What We Know About the Exodus
We first need to identify the biblical and historical facts regarding the Exodus. Once we lay all the scriptural and historical evidence out, we will be able to piece together the time of the Exodus.
FACT #1: The Children of Israel were in Egypt 215 Years
The children of Israel were not in the Nile Delta for 400 years, nor were they enslaved by the Egyptians for the same duration of time. Let’s review the evidence for a sojourn of 215 years in Egypt. We’ll begin with:
Ex. 12:40 “Now the sojourning of the children of Israel and their fathers, who dwelt in Egypt and Canaan, was four hundred and thirty years.”
Both the Septuagint and the Samaritan Pentateuch include the phrase ‘and Canaan’; whereas the Masoretic text drops ‘and Canaan’.
- Gal. 3:16-17 “Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ. And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect.”
- Gen. 37:1 “And Jacob dwelt in the land wherein his father was a stranger, in the land of Canaan.”
‘Stranger’ in the Hebrew is ‘Magor’, meaning: ‘to sojourn’; ‘pilgrimage’; ‘be a stranger’; ‘dwell’.
Abraham was 75 years old when he entered Canaan [Gen. 12:4] and received the promise that his seed should become a great nation at the same time. [Gen. 15] 25 years later, when Abraham was 100, Isaac was born.
In Talmudic times it was customary for children to be nursed up to the age of five. In Gen. 21:8-9 Isaac is weaned and on the same day Ishmael mocks Isaac. This event begins to prophetic 400 years of mistreatment and enslavement. Yet the covenant was established with Abraham thirty years before.
- Gen. 15:13 “And he said unto Abram, Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and they will be enslaved and mistreated four hundred years.”
Abraham was a Syrian (Deut. 26:5) So, Canaan was a land not their own, and Egypt was a land not their own. Ex. 6:4 “And I have also established my covenant with them, to give them the land of Canaan, the land of their pilgrimage, wherein they were strangers.”
- Abraham Enters Canaan, 75 0 (Gen. 12:4)
- Isaac born, Abraham 100 + 25 (Gen. 21:5)
- Isaac weaned, 5 + 5 (Gen. 21:8)
- Jacob born, Isaac 60 + 55 (Gen. 25:26)
- Jacob Enters Egypt, 130 + 130 (Gen. 47:8-9)
Total: 215 years
This leaves 215 years remaining for a sojourn in Egypt, but how long were the Israelites enslaved there? Let’s look at the next piece of evidence:
Genealogy of Joseph
- Gen. 46:20 In Egypt, Manasseh and Ephraim were born to Joseph by Asenath daughter of Potiphera, priest of On.
- Gen. 50:23 “Joseph saw Ephraim’s children to the third generation. The children of Machir, the son of Manasseh were also brought up on Joseph’s knees.”
- Num. 27:1 “Then came the daughters of Zelophehad, the son of Hephor, the son of Gilead, the son of Machir, the son of Manasseh, the son of Joseph. The names of the daughters were Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milkah and Tirzah.
- Gen. 50:26 “So Joseph died, being one hundred and ten years old.”
The Genealogy of Levi:
- Gen. 46:11 “The sons of Levi were Gershon; Kohath, and Merari.
- Ex. 6:16 “These are the names of the sons of Levi according to their generations: Gershon, Kohath, and Merari. And the years of the life of Levi were one hundred and thirty-seven.  And the sons of Kohath were Amram, Izhar, Hebron, and Uzziel. And the years of the life of Kohath were one hundred and thirty-three.  Now Amram took for himself Jochebed, his father’s sister, as wife; and she bore him Aaron and Moses. And the years of the life of Amran were one hundred and thirty-seven.
- Ex. 2:1 “And a man of the house of Levi went and took as wife a daughter of Levi.”
Num. 26:59 “The name of Amran’s wife was Jochebed the daughter of Levi, who was born to Levi in Egypt; and to Amram she bore Aaron and Moses.”
- Ex. 7:7 “And Moses was eighty years old and Aaron eighty-three years old when they spoke to Pharaoh.”
Genealogy of Reuben
- Gen. 46:9 The sons of Reuben: Hanok, Pallu, Hezron and Karmi.
- Num. 26:8-9 The son of Pallu was Eliab, and the sons of Eliab were Nemuel, Dathan and Abiram. The same Dathan and Abiram were the community officials who rebelled against Moses and Aaron and were among Korah’s followers when they rebelled against the LORD.
The Genealogy of Judah
- Gen. 46:12 The sons of Judah: Er, Onan, Shelah, Perez and Zerah (but Er and Onan had died in the land of Canaan). The sons of Perez: Hezron and Hamul.
- Num. 1:1-3, 7 And the Lord spake unto Moses in the wilderness of Sinai, in the tabernacle of the congregation, on the first day of the second month, in the second year after they were come out of the land of Egypt, saying, Take ye the sum of all the congregation of the children of Israel, after their families, by the house of their fathers, with the number of their names, every male by their polls; From twenty years old and upward, all that are able to go forth to war in Israel: thou and Aaron shall number them by their armies. Of Judah; Nahshon the son of Amminadab.
- 1 Chron. 2:10-11 Ram was the father of Amminadab, and Amminadab the father of Nahshon, the leader of the people of Judah. Nahshon was the father of Salmon, Salmon the father of Boaz,
- Ruth 4:18-20 This, then, is the family line of Perez: Perez was the father of Hezron, Hezron the father of Ram, Ram the father of Amminadab, Amminadab the father of Nahshon, Nahshon the father of Salmon
If we use these verses we can piece together the genealogy of the House of Joseph, Levi, Reuben & Judah:
As evidence by the genealogy of Levi, only three generations passed from the entering in of Egypt to the Exodus (when not including the patriarch, himself).
Hezron, son of Perez, son of Judah, was one of the original 70 persons who came to Egypt. If we include Hezron, four generations passed until the Exodus.
Rebuen’s sons were counted among the original 70 persons as well. Including Pallu, three generations are accounted for.
JOSEPH IN EGYPT
We know Joseph was sold into Egypt at 17 (Gen. 37:2), but there is confusion on whether or not Joseph was 30 years old at the time he stood before Pharaoh, or if he had been IN Egypt for 30 years before standing before Pharaoh.
This author believes the latter explanation may be the case. In Exodus 41:46 we read, “And Joseph was thirty years old when he stood before Pharaoh king of Egypt. And Joseph went out from the presence of Pharaoh, and went throughout all the land of Egypt.”
The word, ‘old’ in Strong’s is ‘ben’, meaning ‘son; a builder of a family name’. It can also mean anointed, appointed, and afflicted. Joseph, therefore, may have been afflicted 30 years; anointed or appointed (by God) 30 years. This translation alone, wouldn’t be conclusive evidence for being 30 years in Egypt, though. We would need more proof; Genesis 38 is helpful in further analyzing this theory.
Gen. 37:36 And the Midianites sold him [Joseph] into Egypt unto Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh’s, and captain of the guard.
Gen 38:1-2 “And it came to pass at that time, that Judah went down from his brethren, and turned in to a certain Adullamite, whose name was Hirah. And Judah saw there a daughter of a certain Canaanite, whose name was Shuah; and he took her, and went in unto her.
It appears as though shortly after Joseph is sold into Egypt, Judah leaves his brethren, marries, and has three sons. Unlike in chapter 37, Judah is still among his brothers tending sheep. Because of that, this author believes these chapters are in chronological order and Judah does not go down, leave, or depart from his brothers until after Joseph has been sold into slavery.
This author wonders: could guilt have been the reason Judah departed from his brethren? Unable to bear seeing his father grieve over a son not dead, he packed up and moved out?
In chapter 38, we see that Judah’s sons grow old enough to marry, but the first two are slain by the Lord for their wickedness. Judah then sends his daughter-in-law away until the youngest is old enough to marry. In the meantime Judah’s wife dies and he does not hand over his youngest son to Tamar, his daughter-in-law, although his son has come of age.
According to the Talmud, typical marrying age was about eighteen to twenty years old for males. Ishmael, for example, was thirteen years old when Abraham was ninety-nine [Gen. 17:24-25]. We already established earlier that Isaac was weaned at five years of age, which would have made Ishmael 19 years old when he mocked Isaac. However, because of the malevolent act, Sarah orders her husband to expel Hagar and Ishmael. Later in verse 21, Hagar goes to Egypt and gets a wife for Ishmael. Ishmael would have been at the proper marrying age of 19-20, or possible older, when he married the Egyptian.
So, while chapter 38 seems a little out-of-place in the middle of the Joseph story, it does reveal that a significant amount of time has passed from Joseph being sold into slavery to the death of Er and Onan, and the scandalous tryst between Judah and Tamar.
Indeed, more than twenty-one years would be required for all the events recorded in Genesis 38 to occur. After all, when Jacob enters Egypt with his family. Judah’s son Perez, who was born of Tamar, is bringing his own sons into Egypt with him!
- Gen. 46:7 “Jacob brought with him to Egypt his sons and grandsons and his daughters and granddaughters—all his offspring.  These are the names of the sons of Israel (Jacob and his descendants) who went to Egypt:  The sons of Judah: Er, Onan, Shelah, Perez and Zerah (but Er and Onan had died in the land of Canaan). The sons of Perez: Hezron and Hamul.
Genesis 46 recounts all those who entered into Egypt, sixty-six persons. Hezron and Hamul being listed among those indicates they had to have been born in Canaan. Perez, who might have been a change-of-life baby for Judah, was a father himself now.
Chapter 38 is therefore a crucial piece of evidence for timing Joseph’s stay in Egypt. It also, off-handedly, shows the anguish that Judah had endured: losing two sons and his wife. It’s understandable then, why Judah withheld his youngest son from Tamar: he feared he might also lose his youngest son and, thus, be completely bereaved of male children.
These events may have given Judah the clarity to fully appreciate the grief that his father had endured with the loss of Joseph. It may also be why he acted as surety for Benjamin. He would not let his father lose his youngest son and would sacrifice himself should any evil befall him. Not just for the sake of his youngest brother, but also for the sake of his father.
Without experiencing heartache of his own, this author wonders if Judah would have made the same decision to take Benjamin’s place as slave.
- Gen. 42:21-22 “And they said one to another, We are verily guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the anguish of his soul, when he besought us, and we would not hear; therefore is this distress come upon us. And Reuben answered them, saying, Spake I not unto you, saying, Do not sin against the child; and ye would not hear? therefore, behold, also his blood is required.”
It is interesting that thirty-eight years later, his brothers were still plagued with the memory of their sin. They remembered Joseph’s anguish and his begging (presumably not to be sold). They are remembering an event from the distant past as though it were only yesterday. They blame their current distress on a past sin, which indicates that selling Joseph was a significant event for all the brothers; enough for all of them to proclaim themselves guilty for what they had done.
- Gen. 41:12 “Now a young Hebrew was there with us, a servant of the captain of the guard. We told him our dreams and he interpreted them for us individually.”
While this verse, with the use of ‘young’, appears to imply that Joseph was a young man, by definition the Hebrew word here na’ar means: a boy; a lad; a youth; a young man; a retainer; an attendant; a servant.
- Ex. 33:11 “And the LORD spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend. And he turned again into the camp: but his servant Joshua, the son of Nun, a young man, departed not out of the tabernacle.”
Joshua died at the age of 110 after the conquest of Canaan was complete. According to various traditions and scholarly assumptions the conquest lasted between 6 and 12 years. This means Joshua was approximately one hundred years old at the time of Moses’ death; the age gap between Moses and Joshua would have been roughly twenty years. So when Moses ascended Mount Sinai the second time to retrieve the second set of tablets and Joshua remained at the tabernacle, Joshua was about 60 years of age. That does not make him a young man. Joshua would be an attendant; and in Joseph’s case, a retainer: “a servant or follower of a noble or wealthy person, especially one that has worked for a person or family for a long time.”
Because of these reasons, this author believes that Joseph was 47 when he stood before Pharaoh. And if we assume the 7 years of plenty started shortly after Pharaoh’s dream, and that his brothers appeared in Egypt roughly a year to a year and half into the famine, Joseph would have been 55-56 when his brother’s entered Egypt. A mid-fifties age for Joseph might explain why Joseph says: “And [God] hath made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house, and a ruler throughout all the land of Egypt.” [Gen 45:8]
For the sake of continuity, this author is going assert Joseph was 47 years of age when he stood before Pharaoh and 56 when his father came to Egypt. All calculations hence forth will be based on these numbers.
Joseph would have lived another 54 years in Egypt before he died at 110 years old.
Levi died at 137. We don’t know how much older Levi was than Joseph, but all of Jacob’s sons, except for Benjamin, were born to him while he served twenty years for Laban. [Gen. 31:38]; [Gen. 35:16-17].
- Jacob serves – 7 years for Rachael – No Children
- Jacob is deceived and receives Leah
- Jacob serves – 7 more years for Rachael (In the meantime, children are conceived.)
- Jacob serves – 6 years for cattle.
7 + 6 = 13
This indicates that eleven of Jacob’s twelve sons were born within a thirteen year period. If Levi was baby number three, he would have been roughly ten years old than Joseph.
Which means Levi lived approximately another 17 years after Joseph’s death.
- Exodus 1:6-8 Now Joseph and all his brothers and all that generation died, but the Israelites were fruitful and increased abundantly; they multiplied and became exceedingly strong, so that the land was filled with them. Then a new king, who knew nothing of Joseph, came to power in Egypt.
If Joseph was hailed as a hero for saving Egypt and Canaan, as well as making Pharaoh very rich, how does this new king not know of him? Only 64(+-) years passed between the death of Levi to the birth of Moses, and it would have been somewhere in that period of time that the new pharaoh arose over Egypt.
215 years sojourning in Egypt minus 54 years under Joseph’s administration equals 161 years. Minus 17 years that Levi lived beyond Joseph, equals 144. And there was of course a definitive 80 years of slavery: from Moses’ birth to the Exodus, equaling 64 years in which Israelites multiplied. It was sometime in this period that the Israelites became slaves.
Abraham Lincoln died 150+ years ago and yet his memory and his deeds have not been forgotten by the American people or their leaders. President Trump in July of 2018 even stated, “Abe looked pretty presidential, right? He’s tough. I admit it, Abe Lincoln is tough, but we love Abe Lincoln.” Earlier in July he bragged on his Twitter account that: “I beat our Honest Abe.”
Empress Elisabeth of Austria died 120 years ago and yet the movie trilogy Sisi which idolized her life is still a ‘cult classic’ in Austria and played yearly on television around Christmas time. Sebastian Kurz of Austria has even been likened to the heartthrob actor Karlheinz Böhm who played Kaiser Franz Joseph in the Sisi trilogy; the Kaiser died in 1916.
It would therefore make little sense for a new Pharaoh to not know who Joseph was, unless this lack of knowledge is due to a complete dynasty change.
Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers; Pulpit Commentary; Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary; Matthew Poole’s Commentary, and Barnes Notes on the Bible, all come to the same conclusion about a dynastic change, with the latter giving this explanation:
“The expressions in this verse (Ex. 1:8) are special and emphatic. “A new king” is a phrase not found elsewhere. It is understood by most commentators to imply that he did not succeed his predecessor in the natural order of descent and inheritance. He “arose up over Egypt,” occupying the land, as it would seem, on different terms from the king whose place he took, either by usurpation or conquest. The fact that he knew not Joseph implies a complete separation from the traditions of Lower Egypt.”
