EXODUS PROBLEMS: Scholarly Pitfalls encountered in setting a Date for the Exodus
and establishing its route on maps
15 October 2002
Revisions through 17 October 2010
Please click here for a very fine article by Wikipedia on the Exodus and the "problems" facing scholars in identifying when it occurred. Please click here for this website's most important article: Why the Bible Cannot be the Word of God. For Christians visiting this website _my most important article_ is The Reception of God's Holy Spirit: How the Hebrew Prophets _contradict_ Christianity's Teachings. Please click here. Please click here for my latest map (21 Nov. 2009) showing the site of Israel's "crossing of the Red Sea"
in the Exodus as being at Ras el Ballah (my Baal-zephon)
Problem One: Did Moses "write" the Exodus account or someone else, in other words is the Exodus an eye-witness account of the events?
The Bible's Exodus narrative was _not_ written by Moses.
The "proof"? Moses' activities and speeches are presented in the third person, a format which would _not_ have been used by Moses had he really written the account appearing in the Holy Bible. Obviously someone else is writing about Moses and describing his activities (Cf. below for examples of the third person format).
The "proof" the Exodus account was _not_ written by an eye-witness or contemporary of Moses:
The Philistines are portrayed as being in Canaan in the days of Abraham (circa 2100 B.C. cf. Ge 21:32) and they are feared by Israel upon her departure from Egypt (Ex 13:17). Archaeology has established that the Philistines are the Pelest of Ramesside era records and they did not settle in Canaan until circa 1175 B.C in the reign of Pharaoh Rameses III. Thus the Exodus account is _in error_ in having Philistines present circa 1512 B.C. (Catholic Exodus date) or 1446 B.C. (Protestant Exodus date) in Canaan to oppose Israel's Exodus and entry into Canaan from Egypt and _cannot_ have been written by an eye-witness whether that be Moses or someone else.
Problem Two: Establishing the date "when" the Exodus account was written in the Holy Bible.
Certain locations mentioned in the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible, which also include the Exodus account, have been identified by archaeologists and excavated; the excavations revealed that these sites either were not in existence in Moses' days, or if they were in existence, they were abandoned and not occupied _contra_ the biblical portrayal of events. The archaeological excavations revealed that some of the sites were in existence only in the 7th century B.C. so this anomaly suggests the Exodus account is no earlier.
Problem Three: How "reliable" is the Exodus account? Is it all true? All fiction? A "mix" of truth and fiction? What are the clues?
We "know" Moses did _not_ write the Exodus account because it is presented in the third person format. We have established that the account was written not earlier than the 7th/6th century B.C. because some of the sites mentioned did not come into existence until that time frame. So, how "reliable" is this account if it was written roughly 1000 years after the date given in the Bible for the Exodus (Catholic: 1512 B.C. Protestant: 1446 B.C.)? It is _not_ very reliable at all. What are the clues that it is not very reliable?
Had Moses (or some other eye-witness) written the Exodus account the number of letters used for writing would be 30 in 1552/1446 B.C. instead of 22. The latter number came into existence no earlier than the 12th century B.C. according to archaeologcal findings. Please click here for my article exploring the letter forms Moses would have used in 1512/1446 B.C. as revealed by archaeological findings in the Sinai. The Pentateuch and its Exodus narratives use 22 letters not the 30 letters of Moses' days.
Here are some the "problems" facing anyone seeking to identify the route of the Exodus from Numbers 33 itinerary:
If some of the sites mentioned in the Pentateuch and Exodus narratives were not in existence or deserted in Moses' time (1512/1446 B.C.) "how" can one identify the route of the Exodus from the itinerary given in Numbers 33:1-50?
No Philistines were in Canaan before circa 1175 B.C. so there would be no need for the Exodus to avoid the way to the land of the Philistines. That is to say, if there was an Exodus circa 1512/1446/1260 B.C. they probably did take "the way to the land of the Philistines" as the Philistines were not present to oppose them.
The sites enumerated in Numbers 33:1-50 were most probably sites known to the narrator who wrote the account in the 7th/6th century B.C. so they most likely were in existence in his day (some may have been abandoned in his days while others were occupied but they did "exist" at least physically). He probably did not realize that some of these sites did not exist or were abandoned at the time he "thought" the Exodus occurred (1512/1446 B.C.).
It thus follows that even if one could satisfactorily identify a chain of sites or ruin heaps or tells in existence by 7th/6th century B.C. extending from Egypt across the Sinai to the Negev and Canaan these sites still would _not_ constitute the "real" route of the Exodus as it would have been most probably the way to the land of the Philistines following the shore of the Mediterranean Sea because there were no Philistines to oppose Israel's Exodus and entry into Canaan in 1512/1446/1260 B.C.
Besides the fact that the Bible (Old and New Testaments) in various books suggests for some scholars different dates for the Exodus, the single most important impediment in establishing a date for the Exodus is Archaeologists' failure to find a period when _all_ the sites mentioned in the narratives were in existence at the same moment in time. That is to say, no matter what archaeological timeframe one chooses to place the Exodus in be it Early Bronze Age, Middle Bronze Age, Late Bronze Age or Iron Age, _none_ of these time frames has _all_ the sites in existence and occupied at the same moment in time. For whatever archaeological timeframe that is chosen there are _always_ sites either not yet in exsitence or if in existence are unoccupied (deserted). Because of these _indisputable_ and well-documented "archaeological anomalies" some scholars understand that the Bible's Exodus account is _not_ an eyewitness account, they have suggested that it was written in a period when no one knew such sites were not in existence or were unoccupied and I concur.
Because _no_ period, Early Bronze Age to Iron Age II has _all_ the sites in existence and occupied the "second-best" solution is to ask:
"What period of time witnessed the "greatest number" of occupied sites?"
That question has been asked by scholars and answered. It is the Late Iron Age II Period, the 7th-6th centuries B.C. Some scholars have suggested on this archaeological basis that the Exodus account was composed towards "the end of the Late Iron Age II Period," the author and his audience being apparently _unaware_ that the cities in existence at this time were _not_ in existence (or if in existence, they were unoccupied) within the time frame the anonymous author cast the Exodus story in. I understand that Genesis-2 Kings was composed in 560 B.C. in the Babylonian Exile. For the reasons why please click here.
Finkelstein & Silberman (emphasis mine):
"Sites mentioned in the Exodus narrative are real. A few were well known and apparently occupied in much earlier periods and much later periods- after the kingdom of Judah was established, when the text of the biblical narrative was set down in writing for the first time. Unfortunately for those seeking a historical Exodus, they were UNOCCUPIED precisely at the time they reportedly played a role in the events of the wandering of the children of Israel in the wilderness...Lastly, ALL the major places that play a role in the story of the wandering of the Israelites were inhabitated in the 7th century; in some cases they were occupied ONLY at that time."
(pp. 64, 67. "Did the Exodus Happen?" Israel Finkelstein & Neil Asher Silberman. The Bible Unearthed. 2001)
MacDonald, an archaeologist with extensive experience in Transjordan echos Finkelstein and Silberman's observations about the sites mentioned in the Exodus scenarios being mostly occupied in the 7th-6th centuries B.C. thus dating the Exodus account to this era:
"On the basis of textual and literary study of these texts plus archaeological evidence from biblical sites identified with confidence, we may conclude that the passages in question probably date to the end of the Iron II period. Only then were most of the identified sites occupied; there is little or no evidence of their occupation during either the Iron I or early Iron II Age."
(p. 98, "Exodus Itineraries." Burton MacDonald. "East of the Jordan," Territories and Sites of the Hebrew Scriptures. Boston, Massachusetts. American Schools of Oriental Research. 2000)
MacDonald on the Exodus narrative being composed in the Late Iron II Period on the basis of archaeological findings:
"My experience in the field of Near Eastern archaeology has led me to the general conclusion that the biblical stories about Transjordanian places and events best fit into the Iron II period and later. This conclusion comes from a general knowledge of the results of current archaeological work throughout Jordan and specifically from my archaeological survey work south of Wadi al-Hasa, in the Southern Ghors and Northeast `Arabah, and in the Tafila-Busayra region (beginning 1999). The findings of the above-listed surveys indicate there are few, if any, Late Bronze Age materials and a paucity of Iron I Age materials in the areas being surveyed. On the other hand, the Iron II Age is well represented in all of these areas. I WAS THUS FORCED TO QUESTION THE TRADITIONALLY HELD OPINION THAT THE MOSES-LED GROUP, ON ITS WAY FROM EGYPT TO THE LAND OF CANAAN, PASSED THROUGH/AROUND EDOM (AND MOAB) DURING THE LATE BRONZE-IRON I PERIODS. On the basis of recent archaeological work, I concluded that a Moses-led group would have encountered little, if any, opposition if it had passed through the territories in question during the periods traditionally associated with this event. However, recent archaeological evidence indicates that opposition to such a passage would be understandable during the Iron II period. Thus, the narratives relative to the Exodus best fit the settlement history of the area during the Iron II rather than the previous two archaeological periods. Similarly, the narrative of Israel's defeat of Sihon and the capture of his capital city of Heshbon would fit better the archaeological history of this site during the Iron II rather than the Late Bronze-Iron I period. This does not mean that the present writer denies that there are older traditions behind the biblical narratives. However, THE TEXTS IN QUESTION WERE MOST PROBABLY WRITTEN IN LIGHT OF THE SETTLEMENT CONDITIONS THAT PREVAILED IN THE IRON II PERIOD AND PROBABLY TOWARDS THE END OF THAT PERIOD. Thus, the assumption here is that although the biblical writer may have used material that predates his time, he set that material into a context, namely, the Iron II AND LATER PERIODS, that would be meaningful to his readers."
(pp. 4-5, "Introduction." Burton MacDonald. "East of the Jordan" Territories and Sites of the Hebrew Scripture. Boston. American Schools of Oriental Research. 2000)
If Finkelstein and MacDonald are right, and I believe they are, then this means that those scholars who are seeking to establish the "route" of the Exodus from its itinerary preserved in Numbers 33:1-50 have a daunting task before them. The best that they can do is attempt to identify a string of sites existing principally in the 7th-6th centuries B.C. that the 560 B.C. anonmyous Exilic author "thought" were in existence in the timeframe (1512/1446 B.C., 1 Kings 6:1) he allocated for his Exodus. As already noted by Finkelstein and MacDonald not even the Late Iron Age II has _all_ the sites appearing in the narratives occupied. Anyone seeking to find sites in existence before the 7th-6th centuries B.C. for their Exodus will hit a brick wall: the fact that _no_ archaeological time period has _all_ the sites in existence and occupied.
