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Of Pharaohs and Dates:
Critical Remarks on
the Dating and the Historicity
of the Exodus from Egypt

David Goldstein

Posted July 24, 2006

It would be a cliché to say that the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt appears as a pivotal event in the historical narrative of the Pentateuch and in all later accounts of Israelite and Jewish history presented in traditional Jewish sources. It is, therefore, not surprising that when, a number of years ago, a Conservative rabbi from Los Angeles told his congregants that the Exodus did not happen as it is depicted in the Pentateuch, his comments stirred up a heated debate in Jewish circles in which historical considerations were quickly pushed aside by theological ones. [1] And indeed, separating history from theology in the Exodus question is not an easy task. For example, the Pentateuch's story of the events that led to the Exodus employs, as an integral part, the narrative of the Ten Plagues (Exodus 7:14-12:36). These plagues, starting from the turning of all waters of Egypt into blood and ending with extermination of all firstborn sons of the Egyptians, are obviously presented as miracles worked by the God of the Israelites (with the Egyptian priests succeeding to replicate the first two plagues through sorcery). Critical historical scholarship does not accept reports of miracles and sorcery as trustworthy, out of the philosophical predilection for rational solutions to any given problem. [2] But it would be wrong to claim that historical scholarship disproves the report of miracles -- it simply refuses to consider this category. [3]

Yet even those narratives that employ miraculous elements include, for the most part, details which belong to the mundane world and which form the background for the miraculous occurrences: date, geographical setting, human individuals or collectives that took part in the occurrences, etc. And it is these details that should be considered, first of all, in an attempt to figure out whether a given narrative describes an event that could have taken place in the real world (whatever one is to do with the miraculous elements of the narrative). The present author has already considered one of the fundamental parameters of the Exodus narrative -- the number of the Israelites reported to have taken part in the event, which is not only utterly unrealistic but also contradicts other numbers given in the Bible for some elements of the Israelite population in the period during and immediately after the Exodus. [4] The present essay will consider the date of the Exodus as it appears in the Bible and in other traditional Jewish sources. The starting point for the current discussion will be the article published a decade ago by Jonathan Adler in the journal Jewish Bible Quarterly, which conveniently summarizes the traditional Jewish chronology of the Exodus and ventures to link it to what is known about ancient Egyptian history from ancient Egyptian sources. [5]

Before we set out on the discussion, it is important to note that Adler's presentation is based on the chronology of ancient Egypt which is accepted by modern academic scholarship (and which has not essentially changed, at least for the period relevant to the Exodus narrative, from its original formulation back in the 19th century). The justification for this chronology, as opposed to chronological models created by some other authors who set out to correlate the Exodus narrative with what is known about the history of ancient Egypt, [6] is a presumption that should be argued, in principle, on its own terms. However, for the sake of the present discussion we shall consider the currently accepted academic chronology of ancient Egypt to be sufficiently established [7] (even though due to the nature of the available evidence this chronology is not fully precise, as will be described below).

1. Biblical Chronology or Rabbinic Chronology?

Adler begins his discussion by noting that

Nowhere in the biblical account of the Exodus are we told directly of the date on which it occurred. However, a biblical date for the Exodus can be derived from the book of Genesis, which contains genealogical lists beginning with Adam and ending with the sojourn in Egypt. From these lists, we can calculate the year in which Jacob arrived in Egypt by adding together the ages of each father at the birth of his son (5:3-32, 11:10-26, 21:5, 25:26). This figure works out to the Hebrew year 2238, or the year 1522 B.C.E. A post-biblical source states that the sojourn of the sons of Israel in Egypt lasted for 210 years, the last 86 of which were spent in slavery. Accordingly, the oppression would begin in the year 1398 B.C.E., and the Exodus would come in the year 1312 B.C.E. [8]

Unfortunately, this statement is partially wrong and partially as cumbersome as traveling from London to Bristol via Paris. First, there is no need to go to a "post-biblical source" (i.e., the midrash Seder Olam Rabbah, as mentioned by Adler himself in a footnote to the above passage) in order to link the date of the Exodus to the date of the Israelites' arrival into Egypt, as described in the book of Genesis. The verse Exodus 12:40 notes explicitly: "Now the time that the children of Israel dwelt in Egypt was four hundred and thirty years." The rabbis of the first centuries of the Common Era, for reasons that are not entirely clear, came up with the notion that the Israelites' sojourn in Egypt lasted mere 210 years instead of 430, and interpreted the count of 430 years as starting from the covenant which God had made with Abraham in Genesis 15 (Seder Olam Rabbah, chapter 1). [9] Yet Exodus 12:40 speaks of "the time that the children of Israel dwelt in Egypt." And given that Israel is another name of Jacob, Abraham's grandson (see Genesis 32:29, 35:10), the count of 430 years cannot reasonably have its starting point at Abraham's covenant, made before Jacob himself was born. Of course, Adler is free to prefer the chronology of Seder Olam Rabbah to the chronological data spelled out explicitly in the Bible (even though such preference is quite unreasonable in itself, given the fact that, whatever the precise date of its composition, the book of Exodus is still centuries closer to the period which it purports to describe than Seder Olam Rabbah). But it is misleading to present the chronology derived from a rabbinic midrash as basis for "a biblical date for the Exodus."

Moreover, the very equation of "the Hebrew year 2238" with the year 1522 B.C.E. has very little to do with the Bible. It is based on the present-day Jewish calendar counting years "from the Creation of the world," which is based, in turn, on the chronology of Seder Olam Rabbah and which equates the year of the Creation with 3760 B.C.E. On the other hand, the Bible itself allows calculating the date of the Creation of the world, once the chronology presented in the Bible's historical narrative can be fixed in terms of absolute dating (i.e., with relation to the Common Era) based on sources independent of the Bible.

The vantage point for such fixation is the book of Kings, which frequently mentions encounters between the kings of ancient Israel and Judah and the kings of Assyria, whose reigns in the relevant historical period can be dated with certainty. The certainty of Assyrian dates derives from the fact that Assyrian historical records include the date of a solar eclipse observed in the Assyrian capital of Nineveh. This eclipse has been dated, through astronomical calculations, to June 15, 763 BCE, and this dating provides a benchmark for establishing all Assyrian dates of the 9th-7th centuries BCE with relation to the Common Era. [10]

Now, one of the historical inscriptions of the Assyrian king Shalmaneser III (858-824 BCE), tells that in the 6th year of his reign (853 BCE) Shalmaneser III fought against a coalition of kings from the general area of the eastern Mediterranean coast, which included Ahab king of Israel. Another inscription of Shalmaneser III tells that in the 18th year of his reign (841 BCE) the Assyrian king received tribute from Jehu king of Israel. [11] On the other hand, the biblical book of Kings tells that the kingdom of Israel was ruled 22 years by Ahab (I Kings 16:29), then 2 years by Ahaziah son of Ahab (I Kings 22:52), then 12 years by Jehoram, another son of Ahab (II Kings 3:1), and then 28 years by Jehu (II Kings 10:36). At first sight this sequence presents a problem, for even if we suppose that Ahab died the same year he fought against Shalmaneser III and that Jehu paid tribute to Shalmaneser III immediately upon his accession to the throne of Israel, we are still left with a period of 12 regnal years of Shalmaneser III (from his 6th to his 18th year of reign) which corresponds to 14 regnal years in the kingdom of Israel (2 years of Ahaziah and 12 years of Jehoram). This problem, however, is solved by the simple assumption that in the royal chronology of the kingdom of Israel, if a king died in the midst of a calendar year, that year was counted as both the last year of the dead king's reign and the first year of the reign of his successor. Thus, the year of Ahab's death was the 22nd year of his reign and the first year of the reign of Ahaziah; the year of Ahaziah's death was the 2nd year of his reign and the first year of the reign of Jehoram; and the year of Jehoram's death was the 12th year of Jehoram's reign and the first year of the reign of Jehu. [12] But this solution still requires that the year 853 BCE be considered as the year of Ahab's death and the year 841 BCE be considered as the year of Jehu's rise to power.

Hence, given the unbroken chronology of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah detailed in the book of Kings and linked to the chronology of the kingdom of David and Solomon which extended over all the Israelite tribes (and the partition of which brought the kingdoms of Israel and Judah into existence), absolute dates for the period of the Israelite monarchies can be established based on biblical and Assyrian data. To be sure, there are minor inconsistencies in the biblical chronology itself, but these amount to a few years at most and can be solved without much difficulty. [13] In any event, the date of c. 931 BCE for the partition of Solomon's kingdom and c. 971 BCE for the beginning of Solomon's forty year long reign (I Kings 11:42) can be established with reasonable certainty. [14] Then I Kings 6:1 specifies that the Jerusalem Temple was built in the 4th regnal year of Solomon, 480 years after the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt. Thus, the biblical date for the Exodus (as distinct from the rabbinic date) would be c. 1447 BCE.

However, things are not so simple. For in fact, beside the summary figure of 480 years from the Exodus to the building of the Jerusalem Temple -- which equals 476 years from the Exodus to the enthronement of Solomon -- the Bible provides more detailed chronological data for the same period. The bulk of these data comes from the book of Judges, which lists the alternating periods of alien domination over Israel and independent rule by Israelite judges, with the total length of these periods adding up to at least 410 years. [15] The period bridging between the Exodus and the commencement of the era of the Judges (with the death of Joshua the son of Nun) comprises 40 years of the Israelites' wanderings in the desert prior to the arrival to the eastern bank of the Jordan river (Exodus 16:35, Numbers 14:33-34, 32:13, Deuteronomy 1:3, 2:7, 8:2-4, 29:4) and the leadership of Joshua, which must have lasted at least 5 years. [16] The period bridging between the end of the era of the Judges (as described in the book of Judges) and the enthronement of Solomon comprises 40 years of the leadership of Eli (I Samuel 4:18), 20 years of the people following the Lord under Samuel (I Samuel 7:2), 2 years of Saul's reign (I Samuel 13:1), [17] and 40 years of David's reign (II Samuel 5:4). So, according to these detailed chronological data, the period from the Exodus to the enthronement of Solomon must have spanned at least 40 + 5 + 410 + 40 + 20 + 2 + 40 = 557 years, which would place the Exodus c. 1528 BCE.

Thus, there is a discrepancy of 81 years between the two biblical dates for the Exodus, and the later of these dates (1447 BCE) is 135 years earlier than the rabbinic date for the Exodus, based on Seder Olam Rabbah (1312 BCE). These discrepancies should be always kept in mind. However, since the article by Jonathan Adler, which forms the starting point of this essay, operates with the rabbinic date of 1312 BCE (and was intended, in fact, to demonstrate this date as the most likely one based on the present-day knowledge of the history of ancient Egypt), [18] our discussion will center on this date.

2. Amenhotep III -- the Pharaoh of the Oppression?
(The Basics of Egyptian Chronology)

How does Adler connect the date of 1312 BCE for the Exodus with the history of ancient Egypt? Since, as he claims, only the last 86 years of the Israelites' sojourn in Egypt were spent in oppression, [19]

the oppression would begin in the year 1398 B.C.E.... Amenhotep III, who reigned 1411-1365 B.C.E., would therefore have been king during the first years of the oppression. Horemheb, whose rule extended c. 1327-1312 BCE, could thus be identified as the pharaoh who reigned at the time of the Exodus. [20]

However, the claim that the Israelites' sojourn in Egypt lasted 86 years exactly and the dating of the reign of Amenhotep III to 1411-1365 B.C.E. are totally baseless. The first claim rests solely on Seder Olam Rabbah, but there it says that "from the death of Levi to the Israelites' Exodus from Egypt [elapsed] 116 years; and the oppression was not longer than this [period], nor shorter than eighty-six years, which is the age of Miriam [at the Exodus]" (Seder Olam Rabbah, chapter 3). Nothing justifies defining the period of oppression as 86 years exactly.

As for the dating of the reign of Amenhotep III, it must be noted that the chronology of ancient Egypt adopted by the present-day scholarship is not and cannot be entirely precise. The most important benchmark for converting the chronological data present in the ancient Egyptian sources into absolute dates (with relation to the Common Era) is the records of the heliacal rising of Sirius (the Dog Star) -- i.e., the rising of this star just before sunrise, after a period of about 1.5 months during which the star is invisible. [21] This heliacal rising occurs at an almost constant point of the solar year, about July 20 of the Julian calendar (even though variation of a few days is possible, due both to the imprecision of the year length of 365.25 days used in the Julian calendar and to the slow motion of the stars through space relative to the sun -- which, in astronomical terms, is defined as the proper motion; in any event, the date of the heliacal rising of Sirius in any given year can be established through astronomical calculations). [22] Since the Egyptian calendar, based on the solar year, was even less precise than the Julian, featuring a uniform year length of 365 days only, the Egyptian date of the heliacal rising of Sirius moved, on average, one day forward in each four years. And during the time span of about 1460 years, the Egyptian date of the heliacal rising of Sirius would move a full year. Since the date of the heliacal rising of Sirius possessed religious significance for the ancient Egyptians, it was observed and recorded by them until the first centuries of the Common Era. [23]

Now, it is known that in the year 139 CE the heliacal rising of Sirius took place on the first day of the Egyptian calendar year. [24] Hence, in principle, one could calculate on astronomical grounds all the Egyptian dates of that year and all the Egyptian dates of all years past and future, once the Egyptian date of the heliacal rising of Sirius in each year were established in terms of the Julian calendar. Then, by comparing the other extant records of Egyptian dates of the heliacal rising of Sirius (which can, on historical considerations, be shown to belong to the second and the first millennia BCE) with the dates calculated on astronomical grounds, one would be able to establish the relevant Egyptian dates in the terms of the Common Era.

In fact, however, things are not that simple. First of all, the visibility of the heliacal rising of Sirius would depend not only on the angle of the star above the horizon, but also on weather conditions and on the visual capability of the observers. Generally it is assumed that the heliacal rising of Sirius would be observed when the star was at the angle of 8.5-9.5 degrees above the horizon; however, the difference of one degree in the angle of Sirius above the horizon corresponds to the difference of about ten years in the astronomically calculated date of the relevant heliacal rising. [25]

More importantly, it is not known where in Egypt each known heliacal rising of Sirius was observed. Thus, the most important datum for the Egyptian chronology of the period relevant to the question of the Exodus (roughly the 16th-13th centuries BCE, comprising the bulk of what Egyptologists call the New Kingdom) appears in the document known as Papyrus Ebers, which records a heliacal rising of Sirius in the 9th regnal year of the king Amenhotep I beside the date of day 9, month 11 of the same year. If one assumes that the date recorded is the date of the heliacal rising as observed in Thebes (located in southern Egypt and housing the royal residence during the relevant historical period), the year in question would fall into the range of 1519-1515 BCE; if one assumes that the rising recorded was observed in Memphis (at the southernmost tip of the Nile Delta, c. 660 km north-north-west from Thebes), the year in question would fall into the range of 1538-1534 BCE. [26]

And finally, the nature of Egyptian astronomical records themselves is not always precisely clear. Thus, in the abovementioned Papyrus Ebers the structure of the calendrical record for the 9th regnal year of Amenhotep I allows, in principle, to relate the heliacal rising of Sirius recorded in that papyrus to the whole month from day 9, month 11, to day 8, month 12, of the Egyptian calendar. This would put the year in question within the range of 1519-1431 BCE if the heliacal rising of Sirius was observed in Thebes, and within the range of 1538-1450 BCE if the heliacal rising was observed in Memphis. [27]

Another group of ancient Egyptian records which allow correlation of Egyptian calendar dates with astronomical data and thus establishment of Egyptian dates in terms of the Common Era are the observations of different phases of the moon (most importantly, the new moon). The main problem in this regard lies in the fact that the Egyptian system of lunar months was construed in such a way that a given phase of the moon, as perceived in the terms of this system, would fall on one and the same day and month of the Egyptian calendar each 25 years. Moreover, 11 and 14 years after a given Egyptian calendar date, the same phase of the moon would fall only one day later or earlier than this date and an error of one day in observation of a new moon is to be allowed due to the possibility of unsuitable weather conditions and poor visual capability of a particular observer. Hence, to utilize fully a record of the Egyptian date of a given phase of the moon, one has to establish beforehand, on other considerations, a rather narrow "slot," within which that Egyptian date could fall. [28]

Fortunately, for a good part of the history of ancient Egypt there are records of Egypt's relations with other powers of the age, whose chronology can be established on its own terms. In the period relevant to the question of the Exodus, these are the records of Egypt's relations with the Hittite kingdom in eastern Anatolia (modern Turkey) and with the kingdoms of Assyria and Babylonia in Mesopotamia (modern Iraq). [29] Then it is possible, in some cases, to track down an event which can be placed within a limited chronological period both in terms of the Egyptian chronology and in terms of the chronology of another ancient kingdom. Such events, called synchronisms, help to relate the Egyptian chronology to the chronologies of other ancient powers.