“Under a king of ours named Timaus (Tutimaeus) God became angry with us, I know not how, and there came, after a surprising manner, men of obscure birth from the east, and had the temerity to invade our country, and easily conquered it by force, as we did not do battle against them. After they had subdued our rulers, they burnt down our cities, and destroyed the temples of the gods, and treated the inhabitants most cruelly; killing some and enslaving their wives and their children.
“Then they made one of their own king. His name was Salatis; he lived at Memphis, and both the upper and lower regions had to pay tribute to him.” – Flavius Josephus, Against Apion, Quoting Mantheo’s, Aegyptiaca.
- Exodus 10:7 “And Pharaoh’s servants said unto him, How long shall this man be a snare unto us? let the men go, that they may serve the LORD their God: knowest thou not yet that Egypt is destroyed?”
If we assume the regime change began around the birth of Moses or if we assume the new regime began immediately after the death of the patriarchs, we have approximately 80-144 years in which the Israelites were subject to slavery under a new dynasty. Since Egypt was ‘destroyed’ before the final plague even occurred, we can narrow down the dynasty which enslaved the Israelites by finding which dynasties lasted approximately 80-144 years.
- The 13th Dynasty, 1803-1649 = 154* Years Duration Capital: Thebes, Itjtawy
- The 15th Dynasty, 1674-1535 = 139 Years Duration Capital: Avaris
- The 19th Dynasty, 1292-1189 B.C. = 103 Years Duration, Capital: Thebes, Memphis & Pi-Ramesses/Avaris
*The thirteenth dynasty is 10 years over the allotted timeframe, but since all dates are approximated, this author has included it for the sake of argument.
FACT #2 Hebrews and Shepherds Were An Abomination to the Egyptian
- Gen. 43:32 “So they set [Joseph] a place by himself, and them [his brothers] by themselves, and the Egyptians who ate with him by themselves; because the Egyptians could not eat food with the Hebrews, for that is an abomination to the Egyptians.
- Gen. 46:34 “So it shall be, when Pharaoh calls you and says, ‘What is your occupation?” That you shall say, “Your servants’ occupation has been with livestock from our youth even till now, both we and also our fathers’ that you may dwell in the land of Goshen; for every shepherd is an abomination to the Egyptians.
Rabbi Shlomo Yitchaki, known by the acronym “Rashi”, who lived from AD 1040-1105, wrote that the Egyptians despised the Hebrews because sheep were representations of Egyptian deities.
However, we see that Joseph purchased flocks of sheep from the Egyptians during the famine [Gen. 47:17], which indicates there were native Egyptian shepherds in the land.
It’s not clear how the Egyptians herded the sheep. Linen was used for Egyptian clothing; wool would have been too uncomfortable in Egypt’s hot climate and might have been used in other products or for trade. Sheep (and goats) would have supplied milk to the Egyptians and despite being deified animals, Egyptians did eat of the flesh of cows, pigs, sheep and goats, especially during religious festivals. If the sheep were permissible to be consumed, why weren’t these flocks slaughtered and eaten during the famine?
The Rebbe concludes that it was the first-born of animals that were deified. The ancient Egyptians’ problem with non-Egyptian shepherds was that non-Egyptians slaughtered and ate all their animals, including the first-born.
When discussing the issue of food sacrificed to idols, Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “Whatsoever is sold in the market, that eat, asking no question for conscience sake”.
The Egyptians would have encountered a similar dilemma when dealing with Hebrew traders. Any food sold in the market–not only could have been sacrificed to a foreign god–but may have been a first born animal. This, therefore, would have been twice the abomination to the Egyptians. Because of that, the Egyptians would not have eaten with or bought food from the shepherds because their food could have been abominable.
The animals relinquished to Joseph are believed by the Rebbe to have been the firstborn of the flocks and herds. However, even this isn’t the best explanation, seeing that Joseph tells his servant Gen. 43:16 “. . .Bring these men home, and slay an animal, and make ready; for these men shall dine with me at noon.”
An Egyptian servant took responsibility over the meal, which would have been prepared according to the native customs, and would have been kosher (if you will pardon the Jewish connotations to the word) under Egyptian law. Yet despite this, Joseph was still set by himself, his brothers by themselves, and the Egyptians by themselves.
Joseph was a known a Hebrew: “The Hebrew servant, which thou hast brought unto us, came in unto me to mock me” (Gen. 39:17) Yet, being kith and kin to his brothers, he did not sit with them and despite becoming a civilized member of Egyptian society, he did not sit with the Egyptians either.
This separation appears to be more than food-related discrimination, and seems, more than likely, a division in social class and ethnicity, the latter stemming from xenophobic ideals.
Not all Levantine peoples were Hebrew. The Hebrews are descendants of Shem, specifically Ever or the Anglicized Eber (Gen. 10:21) from which the name Hebrew comes.
The Midrash proposes that ‘Ever’ means ‘opposite side’. Noah, Shem and his descendents stood on the opposite side of the religious norm by worshipping only one God whereas the world was polytheistic.
If the Egyptians refused to eat food with the Hebrews and their attitude wasn’t based in religious prejudices then it could have been based in racial prejudices.
Since Hebrews were descendants of Eber (Shem); and Egyptians were descendants of Mizraim (Ham), the discrimination may have been based in ethnicity. If racial segregation was prominent throughout the United States, especially in the vivid accounts of the twentieth century, it’s not hard to imagine racial segregation in ancient times. If there were buses back in ancient Egypt, the Hebrews might have been forced to sit in the back.
Hebrews–by definition of ancestry–would not have been only the Israelites, but also the Ishmaelites; Midianites; Edomites; Moabites; and Ammonites.
As a side note: amateur researchers like to connect the Habiru mentioned in the Amarna tablets as being the Israelites. This is platform which they use to thrust the idea that the bands of murderous Habiru are the Israelites conquering Canaan under the leadership of Joshua.
As the reader can now see, even if Habiru is a translation of Hebrew, Hebrew is a broad title which isn’t exclusively Israelite.
Continuing: Those who descended from Mizraim or his younger brother Canaan would have included the Philistines; Hitties; Jebusites; Amorites; Hivites; Girgashites; Phoenicians and the Sinites.
The use of ‘Hebrew’ and ‘shepherd’ may have been interchangeable. Gross generalizations and stereotypes are nothing new.
Since shepherds were nomadic, they often roamed the desert, engaging in notorious acts of robbery, rape, and murder. Such acts were documented among Jacob’s own sons:
- Gen. 34:25 Three days later, while they were still in pain, two of Jacob’s sons (Simeon and Levi) took their swords, went into the unsuspecting city, and slaughtered every male.  They killed Hamor and his son Shechem with their swords, took Dinah out of Shechem’s house, and went away.  Jacob’s other sons came upon the slaughter and looted the city, because their sister had been defiled.  They took their flocks and herds and donkeys, and everything else in the city or in the field.  They carried off all their possessions and women and children, and they plundered everything in their houses.
The Prophecy of Neferty stated: “He brooded over what should happen in the land and considered the condition of the east, when the Asiatics raid and terrorize those at the harvest, taking away their teams engaged in plowing. . . . All good things have passed away, the land being cast away through trouble by means of that food of the Asiatics who pervade the land. Enemies have come into being in the east; Asiatics have come down into Egypt, for a fortress lacks another beside it [fortresses are crowded], and no guard will hear. “Men will build ‘Walls of the Ruler,’ and there will be no letting the Asiatics go down into Egypt, that they may beg water after their accustomed fashion to let their herds drink.”
In the eyes of the Egyptians, shepherds were seen as a threat. With their foul reputation, Asiatics were seen as invaders who could eat up the land with their wandering herds, destroying crops and livelihoods. And, likewise, were a barbaric, uncivilized people who could do physical harm to the native Egyptian population who might’ve needed to take shelter in fortresses.
Goshen, which was given to the Israelites, laid between Egypt and the southern Levant, along the nomad’s route. The Egyptians preferred to live beyond this vulnerable platform further to the west and south for fear of war. Joseph, therefore, was acting very true to the Egyptian paranoia when he accused his brothers of being spies and that they had come from Canaan to see the nakedness (or vulnerability) of the land.
With this understanding, it makes sense for Pharaoh to give the Israelites this plot of land. While fertile and useful for Israel’s shepherding purposes, if invaders came into Egypt, by way of Canaan, Israel would be the first to be attacked. While Israel attempted to defend themselves from the hostile intruders, Egypt would have enough time to evacuate its people from unprotected areas and gather up an army.
Pharaoh may have been gracious towards Joseph’s family, welcoming them in, and giving them the best of the land, and even appointing them as chief herdsman over his own cattle, but the move may have also been one of military stratagem.
On the discussion of religion: “The Egyptians have deified the ram for the same reasons that worship of Pria-pos was introduced to the Greeks: because of his member of procreation. They characterize the strongest possible copulation drive to these animals and consider the male member, to which all living things owe their existence, to be worthy of worship.” – Diodorus Siculus Historical Library I.88
One of the chief gods in ancient Egyptian religion was Osiris, and Osiris was often depicted as a ram. In fact, a living, sacred ram was kept at Mendes, a city located in the Nile Delta near Avaris. The ram was worshipped there as the incarnation of Osiris. Upon the ram’s death, it was mummified and buried in a special necropolis wholly dedicated to rams.
As seen by the map below, Mendes and Avaris were neighbor cities.
“…[W]hereas anyone with a sanctuary of Mendes or who comes from the province of Mendes, will have nothing to do with (sacrificing) goats, but uses sheep as his sacrificial animals.” – Herodotus
- Exodus 12:5 “Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year: ye shall take it out from the sheep, or from the goats.”
Osiris’ position in Egyptian religion was that of the god of the death and lord of the underworld; however, he was also referred to as God of the Living.
Osiris was the first born. According to Egyptian mythology, he was slain, mutilated and usurped by his brother Set. Osiris is depicted bearing the crook and flail, both tools of a shepherd. These instruments were then “passed down” to the pharaohs as a symbol of divine authority.
Mendes was a thriving cult center during the Middle and New Kingdom. Archaeological evidence proves that the settlement at Mendes existed as early as the 4th millennium BC, and was the seat of provincial government during the first pharaohs and remained a seat of power into classical times.
The question this author has, is: why did Moses have to tell Pharaoh what the Hebrews would be sacrificing since they were known shepherds?
- Exodus 8:25 And Pharaoh called for Moses and for Aaron, and said, Go ye, sacrifice to your God in the land.  “And Moses said, It is not right to do so; for we shall sacrifice the abomination of the Egyptians to the Lord our God: lo, shall we sacrifice the abomination of the Egyptians before their eyes, and will they not stone us? We will go three days’ journey into the wilderness, and sacrifice to the Lord our God, as he shall command us.  And Pharaoh said, I will let you go, that ye may sacrifice to the Lord your God in the wilderness; only ye shall not go very far away: entreat for me.
While the benefit of the doubt could be given to Pharaoh for not knowing exactly what the Israelites intended to sacrifice, but once Moses revealed the intended sacrifice: male lambs and goats of the first year, what need was there to expound on the consequence thereof? Pharaoh was the highest person in the Egyptian judicial system and should have known these religious legalities.
And Mendes, the city of ram worship, was located right next to the Israelites: hence, sacrificing before their eyes. According to Herodotus a true worshipper would never take part in sacrificing goats, how could Pharaoh not know how serious of a crime the sacrificing of the deified animal would have been in the eyes of the Egyptians?
Secondly, why would Pharaoh compromise with Moses and tell him he can still perform the sacrifice of a sacred animal in Egypt by going a little ways off into the wilderness?
Either the Pharaoh did not partake in ram worship or worship the gods who were depicted in that form, i.e.: Osiris; Pharaoh was not a native Egyptian and did not understand the Egyptian religion fully; or both.
Interestingly, the Hyksos king Apophis worshipped Set/Seth–the god who usurped Osiris.
[He] chose for his Lord the god Seth. He did not worship any other deity in the whole land except Seth. – Papyrus Sallier 1 (Apophis and Sekenenre)
Apophis was considered a “bad king” not so much because he worship Set, a villain god, but because that was all he worshiped, thus “distorting the balance” a pharaoh was suppose to embody between mortals and the otherworld.
A Set cult thrived in Avaris. After the fall of the Hyksos, Pharaoh Ahmose’s garrisons that were stationed there eventually became part of the Set priesthood.
Ramesses I, founder of the 19th dynasty (BC 1292-1189) came from a noble military family with strong ties to the Set Priesthood. His family originated near Avaris, and he, himself, served as High Priest of Set. Later he consecrated his own son to the God of Storms, of Deserts, Chaos, Disorder, Violence, and Foreigners: his son being the successive Pharaoh Seti I.
Ramesses II continued in the Set cult and commemorated the 400th anniversary with the so-called Four Hundred Years’ Stele. An excerpt from the stele reads: “Hail to thee, o Seth, son of Nut, great of strength in the boat of millions of years, in the bow of the ship of Re . . . . Give me a good time for following your Ka (life force)”.
Pharaoh Apophis took the name of the Egyptian god Apophis, a water serpent who attempted to stop the rising of the sun by consuming the boat which Ra journeyed upon as he headed east. Ra, while in the underworld, merged with Osiris and was sometimes depicted as a full body Ram.
It is likely that this pharaoh would not have regarded the Ram worship in Mendes. But was he the pharaoh of the Exodus? If he was, it might explain why he insensitively told Moses that the Hebrews could sacrifice the abomination of the Egyptian in the land.
FACT #3: Joseph Lived Near Or At Avaris
- Gen. 37:25 “And they sat down to eat bread: and they lifted up their eyes and looked, and, behold, a company of Ishmaelites came from Gilead with their camels bearing spicery and balm and myrrh, going to carry it down to Egypt.”
- Gen. 43:19 “When they drew near to the steward of Joseph’s house.
- Gen. 43:26 And when Joseph came home, [his brothers] brought him the present which was in their hand into the house and bowed down before him to the earth.
- Gen. 43:30 Now his heart yearned for his brother; so Joseph made haste and sought somewhere to weep. And he went into his chamber and wept there.
- Gen. 45:10 “You shall dwell in the land of Goshen, and you shall be near to me, you and your children, your children’s children, your flocks and your herds, and all that you have. There I will provide for you. . . .
- Gen. 46:28 And he sent Judah before him unto Joseph, to direct his face unto Goshen; and they came into the land of Goshen.  And Joseph made ready his chariot, and went up to meet Israel his father, to Goshen, and presented himself unto him; and he fell on his neck, and wept on his neck a good while.
- Gen. 47:11 “And Joseph situated his father and his brothers, and gave them a possession in the land of Egypt in the best of the land of Ramses, as Pharaoh had commanded.
The Ishmaelites would have followed the traders’ route from Canaan into the Nile Delta of Egypt. The route known as Via Maris or ‘The Way of the Philistines’ would have made stops at Pelusium, Tanis, Avaris, Heliopolis, and Memphis. It would have been in one of these Egyptian cities that Joseph was sold, and in one of these Egyptian cities that Joseph’s brothers would have bought grain.
