. Break the virtual habit, stop by a real supermarket selling real kosher food and pick-up real haggadah. I hope that this alternative haggadah was not distributed with Savannah BBQ menu that you posted about earlier.

  4. I cannot speak about the Egyptian / Jews on this post, but this:

    > Mr. Strauss-Kahn’s accuser said in her 2004 asylum bid that she was gang-raped, and that soldiers destroyed her home, beating her and her husband, who she said died in jail.

    Be it true or not, is what bothers me the most. Why should ANY country give asylum to ANY person of ANY age for such a victim? Why should it be the responsibility of ANOTHER country to protect such a victim? What’s next, “my husband demands that I cook for him every day” to be accepted as a reason to grant asylum?

    • George: In a society where people get maximum prestige for being “survivors”, I think the benefits to existing Americans from the admission of the world’s most victimized humans (or at least though who convincingly say that they’re the world’s most victimized humans) are psychological and sentimental rather than economic.

    • Barak: Thanks for that. The description on Vimeo is awesome: Loosely following a traditional Passover Seder, the events of Exodus are retold by Moses, Aharon, the Angel of Death, Jesus, and the director’s own father. But there’s another side to this story: that of the Goddess, humankind’s original deity. Seder-Masochism resurrects the Great Mother in a tragic struggle against the forces of Patriarchy.

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