Thus, concerning Amenhotep III, whom Adler saw as the pharaoh who oppressed the Israelites in Egypt, the diplomatic archive discovered at the Egyptian site of El-Amarna includes letters written to this pharaoh by two kings of Babylon: Kadashman-Enlil I and his successor Burna-Buriash II. [30] One of the letters written by Kadashman-Enlil I expresses the complaint of the Babylonian king that Amenhotep III did not inform him of his "great festival" [31] evidently the festival of the Jubilee (sd), which the Egyptian kings celebrated, for the first time, in the 30th year of their reign. [32] Since the length of the reign of Amenhotep III over Egypt can be established, based on Egyptian sources, as 38 years (or more precisely, 37 years and a few months), [33] it is clear from the abovementioned letters that the death of Kadashman-Enlil I and the enthronement of Burna-Buriash II in Babylon must have taken place between the 30th and the 38th regnal years of Amenhotep III. The date of the enthronement of Burna-Buriash II can be determined, through Mesopotamian historical records, to fall within the period of 1361-1346 BCE. [34] Hence, the 38th regnal year of Amenhotep III must fall within the range of 1361-1338 BCE, and his first regnal year must fall within the period of 1398-1375 BCE. This would not preclude Adler's suggestion that the oppression of the Israelites in Egypt began in 1398 BCE under Amenhotep III, but the dates 1411-1365 BCE, given by Adler for the reign of this pharaoh (46 years total!), are totally unjustified.

However, Adler did not rely on dates only in order to identify the pharaohs of the oppression and of the Exodus, but rather attempted to find explicit positive evidence for his identifications. One piece of evidence he brought for identifying Amenhotep III as the pharaoh of the oppression is the following:

Amenhotep used Semitic slaves for many of his building projects. The fact that the Israelites were among these slaves is attested to by the Egyptian priest and historian Manetho, who lived during the third century B.C.E. Manetho states that Pharaoh Amenhotep, wishing to see the gods, communicated his desire to his namesake Amenhotep son of Papis, a wise, far-seeing man, who told him that he must first clear the whole land of the lepers and other unclean people. Eighty thousand of these people were collected and forced to work in the quarries on the east side of the Nile. Pharaoh Amenhotep set aside the city Avaris for the use of his slaves. Once they were in the city, they revolted against pharaoh and appointed for themselves a ruler whose name was Osarsiph, but who soon changed his name to Moses. This Moses made laws for them that they should not worship the Egyptian gods. He sent to Jerusalem inviting the shepherds there to join with the oppressed people in Avaris in a war against Egypt. As a result, 200,000 came, and this invasion forced Amenhotep to flee to Ethiopia. Eventually, the king returned to Egypt with a large army, joined battle with the shepherds and polluted people, defeated them, and pursued them to the bounds of Syria. [35]

This description by Adler is a paraphrase of Manetho's account as quoted by Josephus Flavius, c. 100 CE, in his work Against Apion (book 1, paragraphs 232-252). Then, in order to buttress his identification of Amenhotep III as the pharaoh of the oppression, Adler proceeded to quote another Egyptian historian, Chaeremon, who lived about 300 years later than Manetho (in the 1st century CE) and also wrote a work on Egyptian history in Greek. In Adler's rendering, Chaeremon's account mentioned that

The goddess Isis appeared to Amenhotep in his sleep and blamed him that her temple had been demolished in the war; but that Phritiphantes the sacred scribe said to him that in case he would purge Egypt of the men that had pollutions upon them, he should no longer be troubled with such frightful apparitions. [36]

This is, indeed, a literal translation from the Greek quotation of Chaeremon provided in Josephus's Against Apion (book 1, paragraph 289), taken from the widely available translation of Josephus's works by William Whiston, an 18th-century English cleric and scholar. Of course, since Whiston's time much text-critical work on the surviving (medieval) Greek manuscripts of Josephus's works has been done, and the Greek style and linguistic usage common in Josephus's time have been somewhat better understood. Hence, better translations of Josephus's works have been published, such as the English translation by Henry St. J. Thackeray, which will be used for quotations from Against Apion throughout this essay. [37] (It has to be noted that the works of both Manetho and Chaeremon did not survive to the present, and these writers' narratives about the oppression of polluted persons in Egypt are known only from their quotations in Josephus's Against Apion.)

However, what is problematic about the translation provided by Adler is not its content (which does not differ significantly from the translation of the same paragraph by Thackeray) but rather the scope of Adler's quotation. For the quotation from Chaeremon, as provided by Josephus, continues (in Thackeray's translation):

The king, thereupon [i.e., upon being advised by Phritiphantes], [38] collected 250,000 afflicted persons and banished them from the country. Their leaders were scribes, Moses and another sacred scribe -- Joseph! Their Egyptian names were Tisithen (for Moses) and Peteseph (Joseph). The exiles on reaching Pelusium fell in with a body of 380,000 persons, left there by Amenophis [Amenhotep], [39] who had refused them permission to cross the Egyptian frontier. With these the exiles concluded an alliance and marched upon Egypt. Amenophis, without waiting for their attack, fled to Ethiopia, leaving his wife pregnant. Concealing herself in some caverns she gave birth to a son named Ramesses, who, on reaching manhood, drove the Jews, to the number of about 200,000, into Syria, and brought home his father Amenophis from Ethiopia. [40]

Beside the numerical inconsistencies and the unreasonably large numbers (the like of which may be found in the Pentateuch itself, or indeed in almost any historical work of antiquity), [41] what strikes the reader immediately in Chaeremon's account is the identification of the polluted exiles' leaders as Moses and Joseph -- in spite of the fact that according to the Pentateuch, Joseph had died a long time before the Exodus. Of course, the historical trustworthiness of the Pentateuchal narrative should be supported by arguments rather than merely assumed. But it is hard to avoid the impression that Adler spared his readers the continuation of Chaeremon's account in order not to cloud by discrepancies the nice picture that he has drawn, in which Greek-writing historians of ancient Egypt support the Pentateuchal narrative of the Exodus and also help to fix that narrative on the historical time-scale in accordance with Adler's chronological calculations based on Seder Olam Rabbah.

To be sure, there are also other discrepancies between the accounts of Manetho and Chaeremon, on the one hand, and the Pentateuchal account of the Exodus on the other hand. Thus, for example, both Manetho and Chaeremon describe the original Jews (whom Chaeremon mentions explicitly by the term Ioudaioi, and Manetho alludes to by mentioning their leader as Moses) as native Egyptians polluted by bodily diseases, while the Pentateuch stresses that the children of Israel were only temporary exiles in Egypt. It is, however, important that another ancient historian writing in Greek, earlier than both Chaeremon and Manetho, provided a similar account of the Exodus but without identifying the people driven out from Egypt as afflicted by a disease. This historian, not mentioned by Adler at all, is Hecataeus of Abdera, active during the late 4th century BCE. Like the works of Manetho and Chaeremon, the writings of Hecataeus did not survive to the present, but the relevant account has been preserved in the work of Diodorus Siculus, a Greek-writing historian active in the 1st century BCE:

When in ancient times a pestilence arose in Egypt, the common people ascribed their troubles to the workings of a divine agency; for indeed with many strangers of all sorts dwelling in their midst and practising different rites of religion and sacrifice, their own traditional observances in honour of the gods had fallen into disuse. Hence the natives of the land surmised that unless they remove the foreigners, their troubles would never be resolved. At once, therefore, the aliens were driven from the country, and the most outstanding and active among them banded together and, as some say, were cast ashore in Greece and certain other regions; their leaders were notable men, chief among them being Danaus and Cadmus. But the greater number were driven into what is now called Judaea, which is not far distant from Egypt and was at that time utterly uninhabited. The colony was headed by a man called Moses, outstanding both for his wisdom and his courage. On taking possession of the land he founded, besides other cities, one that is now the most renowned of all, called Jerusalem. In addition he established the temple that they hold in chief veneration, instituted their forms of worship and ritual, drew up their laws and ordered their political institutions... The sacrifices that he established differ from those of other nations, as does their way of living, for as a result of their own expulsion from Egypt he introduced an unsocial and intolerant mode of life. [42]

It can be easily seen that the account of Hecataeus is both more positive toward the Jews and closer to the Pentateuchal narrative than the accounts of Manetho and Chaeremon. The people driven out of Egypt appear here as foreigners rather than polluted Egyptians, and the mention of a plague which struck Egypt and brought about the expulsion of the foreigners is somewhat reminiscent of the plagues of Egypt described in Exodus 7-12. [43] On the other hand, Hecataeus's narrative was clearly influenced by the traditional Greek motif of colonization: since Moses is the leader who led the Jews out of Egypt, it is only natural that he should have brought them to their destination, established their capital city, formulated their laws and created their religious and political institutions. [44] The characterization of the Jewish way of life as "unsocial and intolerant" is also understandable for a Greek author (stemming from a Greek city on the northern shore of the Aegean), for whom laws inhibiting contacts between different populations -- as between Jews and gentiles in Jewish law -- would seem unnatural. On the other hand, Hecataeus held Moses in high esteem, as evident in his characterization as "outstanding both for his wisdom and his courage."

It is certain that Hecataeus had visited Egypt and received much information on that country from its inhabitants. [45] It is also likely that he had received information on the Jews and Judea (then under the rule of the Greek dynasty of the Ptolemies, based in Egypt) from some Jewish circles connected to the priests of the Jerusalem Temple -- even though his informants would have belonged to the Jewish community of Egypt rather than that of Judea, which Hecataeus had probably never visited. [46] Did Hecataeus's relatively positive description of the Exodus, as compared to those of Manetho and Chaeremon, result from suppressing the overtly negative details that he had learned from his native Egyptian informants (such as the participants of the Exodus having been lepers and other polluted persons)? This is possible (and has been suggested by some scholars [47]), but not very likely.

First, Hecataeus did not limit his account of the Exodus to the Jews but also included as participants Danaus and Cadmus, two of the legendary ancestors of the Greeks. The characterization of the settlers who followed these two into Greece as "the most outstanding and active" is, once again, understandable for a Greek author. But it is not likely that Hecataeus would choose to connect the ancient Greek heroes to an Egyptian tradition that had originally narrated expulsion of polluted persons, even if he suppressed the mention of their pollution in his own account. [48]

Second, there is evidence that in Egypt of the last centuries BCE there existed a tradition, which presented the origin of Judea, along with a number of other countries, in the terms of colonization by people coming from Egypt, without viewing the colonists in negative terms. Such tradition is included in the work of Diodorus Siculus:

Now the Egyptians say that... a great number of colonies were spread from Egypt over all the inhabited world. To Babylon, for instance, colonists were led by Belus, who was held to be son of Poseidon and Libya; and after establishing himself on the Euphrates river he appointed priests, called Chaldaeans by the Babylonians, who were exempt from taxation and free from every kind of service to the state, as are the priests of Egypt; and they also make observations of the stars, following the example of the Egyptian priests, physicists and astrologers. They also say that those who set forth with Danaus, likewise from Egypt, settled what is practically the oldest city of Greece, Argos, and that the nation of the Colchi in Pontus [on the southeastern coast of the Black Sea] and that of the Jews, which lies between Arabia and Syria, were founded as colonies by certain immigrants from their country; and this is the reason why it is a long-established institution among these two peoples to circumcise their male children, the custom having been brought over from Egypt. Even the Athenians, they say, are colonists from Sais in Egypt, and they undertake to offer proofs of such a relationship. [49]

This passage of Diodorus likely derives from the work of Hecataeus of Abdera. [50] But even if the origin of the passage is different, it is explicitly presented as a piece of native Egyptian lore and refers to the Jews in a wholly respectful way, on a par with a number of other peoples who are also said to originate from Egyptian colonists who set out to foreign lands -- including no less than the Athenians themselves. To be sure, Diodorus (or Hecataeus?) disagrees with the claim of Egyptian origin of the Athenians. [51] But in any event, the Egyptian colonists who founded the nation of the Jews are not presented here as polluted, or as expelled by force from Egypt, or as different in any way from the colonists who had founded other nations.

The relation of this tradition to the tradition of expulsion, explicitly quoted by Diodorus in the name of Hecataeus, is not clear. But in any event, it appears that in Egypt of the last centuries BCE there existed a number of different traditions about the Egyptian origin of the Jews, only a part of which (even if a major part) was colored in outspokenly negative tones. Moreover, such negative coloring had probably taken place in specifically polemic contexts, by those authors or story-tellers who resented the presence of foreigners in Egypt. [52] (And it has to be borne in mind that the Jews were one of the most prominent alien communities in Egypt during the last centuries BCE, and the first known conflict between them and native Egyptians dates as early as the last quarter of the 5th century BCE. [53])

Indeed, literary works exhibiting a xenophobic trend were quite common in the Egyptian lore of the last centuries BCE, and not all of them had to do with the Jews. Already in the mid-4th century BCE -- i.e., before the conquest of Egypt by Alexander the Great -- some Egyptian texts described incursions into Egypt by gods associated with Asia, with the invaders being subsequently driven out by important Egyptian deities: Horus and Shu. It stands to reason that in these texts, the historical experience of the conquest and domination of Egypt by the Assyrian kings in the 7th century BCE and by the Persian kings in the 6th-4th centuries BCE is reflected onto a mythological plain. [54]

But there are also texts of plainly historical content directed against foreigners. One of these, the Oracle of the Lamb, is known from a papyrus copy dating to the early 1st century CE and written in Demotic -- the dialect of the ancient Egyptian language that was in use for non-monumental writing at that time. This text relates that during the reign of the king W3h.-k3-r' B3k-n-rnf (known also in the Greek rendering Bocchoris), a lamb prophesized that Egypt would be desecrated by foreign invaders and that the shrines of the gods will be taken to Nineveh and Amurru (Syria). [55] Then, the prophecy continues, a deliverer would arise, bring the shrines of the gods back to Egypt, and make the country prosper. [56] The reign of Bocchoris is to be dated c. 719-714 BCE, [57] but the Oracle of the Lamb must date after the conquest of Egypt by the Assyrian kings Esarhaddon and Assurbanipal, whose capital was Nineveh and whose empire had also included Syria. The Assyrian conquest of Egypt took place in several campaigns from 671 to 663 BCE, and the Oracle of the Lamb is evidently a post factum reference to that conquest. The precise date of the oracle's composition is not clear, but it must have been in circulation in the last centuries BCE. [58]

Another composition resenting the presence of foreigners in Egypt is the Oracle of the Potter, known from Greek papyri of the 2nd-3rd centuries CE discovered in Egypt. Although this oracle is known only in Greek copies, it was, in all likelihood, translated from a Demotic original, and the oracle's content shows it to have been composed during the period when Egypt was ruled by the Greek dynasty of the Ptolemies (323-30 BCE) -- most likely in the 2nd century BCE. The text details prophecies spoken by a potter to King Amenophis. According to these prophecies, alien "girdle-wearers" (Greeks) will conquer the country, defile the Egyptian temples, and introduce their own gods. Then the invaders will be plagued by civil strife, the king of Syria (i.e., of the Syrian-based Greek dynasty of the Seleucids) will invade Egypt, and the Greek ruler of Egypt will flee south to Nubia (modern Sudan) with his court. In the final event, a native Egyptian king will arise, expel the aliens, and purify the country. [59]

In its most common form, the Oracle of the Potter is directed against the Greeks. However, one papyrus has been discovered which, although very fragmentary, employs the same phraseology as the Oracle of the Potter but is directed against the Jews. [60] The anti-Jewish version is too fragmentary to tell whether it was dependent on the anti-Greek version or vice versa, but it offers an important testimony concerning the fluidity of the "rhetorical villains" in Egyptian literature directed against foreigners. And this fluidity, in turn, matches the fluidity of plot in the stories relating to the origin of the Jews in Egypt, which are known from sources written in Greek and which range from Egyptian colonists settling Judea along with several other countries (Diodorus Siculus) to polluted native Egyptians seizing control of Egypt but finally expelled to Syria (Manetho and Chaeremon) [61] to foreigners being expelled from Egypt to Greece and Judea after the country had suffered a plague (Hecataeus of Abdera). [62]

In fact, a similar fluidity also affects the chronological aspect of the stories about the Jews' origin in Egypt. Manetho and Chaeremon, although agreeing that it was King Amenophis who took measures against the polluted persons that turned out to become the original Jews, already disagree on the identity of the king who finally drove them out of Egypt. According to Manetho it was Amenophis himself, while according to Chaeremon, it was his son Ramesses. To be sure, Chaeremon's version makes no sense, since of the eleven Egyptian kings who reigned under the name Ramesses (R'-ms-sw) none was the son and successor of a king named Amenophis (Amenhotep/Imn-h.tp). [63] But as far as the chronology of the relevant historical period is concerned, Manetho does not fare much better.

