EXAMINING “THE BIBLE MYSTERIES EXPLAINED-EXODUS” A documentary for Discovery channel By Danzil Monk

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Religion and Spirituality  |  House: Booksie Classic

The number of documentaries on TV these days that pretend to fairly examine the Bible's credibility, but in fact are nothing more than a subtle and sometimes not so subtle attempts the discredit the Bible are beyond counting. This is my attempt at refuting just one such program by pointing our what the documentary participants cunningly failed to mention or address.

Some time ago a science professor friend informed me about a documentary that he had seen on the Discovery Channel called “Biblical Mysteries Exposed: Exodus” a documentary claiming to scientifically explain the plagues of Egypt.  He was so excited about the content of the documentary because, though no longer an all- out atheist, he did believe that the Bible miracles could be scientifically explained. We had often had conversations about God and after much debate, he was willing to concede that there had to be something intelligent behind all life here on earth. While he was not willing to call that intelligence the Judao-Christian God of the Bible, he was willing to discuss the possibility that the Biblical God was a possibility.

That all seemed to change after he saw the documentary, and the enthusiasm with which he relayed to me the “scientific” explanations presented in the film was quite impressive.

At the time I had not seen the documentary, but I had seen my share of other supposed “scientific” explanations and refutations of the Bible so often presented on the History Channel, BBC, PBS, The Science Channel and the Discovery Channel, so I was quite familiar with the general approach used by such programs to deflate or discredit the Bible.

The professor and I had lunch and he again shared with me several of the explanations that the documentary presented. Without having seen the program I could perceive from what he was sharing with me, that the program was careful to avoid any comments that would cause the viewer to critically examine the explanations being given. When I posed several questions to the professor about the “scientific” explanations given, he immediately became aware that there were problems with the explanations and proceeded to emphasize the point that they were only "possible" answers but that they seemed reasonable. Since I had not seen the program yet I was limited in my ability to engage him on the subject and as time passed I eventually forgot about the incident.

Then recently a Christian disciple of mine approached me about the same documentary. He too seemed fascinated by the apparent reasonableness of the “scientific” explanations given and also a bit concerned.  After I explained to him the common goals and tactics of such programs and pointed out a few holes in the programs explanations, he seemed to calm down. However, I decided then that I would investigate the program and find whatever material by Conservative Christian scholars was available about the documentary. I was sure that there would be a good selection of refutations online by now. But to my surprise, I was not able to find anything after using a number of search titles. I even exhausted my list of Christian apologetics and scholarly web site but was unsuccessful in finding anything on the documentary.  This concerned me but I am sure that it has more to do with my not knowing the right words to use in my search than there being negligence among Christian Scholars. At least I hope that is the case.

I eventually decided that rather than waiting to fine material that refuted the documentary, I should start preparing my own. Not being a Christian scholar, it would not be as authoritative as it should be, but it would serve in some measure albeit small, to offset the disrespect shown to the Bible by the creators of the documentary. Anyone with information about a more scholarly rebuttal to the program is encouraged to forward such information to me.

The documentary addresses the ten plagues as scientifically explainable and pretends to be substantiating the biblical story by such explanations when in truth to present such naturalistic explanations is to undermine the biblical claim of the miraculous move of God’s judgments on Egypt. It’s like picking someone’s pocket and telling them that you are actually doing them a favor by relieving them of their money.

After viewing the program several times I was convinced that it was the usual Bible bashing propaganda wrapped in a non-confrontational presentation to disarm any complaint of foul play from the Jewish and Christian community. It was nevertheless an attack on the Bible and anyone could see the deception if they knew what to look for.

The key to detecting the documentaries trickery and deception is in what it fails to mention that is in the biblical narrative, its failure to acknowledge the time factors indicated in the Bible and who it failed to include in the interviews for commentary. For instance, why were no conservative Christian or conservative Hebrew scholars included as commentators to give counter arguments?