Excavations at Tell El-Dab’a in 1986-1988 (AD), uncovered a mini-pyramid and, inside, a statue of a non-Egyptian ruler with yellow skin–the color of Asiatics. The statue was sculpted in a robe of multicolor: red, black and white. Across the upper shoulder a remnant of a scepter can be identified; in this case a ‘throw stick’, a symbol of Asiatics. The ‘mushroom’ styled hair, unique to native Egyptians, had evidence of “flame red” paint, indicating the ruler was a ginger. However, within the pyramid-esque tomb, no bones were found.
On the premises, however, were eleven other burial tombs. One of the bodies which had been exhumed was lain on its side, typical of Canaanite burial practices, and with the body was a chieftain belt and a dagger.
David Rohl and some of his contemporaries believe the statue found represents the patriarch Joseph. Even the name ‘Avaris’, is not Egyptian. The Egyptians called the settlement ‘Ha’at-Wurat’, meaning ‘Great House’, denoting a capital of an administrative Nome or division within the Nile Delta. The Greeks called it by the name Avaris.
Avaris is a compound of two words:
- ‘Avar’ = Iver or Ever or Eber or Hebrew; and
- ‘is’ or ‘ish’ the Hebrew word for ‘man’.
The settlement was therefore named ‘Hebrew Man’. Why should an administrative capital in Egypt bear this name unless a Hebrew Man lived there?
If we assume Avaris, which is located near Ramesses, was where Joseph’s personal home was, then when Joseph ‘goes up’ to see his father, he is going ‘upstream’. Remember, the Nile runs south to north. Upstream would therefore be southward. Joseph’s family would have been settled south of Joseph’s dwelling place.
Not much else needs to be said to support the idea that Joseph lived in the Nile Delta. The scriptures quoted above confirm the notion quite adequately.
FACT #4 Capital of Egypt During the Time of the Exodus Was in the Nile Delta
Pharaoh was near the capital of Egypt during the time of the Exodus. We can conclude this by the fact that Pharaoh’s daughter walked along the river near where the Hebrews lived and, there, found Moses. She also recognized immediately that Moses was Hebrew, and called for his mother to nurse him. Unlike the great journey down the Nile as depicted in The Prince of Egypt, Moses did not drift far from his mother.
- Exodus 2:5-6 And the daughter of Pharaoh came down to wash herself at the river; and her maidens walked along by the river’s side; and when she saw the ark among the flags, she sent her maid to fetch it. And when she had opened it, she saw the child: and, behold, the babe wept. And she had compassion on him, and said, This is one of the Hebrews’ children.
We can also pinpoint Pharaoh’s dwelling place with the subsequent verses:
- Exodus 7:15 Get thee unto Pharaoh in the morning; lo, he goeth out unto the water; . . .  and all the waters that were in the river were turned to blood.  And Pharaoh turned and went into his house, neither did he set his heart to this also.
- Exodus 8:3 And the river shall bring forth frogs abundantly, which shall go up and come into thine house, and into thy bedchamber, and upon thy bed, and into the house of thy servants, and upon thy people, and into thine ovens, and into thy kneading troughs:
- Psalm 78:12-13 “Marvelous things did he in the sight of their fathers, in the land of Egypt, in the field of Zoan. He divided the sea, and caused them to pass through; and he made the waters to stand as an heap.”
According to this map and the accompanying scriptures, Pharaoh’s home was in the fields of Zoan, not far from Rameses, and it was there in Zoan that Moses worked great signs: turning the water to blood and sending frogs up out of the river. But Pharaoh’s location can be proved even further yet.
Exodus 9:3 Behold, the hand of the LORD is upon thy cattle which is in the field, upon the horses, upon the asses, upon the camels, upon the oxen, and upon the sheep: there shall be a very grievous murrain  And the LORD shall sever between the cattle of Israel and the cattle of Egypt: and there shall nothing die of all that is the children’s of Israel.
The Nile Delta, as mentioned before, was the best of the land and was the most conducive for raising flocks of sheep, goats and herds of cattle. The Pharaoh who appointed the land of Goshen to Israel, sought competent men over his own livestock. (Gen. 47:6)
During the Hyksos reign, Upper Egypt was given pasturage rights, allowing their herds and flocks to graze in the Delta. Suffice to say: the livestock of Egypt which were struck with the pestilence, boils, and hail, were dwelling in the Nile Delta.
Another fact that points to Pharaoh’s residence in Lower Egypt is what occurs after the death of the firstborn:
- Exodus 12:30 And Pharaoh rose up in the night, he, and all his servants, and all the Egyptians; and there was a great cry in Egypt; for there was not a house where there was not one dead  And he called for Moses and Aaron by night, and said, Rise up, and get you forth from among my people, both ye and the children of Israel; and go, serve the Lord, as ye have said.
- Exodus 12:37 And the children of Israel journeyed from Ramesses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand on foot that were men, beside children.
However, Moses and Aaron could not leave their houses until morning (Ex. 12:22) “None of you shall go out of the door of your house until morning.” ‘None of you’ would include Moses and Aaron as well, lest they act disobediently toward God. Also, Pharaoh stated “Get thee from me, take heed to thyself, see my face no more; for in that day thou seest my face thou shalt die.” [Ex. 10:28] To which Moses replied, “Thou hast spoken well, I will see thy face again no more.”
One must conclude by these two verses that Pharaoh sent an official unto Moses and Aaron, giving them the news of their liberation. This message would have been delivered after midnight, but before the children of Israel left Egypt somewhere between the astronomical twilight and sunrise. (Sunrise in Egypt around this time of year would have been between 5:15 and 6:00am, whereas the astronomical twilight began sometime between 4:00-4:30am.)
That leaves 4-6 hours for Pharaoh’s messenger to reach Moses and Aaron, and for the children of Israel to gather up their unleavened dough, their plunder, collect their children and herds and be out the door.
According to Google Maps, it would have taken roughly 4 hours for one to walk from Zoan (where we will assume Moses performed miracles in front of Pharaoh, and where Pharaoh’s house might have been) to Avaris/Pi-Ramesses (where the children of Israel departed). By boat or horse, that time would be significantly reduced to an hour, maybe two; however, traveling by such methods may have been dangerous during the night.
If Pharaoh’s house was in the fields of Zoan, there’s no telling where exactly his palace was. If the palace was located closer to Avaris, the travel time would also be significantly reduced.
But hypothetically speaking if Moses received the message at 4:00 in the morning, at the astronomical twilight, the children of Israel would have had to fly out of their dwelling places and get going. This short notice liberation explains why the Lord said to eat the Passover in haste and that the night was a night to be much observed or a night of much watching.
Ex. 12:11 “And thus shall ye eat it [the Passover]; with your loins girded, your shoes on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and ye shall eat it in haste: it is the LORD’S Passover.  It is a night to be much observed unto the Lord for bringing them out from the land of Egypt: this is that night of the Lord to be observed of all the children of Israel in their generations.”
As a side note: this author would just like to point out the interesting duality between the deliverance of Israel from Egypt and the necessity of watching and being ready; and the necessity of watching and being ready at Christ’s second coming.
Seeing that on the Feast of Trumpets no one knows what hour the trumpet will blow, which signals the start of the sacred assembly–and for us, will signify our deliverance from the world and into a new promised land. During the Feast of Trumpets, those in the field or in the house have to listen and watch and be ready at a moment’s notice to rush for the temple. We likewise need to be observant and watchful for when our Master returns as the Children of Israel were prepared and observant for their own deliverance.
But to finish up: Since the Pharaoh of the Exodus had to have had his capital in the Nile Delta, we can use the process of elimination to further determine when the Exodus occurred and under which dynasty.
Earlier we left off with:
The 13th Dynasty, 1803-1649 = 154 Years Duration Capital: Thebes, Itjtawy
- The 15th Dynasty, 1674-1535 = 139 Years Duration Capital: Avaris
- The 19th Dynasty, 1292-1189 B.C. = 103 Years Duration, Capital: Thebes, Memphis & Pi-Ramesses
Itjtawy was in Upper Egypt, making this dynasty not compatible with the Exodus narrative. This leaves us with:
- The 15th Dynasty, 1674-1535 = 139 Years Duration Capital: Avaris
- The 19th Dynasty, 1292-1189 B.C. = 103 Years Duration, Capital: Thebes, Memphis & Pi-Ramesses
FACT #5: ‘More and Mightier than We’
- Ex. 1:8-10 Now there arose up a new king over Egypt, which knew not Joseph. And he said unto his people, Behold, the people of the children of Israel are more and mightier than we: Come on, let us deal wisely with them; lest they multiply, and it come to pass, that, when there falleth out any war, they join also unto our enemies, and fight against us, and so get them up out of the land.
Most scholars refuse to touch on the subject of population during ancient times since there are no statistics to derive their numbers from. However, that doesn’t mean the subject hasn’t been explored.
The estimated population of Egypt between 1650-1150, is roughly 2.5 to 5 million souls, respectively. One source claims that 100,000 people belonged to the temple estates of Ramesses III. James Henry Breasted claims that these individuals made up less than 2% of the entire population, giving an upper limit of 5 million individuals from between 1189-1155.
The population of Israel at the time of the Exodus has been estimated to have been between 1.8 million to 2.5 million souls. One estimation is based on the following statistic: “the ordinary proportion of people fit to go to war in a general population, is one in four.”
- Ex. 12:37 “And the children of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand on foot that were men, beside children.”
600,000 x 4 = 2,400,000
Granted this statistic is based on a population suited for war, rather than all men aged twenty and above, some of whom would not be suited to wage war due to advanced age.
The other estimation is based on 600,000 men + a 1:1 ratio of women equaling 1,200,000. Assumingly, not all those men and women above the age of twenty would have children. A 2:1 ratio of children would bring the population to 1.8 million, a 2:2 ratio would bring us to 2.4 million.
However, when Pharaoh remarks, “for they are more and mightier than we”, this is 80+ years before the Exodus, which means the population at the time the new king arose would have been less.
Ex. 1:12 “But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew. And they were grieved because of the children of Israel.”
For example, the 12 sons of Israel had 54 children collectively.
Gen. 46:7 He [Jacob] took with him to Egypt his sons and grandsons, and his daughters and granddaughters—all his offspring.  All those belonging to Jacob who came to Egypt—his direct descendants, besides the wives of Jacob’s sons—numbered sixty-six persons.
Gen. 46:9-25, recounts Jacob’s children and grandchildren by name with only two females recorded: his daughter Dinah and Asher’s daughter Serah. Yet it is clear by verse 7 that all Jacob’s descendants went to Egypt. Except for the wives, females were not excluded from the 66 headcount. This shows that Jacob and his descendants had almost exclusively male births. If this genetic disposition continued on through multiple generation, it may be one reason why Pharaoh ordered all the male children to be killed.
We don’t know how many male children were slain by Pharaoh, but over time the male dominant births would have equalized. By time Israel reached the wilderness, we see that Zelophehad (a descendant of Joseph) had all daughters–5 total.
If Jacob had a total of 54 grandchildren, male and female, and we assume that upon entering Egypt, each grandchild was as prolific as their grandfather and had 12 children each (and they all lived into adulthood) then the second generation would consist of 648 souls.
- (2nd Gen) 54 souls x 12 children each = 648
- (3rd Gen.) 648 souls x 12 children each = 7,776
- (4th Gen.) 7,776 souls x 12 children each = 93,312
- (5th Gen.) 93,312 souls x 12 children each = 1,119,744
Natural death cycles would self-regulate the population from here on, slowing the population growth.
If we assume the new king’s administration occurred between the 4th and 5th generation (since generations are staggered per family) we’re looking at an approximate population with an upper limit of one million.
According to Karl Butzer’s estimates, the (approximated) Egyptian population was between 2 and 3 million from B.C 2000-1000. However, the population could have been as high as 3 to 7 million between the same time-frame according to the grey areas on the graph below.
The population of native Egyptians was therefore greater than that of Israel at the time of the new king’s inauguration. Why then does Pharaoh say that the children of Israel are ‘more and mightier than we’?
Ex. 1:10 “Come on, let us deal wisely with them; lest they multiply, and it come to pass, that, when there falleth out any war, they join also unto our enemies, and fight against us, and so get them up out of the land.”
Avaris was the largest city in the world in 1670 BC with approximately 50,000-100,000 souls. Around 1557 BC Memphis took the lead as the most populous city; however the population is estimated between 75-100K. – Four Thousand Years of Urban Growth: A Historical Census by Tertius Chandler 1987.
Under Ramesses II the capital of Egypt was moved from Thebes to Pi-Ramesses. While the motives are unclear, Ramesses had lead multiple war campaigns into the Levant, sacking the Hittite empire; Edom-Seir; Moab; Jerusalem; Jericho; Hesbon; Damascus, to name a few. It’s possible that he moved the capital to remain close to the territories he was conquering and exacting tribute from.
Taking note of Ramesses II’s list of military campaigns, we can definitively say that he could not be the Pharaoh of the Exodus since his military campaigns are documented in Jerusalem.
His successor, Pharaoh Merneptah, recorded the victories of his ancestors on the Merneptah Stele:
“The Canaan has been plundered into every sort of woe: Ashkelon has been overcome; Gezer has been captured; Yano’am is made non-existent. Israel is laid waste and his seed is not; [Canaan] is become a widow because of Egypt.”
Ramesses II was celebrated as one of the greatest pharaoh’s who ever lived. He lived to around ninety years of age, with a reign estimated around 66 years. He made Egypt rich through his conquests of other empires.
David Rohl a specialist in biblical and ancient history, has proposed a new idea that Ramesses II was in fact Shishak of the bible, who ransacked the temple under Rehoboam.
- 2 Chronicles 12:9 “When Shishak king of Egypt attacked Jerusalem, he carried off the treasures of the temple of the Lord and the treasures of the royal palace. He took everything, including the gold shields Solomon had made.”
If Ramesses II was contemporary with Rehoboam, his reign would have been sometime in the 10 century BC, obviously eliminating him as Pharaoh of the Exodus. This makes the 19th dynasty moot to the Exodus theory. That leaves us with only one dynasty left standing:
- The 15th Dynasty, Under Foreign Hyksos Rule
c. 1674-1535 = 139 Years Duration
This author proposes that it was the Hyksos dynasty which enslaved the Israelites. Being foreigners and a minority ethnic group, it would make sense for Pharaoh to say that Israel was more and mightier than his own people.
Josephus records that at the time of the Hyksos expulsion, “not fewer than 240,000 people [left with their families and chattels] and crossed the desert into Syria.”
Mantheo writes: “[Salitis] rebuilt [Avaris] and fortified with massive walls, planting there a garrison of as many as 240,000 heavy-armed men to guard his frontier. Here he would come in summertime, partly to serve out rations and pay his troops, partly to train them carefully in maneuvers and so strike terror into foreign tribes.”
Even at 240,000 men-strong, the Israelites still out-numbered the Hyksos. And with the native Egyptians, which would have numbered into the millions, the Hyksos were truly a minority in the region.
Josephus claims that the Hyksos and the Hebrews were one-and-the-same, but this author disagrees. In the following part, I will explain why.
FACT #6: Joseph Did Not Rule Under a Hyksos King
The first waves of Asiatics and Canaanites started to arrive in Egypt around 2000-1900 BC. Pharaoh Amenemhat I who ruled from 1991-1962 BC moved the capital from Thebes to Itjtawy due to an influx of Asiatics entering in from Canaan.