First, Manetho's list of the Egyptians kings in the historical period relevant to the question of the Exodus is very much confused. [64] Thus, Manetho listed three different kings named Mephres (12 years and 9 months of reign), Mephramuthosis (25 years and 10 months of reign) and Thmosis (9 years and 8 months of reign) [65] -- but these are, in fact, garbled Greek renderings of the throne names of the Egyptian king Thutmosis III (reigned 1479-1425 BCE). [66] Also, Manetho listed as two successive rulers the kings Amenophis and Oros, the first being credited with 31 years of reign and the second with 36-39 years of reign. [67] Yet the only king in the relevant historical period whose reign fits the duration of 36-38 years is Amenhotep III. [68] Thus, it appears that both Oros and his predecessor Amenophis are reflections of one and the same king, Amenhotep III. [69]

Second, the very position of the lepers narrative in Manetho's Egyptian chronology, as presented by Josephus, is dubious. Josephus noted that Manetho had placed the king Amenophis, responsible for the oppression of the polluted persons, after the brothers Hermaeus and Sethos and after Sethos's son Rampses, and then proceeded to argue that the king Amenophis was a fictitious person, insofar as Manetho did not specify the length of his reign (Against Apion, book 1, paragraphs 231-232). [70] However, a few paragraphs later Josephus quoted Manetho as mentioning that the king Amenophis involved in this narrative had a son named Sethos, who was "also called Ramesses after his grandfather Ram(p)ses" (Against Apion, book 1, paragraph 245). [71] On the other hand, earlier in his work, Josephus quotes Manetho speaking about the relations between the king "Sethosis, also called Ramesses" and "his brother Harmais," both being successors of the king Amenophis, who reigned for 19 years and 6 months. Moreover, this Aemnophis is presented as the successor of the king Harmesses Miamun, who was in turn the successor of the king Ramesses (Against Apion, book 1, paragraphs 97-98). [72] Now, it is clear that Harmais and Sethosis, on the one hand, and Hermaeus and Sethos, on the other hand, are variant Greek renderings of the same Egyptian names. [73] So, here we have king Amenophis, whose reign's duration is specified, who has successors (i.e., sons) named Sethos and Harmais, and who is himself second in succession (i.e., grandson) to Ramesses. Thus, it appears that Josephus had mistreated Manetho's original chronology of the leper narrative, and that Manetho himself had placed this narrative in the reign of Amenophis, whose rule lasted for 19 years and 6 months. [74] Whether Josephus's maltreatment of Manetho in this regard was due to his desire to prove Manetho wrong (since Josephus saw the leper narrative as a mere anti-Jewish fable), or to a corrupted source with which he worked (perhaps not a manuscript of Manetho's original work but a later composition paraphrasing Manetho), is not quite clear.

Third, the notion of a king Amenophis having a son named Sethos/Sethosis or a grandfather named Ramesses is plainly wrong. There were four Egyptian kings named Amenophis (Amenhotep) who reigned in the 16th-14th centuries BCE. On the other hand, there were eleven kings named Ramesses who reigned during the period from c. 1300 to c. 1070 BCE, all of them later than the last king named Amenophis. And there were two or three kings that could pass by the Greek name Sethos (two kings named Sety and one named Seth-nakht), but all of them reigned in the 13th-12th centuries BCE, separated by several generations from the last king named Amenophis. [75]

The only element in Manetho's presentation of the lepers narrative which allows it to be connected to the historical Amenhotep III is the mention of the king's advisor as Amenophis son of Paapis [76] (Adler's "Amenhotep son of Papis"), which is easily recognized as a Greek rendering of the name of Imn-h.tp s3 p3-H.p (Amenhotep son of Hapu), who is known as one of the chief officials of Amenhotep III. [77] However, the fame of Amenhotep son of Hapu was so great that he was remembered long after the reign of Amenhotep III, and was even venerated as a god in the city of Thebes and its vicinity (in southern Egypt). This veneration, which is especially well documented in the last centuries BCE, included shrines dedicated to Amenhotep son of Hapu, with priests and prophets officiating in them, cultic objects being donated to Amenhotep son of Hapu by worshippers, and even prayers and queries about future events being addressed to him. [78] On the other hand, the historical circumstances of his activity as an official of Amenhotep III were not forgotten, and a statue of Amenhotep son of Hapu, erected c. 250 BCE and discovered in Karnak (one of the sacred precincts of Thebes), bears an inscription mentioning the royal patron of this official, the favor which the king had shown to the official and the official's due performance of his duties. [79]

Thus, if during the last centuries BCE there existed in Egypt a tradition about some events connected with the reign of Amenhotep III, it would be only natural if the figure of Amenhotep son of Hapu were also added to this tradition. Theoretically, the opposite would be possible as well (i.e., the name of Amenhotep III being added to a tradition that had initially referred only to Amenhotep son of Hapu), but the fact that Chaeremon, in an account substantially similar to that of Manetho, mentions king Amenophis but names his counselor as Phritiphantes or Phritobautes (which is itself a title rather than a name), [80] suggests that the name of king Amenhotep is more original to this tradition than the name of his counselor. In any event, while the mention of Amenhotep son of Hapu by Manetho implies that the lepers narrative is indeed connected with Amenhotep III (despite Josephus's protest about the fictitious nature of the king involved in this narrative and despite Manetho's probably incorrect placement of this narrative in his own chronology of Egypt), this mention is not enough to prove the historical veracity and to provide a trustworthy date for the narrative's composition.

Moreover, while Manetho and Chaeremon agree in connecting the oppression of lepers and other polluted persons to the reign of a king named Amenophis, no specific king at all is mentioned by Hecataeus of Abdera as responsible for the expulsion of the foreigners that came to populate Judea and Greece. And another Egyptian author writing in Greek in the last centuries BCE -- Lysimachus [81] -- mentioned the origin of the Jews as persons afflicted by leprosy, scurvy and other diseases, whom a king of Egypt had expelled from the country (thus agreeing, in essence, with Manetho and Chaeremon), but identified that king as Bocchoris. So Lysimachus's account implies that the expulsion of "impure and impious persons" from Egypt took place in the penultimate decade of the 8th century BCE! [82]

Of course, such a late date for the Israelites' oppression in Egypt and for the Exodus cannot be accepted, since by the reign of Bocchoris the kingdoms of Israel and Judah had been already in existence in Canaan for about two centuries. But given the fluidity of chronological details in the different stories contained in Greek sources about the origin of the Jews in Egypt, the fluidity of plot in these stories, and the fact that these stories form a part of a larger corpus of texts and traditions of the last centuries BCE resenting the presence of foreigners (not necessarily Jews) in Egypt, it is difficult to single out a specific version that can be defined as trustworthy, to the exclusion of others, in its historical and chronological details. In other words, the accounts by Manetho and Chaeremon do not constitute sufficient evidence to identify the pharaoh of the oppression, or of the Exodus, as Amenhotep III.

Beside the accounts of Manetho and Chaeremon, Adler claimed to present another line of evidence suggesting that Amenhotep III was the pharaoh of the oppression:

Toward the end of his reign, Amenhotep grew ill. In statues and bas-reliefs he is portrayed in a very unflattering manner, as rather obese. A medieval quasi-historical work speaks of the illness of the pharaoh of the oppression during the last years. After a few years he died, and was succeeded by his son named Adikham. Adikham is described in this book as being fat, "with a very long face." This is an amazingly accurate description of Akhenaten, the son and successor of Amenhotep III. Akhenaten suffered from a rare endocrinological disease, which gave him the grotesque appearance described in this work. In all of his statues, Akhenaten is portrayed with large thighs, a protruding belly, a sunken chest and a long narrow face. This description thus supports the theory that the pharaoh of the oppression was, indeed, Amenhotep III. [83]

However, this claim of Adler's is based on a selective utilization of the artistic style of sculptural and relief representations of Amenhotep III during the final years of his reign, and on a plain distortion of the "medieval quasi-historical work" to which Adler refers.

The artistic representations of Amenhotep III dating after the 30th year of his reign do indeed tend to show the middle part of the king's body as relatively shorter and thicker than it appears in earlier representations. However, this is only a part of the picture. W. Raymond Johnson, in his detailed and most up-to-date study of the works of visual art representing Amenhotep III, described the artistic style of the final eight years of his reign as follows:

Amenhotep's face is now more youthful looking, with an exaggerated, overlarge eye that dominates the face. His body is often bent forward slightly at the waist. His legs are longer, at the expense of his midsection, which is shorter and thicker, and his belt is three times its normal width at the back. [84]

The youthful-looking representations of Amenhotep III during the final phase of his reign cannot substantiate the assumption of his illness during this period. To be sure, this artistic style had probably more to do with a propagandist tendency, intended to glorify the king, than with the king's physiological conditions. [85] But the works of visual art from the final years of reign of Amenhotep III cannot be used to support Adler's theory.

The "medieval quasi-historical work" mentioned by Adler is Sefer Ha-Yashar, [86] a compilation which purports to supplement the historical narrative of the Pentateuch by telling about events that are related in some way to the events described in that narrative. However, this compilation dates to the 11th-12th centuries CE, [87] and any information supplied therein about the occurrences of the Exodus -- about 2500 years before the Sefer Ha-Yashar was composed -- should be viewed with extreme skepticism.

Worse yet, Adler's claim quoted above is a distortion of Sefer Ha-Yashar. Here is what Sefer Ha-Yashar really says about the physical appearance of the son of the pharaoh of the oppression (whose name is actually Adiqam rather than Adikham): [88]

Adiqam was a shrewd and a clever man, skilled in all the wisdom of Egypt. However, he had a very bad appearance and was very fat and low, his height being a cubit and a finger...

Now, Adiqam had a very bad appearance. He was a cubit and a finger high, and his beard descended to the ankles of his legs. [89]

Thus, although the son of the pharaoh of the oppression is portrayed as very short and fat, it is not his face but his beard (Hebrew zaqan) that is described as extremely long. Not only does this have nothing to do with the artistic representations of Akhenaten (also known as Amenhotep IV) in the visual arts of his period, [90] but it is well known that the pharaohs of Egypt were clean shaved, due to considerations of ritual purity. [91] In some circumstances, they wore a fake ceremonial beard, but that descended to the upper chest and not lower. [92] And of course, Akhenaten is never represented as short as Sefer Ha-Yashar portrays Adiqam (c. 50 cm).

In short, Adler's identification of Amenhotep III as the pharaoh who oppressed the Israelites in Egypt is unsubstantiated.

3. Horemheb -- the Pharaoh of the Exodus?

As noted above, the Egyptian king whom Adler identified as the pharaoh of the Exodus was Horemheb. To support this identification, Adler presented the following argument:

The year 1312 B.C.E., which we have proposed to be the year of the Exodus, came at the end of the reign of Horemheb. Fascinating material which points to Horemheb's identity as the pharaoh of the Exodus can be found in his tomb in the Valley of the Kings. In 1908, when Horemheb's tomb was discovered, it was found in great disarray. The stone chips from the construction of the tomb lay in huge mounds on the floor of the tomb. Many of the reliefs on the walls of the tomb had been left only partially completed. It seemed as if all work on the tomb had stopped abruptly for some unknown reason. The one thing that is conspicuously absent from the tomb is the mummy of Horemheb himself!

As was the practice of the kings of the Eighteenth Dynasty [of ancient Egypt], Horemheb began the construction of his tomb in the early years of his reign. The construction of his tomb continued until his death, which, as can be seen from the condition of his tomb, was sudden, and occurred in the midst of chaotic times...

Since the death of the pharaoh of the Exodus was sudden and unexpected, it can be assumed that his tomb was not completed at his death. It is probable that the events immediately preceding the Exodus would have caused a cessation to the building of pharaoh's tomb. Since Pharaoh Horemheb never made it to his tomb, there would be little reason for his workmen ever to complete the construction of his tomb.

The partially completed bas-reliefs and stone chips in the tomb of Horemheb may well have been left in the confusion of the Exodus. The tomb would then have been abandoned when Horemheb never returned from pursuing the Israelites. The strange fact that Horemheb's mummy has never been found would thus be explained by the biblical account of pharaoh's defeat at the Red Sea. [93]

On the chronological side, the benchmark for calculating the date of the end of Horemheb's reign is the reign of Ramesses II. This pharaoh's reign had lasted for 67 years (or actually, 66 years and a few months), [94] and on historical considerations, must have begun c. 1300 BCE and ended before c. 1200 BCE. Given these limitations, an extant record of a New Moon on day 27, month 6, year 52 of the reign of Ramesses II can correspond only to one of the three following dates of the Julian calendar: December 25, 1253 BCE; December 22; 1239 BCE; and December 19, 1228 BCE. This means, in turn, that the reign of Ramesses II must have begun in 1304, 1290 or 1279 BCE. [95]

Now, it is known that Ramesses II waged a war against the Hittite kingdom, based in eastern Anatolia. The most important battle of this war took place in the 5th regnal year of Ramesses II, near the Syrian city of Qadesh, and the Hittite king of that time was Muwatali II. The Hittite king died a year or two after the battle of Qadesh and was succeeded by his son Urhi-Teshub, who after a reign of 6-7 years was dethroned by his uncle Hattushili III and found refuge in Egypt (Ramesses II must have understood that by harboring an enemy of yesterday but an opponent of the reigning Hittite king at present, he gained a precious opportunity to foment internal strife in the enemy kingdom). However, in the 21st regnal year of Ramesses II, the Egyptian-Hittite hostilities came to an end, and a peace treaty was concluded between Ramesses II and Hattushili III.

On the other hand, at the site of Hattusha, the Hittite capital, there was found a copy of a cuneiform letter written by Hattushili III to Kadashman-Enlil II, king of Babylon. In this letter, Hattushili III resented the fact that Kadashman-enlil had received in his court a messenger of the king of Egypt, and pointed out to the Babylonian king that his father, Kadashman-turgu, had offered Hattushili III military help in his struggle against Egypt. Both the offer of Kadashman-turgu and the reception of the Egyptian messenger by Kadashman-Enlil II, which roused the anger of Hattushili III, must have taken place before the end of the Egyptian-Hittite hostilities. And since Hattushili III could not rise to the Hittite throne before the 12th regnal year of Ramesses II, the death of Kadashman-turgu and the enthronement of Kadashman-Enlil II in Babylon must have taken place between the 12th and the 21st regnal years of Ramesses II.

The date of the enthronement of Kadashman-enlil II can be determined, through Mesopotamian historical records, to fall within the period of 1262-1250 BCE. On this basis, the reign of Ramesses II over Egypt must have begun within the period of 1282-1261 BCE. And correspondingly, using the three possibilities indicated by the New Moon date from the 52nd regnal year of Ramesses II, his enthronement can be dated to 1279 BCE. [96]

The length of the reign of the father of Ramesses II, Sety (Sethos) I, is not entirely clear. Of the extant documents dated to his reign, the latest is dated to the 11th regnal year, but some scholars suggested, on the basis of biographical data in an inscription of a priest active during the reigns of Sety I and Ramesses II, that Sety I had reigned 15 years at least. In any event, it is very unlikely that Sety I reigned more than 15 years. For Ramesses I, the father of Sety I and the immediate successor (though no relative) of Horemheb, the highest date attested in documents from the time of his reign is the 2nd regnal year. Thus, the enthronement of Sety I should be dated, at the earliest, 15 years before the enthronement of Ramesses II -- that is, to 1294 BCE; and the enthronement of Ramesses I should be dated, at the earliest, two years earlier -- that is, to 1296 BCE. [97] The latter must be also the earliest date for the death of Horemheb, which is considerably later than the date of 1312 BCE as given by Adler.

However, even beside the chronological aspect, Adler's argument for identifying Horemheb as the pharaoh of the Exodus is flawed. To be sure, the condition in which Horemheb's tomb in the Valley of the Kings near Thebes (the tomb KV57) was discovered, suggests that the pharaoh had died before the decoration of his tomb was completed. [98] But this tells nothing of the circumstances of the pharaoh's death. On the other hand, the granite sarcophagus of Horemheb was found inside the tomb, as were some pieces of wood (cedar and acacia) inscribed with one of the king's throne names that had evidently belonged to a wooden coffin, in which the king's mummy was placed and which was placed inside the granite sarcophagus. Moreover, in the same tomb were found remains of an alabaster canopic chest -- a box that in Egyptian burials bore the internal organs of a dead person, which were removed from the body before mummification and embalmed separately. [99] Likewise, when tomb KV57 was discovered in 1908, its burial chamber was found to contain the remains of a number of dismembered skeletons.

