The Exodus is the "charter myth" of Israel; its message is that Israel was delivered from slavery by Yahweh and therefore belongs to him through the covenant. It tells of the enslavement of the Israelites in Egypt following the death of Joseph, their departure under the leadership of Moses, the revelations at Sinai, and their wanderings in the wilderness up to the borders of Canaan. Significant portions of the story told in the books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy may not have been intended to be historiographic, but the overall intent was historical according to the understanding of the ancient writers: to demonstrate God's actions in history, to recall Israel's bondage and salvation, and to demonstrate the fulfillment of Israel's covenant. No archeological evidence has been found to support the Book of Exodus and most archaeologists have abandoned the investigation of Moses and the Exodus as "a fruitless pursuit".
The opinion of the overwhelming majority of modern biblical scholars is that the Pentateuch as we know it was shaped in the post-Exilic period, though the traditions behind the narrative are older and can be traced in the writings of the 8th century prophets. How far beyond that the tradition might stretch cannot be told: "Presumably an original Exodus story lies hidden somewhere inside all the later revisions and alterations, but centuries of transmission have long obscured its presence, and its substance, accuracy and date are now difficult to determine.