The Prophecy of Neferti which was written down in c. 2575-2550 BC describes the infiltration of Asiatics coming down to Egypt, and a new king ‘Ameny’ who would arise to subdue the chaos and build a wall to thwart the invasion of the enemies. Pharaoh Amenemhat I used this prophesy as a justification to wage war against the Asiatics. He erected ‘The Wall of the Prince’, a string of fortresses along the eastern border of the Nile Delta to bar eastern travelers from gaining passage into Egypt. However, beyond establishing fortresses, his military exploits are not well documented and seemed to have been rather uneventful.
The Brooklyn Papyrus 35.1446, dated to c. 1809-1743 BC documents the names of 95 house-slaves, at least 45 of these names are Asiatic in origin: Menahema; Ashera; Shiphrah; Aqoba; Ayyabum; Sekera etc. The fact so many Asiatics were in one household, implies that the population of Levantine peoples were increasing rapidly during this period.
The consensus among scholars and amateur researchers is that the great seven year famine occurred approximately around 1800-1700 B.C.
Various researchers, scholars, and bible commentators have suggested that Joseph came into Egypt during the Hyksos rule, citing the use of horses and chariots as a dynastic marker.
- Gen. 41:41 “And Pharaoh said to Joseph, “See, I have set you over all the land of Egypt.” Then Pharaoh took his signet ring off his hand and put it on Joseph’s hand; and he clothed him in garments of fine linen and put a gold chain around his neck. And he had him ride in the second chariot which he had.
- Gen. 47:13,17 “Now there was no bread in all the land; for the famine was very severe, so that the land of Egypt and the land of Canaan languished because of the famine. So they [the Egyptians] brought their livestock to Joseph, and Joseph gave them bread in exchange for the horses, the flocks, the cattle of the herds, and for the donkeys.
- Gen. 50:9 “And there went up with him both chariots and horsemen, and it was a very great gathering.”
Archeological findings date horses back to 1700-1550 B.C., however these dates are only approximate and are only based on the bones that had been uncovered at Avaris. Another horse skeleton was excavated in Buhen (now on the border of modern-day Sudan). The remains have been calculated to date back to c. 1800 B.C. though this has been disputed.
It is believed that the Hyksos, a west Asian people, introduced horses and chariots into Egypt, although some Egyptologists believe that horses had been used in Egypt prior to the Hyksos arrival in c. 1800 B.C. but due to low populations, they would not have been risked in war and their usage would have be reserved as a luxury item for the elite.
Joseph riding in the Pharaoh’s second chariot would have been a show of elitism and symbolic of how close he was to the Pharaoh: the second-in-command.
“In fact, evidence of horses in Egypt begins some 200 years earlier, in the form of a carving of a horse dated c. 2000 BC.” – The Presence of the Horse in Egypt, Renata Tatomir, Hyperion University Bucharest
If both Egypt and Canaan were languishing from the famine, it’s possible that the Hyksos came to Egypt for bread. The Hyksos may have contributed to the horse population by selling off their herds to Joseph in exchange for nourishment, though that is only the speculation of this author.
- Gen. 47:15-17 And when money failed in the land of Egypt, and in the land of Canaan, all the Egyptians came unto Joseph, and said, Give us bread: for why should we die in thy presence? for the money faileth.  And Joseph said, Give your cattle; and I will give you for your cattle, if money fail.  And they brought their cattle unto Joseph: and Joseph gave them bread in exchange for horses, and for the flocks, and for the cattle of the herds, and for the asses: and he fed them with bread for all their cattle for that year.
The right resources were required for building the chariots and skilled workman had to know what they were doing. Early chariots consisted of four spokes. It wasn’t until sometime around 1550 that the Egyptians started improving the wheel with six spokes and experimenting with eight. These alterations may have been necessary for their time due to the internal political struggles between the Theban Dynasty and the ruling Hyksos dynasty in the Delta.
The four spoke wheel was known to be heavier and of inferior design. The four spoked wheels were originally intended as a carriage chariot as opposed to the war chariot, which had six spokes and was of a lighter design and more reliable in battle so long as the terrain was flat. A pair of charging horses could easily become uncontrollable, risking the driver to injury or death if the chariot should encounter rocky or uneven terrain.
Eight spoke wheels were also in use, but fell out of favor and are claimed to have been used mostly between 1550-1340 B.C.
Researchers such as Ron Wyatt, Viveka Ponten, and Dr. Lennart Möller have explored the unique coral growths on the sea floor of the Gulf of Aqaba. The images retrieved from their dives provide substantial evidence of the Red Sea Crossing. On the sea floor, they found what appears to be four, six, and at least one, eight spoke chariot wheel.
Many professional researchers and amateur researcher alike place the Exodus around 1446 BC, using the 8 spoke wheel found off the Gulf of Aqaba as evidence for a 15th century Exodus date. However, this amateur researcher suggests the date could have been as early as 1550. The fact only one eight spoke wheel was found, and most of the coral growths covering the chariot wheels registered four to six spokes on the metal detector, suggests to this author that the invention of the eight spoke wheel may have been in its infancy.
Since horses were in Egypt before the Hyksos take-over, this author doesn’t believe that horses at the time of Joseph is enough evidence to put him under Hyksos rule.
Point #2: When Joseph is removed from prison he is made to shave and change his raiment. “Then Pharaoh sent and called Joseph, and they brought him hastily out of the dungeon: and he shaved himself, and changed his raiment, and came in unto Pharaoh.” [Gen. 41:14]
The act of shaving, is ‘galach’ meaning to be bald. Joseph wasn’t just shaving a beard, but all of his hair. The Egyptian practice was based on cultural beauty, cleanliness, and religious rituals. Priests and soothsayers, especially, were to be clean-shaven before the gods and Pharaoh.
Egyptians also equated hair with animals and barbarians. As we already established Egyptians considered Hebrews and shepherds an abomination due to their uncivilized lifestyle. This practice of shaving before meeting Pharaoh would seem to rule out the possibility that Joseph was under a Hyksos pharaoh.
Scholars don’t know who the Hyksos were. The Hittites are a popular choice, but the Hurrians (who heavily influenced the Hitties) have been proposed. Between the 21st century BC and the 18th century BC, the Assyrians controlled colonies in Anatolia; the Hurrians adopted the Assyrian Akkadian cuneiform script for their own language c. 2000 BC.
Regardless, what these Asiatic peoples have in common is their gods are portrayed with very thick (and sometimes braided) beards which cover the whole chin and jaw line. These portrayals differ from the thin, finely groomed beards of the Pharaoh which are merely decorative chin apparatuses and not actual beards.
These nomadic, foreign rulers would not have been accustomed to the ritual shaving and may have even viewed the practice with contempt.
- Ex. 8:17 “. . . Aaron stretched out his hand with his rod, and smote the dust of the earth, and it became lice in man, and in beast; all the dust of the land became lice throughout all the land of Egypt.”
“Lice” however has been translated as gnats. Commentaries have given the possible meaning to be fleas, biting flies, ticks or mosquitoes or even a mixture of blood-sucking insects.
For the moment we are going to go with “lice” as the proper translation, though it is a debatable subject.
Lice are annoying, inconvenient and itchy, but they were a common issue throughout Egypt, hence going bald and wearing wigs. To be a plague, this had to be widespread and devastating, which means there had to be enough hair on the heads of the people for these little buggers to make their home.
Herodotus remarks, “their priests were wont to shave or scrape their whole bodies every third day, lest any lice should breed upon them.”
If the Hyksos, being Asiatics, did not conform to the shaving rituals of the Egyptians, it is reasonable to suggest that they became host to the lice plague.
Point #3: It was established earlier that the capital at the time of the Exodus was at Avaris and that Joseph had his home there. However, the Pharaoh whom Joseph ruled under, appears to have been elsewhere than in Goshen or in the Nile Delta and may have resided in Itjtawy, Upper Egypt.
- Gen 45:2 And he wept aloud: and the Egyptians and the house of Pharaoh heard.
- Gen. 45:16-18 “And the fame (or report / proclamation) thereof was heard in Pharaoh’s house, saying, Joseph’s brethren are come: and it pleased Pharaoh well, and his servants. And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, Say unto thy brethren, This do ye; lade your beasts, and go, get you unto the land of Canaan; And take your father and your households, and come unto me: and I will give you the good of the land of Egypt, and ye shall eat the fat of the land.
- Gen. 46:31 Then Joseph said to his brothers and to his father’s household, “I will go UP and tell Pharaoh, and say to him, “My brothers and those of my father’s household, who were in the land of Canaan have come to me.”
- Gen. 47:1 Then Joseph went and told Pharaoh, and said, “My father and my brothers, their flocks and their herds and all that they possess have come from the land of Canaan; and indeed they are in the land of Goshen.
- Gen. 50:4-6 And when the days of his mourning were past, Joseph spake unto the house of Pharaoh, saying, If now I have found grace in your eyes, speak, I pray you, in the ears of Pharaoh, saying, “My father made me swear, saying, Lo, I die: in my grave which I have digged for me in the land of Canaan, there shalt thou bury me. Now therefore let me go up, I pray thee, and bury my father, and I will come again.” And Pharaoh said, “Go up”, and bury thy father, according as he made thee swear.
We read that the Egyptians of Pharaoh’s house heard Joseph weeping over his brethren, but it does not say that Pharaoh heard the weeping. Only later does the fame or the report (depending on the translation) of Joseph’s brethren reach Pharaoh and it pleases him. The house of Pharaoh as written in 45:2 is not necessarily the personal home of Pharaoh but a government building belonging to Pharaoh.
As vizier, Joseph was the overseer of the penal institution and was in charge of the judicial system, sitting in the High Court. The vizier (or an oracle) would make the decision on what punishments to administer. Joseph’s other responsibilities included: overseeing political administration, approving and putting his seal on official documents; managing taxation; monitoring food supply; listening to problems between the nobles and settling whatever disputes they had; running Pharaoh’s household; and ensuring the royal family’s safety.
Joseph’s home was equivalent to the U.S. White House, being both where he lived and a government office.
“The New Kingdom Duties of the Vizier texts specifically refer to this responsibility and how it might be further sub-delegated. Interestingly, the place where vizieral justice is meted out is specifically mentioned: the ‘judgment hall’. It is likely that the judgment hall was not a separate structure used only for this activity, but referred to that part of the vizier’s ‘palace’ where members of the public were admitted with their petitions and supplications or dragged to face justice.” Crime in the City, erenow.com
The above quote gives clarity to the following verses: Gen. 43:17-18 “And the man did as Joseph bade; and the man brought the men into Joseph’s house. And the men were afraid, because they were brought into Joseph’s house; and they said, Because of the money that was returned in our sacks at the first time are we brought in; that he may seek occasion against us, and fall upon us, and take us for bondmen, and our asses.”
The men were afraid because they were brought into the judgment hall where the vizier would interrogate them in regards to the money in their sacks. He would seek an occasion or a case (especially a legal one) against them. ‘occasion’ here means ‘to roll’–in this circumstance, to roll the blame or shame on them. To fall upon them or seize them, with either menacing words or physical blows of punishment and take them away as slaves, which was the punishment for theft in ancient Egypt.
Joseph’s home was indeed a government house but was separate from Pharaoh’s palace. We see this again after Jacob dies. Joseph speaks to the house of Pharaoh or the ‘White House’ staff, if you will, and tells them “speak, I pray you, in the ears of Pharaoh”. Joseph is not the one speaking to Pharaoh, but rather his Egyptian subordinates are being sent to Pharaoh with a message.
If he outranks them as vizier, why couldn’t he make a chariot drive to Pharaoh’s palace, if it were nearby, and request an audience with the king? However, if it was a ways to travel, he may send someone in his stead to deliver the correspondence, not wishing to be taken away from his government duties in the Nile Delta. This may explain Joseph’s reassurance to Pharaoh that after his father is buried ‘he will return’ [to his duties]; and also his humble remark to his servants: ‘if I have found favor in your sight’, beseeching them to speak to Pharaoh for him so that he can, perhaps, also oversee the burial needs for his father.
Earlier, in chapter 46:31, we see that Joseph has to go ‘up’ to Pharaoh; the Hebrew word here is alah meaning literally, to go up; ascend; or climb. Joseph was located in Lower Egypt and to reach Pharaoh, he would have to go ‘up’, literally, into Upper Egypt.
When he goes to see Pharaoh, Joseph says that his brothers are, “Indeed, in the land of Goshen.” If Pharaoh had been close by, why wouldn’t Joseph say, “they are here,” or “they are nearby”. In Gen. 50:25, Joseph instructed his descendants to “carry up my bones from here [Goshen Area].” Yet he specifically tells Pharaoh his relatives are in the Land of Goshen.
If Pharaoh was in Itjtawy, he could not be a Hyksos king since the Hyksos ruled exclusively from Avaris.
Point #4: The location of the Great Prisons in Egypt.
A Great Prison was documented in the Brooklyn Papyrus and was located in Thebes. Another prison was located in Itjtawy, modern day El-Lahun. Since Itjtawy was the state capital during the Middle Kingdom, and the chief baker and butler who served Pharaoh were in the same prison as Joseph, it’s probable that Joseph was more likely relegated to this prison in El-Lahun.
Itjtawy is located far south near Faiyum, where the canal, Bahr Yussef (literally, the waterway of Joseph) is located, supposedly named after the biblical Joseph.
Point #5: RA WORSHIP
- Gen. 41:45 “And Pharaoh called Joseph’s name Zaphnath-paaneah; and he gave him to wife Asenath the daughter of Potipherah priest of On. And Joseph went out over all the land of Egypt.”
On is the same as Heliopolis, and is located in the apex of the Nile Delta.
Pharaoh was considered the head of the priesthood and thus the highest religious figure in all of Egypt. On or Heliopolis was the cult center for Ra. It was in this Egyptian city that the Mnevis Bull, which was considered the embodiment of Ra, was worshipped and sacrificed. A burial ground for the slaughtered animals was just north of the city. Remember when Pharaoh told Joseph if he knew any competent men to put them over his own cattle?
The Priest of On or the Priest of Ra, translated from ancient Egyptian (wr-mw) meant: ‘The Greatest of Seers’. This is an interesting title for Joseph’s father-in-law, seeing that Joseph himself was gifted in precognition.
Excavations from the sun temples in Abusir, occupied roughly a millennium before Joseph, suggest that “the sun temples had been centers for the processing and distributing of provisions gathered from across the regions of the lower Nile.” And that, “Anciently named ‘the house of the knife’. . .the two known sun temples alone could have supplied more than 200 carcasses a day to the various offices of state–raising important questions of supply.” – A History of Ancient Egypt: From the Great Pyramid to the Fall of the Middle Kingdom Vol. 2, John Romer 1st Edition, pgs. 128-131
The captain-of-the-guard, could be translated as the chief executioner or it could also be translated as the chief butcher. The Priests of On would have been in charge of the animal sacrifices.