The biblical narrative suggests Israel fears the warlike Philistines upon exiting Egypt (Ex 13:17) so they do not take "the way to the land of the Philistines" the northern track across the Sinai paralleling the Mediteranean Sea although this is the fastest way to Canaan. The problem? Archaeologists understand the Philistines did not settle in Canaan before circa 1175 B.C. in the days of Pharaoh Rameses III who defeated their attempted invasion of Egypt. This means that the biblical narrator and his audience were _unaware_ that there were no Philistines for Israel to fear and thus no need to have Israel travel south to the Red Sea (gulf of Suez) and the southern Sinai (Mt. Sinai being traditionally Gebel Musa near Saint Catherine's Monastery). Some conservative Catholic scholars date the Exodus to 1512 B.C. while some conservative Protestant scholars date it to 1446 B.C. on the basis of 1 Kings 6:1 statement that Solomon built the Temple 480 years after the Exodus. There were _no_ Philistines in Canaan to harass Israel in a 1512 or 1446 B.C. Exodus!
Hoffmeier appears to deny the biblical reason for Israel's not taking the way of the Philistines, was fear of Philistines, he claims that an Egyptian fortress guarded this track and Israel feared the Egyptian garrisons rather than Philistines:
"Based on the archaeological, historical, and environmental data now available, the identification of Hebua with ancient Tjaru seems likely...Consequently, this massive military facility would have had troops stationed continuously throughout the New Kingdom. Therefore, it is most unlikely the Israelites would have taken this way out of Egypt...With this archaeological and topographical information about Hebua in mind, the meaning of Exodus 13:17 is now clear. The way to the coastal highway had an insurmountable barrier, the fortress Tjaru..."
(p. 187. The Geography and Toponymy of the Exodus." James K. Hoffmeier. Israel In Egypt: The Evidence for the Authenticity of the Exodus Tradition. New York & Oxford. Oxford University Press. 1996)
I understand that the Bible's "internal chronology" suggests the Exodus was the Hyksos expulsion of circa 1540 B.C. They most likely fled along "the way of Horus" (biblical "way to the land of the Philistines") to Sharuhen near Gaza, the Egyptian army later pursued and defeated them at this location (Tell el Ajjul). So, even if one could establish a 7th-6th century B.C. itinerary for the Exodus it still would not be the "real" route, the real route was, paradoxically, "the way to the land of the Philistines" (Ex 13:17):
"Now when Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although it was nearer; for God said, "The people may have a change of heart when they see war, and return to Egypt. So God led the people roundabout, by the way of the wilderness at the Sea of Reeds."
(Exodus 13:17-18. TANAKH, The Holy Scriptures. Philadelphia & New York. The Jewish Publication Society. 1988. Year of Creation: 5748)
Professor Hoffmeier (who prefers a 13th century B.C. Exodus) has objected to Professor Redford's proposal that the mid-16th century B.C. Hyksos Expulsion is being recast as the Hebrew Exodus. Hoffmeier argues that Moses being a Prince of Egypt would have been an educated man and capable of writing and composing a record of the Exodus and its itinerary. He therefore rejects Redford's proposal as nonsense:
"It is inconceivable that early Israelites were incapable of preserving their early history, in either oral or written form, from the second half of the second millennium onward...If I am correct in believing that there was an historical Moses who was a product of the royal nursery, then he would have been trained in the Egyptian scribal tradition. During the New Kingdom, some Egyptian scribes connected to the court had to be bilingual to deal with communiques that came to Pharaoh from the far reaches of the empire, like the Amarna letters, written in cuneiform. Because of the close connection between figures like Joseph and Moses and the Egyptian court, it seems that there is reason to believe the biblical tradition that ascribes to Moses the ability to record events, compile itineraries, and other scribal activities. This is not to say he is the sole author of the Pentateuch, but he cannot be ruled out as having had the role in its formation that the Bible reports (cf. Exod. 17:14; Num. 33:2; Deut. 31:9, 22, 24)...Redford thinks these events derived from the Hyksos experience in Egypt -their migration, period of dominance, followed by their forced exodus. For him a particular group of Shasu (Bedouin) who lived in the Sinai and the Negev are the forebears of Israel. This tribe embraced the story of the Hyksos as their own...I find this model...a greater leap of faith than to believe the narratives are historical in nature and were preserved by Hebrew scribes, beginning toward the end of the Late Bronze Age."
(pp. 225-226. "Concluding Remarks." James K. Hoffmeier. Israel In Egypt: The Evidence for the Authenticity of the Exodus Tradition. New York & Oxford. Oxford University Press. 1996)
Hoffmeier cites Professor K.A. Kitchen, a fellow Egyptologist, that the Exodus narrative was composed in the 13th century B.C. (Rameside times):
"Consequently, I concur with Kitchen that the weight of the Egyptological data, when throughly examined, lends both credibility to the essential historicity of the narratives and points to a Late Bronze Age date (i.e. thirteenth century) for the composition of the Hebrew narratives, with possible editorial work being done in the period of Israel's united monarchy."
(p. 98. "Joseph in Egypt." James K. Hoffmeier. Israel In Egypt: The Evidence for the Authenticity of the Exodus Tradition. New York & Oxford. Oxford University Press. 1996)
I see a "problem" for Hoffmeier. If he is right that Moses wrote some kind of an account in the 13th century B.C. about the Exodus and its itinerary why is it that Finkelstein and MacDonald understand some sites appearing in the narratives existed _only_ in the 7th century B.C.?
Why is it that the Book of Exodus, allegedly written by Moses, presents his activities in the "third person" rather than "first person" format? Obviously Moses would not refer to himself in the "third person" but in the "first person."
Examples of the "third person":
"Moses climbed," "Moses confronted Pharaoh," "Moses said," "he [Moses] went," "he [Moses] did."
Examples of a "first person" format:
"I saw," "I went," "I did," "in my anger I."
Professor Hoffmeier is a trained Egyptologist as is Professor Redford, he knows the Philistines do not appear in Egyptian records before the days of Rameses III circa 1175 B.C. So why would Moses circa 1260 B.C. write about Israel fearing Philistines?
Hoffmeier claims some "later editor" probably added this information at some point in time after the Philistines had settled in Canaan. That is to say, Hoffmeier denies Moses wrote about Philistines.
Hoffmeier seeks evidence of the Hebrews leaving Egypt in the 13th century B.C. I suggest his time would be better spent looking at the sites in Canaan and Transjordan appearing in the Exodus narratives that did not come into being before the 7th-6th centuries B.C. as noted by Finkelstein and MacDonald.
Of course Hoffmeier could deny these sites were in Moses' account and that a later editor slipped these sites into the narrative along with the Philistines.
Surprisingly Hoffmeier has noted that a careful reading of the biblical texts reveals almost 600 years elapsed from the Exodus to the founding of the Jerusalem temple by Solomon (cf. p. 125, Hoffmeier). I have noted that when this figure is added to Solomon's 4th year (circa 966 B.C.) an Exodus date of 1566 B.C. crops up which aligns with the reign of Pharaoh Ahmose I who expelled the Hyksos:
"However, as Jack showed, if all the periods are added together, such as the forty years in Sinai, the lengths of the judges, and periods of peace between the judges, plus the length of David's reign, the total is 534 years. On top of this figure, the duration of Joshua's leadership in Canaan and the length of Saul's kingship, which are not preserved, bring the total close to six hundred years."
(p. 125. "Israelites in Egypt." James K. Hoffmeier. Israel In Egypt: The Evidence for the Authenticity of the Exodus Tradition. New York & Oxford. Oxford University Press. 1996)
Canaan in Ramesside times does witness the sudden appearance of over 600 villages, hamlets and farms of stone on both sides the the Jordan River as portrayed in the Book of Joshua. The third century B.C. Egyptian priest and historian Manetho claimed Israel was expelled by a pharaoh called Rameses and his notion aligns somewhat with the Ramesside Iron Age I archaeological evidence found in Transjordan and Canaan.
Most archaeologists identify Israel's settlement in Canaan with the Iron Age I findings (circa 1200-1100 B.C.). The Bible does suggest Israel leaves a location in Egypt called Rameses (Ex 1:11, 12:37; Nu 33:3) and a "land of Rameses" (Ge 47:11) and they identify this name with Pharaoh Rameses I (ca. 1293-1291 BC) who founded a city founded calling it Pi-Rameses or Per-Rameses. The biblical text suggests the Exodus began at a town called Rameses and that Israel fears to use the way to the land of the Philistines thought it was near for they feared war. This passage provides two interesting clues: (1) A location called Rameses exists at the same time that (2) Philistines are in Canaan and this is (3) at the time of the Exodus from Egypt.
Archaeologists understand that Pi-Rameses/Per-Rameses (identified with Qantir) founded by Rameses I (1293-1291 BC) and enlarged by his grandson Rameses II (1279-1212 BC), is probably the town of Rameses mentioned as where the Exodus began. Archaeology reveals that _in the Ramesside Era_ Philistines invaded and occupied Canaan in the reign of Pharaoh Rameses III (1182-1151 BC). So we have some "match ups" with the biblical data. The problem? The biblical chronology suggests an earlier date for the Exodus than the Ramesside Era which begins with Rameses I circa 1293 BC!
The biblical text's mention of Philistines being in Canaan would appear to suggest an Exodus no earlier than the days of Rameses III as he mentions his defeat of the Philistines who attempted to conquer Egypt. The problem? Pharaoh Merneptah mentions his defeat of Israel (circa 1210 B.C.) in the vicinity of Canaan and he ruled _before_ Rameses III. In other words, if Merneptah is correctly dated, Israel was _in_ Canaan _before_ the Philistines arrived crca 1175 B.C. in the days of Rameses III, and, consequently, Moses or some other "eye-witness" of 1512/1446/1260 B.C. would have had _no_ knowledge of Philistines denying Israel entry into Canaan from Egypt via the way to the land of the Philistines.
For my part, the only thing which makes any sense from all of the above anomalies is that the internal chronology of the Bible aligns the Exodus with the mid-sixteenth B.C. Hyksos Expulsion but the narrative details are in part being drawn from Iron Age I Ramesside times and the "physical setting" is of the 7th-6th centuries B.C.
The Bible's Exodus account appears to me to be a mishmash of historical kernels thrown together from the mid 16th century B.C. to the 7th-6th centuries B.C.
For some Catholic Scholars the Exodus is circa 1512 B.C., for some Protestant Scholars it is 1446 B.C., for some Jewish Scholars it is 1312 B.C. (cf. below).
One of the "first" problems to be faced is that the Bible exists today in several CONTRADICTING recensions which provide "different dates" for the creation of the world and the Exodus. One often sees the date of 1446 B.C. for the Exodus at many Protestant Evangelical Websites. This date is based on the chronology developed in the 17th century A.D. by Archbishop James Ussher of Ireland which later in the 18th century A.D. appears in the margins of numerous King James Version Bibles (the KJV began printing in 1611 A.D.). Ussher calculated Creation at 4004 B.C.
