For years, scholars have been pouring over ancient Egyptian writings in vain to find historical written evidence of the story of Moses and the Israelites leaving Egypt.
However, geologist Barbara J Siversten, in her new book “The Parting of the Sea”, claims that the ten plagues mentioned in Exodus, as well as the parting of the Red Sea itself, could be explained by volcanic activity.
She has also put forward the idea that the story of Exodus actually is a composite of two separate events.
Speaking to Haaretz, she said that the first exodus took place in 1628 BC, a year in which a massive volcanic eruption almost destroyed the island of Santorini in the Aegean.
The effects of the eruption would also have reached Egypt she claims. One such effect was the raising of “an acidic ash cloud” which made things “dark and as thunder”, she said.
Siversten said that she was frustrated at reading the description of what happened in Exodus "because I realised these were clearly volcanic events. But I found no serious scientific explanation of this kind."
She claims that the story of the Nile turning to blood could be explained by the increased growth of red weeds as a result of volcanic ash. The following plague of frogs could then be easily explained, she said, "If you were a frog, you would come out, too, in such circumstances."
The only plague mentioned in Exodus which she says is not related to volcanic activity is the death of the firstborn. This she said could be explained by massive food poisoning. The fact that it did not affect the Israelites could be explained by their diet being different.
On the parting of the Red Sea, Siversten claims that this occurred in 1450 BC, well after the Israelites reached the Canaan Land. At that time there was a large eruption on the Aegean island of Yali, which caused a series of tsunamis which parted the red sea and drowned the pursuing Egyptian army.
As this eruption was over a century after the story of Exodus, Siversten claims the escapees were a group of Israelite prisoners, rather than the whole nation. She contends that the oral tradition of telling the story eventually led to the two events being combined into the Exodus story found in the Bible.
She said, "I agree you can not know for sure what really happened. But I'm convinced my hypothesis explains the events much better than others."