The Egyptian priesthood served the temple one month out of four. The priests had varying jobs, some as kitchen staff to the temple, janitors, porters, scribes. Priests also presided over mortuary rituals, removing organs of the deceased, embalming and mummifying the dead, uttering spells to aid the recently departed into the afterlife. These mortuary priests acted the same as physicians. “And Joseph commanded his servants the physicians to embalm his father: and the physicians embalmed Israel.” – Gen. 50:2
As a side note, this author would like to point out the interesting, but irrelevant, fact that at least some of Joseph’s servants were mortuary priests.
Continuing: when the priests were ‘off duty’, they returned to civilian life where they inspected local farms and fields owned by the temple, oversaw craftsmen and hunters. Priests were permitted to marry, own estates and keep slaves. High priests, particularly, were paid in land grants and food rations.
Heqanakht, a ka-priest (a priest who daily brings offerings to the deceased, such as bread and beer, so that the ka life-force can be sustained) was described as a farmer-priest. Eight papyrus have been found written or dictated by Heqanakht. These papyri mention him managing his personal household; and the papyri are valued for their documentation regarding wages, transactions and taxes. The taxes were generally paid to Pharaoh in grain.
- Gen. 39:5 And it came to pass from the time that he had made him overseer in his house, and over all that he had, that the LORD blessed the Egyptian’s house for Joseph’s sake; and the blessing of the LORD was upon all that he had in the house, and in the field.
The social ruling class went as followed: 1.) Pharaoh 2.) government officials, usually these officials were members of the pharaoh’s own household; 3.) priests 4.) and following them were the nobles.
Nobles also owned farmland which the peasantry worked; they made laws and maintained order. Which also fits Potiphar’s profile.
Whether Potiphar was a noble or the same as Poti-Phera Priest of On is a debatable subject, of which no conclusive answer can be given. In fact, the name was a fairly popular one. The Egyptianized version being something along the lines of ‘P’hotep’ra’. Names such as ‘Harhotep’; ‘Ptahhotep’; ‘Rahotep’ are all variations of the name Potiphar, and are names of famous Egyptian viziers, a 4th dynasty Pharaoh and 17th dynasty prince.
Remember, like, a few years ago, every other boy was named Jason, and the girls were all named Brittany? – Hercules (1997)
It’s significant, however, that the priest of On is mentioned in scripture. Pharaoh acknowledging this particular cult of Ra worship (with Poti-Phera meaning ‘he whom Ra has given’) tells the reader that Heliopolis was a major religious center at the time, and Pharaoh, being the head religious figure in the nation, was exercising authority over the religious institution by giving the daughter of a priest to Joseph. This act solidified his political career as well as established his divine appointment by the gods in Egyptian perspective.
The Ra cult had expanded during the old and middle kingdom with Senusret I (c. 1971-1926) erecting the obelisk at the Temple of Ra; the only remnant of the city which still stands today.
This Ra worship is a stark contrast to the Hyksos who, according to Donald Mackenzie (who was quoting Mantheo) in his book Egyptian Myth and Legend wrote, “They ruled ‘not knowing Ra’ and were therefore delivered to oblivion”.
Even Queen Hatshepsut wrote that the Hyksos did not acknowledge Ra and destroyed temples dedicated to the sun god.
“For I have raised up what was dismembered beginning from the time when the Asiatics were in the midst of the Delta, (in) Avaris, with vagrants in their midst, toppling what had been made. They ruled without the Sun, and he did not act by god’s decree down to my (own) uraeus-incarnation. . . . I have banished the gods’ abomination, the earth removing their footprints. This is the system of the father of [my] fathers, the Sun, who (now) comes at his dates. Damage will not happen (again), for Amun has decreed that my decree remain like the mountains. When the sun-disk shines, it will spread rays over the titulary of my incarnation, and my falcon will be high on the top of the serekh for the course of eternity.” – The Speos Artemidos Inscription of Hatshepsut translated by James P. Allen
It is true, however, that Hyksos pharaoh’s took on Egyptian names, titles and customs.
Pharaoh Apophis’ praenomina (throne names), for example were: Nebkhepeshre or “Ra is the Lord of Strength”; Aqenenre or “The strength of Ra is great.”; and Auserre, which is translated the same as Aqenenre. (Notice the -re suffix in all of the names.)
Although, whom he worshipped and his regal name(s) is a bit of a head-scratcher, seeing that Apepi was an evil serpent of the underworld; god of chaos and a soul-eater. According to Egyptian mythology, Apepi was an adversary of Ra. Using a mystic gaze, Apepi overwhelmed Ra and his entourage, but with the help of other gods, including Set, Apepi was defeated.
It’s odd that Pharaoh Apepi took on praenomina with the name of Ra, worshipped the God Set, and then took the name of a serpent god who is defeated by Set. However, Donald Mackenzie may have an explanation for this:
“In one of the Horus stories, Set became a “roaring serpent”, and in this form he concealed himself in a hole (a cave) which, by command of the ubiquitous Ra, he was not permitted to leave. He thus became identified with the Apep serpent. Sutekh, the later Set, who was regarded in the Delta as the true sun god, displaced Ra and Horus and figured as the “dragon slayer”.” – Egyptian Myth and Legend, Chapter XX, The Hyksos and their Strange God
If Joseph’s pharaoh acknowledged the Ra Cult, he could not have been a Hyksos king and would had to have been a pharaoh from the 13th dynasty.
FACT #7: Were the Hyksos Israelites; Identifying the Hyksos
According to Mantheo, the Hyksos’ conquest of Egypt was a brutal, armed invasion which met little resistance from the indigenous populations. Temples were burned; cities were destroyed; and women and children were led into slavery. However, in recent years the idea of a violent horde of barbarian Asiatics infiltrating Egypt has fallen out of favor. There is little evidence, archeologically, that suggests battles were fought in the Nile Delta during this period. Also, no chariots have been found in Avaris, despite extensive excavations. The new theory of a “creeping conquest” or a peaceful take-over has gained support.
Some hypothesize that the Hyksos who gained control of the Nile Delta around 1650 BC were the Israelites. The reasons are these: they were Semitic people; they were known as “Shepherd Kings”; they migrated into Egypt around the proper time for an Exodus, and the Egyptians later ran them out.
- Exodus 6:1 “Then the LORD said unto Moses, Now shalt thou see what I will do to Pharaoh: for with a strong hand shall he let them go, and with a strong hand shall he drive them out of his land.”
As the story goes, Egypt was in misery because it was a divided land: Hyksos ruling in the north and the Thebean dynasty ruling in Upper Egypt, and the Kush Empire to the south, with the latter two having to pay tribute to the Hyksos rulers.
Hyksos Pharaoh Apepi or Apophis, (depending on translations) sent a letter to Pharaoh Seqenenre Tao c. 1560-1558, complaining that the hippopotamus in Thebes were so noisy they were disrupting his sleep, (despite Avaris being 700 miles away).
The indignant letter appears to have been the final straw to breaks the hippo’s back, so to speak, and Seqenenre who had had enough of foreign rulers, made war against Apophis. His war-campaign was unsuccessful, however. He fulfilled a short term of about two years, before the enemy inflicted five blows to his head, killing him.
Seqenenre Tao’s son and successor, Kamose continued in his father’s footsteps. Although, his plans for military engagement was meet with opposition from his council and courtiers.
“Let me understand what this strength of mine is for! (One) prince is in Avaris, another is in Ethiopia, and (here) I sit associated with an Asiatic and a Negro! Each man has his slice of this Egypt, dividing up the land with me. I cannot pass by him as far as Memphis, the waters of Egypt, (but), behold, he has Hermopolis. No man can settle down, being despoiled by the imposts of the Asiatics. I will grapple with him, that I may cut open his belly! My wish is to save Egypt and to smite the Asiatics!”
His council then intends to dissuade him from entering into conflict with the neighboring Hyksos:
“See, all are loyal as far as Cusae. We are tranquil in our part of Egypt. Elephantine is strong, and the middle part (of the land) is with us as far as Cusae. Men till for us the finest of their lands. Our cattle pasture in the Papyrus marshes. Corn is sent for our swine. Our cattle are not taken away. . . He holds the land of the Asiatics; we hold Egypt. . . . Then whoever comes and. . .acts against us then do we act against him.”
For the sake of diplomatic relations, Kamose’s courtiers advise against war in favor of a defensive position rather than an offensive one. Kamose rules his allotted territory uncontested, and it appears as though there were transit rights and pasturage rights, allowing them to send their cattle to graze in the Nile Delta.
“Now they were displeasing in the heart of His Majesty. . . I will fight with the [Asiatics] until good fortune comes. The entire land [shall acclaim me the victorious ruler] within Thebes, Kamose, who protects Egypt.
“I sailed down as a champion to overthrow the [Asiatics] by the command of Amun.” – The Defeat of the Hyksos by Kamose: The Carnarvon Tablet, No. I pgs. 99-105 by Alan Gardiner
Pierre Montet’s, an Egyptologist, speculated that the Priesthood of Amun may have funded the war against the Hyksos; hence ‘by the command of Amun’ Kamose sailed north on the Nile and sacked Egyptian garrisons who were loyal to the Hyksos. There is no evidence to support this claim, though this author would like to state that just because there is no physical evidence to support a conspiracy that doesn’t mean such a conspiracy is implausible. Whether religious motivations were involved or not, Kamose’s reasons were sure to be based in nationalism and continuing in the aggressive policies of his predecessor.
Kamose’s reign, like his father’s, was short-lived. He was buried in a coffin of modest design, suggesting that he didn’t have time to make preparations for the afterlife since he was engaged in warfare on two fronts: Hyksos to the north and the Kushites to the south.
His brother Ahmose I ascended the throne, and it was under Pharaoh Ahmose that the Hyksos were run out and the whole of Egypt was unified after almost 30 years of intermittent conflict.
There is an inscription carved at a temple in Thebes of what the gods had supposedly told Ahmose I. “Oh, my son, Ahmose. I am thy father. I set terror in the northlands, even unto Avaris, and the Hyksos are slain beneath thy feet.”
The Egyptians under Ahmose I, laid siege against Avaris in c. 1530 B.C. However, the Egyptians had not taken up the horse and chariot as a standard method of warfare. Rather, the Egyptians fought the Hyksos using naval force. This is in part due to the geography of Avaris, which was located “on the two rivers”.
The following is an excerpt from a soldier who fought under Pharaoh Ahmose: “Now when I had established a household, I was taken to the ship “Northern”, because I was brave. I followed the sovereign on foot when he rode about on his chariot. When the town of Avaris was besieged, I fought bravely on foot in his majesty’s presence.
Thereupon I was appointed to the ship khaemmennefer (“Rising in Memphis”). Then there was fighting on the water in “P’a-djedku” of Avaris. I made a seizure and carried off a hand. When it was reported to the royal herald the gold of valor was given to me. . . .”
The Kamose Steles recounts an earlier battle between Pharaoh Kamose of Upper Egypt and the Hyksos Pharaoh Apophis of Lower Egypt:
“I put the fleet (already) equipped in order, one behind the other, in order that I might take the lead, setting the course, with my braves, flying over the river as does a falcon, my flag-ship of gold at their head, something like a divine being at their front.”
There is no record of naval fighting recorded in the Exodus story, let alone the Egyptians besieging the Israelites at Avaris.
After the fall of Avaris, the Egyptians pursued the Hyksos across the northern Sinai Peninsula and into the Negev desert (near Gaza), located in the southern Levant. This route of flight does not coincide with the Exodus route taken by the Israelites who fled across the Sinai Peninsula and into Midian.
In contrast to the Israelites who were let go peacefully (but fled), and were later pursued with boldness when Pharaoh came to his senses [Exodus 14:4-9], the Hyksos were driven out of Egypt with deadly force and then they were besieged in the Negev desert for three to six years. Whereas the Egyptians drowned in the red sea, having no further contact with the Israelites from thence forth.
Psalm 78:52-53 But made his own people to go forth like sheep, and guided them in the wilderness like a flock. And he led them on safely, so that they feared not: but the sea overwhelmed their enemies.
When analyzing the battles between the Hyksos and Theban Dynasty, the account does not match the Exodus narrative. What does match, however, is that the Hyksos controlled Egypt, imposed import taxes on Upper Egypt, and had formed alliances with Kush. As Yul Brynner said in the Ten Commandments “He holds Ethiopia in his left hand, Goshen in his right, and you, my Pharaoh, are in-between them.”
In fact one of them, Sheshi by name, who was either a pharaoh or vassal to the Hyksos formed a dynastic marriage with a Nubian princess named Tati. Similar to Moses who made war with the Ethiopians and formed a marriage with king’s daughter Tharbis.
In fact, Sheshi is the best attested ruler of the Second Intermediate Period with 396 seals and two seal impressions bearing his nomen or prenomen. Seals bearing his name have been found throughout Egypt, Nubia and Canaan, showing there was extensive trade and diplomatic relations during his twenty to forty year reign. However his name is absent from the Turin king’s list, raising questions on his actual role in the Hyksos kingdom.
So, the Hyksos not only were enslaving the Israelites, but to a greater extent they held all of Egypt under their thumb. Because of their vast political power throughout the land of Egypt, Nubia and the Levant¾as evident by the seals of Sheshi–their adoption of Egyptian names and customs, the Bible is true in calling a Hyksos king, ‘King of Egypt’. With ‘Pharaoh’ being the Egyptian translation of ‘king’; the way Kaiser and Tsar are all imperial titles translated from the Roman ‘Cesar’.
For example, Tsarina Alexandra Feodorovna was of German and English descent. She was not Russian, though she married the Russian Tsar (who, himself, was only 1/128th Russian). Despite this, she still held the Russian title Tsarina.
Continuing: Pharaoh Khamudi was the last of the Hyksos Pharaohs mentioned on the Turin Canon. Seeing that the list was composed by Egyptians, the fact his name is mentioned on the papyrus means he was indeed seen as a legitimate king. Only two scarab seals have been attributed to him–both found in Jericho. Scholars give him a reign lasting a minimum of one year but as long as eleven years. If his reign was short, he didn’t inherit much, and may have ruled from Avaris or from Sharuhen. His death is obscure, however. This author hasn’t been able to find anything on the narrow scope of the internet that documents his death or his stand off against Pharaoh Ahmose I. There is one brief commentary on the back of the Rhind Mathematical Papyrus which suggests he was in year eleven when Ahmose I gained control of Tjaru, an Egyptian fortress. Otherwise, there’s no clear altercations between the two.
It is true, however, that the Egyptians destroyed many records of the Hyksos dynasty. So any papyrus or stone relics that may have given enlightenment on the subject may no longer exist or are so fragmented they cannot be deciphered.
This may be why archaeologists can’t find any concrete evidence of Israelites being enslaved in Egypt: the Hyksos had them enslaved and the Egyptians later destroyed those records.
On the topic of the identity of the Hyksos: Kim Ryholt furthermore observes the name Hayanu is recorded in the Assyrian king-lists for a “remote ancestor” of Shamshi-Adad I (c. 1813 BC) of Assyria, which suggests that it had been used for centuries prior to Khyan’s own reign.
Interestingly, in the book of Jubilee’s (47:9) Amram teaches Moses how to write; according to Gill’s Exposition Acts 7:22, Moses was learning Akkadian cuneiform, or the Assyrian Language.
The Hyksos true identity remains obscure, yet this obscurity may be a clue. Manetho writes in his Aegyptiaca: “For what cause I know not, a blast of the gods smote us; and unexpectedly, from the regions of the East, invaders of obscure race marched in confidence of victory against our land.”