The Catholic Bible is a recension of the Septuaginta believed to have been compiled at Alexandria Egypt in Greek for Jews by Jews in the 3rd century B.C. Catholic scholars fix creation at 5199 B.C. instead of 4004 B.C. Why? Because the Septuagint gives different ages for the pre-Flood patriachs which are in CONTRADICTION to ages preserved in the King James Bible. The Jewish Rabbinical work called Seder Olam Rabbah understands that the Creation was 3740 B.C.
Professor Steibing on three different and _CONTRADICTING_ dates for God's creation of the world found in the book of Genesis calculated by Jewish, Catholic and Protestant scholars:
"Most scholars agreed that the world was only about six thousand years old, though there was considerable disagreement over the exact date of the creation. Jewish rabbinical calculations from the Hebrew Massoretic Text showed that the world began 3,740 years before the Christian Era. Roman Catholic tradition, based on the Latin Vulgate translation of the Bible, placed the creation in 5199 B.C. And most English-speaking Protestants accepted the seventeenth-century Archbishop James Ussher's calculation of the time of creation, 4004 B.C. Ussher's dates were placed in the margins of early eighteenth-century editions of the King James version of the Bible, making them seem even more authoritive." (p. 32. "The Discovery of Prehistory." William H. Steibing Jr. Uncovering the Past. New York & Oxford. Oxford University Press. 1994 [1993 Prometheus Books. Amherst, New York])
Thus Protestant Christian Evangelicals set the Exodus at circa 1446 B.C. using Ussher's chronology, the Roman Catholics set the Exodus at circa 1512 B.C. and the Jewish TANAKH's data which appears in the Jewish work called Seder 'Olam Rabbah calculates the Exodus at 1312 B.C. For the 1512 B.C. Exodus date cf. page 190; for 1312 B.C. cf. p. 111 in Jack Finegan. Handbook of Biblical Chronology. Peabody, Massachusetts. Hendrickson Publishers, Inc. 1964, 1998 Revised Edition. ISBN 1-56563-143-9).
The Roman Catholic Exodus date of 1512 B.C. falls in the reign of Pharaoh Tuthmoses II (reigned circa 1518-1504 B.C.); The Protestant Evangelicals' Exodus date from the King James Version of 1446 B.C. falls in the reign of Pharaoh Amenhotep II (reigned ca. 1453-1419 B.C.); the Jewish Seder 'Olam Rabah's Exodus date of ca. 1312
B.C. falls in the reign of Pharaoh Horemhab (reigned ca. 1321-1293 B.C.), he being succeeded by Ramesses I (reigned ca. 1293-1291 B.C.). Note all the preceeding Pharaonic reigns are from Peter A. Clayton. Chronicle of the Pharaohs, The Reign-by-reign Record of the Rulers and Dynasties of Ancient Egypt. London. Thames & Hudson. 1994. ISBN 0-500-05074-0.
In addition to all of the above dates, a number of scholars: Josephus (79 A.D.), Jack (1925), De Vries (1962), Hoffmeier (1996), Kitchen (2003) and Goldstein (2006) have observed that 1 Kings 6:1's statement that 480 years elapsed from the Exodus and the 4th year of Solomon's reign appears to be CONTRADICTED by the internal chonological evidence of the Bible, suggesting almost 600 years elapsed not 480 years. I have noted that when this data is added to Solomon's 4th year reckoned by some as ca. 966/967 BC, the Exodus falls in the reign of Pharaoh Ahmose I who expelled the Hyksos. For all the details please click here.
27 Sept. 2003 Update: I now understand that the beginning of the "oppression of Israel" in Egypt is to be associated with the defeat of the Hyksos in the mid 16th century BC. The "400 year oppression" is more or less synonomous with the rise and fall of the Egyptian New Kingdom, Dynasties 18, 19, and 20. In the 12th century BC Israel in Iron IA is settling the Hill Country of Canaan under Joshua. So, from the 16th to the 12th centuries BC Israel is under roughly 400 years of Egyptian Oppression.
20 Nov. 2003 Update: The below article is a re-formatting of various posts to scholarly forums from several years ago. Since that time my views have changed. I now understand that the Pentateuchal narratives were composed ca. 562 BC in the Exile, NOT in Post-Exilic Persian times. I now also understand that the settling of the Hill Country of Canaan is Iron IA (ca. 1200-1100 BC), and that Ramesside and Hyksos events may be fused together.
18 April 2005 Update: Four years of additional research on "The Exodus Problems" have changed some of my "below" views. I now understand that the Exodus is recalling two events and fusing them into one. The first event is the Hyksos expulsion of circa 1540 BC, the second event is a Ramesside expulsion as preserved by the Hellenistic era Egyptian priest called Manetho who wrote a history of Egypt for his Ptolemaic Greek overlords in the 3rd century BC. Liberal scholars on the basis of the archaeological evidence, understand that the 300+ villages of stone suddenly appearing out of nowhere in the Hill Country of Canaan from Galilee to the Negev in Ramesside times (the 13th-12th centuries BC), is Israel settling the land under Joshua. The problem? The pottery found in these villages looks Canaanite in general appearance, not Egyptian. Therefore, some scholars concluded that Canaanites probably fled oppression in the lowlands of Canaan and settled in the highlands (as espoused by Professor William G. Dever), or they were nomads at the periphery of Canaan who settled (as advanced by Professor Israel Finklestein). Manetho understood that the Exodus was a Ramesside Event, NOT Hyksos; the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus objected to Manetho's conclusion, it WAS the Hyksos expulsion. I understand BOTH Manetho and Josephus are correct, the two events were fused together. For my latest research on the Exodus please click here. 23 Oct. 2002 Update: I understand that the Exodus was written ca. 560 BC.
My position is that the Exodus "as portrayed" in the Hebrew Bible never happened, it is all fantasy. The below papers are edited extracts from a series of postings I made to the b-hebrew and the ANE discussion lists on the subject of the Exodus that never was and related problems.
*THE PROBLEMS OF THE BIBLICAL EXODUS ACCOUNT*
The biblical account of the Exodus faces a number of problems. First, archaeology has failed to substantiate the biblical account in regards to places mentioned.
Some places have been found not to have existed or were abandoned at the time of the various posited Exodus dates proposed by various Humanist as well Conservative scholars.
Another serious problem is the mention of Philistines who block Israel's entry into Canaan via "the way of the Philistines" (Exodus 13:17). According to current Humanist research, the Philistines are the Pelest of Pharaoh Ramses III era, who arrived in Canaan circa 1175 BC. The kingdom of the Edomites and Sihon of Heshbon are unsubstantiated for any period falling within the traditional proposals for the dates of the Exodus.
*THE BOTTOM LINE* of all my research on the Exodus is:
NO SCHOLARLY PROPOSAL MADE TO DATE CAN ACCOUNT FOR _ALL_ THE ANOMALIES WHICH EXIST IN THE ARCHAEOLOGICAL RECORDS.
For ANY given proposal, archaeological evidence can be mustered to show that the proposed date is not supported "IN TOTO" by archaeological findings. There is ALWAYS conflicting archaeological evidence, hence, my reason for declaring the biblical account of the Exodus to be FICTIONAL and not real history.
Subject: Re: Exodus and the Philistines:
It is impossible that the Exodus narratives were written by an "eyewitness to the events," whether those events be the Hyksos Exodus of 1540 BCE, 1446 BC (1 Kings 6:1) or the "putative" 1250 BC Exodus under Ramses II.
The Pelest arrived ca. 1177 BC, "they could not have been in place" to prevent Israel's return from Egypt via the "way of the Philistines."
Obviously whoever wrote this account had not the foggiest notion of when the Philisitines had arrived, because earlier in Genesis he has them "cutting deals" with Abraham in the 3rd millenium in the Beersheba/Gerar vicinity ! A real eyewitness to the Exodus, whether it was 1540, 1446 or 1250 BC would have no knowledge about Philistines, and there would accordingly be no reason to make Israel travel south to the Red Sea and Mt. Sinai, to eventually launch attacks into the Hebron hill country from Kadesh Barnea.
Ergo, whoever wrote Genesis and Exodus had to have lived, at the very least, several hundred years after the ca. 1177 BC arrival of the Philistines (Pelest), when the rememberence of just when the Pelest had arrived had been erased from the collective memory banks.
The narrator did however preserve a "kernel of truth or historicity" about the Philistines in Genesis, he had
them as descendants of the Egyptians.
Ramses III after defeating the Pelesest ca.1177 BC boasted of "sealing them in his name" and establishing them in fortresses to the east of Egypt and the Gaza area. Evidently vague memories of the Pelest settling down in Philista after their defeat and return from Egypt is what is behind the Genesis' Table of Nations account which suggests that the Philistines are the descendants of Mizraim (Egypt).
We know of course, that they did not "originate" in Egypt, they were defeated there and from there were settled in coastal Canaan by Ramses III, their homes being perhaps the Anatolian littoral.
Some scholars have attempted to argue for an Exodus after the 1177 BC arrival of the Pelest, to substantiate the Exodus story, that is, the fear of taking "the way of the Philistines." This theory has not enjoyed much support amongst scholars because Pharaoh Merneptah (1125-1215 BC) declared he had defeated Israel in Canaan, so they understand quite rightly, the Exodus had to have occurred before that time, not after 1177 BC and the arrival of the Pelest.
It is my understanding that the Exodus as portrayed in the Pentateuchal narratives never really happened as described, it is a fictious fantasy story. Yet "kernels of historicity or truth" can be teased out of the texts. Or as one police detective put it "We must look for the truth hidden by the lies."
Because it is a fictional account, the archaeological evidence cannot be mustered to substantiate it (rather like looking for "evidence" of King Arthur's fairy-tale story "Camelot").
The Hyksos Exodus events cannot be made to support to Pentateuchal narrative's details.
The 1250-1210 BC archaeological "facts" cannot be made to fit the narratives either.
In all cases, 1540, 1446 or 1250 BC, there is no Sihon the Amorite at Heshbon (Tell Hesban) to hinder the Israelite advance on Canaan via the plains of Jericho, Heshbon not being settled until after 1200 BC according to the archaeological record.
Obviously, whoever wrote the Pentateuchal narratives was NOT an eyewitness to events of the 13th century when Humanists believe the Exodus occurred. If he had been a real eyewitness, he would know nothing about Sihon the Amorite king of a non-existent Heshbon, and this story would not be part of the Pentateuch.
Where did the Pentateuchal narrator get the notion Israel was in bondage in Egpyt as slaves for several hundred years?
