Grace Theological Journal 2.1 (Winter, 1961) 5-14 .

                      Copyright © 1961 by Grace Theological Seminary; cited with permission.



                                                     JOHN REA

                                                Member of the Faculty

                                                 Moody Bible Institute


      The problem of the date of the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt is an old one. Yet

it is an extremely important one in Biblical studies, for, as Edwin R. Thiele has said,

chronology is the one sure basis of accurate historical knowledge.  Scholars have

wrestled for over 2000 years with the questions of Hebrew chronology in the O.T.  Many

dates have long since been firmly fixed to the satisfaction of all; others remain unsettled. 

With respect to any date still in question new evidence demands new investigation of the

problem in the hope that the new insight gained by intensive study may furnish a more

reasoned solution.

     The chronology of Israel in the first millennium B.C. has been quite accurately

determined on the basis of its relationships with Assyrian history.  For the chronology of

Israel in the second millennium B.C., however, comparison may best be made with

Egyptian history, for which scholars have determined dates with the greatest degree of

certainly of any nation in the Near East in that millennium. (Yet even Egyptologists differ

with regard to their dates about ten or fifteen years for the period in which we are

interested, so one cannot yet arrive at dates with absolute finality.)  Thus a knowledge of

Egyptian history is essential to the O.T. scholar, for the key to the chronology of events

throughout the entire second millennium B.C. in the O.T. is the date of the Exodus from


                                    Various Solutions of the Problem

     The early date.--At present among O.T. scholars there are two main views concerning

the date of the Exodus. One is that the Israelites left Egypt during the 18th Dynasty

around the middle of the 15th century B.C., and the other is that they did not leave until

the 19th Dynasty during the 13th century.  The early date view best accords with certain

data in the Bible, such as the 480 years between the Exodus and the beginning of

Solomon's temple (I Kings 6:1) and the 300 years from the conquest of Transjordan to

the time of Jephthah (Judg. 11:26).


     A late date.--The view for the date of the Exodus which has been held by a majority of

scholars during the past century, and hence which has become more or less "traditional,"

is the one which places that event at some time in the 13th century B.C.  The most

persuasive arguments are those of Albright and others who place the Exodus early in the

reign of Rameses II, about 1280 B.C. As one surveys the literature of those who support a

late date of the Exodus, he soon discovers that very few of the writers believe in a unified

movement of all twelve tribes from Egypt and into Canaan under the leadership of Moses

and Joshua.  In order to handle certain extra-Biblical evidence, such as the date of the

destruction of Jericho around 1400 B.C. and the mention of Asher as a territory in

southern Phoenicia in the inscriptions of Seti I (c. 1310 B.C.), the proponents of a late


This article was read before the Tenth Annual Meeting of the Evangelical Theological

Society, Wheaton, Illinois, Dec. 30, 1959.  Certain revisions have been made for this

journal.                                     5

6                                                          GRACE JOURNAL


date are obliged to imagine either a two-fold exodus and entry into Palestine in different

centuries or that some of the tribes of Israel never sojourned in Egypt at all. While such

theories may attempt to handle all the bits of external evidence, they obviously run

contrary to the great body of Scripture which presents the Exodus and the Conquest as an

episode which involved all twelve tribes of Israel.

     Since the Pentateuch and the book of Joshua clearly teach that the Exodus was a

united movement from Egypt, all twelve tribes departing at once, and that the entrance

into Canaan was an invasion of the fighting men of all the tribes at the same time; and

since the Exodus was of primary importance as the event which gave the Israelites their

freedom from bondage and welded them together into a nation under the hand of God;

since it was the event most often appealed to by the prophets and psalmists as an example

of the mighty working of their God in the affairs of men on earth; and since incidents in

the Exodus and Wilderness journey are often spoken of in the N .T. as authentic; then the

problem of the Exodus is not merely that of one date versus another date.  Rather the

problem is doubly serious, for it involves one's method of interpretation of the Scriptures

and one's view of the origin of the religion of Israel.  As H. H. Rowley says in his book

regarding the date of the Exodus, "Much more than chronology is really involved, since

the view that we take of Israelis religious development is materially affected by the

solution we adopt.”1

     It is my belief that only an early date for the Exodus agrees with the Biblical data and

allows for a unified Exodus and Conquest, and that only a unified Exodus and Conquest

are in harmony with the clear statements of the divinely-inspired Scriptures and with the

true nature of the religion of Israel.