These finds suggest that not only the mummy of Horemheb had been initially interred in the tomb, but the tomb also served for some time as a cache, into which mummies of other kings or members of royal families were moved. [100] Although one might expect the movement of mummies to be intended to protect them from tomb robbers (whose activity was common in ancient Egypt), there is evidence that the movement was in fact carried out on orders of the high priests of the god Amun in Thebes, in the late 11th century BCE, when these priests turned into actual rulers of southern Egypt and found the treasures interred in tombs to be a rich source of income for their regime. The tombs of kings, members of royal families and high officials in the vicinity of Thebes were emptied of their mummies, the mummies moved into other tombs for preservation, and the original tombs mined for valuable items by officials of the high priestly administration. [101] However, judging by the state of disarray in which the tomb KV57 was discovered by Theodore M. Davis in 1908, this tomb had been hit by ordinary robbers, who, among other things, dismembered the mummies interred there, evidently in search of amulets of gold and precious stone placed within the linen wrappings of the mummies. [102]

Moreover, two of the four graffiti discovered on the walls of the tomb KV57 explicitly refer to it as the tomb or the burial of Djeserkhepr(u)re-setepenre -- one of the throne names of Horemheb. And one of these two graffiti speaks of either moving something into the burial or of investigating something that took place in the burial (the uncertainty being due to the fact that it is unclear whether a particular sign of the Egyptian hieratic writing appearing in the graffito is to be read as the verb f3i = "to move, carry" or as the verb šni = "to ask, investigate"). If the graffito speaks of moving, the reference is likely to the moving of other mummies beside that of Horemheb into the tomb; and if the graffito speaks of investigation, the investigation must have taken place after the fact of tomb robbery was discovered. [103]

In any event, there is no doubt that the mummy of Horemheb had been originally interred in the tomb. So, if Adler trusts the statement in Exodus 14:28 that during the Egyptians' pursuit of the Israelites fleeing through the dried sea bottom, "the waters returned, and covered the chariots, and the horsemen, even all the host of Pharaoh that went after them into the sea; there remained not so much as one of them" -- which implies that the pharaoh himself had also died on the seabed -- then Horemheb could not have been the pharaoh of the Exodus.

4. Ramesses II, Merneptah, and the Israelites in Canaan

Beside the attempts to identify the pharaohs of the oppression and of the Exodus, Adler uses the following argument to support the rabbinic date of 1312 BCE for the Exodus:

In 1288 B.C.E., Ramses II led a large Egyptian force into Canaan and Syria. After plundering and looting the Canaanite cities, Ramses returned to Egypt around the year 1275 B.C.E. As neither the Egyptian records nor the Book of Judges records an encounter between the Israelites and the Egyptians, it is reasonable to accept that the Israelites were not in Canaan at this time. The year 1274 B.C.E. is, therefore, the earliest possible date for the entry into Canaan. Accordingly, the earliest possible date for the Exodus is the year 1314 B.C.E.

The Merneptah Stele, which commemorates the victories of Pharaoh Merneptah, gives us clues for determining the latest possible date for the Exodus. According to this stele, the nation of Israel was settled in Canaan by the year 1223 B.C.E. By subtracting 40 years for the traveling in the desert, we arrive at the year 1263 B.C.E. as the latest possible date for the Exodus. Thus, the suggested date for the Exodus, 1312 B.C.E., conforms fairly well with the dates recorded in Egyptian sources. [104]

Once again, Adler's view of Egyptian chronology is rather confused. But at least this passage refers to the datum which is indeed of pivotal significance for pinpointing the emergence of ancient Israel -- the Merneptah Stele. The text of this stele, discovered over a century ago in Thebes, is a victory hymn, glorifying the triumph of Merneptah, the son and successor of Ramesses II on the throne of Egypt, over some Libyan tribes. [105] However, the final section of the hymn, which speaks of Merneptah's achievements on the wider international scene, includes the following passage:

Plundered is the Canaan with every evil;
Carried off is Ashkelon, seized upon is Gezer;
Israel is laid waste, his seed is not;
Hurru is become a widow for Egypt!
All lands together, they are pacified;
Everyone who was restless, he has been bound. [106]

This is the earliest mention of Israel in an ancient source outside the Bible, but here the name of Israel appears in a geographical context that is decidedly Canaanite: Ashkelon, Gezer, and Yanoam are cities in Canaan, and Hurru is one of the Egyptian terms for Canaan. [107] The ancient Egyptian writing system made use of determinatives -- signs that were used not to render the sounds of a particular word but to mark the generic category to which that word belonged. Now, the names of Canaanite cities, and also the names of settled peoples outside Canaan, appear in the Merneptah Stele with the determinative used for designating foreignness (a graphic representation of a throw-stick) and the determinative used for designating foreign lands (a graphic representation of three hills), which implies that the composer of Merneptah's victory hymn perceived the relevant names as names referring to specific territories. On the other hand, the name of Israel appears with the determinative designating foreignness and the determinative designating a population (composition of a graphic representation of seated man and woman with three vertical lines signifying plurality), but lacks the determinative designating a foreign land. This gives reason to conclude that at the time when the Merneptah Stele was written, Israel was a population still in the process of settlement in Canaan, not yet possessing a territory with more or less definite limits and a governing center. [108] However, it is impossible to conclude from this whether the population of Israel had originated in Egypt or elsewhere.

The line "Israel is laid waste, his seed is not" is ambiguous: it is not clear whether the noun prt = "seed" refers to Israel's progeny or crops. However, given the other uses of this term in the victory boasts of Egyptian royal inscriptions of the 15th-13th centuries BCE, and the use in the Merneptah Stele of the verb fk = "to lay waste" (which usually refers to making a land empty of harvest), it is more likely that the stele speaks of extermination of Israel's crops. [109] And this, in turn, implies that although still in the process of settlement, the population of Israel practiced some form of crop-raising at the time when the Merneptah Stele was written.

In any event, the opening line of the Merneptah Stele bears the date "Year 5" of Merneptah's reign. [110] Merneptah ascended to the throne with the death of his father, Ramesses II, which took place in the latter's 67th regnal year. Since, as mentioned above, Ramesses II became king in 1279 BCE, the enthronement of Merneptah took place in 1213 BCE, and his stele with the victory hymn was written in 1208 BCE. Thus, the population of Israel must have existed in Canaan by the year 1208 BCE, and not 1223 BCE as specified by Adler.

As for the military campaigns of Ramesses II in Canaan, it is not clear from Adler's description what made him date the beginning of those campaigns to 1288 BCE, nor why he dated their end to 1275 BCE. Worse yet, Adler's description implies that during the whole period of 1288-1275 BCE Ramesses II was on a prolonged leave from Egypt, ceaselessly roaming with his army over Canaan. Nothing could be further from the truth. For indeed, while the campaigns of Ramesses II in Canaan are well attested in his inscriptions, those were yearly campaigns - meaning that in a given year, the Egyptian army moved into Canaan, fought some battles, and then, within a few months, returned to Egypt. The first of these campaigns is attested in a badly preserved stele of Ramesses II, discovered at the mouth of the Nahr el-Kalb river (in Lebanon, north of Beirut) and bearing the date "Year 4." [111] The second campaign, which culminated in a battle with the army of the Hittite kingdom near the city of Qadesh on the river Orontes (modern Tell Nebi Mend, near the Syrian-Lebanese border), is much better attested, for it became the subject of a lengthy poetic text inscribed on the walls of several major temples in Egypt. This campaign, which occurred during the 5th regnal year of Ramesses II, is duly described in the text as the pharaoh's "second victorious campaign" (even though in reality, the result must have been a stalemate rather than a victory, and the Egyptians should have been happy to escape a total defeat). [112] The Egyptian text specifies explicitly that the campaign began with Ramesses II and his army setting out from the fortress of Sile, on the northeastern tip of the Nile Delta facing Sinai, and it took the Egyptian army a whole month to arrive at Qadesh. [113] Another campaign must have taken place in the 8th regnal year of Ramesses II, since the captions to several reliefs on the walls of this pharaoh's memorial temple at Thebes mention a number of Canaanite cities subjugated in that year. [114] The chronology of later campaigns of Ramesses II in Canaan is not at all clear, but it appears that some such campaigns took place between the regnal years 10 and 18. [115]

The chronological distance between the regnal years 4 and 18 being 14 years, almost the same as the distance between the years 1288 and 1275 BCE, it appears that it was this period of Ramesses II's reign which Adler had in mind. But then again, since the reign of Ramesses II commenced in 1279 BCE, his military campaigns in Canaan must have taken place within the years 1276-1262 BCE. And on the other hand, the rabbinic date of 1312 BCE for the Exodus implies that the Israelites' entry into Canaan must have taken place in 1272 BCE, after a forty year period of desert wanderings. To be sure, the Egyptian royal inscriptions speaking of the campaigns of Ramesses II in Canaan after his 5th regnal year are rather brief and scanty, so the fact that Israel is not mentioned in these inscriptions cannot be of much significance. But the fact that the book of Joshua, detailing the Israelites' campaigns in Canaan (which must have spanned at least five years [116]), fails to make any mention of the Egyptian troops that were campaigning in Canaan after 1272 BCE, does indeed cast doubt on the historical veracity of the book of Joshua.

However, there is a more important detail of the reign of Ramesses II which allows us to set the earliest limit for the date of the Exodus, based on the historical narrative of the Pentateuch itself. Exodus 1:11 mentions that the Israelites had built for the pharaoh store-cities, Pithom and Ra'amses. It is clear that the Hebrew form Ra'amses is a rendering of the Egyptian name Ramesses (R'-ms-s(w)). And Egyptian cities were called by the name of Ramesses only beginning with the reign of Ramesses II. Moreover, Ramesses II had built a new royal capital, Pi-Ramesse (Pr-R'-ms-s(w)), in the northeastern tip of the Nile Delta, at the site known presently as Qantara (adjacent to the more ancient site of Avaris, modern Tell el-Dab'a). This capital was, in all likelihood, equipped with massive storehouses, and is evidently the city mentioned in Exodus 1:11 as Ra'amses. [117] But this implies that the Exodus could not have taken place before the beginning of the reign of Ramesses II -- i.e., before 1279 BCE. And this, of course, contradicts the rabbinic date of 1312 BCE for the Exodus. [118]

Moreover, if the narrative of the plagues which Egypt suffered before the Exodus is accepted as historically true, then at the time of the Exodus Egypt must have suffered considerable economical damage, with much of the livestock of Egypt destroyed by the plagues of murrain and hail (Exodus 9:3-7, 19-25), and all the crops of Egypt destroyed by the plagues of hail and locusts (Exodus 9:22-32; 10:4-15). [119] Also, when the Israelites had finally left Egypt, the pharaoh pursued them with all the chariot forces of Egypt, [120] up to the shore of the sea, whose waters parted to let the Israelites pass through but turned back over the Egyptian chariot force when it attempted to follow the way (Exodus 14:5-31). The Pentateuch stresses that "the waters returned, and covered the chariots, and the horsemen, even all the host of Pharaoh that went in after them into the sea; there remained not so much as one of them" (Exodus 14:31). Later, in the book of Deuteronomy, Moses is portrayed recalling the passage through the sea and urging the Israelites to remember "what he [God] did to the army of Egypt, to their horses, and to their chariots; how he made the waters of the Sea of Reeds [Heb. yam suf] to overflow them as they pursued after you, so that the Lord has destroyed them until this day" (Deuteronomy 11:4). Since it would be self-evident that those drowned in the sea were destroyed forever, Moses' statement must apply not specifically to those charioteers who found their death on the seabed, but to the military strength of Egypt as such, at least in the terms of chariot forces. [121]

Now, during the first half of the reign of Ramesses II Egypt was involved in a protracted conflict with the Hittite kingdom, which had initially centered on the boundary between the possessions of the two empires in Syria and Lebanon, but took an unexpected turn about a decade after the battle of Qadesh. At that time, the Hittite king Urhi-Teshub, who bore the throne name Murshili (III), was dethroned by his uncle, Hattushili III, and exiled to one of the vassal states of the Hittite kingdom in Syria. After some more political intriguing on his side, which was discovered by Hattushili III, Urhi-Teshub had to flee for his life and found a refuge in Egypt, in the court of his enemy of yesteryear, who must have recognized the opportunity, now opened to him, to undermine the political stability in the Hittite kingdom by housing a claimant to the Hittite throne.

Hattushili III, on his side, also recognizing the threat which Urhi-Teshub continued to pose to him, demanded of Ramesses II the extradition of the fugitive ex-king, and had every reason to prepare for war against Egypt -- except that at about the same time, the kingdom of Assyria annexed the kingdom of Hanigalbat (Mitanni), located in the region of Upper Euphrates, and now the Assyrian armies stood on the very borders of the Hittite kingdom and its Syrian vassals. This happened in about the 18th regnal year of Ramesses II (1262 BCE), and evidently brought the Hittite king to realize that he could not fight on several fronts and that the Assyrian threat was more pressing than the Egyptian. So, negotiations for peace with Egypt were started, and in the 21st regnal year of Ramesses II (1259 BCE) a peace agreement between the Hittite kingdom and Egypt was concluded. [122]

Now, if Egypt had been struck by the plagues as described in the book of Exodus and lost all its chariot force in pursuit of the fleeing Israelites without being able to recover it for 40 years, as Moses' words in Deuteronomy 11:4 imply, then it would hardly be able to mobilize an army for military campaigns in Canaan from the 4th to the 18th regnal years of Ramesses II (including the battle of Qadesh in the 5th regnal year). Nor would Hattushili III give much regard to the Egyptian political stand during the crisis around Urhi-Teshub and the following negotiations for peace; with Egypt devastated by plagues and deprived of chariot-force, nothing would prevent the Hittite king from robbing Egypt of all its possessions in Canaan at least, or even sending an army into Egypt to bring Urhi-Teshub back by force. Thus, if there is any historical possibility for an Exodus, as narrated in the Pentateuch, during the reign of Ramesses II, it would be only after the Egypto-Hittite peace agreement concluded in 1259 BCE -- i.e., over half a century after the rabbinic date of 1312 BCE.

And of course, the account of the total destruction of the Egyptian chariot force (including the pharaoh) in pursuit of the Israelites through the sea-bed, as detailed in Exodus 14:31, is very far from the actual circumstances of the death of Ramesses II. That pharaoh died within his 67th regnal year (1213 BCE), a peaceful death, probably in his palace in Pi-Ramesse, and was buried in the Valley of the Kings near Thebes (tomb KV7). [123] Later, in the 11th-10th centuries BCE, the mummy of Ramesses II was moved from tomb to tomb a number of times, until it found its final resting place, with over fifty mummies of other pharaohs and high officials, at the site of Deir el-Bahri, near the Valley of the Kings, in the tomb DB320, where it was discovered by modern scholars. [124] The mummy does not show any signs of violent death. Moreover, even if the Israelites escaped Egypt in the last regnal year of Ramesses II, that would be a whole century after the rabbinic date of the Exodus, and five years at most would elapse before the troops of Merneptah encountered the population of Israel in Canaan, leaving no room for the forty years of desert wanderings (as per Exodus 16:35, Numbers 14:33-34, 32:13, Deuteronomy 1:3, 2:7, 8:2-4, 29:4).

5. Pithom, Ra'amses, Heliopolis, and "the Way of the Land of Philistines"

As noted in the preceding chapter, the mention of the Israelites employed to build the city of Ra'amses in Exodus 1:11 sets the earliest limit for the date of the Exodus within the reign of Ramesses II. It is important to note, however, that this provides only the earliest, not the latest chronological limit. The royal capital of Pi-Ramesse continued in existence until the early 11th century BCE, [125] when it was abandoned, and the architectural remains of this site were used in subsequent periods as sources of building-blocks for the new royal capital in Tanis (biblical Zoan, modern San el-Hagar, c. 25 km north of Pi-Ramesse) and for the city of Bubastis (near the modern city of Zaqaziq, c. 70 km southwest of Pi-Ramesse). [126]

However, the fame of Pi-Ramesse did not wane completely. In the cities of Tanis and Bubastis, cults were established for gods of Pi-Ramesse, which persisted until the 4th century BCE at least. [127] The name of Pi-Ramesse itself appears in Egyptian sources dating to the early first millennium BCE, but there is also a Greek source dating from the 6th century CE (!), which shows that the name of Ramesses was still associated at that time with the ruins of Pi-Ramesse. [128] Moreover, the omission of the initial element Pi (= pr) [129] in the name of Pi-Ramesse is most frequent in sources dating to the first millennium BCE, [130] although there is one case where the element Pi is omitted in the name of Pi-Ramesse (referring possibly to settlement other than the eastern Delta royal capital) in a record from the 13th century BCE. [131] In any event, the mention of the city of Ra'amses in Exodus 1:11 could have originated either during the reign of Ramesses II or his immediate successors, or in the first millennium BCE. [132]

The name of the other city mentioned in Exodus 1:11, Pithom, is more problematic. It is generally accepted by Egyptologists that the biblical name is a rendering of the Egyptian Pr-Itm, "House/estate of the god Atum." It is also generally supposed that the Pithom of Exodus 1:11 must have been located near Ra'amses/Pi-Ramesse, i.e., in the northeastern fringe of the Nile Delta, and the two sites for which identification with Pithom may be pertinent are Tell er-Retaba and Tell el-Maskhuta, located within the distance of 14 km of each other in Wadi Tumilat -- a valley connecting the Nile Delta with the northern tip of the Gulf of Suez. [133] Archaeological excavations show that the site of Tell el-Maskhuta was not inhabited between the 17th and the 7th centuries BCE. [134] Hence, it might seem natural to locate Pithom at Tell er-Retaba.

