Skeptics of the Bible sometimes doubt that Israel was present in the land of Canaan during the time period specified by the Bible. They allege that the Biblical record was made up many centuries later. The Merneptah Stele is powerful validation of the accuracy of the Biblical narrative's account of early Israel's presence in Canaan.
The stele was placed by the Egyptian Pharaoh Merneptah (who ruled c. 1224-1214 B. C.). He claimed to have defeated a variety of foreign nations to his north, specifying, in his list, “Israel” in a series of comments about victories over groups in “Canaan.” The Stele thus constitutes “an official recognition of a people called Israel in extra-biblical documents.” Furthermore, the word “Israel” is preceded by the Egyptian determinative for “people” or “ethnic group,” while Israel’s presence on the stele indicates that the Israelites were a significant nation at the time, one important enough even at this early date for Egypt's Pharaoh to boast about a victory over them. Thus, even at this early period “Israel was well enough established by that time among the other peoples of Canaan to have been perceived by Egyptian intelligence as a possible challenge to Egyptian hegemony.”
Thus, “Israel was definitely in Palestine by ca 1220 B. C.” In the words of the agnostic, anti-inerrancy scholar William Dever: “The Merneptah Stele is . . . just what skeptics, mistrusting the Hebrew Bible (and archaeology), have always insisted upon as corroborative evidence: an extrabiblical text, securely dated, and free of biblical or pro-Israel bias. What more would it take to convince the naysayers?”
Further evidence for Israel's presence in Canaan exists. An inscription from the time of the Ramessess II (1303-1213 B. C.) refers to “Israel” in a captive list also mentioning Ashkelon and Canaan. Furthermore, two captive lists found in the Egyptian Soleb temple in the time of Amenhotep III (1390-1352 B. C.) mention a people in a “land” that is associated with characters that “represen[t] exactly the way the Hebrew divine name would appear in hieroglyphic . . . leading many scholars to associate these inscriptions with Israel.” (This last piece of evidence also supports the traditional and conservative date for the Exodus in contrast to the later date adopted by many more liberal scholars.)
The Merneptah Stele and other Egyptian sources provide “documentary extrabiblical evidence for . . . a ‘people’ called ‘Israel,’ living in Canaan, and [their] God” as “known in the Egyptian sphere of influence no later than Merneptah and probably much earlier . . . the pre-Amarna period.”
Christians should be aware of the existence of the Merneptah Stele and refer to it when appropriate in apologetic encounters with non-Christians.
One can learn more about archaeological evidence for the Bible in the study Archaeology and the Bible: Do Archaeological Discoveries Confirm Biblical Claims? (Old Testament here, New Testament here, the book of Daniel specifically here) as well as in the video series on archaeological, historical, and prophetic evidence for the Old Testament on YouTube here.
 For the text of the stela, see James Bennett Pritchard, ed., The Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament, 3rd ed. with Supplement (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1969) 376-378.
 Davis, John J. New International Dictionary of Biblical Archaeology (Accordance electronic edition, version 1.5. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1983), “Israel Stele.”
 Thomas E. Levy, Thomas Schneider & William H. C. Propp, eds., Israel’s Exodus in Transdisciplinary Perspective: Text, Archaeology, Culture, and Geoscience. (New York: Springer, 2015) 203.
 William G. Dever, Who Were the Early Israelites and Where Did They Come From? (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2006), 206.
 Picture from Billington, Clyde E. “The Curious History Of The “Editor” In Biblical Criticism: A Review Of The Edited Bible, By John Van Seters (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2006).” Bible and Spade 22 (2009) 115.
ca circa, about
 C. F. Pfeiffer, “Israel, History of the People of,” ed. Geoffrey W Bromiley, The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Revised (Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1979–1988), 911.
 William G. Dever, Who Were the Early Israelites and Where Did They Come From? (Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2006), 206.
 Lawson G. Stone, “Early Israel and Its Appearance in Canaan,” in Ancient Israel’s History: An Introduction to Issues and Sources, ed. Bill T. Arnold and Richard S. Hess (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2014), 143; cf. e. g., Donald B. Redford, Egypt, Canaan and Israel in Ancient Times (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992) 272–273.
 Lawson G. Stone, “Early Israel and Its Appearance in Canaan,” in Ancient Israel’s History: An Introduction to Issues and Sources, ed. Bill T. Arnold and Richard S. Hess (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2014), 142–143. See also Peter van der Veen, Christoffer Theis, & Manfred Görg, “Israel in Canaan (Long) Before Pharaoh Merneptah? A Fresh Look at Berlin Statue Pedestal Relief 21687,” Journal of Ancient Egyptian Interconnections 2:4 (2010) 15-25.