                                                The Oppression of the Israelites

     In any discussion of the dates of the Exodus it is necessary to deal also with certain

events which actually took place during the time of the oppression of the Israelites.  By

approaching the record of Exodus chapters one and two in a superficial manner many

writers have arrived at unbiblical conclusions regarding the setting of that greatest of all

events in the history of the nation of Israel.  Largely on the basis of the names of the two

store-cities in Exodus 1:11, Pithom and Raamses, scholars have been quick to place the

bondage of Israel and her leader Moses in the time of the Ramesside kings, i.e., in the

19th Dynasty.  In so doing they apparently have not cared how many other passages of

Scriptures were contradicted or tossed aside.

     So far, no inscriptions or documents of any kind have been found in Egypt which bear

witness to the occurrence of the Exodus, for the mention of Israel in the stele of

Merneptah refers to the later time when Israel was already in Palestine. Yet the absence

of external evidence to confirm the Biblical record need not destroy confidence in its

historicity. Comparatively little excavation has been done in the Delta of the Nile, in

which area the Israelites resided.  Furthermore, the pharaohs were not given to telling

about their defeats and times of public disgrace.  Rather their, inscriptions were cut on

temple walls with the purpose of exalting themselves as the living Horus, the son of the

god Amun-Re'.  And if the pharaoh of the oppression or the pharaoh of the Exodus had

mentioned the Israelite slaves or their leader Moses in some public inscription, it would

not be out of keeping with the known practice of some of the rulers of Egypt for a later

king to have chiseled out the record.

                                                Oppression by the Hyksos

    The king who knew not Joseph.--The verse Exodus 1:8, "Now there arose a new king

                        THE TIME OF THE OPPRESSION AND THE EXODUS                      7


over Egypt, who knew not Joseph,” perhaps indicates a change of dynasty in Egypt. To

what dynasty he belonged, at any rate, is the question. Because of the name Raamses of

one of the store-cities many who hold to a late date for the Exodus believe that Rameses I

(1315-1313 B.C.) or his son Seti I (1313-1301), the father of Rameses II (1301-1234), is

the king involved (e.g., G.E. Wright, Biblical Archaeology, p. 60).  Others who also take

the late date think, however, that the 18th Dynasty Egyptians enslaved the foreign

Israelites when they did not flee from Egypt with the Hyksos, as soon as the latter had

been driven out of the Delta (e.g., H.N. Orlinsky, Ancient Israel p. 34). Unger (Arch. &

the O.T., p. 144) and many others who subscribe to the early date of the Exodus (in the

18th Dynasty) also interpret Exodus 1:8 in the same way.

     Neither of these views, however, takes into consideration all the facts in the context of

Exodus 1:1-12. The Joseph narrative in Genesis seems to indicate that Jacob and his sons

descended into Egypt to sojourn there before the Hyksos period and in the middle of the

illustrious 12th Dynasty, perhaps around 1850 B.C.  Now if Ahmose I (1570-1545 B.C.),

the founder of the 18th Dynasty, were the “new king,” then nearly 300 years passed

before the Israelites began to be oppressed.  Or, to state the problem in another way,

many more generations than the one specified in verse 6 intervened between Joseph’s

death about 1775 B. C. and the beginning of the time of bondage.  In Genesis 15:13,

however, God told Abraham: "Know of a surety that thy seed shall be sojourners in a

land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred

years" (italics mine).  Yet if the enslavement of the Israelites began around the middle of

the 16th century B.C., and if the Exodus took place around 1447 B.C., 480 years before

Solomon began the Temple (I Kings 6: 1), then there was only a century of actual


     A second thing to notice carefully is the exhortation made by the “new king” in

Exodus 1:9, 10:

            And he said unto his people, Behold, the people of the children of Israel are more

            and mightier than we: come, let us deal wisely with them, lest they multiply, and

            it come to pass, that, when there falleth out any war, they also join themselves

            unto our enemies, and fight against us, and get them up out of the land.