However, the things are not so simple. The term Pr-Itm appears a number of times in Egyptian sources, referring to some locality in the northeastern Nile Delta, including sources from the 13th-11th centuries BCE. But during this period, the name Pr-Itm is never written with the determinative designating a city (a circle with two bars crossing in an x-like shape inside), but only with determinatives signifying foreignness (throw-stick) and a foreign land (three hills). [135] The name with the determinative designating a city appears in Egyptian sources only in the first millennium BCE. Likewise Herodotus, writing in the mid-5th century BCE, mentioned the existence of a city named Patoumos along the canal running from the Nile to the Read Sea (which is to be located in the Wadi Tumilat), and this city is evidently the same as the biblical Pithom. Later Greek and Latin authors referred to the same city under the name Heroopolis, and their writings testify that the city continued to be occupied until the first centuries of the Common Era. [136] Yet, archaeological excavations show that Tell er-Retaba was not occupied after the early part of the reign of the 26th Dynasty of Egypt, i.e., after c. 600 BCE. [137] Hence the city of Pithom cannot be located at Tell er-Retaba.

James K. Hoffmeier, who noted this problem, suggested that the name Pr-Itm/Pithom had initially referred to Tell er-Retaba, but was transferred to Tell el-Maskhuta when the latter site was occupied in the late 7th century BCE and the site of Tell er-Retaba was abandoned. [138] Such a development is possible, [139] but the Egyptian spellings of the name Pr-Itm, where the determinative for city does not appear prior to the first millennium BCE, suggest that there was indeed no city by such name in the 13th century BCE, and hence there is no reason to suggest a transfer of the name from one settlement to another.

A new touch to the problem of Pithom and Ra'amses may be added by considering the verse Exodus 1:11 in the Greek translation of the Bible known as the Septuagint. The Septuagint translation of the Pentateuch was evidently carried out in the 3rd century BCE in Egypt, [140] and the Septuagint version of Exodus 1:11 reads: "They [viz., the Israelites] built strong cities for Pharaoh, both Pithom and Raamses and On, which is Heliopolis." [141] The city known under the Greek name Heliopolis was the Egyptian Iwnw, located at the southern apex of the Nile Delta (modern Tell Hisn, in a northern suburb of Cairo), an ancient center of worship of the sun-gods Re and Atum. The Septuagint gives both the Greek name Heliopolis and the name On, which appears in the Hebrew text of the Pentateuch (Genesis 41:45, 50; 46:20) and in the late stage of the Egyptian language (known as Coptic). [142] It is not clear whether the mention of On/Heliopolis in Exodus 1:11 reflects an original Hebrew text which the translators of the Septuagint used or whether this mention was added to the verse in the process of translation. [143] The fact that the notion of Heliopolis as the home-city of Moses was shared in the last centuries BCE by authors writing in Greek about the history of Egypt (Strabo and Apion) favors the possibility that the mention of this city as built by the Israelites during the oppression was made by the translators of the Septuagint, who also resided in Egypt. [144]

In any event, the absence of a mention of On/Heliopolis in other ancient versions of Exodus 1:11 (the Masoretic text, the Samaritan Pentateuch, the ancient Aramaic translations and the Latin translation known as the Vulgate), and the fact that this city was rather distant (c. 150 km) from the northeastern part of the Nile Delta where the two other cities mentioned in the same verse were located, shows that the addition of On/Heliopolis to Exodus 1:11 was a relatively late development and did not belong to the original version of this verse. But the fact that it was possible for a late addition of a city name to Exodus 1:11 to enter one stream of tradition transmitting the biblical text -- the tradition of the Septuagint [145] -- suggests that another addition, made at an earlier date, could enter the tradition transmitting the text early enough to affect all existing versions and translations. That is, if the mention of Ra'amses as the city built by the Israelites belongs indeed to the 13th century BCE, the mention of Pithom in the same category is most likely an addition made not earlier than the late 7th century BCE. [146] In other words, a substantial detail in the Pentateuchal account of the Exodus was probably added centuries after the rabbinic date of the Exodus (1312 BCE) and of the writing of the Pentateuch (which is considered to have been completed before Moses' death, i.e., in 1272 BCE). [147]

Another detail of similar nature in the Pentateuchal account appears in Exodus 13:17: "And it came to pass, when Pharaoh had let the people go, that God did not lead them by the way of the land of Philistines, although that was near; for G-d said: 'Lest the people change their mind when they see war, and they return to Egypt.'"

The Philistines were part of the so-called "Sea Peoples" -- populations which had originated probably on the shores and the islands of the Aegean sea and which invaded the eastern and the southeastern coasts of the Mediterranean in the 13th-12th centuries BCE. The first invasion of this kind is attested in the reign of Merneptah, but the list of the invading populations mentioned in the inscriptions of that pharaoh does not include the Philistines. The first source to mention them is the inscriptions of Ramesses III, who reigned about two generations after Merneptah (c. 1183-1152 BCE). [148] The inscriptions of Ramesses III describe a battle which this pharaoh fought in his 8th regnal year against a group of Sea Peoples, including the Philistines (Prst), in the land of Djahi -- i.e., on the coast of Canaan. [149] Papyrus Harris I, written during the reign of Ramesses IV, but describing events which took place during the reigns of Ramesses IV's grandfather and father, Seth-nakht and Ramesses III, details that after his victory over the Sea Peoples, Ramesses III had pressed those peoples into service for Egypt and settled them in lands belonging to Egypt. A geographical list dating to c. 1100 BCE, the Onomasticon of Amenemope, mentions the Philistines, along with two other groups of the Sea Peoples, in the geographical context of the southern coast of Canaan (next to the cities of Ashdod, Ashkelon and Gaza). [150] And of course, the southern coastal plain of Canaan is where the Bible locates the Philistine cities (Ashdod, Ashkelon, Gaza, Gath and Ekron).

So, it was evidently in the southern coastal plain of Canaan that Ramesses III had settled the vanquished Philistines, and it is only natural that a road leading from the northeastern Nile Delta to the southern coastal plain of Canaan, along the Mediterranean coast, would be termed "the way of the land of Philistines." But such term could not have come into being until the 8th regnal year of Ramesses III, which fell c. 1175 BCE -- almost a century and a half after the rabbinic date of the Exodus (1312 BCE) and correspondingly, almost a century after the date assumed by the rabbinic tradition for the end of the Israelites' wanderings in the desert and for the completion of the Pentateuch (1272 BCE).

Moreover, the Pentateuchal mentions of contacts between the Hebrew Patriarchs, Abraham and Isaac, and the Philistines (Genesis 21:32, 34; 26:1, 8, 14, 15, 18), must also reflect the geopolitical reality postdating the 8th regnal year of Ramesses III. In other words, the relevant verses of the Pentateuch must have been written, or at least edited, centuries after the supposed lifetimes of Abraham and Isaac and, at the earliest, almost a century after the date assumed by the rabbinic tradition for the completion of the Pentateuch.

6. Conclusion

The article by Jonathan Adler, which formed the starting point of this essay, is flawed from almost every possible aspect. He accepts the date of 1312 BCE for the Exodus, which can be derived only from rabbinic sources, as though it followed straight from the Bible, while neglecting at the same time the chronological scheme presented in the Bible itself, which points to the date of c. 1447 BCE or c. 1528 BCE for the Exodus. His dates for the reigns of the kings of Egypt are unfounded, as is his assumption that Ramesses II campaigned in Canaan for 14 years without returning to Egypt. He takes the absence of Horemheb's mummy in the tomb of that pharaoh to imply that Horemheb had perished in the sea while pursuing the Israelites, without taking into consideration the evidence that shows the mummy of Horemheb to have been initially interred in the tomb before it was dismembered by tomb robbers. He claims that the sculptural and relief representations of Amenhotep III, carried out in the last years of his reign, show that pharaoh as plagued by sickness, while ignoring those elements which make Amenhotep III look more youthful in these artistic representations than in those from the earlier part of his reign. He distorts the medieval work Sefer Ha-Yashar in order to make the son of the pharaoh that oppressed the Israelites appear like Akhenaten. (Actually, even if there were no distortion in Adler's presentation, the use of Sefer Ha-Yashar for pinpointing the chronology of the biblical Exodus would be pointless, due to the very late date of Sefer Ha-Yashar.)

The only piece of evidence that is presented by Adler more or less satisfactorily is the account of Manetho (3rd century BCE) about the oppression of lepers and other polluted persons by King Amenophis (Amenhotep), whom the mention of the counselor Amenophis son of Paapis (Amenhotep son of Hapu) allows to identify as Amenhotep III. However, Adler fails to recognize that the memory of Amenhotep son of Hapu and of the historical circumstances of his activity was carried on in the region of Thebes over a millennium after that official's death, and that consequently the name of Amenhotep son of Hapu could have been added at a rather late stage to an earlier tradition that spoke of an oppression of polluted persons under a king named Amenhotep. And indeed, Adler himself quotes (albeit rather selectively) another Egyptian author writing in Greek, Chaeremon (1st century CE), who placed a similar narrative in the reign of King Amenophis, but specified the counselor's name not as Amenophis son of Paapis but as Phritiphantes or Phritobautes (which is, in fact, a title rather than a name). [151]

Moreover, another Egyptian author - Lysimachus -- who wrote in Greek and represented the Jews as sick and impure persons whom a king of Egypt had expelled from the country, identified the king in question as Bocchoris, which would place the oppression and the expulsion in the penultimate decade of the 8th century BCE. And on the other hand, other Greek authors writing between the 3rd and the 1st centuries BCE -- Hecataeus of Abdera and Diodorus Siculus -- recorded Egyptian traditions about the origin of the Jews as people expelled from Egypt by the populace when that country was affected by pestilence (but without identifying the Jews as afflicted by the disease), or as ordinary Egyptian colonists settling Judea much as other colonists settled the land of Pontus (on the southeastern coast of the Black Sea), Babylon, Argos and even Athens. Thus, it is evident that there existed a considerable measure of fluidity in the Egyptian traditions of the 3rd century BCE - 1st century CE about the origins of the Jews in Egypt. And if the major part of those traditions took a decidedly hostile attitude to the Jews, that can be easily understood in the wider framework of the negative attitude towards the foreigners, which struck deep roots in Egypt after that country had been occupied first by the Assyrians in the 7th century BCE, then by the Persians in the 6th-4th centuries BCE, then by the Greeks in the 4th-1st centuries BCE and then by the Romans from 30 BCE onwards. In one case, there even existed different versions of evidently the same literary composition (the Oracle of the Potter), one of which was directed against the Greeks and the other against the Jews.

So, the accounts presented by Manetho and Chaeremon concerning the expulsion of Jews as polluted persons from Egypt by king Amenophis are worth attention as testimonies to the attitudes existing in Egypt towards the Jews between the 3rd century BCE and the 1st century CE, but they cannot be considered, in their own right, as reliable testimonies concerning the historical and the chronological details of the Exodus. And from the period within which the Exodus should have happened -- the 16th-13th centuries BCE, in the broadest definition - there is no evidence whatsoever of an exodus of the people of Israel from Egypt.

This, of course, does not necessarily mean that no exodus of the Israelites from Egypt had ever taken place. Indeed, it is quite possible that some population of Semites residing in Egypt and calling itself by the name Israel was at one time pressed into service in the building projects of some pharaoh, and feeling that they were oppressed, the members of that population escaped Egypt for Canaan. Under such a scenario it has to be assumed that during their residence in Egypt, their group identity did not much interest the Egyptian officials (at least judging by the Egyptian records currently known), and the first mention of them in Egyptian sources was made in 1208 BCE, after they had already entered Canaan -- possibly absorbing some elements of the local population -- and met there the troops of the pharaoh Merneptah. Such an assumption, however, falls well within the range of historical possibility.

But even if an exodus such as described above (with a lowercase "e") had indeed taken place, it must have been considerably different from what is described in the Bible as the Exodus (with a capital "E"). Even if we leave aside the utterly unrealistic figure of over 600,000 adult males said to have taken part in the Exodus, there are other problems with the biblical account. First, there is the contradiction between the rabbinic date of 1312 BCE for the Exodus and the dates of c. 1447 BCE and c. 1528 BCE, which are implied by the historical narrative of the Bible, and of course, the two biblical dates also contradict each other. Second, all these dates contradict the statement of Exodus 1:11 that the Israelites, while in Egypt, were employed in building the city Ra'amses -- a city which did not exist before the reign of Ramesses II, which commenced in 1279 BCE. Third, the city Pithom, mentioned in the same verse, probably did not exist before the 7th century BCE; even if the name of this city was added at some time to an already existent account of the Exodus, it would imply at least an updating of the text of the Pentateuch centuries after the date when the rabbinic tradition holds it to have been completed. And fourth, "the way of the land of Philistines," mentioned in the account of the Exodus (Exodus 13:17) could not have existed before c. 1175 BCE, nor could Abraham and Isaac meet any Philistines in Canaan prior to that date. This shows clearly that the notion presented by the rabbinic tradition, of the Exodus taking place in 1312 BCE and of the writing of the Pentateuch (save perhaps Deuteronomy 34:5-12) being completed by Moses in 1272 BCE, is wrong.


[1] Malina Sarah Saval, "In City of Angels, a Rabbi Stirs Wrath by Questioning Exodus," Forward, May 4, 2001 (http://www.forward.com/issues/2001/01.05.04/news5.html).

[2] Perhaps the clearest expression of this philosophical predilection has been formulated by David Hume: "A miracle is a violation of the laws of nature; and as a firm and unalterable experience has established these laws, the proof against a miracle, from the very nature of the fact, is as entire as any argument from experience can possibly be imagined... The plain consequence is (and it is a general maxim worthy of our attention), 'That no testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle, unless the testimony be of such a kind, that its falsehood would be more miraculous, than the fact, which it endeavours to establish'..." (David Hume, An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding (ed. L. A. Selby Bigge; Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1902), pp. 114-116 (available online at: http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/hume-miracles.html)

[3] In fact, the issue is somewhat more complicated, as it is possible to suppose that a report of a miraculous event refers indeed to some natural occurrence, which was misunderstood by the author of the report. However, this possibility is not germane to the present discussion.

[4] David Goldstein, "A Nation Great, Mighty and Populous?" (http://www.talkreason.org/articles/exodus.cfm).

[5] Jonathan Adler, "Dating the Exodus: A New Perspective," Jewish Bible Quarterly 23 (1995), pp. 44-51.

[6] Such as, e.g., Lisa Liel, "The Exodus and Ancient Egyptian Records" (http://www.starways.net/lisa/essays/exodus.html).