The Hebrews were a known race since the Egyptians wouldn’t eat with them. Even the Hittites were descendents of Canaan, whose brother was Mizraim. Therefore the Hitties and the Egyptians were distant cousins.
It is true that Manetho wrote the Hyksos account in the early third century BC, and by then, time may have veiled the true identity of the Asiatics, especially since the Egyptians destroyed as much evidence regarding their dynasty as possible.
However, if God spoke to Moses regarding the Amorites; Hitties; Hivites; Jebusites; Perizzites and Canaanites, it might be safe to say that these clans were not the Hyksos, since all these people and their territories were well identified in ancient days. /author’s speculation.
Contemporary with the Hyksos, was an Indo-Aryan expansion. Archaeologists theorize the introduction of the Indo-Aryan languages in modern day India, Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan was a result of peoples within the Sintashta culture migrating away from the Eurasian steppe.
The earliest known chariots have been uncovered at the Sintashta archeological site in Chelyabinsk Oblast, Russia, near the Kazakhstan border. Along with the chariot burials, horse sacrifices have been unearthed as well, with as many as eight having been found in a single grave.
The Proto-Indo-Iranians, from which the Indo-Aryans arose, are identified with the Sintashta culture.
The Indo-Aryans were closely related to the Iranians but split-off from them in c. 1800-1600 BC. Around that time the Indo-Aryans migrated into the Levant (Mitanni) and north-western India (Vedic peoples) and possibly China (Wusun), and the Iranians migrated into Iran. The Indo-Aryans who ruled Mitanni from roughly 1500-1300 BC are believe, by scholars, to be the early Medes.
During the old and middle Assyrian empire, the Assyrians ruled over Pre-Iranic north and west Iran.
Whomever the Hyksos were, their identity may have originated further east than Canaan, such as Iraq, Iran or possibly the Eurasian steppes, which may be why they were “of obscure race”.
This author speculates that the Hyksos were, indeed, Assyrian and is convinced scripture tells us so: “For thus says the Lord God, ‘My people went down aforetime into Egypt to sojourn there; and the Assyrian oppressed them without cause.” [Isaiah 52:4]
God has even stated that he uses Assyria to punish Israel: “O Assyria, the rod of mine anger, and the staff in their hand is mine indignation. I will send him against an hypocritical nation and against the people of my wrath will I give him charge, to take the spoil, and to take the prey, and to tread them down like the mire of the streets.” [Isaiah 10:5-6]
However, as we see through history, when God sends Assyria against Israel it is always with a cause, [i.e Isaiah 1:2-5; 3:8-9, 16; & 10:1-2] which makes the Isaiah 52:4 verse different when compared to other scriptures which discuss Assyria coming against Israel.
This verse is blatantly calling the Pharaoh of the Exodus an Assyrian and according to Kim Ryholt the names of some of the Hyksos appear Assyrian in origin; the Hyksos are from the east–from the same direction where the Assyrian empire had been established and even oral tradition suggests Moses was learning the Akkadian cuneiform–the writing system of the ancient Assyrians.
Next point: Ex. 13:17 “And it came to pass, when Pharaoh had let the people go, that God led them not through the way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near; for God said, Lest peradventure the people repent when they see war, and they return to Egypt:
About year and half after the children were liberated from Egypt, Moses sent spies into the land of Canaan to seek out its strongholds and fertility. [Num. 9:1 & Num. 13] The spies went up ‘southward’ according to the KJV or ‘into the Negev’ according to NIV, NLT, ESV etc.
If Israel was to fight the inhabitants dwelling in the Negev desert anyway, and Israel was gathered together according to their armies, why would God avoid taking them along the Way of the Philistines?
We know that God’s ultimate plan was to lead them through the wilderness to the Red Sea where he parted the waters and the whole congregation was baptized under Moses, but let us set aside that reasoning for just a moment. Instead, the Israelites go around to the east-side of the Levant. After leaving the Desert of Sinai they go to the Desert of Paran [Num. 10:12], and the spies go as far as Hebron.
If the Egyptians had run the Hyksos out shortly after the Israelites left Egypt, then the Egyptians may have been in south-western Canaan besieging the Hyksos’ fortifications.
In fact Ahmose I entered Heliopolis and then headed straight for the Way of Horus, ignoring Avaris completely. He broke into Tjaru, an ancient Egyptian fortress and created a barricade, cutting off supplies coming from Canaan into Egypt.
The Way of Horus was a vital military and commercial route. It was called the Way of the Philistines while it was under Philistine influence and Via Maris when under Roman influence.
After gaining control of the fortress, Ahmose I launched four campaigns against Avaris before finally capturing the city around year 18 or 19 of his reign.
Is this the war that God didn’t want the children of Israel to witness, lest they change their minds and return to Egypt? If Ahmose I had blockaded the main route out of Egypt, the only way to get pass the Egyptians may have been by aggressive tactics: war.
However, we see in Numbers 20:14-21 when the Israelites seek permission from the Edomites to pass through their land via the King’s Highway, they are denied passage and “Israel turned away from them”.
If the Israelites turned away from the Edomites, would they have done the same thing and turned away if the Egyptians at the blockade denied them passage into Canaan?
A military blockade might have been a psychological deterrent to the Israelites, the way the Red Sea was, and to repeat the above: would the Israelites have give up and returned to Egypt seeing that Goshen wasn’t far away?
There also seems to be a consensus among the Israelites that serving the Egyptians was better. To the point, that while they were in Egypt they told Moses so:
- Ex. 14:12 “Is not this the word that we did tell thee in Egypt, saying, Let us alone, that we may serve the Egyptians?”
Interestingly, this is the feeling of Kamose courtiers who attempted to dissuade him from engaging in a war with the Hyksos. Men till for us the finest of their lands. Our cattle pasture in the Papyrus marshes. Corn is sent for our swine. Our cattle are not taken away.
While it’s possible that the Israelites developed a battered-wife mentality and developed a learned helplessness it is also possible that the oppression waxed and waned in severity.
For example: When blacks gained their freedom after the American civil war, many stayed in the old South and lived near their masters. In part due to the uncertainty of what lay ahead in the north.
Many slaves actually regretted the end of slavery because slavery gave them a stable family structure, they were loved, were cared for and received the things they needed.
Patsy Mitchner stated in an interview in 1937, “[T]here was two out of every three slaves who wished they was back with their [masters]. There was a lot of love between [master] and slave, and there is few of us that don’t love the white folks today.”
And L. Betty Cofer, “I loved Miss Ella better ’n anyone or anything else in the world. She was the best friend I ever had. If I ever wanted for anything, I just asked her and she give it to me or got it for me somehow.” – The American Slave: A Composite Autobiography. – George P. Rawick
Not saying there wasn’t oppression or abuse, archaeological evidence shows malnourishment in the bones of Semites and indicates death came at an early age of 32 to 34 years old. But just like the slavery of the American South, for every bad master there were at least two good ones, which may have been the case in ancient Egypt.
Indeed, malnourishment leads to poor health and if a mother’s health suffers, the consequence is a higher infant mortality rate.
Skeletons dating to the 6th century AD in Teotihuacan were exhumed in part of one of the cities suburbs. 70% of the skeleton samples were of babies, children and individuals under twenty-five years of age. The bones revealed that the babies had suffered from various forms of infection and diseases. Compared to the earlier period, children only made up 40%-45% of the skeletal samples.
This came at a time when the population reached 125,000 individuals. If we go by this author’s crude calculations regarding the Israelite population at the time of the oppression, the Israelites would have numbered at least four times more the Teotihuacán. Yet: Ex. 1:12 “the more they afflicted them the more they multiplied and grew, and they were grieved because of the children of Israel.”
To multiply and grow means that despite enduring harsh forced-labor, the mothers were still healthy enough to conceive, bear children, and nurse them.
Numbers 11:5 “We remember the fish, which we did eat in Egypt freely; the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlic.”
The following is a list of foods available in Egypt, cited from Ancient Egypt: Everyday Life in the Land of the Nile by Bomb Brier & Hoyt Hobbs chapter 5.
“Beef was reserved mostly for the pharaohs and the priests. One cow was valued at a year’s income for a craftsman or the cost of a small farmer’s annual harvest. A goat on the other hand, worth 1/16th the price of a cow, was more readily available for special occasions so that even the poor could dine infrequently on this meat.
“Other meats available were: lamb, pork, gazelle, antelope, ibex, hartebeest, Oryx, addax, wild donkey, deer, rabbit, hedgehog, ostrich, duck, goose, pigeon, dove, and smaller birds, fish.
“Vegetables: onions, garlic, radishes, peppers, lettuce, celery, leeks, parsley, peas, squash, cucumbers, fava beans, chickpeas, lentils, papyrus, lotus root, and nuts.
“Fruits: figs, grapes and raisins, melons, dates, dom nuts, jujube, pomegranates, carob, juniper beans, almonds, olives and possibly even apples.
“Cereals: Emmer or spelt, barley, oats, sorghum, millet.
“Spices: salt, anise, mint, cumin, dill, marjoram, rosemary, thyme, sage, mustard seeds, celery seeds, safflower, cinnamon, coriander.”
While not everything on the above list may have been available to slaves of Egypt, there is still enough variety that even the poorest of Egypt could dine well through hunting and cultivating.
A majority of the Israelites even had homes that they could return to.
- Ex. 12:23 “When the LORD passes through to strike down the Egyptians, He will see the blood on the top and the two side posts and pass over the door; so He will not allow the destroyer to enter your houses and strike you down.”
Even as the poor of the land, Israelites were still living in a 1st class society. While the author is in no way mitigating the harshness of the oppression, there is evidence that either the Israelites developed a learned helplessness, having gained an acceptance to the slavery; or the oppression was situational, changing in severity based one’s gender, their overseer, and the specific task to which they were assigned. As a nation the cruelty would have been a chronic issue, but individually, each person may have experienced the cruelty of their taskmasters in only acute situations.
Since there is comfort in predictability, leaving their variety of available foods behind, as well as their houses which they came to call home, saying good-bye to the Egyptians who had been kind and shown them favor, obviously wasn’t something all of them were eager to do. Indeed, when the Israelites asked to borrow gold and silver and costly things from the Egyptians to plunder them, the Egyptians freely gave them the things they needed.
Even for those who were whipped and beaten, they could predict their masters. They were familiar with the sting of the whip, the blows of a beating, or the hunger pains. There was no fear in the unknown because they knew the mind of their enemy and were fully aware of the punishments they might endure.
Perhaps those who preferred to stay behind were a minority, but by time the Israelites got to the wilderness, regret permeated through the masses.
- Ex. 14:12 “For it had been better for us to serve the Egyptians, than that we should die in the wilderness.  And Moses said unto the people, Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will shew to you to day: for the Egyptians whom ye have seen to day, ye shall see them again no more for ever.  The LORD shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace.
Israel at this point “sees war”, but are sandwiched between the Red Sea and the Egyptian army with no way of retreat. But God chose this location, as opposed to the southern Levant, to fight for Israel.
There’s no record of Ahmose I army drowning in the red sea. And as stated in an earlier part, despite extensive excavations no chariots have been unearthed in Avaris, where the Hyksos–who were chariot masters–were reigning. So where did these chariots go?
It took four military campaigns for Ahmose I to rid the Hyksos from Avaris. However, these campaigns are poorly documented but hands, two women and one man were taken away as plunder.
Along with destroying the Hyksos stronghold, Ahmose I subdued Nubia and reasserted Egyptian control over the province.
What changed from the beginning of these war campaigns with Sequenere Tao and Ahmose I, that allowed Ahmose I to succeed where his father and brother could not?
Historically speaking, many conquests of nations have been made when one belligerent is weakened, sometimes by the war itself, also from natural disasters, famines, diseases, internal rebellions, or just straight up poor leadership.
Ahmose I was not yet thirty years old when he reunified Egypt, by conquering the Nile Delta. The Hyksos dynasty went approximately 15 years from its first encounter with Kamose to its first encounter with Ahmose I and then subsequent destruction thereafter.
Avaris was a thriving trade center, with Aegean artifacts found in temples built during the Hyksos dynasty. Minoan frescoes have also been unearthed at the site.
A 500 meter wall (1,640 feet) was discovered running along a depression believed to be a river harbor. Such a harbor could cater over 300 ships during trade season.
Having once been the most populous city in the world from 1670-1550 BC and being a major trade city, could Avaris have been the same as Pharaoh’s storage city?
If Avaris was strong economically as it appears it was, the government would have invested a lot in their military and a heavily invested military is a strong force to reckon with. So what happened to their power?
Ex. 10:7 “And Pharaoh’s servants said unto him, How long shall this man be a snare unto us? let the men go, that they may serve the LORD their God: knowest thou not yet that Egypt is destroyed?”
By time the children of Israel had crossed the Red Sea, Lower Egypt would have had much of their livestock destroyed; their crops; their first born and the army. Without enough food, the inhabitants would have been in a weakened state physically unless they had reserves, and without an army to protect them they would have eventually surrendered to any external force.
- Psalm 78:44-51 And had turned their rivers into blood; and their floods, that they could not drink. He sent divers sorts of flies among them, which devoured them; and frogs, which destroyed them. He gave also their increase unto the caterpillar, and their labor unto the locust. He destroyed their vines with hail, and their sycamore trees with frost. He gave up their cattle also to the hail, and their flocks to hot thunderbolts. He cast upon them the fierceness of his anger, wrath, and indignation, and trouble, by sending evil angels among them. He made a way to his anger; he spared not their soul from death, but gave their life over to the pestilence; And smote all the firstborn in Egypt; the chief of their strength in the tabernacles of Ham:
FACT #8: THE JUDAH KING’S LIST
If we take the Biblical King’s list, and trust that the number of years each of the Judahite king’s reigned is correct, and if we assume that 587/586 BC is an indisputable date for the Babylonian Captivity, we can estimate what year the temple was built and from there calculate the date of the Exodus. Let’s take a look:
- 1 Kings 6:1 “And it came to pass in the four hundred and eightieth year after the children of Israel were come out of the land of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon’s reign over Israel, in the month Ziv, which is the second month, that he began to build the house of the LORD.”
By these calculations, the temple would have been built approximately 1023 BC + 480 years = 1503 BC.
Because only the number of years are documented for the Kings of Judah, whose reigns were marked at the beginning of Tishri, we may have a extra months that, over the course of 22 kings, would add up into additional years making 1,503 BC only an estimated time-frame.
1,503 BC falls within the same century as the Hyksos who reigned c. 1650-1550, but possibly as late as c. 1530.
Ahmose I, who conquered the Hyksos died in c. 1524 BC. Examinations of the mummy, suggest the pharaoh died around thirty-five years of age, supporting a twenty-five year reign.
Pharaoh Ahmose I reign is regarded as chronologically correct¾or at least, as correct as it can be in ancient Egyptian history.
During the 9th year of his successor Amenhotep’s reign, the heliacal rise of Sothis was observed on the ninth day of the third month of summer. If the observation was made at Memphis or Heliopolis, modern astronomers claim that the observation could have only been made in 1537, while if the observation was made at Thebes, the Sothic cycle would have been observed in 1517.
Many have criticized the use of the Sothic Cycle, and claim that it isn’t a reliable source for dating the ancient world. Some problems regarding the Sothic cycle are: determining the exact latitude of observation; a heliacal rise will occur on the same day for four years straight; and lack of proper knowledge of the Egyptian calendar and whether it had been altered since its first inception.
Marc Van de Mieroop believes that a bulk of historians would agree in that it is impossible to put forth precise dating before the 8th century BC.
Scientists used the reliable, but somewhat imprecise method of radiocarbon dating to determine the start of the New Kingdom, which began with Ahmose I, and received dates varying between 1570-1544.
THE SEVEN YEAR FAMINE
Since the Israelites were in Egypt for 215 years and the Exodus was c. 1503 BC, we can guess that the seven year famine occurred c. 1719 BC. (Taking into account the Israelites came into Egypt during the second year of the famine).
Famines in the ancient world were actually commonplace, making it difficult to pinpoint Joseph’s famine. Abraham had gone down to Egypt himself due to a severe famine. (Gen. 12:10) There was also another severe famine during Isaac’s lifetime, however, God told Isaac not to go down to Egypt. (Gen. 26.1). There was famine during the time of Ruth (1:1). Famine also struck when God withheld rain for three years during the time of Elijah. (1 King 17)
Some biblical enthusiasts, whose citations are grossly lacking, claim Joseph’s famine occurred from 1,708-1,701. One piece of evidence they use to prove this is a severe famine in China, during the Shang Dynasty.
- Gen. 41:56 And the famine was over all the face of the earth: And Joseph opened all the storehouses, and sold unto the Egyptians; and the famine waxed sore in the land of Egypt.  And all countries came into Egypt to Joseph for to buy corn; because that the famine was so sore in all lands.
The Shang Dynasty ruled China from c. 1766-1122 BC, according to the calculations made by Liu Xin during the Han dynasty. There are conflicting views on the beginning of the dynasty with a date as late as 1554 BC marking the beginning of the Shang dynasty.
Cheng Tang, the first ruler of the Shang dynasty, would have lived anywhere between 1766-1554. Tang implemented government-funded welfare programs for the poor. One system he employed was a form of Universal Basic Income, in which the poor received a specially marked gold coin. Due to drought and subsequent famine, Chinese families had sold their children in exchange for food. This specific gold coin was given to the poor so they could buy their children back.
According to Chinese Annals, of which this author cannot locate, after defeating his predecessor Jie at the Battle of Mingtiao, Cheng Tang became emperor. China was, however, already gripped with famine at this time. And according to these annals–the existence of which seems questionable–the famine had lasted seven years.
China had suffered multiple famines under Tang, however. And this alone can’t be taken as conclusive evidence, especially since there is no conclusive date for the beginning of the Shang dynasty, let alone Chinese artifacts or documents available to the public which support these claims.
Another piece of information these amateur researchers use is the Indo-Aryan migration which began c. 1800 BC. A migration of large numbers of people is likely to have been due to famine, but as mentioned above, there were severe famines in Abraham’s time as well as Isaac’s and so these migrations can’t be solely blamed on the famine during Joseph’s time.
Another “piece of evidence”, which is not evidence at all, is the Yemen Tablets, which, in poetry-form, supposedly mentioned Joseph by name and describes seven years of plenty followed by seven years of dearth. These tablets were “translated” by a Mr. Charles Forster, who didn’t have any credentials as a professional linguist nor possessed knowledge of the ancient Arabic language.
The Eclectic Magazine Vol. 4, No. 1, Jan. 1845 pgs. 79-81 THE PRETENDED PATRIARCHAL INSCRIPTIONS OF ARABIA, originally published by the Dublin University Magazine (Vol. 24, No. 144 Dec. 1844) denounced Mr. Forster with a heavy heart, but in the name of academia and religion, both magazines were forced to set the record straight. Dublin University stated the poems which were “translated” by Mr. Forster were most likely written by a 7th century or early 8th century Arabic poet. Mr. Forster, however, falsified where the poetic inscriptions were found, claiming they were engraved on stones at two separate Adite castles; such inscriptions, let alone the castles, do not exist, and was a mystification of Mr. Forster.
This comes at a time when Joseph Smith was translating hieroglyphs found in America and having visions of the angel Moroni who, supposedly, gave him the means to translate the hieroglyphs.
It is therefore, an impossible quest to date the biblical seven year famine to specific years. Declines of civilizations, rebellions, and migrations of people in the 18th century BC, may be indicative of widespread famine but not necessarily conclusive evidence for it.
Causes of famine range from political to environmental. Migrations of mass populations can be due to war or political uprisings, both of which can contribute to a lack of available food. Climate change, an unstoppable force, also plays a significant role in famines and migrations. Couple that with a lack of foresight and poorly managed government systems, and the base people suffer tremendously.
In 2100 BC, India, researchers have discovered a weakening of the summer monsoons. The drought that followed effected the Indus Valley inhabitants, drastically. But the climate change of 2,100 BC was not isolated to the Asian continent. Egypt’s Old Kingdom suffered, as did the Grecian mainland and the Akkadian Empire–whose collapse was believed to have been caused by sudden climate change.
Wherever there is climate change, there is either the decline or rise of a civilization. Some causes for climate change are oceanic patterns, solar output, large meteor/asteroid strikes, and volcanism.
If Joseph’s famine was worldwide and Joseph told his brothers: Gen. 45:6 “For these two years has the famine been in the land: and there are yet five years, in the which there shall neither be plowing nor harvest.” We can assume that this famine was caused by environmental forces.
- Gen. 43:11 “And their father Israel said unto them, If it must be so now, do this; take of the best fruits in the land in your vessels, and carry down the man a present, a little balm, and a little honey, spices, and myrrh, nuts, and almonds.”
Israel could only garner a little honey as a present to the vizier of Egypt. However, spices, myrrh, nuts and almonds did not have a quantity limit.
Both drought and cold, wet weather will reduce crop yield for honey. Almonds however, can survive on as little as 7.6 inches of water annually. Almond growers around the world rely heavily on the honeybee to pollinate their almond crops.
For a successful almond crop, the honeybee needs to pollinate as many blossoms as possible and not become distracted by the other available flora. In times of drought, shallow rooted flora will be the first to wilt and thus be unfruitful for the honeybee. The bee will then turn to more drought tolerant plants for food. A little honey indicates a scarcity of flora for the honeybees to harvest, a good almond crop indicates good pollination of the blossoms.
- Gen. 47:4 And they said to Pharaoh, “We have come to dwell in the land, because your servants have no pasture for their flocks, for the famine is severe in the land of Canaan.”
- Gen. 41:22 “And I saw in my dream, and, behold, seven ears came up in one stalk, full and good: And, behold, seven ears, withered, thin, and blasted with the east wind, sprung up after them.”
East winds which travel across the Arabian desert westward into the Levant (and into parts of east-Africa like Egypt) bring dry, hot air. It also sweeps dust into the western regions which can kill plants and can affect the respiratory system.
David Rohl suggested the famine in Egypt and Canaan was due to wetter conditions during the time of Amenemhatt III c. 1860-1814. A rise in Nile flooding made it impossible to plow, drowning cattle, sheep etc. His interpretation comes from Pharaoh’s dream and the fact the cows were coming out of the Nile. However, this author disagrees with this hypothesis. Severe flooding of the Nile would not account for famine in Canaan and lack of pasturage for their herds.
That’s not to say that somewhere else on planet earth, inhabitants weren’t plagued with wetter conditions which then affected crop growth. Just a look at the United States alone, while California is experiencing hotter, drier conditions and fighting wildfires, New York is suffering from below average temperatures and higher precipitation.
Aside from the fact that a rise in Nile Inundation was not likely to have been the cause of the seven year famine during Joseph’s time, this author believes the c. 1860-1814 timeframe is too early for Joseph’s famine.
The University of Arizona published a short essay on The Vegetation and Climate Changes During the Bronze and Iron Ages in Southern Levant Based on Palynological Records.
Fossil pollen records uncovered in the Levant, including the region of Jerusalem, allow scientists to gauge the climate from c. 3600-600 AD. They’ve discovered that during the Middle Bronze Age I, which was from 1950-1750, the climate was predominately drier when compared to the Middle Bronze Age II-III which was wet.
During the Middle Bronze Age II, the Dead Sea saw its record water levels in the last four millennia. These wetter conditions were beneficial for inhabitants and “significant numbers of people may have moved to the ‘greener’ parts of the Levant. Wetter conditions in the Middle Bronze Age II-III caused the settlement system to recover and re-expand in the south (in areas like Beer Sheba Valley in the northern Negev).”
It’s this author’s belief that Joseph could have lived around the time that the climate was changing from a hot and arid one to one that was wetter and possibly cooler. These climatic shifts can be tumultuous, and go from one end of the spectrum to the other in regards to temperature and precipitation.
According to the fossil pollens then, it’s plausible the famine occurred sometime around c. 1750 BC, during the climate change.
Interesting, around the same time, an Alaskan volcano Mt. Veniaminof erupted with a VEI of 6 or possibly 7. Such a volcanic eruption may have contributed to global cooling for several years. During the Little Ice Age from 1500-1800 AD, solar irradiation was at a low while there was an increase in seismic activity.
From 1750-1500 BC during the wetter and cooler conditions, it appears there may have also been an increase in seismic activity with major volcanic eruptions occurring such as:
- Thera c. 1628-1540 VEI: 7
- Aniakchak c. 1628 & 1500 (two eruptions?) VEI: 6
- Mt. Vesuvius c. 1680-1535 VEI: 6
The Avellino eruption of Mt. Vesuvius was large and more catastrophic compared to the infamous 79 AD eruption that buried Pompeii (VEI 5). All these eruptions would have had an impact on the climate. Some researchers have hypothesized that the eruption of Thera may have contributed to the 10 Plagues of Egypt.
FACT #9: THE TEMPEST STELE
Ahmose I succeeded his brother Kamose at the age of ten years old. Sometime during his twenty-five year reign, Ahmose documented a strange weather pattern, known as the world’s first weather report: The Tempest Stele.
There is dispute in the scholarly realm on how to interpret the stele, whether literally or figuratively.
“[T]he gods [expressed their discontent]. The gods [caused?] that the sky come with a tempest of r[ain]; with [dark]ness in the condition of the West.
“With darkness in the condition of the West,” may be literal or it may be metaphoric with the west being the underworld. With darkness like that of the underworld or like that of death.
“The sky being in a storm, the cries [lit., “voices”] of the masses, [while the rain howled] on the mountains louder than the sound of the underground source of the Nile, that is the Elephantine.
“Then every house, every quarter (of the city), [the storm and rain] reached [. . .their corpses (?)] floating on the water like skiffs of papyrus outside the palace audience chambers for a period of [. . .] days [. . .] while no torch could be lit in the Two Lands.
It’s estimated that the duration of this storm lasted anywhere between 4 and 29 days. ‘Two Lands’, indicates Egypt as whole: both Upper and Lower Egypt. The biblical plague of darkness lasted 3 days.
“Then His Majesty said: ‘How much greater this is than the wrath of the great god, [than] the plans of the gods!’ His Majesty then descended to his boat with his council following him while the crowds on the East and West had hidden faces, having no clothing on them after the manifestation of the wrath of the god. His Majesty then reached the interior of Thebes with gold confronting gold of his cult image, so that he received what he desired.”
‘Manifestation of the wrath’ is more aptly described as a more forceful ‘display of terror-inducing might”.
“Repetition of a wonder [. . .], making rain, [. . .] seeing the manifestations [. . .] of this god, giving his [wrath (?)] to the masses, making the hill country as a flood, flowing forth of water upon the roughness of the stone, finding a well in the midst of the valley.”
The rains are considered to be real and not metaphorical. And although ‘this god’¾in the singular–is an interesting phrase that some amateur researchers try to connect with the God of Israel, ‘this god’ is referring to Amun, who was mentioned earlier in the stele: “It was Ra himself [who appointed] him as king of Upper Egypt and who assigned to him power in very truth. . . . Now then A[mun-Ra, Lord of the Thrones of the Two Lands] was in Heliopolis of Upper Egypt.
Back in Thebes, Ahmose I supposedly received a message from the gods, particularly Amun-Ra, revealing that he had “set terror in the northlands, even unto Avaris”. Could this ‘terror’ be linked with the plagues of Egypt? The text continues:
“He did not f[ail] in providing them with silver, with gold, with copper, with oil and cloth compromising every bolt that could be desired.”
“His Majesty then made himself comfortable (= seated himself) within the palace (life! Prosperity! Health!). Then His Majesty was informed that the mortuary concessions had been entered: the tomb chambers collapsed, the funerary mansions undermined, and the pyramids fallen¾what had been made rendered non-existent (lit. “what had not been made”). Then His Majesty commanded to restore the temples that had fallen into ruin in the entire land: to refurbish the monuments of the gods, to erect their enclosure walls, to provide the sacred objects in the noble chamber, to mask the secret places, to introduce into their shrines the cult images which were cast to the ground, to set up the braziers, to erect the altars, to establish their bread offerings, to double the income of the personnel, to put the land into its former state. Then it was done in accordance with all that His Majesty had commanded.”
Throughout the Old Testament we see judgment against gods of other nations by the tearing down of altars; the smashing of their sacred pillars; their idols or cult images being broken or burned. [Ex. 34:13-14 & Deut. 7:5]
Hatshepsut in her writings spoke of storms; however these were clearly figurative: it was a literary technique used to describe overcoming the chaos and darkness during her reign.
Some scholars, however, do not believe the Tempest Stele was in any way metaphoric in nature, despite the Hyksos being known for destroying the temples of Egyptian Gods. For one, the writings of Hatshepsut, Kamose, and Ahmose, Son of Abana (who was subservient to Pharaoh Ahmose I), specifically mention the Asiatics, whereas the Tempest Stele does not reference the Hyksos or any foreign invader. “In sum, within the relevant New Kingdom texts the Hyksos and their perceived misdeeds are never masked by metaphor, contrary to the assertions of Ryholt, Allen and Manning.” – The Ahmose ‘Tempest Stele, Thera and Comparative Chronology by Robert K. Ritner and Nadine Moeller; Journal of Near Eastern Studies Vol. 73, No. 1 (April 2014) pgs. 1-19.
Because it neglects to mention foreign invaders, let alone war efforts against Asiatic invaders, (most) scholars discount the stele as a metaphor for the Hyksos rule and defeat. The theory gaining popularity among historians, is that the Tempest Stele may be a record of the Thera Eruption.
Some 400 pieces of pumice which matches the composition of the Thera eruption has been uncovered in Avaris. It’s believed that this pumice washed ashore and was collected as an abrasive tool. This pumice gives a chronology dating c. 1540 BC.
“We now report evidence for the presence of ash ejected from this explosion in sediment cores recovered in the eastern Nile Delta of Egypt. This discovery of Upper Minoan glass . . . serves as evidence of a major natural phenomenon affecting Egypt during the reign of pharaohs in the Eighteenth Dynasty. It is quite possible that this ash-fall event may have given rise to texts pertaining to darkening of the sky and veiling of the Sun in early historic records. Nature, Volume 320, Issue 6064, pp. 733-735 (1986).
