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According to Exodus –38, the Israelites numbered "about six hundred thousand men on foot, besides women and children", plus many non-Israelites and livestock. "Egyptology and the traditions of early Hebrew antiquity (Genesis and Exodus)". Numbers gives a more precise total of 603,550 men aged 20 and up. the memory of Egyptian oppression, for example, may be based on the harsh treatment of Canaanites inside Canaan during those centuries in the 2nd millennium when the region was ruled by Egypt: these memories could later have been transferred to Egypt itself, and a new exodus story created. A historical Moses associated with a small group may have been later generalised into the savior of Israel, while others have found echoes of the descent into Egypt and the Exodus in the history of the Hyksos, who were Canaanite rulers of the Egyptian Delta in the 16th century BCE. The crossing of the Red Sea has been variously placed at the Pelusic branch of the Nile, anywhere along the network of Bitter Lakes and smaller canals that formed a barrier toward eastward escape, the Gulf of Suez (south-southeast of Succoth), and the Gulf of Aqaba (south of Ezion-Geber), or even on a lagoon on the Mediterranean coast. Exodus in the Jewish Experience: Echoes and Reverberations.

The exodus story may therefore have originated a few centuries earlier, perhaps the 9th or 10th, and there are signs that it took different forms in Israel, in the Transjordan region, and in the southern Kingdom of Judah before being unified in the Persian era. The story of the Exodus is told in the books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, the last four of the five books of the Torah (also called the Pentateuch).It tells of the events that befell the Israelites following the death of Joseph, their departure from Egypt, and their wanderings in the wilderness, including the revelations at Sinai, up to their arrival at the borders of Canaan.So while a few scholars, notably Kenneth Kitchen and James K. Hoffmeier, continue to discuss the historicity, or at least plausibility, of the story, arguing that the Egyptian records have been lost or suppressed or that the fleeing Israelites left no archaeological trace or that the large numbers are mistranslated, the majority have abandoned the investigation as "a fruitless pursuit".

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