[7] One note deserves, nevertheless, to be made. The current academic chronology of ancient Egypt is fundamentally supported by evidence from natural science. Among the objects excavated in Egypt there is a high proportion of organic material (wood, seeds, papyrus, etc.), which has been well preserved due to the arid climate of Egypt. That material has been subject to radiocarbon dating -- dating based on the measurement of the isotope of carbon called 14C. This isotope is radioactive -- i.e., it decays spontaneously once an organic substance is dead (e.g., once a wood or a plant is cut). The speed of the decay is expressed by a function whose parameters are known, and hence, in principle, for any given piece of organic substance, measurement of the isotope 14C can supply the date when that substance ceased to live. In practice, the things are more complicated, because the quantity of 14C in a piece of organic substance during its life, and at the moment of its death, is not constant and depends on the quantity of 14C in the Earth's atmosphere, which depends, in turn, on changing solar radiation and climatic factors. However, a greater precision in radiocarbon dating can be achieved by correlating the dates derived through measurements of 14C with dates derived through other methods for different historical periods, so that for a given period one can calculate the deviation of 14C dates from dates derived otherwise and the magnitude of correction that has to be introduced to 14C dates falling within that period. The procedure calculating such corrections is called calibration, and the surest method to do it is through the use of dendrochronology -- analysis of the physical properties of annual rings grown on trees in zones of temperate climate. As is well known, the age of a living tree just cut can be established by counting the rings on its trunk; however, it is also important that some of the material characteristics of a given tree ring depend closely on the climactic conditions of the year in which that ring grew. If a pattern of such material characteristics can be established for a group of rings that grew in specific given years, this pattern is unlikely to be repeated exactly in different years. So, when samples of dead wood are found in old structures, the patterns of their younger rings can be related to the patterns of older rings of trees living presently. Then the older rings of wood samples from old structures can be incorporated into the chronology of tree ring patterns, thus extending this chronology back in history. And then, of course, the patterns of older rings of wood samples from old structures can be related to the patterns of younger rings of wood samples from structures of yet greater age, and the older rings of wood samples from those structures of greater age can be incorporated into the chronology of tree ring patterns, extending this chronology even further back in history, and so on. Using this procedure, scholars have succeeded in constructing a chronology of tree ring patterns that goes back as far as c. 10000 years. And then, of course, the amount of the isotope 14C in any given sample of wood found in archaeological excavations can be measured, and the date obtained through that measurement can be compared with the date obtained on the basis of tree ring patterns. Such comparison can yield the correction necessary for a given date derived by measurement of 14C, so that this date can be considered reliable. That correction can then, of course, be applied to 14C dates derived from organic substance other than wood (e.g., grain).

However, the current study of the ancient Near East has at its disposal not only 14C dates calibrated with relation to dendrochronology, but at least one direct dendrochronological date. This comes from the shipwreck found at Uluburun, near the southeastern coast of modern Turkey. Logs of wood that were carried by the wrecked ship on its final voyage have been dated through dendrochronological methods to c. 1305 BCE (with the margin of error consisting of a few decades in either direction, due to the fact that dendrochronological measurements are not entirely precise). Now, among the items found on the Uluburun shipwreck there is also a gold scarab (Egyptian amulet in the shape of a dung beetle) inscribed with the name of Nefertiti the wife of the king Akhenaten (also known as Amenhotep IV), whose reign is dated by Egyptologists to c. 1350-1333 BCE (Jürgen von Beckerath, Chronologie des ägyptischen Neuen Reiches [Hildesheimer ägyptologische Beiträge, 39; Hildesheim: Gerstenberg, 1994], p. 103). The scarab was found in a relatively worn condition, which means that it must have been produced some time before the wreck of the ship which carried it. Thus the dendrochronological analysis of wood samples from the Uluburun shipwreck (and in fact, also the radiocarbon dating of the same wood samples) supports the notion long shared by Egyptologists, that Akhenaten and Nefertiti were active in the second half of the 14th century BCE (Sturt W. Manning, A Test of Time: The Volcano of Thera and the Chronology and History of the Aegean and East Mediterranean in the Mid Second Millennium BC [Oxford: Oxbow Books, 1999], pp. 417-418). Any modification of this date -- and all the other dates of ancient Egyptian chronology that are connected to it -- by more than a few decades would be impossible.

[8] Adler, "Dating the Exodus," p. 44.

[9] It has to be noted that the number of 430 years is problematic when compared to other chronological data in the Bible. Thus, in the very description of the covenant in Genesis 15, God is reported telling to Abraham: "Know surely that your seed will be a stranger in a land not theirs and will serve them; and they will afflict them four hundred years" (v. 13) -- 400 years and not 430. However, this difficulty can be solved -- for example, by assuming that of the 430 years of the Israelites' sojourn in Egypt, only 400 years were a period of oppression. But a more fundamental difficulty lies in the fact that according to Genesis 46:11, Kohath the son of Levi was among the descendants of Jacob/Israel who came with him to Egypt, and according to Exodus 6:16-20, only two generations separated between Kohath and Moses: Amram was the son of Kohath, and Moses - the son of Amram. Now, Kohath is said to have lived 133 years, and Amram 137, while Moses is reported, in Deuteronomy 34:7, to have lived 120 years, of which 40 years spanned the period of the Israelites' wanderings in Sinai. The sum of life-spans of Kohath and Amram, plus Moses' age at the time of the Exodus, gives 133 + 137 + (120 -- 80) = 350 years, far less than either 400 or 430; and since Kohath had to be some years old when he sired Amram, and Amram -- when he sired Moses, the Israelites' sojourn in Egypt appears to have been even shorter. Indeed, this very difficulty was used by the rabbis in Seder Olam Rabbah (chapter 3) as the basis for the conclusion that the period of the Israelites' sojourn in Egypt lasted 210 years only. However, the number of 210 years of sojourn is not connected in any way with the abovementioned figures; the discrepancy between the 430 years of sojourn in Egypt, as specified in Exodus 12:40, and the life-spans of Kohath, Amram and Moses, as specified in Exodus 6:16-20 and Deuteronomy 34:7, remains a problem for the notion of the singular origin of the Pentateuch (i.e., the notion that the whole Pentateuch stems from one author).

[10] Alan Millard, The Eponyms of the Assyrian Empire, 910-612 BC (State Archives of Assyria Studies, 2; Helsinki: The Neo-Assyrian Text Corpus Project, 1994), p. 2.

[11] Mordechai Cogan, "Chronology (Hebrew Bible)," The Anchor Bible Dictionary (ed. D. N. Freedman; New York: Doubleday, 1992), vol. 1, p. 1007. For an English translation of the relevant inscriptions, see A. Leo Oppenheim, in: Ancient Near Eastern Texts Related to the Old Testament (ed. J. B. Pritchard; third edition; Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1969), pp. 278-280. It is interesting to note that in the inscription detailing the events of the 18th year of Shalmaneser III, Jehu is called "son of Omri," following a common Assyrian way of notating foreign kingdoms -- as the "house" of the king who had founded the dynasty which ruled a given kingdom at the time it came initially in contact with the Assyrians. Every subsequent king of such a kingdom could then be identified as belonging to the "house" of the original dynasty's founder, or being his "son," even if he belonged in fact to a different dynasty (as did Jehu, who rose to power by exterminating the dynasty founded by Omri; II Kings 9:1-10:17).

[12] The assumption that the calendar year of a given king's death was counted in the kingdom of Israel both as the last regnal year of the dead king and the first regnal year of his successor is not at all arbitrary. First, such system of reckoning years was used in ancient Egypt throughout most of its history (Cogan, "Chronology (Hebrew Bible)," p. 1006). And second, an explicit confirmation of this assumption comes from the fact that according to I Kings 22:52, Ahaziah rose to the throne of Israel in the 17th regnal year of Jehoshaphat king of Judah, and according to II Kings 3:1, Ahaziah was succeded by his brother Jehoram in the 18th regnal year of Jehoshaphat -- while the total length of Ahaziah's reign over Israel is specified in I Kings 22:52 as two (calendar) years.

[13] Thus, according to biblical data the sequence of reigns of the kings of Judah from the partition of Solomon's kingdom until the accession of Jehoshaphat to the throne (in the 4th regnal year of Ahab king of Israel, according to I Kings 22:41) includes 17 regnal years of Rehoboam son of Solomon, 3 regnal years of Abijam son of Rehoboam, and 41 regnal years of Asa son of Abijam -- that is, a total of 61 regnal years (I Kings 14:21, 15:1-2, 9-10). On the other hand, the sequence of reigns of the kings of Israel from the partition of Solomon's kingdom to the accession of Ahab includes 22 regnal years of Jeroboam son of Nebat, 2 regnal years of Nadab son of Jeroboam, 24 regnal years of Baasha, 2 regnal years of Elah son of Baasha, the ephemeral 7 days of the rule of Zimri, and 12 regnal years of Omri, the founder of the dynasty to which Ahab belonged that is, a total of 62 regnal years (I Kings 14:20, 15:25, 33, 16:8, 15, 23). Adding 4 years of Ahab's reign (including the year of Jehoshaphat's accession to the throne of Judah), we arrive at 66 years -- with a discrepancy of 5 years compared with the Judean chronology for the same period. A partial solution to this discrepancy is to assume that in Judah, the year of death of a given king was not counted as a regnal year of his successor, who would begin his count of regnal years only from the first calendar year after his actual accession to the throne. Confirmation of this assumption comes from the fact that the reigns of Jeroboam over Israel and Rehoboam over Judah began simultaneously (with the partition of the united Israelite monarchy after Solomon's death), and Rehoboam is reported to have reigned 17 years (I Kings 14:21) yet, the beginning of the reign of Abijam son of Rehoboam over Judah is dated in I Kings 15:1 to the 18th year of Jeroboam's reign over Israel. Thus, the royal chronology of Judah records only successive years (i.e., no year is listed twice), while the royal chronology of Israel records the year of each king's death twice: both as the last regnal year of the dead king and as the first regnal year of his successor. Hence, the total number of years according to the royal chronology of Israel has to be reduced by the number of kings who reigned more than one year and died prior to the 4th year of Ahab: Jeroboam, Nadab, Baasha, Elah and Omri. This is just enough to eliminate the discrepancy noted above, but another problem arises: if the beginning of the reign of Jehoshaphat over Judah is dated to the 4th regnal year of Ahab, then Asa, the father of Jehoshaphat, must have died in the 3rd regnal year of Ahab, and thus we are faced once again with a discrepancy, although of one year only. This can be solved by the assumption that there was a difference of some months between the beginning of the calendar year in the kingdoms of Israel and Judah (e.g., the year starting in the spring in Judah but in the autumn in Israel); this assumption would be more difficult to confirm.

[14] The date of 931BCE for the partition of Solomon's kingdom is obtained by summing up all the reigns of the kings of Israel from Jeroboam son of Nebat to Ahab (84 years), subtracting the number of the kings who died in this period after having reigned more than one year (Jeroboam, Nadab, Baasha, Elah and Omri), and adding the result (78 years) to the date of Ahab's death (853 BCE).

[15] 8 years of subjugation to Cushan-Rishatayim (Judges 3:8), 40 years of freedom after the victory of Othniel son of Kenaz (3:11), 18 years of subjugation to Eglon the king of Moab (3:14), 80 years of freedom after the victory of Ehud son of Gera (3:30), 20 years of subjugation to Jabin the king of Canaan (4:3), 40 years of freedom after the victory of Deborah and Barak (5:31), 7 years of subjugation to Midian (6:1), 40 years of freedom after the victory of Gideon (8:28), 3 years of rule by Abimelech son of Gideon (9:22), 23 years of rule by Tola son of Puah (10:2), 22 years of rule by Jair the Gileadite (10:3); 18 years of subjugation to the Philistines and the Ammonites (10:7); 6 years of rule by Jephtah (12:7), 7 years of rule by Ibzan of Bethlehem (12:9), 10 years or rule by Elon the Zebulunite (12:11), 8 years of rule by Abadon son of Hillel the Pirathonite (12:14), 40 years of subjugation to the Philistines (13:1), 20 years of rule by Samson (16:31). To these one should add the unspecified period of the leadership of Shamgar son of Anat, after that of Ehud son of Gera (Judges 3:31).

[16] In Joshua 14:10 Joshua's comrade-in-arms, Caleb the son of Jephunneh, describes himself as 85 years old, 45 years after God's decree to Moses about the Israelites' desert wanderings -- which means that Caleb's statement must have been made 5 years after Moses' death and the Israelites' entry into Canaan.

[17] Obviously, Saul could not have risen to kingship one year old, as specified in I Samuel 13:1, for prior to his enthronement he is told to have defeated the Ammonites (I Samuel 11); but that is another issue.

[18] Adler passed in almost complete silence over the fact that chronological data in the Bible do not confirm the rabbinic date of 1312 BCE for the Exodus. Only at the end of his article did he briefly note that while the rabbinic chronology implies a date of 830 BCE for the construction of the First Temple in Jerusalem, "archaeological data suggest an earlier date for the First Temple," which "remains a problem, and requires further study" (Adler, "Dating the Exodus," p. 51). An unsuspecting reader facing such a remark would never know that chronological data in the Bible itself imply two significantly different dates for the Exodus, or that the chronology of the Assyrian kings in the 9th-8th centuries BCE, which forms the basis for dating the reigns of Ahab and Jehu over Israel, and hence for linking all biblical chronology to absolute dates (in the terms of the Common Era), is established with certainty based on the astronomical dating of the solar eclipse of June 763 BCE.

[19] In Adler's terms, "were spent in slavery" ("Dating the Exodus," p. 44). However, the concept of slavery in ancient Egypt was complicated and had undergone considerable developments with time. Thus, the Egyptian term mri was employed during the period of the Old Kingdom (27th-22nd centuries BCE) to denote dependent workers, who possessed personal freedom but were employed as agricultural workers on land owned by the crown, or sometimes as workers in non-agricultural royal projects; however, by the time of the New Kingdom (late 16th-early 11th centuries BCE), people denoted by the same term were sometimes given by the pharaoh to private individuals, who must have exercised some kind of ownership over them (Antonio Loprieno, "Slaves," in: The Egyptians [ed. S. Donadoni,; tr. R. Bianchi et al.; Chicago: University of Chicago Press], pp. 191-192, 202). The status of the mriw (plural of mri) during the New Kingdom must have been similar to that of "royal servants" (h.mw-nsw) during the Middle Kingdom (21st-19th centuries BCE), who nominally belonged to the crown but "were assigned to the custody of a master, who could give them away, leave them to his children, or sell them" (Loprieno, "Slaves," pp. 198-199; the consonant denoted above as h. was probably pronounced the same way as the second consonant in the Arabic name Muhammad). Concerning the Israelites' servitude in Egypt, the book of Exodus tells that the Egyptians "set over them taskmasters to afflict them with their burdens. And they built for Pharaoh store-cities, Pithom and Ra'amses... And the Egyptians made the Sons of Israel serve harshly. And they made their lives bitter with hard service, in mortar and in brick, and in all manner of service in the field; in all their service, wherein they made them serve harshly" (Exodus 1:11-14). Although the above verses speak of "the Egyptians" in plural, it appears that the Israelites' labor was carried out under royal authority rather than in the service of private individuals (compare the account in Exodus 4:6-11, where the pharaoh is the one who orders the worsening of the Israelites' working conditions, and the order is carried out by overseers acting under his authority). Thus, the biblical account presents the Israelites' status in Egypt during the oppression as somewhat different from full-fledged slavery, which "seems to have been applied only to foreigners" (Loprieno, "Slaves," p. 209) -- that is, people captured by the Egyptian army on its campaigns abroad or brought to Egypt from abroad by slave traders (ibid., p. 202; and cf. Graham Davies, "Was There an Exodus?" in: In Search of Pre-Exilic Israel [ed. J. Day; Journal for the Study of the Old Testament Supplement Series, 406; London: T&T Clark, 2004], p. 33, who considered the presentation of the Israelites in the Pentateuch as originally free migrants into Egypt rather than prisoners of war a valid argument against the understanding of their status as slaves, to the point that he suggested the "Exodus group" to "have consisted largely of prisoners of war," contrary to the biblical account).

[20] Adler, "Dating the Exodus," p. 44. It should be noted that the vocalization of the names of Egyptian kings is conventional and often exists in slightly different variants, due to the fact that the Egyptian script marked only consonants but not vowels. Thus, the royal name Amenhotep is a combination of the Egyptian consonantal spelling Imn-h.tp (where i is a consonant somewhat similar to the Hebrew aleph, i.e., a glottal stop) and the Greek spelling Amenophis, attested in ancient historical compositions written in Greek and dealing with the history of Egypt; some modern scholars prefer the vocalization Amenhotpe, and others adopt the Greek form without attempting to adjust it to the Egyptian consonantal spelling.

[21] von Beckerath, Chronologie des ägyptischen Neuen Reiches, pp. 1-2.

[22] Jürgen von Beckerath, Chronologie des pharaonischen Ägypten (Münchner ägyptologische Studien, 46; Mainz: von Zabern, 1997), pp. 42-43.

[23] von Beckerath, Chronologie des pharaonischen Ägypten, p. 42; idem., Chronologie des ägyptischen Neuen Reiches, p. 8.

[24] Ibid.

[25] von Beckerath, Chronologie des pharaonischen Ägypten, p. 43; and cf. idem., Chronologie des ägyptischen Neuen Reiches, p. 9.

[26] von Beckerath, Chronologie des pharaonischen Ägypten, p. 45; and cf. idem., Chronologie des ägyptischen Neuen Reiches, p. 11.

[27] von Beckerath, Chronologie des pharaonischen Ägypten, p. 46; and cf. idem., Chronologie des ägyptischen Neuen Reiches, pp. 10-11.

