Were the Jews ever in Egypt?

by VM44 18 Replies latest watchtower bible

  • peacefulpete

    Book of Sothis is a forgery.

  • Leolaia
    So what Leolaia is saying is that the exodus story may reflect a collective memory of having ancestors in Egypt or possibly be framed upon the expulsion of the foreign Hyksos, a people who have been tenetively identified by some as of Canananite origin. The OT story however depicts the "Jews" as having been slaves in Egypt while the Hyksos were actually the ruling party.

    Right. "Collective memory" is a good way of describing the conflation of traditions I was talking about. The Hyksos of the Second Intermediate Period (expelled at the start of the 18th Dynasty) were rulers, not slaves. The Asiatic slaves of the New Kingdom were the Canaanites and Israelites (in the case of Merneptah's campaign in 1207 BC) captured as prisoners of war during the Egyptian-Hittite wars. It is this group involved in the kind of public projects related in Exodus and the references to Pithom and Pi-Ramesses point to a time in the 19th and 20th Dynasties. It seems that the two groups were conflated as a single group, with the Hyksos rise to power in Lower Egypt being that of the time of Jacob and Joseph (cf. the Hyksos king Jacob-har) and with the slavery of the New Kingdom being that of Jacob's descendents, when historically the groups have no direct connection with each other. The biblical legend of the "Exodus" likely combines memories of the Hyksos expulsion, the Egyptian legend of the expulsion of priests of Akhenaten (which has striking parallels to the biblical story), and memories of the repatriation of Canaanite and Israelite prisoners-of-war during the collapse of order in Egypt in the 20th Dynasty. And this is very speculative, but I have wondered if the very early Song of the Sea has a traditional context in the wars between the Sea Peoples and the Egyptians in the 20th Dynasty.

  • peacefulpete

    Thankyou leolaia for the research. I seem to recall you suggested before that we might be reading a confused retelling of Merneptah's campaign in the Joshuah conquest stories. Any new thoughts?

  • Larsinger58

    Peaceful Pete said: "Book of Sothis is a forgery."

    This is not the point. Some say the Bible is historically inaccurate, full of mistakes and that David and Solomon were myths. So the reference point is only that there is a "secular" source that dates the Exodus specifically to the end of the reign of Amenhotep III. That concept seemed to be well established for someone way back when. Apparently Syncellus when he recorded Manetho was of the same understanding, that is, that "Amenophis" (Amenhotep III, specifically) was the pharaoh ruling at the time of the ten plagues. Discount it as you will, no problem, but that's the RECORD from secular sources that we now have to compare comprehensively with the archaeological dating of the Exodus.

    Right now the only archaeological reference we have is the fall of Jericho between 1350-1325 BCE. This contradicts the two "historical" reference datings for the Exodus either in 1446 BCE (based on the Assyro-Babylonian timeline) or during the reign of Rameses II, which is popular because the Bible mentions the Israelites building "Pi-Rameses." However, Goshen was called the "land of Rameses" when Jacob first moved there 215 years earlier than the Exodus.

    So this is "academic." There are lots of theories as to when this or that occurred in the Bible, and we know there are different timelines, the JW timeline being one of them. I'm just noting that per MANETHO and the BOOK OF SOTHIS that the alleged Exodus is specifically dated to the rule of Amenhotep III/Akhenaten and that that now agrees with the end of LBA Jericho which archaeologist Kenyon specifically associates with the destruction by Joshua. This is just being added to the discussion of those who claim there is "no evidence" of the Exodus when they don't even attempt to have a specific dating for that event.

    Bottom line, if there was zero evidence of any religious impact on the nation after these incredible miracles, anti-Biblicalists would be throwing that up in our faces! But since that is precisely what happened, a completely new religious focus toward a monotheistic god, they avoid Akhenaten like a plague. But that's hard to do when you now have both historical (Manetho/Book of Sothic) and archaeological (Jericho) evidence now agreeing with the time of the Bible, perfectly consistent with when we must date the Exodus in 1386 BCE based on the 70th jubilee beginning in 1947. So those claiming "no evidence" are just ignoring evidence. There is, at least credible historical and archaeological evidence of when the Exodus occurred and what impact the 10 plagues had on Egypt in the immediate subsequent years. That doesn't touch what we learn from the Amarna letters or the mummy of Amenhotep III who died in the Red Sea.

    So sorry, "no evidence" is just wishful thinking. Whether the reference in the "Book of Sothis" is reliable or not depends on whether or not the Exodus actually occurred at the beginning of Akhenaten's rule, which is precisely when the Bible says it did, so at least that part is a reliable reference even if everything else in the Book can be credibly challenged.

    Thanks for your comment.


  • peacefulpete

    I think Kathleen's comments regarding efforts to rescue the OT narrative as historical are very appropriate at this point:

    "any adjustment is possible according to what one wishes to adjust it to; if the chronology is too long, one can say that it has been inflated by making events successive which are really contemporary; if too short, one has only to say that generations have been omitted (Digging up Jericho, Kenyon, 258)."

    And note how she was a Christian with deep disappointment that archaeology could not corroborate the OT story. Despite many many websites saying she dated Joshuah's attack, in fact she made very clear that what she found could not have been the Israelite conquest but earlier war and earthquake damage consistant with the region.

    BTW I'm guessing it was you you posted on usenet this very same stuff back in 08. If it was, many of the replies to you then are still appropriate.

  • Leolaia
    I seem to recall you suggested before that we might be reading a confused retelling of Merneptah's campaign in the Joshuah conquest stories. Any new thoughts?

    Well, David Noel Freedman and David Miano have argued that the Blessing of Jacob in Genesis 49 preserves a few memories of Merneptah's campaign (cf. especially v. 5-7 and 22-27), but what I mentioned previously is that the toponym may`an Mênepto a ch "spring of Merneptah" in Joshua 15:9, 18:15, marking the border between Judah and Benjamin, is a probable reflection of Merneptah's campaign (why else would a place in Canaan bear Merneptah's name?), and thus the conquest narrative includes a place name that could not have been named before the reign of Merneptah (late thirteenth century BC). There is also the curious statement in Exodus 23:28: "I will send the hornet ahead of you to drive the Hivites, Canaanites, and Hittites out of your way" (cf. Deuteronomy 7:20). Some have suggested that this is a reference to the Egyptian military (cf. the use of the hornet in Egyptian hieroglyphics as a sign for the king of Lower Egypt), with the implication that the "Israelite conquest" is preceded by destructive campaigns by the Egyptians in the land. This again fits the picture with the twelfth century BC, not an earlier time.

    As I said in the other thread, I think it is likely that the exodus traditions conflate various legends and reminiscences of the LBA, and among these are possibly memories of Akhenaten. However the resemblence is closest with late Egyptian legends inspired by Akhenaten, not the historical pharaoh. And there is much in the narratives that demand a later date, e.g. the thirteenth and twelfth centuries BC. The references to Pi-Ramesses and the "land of Ramesses" reflect the situation in the 19th and 20th Dynasties, not earlier; Pi-Ramesses hadn't been built yet, much less was there yet the pharoah that was its namesake. P. Leiden 348 from the reign of Ramesses II refers to 'Apiru laborers in the construction of Pi-Ramesses, P Anastasi V refers to runaway Asiatic slaves escaping from Pi-Ramesses to beyond the fort of Tjeku and the Migdol of Seti I (cf. the Migdol of Exodus 14:2), and Papyrus Anastasi VI makes reference to Pithom where Shasu from Edom sought water for their flocks. The proximity of Pharaoh's palace with the foreign settlements in Lower Egypt fits well with the situation in the 19th and 20th Dynasties (as well as with the 15th in the Second Intermediate Period), and not the 18th. Also the reference to the Philistines in Exodus 13:17 points to a time in the 20th Dynasty, and this is not mere anachronism since the Philistines also figure in the very early Song of the Sea (Exodus 15:14-15), and the references to the Philistines, the "chiefs of Edom", the "leaders of Moab" and the "people of Canaan" reflects the situation in the twelfth century BC, as does the allusion to the Sea Peoples in the Balaam oracle in Numbers 24:24. The tribe of Dan was also likely one of the Sea Peoples engaged against Egypt (the Danuna/Denyen/Danaoi, cf. Judges 5:17 and the location of Danite settlement next to the Philistines in Joshua 19 and Judges 14-16, and the implication in the Blessing of Jacob that Dan was originally not among the tribes of Israel), and the priest of the tribe of Dan at the time of the relocation to Laish is named as Jonathan the grandson of Moses (Judges 18:30), which more felicitously points to a timeframe in the twelfth century BC for Moses than earlier, especially since Aaron's grandson Phinehas was also still alive just before the accession of Samuel (cf. 20:28). Similarly the genealogy of David in Ruth 4:18-22 and 1 Chronicles 2:5-15 has a shallow time depth (only five generations from Nahshon, the brother-in-law of Aaron to David). Meanwhile there is much evidence for "Israel" in the land of Canaan long before this time, e.g. the reference to Israel in the Merneptah Stele, the reference to Asher in Canaan in monuments of Seti I and Ramesses II and Zakkur (= Issachar) as the name of a Canaanite district as early as Thutmose III. The names of other tribes reflect their origin in situ in Canaan, e.g. Benjamin ("sons of the south", the southern location of Benjamin), Ephraim ("fertile soil," as a key agricultural region), Naphtali ("height", as it is in the highlands), etc.

  • peacefulpete

    Good stuff..Some interesting pieces of the puzzle, thanks. I was however remembering back to a thread a few years ago with Narkissos, I went back to see if I could find the conversation that I was recalling. It is here: Hiram built Solomon's temple.

    I'm having some weird posting issues......Any way the comment was involving campaigns of Ahmose I and Thutmos III. Sorry

  • Galileo

    I've posted on this before, and I am not a scholar. Leolaia is clearly far more versed on this subject than I. She has posited some very plausible hypotheses on how the legend came about. For many of us, myself included, the origin of how the myth could have come about is interesting, but not nearly as important to us personally as is the question of whether or not the biblical account could possibly be accurate.

    I have done some reading on the subject and listened to a college course on ancient Egypt (published by The Learning Company). It was very eye opening and I reccommend it to anyone with an interest in ancient Egypt. It is quite clear from what I've learned that the bible's account is nowhere near true. As I've stated, I am not a scholar, so here are some quotes from people that ARE scholars:

    "Despite the mass of contemporary records that have been unearthed in Egypt, not one historical reference to the presence of the Israelites has yet been found there. Not a single mention of Joseph, the Pharaoh's 'Grand Vizier'. Not a word about Moses, or the spectacular flight from Egypt and the destruction of the pursuing Egyptian army."

    – Magnus Magnusson, The Archaeology of the Bible Lands - BC, p43

    "Neither Moses, nor an enslaved Israel nor the event of this Exodus are recorded in any known ancient records outside the Bible ...

    Although its climate has preserved the tiniest traces of ancient bedouin encampments and the sparse 5000-year-old villages of mine workers there is not a single trace of Moses or the Israelites."

    – John Romer, Testament, pp57/8.

  • Larsinger58

    "Despite the mass of contemporary records that have been unearthed in Egypt, not one historical reference to the presence of the Israelites has yet been found there. Not a single mention of Joseph, the Pharaoh's 'Grand Vizier'. Not a word about Moses, or the spectacular flight from Egypt and the destruction of the pursuing Egyptian army."

    – Magnus Magnusson, The Archaeology of the Bible Lands - BC, p43

    Now that we can date the Exodus specifically to 1386 BCE and the beginning of the reign of Akhenaten, we have the historical confirmation that later pharaohs purposely destroyed the works and records of Akhenaten. Of course, in particular, the Exodus records would have been those of the pharaoh immediately following the Exodus. Due to embarrassment and hatred of Akhenaten, who converted to worshipping Yahweh/Aten after the ten plagues, of course the Egyptians would wipe out all records.

    However, the "Book of Sothis" and "Manetho" mention the Exodus at the time of Amenhotep III. I don't know the basis of these references, but they are extra Biblical and based on Egyptian history, I presume.

    As far as names absolutely establishing whether a pharaoh had existed or not, I hasten to note that the land of Goshen was called the "land of Rameses" long before the pharaoh by that name arrived. Thus this could have been the family name of the land barons in that region. Later some from this family became pharaohs built at Pi-Rameses. Another point is that the Israelites built "storage cities" at Pi-Rameses whereas pharaoh built a palace (I believe) there. Some of this theory is ascribed to by JWs.

    Now some people feeling the Bible isn't all that accurate anyway, take that as a liberty to invent whatever feels comefortable and place it into the setting of what comes to us from archaeology. I don't have that luxury since I'm a Biblical literalist. Thus I have to follow the precise details provided. That detail description shows the Exodus occurring at the end of the reign of Amenhotep III. After this the Israelites spent 40 years in the wilderness. Then they conquered Jericho and other cities, taking 10 years to conquer Canaan before being in a position to divide the land. 480 years after the Exodus, king Solomon began work on the temple at Jerusalem, which would have occurred in 906 BCE. At this point we note a critical difference between the Egyptian-based timeline for Solomon and the Assyrian-based timeline for Solomon which dates his rule c. 970-930 BCE. That is, if you use the KTU 1.78 astrotext to date year 1 of Akhenaten to 1386 BCE, then year 4 of Solomon falls in 906 BCE dating his rule c. 910-870 BCE. Thus we are looking at a 60-year discrepancy here (970 vs 910 BCE).

    So we have to play out the archaeological evidence based on whether we choose the Egyptian-dated Solomon and David or the Assyrian-dated David and Solomon. For instance, archaeologist Israel Finkelstein claims the monumental buildings and massive structures that are evidence of full statehood and the time of a glorious kingdom date to the "early 9th century BCE." That would be 900-867 BCE. That's when archaeology dates the massive palaces at Megiddo allegedly built by Solomon. At this point we simply academically compare this to the two different dates for Solomon. Based on the Exodus at the beginning of the reign of Akhenaten where Solomon would rule from 910-870 BCE, he would be the king who built the early 9th century palaces at Migiddo which were destroyed per RC14 c. 871 BCE. But if you use the Assyrian-based timeline for Solomon from 970-910 BCE, Solomon arrives too early to build these palaces at Megiddo.

    So some of the commentary is quite accurate and convincing, but only when you decide to date Solomon. In other words, it is not that no palaces or evidences of a right kingdom ever existed in Israel. it would be different if not a single grand palace was found. But in this case the palaces were found and dated, just dated to a different time than the timeline the archaeologists like to use. But archaeologists ignore Kenyon who dates Joshua's conquest of Jericho between 1350-1325 BCE which forces the Exodus between 1390-1365 BCE and thus during the time of Amenhotep III and Akhenaten. This application would in turn date Solomon 60 years later than the Assyrian dating, suggesting the Assyrian timeline is 60 years too early. But archaeologists don't choose to adjust the Assyrian timeline nor allow the fall of Jericho to influence their choice for dating Solomon. So they leave Solomon hanging out there 60 years too early and claim he was a myth. So that argument sounds good on paper, but many don't realize this is a subjective choice by some archaeologists to maintain the revised timeline of Babylon-Assyria rather than explore all the potential timelines and how that would affect the validity of the Bible.

    In this case, 1947 confirms the Exodus in 1386 BCE and thus matches the reigns of Amenhotep III and Akhenaten. Thus the Biblical dating for Solomon is also early 9th Century from 910-870 BCE and it is that timing which should be compared to what was going on at the time, which we know is when those fabulous palaces were built. So it is not that these arguments are wrong, it is that they are biased and conditional to the timeline you use. That's why Biblical chronologists only use the raw data from archaeologists often and ignore their conclusions based on their own biased opinions or limited opinions based on their choice of timeline.

    Let me make it clear what this means. This means if they have the wrong dates for David and Solomon or the Exodus, as soon as they make comparisons with what is happening archaeologically, they are going to get a wrong result. The arguments they have work well with the wrong timeline when they want to dismiss the Bible as myth. But if they use the true Biblical dates, which is now available thanks to 1947, then its a whole different story. Suddenly David and Solomon in the right time period are quite well confirmed by archaeology.

    For instance, one critical notation is the end of the Philistine pottery period which is dated "well within the 10th century BC" (1000-950 BCE?) by Finkelstein. That's a mismatch for David dated currently to 1010-970 BCE. Of course, David would ordinarily be linked with the end of the Philistine pottery period in the region since he conquered the Philistines. But if you date the Exodus correctly at the time of Amenhotep III, whether you reference Manetho and the Book of Sothis, or piggy-back off the fall of Jericho by Joshua c. 1350-1325 BCE, or you follow the Biblical chronology of jubilees and date the Exodus in 1386 BCE, you will get David's rule occurring around 950-910 BCE. This dove-tails perfectly with the end of the Philistine pottery period "well within the 10th century BC." So chronology is everything! When you date an ancient event or character makes all the difference in the world whether they are confirmed or contradicted by archaeology.

    Thus archaeologists need to stick with dating events based on archaeology, their area of expertise and consult with the professional chronologists, especially Biblical chronologists, on what timeline options are available. Since they are not interested or too incompetent to do so, or perhaps too dishonest to do so (i.e. avoiding Kenyon), we chronologists have to do it ourselves, which we are quite happy to do.

    We do not have to be dogmatic about this either. We just provide the comparisons. For instance, JWs date events about 67 years earlier than the popular secular timeline, which is the Assyrian-based chronology. If you use the Egyptian dating based on the Exodus occurring at the time of Akhenaten, then Solomon occurs about 60 years later than the Assyrian-based chronology. So you've got a span of about 127 years as far as different Biblical timelines. You need only get the archaeological dates in place and then compare them to the three historical dates. Let's just do one event to show how this is done.


    Shishak's invasion. Per archaeology from Rehov RC14, Shishak should have come through c. 871 BCE. That's the destructive level associated with the "Solomonic" palaces at Megiddo 5a-4b. How do the three chronologies test against this archaeological dating?

    1. JWs date Shishak's invasion c. 993 BCE.

    2. Assyrian-based timeline dates that event to c. 925 BCE.

    3. Egyptian-based (Akhenaten-Exodus) timeline dates that event to 871 BCE.

    The RC14 dates this event closest to 871 BCE within 10 years, so we simply academically see which of the above match the archaeology, if any of them do. Of course, the further away from the archaeological date the less "probable" the historical reference is accurate by comparison. In this case, 993 is a joke. 925 BCE is better but still not close enough to avoid Solomon being considered a revision from the postexilic period and thus a "myth." But Solomon does quite well when the Exodus occurs at the time of Akhenaten as far as Shishak's invasion in 871 BCE.

    The key point here is that when archaeologists and historians pick and choose their favorite timeline, they represent that as the official Biblical date for these events, which is inaccurate. The true Biblical date is 1386 BCE. The end result is that the Biblicists are forced to make their own critical comparisons for the Bible and ignore all the rhetoric from many of the historical scholars, including Biblical scholars like the WTS who also don't follow the Bible.

    It would be wonderful, therefore, to get some of the learned scholars here to address a comparison of the archaeological evidence for the timeline based on the Exodus at the time of Akhenaten. Otherwise, their analysis is only based on a non-Biblical timeline which makes it interesting, but worthless and irrelevant, right?


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