      Several questions may be asked.  If the "new king" belonged to the native Egyptian

18th Dynasty, would he, or could he truthfully, say that the Israelites were more and

mightier than the Egyptians?  Perhaps yes, if only the native Egyptians in the Delta were

in mind; but certainly not if the whole nation of Egypt were meant by "his people" to

whom he addressed himself. Let it be remembered that at the time when the "new king"

arose, the children of Israel had not yet finished multiplying to their eventual complement

at the time of the Exodus.  Another question:  Would the victorious Egyptians who had

just driven out the armed Hyksos feel that these Semitic shepherds were mightier than the

proud, strong Egyptian armies? A third question:  What enemies did the Egyptians fear

who might be expected to ally themselves with the Israelites and wage war against the

Egyptians? The Hyksos had been expelled, pushed back into Palestine, and their fortress

at Sharuhen had been captured by the Egyptians after a three year siege.  There does not

seem to be any enemy strong enough to invade the Delta anywhere on the horizon by the

middle of the 16th century B. C.

     The logical answer to these problematic questions would seem to be that a Hyksos

king was the "new king" of Exodus 1:8.  The text says he "arose over Egypt,"

wayyaqam...'al Mitsrayim.

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In Hebrew the verb qum plus the preposition 'al often have the meaning "to rise against"

(e.g., Deut. 19:11; 28:7; Judg. 9:18; 20:5; II Sam. 18:31; II Kings 16:7); but they never

have the meaning of assuming the throne of a nation in a peaceful, friendly manner.  It is

certainly true that the Hyksos arose against Egypt.  Furthermore, the Hyksos may well

have had reason to hate the descendants of Jacob because of the episode at Shechem

(Gen. 34) and Jacob's later fighting with the Amorites (Gen. 48:22), Amorites being one

of the main elements of the Hyksos people (Albright, From the Stone Age to Christianity,

p. 202, n.4).

     If the "new king" was a Hyksos ruler, the oppression could have begun soon after

1730 B.C., for the Israelites were very near the Hyksos center in the northeastern section

of the Delta.  From 1730 until 1447 B.C. is not quite 300 years.  This is not the full 400

years of affliction of Genesis 15:13, but it is a lot closer than the 100-120 years of

bondage if the Israelites were not enslaved until the 18th Dynasty.  If the "new king" is a

Hyksos ruler, there is no need to say that his complaint that the Israelites were more and

mightier than his own people is an exaggeration.  The Hyksos filtered into Egypt

gradually and were not strong enough at first to capture much of the country.  If the "new

king" is a Hyksos ruler, he had real reason to expect war with his enemies the Egyptians

at any time in the near future.  Since Joseph and his people had gotten along so well with

the Egyptians, it was only natural for the Hyksos to suspect that the Israelites might join

themselves to the Egyptians.

     There is one more logical reason why the Hyksos must have persecuted the children of

Israel rather than favor them.  If the two peoples had been friendly with each other, why

did not the Israelites choose to leave Egypt along with the Hyksos when the latter were

expelled?  For surely the Jews could see clearly the hatred which the Egyptians had for

Semitic peoples and would have fled from possible bondage or torture, had they been at

one with the Hyksos and not already afflicted and hated by the latter.  The question can

be put in another way:  If the Israelites were associated with the Hyksos, why did the

Egyptians distinguish between the two Semitic groups and not drive out the Jews along

with the hated Asiatics?  But if the Hyksos enslaved the Israelites, then certainly the Jews

would have had no desire to depart with the Hyksos, and the Egyptians could have easily

seen that there was a distinction between the two peoples.  We can surmise that after a

brief relaxation of the oppression started by the Hyksos, the Egyptians found it

to their liking also to enslave the children of Israel, for both economic and nationalistic

reasons.  The Jews furnished a source of manpower needed to reconstruct buildings and

cities in Lower Egypt, and being semi-nomadic shepherds they were fit to be the objects

of the stirred-up hatred on the part of the Egyptians for all Asiatics.  That the Egyptians

did afflict the Israelites may be seen in the latter half of Exodus 1, beginning with verse


     Pithom and Raamses.--The manner in which the enslavement of the children of Israel

was carried out is stated as follows in Exodus 1:11, 12:

Therefore they did set over them taskmasters to afflict them with their burdens.