[28] von Beckerath, Chronologie des pharaonischen Ägypten, pp. 47-49; idem., Chronologie des ägyptischen Neuen Reiches, pp. 14-16.

[29] The chronology of Assyria and Babylonia is of foremost importance for establishing the chronology of both the Hittite kingdom and of Egypt during the second half of the second millennium BCE. For an account of the chronology of Assyria and Babylonia during the relevant period, see von Beckerath, Chronologie des ägyptischen Neuen Reiches, pp. 17-22.

[30] von Beckerath, Chronologie des pharaonischen Ägypten, p. 66; idem., Chronologie des ägyptischen Neuen Reiches, p. 23. The damaged name of the addressee in the letter #6 from El-Amarna, written by Burna-Buriash II, has been shown to be most likely Nimuware'a or Nimutre'a -- Egyptian Nb-m3't-R', one of the throne names of Amenhotep III (Cord Kühne, Die Chronologie der internationalen Korrespondenz von El-Amarna [Alter Orient und Altes Testament, 17; Kevelaer: Butzon and Bercker, 1973], p. 129, n. 642); William L. Moran, The Amarna Letters (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992), p. 12, n. 1.

[31] El-Amarna letter #3, line 18; for an English translation see Moran, The Amarna Letters, p. 7.

[32] von Beckerath, Chronologie des pharaonischen Ägypten, p. 66; idem., Chronologie des ägyptischen Neuen Reiches, pp. 23-24.

[33] von Beckerath, Chronologie des pharaonischen Ägypten, pp. 110-111; idem., Chronologie des ägyptischen Neuen Reiches, pp. 96-97.

[34] von Beckerath, Chronologie des pharaonischen Ägypten, p. 67; idem., Chronologie des ägyptischen Neuen Reiches, p. 22.

[35] Adler, "Dating the Exodus," pp. 45-46.

[36] Ibid., "Dating the Exodus," p. 47.

[37] Henry St. J. Thackeray, Josephus, I: The Life; Against Apion (Loeb Classical Library; London: Heinemann; New York: Putnam, 1926).

[38] Some manuscripts of Against Apion specify the name of the king's advisor as Phritobautes (Thackeray, Josephus, I, p. 280, n. 1). In any event, it appears that the name in question is not a genuine proper name but a garbled Greek rendering of the Egyptian title p3 h.ry-tp h.wt-ntr, "he who is in charge of temple" (Donald B. Redford, Pharaonic King-Lists, Annals and Day-Books: A Contribution to the Study of the Egyptian Sense of History [Society for the Study of Egyptian Antiquities Publications, 4; Missisauga, Ontario: Benben, 1986], p. 287, n. 98), or p3-h.ry-db'wt, "he who is in charge of seals" (Pieter W. van der Horst, Chaeremon: Egyptian Priest and Stoic Philosopher; The Fragments Collected and Translated with Explanatory Notes [Études préliminaires aux religions orientales dans l'Empire romain, 101; Leiden: Brill, 1984], p. 50, n. 5).

[39] See above, n. 20.

[40] Josephus, Against Apion, book 1, paragraphs 290-292 (Thackeray, Josephus, I, pp. 280-281).

[41] See David Goldstein, "A Nation Great, Mighty and Populous?" (http://www.talkreason.org/articles/exodus.cfm).

[42] Diodorus Siculus, Bibliotheca Historica, book 40, chapter 3, paragraphs 1-3 (tr. Francis R. Walton, Diodorus of Sicily, XII: Fragments of Books XXXIII-XL [Loeb Classical Library; London, Heinemann; Cmabridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1967], pp. 280-283). It has been argued recently that this account does not belong to Hecataeus, but was written by a Jewish author who was versed in Greek culture and was willing to pass his work under the name of the famous Greek author (Daniel R. Schwartz, "Diodorus Siculus 40.3 -- Hecataeus or Pseudo-Hecataeus?" Jews and Gentiles in the Holy Land in the Days of the Second Temple, the Mishnah and the Talmud (ed. M. Mor et al.; Jerusalem: Yad Ben Zvi, 2003), pp. 181-197. This is, however, a minority opinion in scholarship.

[43] Walton, Diodorus of Sicily, XII, p. 281, n. 2.

[44] Menachem Stern, Greek and Latin Authors on Jews and Judaism, Edited with Introductions, Translations and Commentary, I: From Herodotus to Plutarch (Jerusalem: Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities, 1976), p. 21; and cf. Stern's commentary on Hecataeus's account (ibid., pp. 29-32).

[45] Stern, Greek and Latin Authors, I, p. 20.

[46] Doron Mendels, "Hecataeus of Abdera and a Jewish 'patrios politeia' of the Persian Period (Diodorus Siculus XL, 3)," Zeitschfirt für die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft 95 (1983), pp. 109-110.

[47] Redford, Pharaonic King-Lists, p. 290.

[48] For comparison, Manetho also describes Danaus as originating from Egypt, but he does not connect him in any way with the narrative of the expulsion of polluted persons. Instead, Manetho identifies Danaus with Harmais/Hermaeus, the ruler of Egypt (quoted in Josephus, Against Apion, book 1, paragraphs 102, 231 [Thackeray, Josephus, I, pp. 202-205, 256-257]). The name Harmais/Hermaeus, given by Manetho, is probably a reflection of the Egyptian H.r-m-h.b the name of the pharaoh Horemheb, who will be discussed in the next chapter of this essay (cf. Redofrd, Pharaonic King-Lists, pp. 257-258).

[49] Diodorus, Bibliotheca Historica, book 1, chapter 28, paragraphs 1-4 (tr. Charles H. Oldfather, Diodorus of Sicily, I: Books I and II, 1-34 [Loeb Classical Library; London, Heinemann; Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1967], pp. 90-91).

[50] Stern, Greek and Latin Authors, I, pp. 20, 167. Daniel Schwartz, who denied the authenticity of the passage quoted by Diodorus in the name of Hecataeus in Bibliotheca Historica, book 40, chapter 3, based his argument, in part, on the differences between that passage and the passage in Bibliotheca Historica, book 1, chapter 28, which he considered to derive from the original work of Hecataeus (Schwartz, "Diodorus Siculus 40.3," pp. 183-186.

[51] "By many other statements like these, spoken more out of love for glory than with regard to the truth, as I see the matter, they claim Athens as a colony of theirs because of the fame of that city" (Diodorus, Bibliotheca Historica, book 1, chapter 29, paragraph 5 [Oldfather, Diodorus of Sicily, I, pp. 96-97).

[52] A good example of the polemic use of a negatively-colored tradition about the Egyptian origin of the Jews can be found, once again, in the work of Diodorus Siculus. Describing the attack of the Seleucid king of Syria, Antiochus VII Sidetes, on Jerusalem in 134 BCE, Diodorus told that "the majority of his friends advised the king to take the city by storm and to wipe out completely the race of the Jews, since they alone of all nations avoided dealings with any other people and looked upon all men as their enemies. They pointed out, too, that the ancestors of the Jews had been driven out of all Egypt as men who were impious and detested by the gods. For by way of purging the country all persons who had white or leprous marks on their bodies had been assembled and driven across the border, as being under a curse; the refugees had occupied the territory round about Jerusalem, and having organized the nation of the Jews had made their hatred of mankind into a tradition, and on this account had introduced utterly outlandish laws: not to break bread with any other race, nor to show them any good will at all (Bibliotheca Historica, book 34/35, chapter 1, paragraphs 1-2 [Walton, Diodorus of Sicily, XII, pp. 52-53]). The companions of the Syrian king would not be likely to originate from Egypt, but the connection between a specifically anti-Jewish agenda and the notion of the Jews' origin as lepers in Egypt is clear. Incidentally, Diodorus himself did not support this anti-Jewish agenda, as he finished his account of Antiochus VII's campaign against Jerusalem with the following sentence: "But the king, being a magnanimous and mild-mannered person, took hostages but dismissed the charges against the Jews, once he had exacted the tribute that was due and had dismantled the walls of Jerusalem" (ibid., paragraph 5 [Walton, Diodorus of Sicily, XII, pp. 54-55]).

[53] Bezalel Porten, Archives from Elephantine: The Life of an Ancient Jewish Military Colony (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1968), pp. 284-289.

[54] Redford, Pharaonic King-Lists, pp. 277-281.

[55] Amurru was a kingdom in the coastal region of Syria during the second half of the second millennium BCE. Although in the first millennium BCE this kingdom no longer existed, the term Amurru was used in Egyptian sources as a general designation for Syria (see Raphael Giveon, "Amurru," Lexikon der Ägyptologie [ed. W. Helck and E. Otto; Wiesbaden: Harassowitz, 1975-1992], vol. 1, pp. 251-252).

[56] Redford, Pharaonic King-Lists, p. 286.

[57] von Beckerath, Chronologie des pharaonischen Ägypten, p. 191.

[58] Redford, Pharaonic King-Lists, pp. 286-287.

[59] Redford, Pharaonic King-Lists, pp. 284-285.

[60] Menahem Stern, in: Corpus Papyrorum Judaicarum, III (ed. V. A. Tcherikover, A. Fuks and M. Stern; Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1964), pp. 119-121, no. 520.

[61] In these versions, the term Syria is employed to include the whole settled territory from the eastern coast of the Mediterranean to the Arabian desert -- i.e., including Judea.

[62] This fluidity of plot is evident even if the account quoted by Diodorus Siculus in the name of Hecataeus in Bibliotheca Historica, book 40, chapter 3, is to be considered a Jewish forgery (see above, nn. 40, 48).

[63] See the lists of the Egyptian kings of the relevant period and of their throne names in von Beckerath, Chronologie des pharaonischen Ägypten, pp. 190-193.

[64] von Beckerath, Chronologie des pharaonischen Ägypten, pp. 123-124; idem., Chronologie des ägyptischen Neuen Reiches, p. 54.

[65] The Greek renderings of these kings' names and the lengths of their reigns are given here according to Josephus, Against Apion, book 1, paragraph 95 (Thackeray, Josephus, I, pp. 200-201). Slightly different renderings of the names and lengths of reigns (with discrepancies in the latter not exceeding one year) are given by two other ancient Greek-writing authors who quoted Manetho's king-lists: Julius Africanus and Eusebius (active in the 3rd century CE), whose works are the only extant sources of Manetho's chronology beside Josephus (see von Beckerath, Chronologie des pharaonischen Ägypten, pp. 222-223). Thus, the chronological confusion described here is not likely to be the fault of those authors who used Manetho's works but evidently goes back to Manetho himself.

[66] Basically, each Egyptian king had five throne names, of which the last two (termed prenomen and nomen by modern Egyptologists) were most widely cited in various mentions of the king in Egyptian documents (see Alan Gardiner, Egyptian Grammar, Being an Introduction to the Study of Hieroglyphs [third edition; London: Oxford University Press, 1957], pp. 71-76). For Tuthmosis III, the Greek rendering Mephres derives from the prenomen Mn-khprw-r', the Greek rendering Thmosis (more commonly Tuthmosis) derives from the nomen Dh.wty-msyw, and the Greek rendering Mephramuthosis derives from the combination of both the prenomen and the nomen (von Beckerath, Chronologie des pharaonischen Ägypten, p. 125; idem., Chronologie des ägyptischen Neuen Reiches, p. 55). The dates of the reign of Tuthmosis III can be established exactly (von Beckerath, Chronologie des pharaonischen Ägypten, pp. 103, 108-109; idem., Chronologie des ägyptischen Neuen Reiches, pp. 93-95).

[67] See von Beckerath, Chronologie des pharaonischen Ägypten, pp. 222-223. For Amenophis the predecessor of Oros, Josephus cites 30 years and 10 months of reign, while Julius Africanus and Eusebius cite the rounded figure of 31 years. For Oros, the length of reign varies from 36 years (one version of Eusebius) to 38 years and 7 months (one version of Josephus).

[68] See above, n. 33.

[69] von Beckerath, Chronologie des pharaonischen Ägypten, p. 125; idem., Chronologie des ägyptischen Neuen Reiches, p. 58. The name Oros is a Greek rendering of the name of the Egyptian god Horus (H.r). For a suggestion of how this name came to be associated, in Manetho's chronology, with Amenhotep III, see Redford, Pharaonic King-Lists, pp. 248-251.

[70] Thackeray, Josephus, I, pp. 256-257.

[71] Thackeray, Josephus, I, pp. 262-263. Obviously, the rendering Rampses for the grandfather's name is corrupted, Ramesses being the more correct version.

[72] Thackeray, Josephus, I, pp. 200-203.

[73] In all likelihood, the names of Horemheb and Seti I, the pharaohs whose reigns span the end of the 14th and the beginning of the 13th centuries BCE, but who were actually not relatives (see Redford, Pharaonic King-Lists, p. 258).

[74] See Thackeray, Josephus, I, p. 263, n. a. It has to be noted that instead of the grandfather of this Amenophis, Ramesses, and his father, Harmesses Miamun, as listed by Josephus, other ancient writers quoting Manetho: Julius Africanus and Eusebius, mention only Ramesses, as Amenophis's father (see von Beckerath, Chronologie des pharaonischen Ägypten, pp. 222-223). However, the figures for the reigns of Ramesses (1 year and four months) and of Harmesses Miamun (66 years and 2 months), as provided by Josephus, fit remarkably well the figures for the reigns of the historical Egyptian kings Ramesses I and Ramesses II, although these two were not father and son (see von Beckerath, Chronologie des pharaonischen Ägypten, pp. 103, 117-118). Now, the Ramesses mentioned by Julius Africanus as the predecessor of Amenophath (a miswriting for Amenophis) is credited by him with the reign of 1 year, while the Ramesses mentioned by Eusebius as the predecessor of Amenophis is credited by him with the reign of 68 years. It stands to reason, therefore, that the Harmesses Miamun mentioned by Josephus is a garbled version of the full last throne name of Ramesses II (R'-ms-sw mri-imn), and that of the two Ramesseses originally mentioned by Manetho one after the other, Julius Africanus had mistakenly omitted the second one, i.e., Ramesses II, and Eusebius had mistakenly omitted the first one, i.e., Ramesses I (see Chronologie des Ġgyptischen Neuen Reiches, p. 59).

See von Beckerath, Chronologie des pharaonischen Ägypten, pp. 189-190.

[76] Josephus, Against Apion, book 1, paragraph 243 (Thackeray, Josephus, I, pp. 262-263).

[77] Diertich Wildung, Imhotep und Amenhotep: Gottwerdung im alten Ägypten (Münchner ägyptologische Studien, 36; München: Deutscher Kunstverlag, 1977), p. 274. P3 in the Egyptian name of this official's father is the definite article, which is omitted in some Egyptian spellings.

[78] Wildung, Imhotep und Amenhotep, pp. 255-271.

[79] Ibid., pp. 251-255.

[80] See above, n. 38.

[81] Active probably in the 2nd-1st centuries BCE (Stern, Greek and Latin Authors, I, p. 382).

[82] Like the works of Manetho and Chaeremon, the work of Lysimachus did not survive to the present, and his account of the Exodus is known only from the quotation by Josephus in Against Apion, book 1, paragraphs 304-311 (Thackeray, Josephus, I, pp. 284-289). Interestingly, King Bocchoris is also described by Josephus as fictitious (ibid., paragraph 312), in spite of the fact that he was mentioned in Manetho's list of the kings of Egypt, as rendered by Julius Africanus and Eusebius (von Beckerath, Chronologie des pharaonischen Ägypten, p. 225), and is known now to have been an historical ruler (for the dates of his reign, see above, n. 57).

[83] Adler, "Dating the Exodus," pp. 47-48.

[84] W. Raymond Johnson, "Monuments and Monumental Art under Amenhotep III: Evolution and Meaning," in: Amenhotep III: Perspectives on His Reign (ed. D. O'Connor and E. H. Cline; Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1998), p. 84.

[85] Cf. Johnson, "Monuments and Monumental Art under Amenhotep III," pp. 86-92, who suggested that the artistic style of representations of Amenhotep III during the final years of his reign was intended to express his deification and identification, first of all, with the sun disk (Aten), and second, with all the deities of Egypt.

[86] Adler, "Dating the Exodus," p. 47, n. 5.

[87] As has been shown by Leopold Zunz already in 1828 (see Arthur A. Chiel, "The Mysterious Book of Jasher," Judaism 26 [1977], p. 372).

[88] I.e., spelled with the Hebrew letter qof rather than kaf or h.et.

[89] Sefer Ha-Yashar (ed. L. Goldschmidt; Berlin: Herz, 1923), pp. 260-261.

