Tate Gallery/Art Resource, NY

Riding on camelback, Moses points the way to the Holy Land, in British artist Richard Dadd’s “The Flight Out of Egypt” (1849–1850). Shown gathering everything from water to arms, the bustling, multiracial crowd preparing for the journey reminds us of the obscure biblical statement that the Israelites were not alone on their journey. In Exodus, we read that a “mixed multitude” accompanied the Israelites out of Egypt (Exodus 12:38); the Book of Numbers records the complaints of the hungry “riffraff” who lived amidst the Hebrews in the wilderness (Numbers 11:4). The presence of these unnamed strangers at this defining moment in Israel’s story is so surprising that it rings true: Though many scholars question the historicity of the Exodus account, author Robert R. Stieglitz notes that details like this indicate that the biblical account may preserve a memory of an actual sojourn in and exodus from Egypt.