And they built for Pharaoh store-cities, Pithom and Raamses. But the more they

afflicted them, the more they multiplied and the more they spread abroad. And

they were grieved because of the children of Israel.


     The holders of the late date of the Exodus become extremely positive in their

assertions concerning this passage.  Finegan, e.g., says:

THE TIME OF THE OPPRESSION AND THE EXODUS                             9


     The basis of the theory now to be considered is the statement in Exodus 1:11

that the Israelites "built for Pharaoh store-cities, Pithom and Raamses."  Raamses

hardly can be other than Per Ramesese, the "House of Ramesses (II)," which has

been identified with Avaris-Tanis . . . .

     Unless we are to regard Exodus 1:11 as an erroneous or anachronistic state-

ment, we must conclude that Ramesses II was the Pharaoh of the oppression.2

(Italics mine.)

George Ernest Wright is much more dogmatic in his statements:

     Now the point which must be stressed is this: if the Israelites worked in labor

battalions on the construction of the city of Rameses, it must have been during the

reign of Rameses II. . . and perhaps that of his father, but not before. . . . We

now know that if there is any historical value at all to the store-city tradition in

Exodus (and there is no reason to doubt its reliability), then Israelites must have

been in Egypt at least during the early part of the reign of Rameses II.  After

much digging at Tanis by the archaeologists Mariette, Petrie, and Montet, not a

single object of the Eighteenth Egyptian Dynasty has been found there.  The city

was destroyed by Pharaoh Amosis I (1570-1546), and was probably not

reoccupied before the end of the 14th century.3 (Italics his.)


     While the identification Zoan-Tanis-Avaris-Per Ramesese may not yet be absolutely

certain, it may be assumed to be correct.  Whether this city was at the site of San el-Hagar

or at Qantir twelve miles to the south makes little difference, for apparently at neither site

have remains of the 18th Dynasty been uncovered.  Thus it must be recognized that if

Biblical Raamses was Tanis, the Israelites could not have been forced to build Raamses

in the 18th Dynasty.  Yet the orthodox defender of the early date cannot admit of an

anachronism. Furthermore, if there is a better possible explanation of the occurrence of

the name Raamses, it would be preferable than to claim that it is the modernization of an

obsolete place name by some later scribe, as Unger does (Arch. & the O. T., pp 149f).  In

not one of the passages where the name Raamses occurs (Gen. 47:11; Exodus 1:11;

12:37; Num. 33:3) is the more ancient name given.  One Scriptural method of explaining

an archaic name may be illustrated by the case of Zoar: ". . . the king of Bela (the

same is Zoar)" (Gen. 14:2, 8).

     If those who insist on the late date of the Exodus believe that Exodus 1:11 is reliable,

they certainly have to overlook or discount many other interrelating passages of

Scripture.  If there is any sense of order and continuity in the narrative in the early

chapters of Exodus, then the beginning of the enslavement and the building of Pithom

and Raamses took place before the birth of Moses.  Certainly chapter two with its

account of Moses' birth during the time of oppression necessarily follows chronologically

the early stages of the oppression described in chapter one; and the building of Pithom

and Raamses was one of the first tasks given to the enslaved Israelites.  But Moses was

eighty years old at the time of the Exodus (Exod. 7:7); he was 120 at his death.  Thus

even if the late date of the Exodus (about 1290-1280 B.C.) were correct, Moses would

have been born about 1370-1360 back in the 18th Dynasty (1570-1315 B.C.).  Therefore

it is impossible to hold that Rameses II was the Pharaoh who ordered the Israelites to

build for him the store cities of Exodus 1:11, and at the same time to do justice to the rest

of Scripture.