The guest commentators featured in the documentary were, Robert R. Cargill (UCLA), Peter Williams (Cambridge University), Colin Humphreys (author of “The Miracles of Exodus), Dr. John S. Marr (Medical Collage of VA) and Doron Nof (Florida State University). I haven’t yet had the time to check their religious backgrounds but I am sure that none of them are Conservative Bible Believing Christians or conservative Hebrew Scholars.  I am sure that if you look up the backgrounds of the people involved with creating the documentary, from the Executive Producers, Louis C. Tarantino and Douglas J. Cohen, to the Narrator, Michael Carroll, you will be hard pressed to find one who is a conservative Bible believing Christian or orthodox Jew. Time and resources permitting I just might check those backgrounds just to test my theory.

What should be noted at the outset is that early on they make an interesting admission.

They admit that the Bible is the only written record of this history, and they also acknowledged that the location of Median is not known.  So in essence, the Bible is the only authority on the matter. But they cannot allow that to stand, so they have to diminish the authority of the Bible by somehow showing that there is a natural explanation for all the “miracles” while at the same time avoiding the appearance of a full frontal attack.

Dr. John S. Marr claims that the ten plagues are in fact nothing more than a series of natural events that are directly the result of a cascade effect.  The rest of the program attempts to prove his point. What he failed to mention was that God told Moses that the calamities would be a direct attack against the god’s of Egypt, and indeed they were.

  1. Water turned to Blood=Osiris, Isis, Horus, Hapimon, Tauret, Nu, Apis and Khnun
  2. Frogs=Hekt (Heqet)
  3. Lice(Sand Flies?)=Geb, and Set
  4. Scarabs (“Swarms”)=Amon-Ra and Uatchit
  5. Murrain in Animals=Apis, Hathor, Bubastis
  6. Boils (Ashes)=Thoth, Apis, Serapis, Imhotep, Sekhmet, Sunu
  7. Hail, Fire=Shu, Nut, Horus, Osiris, Set
  8. Locusts=Nepri, Ermutet, Anupis, Osiris, Nut
  9. Darkness (that was felt)=Ra, Aten, Horus, Tem, Shu
  10. Firstborn death=Pharaoh’s own dynasty[1], Isis

This is a highly significant point in the story, but nothing at all was said about the significance of the type of plagues chosen by God to punish Pharaoh and Egypt, the question is, why?

So while Dr. Marr and others conducted their study of Exodus, they did not “seem” to be interested in understanding the history or the actual context of the book. Looking for possible naturalistic explanations is fine and a legitimate endeavor, but to do so by ignoring much of the text and context is clearly problematic for any honest investigator.

The program creators clearly had an agenda to discredit the Bible, and their take on the miracles of Exodus proves it.

The Burning Bush Exodus 3

The burning bush in the biblical story was not consumed and it was this fact that the bush was burning and not consumed that got Moses’ attention. (Exodus 3:1-3)  

Dr. Colin Humphrey in the documentary suggested that this phenomenon was due to an acacia bush being over a volcano vent. But what they neglect to discuss is the fact that in such an area the heat level would be too high for a man to stay in with his shoes on or off for any extended period of time. Not to mention the fumes and smoke conditions. Yet Moses was so intrigued that he approached the bush and God had to tell him not to come to close because the place was holy. (Exodus 3:5). There is no indication of smoke or heat in the text.

We are not told how long the bush was burning before Moses saw it so we have no way of knowing how long it burned. But we are told that God spoke to Moses from the bush.  The producers are said to have conducted their own experiment of the burning bush and what we are shown is a piece of acacia branch being burned with a torch. Why didn’t they who did the fire test of the acacia bush tell us how long the fire was held to the bush branch? And why did they not do the test with a full size bush? They are careful not the do a true test because it would fall apart and would not give the desired impression. How long will an acacia bush stand and burn if it was over a volcano vent and on fire? Would there be smoke and fumes that would cause anyone near to choke? Also, an acacia burning to white ash, even though keeping its form for an extended period of time would have been no great wonder to Moses.

To suggest that this was just a volcano vent is disrespectful of our God and our holy scriptures.

The Nile Turned To Blood-Exodus 7:17-24

After correctly quoting the Exodus text as saying the river shall be turned to “blood”, the narrator changes the statement by saying: “According to Exodus, the Nile river turned “blood red” for seven long days”. This is the first hint of a fix; referring to the plague as “blood red” rather than “blood” sets up their naturalistic “scientific” explanation of red algae poisoning. But the Bible text makes no mention of algae and blood can be distinguished from red algae water. Additionally the blood was said to be in the vessels of wood and stone (v.19). This indicated that all water in Egypt turned to blood even though it was previously drawn from the Nile before the plague started. This could not be explained by red algae. Also, the Egyptian magicians are said to have done the same with their “secret arts” at some point during the time the waters were turning to blood (v. 22), would red algae water be a secret art to Egyptians?  Would reproducing it require secret arts?

Also not explained is the timing of the “red algae”, Exodus describes it as an event that began to occur when Aaron touched the waters with the staff “in the presence of Pharaoh and his officials” (v. 20), which means that before then there was no red algae in the water and Pharaoh saw the contamination as it began. How do they explain the sudden spread of red algae which would have taken days or weeks to spread and poison the fish, and it would have taken even more time to go away allowing the waters to return to their natural color and state. Nothing is said about these discrepancies in their “scientific” explanations because it would discredit them as reasonable possibilities.

The Frogs Exodus 8

Their claim that the frogs covering of the land of Egypt was due to the poisoned waters does not explain the timing of the frog infestation. The Bible says it happened seven days after the water had been made blood and was due to Aaron’s stretching his hands and staff over the waters (8:5-6), not polluted water.

Also, according to Exodus 8:9, not all the frogs left the Nile; were those that stayed immune to the pollution of the algae? Why would it take so long for the frogs to start hightailing it out of the Nile if it was so poison? (v.7). Moses even allowed Pharaoh to choose the time of the frog relief (8:10-11). How do you explain that scientifically? And why did the frogs die at the time Moses prayed for God to remove them? (v.13) You see, attention must be drawn away from the actual text in order make their ideas seem reasonable.

There is something to be said about their filling the homes of the Egyptians also, with all of the land available to them, why would they enter the homes and fill them unless they were directed to do so by divine control? (v.3-4).

The Narrator said that it was because there was no food to eat, that they quickly died. But what do frogs eat? Flies and other insects, and with the stink in the land (7:18) from the conditions there should have been plenty of flies and other insects.

And just how long does it take for a frog to die of hunger anyway, a day? This was a short term infestation that ended too soon for the frogs to have starved. They died instantly and all at once, the text says that they had to pile them up. (8:14) Had they died slowly over a long period of time there would be no massive pile. Naturally, none of these points were even considered.

The Gnats Exodus 8:16-32

The gnats and sand files are said to be caused by the dead frogs, but no explanation is attempted to explain the timing. Such a massive infestation as described in the Bible would have taken weeks but this happened at the moment Aaron’s rod touched the ground at God’s command.(8:16-17)

The text also says that the Egyptian magicians could not duplicate this plague though they tried to.  (8:18-19) But why were they trying to duplicate something that they should have known was simply the result of the dead frog? Apparently, they recognized the miraculous nature of the events and sought to demonstrate that it was just a magic trick that could be duplicated and therefore was nothing to fear, but this time they could not do it. And the text says that even they acknowledged that this was as act of the God of Israel. (8:19)

And where were all the flies at this time, don’t flies like dead frogs, were they afraid of the lice?

How does their science explain the flies coming the next day as Moses said rather than with or even before the lice? (8:23)

Also, why didn’t the narrator and his experts explain the sudden removal of the flies at Moses’ word? (8:29) And the fact that no swarm plagues invaded Israel in Goshen is not mentioned or explained. The flies filled all of Egypt and Goshen is in Egypt. (8:22-23) Considering the amount of flies covering the land why would the flies not go there also? How do you explain that scientifically? 

Why would any of these issues be raised since it was not the goal of the documentary to be balanced?

The Death Of the Livestock Exodus 9:1-7

They claim that the next plague of animal deaths was caused by the flies caring a pathogenic virus called blue tongue.