The Hyksos account doesn't preserve this notion. We know however that the mighty warrior Pharaohs of the 18th Dynasty carried off into Egyptian captivity thousands of Canaanites, including several thousand Apiru (Canaanite Abiru, whence Hebrew?). These Apiru slaved in quarries and mud-pits building the mighty monuments of the 18th Dynasty. I would argue that here in the 18th Dynasty we have the "historical kernels" behind Israel being portrayed as slaves.
But the historical sequence has been torn free of its moorings and retrojected into Hyksos times, the Hyksos were transformed into a liberated Israel by the Pentateuchal narrator.
I am of the understanding that the Hyksos expulsion of the 16th century BC was such a traumatic event, bringing on slavery in Egypt for Canaanite captives (including captive Apiru/Abiru), and vassalage to the 18th Dynasty Pharaohs and their successors, that the Canaanites and still later, the biblical "Hebrew-Israelites" preserved this event in written records as well as oral traditions. I would argue that it was "the cornerstone of all subsequent Canaanite chronologies" till being picked up by the state of Israel, perhaps in Davidic or Solomonic times. I know of no other way to account for the 1540 BC Exodus date preserved in Acts 13:18-21 in conjunction with 1 Kings 2:10-11, and 1 Kings 6:1, and the 1540 BCE Hyksos "alternate" expulsion date currently proposed by K.A. Kitchen.
Ramses II transformed his defeat or stalemate by the Hittites at Kadesh into a great victory made possible by Egypt's gods and his own personal bravery. The same may have happened with the Hyksos expulsion, later generations creating a false story that their God brought them out of Egypt with a stong arm, defeating the invincible Egyptians.
Schematically, this my listing of the "historical kernels" behind the Pentatuchal narratives concerning the Egyptian Captivity, Exodus, and Conquest of Canaan by a fictious Moses and Joshua:
2300 BC Early Bronze Age walls of Jericho show collapses due to earthquake activity. Before the weakend wall can be hurriedly repaired the city is torched by EB IV/MBI invaders (perhaps from Transjordan?). Ai is also destroyed in an earlier phase of the Early Bronze Age and abandoned till Iron Age I (These kernels lie behind the fictional Joshua story).
After 1200 BC Heshbon is settled. (This explains why Pentateuchal narratives are not eye witness/contemporary accounts of an Exodus occuring 1540, 1446 or 1250 BC).
Pelest/Philistines arrive ca. 1177 BC, settling Philista, placed there by Pharaoh Ramses III (This explains Genesis' garbled notion the Philistines are the sons of Egypt/Misraim and proves Pentateuchal narratives are not
eyewitness/contemporary accounts of an Exodus occurring 1540, 1446, or 1250 BC)
The warrior-Pharaohs of the 18th Dynasty ransack Canaan and carry off into an Egyptian Captivity "Apiru/Abiru" as well as others "to slave" in quarries and mud-pits building Egypt's monuments.(This explains how Israel came to be portrayed as slaves in Egypt).
In every case, these "historical kernels" have been torn out of their true historical contexts and "garbled together" into a fictious history of how a merciful God delivered his people from their invincible oppressors and gave them a Promised Land.
The Exodus is a story of Condemnation and Hope. It had to have been created for an audience receptive to the message and willing to be inspired by it. I note that "Hopelessness" for the people of Israel begins with the Assyrian conquest and vassalage of Israel and Judah (Israel carried into Captivity 722 BC, while thousands of Judaeans are carried into captivity in 701 BC by Sennacherib). Only God can deliver them out of the Assyrian's hand. This theme of God's deliverance is reinforced with Assyria's fall. Hopelessness sets in again with Babylon's conquest and destruction of Judah and Jerusalem. So, the "Hopelessness theme of the Pentateuch, relying on God's deliverance," is best addressed to an audience of the 8th through 6th centuries BC.
Genesis to 2 Kings is a national history ending ca. 562- 560 BC (the reign of Evil Merodach of Babylon, cf. 2 Ki 25:27)) and endings date beginnings (Genesis and the Pentateuch). At about this same time, the mid 6th century BC the first Greek "Prose-Histories" appear. This suggests to me Genesis-2 Kings is not 500 years of layers by a fictious JEDP, but one author, as posited by Whybray (1987).
I understand that Japheth's blessing is for Cyrus and his Persians, he being of royal Median blood via his Median grandfather Astyages, plus the fact that the Persians were called Medes by Jews, Greeks, Egyptians, and
Mineans of South Arabia. Madai's Japhethic descent is the Athenian Greek Medus myth, used by Datis, Darius I Median general, in 490 BC to justify the invasion of Greece. Jews in the Persian court picked this up, making the Medes the descnedants of Iapetos/Japheth. Thus, I understand Genesis-2 Kings to be a 5th century BC composition. The great error made by scholars is that that have butchered the text up into isolated books studying each "in isolation from the others." I am arguing that this national history is a single composition, and in order to determine its date one must go through all the texts with a fine-toothed comb, assembling all the historical markers, from Genesis to 2 Kings, to determine the date (the 5th century BC and the Medus Myth). Update of 02 Oct. 2010: I no longer understand Genesis-2 Kings is 5th century BC Post-exilic, its circa 562-560 BC Exilic (cf. 2 Kings 25:27).
The following excerpt concerns attempts by some scholars to posit that Philistines existed in Canaan long before the arrival of the Pelest in Ramses III's time (ca. 1177 BC) and my refutation:
My rebuttals are to the points made by Dr. Bimson who cites Drews' article "Canaanites and Philistines" (SJOT 81, 1989, pp.39-61) which I have not yet read. So my rebuttals are to what I can understand/fathom from the following sentence:
"Essentially (to quote from the abstract) the Pelest/Palashtin were most likely 'the Northwest Semitic' speaking majority among whom the [kaptorim] immigrant minority settled. (p.61) Which means they were there all the
I doubt that "they were there all the time" -in Philista- if that is what is being argued. Ramses III annals speaks of the Sea Peoples and suggests their odyssey began in Anatolia, they conquered Northern Syria, and swept down the coast to Egypt, by land and by sea.
If the Pelest/Palashstin "had been there- in coastal Canaan and Gaza- all the time," why is it that we have no mention of the Pelest in Egyptian annals before the invasion of 1177 BC? The Egyptian warrior Pharaohs
ransacked Canaan repeatedly, listing the captives they took, yet they never mention the Pelest (or the alleged Canaanite "Kaptorim" for that matter,either). The Pelest appear for the first time in Egyptian annals in the 1177
Breasted makes this point quite clear:
"The restless and turbulent peoples of the northern Mediterranean, whom the Egyptians designated the 'peoples of the sea,' were showing themselves in ever increasing numbers in the south. Among these, two in particular whom WE HAVE NOT MET BEFORE, the Thekel and the PELESET, better known as the Philistines of Hebrew history, were prominently aggressive."
(p.477, James Henry Breasted, A History of Egypt, New York, Charles Scribner & Sons, 1912)
As to Pelest being settled in Egyptian strongholds in Philista by Ramses III, "sealed in his name," I make the following observations: Earlier Pharaohs mention Gaza as part of their empire, it was a key control point for Egyptian invasions of Canaan. It is unthinkable that an Egyptian fortress would not have been in that city. And as Ramses claimed Canaan as Egypt's vassal, Gaza's fortress/es would be his too. He wisely allowed these Pelest warriors to settle Philista, and serve the interests of Egypt.
As to how many Hyksos were expelled we have only what Manetho states, he understood thousands were involved. According to eyewitness accounts the siege of Avaris involved Egyptian land and naval forces, so there must have been considerable numbers engaged in the struggle. As to whether or not they remained in the Delta after their defeat, we have only "the pure speculation of scholars," no hard evidence. I do note that Bietak has suggested that Avaris was apparently abandoned for a period following the expulsion, although a temple to Seth was kept up by the 18th Dynasty Pharaohs. So, if any Hyksos remained, they apparently weren't in Avaris! The Hyksos were chased to Sharuhen in Canaan. Why would the Egyptians leave large numbers of Hyksos in Egypt, behind their army's rear or flanks, while they were off playing tag with Hyksos in Canaan for three years? It makes more sense, that the majority had fled to Canaan, not remained behind. Egypt would have to leave part of her army behind to watch the Hyksos in Egypt, not good tactics having one's army divided up.
I take the position that the Exodus "as portrayed" in the Pentateuchal narratives never happened, its all fiction and make-believe. I have also taken the position that neither the Hyksos Exodus of 1540, or the 1446 (1 Kings 6:1), or Humanist posited 1250 BC, scenarios support "in toto" the Pentateuchal narratives.
Every scenario at some point or another contradicts the Pentateuchal portrayal of events. The day will never come that archaeologists or bible scholars will find the confirmation they seek in "proving" the Exodus is a real historical account- it is make-believe fantasy.
The only thing scholars will be able to do, is "tease out" from the Pentateuchal texts, "historical kernels," that underlie the fantasy story.My posts have been an attempt to reveal those "historical kernels" whichhave been "torn out of their true historical contexts" as revealed by archaeology, and re-arranged in a "jumbled manner" by the Pentateuchal author, to tell the inspiring story of a merciful God who liberated his people from the invincible Egyptian oppressor and brought them to their Promised Land.
The fact that the Philistines/Pelest had not arrived in Philista until ca. 1177 BC reveals that the Pentateuchal narratives are not eye-witness compositions, they had to have been written hundreds of years after the memory of the Pelest arrival had been erased from the collective memory bank (Genesis having Abraham "cutting deals" with Philistines in the 3rd millenium).
It is my understanding that Israel never went south to the Red Sea and on to Mt. Sinai, nor did she attack Canaan from Kadesh Barnea, or invade Canaan from the plains of Jericho. All of these Pentateuchal scenarios are based on a chain reaction event that set them all off in sequence, an event that never happened- Israel's fear to enter Canaan via the Way of the Philistines, for fear of engaging that war-like nation.
I repeat, the Philistines arrived ca. 1177 BC after the Hyksos expulsion of 1540, the 1446 Exodus (1 Kings 6:1) and after the Humanist posited 1250 BC Exodus. In none of these cases was Heshbon occupied by Sihon the Amorite(Heshbon occupied after 1200 BC). The Exodus as portrayed in the Pentateuch never happened.
Date: Sun, 30 Jan 2000 10:52:01 +0100
From: "Walter Mattfeld"
Subject: ane Dating the Exodus, The Hyksos Expulsion of 1540 BC?
As is well known by many viewers of this list, Liberalist (Humanist) scholars tend to date the Exodus to some time in the 13th century BCE based on archaeological considerations while some Conservative scholars prefer the 15th century citing 1 Kings 6:1 statement that 480 yrs elapsed from the Exodus to the founding of the Temple by Solomon in his fourth year (ca. 966 BCE), arriving at ca. 1446 BC for the Exodus. And round-and-round the
debate goes, the veracity of the text vs. the findings of archaeology.
I would like to share some observations from my research on this topic covered recently on the b-hebrew list.
De Vries (IDB 2.584 1962) and later K.A. Kitchen (ABD 2.702 1992) have observed that the 480 yrs. as the interval of time between the Exodus and Solomon's 4th yr (966 BC) is actually exceeded by a more careful compilation of the chronologies in the books of Judges and Samuel. De Vries stated he found 554 yrs plus two
intervals of time unaccounted for (554 + 966 + X + Y = 1520 + BC), being the period of Joshua and the Elders and Saul's reign. Kitchen arrived at a similar conclusion expressed in a formula (553 + 966 + X = 1519 + BC).
Redford's investigations led him to conclude there was one event only in the whole of Egyptian history that could account for a "historical kernal" behind the Exodus and that was the Hyksos expulsion under Pharaoh Ahmoses I
and I concur with his analysis:
"...no one can deny that the tradition of Israel's coming out of Egypt was one of long standing...There is only one chain of historical events that can accomodate this late tradition, that is the Hyksos descent and occupation of
Egypt...And in fact it is in the Exodus account that we are confronted with the Canaanite version of this event...
(Donald B. Redford, Egypt, Canaan, and Israel in Ancient Times, Princeton University Press, 1992)
My research, following up on clues provied by De Vries has come up with a period of 574 yrs as the interval between the Exodus and Solomon's 4th year. Acts 13:18-21 provides us with the length of Saul's reign, missing from De Vries' "Table 3", equation "Y" and the missing data on Joshua and the Judges, equation "X":
"For some forty years he bore with their conduct in the desert. Then in the Canaanite country, after overthrowing seven nations, whose lands he gave them to be their heritage for some 450 years he appointed judges for them
until the time of the prophet Samuel. It was then that they asked for a king, and God gave them Saul son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin. He reigned forty years before God removed him and appointed David as their
The above statement is suppossedly from Paul, who claimed to possess Jewish priestly training and knowledge. Evidently there existed in Paul's times Jewish notions of a chronology at variance with 1 Kings 6:1 and its 480
yrs.interval (Josephus also preserves a variance, 592 (Antiq. 8.3.1) or 612 (Apion 2.2) yrs. for the interval).
I note that according to 1 Kings 2:10-11, David reigned 40 years: "So David rested with his forefathers and was buried in the city of David, having reigned over Israel for forty years..." We are told that in the fourth year
of Solomon the Temple was begun (1 Kings 6:1).
So, when we add up the totals from Acts 13:18-21, 1 Kings 2:10-11, and 1 Kings 6:1 we have 40 yrs in the Wilderness, 450 years to Saul, 40 yrs for Saul's reign, 40 yrs for David's reign, 4 yrs for Solomon and the temple,
for a grand total of 574 years between the Exodus and the Temple's founding. Add this to 966 BC when the Temple was begun, and we have 1540 BC for the Exodus date, on the "testimony of the sacred writings" of the Jews and Early Christians.
I understand that Humanist scholars rejected the Pentateuch's 1446 BC dating schema because they believed that the mention of the town of "Ramses" in the Exodus (Ex. 12:37) account must be a "historical marker," dating the event to the reign of Rameses II 1290-1224 BC) who founded Per-Rameses, which they believed was the biblical Ramses. I have tried to show their error, the Pentateuch and Early Christian writings did preserve the correct chronology.
I have argued elsewhere that the Pentateuch is a late composition of the 5th century BC, full of historical errors, fictious dialogues, and fictional events. The presence of the town Ramses was a marker allright, a marker that the text was composed after 1290-1224 BC, not that the Exodus event must be in the 13th century BC. 574 yrs + 966 BC = 1540 BC for the Exodus.
I note that Kitchen and Krauss have argued that the end of the Hyksos rule is either 1550_or_ 1540 BC (cf. R. Krauss and K.A. Kitchen in "High, Middle or Low ?" Acts of an International Colloquiium on Absolute Chronology Held at the University of Gothenburg 20th-22nd August 1987, parts 1-3, ed. Paul Astrom, Gothenburg: Astroms Forlag. 1987-1989); said information also laid out in convenient chart form in The Anchor Bible Dictionary vol. 2 pp. 328-329.
So, in conclusion, my research has revealed that the sacred writings of the Jews and Early Christians preserve a date of 1540 BC which just happens to match co-incidentally, the 1540 BC currently held "alternate end date of the Hyksos dynasty."
I realize that some scholars have reservations about Saul and then David reigning 40 yrs each, and the 480 yrs interval for the Exodus to Solomon's 4th yr. looks artificial, so they would argue that chronologies are not to
I suspect that the Jews/Early Christians were able to preserve correctly the Exodus date of 1540 BC, and that the 40/480 "subdivisions" are artifical creations within this memory block created for theological purposes. I am
also aware of alternate dates for Saul's reign, 22 yrs according to Josephus (Antiq. 6.14.9) and the LXX's 440 yrs. interval vs. the MT's 480 yrs.
Dating the Exodus,
There exists conflicting data for determining the Exodus' date. The oft cited 480 yrs interval between the Exodus and Solomon's founding of the temple in his 4th year, 966 BC, (1 Kings 6:1) gives a date of 1446 BC. The
Septuagint gives 440 yrs for 1 Kings 6:1, giving an Exodus date of 1406 BC.
The calculation of De Vries gives 554 + 966 + x + y= 1520 + BC, while Kitchen understands 553 + 966 + x = 1519 + BC. Josephus gives 592 (Antiq. 8.3.1) or 612 (Apion 2.2) , for Exodus dates of 1558 and 1578, then there
is the Humanist posited date of 1250 BC on the basis of archaelogicalconsiderations.
The authorities are not in agreement on the dates for Pharaoh Ahmose I who expelled the Hyksos:
Gardiner prefers 1575-1550
Rohl notes some argue for 1550-1515
Considering the variance in dates 1580-1515 proposed, I note that within this margin of error we can place the following Exodus dates, 1519 + (Kitchen), 1520 + (De Vries), 1540 (Acts 13:18-21), 1558 (Josephus), 1578
(Josephus). Falling outside this Amosis margin of error is 1250, 1406 (LXX 1 King 6:1) and 1446 (1 Kings 6:1).
Weinstein makes a penetrating observation about proposals for an Exodus in 19th or 20 Dynasties:
"The only question that _really_ matters is whether any (nonbiblical) textual or archaeological materials indicate a major outflow of Asiatics from Egypt to Canaan at any point in the 19th or even early 20th Dynasty.
And so far the answer to that question is no."
(p.93, James Weinstein, "Exodus and Archaeological Reality," Ernest S. Friedichs & Leonard H. Lesko, Exodus, The Egyptian Evidence, Winona Lake, Indiana, Eisenbrauns, 1997, ISBN 1-57506-025-6)
The only data outside the bible attesting to Asiatics fleeing Egypt in considerable number (Manetho) for Canaan is the 16th century BC Hyksos expulsion (cf. p.94, Weinstein).
I have attempted to show that "some" of the proposed Exodus dates do in fact fall within the reign of Ahmose I , variously dated 1580-1515 BC. So, "some of the chronologies" preserved in Jewish traditions such as Josephus and Paul (Paul being a Pharisee) support a Hyksos Exodus, as does dates arrived at by De Vries 1520+ BC and Kitchen 1519+ BC.
The Hyksos Exodus is then, to my understanding, the "kernel of truth" underlying the Pentateuch's make-believe fantasy story of the Israelite Exodus and its fantasy characters, Moses, Joshua and Sihon of Heshbon, the
Out of curiosity, could someone in the viewing audience advise me as to whether or not others have, before my posts, pointed out to the scholarly audience that the Jewish "chonological traditons" of Josephus and Paul (Acts
13:18-21) support the Hyksos Exodus, or am I the first to make this "chronology connection" ? I would be most grateful for citations to said articles, if so.
Dating the Pentateuch, Exodus Enigmas
My on-going research seeks to establish dates for the Pentateuchal texts by establishing foundation dates from archaelogy for cities, towns, and places mentioned in the texts.
No subject is more intensely debated than the date of the Exodus and in this post we will look at several scholarly proposals, Redford's posited Hyksos Exodus of ca. 1540 BC (he regarding this to be "a historical kernel" from
which the biblical account later arose), the 1446 BC Exodus of 1 Kings 6:1 championed by many Conservative scholars, and the ca. 1250 BC Exodus which enjoys popularity amongst many Humanist scholars.
Redford favors the Hyksos Expulsion of ca. 1540 BC as the "historical kernel" behind the biblical account which he argues was later composed in the Post-Exilic period. Being an Egyptologist and possessing familiarity
with the Egyptian records, he finds only one event in all of Egyptian history that has elements similar to those of the Pentateuchal Exodus accounts, and that is the Hyksos scenario. The Hyksos are attested archaeologically at Tell ed Daba (believed to be Avaris). Contemporary Egyptian records mention wars with them, their defeat and withdrawal to Canaan and subsequent subjugation at Sharuhen (Tell Ajjul ?). Other Egyptologists have pointed out there are no records in the 18th, 19th or 20th Dynasties supporting an Exodus of Asiatics for Canaan.
Conservative scholarship favors the 1446 BC date of 1 Kings 6:1. It isargued that by this date Moses and the Israelites were surely capable of maintaining written records, and as traditions claim Moses is the author of
the Pentateuch, what we have in the Exodus narratives is a contemporary eyewitness account of events as they transpired. It is further argued that having been raised up as a Prince of Egypt, he would surely be an educated
man capable of writing the Pentateuch.
Humanist scholars argue that the mention of the store-city of Ramesses and the land of Ramesses are "historical markers" within the Pentateuchal texts that the Exodus had to have taken place no earlier than the reign of
Ramesses II ( ca. 1290-1224 BC ). The terminal date for the Exodus is established for the Humanists by Pharoah Merneptah mentioning in his victory stele the defeat of Israel in the land of Canaan (ca. 1209 BC). Humanists reason that if Israel is being defeated in Canaan by this date, the Exodus had to have occurred earlier.
Ancient Near Eastern history (which includes Canaan) has been divided up into periods by archaeologists, they are as follows: Early Bronze Age (3100-2000), Middle Bronze Age (2000-1550), Late Bronze Age (1550-1200 BC) and Iron Age (1200-586 BC).
If the Pentateuchal accounts really are eyewitness accounts at the hand of Moses or a near contemporary, then we should expect the archaeological data to support "in toto" _ALL THE TEXTS_ in detail. If discrepancies appear
between the archaeological record and the texts then explanations are warranted to explain the reason for the impasse.
Not all the places mentioned in the Exodus narratives have been identified. Some identifications are tentative and others are challenged, there being no consensus on some sites. These problems reduce considerably the number of sites that can be brought to bear for the dating of the Pentateuchal accounts concerning the Exodus. The archaeological data for the below cities is available under the city's name in the Anchor Bible Dictionary (6 Vols.)
by Doubleday & Co., 1992.
We are told that shortly after mourning the death of Aaron at Mt. Hor, that Israel was attacked by the Canaanite king of Arad in the Negeb. In revenge, Israel struck back destroying several cities in the region calling that
place Hormah (Numbers 21:1; 33:40). Still later we are told that Joshua was victorious over the king of Hormah and the king of Arad (Joshua 12:14).
Tell Arud has been identified as ancient Arad. Hebrew inscriptions found on pottery shards in the Iron age levels mention the site by name. Careful archaeological excavations revealed that the city had been occupied in the
Early Bronze Age, but abandoned throughout the Middle and Late Bronze periods, being resettled in the Iron Age. The archaeological evidence does not support the Pentateuchal narratives, because the city was abandoned from
ca. 2550 to 1200 BC, during the three posited periods for an Exodus, 1540 BC (Hyksos), 1446 BC (1 Kings 6:1, Conservatives), and 1250 BC (Humanists).
Sihon the Amorite is portrayed as the mighty conqueror of Moab, his conquests extending to and including Dibon. The Pentateuchal accounts portray Israel defeating him and taking possession of his lands (Numbers 21:21-31).
Excavations at Tell Hesban have established the site was not occupied until after 1200 BC, and then only by a small village. It is not till the 8th-7th century BC that actual ruins are found in place, revealing a relatively
Excavations at Dhiban reveal that it was unoccupied throughout the Middle and Late Bronze Age, ca. 2000 to 1200 BC.
It would appear that Heshbon and Dibon do not support the Pentateuchal narratives, neither city being in existence (that is, occupied) when the posited Exodus took place (1540, 1446, 1250 BC).
Ai has been identified with et-Tell. Excavations reveal the city existed in the Early Bronze Age, was abandoned throughout the Middle and Late Bronze Ages, and settled in the Iron Age period. So, Ai (if Et-Tell) was an
abandoned ruin from ca. 2000-1200 BC, neither the 1540, 1446 or 1250 BC Exodus dates is supported for Joshua's conquest of that city.
We have four cities all unoccupied when the Exodus supposedly took place ca. 1540, 1446, and 1250 BC. How to explain this impasse. Those seeking verification of the Pentateuchal accounts might want to argue that these
cities have been incorrectly identified, or perhaps more excavation needs to be done,or perhaps the archaeolgical data has been misread, or a flawed chronological system is being employed by the archaeologists.
For myself, being a Humanist, the archaeolgical data reveals that the Exodus as portrayed in the Pentateuchal narratives never happened, it is a fictional account, with its fictional characters, Moses, Aaron, Phineas, Joshua, the King of Arad and Sihon the Amorite, and their imaginary dialogs arising from the fertile mind of the narrator. If Moses wrote the Pentateuch in either 1540, 1446, or 1250 BC he would not have included accounts about
non-existent/unoccupied cities. The presence of these places indicates the Exodus account had to have been written many centuries after the events, to get the history so garbled.
Yet, behind this biblical account lies a historical kernel, the Hyksos expulsion of 1540 BC. My research suggests that Madai's Japhethic descent is based on the Persian royal court's reworking of the Athenian Greek Medus myth in 490 BC, using it to justify their invasion of Greece. Noah's blessing of Japheth alludes to Cyrus' Medo-Persian empire, he possessing royal Median blood from Astages, his grandfather (the last king of Media). Greeks and Jews both called the Persians Medes, so as Madai, they are descendants of Japheth/Iapetos, the father of the Greeks.
My research then, supports Redford's position that the Hyksos expulsion is the historical kernel behind the Exodus narratives, and that the account was written in Post-Exilic times, probably between 490-458 BC.
The Exodus and the Hyksos Expulsion
As pointed out in earlier posts to this list, I believe a case can be argued that the Exodus of the Pentateuchal narratives is in fact alluding to the 16th century BC Hyksos expulsion. We will explore in greater depth, in this
post, the complexities and contradictions to be faced and overcome in establishing the date of the Exodus.
Scholars have noted that 1 Kings 6:1 states that 480 years elapsed from the Exodus to the fourth year of Solomon's reign and the building of the Temple. Some scholars date Solomon's fourth year to circa 966 BC, by adding 480 years to this date we come up with an Exodus circa 1446 BC. Kitchen has sounded a note of warning though about the above equation, pointing out that a period in excess of 553 years appears to be warranted instead of 480 years:
"The lazy man's solution is simply to cite the 480 years ostensibly given in
1 Kings 6:1 from the Exodus to the 4th year of Solomon (ca. 966 BC).
However, this too simple solution is ruled out by the combined weight of all
the other biblical dadta plus additional information from external data. So
the interval of time from the Exodus comes out not at 480 years but as over
553 years (by three unknown amounts), if we trouble to go carefully through
all the known biblical figures for this period. It is evident that the 480
years cannot cover fully the 553 years + X years. At the best, it could be a
selection from them, or else it is a schematic figure (12 x 40 yrs., or
(p.702 Vol.2, K.A. Kitchen, "The Exodus," David Noel Freedman,
Editor, The Anchor Bible Dictionary, NY, Doubleday, 1992)
Another scholar, De Vries had made earlier, similar, observations:
"It should be pointed out, moreover, that the chronology demanded by the
books of the Judges and Samuel actually far exceeds the figure of 480 years.
As will be seen from Table 3, a total of 554 years plus two periods of
unknown length occupy the interval from the Exodus to the founding of
Solomon's temple. Josephus evidently based his estimate of 592 (Antiq.
8.3.1) or 612 (Apion 2.2) years for this period upon this observation (cf.
(p.584, Vol.1, S.J. De Vries, "Chronology of the Old Testament," G.A.
Buttrick, Editor, The Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible, Nashville,
Abingdon Press, 1962)
De Vries noted two periods of unaccounted length, the period of Joshua and the Elders (Judg. 2:7) and the length of King Saul's reign, noting a "full number" was lacking ( 1 Sam. 13:1). He renders these two anomalies as "X"
and "Y" in his formula thusly: 554 yrs. + X + Y + 966 BCE (Solomon's 4th yr) = 1520 BC and "earlier" for the Exodus.
De Vries, in passing, alluded to another important "dating marker" but did not directly employ it in his article, the historical schema preserved in Acts 13:18-21.
Acts 13:18-21 provides us with the length of Saul's reign, missing from De Vries' "Table 3", equation "Y" and the missing data on Joshua and the Judges, equation "X":
"For some forty years he bore with their conduct in the desert. Then in the Canaanite country, after overthrowing seven nations, whose lands he gave them to be their heritage for some 450 years he appointed judges for them
until the time of the prophet Samuel. It was then that they asked for a king, and God gave them Saul son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin. He reigned forty years before God removed him and appointed David as their
I note that according to 1 Kings 2:10-11, David reigned 40 years: "So David rested with his forefathers and was buried in the city of David, having reigned over Israel for forty years..."
We are told that in the fourth year of Solomon the Temple was begun (1 Kings 6:1).
So, when we add up the totals from Acts 13:18-21, 1 Kings 2:10-11, and 1Kings 6:1 we have 40 yrs in the Wilderness, 450 years to Saul, 40 yrs for Saul's reign, 40 yrs for David's reign, 4 yrs for Solomon and the temple, for a grand total of 574 years between the Exodus and the Temple's founding. Add this to 966 BC when the Temple was begun, and we have 1540 BC for the Exodus date, on the "testimony of the sacred writings" of the Jews and Early Christians.
Egyptologists are not in agreement amongst themselves about the dates for the reign of Pharaoh Ahmose I (Ahmosis I) who expelled the Hyksos.
In Albright's article, he alludes to Parker preferring 1557-1532 BC, while Helck prefers 1552-1527 BC (Cf. p. 56, William F. Albright, "Some Remarks on the Archaeological Chronology of Palestine before about 1500 B.C," in
Robert W. Ehrich, Editor, Chronologies in Old World Archaeology, Chicago, The University of Chicago Press, 1954, 1965, reprint 1971, ISBN 0-226-19443-4).
Other dates are championed for Ahmoses I reign- James Breasted (1912, A History of Egypt) argues for 1580-1557 BC. Alan Gardiner prefers 1575-1550 BC (p.443, Egypt of the Pharaohs, Oxford Univ. Press, 1961).
So, we have dates ranging from 1580 to 1527 BC depending upon the authority being cited (Egyptologists sometimes refer to these varying theories under the term of "High, Middle and Low Egyptian Chronologies").
Acts 13:18-21 in conjunction with 1 Kings 2:10-11 and 1 Kings 6:1, gives an Exodus in 1540 BCE which falls within the 1580 to 1527 BC dating range for Ahmosis I reign.
I have attempted to argue that the internal chronolgy of the Hebrew Bible as well as Early Christian traditions point to the Exodus as being a phenomena of the 16th century BCE, the same century that witnessed the Hyksos Exodus.
It is my understanding that the fictionalized Pentateuchal narratives have creatively re-interpreted, transformed and modified the Hyksos Exodus into a new story of how a merciful God saved his people and brought them to their
If the above suppositions are correct it follows that Israel was not in bondage for 400 years in Egypt, that is fiction. The Hyksos ruled Egypt for 200 years until defeated and expelled. They fled along the Way of the Philistines, back to Canaan with the Egyptians in pursuit. There was no crossing of the Red Sea, or journey to Mt. Sinai (Horeb) or invasion of Canaan from Trans-Jordan. Excavations at Heshbon reveal it didn't exist before 1200 BC, which doesn't surprise me as I hold the account to fictional of the war with Sihon the Amorite. The excavations of course, serve as a marker that the Pentateuchal account was written some time after 1200 BC and the settlement of Heshbon.
I understand that Humanist scholars rejected the Pentateuch's 1520 or 1480 BC dating schema because they believed that the mention of the town of "Ramses" in the Exodus (Ex. 12:37) account must be a "historical marker," dating the event to the reign of Rameses II 1290-1224 BC) who founded Per-Rameses, which they believed was the biblical Ramses.
I have tried to show their error, the Pentateuch and Early Christian writings did preserve the correct chronology.
I have argued that the Pentateuch is a late composition of the 5th century BC, full of historical errors, fictious
dialogues, and fictional events. The presence of the town Ramses was a marker allright, a marker that the text was composed after 1290-1224 BC, not that the Exodus event must be in the 13th century BCE.
I realize that these proposals are "not going to settle well" with either the Conservative or Liberal scholarly communities.
How to account for this 1540 BC date for the Exodus which co-incidentally matches "the alternate" Hyksos expulsion date proposed by Kitchen?
I would speculate that the memory of the expulsion of the Hyksos from Egypt, was a majorly traumatic event that was either preserved in writing or memory and oral recitations for hundreds of years after its occurence. Each retelling of the tale over a period of time transformed the historical event into new and different story, while yet retaining the approximate date of the event, sometime in the 16th century BC.
So, what I am proposing here, is that the Hyksos date of expulsion is "the cornerstone" by which all chronologies were reckoned by the Hyksos' descendants up to 2nd Temple times.
The memory of the 16th century expulsion was the key to all later chronologies, including the Hebrew Bible. But, for later polemical-theological reasons, artificial cycles of 40/480,4 yrs were devised and introduced while yet retaining the 16th century event. The Hyksos were literate, they probably wrote in Egyptian and Akkadian, and their descendants had a rememberence of the expulsion date.
So, just as Seleucid chronologies began with Seleucus I establishment of the dynasty and empire, so Canaanite and later Hebrew chronologies used the Hyksos expulsion for their cornerstone date.
The notion that Hebrew slaves left Egypt for Canaan might be a garbled historical memory of the thousands of "apiru" (Canaanite abiru, whence Hebrew ?) captives brought from Canaan by the mighty warlike pharaohs of the 18th dynasty, to work in Egypt's quarries and mud pits, building the monuments of that period. So, there is a "historical kernal" here, but it has been wrenched out of its proper historical sequence and made into a fabricated story of slaves in Egypt being delivered by their merciful God.
The chronology problems behind the dating of the Exodus are much more complicated than my earlier post suggested.
There are several conflicting dates for the ExodusEgyptologists are not in agreement amongst themselves about the dates for the reign of Pharaoh Ahmose I (Ahmoses I) who expelled the Hyksos. In Albright's article, he alludes to Parker preferring 1557-1532 BC, while Helck prefers 1552-1527 BC (Cf. p. 56, William F. Albright, "Some Remarkson the Archaeological Chronology of Palestine before about 1500 B.C," in Robert W. Ehrich, Editor, Chronologies in Old World Archaeology, Chicago, The University of Chicago Press, 1954, 1965, reprint 1971, ISBN 0-226-19443-4).
Other dates are championed for Ahmoses I reign- James Breasted (1912, A History of Egypt) argues for 1580-1557 BC. Alan Gardiner prefers 1575-1550 BC (p.443, Egypt of the Pharaohs, Oxford Univ. Press, 1961).
According to David Rohl, the currently accepted dating for Ahmose I is 1550-1514 BCE, so that the expulsion of the Hyksos in 11th year falls in 1539 BC.
So, we have dates, ranging for Ahmoses I, from 1580 to 1514 BC depending upon the authority being cited (Egyptologists sometimes refer to these varying theories under the term of "High, Middle and Low Egyptian
Acts 13:18-21 in conjunction with 1 Kings 2:10-11 and 1 Kings 6:1, gives an Exodus in 1540 BC which falls within the parameters of the 1580 to 1515 BC dating range for Ahmoses I reign.
The Pentateuchal accounts of the Exodus possess a number of "historical markers" within the body of the texts suggesting that whoever wrote the book of Exodus, it certainly wasn't Moses or even a "near contemporary."
Humanist scholars posit an Exodus occuring ca. 1250 BC in the 13th century, preferring the reign of Ramses II (1292-1225 BC), and certainly before Merneptah, who's victory stela mentions that "Israel's seed is not" (1225-1215 BC).
The anonymous author of the Pentatechal narratives, Genesis through Exodus and the invasion of Canaan, "betrays his hand" via anomalies within the text that modern scholarship has noticed and pointed out.
The Philistines are believed to be one of the so-called Sea Peoples tribes called "Pelest" by Ramses III (1198-1167 BCE), who records their attempted invasion of Egypt (1177 BCE), their defeat and eventual settlement in coastal Canaan which came to be called Philista. He mentions their sudden appearance in Anatolia, their overwhelming Syria and coastal Canaan shortly before the inavsion of Egypt.
Contra Hoffmeier's belief that Exodus was composed toward the end of the Late Bronze Age, that is before 1200 BC
(cf. p.226, James K. Hoffmeier, Israel in Egypt, The Evidence for the Authenticity of the Exodus Tradition, 1996), the author of Exodus obviously was not writing the Exodus account in 1250 BC or 1200 BC, because he would have known that the Philistines were not yet settled in Canaan and thus they would not be poised to fall upon any invaders using the so-called "way of the Philistines" from Egypt to Canaan.
So, the narrator, oblivious to all this, declares Israel did not use "the way of the Philistines" which was nearby, to get to Canaan for fear of war with the Philistines (Ex.13:17). Thus, Israel heads south to the Red Sea and on to Mt. Sinai, with the avowed intentions of penetrating the Promised land via the Hebron hill country from Kadesh Barnea.
How long a period of time must pass after the arrival of the Philistines (ca. 1177 BCE) in Ramses III reign (1198-1167 BCE) before we can posit a guess as to when the Exodus' narrator was alive and concocting this "impossible scenario" as an explanation for why Israel marched south to the Red Sea and on to Mt. Sinai? 25, 50, 75, 100, 150, 200, or 260 years for this "false notion to arise" about Philistine enemies barring entry into Canaan from Egypt? Some have suggested a Jahwist writing in Solomon's court composed parts of Genesis, this would give us a period of 260 years (from a 1250 BC Exodus), perhaps time enough to get ones' historical facts all garbled up?
Of course, as everyone knows the anonymous Pentateuchal author was probably not envisioning an Exodus circa 1250 BC, for later on in 1 Kings 6:1, we are told the Exodus was 480 yrs. before Solomon's 4th yr (966 BC) giving an
Exodus date of 1446 BC, almost 300 yrs before the arrival of the Pelest/Philistines.
A common error in Pentateuchal studies is to overlook the fact that the Exodus narratives are a part of a greater literary composition, a National History, extending from Genesis to 2 Kings. The end dates the beginning in
historical compositions, and the end is ca. 562-560 BC, the reign of the Babylonian king Evil-Merodach (2 Kings 25:27). In order to date the composition of the book called Exodus we must look at all the historical markers in the text from Genesis to 2 Kings, not just focus on one book in isolation from the others.
Other "Historical Markers" within the texts are the mention of cities and nations in Genesis betraying the text was not written in 1250 BC and the putative days of the Exodus and Moses. Calah was an insignificant village until made the capital of Assyria in the 9th century BC by Tiglath-Pileser III. Nineveh's fame as a capital was from 705-612 BC. Before Calah, Asshur was the capital, how strange that a putative Jahwist writing the Genesis account in Solomon's court is oblivious to this fact, never mentioning that great city which surely was renowned in Solomon's days. Of course, it is
impossible for a 10th century Jahwist to be writing of Calah, who's fame arises in the 9th century.
Lydia is first learned of by the Assyrians in the 7th century BC. Scholars have gotten around some of this by positing on-going redactions and updatings of the text (P writing parts of Genesis in the 5th century BC). But this is only an assumption, not a proven fact. As Whybray (1987) has argued, the text, Genesis to 2 Kings, could have just as well been written "at one go" in the 6th century BC (cf. 2 Kings 25:27). I am inclined to agree with Whybray's notion of a single author (but I prefer a 5th century BC date for the text) and I reject the DH paradigm and its "make-believe"
Genesis to 2 Kings is a "Prose-format" history. It's concluding date is 560/550 BC, about the middle of the 6th century BC, which also happens to be, co-incidentally, the same period of time when the first "Prose-format" histories appear for the early Greek historians called Logographers. For me, the fact that Genesis-2 Kings is a prose-format composition, along with the 560/550 BC ending date, means only one thing, this work was composed no
earlier than the 6th or 5th century BC, it is not an on-going compilation of layer after layer of works by JEDP authors over a period of 500 years (I don't deny that there exist pre-exilic stories, traditions, myths and annals that were brought together).
The fact that Genesis-2 Kings is a 6th/5th century BC creation accounts in part for the fabricated history of Hebrew slaves wandering to Mt. Sinai out of fear of Philistines to the north along the "way of the Philistines." Perhaps the fact that 18th dynasty Pharaohs brought back thousands of "apiru" (whence , abiru, Hebrew?) captives to slave in the quarries and mud pits building Egypt's monuments lies behind the Pentateuchal notions their people were enslaved? In other words what we have in the Pentateuchal narratives is a garbled history, with some kernels of historicity, but torn
out of their original historical periods and creatively rearranged to tell a story of a merciful God who brought his people deliverance.
How are we to account for the fact that Acts 13:18-21 in combination with 1 Kings 2:10-11, 1 Kings 6:1 gives us
a 574 yr interval between the Exodus and Solomon's 4th year and matches the 1540 BC expulsion of the Hyksos? The Hyksos were literate and they could write in Egyptian and Canaanite/Akkadian. So most probably via some written
record, the expulsion date was preserved throught the centuries, only later generations would create artifical 40/480yr cycles and fictious stories of Slaves fleeing Egypt for "theological-polemical" purposes.
All the best,
Walter Reinhold Warttig Mattfeld
02 April 2006 Update:
Another Exodus "problem" is that various recensions of the Hebrew Bible DISAGREE amongst themselves as regards internal chronologies. Professor Steibing on three different and _CONTRADICTING_ dates for God's creation of the world found in the book of Genesis from 3 different Bibles, Jewish, Catholic and Protestant:
"Most scholars agreed that the world was only about six thousand years old, though there was considerable disagreement over the exact date of the creation. Jewish rabbinical calculations from the Hebrew Massoretic Text showed that the world began 3,740 years before the Christian Era. Roman Catholic tradition, based on the Latin Vulgate translation of the Bible, placed the creation in 5199 B.C. And most English-speaking Protestants accepted the seventeenth-century Archbishop James Ussher's calculation of the time of creation, 4004 B.C. Ussher's dates were placed in the margins of early eighteenth-century editions of the King James version of the Bible, making them seem even more authoritive." (p. 32. "The Discovery of Prehistory." William H. Steibing Jr. Uncovering the Past. New York & Oxford. Oxford University Press. 1994 [1993 Prometheus Books])
Professor Finegan noted that the Catholic scholar Jerome using Eusebius' Chronicle fixed the date of the Exodus as 1512 BC (p. 190. "Summary of the Chronicle of Eusebius in the Latin Version of Jerome, Table 97." Jack Finegan. Handbook of Biblical Chronology, Principles of Time Reckoning in the Ancient World and Problems of Chronology in the Bible. Revised Edition. Peabody, Massachusetts. Hendrickson Publishers. 1964, 1998. ISBN 1-56563-143-9)
The 1611 AD King James Verion of the Bible employing Ireland's Archbishop James Ussher's chronology worked out circa 1650 AD fixes the Exodus' date as 1446 BC. Why a discrepancy of 66 years for the Exodus? It's not faulty math by Eusebius or Ussher, its FAULTY TEXTS which disagree with each other as to how many years transpired between various events.