10                                                        GRACE JOURNAL


     Notice that according to the early date of the Exodus (c. 1447 B.C.) Moses would also

have been born in the 18th Dynasty, around 1527 B.C.  But the first chapter of Exodus

clearly indicates that there was quite an interval of time between the beginning of the

oppression and the birth of Moses at the time of the order to kill all the male babies born

to the Hebrew women.  Certainly several generations of Israelites may be indicated by

the words of Exodus 1:12.  Another period of perhaps a generation may be implied in the

blessing which God bestowed on the mid-wives in giving them families and descendants

(Exod. 1:20f).  The result of combining the Biblical data and the archaeological evidence

concerning the Egyptian site of Tanis-Per Ramesese where Hyksos remains were found is

that it would seem that the Hyksos were the ones who first enslaved the children of Israel

and used them in building their store-cities. This is the conclusion of the French scholar,

R. Dussaud (according to Rowley, From Joseph to Joseph p. 25n).

     The question then will be asked, if the Hyksos were the oppressors in Exod. 1:11, how

are we to explain the appearance of the name "Raamses" in an age prior to the 19th

Dynasty?  It is my opinion that the name "Raamses" may actually have been used during

the Hyksos era, and then discarded by the reactionary Egyptians of the 18th Dynasty. 

The following 19th Dynasty apparently witnessed antagonism against the domination of

the Theban priests and their violent suppression of the theology of Aten, by bringing

about a return to Hyksos traditions and to the cult of the despised god Seth.  Note the

startling conclusions of W.F. Albright:

The Ramesside house actually traced its ancestry back to a Hyksos king whose

era was fixed 400 years before the date commemorated in the "400-year Stela" of

Tanis.  The great-grandfather of Rameses II evidently came from an old Tanite

family, very possibly of Hyksos origin, since his name was Sethos (Suta). . . .

Ramesses II established his capital and residence at Tanis, which he named

"House of Ramesses" and where he built a great temple of the old Tanite, later

Hyksos god Seth (pronounced at that time Sutekh).4


     Now if the Ramesside dynasty may be traced back to the Hyksos rulers, and if the

dynastic name Seti or Sethos is a Hyksos name, then it is equally possible that the name

Rameses or Raamses was a Hyksos name or at least was used by them in Lower Egypt

where few records from that period have been found.  Since certain Hyksos kings did use

the name of the god Ra or Re' combined with other words in their throne names, it would

not be illogical to find such a name as "Ra-meses" in that era.


The Pharaoh of the Oppression


      According to the early date of the Exodus Thutmose III (1504-1450 B.C.) was the so-

called Pharaoh of the Oppression.  He was one of the greatest, if not the greatest, of all

the pharaohs of Egyptian history.  After he actually gained control of the throne about

1483 B.C. following the death of his hated aunt/stepmother/mother-in-law Queen

Hatshepsut (perhaps the pharaoh's daughter of Exodus 2:5, while she was still a teenage

princess), Thutmose III reorganized the army of Egypt; he made seventeen campaigns in

the space of nineteen years into Palestine and Syria to subdue these lands and to exact

tribute from them.  For such military exploits Dr. J. P. Free has termed him the

"Napoleon of Egypt" (Arch. &. Bible History, p. 89).


THE TIME OF THE OPPRESSION AND THE EXODUS                             11


     Thutmose III must be the ruler whose death is recorded in Exodus 2:23.  He reigned

alone for about thirty-four years (1483-1450 B.C.).  This long period agrees well with the

Scriptural statement that the pharaoh died after oppressing the Israelites for "those many

days."  God's command to Moses, "Go, return into Egypt; for all the men are dead that

sought thy life" (Exod. 4:19), implies that the same king from whose face Moses fled

into Midian is the one who died in Exod. 2:23.  Since Moses was in Midian and Horeb

for more than 30 years,5 the reign of the Pharaoh of the Oppression had to be a lengthy

one. The only pharaohs in the 18th and 19th Dynasties who ruled more than 30 years

were Thutmose III, Amenhotep III (1410-1372), Horemheb (1349-1315), and Rameses II

(1301-1234).  The evidence of Merneptah's Stela that Israel was already in Palestine by

his reign prevents our considering his father Rameses II as being the Pharaoh of the

Oppression.  Horemheb could not have been that ruler because he was the last king of the