[90] For a sampling of artistic representations of Akhenaten, see the plates in Cyril Aldred, Akhenaten, Pharaoh of Egypt -- A New Study (London: Thames and Hudson, 1968). For a discussion of Akhenaten's disease, see ibid., pp. 133-139.

[91] Herman te Velde, "Zeremonialbart," Lexikon der Ägyptologie, vol. 6, p. 1396.

[92] See, e.g., the bearded statues of Akhenaten (Aldred, Akhenaten, plates 2-4).

[93] Adler, "Dating the Exodus," pp. 48-49.

[94] von Beckerath, Chronologie des pharaonischen Ägypten, p. 103; idem., Chronologie des ägyptischen Neuen Reiches, pp. 68-69.

[95] von Beckerath, Chronologie des pharaonischen Ägypten, p. 51; cf. idem., Chronologie des ägyptischen Neuen Reiches, p. 15.

[96] von Beckerath, Chronologie des pharaonischen Ägypten, pp. 66-67; idem., Chronologie des ägyptischen Neuen Reiches, pp. 27-28.

[97] von Beckerath, Chronologie des pharaonischen Ägypten, p. 118; cf. idem., Chronologie des ägyptischen Neuen Reiches, pp. 105-106.

[98] Nicholas Reeves and Richard H. Wilkinson, The Complete Valley of the Kings: Tombs and Treasures of Egypt's Greatest Pharaohs (London: Thames and Hudson, 1996), pp. 131-132.

[99] Ibid., p. 133.

[100] Ibid., p. 204.

[101] Ibid., pp. 204-207.

[102] In the vivid description of one of the archaeologists who had excavated the tomb, "the tomb-plunderers entered the sepulcher, pulled the embalmed body of the king to pieces in the search for hidden jewels, scattered the bones of the three members of his family who were buried with him, and stole almost everything of value which they found" (Arthur E. P. B. Weigall, The Treasury of Ancient Egypt: Miscellaneous Chapters on Ancient Egyptian History and Archaeology [Edinburgh: Blackwood, 1911], p. 227). The bones which Weigall considered to have belonged to the members of Horemheb's family may have been those of bodies from other tombs, which had been cached in the tomb of Horemheb.

[103] C. Nicholas Reeves, Valley of the Kings: The Decline of a Royal Necropolis (London: Kegan Paul, 1990), pp. 77-79.

[104] Adler, "Dating the Exodus," p. 45.

[105] For an English translation of the hymn, see John A. Wilson, in: Ancient Near Eastern Texts Related to the Old Testament, pp. 376-378.

[106] Ibid., p. 378.

[107] Gary A. Rendsburg, "The Date of the Exodus and the Conquest/Settlement: The Case for the 1100s," Vetus Testamentum 42 (1992), pp. 517-519, suggested that the Merneptah Stele referred to the Israelite population oppressed in Egypt, before the Exodus, and the mention of Israel in the geographical context of Canaan was due to the origin of the Israelites (i.e., the clan of Jacob, in the terms of the Pentateuch) in that territory. However, the summarizing line of the relevant section of the hymn: "All lands together, they are pacified," makes it clear that the reference is to lands inimical to Egypt (in the Egyptians' view) and now pacified, rather than to some population within Egypt itself. Also, the line dealing with Israel describes its devastation (evidently, the devastation of its crops; see below) rather than its employment as a source of forced labor. The notion of devastation fits perfectly the rhetorical pattern of royal hymns of praise, but only when applied to countries and populations residing outside Egypt, not in Egypt proper.

[108] Wilson, in: Ancient Near Eastern Texts Related to the Old Testament, p. 378, n. 18; Kenneth A. Kitchen, "Egyptians and Hebrews, from Ra'amses to Jericho," The Origin of Early Israel -- Current Debate: Biblical, Historical and Archaeological Perspectives (ed. S. Ahituv and E. Oren; Beer-Sheva, 12; Beer-Sheba: Ben-Gurion University Press, 1998), pp. 101-102. Contrary to the assertion of Rendsburg (see the preceding note), the determinatives used for Israel do not imply that Israel was perceived by the author of the Merneptah stele as a population residing in Egypt (see Michael G. Hasel, Domination and Resistance: Egyptian Military Activity in the Southern Levant, ca. 1300-1185 B.C. [Probleme der Ägyptologie, 11; Leiden: Brill, 1998], p. 198, n. 1).

[109] Hasel, Domination and Resistance, pp. 76-80.

[110] See the translation by Wilson, in: Ancient Near Eastern Texts Related to the Old Testament, p. 376.

[111] Wilson, in: Ancient Near Eastern Texts Related to the Old Testament, p. 255.

[112] Ibid., pp. 255-256.

[113] Ibid.

[114] Ibid., p. 256.

[115] Hasel, Domination and Resistance, p. 153.

[116] See above, n. 16.

[117] Kitchen, "Egyptians and Hebrews, from Ra'amses to Jericho," pp. 69-72. For the location of the royal capital of Pi-Ramesse, and the architectural remains discovered there, see also Manfred Bietak, Avaris and Piramesse: Archaeological Exploration in the Eastern Nile Delta. Mortimer Wheeler Archaeological Lecture 1979 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1986), pp. 229-231, 271-283, 295-296.

[118] Adler took notice of this problem, but suggested that in the mention of the city of Ra'amses, "the Bible uses... name which was used only later in history," by analogy with Genesis 47:11, where "the land of Ra'amses" is mentioned in the lifetime of Jacob and Joseph, centuries before the Exodus (Adler, "Dating the Exodus," p. 50). However, the Rabbinic sources ascribe the writing of the Pentateuch to Moses, with the possible exception of the verses Deuteronomy 34:5-12, which, according to one opinion, were written by Joshua the son of Nun (Babylonian Talmud, Bava Batra, 14b-15a; in any event it is assumed that the writing took place under divine dictation). There is a further disagreement on whether the different portions of the Pentateuch were written one by one, during the whole period from the Exodus to Moses' death, as God dictated them to Moses, or whether during this whole period Moses remembered the portions revealed to him by God and communicated them orally to the Israelites, and wrote the whole Pentateuch, at once, only forty years after the Exodus, just before his death (Babylonian Talmud, Gittin, 60a; and see the commentary of Rashi ad loc.). But in any event, the Pentateuchal narrative of the Exodus must have been completed, according to the Rabbis' view, before the end of the Israelites' desert wanderings -- i.e., before 1272 BCE. To be sure, at this date the royal residence of Pi-Ramesse was already in existence -- the name being given by Ramesses II, in the very beginning of his reign, to the summer-residence of his father, Sety I, at the outskirts of Avaris, which was to become the nucleus of Ramesses II's royal city (Kenneth A. Kitchen, Pharaoh Triumphant: The Life and Times of Ramesses II [Warminster, UK: Aris & Phillips, 1982], p. 43). But the Israelites could not have known the pharaoh's residence under its new name, even if they had been employed in some building projects in Avaris during the reign of Horemheb, prior to the Exodus (for building activities in Avaris during the reign of Horemheb, see Bietak, Avaris and Piramesse, pp. 268-270).

[119] In fact, logical consistency is not the strong point of the plagues narrative. Exodus 9:6 relates that during the plague of murrain, "All the cattle of Egypt died; but of the cattle of the children of Israel died not one." However, only a few verses later, announcing the forthcoming plague of hail, God is commanding Moses to tell the pharaoh: "Now send, hasten in your cattle and all that you have in the field; for every man and animal that will be found in the field and will not be gathered home, the hail shall come down upon them, and they shall die" (Exodus 9:19). And then, as the narrative goes, "He who feared the word of the Lord from among the servants of Pharaoh made his servants and his cattle flee into the houses; and he who did not regard the word of the Lord left his servants and his cattle in the field" (Exodus 9:20), to be destroyed by the hail (Exodus 9:25). How the servants of the pharaoh could have any cattle after the plague of murrain, is not clear. Similarly, according to Exodus 9:25-26, "The hail smote throughout all the land of Egypt all that was in the field, both man and animal; and the hail smote every herb of the field, and broke every tree of the field. Only in the land of Goshen, where the children of Israel were, there was no hail." And yet, during the next plague, according to Exodus 10:15, the locusts "covered the face of the whole earth, so that the land was darkened; and they ate every herb of the land, and all the fruit of the trees which the hail had left; and there did not remain any green plant, either tree or herb of the field, through all the land of Egypt." It is not clear how any plant could be left growing after the plague of hail, except those that grew in the land of Goshen. In any event, the net result of the plagues as described in Exodus 9-10 must have been a considerable destruction of the Egyptian livestock and a total destruction of the Egyptian crops.

[120] "He made ready his chariots, and took his people with him. And he took six hundred chosen chariots, and all the chariots of Egypt, and captains over all of them" (Exodus 14:6-7).

[121] This was noted already by Rabbi Moses Nahmanides, in his commentary on Deuteronomy 11:4.

[122] Kitchen, Pharaoh Triumphant, pp. 73-75.

[123] Ibid., 206-207, 212-214.

[124] Reeves, Valley of the Kings, pp. 94-95, 247; Reeves and Wilkinson, The Complete Valley of the Kings, pp. 194-207.

[125] Kitchen, "Egyptians and Hebrews, from Ra'amses to Jericho," pp. 80-81.

[126] Bietak, Avaris and Piramesse, pp. 278-279.

[127] Bietak, Avaris and Piramesse, p. 279; John Van Seters, "The Geography of the Exodus," The Land that I Will Show You: Essays on the History and Archaeology of the Ancient Near East in Honour of J. Maxwell Miller (ed. J. A. Dearman and M. P. Graham; Journal for the Study of the Old Testament Supplement Series, 343; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 2001), pp. 265-266.

[128] Van Seters, "The Geography of the Exodus," pp. 265-266.

[129] For the elision of r in the Egyptian word pr = "house," yielding the pronunciation , see Kitchen, "Egyptians and Hebrews, from Ra'amses to Jericho," p. 72; Donald B. Redford, "Exodus I 11," Vetus Testamentum 13 (1963), p. 403.

[130] Van Seters, "The Geography of the Exodus," p. 266.

[131] Wolfgang Helck, "Tkw und die Ramses-Stadt," Vetus Testamentum 15 (1965), p. 42.

[132] John Van Seters has argued that "The designation of Ramesses as a 'store-city' in the exodus story, instead of the royal city, is also quite curious. The meaning of the Hebrew phrase 'arē miskenôt is not entirely certain, but judging from the reference in I Kgs. 9.19 and its context, it suggests supply deposits and fortresses on the frontier of the land... it is hardly suitable as a designation for the residence of the king's palace and temples of the Ramessides, anymore than it would be for Jerusalem under Solomon. Only after the original significance of Piramesse was long forgotten could the extensive ruins of the region be interpreted as a fortress on Egypt's northeastern frontier" (Van Seters, "The Geography of the Exodus," p. 266). However, a royal capital with army garrisons stationed in it (for architectural remains of army barracks at Pi-Ramesse, see Bietak, Avaris and Piramesse, p. 295) would require considerable storage facilities, and one cannot exclude the possibility that in the minds of the Israelites these storage facilities acquired a special importance, which led to the designation of Pi-Ramesse as a "store-city" -- especially if the Israelites themselves were employed in construction of those storage facilities.

[133] Kitchen, "Egyptians and Hebrews, from Ra'amses to Jericho," pp. 72, 76; James K. Hoffmeier, Ancient Israel in Sinai: The Evidence for the Authenticity of the Wilderness Tradition (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), p. 58.

[134] Hoffmeier, Ancient Israel in Sinai, p. 59. In fact, inscribed blocks and statues dating between the 17th and the 7th centuries BCE have been discovered at Tell el-Maskhuta, but they were probably brought there from other sites after the 7th century BCE (ibid., pp. 60-61). As noted by Hoffmeier, since "Ramesside-period blocks, statues and stelae made their way all over Egypt at later times," the conclusion about a given site being occupied during the 13th-11th centuries BCE can be made "[o]nly when there are ceramic or architectural remains that can be dated to Ramesside times" (ibid., p. 269, n. 71).

[135] Since the relevant locality was somewhat distant from the bank of the Nile, it is understandable that Egyptian scribes (for whom Egypt proper was strictly the Nile valley) denoted it as a foreign land.

[136] Redford, "Exodus I 11,"pp. 405-408. Redford's argument has been accepted by Hans Goedicke, who noted that the mention of the city of Pithom in Exodus 1:11 "is probably an anachronism, since Pithom as a place-name does not occur before the Late Period [i.e., the first millennium BCE]" (Hans Goedicke, "Papyrus Anastasi VI 51-61," Studien zur altägyptischen Kultur 14 [1987], p. 94). It is puzzling, therefore, that Hoffmeier cited Goedicke as claiming that Pithom/Pr-Itm of the time of the Exodus "can only be Retabe and not Maskhuta" (Hoffmeier, Ancient Israel in Sinai, p. 60).

[137] Hoffmeier, Ancient Israel in Sinai, p. 60.

[138] Ibid., p. 64. The other possibility suggested by Hoffmeier -- that the biblical Pithom/Pr-Itm was not actually a city but a complex of storage facilities attested to a temple ("house") of the god Atum, whose location cannot be established beyond the general notion that it was located in the eastern Nile Delta (ibid., p. 63) is problematic. The Hebrew term '&238;r, which appears in plural in construct chain 'arē misken&244;t, "store cities," denotes a settlement with a sedentary population rather than a mere architectural complex of cultic and/or storage buildings (see Francis Brown, Samuel R. Driver and Charles A. Briggs, The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon [Boston: Houghton, Mifflin and Co., 1906], p. 746).

[139] Compare the Arabic place-name 'Āqer in the southern coastal plain of modern Israel, which evidently derives from the biblical place-name Ekron ('Eqrôn), although the ancient city of Ekron is located 8.5 km south of 'Āqer, at the site which has been known in the last century under the Arabic name Tell Muqanna' (Yoel Elitzur, Ancient Place Names in the Holy Land: Preservation and History [Jerusalem: Magnes; Winona Lake, In.: Eisenbrauns, 2004], p. 119).

[140] Emanuel Tov, Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible (second revised edition; Minneapolis: Fortress; Assen: Royal Van Gorcum, 1992), p. 136.

[141] English translation by Lancelot C. L. Brenton, revised and edited by Paul W. Esposito. Available online at: http://www.apostlesbible.com/

[142] Donald B. Redford, "Heliopolis," The Anchor Bible Dictionary, vol. 3, p. 122.

[143] For the general importance of the Septuagint for reconstructing the ancient Hebrew version used by the translators, which must have been considerably different from the Masoretic Hebrew text of the Bible, see Tov, Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible, p. 142.

[144] Redford, "Heliopolis," p. 123.

[145] The Septuagint was initially used and transmitted by Greek-speaking Jewish communities -- a transmission that left evidence in the form of papyrus and leather fragments of the Greek text dating from the 2nd century BCE - 1st century CE, discovered in Egypt and in Qumran, as well as in the form of quotations in the works of ancient Jewish authors who wrote in Greek. In the first centuries CE, the Septuagint became the official version of the Bible for the Christian church (see Tov, Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible, pp. 136-139).

[146] Compare the statement of the scholar who excavated the site of Tell el-Maskhuta (Pithom): "It seems that the biblical references to Pithom were anachronistic, inserted during the fifth or sixth century BC editing of the Exodus account" (John S. Holladay, "Tell el-Maskhuta," Encyclopedia of the Archaeology of Ancient Egypt [ed. K. A. Bard; London: Routledge, 1999], p. 786).

[147] For the rabbinic date of the completion of the Pentateuch, see above, n. 118.

[148] After Merneptah's death, the throne of Egypt was occupied by a relative of his, Amen-mes-su, then by Merneptah's son, Sety (Sethos) II, then by a son of Sety II, Si-ptah, and then by a widow of Sety II, Te-wosret. Then, after some developments which are not entirely clear, the throne was seized by Seth-nakht, who founded a new royal dynasty, and was succeeded by his son, Ramesses III (von Beckerath, Chronologie des pharaonischen Ägypten, pp. 104-106; idem., Chronologie des ägyptischen Neuen Reiches, pp. 70-78). Si-ptah was a minor when he occupied the throne and reigned for only about 7 years, so chances are that Seth-nakht belonged to the same generation as Sety II and Te-wosret, which would make Ramesses III two generations distant from Merneptah.

[149] For an English translation of the relevant fragments of these inscriptions, see John A. Wilson, in: Ancient Near Eastern Texts Related to the Old Testament, pp. 262-263. Since the Egyptial language lacked the consonant l, this consonant was, in writing of foreign names and words, most often represented by the consonant r.

[150] Trude Dothan, "Philistines: Archaeology," The Anchor Bible Dictionary, vol. 5, p. 329.

[151] See above, n. 38.


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