But again they ignore key issues such as the fact that the time of the plague was give. (9:5-6) And none of the Israelites animals died,(9:4)  Pharaoh checked to see based on the warning and he confirmed that non in Israel died.(9:7) Were the files trained to bite only Egyptian animals? And why did their bites not affect humans at that time? Surely any bite that could kill and animal would kill a human or at least make them very sick. Also, again the time factor is ignored. How long does it take for blue tongue to kill an animal? These deaths were caused in a relatively short period of time and on cue, the next day as Moses said they would.

The Plague of Boils Exodus 9:8-12

Here they simply say the boils may have been caused by the same flies but the boils only began after Moses tossed the ashes from the furnace in the air.(9:8-10) Again, it is a time factor issue. And it only affected the Egyptians and their animals, not those in Goshen. None of this is mentioned or explained scientifically.

The narrator then falsely claims: “We have shown it is possible that the first six plagues were all interconnected”. This is not true, to this point, they had not done anything accept made claims of possible causes with little or no attention to the actual context of the text.

The Plague of Hail Exodus 9:13-35

Here they claim that the hail storm came out of nowhere, but again the Bible gives a time and it happens at the time Moses said it would, the next day and at the time Moses lifted his hands towards the sky.

(9:18, 23) It also says specifically that the hail fell everywhere in Egypt accept Goshen, no hail fell on Goshen (9:26) and that is never explained or mentioned. The text says it was a divinely controlled hail storm.

Also of note in this section of the text that takes it out of the realm of natural events are as follows:

(9:15) God tells Pharaoh that He could have destroyed Egypt all at once, but He is using Pharaoh to make Himself known in the earth by taunting Pharaoh. (9:19) God gives Pharaoh and all Egypt a chance to protect themselves from the next plague by telling them to bring all living creatures inside. (9:20) we are told that Egypt was not united but divided, having some who feared the God of Israel even among Egypt’s officials. (9:27) Pharaoh calls for Moses and agrees to let the people got, recognizing that the hail was not a natural even but sent by the God of Israel.

Locusts Exodus 10

They claim that it was the conditions left by the hail that caused the locusts to come, but they again ignore the text and the time factor. The chapter opens with God telling Moses to inform Pharaoh that God is hardening his heart and the hearts of his officials so that He could perform his signs among them, and so that Israel will have a historic witness for themselves and to speak of to their descendants.(10:1-2).

Moses warned Pharaoh that the Locus would come the next day and they came the next day as Moses said it would when he stretched forth his hands. (10:3-4). He specifically tells Pharaoh that the locus will finish the destruction that hail started. (10:5) and that they will fill their houses and it will be like nothing they have ever experience before (10:6), the text is very specific.

The text also says that the officials of Egypt complained to Pharaoh about Egypt’s ruined condition and pleaded with Pharaoh to let the people go. (10:7)

After Pharaoh kicks Moses and Aaron out of his presence, God tells Moses to stretch out his hands over Egypt and then God brought a wind all day and night that “brought the locus”. (10:12-13) The “experts” in the documentary ignores all of that information and do not even attempt include it in their explanations. Nor do they try to explain the sudden removal of the locust by the wind that blew them into the Red Sea. (10:19)

By leaving the details of the biblical text out and focusing on a created story of supposed scientific occurrences, they make their explanation seen more feasible. It is sad that some Christians have allow this kind of slight of hands to discourage them.

Darkness  Over The Land Exodus 10

Colin Humphreys says that the darkness was almost certainly a dust storm caused by the conditions of the other plagues. But they all ignored the text which says that it was caused by God. (10:21-22) and that it was a “darkness that can be felt” and that the Egyptians could not see each other nor left their homes, (10:23) and nothing was mentioned about sand, a storm or wind in the biblical text. They also fail to mention that in Goshen, there was light. What kind of sand storm could make Egypt black while allowing Goshen to have light? This is stated in the text as a phenomenon, not some natural event.