18th Dynasty, and Rameses I, first king of the 19th Dynasty, ruled only a year and four

months and was too old to bear the burdens of kingship alone and thus to have been the

Pharaoh of the Exodus.  Nor could Amenhotep III very well have been the Pharaoh of the

Oppression, for his son, Akhenaten (1380-1363), the "heretic king" who tried to install

the worship of Aten as the religion of Egypt, could hardly have been Pharaoh of the

Exodus. Akhenaten moved to the site of Amarna and built a new city there for a new

capital of Egypt, 200 miles up the Nile from the Delta and the land of Goshen. He was so

engrossed in this task and in his religious views that he neglected international affairs and

took little interest in building in the Delta region.  Also, the character of Akhenaten, who

apparently was a sickly, effeminate man who died before he was thirty, does not agree

with the strong, cruel nature of the Pharaoh of the Exodus. Thus the only pharaoh of the

four that enjoyed long reigns who could have been the predecessor of the Pharaoh of the

Exodus and thus himself the Pharaoh of the Oppression was Thutmose III.

     One more detail which may indicate that Thutmose III corresponds to the Pharaoh of

the Oppression may be noted:  If Moses were a favorite of Hatshepsut, whom Thutmose

hated with a vengeance, then we can easily imagine that Moses was also the object of the

wrath of Thutmose.  Thus when Moses killed the Egyptian and brought himself in that

way before the attention of the new monarch, he was obliged to remain in exile as long as

that great pharaoh lived.

The Location of Pharaoh's Court


     The Biblical data.--The entire context of Exodus 5-14 reveals that the place where the

pharaoh was residing during the time of the ten plagues and the Exodus itself was not far

from the land of Goshen where the Israelites were living. The land of Goshen almost

certainly lay in and to the north of the fertile valley which links the Delta region with lake

Timsah and the Bitter lakes of the Suez Canal area.  This valley is now called Wadi

Tumilat.  Near its western end lies Tell Basta, the site called Bubastis in the Hellenistic

Age, which was situated on the royal canal6  leading to the Gulf of Suez at the junction of

the canal with the easternmost or Pelusiac arm of the Nile.  Tell Basta is a mile or two

southeast of the present-day town of Zagazig.

      Exodus 5:6, 10 and 12:31 force one to conclude that Pharaoh's residence was no more

than one to three hours away from the center of the land of Goshen.  On the other hand,

the phenomena of the plagues of the flies and the hail (Exod. 8:22; 9:25f) falling upon all

the land of Egypt but not on the land of Goshen furnish evidence that Goshen was on the

very edge of Egypt

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at that time, removed to some extent from the territory which the native Egyptians settled. 

In the time of the 19th Dynasty, however, when the capital was at Tanis-Rameses, many

of the principal building projects of Rameses II were in the Wadi Tumilate or Goshen

region itself.  At that time the Egyptians lived all around and in the midst of Goshen, not

excluding that area as though a despised captive people were dwelling there.

       Pharaoh is residence was in a city (Exod. 9:33) and it was in sight of the river, year

(7:20-23), which almost invariably means the Nile River or one of its branches in the

Delta.  Cities like Memphis and Heliopolis, while in the Nile Valley, were several miles

from the channel of the Nile at normal stage, too far to see the river through the palms.

     The problem of the Eighteenth Dynasty capital.--Since I Kings 6:1 places the Exodus

about 1447 B.C., the Biblical date means that the Exodus occurred in the 18th Dynasty. 

The capital of all the kings of that dynasty, however, was at Thebes, over 400 miles

away from the land of Goshen up the Nile Valley.  Obviously, the ruler who did all he

could to prevent the Israelites from leaving Egypt was not at Thebes at the time of the

Exodus. Rowley delineates the problem for those who hold the early date of the Exodus

when he says: "No known building operations of this Pharaoh (Thutmose III) took place

in the Nile Delta region, and he is not known to have had a royal residence in that

district" (FJJ, p. 24).  I shall attempt to show that the first half of this statement is

incorrect, and that there is a fair amount of evidence that his son, if not Thut-

mose himself, did have a royal residence in the Delta.