However other archaeological evidence: tree-ring dating, Greenland ice cores; Chinese records; and radiocarbon dating (of an olive branch) have suggested an eruption date as early as 1628 BC.
Although, one piece of evidence, based on a bean weevil, Bruchus rufipes, found in storage jars on the settlement of Akrotiri, has led archaeologists to argue for a summer eruption due to the life cycle stage in which the weevil was found.
The Exodus occurred in the spring. Any direct role that Thera played would have to have occurred before the 4th and final phase of the eruption.
The 1883 eruption of Krakatau began in May and culminated by the end of August. It was this final phase of the eruption that destroyed 70% of the island and its archipelago. There were approximately 36,600 fatalities from the eruption most of which were caused by the devastating tsunami that followed.
A cataclysmic mega tsunami followed the Thera eruption as well, but this would have occurred some time in late summer, similar to Krakatau. This tsunami was not the cause of the Red Sea parting. Aside from being in the wrong season, it was an east wind which had parted the Red Sea and Thera is located to the north-west. Any tsunamis generated during the 2nd or 3rd eruption phases would not have affected the Red Sea.
THERA & THE PLAGUES
The Nile turning to blood is very likely to have been related to an algae overgrowth which sucked the oxygen out of the water, which consequently pushed the frogs out of the river. Once the frogs died, their food source: mosquitoes, lice, fleas, gnats, and flies all bred out of control. Contaminated water can cause contact dermatitis, resembling boils.
Harmful red algae blooms in Florida in 2018 saw a fifty percent spike in hospital visits. Aerosols from the red-tide microorganism Karenia brevis caused numerous respiratory complaints in the elderly.
These toxins from the red algae would affect humans and livestock alike, especially since the livestock were drinking the water. The over abundance of biting insects could also spread lethal diseases such as malaria.
Not directly related to the red algae bloom, is the thunderstorm of hail and fire. This is where we get into the Thera hypotheses.
- Ex. 9:24 “Hail fell and fire mingled with the hail; the hail was so severe that there had not been any like it in all the land of Egypt since it had become a nation.”
The favorable date for the Thera eruption is 1628 BC, which would be roughly 80-100 years before the Exodus. If this is true then historians have to revamp the Egyptian chronology and move the reign of Ahmose I to the 1600s taking the Hyksos along for the ride, or we have to concede that the Tempest Stele was not documenting the Thera eruption and leave Ahmose where he’s at in the mid-1500s BC.
The lava bombs projected by Thera would not have traveled much further than 3-5 miles, at best, and Egypt is 500 miles away from the island of Santorini. Therefore the flaming hail could not be volcanic in origin. Psalms 78:48 clarifies the fire mingled with hail as lightning: He gave up their cattle also to the hail, and their flocks to hot thunderbolts.
The ash fall was mainly east and north-east of the island, towards Turkey. The claims of volcanic ash found in the Nile Delta have been refuted as misidentifications since the publication of the findings in 1986.
The eighth plague of locusts has also been blamed on a volcanic eruption. On Santorini, the ash fall sterilized the island, killing plant life. With a lack of flora to feast upon, this would drive the native locusts in search of new food. However, the plague of locusts were blown into Egypt by an east wind. This means if the locusts were Minoan in origin, they would have to have flown across the Mediterranean into Turkey, down into Syria and Israel, across the Sinai peninsula and then into Egypt, making a 180° circuit.
Except, volcanic ash is an insecticide. Being an abrasive material of fine glass, any locust that comes in contact with the volcanic material would sustain damages to their vulnerable membranes and tissues, especially those between their mouthparts and appendages. This would cause a loss of ability to feed. Being coated by ash, whether by walking or flying, would also cause desiccation. With the ash being pushed by a westward wind towards the (north)-east, the locusts would have been in direct contact with volcanic material and would not have survived the long flight towards Turkey or the middle-east.
This westward direction of ash movement would not explain the ninth plague of darkness over the land of Egypt.
Bible enthusiast may be disappointed, but Thera is not directly responsible for the plagues.
Yet we still have the Tempest Stele, written during the reign of Ahmose I c. 1550 BC. If Thera came too early then what was Ahmose witnessing?
The Tempest Stele recounts: a darkness in the condition of the west. If this is literal, Goshen was located to the east, whereas the Egyptians were located to the west, and would match the plague of darkness that affected the Egyptians. Ahmose writes that it’s apparently so dark that no torch can be lit throughout the two lands, both upper and lower Egypt.
- Ex. 10:22 “And Moses stretched forth his hand toward heaven; and there was a thick darkness in all the land of Egypt three days.”
The hailstorm of the seventh plague was so severe that there was nothing like it since Egypt had become a nation. The Tempest Stele emphasis on the sky being in a storm and heavy rains, thunder and lightning battering the cities, damaging temples and buildings. While rain can be devastating, to have buildings fallen into ruin would imply this precipitation may have included hail. Indeed, ‘rain’ is an assumed word in the translation.
Some scholars have suggested that this was indeed nothing more than a strong storm, but they admit that such a storm is rare for Egypt, especially so far south in Thebes.
Ahmose marvels at the strength of the storm and states “How much greater this is than the wrath of the great god, [than] the plans of the gods!”
The Exodus was such a fantastic display of God’s power that all the nations round about heard what the God of Israel had done for them and they were in fear. [Ex. 15:14] So great was this event that even forty years later, Rahab the Harlot stated, Joshua 2:9 “I know that the LORD has given you this land and that the fear of you has fallen on us, so that all the inhabitants of the land are melting in fear of you.  For we have heard how the LORD dried up the waters of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt.”
This author suggests that the Tempest Stele could be evidence of God’s deliverance, and that Ahmose I rightly attributed this event to the wrath of God.
However, it’s not known when Ahmose I witnessed this storm. If it was before he campaigned into the Nile Delta, it could be an eye-witness account of the plagues. If it was after he laid siege against Avaris, then the stele is not related to the Exodus.
But for those who adore the Thera eruption theory, it’s possible that a volcanic eruption could have occurred 1-5 years before the Exodus. Any major volcanic eruption that ejects a lot of sulfuric material into the atmosphere can create a global cooling effect.
Volcanism can have an affect on wind circulation as well as oceanic currents, distorting weather patterns.
- Psalm 78:47 He destroyed their vines with hail, and their sycamore trees with frost.
‘Frost’ comes from the Hebrew word ‘chanamel’, which is of uncertain derivation but is believed to mean ‘frost’.
In the month of April, temperatures in northern Egypt are typically 70/58° Fahrenheit for the average high and low. The record low was 45°. If the sycamore trees in the Nile Delta were affected by frost, temperatures dropped below freezing, indicating a significantly cooler spring than usual. The lowest temperature ever recorded in Cairo, Egypt in the month of January was 34.2°; February 38.5°; and March 41°.
Hail alone is proof of cooler air below the cloud level.
If 1750-1500 BC marked a wetter period in the Middle-East and saw at least three major volcanic eruptions, two of which were in close proximity to Egypt and the Levant (Mt. Vesuvius and Thera) a volcanic eruption may have indirectly initiated some of the plagues months or years later.
Exodus 9:8-9 “And the Lord said unto Moses and unto Aaron, Take to you handfuls of ashes of the furnace, and let Moses sprinkle it toward the heaven in the sight of Pharaoh. And it shall become small dust in all the land of Egypt, and shall be a boil breaking forth with blains upon man, and upon beast, throughout all the land of Egypt.”
An emerging coincidence in the wake of violent volcanic eruptions is the number of bubonic plague epidemics.
“In fact, it is now recognized that wet, chilly weather stimulates the reproduction of the deadly bacterium that causes bubonic and pneumonic plague. Yet, the origin of the historical cycles of plague has remained obscure.
“All of these eruptions were followed by stratospheric dry fogs that dimmed the sun’s light, chilled the atmosphere, and led to an increase in the amount of precipitation.” – Richard Stothers, NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies Research
The 535-536 Catastrophe is believed to be linked by a volcanic eruption(s) along the equator, with Krakatau and Ilopango being the chief culprits. The latter being favored among researchers while some experts are now suggesting the severe climatic changes in the mid-first century are actually due to two eruptions. Ilopango in c. 535-536 AD and Krakatau in c. 539-540.
While there are no major eruptions preceding the medieval plague, the Mt. Tarawera eruption of c. 1310-1315 AD, may have affected global temperatures, leading to the Great Famine of 1315-17. If this is true; the VEI of the eruption would have to have been ranked somewhere between 6-7. For perspective, the 1883 eruption of Krakatau was a 6; the 1815 eruption of Tambora, a 7; and Yellowstone an 8.
Global temperatures from Krakatau dropped by 2.2° Fahrenheit, while temperatures dropped to .7° to 1.3° (F) post-Tambora eruption. The global dips in temperatures led to wetter and colder summers which dramatically impeded crop growth, leading to famines and in the case of Tambora, the emergence of a new strain of cholera as well as a severe typhus outbreak.
Because of the increase in infectious disease outbreaks after major volcanic eruptions, it’s possible that the boils breaking forth may not have been from contact dermatitis, but perhaps a strain of Yersinia pestis.
Cattle are not known to be affected by the plague; however cattle are vulnerable to another form of infectious disease: anthrax.
There are three forms of anthrax: skin, lungs, and intestinal. Skin infections represent more than 95% of all anthrax cases. Cutaneous anthrax will present itself as boil-like skin lesions with localized swelling around the boil or blister which often progresses into a painless ulcer with a necrotic center.
Both, the bubonic plague and anthrax are believed to have originated in Egypt. The Ebers Papyrus dated to c. 1500 BC, which is within the same time frame as the Exodus, records a disease that produced pussy boils.
Fleas may have been one of the biting insects of the 3rd plague. Fleas–which carry the bubonic plague.
- Psalm 78:50 He made a way to his anger; he spared not their soul from death, but gave their life over to the pestilence.
So while this author does not believe the Thera eruption occurred at the exact same time as the Exodus, it may be possible that a massive volcanic eruption did occur a year or more before the Israelites left Egypt, which later caused atmospheric phenomena and cooler temperatures which led to pestilence.
According to the King’s List, the earliest date for the Exodus would have to be 1503 BC, however due to inaccuracies this date is only an approximate.
We know that Pharaoh would have to have had his capital in the Nile Delta, and only the Hyksos ruled from Avaris during that timeframe. Scholarly assumptions on when the Hyksos were expelled from Egypt vary tremendously; dates from 1580 to 1521 BC have all been purposed. Pharaoh Ahmose I, who was responsible for driving the Asiatics back into Canaan, ruled anywhere from 1570-1514 BC.
Pharaoh Ramesses II who sacked Jerusalem is believed by some scholars to be the same Shishak of the bible. This author isn’t going to get into the linguistic proof–interested readers can look up new chronology theories if they are so inclined. However, Ramesses II became one of the mightiest and wealthiest pharaohs of the New Kingdom, and if he had carried away all the treasure of the Temple and the royal palace in Jerusalem that would explain a lot.
If Ramesses II was contemporary with Solomon and Rehoboam that would alter the Egyptian Chronology significantly, seeing that his reign is thought to have begun in 1279 BC. The fifth year of Rehoboam would have been 982 BC, nearly three hundred years later.
Because Egyptian chronology is not precise, the dating of Ahmose I can be difficult. Especially since the Sothic cycle is not well understood nor reliable. Yet, despite the guess-work, we still see Ahmose I falling within the same time period as the Exodus c. 1500 BC.
If we go by the lowest chronology, we have a discrepancy of 18 years from 1503 to 1521.
When looking back nearly 3500 years, such a discrepancy is minute.
We also have an eight spoked chariot wheel found off the Gulf of Aqaba dated 1550-1340. This artifact corresponds with the c. 1500 timeframe. Along with two violent volcanic eruptions dated to 1680-1535 and 1628-1540 BC.
It’s this author’s belief that the Exodus occurred c. 1500-1550 BC, with a dating of 1515-1525, being favored.
The Pharaohs of the Exodus would have been either Khamudi or Apepi, and Ahmose I from Thebes.
The Israelites were enslaved by Hyksos pharaohs and were later delivered out of Egypt shortly before the collapse of the Hyksos dynasty.
Some theories suggest that Ahmose I enslaved the Israelites, but this makes little sense seeing that his entire war campaign in the north was to rid himself from the Asiatics, not make them slaves. Egyptians did not differentiate Hyksos from Israelites, so all of them would have been run out. This dynasty also does not correspond with a capital in the Nile Delta nor does it see any massive destruction at the end the dynasty. The eighteenth dynasty was headquarter at Thebes, was prosperous, and lasted for roughly 260 years.
The only new king who could arise over Egypt (by usurpation as commentators have suggested) and not know Joseph, would have to be a foreigner who did not benefit from Joseph’s life-saving policies during the famine.
The 14th dynasty in Egypt saw a benevolent Levantine leadership in the Nile Delta, which was overcome when the Hyksos, who were a minority in the region, gained control of the provincial government. These men of ‘obscure race’, who were likely Assyrian in origin, killed and lead away women and children into slavery.
The Israelites were multiplying rapidly and, possibly, with male dominant births. The Hyksos/Assyrians, who had already usurped the seat of power away from the Israelites, grew to fear them, anticipating retaliation, perhaps. In order to maintain control of the region, the Israelites were enslaved and the male babies later killed.
This paranoia may explain why after the murder of one Egyptian taskmaster, pharaoh sets out to kill Moses. If Moses was a man mighty in words and deeds and conquered the Nubian kingdom for the Hyksos, why should one brutal act against an Egyptian cause pharaoh the jitters?
An Egyptian pharaoh who had gained the throne legitimately by succession from father or brother would in no way feel threatened by one Asiatic. A true Egyptian Pharaoh would have interviewed Moses to seek out the reason for the murder, not simply hear of it and then seek to slay him without offering a fair trial. But if Moses was seen as a potentially legitimate heir from a previous dynasty, this could have created an awkward and tense situation for pharaoh and he may have been seeking any reason to order his execution.
Native Egyptians seem to regard the Hyksos with a tolerant attitude and would have followed the orders given regarding the enslavement of the Israelites. So while the officers and taskmasters of pharaoh were native Egyptian, pharaoh himself was not.
Pharaoh Apepi ruled for 35-40 years. This would have been the same duration of time that Moses had lived in Midian. And at the same time, Apepi upset relations with the Theban dynasty to the south.
After his death, Khamudi rose to power with a reign of 1 to 11 years. It’s possible that Moses returned to Egypt during this time and told Khamudi to let the Israelites go.
Meanwhile in the south, Ahmose I gets a revelation from the gods stating, “I have set terror in the northlands and the Hyksos will be slain beneath thy feet”. With this proclamation from the gods, Ahmose I, heads north to campaign against Avaris.
By time he lays siege, the Israelites have already departed. Possibly weakened by the plagues, and the army having been drowned in the Red Sea, the Hyksos could not withstand the Theban forces and succumbed to defeat by the fourth attack.
Many researchers claim that the Exodus never occurred because if it had, there should be some type of evidence documenting the incredible event.
However, Egyptologists and historians are looking for the Exodus in Egyptian records; but if no Egyptian dynasty enslaved the Israelites, no proof of an Exodus will be found and thus the story is mitigated as a fairy-tale.
But if we look into the little-known Hyksos dynasty, that’s where we will find the Exodus story.