Death Of The First Born Exodus 11-12

The text clearly says that Moses tells Pharaoh that at midnight he would go out in the midst of Egypt and the first born of all in Egypt from the greatest to the least will die. (11:4-6) but not harm will come to any of the Hebrews. (11:7) In fact, he says, this plague of death will be so devastating that your servants will come and bow down to me and beg us to leave. (11:8)

In chapter 12 God also give clear instructions to Moses for the people that include placing blood from a lamb on the post of each house so that the death would not come to their homes.

The death came as God through Moses said it would, (12:29-30).

For anyone to try to come up with a naturalistic explanation for the deaths of the first born in Egypt, they have to lack any kind of respect for the text of the Bible or the Torah.

Dr. John Marr is said to have studied the Bible text and found that the answer was in the food. They claim that the wheat was moved underground with no documented proof from the text, and the top parts became contaminated with a fungus  micro toxin which was then give to the first born, killing them. But could they not see that the top was contaminated?  Isn’t there a strong smell that fungus gives off and is there not a visible condition of fungus that is easily recognizable? And why did the firstborn servants, slaves and even prisoners (12:29) die, did they receive the same food that the Egyptian top brass received? This is not explained. No effort is made to explain the time factors. How long would the food have to be stored to contract this Fungus? How deep would the fungus have to grow to be a sufficient amount to kill “all” of the first born of the privileged in Egypt and all of the first born among their servants and slaves? How is it, that just the right amount was formed, gathered and delivered so as not to filter over into the meals of the other people? Finally, it must be noted again that the text in Exodus that tells of Pharaoh’s reaction and that of the Egyptian people is ignored. He and his officials did not attribute the deaths to food but to the God of Israel. (12:30-33)

Another evidence of the producers of the documentaries lack of respect for the bible is seen in their blatant contradiction of what the text says about the path the children of Israel took on their way out of Egypt. The commentator suggests that the Israelites took a straight path even though the text clearly says that they did not.

“When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter. For God said, “If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.” So God led the people around by the desert road toward the Red Sea”. (Exodus 13:17-18)

Parting Of The Red Sea And Destruction of The Egyptian Army Exodus 14

The documentary had to be very creative at this point. The parting of the red sea is explained in the Bible as a great wind caused by God that pushed the waters back and held them in place for Israel to pass through.  But the documentary says that it was a natural wind.

This is so pitiful that I really don’t think it needs to be refuted. Just read the text and asks such people who accept this kind of “natural” explanations, what is the real reason they refuse to accept what the Bible says.

Exodus 14:19-31

19 Then the angel of God, who had been traveling in front of Israel’s army, withdrew and went behind them. The pillar of cloud also moved from in front and stood behind them, 20 coming between the armies of Egypt and Israel. Throughout the night the cloud brought darkness to the one side and light to the other side; so neither went near the other all night long.

21 Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and all that night the Lord drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land. The waters were divided, 22 and the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left.

23 The Egyptians pursued them, and all Pharaoh’s horses and chariots and horsemen followed them into the sea. 24 During the last watch of the night the Lord looked down from the pillar of fire and cloud at the Egyptian army and threw it into confusion. 25 He jammed the wheels of their chariots so that they had difficulty driving. And the Egyptians said, “Let’s get away from the Israelites! The Lord is fighting for them against Egypt.”

26 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the sea so that the waters may flow back over the Egyptians and their chariots and horsemen.” 27 Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and at daybreak the sea went back to its place. The Egyptians were fleeing toward it, and the Lord swept them into the sea. 28 The water flowed back and covered the chariots and horsemen—the entire army of Pharaoh that had followed the Israelites into the sea. Not one of them survived.

29 But the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left. 30 That day the Lord saved Israel from the hands of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians lying dead on the shore. 31 And when the Israelites saw the mighty hand of the Lord displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the Lord and put their trust in him and in Moses his servant.

Well, there you have it, there is simply nothing that unbelievers can do or say to twist the record in Exodus so that God is rendered unnecessary.

But we as believers must be both informed and educated so that we can correct such interpretations and in doing so, we just may win some to faith in Jesus Christ.


[1] Taken from Dr. Chuck Missler’s commentary notes on Exodus.

Submitted: December 08, 2015

© Copyright 2020 Danzil. All rights reserved.

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