      The fact of two viziers in the Eighteenth Dynasty.--The vizier of Egypt was the prime

minister, the highest administrative official of the state; he was likewise the commandant

of the capital and the chief justice.  Up to the reign of Thutmose III all of Egypt came

within the sphere of one vizier's authority.  But to handle the greatly increased business

of government, that pharaoh divided the labors of the vizier's office between two men;

one resided at Thebes; the other was in charge of all regions north of Assiut and resided

at Heliopolis, six or eight miles northeast of the center of modern Cairo.  The very fact

that Thutmose III appointed a separate vizier for Lower Egypt proves how important in

his estimation was the proper execution of the royal commands in the Delta and the lower

reaches of the Nile.  If the vizier of the North lived at Heliopolis, it is quite likely that the

pharaoh had a secondary residence for himself to stay in on his tours of inspection, in

Heliopolis or in a nearby city.

      Archaeological evidence of 18th Dynasty buildings in the Delta.--There is much

evidence that Thutmose III, Amenhotep II, and other pharaohs of the 18th Dynasty did

build extensively in Lower Egypt.  It is a matter of common knowledge that two

magnificent red Aswan granite obelisks erected by Thutmose III in front of the Temple of

Rei in Heliopolis now adorn the Thames Embankment in London and Central Park in

New York City.  In the inscriptions on these obelisks Thutmose called himself "Lord of

Heliopolis."  It is evident, then, that Thutmose III did conduct building operations at

Heliopolis, which is in the Delta.  Also it is possible that Israelite slaves could have been

employed in the building operations known to have been carried out at Memphis by 18th

Dynasty rulers.

But the most pertinent evidence of all comes from Tell Basta, the site of ancient

Bubastis, the Pi-beseth of Ezekiel 30:17.  This city was the key to the Delta, on the

route of all travel to and from Asia, whether by the northern road through Tanis,

Daphne, and Pelusium, or by the



southern road through Heroopolis at the then extended head of the Gulf of Suez.  It was

an important position to hold. So strategic was it that the first of the Libyan kings of the

22nd Dynasty, Sheshonq I (the Biblical Shishak, I Kings 14:25), transferred his residence

to Bubastis.  The Egyptologist Naville worked this site in 1887-1889.  Several important

discoveries of his came from the 18th Dynasty.  The earliest of these was a stone of

Amenhotep II. It is a red granite slab with two panels.  In each panel the king is seen

standing and making offerings to the god Amun-Re' who sits on his throne, and is spoken

of as "he who dwells in Perunefer."7  Seti I of the 19th Dynasty reused this stone when he

built a temple at Bubastis during his own reign.  Naville gave his explanation of Seti's

motive as follows:  "I believe that when he renewed the monuments of Amenophis II he

was actuated by a religious motive, by the desire to propitiate Amon, perhaps at the

moment when he entered on his Asiatic campaigns, for which Bubastis must have been

the starting point" (ibid., p. 31).  Scarabs and remains of a temple built by Amenhotep III

have also been found at Bubastis.

     Records from the life of Amenhotep II.--Clinching evidence appears in the records

about his life that Amenhotep II often resided in or near the Delta.  Thus it would not be

out of place for him, the Pharaoh of the Exodus according to the early date view, to be

staying nearby the "ghetto"of his rebelling slaves.  First of all, we know from a scarab

that Amenhotep II was born at Memphis; thus the court must have resided at Memphis at

some times in his father's reign (the reign of Thutmose III).  Then we know that as a

youth he would often ride from the royal stables in Memphis to such interest spots as the

Sphinx at Giza (ANET, pp.244f). Furthermore, he also built largely at Heliopolis and

gave himself the title "Divine Ruler of Heliopolis.” Best of all, William C. Hayes states

in his recent book; The Scepter of Egypt, concerning Amenhotep II:

    In his youth he had been appointed by his father as commandant of the

principal base and dockyard of the Egyptian navy at Peru-nefer, near Memphis,

where he seems to have maintained large estates and in the vicinity of which he

and his successors appear to have resided for extended periods of time.8


Peru-nefer, according to John Wilson of the Oriental Institute, now seems to have been a

district near Memphis which had among its population Semitic elements with Phoenician

connections.  Thus Amenhotep II does not seem to have been averse to residing near