If the Exodus was 1512 BC the event fell in the reign of Pharaoh Tuthmose II, who reigned circa 1518-1504 BC (cf. p. 100. Peter A. Clayton. Chronicle of the Pharaohs, The Reign-by-Reign Record of the Rulers and Dynasties of Ancient Egypt. London. Thames & Hudson. 1994. ISBN 0-500-05074-0). If the Exodus was 1446 BC it occurred in the reign of Pharaoh Amenhotep II who ruled circa 1453-1419 BC (p. 112. Clayton). So, the Roman Catholic Bible (ultimately a rescension of the 3rd century BC Septuaginta still used today by the Greek Orthodox Church) places the Exodus in the 16th century BC while the Protestant Bible, which is _not_ a recension of the Septuaginta, places the Exodus in the 15th century BC.
Meyers on two different Jewish reckonings for establishing the date of the Exodus, acknowledging Josephus (1st century AD) is using apparently the Septuaginta's chronology while the Jewish scholar Halafta who died about 160 AD apparently used a text similar to the Massoretic version which is today still preferred by Jews:
"The Jewish historian Josephus who lived at the time of Christ, wrote The Antiquity of the Jews, The Jewish War, and Against Apion. In his book, The Antiquity of the Jews, Josephus interprets the 430 years of Exodus 12:40 as starting with Abraham's entrance into Canaan and ending at the Exodus. Josephus states:
They left Egypt in the month Xanthicus, on the fifteenth day of the lunar month; four hundred and thirty years after our forefather Abraham came into Canaan, but two hundred and fifteen years only after Jacob removed into Egypt (1830, 59; Book 2.15.2).
This follows the Septuagint (LXX) reading of Exodus 12:40 which says, "And the sojourning of the children of Israel, while they sojourned in the land of Egypt and the land of Canaan was four hundred and thirty years" (1970, 88; 1979, 109). Whiston in his notes on Josephus is puzzled by the Masoretic text (MT) that leaves out "Canaan" when Masoretic chronology clearly shows that Israel only stayed half of the 430 years in Egypt (1830, 59).
In The Antiquity of the Jews (Book 8.3.1) Josephus says the Exodus occurred 592 years before the Temple of Solomon was built which is about 960 BC. So the exodus, according to Josephus, was about 1552 BC or 1,020 years from Abraham's entry into Canaan. In Against Apion (Book 2.19) Josephus says the Exodus was 612 years before the temple. This difference is probably due to descrepancies in counting of the years of the judges. This places the Exodus at about the same time as the expulsion of the Hyksos. The entrance into Egypt was 215 years before the Exodus which would be about 1767 BC. This date is close to the beginning of the second intermediate period in Egypt when the Hyksos rose to power. The Hyksos were considered foreign rulers of lower Egypt. Their capital was Avaris which was later named Pi-Rameses.
I Kings 6:1 states that the exodus was 480 years before the Temple of Solomon was built, yet Josephus clearly states 592 years in his book The Antiquity of the Jews. The difference seems to be in the way the rule of the Judges was calculated. Josephus seems to include the oppressions as well as the judges, whereas the writer of Kings excludes the the rule of oppressors, as was customary at this time. This amounts to about 111 years difference.
Josephus in his book Against Apion argues that the Jews are of great antiquity going back some 5,000 years. The further back your ancestry went the greater the wisdom and respect you received. Josephus quotes a number of secular historians to prove his point.
Josephus quotes Manetho who wrote a history of Egypt. Josephus says, "Manetho has granted us one fact. He has admitted that our race (the Jews) was not of Egyptian origin, but came into Egypt from elsewhere, conquered it, and afterwards left it" (Book 1.252). Manetho identifies Israel with the Hyksos which where expelled by Ahmose from Egypt. Josephus quotes Manetho describing this expulsion by saying:
Then the kings of the Thebaid and of the rest of Egypt rose in revolt against the shepherds (Hyksos), and a great war broke out, which was of long duration. Under a king named Misphragmouthosis, the shepherds, he says, were defeated, driven out of all the rest of Egypt, and confined in a place called Auaris, containing ten thousand arourae. The shepherds, according to Manetho, enclosed the whole area with a great strong wall, in order to secure all their possessions and spoils. Thoummosis, the son of Misphragmouthosis (he continues), invested the walls with an army of 480,000 men, and endeavored to reduce them to submission by siege. Despairing of achieving his object, he concluded a treaty, under which they were all to evacuate Egypt and go whither they would unmolested. Upon these terms no fewer than two hundred and forty thousand, entire households with their possessions, left Egypt, and traversed the desert to Syria. Then, terrified by the might of the Assyrians, who at that time were the masters of Asia, they built a city in the country now called Judaea, capable of accommodating their vast company, and gave it the name of Jerusalem (Against Apion)."
Meyers has 1440 BC for Seder Olam Rabbah's Exodus date:
"Seder Olam Rabbah means "Book of the Order of the World." It was written by Jose Ben Halafta who died about 160 AD It is the oldest Jewish chronicle we have. It was later updated in Seder Olam Zutta in the 8th century AD. On the next page is Table 2 with a summary of dates (Finegan 1964, 127-8; Frank 1956, 11-12). Note that there are only 400 years from the birth of Isaac to the exodus, and 405 years in Josephus, but there is about a 2,000 year difference in dates from the creation of the world to the Exodus. It seems that Josephus follows the LXX [Septuaginta] while Seder Olam Rabbah follows the Masoritic text-type. From the Exodus to the First Temple is 480 years, and from the First Temple to the Second Temple is also 480 years. Some scholars see this as a deliberate manipulation of dates to divide the time periods equally."
(Dr. Stephen C. Meyers. The Date of the Exodus According to Ancient Writers.
However Finegan gives the Exodus as circa 1312/1311 BC according to Seder 'Olam Rabbah NOT 1440 BC as stated by Meyers (cf. pp. 110-111, tables 53 & 54. Jack Finegan. Handbook of Biblical Chronology. Peabody, Massachusetts. Hendrickson Publishers. 1964, 1998 Revised Edition [2d printing 1999]. ISBN 1-56563-143-9)
Josephus' calculation for the Exodus, based on the Septuaginta, is different from that of Eusebius and Jerome, who's Latin Vulgate Bible is a Septuaginta recension. The different dates for the Exodus is because Josephus added up, apparently, the regnal years of the Judges, including Joshua to Solomon's days and realized that 480 years elapsing from the Exodus (1 Kings 6:1) to Solomon's fourth year was TOO SMALL a period of time, he suggesting 612 or 592 years elapsing. Similar conclusions were reached by much later scholars of the 20th century AD like De Vries, Hoffmeier and Kitchen. Please click here for these later scholars' conclusions which agree "somewhat" with Josephus' investigations.
Josephus' reckonings place the Exodus in the mid-16th cntury BC and the reign of Pharaoh Ahmose I who founded the 18th Dynasty and who expelled the Hyksos from Egypt, they fleeing to Canaan and settling at Jerusalem according to Manetho as transcribed by Josephus. So the Hyksos expulsion was understood by Josephus to be the Bible's Exodus event.
However, as noted by Josephus, Manetho avowed that the Jewish Exodus was a Ramesside event, _not_ a Hyksos event. Archaeology has established in the Hill Country of Canaan, from Galilee to the Negev in Iron Age I, Ramesside times, the sudden appearance of 600+ hamlets and villages of stone which for many archaeologists is evidence of Israel settling the land after her expulsion from Egypt. It would seem that Manetho has been vindicated to some degree by the archaeological findings. However I understand both the Hyksos expulsion and the later Ramesside expulsion came to be fused together into one event by the time the Bible was composed, hence the reason, for me, that the Bible's chronology supports the Hysksos event but the details appear to be Ramesside.
Another "problem" related to the Exodus is that Manetho's account _contradicts_ the biblical portrayal of events. He understands the Exodus was a Ramesside event, but he has no knowledge of an Egyptian army chasing after Israel in the wilderness and being destroyed in a body of water. He understands the Egyptian army confronted the Hebrews _within_ Egypt's borders at a fortified town called Avaris. Avaris was a port, it had access to the Mediterranean Sea via the Pelusiasic branch of the Nile. It had a harbor for ships to dock at. Manetho has the surrounded Hebrews surrendering at Avaris and being allowed to return to Canaan where they eventually settle at Jerusalem.
So, the big $64,000 question becomes "Who is right, Manetho or the Bible?" Or are both wrong? Both have an Egyptian army confronting Hebrews at a body of water with no escape possible. Manetho's body of water is the Pelusiasic Nile and its canals feeding the harbor and fields of Avaris versus the Bible's Yam Suph and God performing a miracle, opening a way through the sea for his people to pass through, then destroying the pursuing Egyptian army with returning waters. Is it possble that Manetho is correct? Did the Hebrews "recast" the confrontation at Avaris' river-canal and harbor as at a location three days march from Egypt's borders in the wilderness? Is Avaris' river-harbor-canal what is behind Pi-ha-hiroth "the mouth of the canal"? Is biblical Migdol (Semitic for "fortress") near Pi-ha-hiroth the "fortress" of Avaris that the Hebrews were "holed up in" and surrounded by an Egyptian army according to Manetho? Is Baal-Zaphon "the lord of the north" the Egyptian god Seth, "the lord of Avaris"? For Manetho the Hebrew Exodus was a "victory" for Egypt at Avaris whereas the Bible has Egypt "defeated" by the Hebrew God in a wildness three days march from Rameses. Some scholars have suggested Yam Suph means "sea of reeds." Reeds do grow near the banks of the Nile, and this river's Pelusiasic branch would have had reeds too. The Delta flooded in antiquity causing it to look like a great sea. Only the reeds lining the inundated rivers would mark the former now-hidden channels. Is Yam Suph "the sea of reeds" possibly recalling the Delta at flood stage, a vast freshwater sea with reeds demarking the hidden river channels? Eventually the annual Delta flooding ends and dries up, the waters return to their former channels. Was this recast as God "drying" up Yam Suph so his people could pass over it? The Bible has the Exodus beginning at Rameses and sme scholars understand Avaris in antiquity was presentday tell ed-Dab`a. When Pi-Rameses was founded under Seti and Rameses it expanded into and merged with ed-Dab'a (Avaris), thus Avaris came to identified with Rameses.