Semitic peoples in the Delta area.  As the god incarnate he could have stayed in the guest

house of the temple he had erected at Bubastis, for Egyptian temples always had guest

houses for the convenience of the "divine" Pharaoh.  Labib Habachi, a native Egyptian

archaeologist, has recently excavated at Bubastis.  He has found additional evidence that

Amenhotep II erected in Bubastis a building dedicated to its chief deity, the goddess

Bastet.  He also states with regard to Bubastis: "The town was an important place because

it was the point of departure to Sinai and Asia where the king's army and expeditions

used often to go."9

     Other records indicate that Amenhotep II made three military expeditions into Asia,

which came in the third, the seventh, and the ninth years of his reign.  If the Exodus

occurred in 1447 B.C., that would have been the fourth year of Amenhotep's kingship. 

He then would have had about three years to rebuild his army after the disaster suffered

by his crack troops in the engulfing waters of the Red Sea (Exod. 14:6-28).  Bubastis, in

the east-central part of the Delta, would have served well as the military base or staging

area for the Asiatic campaigns of Amen-


14                                                        GRACE JOURNAL


hotep and his father Thutmose III.  Thus I conclude that it was Bubastis at the western

end of the land of Goshen in which Amenhotep, an 18th Dynasty king whose capital was

Thebes, resided during the months of the ten plagues in order to be in close contact with

his insubordinate Hebrew slave laborers.




     1.  Harold Henry Rowley, From Joseph to Joshua ("The Schweich lectures of the

British; Academy," 1948; London: Oxford Univ. Press, 1950), p. 2.

     2.  Jack Finegan, Light from the Ancient Past (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press,

1949), p. 107.

     3.  George Ernest Wright, Biblical Archaeology (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press,

1957), p. 60.

     4.  William Foxwell Albright, From the Stone Age to Christianity (2d ed. with a new

introduction; Doubleday Anchor Books; Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday & Co., 1957), p. 223.

     5.  The ruler from whom Moses fled was a man--"He sought to slay Moses" (Exod.

2:15); thus it could not have been Hatshepsut.  But Thutmose III ruled alone only 34

years.  Moses may have been slightly older than 40 when he broke with the Egyptian

court, and yet near enough to that age so that he could be said to be (approximately) 40

years old.  Compare Luke's statement that Jesus was about thirty years old at the time of

His baptism (Luke 3:23); yet our lord, must have been closer to 33.  The only passage

which states Moses I age at the time of his escape to Sinai is Acts 7:23; literally it says: 

"And when a time of forty years was being filled for him, it came into his heart to visit

his brethren, the sons of Israel."  Instead of the "forty years" referring to his age, it is

possible that the length of Moses' training in all the wisdom of the Egyptians after being

weaned and taken from his mother, is what is meant.  Thus Moses may have been 43 or

more when he fled to Sinai and 77 when Thutmose III died, for the Exodus probably

occurred in the 4th year of Amenhotep II's reign.

    6.  This canal was in use during the 12th Dynasty and was employed by Hatshepsut's

mariners on their voyage from Thebes to Punt in East Africa (James H. Breasted, A

History of Egypt, London:  Hodder & Stoughton, 1912, pp. 118, 276).  The canal emptied

into what is now Lake Timsah near the modern town of Ismailia, proving that the Gulf of

Suez used to extend northward through the Bitter lakes and include lake Timsah.  Thus

the Israelite crossing of the Red Sea took place north of the present port of Suez.

     7.  Edouard Henri Naville, Bubastis ("Eighth Memoir of the Egypt Exploration Fund";

London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co., 1891), p. 30.

     8.  William C. Hayes, The Scepter of Egypt (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Univ. Press

for the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1959), II, 141.

     9.  Labib Habachi, Tell Basta, Supplement aux Annales du Service des Antiquites de

l'Egypte.  Cahier No. 22 (Cairo: 1957), pp. 91, 197.


This material is cited with gracious permission from:

            Grace Theological Seminary

            200 Seminary Dr.

            Winona Lake,  IN   46590

Please report any errors to Ted Hildebrandt at: